a "been-there" mom of six offers encouragement
to wives, young mothers, and those not so young,
and simple common-sense approaches to
the "ings" of life:
child-rearing (hints and helps), homemaking (all areas),
cooking (simple, cheap, and do-it-yourself)
making (toys and gifts), preparing (for the unexpected),
maintaining (sanity and peace in this increasingly crazy world) and more---
all aspects of making the most of making do on little---
and having fun in the process.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Artisan Bread Dough in Minutes for Pennies


Delicious Crusty Artisan/European Breads are showcased in  
bakeries as luxuries---with "luxury" prices
In reality they are the most basic and simple breads.  The ingredients are as basic as they can get

The luxury myth bubble was broken, and the popularity of these breads were spread with the book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois.

Fleischmann's, the yeast people have tried to cash in and "catch"  people not in the know with their new product Simply, Homemade No Knead Bread Mix. I haven't found it in our local stores yet but this is what I have found on line:

  • The"plus" is there is only one 25 minute rising period.
  • The "minus" is a  one-loaf package costs $4.19
  • Yeast and sugar packets are included in the box but you have to dissolve them with water, and let it "bloom" before adding the flour mixture.

The master recipe in AB in 5 Minutes a Day makes dough for six loaves that will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks (or can be frozen in one-pound portions). You also store it in the container you make it in so there is one less thing to wash!

The six-loaf recipe calls for 3 cups lukewarm water, 1 Tablespoon yeast, 1 to one and one-half Tablespoons Kosher or regular salt (or adjust to suit your taste) and 2 lbs (6-1/2 cups) all-purpose flour, all combined at once in one large container. Topped with a loose lid, you let it raise for about 2 hours and put the entire thing in the fridge That's it!

When you want to make a loaf, you just remove a grapefruit-size ball from the container, lightly shape it and let it rise for 40 minutes (or 60-90 if you want a more open hold structure in the interior of the loaf. Or, to eliminate any counter-rising time, shape the loaf and immediately refrigerate it overnight. In the morning, let it rest on the counter until your oven is pre-heated to 450 degrees and bake it.

For complete instructions go to 
(I'm sorry I can't seem to provide a link you can just click on so you will have to cut and paste.

The book provides many variations including pizza crust and rolls, made from the same recipes,  many of which are also available on line.

Here is the recipe I used before learning the above.

Artisan Bread
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 to 1-1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine above in large bowl. Add 1-1/2 cups plus 2 Tablespoons warm water and stir until blended. Dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let rest 12 to 24 hours at warm room temperature (about 70 degrees). The dough will be ready anytime after its surface is dotted with bubbles.

Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it. Sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly (about 30 seconds) shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more of same. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not spring back when poked with a finger.

At least 1/2 hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6 to 9 quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in over as it heats.

When dough is ready, make 3 slits across top of loaf with a sharp knife and carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under the towel and turn dough over into the pot, seam side up. It may look like a mess but that is okay. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed. It will straighten out as it bakes.

Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes. Remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack. Makes one 1-1/2 pound loaf.

'till we eat again,
          Simply, Gail

If you are interested, and have a few more minutes to sit and read, below are a few thoughts I picked up from a "what exactly is artisan bread" site. It turns my descriptions of "just stir it up and dump it out" into a creative feel-good experience.

Remember you are making one of the oldest most basic foods there is. It wasn't necessary to add chemicals to bread for centuries and it still isn't.

Artisan bread is best described by thinking about the person who makes the bread. An artisan baker is a craftsperson who is trained to the highest ability to mix, ferment, shape and bake a hand crafted loaf of bread. 

How to tell a true hand crafted bread from one that is just called artisan. First look at the ingredients. There shouldn't be anything in bread besides flour, water salt and yeast. If the bread is made with a sourdough there may not even be yeast in the ingredients.

Flavored breads may list other recognizable ingredients like nuts, garlic, herbs or cheese. A viennoiserie bread , for example a brioche, will include milk, butter and/ or eggs. All of the ingredients should sound like familiar foods. 

Compare an artisan baker to other familiar craftspersons. A baker's work parallels that of jewelers, glass blowers or furniture makers. They all have a palette of preferred, trustworthy materials. They know how to combine their materials to build something strong and at the same time delicate or elegant. Combining the raw materials in different ways will create various shapes, textures or colors.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Fresh Hot Cake Donuts --- from Craving to Ymmmm in Minutes

We love donuts!

A real, great doughnut is getting harder and harder to find. 

Now, with the following recipe, you can satisfy your craving faster than you could grab your car keys and head for the nearest store.

Dounuts vintage poster -
These homemade donuts are the crispy-old-fashioned-kind
and--- for much less than 20 cents each
Just imagine, you can have 12 hot fresh cake donuts, simply and quickly made from things that are probably sitting right there in your cupboards, just waiting. . .

In a medium bowl, whisk together the following:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 pinch nutmeg

In small bowl combine
1 beaten egg
1/2 cup milk
 2 Tablespoons melted butter

Combine with dry ingredients. Knead lightly and place on lightly floured surface. Roll or lightly press dough  to about 3/8 inch thickness. Cut into circles (I use a drinking glass and poke a hole in the middle with my finger since I don't have a doughnut cutter)

Heat oil, about two inches deep, to 375 degrees, using a heavy frying pan if you do not have a deep-fryer.

Carefully drop donuts into the oil, two or three at a time, not crowding them. Fry until bottom is golden, turn over with a long fork, and continue until down side is also golden --- about three minutes total. Drain on paper towels. Let cool slightly and then "top" them as desired.

We like ours drizzled with a glaze made from stirring a little milk and vanilla into powdered sugar.  I am going to try  orange or cherry icings because those are usually my favorites. They are also good when you shake them in a paper bag with powdered sugar or a cinnamon-white sugar mixture.

Recently screen-writer son Jeremy, who really, really loves donuts, told me about the latest craze in twinkle town --- faux donuts.  Ironically that seems like an appropriate name for the town's faux environment. He is planning on trying them out next week when he is in Hollywood.

I immediately searched the Internet to see what a faux donut was.  I learned they come in a variety of exotic flavors, are very expensive (one site listed them from $3.25 to $3.75 each) and they are not deep fried but rather baked --- thus to seem healthier than their traditional counterpart.

I further read their rich ingredients, including heavy cream, negated the "savings" from frying, they were time consuming, required special pans, and according to some reviews, had the taste and texture and look of "squatty" muffins.

When we crave muffins I'll bake big muffins. When we crave donuts I will make the real thing --- simply, cheaply, crunchy-fried, and fantastic.

A fresh batch will be ready when Jeremy walks through the door. I can hardly wait.

'til we eat again,

       Simply, Gail