Monday, August 31, 2009

Let's start here

Somewhat inspired by Julie Powell in Julie and Julia, I cemented my long-standing dream to cook through More With Less cookbook. The idea had been rolling around in my head for a couple years, but never had the time, drive, or fortitude to start out on the conscientious Mennonite culinary journey.

Now that I'm married (another mouth to feed!) and mostly unemployed and somewhat bored, it seems like a good time to embark...

Unlike Julie, however, I can't promise to do this in a year. I don't even know how many recipes there are in the book.

But I can promise that I will be modifying the recipes. I rarely follow recipes (aside from baked goods), and substitute what I have on hand, rather than driving all over tarnation to find an ingredient.

I am using the 25th anniversary edition, in case that makes a difference in page numbers.

The first three recipes that I have made are:

1. Honey Whole Wheat Bread, pg. 57

The very first recipe in the book! How could I not start with it? And we must get one thing straight -- I love making bread. I love kneading the bread, I love being able to leave it for awhile and coming back to a morphed creation, and I love how it smells when it's baking. In baking, unless otherwise noted, I use all organic flours, and try to use organic oils, sugars, etc.

At the risk of boring you, I will give the basics of how I treated this recipe.

I halved it, which was completely fine, and still made a huge loaf. I used regular water, but potato water would have provided a slightly smoother texture (but didn't have any on hand.)

The dough performed excellently, and raised according to the times in the recipe. Baking time was slightly longer, though this probably was dependent on oven temperature. See how beautiful it looks?

Since I needed to pick Justin up from work, I left it to continue cooling on our washing machine (a.k.a. extra countertop!). When we returned home, it was no longer there. A thief had stolen it, it seemed. A thief named Darby, with big brown eyes and wagging tail. I was positively livid. I cried. I said bad words. I didn't look at her the rest of the day. I learned my lesson: Put the dog away if you can't put the bread away.

Overall: ? out of 5

2. Peach Kuchen, pg. 280

We were having guests for dessert, and had loads of fresh, local produce lying around, begging to be used. Similar to pie, this kuchen consists of a crust and fruit filling. However, the crust is more similarly related to a graham cracker crust, and the filling had an egg/yogurt (soy in our case) topping. The crust left a lot to be desired, as it crumbled upon trying to serve it. For a 9" pie pan, I felt like it barely covered the sides, and if I made this again, would either make more or put it in a smaller pan.

Instead of just peaches as the recipes calls for, I substituted 2 pears, sliced, for two of the peaches. This also helped it to fill more fully, and stretched to serve 8 (though the recipe only says 6).

It had a nice taste, though I think using plain yogurt (instead of the vanilla soy yogurt that I bought) would have given it a bit more punch, and less sugary.

Overall: 3.5 out of 5

3. Oatmeal Bread, pg. 60

I've made this recipe countless times before, often adding one thing or another to change it up a bit. Sometimes more whole wheat. Sometimes flax seeds. It's such an easy recipe to experiment on -- nearly fail-proof. I recommend it for beginners to bread-making.

This time, I needed a breakfast dish for the following day, so decided to convert them into cinnamon rolls. After the first rising, I stuck the dough (covered) into the fridge until the next morning. When I got up the next morning, I rolled the dough out into two 8" cake pans worth of cinnamon rolls, covered and stuck them in the oven under the light for about an hour. When they had raised to about the point at which I wanted them to bake, I pulled them out and turned the oven on.

They were delicious -- topped with a fairly hearty dollop of buttercream icing. We ate half the pan right way Darby was going to get any of this, if I had anything to say about it!

So we've started. I'm open to other people taking recipes that you have interest in and writing about your experience with them.

Overall: 4.88 out of 5