Saturday, February 26, 2011

Really not buying stuff

Last year, a couple of days into March, I found out about the Real Food Challenge at Not Dabbling in Normal. This year I'll be blogging about it there as well as here.

My experience last year was that our society has put up a lot of barriers to eating responsibly, or as I like to think of it, deliberately. First, bad food is cheap. This sounds like a good thing, but it has led to the consolidation of grocery stores into mega-centers with no connection to the community, and also putting a lot of small family grocers out of business. It has made the profit motive the main motivation for food growers, pushing millions of family farmers to the brink of ruin, or pushing them out of business altogether. (Keep that in mind when listening on the news to the current attack on the so-called public sector. You are the public folks. An attack on the public sector is an attack on you. /soapbox digression.)

Real food sometimes doesn't look "right" to us anymore as well-- real fruit, picked when ripe and grown for flavor and nutrition, rather than for how pretty it is, isn't, well, pretty-- it's bruised and misshapen sometimes. It isn't shiny because no one's waxed it. Real meat is meat colored--a rather dull grayish red-brown, but the last two generations of shoppers have been trained to think that healthy meat is bright red, because they treat it with god knows what.

So people switching to "real" meat think they're getting spoiled meat. Wrong. This is what meat looks like.

I was between jobs last year when I jumped into this so enthusiastically. I had time to figure it out and it took time-- well into the summer to really feel like I was getting a handle on it. Now there are so many things that I don't buy anymore; I either make them or do without. I don't buy bread, baking powder, mayo, jam, soda pop. I don't buy non-seasonal vegetables unless preserved locally when they were in season. I've learned to make crackers, cookies, cereal, microwave popcorn. (hint-- ALL popcorn is microwaveable. Biggest boondoggle of the modern food era. Orville's got a lot of splainin' to do.) Most of these things I make myself. If I don't make them, we don't eat them.

It was a commitment of time and intellect. I've always hated baking, but I taught myself to bake, and I'm getting better at it. If I'd done this with my kids while they were small, think of the head start they'd have now. Oh well. I take one day a week and do nothing but cook; on the other hand, since I get all my meat and staples from a home-delivery CSA now, I haven't been inside a grocery store in more than a month, saving me easily a day for baking and preserving.

On Monday I'll have a "slow start" guide over at Not Dabbling. For now, here's my attempt to get a better-rising, moister sandwich bread.

Honey whole-wheat yogurt bread
Combining aspects of these two recipes: and

4 cups whole wheat flour
¾ cup hot water

3/4 ounces bread or all-purpose flour
3 packages active dry yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 1 2/ cups plain yogurt
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup water

1/3 cup honey
2 eggs

glaze: 1/8 cup milk, 1 teaspoon honey, 1/4 teaspoon sea salt recipe suggests: “Mix the hot water and whole wheat flour together in a bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic and set aside until around room temperature, at least 1 hour. My thought is that soaking the flour may help soften the bran and release some of the sugars in the wheat, though, truthfully, I don't know for sure if it does.” Make sure you mix the water in thoroughly with your hands til it resembles a coarse meal.

Heat the yogurt, water, and butter in a saucepan over low heat until the butter melts; the mixture should not be allowed to simmer. Check the temp; cool to 100F/38C (just stick it in the fridge or freezer, and monitor). In a large bowl, whisk together 3 cups of the bread flour with the yeast, salt, and soda. Add the cooled yogurt mixture to the flour mixture and blend well. Beat the honey and eggs, mix well, and then beat vigorously by hand or using the stiff hook of an electric mixer at medium speed for 3 minutes. Stir in the soaked flour to make a stiff dough.

Knead the dough on a floured board (or work it in an electric mixer with a dough hook) until it is smooth and elastic - about 5 to 10 minutes. The dough will be slightly sticky and should retain this slight stickiness and elasticity throughout kneading. Place in an oiled bowl and turn the dough over to oil the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, then knead and let rise a second time.

Preheat the oven to 350F/167C.

Punch down the dough and divide it in half. Form 2 loaves and place each in a well-oiled 8x4-inch loaf pan, cover, and let rise in a warm place for 45 minutes or until doubled in bulk. Put the glaze ingredients in a microwave safe dish and heat until the honey and milk easily blend (30-45 seconds). Brush on the loaves, then bake in the preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, until bread is a rich golden brown. Remove from pans and cool on wire racks.

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