For some, it’s cooking blasphemy. “Do it right or don’t do it at all!” ” They shout. If one thing is worth doing, it’s worth doing it right!
Okay, okay, but that kind of control could prevent a lot of people from learning valuable skills – and eating really good food.
My kitchen is full of cheaters.
Part of the reason is that I grew up with a grandmother who grew her own tomatoes and apples, but did Minnesota wonders with cream of mushroom soup and a pudding mix. I don’t look at a can of fried onions with disgust, but with nostalgia.
But I am also a recipe protester. I played by the rules a lot of cooking games – including the Pillsbury Bake-Off – which required me to use things that I don’t normally grasp. I’m not a big fan of ready-made frosting, but tell me I could make $ 1 million if I find a new way to use it and go for this challenge.
A walk through my pantry will yield a mix of brownies (which can turn out to be the best cupcakes you’ve ever had) and instant mashed potatoes (a great way to get light gnocchi).
My mom roasts her own pumpkins. I rely on preserves because they are consistent and never watery, which is important in baking.
I don’t stop my shortcuts there, however. I bring them even to the simplest and most basic recipes. Like bread.
Next best thing
I started the pandemic like so many others. I was experimenting with flour and yeast, trying to find a good sourdough, eating my feelings smeared with butter and a little bit of jam.
It didn’t take long for me to realize that I don’t have the temperament or the advanced planning to maintain good sourdough.
That led me to the next best thing – the famous no-knead bread that burned the New York Times in 2006, then made its way through blogging and YouTube, returning to The Times during the lockdown.
There’s a reason it’s such a favorite.
It only contains four ingredients. To be fair, that doesn’t require a $ 200 bread maker or a fancy fermentation box or even any skill. You mix it up. You put it in a corner. You forget it until tomorrow.
Then you bake it and get the kind of deeply crispy, dense, artisanal masterpiece that you would pay a lot of money for in a fancy bakery – but your total investment is around 20 cents.
I cannot stress enough that I am not exaggerating this number. Actually, I am a little, but I round to the higher number, not to the lower number, because flour costs just 6 cents.
Adjustments and time saving
And yet I’m not happy with that, because reducing a multi-day sourdough process to a quick lite version for 12-24 hours always forces me to remind myself later in the day that I have to bake the bread first. that my day does not move away from me. Full Disclosure: My day still escapes me.
But bread can give the same delicious, crunchy, mushy results with a simple adjustment and a little addition. A little more yeast and a little sugar to feed it can reduce an entire day to a few hours.
The other big time saver with this recipe? Cleaning time.
Some bread recipes are a series of bowls and appliances, mats and tools. This is a bowl, and you can toss it with a fork if you want. Better yet, the best way to cook it is in a hot Dutch oven lined with crumpled parchment paper, which means there are no pans to clean!
The recipe itself is a shortcut to all the flavors of a bakery. Once you’ve stirred it, you can add almost anything. Jalapenos and Colby. Parmesan and basil. Caramelized and Swiss onions. Pepperoni and mozzarella. Cinnamon and raisins.
If there is a flavor combination you like, mix it up and cook it.
The perfect shortcut isn’t a processed salt bomb or time-saver for corn syrup – although if that’s what works for you, don’t let anyone make you feel bad about replacing Velveeta. by strong cheddar.
What’s important is finding a straight line between what you want and what you want to save – whether it’s time, money, or simplicity – that makes you happy.
These kinds of shortcuts are the best thing since sliced ââbread.
Shortened no-knead bread
3 cups of flour
1 teaspoon of salt
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 Â½ cup lukewarm water
In a 3 quart bowl, combine all the dry ingredients. Make a well in the flour and fill it with lukewarm water. Mix with a fork until well combined. Cover and let rise in a warm place for about an hour.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees with a Dutch oven, casserole dish or other baking dish, preferably covered. Cut out the dough and, on a piece of parchment paper – crumple it first and it’s a breeze to use – or aluminum foil sprinkled with flour, form a loaf and let sit while the oven. reaches temperature. Place parchment and dough in Dutch oven or other dish and cover.
Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and cook for another 15 minutes.
Remove the bread and let it cool before slicing – and be careful! It has a thick crust. A sturdy serrated knife will work best.
Lori Falce is a community engagement Tribune-Review writer. You can contact Lori at [email protected]