Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Special Dinner at Home: Part I

Cookie Monster and I aren't too into Valentine's Day, but we did want to do something a little special. Obviously it would involve food. But restaurants always jack up their prices on V-Day, and they're crowded, and I'd be required to wear pants, etc. So, a special dinner at home it was. And the name of the game today? Homemade. I made, from scratch: ricotta cheese, pasta and bread. The bread was a big deal, because in the past I've had some ... issues ... with bread. Killed the yeast, didn't bake long enough, burnt beyond recognition.

Bread! It actually worked! I made it!

Using the famous no-knead recipe, I started my bread a good 24 hours before I intended to bake it. (Aside: I was totally suckered into the recipe by the adorable 4-year-old maker of the bread. So cute! And humbling. If a 4-year-old can do it, I should be able to, too.)

Ok, so here's the dough after I combined the following: 2 1/2 cups AP flour, 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, 1/4 teaspoon yeast, 3/4 tablespoon kosher salt and 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water. 

Then you just let it hang out. Since there are only two warm places in our houseeither under flannel sheets, two blankets and a comforter in our bed, or inside the oven (turned off)—I opted for the oven. I just covered my dough with plastic wrap and let it bask in the warmth for nearly 24 hours. 

After dumping the dough onto a floured board and tucking the ends underneath, it made a lovely ball that I incubated in a Pyrex dish for another 4 hours or so.

And it rose! It did what it was supposed to do! I didn't kill the yeast! See how pretty it looked right before going in the oven?

After baking for 30 minutes with a lid, and then about 30 more without, it came out of the oven, making my house smell glorious.

Aaagggghhhhh. (That would be Homer Simpson drooling noises.) It was chewy and doughy but still light and fluffy. I spread real butter on top and reached nirvana.

Woo hoo! Homemade bread, dominated. Congratulations to me: I have the same skills as a 4-year-old. 

Coming next: Homemade ricotta cheese. Oh yes, it can be done.

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