Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Basic Whole Wheat Pizza

NYC is famous for it's wide slices of thin-crust pizza.  I've heard the crust is so fantastic (and this is likely a myth) because of the minerals present in the tap water here.  But I think I believe the myth and ummmm I used water straight from our Upper East Side faucet for this recipe.  And this pizza was pretty baller.  That's not to argue with the fact that nothing beats a slice of New York pie (except maybe a bagel) but there's not nothing to making homemade pizza.  Double negative.  There's something to it.  So keep reading and try it!

Basic Whole Wheat Pizza Crust
(Printable Recipe)
Yields one small, thin-crust pizza.  Double this recipe if you want a thicker, bready crust OR if you want a bigger, thin crust pizza.

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup bread flour
3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup warm water
2 tablespoons olive oil

Combine the dry ingredients, including the yeast.
Add the water and olive oil.
Knead on a lightly floured surface for 2-3 minutes until it comes together.
Oil the original bowl (a little goes a long way) and plop the dough back in there -- making sure to roll it around so that the top is oily too.
Let rise for 1-2 hours until doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to it's hottest setting.
Stretch into a pizza crust.  I really can't offer much advice on this but be patient and not too aggressive.  If you get frustrated let the dough rest for 10 minutes.  You'll relax and so will the gluten.
Once you have a good shape (and you'll see ours is a rectangle because we do not have a pizza stone- hint hint **wishlist**) pop your dough in the oven for 2-3 minutes.  No toppings.  Naked.
Take it out quick and spread the sauce, cheese, and other toppings to your liking.  Always remember if you are topping with veggies they have to be pre-cooked.  This dough only needs about 8-10 more minutes and that is not long enough for your broccoli to cook through.  No way.  Blanche that brocc!
Anyways, cook about 10 more minutes until it's just oozy and perfect.
Let it sit for about 5 minutes after it comes out so you don't burn  your life and get melty cheese everywhere.
Slice and eat up!

I topped my pizza with a simple sauce of canned tomato, salt, pepper, oregano, sugar, onion, garlic similar to the one from the Sourdough Pizza post and fresh mozzarella cheese and a little windowsill cultivated basil.
It was a hard winter on our herb garden.  

- Sarah

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Simply Seedy Sourdough

Open Sesame!

I baked a sourdough loaf.  With seeds.  Lots of seeds.  
It's an Ali Baba and the Forty Seeds Sourdough. 

Seedy Sourdough
(Printable Recipe)   Yields 2 loaves

2 cups ripe sourdough starter
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups bread flour
about 1/2 cup of all purpose flour for kneading
1 teaspoon active dry yeast (and a pinch of sugar and about tablespoon warm water to proof)
2 cups water (warm)
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup flax seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
oil for greasing loaf pans

First, combine the starter with the warm water.  You sort of have to chop it up. 
Combine the flours in a separate bowl and once the water and starter are mixed up start to slowly add the flours.
Let it be for 15-20 minutes.  While you wait, proof the yeast.
Combine and toast up your seeds (you'll know they are toasty when they smell like bird food, but bird food you'd eat).
Add the yeast, salt, and 1/2 cup of seeds and knead the dough for about 5 minutes until it's all incorporated.  Use as much all purpose flour as you need while you knead.  My dough was pretty sticky at first so I used about half a cup to knead.  
Grease a bowl.  
Form a ball of dough.
Place dough into greased bowl and make sure you spin it around in there so the top gets oiled too.
Let it rise overnight in the fridge.
In the morning, take the dough out of the fridge.  Let it warm up for 30 minutes before dumping it onto a floured surface. 
Divide the dough in two.
Shape your loaves and place them into their own well oiled bread pans.
Use some of the remaining toasted sesame and flax seeds on the top of your loaves.
Bake at 350°F for 45 minutes.  Let cool for 15-20 minutes in the pan.  Carefully remove loaves from pans and let cool to room temperature.  

Although it will smell a little like bird food this bread is definitely NOT for the birds.  Flax and sesame are both very valuable nutritionally speaking...
Flax is rich in omega-3 fats and an excellent source of both soluble and insoluble fiber.  "Flax is known as a 'blessed plant' that can bring good fortune, restore health, and protect against witchcraft " (from 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life! by David Grotto).  
Sesame is not just good for getting into magical caves of treasure but also a great source of lignans and phytosterols which have been proven to fight cancer and heart disease.

Since you, loyal reader, must be wondering how Lil and I go through so much bread, I'll disclose our secret:  it's a combination of boyfriends and the freezer.

We share with everybody we can -- boyfriends just happen to be the must willing and readily available samplers.  And when we make a couple of loaves at once, as in this seedy sourdoughy example, we freeze one.

When you freeze a fresh loaf of bread make sure it is totally cool before you seal it tightly in a ziplock and put in into the freezer.  When thawing your bread, just be patient and let it come to room temperature out of the ziplock.  If you are feeling impatient, nuke it in the microwave on it's defrost setting.  Again, no plastic (clearly).

Close Sesame!


End note: When I try another seedy loaf, and if you are ambitious enough to try one yourself, I highly recommend doing something to the seeds on the top -- maybe an egg wash or just brush with some water.  They need some glue to hold them down onto the bread and keep them off of the entire apartment.

And also: It was fantastic to have a successful sourdough after that black bread experience that came out more like a hockey puck than bread.  Those loaves were for the birds.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sourdough Pancakes II

A while ago I made my first batch of Sourdough Pancakes.  They were awesome and I have craved them several times since.  Unfortunately, my craving usually strikes early in the morning.. and then I am all deflated when I realize the batter needs to sit overnight.  
So, after several disappointing pancake-less mornings, I realized I should just look up a recipe for same-day Sourdough Pancakes.  This Joe Pastry recipe caught my eye because it doesn't call for any additional flour or water -- it's all stater!  

I adapted the recipe a little bit because 2 cups of starter would make a huge tower of pancakes for two people.  Even halved, this recipe could potentially serve 3-4 people especially if you make a hefty portion of scrambled eggs and strawberry syrup.  

Same-day Sourdough Pancakes topped with Strawberry Syrup and served with Scrambled Eggs
(Printable Recipe)
1 cup ripe sourdough starter
1/2 egg (+other half and extras for scrambled eggs on the side)
1 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon baking soda combined with 1/2 tablespoon water

1. Measure starter into a bowl. 
2. Combine baking soda and water and let sit while you mix together all other ingredients in a separate bowl.  Reserve the other half of the egg separately for some scrambled (or your favorite style) eggs.
3. Fold the sugar, salt, oil, and 1/2 egg mixture into the starter.  Then, stir in the baking soda water.  
4. The mixture should bubble/foam.
5. Fry and serve!
Don't forget to scramble up your eggs while the pan is still hot!

Simple Strawberry Syrup
(Printable Recipe)
Pinch of sugar (optional)

1. Cut up as many strawberries as you can eat and pop them into a saucepan over medium heat.
2. Add a pinch of sugar if you feel so inclined.
3. Stir occasionally about 5 minutes.  You'll know when it's done.  HINT: do not use strawberries in photo above to determine done-ness.  Use your other senses.

Top with whipped cream if you are feeling feisty.

Happy Sunday!
- Sarah

Monday, April 12, 2010

Nobody's Perfect Homemade Breadcrumbs and Three Cheese Macaroni with Broccoli

I love raisins.  Somebody along the line taught me that raisins are candy.  I suspect it's the same person who taught me sweet potatoes are ice cream.  

I mention raisins not only because I adore them but also because I baked the Dark Pumpernickel with Raisins from Bread Alone this past weekend.  The recipe called for 2 cups of the little sundried grapes!  And the longest part of the whole process (aside from having established starter) is the 8 hours prior to any dough mixing/kneading that you need to soak the raisins!  The best part is that the recipe calls for 1 cup of said raisin-soaking water AND a cup of strong coffee.  Andy is a perfect combination of hilarious and disgusting and so he said this to me as I read him the recipe, "Skip the middle man and just dump it down the toilet!"

Everything was lined up for this bread to be awesome.  So awesome, in fact, that I didn't bother halving the huge recipe.  Look at all of the loaves I yielded:

Note the two different colors happening...

The color disparities are not the least of the problems with this bread.  The color is actually quite interesting.  What happened is I baked two long loaves on a cookie sheet, uncovered and the boule in the dutch oven, covered.  So, in the future I know to get a deeper color to leave the bread covered.  Valuable lesson learned.  What's not so desirable about these loaves is the density.  The sourdough starter I used had thawed from the freezer.  I let it warm up in the refrigerator for 48 hours, stirring when I could.  I saw that it smelled and appeared active to I used it in the recipe.  Unfortunately, I think it was too tired to give the bread any lift.  Another lesson learned, don't debut starter that has been frozen for weeks until you discard and feed it AT LEAST once.  That being said, these loaves taste delicious and I am going to try this recipe again without a doubt once my starter is more eager.

In slightly older news, I ruined the Multigrain Bread with Sunflower Seeds that Lil baked once before.  Slowing that bread down in the fridge didn't work so hot and we wanted to try it again to get a better rise.  Lil and I were both busy bees so we tag-teamed this bread.  It starts as a sponge and then you add more ingredients and it becomes a dough, basically.  
The recipe unintentionally adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison
1 cup uncooked multigrain cereal (we use Bob's Red Mill)
1 1/2 cups hot water
1 cup buttermilk (or faux buttermilk = milk + white vinegar)
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
2 tablespoons honey or malt syrup
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup sunflower seeds
4 cups whole wheat flour

See that part where it says 2 1/2 teaspoons?  Well, I didn't.  I read tablespoons and threw them in before rushing off to yoga.  Is rushing to yoga counterproductive?  

Anyways, the bread came out VERY saltly.  We turned it into breadcrumbs.  You can make breadcrumbs with any type of bread.  I'd recommend a basic bread -- more of a whole wheat or multigrain instead of a dark raisin pumpernickel, for example.  Breadcrumbs are a practical alternative for dry on-the-way-to-stale bread.  Plus, you can use them to enhance many dishes i.e. macaroni and cheese!

How to Make Homemade Breadcrumbs
1. Slice bread.
2. Lay out in a single layer on a cookie sheet.
3. Toast in a 300°F for about 10 - 15 minutes.
4. Tear dried bread into smaller pieces and blend in your food processor.  Or, if you are us and do not own a food processor, get chopping!  Either way, leave them coarse so that you have the option to go finer.  
Store in the freezer!

Sarah Style Three-cheese Macaroni with Broccoli 
This is Sarah Style because it was impromptu and there are a million different variations.

You need: 
pasta (I use 100% Whole Wheat chiocciole from bionaturae)
cheese (I have a personal bias toward Cabot)
butter (unsalted)
milk  (2%)
all-purpose flour (unbleached)
vegetable (I had broccoli in the fridge)
and breadcrumbs.

You whip it up like this:
Cook the pasta al dente and blanche your vegetable (like I mentioned, I used broccoli, but cauliflower, peas, or a combo would work here).
While the pasta cooks, melt a tablespoon of butter.  Add about a half cup of milk and a teaspoon of flour.  Then, add LOTS of cheese.  Cheddar doesn't melt all that great, but it tastes good.  If you use it I recommend pairing it with a cheese that melts better.  I used Cabot's Horseradish cheese.  Sounds weird, and it kind of is but it's good in mac and cheese.  
Pour it all (vegetable, pasta, cheese sauce) together in a casserole dish.  
Top with breadcrumbs and loads of parmesan cheese.
Bake at 350°F for about 30 minutes.

Mac and cheese is the ultimate comfort food so I figure it goes well with the dense black bread and the over-salted multigrain turned to breadcrumbs mistake post.

Nobody's perfect.  Except raisins.
- Sarah

P.S. Youtube "nobody's perfect doglover199709" if you need a pick me up and don't have time to make macaroni.  

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Sourdough 101

To leaven means to lift or lighten.  As I mentioned in the Matzah post, leavening agents include: yeast, baking soda, baking power, and lactobacilli (sourdough) bacteria.  All basically work by producing tiny bubbles (carbon dioxide) that are trapped within the doughs glutenous structure and therefore making the dough rise.

Sourdough, or in fancy French levain, does not rely on domestic yeast in order to rise.  Some recipes call for yeast because it helps sourdough along and (arguably) improves flavor.  

Since sourdough is essentially Pâte Fermentée or fermented dough you can go about it with shortcuts or through the whole rigmarole..

Some Sourdough Shortcuts
Route 1 - Dirt Backroads
If you bake a lot of bread you'll love this option -- Don't wash your dishes.  Scrape down dough, hydrate if needed, and incorporate into the new dough.  The only exception is if you are using dishes from an eggy bread (i.e. Challah).  Clean that up.  But seriously, you can use up to 2 cups of old dough in any new batch.  
Route 2 - Drive Slow
You can sort of make any bread into a faux-sourdough by mix together the flour, water, and yeast (if applicable) and allowing it extra time (at least overnight) to ferment or retard.
Route 3 - The Super Highway
Almost anybody who is awesome enough to maintain their own sourdough starter would gift a batch to you.  If you live in the NYC area - we'd love to share.  

Whole Rigamarole of Sourdough Starter (An Overview)
I am not going to post any proportions because I simply haven't tried enough starters from scratch to endorse one or another.  Scroll the to bottom of this post for a short list of resources.  For our sourdough mother dough/starter/sponge we used the 7-day plan in The King Arthur Flour Bakers Companion.  

What you need:
Basically, all other recipes I read have you starting with flour, water, and a tiny bit of sweet (sugar, molasses, honey).  Sometimes yeast.  

What you do:
Every 24 hours after your initial mix, you discard a portion (usually half) of your starter and feed it a mixture of all-purpose flour and water.  Be on top of feeding every 22-26 hours.  Don't let it go much shorter/longer than a full day because it is young and immature.  Be patient!!!  Some starters may take more than a week to become established.  

What you are going for:
Established starter has a predictable rise and fall pattern.  It smells winey.  There are bubbles that break the surface.  If you check on your starter and see creases, this means the starter recently achieved it's greatest volume and is deflating.  To the touch, you'll find that gluten has developed -- the starter will feel elastic-y.  

Once your starter is established:
I recommend baking a Pain au Levain to start and going from there.  Every loaf will be more flavorful as the starter ages.  Whole grains bring out the twang in sourdough.  I have also read some recipes (in the future I will try them) that call for vinegar or other acidity to vamp up the vavavoom of sourdough.

Where to store starter:
Maintain your starter either on your countertop, feeding daily.  Or in your fridge, feeding weekly.  
You can also freeze the starter if feeding once a week is too much.  When you are ready to pick up caring for the starter again you must let it thaw in the fridge for 24 hours before discarding half and feeding it.  If you store starter in the fridge it's good to let it work outside the fridge for a couple of hours before baking.  Always allow it at least two hours to work after any feeding.

What to store starter in:
Store your starter in a nonreactive container -- like stainless steel, glass, plastic, ceramic.  These materials are nonreactive because they do not react with acidic ingredients the way copper and aluminum do.  I recommend a clear one so that you can watch your starter grow.  If you don't mind donating a whole tupperware to your starter (as we have) you can mark the rises and falls, highs and lows.  Especially in the first weeks it's super exciting to watch.  

What to feed starter:
Feed starter whatever you last fed your starter (usually equal parts, by weight, all-purpose flour and water).  You can increase the volume of your starter for a special recipe or to gift some to a special someone by feeding it extra but stick with the same proportion of flour and water.  If you feel the urge to feed your starter a different type of flour (say, rye or whole wheat for example) resist that temptation and just bake a sourdough rye loaf.  If you want your starter to thrive you have to be predictable and reliable in when and what you feed it.  

If your starter becomes dormant/neglected:
You'll see a clear, dark liquid where you usually see bubbles and creases.  It will smell very strong.  Don't worry -- the starter is not dead it is just suffocating!  Stir the liquid on top into the starter, pour off all but 4 ounces and feed it twice a day until it is revived.  Healthy, bubbly, and active.  If you have any sign of pink or reddish mold (VERY rare) and your starter smells putrid throw it out.  Dangerous microorganisms have, against all odds, begun to take over the lactobacillus bacteria.  Start from scratch.  

Inheriting or gifting a sourdough starter is very special.  In my opinion, there is a pinch too much value placed on generations old sourdough cultures.  It's romantic, no doubt.  But, your mother's-father's-uncle's century old sourdough starter is no more authentic than the one sitting in my fridge right now.  

Not to get too deep into the history of it, but San Francisco claims the oldest sourdough starters in the U.S. dating back to the Gold Rush.  The prospectors didn't have the dough ($$cashmoney) to feed themselves so when they baked bread they reserved some of the dough for the next loaf.  Over time, the dough fermented more and more into the modern sourdough flavor we all love.

Somehow, the heirloom-nature of sourdough makes it intimidating but the amateur-home baker should NOT be discouraged by sourdough starter and all of it's rigamarole.  All the fancy French words don't help make it seem easy either.  But really, it is flour+water+sugar and time.  Starting your own sourdough starter is almost as good as having a pet.  I admittedly have a nostalgic attachment to my starter.  It's a little weird... so now that I've opened up to you about my love for the starter currently frozen for Passover, you should try making your own!  

Resources to get you (and your starter) started:
The Fresh Loaf
   Details day-by-day procedure for making a starter using rye flour and juice!
   Uses The Fresh Loaf method above and goes through the process step-by-step comparing it to a water-based starter.
- Bread Alone by Daniel Leader and Judith Blahnik
    Gives "A Gentle Introduction" for a 4-day starter into a rye loaf.  Their starter begins with yeast.  
- The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion
    We used the KAFlour 7-day plan that starts with rye flour and eventually uses all-purpose.
- Or if you really don't want to read, this guy does a good job of explaining the basics and moving his lips to other words:

Comment here or email and we will try our best to help you through it!

- Sar