Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A few days in

So I have been working through the food in the fridge and still have spent no more money on food this week. I have canceled my lunch engagements for the rest of January at work except for a Chinese New Year celebration for dim sum and the jury is still out on that but I may cut myself some slack with regards to the no dining out for January rule since it is a special occasion. It is being arranged by a Chinese friend from work and I have never had the opportunity to dine at a dim sum room with a person that REALLY knows their way around I may have to break the rule or at least bend the guideline.

I have been working on a fast and easy bread recipe for an everyday loaf that even if I get behind in my daily tasks I can still get in the oven with minimal time commitment. Artisan loaves are typically $3-$4 dollars and even one a week can bite into a $50 budget by 10%. I have tried both the recipe from Mark Bittman "The Minimalist" in the New York Times and found it to be too wet and very difficult to work with and completely too loose to be shaped. I have also tried the "almost no knead" bread recipe from Cook's Illustrated and found it to be easier to work but requiring more ingredients including "mild-flavored lager" which I can't really close back up and it doesn't use an entire 12oz, it can be found here

Where I've ended up so far is with a mix of the two plus the substitution of some whole wheat pastry flour for 1/2 the flour. Here is my recipe:

  1. 1.5 C whole wheat pastry flour
  2. 1.5 C unbleached all purpose flour
  3. 1/2 tsp yeast
  4. 1.25 tsp kosher salt
  5. 1.33 C water

  • Stir together all dry ingredients, add the water and combine until a dough ball forms. It is easy and there is no need to incorporate all the flour. The dough will be shaggy and not very pretty; that's OK. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a relatively warm place (I keep mine on top of the fridge since I leave my house in the mid-fifties most of the time) for 18 - 24 hours.
  • Lightly spread some flour on the counter, turn out the (now quite loose and bubbly) dough into the flour and with floured hands, knead 10 times and stop. Form it into a ball and place on a floured kitchen towel seam side down for 2 hours.
  • Preheat the oven and a covered pot (mine is ceramic 2.5 qt Corning) to 500. Turn the loaf into the hot, dry pot (don't worry it won't stick) seam side up and cover. Reduce the heat to 425 and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for 20 more minutes or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
  • Cool completely to allow the texture to fully develop and enjoy.

I just received the highest approval as Henry tasted a toasted slice with some peanut butter and has declared it "SOOOO GOOD!". I haven't yet done the math to confirm this is less expensive than store bought but I am pretty certain it should come in less than 1/2 the price and really all told the effort is about 10 minutes not counting the actual cooking time. It takes 5 minutes the first night, 2-3 minutes the 2nd night to form and then a minute to preheat the oven, another to drop the risen dough in and another to test and remove the loaf.

Some of you have been asking what I have eaten so far in order to keep to the budget and so here goes:

Toast (homemade bread) w/ peanut butter (already on hand before budget) for breakfast
Roast beef (already on hand before budget) sandwich for lunch
Chili for dinner (already on hand before budget)

Toast (homemade bread) w/ peanut butter (already on hand before budget) for breakfast
Roast beef (already on hand before budget) sandwich for lunch
TJ's potato gnocchi with broccoli, roasted red peppers and lemon brown butter for dinner

Toast (homemade bread) w/ peanut butter (already on hand before budget) for breakfast
Crackers and dip with chocolate cake (all brought in for an anniversary @ work) for lunch
Pan roast chicken breast, parmesan brown rice w/ peas and steamed carrots for dinner

As you can see, I am not really onto the budget part yet but we are eating out of the freezer and will soon be able to get crackin' on this. Henry is fully on board and wants to cook one night per week as well as help plan menus. He is so far seeing it as a fun project and we'll see if I can keep his interest. He can help with the budget as well so he can see math in the real world :)

Anyway, thanks for reading and I hope you all choose to follow the blog for a while and let's see how this all works out. I'll keep working on the bread and let you all know but this coming weekend I'm going to try and make homemade yogurt in the crockpot...More to come

1 comment:

  1. Outstanding! Thanks for sharing the bread recipe. I am going to make it tomorrow. I will let you know how it turns out for me. You know I will do something to mess it up.=)