Sunday, March 7, 2010


I love just about any food that includes dough; the kind of dough you work with your hands - pizza, pie, bread.

I make my own pie dough using the same recipe my mother used. The dough is easy to work with your hands, it rolls out easily, and never gets tough no matter how much you mess with it. The dough can be used for dessert pies (cherry (I use the recipe in "Joy of Cooking" and pumpkin (I use the recipe on the "Stokelys" can) are the ones I usually make), but if you leave the brown sugar out, it can also be used for meat pies and quiche.

My efforts at making pizza from scratch involved a bit of a cheat. The local bakeries in the Niagara area sell bags of pizza dough. I would buy a nice squishy lump of dough that I would dump out onto a floured board and stretch and leave to rise and then stretch again to get it to all edges of the pizza pan. My friend Mimi, of pasta and meatballs fame, taught me how to make pizza. It sure beat the package of Chef-Boy-Ar-Dee where all you add is water and then end up with a thin, crusty pizza (which I will admit I actually liked!).

But bread - somehow I could not master the skill of baking good bread. Maybe I'm a lazy kneader, or an impatient riser, or both. Whatever is wrong with me, it meant I could not bake good bread. Well, it tasted good, but it was usually pretty flat. In comes the bread machine and voila, I can now produce nice loaves of tasty bread. My machine will make other kinds of doughs and breads too, and now that I have the time I hope to try some different recipes, including pizza dough.

But the cost of electricity here makes using the bread machine a luxury (our latest bill amounts to over $150/month and this is a house that does not have any heating, and we have not used the fans or a/c thanks to the recent cold spell (if you want to know more about the cold spell, read Islagringo's posts on Facebook). So when guests at the house offered to show me an easy bread recipe, I was all ears.

Within one hour of checking in, Jim was down in my kitchen, towel flung over his shoulder, stirring up a paste of flour, water, yeast, and salt. Cake and pastry flour (brought from Canada) was what I gave him, thinking the other flour I had here would not work well, since my last two attempts with it in the bread machine resulted in flat, heavy bread. Of course, it could have been that all the ingredients were too cold, having just come out of the freezer (I did tell you I am an impatient baker - I should have waited for the ingredients to come to room temperature, but I'm a busy lady (and probably should not be baking bread in that mindset)). Or maybe my flat bread could be because the jar of yeast is years old (but doesn't freezing keep it fresh?).

Anyway, Jim mixed up the ingredients, resulting in a soupy blob of dough that had to sit for 18 hours, he told me. And then we would move onto the next step.

The next morning, as the guests ate breakfast up on the terrace, I took the bowl of slurpy dough up for inspection. Hmmm...pondering on the look of the dough, Jim and his wife decided that they didn't give the dough much hope. But we decided to proceed, so later that day Jim dumped the dough out onto a floured tray and sprinkled and folded until it became something that looked sort of familiar.The dough was then placed on a floured towel and covered and left to rest for another couple of hours (seems the dough and I have a similar need to rest in between work - I took a siesta too).

At 5:30 pm, with the oven and pan pre-heated, the dough was placed in the oven and expected to bake. I took another little rest with the wonderful aroma of baking bread filling the house. I took a couple of peaks through the oven window and saw that the dough was not rising. So what? I was going to eat it no matter what.

Finally, the flat bread was cooling on a rack. Jim declared the bread a failure - should have used the regular flour, he said. But he told me to let it cool for 20 or 30 minutes (geez, I have to wait that long to taste this?), and then we would cut it. I went for the 20 minute wait. I cut the bread, which was holey and soft inside, and crusty outside (like ciabatta bread), and spread with a healthy smear of New Zealand butter (thanks, Doris!). I took the slices up to the terrace where Jim and his wife were enjoying a glass of wine. I guess bread and wine go together - don't they mix that in church during communion?

We all tasted and although the bread did not turn out as Jim wanted it to, it still tasted GREAT. And I have eaten it cold over the last couple of days - in the morning, in the afternoon, and in the evening - whenever I get a little hunger spurt.

So I now know how to make no-knead bread, and the waiting time is not an issue because I don't have to coddle the dough as it sits and siestas. I can't wait to make it again.

I am becoming a master at doughs. The only other kind of dough I wish I could make is cool hard cash.


Life's a Beach! said...

Sue, I'm such a non-master at doughs. The only dough I can make is cookie dough! Maybe I'll learn one of these days.

Sandia said...

Sue- I love the way you write! But baking is WAY out of my league....I only have a kitchen because it came withe the house-LOL.....but I truly enjoy your blog! That bread sounds deliciaus..a little olive oil and bruscetta sauce...yum....

jeanie said...

Sue, I haven't baked in many years but when I was a total vegan, I ground my own flour and baked my own bread. Laurels Kitchen was my bible and they went into great detail about the action of yeast. It's quite scientific but not any extra work (you will have to be patient though LOL)

Yeast is a living organism and very sensitive to temperature. Too cold basically makes it inactive and too hot actually kills it.
Your guest was right about the flour. Cake and pastry flour has a lot less gluten so it produces a tender product. Yeast feeds on gluten so it's necessary (you can actually buy high gluten flour for baking bread but all purpose is fine)It's important that the flour be at room temp (throw a bowl of it in the microwave but not too hot)
I'm not sure about keeping the yeast in the freezer. I know it's important that the yeast be fresh but I would think it should at least left out till it's room temp. Soon you'll be baking up a storm so you'll probably buying it often.

jane said...

My bread machine was banished to basement long ago for making inferior-tasting bread. A few months ago, I came across "Artisan Bread" (in a cook book story). Found author's recipe free online for what sounds very much like the bread you made, "Artisan Bread," or buns--so easy and good tasting.

Sue said...

Beck - funny, cookie dough is not on my list, I rarely bake cookies (but do have a good recipe for those Toll-House ones. Yum!

Sandia - Too funny - maybe there would be a market for houses without kitchens!

Jeanie - everything you say makes sense. It is the impatience in me to not give the ingredients time to reach room temperature. I need to follow your advice!

Jane - are you blaming the machine?...heheheh. But yes, there are some great recipes out there - imagine how the internet has changed things, all these recipes out there, and most are FREE!!