Sunday, October 31, 2010

Kitchen Counter Local

When people talk local foods they have many definitions: 250 miles, 100 miles, metro and surrounding countryside, maybe even their own garden. But what about in your own kitchen. What possibly could be there for you to harvest and eat? YEAST! Yes, that critical ingredient for bread and beer can be found in the air everywhere, including your own house. You too can grow your own with very minimal effort. Here is the basic gist.
  1. Make a yeast food mixture of half whole wheat and half regular flour.
  2. Take a medium bowl (large cereal bowl should do it) and add about a half-cup or so of your blend to the bowl. Add some tepid water to make a loose dough.
  3. Cover the bowl with a thin kitchen towel or some cheese cloth and let it sit for 3 days.
  4. Remove the towel and remove half. Feed your yeast another 1/2 cup of 'food', and water to make the same consistency. Cover, wait 2 days.
  5. Continue to remove half and feed and water daily. The yeast will grow and shrink predictably at some point. This is good behavior. If you forget to feed your 'yeast pet', it will forgive you if you get back into good habits again.
To use your yeast you can follow the recipe below to make some of the most delicious, complex, and filling breads I've ever eaten. A little dense, but wonderful. The recipe makes three small loaves, so I froze the other two. Bread making takes about a day, but it only requires that you be around for that day to monitor the situation periodically. Yeast pets and their breads are not nearly as demanding as dogs. Feed and water your yeast pet the night before bread day. 5 1/2 cups whole wheat flour 2 3/4 cups regular flour 3 cups + 1 T warm water 2 T + 1 t salt 2 T yeast
  1. Add the water to a big mixing bowl.
  2. Add in yeast and stir to dissolve. Floating yeast is good behavior, but it will work if it doesn't float.
  3. Add in the flours. Mix with hands until there is no dry flour, this is messy business.
  4. Let the dough rest for 20-40 minutes.
  5. Add in the salt and incorporate by dipping hands in water and folding the dough on top of itself until the salt dissolves into the dough.
  6. Let the dough rise 3-4 hours in a warm place, turning the dough over onto itself 12 times every half-hour.
  7. After this rising period portion the dough into 3 pieces and shape it into fat, round discs. Allow them to rise for 3-4 hours.
  8. Preheat the oven and a round casserole dish with lid to 500 degrees.
  9. Carefully flip a loaf into the preheated casserole dish, lid it, put it into oven.
  10. Turn oven down to 470 degrees and bake for 20 minutes.
  11. Remove the lid and bake for 20-25 minutes until deep golden brown.
  12. Remove bread to a towel to cool.
  13. Wipe out the casserole dish and repeat the baking for the other loaves...including preheating the oven and dish/lid to 500 degrees.
Enjoy your new 'yeast pet' and the lovely gifts it gives you!

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