This one just makes me feel badass.
A while back my aunt gave me some lard and it has sat in the fridge until recently. We have started using some of it to make biscuits. I know, lard biscuits sound awesome.
First of all, don’t get all caught up about eating lard. It is better for you than that trans fat stuff and it is okay in moderation.
I love Alton Brown’s podcast (I wish he would make more) and he always talks about making biscuits so I decided to use his recipe. I just used lard instead of shortening.
One thing to note is that kneading dough helps develop the gluten which makes bread hold together. Gluten is created out of existing proteins in flour when water is added, For things like biscuits you do not want a lot of gluten and that is why you are not supposed to work it much.
Here is a neat video on gluten.
There are also some flours with lower amounts of protein which can be used for this. We had some cake flour (a flour with lower protein) so I made my biscuits out of it.
For my next sets of biscuits I need to add a bit more salt and work on rolling out my dough better.
If you want to give it a shot, here s a video of someone making Alton’s recipe.
About 2 years ago I read Tim Ferriss’s book The Four Hour Chef. It was a book about learning disguised as a cookbook. In his book he stated that “digital depression” and I filed that idea in the back of my head. Once I completed reading the book I started to make the recipes. The great part is that I began to learn the basics of cooking and became more comfortable around the kitchen. All the while that idea was germinating in my head.
One of Tim’s resources for the book was a British TV show called Escape to River Cottage where Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall left London to live in a small house with land while acquiring his food through growing it, foraging it, raising it, and hunting it. In addition, he was trained as a chef so there was an aspect of the show where he also prepared the food.
I was lucky since this series was available on YouTube and I watched about 10 seasons of this show and I loved every bit of it. Though, the show being on YouTube was infringing on copyrights so it was pulled down. If you want to check it out you can purchase it on Amazon Instant Video and if you want to get the DVDs you have to have a DVD player that can play the European format.
By the way, here are some resources for learning how to cool
- The Four Hour Chef (this is an awesome primer for the starter cook)
- Epic Meal Time (these guys remove the pretentiousness around cooking making it easier for us to move past our self consciousness serving food to others)
- River Cottage (sometimes you can find episodes of the TV show someone has posted online, there is a series based in England and one in Australia)
- Jamie Oliver
- Alton Brown
Just find a meal that looks good and easy and go make it even just for yourself.
During the months of watching the show I got more and more intrigued with the lifestyle. I was also purchasing many books and magazines to learn more of these skills such as cooking, raising livestock, tracking, foraging for food, etcetera. I was (am) also daydreaming about buying a small farm to build my own river cottage but that will be in the future when I am sure I want to live this lifestyle.
Really what this comes down to is reconnecting with the physical world and using my hands. I am pretty good at producing stuff on the computer, coming up with ideas, and exchanging ideas with others. This is all ephemeral in my mind. Once I am done talking or I close the computer what I built is no longer visible and easily forgettable.
Now if I was to build a deck it will be visible to me and others around me all the time. In addition, in building it there was a lot of energy, sweat, and emotion that went into building it. I believe that we are both physical and mental beings and we need to have connection with both sided to be fulfilled. Spiritual too but I am not going to tackle that subject here. I feel we get more satisfaction by creating a pile of rocks which you and everyone else can see and tires you out is more satisfying than pushing buttons a bunch of times and making them appear and disappear on a glowing screen.
So now one of my current projects is connecting with the real world and learning some new skills to interact with it. Specifically, I am learning how to cook and weld as my specific goals at this time.
This one takes concentration to straighten out my legs while they are parallel to the floor.
This was my third try at soda bread. Soda bread is easier and faster to make than regular bread since it requires no kneading and no time to rise. Actually the hard part is getting it put together fast enough.
When I made my first one I thought I did it wrong since it looked ugly. Actually, it looked like it should have. Here are some of the videos I used to make sure I was doing it right:
The first soda bread I made was with all white flour. This made it very delicious and almost sweet (soda bread can really be described as a giant scone). The one shown in the picture uses 20% wheat flour giving it a nuttier whole wheat flavor.
Here is the recipe I have been using and modifying:
By the way, this uses metrics so if you want to give it a go, just switch your scale to metric. If you are willing to start using metrics you will find it is easier than the easier to use then the standard system. If you are not comfortable with this specific recipe find one that only uses flour, salt, baking soda (bicarbonate of soda as the British call it), and buttermilk to start.
Soda bread rises when an acid (buttermilk) contacts a base (baking soda). It is like making those vinegar baking soda volcanoes in school just much less violent. As soon as you add the buttermilk to the flour mixture it starts reacting and this is why you are not supposed to really knead it. If you take too long to get it into the oven it will not rise because the acid/base will be done reacting.
My next experiments are going to include making it with even more wheat flour and ordering an Irish flour online so I can make actual Irish Soda Bread.