I guess we’re late to the party on this one since making bread at home was popular last year, but we decided to get an automatic bread maker to use at home. I guess it makes more sense now since there aren’t huge flour shortages. I’d have been pretty disappointed if we bought a bread maker but couldn’t get flour.
The machine arrived yesterday and I decided to use it right away. I was too excited to wait so I was up late making bread. Or rather, watching the machine make bread. It’s bizarrely easy. I was worried about the results because of some of the reviews on the product page but I had zero issues even with using oat milk instead of cow milk. I think people were just using poor quality flour or yeast and expecting miracles.
The texture of the bread is thick like “artisan” bread you buy from the deli/bakery in the grocery store and not spongey like pre-packed bread in the bread aisle. It was thick, heavy, and slightly chewy. On the medium setting, the crust was firm without being hard on the teeth. I’m not sure I’d want to use the darker setting.
Most importantly, it tasted good. It tasted real. The basic white bread loaf seems like it would be best with butter, jam, or dipped in soup. I’m going to give the sandwich bread recipe a try.
This machine will also just knead and manage the rising of the dough for you so all you have to worry about is shaping and baking. It will even make pizza dough and pretzels.
I’ve wanted to make my own bread and do more baking. This takes the hard work out of it and lets me just have fun while making clean, better quality bread at home.
As a kid, when we visited my grandmother in Georgia on the weekends she would make biscuits from scratch. Biscuits and bacon gravy. I always looked forward to eating breakfast there. It was like having a feast every week and different family members would show up each weekend. I’d still be going to her house every weekend if I lived in Georgia, but I’d be doing the cooking now I think.
About a year ago I decided that I should learn how to make biscuits for myself and I did some research online to find a good recipe. Something fast, simple, and reminiscent of how my Nana makes them. I wound up finding this recipe:
Watching this guy cook in a cast iron skillet got me interested in using cast iron as well, but getting involved with cast iron is a pretty serious commitment so I held off for quite a while before I bought a 12″ cast iron skillet. There’s a lot of preparation involved in seasoning cast iron and it was daunting at first. Now that I have the hang of it, it doesn’t seem that tough at all. And cleanup is a breeze, if you’re using them right anyway.
You can’t really cook flaky biscuits for two in a 12″ cast iron skillet, though. I mean, you can, but it’s not practical, especially since that’s where the bacon will be frying. So, I was using a 9″ cake pan. A few weeks ago I finally picked up a smaller cast iron pan and after seasoning it a few times in the oven, I finally used it to bake some biscuits.
I’m not sure if it’s just in my head, but I felt like the texture and flavor of the biscuits was a lot better this time around. And even if it is just in my head, what difference does that make? It was fun, felt good, and tasted good. And now I’m carrying on a tradition from my childhood, even if it’s just for my wife and I.
Something my wife and I have been working on is switching our nonstick cookware out for healthier alternatives. It’s part of an overall plan to improve our lifestyle. I know the stereotype of an oily, cast iron skillet, doesn’t fit well with the notion of healthy living, but we’re going for balance, not extremes. Healthier food choices, including less meat and desserts. More exercise. Less binge watching and more reading. Reducing clutter in our home to make way for things and activities that matter to us. It’s a weird, happy synthesis of almost vegetarianism, the persistence of good physical fitness habits from my wife’s days in track and my time in the Army, and Japanese minimalism.
So, why cast iron? On the one hand, cast iron is just better than nonstick. Nonstick coatings flake off into your food over time. Someone tried to tell me they don’t, but I have eyes and I can see the inside of our pots and pans. It’s happening. I know we’re consuming that stuff and it just can’t be good for us, so we’re going to move away from nonstick and get a mix of stainless steel and cast iron. From what I’ve read, cast iron can leech iron into your food, but it’s not bad for you at all. Our bodies need that anyway.
So, what do I want to do with this little cast iron skillet? Well, it’s not really big enough to fry much. Maybe one egg at a time, but I haven’t quite nailed frying an egg in our larger cast iron skillet yet. Mostly I got it so I can bake biscuits and cornbread in it. I’m sure I’ll come up with some other uses over time. It’s just fun to have, like it’s a toy or something. And even though it’s a little more work to maintain them, cast iron skillets are oddly satisfying to have and use.
I wish I could say we cooked something amazing in it right after I took that photo, but we just heated up some chicken Vienna sausages to have with eggs and rice for breakfast.
So, I stayed up too late last night, I think, because I feel really tired and I have a headache. Coronavirus symptoms, I know, but this is pretty normal for me when I stay up past 2:30 AM.
I spent most of the day cooking. Not that I’m complaining. This is a good time to work on perfecting cooking skills after all. I think I’ve got biscuits down to a T:
I’m still having issues with cooking bacon in our cast iron skillet, though. The pan is seasoned well. It’s not that the bacon sticks. It’s just that the skillet doesn’t seem to heat evenly on a gas burner.
I haven’t quite worked out what temperature to cook the bacon at or where on the skillet to position it so that it cooks in the way I imagine it’s supposed to work. But maybe it just doesn’t work like a regular pan and you just have to do this way? Scrunched up over the part of the pan that’s directly above the heat?
I also made cornbread. I finally figured out how to do that without burning it. Later, I’ll fry some chicken. Also in that cast iron skillet. I love that thing. It’s so fun to use even if it’s a little difficult.
I’m taking a break right now. I found this nice jazz livestream to listen to while I put my feet up for a bit. It’s really relaxing. I feel like I’m in a cafe somewhere, like things are normal and I don’t hear sirens outside the window constantly.
I haven’t even been outside in over a week I think. We just go to the grocery and then come home. The statistics for New York City are really bad and I don’t want us to wind up sick. Who would take care of all of our cats? And besides, I have too many books to read and video games to finish to die now! I haven’t even finished “Breath of the Wild” yet. Or The Meditations by Marcus Aurelius.
Anyway, I’m starting to burn out on trolling Twitter for coronavirus information. The conversation has gotten bogged down by trolls and morons that are peddling conspiracy theories about everything from secret magic treatments for COVID-19 to an upcoming war between Trump’s forces of righteousness and the “Deep State”. Apparently, all of the coverage about the coronavirus from around the world is a hoax made up by “the Libs” to destroy America.
I did find this gem last night, though:
It’s brilliant. It really catches the popular mood in the US. All of the memes and conspiracy theories are in there. It epitomizes the idgaf attitude towards the pandemic many Americans have shown both visually and through the choice of music.
America loves end of the world scenarios. I think it’s baked into our culture, a leftover from the religious fundamentalism that played a large role in the colonization of the continent. Not that religious fundamentalism is in our rear view mirror, of course. There are plenty of Protestant evangelical/fundamentalist churches out there.
This is sort of a different topic, but I think Christian fundamentalism is dangerous because it encourages decision making based on feelings rather than logic and reasoning.
Don’t think. Just have faith.
Don’t ask questions. Just believe.
Don’t do any research. Just listen to what I tell you.
And that’s how you wind up with groups of people that are ready to believe in “deep state” conspiracies, that COVID-19 is a hoax, and that we’re about to go to war with someone. Not sure who, but someone. Either the Deep State, or China, or maybe us against the rest of the world.
It’s nuts, but it’s fascinating. Trump being elected somehow brought all of this insanity to the surface. I think it’s a good thing. We needed to know it was there. Of course, we could guess that this kind of crazy exists in American society, but now we know for sure. Hopefully, as a result the politicians will take notice and shift some of the national budget away from funding the military-industrial complex and instead boost education, regardless of who wins the November election.
Since we’ve been going to the grocery store less, we’re actually using up things in our cabinets that might have otherwise occupied space until they went bad.
I’ve also been finding and discarding products that did, in fact, occupy space until they went bad.
Silver lining? Social distancing and the fear of a deadly virus is good for minimalism. My goal is to hit the back of the cabinets and the bottom of the freezer by the time this is all over. No more old stuff sitting in the cabinets, fridge, or freezer.
Case in point is this meatloaf. I had the meat in the freezer for months and now that I have less inclination to go outside and more time to actually cook, it’s done and ready for dinner.