Thursday, June 27, 2013

The new and improved perfect wheat sandwich bread

I am dusting off this blog for the sole purpose of posting this recipe, which I had a half dozen requests for today.  When I fell off the blogging wagon a couple years ago, I found that I was taking good pictures on my real camera...then never getting around to posting I present to you a lousy cell phone picture of a very tasty loaf of bread that I took 10 minutes ago and am posting before I forget.  I have tinkered with my original whole wheat recipe many times, and honestly I'm to the point that I don't measure much anymore so it actually comes out slightly different each time, but overall, this is a truly excellent loaf.  The crumb is even, soft and moist, but holds together perfectly for sandwiches.  It is lightly sweet with a nice crust.  It's my go-to recipe.  It's even forgiving enough that if you happen to form the loaves, walk away for an hour and a half, find them exploding over the sides of the pans with a dry-ish crust on top, reform the loaves and put 'em back in the pan, they still turn out nicely.  Not that I'd ever do that.  Except last night.

A few hints for success right off the bat:

-Use good ingredients.  Freshly ground winter white wheat is my favorite.  If you don't have a wheat grinder, bug a neighbor.  If you know me, come on over and visit, and we'll chat in another room while the mill does it's (loud) magic.  I grind about a week's worth at a time.  If you grind more than that, it's best to keep it in the freezer to keep it fresh longer.

-UN-bleached all purpose flour, people.  Once you switch, you'll never go back.  I can taste the chemicals in baked goods people make with the bleached kind.  I am partial to Lehi Roller Mills brand, and am fortunate enough to live near enough to the mill that when Costco doesn't have it in stock, I can still get my fix.

-Good quality yeast.  I typically use active dry yeast.  Here's a link to a tutorial on the different types. Be patient.  Sometimes yeast is really feisty, sometimes it's sluggish.  Make sure you let it bloom in warm water before adding the rest of the ingredients.  I also have learned to appreciate less yeast and a long rise time for better bread texture. Bread that rises really quickly will have larger holes, less uniform texture, and tends to spring so quickly in the oven that you get a torn ridge along the sides of your loaves.  Also, allow yourself plenty of time to be home the first time you make bread so you can get the hang of how long it takes start to finish.  Nothing worse than getting your loaves half risen and needing to leave.

-Use a mixer if at all possible.  I made bread by hand for years.  It's tiring to knead for long enough to get the gluten to form.  If you don't have a stand mixer of some sort, my mom has had great success lately mixing the dough with about half the flour in it as well as all of the other ingredients with a cheap hand mixer for 7-8 minutes to encourage the gluten to form.  Once it gets a little springier and stringier, stir in the rest of the flour with a stiff spatula, then finish kneading by hand, adding little bits of flour as necessary.  If you're using a mixer, let it knead for 8 minutes on medium speed.  You can tell if you have enough flour when the dough sticks to the bottom, but pulls away from the side.  I also will stop the mixer and touch the dough.  It should still be a little sticky, and stretch when I pull my finger away.

-When shaping the loaves, stretching the dough a bit to get some surface tension goes a long way to making a beautiful loaf.

Without further ado, the recipe.

Wheat Sandwich Bread

In the bowl of your mixer, or a large mixing bowl combine:

4 cups warm water
1 scant tablespoon active dry yeast
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup molasses

Allow to rest for about 5 minutes until the yeast blooms to the top.  Then stir in:

1/2 cup canola oil or 1 stick of butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/3 cup buttermilk powder (I suspect you could use dry milk powder as well with good results)
1 T. kosher salt
4 cups whole white wheat flour

Once ingredients are well combined, allow to rest for about 15 minutes, until mixture begins to rise. Then turn on the mixer and add:

5-6 cups of unbleached all purpose flour (may need more)

Add this flour one cup at a time, and as the dough comes together, a 1/4 cup at a time until the dough pulls away from the sides but still sticks to the bottom.   Keep the mixer running for 8 minutes.  Meanwhile, lightly coat a large bowl in canola oil.  Scrape the finished dough into the oiled bowl, then turn to coat.  Drape a cloth over the bowl and allow to rest in a warm place until dough has doubled, 40-60 minutes on average.  (This time may lengthen if your kitchen is cold.)

Turn the risen dough out on to a clean work surface and divide into 3 equal portions.  Form your loaves like this video shows, and place into bread pans that have been misted with cooking spray.  Allow to rise until almost double.  Sometimes this is 15 minutes, sometimes closer to 45 - depends on the temperature of my kitchen and how well the yeast is behaving.  It will spring up a bit more in the oven.  If you want to get all fancy, you can brush the tops with a beaten egg just before you put them in the oven.  It'll make the crust all shiny and pretty.

Bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes.  The loaves should be golden brown and the crust should feel firm.  Immediately remove the loaves from the pans and allow to cool on a rack.  As with any bread, while the aroma compels you to tear into the hot loaf like a rabid wolf, wait at least 30 minutes or so before cutting in to it to allow the innards to set up.  An hour is even better.  Still warm, but perfect texture.

Bread should be frozen if you won't be eating it within 3-4 days, or kept at room temperature in a sealed plastic bag for immediate eating.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Fresh Spinach "pesto" (and what to do with it)

 I was in the mood for pesto last week.  Two problems, though.  My wee little basil plants had maybe a cup of leaves between the four of them, and pinenuts happen to be insanely expensive at the moment.  So I started rooting around in my fridge and came up with a faux pesto.  My sister is an avid gardener and gave me some garlic scapes a couple days prior, so I incorporated them in to the recipe with excellent results.  I'm assuming that most of the rest of you don't have garlic growing in your garden, so use regular fresh garlic cloves instead.  Garlic scapes grow out of the middle of young garlic plants and need to be trimmed off or else the garlic bulb growth will be stunted.  They have a firm stalk and pleasantly mild garlic flavor, perfect for this particular recipe.

Fresh Spinach Pesto

1/2 cup slivered almonds
4 cups packed fresh spinach leaves
2 ounces freshly shredded parmesan or romano cheese
1 large garlic scape, chopped OR 2-3 large cloves garlic, chopped
olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a small skillet over medium heat, toast the almonds for about 5 minutes, until they just begin to turn lightly brown and smell fragrant.  Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes.  Then layer the nuts, spinach, cheese and garlic in a blender or food processor.  Drizzle in enough oil to allow easy blending but not soupiness (about 1/4-1/3 cup), and pulse the blender or food processor several times until everything is finely chopped and well blended but still has some texture.  Add kosher salt and coarse pepper to taste.  Chill until ready to eat.

 Besides eating the spinach pesto with a spoon right out of the food processor because it's so delicious, you can toss it together with pasta, grilled chicken and grilled veggies.  Absolutely delicious!  And you know what?   My kids had no clue they were eating so much spinach!  It's not something that they readily eat, but they do like regular basil pesto and they didn't notice the difference because I stirred in a handful of julienned basil leaves too to add that flavor in.

To make this dish, I doused two chicken breasts, a couple of cups of grape tomatoes, and two red peppers that were quartered and cored in balsamic vinaigrette dressing.  I like Newman's Own brand when I'm too lazy to make a batch myself.  I grilled the chicken, basting it with more dressing a couple of times during cooking, and added the peppers to the grill skin side down for the last 5 or so minutes of grill time.  Meanwhile, I cooked up half a package of linguine.  Once the chicken and peppers were done, I removed them to cut into thin slices, then dumped the tomatoes on to the hot grill.  They softened up within 30 seconds and got a few nice little char marks.  I removed them right away.  I drained, then dumped the pasta into a large serving bowl, stirred the pesto in thoroughly, then added the tomatoes, peppers, chicken and a handful of julienned basil leaves and carefully stirred it all together.  I finished it off with a dusting of finely shredded parmesan cheese and it was a delicious summertime supper that everyone devoured (except for my almost 4 year old, but her opinion doesn't count on these sorts of things).

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Marinated Cranberry Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

(I will edit this post to add pictures as soon as my computer that has all of my lovely images on it is functional again. In the meantime, use your imagination.)

I'm on a bit of a healthier eating kick lately.  Watching my calorie intake and all that jazz to shed a few unwanted pounds that have snuck their way on to my hips.  You know what?  It works.  I'm not a dieter.  Never have been.  But being aware of what I'm putting in to my mouth has really helped me cut out the junk.  I was mildly appalled the first few days I tracked and realized how often I walk by the pantry and snag a treat in passing.  I don't believe in giving up good food - just working on portion control.  Tonight I roasted a pork tenderloin, served with a side of these lovely crispy roasted potatoes and a simple salad of mixed greens, oranges, strawberries and easy (lowfat) citrus poppyseed dressing.  Total calories for my plate were around 700 for the meal and it was delicious and filling.

You'll need to plan ahead a couple of hours to allow the meat to marinate, but otherwise the hands on prep time is pretty short - less than 20 minutes.  Butterflying and pounding the tenderloin, then browning it before finishing it off in the oven yielded very tender results.  I fully intended on putting a diced pear in the stuffing but got distracted and forgot...feel free to add it yourself :).

Marinated Cranberry Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

Two pork tenderloins, around 1 pound apiece (mine came packaged together, and they are each about the size and length of a woman's forearm)

1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 red wine vinegar
1 t. kosher salt
1 T. raw sugar (or brown sugar)
1" of fresh ginger root, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
several grinds of pepper

Mix all ingredients in a gallon ziplock bag, then place the tenderloins in, squeeze the excess air out, flip it over a few times until the meat is well coated and place in the refrigerator.  Marinate for at least an hour, preferably a few hours.

1/2 cup minced purple onion
1 T. olive oil
1 cup day old sourdough bread crumbs (I pulsed three slices in my food processor)
2 T. julienned fresh sage leaves
1/3 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup craisins
kosher salt and pepper to taste

Sautee the onion in olive oil until it begins to soften.  Stir in the bread crumbs, craisins and sage leaves, and just enough broth to moisten it.  Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Prepare the tenderloins by butterflying each one lengthwise.  Lay a piece of saran wrap on top then pound with a meat mallet until it reaches an even 1/2" thickness.  Grind some pepper over the exposed surface of each piece, then divide the stuffing in half and spoon it down the middle.  Fold the meat over the filling and secure with toothpicks.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  In a large skillet, heat 2 T. olive oil.  Sprinkle a little more kosher salt and pepper over each tenderloin, then brown the top and bottom of each in the oil, cooking for about 2 minutes per side.  Place the tenderloins on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 30 minutes, until an instant read meat thermometer reads 160 degrees.

Remove from the oven and loosely tent with foil for about 10 minutes before slicing to allow the juices to settle.  Lightly drizzle a tablespoon of real maple syrup over each tenderloin, then slice into 1" thick slices to serve.

This was the perfect dinner for a cold and dreary spring day.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Simple Citrus Poppyseed Dressing

(I will edit this post to add a picture as soon as my computer that has all of my lovely images on it is functional again.  In the meantime, use your imagination.)

This is my go-to dressing.  It takes less than 2 minutes to whip together and has a nice sweet tang to it.  Even better, it's relatively low fat.  I love to use this for broccoli slaw, or drizzle it over a bed of baby greens topped with chunks of avocado, oranges, strawberries and mangos with a sprinkling of spiced nuts.  Absolutely delicious and refreshing!

Simple Citrus Poppyseed Dressing

1/3 cup reduced fat mayonaise
3 T. red or white wine vinegar
3 T. orange juice
1 t. raw sugar
pinch of kosher salt
1/2-1 t. poppyseeds, according to your taste

Mix all ingredients together.  The end.  So simple.  I like to make small quantities at a time since a little goes a long way.  Keep any unused portion sealed in a jar or tupperware in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.  If you'd like to boost the citrus flavor, stir in a bit of orange zest.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Bagels with Cinnamon Crunch

 The humble bagel is a deeply satisfying bread, in my opinion.  I love the chewiness.  I love pumpkin, too, so when I saw a recipe in Taste of Home's Healthy Cooking, I had to try it.  Even though it's not exactly pumpkin season.  I happen to keep a stash on hand at all times because one never knows when a sudden urge for pumpkin chocolate chip waffles will strike, and waiting for 6 months to satisfy that craving just ain't gonna happen.

This was my first crack at making bagels, and I was pleased with how they came out.  The cinnamon crunch topping was my own addition, and I modified it to be kneaded by hand rather than a bread machine.  Otherwise the recipe is as published by Taste of Home.  Don't be alarmed by the boiling in water part - that seemed intimidating and scary to me, but it was quite simple and that's how you get the chewy outer crust.
Pumpkin Spice Bagels with Cinnamon Crunch

  • 2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water
  • 1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3 cups bread or unbleached all purpose flour
  • cornmeal

  • Topping
  • egg white
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 white sugar
  • 2 T. all purpose flour
  • 1 T. cinnamon
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the warm water and active dry yeast.  Stir to combine and let rest for about 5 minutes until dissolved and beginning to bubble.  Stir in the pumpkin, brown sugar, salt and spices, then stir in as much of the flour as you can with a spatula.  Sprinkle the remaining flour into the bowl bit by bit as you knead the dough for 5-7 minutes until it forms a smooth and elastic ball.  Drizzle a small amount of canola oil into the bowl, turn the dough ball to coat and set it aside to rise for about an hour, or until doubled.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface and divide it into 9 balls.  Form each into a roll, and allow to rest for about 5-10 minutes.  This allows the dough to relax and makes forming the bagel hole easier.  Poke your thumb through the middle of each dough ball and stretch to form a 1" opening.  Allow to rest 10 more minutes, then flatten slightly

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and fill a dutch oven or other wide pot at least 4" deep at least half full of water.  Bring to a boil.  (I've seen other bagel recipes that recommend adding a dash of baking soda or a teaspoon of sugar to the water bath.  I did it just with plain water, but will try other methods in the future and see how it effects the final crust consistency).  Drop the bagels two at a time into the boiling water.  Cook for 45 seconds, flip over and cook for another 45 seconds.  Pull them out with a slotted spoon or spatula and let drain, then place on a baking sheet that has been prepared by misting with cooking spray and sprinkling with cornmeal.

In a small bowl, combine the 1/4 each brown sugar, white sugar, 2 T. flour and cinnamon.  Whisk the egg white in another small bowl and brush over each bagel.  Sprinkle the sugar/cinnamon mixture liberally over the top of each one.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove to a rack to cool, or if you lack self control like I do, scarf them down immediately.  These were divine with cream cheese.  I toasted a leftover one the following day and the flavors had improved even more.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Decadent Flourless Chocolate Cake

I don't have a picture for this.  I worked Wednesday night shift, slept my 3 hours afterward, got up and ran ran ran for the rest of the day until my book club ladies showed up and devoured the cake.  As they were all swooning over it, I realized I should have taken a picture first.  I'll just have to make another batch ;).  This is a recipe that I tore out of Parade magazine a few weeks ago and have been plotting the perfect time to make it ever since.  It is SUPER rich.  Make it when you have a bunch of friends to share it with because otherwise you might keel over and die from sheer happiness and chocolate overload.  It developed a delightful airy melt-in-your-mouth chocolatey crust on top that was balanced by the fudgy (but not too heavy) soft interior.  It is a rather homely dessert, but utterly amazing in flavor and texture.  I baked it in a springform pan this time, and am thinking that if I wanted to actually remove it from the base, lining it with parchment would be a good idea.  I also think this would be fantastic baked in individual ramekins, particularly straight sided ones because of the way it rises then falls.

Decadent Flourless Chocolate Cake

3/4 cup butter
7 ounces good dark chocolate (I used Lindt 70% cacao bars)
4 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar

Turn the oven on to 300 degrees and prepare a 9" springform pan by buttering the sides and bottom.  If desired, line the bottom with a circle parchment paper as well.  Alternatively, you may butter 8-8 ounce ramekins (straight side).

In a double boiler over medium low heat, melt the butter and dark chocolate, stirring occasionally until smooth.  Meanwhile, whisk 1/2 cup sugar into the 4 egg yolks until well combined.  In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until peaks begin to form, then gradually beat in the remaining 1/2 cup sugar.  Stir the egg yolk mixture into the chocolate/butter mixture, then fold the chocolate mixture into the egg white mixture.  Pour into the prepared pan or ramekins.

Bake for 40-45 minutes at 300 degrees, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  The top crust will rise quite high, then fall within a few minutes of being removed from the oven.  Run a knife around the edge immediately after removing from the oven, then remove the side ring after a few minutes.  Allow it to cool to room temperature, then place in the refrigerator until serving time.  This sliced and served much better once chilled.  You may garnish with whipped cream, mint leaves and raspberries if desired.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Pillsbury Bakeoff Time!

Those of you that have hung around here for a while or know me in real life know that I was a finalist in the Pillsbury Bakeoff 5 years ago.  It was rather a fluke, in my opinion.  I made the recipe once.  Stumbled across the contest online a few days later and mentally made the changes appropriate to submit it, sent it off and forgot about it.  6 months later, they called to let me know that I was one of the 100 finalists.  Crazy.

We had a great time on our trip.  I never had any illusions that they would somehow pick my recipe (a salad) as the million dollar winner, so we went with the perspective of just soaking in the experience.  In analyzing the winners from the past few contests, I have come to the conclusion that they are looking for a simple recipe that is easily made even by less experienced cooks that will print nicely on the back of a package.

Make sure that you write out your instructions clearly and include every ingredient on your list.  They will automatically chuck recipes that don't meat those basic criteria.  Read recipes posted on their website to get a feel for how they like the instructions written.  Don't forget to specify things like pan size.  Be sure to read the required ingredients list carefully and makes sure you use the asked for quantities.

Go forth and cook.  Then submit your creations online here:  The Pillsbury Bakeoff.