The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life
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Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Food / Drink ... Practical Advice ...

I will soon post a few thoughts on the 50th anniversary of the Stanley Kubrick’s “black comedy” film “Doctor Strangelove”. In this post, I will contest the notion that there was any real comedy in that film at all. At least not to anyone who ever had to consider the real possibility at some point in their life that they could get nuked! Literally!!! T’ain’t so funny then, McGee!!!

But before we launch the B-52’s, let me talk about a more domestic kind of “nuking”, and how I used a little shortcut over the weekend in a bread-baking project. I like to bake my own bread, especially since my own homebaked bread keeps the salt content low (for health reasons – and it tastes fine to me, a little more sweet and grassy than regular salty bread, but still bread). I make it by hand, as I don’t have a bread machine (no room left in my little apartment!).

Up to now I’ve followed standard bread recipes, where you first dissolve the yeast in a cup of hot water and sugar (around 110 degrees, I use a thermometer to get it right) and let it “proof” in the water for maybe 15 minutes. Then you pour that foamy blend into the flour bowl to start the mixing and kneading process. Or, you mix the yeast in with a cup of flour and some sugar at the bottom of a mixing bowl, pour in a cup of water at about 125 degrees, let that mix proof for maybe 15 minutes, then mix in the rest of the flour, water and oil (or whatever else you want to add, such as raisins).

For some odd reason yesterday, I goofed up the proofing process, and so I found out that my yeast was dead. After some kneading and about an hour of sitting in a warm place, the bread dough hadn’t risen at all, it was still just a pasty glop of wet flour that elasticized itself into a ball.

Well, a little technical glitch (bomb bay doors that wouldn’t open) didn’t stop Major Kong on Strangelove’s bomb run, and I wasn’t going to give in either. So, I went to the refrigerator and got out another packet of yeast. I poured it into the bowl over the dead flour bowl, and poured just a little bit of water over it all, just to moisten the new yeast. Then I washed my hands (to get rid of any little bugs that might have killed the first batch of yeast) and started kneading the new yeast into the mix.

OK, but would the new yeast “activate”, since it never sat in any hot water? Hmmmm . . . it should be moist enough, but how could I get it hot? Oh yea — the microwave oven!!! So I put the re-yeasted flour lump into a ceramic bowl and nuked the thing for a few minutes. Then back into a warm corner for rising, and wait another hour. Well, it basically worked. The second knead and rising cycle went mostly OK — the rise was a little more sluggish than usual, but the flour and water were definitely converting into bread dough.

So later in the afternoon, I finally got around to baking the bread, and guess what? The results were quite good! (See picture above.) The rise was a little muted, but that made for a slightly denser, somewhat cake-like bread texture that is actually quite nice!!

Next time I make bread, I’m going to try this procedure from the start; instead of proofing my yeast in a hot-water or a water-flour mix before mixing and kneading, I’m going to mix the dry yeast in with the flour, sugar and whatever else, pour in the liquids, and then knead it into an elastic not-too-sticky ball. And THEN I’m going to nuke the ball in a ceramic bowl for a few minutes, and just leave the whole shebang in the microwave oven to rise for an hour — why not, the inside of the oven should be nicely warm and moist, a perfect place for bread to rise.

Actually, I’m not the first person to have thought of using a microwave to let bread rise. But as to doing a one-pass mix and rise in the microwave — well, even after some Googling I couldn’t find anyone who had done that yet. So I’m looking forward to trying it; it should even work for non-bread “one-rise” projects like pizza dough.

If it works — then imagine me up in that B-52 bomb bay, just as a huge loaf of bread falls out of the plane, with me grabbing on to the front, whooping and hollering like Slim Pickens in a rodeo . . . (Actually, I don’t think that anyone could actually “ride a bomb” as in Dr. Strangelove; a B-52 would be going too fast for a human being to hold on to a massive object like a bomb once it hits the slipstream of rushing air).

◊   posted by Jim G @ 1:31 pm      

  1. Jim, It always amazes me how much can be done with a microwave! And here you are nuking bread dough to get it to rise. Another good use for a microwave.

    Doing a little checking, I see that the microwave came into use in the late 1960s, which probably means I ended up using one in the 1980s. I am constantly amazed at how we managed to get along before the general use of microwaves; we actually heated things on the stove or in the oven! Now a great deal of food is cooked (and lots of other things–as you indicate getting yeast to work) are quickly and easily cooked–and nicely cooked too–with the use of microwaves. What did we ever do without them!

    I say your idea of “fiddling” with the yeast in your unique manner is brilliant. A definite “who’d’ve thunk”! Congratulations on your excellent idea. Yet another thing microwaves will do. MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — June 28, 2014 @ 1:57 pm

  2. Jim, The picture of the bread you made looks like it should be good. It has a little more “texture” to it than bread normally has, but that might enhance the bread. The crust on the top and bottom also looks great!

    All in all, I repeat–good job. MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — June 29, 2014 @ 1:38 pm

  3. Delightful! Thanks for the great idea, Jim! :)

    Comment by DJ — July 5, 2014 @ 6:20 am

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