White Bread

In preparation for the soft pretzel tutorial, here’s my bread recipe, mostly because I made it today to use for pizza crust. I use it for every type of bread I make; sometimes it’s loaves, sometimes bread sticks, sometimes “other.” When we make Poor Man’s Soup,” we fry the bread. Our family just calls it circle bread.

Anyhoo, today it was pizza. I always make a lot when I take the time to make bread, so right now we have extra in the fridge to make loaves for soup on Monday. Can you tell I use a meal plan? I have a basic layout of a month of meals. I don’t necessarily follow it, but it keeps me from having to think about dinner every day.

And I’m off topic again…If you want to know more about the meal plan or anything else, ask in the comments and maybe it will be another post.

My All-Purpose Bread Recipe

  1. Start water in the kettle. (You’ll need 3 cups.)
  2. Mix the dry ingredients.
    • 4 cups of flour (You’ll add about 7 cups later.)
    • 2 T. of yeast (probably the same as two packages of active dry yeast)
    • 1/4 c. of sweet (whatever you prefer)
    • 1 T. salt
  3. Measure the liquids. (I have a four-cup measuring cup I do this in, just combining them all together. It doesn’t allow me to measure it exactly precisely, but it’s close enough for me. I’m not huge on measuring precisely, due to my lessons from a Roma grandma – see Pour Man’s Soup.)
    • 3 cups hot water (should be steaming by now, but not boiling)
    • 1 cup milk from the fridge
    • 1/3 c. oil
  4. Pour the very warm liquids into dry ingredients and beat it all together. If you make it nice and hot, then when you knead it, it will be warm and feel lovely to knead, especially on a winter day.
  5. Add six cups of flour and mix. I mix it with a spoon as long as possible to keep my hands free. If it’s too wet, add that seventh cup.
  6. Knead for 10-15 minutes. You can’t over knead bread by hand, but I usually am tired out before I get to 15 minutes anyway. Some of my boys like to knead, so sometimes we just set up a rotation and take five minute turns.
  7. Grease the bowl. I grease the bowl by drizzling oil in along the edge of the bowl as I spin the bowl around and then swirling the dough around in the bowl getting everything covered with oil.
  8. Cover the bowl. I cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and then with a towel.
  9. Let it rise at least an hour and a half. I don’t time it. I make it at lunch because the kids are occupied and then it’s ready when I need it.
  10. Then you just form it into whatever you need. For pizza, I took half of that dough and divided it into 8 pieces for eight mini pizza crusts for our dinner.
  11. The extra you can refrigerate for a few days or even freeze it.

Everyone got to make their own pizzas. They may not be so pretty, but they were tasty.

pizza

Poor Man’s Soup

Elivra and Lee 2002 or 2003_20160518_0001

I say I learned to cook from a Gypsy grandma. It’s sort of true. I already had two kids by that time. I cooked for my family all the time, but I cooked like an American.  I hadn’t really learned to cook. I got married and then I cooked. I used recipes. The recipes were ads for ingredients, and so I cooked with crescent rolls and cans of cream of chicken soup.

I used to think food like that was so good. Now I think it’s a little gross. What really happened is that the Gypsy grandma taught me to cook with real food. We made a lot of stews. She said that everyone should eat at least three wet meals a week to stay healthy. Gypsy grandmas have a lot of ideas about health. I can’t say I follow any of her advice.

But, I do cook like her, at least somewhat. I never did really get spinning dough to get it paper thin. I would put holes in it. I can just buy filo dough. But I learned to cook with onions and garlic. I put onions and garlic in everything. Basically everything was onions, garlic, parsley, salt and oil. Just add that to whatever you’re doing.

One dish I learned was a poor man’s soup. Onions, garlic, water, and her secret ingredient Vegeta. Vegeta is a salt and dried vegetables seasoning mix. It accompanied every savory dish. The last step, after boiling all that until it was soft, was to cook flour in oil (about equal parts flour and oil) until it was roasted. You’ll smell it when it’s roasted (I love that smell); plus, it turns brown. You throw that into the pot (stand back). Stir until smooth. And voila! We call it chorba. I think it may be like a chowder. We normally don’t make the poor man’s version. I throw in a chicken leg or two.

I made this on Tuesday. I threw the chicken in the pot with a little oil on high to brown a little while I chopped the onions, then threw the onions in and tried to brown those a little before I decided that was enough and put in a lot of water and three garlic cloves. I don’t measure. I learned from the Gypsy grandma to not measure. A cup of water meant grabbing a glass from the shelf and filling it with water. I don’t usually use three garlic cloves in dishes, but for this soup, I have to. I served it once to a Roma (Gypsy) man, all proud of myself for making the dish. He said it was good, but they made it with more garlic.

(Image: That was in Shutka, in Skopje, Macedonia, probably 2003. That was the daughter-in-law of said grandma. We were the ones actually cooking. The grandma/mother-in-law just gave us orders.)