Tuesday, April 01, 2008

speaking of dough

Let's see ... there's the $1,500.00 we spent on the play set for our backyard. Then, there's the $150.00 that Charlie spent on a few new tools that he required in order to build the play set. Apparently, his 90 piece ratchet set no longer ratcheted.

Then there's the $227.00 Charlie spent yesterday on a new drill because the battery could no longer be recharged on his old one - and as he convinced me - if he was going to buy all new parts for his existing drill, it would cost more than if he just bought a new drill altogether.

Keeping in mind that his desire to purchase a new drill had everything to do with savvy spending and nothing to do with the fact that the new Makita has a super-cool neon guide light.


Then there are more tools and equipment, yet to be purchased, that Charlie told me today he will need. Additional wood clamps, a carpenters angle thing-a-ma-jig, and a yada-yada-ma-bob.

Then there are the days of vacation time Charlie has taken off from work to build this play set, only to discover that after four hours of working, two of the load bearing beams were completely cracked and required replacement. And they won't be here until Saturday. Or maybe Monday. But no later than next Friday. Until then, everything is at a standstill and our back yard is entirely OFF LIMITS.

Let's do some more math!

Add the expenses expended and yet to be expended and the the pain and suffering and whining and inconvenience that has been endured. Multiply by two, carry the one. Now, subtract that figure by the cost of a new Rainbow play set.

But honestly?

Even though we could have bought a very nice Rainbow for what we (and by "we" I mean "him") have spent putting together this play set, Charlie's two brothers are both accomplished contractors. One of them is a custom cabinet maker, the other can build anything - including houses. This whole "let's build stuff!" gene is in my husband's blood.

He enjoys working with tools and wood more than he enjoys cooking.

And I've already mentioned how much he enjoys cooking.

It's been awesome having him home, especially since I've been sick, because today, before he realized two of his load-bearing beams were split, he was ratcheting and drilling - and taking breaks to come in and prepare one of the most awesome meals I've ever had.

He's like a kid in a candy store working with all the odoriferous lumber and spanking new tools. And can I really place a price tag on my beloveds happiness?

Sure, I could.

But I won't.

Instead, I'm going to tell you about the most awesomely easy and deliciously tasting bread recipe ever concocted. Of course it came from my mom, because almost all of the awesomely easy and deliciously tasting recipes I have ever been successful with, hail from my mother.

You will need:

1½ tablespoons yeast (two packets)
1½ tablespoons kosher salt
6½ cups unbleached-all purpose flour
½ cup cornmeal

In a large bowl (or plastic container - or Kitchen Aid if you are too lazy busy to stir), mix yeast and salt into 3 cups of lukewarm water (~100 degrees). Stir in flour, mixing until there are no dry patches.

Dough will be quite loose. Cover, but not with an airtight lid.

Let dough rise at room temperature for two hours, or up to five hours. Bake at this point, or refrigerate - covered - for as long as two weeks.

When you are ready to bake, sprinkle a little flour on the dough and cut off a grapefruit-size piece. Turn the dough in hands to slightly stretch the surface, creating a rounded top and a lumpy bottom. At this point, you can either put the dough on a pizza peel - sprinkled with cornmeal - or - you can put it in a greased loaf pan. Repeat this process with the remaining dough that you have - or - put it back in the refrigerator.

You will have a lot of dough.

But it is a different variety than the type that is necessary to purchase a pre-assembled play set or fund the education of your children.

Every time I've ever made this bread, I will put it in a greased loaf pan. After letting it rest for approximately one hour, I bake it in a preheated 450 degree oven for 20 minutes.

Boom! Just like that!

Fresh bread.

If you opt to cook it on a pizza stone and desire one of those artisan looking loaves that are nice and round, place a broiler pan on the bottom of the oven. Place your pizza stone on the middle rack and heat the oven to 450 degrees; heat stone at that temperature for 20 minutes. Dust dough with flour, slash top with serrated knife three times - pat your head and tummy and turn yourself around - slide from pizza peel on to stone. Pour one cup hot water into broiler pan and shut oven quickly to trap steam. Bake until well browned, approximately 30 minutes.

Now, we have a bread maker, but with this recipe tastes better than anything I've ever been able to turn out with our machine. This recipe yields bread that tastes like something I would buy from a bakery - beautiful crusty loaves that are soft in the middle.

AND (this is the best part): because the batch is so big, you can have fresh bread every night for at least four nights, once you have your dough prepared with MINIMAL effort.

Or, you can make pizza.

Or, pretzels.

Or, whatever you want to make that requires dough.

I haven't tried it yet, but I plan to add some variety to the next batch that I make. Perhaps I'll throw in a cup of chopped Kalamata olives or maybe some sundried tomatoes and fresh basil.

I might even go door-to-door selling loaves to help offset the cost of tools and equipment that my husband will be purchasing to replace our entire fence, paint the exterior of the house, and replace the shower and tub in our bathroom. He informed me that those are the next items he'll be tackling once he finishes the play set.

Which will be completed approximately 28 man hours after Saturday.

Or maybe Monday.

But no later than next Friday.


  1. Yay for Charlie having a great time. And being home while you are sick. And making you a great meal. And for the bread recipe. And for my bed, as I probably shouldn't have commented this late.

    I'm going to try the bread. I do love fresh baked bread. And I hope the beams come soon. That sort of stuff always happens to me.

  2. (Your posts are awesome).

    Hope the playset gets completed in time.

    I made bread a couple of days ago, and loved it. Am going to try your version next time.

  3. Charlie is going about this tool business all wrong.
    When my husband finished our basement on his own,he found that if he gave his friends a choice, help or loan him the tools for an indefinite period of time, all of them said "oh, just take the tool and keep it as long as you want." He bought one tool for the whole project.
    Of course my husband hates to buy anything.

    Do you need to see a doctor again? You've been sick a long time...

  4. Hang in there the joy the kids get and keeping them busy will see you rejoicing.

    I want to make my own bread and pizza dough this week ... and did you mention pretzels .I might this recipe it is so easy.
    Beautiful ♥

    My Little Drummer boys

  5. Just loved this post! I am planning on making bread today. I think I will try this recipe! Have you ever tried it with whole wheat flour?

    So sorry to hear about your playset drama. It sure sounds like Charlie is enjoying himself, though.

    Hope you feel better! I can't imagine being sick with 4 kids at home.

  6. thanks for answering my question about the play yard. I'm now absolutely and UTTERLY convinced that we are in need of a swingset. Maybe one of those metal framed ones, like we had when we were kids. Because honestly, how frickin' hard could THAT be to put up. If not the metal one, then it's gonna HAVE To be a rainbow. and I can just feel myself starting to hemmorhage pennies now. oh the drama.

  7. you crack me up! thanks for the recipe. could I half it if I didn't want that much dough ? (I wish I had lots of green dough though :))

    sorry about the play set..I hope the parts get in soon so you can enjoy it and stop hearing the whines and questions from 3 3-y-olds

  8. Mmmmmm! That bread recipe sounds wonderful! I LOVE homemade breads! YUM-O!
    PS Wanted to tell you that you are not alone! My husband just bought a new drill because Sears came out with a new one and it couldn't be bought without the new charger... UGH! $100 later....

  9. Hi, does the cornmeal go in the dough or is it used only when baking?
    And, can you store the dough with a closed lid, or cloth?
    Thanks, I'll definately try this recipe.

  10. Thanks for the recipe--I am trying it tonight. I didn't have unbleached flour, so it might not turn out.

    Just randomly found your blog and started reading and couldn't stop....it made me laugh out loud last night! I have four kids too, but not three at once!

  11. Sorry--I gave the above comment and hit the wrong idendity button. My name is Sonja. I didn't mean to be anonymous!

  12. I haven't tried to make this recipe with whole wheat flour, but I have made a similar dough recipe with it, and it came out just fine.

    Because the measurement for yeast calls for two packets, this could be easily halved. All you'd need is one packet of yeast; 3/4 tbsp salt; 1.5 cups of warm water and around 3 cups of flour.

    The cornmeal isn't added to the dough, but is only used to lightly coat the loaf before it is baked. Or, if you are using a pizza peel and stone, you'd sprinkle a little on it so that it easily slides off.

    Whenever I've stored excess dough, I put it in a bowl and cover the top with saran (plastic) wrap. I don't know about using a towel. I think it would probably be OK for a day or so, but beyond that, I'd be afraid it might dry out.

    I've never tried making pretzels with the dough. I'll probably try that today...

  13. You KNOW I'm going to make this bread! I may make the bread, the pizza AND the pretzels before you will. Hee hee. I am seriously making the pot pie again today. I'm in a rut. We literally have it like once a week. If your mother could start a blog, too, that would be GREAT!

    Jen, you have to get the acai. I have never felt better and just like you, I always get sick. I found a wholesaler in Brazil and I'm looking to buy it in bulk and start selling it, I like it so much. It's way better than anything I've taken so far.

    Hope Charlie doesn't need an air compresser and a welder too!

  14. I love that bread recipe. I have the same one. After I read this post we went to Costco and wouldn't you know, my son saw that play structure and said, "When are WE going to get that park at OUR house??!" He was very impressed! I would have been too except I read your description of the headache it's been to put the darn thing together. It'll be worth it in the long-run, though...

  15. I make a very similar bread and I put kalamata olives and feta cheese in it. I make it the artisan way with the steam. It is nice and crusty and goes great with pasta or as bread for panini sandwiches.

  16. Oh I love recipes...almost as much as I love fresh bread! I wonder if I could just dump that (in half) in the breadmaker...

    And let us know how the pretzels turn out....I would LOVE to know how to make those!

  17. Would you please give out more of your simple delicious recipes? One a week or throw out a couple in a blog. I'm in desperate need of some and it sounds like your mom passed on quite a few great ones. This would be so helpful. Your kids are precious.

  18. Okay, I made the bread. Except I messed up. I put 1/2 C cornmeal in the dough and used some to sprinkle on top when I pulled it out. It still turned out great! I had to put it all in the fridge to bake later. I used the kitchen aid bowl lid that wasn't air tight. I thought that 1 T of salt was a bit much. It tastes a little salty to me. Anyway, I might use less next time. I enjoyed it because it is sort of a "fix it and forget" it bread. Thanks for the great easy recipe. I'll do it again but maybe make cinnamon rolls. Yum! I'll let you know how that goes.

  19. Thank you, Jen! I made a loaf of the bread, and it turned out fantastic! We ate it all in one day. I'm going to cook another loaf tonight!

  20. I'm delurking for a moment to say I know I'm really late with this one, but I finally decided to make the bread... delicious, and oh so simple! I've never made bread before but I will be making all our bread fresh from now on!

    My 2 year old is licking his fingers as I type and asking for more. I put the cornmeal in the dough, too (oops) but it turned out perfect.