How to Stop Wasting Flour

How to Stop Wasting Flour (when making sourdoughs)

This is something that’s been bothering me since the beginning of quarantine when everyone couldn’t find yeast to buy and started their own sourdough projects. So much so that I felt a need to write about it.  People are making a sizeable quantity of sourdough starter and then throwing away the discard because they’re following a recipe exactly.  Or getting so overwhelmed by discard that they give up making sourdough completely.

So, there’s the obvious solution – googling recipes for sourdough discard.  This is fine.  This is great!  I do it all the time.  But there are still a couple of suggestions I have that further stretch your sourdough discard, and you’ll have no waste at all.

 

Suggestion #1 – Stop being pedantic

The world of sourdough is a lot more flexible than you realize.  If you don’t want to do the experimentation, there’s a good chance someone has already done it for you and even documented it on the internet.  

For example, I love the Foodgeek Youtube channel.  He often posts experiments that I hadn’t realized I needed answers to.

 

 

Suggestion #2 – Make less starter

The recipe I was originally given makes 400g of starter, and the bread recipe needs 160g of starter.  It’s a lot more starter than I need for one loaf of bread.  So, if I’m going to make a loaf of bread, I only make 200g of starter.  And that gives me 40g of starter to seed my next loaf.  Realistically, I only make bread about once a month.  I feed my starter every week and store in the fridge between feedings because that’s the flavor I like best.  So, if I’m not planning to make bread, I only keep 100g of starter on hand.  That’s 300g of flour and water that I am not wasting.

Another Youtube channel I like is Bake with Jack.  Jack prefers to use the “scrapings” of his starter which would mean no discard at all.  I don’t trust myself to do this but I’m also not making bread regularly enough for this method.  But you do you.

 

Suggestion #3 – Freeze your discard

This has been game changing for me.

If I’m keeping 100g of starter on hand and only need 10g of starter for each feeding session, I still have 90g of starter that becomes the discard.  Guess what?  I freeze it.  I have a spare jar where I’ve marked where 1 cup is.  Every time I have discard, I’ll stir to knock out the extra air, and place it in my discard jar.  This jar lives in the freezer.  When I accumulate 1 cup of starter, I can then make my favorite sourdough banana bread recipe.  It takes me about 4 weeks to build up 1 cup of discard.  This way, I don’t get annoyed at feeding my sourdough starter.  And I don’t get tired of making sourdough bread, or making any recipe using discard.  

You don’t have to make banana bread.  In general, the discard recipes I’ve seen use .5 cup, 1 cup, or 1.5 cups of discard.  I say make markings for all three on your discard jar if the jar doesn’t come with its own volume markings, and then bake with the discard whenever you see fit.  If you have a favorite recipe using discard, then just tailor your freezer storage around it.  

And bonus, if anything should happen to your starter, you will always have a backup plan safely stored in the freezer.

 

View this post on Instagram

Sourdough banana bread ☺

A post shared by @ awesomesauceeats on

 

On that note, here’s my favorite banana bread recipe…

  • ½ c sugar
  • ½ c oil of choice (I use avocado oil for its mild flavor) 
  • 3 large ripe bananas (does not need to be fully ripe with a black peel, and you can even use under-ripe if needed)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c sourdough starter (thawed if previously frozen)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1½ c unbleached all purpose flour  
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 6 Tbsp chopped walnuts
  • 6 Tbsp chocolate chips, semi-sweet or dark

 

In a mixer, beat your egg and bananas.  If your bananas were slightly under-ripe, let this sit for 30 minutes.  Why?  I learned from Stella Parks that there is an enzymatic reaction where egg yolks will convert starches into sugar thereby ripening your banana for you.*  So I now like to make this my first step.  You don’t have to use a mixer, you can do this by hand but I like how well the mixer mashes the bananas for me.

Preheat your oven to 350F.  Prep a loaf pan.  I will usually use a piece of parchment inside a 9×5 loaf pan.  You could use butter or non-stick spray.  You can probably use a slightly smaller loaf pan if that’s all you have.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

Mix in the sugar and oil into the banana mixture.  Then mix in the vanilla.  Mix in half of the sourdough discard.  When it’s mixed in, add the other half and mix.

Add your dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.  When it’s almost combined, turn the mixer off and switch to a spoon/spatula.  Add in the nuts and chocolate chips, and handmix until combined.

Bake this for about 60 minutes or until a cake tester/toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool completely, and then serve.

* = https://www.seriouseats.com/2016/09/how-to-rapidly-ripen-a-banana-without-baking.html

 

Please note, this post is about sourdough discard from a starter that is past its infancy stage.  I have not fermented my own starter completely from scratch.  All the sourdough starters that I’ve worked with was discard from an existing starter, and I was just perpetuating it.

I hope you find this post to be helpful.  Let me know what you think or if you have a favorite sourdough discard recipe that I should try out.

Fresh from Poland, a cookbook review

I don’t know much about Polish food.  That’s the thought that drove my interest for “Fresh from Poland: New Vegetarian Cooking from the Old Country” by Michal Korkosz.  I also didn’t know much about Korkosz to begin with, and had no idea he won the 2017 Saveur Blog Award for best food photography (both Editors’ and Readers’ Choice) at the ripe age of… 19!  

So it stands to reason that the photos in this book are lovely.  There’s a lot of natural lighting, cozy backgrounds, and the overall feeling of finding pleasure in home cooking.

The main chapters are:

  • My Polish kitchen
  • My Polish pantry
  • Breakfast
  • Breads and Baked Goods
  • Soups
  • Main Dishes
  • Side Dishes
  • Perogi and Dumplings
  • Desserts
  • Preserves, Jams, and Pickles

 

Things I’d like to try… when I’m not following Stay-At-Home/Self-Quarantine orders because of a pandemic:

  • Parsley root and walnut spread
  • Rye crumble with honey fruit
  • Creamy oatmeal with kajmak, apple and walnuts
  • Whole wheat challah with almond streusel
  • Sweet blueberry buns with streusel
  • Almond soup with floating clouds
  • Lentil, butternut squash, and zucchini stew
  • Buckwheat stir-fry with kale, beans, and goat cheese
  • Pierogi with buckwheat, bryndza, and mint
  • Pierogi with lentils and dried tomatoes
  • Blueberry pierogi with honeyed sour cream
  • Yeast rogaliki with rose petal preserves
  • Yeast-buttermilk cake with berries and streusel

 

But I am doing my best to stay indoors because of covid-19 which means that I was very limited in what I could make.  

The first recipe I made was for oatmeal buns.  The main ingredients are quick cooking oats, butter, all purpose flour, instant yeast, old fashioned oats, and honey.  These were all things that I already had in my pantry. Having said that, the all purpose flour I was using was of mysterious background.  Some months ago, I transferred it from its original bag to a Cambro bin, and put it in the freezer. I didn’t label the bin with the brand of flour. Not long after, I wasn’t baking much and forgot about the flour in the freezer.

Like… really forgot about it.  When I started making sourdough bread again back in January, I bought some King Arthur Flour all-purpose and had been using that for all my cooking/baking.

Anyway, long story short, I had some trouble working with this recipe most likely because of my flour.  But I managed to bake something closely resembling the photo. (Except that my oatmeals buns lack color.  I forgot the egg wash.  *sigh*) And I liked them! I gave some to my mom to share with my grandmother, and they both approved.

The second recipe I tried was the tomato apple soup with poured noodles.  The main soup ingredients are butter, garlic, dried marjoram, a sweet apple, vegetable broth, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, and sour cream.  The poured noodles are made from egg, sour cream, and all purpose flour. I enjoyed this too, and it was quick to put together. It’s less decadent than the creamy tomato soup recipe that I like from Jill Winger (which makes it a better “everyday” recipe), and the use of marjoram was new to me.  I’ve only used basil in the past for tomato soup. I’m not sure the apple did much for the recipe but maybe it’s because New England is not in apple season.  (Translation, my Gala apple did not taste like much to begin with.)

As for the “poured noodles, I like the idea but my execution was lacking.  And by lacking, I mean I only made about 5 or so solid pieces of “noodles” (they’re more like dumplings) and the rest just disintegrated into something looking like soft scrambled eggs.  I’m not sure if I perhaps mis-measured something or if maybe I just needed extra flour. But I’m willing to give it a go one more time as I really like the idea of putting dumplings in tomato soup.  (Ooh, maybe I should do a recipe mashup next time. This tomato soup with Gena Hamshaw’s chickpea dumplings. It should work.)

I think what surprised me most about this book was that I forgot it was technically a vegetarian cookbook.  The variety and appeal of the recipes don’t leave you wanting for meat recipes.

Overall, yes, I recommend this book, and I can’t wait for stay-at-home orders to end so that I can explore this book better.  

 

Disclaimer – I kindly received this book from The Experiment Publishing for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post. The views and opinions expressed are purely my own.  

With COVID-19 self-quarantine in effect, my scope of recipe testing was limited.  Some modifications may have been made.

 

 

Reference Links:

https://rozkoszny.pl/en

https://theexperimentpublishing.com/ 

https://www.workman.com/products/fresh-from-poland

Almost No-Knead Sourdough, a Kitchen Conclusion

I haven’t done a “Kitchen Conclusion” post in a long time (oops) but I have a lot of thoughts right now, so I figured I’d share publicly so that others can feel better informed before attempting this recipe from a very well know food publication.

First of all, I don’t consider myself an expert bread baker.  Or an advanced bread baker.  Or an intermediate bread baker but I think everyone I know in real life would argue against that, so I’ll compromise and say that I’m a “beginner to intermediate” bread baker.  (Interginner?  Beginmediate?)

Simply put, I know just enough about bread baking to recognize when I’m doing something wrong or when there’s something wrong with the recipe I am using.

I have a sourdough recipe that I’ve made a couple of times and liked.  I still need to work on my shaping technique but that’s a user issue.  And even though I have a recipe I like, I still like to explore other recipes.  It’s how I learn.  So when I wanted to make sourdough bread this weekend, but realized that the timeline of my tried-and-true recipe wasn’t going to work with my schedule, I took that as an opportunity to experiment with a different recipe.

That was when I remembered that America’s Test Kitchen recently posted on Instagram their Almost No-Knead Sourdough.

I copied the recipe before it went behind a paywall.  I used the weighed measurements which are a little weird but anyone who bakes bread regularly should be using weighted measurements.  Honestly I don’t mind that the recipe is in ounces as opposed to grams since my kitchen scale can do both but WHO ON EARTH DEVELOPS A RECIPE WITH A THIRD OF AN OUNCE?!

Anyway, I’m reposting it for you even though I don’t like to repost things out of copyright respect.  But if I’m going to talk about this recipe in depth, then you need all the details.

18 1/3 ounces King Arthur all-purpose flour
1 ¾ teaspoons salt
12 2/3 ounces water, room temperature
3 ounces mature Sourdough Starter

Whisk flour and salt together in medium bowl. Whisk room-temperature water and starter in large bowl until smooth. Add flour mixture to water mixture and stir using wooden spoon, scraping up dry flour from bottom of bowl until dough comes together, then knead by hand in bowl until shaggy ball forms and no dry flour remains. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for at least 12 hours or up to 18 hours.

Lay 12 by 12-inch sheet of parchment paper on counter and spray generously with vegetable oil spray. Transfer dough to lightly floured counter and knead 10 to 15 times. Shape dough into ball by pulling edges into middle. Transfer dough, seam side down, to center of parchment. Pick up dough by lifting parchment edges and lower into heavy-bottomed Dutch oven. Cover with plastic wrap.

Adjust oven rack to middle position and place loaf or cake pan in bottom of oven. Place pot on middle rack and pour 3 cups of boiling water into pan below. Close oven door and let dough rise until doubled in size and does not readily spring back when poked with your floured finger, 2 to 3 hours.

Remove pot and water pan from oven; discard plastic from pot. Lightly flour top of dough and, using razor blade or sharp knife, make one 7-inch-long, 1/2-inch-deep slit along top of dough. Cover pot and place on middle rack in oven. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Bake bread for 30 minutes (starting timing as soon as you turn on oven).

Remove lid and continue to bake until loaf is deep brown and registers 210 degrees, 20 to 30 minutes longer. Carefully remove bread from pot; transfer to wire rack and let cool completely before serving.

And here’s the clip of the recipe they shared on Youtube.  Skip to 4:15 to go to the recipe.  The first four minutes are about making your own starter, which I did not need to do since I was using my existing starter.

 

So…

No offense to ATK or to Dan Souza, but I have no idea which bread recipe they were using on the show because it DEFINITELY IS NOT the published version.  I wish I had photos or videos of my experience to show as proof but I had no idea I was going to have very strong opinions about this recipe.

To be transparent, there were two things that I did differently that would not have changed the experience for the worse.  I mixed my dough for 5 minutes with a dough hook in my KitchenAid at the start instead of mixing until shabby ball formed.   All this should have meant was that my dough would be ready in 12 hours, not more, and even possibly a little less time.  I swapped about 2 to 3 ounces of King Arthur all purpose flour with a whole grain flour from a local source.  Theoretically, it would make my dough drier than what the recipe intended because the germ and bran that are present in whole wheat flour can absorb more liquid.  For the record, I did not add any extra water.

After 12 hours, my dough had risen beautifully and was double in sized.  So far, so good.  Or so I thought.  When I turned the dough out to knead 10-15 times, I couldn’t!  The dough that came out of the bowl was nothing like what is shown on the show.  It was quite wet and stuck like crazy.  The only way I could knead it was to use the slap and fold technique.  It was my salvation.  It didn’t take long to shape a ball with this technique, but it’s outside the scope of the recipe.

If you need it, here is an example of the slap and fold technique, which I think was made famous by Richard Bertinet.  (At least, that was who I learned it from back in the days when his first book “Dough” was published.)  You can skip to 1:40 to see it in action.  You can see how sticky a Bertinet dough is.  It is nothing like the ATK video.  This is basically what I had.

 

By this time I was done with kneading, it was almost 9pm.  Rather than shape it, move it to a parchment sheet, and then letting it rise for the final time in the dutch oven, I chose to do my final shaping in a banneton and let it sit in the fridge overnight.  Because this was a very wet dough, I knew it was going to need the physical support of a banneton for any success. Also?  I wanted to go to bed at a reasonable hour.

On the plus side, it meant I got to work with my banneton.  The last time I used it, I screwed up my shaping which meant my dough stuck to the banneton like crazy.  I have since watched many videos from “Bake with Jack” and learned what I did wrong.

In the morning (aka “This Morning”), I took my banneton out of the fridge.  My dough hadn’t risen as much as I thought it would.  At this point, I let this sit in a “cold” oven for an hour with a pan of just boiled hot water next to it, much like the original ATK instructions.  When the hour was up, everything looked good to go.  I carefully turned the dough out onto a parchment sheet, and it looked lovely.  (THANKS JACK FOR THE SHAPING TUTORIALS!)  I scored it with the sharpest knife I had and proceeded with the rest of the recipe.

The thing I learned next?  Do not use a cold start oven method when using a wet dough.  That lovely looking dough I had?  Gone.  I wish I took a photo of it before it went into the oven.  It grew out instead of growing up, spreading out mostly where I had scored the dough.

Now, I know some modern ovens don’t lend to cold start oven method very well, but that is not my oven.  I have done cold start oven bread recipes before with standard instant yeasted doughs without issue.  I’m 100% positive it was the hydration level of the ATK recipe that caused my bread to not look like Dan’s loaf.

I also think that the cold start oven method with a wetter dough caused my crust to be softer and chewier than expected.  If you don’t like a crunchy crust, then this might be the preferred method for you.  But if you want the classic crust usually associated with a sourdough, this is NOT it.  You will be disappointed.

While my bread does look much like the one in the official Instagram post, it looks nothing like the bread in the video.  FYI, I baked for the full amount of time per the recipe instruction.

Last observation, when it comes to sourdough, people like their open, irregular crumb.  This is still not that recipe.  My crumb, while not dense like a standard yeasted dough, was not as open as I would have liked.

When all is said and done, the bread tastes fine.  But I’m still going to officially declare this as a recipe fail.  It did not work as expected.  It looked nothing like what was on the show.  Anyone with less bread baking experience is going to freak out trying to make this, and think they did something wrong.

Even though I know ATK will never notice my little blog, if they ever should:

Dear ATK, 

Please re-develop this recipe!  

 

Reference Links:

https://medium.com/@mattsamberg/and-now-for-something-completely-different-15edf4740de2

https://www.abreaducation.com/content/baking-bread-with-whole-wheat-flour

https://www.bakewithjack.co.uk/

View at Medium.com

Holiday and Celebration Bread in Five Minutes a Day, a cookbook review

Bread is something I dabble in regularly but not with any mastery and I’m ok with that.  But maybe because I’m an average bread baker that I have very, VERY few recipes that I remake.  I’m always experimenting.

And while I’ve made no-knead breads before, I never got around to making anything from the “Bread in Five Minutes a Day” books by Zoe Francois and Jeff Hertzberg, even though I remember their first book on the best seller list.

Well, that’s finally changed.  I recently received a copy of their newest book, “Holiday and Celebration Bread in Five Minutes a Day.”  While the book focuses the more decadent breads (think ricotta-stuffed savory doughnuts and king cakes), it starts with the basics (like a white bread master recipe and Pullman sandwich loaf).  Here are the chapter titles to give you a better idea:

  • The Master Recipe
  • The Basics
  • Small loaves, rolls, and buns
  • Flatbreads
  • Challah and babka
  • Gooey, sticky goodness
  • Doughnuts
  • Christmas breads
  • Easter Breads
  • Celebration and Brunch breads
  • Fancy stale bread
  • Flaky dough
  • Quick jams and fillings

The recipes I really want to take a closer look are in the challah chapter: whole grain challah, tahini swirl bread, and coconut chocolate twist.  I would have made some challah as my first recipe out of the book except that I’m completely without eggs in the house, and I keep forgetting to pick some up.

For the purposes of this review, I made the buttermilk bread recipe.  Overall, it was very straightforward.  I chose to use my mixer instead of hand-mixing just to get everything mixed well.  Then, I let it sit on the counter, covered, for two hours before popping it in the fridge.

I chose to halve the recipe so I didn’t have to cut off half of the dough for baking.  Also, two loaves of bread is too much for just 1 person (and I still have challah to make in the near future).  When it came time to bake, I pulled it out of the fridge, shaped it, and let it sit for 90 minutes.

So, the method (not the concept) is new to me.  I’ve made no knead breads where you use a scant amount of yeast and just let it sit for 16 hours.  Francois and Hertzberg are using a fairly normal amount of yeast, and letting it develop gluten on its own at two different temperature ranges.

The buttermilk bread recipe was pretty sticky, even when cold, which I feel is common for no-knead breads but feel free to correct me.  But I’m not sure if the other recipes in the book are just as sticky.  While I recognize the benefits of a high hydration dough, I personally find it a little intimidating to work with.  I’m pretty bad at shaping dough to be begin with, and a sticky dough just makes it harder.

Having said that, I really do like the general ease of this method.  It just requires some forethought.

As for the buttermilk bread itself, I really liked it.  It gave me a sense of Wonder Bread nostalgia (the bread my mom used to buy), even though I know it’s not like Wonder Bread at all.  To be fair, I can’t do a side by side comparison, as I haven’t eaten Wonder Bread since I was probably in high school (… and high school happened a long time ago.  lol!)

Overall impression of the book?  I highly appreciate the variety of recipes.  The recipe layout is easy to read – it’s a grid with volume, weight in ounces, and weight in grams.  The photos look appealing – really clean, soft light, no weird HDR, and no weird retro photos.  I fully recommend this book to anyone who wants to make bread at home.

In fact, I think I’ll peruse the previous books in the series.  I bet I missed some fantastic sounding breads.

Disclaimer – I received this book from St. Martin’s Press for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post. The views and opinions expressed are purely my own.

 

Reference Links:

https://read.macmillan.com/lp/holiday-and-celebration-bread/

https://artisanbreadinfive.com/

https://zoebakes.com/

Breakfast with Beatrice, a cookbook review

I have delusions of grandeur when it comes to breakfast.

I want ricotta on challah toast (or fresh fig jam and mascarpone, if I’m at Henrietta’s Table in Cambridge).  I want eggs with pepperjack cheese and avocado slices. Oooh, or something I’ve been meaning to do – seared scallops with bacon, fried egg, and grilled tomatoes.  (Yes, I am influenced by Sorted Food youtube videos.)

In a similar vain, I have ambitious plans of questionable achievement when it comes to cooking/baking Nordic foods.  Either I’m subconsciously addicted to Ikea (which probably would be true if I lived closer to one) or I’ve watched too many videos featuring Magnus Nilsson and Rene Redzepi (this is definitely true).

The reality is that I meal prep my breakfasts most of the time, and I want something quick to put together.  Lately, I’ve been making the same baked oatmeal recipe for a few months now.  But that doesn’t mean that I’m not on the lookout for new ideas.  Let’s be honest – it’s only a matter of time before I hit baked oatmeal fatigue.

When I saw the cover of “Breakfast with Beatrice” by Beatrice Ojakangas, I was intrigued.  The cover has minimalist but colorful Scandinavian inspired kitchen illustrations.  The tag line under the title says “250 recipes from sweet cream waffles to Swedish farmer’s omelets.”   It sounded like it had variety.  It had the word Swedish in it.  It was 250 recipes.  What’s not to like?

First impressions?  This cookbook is old school.  There are literally no photos.  It’s a straightforward recipe book.  Some recipes have a short introduction, but many don’t have any commentary.  (For the record, some of my favorite cookbooks are ones without any photos… Kathy Farrell-Kingsley’s “The Big Book of Vegetarian” comes to mind.  Substance is more important than appearance.)  

Before this book, I hadn’t heard of the author before.**  While her culinary heritage is Scandinavian, Beatrice Ojakangas is from Minnesota where she still lives.  There are many recipes that aren’t Nordic. In addition to recipes like hätäleipä, and cream cheese and salmon smørrebrød, be prepared to find recipes like Tex-Mex strata, beignets, colonial brown bread muffins, and old Virginia cheddar biscuits.  According to the book’s introduction, she “selected many of [her] favorite breakfasts for Breakfast with Beatrice.” 

(** Hilariously, I should have been familiar with the author’s name.  I own one of her other books, “The Best Casserole Cookbook Ever.”)

The book is broken down into these sections:

  • Pancakes and waffles
  • Savory breakfast and casserole dishes (smørrebrød and porridge recipes are filed here)
  • Pastries and coffee cakes
  • Breakfast breads (has both yeasted breads and quick breads)
  • Muffins, biscuits, and scones
  • Smoothies, jams, and preserves (FYI, there is just one smoothie recipe)

 

Normally, this is the part of the post where I like to list the recipes that I’m particularly interested in making.  However, I’m not going to, because I’m not sure that there’s a recipe in the book that I don’t want to make.  In general, these recipes aren’t trendy. They aren’t ingredient crazy or meant for a large weekend project.  Instead, they sound like the kind of recipes you inherit from a beloved family member or recipes you have fond memories of. 

I had trouble picking out a recipe test out… too many sounded delicious. I originally thought about making the wild rice and blueberry muffin recipe, but I didn’t have any wild rice in my pantry and was unwilling to buy some.  (Note to self, clean out your pantry so that you can do things like buy wild rice without feeling bad about it.)  I eventually settled on the yogurt nut brown bread recipe, which only has 8 ingredients: rye flour, whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, baking soda, salt, plain yogurt, light molasses, and chopped nuts.  I don’t keep whole wheat flour in my kitchen because I’m convinced that most commercially available whole wheat flour doesn’t taste very good, so I subbed with spelt flour. I also didn’t have light molasses but that was easy to substitute with a blend of regular molasses and maple syrup. Other than that, it was very easy to put together.  I didn’t need to break out a mixer for this. Using a whisk and a spatula was good enough.

In the author’s own words, this bread is “compact, dark, grainy, and rich-tasting.”  It is definitely dense and dark, but I wouldn’t say it’s grainy even though I know that it’s made with whole grain flours.  I thought it was a bit chewy (in a good way) and moist. The molasses flavor hit my tongue first, but quickly gave way to an earthy flavor.  The more bites I took, the less I noticed the molasses. I ate half a slice with some almond butter, and enjoyed that too. I think this recipe makes for a great everyday quick bread, perfect for those times I want bread but am too impatient to work with yeast.  

Later this week, I think I’ll see how it pairs with other foods like eggs, ham, or cheese.

Overall, I’m quite delighted by my initial results.  I look forward to working more from this book.  If you’re someone who loves cooking/baking, and doesn’t need to be bedazzled by fancy pictures, I wholeheartedly recommend “Breakfast with Beatrice.”  

 

Disclaimer – I received this book from University of Minnesota Press for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post. The views and opinions expressed are purely my own.

Reference Links:

http://beatrice-ojakangas.com/

https://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/breakfast-with-beatrice

Because I wasn’t making it up, Sorted Food’s Full English Breakfast video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l1DTeah8YAs

 

Sometimes, it’s ok to call it quits

In a perfect world, I’d be experimenting with sourdough breads regularly.  I’d create boules of beauty, and share them with friends and family.

However, this isn’t a perfect world.  A handful of close friends are gluten free.  I rarely get to share the things I cook and bake because I’ve messed something up just enough that it doesn’t feel fit for sharing, or I’m just make enough food for myself for the week.  At the end of the day, I’m just feeding myself.

I do make bread on occasion.  I even had a rye sourdough starter going for over a year.  But those two statements?  Rarely done at the same time.  When I make bread, it’s usually with SAF instant.  When I was maintaining my sourdough starter, I was just finding ways to cook the discarded starter.  I was almost never making proper bread with my starter.  It even got to a point where I forgot I had a starter hanging out in my fridge.  I literally did not notice it in my fridge until about two months after its last feeding.

Even then (!!!), it took me a couple of weeks to finally toss it in the trash.  Some part of me hated feeling like I was giving up on a project.  But logically, it didn’t make sense to try again.  More so, because I have a place in a 10 minute walk away that does a wonderful sourdough.  I’ve started going there a bit more frequently because I absolutely love their sourdough pizzas, but you can pick up bread to take home.  I can spend 2-3 days making sourdough bread on my own, or I can spend $4 – $7 at my local restaurant.

It will do me more good than harm to recognize what I am willing and not willing to do.  If I didn’t live so close to awesome bread, I’d probably feel differently about this.  Or if I had a large family to feed, which I don’t.

But you know what they say: when one door closes, another opens.

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! XD

(“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