How did I not know of this until now?

My state as a grain CSA?

http://www.localgrain.org/about/

Crop examples are:

  • “Red Lammas” hard red winter wheat (heirloom)
  • “Redeemer” winter wheat
  • Oats
  • Spelt
  • Rye
  • Emmer (Known as Farro in Italy)
  • Barley
  • “Nothstine Dent” Corn
  • “Plymouth Flint” Corn
  • Black Turtle Beans
  • Pinto Beans
  • Winter Rye
  • “Tom Thumb”Popcorn
  • Triticale

WHAT?  I read thekitchn all the time and only noticed this eight months later?  Could I do this?  I’d need a way to get to Natick, seeing as I don’t have a car of my own right now.  Granted, pick up is once a year (or so it seems), but this sounds so amazing.  Spelt?  Emmer?  I want this!

Other reference link:

http://www.thekitchn.com/what-you-should-know-if-youre-thinking-of-getting-a-grain-share-kitchen-tour-205428

invasion of the SAF yeast

Just in case anyone is curious, I only use SAF instant yeast when I make my doughs. And I’ve been making a lot of doughs lately. Sorry I couldn’t come up with a wittier title.

Anyway!

So, challah #2 wasn’t all that special to me. Challah #1 was courtesy of Beth Hensperger’s book “Bread Made Easy” while challah #2 was from http://steamykitchen.com/blog/2008/01/13/challah/, and if you get the chance to look at the ingredients, they aren’t all that different. It was, if I recall, a difference in the amounts of fat being used. The No-Knead Challah was mild in comparison to Ms. Hensperger’s, and Asano-mama and I agreed that challah #1 was tastier. And honestly, I don’t mind a little kneading.

There’s only one photo of challah #2… mostly because it looked uglier than challah #1. Also, I realized after the fact that I think I braid my breads backwards from the traditional braid. haha!

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At that same time, I had another yeast experiment going. I decided to make Chef John’s No Knead Pizza dough ( see http://foodwishes.blogspot.com/2008/12/no-knead-mania-makes-previously-posted.html). It’s a solid recipe, and I think my permanent way of acquiring pizza dough. Yeah, it only costs maybe a dollar at my market, but I feel more accomplished if I make it on my own (plus, I’ve been hearing that slow fermentation has better nutritional qualities, but I haven’t researched that yet). It does require a whole day to rise, especially in my cold New England kitchen, but it’s not that hard to think “Geez, I want pizza for dinner tomorrow – Let me make a batch of pizza dough.”

If you follow Chef John’s instructions, you end up with four individual pizza crust servings. He means thin crust. I prefer to think of it as two servings to make a thicker crust. At that point, I’m not sure if I could eat a whole pizza on my own (that’s a bit of dough!), but your mileage may vary.

pizza dough

pizza dough

As for toppings on the first pizza that I’ve ever made from scratch, I used tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, jack cheese, and slices of red bell pepper. It was beautiful, it was perfect, and I devoured it all in twenty minutes.

red pepper pizza

red pepper pizza

But that wasn’t the end to my madness. Baking means a warm kitchen during the winter, so I baked some more.

This time, I went back to my trusty “Bread Made Easy” book, and picked out a recipe for a holiday sweet bread. The recipe makes two loaves, one of which I left plain and the other I put in dried figs. I had also replaced the orange extract with almond extract, which I couldn’t tell in the end because it was too subtle compared to the flavor of butter.

plain on the left, figs on the right

plain on the left, figs on the right

The plain loaf was a gift for a co-worker, so I only have pictures of the fig loaf sliced.

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Sel de la Terre has an amazing fig loaf, but it’s not so sweet and they use fresh figs. While my fig loaf was good, I really wanted the Sel de la Terre version. I guess it’s something I need to further work on.

The last bread I made was an experimental red pepper hummus bread. Again, my recipe was courtesy of the Foodwishes video blog (http://foodwishes.blogspot.com/2008/11/holiday-pumpkin-bread-you-want-it-but.html). All I did was replace the amount of pumpkin with an equal amount of red pepper hummus. There was a little bit of kneading involved because I was having trouble getting the dough to come together with just a mixing spoon. I also doubled the yeast so that I could make it all in one day.

Overall, I’d say it was pretty successful… except the part where I seemed to have burnt half of my bread. That was embarrassing! After five loaves of bread, I finally messed up. And this bread was meant for a party too. I probably would have presented my slightly burnt loaf if it weren’t for the fact that the party was for a dear friend of mine, nickname “oh cake”, who is currently a culinary student. There was no way that I could place my ugly loaf next to her lovely food presentations! 😄

(“oh cake” is currently blogging about her time in culinary school if anyone is interested –> http://oh-cake.livejournal.com/)

Despite my red pepper hummus bread being ugly, it photographed rather well.

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So, that’s been the bread adventure so far. I think I am experimenting with mahleb in my bread tomorrow. Tonight, the plan is to make some roasted veggie soup.

If anyone wants either the challah or the holiday bread recipe for Beth Hensperger, please comment. I’d post it now, but my book is on the other side of the room from me and I’m currently hiding in a sleeping bag for warmth.

~ Mikan

A cold weather summary

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Eek! I have several photos to share and yet I have been so lazy about making a post.

My punishment? Doing one big post as concise as possible. gah!

Well, let’s do it in months:

October – the household and a couple of friends went to Mack’s in New Hampshire for apple picking and squash overdosing. Personally I purchased four squashes: a delicata, two sweet dumplings, and a sunshine (which I later learned is a variety of kobocha, aka Japanese pumpkin).

sushine squash

sushine squash

I liked the delicata fine, but it wasn’t anything special. I adored the sweet dumpling, but maybe that is because I stuffed it with spiced apples. The sunshine was definitely a favorite, but I was sad that I had stuffed it with apples too. The sunshine squash had a flavor a lot more like chestnuts than like your normal squashes.

November – I started to make a lot of batches of what I like to call “pancake muffins.” They are exactly like what they sound like. Pancake batter cooked in an oven instead of on the stove top. So much faster and cleaner! And in easy to grab serving sizes too.

I have been using the Bisquick Healthy mix (because I am too lazy to even mix together basic pancake batter) with yogurt as my liquid to simulate a yogurt pancake batter. I’ve tried blueberry yogurt (the house favorite), strawberry (also pretty good), apple with cinnamon (very disappointing flavor-wise), and mixed berry. Last night, I made a batch with raspberry yogurt. Basically, the more flavorful yogurts work best for this. Once the batter was mixed, I plopped it into a muffin tin at 375F for about 15 minutes.

They taste best straight out of the oven, but keep well in the freezer. The only downside to storing in the freezer is that they seem a little drier after you reheat them.

Seriously though, pancake muffins have become my latest addiction. They also seem to keep me full longer than my favorite healthy cereals.

pancake muffins

pancake muffins

December – the new obsession? Challah bread. I made my first loaf last weekend and I’m making my second loaf as we speak. I nearly freaked out when I was in the middle of making my first loaf. In a moment of ditziness, I used water from my Brita filter… the same Brita that I keep in the fridge for cold water. Three hours later, the dough had barely budged.

I was worried that I had ruined it. Luckily, I’ve had some introduction to slow fermentation using colder temperatures, I didn’t think all was lost. So I decided to warm up the dough in a slightly warmed oven. Once all of the chill was gone, I left my bread bucket with my dough on my kitchen counter. Three hours later, it had doubled beautifully. I went about braiding it (also my first time) and let it do it’s final rise (and skipped the second rise completely because it was getting rather late).

My propensity for laziness reared its ugly head again, and I used a milk wash instead of a proper egg wash. When everything was said and done, the challah tasted wonderful but it just wasn’t shiny. I have nothing to compare it to, but I was pretty satisfied with my first challah attempt. (The recipe I used was from Beth Hensperger’s “Bread Made Easy” book, if you’re curious.)

With the slow fermentation accident, I wondered how it would turn out if I did a proper slow fermentation challah bread. On top of that, I had been watching bread videos featuring no-knead techniques which is basically a slow fermentation (http://foodwishes.blogspot.com/).

Couldn’t the two be put together? I thought I was onto something interesting.

I realized today that I wasn’t all that original. Googling “no kead challah recipes” spit out more responses than I had expected. Eventually, I came across a post on Steamy Kitchen (http://steamykitchen.com/blog/2008/01/13/challah/) that seemed to have exactly what my head was thinking of experimenting with. I thought about re-using Beth Hensperger’s recipe, but decided to go with what was on the Steamy Kitchen blog. Overall, the measurements weren’t too different. My only substitution was to use oil instead of butter.

So now, I have a dough just hanging out in my fridge, waiting for tomorrow when I will actually shape and bake it.

In the meantime, here are photos of the challah loaf I made last weekend. It only lasted a few days before I had eaten it all. (Photos of challah loaf no. 2 later.)

~ Mikan

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a Clear Flour review

I’ve finally been visiting the farmer’s markets. Honestly though, I’ve just been there to pick up some handmade bread.

I’ve been wanting to visit Clear Flour in Brookline for quite some time now. A couple of years ago I took a bread baking class at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education. The instructor was a petite woman with dark hair (vaguely reminding me of Amy Lee of Evanescence) who was a private caterer named Leslee. (I think that’s how she spelled her name… I just remembered that she spelled it differently from the usual “leslie”) Anyway, she explained her bread expertise background which was as a baker at Clear Flour. Listening to her talk about the bakery had me hooked. Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is that Brookline is not convenient for me at all.
So, I’m very thankful that they decided to join a couple of farmers’ markets this year.

The first time around, I purchased a half loaf of Pain De Mie ($3.55) and a loaf of Onion Focaccia ($3). The pain de mie was a HUGE loaf – a half loaf is probably the same size of a loaf of machine made bread at the market and about the same price. Why on earth wouldn’t I buy it? It’s a nice white bread and very soft with the kind of texture I wish I knew how to make at home. I was also very impressed that the breads were still warm when I bought them.

In some of the photos, I have a measuring tape just to give you and idea of the bread size.

The second time I visited the farmers’ markets, I got half a loaf of buckwheat with walnuts ($2.15) and half a loaf of whole wheat ($2.25). The wheat loaves are no where near as giant as the pain de mie (btw, the half loaf of pain de mie lasted pretty much one week exactly before it was gone) but I didn’t want to just buy one whole loaf to try. I really wanted the buckwheat one but feared I wouldn’t like it. Plus, whole wheat is a good everyday bread.

Well, I tried a slice of both when I got home and I was surprised. I really like the buckwheat and not the whole wheat at all. Both taste like they used sourdough starters. However, the buckwheat loaf was much milder in flavor. I didn’t even find the walnuts to be distracting (and there weren’t too many nuts). The whole wheat one was much too sour for my liking. Ick. I think I’m going to have to eat that one with jam or peanut butter.

Today, I went for just a loaf of the buckwheat with walnuts ($3.85). I dug into it as soon as I got home.

The buckwheat loaf is a standard size loaf – about 9×4 or there abouts.

Anyway, I can safely say that so far I love Clear Flour.  It’s affordable and perfect for those days when I’m too lazy to make my own bread (which is almost all of the time).  Looking at their website, there are a lot of breads that are only made on some days of the week which I really would like to try.  I’ll have to make a special effort to get over to Brookline.

http://clearflourbread.com/

~Mikan

Whole Wheat Soda Bread

Whole Wheat Soda Bread
So, here’s a picture of my first attempt at a vegan soda bread with millet and currants that I tried from my new cookbook, Veganomicon. It was a little overdone (dry) but otherwise pretty decent. I’m now in pursuit of finding the perfect adaptation of the cookbook’s recipe for raspberry chocolate cookies. Mmmmm, chocolate cookies….

a white batter bread

Yet again, I have no pictures of the bread that I made this weekend.  However, I figured that I would post about it before Asano-mama gives me flack for not mentioning it.

This bread recipe was the second one that I had ever tried (my first was rosemary focaccia that needed two attempts – I guarantee that everyone kills the yeast in their first breadmaking attempts).  Beth Hensperger’s recipe is a great recipe for beginners in general.  It’s a little faster than other bread recipes and pretty hard to mess up since kneading is not much of an issue.  It’s available on epicurious.com and I am reposting it here with a few minor (really minor) changes. 

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon instant yeast  (I use SAF)
3 tablespoons firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger (use good quality ground ginger – the whole world depends on it)
1/2 cup warm water (comfortably warm to your skin – don’t go too hot or you’ll kill your yeast)
1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk at room temperature
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used a light flavored olive oil)
4 1/2 cups (exact measure) unbleached all-purpose flour

… for equipment, I prefer to use one large mixing bowl, my dough whisk (a wooden spoon is fine), and one bread loaf pan (standard size).

Since I’m working with SAF instant, I like to mix the flour and the yeast together first.  Activating the yeast is not needed.  I took a bread baking class once upon a time, and the instructor recommended mixing the yeast and flour first always.  You don’t want the yeast to come into direct contact with water/salt/sugar too quickly.  I forget why exactly, but I can make up a reason if asked for one. 

Then go ahead and throw in the rest of the ingredients.  Mix it was well as you possibly can with your whisk/spoon.  I promise that it’s going to get very sticky and thick quickly and that you’ll give up and use your hands shortly after.  Oil your hands before touching the dough.  It helps against the stickiness some.  Ms. Hensperger seems to be of the opinion that you can beat the dough for 140 vigorous strokes.  Maybe you can do it, but  I can’t.  It never seems to matter in the end though.  You will have a very sticky dough that will look ugly.  It’ll never have the smooth satiny look that other bread doughs have.

 Take the dough and put it into your greased loaf pan.  Do your best to spread it out evenly.  Take some plastic wrap, spray a little oil on it (or coat it on with your favorite silicon basting brush as I do), and loosely cover the dough and loaf pan with the oil side down.

Let the dough rise.  It can take as little as 45 minutes if you’re lucky.  If you’re me, it takes an hour and twenty minutes.  You want the dough to have risen enough to be almost even with the rim of the pan, and just lightly lifting up the plastic wrap. 

 Preheat the oven to  350F.

 Bake the bread in the lower half of the oven for 40-45 minutes.  The bread should sound hallow if you tap it and the center should be 200F if you have a reliable thermometer.  It took about 50 minutes in my oven.  Your oven may vary.

When you take it out, let it cool for a little bit.  Five minutes should be good.  And then, slide the bread out.  Let it cool completely (or as long as you can before you go crazy with a need for fresh bread).  Even then, I bet the center will still be warm.

Things I like about this bread?  The crust is good; it only needs one round of rising time; and the flavor is sublime.  The ground ginger is almost delicate, depending on the taster.  To me, it’s very gingery but not so overwhelming as to put me off.  To my mother, it’s not gingery at all, but just a nice homemade white bread.

If you’re looking for it, here’s the link to the epicurious page with the original recipe.  The same recipe can also be found in Beth Hensperger’s book.  http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/103217

 ~Mikan

Modesty forbids

Mikan-san won’t mention that she made an awesome homemade bread so I will: Mikan-san, your bread was MOST EXCELLENT. Thank you for the sample. I om-nom-nom-ed it with great gusto.

Also, Awesomesaucers and attendees. Equinox party. I have no clue what I’m making as I don’t know what anyone else is making, and since no one knows what else they’re making, no one can decide… vicious circle!

So my question is this: does anyone know what ingredients they’re using or what kind of dish it will be –e.g. main course or dessert? I gotta tell you, anything I make for this event will be something totally new to me, so this is all uncharted territory. I feel a little “safer” doing a dessert but I don’t want to have the dinner be dessert-heavy if everyone else is doing a dessert too.

Ahem.

(Also, so we’re all on the same page, “tropical” means, I’m assuming, any of the following: coconut, pineapple, passionfruit, mango…? Anything else?)