So here are last week’s promised recipes for a few items that are so super-easy and cheap to make at home that buying them in the store doesn’t make much sense. Plus, you won’t have all those pesky plastic containers that are always the wrong number to recycle!
First up, the recipe for that ubiquitous no-knead bread. Now, I had trouble with this at first because I didn’t realize quick-rise and “instant” yeast were NOT the same. If in doubt, get yeast for bread machines. Also, note that this bread will probably be denser than what you buy in the store.
1/4 tsp active dry INSTANT yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting. You may use white, whole wheat or a combination of the two.
1 1/2 tsp salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran for dusting
1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Add the flour and salt, stirring until blended. The dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest at least 8 hours, preferably 12 to 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
2. The dough is ready when 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 it rest for about 15 minutes.
3. Using just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to the work surface or to your fingers, gently shape it into a ball. Generously coat a clean dish towel with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal. Put the seam side of the dough down on the towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another towel and let rise for about 1 to 2 hours. When it’s ready, the dough will have doubled in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
4. At least 20 minutes before the dough is ready, heat oven to 475 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in the oven as it heats. When the dough is ready, carefully remove the pot from the oven and lift off the lid. Slide your hand under the towel and turn the dough over into the pot, seam side up. The dough will lose its shape a bit in the process, but that’s OK. Give the pan a firm shake or two to help distribute the dough evenly, but don’t worry if it’s not perfect; it will straighten out as it bakes.
5. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and bake another 15 to 20 minutes, until the loaf is beautifully browned. Remove the bread from the Dutch oven and let it cool on a rack for at least 1 hour before slicing.
Next: How about a little butter to go on that bread? You can get fresh, local, happy-cow cream at many farmer’s markets, which makes this a real treat. If you make a large batch, you can freeze it until you need it!)
Here’s a simple recipe from Mother Earth News that only requires cream and a mason jar:
The Basic Process
To make butter, first start with a simple ingredient, heavy cream. You can buy whipping cream at the grocery store, although if you live in a part of the country where you can get fresh cream from a dairy, so much the better.
Next, stir up the cream so that the butterfat globules begin to separate from the liquid. One of the simplest ways to do this is to get a canning jar with a sturdy lid and fill it about one-third full of cream. Then simply shake the jar until you feel and see the butter separate. When that happens, there’s a sudden and noticeable difference in the consistency. That’s the time to stop shaking.
Now separate the butter from the buttermilk by straining it. A colander or piece of cheesecloth may be helpful for this task. Rinse the butter with cold water, gently turning the butter with a spoon while the cold water runs over it until the water runs clear. Then mix in a little bit of salt, to taste ? or leave the butter unsalted if you prefer. Put the butter in the refrigerator. Let it chill, and then it’s ready to eat!
Or, if you want to make a pound and freeze part of it, here’s how to make a large batch in your kitchen-ade mixer, via Re-Nest:
• Put whole cream into a blender, food processor, or mixer, and whip it on high speed. It will initially whip up into whipped cream. Then the whipped cream will get thicker and thicker, like whipped butter. Don’t stop here though!
• After 2-10 minutes, depending on the speed and strength of your machine, there will be a sudden change when the milk fat and solids separate out dramatically, leaving thin liquid behind. Beware of this, if you’re using an open mixer; if you’re mixing at high speeds, suddenly liquid will appear from nowhere and start spitting out of the bowl. If you’re using a food processor you’ll hear a “slap slap slap” as the butter suddenly forms up and whizzes through the thin buttermilk.
• After this, it’s very important to drain away all of that buttermilk (which is really just skim, watery milk) and squeeze the butter under running water until all traces of milk have drained away and the water runs clear. Otherwise that leftover milk will cause your butter to go rancid within a few days. Squeeze it as tight as possible and rinse it well. Then pack it into an airtight container or into some plastic wrap, and freeze.
And last, but not least, here’s how to make yogurt without a yogurt maker. Sadly, I have no idea where I copied this recipe from. My apologies to whoever wrote it.
To make yogurt, first choose your starter yogurt. If no one offers you an heirloom, I recommend one of the ubiquitous global brands, sweeteners and stabilizers included. They tend to have very active bacterial cultures, including EPS producers, and the additives end up diluted to insignificant levels. Delicious specialty yogurts make less predictable starters.
Then choose your milk. I prefer the flavor and consistency of yogurt made from whole milk. Many types of reduced-fat milk replace the fat with milk solids, including acid-producing lactose, and make a harsher tasting yogurt. Soy milk sets into a custardy curd that becomes very thin when stirred.
Heat the fresh milk at 180 to 190 degrees, or to the point that it’s steaming and beginning to form bubbles. The heat alters the milk’s whey proteins and helps create a finer, denser consistency.
Let the milk cool to around 115 to 120 degrees, somewhere between very warm and hot. For each quart of milk, stir in two tablespoons of yogurt, either store-bought or from your last batch, thinning it first with a little of the milk.
Then put the milk in a warm jar or container or an insulated bottle, cover it, and keep the milk still and warm until it sets, usually in about four hours. I simply swaddle my quart jar in several kitchen towels. You can also put the container in an oven with the light bulb on.
Once the yogurt sets, refrigerate it to firm its structure and slow the continuing acid production. To make a thick Greek-style yogurt, spoon it into a fine-mesh strainer or colander lined with cheesecloth, and let the whey and its lactic acid drain into a bowl for several hours. (Don’t discard the whey, whose yellow-green tint comes from riboflavin. It makes a refreshing cool drink, touched up with a little sugar or salt.)
Next month, Liz and I are experimenting with making Cheese!! (I can’t help saying that like Wallace, complete with hand gestures) We’ll post all about it, so stay tuned…