There’s No Knead

Last week, mt friend Drew posted a link to Mark Bittman’s column in the New York Times about a bread recipe that required very little yeast and almost no kneading. The secret, according to Bittman, was to let it sit for a good 18 hours, letting the yeast do all the work in creating the gluten.

Anyone who’s been around these parts for a while knows of my ongoing struggle with bread. I gave up for years because I couldn’t get anything close to the heavenly stuff that came out of my Grandmother’s oven. So I was game to try Bittman’s recipe, but sceptical.

I had the loaf in the oven this afternoon when I came across a post about the bread on the Live Journal food porn community. Like everyone over there, my bread turned out fantastic, although it was not without its problems.

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Blueberry Grunt

The Grunt is a traditional Acadian dish, made originally by French settlers in a stew pot over an open hearth. The name “Grunt” comes from the burbling sound of the stewed blueberries as they boil. Note that the dumplings will get soft and fluffy, but as they are steamed, will not brown. If you want browned pastry, make a cobbler in the oven, but call it a cobbler, and not a grunt. There’s nothing more disappointing that sitting down to an order of Blueberry Grunt at a restaurant only to discover that someone has baked the thing. And don’t let me catch any of you using canned blueberry pie filling in this recipe, as I’ve seen suggested out there on the Intarweb. Fresh or frozen blueberries only!

Every family in Atlantic Canada has their own blueberry grunt recipe, which is really pretty much just blueberries, sugar and water with sweet dumplings. This recipe comes from Traditional Recipes of Atlantic Canada, which I believe my father collected for me, section by section, from the local gas station, back when gas stations still sold promotional collectibles.

The cinnamon and lemon zest are my additions to jazz up the flavour. The Grunt is meant to be a dessert, but we eat it mostly for breakfast.

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Dairy-Free Coconut Cream Pie

It’s hard to be allergic to dairy and have your favourite foods be dairy based; cheese, ice cream, cheese cake, banana splits. It’s sad and lonely to stand by on a hot summer day while your husband eats one of those soft-serve cones from the ice cream truck and you can only live vicariously through him. It’s especially hard when your most favourite dessert ever happens to be coconut cream pie.

Thanks to the good folks at Tofutti, however, I can now make a variety of formerly dairy-based desserts with their soy cheese products.

Setting aside the controversy regarding whether soy is as virtuous as it seems (and that really depends on who pays for the study; studies paid for by the soy industry indicate that soy is a complete miracle food, studies paid for by the dairy industry tend to skew in the other direction), there are still some pros and cons, and the idea that soy sour cream is healthier than regular sour cream is not license to eat the whole pie.

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The Chocolate Cherry Bread Monster

Those of you who know me reasonably well know that I have bread issues. That is, for many years, bread just wouldn’t work for me. It would come out of the oven okay and would quickly turn into a hard lump. Every single time. In an effort to remove myself from the blame for this, I pointed to an erratic gas oven (I made great bread at cooking school, and I grew up making bread two or three times a week with my Grandmother – I knew how to do it), and headed off to the store to buy bread, having given up on the kneading and the punching and the proofing and the wasting of ingredients.

Something else that has given me trouble over the years is Vegetarian Times Magazine. Not the magazine itself, but the recipes, which always hurt my head a bit in their logic and which come with introductions like “Threw this together last night for the kids!” That’s fine for a blog, but in a nationally-published magazine, I expect some triple-testing going on to make sure the recipe makes sense. Since most of their recipes didn’t make sense, and seemed like a disaster waiting to happen, I stopped buying the thing.

Now, remember that I am a food writer and editor. It is part of my job to go over recipes that my writers want to post with a fine-toothed comb to look for anything that might not work. Early on, a young and enthusiastic writer came up with a piece on healthy snack alternatives and suggested that readers should add a tablespoon of cinnamon to a half cup of applesauce. My face turns inside out at the mere thought – a quarter teaspoon of cinnamon would be about the right proportion for this treat – a whole tablespoon would be overwhelmingly unappealing.

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