Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Geography of Whole Wheat RAISED Waffles

Yeasted is not a word.  But let's not get nit-picky.  Let's talk geography, not grammar.

What American's know as a "Belgian Waffle" in Belgium is actually called the Brussels Waffle.  Belgian waffles, like Belgian draft horses, are different from your average breed of waffle in that they are super tall.    The trick to a true Belgian waffle is that the bread-er uses yeast to raise the waffles.  I don't think that's what the breeder uses to make the horses over a ton but who knows.  Everything is bigger in Belgium.  (?!)  This Belgian, Maurice Vermersch (I don't know how big he was.  Probably huge if he went along with the horses/waffles trend), introduced the waffle during the 1964 NY World's Fair and decided to call it the Belgian waffle upon observing the poor geographical skills of Americans.

The world according to The New Yorker (and perhaps even an understatement of how New Yorkers see it):
AND Manhattan is getting BIGGER according to this NYTimes article on the new subway maps!

Whole Wheat Raised Waffles  Adapted from Orangette - who got the recipe from Marion Cunningham's The Breakfast Book
(Printable Recipe)
Yields about 4-5 batches of waffles (depends on size and configuration of waffle maker)

1/2 cup warm water
1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups whole milk
1 stick unsalted butter, melted*
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
2 large eggs, beaten
1/4 teaspoon baking soda

The night before, mix the water, yeast and sugar and let stand for 5-10 minutes.
Measure and mix the milk, butter, salt and flours.
Combine with yeast and let stand overnight.  Use a large mixing bowl since the batter will double in size.
In the morning, preheat your waffle maker.
Just before cooking, beat 2 eggs with baking soda and mix into batter.
Cut fruits (we used banana, blueberry, strawberry and apple) can be added on top of the batter after it has been poured into the waffle iron.  

Fruit is optional, but highly recommended.  It's your thing, do what you wanna do.  If you get some fruit stick-age to the iron just let it be part of the next waffle if you cannot remove it gently.

*The next time I use this recipe I will substitute 3/4 cup apple sauce and use only 1/4 stick (2 tablespoons) of butter.  They were delicious and crispy BUT we don't need need to raise cholesterol for raised waffles.

We bought a new waffle iron for my dad as an early fathers day gift.  I had read the Cook's Illustrated waffle iron reviews without consulting my mother.  Both of us went out shopping without communicating and fortunately, only she was successful.  Worst case scenario, we would have had to make space for a waffle maker in our tiny UES apartment.  God forbid.

But anyways, my mom found the Food Network Signature Series waffle maker.  So Aaron and I presented it to my dad, because we love him, and so that I would have an excuse to take the maiden voyage with the waffle maker.  Much of making good waffles is in knowing your waffle maker.  The first few came out a little bit soft to our liking and so we learned to ignore the first "beeeeep" for the second.  There was some talk about how perhaps the trick is when you stop getting steam and that if you are adding fruit, be sure to leave the waffle on (without peeking) for a bit longer.  It's hard to ignore, especially for notoriously impatient New Yorkers, but well worth the wait.

New Yorkers are so rushed that tourists get their own sidewalk lane:

This post is happening from my country home on Freund's Farm in Connecticut.  Although we live in New York now, Lil and I were both raised in the beautiful Northwest corner of CT (aka the NWC).  I think at least part of our patience for bread can be attributed to our country roots because it definitely has nothing to do with trying to squeeze onto the 6 train at 8AM (the 2nd avenue subway is coming!!!)

For those loyal NYC reader(s), just wondering, do you know about the Wafels and Dinges truck?  (And is it weird to ask a question to cyberspace?)  I see it up by 116th on the West Side occasionally.  Just smelling the waffles is at least 2000 calories.  The owner makes them so authentic that he even spells them "wafels" instead of waffles.  Pretty legitimate.  For my melting pot taste buds, these buttery whole wheat raised waffles were fantastic.

Thank for sharing your waffles, Belgium.  Sorry American's tend to not care where in the world you are.  I suppose if you wanted us to know, you should have kept the waffle to yourself so we'd have to travel for them.  No going back now.

- Sarah

P.S. Belgium borders the Netherlands, Germany, and France.  The capital city, Brussels, is essentially due East of London.  Start at home and practice your USA geography:

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Sourdough-Oat Scones with Cherries and Dark Chocolate

Scones vs. Biscuits
Both are quick breads with baking powder as a leavening agent.  The basic dough of both is quite similar - the difference is in how they are baked and served.
Scones are sweet, served with hot tea (Harney strongly recommended) or coffee.  They often (and in my opinion, should always) contain fruit, nuts, or spices.
Biscuits are typically unsweetened and best served warm with butter or honey alongside a meal, like Vegetarian Chili, for example.

I was inspired to bake a sourdough scone after reading this recipe on Wild Yeast Blog's YeastSpotting.  Some of the ingredients were measured in weight (fortunately, we have a kitchen scale) and so I changed them to volume (cups, teaspoons, etc) along with my modifications to the recipe.

Sourdough-Oat Scones with Dried Cherries and Dark Chocolate
Yields 16 scones
Bake time 23 minutes

3/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1/3 cup oat flour
5 tsp nonfat milk powder
1/4 cup sugar
5/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon lemon zest
8 tablespoons (one stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup dark chocolate chopped
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 cup sourdough starter
coarse sugar

Preheat the oven to 400°F. 
In a large mixing bowl, blend the flours, milk powder, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and lemon zest.
Press in cold butter* until it is in pea-sized chunks.
Mix in the dried cherries, dark chocolate, and rolled oats.
Add sourdough starter and mix lightly until the dry ingredients are incorporated.
Turn dough onto a floured surface and pat into a long rectangle.
Cut** into four squares and then cut X's into squares to get four triangular scones, each.  Sixteen scones total.
Place scones on parchment lined baking sheet - brush with milk and sprinkle with coarse sugar.
Bake 23 minutes or until golden brown.

*Why cold butter?  And freezing scones/biscuts...
Cold butter makes biscuits flaky.  Fat coats the proteins in the flours preventing them from forming long gluten strands.  In this way, the butter buffers the layers between the flour-liquid matrix -- as the biscuit bakes in the oven, the butter melts.  Ta da, flaky texture!
Scones/biscuits that use the combination of flour, liquid, baking powder, and solid fat can be frozen for 30 minutes before baking.  After shaping and placing on the cookie sheet, freeze for 30 minutes.  You get a flakier texture because the fat stays solid longer in the oven, holding together the structure as the biscuit rises and bakes.
**It is important to cut biscuit and scone dough with sharp dough cutters.  Cutting with dull knives or glasses destroys "side walls" that freely expand as biscuits/scones bake allowing them to rise to their optimum height.

A side note, directed at my father, on white whole wheat flour.  My dad said, "White whole wheat doesn't make sense to me."  So, here's an explanation: White Whole Wheat flour is made from an albino wheat rather than a traditional red wheat.  It is a milder, lighter 100% whole wheat flour and in recipes it acts a lot more like all-purpose (i.e. you don't need to add as much liquid to compensate if you are substituting).  It's a great compromise between taste and nutrition because it doesn't get a whole-wheaty texture/taste yet it supplies the nutrients of 100% whole wheat.

In my scone research, I found that The Wandering Eater posted on The Best Scones in New York City in 2006.  It's been four years and these  Cherry-Dark Chocolate Scones could at least give Eli's a run for a place in the top 5.

- Sar

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Buttermilk French Toast on Challah

Holla!  French Toast!

Buttermilk Challah French Toast
Yields 9 slices French Toast

9 1/2 to 1 inch slices of Challah Bread 
6 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 heaping tablespoon orange zest
Pinch of cloves
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon

First slice up the bread in about 1/2 inch slices

Whisk together all ingredients either in a low, flat pyrex, or transfer the liquid to something that you can fit slices in to soak.
Let them soak for up to 5 minutes.
Cook over a medium-low flame.

If you don't have a griddle, like us, you can turn the oven on really low and keep the slices warm until they are all cooked.  They like to be cozy in a pig pile of French Toast.

Top with Strawberry-Orange syrup, fresh fruit, and a drizzle of maple syrup and brunch is ready!

Strawberry-Orange Syrup

2 tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon maple syrup
3/4 cup cut strawberries

Put it all in a pot and cook until it looks like mush.  

- Sarah

Friday, May 14, 2010

Challah with Poppy Seeds

Challah bread is a braided, eggy loaf eaten by Jewish people on Shabbat and other holidays.  I would argue that it also makes the best bread for French Toast.  

I adapted this recipe from King Arthur Flour to be more whole wheat-y.  Partially because we ran out of all purpose flour and partially because whole wheat is healthier anyways.  "Whole wheat" means that the entire grain was ground with all parts intact - the germ, endosperm, and bran.  All-purpose white flour is ground from endosperm only.  When all parts of wheat (whole wheat) are ground to become flour, there is significantly more nutritional value (i.e. antioxidants, fiber, etc).  

We love a good grain in this apartment.  

Braided Challah Bread with Poppy Seeds
Yields one huge loaf
Time about 3 1/2 hours

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup warm water
2 teaspoons active dry yeast

1 cup bread flour
4 teaspoons vital wheat gluten 
2 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
3 tablespoons water (or milk if you are not going parve)
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 whole eggs and one yolk
3 tablespoons whole wheat flour

1 egg white
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon water
Poppy Seeds (Poptional)

First, whip up the sponge.  
Let it be for 45 minutes.  
About 30 minutes after the sponge has been sitting, start to combine your dry dough ingredients in a large mixing bowl (with the exception of the 3 tbs whole wheat flour).  Stir them together.  In a separate bowl, mix together the wet ingredients.  Slowly add the sponge to the dry, stirring, and then add the wet ingredients to the sponge/dry mixture.  
Dump onto a whole wheat floured surface (use the 3 tablespoons*use more/less if you need* on your surface, the dough, and your hands).
Knead until the dough comes together.  Make sure you wash your hands and the surface well afterward since we are dealing with raw eggs.  This dough feels smoother on my hands than a dough without as much egg/oil.  
Shape the dough into a ball.  Lightly oil a bowl and turn the dough around so the whole surface gets oily.  
Let is rise until doubled about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Whip up your wash at some point while the dough rises.  
Now, for the braiding.  What to choose?  Fishtail, french, topsytail?
I went with a fancy four-braid.  If you are doing this with as a three-braid your rope will be longer.  

Divide the dough into four equal pieces.  Roll the dough into long ropes-- over a foot and under two feet.  About 16-18 inches if you are making a four braid, longer if you are only using three.  
Braid your dough.  One way to make a four piece braids is to take the left-most and go over the strand directly to its right.  Then take the right-most and go over the two middle strands.  Repeat, left-most over one to the right (KAF four-braid technique description).  Right-most over two to the left.  If that is confusing try these ways until you figure out what works for you:
Once you're all braided, wash with egg wash, cover with plastic wrap and let it rest for about 45 minutes to 1 hour.  Preheat the oven to 375°F during this time.  Right before the challah goes in the oven give it a second go with the egg wash (this is what gives you that nice shiny crust).  Add poppy seeds now if you'd like.  
Bake at 375°F for 35-40 minutes.  Always let bread cool completely before you cut into it.  

Shabbat Shalom
- Sarah

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sourdough Drop Biscuits with Vegetarian Chili

This week I didn't know if we would use or discard the sourdough starter for it's weekly feeding.. until I found a recipe for Sourdough Biscuits that takes only 10 minutes prep time and about 15 minute in the oven!  To go along with the biscuits we made an original vegetarian chili.

I am not a vegetarian because I love animals.  I am a vegetarian because I hate vegetables.

Vegetarian Chili
Yields approximately 5-6 servings
Cook time 1 hour

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 can of diced tomatoes, unsalted
1 can kidney beans
1 can black beans
1 zucchini
1 yellow squash
some corn
1 yellow onion
2 cloves garlic
2 carrots
3 stalks celery
1 red pepper
1 bunch scallions
greek yogurt
chili powder
dried jalapeños
cayenne pepper
maple syrup

*Ingredients are flexible.  Use your favorite vegetables and beans.  Without the greek yogurt this recipe could be vegan.  I wouldn't understand not using some dairy.  And as you'll see, I didn't include measurements for the spices.  The most significant spice is the chili powder but other than that, it's to taste.  I wouldn't go too heavy on cloves.  Godspeed.

Start with 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and saute the garlic and onions until translucent.  Then, add carrots and celery for a couple minutes.  Then add the zucchini, squash and red pepper and saute for a couple more minutes.    Add the can of tomatoes, corn (drained if it's canned), and beans - one can drained, one can with all the juice.  Add the spices.  An idea of our spice ratios is: 2 tablespoons chili powder, 2 tablespoons maple syrup 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoons cayenne, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon cloves, 1/4 teaspoon dried jalapeños, dash of paprika.
Simmer for 30 - 45 minutes depending on how hungry you are and how homogenous you want your chili.  If you are antsy to get eating more homogenizing will happen in the fridge overnight.  Your leftovers will always be more stewed.  

Top with greek yogurt and scallions and serve along side a warm Sourdough Biscuit.  These biscuits are superb with the chili -- the garlic and cheddar is delicious on its own and the flavors compliment the spicy veggies.  Plus they are quick and easy to boot!

Sourdough Drop Biscuits with Garlic and Cheddar Cheese Adapted from this Tasty Kitchen recipe
Yields millions of biscuits
Cook time 25 minutes

2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 heaping teaspoon minced garlic
8 tablespoons butter (cold but smooshable)
1 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 1/4 cup sourdough starter
1/2 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Blend flour, salt, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, garlic.  
Smoosh in butter with a fork (or a pastry cutter if you have it)
Stir in cheese (reserve some for the tops if you want a cheese-y topped biscuits)
In a separate bowl, combine starter and buttermilk
Add the buttermilk-starter mixture to the other ingredients.  Stir until it's obvious that you need to incorporate with your hands.  
Scoop rounded tablespoons onto parchment paper lined cookie sheets.  Adding extra cheese to the tops of biscuits now if it suits you.  Also optional, brush the tops with melted butter.
Bake for 12-15 minutes until the tops are a pale golden brown.

Chi-chi-chi le-le-le VIVA CHILE

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Birthday Pretzels! And I'm baaack!

I know that it's been a while since I (Lily) last posted.  Sar's really been holding down the fort.  Work took over my life for a few months there (not that I'm complaining - hard work pays off), but now I'm back in action. I hope you didn't miss me too much.

For my first post since forever ago, I'd like to tell you a love story.  This love story is about a boy and his pretzels.  Once upon a time...

...Dennis Paul Kramer was born on May 6, 1987.  From there he grew into a small boy that loved soft pretzels.  I've heard many stories recounting this love - particularly for the huge soft pretzels sold on the street in New York.  He also dabbled in the frozen make-at-home soft pretzels, but later decided those weren't as delicious as their fresh counterparts.  (I agree completely).

Somewhere down the line Dennis grew into a not-so-small boy and met me.  As luck would have it, he stuck around long enough to watch this blog grow.  Since day one he's requested that we make soft pretzels.  Winter just didn't seem like the right time to bake such a Summertime staple, so we made him wait.  It's been 5 long months of waiting, but finally May 6th rolled around and I couldn't think of a better present than some homemade soft pretzels with his name on them.  Literally.

I had planned to surprise him with the pretzels, but anyone that knows Dennis knows that he loves to guess anything and everything that may be a secret or a surprise until he's eventually figured it out.  Naturally, he guessed that I was going to make him pretzels.  Rather than lying and saying "Nooooo" like I usually would, I gave up and admitted that that was the plan.  I did have a few tricks up my sleeve, though.  He didn't just get pretzels - he got pretzels spelling out his name with homemade honey mustard sauce.  Take a look!

Making soft pretzels is a bit of a process, but they are completely worth it.  It was a labor of love - and I think that made them taste even better.  I came up with this recipe after doing some extensive online research to determine some general guidelines for baking pretzels.  While it incorporates parts of probably 10 or so other recipes, I'm proud to say this one is all mine.

Homemade Soft Pretzels
Makes 8 medium sized pretzels
Printable recipe here

You'll need:
2 cups warm water
3 tablespoons sugar
1 packet yeast
3 cups bread flour
2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup baking soda
1 egg
Large crystal salt (or Pretzel Salt if you're feeling fancy)
Sesame seeds 

What to do:
Combine water, 1 tablespoon of the sugar, and the yeast in a bowl.  Mix until the sugar and yeast are both pretty well dissolved.  Let that sit for about 10 minutes until the yeast have really sprung to life and you've got some good foam forming on the water.

In a large bowl, mix the flours and the salt together.  Pour in the yeast/water mixture along with the melted butter. Stir to combine and then get in there with your hands.  Since the water should still be warm, this is fun dough to play around with - warm and soothing.  Once all of the flour is incorporated, you can turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it for about 10 minutes.  I'm sure Sar and I have mentioned this before, but kneading dough is a fantastic stress reliever.  You can really work it all out.

Once you've kneaded the dough, let it sit on the counter while you clean out the bowl and then oil it with about 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil.  Place the dough in the oiled bowl and roll it around in there to cover it completely.  Let dough rise on the counter until doubled - about an hour.  I didn't cover the dough since it was pretty hot and humid in the apartment that night, but on a cooler or dryer day I would have thrown some plastic wrap over the bowl.  It's up to you...I don't think it makes too much of a difference in this recipe, honestly.

Once the dough has risen, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and bring about 8-10 cups water to a boil in a large pot.  Dissolve the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar in the water.  Once the water's boiling, turn it down to a simmer and add the baking powder.  This is really fun since it bubbles and causes a real scientific reaction.  The baking soda in the water is what gives the pretzels that yummy pretzel taste on the outside.  Traditional pretzels are boiled in a lye mixture, but since I love Dennis and want to avoid poisoning him, I think baking soda was a better choice.  I'll tell you the story of how pretzels began being dipped lye at the end of the post - we're really getting into the action now and I don't want to distract you from your pretzel making.

Let the water simmer while you turn the dough out onto the counter and very gently deflate it.  Cut the dough into 8 equal chunks and then roll those chunks into ropes about 18-20 inches long.  It's best to do this on a non-floured surface because the tackiness of the dough helps you with the rolling and stretching.  I did some pseudo-jump-rope motions with the dough to help get it to stretch out.  Pretzels are pretty forgiving, but just be wary of rips or thinner sections of the rope.  I shaped 6 chunks into letters spelling Dennis' name, but also made 2 traditionally shaped pretzels.  They were pretty cute:

After you've shaped the pretzels, put them two-at-a-time into the poaching liquid and leave them for 30 seconds on the first side and then flip them for another 30 seconds.  This was actually a lot easier than I thought it would be, so don't be frightened.  Once you take them out of the water, just put them on a cooling rack to dry off a bit while you do the others.

At this point you can beat up the egg with about 1 tablespoon of cold water and then use a pastry brush to paint the pretzels and then sprinkle a little salt and some seeds over the egg wash.  Since the pretzel dough is salted, you really don't need to add too much to the outside.  The sesame seeds are delicious, though, so add as many as you'd like.  Dennis specifically requested that these be sesame pretzels, and I think he was really on to something there.

Once the pretzels have been egged and seeded, you can place them onto sheet pans lined with parchment paper.  Make sure to space them 2 inches apart so that they don't grow into each other while baking.  Bake for 15 minutes or until they turn a deep golden-brown color and really look like pretzels.  You can wait 10 minutes to eat them, or keep them in a dry, uncovered location for a day or two.  Covering them will make them soggy, and leaving them out makes them stale, so just eat them as soon as possible, OK?

As for the honey mustard, I'm not even going to give you a recipe.  All I did was dump about 1/3 of a new container of run-of-the-mill spicy brown mustard into a tupperware and stir in enough honey until I thought it tasted right.  If I were to guess, I'd say it was about 1/2 cup mustard and maybe 1/4 cup honey.

Now that we're all done, I can tell you about how lye became a typical glaze for pretzels in Germany.  Apparently in the 1800s at some point someone was making pretzels and accidentally dumped them into the lye trough that was used to clean cooking utensils.  For some reason, the cook decided that it was totally cool to just continue on with the pretzel baking.  I don't know how costly flour and water were back then, but I'm assuming they were extremely expensive if they didn't want to pitch that batch even though they were essentially covered in a harsh cleaning solution that's pretty much straight poison.  Or maybe they were really into a "waste not, want not" phase.  Either way, the pretzels turned out beautifully browned and somehow had a distinctive and yummy taste.  Lye has been used in pretzel making ever since.  I think baking soda gave the exact same "pretzely" taste, so you wont need to fear any pretzels that come out of our oven.  If you're in Germany, though, that may not be the case.


PS sorry for the lack of pictures - I was in a rush and not on my A-Game for blog posting.  I promise to step it up for the next one.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Griddled Olive Oil Salt Bread (with Rosemary)

Yesterday was a long day.

Andy worked forever and I was up to my neck in the final paper for my Observation and Recording class.  So, we tag teamed this quick bread from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman.  I love this cookbook, this recipe, and everything Bitten.  Minor detail that the ingredients list forgot to include the 1 cup of water but the instructions are so clear that it wasn't a problem.  I love this cookbook.

Case in point: after I went grocery shopping for the soup and salad that would become dinner Andy asked if we could make bread.  6 P.M. on Tuesday before my final is due and we are starting bread?  Save us, Mark!  I opened How to Cook Everything Vegetarian and read:
"There is no quicker, hassle-free way to get fresh, warm bread on the table, especially if you make the griddled version."
Okay, fine.  Sign us up.

I took sneaky photos while Andy tried to keep me on task
 (the task being my paper, not the bread).

I am not posting the recipe since I didn't change anything about it (aside from halving it and letting it sit for like an hour only for purposes of letting the soup and salad operations catch up).  Andy, in all of his no-rules cooking, added rosemary to one of the rolls.  It was divine.  Or so I heard, since I didn't get to try a bite.  Divine enough to not share with your girlfriend better be pretty delicious.  It's on my "To Bake" list to perfect an adaptation of these griddle breads and post it in the future.  Stay tuned.

The moral of this post is: Bread doesn't have to take a long time.  Especially after a long day.

- Sarah

P.S. I got my copy of How to Cook Everything Vegetarian at Strand -- one of my all-time favorite bookstores.  I have a thing for books.