Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Going Homemade

A friend from church lent me an entertaining and eye-opening cookbook/memoir called Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese.  The author shared a bunch of different recipes and gave the real scoop on which things are cheaper and/or worth the hassle to make yourself instead of pre-made from the store. some of the book is available here on google book, so check it out! A super good read if you enjoy cooking/baking at all. I had to copy so many of the recipes before returning the book! It got me super jazzed about cooking! I had fun over Christmas trying out a few of the recipes on my family and now that I am back home, I've enjoyed continuing to research and try out more recipes. It's been pretty exciting.

In the past month, I have learned to make from scratch: braised meats, frittata, yougurt, bagels, to-die-for hashbrowns and tortillas.

I was surprised by my success with the tortillas- for some reason, I expected it to be harder than this. I just mixed together 5 tablespoons canola oil, 3 cups flour and a dash of salt; added 3/4 cup water, kneaded it a bit, rolled into 12 balls; covered with damp cloth on counter for 20 mins; rolled thin and slapped on the skillet for a minute per side. These rolled out nice and thin and crisped up to make perfect quesadillas. Here we have quesadillas made with homemade tortilla (L) and store-bought (R). We did an official taste comparison, and they were virtually indistinguishable. However, I agree with Reese that after tasting homemade, store-bought tortillas taste "suspiciously slicklike flour spiked with monoglycerides, amylase, and calcium propionate". The recipe said that they don't keep well and should be served fresh, but the next day we had leftover, microwave-warmed quesadillas, and the homemade tortillas were much better. The store-bought tortillas went super squishy. There was a cost breakdown in the book, but I wanted to do my own and arrived at the final cost of homemade tortillas being much lower: using ALDI flour and oil, a batch of 10-12 tortillas cost a little under $.40. Even with coupons, it's uncommon to get a better deal on a package of tortillas.

Micah got me a dutch oven for Christmas and I have since decided that braising meat is the greatest thing ever. It's incredibly easy and amazingly delicious. You take a super fatty piece of meat; rub some spices on it; sear the outside, throw in some onion, carrots and celery; pour a little wine/juice/broth/water over it; cover that bad boy and leave it in the oven for a few hours. I made short ribs at my Dad's and pork butt since we got back home and both were delicious beyond words. I mean... wow. Imagine the fally-aparty texture of a roast that has been stuck in a crockpot overnight along with a smooth, butter-like chew. A major plus- meats that are good for braising tend to be pretty cheap, so this can be an elegant dinner that doesn't break the bank. But don't indulge too often or you will probably have a heart attack.

Homemade hashbrowns are not hard at all. Shredding the potatoes is a hassle, especially if you have to do it by hand with a grater. But if you have a food processor, it's nothing. Shred up those potatoes, put them in a hot pan with butter. And wait. And wait. And wait. And resist that strong urge to stir, mix, flip or otherwise agitate those potatoes. The key to amazing hashbrowns is to let the get plenty brown and crispy. Once they have reached that point, flip over (they will break up, that's okay), pour some cream on them and let the other side brown. A frittata is essentially a light, fluffy, crustless quiche. You start out as if making scrambled eggs, then once your eggs are about halfway cooked, you stick it in the oven to cook the rest of the way. Check out this recipe, if you're interested. I added a little too much cheese, so it deflated, but if done correctly it poofs up beautifully and feel a million times more elegant than scrambled eggs.

Yogurt is amazingly easy and I feel scammed for ever paying even $.50 for a 6-oz cup. I followed the easy instructions here to make about a quart and a half of yogurt out of a half gallon of whole milk and 1/2 cup plain yogurt- a starter, now I can use the last 1/2 c of future batches to create more. I strained mine in a colander lined with cloth to thicken it, then sweetened it with honey. Plus, the drip-off is whey, which can be used instead of water in bread recipes to add a yummy tang. Natalie is discovering that yogurt is awesome, so I will probably be using this recipe a lot in the future. 

Bagels were fun and delicious but not something that I would make all the time. Used the recipe from the first chapter of Make the Bread and they are a little bit of a production to put together. The dough is super sticky, so it's impossible to make neat little rings. Then, you have to drop them in boiling water for a couple of minutes before baking. They turned out nice and thick and chewy, but the outside wasn't smooth and shiny like it was supposed to be. Oh well, they were still super delicious! Nice and thick and chewy.

So I'm eager and excited to continue trying new recipes. In the near future, I want to try out making beef jerky and bread (hoping to get some loaf pans for my birthday!). Yay for learning to make new things!


  1. This sounds AMAZING! I hope you continue to share your success and recipes with us.

  2. I'm "down" for the loaf pans for your birthday. (You know how I am so fixated on practical and useful gifts, ones I know that will be used and a blessing to the recipient.) :-)