If you have a true appreciation for food, I recommend that you go and watch the Netflix series Cooked by Michael Pollan. ( Side note: Make sure you’ve eaten before-hand because those beautiful visuals make you incredibly hungry. Slobbering is also a possible side-effect.)
The series explores the human history of cooking in regards to the four elements: Earth, Fire, Air and Water and takes us back to the origins of cooking and how it has helped us evolve as a species. It has become increasingly evident that many of us are no longer interested in where our food comes from and how it is being made as long as it’s tasty and lands on our plate fast. I too, am guilty of ordering out multiple times a week instead of putting those hands to work. With the food production industry providing quick and delicious alternatives, what need is there to cook?
“When we learned to cook is when we became truly human. But we’ve lost touch, I think, with how that food got to our plates”. – Michael Pollan.
One of the most eye opening episodes for me was that of Air which revolved around bread, the basic staple of our diet since prehistoric times. I was shocked to realise that I didn’t even know how to make the most basic thing without having to google a recipe because it had always just been there, sitting in its plastic wrapper. Speaking of which, did you know that home-made bread needs about 5 basic ingredients? Now, look at label on the packaging of manufactured bread. How many ingredients can you count? It’s no wonder we’ve become so sensitive to food allergies.
Not only did I come away from that episode with a new found appreciation, love and respect for cooking but also the incredible urge to bake some bread myself and so that’s what I did.
Saturday morning was spent baking a home-made ciabatta and I’ve got to say it was pretty fun. Kneading the dough brought me back to the good old playdough days and I’ll admit I might have eaten some raw …but it tasted so good! My patience was tested while waiting for the dough to rise but it was all worth it. I’d forgotten how satisfying it is to make something from scratch and then have someone to share it with. It was perfect; fresh and toasty out of the oven and paired with fresh prosciutto, tomatoes, mozzarella and olive oil.
If you’d like to give it a go yourself, here’s the awesome recipe I used!
Easy Homemade Ciabatta
Author: The Crepes of Wrath
- 3¼ cups all-purpose flour
- 1½ teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¾ teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1¾ cup + 2 tablespoons warm (115 degrees F) water
- 2 teaspoons olive oil, plus more for the bowl
- Whisk together the flour, yeast, salt, and sugar. Pour in the warm water, and beat for 5 solid minutes, either with a mixer or a wooden spoon. If you have a dough hook, use it and knead the mixture for an additional five minutes, until the dough is well combined, otherwise just keep beating with the wooden spoon.
- When the dough is well combined, flour your hands, stick ’em in a bowl, and pull parts of the dough up and slap it back down into the bowl. Do this for another 5 minutes. This will push air bubbles into the dough and create nice holes when it bakes.
- Oil a large bowl, then plop the dough into that bowl. Drizzle your olive oil over the top of the dough, then cover the bowl in plastic wrap and cover with at towel. Place the bowl in a warm spot and allow it to rise for 2 hours.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, then sprinkle it with flour. Flour your hands, and shape the dough into a long loaf, about 12 inches long and 4 inches wide. Sprinkle the top of the loaf with a just touch of flour for strictly aesthetic purposes (trust me, it looks pretty), then bake for 35-40 minutes, until the bread is lightly golden. If you tap the bread, you should feel like it’s hollow – that’s how you know it’s ready! Place the bread on a cooling rack and allow it to cool down for a minimum of 20-30 minutes.
Have a lovely week!
– A Pearl of the Orient.