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Showing posts with label bread recipe. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bread recipe. Show all posts

Friday, September 25, 2020

Best Ever Sourdough Focaccia

Favorite Sourdough Focaccia

  • 400 g all-purpose flour
  • 150 g sourdough starter
    • I'm sure all of us started this thing when the quarantine began but if you don't have one, you can just omit this and up the yeast to 5 g
  • 260 g water, a little warmer than body temperature
  • 3 g yeast
  • 125 ml olive oil plus more for the pan
  • 3 g kosher salt
  • Herbs and such as needed
  • Salt and water for the brine
Combine the flour, sourdough starter, yeast, and water in the bowl of a standing mixer using the hook attachment and mix until just combined. Let it sit for about 10 minutes in the bowl to let the flour hydrate and the yeasts to get to know each other. When that timer is up, turn the mixer on to low speed and add in your salt and oil, and mix for five minutes. Then, mix for another 5 minutes on medium-high. Oil a clean bowl or a plastic container with a lid generously with more olive oil, using your hand. Use that same hand to scrape out your dough (so you won't stick) into the container and stick it in a warm place for about two hours, or until the dough doubles in size.

While we're waiting, let's get to the fun part...

Oil a new sheet pan quite generously and turn your dough out, as gently as possible, and pull it out to spread evenly. Oil more, and add your pretty ingredients. I cannot stress this enough if you are going to make lovely focaccia art, but it is absolutely imperative that you set in your picture now so that it can rise and stick when baked.

Focaccia art began circa April/May 2020, when the pandemic was really kicking into high gear. The trend has gone from Instagram to being all over Good Morning America, and even Buzzfeed's Tasty got in on the fun! Basically, you take a gorgeous focaccia loaf and create a lovely landscape using herbs, flowers, vegetables, and more. Now I was skeptical of this idea before because I subscribe to the belief that "every bite should taste the same" when it comes to bread. Once the boredom and existential dread set in, however, and I had more and more sourdough starter piling up, I frankly cracked and made one for myself. It was a big hit!

The reason I'm telling you this now is so you can look ahead for some inspiration! The flowers here on mine are made of sliced leeks and I used sliced green bird chilies here and there...and added leaves of spinach, parsley, cilantro, dill, and more. Many people use lovely fresh peppers and other vegetables to be atop their focaccia art, and I've joined in the fun on a couple of occasions. I do admit that I still believe that above all else bread should be tasty and while putting slices of raw peppers on a focaccia dough to let rise looks pretty cool I don't know how well it's going to taste. The taste of your item should absolutely reign as the supreme factor when it comes to food, leaving looks to be a close second. 

I'm sure that plenty of folks out there will tell you that you really need to think about what you want your garden landscape on the focaccia to look like far beforehand, and that's definitely true when it comes to just about any art project. Mise en place is a lifestyle/mentality that many chefs and cooks subscribe to! When it comes to this particular application, however, I personally prefer to let it develop organically, leaving it all dependant on what herbs I have in the garden that are ready to go. 

It's currently late September and I live in the North-Midwestern Americas, so I still have quite a few herbs, but the cooler weather of the midwest means that I have pansies. This means I get to put edible flowers on my focaccia! I invite you to look around in your own garden and see what edible flowers are available to you immediately. You likely will have pansies, marigolds, and roses...all of which are absolutely edible. 

As I mentioned before, the trick with focaccia art is that you must put on your flowers, herbs, etc., during the second proof so that when it rises, the herbs and flowers and such will really stick. Although I don't necessarily plan out everything meticulously, I certainly don't just slap stuff down willy-nilly either. To let it develop organically, I first decide on the visual orientation of the piece, be it portrait or landscape. Then, I take my biggest pieces or my most-colorful pieces of edible loveliness and pop that on first. In this one's case, the pansies were the biggest eye-catcher, so everything sort of developed around that. I also had these incredible nasturtiums that looked like tiny parasols, in a way, so that came on next. Then came the sage leaves, thyme, etc. 

Once you're happy with your focaccia garden landscape, spread olive oil lightly on the dough and cover with clingfilm and let rise again. You can let this hang out in the fridge for up to three hours if you did this early in the day and want to bake it freshly for dinner! If you just want to bake it soon, simply set it in a warm place for about an hour and a half, or until it looks very puffy. Everything will have risen together and your herbs, flowers, vegetables, etc., will not fall off! Don't forget to preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

When risen after the rest, dissolve two tablespoons of kosher salt in three tablespoons of hot water in a cup. Oil your fingers her her her and press dimples between the spaces of the pictures you have created. Spoon in the brine to the dimples. Let sit for another 5 minutes and oil well with even more olive oil. Add a few grinds of fresh pepper and bake at 425 degrees F for 20 minutes, rotating your sheet pan halfway between. 

I like to let my bread hang out and cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting, but make sure you get this off the sheet pan and onto a cooling rack sooner rather than later, lest you get a soggy bottom. 

Thanks so much for joining me here today! I hope this has inspired you. Please don't forget to share this around if you try it, and tag me on Instagram or Facebook to let me see your incredible creation. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Monday, July 27, 2020

Soft Cucumber Bread


So you're getting a lot of cucumbers from your Victory Garden. That's great! But also irritating. Maybe you're not even getting them from the garden but from your CSA, or your Farmer's Sampler Box that you've subscribed to? Either way, you have a problem and I want to help you solve it. What's the problem? Too many dang cucumbers!

You could make it into a salad, a tzatziki sauce, or even braise them. But what's really creative? How about making it into some steamed bread?

Note: I used my rice cooker to cook this, but if you have a large enough steamer that all of this will fit in, I do recommend that as well. I haven't ever baked this, so go ahead and tell me what happens if you do! Try a lower temperature of 325 degrees F with a pan of water underneath the rack in the oven.

Spongey and Soft Cucumber Bread

  • Roughly 500 g of cucumber, about 6 smaller ones or maybe 2 large ones...really, just use a scale
  • 30 g raw sugar or honey
  • 2 eggs 
    • I used duck eggs, but you can use chicken eggs if that's what you have
  • 5 g yeast
  • 300 g all-purpose flour
  • **Optional: 25 g sourdough starter
  • **Optional: sesame seeds and dried fruit, for fun
Measure your cucumbers on a scale and chop them up. Mix them with the sugar and eggs, just to break up the yolk and coat everything, and then pop everything in the blender. This is the fun part! 

Duck eggs have a larger yolk than chicken eggs, which means they are fattier and have a higher amount of omega-3s! Please note, duck eggs are much richer than chicken eggs, so they will change cakes slightly if used to bake with! 

You're going to want to start on low, and then move it up to medium-high speed. Make sure the stuff is incredibly smooth! The skin will blend just fine. Cucumber has high water content, so you don't need to add water to blend this into a liquid. The skin is packed full of nutrients, and the seeds - when crushed - will help release some good stuff as well. Don't stop blending until you know it's absolutely liquid, which should take about 2 minutes. I know it seems like a long time, but it's worth it.

Add your liquid to a large bowl. Sprinkle in the yeast, and stir. Add in your flour, and stir - with a spoon or a pair of chopsticks - gradually until it becomes quite a thick paste. You'll want some gluten, so the stirring will take a little time, about 3 minutes. When it becomes a thick and smooth paste, you may add in some dried fruit or sesame seeds, just in case you want a little extra flavor and crunch. 

Oil the pan you want to use. I would choose a tall cake pan with high sides, as this will rise - rather quickly, in fact - and double in size. It's a wet dough, so you won't be taking it out of the pan and shaping it for a second prove. This is more like a cake than it is a loaf of bread, but don't hold that against it. Either way, dump your lovely green paste into this pan, cover it, and leave it to proof in a warm place. It's rather quick to rise, so it shouldn't take more than an hour to double in size. 

While we're waiting, let's talk about farmer's boxes!

This is my Farmer's box from Prairie Birthday Farm, a local place not far from me!
I'm certain you're sick of me advocating for the local farmer and the slow-food movement right now. I know that it's not always the most accessible thing for folks in an urban area, that need to work 50+ hours per week, that are struggling to put food on the table as it is. I know it may sound like I'm out of touch to the financial realities of many; I assure you, I've had my fair share of struggles as well. I know that it's hard and emotionally draining to have to actively think about food when it's so much easier to just get a burger from any fast food joint that you have near you. The point is I don't feel right about preaching unless I'm willing to walk the talk, so here we go.

I usually get most of my produce from farmer's markets, but I am also aware of the lack of social distancing that might happen there. Any place that could gather large crowds I personally would rather avoid as much as possible right now, so I figured I'd go right to the source. This helps the farmer, too, as it cuts down on a lot of extra effort on their part! My personal favorite part of this entire thing was actually the nice drive up to the farm. I did have to take the highway for about 20 minutes, but the last 15 minutes of my journey was through gorgeous rolling farmland, and it was truly good for this tired soul. 

A Farmer's Box generally has goodies from the farm in bags, and it's whatever they have. As you can see, I've got plenty of gorgeous blossoms and microgreens, some long beans, a couple of Cucuzza squash, some pattypan squash, some squash blossoms, and - you guessed it - lots of cucumbers! And are those farm-fresh duck eggs you see in the top corner? They sure are. In fact, those are the same duck eggs featured in this recipe!

Now, this wouldn't normally be how I buy food and cook. That's okay! Now is the perfect time for me, and you, to explore a new way of cooking and eating that is not just more interesting, but more sustainable and truly seasonal to where I am in the world. It's a lovely and old way of eating. I know that this may seem daunting to the average bear, but this is why this blog exists: I do the work, you reap the benefits. 

Has your bread risen yet? If not, go ahead and check out this place here to see what options you have in your zip code. If you're in the Kansas City area, why not contact Prairie Birthday Farm and give them a try? Their Instagram is amazing!

This took about an hour to rise! So quick!
Add this immediately to your steamer or rice cooker and cook for about 40-45 minutes. Like I said earlier - if you want to try the oven, go for it! I've never done it before, so I'd really like to see how your results come in if you do. 

Evacuate from the cooking vessel of your choice, turn the bread out, and let cool on a rack until entirely cool. It's going to be incredibly springy and taste exactly like cucumber. Is this a good or bad thing? I think it's good!

So fragrant! It smells just like cucumber!

I love this recipe because it's a creative way to use up the cucumbers from a prolific group of plants. I use this bread with some lemon butter as a snack or toasted as sandwich bread for a chicken salad. I think it's a great snack that's just slightly sweet, so it'll scratch that mid-afternoon itch, or perhaps even that breakfast itch you might have. This makes delicious toast, especially with avocado or cream cheese. It's a healthy and fragrant bread that has potassium and vitamin C! 

I understand that this is a strange-sounding thing, but you never know you like something until you try it! Now is a perfect time to become a little more adventurous with your eating, and hone your cooking skills to boot.

You might love this bread cubed up and toasted with olive oil and herbs to make the most-amazing croutons you've ever had. You might love this as a sandwich. You might just love it as it is! You'll never know until you try.

Thank you so much for reading. I feel like I'm using my powers for good when I write about things that I'm passionate about. The farmer is the legs that our country stands upon and I believe that these people are owed respect. If we can all help out the farmer by changing up our diets just a little bit, I think we should do it. Remember, this is all about progress, not perfection. If we all, collectively, do a little bit to help our community, our farmer friends, and our planet by eating sustainably, then we can all make a big impact on this beautiful world we live in. Please note that corporations do exponentially more pollution than the individual does, so small changes for every person while you write letters and advocate for less pollution to your congresspeople is best. 

Thanks so much again for coming on this journey with me! Stay safe, stay happy, and stay healthy. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Easy Challah for Hanukkah

"Challah" at yo girl!
Happy 1st night of Hanukkah, my tchotchkes! I won't go into the whole history of the holiday, nor will I go on a long tangent on why it's the best. I'll just give you the important thing that you need to know to have a successful Hanukkah:

Deep. Fry. Everything.

The miracle of Hanukkah is that the oil in that sealed jug meant for their lanterns was only enough for one night, but it ended up lasting enough for eight nights, thus giving the Maccabees time to make more oil. There's actually a big long story along with it, but if you want to have a little fun while learning, watch this.

Yes, I did just show you a clip from "The Meanie of Hanukkah." As far as I can tell, it's all we have in the ways of popular culture. The point is that oil is important, and that's why we eat lots of deep-fried foods.The only real rule is to not mix meat with dairy.

A meat menu will often consist of a brisket or a roasted chicken to go along with the latkes and often a green vegetable. A dairy menu can have grilled salmon along with goat cheese and beet risotto or an egg dish with lots of cheese...and don't forget the kugel! Spruce Eats actually has a great selection of ideas for you. You can find my favorite latke recipe right here. If you're feeling fancy, I like to add dried dill. You can also find my easy vegan doughnut recipe right here, which I'll be making tonight to go with my fried chicken. Yum!

Challah is a traditional loaf of braided bread, made with eggs. This is my own version that's super easy, very flavorful, and relatively quick.

yields 1 loaf
  • 500 g AP flour
  • 6 g yeast
  • 1 fat pinch of salt
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 200 g warm water
  • 30 g kosher wine (a splash or two)
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil or vegan butter substitute
Combine everything in the bowl of your standing mixer and bring it together using a dough hook. You'll knead for about five minutes, or until it's nice and smooth and is gently crawling up your hook. If you'd like to add anything to your challah, such as sesame seeds or dried herbs, now would be the time. Just let it run for a few turns, just enough to mix them in. Oil a bowl and set your dough in a warm place to double in size. This is call prooving, because you prove that the yeast works. Hah!

Once that time has passed, divide your dough into thirds and braid. When you get to the end, turn - 

Eh? What's that? You don't know how to braid? Oh, dear. Well, here you go! Here's a tutorial on how to braid different kinds.

Now that that's all sorted, pop your bread loaf on a baking sheet and cover gently with a clean tea towel. While it's rising, let your oven come up to 400 degrees F. Prepare an egg wash of 1 egg plus a touch of salt and sugar, and maybe a tsp of water. Let that hang out until that has doubled in size, usually 30 to 45 minutes depending. Gently brush with your egg wash to give that glorious color and bake for 25 - 35 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 200 degrees F.

Let your challah cool on a rack and serve with your dinner. Enjoy playing with your dreidels and have a great night! Happy cooking, happy eating, and happy deep-frying!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Braided Basil Bread

Baking bread at home is one of the most rewarding feelings a food-lover can have. Have you looked at what's in bread in the grocery store, lately? Here's what's in Nature's Own Honey 7 Grain Bread:

Ingredients: Whole wheat flour, water, enriched flour (wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), wheat gluten, brown sugar, honey, sunflower seed kernels, yeast, rolled oats, contains 2% or less of each of the following: salt,soybean oil, cultured wheat flour, vinegar, dough conditioners (may contain one or more of the following: sodium stearoyl lactylate, calcium stearoyl-2-lactylatemono- and diglyceridescalcium peroxide, calcium iodate, DATEMethoxylated mono- and diglyceridesazodicarbonamide), wheat bran, rye flakes, barley flakes, soy flour, buckwheat flour, bulgur wheat, cracked wheat, triticale,yellow corn grits, millet, soy grits, ground flaxseed, brown rice flour, calcium sulfate, soy lecithin, wheat starch, enzymes.
What's a dough conditioner?

It's basically this thing that many professional bakeries use in their breads to keep it from going stale, or molding...a kind of preservative. It's why most commercially made breads are so soft and squishy! I couldn't tell you what some of the other stuff is, but I do know that soy lecithin is a kind of emulsifier. You can use lecithin to make foams, like this one!

That's fun! But not really necessary in bread, if you ask me.

The bottom line is that you can very easily make your own bread at home with a small amount of effort and a little patience. It's the original "set it and forget it" food. Here's how I made mine.

Braided Basil Bread
  • 500 grams flour(I used all-purpose, but bread flour is great, too!)
  • 6 grams of yeast
  • 300-ish grams of water at body temperature(about a cup...it's humid here, so I had to vary certain things)
  • 1 egg OR a big glug of canola/grapeseed oil(you'll want a little fat in this one)
  • 10 leaves of basil, chiffonade
  • 25 grams brown sugar
  • 1 fat pinch of kosher salt
  • 50 grams of flax seed**
Combine the flour and yeast in the bowl of your standing mixer, and mix for about 45 seconds with the dough hook. Add the sugar, mix for another 15 seconds, and add in your egg/oil. You use the oil in place of the egg to make this bread vegan, which I did for a friend. Yeast is vegan, so you're okay there! 

While all of this is mixing in, you gather your basil and begin to chiffonade. I had both Italian and Thai basil from the Overland Park Farmers' Market, which I had visited the day before. It was gathered in this gorgeous bouquet, and I took a few leaves from each. 

To chiffonade, simply gather the leaves and lay one on top of the other, and then sort of roll it all together to form a "cigar" of basil. Then slice thinly crosswise to create long ribbons. You can follow the video tutorial above if this description is too vague. Add your basil chiffonade to the flour-oil mixture as it's mixing.  You'll want any herbs you add to be chopped fine, but still big enough to be visible for the final product. You can use any herb you like in this recipe. In addition to basil, I used some chopped carrot greens, which were from my trip to the farmers' market. This is optional, of course, and you can use whatever you like in this recipe. You can also add in about four cloves of garlic, that have been crushed, and then roughly chopped to this recipe, if you like.  The idea is to create a flavor profile that the yeast will feed off of, and thus flavor your bread.

Yeast are single-celled organisms that lay dormant in their little prison of the fridge, or the packet. Here in the United States, we mostly use dry-instant yeast, that's activated by putting in warm water. Yeast dies at 114 degrees F, though, so you don't want it too hot! Actually, if you use cool water, the bread will proof at a slower rate, and thus create more flavor. I personally prefer water that's at body temperature, which just means that the water shouldn't feel warm, but shouldn't feel cool.

Add in your water, now, and continue to mix. If you're using flax seed, go ahead and add it now. You don't have to add flax seed, but I like the extra little bit of fiber that it gives me. You can also use sunflower seeds, or any combination of chopped nuts, so long as it's a small amount. You may have to add more water, or more flour, depending on how humid your environment is, but it should form a round ball that climbs your dough hook with ease. Take your time to scrape down the dough hook every few minutes or so.
Thank you, TheFreshLoaf.com!

When the bread feels ready, take a tiny ball of it and roll it in your hands, then stretch it with your fingers and hold it up to the light. This is called the windowpane test, and it tells you when glutens have formed. You're looking for spider-y veins and glumps in your dough, and it shouldn't tear when stretched. If there are tears, keep kneading.

Gluten is your friend in this endeavor. Gluten is this wonderful protein web that traps in all of that gas that the yeast is forming by eating your flour, your sugar, your herbs and garlic and whatnot. The reason you want to flavor your bread now, while the yeast is still dormant, is that you want them to wake up and snack on that lovely basil. When it eats your flavoring agents(be they veggies or flour alone), it'll burp and fart and all of that gas it creates will be flavored with whatever you put it in, and thus perfume your entire loaf with yummy goodness!

Once your dough is ready, oil up a clean bowl(or just re-use your standing mixer bowl, just lube it up) with your fat of choice, set your nice ball of dough inside, all slathered with fat, and set in a warm place. I heat my oven to 250-300 degrees and just set it on the stove top, and cover it with a clean tea towel. You can use plastic wrap if you don't have a tea towel, of course.

This next bit is called proofing, and it'll take about an hour, depending on how warm or cool your environment is. If you house is warm, you can set it by a window and go grocery shopping. I've even been known to set a ball of dough out on the balcony when I was living in my apartment for heat. Either way, when the dough has doubled in size, now is the time for punching and shaping.

Remove your dough and set on a clean work surface. I used my linoleum counter tops, which didn't require flouring because of how much fat was on my dough. I braided mine into a four-strand loaf braid, but you can do a three strand, or just simply roll into a single loaf. The one thing you must do, no matter what, is punch down the dough so that the air bubbles pop. This is to create an even rise, and to create even more flavor. The little yeast-ies will keep on eating, keep on belching...after all, you've given them quite a bit to chew on! Whatever shape you decide on for your bread, make sure that it's set on your baking sheet tray with plenty of oil/panspray/whatever smack dab in the middle, so it has room to rise and double. Yes, you're doubling it again.

Here's an image tutorial that I snagged from PopSugar.com on how to braid a 4-strand challah loaf.

And here's a gorgeous pic from JournalsofaFrenchFoodie.com on how to do a 6-strand braid!

You can spend all day on google finding bread shapes, or just punch it down, roll it into a ball, and let it go to town. I preferred the 4-strand braid, as it's the shape I learned when I was in Culinary School. If you do choose a braid, make sure you pinch the ends together nice and hard, and then tuck under, nice and tight, so it won't come undone once proofed.

Cover your loaf with plastic(or your tea towel again) and let it set for another hour in that same warm place..or just until it's doubled. It'll be quite clear when it's ready to go into the oven, because it'll look like it's about to pop.

Is that a 4-strand braided loaf or are you just happy to see me...?
It's at this point you can choose to brush your loaf with oil, with egg wash, etc., for an extra something. You can brush with olive oil and set cracked black pepper and kosher salt on top, or more chopped herbs. I left mine plain so you could see what it looks like, just plain baked. Put in your oven at 400 degrees F, and let bake until the crust is golden-brown and it sounds hollow when knocked on. Mine took about 30 minutes, but yours might take more or less. Just check it in 20 minutes and see where you are.
Nobody likes a soggy bottom...

Protip: If you don't have a cooling rack(like I don't), flip your loaf over so that the bottom can cool without steam forming. This way, you prevent a soggy-bottomed bread!

If you do have a cooling rack, just use that. The idea is to get air flowing all round your bread, so that your crust cools nicely!

Let cool completely before cutting. I know that the temptation is horrifically great, but you must resist! Resist until it's, at least, room temperature. The bubbles that your yeast worked so hard to form are setting now, and if you cut while too hot, the bubbles will collapse and you'll have squishy, tragically soggy, no-good-for-spreading-butter-on bread. I ended up setting mine on my kitchen table, upside down, for about 20 minutes before I cracked.

Check out that gorgeous-ness! That's a beautiful, fine-bubble! You'll want those fine bubbles in that bread, as a sign that you've done your right job in your first initial punching. The bubbles that rise first are big and uneven, and when  you've punched them down for the second proofing, they'll become more small and uniform. You see these small, uniform bubbles in cakes, too!

This bread is delicious on its own, just with  butter, or as toast spread with some delicious rose petal jam. You can use this bread for anything, really, that you would use normal store-bought bread. Sandwiches? Sure. Toast? Of course. A light snack? Absolutely!

I cannot stress enough that eating healthy is not about starving yourself, but about having full control as to whatever it is that goes into your body. What went into your body when you ate this bread? Well, let's see...basil, flour, salt, a little yeast, and that's essentially it. You didn't add lecithins or poly-sorbinates or whatever-the-fuck goes into commercially-made bread. You made this. You did. You're amazing. Go, you! Now share this with your kids! Or with  your friends! Or use it to make a grilled cheese sandwich! Or hollow it out and fill it with chili! I won't judge.

Nothing like a grilled cheese sandwich and some Sun Tea to make a great lunch...