I know what you're going to have around the house from this day forward (it's not a meal, exactly, but both things could easily be part of one): homemade bread and cashew butter. Yes, you should have both of these on hand at all times, yes, they're easy to make, and yes, they're better (and cheaper) than what you can get at the store. Well, the cashew butter might end up being about the same, or even more expensive, if you don't make it often enough, and even then...never mind. Better and cheaper.

The Bread

This is Michael Ruhlman's formula, and it works regardless of the unit of measurement—5 parts flour, 3 parts water. Throw in some yeast and salt, and you're good to go. Once you know the formula, you can play around with it in any number of ways. To make the math easy, let's say you're working with pound units—five pounds of flour to three pounds (or pints) of water. If I want to use a bit more whole wheat in my bread, I can switch out one of the units of white flour for whole wheat (as a rule, working with whole wheat flour is tricky, so it's easier to keep it to about 20% of the recipe). So four pounds of white flour, one pound of wheat, the same three pounds of water, and I've got enough dough for...well, a lot of bread.

The ratio is best when you're working by weight (which is far more accurate than volume), but it works okay with volume if you don't have access to a scale. Here's an easy recipe, courtesy of Ruhlman's book Ruhlman's Twenty:

—500 grams flour (bread flour is best, AP works fine)

—300 grams water

—2 teaspoons salt

—1 teaspoon yeast

Mix them in a mixer using a dough hook attachment on low/medium for about 10 minutes (or by hand, which takes a bit longer, but is very relaxing) until you can stretch a bit of the dough into what's called a windowpane (image via here):

Advertisement

Once you can do that, cover the bowl with some plastic wrap ( it doesn't hurt to take the dough out and spray the bowl with some cooking spray, then roll the dough in it to coat) and let it rise on the counter for 2-4 hours, or until it doubles in size. When it does, turn it out onto a floured board and punch the dough down to distribute the gas from the yeast. Roll into a loose-ish ball. At this point, you've got options. You can either refrigerate the dough overnight (which develops more flavor), and take it out of the fridge an hour before proceeding, or you can go straight to the next step: wait about ten minutes, then roll the dough into an even tighter ball and turn your oven on to 450.

If you have a Dutch oven or other oven-safe pot, it's a good idea to use it here. Spray the insides with some cooking spray, put the dough in, and let it rise for another 30-45 minutes. When you're ready to cook, pour some good olive oil onto the bread (about a tablespoon should do), sprinkle it with kosher or some other coarse salt, cut the top to let steam escape, cover, and bake for half an hour. Then take the lid off, lower the heat to 375, and bake until the internal temperature hits between 200 and 210 degrees (if you don't have a thermometer, about 30 minutes does the trick in my oven). Let it cool for about half an hour, and you'll get something like this (photograph courtesy of me):

Advertisement

The Cashew Butter

The cashew butter recipe comes from Alton Brown, and is ridiculously simple:

-10 ounces of roasted, unsalted cashews

-1/3 cup walnut oil

-2 tablespoons honey*

-1/2 teaspoon salt*

*-I never measure either of these two things—I just give six short squeezes of the honey bottle, and a good pinch or two of salt (which I'm pretty sure isn't half a teaspoon). Sometimes it's a bit sweeter, sometimes it's a bit saltier.

Advertisement

Put the honey in the microwave for about 10-15 seconds to loosen it up. In the meantime, put the cashews and salt in the food processor and pulse it several times, until the cashews resemble fine gravel. Then pour the oil into the honey, turn the food processor on, and drizzle the honey/oil mixture in, slowly, until you get the consistency you like, which should be somewhat peanut butter-like. Put it in a jar, let it cool, and use it however you like (I prefer to spread it on bread or to eat it straight from the jar in the middle of the night).