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Posts Tagged ‘bread’

Since my long run on March 6, I’ve been recovering and trying to get caught up on life.  Unfortunately, I did have a Lyme relapse, but it was manageable–and a sign that it’s just not time to stop fighting.  I also, however, received a gift that has taken a bit of my time, another microscopic form of life that’s much nicer than Lyme spirochetes.  I got a preview of the gift, a.k.a. my new pets, a week before the race when this showed up in my office mailbox:

Sourdough Bread

Isn’t it gorgeous?  It’s a huge half-loaf of homemade sourdough bread.  You see, I had to attend a weekend conference back in February, but out of that loss of my weekend I got to talk with a colleague (a lot) on four long plane flights.  We discovered that his wife and I share a love of baking.  First came the bread.  Then not quite two weeks ago I got the holy grail:  her sourdough starter, now almost a quarter of a century old.  Sourdough starter saves you from buying little packages of yeast, some with chemicals added.  You can use it to make baked goods with all organic ingredients.  Sourdough starter really is magic.

My benefactor sent with the starter her own sourdough recipe.  It looked good (and I know it tasted good, because we’d gotten the first gift!) but used handmade proofing baskets and a 24-hour rising period.  The starter also (apparently) needed to be fed once a day.  Well, you know me.  I can’t stand to throw stuff out, so I determined to test refrigerating the starter to delay feeding (which definitely works) and reduce how much starter I had and to use the starter in other ways.  Since I got the starter, I’ve made several loaves of whole-grain bread, pancakes, and even pumpkin-chocolate chip muffins.  Yes, the recipes will all follow, and I promise to post them with alternatives for making them without sourdough starter.

The votes are in! Whole-wheat sourdough and whole-wheat bread are now posted here. Next up will be pumpkin-chocolate chip bread!

Do you bake with sourdough?  Did you create your own starter, or did you receive it as a gift?  How long have you kept a sourdough starter going?

Copyright 2011 Ozarkhomesteader.

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Nothing smells like home-baked bread on a cold winter afternoon–or any time, now that I think about it!  Thank goodness making bread at home is easy and even quick, if you just leave the dough on its own as it rises (and why wouldn’t you?).  Today we’re going to make a remarkably soft but also hearty, healthy whole-wheat and oatmeal bread that makes great breakfast toast, super sandwiches, and even tasty croutons.  You can add walnuts or seeds for a bread fit for the Woodstock generation, or try using herbs or garlic to turn it into rustic supper rolls, as I did with a little of the dough the last time I made this bread.  You can even make fresh, hot homemade glazed doughnuts for breakfast and still have enough dough left for a good-sized loaf of the bread in the afternoon.

Bread is really easy , as long as you remember three keys for making good yeast bread.  The first key to baking any yeast bread is to remember that yeast is a living organism.  It’s going to be happiest (and help your bread rise best) if you start with fresh (live) yeast and wake it up in a nice warm (not hot) bath.  The second thing you need to know is that yeast likes to eat, but it doesn’t like to binge; keep your yeast feed slow.  The third key is remembering that wheat gluten is your friend when it comes to yeast bread.  Wheat gluten is the substance that helps build structure to work with all the gas produced by your happy yeast.  Put together happy yeast and wheat gluten, and you’ll have great homemade yeast bread.

Ingredients

Remember to use organic when you can!

  • 1 tablespoon yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup warm water (comfortable for your skin)
  • 1 cup old-fashioned (not quick cooking) rolled oats (a.k.a. oatmeal before steel-cut Irish oats and Scottish oats invaded the US)
  • 1 1/4 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax seeds (optional:  if you don’t have flax seeds, try using another tablespoon of butter)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2-3 tablespoons honey
  • 4 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
  • 1/4 cup whole-grain oat flour (or just add another 1/4 cup whole-wheat flour if you don’t have oat; I keep both in my pantry, and the oat flour helps provide softness)
  • 1/4-1/3 cup wheat gluten (Gluten has gotten a really bad rap in recent years, but it’s a must if you want to make whole-grain bread and still get the flexibility that contributes to sustaining the rise.  Gluten, by the way, also raises the protein content of the bread, so if you’re not sensitive to it, use it!)
  • 1/2 cup more warm water (same as before–like a nice hot bath but not so warm that it hurts you or the yeast)

Begin by dissolving the yeast and sugar in the 1/4 cup warm water in a large bowl (preferably 4-quart, although a 2.5 quart will work in a pinch).  You’re proofing the yeast.  If it’s good, in a few minutes you should have woken up your yeast, and they should have started making a foamy mess in your bowl.  That’s what we want to see!

Meanwhile, pour the 1 1/4 cup boiling water over the oatmeal.  I use a 2-cup heat-safe pyrex measuring cup for the oatmeal, and then I can just add everything else except the flour.

Next scald the milk by bringing it to the edge of a boil, until tiny bubbles appear around the edges of the pot.  Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the butter, salt, and honey until they dissolve.  Add them to the oatmeal.

As soon as the oatmeal mixture reaches that good bath-water temperature, add the oatmeal to the yeast mixture in your really big bowl, add the flax seed, and start working in your flour, baking powder, and wheat gluten, alternating so that they all three get thoroughly mixed.  Knead the flour in until you think you can’t add more, then do the easy thing and add the last 1/2 cup warm water–yep, bathwater temperature again.  Knead a few minutes more, until all of the flour is incorporated.  Then cover the bowl and set it in a warm place to start rising.  Thanks to the extra water, it will keep developing the gluten on its own, without too much kneading from you.

For the next twenty-four hours or so, let the dough rise.  When you notice that it’s doubles, form your hand into a fist and slam it into the middle of the dough.  Punch it down.  Give it a few good kneads.  Re-cover it and walk away again.

When you’re ready to bake, you’ll need at least two hours with the dough.  Start by punching down and kneading the dough one last time.  Then put it in a warm (not hot), buttered bread loaf pan, 9×5.  (You can use an 8×4 if you’ve taken a bit out for other purposes–see below.)  Let it rise for an hour in a warm (not hot) place for an hour.  Start pre-heating your oven to 375 degrees F.  The dough is ready for the oven when an indentation you make with your finger still bounces back but just barely.  Put the dough in the oven and bake for 40 minutes.  The bread is done when you knock on the bottom and it sounds hollow.  Cool in the pan a few minutes and then cool on a rack.

The Bonus:  Rolls or Doughnuts!

Now, I happen to know that this dough makes an ample loaf, so ample in fact that you can pull out a bit of dough for something else and have enough left.  Let’s say that you start this bread Sunday afternoon.  How about if you take out dough about the size of two or three chicken eggs that very night?  Turn that into three dinner rolls, let rise for about an hour in a warm spot, and then bake them for dinner, about 20-30 minutes at 375 degrees F.

Or you can do what we did this morning, having started the dough yesterday.  Make doughnuts! Take out a scant 1/2 cup dough.  Add 1/2 a chicken egg (or one bantam egg), beaten with a sprinkle of sugar (no more than 1/2 teaspoon) and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.  Knead it together until the egg is well incorporated.  You’ll have a very soft dough.  Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of flour on a bread board and then pull out three or four balls of dough.  First form rounds, and either cut out the middle or use the handle of a wooden spoon to poke through a hole and enlarge it.  Use flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking.  Let the doughnuts rise for a half hour.  Heat oil of two or three inches to 350 to 375 degrees F in a Dutch oven or other heavy pot.  Drop doughnuts in one at a time and fry until almost done on one side, and then flip to the other side.  Remove, drain, and drizzle with glaze.  Glaze:  three tablespoons of powdered sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and enough milk, by the drop, to make your glaze.  Take it slow with the milk and stir with every addition; you can easily go from not enough to too much.

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August and September end the lazy days of slow breakfasts, but they don’t have to end good breakfasts.  For a quick, healthy breakfast or afternoon snack, bake a loaf of whole-grain, low-fat, higher protein but still moist and delicious zucchini bread, chocked full of good stuff like pepitas, which contain healthy fatty acids.  Take a look at the ingredients:  your only fat is from the egg(s) and the pepitas.  All of the moist goodness comes from buttermilk and yogurt, plus those dairy products and pepitas bring extra protein, calcium, and some good fats.  One loaf will yield close to 2 dozen slices for several breakfasts, lunchbox treats, afternoon snacks, or even as Mr. Homesteader likes it best, dessert at night (warmed with a dollop of ice cream).

Ingredients for 1 loaf baked in a 9×5 inch pan

  • 1/4 cup plain, nonfat yogurt
  • 1/3 cup sugar (or less)
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk or kefir
  • 1-2 eggs
  • 1 cup grated fresh or frozen (drained) zucchini
  • 1 cup plus one tablespoon whole-wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 -3 tablespoons cinnamon (or less, if you aren’t a cinnamon nut like I am!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/3 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds) or 1/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
  • handful or two of golden raisins, regular raisins, or currants (optional if you hate raisins, of course)

Preheat oven (or toaster oven!) to 350 degrees F.  Grease the bottom only of a 9X5 bread-baking pan (glass or cast iron preferred over a flimsy metal pan, as you’re going to bake this for a while).  Combine the first five ingredients in a small bowl or large mixing cup–about 1 quart size should give you plenty of room.  Combine the remaining ingredients except the pepitas and raisins in a 2-cup measure and stir well.  Add the flour mixture to the wet mixture and stir just to combine.  Stir in the raisins and pepitas, reserving a few pepitas for the top of the loaf.  Pour everything into your prepared pan and sprinkle on the last of the pepitas.  Bake at 350 degrees F for about 70 minutes, covering the top loosely with foil to avoid over-browning about half way through the process.  Let the bread cool 5 minutes in the pan, and then slide a knife around the edges to make sure the bread is separated neatly.  Remove the bread from the pan and let it finish cooling on a rack.  Slice after it cools, as you need it, from the center outward.

If you’ve got space in your freezer, you can double or even triple this recipe and freeze loafs for easy breakfasts in the winter.  If you decide to freeze the zucchini instead, be sure to grate it first and then drain it very well after it thaws before you use it for bread.

Does your family have a favorite quick back-to-school breakfast?  Do you have a special way to bake zucchini bread?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader, including photographs.

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Every now and then I get a hankering for an old Southern favorite.  This week it was angel biscuits, also known as “honeymoon biscuits” because with yeast, baking, and baking soda, they are just about guaranteed to rise, even for novice bakers.  The original recipe featured ingredients we don’t use for health reasons–like lard or Crisco–but the recipe is easily adaptable.

makes about two dozen biscuits–or a bit more

Ingredients: use organic if you can

  • 2 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour (Yes, you can use a hard wheat flour, but your results will not be as good.)
  • 1/4 cup wheat gluten  (Gluten is only bad if you’re sensitive to it.  It’s just wheat protein, and it helps whole-wheat flour build flexibility.)
  • 1/4 cup sugar (okay to use a little less)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter
  • 1 cup buttermilk or kefir (You really, really need this ingredient, although Alton Brown has tried a lemon juice-milk substitute on his show “Good Eats” that looked like it might work in this recipe.)
  • 1 big tablespoon of yeast, dissolved in 2 tablespoons of warm water (See here for why you want water the temperature of a good bath.

Method:

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Use a whisk to mix ingredients together and add lightness to the mixture. Now cut the cold butter in quarters, lengthwise, and then slice the butter thinly.  Work the butter into the dry mixture quickly, using a pastry cutter (shown here).  If you do not have a pastry cutter, you can use a fork, but it will take longer, and you’ll need to take breaks to keep the butter cold.

After you cut in the butter, the dry mixture should have a mealy texture.  Now stir in the dissolved yeast and buttermilk or kefir, just until you’re sure that the yeast is fully incorporated.  Stop.  Do nothing else except cover the bowl securely.  Biscuits, like pie dough, do not like to be overworked.  There is enough liquid in this mixture that the dough will sort of knead itself.Can you see the bits of butter?  That’s good!  Those will help build flaky layers when you roll out the dough.  Now walk away for several hours or even overnight.  Here’s another dough picture while you wait.  Mmmmmm:  bits of butter.

Okay, let’s assume you’ve given the dough a chance to rise a bit.  It’s relatively cold in our house right now (high 60s F), so I just left the bowl out overnight (securely covered).  Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F.  Now you need a bread board (or any clean surface).  Take out about a third of the dough.  Dust some flour on your bread board, and plop on the dough.  Add some more flour to the top of the dough (just a dusting!), and roll the dough about 1/2 inch thick–or maybe just a little thicker.

Using a round cutter (or old clean can, both ends removed, as you see here), cut out biscuits.  Scoop up the leftovers, reform them, and cut more.  

Put the biscuits on a shiny pan and bake on the middle oven rack at 450 degrees F for about 10 minutes (in other words, 9-12 minutes).  Oven temperatures vary, so please watch closely.Take the biscuits out of the oven.  Admire them.  Smell the combination of biscuit and yeast.

Think about whether you need butter.

No, no butter for me, thank you.  I’ll just add a slice of turkey ham steak and some apple butter.

Oh–you’re wondering what to do with the leftover dough?  Refrigerate it and use it.  It’ll keep well for about a week, getting more yeasty the whole time.  You could have another round of breakfast biscuits with sausage and red-eye gravy.  (From start to finish this morning with dough I left out (covered) on the counter last night, rolling out and cutting, and baking, I had biscuits in less than 20 minutes.  I’d have had them more quickly if I’d thought from the start to use the toaster oven instead of the big oven.)

Consider making smaller biscuits to fill with cream cheese and pepper jelly for appetizers.  Add slices of cooked bacon (or turkey bacon) and tomato with lettuce in the summer for a good Southern BLT lunch.  Serve biscuits with dinner instead of rolls.  You’ve got lots of options!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full links to this URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.  Please contact me for permission to use photographs.

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I blogged previously about the easiest bread I’ve ever made.  I use variations on this dough for a variety of baked goods, including sturdy buns that will stand up to juicy shredded chicken barbeque.  To begin, mix together about 8/10 cup of whole wheat flour, finishing out the cup with wheat gluten.  Stir the flour mixture with a pinch each of sugar and salt.  Proof a teaspoon of yeast in a half cup of water.  Now mix the flour and yeast and water together and knead into a dough, adding a bit more flour as you need to be able to handle it.  Put the dough in a glass bowl coated with olive oil.  Turn the dough a few times to coat in oil and then cover and let rise an hour or two.  Now form buns and bake at 375′ for about 20 minutes.  Slice the buns open and fill with your favorite  succulent shredded barbeque.DSCN1720

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