Saturday, August 27, 2011

Snippets of Now

For some folks who know me this blog is a way of keeping up with what is going on in my life at the moment. As you can see blog posts are few and far between. The same thing is pretty much true for baking and cooking.

I have baked bread recently, but it was a sourdough loaf pretty much the same as some others posted in the past. I've been making things like a turkey breast roasted over some stuffing, but the stuffing has been posted in the past, too, and I didn't do much to the turkey breast other than a sprinkle of poultry seasoning and some pepper. Lots of salads, but pretty standard mixed greens with cucumbers and tomato and maybe some avocado. Again not really blog-worthy.

I did make some personal size chocolate whiskey cakes last weekend, (photo at top) with the rest of the batter going into a loaf pan. They turned out pretty cute and helped to cheer me up...I have been missing my dog quite a bit. He would have enjoyed licking the whipped cream bowl. Sweetie and I enjoyed the cake (baked in a 5" springform pan) while watching an episode of a British TV series from the late 90s...the House of Eliott...which we got through Netflicks.

Here is the link to the Chocolate Whiskey Cake, Bundt version:

The main things keeping me out of the kitchen have been work, my garden, and 'the project'. Work continues to be a challenge but the work is still interesting. The last couple of weeks have been all spreadsheets all the time...not my favorite but necessary.

The garden is finally giving forth ripe tomatoes

and continues to bless us with zucchini and chard and cucumbers.

The haricot verts are pretty much done. Lots of roses, sweet peas, Queen Anne's Lace, and some nigella keep things looking pretty and smelling sweet. Watering, feeding, and weeding are constant tasks and lately I've been tying up tomato branches as they get heavy with fruit. (Yes, tomatoes are a fruit.)

The task that consumes the most energy is the second story deck refurbishment. Today was a red letter day...we secured the first plank of Trex, the lumber substitute we are using. Prior days have included joist work, securing and staining and caulking the plywood sub floor, drip edge work by Sweetie,

staining of railing components by yours truly,

and installation of posts, a true team effort. With luck it will all be done in a couple more weeks, just in time for me to be inundated with homework. I started an InDesign class last Monday. The homework for the first few weeks is pretty simple but it should be more challenging in another two weeks or so. Our instructor, Paulette Bell, is quite a good teacher with a nice mix of stressing technical aspects of the program and a warm, humerous attitude that isn't stressful. Serious when needed, fun the rest of the time. I'm also enjoying taking the class with a couple of friends from the scholarship group. Very eco-friendly...we ride-share.

As you can see, never a dull moment around here. One day soon I might even post a recipe or two. In the meantime, lots of the blogs on the sidebar are fun to visit and often have delicious things to try, so check 'em out if you have time.If you do, tell 'en I say 'Hi', too. Visiting other blogs has also been a tabled activity of late, unfortunately. Hope to visit them myself soon.

XO Elle

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Cake Slice Bakes Last Cake from Cake Keepers

The Cake Slice Bakers have been baking for a while from Lauren Chattman's Cake Keeper Cakes cookbook, mostly with good to great results. Now we are getting to the end of this cookbook and thinking about the next one.

The August recipe that was chosen by the group is Hungarian Coffee Cake, a type of Monkey Bread. Balls of muffin-like dough are rolled in cinnamon-sugar and put into a Bundt cake pan, interlaced with walnuts, raisins, (and in my case shredded Gravenstein apples). August is Gravenstein apple time, and the apple flavor goes so well with cinnamon and raisins and walnuts that it seemed like a match made in gustatory heaven.

As I often do, I made some changes to the recipe. My raisins were a bit dry so I soaked them in 1/4 cup warm rum for 15 minutes. I saved the rum I drained off the raisins and added it to the butter/brown sugar mixture...why waste good rum? The cake batter seemed bland so I added 2 tablespoons of sugar, about 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg and I added a beaten egg to the buttermilk. I also used my food processor to make the cake dough, which worked well since the butter was totally frozen. I had planned to make this cake earlier in the week and had left the butter in the freezer, already cut into small pieces.

The resulting cake was delicious! Everyone wanted seconds. I loved the way the topping shone and it was a sweet counterpoint to the less sweet cake. Because of the added egg, the cake was moist and similar to a muffin instead of being like a scone. I loved the flavor combo of walnuts/apple/rum-raisin/cinnamon, like a hint of autumn in summer.

If I make this again I'll probably bake it in two loaf pans instead of the Bundt pan. That way I can freeze on loaf for later enjoyment.

Do visit the other Cake Slice Bakers to see their versions of this cake that makes your home smell like cinnamon buns. The recipe below includes the changes I made. Come back at this time next month for a surprise!

XO Elle

Hungarian Coffee Cake
(a variation of a recipe from Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chattman)

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled (unsalted is called for but I used salted and it was great)
3/4 cup light brown sugar
rum drained from raisins (see below)

Whisk together the melted butter, light brown sugar and rum. Set aside.

1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup rum
9 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled
1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
1/4 cup shredded tart apple

Combine raisins and rum in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave at full power 15 seconds. Set aside for 15 minutes, then drain, reserving the liquid to add to the topping mixture (see above).

In a zip-lock bag combine the 1/2 cup granulated sugar and the cinnamon. Set aside.

Cut the 9 tablespoons (1 stick plus 1 tablespoon) into small pieces and put into a bowl, then into the freezer while doing the next steps of the recipe.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a nonstick 12 cup Bundt pan and set aside.

Place the flour, the 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar still left, the baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg in the bowl of a large food processor or electric mixer. Use knife blade in food processor or whisk attachment in electric mixer to combine the dry ingredients.

Add the chilled butter pieces to the dry ingredients. In the food processor pulse to cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse meal. In the electric mixer mix on low speed until the mixture resembles coarse meal. For both, add the buttermilk and the egg.

In the food processor pulse to blend the liquid and dry ingredients into a dough, stopping when dough comes together. In the electric mixer bowl, stir the liquid into the dry ingredients until a dough forms.

Scoop up small balls of dough (I used my fingers and sort of pinched off pieces the size of a walnut). Place the dough balls into the bag with the cinnamon sugar mixture and shake the bag to coat the balls.

Placed the coated balls into the prepared pan, sprinkling the walnuts, raisins and apple shreds over them as you go. Once all the dough balls, nuts, raisins, apple shreds and any leftover cinnamon-sugar mixture have gone into the pan, pour the melted butter mixture over it all. Rotate the pan briskly to settle the topping.

Bake until the cake is firm and well risen and the caramel is melted, about 35 - 40 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Invert onto a serving platter and serve immediately. Store uneaten cake (if any) in a cake keeper or wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for 1 day.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Kaiser Rolls with the Babes

Yes, it's that day of the month when the Bread Baking Babes gather around the kitchen table and talk bread.

When the introduction to the month's bread includes and 'evil grin' you know that you're going to have fun.

The lovely Astrid of Paulchen's Food Blog, our Kitchen of the Month, brought us a lovely recipe for Vienna Bread from Peter Reinhart's Bread Bakers Apprentice book.

It makes a wonderfully soft and easy to handle dough, even when roughened up a bit with stone-ground whole wheat flour as mine was. (I used a cup of whole-wheat bread flour in place of a cup of regular bread flour. It's some that I got at the Bale Grist Mill. A recent article in the local paper indicates that the Mill might close due to State of California budget cuts so if you can get to Napa California on a weekend this summer do check it out before it's closed.)

Here is what Astrid had to say about the history of Vienna bread: Vienna bread is a type of bread that is produced from a process developed in Vienna, Austria, in the 19th century.

In the 19th century, for the first time, bread was made only from beer yeast and new dough (no old dough). The first noted or applauded example of this was the sweet-fermented Imperial "Kaiser-Semmel" roll of the Vienna bakery at the Paris Exposition of 1867. These sweet-fermented rolls lacked the acid sourness typical of lactobacillus, and were said to be popular and in high demand.
In 1867 the Paris Exposition was said to recognize the Vienna Bakery as, "First in the world."

In Vienna leaven is never used for making the rolls and small goods for which that city is famous. Viennese bakers use either brewers' yeast or a ferment, prepared by themselves, of which the basis is an infusion of hops.

Citation: Hugh Chisholm, ed (1910). The encyclopædia britannica: a dictionary of arts, sciences ..., Volume 4. Retrieved 2010 Aug 20.

The Vienna bread-production process innovations are often popularly credited for baking with steam leading to different crust characteristics, however Horsford, in his 1875 Report on Vienna Bread, wrote:
The Austrian bakery in the Paris Exposition in 1867, for the production of loaf-bread, was provided with the steam-arrangement; but the oven of the Vienna bakery, on exhibition at the Vienna Exposition for the production of rolls, was a dry oven.

Peter's version does use 'old bread' so it's not completely authentic, but it is delicious. You can also skip letting the pâte fermentée sit overnight and use it after it has mellowed on the conter for two hours which will get you a bread closer to the authentic one, but the overnight wait really does enhance the flavor of the bread.

I really enjoyed this bread. The crumb is tight and the texture is very soft. Although I did use water in the pan and sprayed the oven and the rolls when they went in, I found the crust to be minimal, which was surprising. It was fun making the Kaiser shape. I've never made Kaiser rolls and had wondered how the top got that pleated's easier than you might think. Astrid provides a great demonstation set of photos on her post. I guess I enjoy shaping dough and seeing what happens.

Do check out the other Babes' renditions of Vienna bread, too. Links can be found at the right. It makes good sausage rolls, too, a plus if you are doing a lot of cooking on the grill.

Here is what Astrid said about being a buddy:
The Bread Baking Babes are a closed group but we thought it would be fun to reward people who take the effort of baking our breads with us and give them a nice Buddy Badge and mention in a round up post every month. Just to say thank you for baking along and sharing your thoughts with us.

Since we are Babes and do no obey to rules, there are nearly no rules for Buddies, except these two:
1. Bake the featured bread, snap a pic & share your thoughts about how you liked it (or not liked it)
2. Send an email to the Kitchen of the Month to notify us and make it easier to write the round up

I'm sending this over to Susan at Wild Yeast for the weekly Yeastspotting round-up, too. Check it out if you love yeasted bread and things made with yeasted bread!

Peter Reinhart's "Bread Baker's Apprentice" Viennese Bread

Pâte Fermentée
makes 16-17 ounces

1 1/8 cups (5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/8 cups (5 ounces) unbleached bread flour
3/4 teaspoon (.19 ounces) salt
/2 teaspoon (.55 ounces) instant yeast
3/4 cup (+ 2 tablespoons) (6-7 ounces) water, room temperature


Stir together salt, yeast and flours. Add 3/4 water mix on low speed with paddle attachment until everything comes together. The dough should be neither too sticky nor too stiff. When touched with finger it should stick to finger but be easily released (better stay on the stickier side than to be too stiff!)

Transfer dough on counter sprinkled with some flour. Knead until dough is soft and pliable (tacky, not sticky!) Knead for 4-6 minutes.

Oil your bowl and transfer dough to the bowl coating it with oil all around! Cover with plastic foil and let ferment until 1 1/2 swelled in size (about 1 hour).

Degas dough trough kneading lightly an d return to bowl again to go to sleep in the fridge over night.
I like to use an airtight plastic bag. You can store it up to 3 days in you fridge now.

Peter Reinhart says:
"You can also use this on the same day you make it, if you ferment it at room temperature for 2 hours instead of refrigerating it. Flavor enhances through the night in the refrigerator though,... "

Vienna Bread
makes two 1 pound loaves or 9-12 pistoles

2 1/3 cups (13 ounces) pate fermentee
2 2/3 cups (12 ounces) unbleached bread flour
1 tablespoon (.5 ounces) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon (.25 ounces) diastatic barley malt powder
or 1 tablespoon (.75) barley malt syrup
1 teaspoon (.25 ounces) salt
1 teaspoon (.11 ounces) instant yeast
1 large (1.65 ounces) egg, slightly beaten
1 tablespoon (.5 ounces) unsalted butter or shortening ant room temp, melted
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoons (6-7 ounces) water, lukewarm

semolina flour or cornmeal for dusting


1 hour before starting to make the bread: remove pate fermentee from fridge. Cut into 10 pieces. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap.

Let's start: flour, sugar, malt powder, salt and yeast go into the mixing bowl. Add pate fermentee pieces, egg, butter and 3/4 cups of water. Stir together until you have a nice ball. If your dough is rather firm or stiff, use a little more water, we want the dough to be soft at this stage.

Knead to knead: Knead for about 10 minutes on floured counter or on your machine with dough hook on medium speed for 6 minutes. Add flour if needed to achieve a firm but elastic dough (tacky not sticky).

Peter Reinhard says: "the dough should pass the windowpane test" - honestly I've never done this and it worked for me without this test... dough temp should range between 77° and 81°F.

Rest baby, rest: Transfer dough to lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. Ferment at room temp for two hours or until doubled in size.

Punch it: When doubled in size, punch it down and return to bowl until dough doubles again.

Shape it, baby: Remove dough from bowl to counter and divide into 2 equal pieces for loaves. Or into 3 to 4 ounce pieces for pistolets (French split rolls). Shape larger pieces into boules (balls) and smaller ones into rolls. Mist the dough lightly with oil and cover loosely with plastic.

Rise, rise, rise: Leave to proof at room temp 60-90 minutes or until they have risen to approx. 1 3/4 of their original size.

Let's bake: Preheat your oven to 450°F and place an empty steam pan in your oven.
Just before baking mist the loaves or rolls with water and dust lightly with flour. Score loves and rolls down the center.

Steam it: Slide loaves or rolls onto baking stone or baking tray. pour 1 cup water into your steam pan quickly close oven door. After 30 seconds open oven door and spray oven walls with water, close again. Repeat twice in 30 sec intervals. After final spray lower heat to 400°F for 10 minutes. Rotate breads 180° for even baking. Continue baking until breads are golden brown.

Cool it: Remove breads or rolls from oven and let cool on cooling rack for at least 45 minutes before slicing or serving (if you can!)

I will probably do a loaf as stated above and a variation of it called "Dutch Crunch or Mottled Bread" - if any of you Babes is interested here is how:

Peter Reinhart says:
Dutch crunch is one of many names given to bread made with a special mottled topping. It doesn't refer to any particular formula, as the crunch topping can be spread on pretty any type of bread.

Here is how:
Whisk together, 1 tablespoon bread flour, 3/4 cups rice flour, 3/4 teaspoon instant yeast, 2 teaspoons granulated sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 2 teaspoons vegetable oil and 6-8 tablespoons water to make a paste.
If it seems too thin to spread without running off the top of the dough add more rice flour. It should be thick enough to spread with a brush, but not so thick that it sits like a lump of mud. This makes enough for 2-4 loaves.

You can also easily make "Kaiser rolls" with this dough which is THE common roll here in Austria (especially Vienna)
The Kaiser roll, also called a Vienna roll or a hard roll (original name: Semmel or Kaisersemmel; if made by hand also: Handsemmel), is a kind of bread roll, supposedly invented in Vienna, and thought to have been named to honor Emperor Franz Joseph. It is a typically crusty round roll made from flour, barm, malt, water and salt, with the top side usually divided in a rotationally symmetric pattern of five segments, separated by curved superficial cuts radiating from the centre outwards. Kaiser rolls are often produced by machine, as well as by hand. You can see the details at Astrid's post on Vienna Bread.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Sourdough Pancakes and Winners

The winners of the Second Helpings cookbook giveaway are:
Ta da!! - Lady Wild, Donna of The Start of Something Frugal, and Cheryl. They will be getting an e-mail today and, once they send back a mailing address, will be getting their cookbooks directly from Thomas Nelson whom I give a hearty 'Thank you!' for this opportunity to share some great cookbooks.

An then there are pancakes....
We used to eat a lot of pancakes when Max was around. Of all the kinds of cakes, pancakes were his favorite.

He got pretty good at making them and I do think that it really helps to make them somewhat frequently. Since we make 'em once or twice a year these days the learning curve is steep each thick or thin should the batter be?...what is the best setting on the stove to keep the pan at just the right temperature? much oil or butter does the pan need? Each time the first third to half of the batch gets made too thin or thick, gets burnt or undercooked in the middle until we learn again how to get them just right.

Sweetie was doing the honors yesterday on Max's birthday morning. I had made the batter using some of my sourdough starter but he wanted to cook them. It was hilarious getting to the point where it all came together. The pancakes were tender and just slightly sour...perfect with coffee and some warmed real maple syrup. I had thought to make a chocolate cake for the birthday, but I think Max would have liked these pancakes batter.

Sourdough Pancakes

Makes enough for 2-4, depending on how hungry you are and how many you mess up trying to find the right combination of heat and batter thickness.

2 cups sourdough starter (actually one cup starter, mixed with a combination of one cup all-purpose flour and 1 cup water, the whole whisked together and then set uncovered on the counter for at least 2 hours)
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) butter, melted and cooled
1 egg
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoons sugar
about 1/2 cup more flour, but it might be more or less depending on how thick you like your pancakes

In a large bowl whisk together the starter mixture, melted and cooled butter, egg, salt, sugar and 1/4 cup flour. Let sit 10 minutes. If you like a thicker batter, whisk in more flour until batter is the thickness you like.

Heat a griddle or large skillet. If desired oil lightly or brush with melted butter. Heat over medium-high heat until a drop of water, dropped on the pan or griddle, sizzles on contact. Ladle on the batter. Some people like silver dollar size pancakes and some, like Sweetie, like huge pancakes that take up almost the whole use the amount you like to get the pancakes you like.

Cook until small bubbles form and break around the edges and bubbles also form in the center. Flip pancake over with flexible spatula to cook other side. Check after a minute to see if side in contact with pan is brown enough. When cooked as desired, use a spatula to remove from the pan to a an ovenproof plate and keep cooked pancakes warm in the oven (which has been set at a low temperature) or serve right away and continue cooking. Serve warm with butter and syrup or fruit.

Variations: For Blubes (Blueberry pancakes) Scatter washed and dried blueberries over pancakes as soon as you have ladled the batter on the pan or griddle. I usually then drizzle a little of the batter on top of the berries, too. That way you get a little batter between them and the pan when you flip the pancakes. If you prefer, you can gently stir 1 pint of washed and dried blueberries right in to the batter, then bake as directed in the basic recipe.

Other variations included other berries like strawberries or raspberries, dried fruit, sliced bananas, or chocolate chips instead of the blueberries.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Fresh from the Garden - Cucumber Fun

After all those months of planting, watering, fertilizing, weeding and similar garden tasks, harvest time has finally arrived. We have been harvesting zucchini for a while and did have some green beans, too, but now we have lots of zucchini plus two kinds of cucumbers, butternut squash, more beans, and....the first tomato.

One kind of cucumber I planted is new to me...long cucumbers. They look just like those expensive hothouse cucumbers that have few if any seeds. Given how much they charge at the market for them I figured that they were hard to grow or only would produce a few. Wrong.

They are growing even better than the regular cucumbers and each vine is happily producing more than half dozen of them. With so many gorgeous cucumbers to have fun with I decided to make a couple of recipes.

For lunch yesterday I had a very proper cup of tea and cucumber sandwich. I had some homemade sourdough bread which I sliced fairly thinly. I removed the crusts, spread the slices with butter, thinly, and then layered on thinly sliced long cucumbers. They went really well with the Earl Gray tea and I really enjoyed the crunchy mild cucumbers which contrasted nicely with the bread and butter.

For dinner tonight I made a salad which included chunks of both long and regular cucumbers, a couple of tomatoes cut in chunks, half a sweet white onion, diced small, a ripe avocado, peeled, seeded and diced small, and a nice balsamic/ red wine vinaigrette with oregano and herbes de provence.

After the salad marinated for an hour, I topped it with about 1/2 cup feta cheese crumbles for the perfect chilled salad to go with barbecued chicken and fresh corn on the cob.

Summer bounty is so appreciated.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Cookbook Give-away and Two Great Recipes

It's been much longer than I intended to review the third cookbook from Thomas Nelson Publishers. It's amazing how house projects, summer visitors, the garden and work have all conspired to keep me too busy to try out new recipes. Fortunately I found some time this week to cook a couple of recipes from Second Helpings with Johnnie Gabriel.

These are true Southern recipes and also modern ones, making good use of things like packaged shredded cabbage for Coleslaw the Easy Way and packaged stuffing mix for things like the Squash Casserole and Chicken Salad Casserole. Biscuit mix and Ritz crackers and Morton's Nature's Season also find their uses, along with canned corn, peas and carrots, jarred pimento and lots of cream cheese, sour cream and whipping cream. Many of the recipes, like Sauteed Talpia with Lemon-Peppercorn Sauce would make a lovely entree for a dinner party.

I chose to make two recipes that sounded different and delicious...Wild Rice and Corn Salad and Mocha-Frosted Chocolate Chip Cookies.

The salad was indeed wonderful. Since this is fresh corn season I replaced the canned white shoepeg corn with 4 ears of freshly husked sweet white corn which I cut, uncooked, from the cobs.

I didn't have any water chestnuts, so I substituted 1/2 cup each thinly sliced English cucumber and uncooked fresh thin green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces. Both came directly from my garden and added a nice crisp crunch to the salad. Otherwise I followed the recipe and found it very enjoyable. Sweetie had second helpings, just like the book's title promised.

The cookies had a somewhat lackluster description in the book: "Chocolate and coffee team up in another taste treat fro Susan Johnson's collection." I wasn't expecting them to be more than 'nice'.

Imagine my surprise when I found them to be some of the best chocolate cookies I've ever made. We liked them better without the frosting, but if you like very sweet desserts, go for the frosting, too. Not only did these merit a second helping, it was difficult to resist a third or fourth helping! We gave some of them away to friends to avoid the temptation of eating them all up at once.

There are lots more recipes to try...for example Lemon Ice Cream Pie with crushed pretzels in the crust and frozen lemonade in the filling, or maybe Sweet Potato Fries that get tossed in a brown sugar and butter coating after being fried in deep fat. There's an intriguing recipe for Sweet Potato Biscuits and one for Smoky Chipotle Grilled Baby Back Ribs with both a rub and a barbecue sauce.

This isn't the best book to choose if you are cutting calories but if you are planning a party or want to make something more complicated and flavorful than tater tots you'll love this book. Many of the recipes are fairly easy and make use of convenience foods, so complicated doesn't mean difficult.

As always I want to stress that, other than use of the book, I am not receiving anything from the publisher or author of the book and am free to say just what I think about it. Although I won't often have reason to make some of the more full fat recipes with liberal use of whipping cream, I do like the book and look forward to making more recipes from it.

If you would like to win a copy of this book, just leave a comment. There will be a random drawing and the publisher will send three copies to the three lucky winners, as long as those winners either leave an e-mail address with the comment or are linked to a place where an e-mail address can be found or where I can ask for one if you are a winner.

And now for a gentle rant: The recent demise of Borders Books saddens me. Although I know how easy it would be to order this book on Amazon, please consider asking your independent bookseller to order a copy for you from Thomas Nelson Publishers. Supporting your local bookseller means that there will be bookstores for our children and grandchildren to browse entirely different experience than 'browsing' online. Besides, your local bookseller usually lives in your town and often contributes to the local economy...want fewer potholes? your local businesses. (This may or may not be the opinion of Thomas Nelson Publishers but is absolutely my own.)

Wild Rice and Corn Salad - A really easy salad

1 cup wild rice, cooked according to package directions (Not a wild rice mix).
2 (11-oz) cans white shoepeg corn, rinsed and drained, or 4 ears fresh white corn, husked and kernels cut from the cob.
1/2 cup mayonnaise (I would use 1/3 cup next time)
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1 (8-oz) can water chestnuts, drained and chopped, or 1/2 cup each uncooked fresh thin green beans cut into 1-inch pieces AND thinly sliced (and diced if large) fresh cucumber, seeds removed and discarded
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

In a medium bowl mix the cooked wild rice, uncooked corn, mayonnaise, green onions, water chestnuts (or beans and cucumbers), salt, and pepper.

Cover and chill for at least 2 hours. Keeps well in the refrigerator 2-3 days. Serves 8 - 10.

Mocha-Frosted Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cocoa powder (I used Hershey's Special Dark cocoa which makes the cookies a nice deep dark chocolate color)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick butter, softened
2/3 cup firmly packed golden brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg at room temperature
2 teaspoons water
1 teaspoon instant coffee powder or granules
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups chocolate chips (Yes, TWO cups!)
1 cup coarsely chopped nuts (I used walnuts)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Make the cookies: In a medium bowl combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt and set aside.

In a large bowl beat the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar until well blended. Add the egg, eater, instant coffee, vanilla, chocolate chips, and nuts and blend well, but do not beat. Add the flour mixture and stir just until combined.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Drop dough by tablespoons 2 inches apart onto the lined cookie sheet. Bake for 13 minutes until firm. (The recipe says 'and no longer shiny' but mine were still a bit shiny...we like them soft). Cool on the sheets for 10 minutes, then move to a rack or tray to frost them.

Make the frosting: In a medium microwavable bowl, melt the chocolate chips in the microwave in 1-minute intervals (I use 1/2 power), stirring after each minute until the chocolate is soft and melted.

In a small bowl mix together the whipping cream and instant coffee and add to the chocolate mixture. Using an electric mixer add the butter, vanilla, and confectioners' sugar. Frost the cookies.

Store cookies in the refrigerator. Makes 3-4 dozen

Monday, August 01, 2011

New Month - New Bread

It was difficult to bake bread for a while since the Bread Baker's Dog died but this past weekend it seemed like the reluctance had vanished like the early morning fog that has been keeping our temperatures so moderate.

The sourdough starter gets fed regularly even when I don't bake but it seems a shame to actually toss out the 'toss off'. When I fed it on Wednesday I took that cup of old starter and put it in a bowl, then added a cup of flour mixed with a cup of water. It sat out on the counter a couple of hours, then sat covered in the fridge until Saturday morning when the notion to bake bread pushed at me again. Once that enriched starter warmed up a bit I added another cup of flour and water mixed and let it sit for a couple of hours on the counter, again, until I had time to begin making the dough described below. You could probably start with a cup of active sourdough and add 2 cups flour mixed with 2 cups of water, let sit 2 hours and begin the dough the same day. I like to give the mixture time in the fridge to develop flavor, but it does stretch the recipe out to at least a couple of days.

One of my favorite ways to create bread is to start with a cooked and cooled grain and some sourdough starter and just go with it. This time around I cooked up some spelt, using a cup of Bob's Red Mill flattened whole grain flakes. Spelt absorbs a lot of water naturally. By cooking the grain first you get that water into the grain so that it doesn't come out of the water used to create the bread dough, plus the grains softens a bit. Just be sure to let it cool down so it doesn't mess with those yeasties. Since I had some stone-ground whole wheat flour from the Bale Grist Mill, too, I used 2 cups of that and two cups unbleached bread flour. This was a lean bread with no added butter, oil, eggs or dairy.

A little more than half of the dough went into a nice braid and the rest had about a half cup mixed seeds kneaded in...I love seedy bread...and was then shaped into a loaf.

Both were delicious! The braid probably was allowed to rise too long, or else it had amazing oven spring because the middle sort of blew out, messing up the braid a bit. Both were delicious while warm and both made great toast. I had some of the seedy bread for lunch today with peanut butter, mayo and bananas and it was super good!

You can substitute your favorite grain for the spelt...oatmeal works really well and so does mixed grain cooking it the way you would for breakfast cereal, then letting it cool. If it lumps up try to break the lumps up before adding to the sourdough starter mixture. You can also use a different grain for the whole wheat flour if you like. As always, pay attention to the dough, letting a cup or so at a time of flour incorporate as you go so that you don't add too much. If in doubt, use less flour than you think you need rather than more than you think you need. The yeast will thank you with a nice artisan crumb.

I'm sending this over the Yeastspotting, Susan of Wild Yeast's weekly yeasted bread collection. If you love yeasted baked goods you will love Yeastspotting...check it out!

Stone-ground Whole Wheat Sourdough with Spelt and Seeds - makes two loaves

1 cup sourdough starter
2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
2 cups water, divided

1 1/2 cups water
1 cup spelt flakes

1 tablespoon honey
2 1/4 cups bread flour (white, unbleached)
2 cups stone ground wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
spray cooking oil
1.2 cup mixed seeds (poppy, sesame, flax, sunflower, etc)
1 egg
1 teaspoon water
seed for the top (optional)

In a medium bowl combine 1 cup of the all-purpose flour with 1 cup of the water and whisk until smooth. In a larger bowl, whisk that mixture into 1 cup sourdough starter until fully combined. Let the mixture sit out, uncovered, on the counter for 2 hours. Cover and refrigerate overnight or up to three days.

Remove the mixture from the fridge, uncover and let warm up. Whisk to combine the more liquid part with the more solid part. In a medium bowl combine 1 cup of the all-purpose flour with 1 cup of the water and whisk until smooth. Add this mixture to the mixture that was in the fridge and whisk to combine well. Let the mixture sit out, uncovered, on the counter for 2 hours.

While the sourdough mixture is sitting on the counter, put the 1 1/2 cups cereal water in a small pot. When it comes to a boil, whisk in the spelt flakes. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, cover with a pot lid, and let cool completely.

In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the sourdough that has sat for 2 hours at room temperature, the cooled cooked spelt (be sure to break up any lumps that formed in the cooled cooked spelt before adding to the the sourdough mixture),and the honey. Stir with a spoon to combine.

In a large bowl or measuring cup combine the bread flour, stone ground whole wheat flour, and salt. Stir 1 cup of this mixture into the bowl with the sourdough mixture until combined.

Place the stand mixer bowl with the sourdough mixture into the stand mixer and attach the dough hook. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture a cup at a time until there is only about a cup left not added. Be sure the flour mixture is incorporated into the dough before add the next cup. Now start adding the flour mixture a couple of tablespoons at a time. The dough should be all the way up the dough hook and starting the clean the sides of the bowl as it kneads. Continue to add the flour mixture as needed , but add less flour rather than more if in doubt.

Let the machine knead the dough for 5-8 minutes once all the flour has been added. Then turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead by hand another few minutes. Dough will be satiny but not smooth (due to the spelt).

Use spray oil to oil a large bowl or rising container. Shape the dough into a ball and place in the bowl. Turn to coat the ball completely with oil. Cover (I use a shower cap or plastic wrap) and let rise in a warm draft free place until doubled in bulk about 1.5 to 2 hours.

Turn risen dough out onto a lightly floured board. Use a bench scraper or knife to divide the dough in two.( I had one part slightly larger than the other so that I could make a good sized braid and a smaller loaf.) Punch down to de-gas. Return one piece of dough to the rising bowl or container.

Shape the first piece of dough as you like. To make a braid, divide the dough into thirds, roll each with the palms and fingers spread to make a rope about 14 inches long. Line the three ropes up on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat. Starting in the middle, braid the strands as you would hair. Turn the baking sheet and braid the other half. Tuck the ends under, cover and let rise until doubled in bulk, about an hour.

To the second piece of dough add the seeds. My favorite method is to pat the dough into a rectangle about 1/2 inch thick, sprinkle about 1/2 of the seeds over the dough, then roll up like a jelly roll. Fold the ends of the roll toward the center and then flatten the dough again into a rectangle. Sprinkle on the rest of the seeds, roll up jelly roll fashion again, then knead the dough for a minute to distribute the seeds. Flatten the dough one more time and shape into a loaf. Place in a greased loaf pan and let rise, covered, until doubled in bulk and the pan is filled with dough. Usually the loaf will rise over the top of the pan in the oven (oven spring) so I bake it when it has reached the rim of the pan.

If you like you can coat one or both loaves with egg wash. I also added some poppy seeds on the top of the seedy loaf and decided to not wash the braid since I liked the floury look of it.

Bake in a preheated 375 degrees F. oven for about 55 minutes, or until bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, or when instant read thermometer is about 200.

Let baked bread cool on a rack. If you can resist cutting into the bread until it has cooled somewhat. The lovely fragrance of yeasted bread makes it difficult not to gobble it up right away but the texture is much better when it is cooler.