Sunday, January 15, 2012

New Year Firsts

I’m not a big one for New Year’s resolutions.  This year, though, with moving to a new state, it seemed natural to think about life changes.  Since so much of my life seems to center around food, you can guess where I decided to initiate change. 

Well, the first resolution isn't directly about food and is just associated with food.  That resolution was to make more off an effort to use reusable bags.  To do that, I just need to get into the routine of putting the bags in my car and remembering to then take them into the store. 

The second resolution was to start making my own bread.  The commitment to make my own bread came about because of Michael Pollan’s philosophy that you not eat anything that you don’t recognize as food.  Sure, store bread looks like food, but Pollan discusses how too many of the ingredients in the average loaf of bagged bread look nothing like recognizable food components.

As well as being healthier, it can be more cost effective to make your own bread.  Now, with living in a two person household and needing to pack lunches regularly, having something that is affordable and better for us just makes sense.

For those of you who follow me on Twitter and Facebook, you know that I eased into making my own bread by making pizza dough.  That proved to be a lot of fun and I’ll give you all the details about making it on Tuesday. 

Friday, I took the next big step by making a loaf of whole wheat bread, solo.  I say solo because my friend Ellie was nice enough to walk me through making a “no knead” bread before I left Virginia.  That will probably become my default way of making bread because it was unbelievably easy.  Plus, you can make up the dough and let it hang out in the fridge for a couple of days thus allowing you to just pull off dough as you need bread. 
First Rising
Before I fully commit to the “no knead” method, I wanted to try making a kneading style bread at least once so that I can compare.  So, I went to a former “bread making bible,” the Tassajara Bread Book by Edward Espe Brown.  This book is a pretty fantastic “everything you wanted to know about bread” and all of the variations.  He starts with a basic yeast base and then tweaks and adds to make all sorts of bread combinations.  It also comes with info on scones, sweet and savory breads, and details on rolls and stuffed breads.   

This recipes has brown sugar, half wheat and half white flour, salt, olive oil, and dried milk.  I did like kneading and patiently rising the dough, however I'd like to bring in the mixer to start the sponge (which requires you stir it 100 times).   

The end product looked beautiful, but needs some tweaking.  For one, the cook time was for two loaves, and so I should have reduced it.  I also learned my lesson about covering the bread with a damp cloth.  By the end of the rising, I had a bit of bread skin on the dough that kept the dough from binding with itself.  This caused the bread, when cooked, to kind of fall apart where the skin line was.  

Cook and learn.  That is the motto of food exploration. 

Overall, with its successes and failure, there really is nothing quite like having a sandwich made with bread your fixed from scratch.  Also, though I’m sure it has been said before, there is something really miraculous about making a loaf of bread.  You start with just flour--loose, formless powder.  You end up with something to eat and enjoy that has form and purpose.  That is a pretty amazing transformation.  

I think this is a New Year’s resolution worth keeping.  

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  1. Bread looks awesome! Wahoo!
    I always keep a couple of reuseable bags in my trunk just in case.


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