Building a Homestead- 1/21/22
Something I want to aim for in the coming year is to make progress on something each week. I don't have specific requirements for what that "thing" is. I just want to be moving forward. I'm the kind of person that is easily intimidated by new things, doesn't make attempts because of fear of failure, and loves to find excuses to procrastinate.
I'm working on it.
So I want to hold myself accountable by updating here, weekly, the things I'm doing and progress I'm making as we build up our little homestead. There is so much to do, and so much to learn. It's a little....paralyzing. But my "freeze" coping mechanism doesn't make my goals more attainable, it just keeps accomplishing them in the future.
The past couple weeks, I actually worked on many new skills...in the kitchen. Over the years, I've added lots of recipes and cooking methods to my repertoire. I used to be lost at dinnertime if I didn't have chicken breasts and a box of Rice-a-Roni. Now, I can take any raw meat and any raw veggies and turn it into something that's, at least, edible. I mean, I've had a few fails here and there, but for the most part, not bad. It feels good to be able to take very basic, very raw ingredients and turn it in to nourishment.
But baking...that's another story. Sure, Betty Crocker and I can make a really yummy cake, and I've made plenty of batches of cookies in my day. But bread? Always a huge hit or miss. Rolls? Maybe if I'm feeling brave. Buns? Haha. Tortillas? Fat chance.
Every time I picked up a package of hamburger buns at the store, I'd feel guilty for something. I was either buying a product with good ingredients....that cost five times more than a conventional brand. Or I was buying a conventional brand, with the right price point...and I felt bad about the ingredients. Plus, it was a bit constricting. Sure, I make a menu each week, but plans change. Life happens. And if we decide we're feeling hot dogs and chips instead of an elaborate roast one weekend, I'd have to take an inconvenient trip to the store to get those now-necessary buns.
(Buns are always necessary, my husband would say. Too much? Ok, nevermind.)
I finally decided enough was enough. I was going to win my ongoing battle with yeast. I was no longer going to compromise nutrition or cost. A bag of flour, some packages of yeast, and the little additions of fat, liquid, or egg are incredibly cheap for how much they make.
I started with English muffins. I'm glad I did, because boy, was that a confidence booster. They were BEAUTIFUL. They smelled amazing. They tasted good. And I felt so accomplished when they were done. I've always loved the fact that you take ingredients and make them into something better when you're working in the kitchen, but baking is an even more incredible transformation. Turning a sticky dough into these perfect muffins was a really fun process. I used them to pre-make a bunch of breakfast sandwiches for my husband and I.
Next, I made corn tortillas. I used the recipe that was on the masa I bought, which was a very simple one with just two ingredients. They turned out...ok. Without any flour, they are pretty crumbly and I had a bit of trouble cooking them. We ended up more or less frying them in avocado oil, which helped. I want to experiment with them a bit more. Still, I paid $1.99 for a big bag of masa that I barely made a dent in with my recipe for 20 tortillas. Want to know how much I've paid for a package of about 8 pre-made ones with ingredients I was comfortable with? $7.99. Worth making them at home? Definitely.
After that came hamburger buns. Another huge win. They turned out amazingly. There's nothing quite like the smell of homemade yeast products baking in the oven. They turned out so well, in fact, that my husband came into the kitchen from his office area yesterday and asked if I could make him a burger for lunch. "I just really want another one of those buns," he said with a laugh.
(Tip: my husband and I are currently the only ones who eat gluten in our family, so as delicious as these buns were, we won't go through the whole batch very quickly. Use parchment paper to separate items and freeze in Ziploc bags to avoid molding and allow for a quick reheat in the future!)
I moved on to flour tortillas, using a recipe my friend sent me. My husband suggested breakfast burritos once the English muffin sandwiches were gone. These, also, turned out well. Using a rolling pin to form them was a bit challenging, and it will definitely take practice to get my technique down, but they tasted quite delicious.
Just like anything else, I will only get more efficient as I practice. I'll start memorizing steps and ingredients and being familiar with the way things should look. I won't have to obsessively reference my recipes. But already I'm seeing how baking...and the whole rising process, which has always been so intimidating...is a lot like sprouting beans, something I do all the time. It's time consuming in the sense that it takes a long time, but it doesn't really take UP a lot of my time. You just have to plan ahead.
All in all, I feel like the past couple weeks were very successful. And now, if we have a spontaneous hot dog night...I'll just whip up a batch of buns.