Wednesday, February 10, 2016

How to Waste a Couple of Perfectly Good Days

I have lately been on a quest to make my own convenience foods.  Or to at least find quicker methods of making some of the foods I use often.  Here is what I learned.

First I tried a couple of recipes I found for making your own rice side dishes.  I like those Knorr Rice Sides and Rice-A-Roni.  I like them once in a while with a meal instead of potatoes or sometimes I will add my canned chicken or beef to them for a skillet type meal.  So I followed the recipes and made both a chicken flavor and a beef flavor rice mix.  I added meat to half a batch and left the other half plain.  And I have to report that I didn't much care for any of it.  Both the homemade mixes were bland and sort of tasteless.  Even doctoring them up didn't help much.  Given a choice between the homemade mixes and the store bought, I would choose the store bought for flavor every time.

I had seen posts on a couple of food and preparedness blogs about making baking powder biscuit dough and freezing the biscuits to be baked later.  Thinking that might work well for me, I followed the instructions, using a recipe included in the blog post for one batch, using the Bisquick recipe for another batch and finally using my tried and true biscuit recipe for the third.  I mixed the dough, rolled it out and cut the biscuits.  I put the raw biscuits on parchment lined cookie sheets and popped them into the freezer.  When frozen, I bagged and labeled each batch and back into the freezer they went.  The instructions said to bake them, just place the frozen biscuits on a baking sheet and bake as usual.  So I took two biscuits from each bag and put them on a parchment paper lined sheet, writing on the paper with a Sharpie so I wouldn't mix them up, and baked them.  When they came out of the oven, the first two would have made great substitutions for hockey pucks.  The biscuits made using my recipe were a little better, but not much.  They weren't nearly as light and fluffy as I like them but were more dense and heavy.

So far, I'm not doing real well with these experiments.  But I had one more to try.

I had found a YouTube series about making no-knead bread.  Thought it was worth trying.  I watched the videos and wrote down the recipes and instructions for a loaf of white bread and for rolls.  I followed the instructions to the letter.  The guy in the videos made it look so easy, and it was fairly quick and easy to mix the dough.  But when the loaf of bread came out of the oven, I found I had a really nice smelling door stop.  It was heavy and had a really tough crust, even after I brushed butter on the outside to soften it up a bit.  It didn't taste nearly as good as a loaf made the conventional way using my favorite recipe.  The rolls weren't any better.

So that is how I managed to waste a couple of perfectly good days.  I suppose they weren't a total loss.  I learned that quick and easy isn't always a good thing.  I learned that sometimes substitutes for a dish like the rice sides can't be duplicated to taste like what I am used to.  And I learned that even though kneading bread takes time and energy, the results are well worth it.  I'm not trying to discourage anyone from trying any of these methods.  Could be Operator Error.  But personally, I found that for me, it just wasn't working.  I will continue to stock the store bought rice mixes and make bread and biscuits from scratch, the old fashioned way.

So mostly I learned that if it ain't broke - don't fix it!


  1. Somebody less of a perfectionist would probably have been perfectly content with the things you made. I am pretty sure I would not have known the difference. I usually just make something out of a can or something I can boil and eat.

    Doing those kinds of experiments is really a pretty good idea. Lisa made some great hardtack by experimenting. It was great and tasted like butter. I bet you could make some good shipbread or hardtack too. That's worth having since if you can find it to buy it, the price is high.

  2. Harry...I'm really not much of a perfectionist. The end products were pretty bad. The idea with the rice was to make up a bunch of mixes, seal them up and store them for future meals or have them on hand to give away should somebody be really hungry. Guess I will just buy them when they go on sale. The rest was done with the idea of quick and easy, but I like from scratch better. I have tried other experiments with making my own mixes and some have turned out really good. I remember reading about Lisa's hardtack. I'll have to go back and check it out. Good idea.

  3. Now that I try to limit my salt intake, I've learned that the handier a food is to fix, the more salt and chemicals it usually has. SO, taste aside, I'm sure that what you made was much healthier than what you bought.

  4. Did your no knead bread call for letting the dough sit over night before baking? I have a recipe from Cooks Illustrated using a dutch oven that comes out really nice. It is a crusty loaf.

    Almost no-knead bread
    An enameled cast iron dutch oven with a lid works best, but you can also use regular cast iron.
    3 cups all purpose flour
    1/4 tsp instant yeast
    1 1/2 tsp table salt
    10 oz water
    1 tbsp white vinegar

    1. whisk flour yeast and salt in large bowl. Add water and vinegar. Using rubber spatula, fold mixture, scraping up dry flour from bottom of bowl until shaggy ball forms. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature fro 8 to 18 hours.
    2. lay a 12 x 18 sheet of parchment paper inside a 10 inch skillet and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead 10 to 15 times. Shape dough into ball and transfer dough to parchment lined skillet and spray surface of dough with non-stick cooking spray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until dough has doubled in size, about 2 hours.
    3. about 30 minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to lowest position, and place 6- to 8 quart heavy bottomed dutch oven with lid on rack and heat oven to 500 degrees. Lightly flour top of dough and cut one 6 inch long slit along top of dough. Carefully remove pot from oven and remove lid. Pick up dough by lifting parchment paper overhang and lower into pot. (just leave any excess paper). Cover pot and place in oven. Reduce oven temp to 425 and bake covered for 30 minutes. Remove lid and bake 20-30 minutes longer, until loaf is deep brown and thermometer reads 210 in center of loaf. Carefully remove bread from pot and let cool.

  5. Gorges...I know you're right. Homemade is mostly healthier than store bought. It would probably be worthwhile to mess with the recipe and see if I could make it more tasty. I may do that at some point, but at the moment I have other things that need my attention.

  6. W...Thanks so much for the recipe. The source of the recipe I tried gave two options. One was to let the dough rise overnight and the other was to place the covered bowl of dough in the oven with just the light on which resulted in the dough being ready for the pan in a couple of hours. I tried the latter.

    I have printed out your recipe and will give it a try. It is a bit different from the one I used. I am wondering how it would work being baked in a bread pan as opposed to a dutch oven. I was looking more for a standard loaf of no knead bread rather than the more artesian type. I may not get to it for a week or so, but if your recipe works for me, I would like to do a post about it, with your permission.

  7. Vicki,
    I don't have a problem with you using the recipe. I'm not sure if it will turn out in a regular loaf pan or not, I've never tried it that way. I know it's a lot of bread, but maybe try one of each?
    The recipe only used 1/4 tsp yeast because of the long rise time. The 2nd rise in the skillet is only because it is the right shape to easily lift out and place into the dutch oven at the right time, without deflating the dough.

  8. Thank you, W...In a week or so when I have a bit more time for baking, I will try both methods. I hope it works for me as I really like the idea of being able to produce a good loaf of bread without the kneading. I'll post the results.