Thursday, June 30, 2011

Berries Top the Cake

It's truly berry season around here. My fridge last night had fresh local organic blueberries that were fat and juicy, lovely large ripe ollalieberries, and some strawberries that were past their prime but still fine to eat. The first of the blackberries are ripening, too. Raspberries at the market smell wonderful and I'd buy some if I didn't already have so many berries.

Breakfast muesli with the fresh blueberries has been a special treat the last few mornings. For yesterday's lunch I added some of the blueberries and some of the ollalieberries to a nice green salad with chicken and avocados...yummy!

When I arrived home yesterday evening, I found that Grandma L had picked another quart of the ollalieberries. That was the final push I needed to bake a cake with berries. Thanks Grandma!

I looked through a few magazines and cookbooks and finally decided to modify a peach upside down cake recipe in the Cake Keepers book that the Cake Slice Bakers have been using this year. On top of the melted butter/brown sugar layer I placed two cups of sliced strawberries, spread them out, then dotted the spaces between with about a cup of the ollalieberries. The cake itself is a vanilla butter cake with buttermilk for tang. I added some cinnamon to the flour mixture to jazz it up a bit. It baked up with a nice moist crumb and a wonderful mixed berry topping. Sweetie had some more for breakfast, with some more fresh berries added. Yay for berry season! Enjoy this cake yourself while the berries are at their best.

Summertime Berry Buttermilk Upside-Down Cake
an adaptation of a recipe from Lauren Chattman's Cake Keeper Cakes

For the Topping:
1/2 cup (1 stick or 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter (I used 6 tablespoons instead of the 8 tablespoons)
3/4 cup brown sugar
about 2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
about 1 cup fresh blackberries or ollalieberries

For the Cake:
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar

Make the Topping
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch round nonstick pan and dust with flour or use a seasoned cast iron skillet as I did.
Heat the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat (or in the cast iron skillet) until foaming. Stir in the brown sugar, turn the heat to low, and cook, whisking, for 2 minutes. If baking in the cake pan, scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth with a spatula. If using the skillet smooth out the butter/brown sugar mixture if needed.

Arrange the sliced strawberries evenly over the butter/brown sugar mixture. Place the ollalieberries or blackberries in between the slices, making sure they are touching the butter/brown sugar mixture. Set aside.

Make the Cake
Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl.

Combine the eggs,, vanilla and buttermilk in a large glass measuring cup and lightly beat.

Beat together the butter and granulates sugar in a large mixing bowl until fluffy, about 3 minutes on medium-high speed. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the beater(s) as necessary.

With the mixer on medium-low speed, pour the egg mixture into the bowl in a slow stream, stopping the mixer once or twice to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Turn the mixer to low speed and add the flour mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, scraping down the sides as needed. After the last addition, mix for 30 seconds on medium speed.

Pour or spoon the batter over the berry mixture, gently spreading evenly with a spatula.

Bake in preheated oven until the cake is dark golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 35 - 40 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let stand for 5 minutes.

Place a large plate over the pan and, using oven mitts, invert the cake onto the plate. If necessary, replace any fruit stuck to the pan. Let the cake cook for 20 minutes and serve, warm, or serve at room temperature. Store uneaten cake (if any!) in a cake keeper or wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Elle's note: While this cake is excellent all by itself, I'll bet you can imagine how delicious it would be with a scoop of vanilla or berry ice cream. I suspect that you could substitute frozen berries for the fresh ones and the recipe would still be wonderful.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Crustless Savory Veggie Delight

I'm not a party animal. Maybe its because I was super shy as a youngster, maybe its because I've always been on the heavy side, maybe its because I've never enjoyed crowds...who know why. Even so, sometimes I choose to go to a party. Recently I went to a birthday party for a lovely woman who love to do long bike rides. Guests were a fine combination of neighbors who live near where I work and J's friends from the City, including biking friends. The latter were particularly fun to talk with.

Since I knew that a lot of the guests would be health conscious I decided to bring a crust less quiche loaded with veggies. As is often the case at big parties I only spoke to one person who tried some but he gave the dish a hearty thumbs up.

Brown rice gives substance and a nice nutty flavor. I love spinach in almost anything and since I also used red pepper dice and fresh corn kernels the quiche had a nice confetti appearance with red, green, yellow and the caramelized onions golden brown. It goes together fairly quickly, too and can be served warm or cool. Maybe you'd like to try it for your next party?

Veggie Brown Rice Crust less Pie

1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon olive or safflower oil
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped bell pepper (a mix of colors if possible)
1 cup frozen spinach, thawed (I like to use frozen chopped, but you can steam fresh spinach and chop it but you'll need a fair amount of fresh spinach to make 1 cup cooked)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme OR 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
1 cup cooked AND COOLED brown rice (you can use cooked white but you lose that wonderful nutty flavor)
1 3/4 cups milk
4 eggs, slightly beaten
1/4 cup sour cream or yogurt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Butter a 10 inch pie plate with butter and sprinkle with the bread crumbs. Tilt to coat the pie plate with the crumbs. Discard the excess crumbs.

In a skillet, over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil, then add the chopped onions and bell peppers and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often, to lightly brown the vegetables. Turn down the heat if they start to blacken. To the browned onions and peppers, add the spinach and garlic. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until the mixture is heated through. Stir in the corn, nutmeg and thyme. Set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix together the cooled rice and the cooled veggie mixture. Spread in the prepared pie plate. Set aside.

In a medium bowl whisk together the milk, eggs, sour cream or yogurt, paprika and salt and pepper to taste. Pour this milk mixture over the veggie-rice mixture in the pie plate. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over the top.

When oven is at 350 degrees F, bake the pie for about 35 minutes, or until top is lightly browned and the middle is almost set. Remove from oven and let cool 10 minutes on a cooling rack. Cut into serving portions and serve or refrigerate and serve later at room temperature.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

You Know It's Summer When

You Know It's Summer When...
... The light coming in the window at 5:30 am is bright enough to wake you up completely...if all the birds singing at 5 am doesn't do it.
...The morning glories are covering the trellis with their royal purple ephemeral flowers.
... Everyone on the street are wearing shorts, tank tops and flip flops even if the high temperature is 73 degrees and lower.
...You sneeze as soon as you stick your head out the door because of all the pollen floating around.
...You start to crave ice cream and icy drinks even if you usually don't really care for super cold foods.

---The zucchini squash plants are cranking out those squash in record time and the tomato plants are producing lots of flowers.
...You can find really ripe peaches at the market and the olallieberries are ripe and ready to pick down by the road.

So a couple of days ago I picked three pints of those gorgeous black and juicy berries and gave one pint to Grandma L to enjoy. Some more went into the morning fruit bowl. That still left a pint to play with.

Coming home from work on Friday I stopped at the market and bought four large, super ripe white peaches.

Saturday morning I was awake at 5:30 and so was Sweetie due to all that light so I made us a peach and blackberry morning treat. At first I was going to make pie but Sweetie wanted a cobbler. I ended up with the prepared fruit getting hot in the oven in a wide pie pan while I mixed up something more like a muffin batter instead of a biscuit batter (which is the usual topping for a cobbler) and it baked up hot and good and went down well with a cup of coffee. Too chilly to eat out on the deck...a little tule fog drifted up the hill (also a summer thing in Sonoma County)...but we sat around and read the paper and welcomed the day.

Saturday was also a significant day on the project. The 16 foot long main beam proved to be too dry rotted at the end and so it had to come down. That let me test my slightly improved biceps (Cool Fitness has been helping me learn to do slow weights but I don' think three session yields much improvement yet) as I held each piece as it was cut off. We're talking about 3-4 foot pieces of a 4 x 8 beam. Not too shabby. Sweetie has been doing most of the work by himself.

Not sure why but being able to work with him and help today really helped with my missing Xam. Most of the morning it had been hitting me hard that he wasn't around after days of almost not noticing. Good thing that working with Sweetie makes things better now.

So, back to peaches and berries: the proportions here are pretty loose - about 4 large peaches and a pint of berries and one batch of the topping - but you could substitute a couple more peaches and leave out the berries or use a couple of pints of berries alone. I happen to think that the flavor combo of peaches and olallieberries or blackberries is the perfect expression of summertime.

Hot Peaches and Berries with Muffin Top

4 large peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced, then cut into large chunks
1 pint olallieberries or blackberries, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons flour
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup rolled oats - regular or quick but not instant
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking Soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted and cooled
1/3 cup buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Mix together peach chunks, olallieberries, flour and nutmeg. Place in a greased shallow baking dish and bake until hot, about 5 minutes.

While the fruit mixture is getting hot, in a large bowl mix together the brown sugar, flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a small bowl mix together the butter and buttermilk. When the fruit mixture is hot, make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Stir just until barely blended. Scoop the batter over the hot fruit. I put the batter around the edges, leaving a space in the center where the fruit showed also lets the steam escape.

Bake 15 -20 minutes or until the topping is browned and cooked through.

Remove from the oven and cool slightly before serving. Serve some of the topping and some of the fruit in bowls. If you like pour on a little light cream but it's fine all by itself.

Note: If you pack the brown sugar the amount called for makes a pretty sweet topping. If you prefer it less sweet just scoop the brown sugar lightly into the measuring cup.

Makes 4 -6 servings.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Best Potato Casserole I've Had

We have heat people! Summer is finally here...and right on time. Should be over 95 today and the tomatoes are loving it. The beans, cukes, and chard are growing can almost see them get bigger as you watch. The morning glories are blooming and sending up long runners and the sweet peas are climbing, too, but I worry that this heat might be more than they like...we'll see. Although I love being in the garden, sometimes its fun to be in the kitchen. For Father's dinner I made a casserole the day before (when it was cooler) to reheat just before dinnertime.

Being Irish...well half Irish anyway...I figure that loving potatoes is a right of heritage. Although I love 'em baked and mashed and oven fried for a casserole of potatoes my favorite recipe is a gratin of potatoes with Gruyere cheesed called Pommes Savoyard.

Thinly sliced peeled potatoes are layered with a butter-onion-garlic mixture, salt and pepper, nutmeg and Gruyere cheese, then bathed in chicken or beef broth and baked until the potatoes are tender and the top is golden brown. Because you are not using a large amount of butter and are using no milk or cream this dish is easier on the waistline than some potato casseroles. Whenever I serve it there are always requests for second helpings and most people also request the recipe. I wish I could sit you down at my table and give you those first and second helpings, but since I can't I can at least give you the recipe so you can impress and please YOUR friends and family!

If you have a food processor with the slicing disc for thin slices, this is the time to use it. You can also use the grating disc to grate the cheese. I used pre-sliced Swiss cheese because that's what I had on hand, so I used a sharp knife to cut it into tiny dice. Even without the food processor this is a pretty easy recipe but you do need to allow plenty of time for it to cook to mellow tenderness.

Pommes Savoyard
3 all-purpose potatoes (about 1 pound), peeled ( I used Idahos)
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons finely minced onion (I used about twice this amount...I love onions)
2 garlic cloves, minced
salt and pepper to taste
nutmeg, freshly grated if possible
1/2 cup grated Gruyere or Swiss cheese (about 2 ounces)
1 cup beef broth or chicken broth (I used a bit more -see note below -and used chicken broth)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Peel potatoes and slice them 1/8-inch thick. (Rinse in cold water, then drain and pat dry with paper towels - this part I skipped and it came out fine, but you can do it if you like).

Combine the butter, onion and garlic. Use on third of the mixture to grease a shallow 1 quart baking dish. (A shallow dish is important so that you get plenty of browned topping!)

Spread half of the potatoes in a dish, and season to taste with salt and pepper and nutmeg.

Sprinkle half of the cheese over the potatoes. (I made a single layer of potatoes over the initial butter mixture, seasoned it and sprinkled on about 1/4 of the cheese, then put in a second single layer and treated it as I did the first layer, repeated that process until there were no more potatoes to layer...about 4 layers).

Arrange the remaining potato slices in an even layer over the cheese; season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Top with the remaining cheese.

Pour the broth over all and dot with the remaining butter mixture. Note: I made sure that the broth comes up almost to the top of the layered potatoes so that they will cook evenly may need to use more broth than the recipe calls for but it is worth it and the broth cooks into the potatoes and cooks off so the potatoes keep their shape and are not soggy, so it's OK.

Bake for 1 1/4 hours, or until the potatoes are tender throughout and golden brown on top. Serves 4 - 6.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Sweet Strawberry Summer

The Cake Slice Bakers were equally divided for June between a lovely Lime Chiffon Cake and a White Chocolate Strawberry snacking cake. Because I had some strawberries and white chocolate chips on hand I decided to make that cake. I also had some blueberries that needed using up, so they went in to the cake, too, and their slight tartness added a nice counterpoint to the sweetness of the strawberries, cake and white chocolate. I still found the cake to be a bit too sweet...I know, I know I love sweet, but this was even a bit much for me...but Sweetie loved it.

This is a great snacking cake because it isn't too crumbly and goes well with tea or coffee and probably would go well with a glass of milk, too.

The method is straightforward and easy. I did find that it needed to bake longer than the recipe indicated. If I had used frozen blueberries or something then I may have expected that but all the ingredients were at room temperature. One of the results of taking it out of the oven and only finding out it was undercooked after it had cooled a bit was that the center sank and when I baked it a bit more what had sunk didn't get any higher, although the cake finished baking so it wasn't batter filled anymore. I had done the toothpick in the center comes out clean part...and it was...but it is a buttery cake so I think the butter allowed the toothpick to slip out leaving the uncooked part behind.

Do give it a try while the berries are in season, just add another 5 - 10 minutes on to the baking time. Also go check out the other Cake Slice Bakers' sites, too.

Some of them voted for the Lime cake and I'll bet it is a winner, too.

June’s Cake: Fresh Strawberry Cake with White Chocolate Chips
Makes one 8 inch square cake
(Recipe from Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chattman)

1 egg
1 egg yolk
½ cup sour cream
½ tsp grated lemon zest
2 tsp vanilla extract
1½ cups all purpose flour
1½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
6 tbsp (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
8 ounces strawberries, stemmed and sliced
1 cup white chocolate chips or chunks

Heat the oven to 350F. Grease an 8 inch square baking pan and dust it with flour, knocking out the excess.

Combine the egg, egg yolk, sour cream, lemon zest and vanilla in a large measuring jug and beat lightly. Combined 1¼ cups of flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.

Combine the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and cream with an electric whisk on medium high speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides when necessary.

With the mixer on medium low speed, pour the egg mixture into the bowl in a slow stream, stopping the mixer once or twice to scrape down the bowl.

Turn the mixer to low speed and add the flour mixture, ½ cup at a time. After the last addition mix for 30 seconds on medium speed.

Combine the strawberries and remaining ¼ cup flour in a medium bowl and toss to coat. Fold the flour covered berries along with the chocolate chips into the batter using a spatula.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake the cake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean, 45-50 minutes. Let the cake cool ion the pan for about 5 minutes, invert it onto a wire rack and then turn it right side up to cool completely.

Cut into squares and serve.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

It's Good to Be Irish

My Mom made Irish soda bread now and then while I was growing up and I enjoyed the soft, warm bread with some butter and jam, but the most memorable soda bread was the loaf made by Aunt May when we visited the family in New York. I was in high school and interested in baking so she showed me her recipe and how she made it. Aunt May, as fully Irish as my Mom, served hers with tea in the afternoon and then I helped her with the 'washing up'. He loaf was very tender and not at all dry. She used currants and buttermilk. Butter and jam were still the accompaniments, but the bread was delicious all by itself.

This month the Bread Baking Babes are making Irish soda bread with herbs with the recipe coming form the very Irish The Ballymaloe Bread Book by Tim Allen. Remembering my Aunt May's soda bread I strayed from the recipe a bit. First of all I only made half the recipe. If all by siblings were here for tea I would make the whole batch, but a half batch is much more sensible for two. I decided to make it for breakfast on the weekend, so I went for slightly sweet instead of with herbs. Not having any currants on hand I added 1/4 cup golden raisins instead.

Good soda bread is soft and tender as a good biscuit, but better for you (especially if you use whole wheat flour for part of the flour as I did. To up the authenticity I used King Arthur Flour's Irish Wholemeal Flour which is even more coarse than most whole wheat flours ) because you don't use any added fat as you do with biscuits. Buttermilk gives some of the properties of fat and the additional blessing of tanginess. Key to success is to handle the ingredients with a very light hand and barely mix them together. I used my spread fingers since this is the method recommended by Tim Allen. It's messy, but you do get a lovely light, tender, moist loaf that way. Butter and jam optional.

Do check out the other Babes' blogs for their take on Soda Bread. Bet most of them followed the recipe and used herbs. I plan to make another half batch myself and do that, too.

Best of all, you can easily be a Buddy this month. This lovely little loaf goes together really, really quickly and bakes up in a little over a half hour, so you can have hot, fresh, delicious bread on the table in no time! To be a Buddy, bake the bread (the recipe is below), post about it, and then send an e-mail with a link for your post to our lovely Ilva so she can send you a badge. Links for the Babes, including Ilva's blog are at the right. Come on, give this Soda Bread a can pretend to be Irish even if it isn't St. Patrick's Day.

White Soda Bread with Herbs

from The Ballymaloe Bread Book by Tim Allen

1 loaf

450 g/1lb plain white four
1 level teaspoon salt
1 level teaspoon bread soda, finely sieved
1 dessert spoon each of rosemary, sage and chives, all freshly chopped
400 ml/ 14 fl oz buttermilk

Heat up the oven to 230 degrees C/450 degrees F

Sieve the flour, salt and bread soda into a large, wide mixing bowl. Add the freshly chopped herbs to the dry ingredients.

Make a well in the centre. Pour most of the milk into the flour. Using one hand with the fingers open and stiff, mix in a full circle drawing in the flour from the sides of the bowl, adding more milk if necessary. The dough should be softish, not too wet and sticky.

The trick with all soda breads is not to over-mix the dough. Mix the dough as quickly and as gently as possible, keeping it really light and airy. When the dough comes together, turn it out onto a well-floured work surface. Wash and dry your hands.

Gently roll the ball of dough around with floury hands for a few seconds, just enough to tidy up. Then pat it gently into a round, about 5 cm/2 in high.

Place the dough on a lightly floured baking sheet. With a sharp knife cut a deep cross in the middle of it, letting the cuts go over the sides of the bread. Then prick the four triangles with your knife: according to Irish folklore this will let the fairies out!

Put this into your preheated oven for 10 minutes, then turn the heat down to 200 degrees C/400 degrees F for a further 25 minutes, or until cooked. When the bread is cooked it will sound hollow when tapped.

Elle's variation: Add 1 tablespoon granulated sugar to the dry ingredients. Add 1/4 cup golden raisins to the dry ingredients and mix well until they are coated with flour. Omit all the herbs. Otherwise, follow the recipe as written.

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Tangy Way to Beat the Heat

There are benefits to sorting through old stuff. Since sorting through old stuff is one of my least favorite pastimes, that's a good thing. One of the benefits is that you sometimes find something that you missed before.

June of 1999 was really, really busy. Not a lot of time to look through magazines, so I set some aside. Given that the following month was the worst of my life I guess its not too surprising that I never got back to looking through them. Then they got buried below the desk in the corner of the bedroom in a box of other stuff I didn't have the energy to deal with. It's only taken 12 years but the good news is that most of that stuff went into the recycle container. Yay for getting rid of useless stuff!

One of the magazines that I did keep to look at NOW was the June 1999 Bon Appetit magazine. It has a gorgeous fresh apricot tart on the may see my version of that here in the future...and near the middle there is a simple recipe for Homemade Lemonade. According to the article lemonade was invented in 1620 in Paris (who knew?) and lemonade is "still one of the most popular drinks of summertime."

It was warm enough today to think about making lemonade and I had a couple of lemons and a lime where were barely enough to make two servings, but I did it anyway. I heartily recommend that you have at least 6 or 8 fruits on hand because this is a seriously delicious drink. It's a proportional thing so the amount of citrus juice determines how much lemonade (or in my case Lemon-Limeade) you'll have to drink.

Homemade Lemonade

1 quart water
1 quart sugar
Freshly squeezed lemon juice
Cold water
Lemon slices

In a saucepan combine the 1 quart water and 1 quart sugar (for my version I combined 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup sugar because I knew I didn't need a quart of the sugar syrup). Stir the mixture until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to a boil, remove from the heat and chill.

When you are ready to make the lemonade, juice some lemons and measure the juice (for my version I combined the juice of one lime and one and a half lemons, then sliced the remaining half of the lemon to go in the pitcher). Have the chilled sugar syrup and cold water ready, too.

Into a pitcher place: 1 part of the sugar syrup (also called simple sugar or simple syrup), 1 part lemon juice and 3 parts water. If you are willing to strain the mixture as you pour it over ice, you can also add the zest grated from one or two of the adds a nice tang! If you look closely at my photos you'll see that I didn't strain mine...and I should you get the good advice.

Chill the mixture. When cold, pour it into glassed filled with ice cubes. Garnish with the sliced lemons.

For variation you can add a splash of vodka for an adult beverage, or skip the vodka and throw in a few fresh raspberries for both color and flavor. Most of all, enjoy while the lemonade is icy cold, especially if the day is a hot one.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

All Dogs Go to Heaven

Dear Reader,

Yesterday our great good canine companion Xam, the Bread Baker's Dog, went to heaven. He is probably running around the fields of heaven with our son Max. Notice that Xam is Max spelled backwards...that's how Max wanted it. Xam started out as Max's dog. Later he spent a lot of time with me and once Sweetie retired he spent a lot of time with him.

Xam loved 'people food', especially freshly baked bread. He was an expert Frisbee catcher until a few years ago when it was harder for him to jump. He loved to go on rides and especially to the beach or for the quiet walk along the Laguna where his tail was up and swishing back and forth in pleasure. He was a leaner, loving to lean up against you when you were petting him. Almost every evening he would go out the dog door and bark at the property line near the road...just to let everyone know that he was guarding the house...or maybe it was because the squirrel who lived in the tree there was teasing him...hard to say.

We got to keep Xam almost as long as Max was with us. 15 years for Xam, which is pretty long for a big old black lab, 16 (almost 17) for Max, which is way too short. We miss both of them intensely. We are grateful that we had each of them in our lives. Sweetie and I are sad today, missing them both. No food talk this time...maybe tomorrow.

XO Elle

Saturday, June 04, 2011

101 Sourdough

Although it might look like this is going to be a tutorial (especially to the hardy souls who attend or attended college) the actual reason for the 101 is the weight of the flour.

Before we get into weighing flour, I'm happy to announce the winners of the My Southern Food book by Thomas Nelson Publishers. The first out of the hat was Richelle, who doesn't seem to have a blog but did send her e-mail address along. The second drawn was Kelly-Jane of Cooking the Books with Kelly-Jane. She has a great blog and it will be fun to see if she posts anything from the book. The last name drawn was Lynnette of Desserts Divine, a new blog for me to visit and a nice one. Congratulations to each of you. An e-mail has been sent to you asking for a mailing address. The publisher mails the books directly to you.

Back to baking! One of the things that can happen if you bake a lot of similar breads is that you get familiar with the ratios for a good loaf. This time I wanted to use my sourdough starter, three kinds of flour and some water and salt.

For one loaf (shown above) I also went seedy by using some recently received King Arthur Flour's Harvest Grains Blend. Whole oat berries, millet, rye flakes and wheat flakes enhance texture. Flax, poppy, sesame, and sunflower seeds add crunch and great, nutty flavor. I used 6 tablespoons of the mixture for one loaf and it adds just the right amount of textural and seedy interest. The point of mentioning this isn't to hawk King Arthur's blend, but to suggest that when you are making two loaves that you don't have to make them the same. Have some fun! Work in some chopped nuts or just one kind of seed like sesame or sunflower if you don't have a blend...or create your own blend. One of the reasons that making bread continues to appeal to me is that I see it as a creative vehicle and a way to add joy to my life...and the bread is great to eat, too.

Back to the flours: I weighed out the remainder in a bag of bread flour and it came to 101 grams. I decided to build my flour mixture from that measurement, so I did two additional 101s of bread flour, 101 grams of whole wheat flour twice and 101 grams of King Arthur Flour's Ancient Grains blend for a bit more complexity of flavor. As it turned out I ended up needing a bit more bread flour at the end, so the weights didn't work out quite so neatly, but the proportions are still good ones for flavor. The same flour can need variations depending on the weather. I would have thought that our rainy weather would mean less flour but it seems that it meant more added. Of course it could be that my starter was wetter than I thought it was. There are lots of variable in making the dough, so relax and go with what yours wants you to do. You are looking for a supple, soft dough that has body but isn't stiff.

This made a tight grained, slightly chewy bread with good wheat flavor plus that small bit of complex 'I wonder what else is in this bread' taste that was so delicious. I shaped the 'plain' loaf into a long thin loaf, slightly curved to fit in the pan, and made the seedy loaf into a torpedo shape.

For those of you who wonder how I can keep making bread so often and not be as big as a house...I am not as big as a house, but I am overweight and...ta da!...I'm now doing slow weight lifting to help burn some of the calories and to be heart happy. I also eat a lot of soups and salads which I love as much as bread.

This recipe is going over to Susan at Wild Yeast. Her weekly Yeastspotting event is a wonderland of bread ideas for those of us addicted to bread baking. Check it out HERE.

101 Sourdough

582 grams sourdough starter
300 grams water, lukewarm
353 grams bread flour
202 grams whole wheat flour
101 grams ancient grain blend
15 grams sea salt

In the bowl of a stand mixer place the sourdough starter and the water; whisk to blend.

in another large bowl whisk together the bread flour, whole wheat flour, ancient grain blend (or additional bread or whole wheat instead, if you prefer), and the salt.

Whisk 1 cup of the flour mixture into the sourdough mixture, then attach the bowl to the mixer. With the dough hook attached and the mixer on low to medium-low, add the about 1 cup of the flour at a time, letting at least half of it incorporate into the dough before adding the next 1 cup. For the last cup of flour, add the flour mixture by tablespoonfuls, one at a time, until the dough is soft and climbs the dough hook and doesn't completely slump into the bottom of the bowl when you stop adding flour. You may need to add an additional small amount of flour if the dough is very soft. Let the mixer knead the dough for 10 minutes.

Turn the dough out into an oiled rising container or bowl. Cover with oiled plastic wrap or a clean shower cap and let rise until double in bulk, about 2 hours.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times to remove gas bubbles. Cut dough in half and return one piece of dough to the rising container or bowl. Flatten the remaining piece of dough on the lightly floured surface into a rough rectangle, then shape and either put into a bread pan or let rise on a parchment or silicone mat lined baking sheet until double in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.

Take the second piece of dough and repeat the process you used for the first piece of dough, or you can do as I did and knead in 1/2 cup mixed seeds and grain flakes (I used King Arthur's grain blend), then shape and let rise as with the first loaf.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. If suing a baking stone, let it preheat at the same time in the oven. Slash the loaves when the oven is hot. Paint with egg wash if desired (1 egg whisked with 1 tablespoon of water). Bake in the center of the oven (on a baking stone if possible) for 45 minutes to an hour, or until loaf sounds hollow when the back is tapped. Let cool before serving.

Makes 2 loaves.