Thursday, February 25, 2010

I attempted new frontiers in synergistic cooking multi-tasking last night. It started with my finally figuring out the secret of getting bread to rise well. Regular kneaded, no-knead, it's never managed to make a difference in my producing bread only slightly more elevated than matzoh. Most of the problem lies in the fact that between my miserly heat conservation in the winter and intolerance of high heat in the summer, our house is usually 65 during the winter and never more than 78 in the summer, causing the poor yeasties to move with a reptile-like torpor. I know you can use the oven to help dough rise, but somehow I never have any luck getting it to stay the right temperature. I'm given to understand that if you have a good oven, little things like a temperature goes up to where you set it and stays there is something you can count on. But I don't have one of those creatures. I have an oven that behaves with the delightful predictability and reliability of a two-year-old who has just eaten a package of pixie sticks. One day when my ship comes in, I'm going to get an oven with a proof setting, and I will be very happy indeed.

But I finally found the right dough-raising device - the crockpot. I turn it on low, balance the bowl on top and the dough pops up happily. I've been using a no-knead recipe here, using a cast-iron pot acquired cheaply from Target. And last night, as I looked at the bowl of dough over the empty crockpot, I decided that I might as well use the heat to try out the crockpot yogurt recipe here.

The bread came out of the oven and was absolutely beautiful. I made took a bullet for everyone by taste-testing the first oven-warm piece with butter melting over it (the terrible sacrifices I make for my family!), and it's delicious.

This morning, the yogurt was huddled, shivering, sullen and still entirely liquid, at the bottom of the pot. So I turned it on to "Warm" for a couple hours and it firmed up very nicely. When adding the starter, I also added a bunch (1/2 cup?) of agave syrup and a couple tablespoons of vanilla extract, which made for a lovely, mild final product. It will blend very well with fruit, but is tasty enough to eat on its own. Hopefully I'll be able to get myself to do this more often, so we don't have to buy quite so many individual yogurts for our children who would eat their weight in it if I would let them (and in addition to being cheaper, it would alleviate a small point of environmental guilt for me).

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