Hello and Welcome to Liza’s Kitchen!
Here in the blog section of the site, every week, I’m going to be introducing a new recipe, cooking technique, ingredient, or tip/trick to get you cooking and baking at home. As a native New Yorker and super busy person with a full-time job (Liza’s Kitchen is a part-time gig right now) I understand the time constraints that working people face when preparing food.
We all want to feed ourselves and our families only the best, but doing so can be expensive and time consuming. I’m going to be introducing you all to some easy meals and baked goods that are inexpensive, filling, good for you, and won’t keep you in the kitchen for hours.
Resist the urge to log on and order from Seamless (or open the freezer and grab an assortment of tater tots, chicken fingers, and mini egg rolls to throw in the toaster oven – hey, we’ve all been there) – I’m here to help. And, if you are so incredibly lucky enough to live in the fabulous city that is New York, I can even come to your kitchen to get you started!
This week, I want to talk about bread. Yummy wonderful crispy bread. I’m, starting off with a perceived tough because I want to prove to you right from the start that it isn’t too tough to cook quick and healthy without relying on packaged foods. I’ve only just started making bread in the last 6 months (I was always afraid of it, looking back, I have no idea why), so I’d consider myself to be rather new at it. Pastries and cakes I’ve got covered – bread is all new territory.
So, here’s the schtick about bread:
On its most basic level, bread is the combination of water and grains. There are flat breads (like matzoh, which is just flour and water) and there are raised breads (like baguettes), which have some type of leavener.
There are two basic kinds of leavener: baking power/soda and yeast. Baking powder and soda work quickly relying on a chemical reaction between alkaline and acidic compounds to make carbon dioxide which inflates the dough or batter. This is what you use for brownies, cakes, and most other pastries that have a delicate structure. Yeast, on the other hand, is a live fungus (yes – a fungus). There are around 160 species of yeast, but the one that we use most often for bread baking comes in a neat little packet. The yeast granules are dormant, and when added to warm water with a little sugar they become active. The reason we add a little sugar is to speed along the process as how yeast works is it feeds on the sugars in the flour to release the carbon dioxide that makes the bread rise. This all happens at a much slower rate than with baking powder or soda, but you know what they say, good things come to those who wait!
Trying not to bore you to tears, I’ll cut to the chase – there are lots of types of flours used in breads, but what you most commonly see is wheat flour. Wheat flour contains two proteins, gliadin and glutenin. When you combine the two together, you get gluten. Yup, gluten, that thing that you are constantly hearing about on television. Gluten is what makes the dough stretchy, and unfortunately some people who have Celiac Disease or gluten-sensitivity sick (more on that in a later post). As you knead the dough the gluten becomes more and more stretchy (bakers usually say that they are “developing the gluten”) and letting the bread rest and rise allows it more completely as well as giving it time for the yeast to add more flavor. When you bake the bread, the yeast keeps expanding until it eventually dies at which time the gluten hardens and the dough solidifies into bread.
Okay, you’ve read this far so I better give you a recipe. The first type of bread I made was a plain whole wheat round loaf recipe which I adapted from various whole wheat and challah loaves.
Whole Wheat Round Sandwich Bread
3 TB Dry Active Yeast
1 3/4 Cups Warm Water
6 Cups White Flour
3 Cups Wheat Flour
1/4 Cup Sugar
1/3 Cup Honey
1/3 Cup Vegetable Oil
1 1/2 TB Kosher Salt
1. Combine the yeast, a pinch of the sugar, and all the warm water in a large mixing bowl. Swirl with a whisk a couple of times so ensure the yeast is all wet. Let sit for 5-10 minutes until frothy and bubbling.
2. First, add all of the wet ingredients, whisking them together. Then begin adding all of the dry ingredients. Continue to mix them together until a ball is formed.
3. Remove the ball of dough from the bowl and begin kneading. Continue to knead until the dough is smooth (about 10 minutes). If you have a mixer big enough, this can be done in it with a dough hook, but I prefer doing it by hand. Works those arm muscles!
4. Spray a large bowl with non-stick spray (or oil lightly with vegetable oil) so that the dough doesn’t stick to it when you put it in there to rest.
5. Cover the bowl lightly with a dish towel and place in a warm spot to let the dough rise. I like to put it in the oven to save counter space while I’m working on something else (but just be sure not to put the oven on by mistake!) Let rise for approximately an hour and a half to two hours, or until the dough has doubled in size.
6. Remove the dough from the bowl and split into three equal pieces. Create loaves by rounding into balls and then flattening slightly. You can alternatively break each ball into three pieces and braid them for a braided loaf.
7. Place on cookie sheets or sheet pans and cover loosely with a dish towel let rest for second rise, about another hour (or until the dough has doubled in size again).
8. Brush with egg wash (1 egg plus 3 TB of water) and bake at 375 degrees for approximately 30 minutes.
Until next week,
BTW – Email me at email@example.com with requests, questions, etc. I’ll be happy to address them in upcoming posts.