Thursday, January 26, 2017

Want to make homemade bread but can’t stand touching flour? Perfect tool for sensory issues (yours or kids’)

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I keep forgetting to write about this and I SHOULDN'T, because this is a very cool product that I’m excited to tell you about.

I actually bought this on impulse and didn't expect to like it so much, but I really believe it offers an interesting solution for some people (not everybody).

Do you adore getting your hands into a fresh, powdery batch of dough?  If so, maybe this post isn't for you.  This post is for people who LOVE fresh bread, but HATE getting flour on their hands. 

You know – like this:

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(if that picture, with all those floury fingers, makes you uncomfortable, you NEED to read on!)

Powdery textures usually make me nuts (sand!!!), although for some reason, I'm okay with flour and bread-making.  But I have known a few people who are totally NOT okay with it, and for them, this product might be ideal.

So… what is it?

It's a silicone dough bag!  I saw these a while ago, first on Amazon and then on AliExpress, my preferred get-things-cheap-from-China site.  AliExpress is great if you don't mind waiting 2 months and even then maybe never getting whatever it is that you ordered at all.  (so, yeah, a pretty limited market)

As it happens, I buy lots of cooking stuff on AliExpress.  It saves me having to figure out what it's called in Hebrew, and the prices are waaay better.  Stuff like my cooking scale, thermometers, even spatulas.  As long as you're willing to wait what seems like an eternity.  No impulse purchases, that’s for sure.

So what is this BAG all about?

It’s made of translucent whitish silicone, but I believe you can get them in a variety of colours.

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It works pretty much how you’d assume it works once you hear the words “dough” and “bag” together.  You add your regular bread ingredients, including yeast, flour, water, and whatever else, to the bag.  Then, you knead as you normally would, except you’re touching soft, velvety-textured silicone instead of dry, powdery flour.

Here’s what the process looks like, the “new-fashioned” way!

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The difference between the silicone dough bag and doing this in a regular plastic bag is that the dough bag is strong enough that you really can give it a thorough kneading.  I did a batch of pizza dough earlier in the week and Naomi Rivka said, after a couple of minutes, “It’s not really mixed.”

I let her peek inside and indeed,

it really was totally mixed; extremely well-mixed, in fact.  And my hands were clean and dry!

(we tossed stuff in at random:  semolina, regular white flour, salt, yeast, olive oil, water… it turned out amazing and so crunchy, too!)

I was a little skeptical at first because the bag isn’t very big.  You won’t be able to make truly enormous batches of challah in this thing.  But to do 1-3 loaves of very delicious fresh bread, I think it’s perfect.  It does stretch quite a bit while the dough is rising, so I haven’t woken up on Friday morning to find it overflowing yet.  I’ve started tossing a cup or more of oats into the challah dough on Thursday night.  Not sure what it does, but I figure it’s got to be healthier.  They pretty much vanish into the dough; you can hardly tell they’re there, really!

(And in terms of the bag’s capacity, I do still use my trusty dough bucket when I have an extra-big batch.)

Loading up the bag can be a hassle, especially when you’re getting used to it.  You can stretch the neck opening (it’s sort of like giving birth) to get everything in as cleanly as possible, but some flour might escape.  At first I was annoyed because some flour kept getting on the outside of the bag, which seemed to defeat the purpose, because you have the sensation of flour on your hands, BUT the good news is that you can hold the bag tightly shut and just rinse it off under the tap.  Then, you have a damp silicone bag, which is a lot better texture than dry powdery flour if that sort of thing bothers you.  (you can dry it with a towel, of course!)

You do have to be careful when you’re starting the kneading process.  See in the photo up above how the bag is lying on its side?  If you dump in flour and water, then turn it on its side, you will experience what’s known as GRAVITY, and flour and water will goosh out all over your table.  The bag isn’t magic.  So you have to start out gingerly, kneading the flour into the water a bit.  Once all the flour is wet, you’re good to go in terms of turning it on its side.

The best part about the dough bag is that it’s silicone, so it never needs actual cleaning.  I know, I know – I just said it wasn’t magic and here I go telling you all about the cleaning-free magic of the dough bag!

But just look!  Here it is, full of just about the stickiest, wettest dough you’ve ever seen:

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Yuck!

But now – look.  First, fold back the neck of the bag…

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Now, “pour” the dough gently out onto the table surface.  (Yeah, sorry, you’re going to need to handle it at some point, but at least now you won’t have to touch flour!)

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See what’s happening there?  If you pour slowly enough, it will not stick!  Here’s the last of the dough, smooshing out onto the table.

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You can see that the bag isn’t completely 100% clean.  At this point, I left it hanging inside-out over a soda bottle for a couple of hours.  The leftover bits of dough kind of dry out and then you can just shake them off into the garbage.

The fact that the bag is completely reversible also makes me feel good about cleaning and drying it out – I would not be able to use this if there was no way to wash and dry it fully.  (I said it didn’t need washing, but my husband does sometimes wash it anyway – in which case, I want it to have a thorough drying between uses!  He sometimes washes the cast-iron skillets, too, even though he knows they don’t need it.)

The people selling the dough bag market them for all sorts of things, like marinating meat.  It would do well at that, too, but you’d want a totally separate one so you didn’t have meat stuff mixing with bread stuff.  (Not just for kosher reasons, but that, too!)

The biggest issue I have with the cheap-imitation one I bought is that the REAL ones come with a reusable zip-tie type closure – something like this:

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This tie looks like it would stay shut once you pulled it to the desired degree of closedness.  The one that came with my dough bag doesn’t, so I have to secure the thing closed with a clothespin instead:

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Pretty unattractive… but it works.

This dough bag isn’t the perfect solution for everybody, I realize that.  But if you or your kids have sensory issues or just don’t feel like getting dough all over your hands, then for about $5 (and a couple months’ wait, if you order from AliExpress!) it’s definitely worth a try.

If it doesn’t work out, you can always use it for… umm… marinating meat!  Or a Purim costume mask?  (Cut air holes first!)

Just kidding.  If you’ve tried the dough bag and adore it (or hate it) – I’d love to hear about your experience.  Leave a comment to let me know!

 

Tzivia / צִיבְיָה

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