Friday, July 30, 2010

Summer Simple Soup

When it was lunchtime today nothing sounded right until I thought of soup. It wasn't really cold enough for the warmth of soup but somehow I just wanted the softness and variety of a good vegetable soup. I also found a can of cannellini white beans in the pantry to throw in. Combined with the corn and the chicken broth there was plenty of protein and flavor, too.

This time of year is so wonderful for having a variety of veggies to use in dishes. Sweetie bought some local red onions from the fellow who sells the amazing strawberries so I started with red onions. I have small sweet carrots, fresh corn, just picked garden zucchini squash and some red peppers from the market. Our tomatoes have suffered from the long cool spring and unseasonable summer and are still hard and green, but the market had some nice vine ripened ones from southern California, so I add some diced fresh tomatoes.

This soup goes together quickly and you can adjust the amounts to suit your taste. You can add different or additional fresh herbs...some fresh basil would be great with this soup! Wish I'd had some available but the basil I planted was done in by the cold and wet spring weather.

You can add some leftover cubes chicken or turkey. I topped my bowl with about a tablespoon of chopped prosciutto that I had crisped in a frying pan. (Then I went looking for my camera and Sweetie asked me to come look at some trim in the bathroom first, so by the time I took the picture the crispness was all gone...the joys of remodeling!) There are lots of ways to make this your personal simple summertime soup. It makes just enough for two, so share it with your Sweetie (or save for another lunch).

Simple Summertime Soup for Two

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 red onion, peeled and chopped
2-3 small carrots, peeled, halved and chopped
1/4 cup diced red pepper
1/2 cup sliced quartered zucchini
kernels from one ear of corn or 1/2 can of canned corn
1/2 fresh tomato in small dice, including the juices
1 can cannellini beans, well rinsed and drained
1 can (about 2 cups) chicken broth
1/8 teaspoon ground sage
1 teaspoon minced fresh Italian parsley
salt and pepper to taste

In a saucepan saute' the red onion, carrots and red pepper in the olive oil until soft, about 3-5 minutes. Add the zucchini, corn and tomato and cook another 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the cannellini beans, chicken broth, sage, parsley and salt and pepper, stir to combine and heat the soup through. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve at once.

Can be garnished with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, some diced ham, chicken or turkey, or cooked bacon, pancetta or prosciutto and/or more parsley.

Serves 2.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Lets Bring Back Picnics

Somewhere recently I read that picnics are falling out of favor with the younger crowd. Couldn't tell you if that is true, but I support that author's call to bring back old-fashioned picnics where you pile a basket or tote with lots of home made goodies to eat and a cooler with stuff to drink and then you spread out a blanket or table cloth and set out the feast. Smart folks picnic where there are picnic tables so that you get to sit on a bench and the table keeps the olives from rolling all over the place like they tend to do on that picnic cloth on the grass.

One of my nephews is coming to visit next month and we hope to go on at least one picnic. I'm a firm believer that visitors make for the perfect excuse to throw normal day to day living to the winds and to pretend that I'm a tourist and on vacation, too. We also hope to go to San Francisco and probably an excursion through the redwoods and to a county fair and maybe a ferry ride.

When you have been working hard all day and have no actual energy to bake or cook anything beyond the basics, its the perfect time to browse cookbooks. Little chance of jumping up to bake those gorgeous brownies, but a good chance of being inspired for another day.

That's what happened this week. I keep hearing about Beth Hensperger the bread baker and how great her recipes are so I too her book, The Bread Bible out of the library and found the perfect recipe for one of those picnics I have planned. She even has a section of the book called Savory Special Occasions: Picnic Breads, which makes it easy should we have more than one picnic.

The loaf I decided to pre-screen, so to speak, is a wonderful, aromatic, savory thing called Sausage Bread. It is basically pizza dough rolled up with a sausage onion filling and twirled into a snail shape and then baked to a golden brown.

As is often the case, I jazzed it up a bit right from the start. To begin with I started with her Basic Pizza Dough, but I wanted to use my sourdough starter. The starter had already been enriched with a feeding of flour and water a few days before. I wanted to use some whole wheat flour and semolina flour, too. The olive oil remained the same...something had to. These changes made for a delightful pizza dough that was easy to work with and full of flavor.

For the filling I again changed things a bit. I used less sausage and more onion than called for and included some minced Italian parsley and some fresh baby spinach which I steamed, squeezed dry and chopped. I was tempted to add some shredded mozzarella, but decided I had enough filling.

I also changed the order of cooking, sauteing the onions first because the Italian turkey sausage that I get at Willie Bird's has very little fat to render. I used some olive oil to saute' the onions, then browned the turkey separately. Because there was a lot of filling, I also rolled the dough out larger than called for. Where that made the dough a little thinner you can see the filling showing through a little bit.

This is great stuff! When Sweetie and I first had some it was still a little warmer than it should have been, but the aromas were just too good to wait. Later I had a slice that was just slightly warm and I liked that even better. Sweetie had some for lunch reheated today and he was quite pleased with the improvement in taste. Don't you find that almost anything with onions in it tastes even better the next day?

I loved the swirls of filling and dough and this will make a super picnic bread because it tastes fine at room temperature, too. Since there is only one rise for the dough and one rise for the filled bread this one goes together pretty quickly, too (for yeasted bread), so give it a try. You'll be glad you did!
I'm sending this along to Susan at Wild Yeast for her Yeastspotting event...the most inspirational yeasted bread event around.

Sausage Picnic Bread
Based on recipes in Beth Hensperger's book The Bread Bible

1 recipe Pizza Dough (below)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 pound sweet turkey Italian sausage
2-3 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 large handful fresh baby spinach (1/4 cup once steamed and chopped)
garlic salt (optional)

Prepare the pizza dough and let it rise. Meanwhile, place a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil and saute’ the onion until transluscent, about 5 minutes, stirring to keep it from browning. During the last minute, stir in the Italian parsley and toss it with the onions to combine. Remove to a wide plate and spread to cool.

In the same pan crumble the sausage (remove casings if there are any) and saute’ until the meat is cooked through. If there is a lot of fat rendered, scoop the cooked meat out with a slotted spoon to leave the excess in the pan. Place on another large plate and spread out to cool.

Steam the spinach until fully wilted. Place on a towel and roll up and squeeze well to remove as much spinach juice as possible. Transfer from towel to cutting board and chop spinach. Add it to the meat, add the cooled onion mixture to the meat and stir to combine all the ingredients. Cool to room temperature.

Turn the risen dough out onto a floured work surface. With a rolling pin, roll out the dough to a rectangle. The recipe called for 14 by 10 but I rolled mine out to about 17 by 14 inches. Spread the sausage filling evenly over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border all around.

Beginning at the long edge, roll up jelly-roll fashion to forma long, tight loaf. Pinch the edges and bottom seam tightly to seal.
Place a piece of parchment on a pizza peel or large baking sheet. Put the roll, seam side down onto the parchment and coil the roll into a spiral or snail shape, tucking the outer end under.

Brush the top with olive oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F, with a baking stone set on the center rack if available.

Remove the plastic wrap gently. Brush the top again with olive oil and bake in the center of the oven until brown and firm to the touch, 45 – 5 minutes. Remove from the baking sheet to cool on a wire rack before slicing. If you use a baking stone, you can slide the parchment with the snail onto the baking stone and when done slide the parchment back onto the pizza peel or baking sheet, then onto the rack to cool.

Serve warm or at room temperature, spread with mustard if desired. Store, wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator, for up to 2 days. Makes one large loaf.

Sourdough Pizza Dough
based on Basic Pizza Dough in Beth Hensperger’s The Bread Bible cookbook

1 cup sourdough starter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup water
½ cup warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 ½ cups bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
½ cup semolina flour

Place the sourdough starter in a medium bowl. In another bowl whisk together the all-purpose flour and the water. Whisk the flour/water mixture into the sourdough starter. Let sit, uncovered 2 hours (or overnight in the refrigerator).

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer combine the sourdough mixture, the warm water and the olive oil.

In another bowl or large glass measuring cup, whisk together the bread flour, whole wheat flour and semolina flour. Using a wooden spoon, stir about 1 to 1 ½ cups of the flour mixture into the mixture in the stand mixer bowl, until a very soft dough is formed. Using the dough hook and on a low speed, add the rest of the flour mixture, a little at a time, to form a firm dough that cleans the side of the bowl. Add additional bread flour, a tablespoon at a time if necessary. Let the machine knead the dough for 8-10 minutes until satiny. Remove to an oiled bowl or other rising container and turn to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in bulk, about an hour to an hour and a half.

Use in your favorite pizza recipe.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Peach of Perfection

Don't know about you but I always get seduced this time of year in the produce section. Those blueberries look wonderful, no wait, I should get the apricots, but look at those lovely watermelons, no the peaches are even better...and so it goes.

If I buy everything that looks good I never have the time to play with it all in the kitchen. We have lots of yummy fruit cups and fruit salads anyway, but I want to bake with some of the fruit.

This time it was the perfectly ripe freestone peaches that took my fancy. Usually peaches at the store are rock hard and you have to go to the farmers market for ripe ones. This time there were plenty and plenty of firm but ripe peaches with that wonderful aroma that you only get when they are at the peak of perfection. I bought way too many, but who can resist?

I've eaten most of them as it, with sweet, sticky juice running down my hand and chin as I bite into them. One of the plum trees down the hill also has ripe fruit. That is why last night, after a full day of work, I stood at the kitchen counter peeling peaches and plums and concocting a freeform pie.

Somewhere recently I read on a blog that you can bake your streusel before using it. I always put it on raw and let it bake with whatever dish I'm baking but this time I decided to try topping the pie with baked streusel because the pie wasn't going to bake long enough to really crisp up the streusel if it was uncooked.

I decided to put a ricotta and egg mixture, sweetened with a little sugar and spiked with lemon zest, on the bottom to cradle the peach slices. If I make this again I'll drain the ricotta the day was too watery and so the bottom crust didn't cook properly, even placed on a preheated baking stone.

The sliced fruit could have been piled onto the ricotta which had been swirled over much of the rolled out pie dough, but I decided to place them in a single layer so that the pie could be in the oven a shorter time. Didn't want to curdle the ricotta.

Since this is a freeform pie, the outer four inches is left free of filling and is pulled up to cover the outer section of the fruit and filling. I scattered the streusel over the center section with only a little going under the crust. After pleating the crust and giving it all an egg wash, into the oven it went! I used high heat so that the pie crust would brown up and get flaky quickly. That part worked like a charm.

This was a delightful pie with warm, sweet, perfect peaches and plums complemented by a creamy filling and crunchy sweet streusel and flaky, tender crust. The extra streusel would be good for making a fruit and ice cream semifreddo or a fruit and yogurt parfait...or eating out of hand, which is what I did while the pie was cooling.

You can use this idea for lots of pies, just change out the fruits. It would be great with apricots or blueberries or blackberries or raspberries or cherries...and divine with sliced apples and some cinnamon in the streusel. If you do the latter, pre-cook the apples. You only want to bake it long enough to cook the pie dough.

I wish I could remember the blog where I got the idea to bake the streusel first so I could give them credit.
Otherwise this recipe is off the top of my head. BTW, you can substitute other nuts for the walnuts in the streusel. How about pistachios with apricots or almonds with cherries?

Peak of Perfection Peach and Plum Freeform Pie with Fresh Nutmeg Streusel

Fresh Nutmeg Streusel
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup walnuts
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons butter, cold
½ cup brown sugar
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Unbaked dough for a single crust pie- your favorite recipe or use Pillsbury Readycrust as I did

3-6 ripe peaches, peeled and sliced
2-3 ripe Santa Rosa plums, peeled and sliced
1 cup ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg
zest of ½ lemon

Egg Wash: 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees while you prepare the streusel. Line a half sheet or jelly roll pan with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat. Set aside.

In a food processor pulse together all of the streusel ingredients until the mixture clumps. To make without a food processor, chop the nuts finely and use a pastry blender or two knives to cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture clumps.

Spread the streusel mixture out on the pan, leaving it in clumps and globs, but breaking them down if bigger than your thumb. Bake in preheated oven for 10 – 15 minutes until golden to medium brown. Remove from oven. Mixture may have spread. Use a small spatula to break the mixture up if pieces have gotten larger than your thumb. Let cool.

On a lightly floured surface roll out the pie dough into a circle about 14 inches in diameter. Transfer to a piece of parchment paper slightly larger than the dough circle. Place the parchment on a pizza peel or baking sheet with no rims or back of a rimmed baking sheet.

In a small bowl combine the ricotta, sugar, egg and lemon zest. Pour the mixture into the center of the prepared pie dough.

Using the back of a spoon, spread the cheese mixture over the dough circle, leaving a 4 inch strip along the edge free of filling.

Place the peach and plum slices in concentric circles over the filling, starting at the outer edge and working in.

Sprinkle streusel clumps over the center section of fruit, leaving about 3 inches along the edges of the fruit with no streusel.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F, placing a baking stone in the center of the top rack, which has been set in the center of the oven. If you don’t have a baking stone, place a large baking sheet in the oven to preheat.
Returning to the fruit and streusel filled dough circle, fold up the unfilled edge of pie dough.

You will need to pleat the edge as you go along. Use water to lightly wet the surface of the overlapping dough and press lightly to seal. Continue until all unfilled dough has been folded toward the center. Paint the dough with an egg wash. Place pie in oven, sliding the parchment onto the baking stone or large baking sheet.

Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly before slicing.

Makes one 10-inch freeform pie.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Gulp...Grilled Pizza

Perhaps those who have followed this blog for a while think that I am fearless in the culinary arena since I often change recipes I've never made before and jump right in to the Daring Bakers ...and now the Bread Baking Babes, too...challenges. Mostly that's true, but there are some things that I've been too chicken to try.

Grilled pizza is one of them. One reason is probably because Sweetie is soooo great at grilling things, so I never have developed a comfort level about grilling things in general. Another on is that I've always had this image of a fully loaded pizza sliding through the grill grates and catching fire on my first try. That's enough to give me pause. Even when I was successful with pizza baked in the oven I was still really nervous about trying it on the grill.

This morning I woke up and decided that today I was going to stare down my fear of grilling pizza and give it a try. During the past week I have been reading online recipes and an Alton Brown one to get some ideas on how others have done it. I went to the store and bought the things I wanted to put on the pizzas. This morning I made the dough, using a recipe in Alton Brown's Gear For Your Kitchen book. After it doubled in size I tucked it in the fridge so I could keep scraping paint on the bathroom window in preparation for putting on new paint this week.

Late this afternoon, when the sun was turning everything golden and the shadows were lengthening (both of which made photographing the pizza process problematic, so be kind when you look at the photos, 'kay?), I rolled out the dough to make four smaller pizzas, assembled everything else and headed for the grill.

As I read through others' recipes I had collected some tips:
1) Have everything you need at the ready once you put the dough on the grill...things go quickly.
2) Put the dough on parchment and oil one side of the dough. Put the oiled side down on the grill first. That way you don't have to oil the grill gratings.

3) Pay attention. Depending on the heat of your grill things can go quickly or more slowly.
4) Have a very large spatula to turn the dough rounds, and to remove the finished pizza. Having a cutting board hand to slide the finished pizzas on for cutting is a great idea, too.

So I started the grill and let it preheat, then went to the kitchen and brought out the toppings, the olive oil, the pastry brush, the cutting board and pizza cutter and a large spatula like thing that is almost as big as a small cookie sheet.

Once the grill was hot enough, I oiled the dough, took each piece and placed it oiled side down and then shut the grill cover. It didn't take very long before the wonderful bread baking smell wafted out. I opened the cover and saw that the dough had I turned the two pieces over (I baked two at a time which was the best amount for my size grill). At that point Sweetie came to see what I was doing so I let him help load toppings on top of the pasta sauce I had just spread on the grilled dough.

He went a bit overboard, so the first two pizzas were fully loaded...lots of thinly sliced zucchini, red onion and mushrooms, slices of pepperoni, a few strips of prosciutto, some pine nuts, shredded mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.

He turned the heat up a bit because with all those toppings it was taking the cheese a while to melt and the crust was getting a bit burnt. Guess regulating the heat is something I still need to learn about.

Once those came off the grill we put on the other two pieces, oiled side down just like the first two. Once they were turned they got the pasta sauce but less toppings...just the thinly sliced pepperoni and prosciutto and the two shredded cheeses. The cheese melted more quickly, so these had nice crunchy but not burnt crusts.

I enjoyed both versions and am happy to report that I didn't dump anything into the insides of the grill. It may take another few tries to figure how to regulate the heat better and I will roll the crust thinner next time, too, but I'm no longer afraid to grill pizzas. I could figure out a sourdough version of the pizza dough. Maybe a sweet version with ricotta cheese and fresh fruit. Sweetie may find that his grill has been commandeered by yours truly.

This is absolutely a High Five personal challenge...just wish I had been brave sooner...these were great pizzas! Sending this to the lovely and talented and newly blessed Lynn of Cookie Baker Lynn.

Also sending this over to Susan of Wild Yeast for Yeastspotting, a weekly wonderland of great yeasted inspiration. Her post on grilled pizza (well, two posts actually) gave me hope that I could do this. Thank you Susan!

Last but hardly least this is my entry for Bread Baking Day #32 - Italian Bread since there is hardly anything more Italian than pizza.

Grill-Friendly Pizza Dough
from Alton Brown's Gear For Your Kitchen

1 packet instant yeast (about 2 1/2 oz or 7 gm)
1 pound all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading and rolling out
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 cup hot water
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more to oil the dough before putting on the grill

Combine the yeast, flour, sugar, and salt, in that order, in a large mixing bowl. In a small mixing bowl combine the water and olive oil and then stir the liquid mixture into the flour mixture with a large wooden spoon until a dough starts to form. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead by hand for 10 minutes, or until the dough develops a silky texture.

Oil the surface of the dough and place it in another large mixing bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours. Divide the dough in half and with a rolling pin roll the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.(I made mine into four smaller pieces and when they were rolled out placed them onto sheets of parchment, keeping a tea towel over them until ready to grill. I oiled the dough while still on the parchment before placing, oiled side down on the prepared grill.)

Heat grill to medium-low. Oil one side of the dough. Place on grill, oiled side down. Cook the dough on one side until firm and lightly browned, then turn, add your favorite toppings, and cook until lightly browned on the other side and toppings heated through. Remove to cutting board, but and serve right away.

Yield:Two 12-inch pizzas

Saturday, July 17, 2010

An Invitation and A Weekend Cat Blog Post

The Bread Baking Babes (and I still am confounded that I'm one of them) invite you to help us celebrate our 3rd anniversary.

In the words of awesome Babe Tanna of My Kitchen in Half Cups' ,
" We’d like you, everyone of you, to put your thinking caps on pull out all your bread books and recipes and no not pick our next bread ... we want you to pick our Anniversary Bread for February 2011. That’s right, come about November, we’re going to ask you to mail us the recipe that you love the most or the recipe that scares you the most

What's your favorite bread?
What bread haven't you ever been able to get to turn out the way you want?
What bread scares you the most?
What's the bread recipe you've baked the most?
What bread do you dream about baking?

Then in December, we'll ask you, our readers, to vote on one. We'll bake and post the bread for our anniversary in February. "

So think about what you would like to see a group of pretty experience bread bakers create and check back in a few months to see how to give us the details...I know you must have some excellent ideas!

This is also a day for memories and memorials. We carry Max with us all the time, but especially today...11 years. We love you, Max!

A lovely blogger who was also a great bread baker and is the Angel Babe, Sher, was a force behind Weekend Cat Blogging. In her honor I'm posting a photo of supercat Merlin, better know as Buggie for Love Bug, which is my daughter's name for him.

He is one happy cat!

To see more Weekend Cat Blogging entries, go over to Astrid's blog, Paulchen's Foodblog. The link is with the Bread Baking Babes at the right. Since Sher was also a great cook, you might want to make a dish she enjoyed. I blogged one, with a slight variation in fruit, here. They are awesome meatballs and the plums are right in season, too.
I think Sher would have liked them!

Hope you have a happy day and think for a few moments to remember someone special to you who is no longer with us and that the memories bring you happiness, even if bittersweet at times.

XO Elle

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Bread Baking Babes Bootcamp

Being invited to be a Bread Baking Babe is awesome! I have long admired the women in this group and their passion for bread, friendship and hilarity. Besides, I finally get to be a Babe! How could I say ‘no’ to the invitation?

Turns out that the first bread of my babehood is a kind of boot camp bread. No flour, only a little yeast, some salt and honey…and that’s it! Well, that and the cute little hard wheat berries. Sprouting them and then making a dough with the sprouted wheat, the water, yeast, salt and honey was the challenge and it was an act of faith most of the way. Guess newbies need a good challenge to toughen them up.

Sarge Lynn of Cookie Baker Lynn (if you know Lynn you may be laughing now...not really Sarge material) was the hostess this month and I’m actually glad that she chose this bread from Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book. One of the best things about this group…now my group, too!.. is that we push the envelope, try new flours, pans, techniques and kinds of bread…never boring.

Soaking the berries was easy and I had too much success with the sprouting. Thursday morning they had nice little tails, although perhaps a shade too long. By the time I got home from work they were really hairy little devils. By the time they had sat in the fridge overnight the berries were swollen and they were really sprouted! Unfortunately that sometimes means they are past the point where they will make decent bread.

The next incomprehensible thing was that these sprouted beauties were going to turn into a nice ball of dough if I whirled them the right way in a food-processor…not too long, just long enough. Not sure if I even came close, but I ended up with a ‘dough’ that seemed liked cold cooked cracked wheat. No gluten strands that I could see, but what the hay, into the rising bucket with this mass!

A couple of hours later it had, indeed, risen about a half inch and gave the sigh when poked, so I turned it out onto a floured board, flattened it, rounded it off and let it rise again.

Fingers crossed! Where is that glass of wine? Who cares if it’s only 11 am?

Well, it rose about an inch in two plus hours, so I decided to knead it and shape it into a loaf. Since it was so wet, I used my bench scraper to knead with at first. Eventually it seemed more like a dough and I was able to knead it with my damp hands, but it never seemed to have very much in the way of gluten. Shaped it into a loaf and plopped it into the bread pan.

Now we get to see if it actually rises more than an inch.

Left it to rise in the pan and it did rise from about an inch and a half below the pan edge to just over the pan edge. Into the preheated oven with this puppy!

Sigh, no oven spring at all. Even with interior registering 205 degrees F, the center …actually most of the loaf!...was wet and gummy, even when the edges of the crust were starting to burn.

Cooled it down completely, then sliced some. More like cooked cereal with a thin crust than bread Babes

Sweetie loved it warmed with butter, but I fed most of my slice to the dog.

Due to paid work and unpaid work (the remodel ) I didn’t really have time to try this again, but I will. The flavor was great and I love the idea and I know some of the Babes had success, so it can be (and will be) done. This is a sad Babe, but determined, too. Do check out the other Babes and see how this bread should look. The links are on the sidebar.

If you'd like to be a Buddy...and I do encourge you to show me up and make a great version of this bread as some of the Babes have...go to Cookie Baker Lynn's blog for the details. The recipe is below.

Still in Babe Boot Camp I guess. Off to sip some wine and contemplate the next challenge.

Lynn wrote:"We are the mighty Babes. In the kitchen, we are invincible. We can bake without gluten, we can bake without yeast. Can we bake without flour? Yes!

In July we're going to tackle making bread straight from the grain. Sprouted Wheat Bread. It makes me feel a bit like a hippie, but I'm excited to try it. This recipe is from Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book. I've included directions for using a food processor. If you need different directions, let me know.

Yeasted Sprouted Wheat Bread
- from Laurel’s Kitchen bread book

makes 1 loaf

3 cups hard spring wheat berries (1-1/4 lb or 575 g), about 6 cups sprouted
1 tsp active dry yeast (1/8 oz or 3.5 g)
2 Tbsp warm water (30 ml)
2 tsp salt (11 g)
3 scant Tbsp honey (40 ml)

To sprout the wheat:

Rinse the grain and cover with tepid water, letting it stand 12 to 18 hours at room temperature. Allow the longer period in cooler weather, the shorter period in warm.

Drain off the liquid, rinse the grain with fresh, tepid water, and store in a dark place with a damp cloth over the top of the container. Rinse at least every 12 hours, just until the tiny sprout is barely beginning to show and the grain itself is tender - about 48 hours, then refrigerate until they are cool, overnight or longer, but not more than a day or two.

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water.

Put the regular cutting blade into a standard-size food processor and measure just over 2 cups of the sprouted wheat, a third of the total, into the bowl. Pour about 2 tsp of the dissolved yeast liquid, a scant Tbsp of honey, and about 2/3 tsp of salt over the wheat in the bowl. To protect the yeast, use separate measuring spoons for each of the ingredients.

Process until the ground wheat forms a ball, about one minute. Scrape the sides of the bowl, and process about two more minutes. Stop processing before the ball completely falls apart; if your wheat is not exceptionally high in protein a minute and a half might be all it can handle. If it falls apart, check the time, and with the next two batches, stop a little sooner.

Repeat with the remaining two-thirds of the ingredients, in two batches. Knead the three dough balls together.

Form the dough into a ball and place it smooth side up in the bowl. Cover and keep in a warm draft-free place. After about an hour and a half, gently poke the center of the dough about 1/2 inch deep with your wet finger. If the hole doesn’t fill in at all or if the dough sighs, it is ready for the next step.

Press flat, form into a smooth round, and let the dough rise once more as before. If the dough is cold, the first rise will be fairly slow, but as the dough warms up, the rising will telescope.

Gently knead into a round. Use water on your hands to prevent sticking, and keep the ball as smooth as possible. Let it rest until it regains its suppleness while you grease a standard 8 x 4-inch loaf pan, pie tin, or a cookie sheet.
Deflate the dough and shape into a loaf. Place the dough into the greased loaf pan and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until the dough slowly returns a gently made fingerprint. Bake about an hour at 350 deg. F, though if your bread rises very high, it will take less than that.


So the things that seem to be important are to only sprout the berries until they just begin to show white nubs at the tips, be sure to process long enough for gluten strands to form, try baking the bread at a lower temperature and/or remove the loaf from the pan about 10 minutes before it should be done, place it on a baking stone and keep baking! I wish you a hearty, delicious loaf and a good Buddy experience!

XO Elle

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Warm Raspberries

Being in the midst of berry season is a great place to be. Prices at the stores are reasonable, the blackberries in the lower field and by the apple tree are prolific this year due to all the spring rains, and Costco recently had 6 half pints of beautiful ripe red raspberries for a very low amount of dough so I have had more than enough raspberries to have fun with than ever!

I enjoy most berries both fresh and cooked but I have preferences, too. Strawberries taste best to me when they are fresh and untouched, although I enjoy them chilled, too. Blackberries are great either cooked or uncooked, especially combined with other fruits. Blueberries seem to expand their flavor when warmed…think blueberry muffin and you’ll know what I mean. And then there are warm raspberries, Mmmmmm!

Raspberries are most enjoyable (to my way of thinking) cooked. The heat releases that wonderful fragrance and intensifies their sweet, unforgettable flavor.

To celebrate my windfall of raspberries I got my warm raspberry fix. Just after July 4th weekend I baked some in a delightful fresh coffee cake with a crunchy streusel topping. The unbeatable Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: from my home to yours has a great recipe for Blueberry Crumb Cake and the same recipe can be played with using…tada!...raspberries…and fresh peach chunks for that Melba flavor combo.

I used orange zest to rub with the sugar and put some of the crumb topping inside the cake as well as on top, but otherwise it is as written in the book. If you haven't bought this wonderful book, or gotten it out of the library, this might be the time.

What you get is a rich buttermilk cake, lightly touched with orange. The raspberries and ripe and juicy peeled peach chunks are folded into the cake batter so every bite has some fruit and some of the nutty, crunchy sweet topping.

Served warm from the oven, this cake fulfils every warm raspberry desire…for now.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Tall Berry Freeze

Heat wave, we're havin' a heat wave! But not as hot as some areas where family live, so I'm thankful for the late afternoon or evening breezes that cool things off at night and for the low humidity, too.

Still, it's warm enough to enjoy tall, frosty drinks. Grandma L joined us today for a 4th of July family meal and I made her a favorite drink...iced coffee with lots of ice and half and half.

Another favorite around here are smoothies. I like mine without banana added but most everyone else likes to add the bananas. Since this is berry season and there were leftovers from the sourdough waffles with berries and whipped cream that were a hit at our meal, it was easy to make a nice tall berry freeze beverage. The berry mixture included fresh ollaberries, blueberries, red raspberries and strawberries.

In a blender place about two cups of ice cubes, a cup or so of mixed berries, a scoop or two of vanilla ice cream, a cup of milk, and 1/2 cup of yogurt for some tang to offset the berries. Since these were dead ripe berries they were plenty sweet. If yours are less sweet, you may need to add some sugar.

Blend on high until everything is mixed and you get a nice, thick frozen beverage. Sure does cool things off!