Saturday, October 27, 2012

loafing off

I make most of my bread using the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes A Day series.  I can't recommend this enough, especially for novice bread makers.  And for the newbies, while this method uses bread science, it is not like you make most bread!

Flipping through the Healthy Bread book one afternoon, I noticed the Quinoa Bread that I'd been meaning to try and realized I had a lovely, warehouse-sized bag of quinoa in my pantry.  I have aspirations to healthy eating!  So I break out my big bowl and mix it up.

Quinoa Bread (Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day - Hertzberg/Francois)

3 cups white whole wheat flour
3 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 cup quinoa, rinsed an uncooked
2 packages yeast
1/4 cup vital wheat gluten
3 ¾ cup lukewarm water
1 tbsp Kosher salt

In this method, you combine the ingredients, sometimes blooming the yeast, sometimes not, and leave it on the counter for 2-ish hours to rise.  You absolutely do not knead this over-saturated dough.  For more information on the method, there are links at the bottom of the page.  

Me being me, I forgot it and left it overnight and half the next day under a cookbook and my glasses before I was unearthing my counters from the previous days' shopping and realized it was there.  I make up 4 loaves at a time because my current refrigerator lacks the room for my big bowl so I have not been able to follow the "daily bread" thing this recipe does so well.  The rising loaves rested tucked under a kitchen towel for 45 minutes, as per the non-refrigerated dough rest time (well, it wasn't!) on parchment paper because I never seem to have enough cornmeal around to let it rest on that, and then dusted them heavily with white flour to help hold the shape.  

Side note here - this is an unfortunate tendency that my loaves made using this method tend to be flatter than I want them to be.  I had hoped that was an artifact of high altitude baking, but alas, I've had it happen at the very very sea level Florida house as well.  Fortunately, the bread still tastes great and toasts perfectly and is not, in fact, a "flat" bread so occasionally I take a stab at one of the many trouble shooting tips for this problem.

The oven was pre-heated to 450F until I remembered it was on (the kitchen started to get hot) at which point, I brushed loaves with water (chewy crust technique part one), and made expansion hash marks so the bread wouldn't develop into any post-nuclear mushroom cloud formations. Then I placed the bread into the oven and dumped about a cup of warm water in the general direction of the overheated small broiler pan bottom I keep in the oven for this reason.  Most of the water hit the bottom of the oven anyway, but the requisite steam (chewy crust technique part two) was created.  It cooked for 30 glorious bread-scented minutes and, after it cooled, sliced up nice and moist, holding together beautifully as a slice. 

This bread stands up to my "burnt toast" treatment, as my family calls it. I like my toast actually toasted, you know, like it's seen the inside of a toaster and learned it's lesson well.  None of that limp bread that disintegrates under butter, please!  ::ahem::

The quinoa does not seem to contribute in any appreciable way to the taste of the bread, just to the moisture.  Oh, and it might be good for you!  You can check out their blog, check out their books from the library, or just go out and buy them.  If you like bread at all, you won't be disappointed!

Half my loaves, already gone!  Also, for size comparison, that is a big knife with a  9" blade!

Friday, October 26, 2012

on the table

Time to catch up with all those odd things I have been doing and forgetting to post about!  

So what to do when you have some lovely portobello mushrooms and don't want the vegetarian mock burgers you can make with them?  Create a healthy version of that faithful side:  fries.

The assembly line:  be sure to use the left hand for the egg wash and the right  to toss the mushrooms in the cornmeal mixture or you will end up with ugly globs of egg wash/cornmeal on the ends of your fingers!

Wipe down your mushrooms and give the stems to the spotted wagging dog who shadows your kitchen adventures.  Slice them into french fry-like size, drop them in an egg wash (in this case, pour out some Egg Beaters), and then lift them over to a cornmeal/salt/pepper/sweet paprika coating before dropping them on a stone.  20 minutes or so in a 400F oven and check the mushrooms for doneness.  You may like them moist or you may find you want them a little drier.  Don't forget to salt them again while they are hot!  I eyeball the seasonings, knowing what I tend to use when cooking.  A little experimenting, and you will realize you know this as well!

Before they went into the oven...sorry, they didn't last long enough to get a photo after cooking!
A couple going-going-not-quite-gone apples and some dried diced plums (yes, prunes!  It's all about the marketing!) resulted in a spontaneous dessert.  I cored and sliced but did not peel apples until the baker was full (smaller, 6 cup capacity covered stone baker - perfect for family of 4 to 6 dessert portions).  Then I mixed together:  1/4 cup of brown sugar, a splash of maple syrup, 1 tsp cinnamon, and 2 tbsp of lemon juice.  This mixture went over the apples.  On top, the standard crumble topping of 1/2 cup oatmeal, 1/2 cup flour, 1/4 tsp salt, some cinnamon and optional nuts to your preference.  Cut 4 tbsp butter into the dry ingredients.  Bake for 45 minutes or so in a 350F oven. 

before oven
I promise I will get better at taking the "after" photos!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

smart cookie

Early in our marriage and shortly after the birth of our first child, my husband came home after a very long day and raved about another woman's cookies.  Let me say that again, because it bears repeating...he raved about another woman's cookies.  It seems that Sara, the wife of one of the guys in his pilot training class, had made a batch of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for them to snack on during their study group.  And apparently they were...rave-worthy.

Now I knew a thing or two about cooking.  And cookies.  I had a perfectly good chocolate chip cookie recipe of my own (don't we all?) that involved peanut butter.  They melted in your mouth.  And my husband had tried them.  The next day, he was still talking about Sara's cookies.

There was nothing I could do but reluctantly get the recipe.  I'd make the two cookies side by side.  I'd show him.  I picked up the phone and called Sara.

I made those cookies.  I let them cool on the rack until I could pick one up without it falling apart.  I took a bite.

And I realized- smart cookies don't crumble, they just pour a glass of milk!

Thanks Sara, where ever you are, for a fabulous cookie recipe I have been making for almost a dozen years.

2 cups flour, 1 tsp soda, 1 tsp salt, 1 cup margarine, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup brown sugar, 2 tsp vanilla, 2 eggs, 2 cups chocolate chips (12 oz bag), 2 cups oats, 1 cup chopped walnuts Bake @ 350F for 8-10 min

Modifications I have made over the years:  cream butter (I can't bring myself to use margarine for anything, sorry my southern-raised friends!) and sugars together until light and fluffy, add eggs and vanilla.  Whisk flour, soda, and salt together and add to mixer 1/2 cup at a time.  Mix chocolate chips (Ghirardelli Bittersweet), nuts (optional) and oatmeal in by hand.  Cooking time varies by cookie sheet, stoneware yields a better cookie.