In the same week, I’ve had two house guests snigger at “Wealthy Street” when giving them directional information. They chorused it is a very fancy sounding name for a fancy neighborhood and consequently, I live in a very fancy house.
I won’t disagree too much with their assessment. Wealthy Street was one of the original city streets (as evidence that much of it is still brick) and trolleys used to run down it towards Reeds Lake, which during the turn of the 20th century was a popular amusement park and day tripper spot. Captains of industry lived in my neighborhood and they would journey the few miles to Reeds Lake for their various entertainment, both of the day and nighttime variety.
Now Reeds Lake is ensorceled with homes owned by well to do white families and your self-importance rises by at least 30% when you cross the borders into East Grand Rapids.
This has nothing to do with my walk except that a part of it was on Wealthy Street and one of our favorite bakeries is six blocks from Throbbing Manor.
Wealthy Street Bakery and Art of the Table have snuggled next to each other for nearly a decade, beginning when this side of Wealthy Street was sketchy and a major drug dealer took up residence in the storefront across the street. In the last 3 1/2 years we’ve lived in the neighborhood, the gentrification that had started east of us has spun its magic in this area. Within a few blocks of WSB and AotT is a new brewery, a tequila bar cum taqueria, a coffee shop that roasts its own beans, and more, all that have open within the last couple of years.
What makes WSB so exciting to me is Tuesdays/Thursdays is vegan cookie day and they’ve been known to daily stock vegan chocolate cupcakes and will bring them out if you politely ask for them. TheHusband goes gaga over their danishes and I have a weakness in my loins for their chocolate babka (not vegan, but YOLO).
Distance: 1.29 miles Walk time: 20:06 Pace: 15’28″/mile
I’ve been bemoaning my left calf for some time now, pain would grip it when I walked, regardless of how fast or slow. Kristin tipped me off to getting a calf sleeve, which I did, and it has made a remarkable difference in my pain, gone from I WANT TO CHOP MY LEG OFF to barely noticeable. And a 15″ walk?What kind of crazy is THIS?
The sleeve I first purchased is enclosed by velcro, to make it fit better but I have big calves! 18″ at the widest point and what fit snug at the top was definitely quite loose near the ankle. I’ve just splurged on a true sleeve and now I’m thinking I want to train for a 5K walk.
With the fairly big change in our lives happening in a few weeks, we’ve been hunkering down on costs whenever we can as whatever monies I make the first year writing will more than likely not match (not by a long shot) what I make at the current job.
One of our biggest expenditures is food: take out, specialty, high end, doesn’t matter. If we could put it in our mouths and digest it, we were more than likely buying it. Having the means to eat anywhere you want to, dining out for lunch nearly every day, or the near daily shopping trip to a great local bakery hasn’t helped either. It was shocking adding the receipts into YNAB over the last few months, because wow. We dropped how much on a single dinner and didn’t blink?
Right. Time to change.1
The other big component to this is knowing what ingredients are actually in our food. I had lunch with Kolene at Curry Kitchen2 recently and feigned surprised when I found out the naan had milk in addition to being slathered in butter. I wasn’t really surprised, but I have been in deep denial about how a lot of the food I eat is dairy free.3
The other component is learning how to cook, something I’ve moved from thinking about to seriously thinking about in the last year or so and need to start actually practicing.
(This is an awfully long intro to a damn recipe, but keep up with me here.)
With all of this swirling around, TheHusband and I have been doing pretty great on getting the food budget under control, not eating out unless it was foretold by the gods, and finding ways to maintain most of our food lifestyle without skimping on anything. With all of this in mind, it was also important for me to document what we’re doing because not only will be helpful for later recall but also for others.4
Bread was something that I’ve made frequently in the past to know I was good at and could also cheaply replicate at home. I had not found a good white bread recipe for sammiches yet, so I asked my pal Frank for a non-bread machine recipe, which he gladly supplied.
How awesome was this recipe? TheHusband and I killed half a loaf with dinner. It is THAT good.
It is, however, not that great for sammiches. The innards are tad too soft and any weight given in the sammich building would probably tear it apart. It would also probably not work well as French toast either. It would work for plain eating with a spread or for sopping or even just tearing hunks off to nibble on.
Plus the recipe is super easy. AND, since I’ve successfully used vegan milk and butter but a real egg for the recipe, swapping in an egg replacement would make it totally vegan. SCORE.
Also remember recently when I said, “At some point in my life, I’ll learn how to be a better food photographer”?
Yeah, I decided this was now the time.
White Bread – Throbbing Variation. Adapted from Frank Skornia, who adapted it from Peter Reinhart
2 teaspoons (.22 ounces) active yeast
1/2 cup of hot water (around 112 degrees)
4 3/4 cups (21.5 ounces) unbleached bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons (.38 ounce) salt
3 1/4 tablespoons (1.66 ounces) sugar
1/4 cup (1.33 ounce) unsweetened almond milk
1 large (1.65 ounces) egg, slightly beaten, at room temperature
3 1/4 tablespoons (1.66 ounces) vegan butter melted or at room temperature (I use Earth Balance since it has the best consistency and taste to cow milk butter)
1 3/4 (or 2 1/4) cups (14 – 16 ounces) water, at room temperature
1 egg, whisked until frothy, for egg wash
Proof the yeast by adding it the 1/2 cup of hot water and let sit for about 5 minutes until creamy. If using quick yeast, you can skip this step but make sure to add the 1/2 cup of water into the water total later in the recipe for a total of 2 1/4 cups
While yeast is proofing, add flour, salt, and sugar into a mixing bowl (hand or stand) and blend
Add the yeast mixture, milk, egg, butter, and 1 cup (1 1/2) cups of water with a large metal spoon (or on low speed of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment) until all the flour is absorbed and the dough forms a ball. If the dough seems very stiff and dry, slowly add water until the dough is soft and supple.
Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough and begin kneading (or mix on medium speed with the dough hook), adding more flour, if necessary, to create a dough that is soft, supple, and tacky but not sticky. Continue for 6 to 8 minutes. (In the electric mixer, the dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick ever so slightly to the bottom.) The dough should pass the windowpane test.
Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a clean cloth and ferment at room temperature for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size (the length of time will depend on the room temperature). Trick: Due to weather (windows are open!) or to save time, a trick to get dough to rise quickly is to warm the oven up (200F roughly) and then turn it off. Now pop the bowl (and thus use a clean towel and NOT plastic wrap) into the oven, close the door and check back in an hour. The dough should have doubled by this time.
Remove the fermented dough from the bowl and divide it in half for sandwich loaves and shape the dough. Lightly oil two 8 1/2 by 4 1/2-inch loaf pans and place the loaves in the pans.
Mist the top of the dough with spray oil and loosely cover with plastic wrap or a towel. Proof the dough at room temperature for 60 to 90 minutes, or until it nearly doubles in size. I also did the same trick here with the oven but I did NOT cover the tops.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F for loaves and brush the loaves with egg wash.
Bake loaves for 35 to 45 minutes, rotating 180 degrees halfway through for even baking, if needed. The tops should be golden brown and the sides, when removed from the pan, should also be golden. The loaves should sound hollow when thumped on the bottom. (My oven is quick so I baked for 35 minutes on the nose and they were perfect and I did rotate about 20 minutes in.)
When the loaves have finished baking, remove them immediately from the pans and cool on a wire rack for at least 1 hour before slicing or serving.
Also make sure to check out Frank’s adaptation as he includes how to use this dough for making dinner rolls, hot dog, and hamburger rolls. Also thanks to Frank, I learned about the windowpane technique and how to shape loaf dough. Frank, you rock!
1. Even if I somehow make a trillion dollars off my future endeavours, it certainly would be in our best interests to have better control over our budget so we know if we’re buying a pied terre in Paris’ first district or some kind of ramshackle ruin in the wilds of southern Italy. Bad comparison as we want both, but you catch my drift.
2.The owner kept making fat jokes at my expense while also referring to himself – things along the lines like I didn’t worry about starving to death waiting for the naan while rubbing his own protruding belly.
3. It’s been nearly three years since I’ve had mac and cheese. Some days, I would give a year of my life to eat mac and cheese.
4. People love, love, LOVE any posts I do how-tos on whatever.
Truth be told, I’ve been pretty lax on the dairy restrictions around these parts lately because having a dairy allergy is akin to a death sentence. If you don’t live in a vegan friendly area, you’re pretty much fucked in the shopping and eating out arena as (mostly) everything has some sort of dairy-based ingredient in it. Thanks to my BFFs at VeganGR, GR has a growing vegan-friendly restaurant and food scene. But I am not vegan or vegetarian, I’m just allergic to dairy so I cheat.
Let me clarify that “cheating a lot” business. I mean that I won’t eat ice cream, but if a product has whey or lactose in it (crackers, chips, etc), and it’s not within the first five ingredients, I will eat it. If I am out to eat and an item has butter in or on it, I will eat it. I’ve been known to imbibe in a pizza or two and eating 2 Benadryl directly after ingestion.
Except cheating is becoming problematic. Before I could get away with having a pretzel stick here and eat eggs cooked in butter there, but the longer I keep cheating, the more compounded my reactions get. Finally, I’ve decided I’ve had enough of the constant heartburn, hives, lips tingling, stomach issues, and so forth. I have resolved no more cheating, and if I want something, I have to find or make a dairy free version of it.
One of the hardest things for me to replace is Nutella. It’s chock full of skim milk and they use milk chocolate. When I find dark chocolate variations of hazelnut spread, milk or whey is almost always involved. I’ve had a variation or two that seemed to be dairy free, but the flavor was off. I figured this was going to be one of the few foods I had to give up forever.
But this recipe, this recipe was easy. It had five ingredients, only required toasting of the hazelnuts and the use of a food processor. If I could get the roasting out of the way, as I’ve been known to burn bacon cooked in the oven, then I could totally do this.
I ordered already roasted hazelnuts from Nuts.com and waited for their arrival as I had everything else in stock. Once the nuts arrived (along with my personal mixed trail mix – yum!), I went to work.
First, I measured 2 cups of hazelnuts.
And since they were already roasted (smart thinking Lisa!), I dumped them into a clean kitchen cloth and rubbed the skins off.
After I got 98% of the skins off, because you won’t be able to get them all off, I dumped the lot into the food processor.
According to the instructions, when you start grinding the little bastards, first it goes into a meal, then into a ball, and then thanks to the heat and friction, it becomes butter in about 5 minutes of constant food processing.
Okay, I said to myself, I can do this. So I set the timer for five minutes and started processing.
My nuts went from nuts to butter in 1:30. One minute. Thirty seconds. I did not even get the satisfaction of the ball that would bounce around on the blades for a bit. Now the reason that I think they went almost immediately into butter is because the nuts were probably roasted with a bit of oil on them, so combined with their own natural oils, they liquefied pretty quickly.
After the nuts went into butter, then you dump in the confectioners sugar, vanilla, and the cocoa powder and continue to process until it was thoroughly mixed.
[insert photo I forgot to take of the processing of the rest of the ingredients.]
Now the recipe also calls for up to 1/4 cup of veg or nut oil added to liquefy a bit more if it was too thick to stir. I decided to use 1Tbsp of veg oil and go up depending on the results, and even that was way too much. But since it is living in the fridge for the next month or two (or week, if we end up devouring it), the cold will definitely thicken it up.
It bloody tastes like fucking Nutella.
I am a domestic goddess. Nigella, eat your heart out.
So a couple of notes:
If you buy your nuts already roasted (smart thinking!), you may find yourself not in the need of the oil
If you do use an oil, do not use veg, use a neutral oil instead. TheHusband, who has super human taste buds, claims he can taste the “rancid vegetables” from the oil
Jessica Su, the author of the recipe, put together another version (on the same page, but farther down) that does not use confectioners sugar. Her reasoning is that as confectioners sugar contains cornstarch, the first recipe seems a bit chalky in taste. We did not find that to be true, so feel free to mix/match between the two recipes she offers
If you order from nuts.com, a 1lb bag of roasted, unsalted hazelnuts should make two batches, a pint per batch
I use Hershey’s Special Dark powdered cocoa since it does not contain milk derivatives but any powdered cocoa will do
2 cups whole raw, roasted, unsalted hazelnuts
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
up to 1/4 cup neutral oil (grapeseed, coconut, something along those lines)
Remove the skins from the hazelnuts by putting them in a clean cloth and gently rubbing on them until the skins come off. You can also toss them in a bowl. If some skins are left on, that’s okay.
Dump the skinned hazelnuts into a food processor and process until they become butter. Time may vary, but it should go from whole nuts to meal to a ball of mass and then into butter. Stop and scrap down sides as needed. Process until you have a nice butter formed
Once the butter has formed, add the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and vanilla and process until thoroughly mixed. Scrape sides as needed.
If the mixture is too stiff, start adding the neutral oil, 1/2 Tbsp at a time until desired spreadability
Transfer deliciousness into a pint glass, cap tightly and store in fridge for 1-2 months
You may need to mix it before using
P.S. I snuck downstairs a few hours later and the Nutella was divine! I was eating gobs of it with a spoon and had to stop myself from devouring the entire jar.