Sunday, March 8, 2009

At YEAST I Tried (Hey-Ooo!)

I wish this hiatus were interrupted by some exquisite culinary development or profound sociological rumination. I also wish I could walk in heels without looking like a four-year-0ld playing dress-up.

I spent a good part of last week researching and yes, baking yeast-based breads. It was a brave new world and a frightening undertaking for me. I've never baked bread at home; frankly, the prospect always scared me. The idea of a fungus feeding off of sugar in a bowl, amassing its strength and doubling in size like The Blob - only to be baked in a home oven into an edible end-product - has always freaked me the hell out. I also remember my sister baking bread at home in her early twenties, only to have to clean a veritable Niagara of dough from my mom's kitchen counter. Not for me, thanks - until about a week ago, during our first March snowstorm (I believe we're due for another three inches tomorrow - climate change conspiricists take note). I dug out some active dry yeast packets that I've been holding on to for my gestative moment of bravery, read up on some techniques and recipes, and five hours later, behold! I had three loaves of astonishingly not sucky whole wheat bread, studded with oatmeal, flax- and sunflower seeds. Now, I feel like the "my first loaf" post is... well, frankly, it's hack. Wanna show me a slideshow of your baby's first steps while you're at it? So I declined to write about it. Ok, but since I'm on the topic, here's the dough, risen, living and bubbly as a high school chem petri dish:

So my bread was decent, especially for a first try. I got brave... I moved on to pizza dough, using white whole-wheat flour. This is where my research got dicey and befuddling. Feed the yeast for an hour; let it sit overnight. Keep the dough warm; stick it the fridge. Keep it unadulterated; throw in herbs and oil. Wha-wha-whaaat? I wanted to scrap the idea, but my undying love for pizza won out in the end.

I should have quit while I was ahead.

I won't even bother with the details of how I made the dough, as I Frankensteined my way through a number of techniques and recipes. Um, that's mostly likely my first problem. The dough looked sketchy (ahem, not stretchy) after I let it rest, but I was so excited for my cheap-and-seasonal toppings idea that, like any seasoned explorer in uncharted territory, I forged ahead. My delicious homemade tomato sauce went on the dough, followed by medallions of sweet potato, thinly sliced white onion and some minced watercress. I was met by a sense of foreboding when I opened the oven door. The crust looked brown and mealy; the edges were no doubt burned (though the topping held out nicely. I reluctantly took a bite, and...oh man...ew. Besides all the structural failures, can we talk about salt? I abhor an overly-salty bite; in fact, pretty much anyone who has sampled my cooking keeps a dish of salt strategically nearby (a precaution to you blessed few who have confessed to trying my recipes). Here she is, my test-tube baby:
There's a "Mildly Spiced Vegetable Burrito" from Trader Joe's in the oven for me now. Sigh...


Merce said...

awww, shucks wuzz - yeast is tricky. have you tried heidi's pizza dough recipe? that's the only one I have ever tried and it is FABULOUS. so if you ever wanna give this another go, try amazing. I love love love the idea of thinly sliced sweet potato on pizza though, I'm gonna try that fo shiz.

J'Hab@lavidaveggie said...

Actually, Heidi's recipe was one of the components to this disaster. I must have been WAY off base to steer wrong with her design. I kind of blended it with Cathy's recipe from noteatingoutinny. I'm just challenged in the baking dep't... The sweets were the bomb, though - def try them! I roasted the rest of them with the onion and snacked on it out of the pan while my burrito unthawed in the oven. True story.

Chris @ Beyond Ramen said...

Looks like a good try (not like I've ever had the courage to attempt yeast breads)! I've always copped out and bought the frozen stuff which usually turns out alright for an easy weeknight dinner. At least you can always try again, right? :)