Starches from Scratch
If you thought the from scratch cooking of An Unapologetic cookbook ended with the staples, you don’t know Joshua Weissman. Nearly every episode of his youtube show includes some kind of bread or pasta making from scratch to level up whatever kind of meal he’s showing you how to replicate. As an amatuer bread baker, this is more interesting to me than the Staples from Scratch portion that opened up the book.
Right toward the front of this section is his own sourdough starter method which includes rye flour. Rye flour can be hard to find in a traditional grocery store as well. I had intended to replicate his method for his own sourdough, but I’m ressurecting my sourdough baking habit through the Tartine Bread method using the organic, artisan bread flour I get from Produce with Purpose every few weeks. I have no doubt that the rye flour makes a difference on sourdough production, but it’s another barrier to cooking in most small US cities that we don’t need if we’re going to test this book in earnest.
The bagel bread is a special thing I won’t do all the time. His sandwich loaf, however, is such a simple bread recipe that I would recommend it to anyone who’s just putting their toes into the bread baking water for the first time. It comes together quickly. There are two separate proofing periods, but you get an excellent result out of it. I mean, just look at this loaf. This sucker will be the best for its intended purpose: sandwiches. I did a poor job rolling it up so that little hole going through the dough is more user error than recipe error.
There are many options in this portion of the cookbook-- too many for me to try them all. I do, however, trust Weissman’s baking recipes implicitly after so many successful creations from his milkbread multipurpose dough. You can whip that fucker into all kinds of shapes to fulfill the roll that you need it to fill, as we mentioned earlier. Know your limitations in skill, and I believe you can bake out of this section with ease.
His pasta dough recipe that gets a lot of work in his videos is also in this part of the book, and it’s suitable for any cut pasta. It’s too wet for extruding in my opinion, but you can easily repurpose this dough into any shape you cut or fill. It’s fundamental to some of the later recipes just like it is for his videos. Familiarize yourself-- but be warned. You’ll need the fancy pasta roller gear. If this is beyond your price point as a starting home cook, no one will judge you for buying premade pasta for his later recipes. Not even Papa himself will judge you for that one.
As with the staples from scratch portion of the book, utilizing these recipes for later on in the book will simply be up to the amount of time you’re willing to spend to get to a final result. Papa will tell you that it’s more satisfying if you start from scratch. I don’t agree that that holds up all the time. Sometimes you just want a tasty dinner, and shortcuts are okay when you can make them. There are fewer pleasures as great as fresh bread, however, so weigh that expense of time and energy against convenience a little heavier.
Next week, we’ll dive into the other recipes in the book and utilize what we can from these earlier sections. I will be sure to note where these staples come in and may need replacement of store bought ingredients if you’re in a hurry. Thanks for sticking with us this October. We’ll announce our November book soon too!
Staples from Scratch
Beyond Weissman’s introduction to his book lies the first segment, Staples from Scratch-- and let me tell you, there’s a lot here to try to make from scratch rather than buy in your local grocery store. Some of these are things you see in most higher end cookbooks, such as homemade mayo methods and making cheeses by hand. Some of these processes include intense labor and time management, but I’m down for that now that I’m working from home with most of my time.
Right out of the gate, I know that making the cheeses may be out of the reach of some of us. The milk requirements are a little steep and hard to find at a normal grocery store. Raw milks aren’t sold in most grocery stores, and ultra-pasteurized is out of the question for these processes. You may get lucky and find a normal pasteurized milk, which is good enough. You probably won’t find goat milk for chevre, though. I’d have to find an actual goat farmer for that even in the great state of Wisconsin.
An Unapologetic Cookbook: October
And now I ask the question, how much of his cookbook is achievable for the typical home chef? He often employs kitchen equipment that is out of reach for most home cooks in his videos, so I expect to find this issue present in the cookbook as well. That doesn’t stop me from wanting to give it a shot, however. His voice as a chef on youtube is present in the early writing of the cookbook so far, and that’s one of the things that makes his work attractive in the first place