Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Staff of Life

After requests from a beleaguered big brother and a comment regarding a friend's possible bread and water fast... I figured I have tinkered with my daily bread recipe for long enough and its time to share. Bread prices are climbing steadily, and I refuse to pay $4 for a real loaf of bread (in other words... a loaf I can both spell AND pronounce all the ingredients inside). When even Wonder Bread – fit only for bread balls and ducks – hits $2.89 a loaf, its time to turn on the stove.

Or not... as it turns out for my newest obsession. I mentioned a month or two ago that I had begun to modify a recipe I had found in Rachel Ray's new magazine. A flatbread redolent of garlic with the nice chew of a loaf but the ease of a stove top model. Its a great basic recipe, a little salty for my tastes, but solid. I even made some pretty highbrow grilled cheese sandwiches for our dinner out of the bread. If a recipe with almost a whole head of garlic sounds promising, check out her site and search for Roasted Garlic Flatbread with Spicy Tomato Chutney. But however much the Prime Geek and I may adore the stinking rose... its not exactly multipurpose enough for my needs. Great for dinner, but after a morning when my brain hadn't popped on yet and I fuzzily tried to make a honey and jam sandwich with it... I knew I had to make some changes. (And brush my teeth. Garlic + raspberry does not a happy morning make!)

With some fiddling, I've finally fixed upon our daily bread. It can be tweaked to the needs of the day, can be flavored in any direction... and takes very little time and energy. Best part for my greeny side is the relief from facing a hot oven once the heat of summer begins. The whole batch takes maybe 20 minutes on the stove or electric skillet – this winter I look forward to trying it out on the top of the woodburner.

2 OR 3 Tbsp raw sugar or brown sugar (Heck, honey is great too.) 2 ½ tsp yeast* and ¼ cup warm water (bath tub temp). Mix these three ingredients and set aside to get bubbly.

Heat ½ cup milk (yes... you can use soy or rice. I don't... but I also DO know where its from and can drive to the dairy if I really wanted to. Use what you got, it even works with reconstituted dry milk powder.) with 2 Tbsp softened butter (again, margarine is fine, but I prefer to be able to spell what I'm eating.) How hot? Butter should melt, but don't heat it so high you'll scald yourself if it spills. Once the butter is melted, stir in ½ cup plain yogurt**. By this point, your yeast mix should be bubbling away so add it to the now slightly cooled milk mix.

In a stand mixer*** stir together 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, 1 ½ cups whole wheat flour, 1 ½ tsp salt, and ½ tsp baking powder. Slowly pour the wet into the dry, switching over to the dough hook as it all comes together. Let the machine knead the dough for 5 minutes while you get things ready for the rising portion of the day. Best place to let bread rise is the microwave. Wet a tea towel and stick it in the box on high for 45 seconds until it steams. Push to the back and close the door. Once the dough is done kneading, it will be sticky – but cohesive. Drizzle either a little melted butter, oil, or spray down the sides of the bowl with pan spray until you can freely spin your dough inside the bowl. Cover with a towel or a sheet of plastic wrap and pop into the microwave to rise. The dough will be ready to cook in as little as an hour or if you forget it and go to bed... should still be fine in the morning.

Up until now, basic bread recipe – right? Here's where things get a little different. Heat a large skillet or griddle DRY. No spray, no oil. You want it around medium heat but not smoking. Pull out your dough and roughly divide it into 16 pieces. (Half it, half again, half those.... you get the idea) Precision doesn't count here. Sprinkle some flour out onto the counter and roll out each dough ball – no perfect circles required, just roll it out however the dough wants to go to piecrust thickness. Pull up the first slice and drop onto the skillet. In about a minute, the dough will be puffing and easy to flip. Flip, cook another minute and then repeat with the next piece.

On my griddle I can cook two pieces at once and usually have time to roll out the next two pieces as the first cook. Takes a few tries, but the swing comes pretty quickly. All in all? About 20 minutes or less from dough to done. Let cool then store in a zip-top bag.

Best parts of this recipe? Makes AMAZING pizza dough (she said quite modestly). For ultra thick crust use the whole recipe in a pizza pan, for a thinner crust use a cookie sheet. I'll post the recipe I made for our dinner Monday night if anyone wants it – a reprisal of the Perky ones Buffalo Chicken Pizza. The recipe is also endlessly adaptable. Want a sweet bread for Sunday brunch? A bit more sugar and 2 tsp of cinnamon in the dough (for extra pizazz toss the finished bread in butter then sugar and cinnamon. Elephant ears without much guilt!) Savory? Mix that 3 Tbsp of roasted garlic into the dough as the original called for. Change up the flours, use flavored yogurts, still in some cheese. Its a pretty bulletproof recipe.

Cheap? Yup. A little less then a buck a loaf (or pizza crust) and makes 16 slices of bread.

Green? That too, thanks to a local bulk food store and its quick stovetop cooking style. Give it a try and see if you can't make those white tubes of packaged goo a thing of the past. Let me know how it works out for you.

*DON'T buy those little 3-pack packages of yeast if you can avoid it. Not only is there a huge amount of packaging for a tiny item... the cost over time is enough to make this nerd swoon. Look for SAF-Instant yeast in a 1 pound package. They usually retail around $3-$5 and kept in the freezer will last more then a year.
**I'm finally jumping and am going to try making my own yogurt this week. If it all works out, that's one more thing I can knock off my grocery list.
***You CAN make this without the mixer... just know it adds another 15 minutes of kneading to get the dough together. I'm a lucky gal who won't be giving up my Kitchen Aide without a fight. Be warned... I'm armed.


Mary said...

Yummy recipe! I'll have to give it a try this weekend. I'll admit that I have a three-pack of yeast :-( It's all they had at the store. It sucks to live in such a small town.

I found a local source for raw goat milk and I've made yogurt with it twice now. The boys love it! 2/3 yogurt 1/3 orange juice in a tall glass has become my SO's favorite treat.

Are you gonna try cheese soon? Maybe we can have a newbie cheese-along ;-)

Anonymous said...

I love the tip about rising the bread in the microwave. Keeps out drafts AND nosy pets!


Anonymous said...

Sounds good. We use a recipe from Nigella and just double the yeast to get a nice soft loaf when we want something more like storebought bread. We also add ground flax seed for some added nutrition.