Unlike most 20-somethings I have an above-average number of cookbooks in my kitchen. I have old classics that everyone should own like The New Basics Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins that covers all of the basics, such as meatloaf and roasting chicken. I have new cookbooks with only the hippest of celebrity chef instructions and ingredients. But similar to most 20-somethings living in New York , I have an extreme dearth of space in my kitchen.
My kitchen is comprised of a four-burner gas stove with a faulty pilot light my roommate and I often have to re-light to use the oven, a refrigerator, a sink unit with exactly two 18×24″ work surfaces and four sub-par cabinets. The only thing that makes this kitchen workable is the long-skinny Ikea island with its dual opening drawers and two shelves. So it is regrettable that I cannot keep all of my cookbooks within arm’s reach but it has made me really analyze which ones I actually use on a regular basis. So here’s the list:
Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François
Unplugged Kitchen: A Return to the Simple, Authentic Joys of Cooking, by Viana La Place
Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Vol. 1), by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck
A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes, by David Tanis and Alice Waters
Super Natural Cooking: Five Delicious Ways to Incorporate Whole and Natural Foods into Your Cooking by Heidi Swanson
Momofuku, by David Chang and Peter Meehan
Note: Space is reserved on the island for these two books yet to hit the shelves:
The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, by Deb Perelman
I love all of these books! I could write posts and posts about all of them and let me assure you kids – if I keep up with this C’n’C thing, you will definitely be seeing them over and over again. The globetrotting of David Chang in his impeccable yet daunting (in a good way) collection of Momofuku recipes, the rustic and approachable entertaining style of David Tanis and the accessible simplicity of natural cooking from Heidi – these are books that I pull out at times not even to cook with but to curl up in my comfy chair with a cup of tea and flip through the pages with avid eyes.
And while I keep all of them in a pretty steady rotation the one that hands down gets the most use is Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. This book completely changed the way I looked at convenience and health in the kitchen. Their fool-proof bread method makes it impossible to fail at making that crusty, airy, white (or brown) stuff in no time at all. Literally. Anything you think you know about making bread – knead it, let it rise, knead it again, let it rise – you’re wrong. It is literally easier for me to whip up a batch of this dough, bake off half and throw the rest in the fridge for later, than it is for me to run two blocks to the store and buy pre-made bread. And have you ever looked at the ingredients of most supermarket breads? Sure, big food companies are getting better about lowering sodium content and using whole wheat, but in most brands you still find additives that you can’t say/spell/pick out of a line up and really, how hard is it to keep your pantry stocked with flour, yeast, and salt (water’s free loves)? And honestly, is there anything better than fresh-baked bread with a smathering of creamy butter? So go forth and bake!
Updates: Gulp! In order to motivate ourselves the Mother and I are training for the San Diego 1/2 Marathon. I will post my training schedule in a few days but I did end up getting a 3 miler in on Monday and today. Major mile increases don’t start until the end of March but I will be very curious to see if I can run 13.1 in Vibrams. Anyone ever try it?
Simple Crusty Bread
I live with only one other person so its hard for me to consume 4 loaves of bread before the dough gets a little funky (although you may like the more sourdough-like taste) so I halve the recipe. Below is the original recipe (halved) but I have also included a few of my variations on the recipe – the beauty of this recipe is that you can pretty much sub in whatever flour/grains/nuts/spices you can think of.
Adapted from “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day,” by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François (Thomas Dunne Books, 2007), Servings: 2 – 1 lb loaves
2 1/2 teaspoons yeast
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 cups warm water
3 1/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, more for dusting dough
1. In a large bowl or plastic container, whisk yeast and salt into 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees). Fold in flour with a rubber spatula, mixing until there are no dry patches. Dough will be quite loose but you may need to use your hands to incorporate the last of the flour. Cover, but not with an airtight lid. Let dough rise at room temperature 2 hours (or overnight).
2. You can either bake or refrigerate the dough at this point, covered with a non-airtight lid, for as long as two weeks. When ready to bake, sprinkle a little flour on dough and cut off a grapefruit-size piece with serrated knife. Turn dough in hands to lightly stretch surface, creating a rounded top and a lumpy bottom. Put dough on pizza peel or in a loaf pan sprinkled with cornmeal; let rest 40 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough or refrigerate it.
3. Place broiler pan on bottom of oven. Place baking stone on middle rack and turn oven to 450 degrees; heat stone at that temperature for 20 minutes.
4. Dust dough with flour, slash top with serrated or very sharp knife three times. Slide onto stone. Pour one cup hot water into broiler pan and shut oven quickly to trap steam. Bake until well browned, about 30 minutes. Cool completely.
My fave – 2 cups whole wheat flour, 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1/4 – 1/3 cup nuts, seeds, or grains. Follow directions as usual.
Suggestions for nuts, seeds, or grains: Toasted pumpkin seeds, chopped walnuts, flaxseeds, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, amaranth seeds, cracked wheat, quinoa, millet.
Whole Wheat – Sub whole wheat flour for Aall-purpose flour in original recipe. Follow directions as usual.
Rye – 3/4 rye flour, 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon caraway seeds. Follow directions as usual. For additional “rye-ness” whisk an egg with a tablespoon of water, brush onto loaf before baking, sprinkle with additional caraway seeds, bake as usual.
Cinnamon Raisin – 1 cup whole wheat flour, 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1/4 raisins, 1/4 cup toasted chopped walnuts, 1 tablespoon cinnamon, reduce salt to 1 teaspoon. Follow directions as usual.