October 24, 2010

Fall Break Part 2: Flour Power

So during all the cooking that we did in Maine, there was one ingredient we went through a whole lot of: flour. It makes it way into just about every meal you eat, especially if you're making everything from scratch. During our four days there, we made pita bread, white bread, donuts, pasta, dumplings and pizza all 100% from scratch. And that uses a lot of flour.

Which is why I'm writing this post in support of people using more flour. I realize that not everyone has time to go home and bake some bread for lunch the next day, or roll out their own pasta every night, and I'm not asking you to. What I am asking you to do is to get a little closer to flour. Know where you meals come from. Know how they're made. And most importantly, know how easy they are to make -- from scratch! Get comfortable with having some flour on you counter (and all over your clothes). Because as anyone can tell you, food made from scratch is delicious. And as I can tell you from spending 4 days in Maine with only flour, yeast, water and some vegetables, eggs and cheese, you can make just about anything from scratch if you put your mind to it. 

To start, fresh pasta. As they say in Italy, pasta a mano (pasta made by hand). There are countless recipes and videos you can find online for fresh pasta. If you don't have a pasta machine or are intimidated by it (as they can be), just use a rolling pin, as we did in Maine. You'll have to put some muscle into it, but hand rolled pasta is a delicious treat. We had ours with light and simple cream, wine and parmesan sauce. 

Next, fresh baked donuts that Damiano made. These are wonderful, light and chewy with a cinnamon-sugar coating. And you even get to bake the donuts holes (munchkins!). How cute. You make a fairly simple dough, let it rise (we did this the night before and then stuck them in the fridge), cut them, bake for 8 minutes and serve at once.

We also had some freshly baked bread using a recipe from The Bread Bible. She calls this her "Simple Hearth Loaf." It takes a lot of work (definitely not the bread you're going to want to make if it's your first time, but this might be), but it pays off. It has a well-defined crust, chewy interior and lots of flavor. Great on its own or for sandwiches the next day. 

We also made some great pizza from dough that rose overnight (in the fridge), giving it lots of flavor. The crust was light, crispy, soft inside, and really tasty. One was a simple tomato mozzarella pizza (pictured above), the other with potato, onion and parmesan. Oh so good. 

Finally, Sarah showed us how to make some Georgian dumplings. These were made with a simple dough of flour and water, stuffed with mashed potato and onion, and boiled quickly. When you eat them, you dip them in cracked black pepper. Yum! 

The only downside to this post: these photos are all in shades of beige. But these made-from-scratch meals we delicious nonetheless.