I am a walking contradiction. My patience level is so small it could fit on the head of a pin and still leave room for angels to dance. Because I am aware of this, I try to make allowances so it doesn’t become a problem. But while I am patience challenged, I still love food with flavor that comes from time. Hours, days, weeks, months–it doesn’t matter.
My most recent fascination has been for sourdough breads. It began with the levain–Mrs. Hudson–I made for a Forkish bread. A sourdough bread is not one most of us can decide to make at the beginning of the day and have fresh bread for dinner the same night. If you have starter, it has to be fed for a day or so in most cases. If you keep it in the refrigerator, as I do, it may take a bit longer. And if you don’t have starter, it can take you a week or so to have one ready to use.
I love rye bread, so I assumed I’d like rye sourdough. I went online to find a recipe for sourdough starter and chose the one on Sarah’s Heartland Renaissance. It had some of the characteristics I look for in a sourdough starter: it’s easy to make, easy to maintain, and doesn’t take lots of flour.
I read through the instructions and got started. Here’s the first picture of the starter that will always be known as “The Woman.”
This looked pretty much like her picture, so I wasn’t worried. But I must confess there was a nagging concern about it. Most recipes I’ve read call for either equal amounts of flour and water or slightly more water. This one called for twice as much flour as water. But I had faith.
My faith was tested. I kept with the feeding schedule, but my poor little starter just seemed to sit there. Well, it got taller, because I was feeding it 1/2 cup flour and 1/4 cup water every day, not from those little sourdough starter critters getting to work so I could have bread. I read and reread Sarah’s instructions, and mine seemed to be following the same path as hers. Yet I was sure I had done something wrong.
On the fourth day, you’re to switch to adding equal amounts of water and flour. But I still had very little bubble action, so since Sarah said in that case you keep with the beginning amounts, that’s what I did. When another day added no more bubble action, I was prepared to call it a day and start over. But the fact I’d followed Sarah’s instructions–and her starter looked wonderful–and my starter had looked like hers in the different stages, I decided to not withdraw The Woman’s life support. After all, it was on the cool side in my kitchen, so maybe that had slowed her up. I’d give it another day.
When I checked her out the following day, there were bubbles galore! Maybe I scared those little sourdough starter buggers, and they decided they better get to work. Or maybe it’s a question of time. Whatever the reason, at day 6, and despite my lack of patience for it to “get done,” here’s what I had.
Naturally, I made a rye boule from The Woman’s starter. I used a recipe from Breadtopia. Incidentally, if you like to make bread, I highly recommend that site. There are also video tutorials.
Overall I’m very pleased with the bread . . . and The Woman. But there are some things I’ll change next time. I kind of got carried away with flouring the banneton (proofing basket). This is a sticky dough, and I was afraid it would stick. I’ll also use a smaller banneton, so it will be taller. The recipe called for anise, fennel, and caraway seeds. I don’t have any anise seeds and decided to leave them out. I have fennel seeds . . . somewhere. Since I couldn’t find them, I decided they were optional. But I did add the caraway. Next time I’ll add a little more. I love the hint of the orange peel coming through, and I might add a bit more next time. I don’t want to overpower it, though.
If you like sourdough and rye, gather your patience and give this a try. It’s really tasty. And it makes a great grilled cheese with swiss cheese.
About 2 weeks ago, I was enjoying a Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives marathon. I love that show. Guy was eating a great-looking Reuben. That is one of my favorite sandwiches, and it is almost impossible to find a decent one here. So like most things, mine are better. Of course, I didn’t have the ingredients (except the bread), so I made a mental note to pick up the ingredients the next time I went to the store.
In the interim, I saw an episode of “Triple D” that featured pizza. Pizza’s another thing I don’t buy often. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like it. Okay, you know where this is going, right? Yep, a Reuben pizza. That way I could kill 2 cravings at once.
I had my homemade sauerkraut, and whipping up some thousand island dressing would be no problem. And I have rye flour, so the dough wouldn’t be the problem. All I needed was corned beef and swiss cheese. No big deal.
Uh, in theory maybe.
Twice I bought the cheese and corned beef. And twice I ate them as snacks before I could make the pizza. But the third time was the charm, and I got my pizza.
My rye pizza dough was easy to make. Like the pizza I blogged about here, I parbaked the crust.
While I baked the crust, I drained some of my homemade sauerkraut. Once the crust was ready, I lightly spread it with homemade thousand island dressing. I tore the corned beef I got at the deli into bite-sized pieces. Then came the cheese and the drained sauerkraut. It baked at 400 degrees until the cheese just started to melt, and then I switched to broil to finish. The result . . .
So good. So very good.
The only thing I can think of I’ll likely do differently has to do with the amount of caraway seeds in the crust. I used 1 tablespoon in the crust, because I had added caraway seeds in the sauerkraut when I made it. I’ve found I really don’t care for it in the kraut, so I’ll not add them again. When it comes to making Reuben pizza again, I’ll add more to the dough.
This is another example of how easy it is to make pizza. And you can make it any way you want it.
Here’s my recipe for the rye crust.
The other day I was watching television, and one commercial seemed to be shown at every break. It was the one for Fleischmann’s Simply Homemade No Knead Bread Mix. Personally, I think everyone should make bread. It’s not important whether you use a mixer, bread machine, food processor, or your hands. Just make bread. And since I’ve come to the long, slow ferment school of bread-making, which requires little kneading, I’ve given up the bread machine! But that’s just me.
I’ve had people say they don’t make bread because they don’t have time. For the most part, some people have a misconception about making bread. It doesn’t have to take a lot of hands-on time. Take my favorite Jim Lahey recipe. It probably takes me a total–from beginning to putting it in the oven–of 15 hands-on minutes. Sometimes maybe a little less, sometimes a little more. It ferments for 12-18 hours, but I’ve been letting it go 20-22. So if you’re in a hurry, well, that may not work for you.
Would people bake bread using Fleischmann’s mix? Purists would cringe at the thought of calling this baking bread, and to be honest, I’m not sure, either. But perhaps it would be a gateway into making their own breads. And I had to wonder if it was any good. A big complaint many have about the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day basic recipe is lack of flavor. After all, it only has flour, yeast, salt, and water. I find this true if you use it after the initial fermentation period. But the breads made with the dough as it nears the end of its two-week have a more developed flavor. Still, I don’t find they have the same flavor as the ones in Lahey’s and Ken Forkish’s books, and their basic recipes use those same four ingredients.
Well, there was a sale, so I decided to experiment. I bought the stoneground wheat mix, shown above. I brought it home and took a look at the ingredients.
- flour (maybe a variety)
- yeast (sometimes a starter)
Sometimes I add seeds or extra grains, but that takes it beyond the basic.
To mix, just add water and mix with a spoon. Okay, that’s easy enough. You can let it rise for a while–a short while–in a loaf pan or as a boule. I opted for the latter. It bakes in a hot oven for about 30 minutes. That’s how long it took in my oven. Yours may be different.
So how was it? The loaf had a nice color. It wasn’t very crisp, but that was all right with me. The crumb was quite dense. It smelled good. But how did it taste? I’ve been giving that a lot of thought. There was a slight bitter taste. I’m not sure where it came from. It’s not the same flavor as my 100% whole wheat or my rye. So I’ve not been able to put my finger on it. But there was something else about the flavor that bothered me. Finally, after a great deal of thinking, I figured it out. It tasted old. Not that the bread itself was old; I knew it wasn’t. No, it tasted like the ingredients were old.
Yes, you can use this mix and get your bread in under an hour. But do you really want to? You’ll get much better results when you let the bread work longer. And it doesn’t even need adult supervision.
I made pizza for dinner the other night. Now I know for most of you, that’s probably not a big deal. But the simple fact of the matter is I don’t usually make pizza from scratch. And I seldom buy frozen pizza. In other words, for the past several years, I’ve not eaten a lot of pizza.
I used to be a regular patron of Dominoes Pizza. It was fast, convenient, and the pizza from my Dominoes was pretty good. Now the operative word in that sentence is “was.” Then they changed their sauce. I tried it once and never again. I hate that sauce. So I pretty much gave up pizza.
Until lately. As my fascination with bread has increased, so has my interest in the potential for pizza and focaccia. I spent some time looking for a crust recipe and found one using unfed sourdough starter. I had some of that, so I decided to give it a try.
So I looked for a basic pizza crust recipe that I could use for dinner. It was, after all, nearly 7:00 p.m. I took a little from here and a little from there and came up with a doable one. It’s based on this one I found on Breadtopia.
One of the greatest things about making your own pizza (and almost everything else for that matter) is that you can make it however you want. I like thin crust, so I made one. I’m not a big fan of pizza sauce, so after par baking for about 8 minutes, I drizzled a bit of olive oil on it. As for toppings, the sky’s the limit. I had fermented some onions, so I put some of those on it. It was followed by banana peppers, roasted red peppers, mushrooms, spinach, and lots of mozzarella cheese (obviously). I bake it for about 10 minutes and then finished it under the broiler setting.
Big win! The crust was nice and thin, and the bottom was nice and crisp. The toppings worked well together and made me very happy.
The recipe makes 2 12-inch pizzas, so I have extra dough in the freezer. My mind has been going wild with lists of potential toppings. And though the crust was passable, I need to fine-tune it to make it my own.
The sky’s the limit.
When I was a kid, growing up in Iowa, most of us went home for lunch. It wasn’t like today, where most students seem to take or buy their lunch at school. No, except for the “country kids,” who brought their lunches, we went home, and Mom had something ready for us to eat.
In my house, that “something” was usually soup. Though my mom’s soup usually came from a can, it sparked a lifelong love of soup. Whether I’m making a homemade version of something my mother might have made or one she’d never consider making or eating, soup never fails to make me think of home and those lunches that left me prepared for the last few hours of school for the day.
Again this year, I am happy to donate this blog post to the Giving Table in an effort to combat hunger. This year, they have partnered with the Lunchbox Fund, an organization with the goal of providing lunch to children of South Africa. The Lunchbox Fund identifies schools or forms partnerships with locally based NGOs or community organizations in order to evaluate and identify schools. It funds distributors to buy and deliver food, monitor the feeding scheme, implement a project manager, and deliver reports back to them for evaluation.
Since this year’s focus is on lunch, here’s my recipe for my favorite homemade chicken noodle soup. It hope it will create memories for you and yours as well.
Chicken Noodle Soup
1 tablespoon butter
1 rib celery, chopped
1/4 cup chopped onion
4 cups water
1 1/2 tablespoons Better than Boullion chicken base
1 carrot, sliced thinly
1 cup frozen spinach
1 cup egg noodles (optional)
1 scallion, chopped finely (optional)
In the butter, saute the celery and onion only until translucent (do not let them get any color). Add the water, chicken base, and carrot. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered until the vegetables are just about tender. Add the spinach and noodles if desired, and continue to simmer until the vegetables and noodles are done. Before serving, add the chopped scallion for a bit of a crunch.
(You can use 4 cups of chicken stock instead of the water and chicken base.)
Did you know:
- 65% of all South African children live in poverty. Receiving food encourages these children to stay in school and obtain their education.
- Nearly 20% of all children in South Africa are orphans, with approximately 1.9 Million of those children orphaned as a result of HIV and AIDS.
- Lack of food can diminish concentration, erode willpower, and strip away a child’s potential. Compound that with prevalence of HIV/AIDS or the trauma of losing parents and loved ones, without food, a child’s attendance and performance at school is severely jeopardized.
And that is why I am asking you to help the Lunchbox Fund by making a donation and spreading the word.This year’s goal is to raise $5,000. This will provide a daily meal for 100 children in South Africa. For many, that will be the only meal they’ll have each day.
Regular readers may be wondering why I am asking you to give up a latte or two, save the cost of a fast-food meal by eating a homemade one, or give up a movie to make a donation to a charity helping a country other than ours. You’ve read my pleas to help fight hunger in your community and in the United States. Does this mean the problem here is solved? Of course not. And some might say it’s getting worse. But the simple fact of the matter is that we are part of a much-bigger world. And that bigger world needs the help of those who can give it. By helping children in South Africa and elsewhere get the food they need to become the best they can be, the world will be a better place for us all.
You can make a contribution by clicking here from February 10 through February 16.
Thank you–on behalf of children here and all over the world.
In celebration of the 3rd Annual International Bake Bread Weekend, I wanted to try something different. Well, different to me. Breadwise, I’ve been trying to incorporate more and more whole wheat in my recipes. This hasn’t always been easy, because I tend not to like all whole wheat breads. But I know they can be healthier than bread made with more processed flours. Plus, I want to be able to use my home-ground flour.
Determined to find something for this weekend, I went looking in my growing library of bread books. When I looked through Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads: New Techniques, Extraordinary Flavor, I found something I wanted to try: his recipe for whole wheat and sprouted grain bread.
This recipe also gave me a chance to make a biga, something I’ve not done before.
Biga is an Italian name for prefermented dough. In Reinhart’s recipes in these books, most bigas are made with flour, water, and a small amount of commercial yeast. It’s mixed together, covered, and fermented overnight (and up to a few days) in the refrigerator.
Here’s my biga on its way to the fridge nap.
As the recipe names, this bread also calls for sprouted grains. You can use whatever grain you want; I went with wheat. The technique is similar to the one I use to make the sprouted wheat I mill into flour. (The post dealing with that is here.) The main difference is the length of time they are sprouted. To make the flour, I let the sprouts get about 1/8 inch. For the grains used in this recipe, the sprouts should barely break the cover. It’s kind of hard to see here, but these are some of the wheat grains sprouted for this bread.
I started them to sprout after making the biga. They were ready the next day.
The next day you pull together the final dough, which includes the biga and sprouted grains. Although it can be kneaded in a mixer, I went with the hand method. I’ve really gotten into touching the dough. As sappy as it sounds, it makes me feel one with the dough.
I decided to form this dough into a loaf and bake in a loaf pan. Here we have dough ready for final proofing and baking.
I have to say this bread perfumed my house like many others have not. The floodgates of my saliva glands were opened, and there may have been drool.
And here’s the final bread.
And the obligatory crumb shot.
This is a dense, hearty bread. And it may have changed my outlook on 100% whole wheat bread. It tastes as good as it smells and I think looks. And I can tell you from experience that it makes great toast!
I hope you bake bread this weekend. And mark your calendars now. The 4th Annual International Bake Bread Weekend is February 14-15, 2015.
Perhaps most important, don’t be afraid to try something new. Do not be afraid of the biga.
It’s almost that time of year! The 3rd Annual International Bake Bread Weekend (according to me) is this weekend, February 8-9.
So what is International Bake Bread Weekend? It’s an excuse–if you really need one–to make some kind of bread. It can be any kind of bread. And you can make it however your want–in a bread machine, in a mixer or food processor, or by hand. The idea is to make it, not how you make it. Your bread can be gluten-free if you want.
For some people, the idea of making bread is intimidating. Don’t let it be. It can be as simple or as complicated as you want it. It’s solid beer.
Make something you’ll like. Enjoy the process. And if you’ve never made food before, may it be the first of many loaves to come.
I belong to two wonderful bread-making groups on Facebook. Two methods/books are often the subject of much civil discussion. We have our favorites and accept the fact others might feel differently. It’s wonderful we feel free to share our preferences.
I’ve blogged before about Jim Lahey’s My Bread. Since I’ve been a part of these groups, I’ve learned a lot about Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza. I confess to not knowing much about the book until this group, but I soon decided to buy the book.
One of the first things I noticed about the book is his technique’s similarity to ones used by Peter Reinhart and Jim Lahey. There’s an autolyse and a long ferment. The long ferment is one of the things I love about Lahey’s recipes. He calls for a 12-14 hour ferment, but allows that it can take longer in the winter. The last few loaves of bread I’ve made using Lahey I’ve fermented for 20-24 hours! What wonderful taste development.
Back to Forkish. His method includes an autolyse period. Salt and yeast (if called for) are added to the dough using a pincer method. Yes, you turn your fingers into lobster claws and pinch the dough to add the salt and yeast. He calls for folding the dough periodically. It’s certainly not a complicated method.
I decided to make his pain de campagne, using his instructions for making a levain (sourdough starter). The above is a picture of it at Day 1. His levain instructions call for 500 grams whole wheat flour and 500 grams of water. I didn’t have 500 grams of whole wheat milled, so I used 456 grams of whole wheat and 44 grams of rye I had milled. Leave uncovered for an hour or two, and then cover and leave in a warm place for the next day.
On Days 2 through 4, you remove starter and add whole wheat flour and water. On Day 5–the day you can make bread–you use mostly white flour with a bit of whole wheat.
One of the most convenient things about Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza is that Forkish provides a sample schedule for making the bread. For example, for the bread I made, he suggests feeding Mrs. Hudson (my levain) at 8 a.m., mixing the final dough at 3 p.m., and form into loaves at 8. They proof overnight in the fridge and will be ready to bake the following morning between 8 and 10. Once you have some experience, you won’t need the schedule, but it helped me on this first foray into Forkish land.
As I waited until time to form, I have to admit I was doubtful this was going to work. I couldn’t imagine how this very hydrated blob would turn into bread. I folded diligently, and because I wasn’t sure what to expect–and because I bake my bread freeform–I was disappointed when I’d return to my dough tub and the nice ball of dough I’d made had flattened again. But I soldiered on.
Forkish uses bannetons/brotforms to shape his dough. So I did too. And here’s what my blobby dough looked like the next morning when I turned it out of the brotform.
Pretty cute, huh? And it looked even cuter when it came out of the oven.
And there’s a nice crumb structure. And most important, it tastes wonderful!
Forkish’s bread recipes make 2 loaves. I made one and saved the rest of Mrs. Hudson for future use.
Now, he calls for using a 12-quart round tub to mix his doughs. I bought one, but if you have a large rectangular one, that should work as well. The idea is to have one large enough to be able to do the folds in. This cuts down on the dishes to wash!
As for the levain, you do throw away a lot of it in the making phase. If you’ve made sourdough, you know that’s not abnormal. But it seems like more than most recipes I’ve found. Someone wrote that you don’t have to throw away as much (therefore not use as much flour), but I don’t really have the skill set to be able to figure out the ratios, etc.
My first time for Forkish bread has been a huge success, and I will certainly be making more. That doesn’t mean I’ll abandon Lahey. There is room for both of them as well as Reinhart.
It’s no secret. I love beans. All you have to do is look at my dried bean stash and the containers of bean-containing soup in my freezer to know that. And what’s not to like about beans? They’re versatile, healthy, easy to cook, and relatively inexpensive.
To digress a bit. I’ve noticed that some packages of dried beans are less expensive in the ethnic section of the store than they are in the regular “bean section.” At one of my markets, I’ve found I can save about 20 cents if I buy a 1-pound package of pinto beans, for example, in the ethnic section.
Anyway, as I was digging through the freezer the other day, I noticed I seemed to be playing favorites in my bean selection. Don’t get me wrong; though I have bags of several varieties of beans, I seem to keep grabbing the same kind over and over again. My bean of choice? Great Northern. This is a good, versatile bean that lends itself to a variety of flavor profiles. They make a great soup. And you can mash up cooked ones, add a few things, and end up with a tasty spread. Told you it was versatile.
I also have a couple containers of 3 bean soup, using light red kidney beans, pinto beans, and Great Northern. But I didn’t find any containers of soup using black beans. I like black beans, but for some reason, I seldom use them. Actually, I think about the only time I use them is when I add them to chili. (Yes, I’m one of them–I put beans in my chili.) I immediately decided I needed to give them some love.
My first inclination was to make a taco-type soup. But that would have required going outside, and well, it was cold out. I was also busy with editing, so I wanted something quick to put together and that I wouldn’t have to pay much attention to. Let me tell you, a slow cooker should be in everyone’s kitchen. Seriously. Of course the soup can be made on the stovetop, but then I would have had to pay attention to it.
Fortunately, I had this bean insight early in the morning, so I could soak the beans. I’ve discussed the benefits of soaking beans before, but in brief, soaking them make them more digestible.
Some of the ingredients seemed obvious. I drained and poured the beans into the slow cooker. I added chopped onions; no, I didn’t sweat them first. Into the pot went cumin and pepper. Normally I would have added some diced canned tomatoes, but I didn’t have any. But I did have tomatoes I dehydrated last season, so in they went. Then pour in enough stock to cover beans and friends by 2 inches.
I let the beans cook for about 4 hours on low. Keep in mind that not all slow cookers are created alike, so yours make cook faster or slower. The goal is to kick until almost tender. Then I added frozen corn kernels. If you have fresh, that’s great. If not, frozen is perfectly fine. Just don’t use commercially canned ones.
After another 30-45 minutes, the soup was ready to eat. Well almost. I added some hot sauce to my bowl, but that’s just me. This is one of those soups where, after the first taste, I have to ask myself, “Why don’t I make this more often?” Especially with homemade bread. This soup calls for a hearty, rustic bread.
You will notice I did not add salt. I found it really didn’t need it. Of course if you think it does, add to taste. Other vegetables can be added, as can salsa. Top it with some kimchi or sour cream. Make it yourself. It can be anything you want it to be.
Here’s my recipe for this version of Black Bean and Corn Soup.
I’ve mentioned the Facebook group Fermenters Kitchen before. Whether you’re new at fermenting, curing, and the like or an old hand, you can learn a lot from the members of that group. The monthly kitchen project is a lot of fun, too. This month’s required getting a duck, specifically duck breast. Why? Because we’re making duck prosciutto. I got a late start to the project, because I had a hard time finding a duck. Jane, who runs the group and the organizer of this project bought duck breasts. Nothing like that to be found here, so I bought the whole thing.
Now that I had a duck, I had to remove the breast meat.
I washed them off and dried them. The next step is familiar to anyone who has cured bacon. Yes, it gets a salt nap; I used sea salt. Pour a layer of salt on the bottom of a container, add the duck breasts, and then cover in salt. Then stick in the fridge, loosely covered, for 1 to 3 days.
Mine stayed in the salt for about 30 hours. I meant to keep it there for about 24 hours, but I got preoccupied.
After naptime, rinse and dry the breasts. It’s time to add the spices/herbs you like. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to add. I looked to see what I had and what might work. I pretty much went with the tried and true: black peppercorns, whole coriander, juniper berries, thyme, and rosemary. Now, instructions say to wrap in cheesecloth. Me? I put each one in a Soup Sock. I tend to guard my cheesecloth, since I need it for cheesemaking. Besides, it seemed so much easier to just stick in the breasts with their herb/spice companions. Weigh each breast, and put somewhere you’ll remember. I have a green erasable board attached to the side of the cheese cave, and I wrote them down there. I also wrote them elsewhere in case I brushed up against the board and make the figures unreadable. (Experience is the best teacher.)
Jane hangs her duck breasts over the crisper in her refrigerator. That’s really not an option for me, so I used my cheese cave.
There they will hang until they have lost 35 percent of their body weight.
Now that I know there is such things as duck prosciutto, I’ve run across many recipes for how to do it. Of course now my mind runs amok with ideas of other things to prosciutto-ize.