Easy Peasy Bread, for real.

This is one of those “No-Knead Breads.”

Since it’s Friday I thought a post on bread was just the ticket. You know, no meat and all.  Which, in my world means: bread.  Because bread is my go-to comfort food, forever and always.  C’mon, isn’t it yours? Isn’t it everyone’s? Even those of us who’ve gone gluten free….it’s the bread, man {tho this recipe is NOT gluten free, as you can see – I haven’t mastered that realm, I can’t make a dent in it.}.  Gotta figure it out.  So, I’ve been on the hunt for good bread recipes for years.  I’ve made many many different kinds of breads. I have my favorite go-to recipes for different ones: sandwich, wheat toast, yeast rolls, cinnamon rolls, etc.  I’ve even got some of these down pat.  But the ever elusive nirvana of bread is that classic crusty artisan loaf, right? Of course!  But those are usually only found in France or your local foodie bakery, staffed by terminally hip youngsters with cargos and piercings.  A far cry from the cluttered kitchen of this graying middle aged mom.

Now, here is where I shout, “Eureka! I’ve found it!” I found a worthwhile, true to claim “no knead bread!”  No knead! And it is! I mean, if  you want to get all super micro technical and such you could say that it does have some kneading in that  you squoosh it a bit in the second step.  Or that the initial stirring of ingredients is technically a kneading.  But, I would say you would be nitpicking.  And a party pooper.   And that just takes all the fun out the whole deal now doesn’t it?  Why yes, yes it does.

So, if you are the kind of someone who has been searching high and low, hither and yon, for that perfect loaf…take a look at this.  And yes, I’m nothing special. You can find this or close to it most anywhere online by googling the term “no knead bread.”  But this is the only one I’ve gotten to work just right, for me. I’ve tweaked it a tiny bit from a few different sources and from just hands on feel, timing, tasting.  And, disclaimer: every loaf is gonna be a bit different based on the conditions in your kitchen, ingredients, flour chosen, vagaries of timing ovens etc etc etc.  But, in my kitchen, with my hands, and my stuff…this is how I do it.  Maybe it will work in  yours too and make your life just a little more tasty and wonderful.  It brings smiles to everyone in my family.

Basic No Knead Bread

3 cups bread flour (I use King Arthur)

1 T Bread Enhancer/Vital Wheat Gluten (Again, I  use King Arthur brand)

1 TSP yeast (I use Red Star)

1.5 tsp salt

1.5 cups water, warm

1 tsp white vinegar (I use Lucini brand white wine  vinegar, bc I have it on hand: its great in oil/vin dressing)

So. Big bowl: put flour, gluten, yeast, salt.  Stir together.  Add on top: water, vinegar.  Stir together till dough comes together, mostly.  Might be a little raggedy.  Leave in bowl in a rough round shape (not pretty yet) and cover w/ plastic wrap stretch tightly.  Set aside in warm place: 4 hrs.

Now dough will have about doubled, roughly.  Put dough on floured counter, fold it over on self a few times and as you do sort of shape it into a round.  This takes about two minutes.  Easy.

Take a parchment sheet and put it in same bowl (yes, just on top of the flour/stirring remnant, it’s ok) and put newly shaped dough back in bowl on parchment.  Let sit aside to rise, covered loosely this time w/ plastic from before…sit out for 1.5-2 hours (whatever works w/ your schedule).

Towards end of rising turn oven on to 450.  Put a covered oven safe pot (I use this red one, above, my fav) in oven to get crazy  hot.  When dough rising is done, it’s doubled.  Lift parchment corners, and thus dough all of a piece, and transfer into crazy hot oven pot.  Put lid back on and put in oven for 40 mins.  Then take out and glory in the golden crusty loaf.  To double check if it’s really done you can check w/ an instant thermometer – 205 degrees is DONE!

Let cool until you can’t resist, then cut and enjoy.  You can vary it with add-ins.  Last night I added some fresh tiny chopped rosemary from the last remnants of my sad failure of a garden ..and then dipped into the classic olive oil and balsamic – heaven.

So, yeah, you have to think of it in the morning to get bread for dinner.  But it takes about 3-4 mins to stir up the batch…then I go to errands, laundry, blog, whatever.  Then I flip it a few times and resit it and go to the multi school kid pickup rounds.  Then I remember to turn on the oven and after a few homework pages or refereeing episodes, I transfer it to red pot and cook it up…threatening the misbehaving children that no bread is to be had for fussing kids.  Then they all sit prim and proper at dinner, every time.  Ahem. Of course they do…….

Anyhow, like I said. I’m not a chef, not by a long shot.  I’m a mom.  But this is how it works for me, consistently.  I”m loving it.  But, again, I have a weakness for bread and I’m no Julia Child so try at your own risk and/or go find a recipe that is better tailored to your household.  But bread…it’s what’s for dinner, or on the side, on a good night!  Carbs be damned.

>Eureka! Now that’s yogurt!

>I did it!
What is my happy new discovery?

I made Strawberry Yogurt!!

I know, kind of a let down, not what you might have been expecting.
But in this house, and my kitchen, this is a long sought after product.
No, not the kind you buy at a store…we’ve spent a small fortune on those little cute cups O yummy expensive goodness.

I’m talking about the extra delish extra healthy homemade kind of yogurt, but flavored.

Ah, now that’s exciting!
I’ve been making yogurt for a few years now. I’ve used the yogurt machines, starting with the simple ones that came with the oh so fetching individual glass jars. It worked great.  But we zipped through a batch of those in no time.

We could spoon those jars clean in one breakfast.  So, I graduated to the yogurt maker that made a quart or some big amount at a time.

But it was unsatisfactory, I didn’t like the kind of awkward design of the appliance and the container.  So I didn’t really use it enough. I gave it to my sister in law. Yes, I am picky that way.  I can’t help it.  Don’t judge me.

Finally I read a way, online, to make it in a slow cooker.

Hmmm.  Really? A slow cooker? I thought it would be yet another complicated science experiment sort of deal where my kitchen became a grade school science lab.  But no…in multiple forums on the net, I read of this.  Why hadn’t I seen this before? Is this a new fad? A foodie wave of trendoid frenzy? Well, if so, count me in! I wanna try!

Now, the whole deal was kind of intriguing and yet a little nerve wracking to boot (I have a very active imagination and have had too many go rounds with food poisoning…so I’m a tad paranoid).  But I figured all that probiotic bacteria is supposed to be good for you and that the whole point of yogurt is to get the good stuff, the natural way, and that yogurt has been made in yurts for centuries with no ill effect.

So I gave it a try.
My first mini-eureka! It worked.  It was as good or better than my machine yogurt, and as easy or  more so to boot.  I was sold; and I already had the slow cooker.  Perfect!

So I made batch after batch of my standard vanilla or plain yogurt.  The family did the usual stir-ins of jam if they wanted some jazzy flavor.  But ya know….it just bugs me that I never could make the flavored yogurt without it curdling or not setting up.  In the back of my mind, I keep thinking about it, every time I make a batch.  So, I decided to give it yet another try, but with the slow cooker.
I thought about how to get the flavor in there before it was made, a new mode.  And…it worked! And, if I do say so myself, it’s really good!

So, for all you who are not blindingly bored and are still reading, here is how I did it.  It’s the basic yogurt recipe, and the strawberry part is a riculously simple add in, but who knew? Maybe you did, but I didn’t.  So, here goes, for any of  you ‘yogurt challenged” folks out there:

Slow Cooker Yogurt: Plain, Vanilla or Strawberry

Pour 1/2 gallon whole milk (NOT ultra pasteurized!) in slow cooker
Whisk in 1 cup sugar (if you want it sweet, I like it plain too but my kids rebel)
Add in  1/4 to 1/2 c powdered milk
For Plain yogurt: add no sugar or vanilla or anything else
For Vanilla yogurt: add 1 TB vanilla
For Strawberry yogurt: add 1/4 cup Smuckers Strawberrry Syrup (ok maybe not SO healthy, but surely to goodness healthier than all the stuff you pay a fortune for in the store. and that’s  1/4 cup for 1/2 gallon worth of yogurt servings…divide it up/do the math….geez)

Whisk well.
Now turn to low for 2.5 hrs.
Then turn off for about 3 hrs, until temp (instant thermometer) is between 110-120 degrees.
Once temp is in range, take about 3/4 c of milk/yogurt from cooker in large measuring cup.
1/2 cup plain  yogurt (homemade or purchased).  This is your “starter” and gets the yogurt to become all it’s yogurty goodness.
Then whisk it like mad so it’s smooth, and pour this mixture back into the cooker.
Cover and wrap the whole slow cooker in a bath towel for at least 8 hours, though I’ve left it overnight (don’t freak out, it’s ok).
Then after that, put ceramic container from cooker into fridge to chill.
After it’s chilled, eat and marvel at how good yogurt can be.  And how cheap.

No scalding milk and pouring from container to container, splashing your golden yogurt to be on the appliances and countertop and eliciting cussing.  No extra pots to wash out the scummy scalded milk.  No cute but slippery glass jars to wash out, rotating endlessly and counting if enough have been eaten to make another batch, or biting your tongue to keep from cussing when you can’t find their lids.

Now this is not only yummy, it’s “green.” In fact, it’s about as green and crunchy as I probably get…so, I’m putting it out there as evidence that I’m not totally soulless.  But more, I’m putting it out there because it’s easy, cheap and, most importantly, good.

Simple.  Easy. Low tech. Yummy.

You’re welcome.

>Fall? Really? What’s for supper?

>I have less time to blog and surf nowadays (the net….cmon…)
But every now and then I need some inspiration for the relentless question in this house:

“What’s for dinner?”

So, I pass by my many cookbooks and go to the uber hip and happening ‘net to find some cutting edge inspiration, especially on Fridays (which in this house, are usually meatless).

And so, this is just to kind of note that right now, all over the web, we’ve got all those lovely cozy inspiring “fall” stews and ragus and braises and whatnot.

Except for that it is STILL in the mid to high 90’s here and if I could skip cooking entirely until it dips into the 70’s or, even better, the 60’s…well, I would.
My garden is long dead from neglect in the searing heat…
My inspiration to make healthy summer type fare was left in Italy for the most part….

And I’m whining a bit today I guess because I need to figure out a no meat simple easy quick simply tasty simple (did I mention I got very little sleep last night due to a wakeful fussy Gabey and a croupy Em?) supper for dinner tonight.
Not the soup’s I love so much, because it’s not autumn yet here, despite what the calendar says and what the web is cooking…too hot for soups.

Nope….I need some ideas.
So, if anybody is out there…..take pity.
It’s still smothering hot here.
But a mom has to make something easy and kid crowd pleasing and meat free and easy for supper.
And it’s NOT autumn yet…it’s kinda summer, kinda not….and my creative brain is sizzled with the heat….

Little help?
What’s cooking, meatless and easy, at your house?