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The last one fed me for three months - so far, that is - about a third of the last bag is still left. It was a high quality 25# bag, and it cost me $9.00.

I use this flour to make three different kinds of dough that I pretty much subsist on - asian pasta, egg pasta, and pizza dough.

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Of the three, I make yeast (pizza) dough the most. The recipe is only slightly more complex than asian pasta dough or egg pasta dough - the only additonal ingredient is yeast water to make it "rise". Thriving yeast has two byproducts, and both are desirable - carbon dioxide and alcohol. It is the carbon dioxide that makes your dough rise, and alcohol makes it smell delicious.

Yeast Water

Temperature - yeast is dormant at 50°, and thrives at around 82° to 115°. Yeast starts to die off at 120°. I took the temperature of my tap water, and it's 116° - perfect!  I put a half cup of this warm water in this 1.5 cup mug (dear old departed dad's name was Barney), then disolve just a little sugar and active dry yeast in it.

Let your yeast water do its thing for 5-10 minutes while you prep the flour. You'll know it's heading in the right direction if you see bubbles and foam on the top after a while.

4 cups flour
pinch of salt
1.25 cups of yeast water
Add enough water to your yeast solution to bring it to 1 1/4 cups.  Add 2/3 of your yeast water to the flour and mix well, but don't knead it or over-do it - that will make your dough too tough and inflexible. When mixed evenly continue the process with the remaining yeast water added to the flour.  I use a simple, tough wooden spoon to mix it in my bowl.

Put it in a bowl for at least 4 hours, but 24 hours is even better.  Having risen, it'll look like this.

Now that I have my pizza dough, the thing I make about the least with it is . . . . pizza. Why? Too much cheese is necessary, really.  Too much milkfat.  But there's cultures around the world who roll these out into "rounds", stuff them, then bake or steam them, and that's what I do the most. Today, it was broccoli chicken.

cooked deboned chicken
broccoli, chopped fine
minced onion
chicken or turkey gravy
Divide your doughball into eight equal parts, roll each part into a "round", and layer the ingredients.  A tip: put your aromatics on the bottom - in this case, that would be the onion. Dip your fingers in water and wet the outside edge seal, fold in half and crimp with your fingers. Dust flour on any wetness, then put it on your baking sheet. Here they are before going into the oven (22 minutes at 375° in my oven).

And after.

I always keep a risen dough ready to go - I make about 3 a week, and I keep it right out on my countertop. Yep. Remember that alcohol? It disinfects itself, and cultures have been successfully keeping fresh dough unrefrigerated for millenia. I use it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I stuff it with both savory and sweet ingredients. Next week, I'll dig into how different cultures use this dough, and do a lot of recipes, but here's a short list to get you started.

. Calzones - stuff it with anything that would be good in a pizza.  
. Stromboli - an Italian American calzone, often stuffed with pepperoni. Think "hot pockets".
. Empanadas - found throughout Spanish-speaking countries, especially in South America.
. Knish - An Eastern European Jewish potato dumpling.
. Samosa - Southeast Asian, often stuffed with potatoes and peas.
. Manjū - Japanese sweet bun stuffed with "anko" - a sugared bean paste. Like mochi.
. Four and Twenty Blackbirds - a royal favorite, but sourcing the ingredients takes a while :-)

Tips

1 Buy a better quality yeast.  It lasts forever.  I use Fleischmanns Dry Active Yeast, and store most of it in my freezer until I need it.
2 Salt can kill yeast plants.  Use relatively little (it's not all that good for you anyway), and put it in the dry flour instead of the yeast water.
3 Rub oil on any surface where you keep proofing dough to keep it from sticking.
4 At least partially pre-cooking your filling works best. Your oven will raise the temperature of your filling considerably, but to make sure at least start the process on your stovetop. Avoid raw meat ingredients.
5 Brush your dough with butter before baking to make the crust look darker and more appealing.  Brush it with eggwash first to make it look darker yet.
6 Use parchment paper. Keeps your pans clean, and it's so amazing you can actually re-use it several times.  Awesome stuff.  
7 Add more water and less flour and you get . . . beer!  Virtually the same recipe.

I keep two big, plastic bins in my kitchen - one is labeled "Gluten Flour", and the other "Soft Flour".  Soft flour is a very low protein kind that's best for delicate baked goods.  Think "cake flour".  Gluten is a wheat flour protein that makes the result hardier, tougher, chewier and more resilient.  Think "french baguette".  I use this type of flour the most, by far.

"All-purpose flour" isn't something I subscribe to. I envision hard, chewey cakes and fettucine not tough enough to keep from falling apart when boiled.  The worst of both worlds, so to speak.  Your flour is going to be a profoundly inexpensive ingredient, even if you buy a "designer" sack of it. It's worthwhile having both types on hand, and you'll get the best results by far. A good gluten flour will prominently display the protein content on the label.

A tip - if you want a hardier, tougher dough yet for fine pasta, for example, substitute some of the gluten flour with corn flour or high-protein semolina wheat flour for extra durability.

This all came about because of a desire to eat better, cleaner, healthier, more natural food.

This is the third in the series - the first in the series can be found here, and it dealt with using an Italian-made pasta maker to create Asian pot sticker wrappers.  This second one - here - speaks to creating egg pasta, as well as choosing, maintaining and cleaning a pasta maker, and in the third of the series speaks to choosing the right flour, and making pizza dough. Part IV will be published on the morning of 10 Mar 2012 - it will deal with cultural stuffed doughs along with lots of recipes.

And the cost?  So far for the flour, it's looking like it's going to be less than $3 per month.

Originally posted to T-n-T on Sat Mar 03, 2012 at 04:30 AM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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