Thursday, September 23, 2010

Cooking in the Van

Well, our adventures in the van are coming to a close. I'm buying a house, an old house, in poor condition in West Virginia. I should close by next week. Parts of vanliving were fun, but on the whole, it was too stressful-what with the very active 3 year old, the old van (though we had almost no car trouble, I was always worried about what might go wrong), the lack of a workshop, space, and places to park. I am thrilled to be settling down. But I always meant to do a post on van meals, and I never got around to it.

One of the problems with the van is that I had no oven to bake bread, and buying good bread is expensive ($4+ for an artisan bread). So we made do with an occasional loaf of good bread, and lots of inferior rolls, baguettes, and loaves. Until I discovered how to make bread with just a stove top.

First my bread recipe:

I found this recipe in the Philadelphia Inquirer when they were reviewing the book Artisan Breads in Five Minutes. I never bought the book (though I still want it, if any of my family are reading this and looking for Christmas ideas...), but I have used this recipe for my yeast bread baking exclusively. So here it is:

3 cups of warm water
mixed with
1.5 tablespoons of active dry yeast
1.5 tablespoons of kosher salt (though I typically only use 1 tablespoon of salt)

Let the yeast dissolve for a minute, then add
6.5 cups of flour (any combination of white and whole wheat you prefer
Then mix it up.

It's a moist dough, because it was designed to last for up to 2 weeks in the fridge. The idea is that you can make a batch, and use just enough to cook bread for each meal. Well, it's never last more than two days for me, but I'll take his word for it.

Anyway, to make fry bread, fill a frying pan with a half an inch or so of oil and heat it up so that it's hot, but not like boiling (I didn't have a thermometer or anything. Then you just take a piece of dough, spread it out with your hands, and drop it in the hot oil. It should cook pretty quickly if the oil is hot enough. Then flip it over and cook the other side. Take it out on to a paper towel. Then eat it. If you just bought butter, you could spread it with butter. If you bought butter two days ago and it's late spring or summer, then you'll be stuck with dipping it in the melted butter. After you've finished your favorite meal of freshly picked organic kale and mashed potatoes (usually instant, because boiling potatoes takes forever and heats up the van something fierce), cook another one to dip in maple syrup for dessert.

Then all you have to do is remember to dump the oil and steaming water before you start driving tomorrow morning, so they don't end up all over the back of the van...

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