Thursday, April 29, 2010

Buddy time - Potato bread with chives... and roasted garlic

"Oh Mommy, this is SO yummy, you have to try it!"  I was so relieved to get that feedback from my daughter.  I almost thought I was going to have a fail with this one.  Which is quite strange since it is such a simple recipe and I can count the number of bread fails I've had in the last 20 years on one hand.  I suppose the more new things you try, the more chances you have to... learn.  So, BBB for this month: Potato Bread with Chives.  This month's recipe brought to you by Sara at i like to cook.

Aha!  I just had an epiphany.  I know what happened to my bread!  Wow, I cannot believe I forgot that.  Okay, so the recipe calls for soy or non dairy milk.  We are allergic to soy, so I used regular milk.  I almost always scald my milk because I think you get better results that way.  Nowadays, you don't absolutely have  to because milk is pasteurized which technically does the job for you.  (I still think it makes a difference in both volume and flavor.)  However, today I happened to use some raw milk.  So it really should have been scalded to inactivate the enzymes.  Basically the protease enzyme in it was predigesting the protein in my flour and slowing down my yeast to boot!  Oy vey.  Bread soup.  Now I know why.  Well, I ended up kneading in a lot more flour before the final rise and extending the time for the rise.  Fortunately it turned out very tasty, if not with quite the same structure as some of the other bakers.  With the portion of gluten that was prematurely broken down, I ended up with a loose, tender crumb as opposed to the dense structure expected.  My little tweak to the recipe was to add about a bulb of roasted garlic cloves to the dough.  It was a good choice.  My hubby called it a great dipping (sopping) bread for something like spaghetti.  I would definitely make it again, remembering of course to scald my milk next time!

Potato Bread with Chives
from Vegan Planet by Robin Robertson

"The addition of mashed potatos gives this bread a moist, dense texture and delicate flavor that is accented by that of the chives. This bread is best eaten slightly warm from the oven on the day it is made. It is also good toasted."

2 1/4 tsp (1 packet) active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1 tsp sugar or pure maple syrup
2 Tb corn oil (olive oil or butter - corn allergy, and corn oil is bad for you anyway)
2 tsp salt
1 cup cold mashed potatoes
1 cup soy milk or other dairy free milk
5 cups unbleached all purpose flour, plus more for kneading
2 Tb minced fresh chives
(one bulb's worth of roasted garlic cloves)

In a large bowl, combine the yeast and 1/4 cup of the water. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Let the mixture stand for 10 minutes, then stir in the remaining 3/4 cup of water, the oil or butter and the salt. Mix in the potatoes, then stir in the milk. Add about half the flour, stirring to combine, then work in the remaining flour to form a stiff dough. Transfer to a lightly floured board.

Lightly flour your hands and work surface. Knead the dough well until it is smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes, using more flour as necessary so the dough does not stick. Place in a large lightly oiled bowl and turn over once to coat with oil. Cover with a clean kitchen towel or lightly oiled piece of plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 1 to 2 hours.

Meanwhile, lightly oil a large baking sheet and set aside. Punch the dough down and knead lightly. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface, sprinkle with the chives, and knead until the dough is elastic and the chives are well distributed, 3 to 5 minutes. Shape the dough into one large or two small round loaves and place on the prepared baking sheet. Flatten slightly and cover with a clean damp towel or lightly oiled plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place and let rise again until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Use a sharp knife to cut an X into the top of the loaf or loaves. Bake on the center oven rack until golden brown, 35 to 45 minutes, depending on size. Tap on the bottom of the loaf or loaves - if they sound hollow, the bread is done. Remove from the sheet and let cool slightly on a wire rack before slicing.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Chestnut chocolate truffle torte

Sometimes called flourless cakes, I think these rich and creamy beauties are fairly easy to put together.  The trick is not over baking them.  Something of which I tend to be guilty.  This particular version is supposed to be very soft and moussey when served warm.  It sets up more firmly when it cools, but is still creamy.  This is more of an adult dessert, less sweet and more earthy and complex.  That said, my 5 year old raved about it.  (Or maybe she was just raving about my improvised creme fraiche...) 

I've never cooked or baked with chestnuts before.  I'm sure home roasted are the best, but I had to make do with the obnoxiously expensive jarred kind.  I mean, $12 for a 210 g jar?  Sheesh.  But I had them sitting in the pantry for a couple months; better use them up and what better way than to add chocolate.  The chestnut based recipes out there are fairly simple.  Chestnut cream, puree or just cooked chestnuts and milk, eggs, chocolate, sugar.  They usually call for caster sugar for dissolving ease I'm sure.  I used a blend of palm sugar and powdered sugar.  Palm or coconut sugar dissolves pretty well in a liquid so I thought I'd try it out.  Had to play with it a bit since different sugars obviously weigh differently for the same volumetric amount.  Use a good chocolate for something like this.  I wasn't sure how it would turn out but the result is very decadent.  And it's gluten free for those who are sensitive.  Thank goodness we don't have to deal with that too!

Update:  I prefer the torte made with the 210g jar of chestnuts.  More light and luscious and less cakey.  But that's entirely personal taste.

Chestnut and Chocolate Truffle Torte
Serves 8-10

250 g dark chocolate in chunks (I used three 85g bars - close enough)
250 g unsalted butter, in cubes (chocolate, of all things, benefits from a touch of salt - oh, and that's a couple tbsp more than a cup and I just used the 1 cup)
250 g peeled, cooked chestnuts (My jar was 210 g - again, close enough at that price!)
250 ml whole milk (about 1 cup)
4 eggs, separated
125 g caster sugar (I used the palm and powdered sugars and ended up adding a squirt of stevia because I thought it needed a touch more sweetness - the difference in weights I'm sure)

(My powdered sugar had a pinch of cinnamon in it from another recipe.  I like how it turned out and would add a pinch again next time.)

Preheat oven to 325º and grease and line a 9 inch springform pan.  Melt the chocolate and butter together in a pan over very gentle heat.  In a separate pan, heat the chestnuts and milk just to boiling.  Puree with a stick blender or in a food processor until mostly smooth.  Put the egg yolks in a large bowl and combine with sugar.  Stir in the chocolate and chestnut mixtures until you have a smooth, blended batter.  Whisk the egg whites until stiff and gently fold them into the batter.  Use one portion to lighten it and then fold in the rest.

Tranfer the batter to the prepared pan and bake for 25-30 minutes.  The cake should be just set but still have a slight wobble.  Because of my previous over baking experiences, I simply turned off the oven at the 25 minute mark and let it slowly coast to done.

If you want to serve the cake warm, leave to cool a little, then release the pan and slice carefully – it will be very soft and moussey. Or leave to go cold, when it will have set firm. It's good to serve with a trickle of double cream, especially when warm, but it is also delicious unadulterated.

adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Monday, April 19, 2010

Soaked whole grain bread

What the heck is soaked bread?  (Conjuring up mental images of bread cubes dipped in milk for a meatloaf...)  Up until quite recently, this would have been my reaction.  I have baked bread for years and had never heard of soaking grains prior to cooking or baking with them.  But the challenges of cooking for food allergies and improving my own health have led me to discover some other methods of baking with grains.  Even with my food degree, I never knew about the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors in many grains that can prevent efficient nutrient and especially mineral absorption.  Fortunately, most of these grains also come equipped with the phytase enzyme required to deactivate these "antinutrients".  Conveniently, traditional methods of preparation take the time to activate the enzymes with an acid medium.  While this takes more time, it really takes little extra effort.  No more than remembering to feed your sourdough starter the day before you want to bake with it does.  Another benefit to soaking grains is that it makes them much more digestible.  I have even heard that some people who are gluten sensitive can tolerate soaked grain baked goods.  Soaking the grain also happens to make some of the nutrients more bioavailable and at much higher levels than unsoaked grain.  At any rate, I felt it was worth a try.

I've made this loaf quite a few times because it is bread machine friendly.  I've also served it to skeptical company who proclaimed it delicious.  Very tender and flavorful crumb.  Just pop it into the machine to knead together a few minutes and leave until the next day.  Then just add the salt and yeast, knead as usual and bake as usual.  So really it takes almost no extra effort, just a longer resting period.  I recently switched to extra thick rolled oats because I found the most popular store brand didn't hold up to soaking and I cannot stand gooey creamy oatmeal (library paste.)  I boil it for three minutes, (4-5 for the thick oats)  drain it and that's enough cooking.  We like our oats with plenty of tooth to them still.  What I found with this particular recipe was that the thick oats absorb more water than the old fashioned oats.  So depending on your oats, I might add a tablespoon or more extra water to achieve a sufficiently workable dough.  And remember, bread dough would always rather be too wet than too dry.*  Also, the salt is not added until the next day because it inhibits the whole soaking process.  This is one of those "baby steps" toward slow food/nourishing food ways of eating.  I just consider it another tasty way to help me learn to plan ahead better.  This batch turned out well enough to be yeast spotted.

*Unless you're working with spelt - that does not like to be overhydrated or the gluten structure will collapse easily.

Bread Machine Friendly Soaked Whole Wheat Bread
makes 1 loaf

1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar (or whey, kefir, buttermilk or yogurt) plus enough water to make 1 cup (227g)
2 ¾ cup (311 g) whole wheat flour (I use white whole wheat)
½ cup (44.5 g) oats
¼ cup (84 g) honey
3 Tbsp (42 g) melted coconut oil (or olive oil or melted butter)
2 Tbsp (12.5 g) coarsely ground flax seed (I keep my golden flax meal in the fridge to prevent rancidity)

2 Tbsp (28 g) warm water
¼ tsp (1.75 g) honey
1 ¾ tsp (5.5 g) Instant Yeast
1 ¼ tsp (7 g) salt
1 Tbsp (9 g) vital wheat gluten

Put the water mixture, flour, oats, honey, oil and flax seed in the pan of your bread machine in the manufacturer’s recommended order. Turn the bread machine on the dough cycle and let run for about five minutes, until all the ingredients are well mixed. Turn off the machine and let this sit for 12-24 hours.

Next day, combine the 2 Tbsp water, ¼ tsp honey and yeast and let sit for a few minutes to activate the yeast (mixture should rise and become foamy).  Add the yeast mixture, salt and gluten to the flour in the bread machine.  Select the dough cycle and watch it for the first few minutes to make sure it doesn’t need more flour.  I actually added a tablespoon of water because of those thick oats.

When the dough cycle is finished, turn out the dough onto a floured surface.  Pat or roll into a rectangle, then roll up to fit in your loaf pan.  (I use a smaller loaf pan, about 8x4".)  Place in greased loaf pan and allow it to rise until doubled, about 30 to 45 minutes. Don't over raise or it will fall.  Bake at 350º for half an hour, until crust is brown and it sounds hollow if you tap on the bottom of the loaf. You can brush the crust with melted butter to keep it extra soft and tasty.

I was asked if this recipe works without the gluten and owing to the fact that I forgot to add it once, I can say that it does.  You really need to be careful not to over raise without it though because it will have less structure and therefore less forgiveness on timing.  It will have a larger, more delicate crumb but still tastes and works fine.  Here's what happens when you forget to set the timer for the rise, or you turn it off and then get distracted:

Oops.  Not too bad though.  I've seen some soaked recipes that basically overflowed all over the pan or oven.  Not pretty.  I like this one because it looks like a nice traditional loaf - no flat top.  Even the one with the missing gluten would have had a decent crown if I hadn't forgotten it.  You can see that it also has a larger crumb than the loaf with that extra little bit of gluten.  The girls were quite willing to eat it up though. 

Original recipe credits go to and

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The lone banana...

How often do you end up with that one last banana, too ripe to eat and not enough to make a loaf of banana bread?  For us, it tends to be more often than I'd like.  Especially when I buy a bunch with more than four bananas on it.  The girls seem to like their bananas best just seconds after they've lost the last little bit of green from the tip.  For that reason I usually try to find a bunch with just three or four.  Or those little two-fers that are sitting around from people like me breaking up bunches to get the number we want.  Then I simply have to buy bananas more often.  I really didn't like the way the bananas ended up when I put them in the freezer for later loaves of bread.  Too liquidy.  So they usually ended up in the compost.  I hate waste.  And the girls have decided they really like banana bread.  So I've been working on a recipe to use up that poor last, lonely, overripe banana.  Fortunately the girls haven't minded the ones that ended up too gummy.  Now I also had to make this egg free for R.  That's why it took so long to get it right.  I think after last night's revisions, I finally have it.  The one banana mini loaf.  I actually love using my mini loaf pans for quick breads.  Good for freezing, portion control, gifting, etc.  The ones I have that I use all the time are about 5¾ x 3 inches, depending on where you measure.  How the heck do you measure bread and pie pans anyway, from the top or the bottom?  Never have figured that one out...

The One Banana Mini Loaf (Egg free)

1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup white whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar (I use evaporated cane sugar)
2 Tbsp butter, softened
1½ Tbsp olive or sunflower oil
1 small mashed seriously overripe banana
2 Tbsp natural sour cream (to avoid the corn starch)
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350º.  In a bowl, cream together the sugar, butter and oil.  Blend in the banana, sour cream and vanilla until well mixed.  Mix together the dry ingredients and beat in just until moist.  Spoon batter into a mini loaf pan coated with nonstick spray.  Bake at 350º for 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.  Enjoy!

I find that this works the best and gives the fluffiest loaf, when the banana in question in completely black, practically beyond recognition.  ;)