I wasted my first big piece of food! I had to throw away a couple of onions from a 3-lb bag I bought the week before I began this challenge. They’d sprouted so much that they were unsalvageable (actually pretty funny-looking.) 🙁 Well, onward. This week’s tip: ham-and-egging it; the usual grocery list; and a recipe for the bread I bake for myself.
No-Waste Food Tip #6: Ham-and-egging
A lot of this challenge for me can be summed up as stop overbuying already, doofus. This means keeping a close eye on what I have in the house and not adding too much to it every week. My routine’s still a little off because I shopped on Monday last week instead of my normal Saturday, and this week I’m anticipating two meals out (one of which should provide me with leftovers) and I still have three servings of the chicken soup I made last week left over, which are good for taking to work for lunch. I needed to get ingredients for a dinner I’m cooking for friends tonight, and I’d run out of some basics (coffee, eggs, apples) but I decided to otherwise take the week off from batch-cooking. What this comes down to is there will be a few more eggs-and-toast, or peanut-butter-and-jelly, meals this week than usual. I think of this as “ham-and-egging it” which is a term I picked up from baseball; that’s what a manager says when some of his key guys are on the disabled list and he’s going to just try to work with what he has, even if it’s kind of awkward and not optimal. Accepting that there will be some weeks like this, and finding some meals you’re ok with eating when you’re out of everything else, really helps if you’re trying to keep your food-buying under control. As you may note from the above, my roster of these meals leans heavily on bread (sandwiches, toast) so the recipe I’m including this week is for the bread I make. It stands up pretty well to being kept in the fridge; I usually freeze one loaf until I’m ready for it, because often the first loaf lasts 2-4 weeks, depending on what else I’m eating. After the first day, I just toast it automatically, which refreshes it pretty well. It’s very cheap; I can get at least eight loaves out of two five-pound bags of flour, plus I buy a jar of yeast once or twice a year and honey every now and then. That’s why you rarely see these things on my grocery shopping list even though I usually eat some bread every week.
Weekly Grocery Report
brown sugar, $.99
rubber gloves, $1.79
2 jars of marinated artichoke hearts, $3.98
gallon freezer bags, $2.99
sundried tomatoes, $3.99
Total with tax: $30.67
Grand total: $48.52
adapted from The Tassajara Bread Book
I’ve been making this bread for about fifteen years now, and have arrived at some conclusions: one, it’s hard to screw it up too much. Every now and then I make a loaf that’s mysteriously too dense and heavy, or something else goes wrong, and you know what? It’s still edible. Two, it works much better with bread flour in the mix instead of all-purpose (called for in the original recipe). The other adaptations I’ve made mostly involve streamlining a little, while staying true to the spirit of the original. Since there’s about three hours of rising time total plus an hour of baking time, this is a great recipe to make on a day you’re staying home — the “active time” is quite short, probably a grand total of 30 minutes including doing the dishes, so you can come in and out.
For two loaves, you need:
a really big bowl
a wooden spoon (preferably broad and flat)
two loaf pans
3 cups hot water
1 tablespoon yeast
1/4 cup honey (approximately)
whole wheat flour and bread flour (in a pinch, use all-purpose instead)
1/3 cup oil (preferably vegetable or canola, but I’ve used peanut or olive oil in a pinch)
1 tablespoon salt
Stir yeast and honey into the hot water and let the yeast bloom (a few minutes.) Stir about three cups of whole wheat flour in until the mixture resembles thick mud. After this, don’t stir any more; you’re trying to avoid cutting the developing gluten. Take your spoon and fold/beat — scrape along the bottom of the bowl, and kind of fold/flip the sponge as best you can. (This is easier to do than to describe, I promise.) Do that 100 times until the mixture is totally smooth. Depending on your yeast, it may also be burping at that point, which is hilarious and fun. Cover the bowl with a clean cloth and leave it in a warm place for one hour.
Sprinkle the salt and drizzle the oil on top of the sponge; then fold/beat to incorporate. Fold/beat another cup of whole wheat flour, then a cup of bread flour. (At this point you are up to 5 cups total.) This is generally the point at which I stop being able to usefully incorporate more flour using the fold/flip method. I now dump another cup of bread flour (we’re at a total of 6) on the counter, then tip my dough onto it and scrape out anything still clinging to the bowl. Then I scoop out another cup of bread flour and sprinkle some on top. At this point, I start kneading, incorporating flour as I go; it’ll be very soft at first but just keep sprinkling flour on wet spots and it’ll get there. I never time my kneading, just stop when the dough feels right; I sometimes incorporate another half-cup or cup of bread flour (up to a grand total of 8 cups; don’t use more than this) if necessary. It’s ready when it’s relatively smooth and elastic and it bounces back when you press a finger into it. Oil the bottom of the bowl and put the dough ball back into it; cover again and let it rise for another hour. Then punch it down (about 15-20 times) and cover/let rise for 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, grease your bread pans (I rub a piece of butter around in mine.) Dump the dough onto the counter and cut into two pieces; knead each one four or five additional times, then roll into a log and put it in the bread pan. Cover the pans and let the loaves rise for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350. Now slash the tops of the loaves (use a sharp knife and drag it across the top of each loaf twice, cutting down about 1/4 to 1/2 inch) and then bake for about an hour. The loaves should turn out of the pan very easily and you can check the bottoms, which should be a nice even medium brown; if they’re pale, put them back in for another 10-15 minutes. Let cool completely. Freezes beautifully and keeps well in the fridge (although you have to refresh the bread by toasting it because the fridge dries it out.)