Homemade Sandwich Bread

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I may never go back to proofing yeast and kneading and punching and kneading some more. Why? Because the Artisan Bread In Five Cookbook has changed the way I bake. I bake in quantity with such ease. I made three loaves of sandwich bread from this 5 minute dough I made yesterday. You simply measure the ingredients, mix it up and let it set on the counter for 2 hours and stick in your fridge. The next day or up to 4 days later, you can make 3-4 loaves or 1 loaf at a time. I’m spoiled.

Because I’m a freezer cook, I always choose the abundance route. I made two loaves and one free form loaf so you could see the process. I sprinkle flour on top of my dough and  visually split the entire amount of dough into thirds. I flour my hands and form them gently into loaves and place them in a sprayed pan or make a cute round loaf. I set mine on parchment paper. I allowed the loaves to rest for 2 hours. The authors suggest at least 1 1/2 hours of resting time. Slash the free form loaf before baking.

Bake at 450 for 45-50 minutes. I brushed mine with honey butter and let them cool in the pans for fifteen minutes and then transferred to a cooling rack. I allowed them to cool completely and then sliced with an electric knife. I have a guide which helps with thin equal slices. A serrated knife will work also. Even when I sliced my bread, it was slightly warm.

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When it’s completely cool, I wrapped in plastic wrap or foil for the freezer. Double wrap in regular foil or slip the loaf into a gallon size bag for extra protection. I reused a store-bought bread bag and we’ll eat this bread in the next 2 days.

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If I don’t have plans for sandwiches in the next 2 days, I freeze mine. Thaw prior 12-24 hours at room temperature prior to making sandwiches, french toast, Pananis and more. Reuse the ends or old bread by grinding in a blender and store in your freezer for fresh bread crumbs. Or cube and toss with olive oil and seasonings and bake to make homemade croutons.

I used the canola oil recipe, but I’ve also used the olive oil recipe. This dough works well for calzones, pizza, stromboli and cinnamon rolls. See Artisan Dough 101 post for a measuring and mixing tutorial.

Imagine having loaves of fresh homemade sandwich bread in your freezer. You might give one away since you’ll have more than one loaf if you attempt this recipe.

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Grilled Burgers on Homemade Sandwich Thins

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Do you really think I pat and season six burgers, grill, bake potatoes and make homemade buns all on the same day? I don’t think so. I’ve done my cooking homework and worked smarter, not harder. I made 24 seasoned burgers at one setting last month and I made a dozen sandwich thins several days ago and froze them in a gallon size bag.

Tonight, we had a 15-minute meal. Burgers were grilling, prebaked potatoes were frying for homefries and dinner was served in less than thirty minute. I love freezer cooking when I can eat a healthy meal like this with my family. We sit down and enjoy the fruit of my labor from last month. We talk about what’s going on in school, listen to the baby cackle and coo and try to understand everything  our three year-old is saying. It’s a Brown family moment.

If only the dishes could clean themselves in 15-minutes or less, I’d have it made. We’re working on that one, too, with a family team effort.

How about you? Are you able to enjoy your family? 15-minute meals are a lifesaver. That’s why I freezer cook. What is something you’d like to try to freezer cook? Or what have you cooked and stored in the freezer lately?

This post linked to Frugal Friday and Finer Things Friday.

Cheesy Potato Skins

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If you make twice baked potatoes, you get a bonus side dish-potato skins. Once you slice off 1/2″ off the top of each potato, you’re left with a bunch of skins. When I made my twice baked potatoes,  I had 24 skins to be exact. I separated mine into 2 stacks of twelve to freeze. Because they’re baked and cooled, they freeze wonderful. I throw mine in a quart size bag and squeeze as much air out as possible. These can thaw overnight, or if you’re in a pinch, they can thaw in an hour in a bowl of cold water.

I take my skins and brush them with canola or olive oil on BOTH sides. You can be generous or sparing. I chose sparing since I’m going a little on the indulgent side today. I learned this trick from Pioneer Woman. I’m giving credit where credit is due. I broil BOTH sides of the potato until lightly toasted. Watch them closely. Once they’re toasted how you like, top them with cheddar cheese, real bacon bits ( I cooked 3 strips in the microwave), and chives or sliced green onions. Be as generous as you like. Dip these skins in a little ranch, ketchup or sour cream.

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Aren’t you glad you took my advice and didn’t throw away your skins? Now go make twice baked potatoes just so you can have the leftover skins. Or bake some potatoes and slice them lengthwise into 1/2″ slices and purposely freeze for these delightful appetizers.

I’m imagining more possibilities as I type. Top with diced convenience chicken, or cooked taco meat  and lettuce and tomato for a main dish item. Invite someone over and impress them with your freezer side dish. What topping ideas do you have?

This recipe is linked to Tasty Tuesday

To Better Health and Beyond, Part 1

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I watched a startling movie that kept me on the edge of my seat. It’s been out a while and I’ve thought about seeing it before, but never made it. Last night, I watched Food, Inc. and it opened my eyes to the realities of food production and how our government is involved. It  prompted me to research our local meat prices.

I’ve been toying with the idea of buying local meat the past few years, but I just couldn’t bring it to myself to pay the outlandish prices. It’s nearly two and half times the amount of conventional meat on sale. However, this movie changed my mind and re-opened the thoughts of buying as much as local foods as my pocketbook can afford.

As the movie shared, the prices of local meats are well worth the cost because of the health factors. Grassfed animals, verses conventional animals, are not tainted with dangerous hormones, antibiotics, and fed genetically modified corn. God made cows to eat grass, not corn. The movie didn’t state that, it was my thought. I nearly cried when a mom shared her story about her son dying from a hamburger with e-coli. No wonder she’s an advocate for passing important laws and fought for Kevin’s Law.

Let’s face it, local meat and produce costs more. You can check out your local foods in your area by googling it the city you live in. WNC has an online local food guide, called ASAP.

I’ve done some research for our local meat at Hickory Nut Gap, in Fairview, NC. It  runs $5 to $6.50 per pound depending on what cut you’re buying. Obviously tenderloin is much more. However, when you buy a box of various meats, which includes, ground beef, roasts and steaks, you get that overall price. I’m going to try the 20# box for $130. A 60# box runs $360 and a quarter cow which ranges 70 to 90# runs $500. My suggestion for buying in bulk is finding a friend or neighbor and split. They also have a CSA, which includes meat, pork and chicken, beginning in June. 15# is $600 for 6 months and 10# is $420, made in 2 installments. This info may help you compare your local town.

Warren Wilson College also sells local meat. Their spring sale has started. It looks like it is $6.25 per pound for steaks, roasts, ground, burgers and kabobs. Check out their order form and WWC Farm. They also sell country breakfast sausage, which sounds good. Several of you could go in together and split. Make comments below if you’re looking for someone to split with.

Will I still freezer cook with bulk local meat? You bet I will. The packages are Krylon sealed so I can take my sweet time cooking and prepping the meat. I will thaw the raw meat in bulk and refreeze the cooked meat. I will still make cooked taco meat and meatballs for convenience. I’m organizing my side by side freezer and my chest freezer to accommodate this meat. Later, I’ll see if we have the space to buy in bigger quantities, perhaps a quarter of a cow or share with someone, hint, hint.

I’ve been making homemade bread for a number of years and I cut out most processed foods, except crackers and cereals. I’m finally trying cracker recipes this year-I’ll keep you posted. This was a small step for us and now taking a more expensive plunge is another step in our journey toward better health.

Freezer cooking is a way for me to implement healthy, homemade foods without preservatives for my family. It began in small ways beginning with muffins and bread, then moved on to casseroles,  snacks and now local meats. Freezer cooking can be a small or big part of your life. Everything you freeze helps in the future. It’s a small way of making your family healthier and saving money.

How could you make your family healthier? What baby step could you take to make this happen TODAY? Please share your ideas, we could all benefit from them.

Post linked to Gratituesday.

Artisan Bread Dough 101

 

Are you like the little red hen? Have you always wanted to make homemade bread, but didn’t want to take precious time to savor just one loaf? I’ve discovered an easy dough, mixed in 5 minutes, that makes four loaves of bread and much more. Let me share a 101 tutorial to get you excited and say, “I can do that.”

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First, it’s important for you to remove your flour from the original 5 pound bag. Place it in a canister of some sort. This allows you to stir your flour and do the scoop and sweep method easily without making a mess. Wonderful white whole wheat flours to try are King Arthur white whole wheat or Eagle Mills white whole wheat blend or you can mix unbleached all-purpose and white whole wheat flour half and half in recipes. Regular whole wheat ground from red berries works, but you will have a heavier denser product.

Gently stir your flour with a large spoon and lightly spoon it into your one cup measuring cup. Don’t dip and pack it in. This is where a lot of people make a mistake. When you dip and pack it down, you’re over measuring. Imagine the extra flour you’ve measured when you’ve dipped and packed seven times. Yep, that’s why the product is dry. So, lightly scoop and sweep the excess off with a butter knife.

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Continue measuring all your dry ingredients in this plastic shoe box. For this canola oil recipe, I’ve measured 7 cups of flour, 1-1/2 tablespoons yeast *(2 packages of yeast), 1 tablespoon kosher salt, 1/4 cup vital wheat gluten. Whisk the dry ingredients together.

*I buy my yeast at Sams in bulk, 2lbs for $4. It lasts me over a year. Each pound is vacuum sealed. You can store yeast in the freezer. Ask a friend or neighbor to pick this item up for you if you don’t have a membership. Or split with someone. You’ll be making a lot of bread.

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Another important step is to use your glass measuring cup for liquids. This is the most accurate way to measure liquids. I measure 3-1/2 cups lukewarm water and bend down at eye level to see if the bottom of the liquid touches the 3 -1/2 mark. You’re not going to get an accurate measure if you hold it in the air and look because the water is moving.

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Add this water to your dry ingredients.

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Stir with a large spoon until thoroughly mixed and there are no dry patches. You’re not kneading the dough, only mixing until it’s incorporated.

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Your dough should look sticky, but not dry and not too wet. However, this dough is forgiving, especially if it’s on the wet side. I’ll show you after the rise. Cover it with the lid and allow it to rest at room temperature for two hours.

Your dough will rise after 2 hours and collapse in the fridge. It’s best chilled in the fridge for a few hours before you work with it. I usually let mine sit in the fridge for a day before I make something. You can freeze this dough and thaw 24 hours hour before baking day. I’ve done this and had the same great results. I’ve found my dough to be on the sour side, which some like sourdough, after day five. 100% white whole wheat sours quicker than a mixture of half and half or the Eagle Mills flour. I find the flavor the best within 3 days after the dough is prepared. That is why I usually make all my products at once and then cool and freeze, plus it’s convenient, time and money saving.

Freezing: Dust portions with flour and freeze separately in quart size bags. Thaw 24 hours in the fridge before baking day.

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Your dough will look like this once it’s risen.

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Baking Day: I dust the portion I’m using with flour. If I’m using all the dough, I dust the entire top. If I’m using one portion, 1/3 to 1/4 of a pound, I dust that portion only. I flour my hands and pinch it off. If my dough is on the wet side, I add more flour as necessary. If it’s on the dry side, less flour is needed. The stickiness of the dough depends on the humidity.

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I take the portion I’m using and proceed to quickly shape a round ball and tuck and turn as I go with floured hands. I don’t knead it, simply make it smooth. I put mine on a floured silpat. A piece of parchment or wax paper or tupperware mat works, too. Parchment is handy because it can go straight into the oven. Roll it out into a rectangle if you’re making cinnamon rolls . I bake immediately after I’ve prepared it.

I allow bread loaves to set at room temperature up to 2 hours. The authors of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes, recommends 1-1/2 hours, if you’re making a free form loaf or sandwich loaf.

Check out all the posts on Artisan dough on this site and the different products you can make. I make crusty authentic Artisan bread without the oil, sandwich thins, cinnamon rolls, cinnamon bread, pizza crust, calzones, naan and more. The original cookbook, is available at most public libraries. Also, the author’s website, artisanbreadinfive, is helpful with videos.

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I hope this post inspired you to try this easy 5 minute dough and bake homemade bread. I also hope it inspires you to give a loaf away because you will have three to four loaves when you make this recipe. I’d love to hear your comments and share my experience making this dough for three years.

This post linked to Amy’s Finer Things.

Weekly Menu 3/6-3/12

Nearly every meal I prepare consists of foods I’ve doubled and frozen. I thaw items in a plastic shoe box to prevent condensation dripping onto my shelves (I’ve learned from experience). I shop my freezer inventory sheet to see what goodies I can thaw and serve to my family. I write these items down on a seven-day menu plan and post it on my refrigerator as a reminder to thaw my food 24 hours ahead of time. Typically right after dinner, I will glance at my menu plan and put new items into my thawing box. Here’s what I’m thawing this week…

What’s on your menu?

Olive Oil Dipping Sauce like Carrabbas

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Admit it, you could make a meal from Carrabbas fresh-baked bread and the olive oil dipping sauce. Sometimes, we over indulge and we’re too full for the main entrée. Just in case you want to duplicate this scenario at home, here’s the mouth-watering recipe. Of course, you have to make your own Artisan bread to go along with it, so don’t forget to try the Artisan bread in 5 minutes dough, which makes 4 loaves. I told you could over indulge at home;)

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Olive Oil Dipping Sauce

1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp. (preferably fresh) ground black pepper
2 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 Garlic clove, minced or 1 tsp. granulated garlic
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ c. extra virgin olive oil

Combine all ingredients, except oil, on a deep plate or bowl. Pour good quality olive oil over the seasonings.  Serve with fresh-baked Artisan bread like Carrabbas or soft olive oil or canola oil bread.

Or brush the sauce on two halves of french bread. Lightly toast and wrap in foil. Deliver this along with a freezer casserole to someone in need and make them smile.

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