While Dr. You-Know-Who was encouraging millions of folks to chow down on flesh and fat, some of us were still eating as our forefathers had. With produce from the garden, or at least from the produce market, grains and legumes. Now that obesity and obesity related illnesses are reaching epidemic proportions, we're being advised that all that flesh and fat, especially the hydrogenated fats, were not so good for us after all.
Those of us who clung to the whole foods, cook-it-like-grandma-did route, may have the last laugh. While it's true, man cannot live healthily by bread alone, whole grain breads sure can play a big part in the nutritional picture, as well as being a popular palette pleaser. Bread making, or any yeasted dough process, intimidates many cooks. But simple doughs are easy for a novice to work with and produce fine results .
The first yeasted dough recipe I worked with came from Jeff Smith, The Frugal Gourmet. I've used the same recipe for both pizza dough and focaccia for years with excellent results. Bread is simply flour, water, yeast and salt. Sometimes with the addition of oil or butter. The focaccia pictured above was made with 3 1/3 cups whole wheat flour, 1 package instant yeast, 1 cup warm water (105° - 115°), 5 TBS olive oil and 1 tsp salt. The same dough can be made with unbleached all purpose flour for a white loaf or combine all purpose with whole wheat for a lighter loaf that still has some whole wheat in it for nourishment and flavor. If using just all purpose flour, the dough may require up to 4 cups to hold together nicely.
Once the dough is mixed and kneaded, (I let my Kitchen Aid standing mixer do this part) place in a lightly greased bowl, cover and allow to rise in a warm, draft-free place. When the dough has doubled in size, punch down, shape into a flat focaccia, or roll into a baguette. Allow to rise again, then bake at 400° for 30 minutes. I like to make finger holes in the top of the dough, then brush it with olive oil and sprinkle on a generous dusting of kosher salt and crushed, dried rosemary. If using the dough for pizza, it's ready after the first rise. Divide the dough in two, form into balls and roll out for a 10" crust. Or place the dough balls individually into zip lock bags and freeze for future use. Baking in stoneware is excellent for producing a crusty loaf. Baking pizza on a pre-heated pizza stone ensures a crisp crust, too.
Since neither man nor I can live by bread alone, I added a little protein and a bit of fruit to accompany the warm bread when it emerged from the oven. I recently picked up a fast and easy treatment of Thai Chicken Satay with peanut sauce from the Dining section of the New York Times and decided to put it to the test. While this simple cooking technique may lack great grilled flavor, it also eliminates the carcinogens produced by grilling food. The Times article called for a cooked chicken breast, I had some lightly sautéed chicken tenders on hand, they worked perfectly. I sliced them in half lengthwise to make thinner planks.
For the Sauce: 1/4 cup natural peanut butter (smooth or crunchy); 2 TBS sesame oil; 1 TBS Tamari or soy sauce; 1 TBS honey; 1 tsp milk.
For the Satay: 1 cooked chicken breast; 1 TBS Tamari or soy sauce; 2 TBS honey; 1 tsp sesame seeds (optional).
For the Sauce:mix peanut butter, sesame oil, tamari, honey and milk in a small microwaveable bowl. Microwave until thoroughly heated, about 30 seconds (be careful not to overcook), then mix until smooth.
For the Satay:cut chicken into 1" thick strips. Mix tamari and honey in small bowl. Coat chicken with mixture, discard any excess. Microwave for 15 -20 seconds. Sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired, serve with peanut sauce.
Well, wasn't that fast and easy? You don't have to bake a focaccia to enjoy the Chicken Satay. But giving your own baked bread a whirl is rewarding and you might just find that working with yeast dough is a technique you'd like to perfect. I'm still working at it.
Till next time . . . keep on cooking!