Rather than doing a Detox January or a Deprivation January or whatever variation people do to rectify the excesses of the holiday season, this year I’ve decided to try an idea I’ve been kicking around for a long time: DIY January. The basic premise is that, within reason, I’m not going to eat any kind of processed food that I haven’t made myself. I figure this will be a good way to cut back on junk food and junk eating generally, and specifically to get back on the NoPepsi wagon (off which I fell rather spectacularly in the final quarter of 2013).
When I say “within reason”, I mean the following:
1. I’m not going to make my own cheese or churn my own butter or slaughter my own meat (although I may well make a batch of labneh and I’ve been kicking around the idea of making my own bacon; maybe this month will provide the motivation).
2. I’m not going to leave the food already in my fridge and pantry to molder and go to waste while I go into urban homesteader mode; instead, I’m going to use up what I’ve got and, when I run out, make its replacement - or do without until February rolls around. No stockpiling in the runup to January 1 was allowed, so regular consumption will take its course and then we shall see.
This seems like a doable, but somewhat challenging, undertaking. The only thing I dread running out of is tortilla chips, as I have been unable to find Mexican ingredients so far in Canberra. Since tortilla chips require corn tortillas, and corn tortillas require masa harina, unless someone can point me to a local supplier I may have to figure out a way to do without chips and salsa for 3 weeks. It's slightly embarrassing to admit that that is by far the most daunting prospect of contemplating this project.
In the meantime, I’ve already undertaken my first project: white sandwich bread. Even though I make all of our dinner bread (whether rolls or loaves), I always buy toast and sandwich bread at the supermarket. For all the bread I’ve made in the last 5+ years, I think this was only the second time I’ve made a loaf-pan loaf of bread.
And it was good! Although it reminded me anew of how hard it is to slice bread neatly without industrial machinery. In the near future, I anticipate making yogurt, whole-wheat sandwich bread, fresh pasta, and potato chips, so stay tuned.
White sandwich bread
Adapted from Julia Child, by way of Dinner with Julie
My main adaptation of this recipe was to halve it, since there isn’t room in my freezer for two loaves of white bread at a time. (Although I’m not sure how much of this is actually going to make it into the freezer – it seems to be disappearing rather quickly.)
1.25 cups/10 oz/300 ml warm water (divided)
1.5 tsp/7 g yeast
1.5 tsp/7g sugar
3.5 cups/14 oz/420 g all-purpose/plain flour
1 t/5 g salt
2 Tbsp/1 oz/30 g butter, softenened
In a large bowl, combine about half the water with the yeast and sugar. Leave for about 5 minutes until the yeast foams.
When you come back and see that the yeast has foamed and is indeed active, add about half the flour and mix in. Then mix in the rest of the flour, the salt, and the butter. (There are various ways you can do this: in a standing mixer with a dough hook; by hand; or what I always do – use my dough whisk, which makes mixing dough a snap.)
Once you have a consistently shaggy mixture, knead by hand, adding flour very sparingly to minimize the stickiness (although you want it to be a little bit sticky), until you have a smooth and springy ball of dough. When you have achieved this, put it back in the bowl, cover, and leave to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
When you come back to check whether the dough has doubled, first grease a loaf pan and set aside. Then knock down the risen dough, turn it out of the bowl, and on a clean surface, flatten out into a rectangle roughly the size of a piece of letter/A4 paper. (I used a rolling pin and some more very lightly scattered flour to assist this process.)
Once you have the dough flattened to your satisfaction, roll it up like a jelly roll. (You can do this on either the short side or the long side – you think will fit better into your loaf pan.) Place the roll of dough in your loaf pan, seam side down, tucking in ends underneath as necessary. Cover again and leave for second rise until it puffs over the top of the loaf pan, 45 minutes-1 hour.
When you come back to check the dough again, preheat the oven to 400F/200C. When ready, put the bread in and bake for 30-45 minutes, checking and rotating as necessary to get even rising and browning.