Tag Archives: Pantry

Stocking the Pantry 2: The Bread Edition

After publishing his seminal work entitled An Eater’s Manifesto in which he lays out many concerns over the modern production of food, Michael Pollan found himself deluged with questions regarding what was actually safe (or good) to eat.  His response was In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto where he writes that we should “eat food, not too much, and mostly greens.”  Sounds simple enough, except for the fact that what many of us consider to be “food” are actually highly processed, food-like products. To specify what he meant by “food,” Pollan wrote that it should be recognizable by our grandmothers (or great-grandmothers) as  “food,” even when we read the ingredient list.  In short, you shouldn’t need a Ph.D. in Nutritional Science to understand the contents of what you are going to eat.  Pollan’s iconic example of this is the ingredient list from a brand name “bread” product that had an astounding 20 ingredients when bread truly only needs four; flour, yeast, water and salt.

It was through readings such as Pollan’s that I realized I really didn’t know how a lot of the basic foodstuffs were made.  Don’t get me wrong I knew what was in some of these things, but I didn’t know how to go about making them for myself.  I had the theory, but not the practice.  Much of my cooking before that time had been focused on either making really fancy food or really quick food.  There were the fancy meals for friends where I tried out new ideas and tastes that until that time I’d only read about, and then there were the weeknight meals as a young married couple trying to balance graduate school and life. The basic foodstuffs, the types of things that I liked to keep in my pantry like spaghetti sauce, pizza dough, even muffins, were things that I only bought in packaged form and hadn’t really thought about making them at home.

Around the same time of Little Man’s arrival I had started teaching anthropology of food courses at the university where I taught.  The research I was doing for my courses, as well as our desire to feed our family well, led me to start tinkering with making some of these basics, like pizza dough and soup stock.  Now these things are so basic for me to make that it irks me if I run out and have to buy them from the store.  The basic food that I’ve recently added to my repertoire to make at home is whole wheat bread.

Now before you get nervous and start mentally listing off all the ways that you live a super busy life and can’t possibly fit making your own bread into an already crazy schedule, don’t panic.  Take a deep breath.  This recipe is a fun Saturday afternoon project and makes enough dough for you to make three loaves of bread, two of which can hang out in the freezer until you are ready to eat them.  That is the beauty of stocking your pantry; you make things periodically in bulk, freeze them, and then use them as you want them over the following weeks or months.  You can choose what types of staples you would like to have at hand, and make them at home.  And for all of these basic foods, like pizza dough, bread, tomato sauce, etc., there is something immensely satisfying knowing that not only do you know the entire ingredient list, but you actually made these things.  They weren’t made in a factory by extruders and people garbed in sci-fi plastic clothing, but these foods were made by you, with your own hands (and your kids’ hands), and that makes it all taste that much better.  Have fun!

IMG_9825Whole Wheat Oat Bread

Adapted from: Girl Versus Dough

Ingredients:
2 cups water
2 cups milk
4 ½ tsp. (2 packets) active dry yeast
3 tbsp. agave
4 cups whole wheat flour
5 cups whole wheat bread flour
2 cup rolled oats (not instant)
½ cup olive oil
2 tbsp. salt

Directions:

  1. Combine half of the milk and water in a microwave safe bowl and heat for 45 seconds or until very warm (not more than 115ºF).  Pour this into the bowl of a stand mixer (or mixing bowl) and add half of the yeast and agave.  Stir to combine and let rest for 10 minutes or until foamy.
    Adding the yeast to the milk mixture in the stand mixer.

    Adding the yeast to the milk mixture in the stand mixer.

    The yeast starting to proof and get foamy.

    The yeast starting to proof and get foamy.

    The rest of the dry ingredients.

    The rest of the dry ingredients.

  2. Add half of the flours, oats, olive oil and salt to the bowl and mix/stir to combine.  Once the ingredients are incorporated, mix at Speed 2 on your stand mixer for 6 minutes.  If kneading by hand, dump ingredients out onto a lightly floured board and knead until smooth and elastic (about 15 minutes).
    The mixture just getting fully incorporated and starting to pull away from the sides of the bowl.

    The mixture just getting fully incorporated and starting to pull away from the sides of the bowl.

    The cohesive dough has been "kneaded" by the machine and is ready to proof.

    The cohesive dough has been “kneaded” by the machine and is ready to proof.

  3. Oil a large bowl for the dough to rise in.  Place the dough into the bowl, cover loosely with plastic wrap and set aside.

    The first batch of dough resting in a proofing bowl.

    The first batch of dough resting in a proofing bowl.

  4. Repeat the previous instructions with the remaining ingredients.  Once the second batch of dough is completed, add it to the first.  Roll the dough quickly in the oiled bowl so that all sides are slicked.  Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and then with a towel.  Place the dough in a warm place to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
    The second batch of dough has been added to the first and set in the bowl to rest.

    The second batch of dough has been added to the first and set in the bowl to rest.

    Covering the dough with plastic wrap.

    Covering the dough with plastic wrap.

    Tucking the dough in with a towel.

    Tucking the dough in with a towel.

    A big, beautiful bowl of proofed dough.

    A big, beautiful bowl of proofed dough.

  5. Gently press down on the dough to release some of the gases.  Let it sit for 10 minutes.

    There's no need to brutalize your dough by "punching" it down.  Just give it a nice press to release some of the gasses, then let it rest for a bit before proceeding.

    There’s no need to brutalize your dough by “punching” it down. Just give it a nice press to release some of the gasses, then let it rest for a bit before proceeding.

  6. Divide the dough into three pieces.  On a lightly floured board shape one piece of dough into a roughly 8×6 inch rectangle.  Tightly roll the rectangle into a long cylinder, tucking the ends in as you go.  Seal the cylinder along its base so that no seams are visible.  Set the cylinder aside and repeat this step with the remaining two pieces of dough.
    Form the individual pieces of dough into rough rectangles.

    Form the individual pieces of dough into rough rectangles.

    Then roll the rectangles into tight cylinders, tucking in the edges as you go.

    Then roll the rectangles into tight cylinders, tucking in the edges as you go.

  7. To bake immediately: Place each piece of dough into its own oiled loaf pan.  Cover the pan(s) loosely with plastic wrap and a towel.  Set the pan(s) aside to let the dough rise for about 45 minutes.  The dough should be more or less the shape of the finished loaf.  Proceed to baking instructions.
    If you want to bake a loaf immediately, place the formed cylinder into a well oiled bread pan.

    If you want to bake a loaf immediately, place the formed cylinder into a well oiled bread pan.

    Cover the prepared dough with plastic wrap and its towel, then set it aside to proof again.

    Cover the prepared dough with plastic wrap and its towel, then set it aside to proof again.

    This dough is proofed and ready for the oven.

    This dough is proofed and ready for the oven.

  8. To freeze for future use: Place each piece of dough into its own large, resealable plastic bag.  Seal the bag and place it in the freezer.  The dough can be frozen for 2-3 months.  Remove the dough from the freezer and thaw in a well-buttered loaf pan, then proceed to baking instructions.

    Any dough that you want to save can be tightly wrapped in plastic and then sealed in a plastic bag and frozen.  This dough will last in the freezer for 2-3 months.

    Any dough that you want to save can be tightly wrapped in plastic and then sealed in a plastic bag and frozen. This dough will last in the freezer for 2-3 months.

  9. Baking Instructions: Preheat your oven to 400ºF.  Bake the bread for 40-50 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking.  The bread is done when dark brown on top and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, or has reached an internal temperature of 190ºF.  Cool on wire racks and enjoy!IMG_9824
 Recipe Icon Whole Wheat Oatmeal Bread
http://www.thesheepareout.com
adapted from: Girl Versus Dough
Ingredients:
2 cups water
2 cups milk4 ½ tsp. (2 packets) active dry yeast
3 tbsp. agave
4 cups whole wheat flour
5 cups whole wheat bread flour
2 cup rolled oats (not instant)
½ cup olive oil
2 tbsp. salt
Directions:

  1. Combine half of the milk and water in a microwave safe bowl and heat for 45 seconds or until very warm (not more than 115ºF).  Pour this into the bowl of a stand mixer (or mixing bowl) and add half of the yeast and agave.  Stir to combine and let rest for 10 minutes or until foamy.
  2. Add half of the flours, oats, olive oil and salt to the bowl and mix/stir to combine.  Once the ingredients are incorporated, mix at Speed 2 on your stand mixer for 6 minutes.  If kneading by hand, dump ingredients out onto a lightly floured board and knead until smooth and elastic (about 15 minutes).
  3. Oil a large bowl for the dough to rise in.  Place the dough into the bowl, cover loosely with plastic wrap and set aside.
  4. Repeat the previous instructions with the remaining ingredients.  Once the second batch of dough is completed, add it to the first, and shape the dough into a tight ball.  Roll the dough quickly in the oiled bowl so that all sides are slicked.  Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and then with a towel.  Place the dough in a warm place to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
  5. Gently press down on the dough to release some of the gases.  Let it sit for 10 minutes.
  6. Divide the dough into three pieces.  On a lightly floured board shape one piece of dough into a roughly 8×6 inch rectangle.  Tightly roll the rectangle into a long cylinder, tucking the ends in as you go.  Seal the cylinder along its base so that no seams are visible.  Set the cylinder aside and repeat this step with the remaining two pieces of dough.
  7. To bake immediately: Place each piece of dough into its own oiled loaf pan.  Cover the pan(s) loosely with plastic wrap and a towel.  Set the pan(s) aside to let the dough rise for about 45 minutes.  The dough should be more or less the shape of the finished loaf.  Proceed to baking instructions.
  8. To freeze for future use: Place each piece of dough into its own large, resealable plastic bag.  Seal the bag and place it in the freezer.  The dough can be frozen for 2-3 months.  Remove the dough from the freezer and thaw in a well-buttered loaf pan, then proceed to baking instructions.
  9. Baking Instructions: Preheat your oven to 400ºF.  Bake the bread for 40-50 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking.  The bread is done when dark brown on top and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, or has reached an internal temperature of 190ºF.  Cool on wire racks and enjoy!

Click here for a printable version of the Whole Wheat Oat Bread recipe.

IMG_9825

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Stocking the Pantry

I am always drawn to the food television shows or magazine articles about stocking your pantry with things that you have made yourself, or how to make fast and delicious meals on the fly from whatever is in your pantry.  Yet it seems that no matter how many of these shows I watch or magazines I read, the pantry staples focused on are never the same ones that I always have stashed away.  I’ve come to the conclusion that our pantries are often as individual to us as our fingerprints are; shaped by our own backgrounds, be this cultural, economic, geographic, etc.  So I am not going to make the assumption that any of you have the same pantry staples as me.  But if I might make one suggestion… you really should have some pizza dough in your freezer at all times.  This is free advice, and therefore worth as much as you pay for it.  Do with it as you will.  In my opinion, good quality pizza dough is worth its weight in gold in terms of quick meal preparation.

You can use the pizza dough, of course, to make your own pizza, but that is just the beginning of the world of things that you can make with your own dough stashed away in the freezer.  I use it to make flat breads to serve with homemade hummus and other meze (small plate dishes from Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines), a knock-off version of naan (a delicious Indian flatbread), bread sticks, garlic knots, calzone, flatbreads topped with oven roasted vegetables, and the possibilities continue.  In fact, if you have any suggestions for how to use pizza dough to create other dishes, please share!  I would love to hear your ideas and to expand my own possibilities.

If you do want to use the dough for its namesake and make your own pizza you won’t be disappointed.  It is infinitely cheaper to make your own pizza than to order out, and you would be surprised by how a little bit of food goes a long way to top your creation.  Let me warn you, however, that once you realize how few toppings your local pizza place is actually giving you compared to what they charge, you might be a bit perturbed.

The best part of all of this (except for eating your creation, of course) is that if you make a large batch of pizza dough you can freeze it in individual portions for up to a couple of months.  I like to make a large batch of dough that creates roughly six portions.  I freeze these individually in plastic bags, defrost them as needed, and when my supply gets low I whip up another batch when I can.  Then when I find that I am in need of a dinner idea but don’t have much on hand, one of my first thoughts always goes to pizza with either a white or red sauce (and yes, I have used jarred marinara here in a pinch… no haters, please), and any number of combinations of the few food items I might have on hand.  You will see some of my pizza creations appearing here over the next few months.  After all, I did just stock my freezer with some dough…  To get your feet wet, try the Harvest Moon Pizza posted recently (Pebble Beaches and Pizza).  I hope you love it as much as my family does.

Harvest Moon Pizza on my Whole Wheat Pizza Dough.

Harvest Moon Pizza on my Whole Wheat Pizza Dough.

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

Ingredients

3 c. water

1 tbsp. honey

2 packets active dry yeast (or 4 ½ tsp.)

4 c. whole wheat flour

2 c. bread flour (preferably whole wheat)

2 c. all purpose flour

3 tsp. salt

Olive oil, for oiling the proofing bowl

Directions

Pour the water into a microwave safe measuring cup and microwave for 1 minute or until hot to the touch.  Don’t burn yourself, but the water should be very warm (around 100 degrees F or just over).  Add the honey and the yeast to the water and stir to combine.  Set the measuring cup aside for 10 minutes to let the yeast proof… aka get foamy.  If you yeast doesn’t foam up, then try reheating the whole thing for a few seconds in the microwave.  If it still doesn’t foam, then you may have had a bad batch of yeast and you’ll need to start again.

Getting the yeast ready to proof... aka get foamy.

Getting the yeast ready to proof… aka get foamy.

Nicely proofed yeast.  A little bit of honey or sugar goes a long way to give the yeast cells a nice snack.

Nicely proofed yeast. A little bit of honey or sugar goes a long way to give the yeast cells a nice snack.

Method 1: Electric Stand Mixer

Combine the flours and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.  Once the yeast has proofed, pour it into the bowl with the flours and the salt.  Starting at the lowest speed, combine the ingredients and then let the machine “knead” the dough at the speed recommended by the manufacturer (mine suggests not going beyond speed 2 for doughs) for 6 minutes.

The dry ingredients in the mixer bowl.  Be sure to mix the salt into the flour before adding the yeast.  Salt can slow yeast down, so I don't want the yeast to get a big mouthful of salt all on its own.

The dry ingredients in the mixer bowl. Be sure to mix the salt into the flour before adding the yeast. Salt can slow yeast down, so I don’t want the yeast to get a big mouthful of salt all on its own.

Getting everything mixed together.

Getting everything mixed together.

The dough starts to incorporate into a ball.

The dough starts to incorporate into a ball.

Oh, how I love my stand mixer...  6 minutes later and you have the perfect dough ready to rise.

Oh, how I love my stand mixer… 6 minutes later and you have the perfect dough ready to rise.

Method 2: By Hand

I have done this by hand many times, and there is something immensely satisfying about hand kneading your dough.  However, it does take a bit more time and counter space than the stand mixer method.  To do this by hand, simply combine the flours and salt in a large mixing bowl.  Once the yeast has proofed, stir it into the flours until relatively well combined.  Then turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead by hand, adding as little flour as possible, for about 15 minutes.  The dough should be elastic and only a little tacky to the touch.

Both methods come together here…

Once the dough is kneaded, whether by hand or machine, get a large bowl to allow the dough to proof or rise.  Drizzle a little olive oil around the bowl’s walls.  Form the dough into a large ball, place it in the oiled bowl and then flip it over so that the dough is oiled on all sides.  This will keep it moist during the rising process.  Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and then cover that with a clean dish towel.  Set the bowl aside in a warm place to rise for about one hour or until doubled in size.

Getting the dough ready to proof.

Getting the dough ready to proof.

Tucking it in...  For this batch I brought the dough downstairs where our wood burning stove was cranking out some heat.  It was toasty warm down there, rather than the cool kitchen upstairs.

Tucking it in… For this batch I brought the dough downstairs where our wood burning stove was cranking out some heat. It was toasty warm down there, rather than the cool kitchen upstairs.

The plastic wrap helped keep my massive bowl of dough from completely overflowing.

The plastic wrap helped keep my massive bowl of dough from completely overflowing.

Once the dough has proofed, gently press it down to deflate or degas the dough.  Let it rest for about 5 minutes and then form it into individual portions.  This batch should make 6 regular-sized pizzas, or you can use different portion sizes to create larger or smaller pizzas.  Divide the dough up evenly, form each portion into a ball, and unless you are using the dough immediately place them into individual freezer bags.

At this point the dough can be frozen for 1-2 months and used as needed.  From frozen, simply remove one of the portions the night before you want to use it and let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight.  If like me you forget to do this step, do not fear.  Simply remove the frozen dough from its plastic bag and place it on a microwave safe plate.  Then microwave the dough for 1 minute, and let it sit in the microwave oven for 5 minutes.  Then check to see how it is doing.  If the center is still frozen, give it another 30 seconds in the microwave followed by another couple of minutes to rest.  Then use the dough as desired.

Once the dough is thawed, or if you use it right after proofing, simply place your portion on a lightly floured work surface and roll it out or hand stretch it to your desired shape and size.  Then proceed with any pizza or flat bread recipe of your choice.  Enjoy!

Click here for a printable version of the Whole Wheat Pizza Dough recipe.

The pizza as it is just slid into the oven on my pizza stone.