Friday, August 27, 2010

BBB bakes Sweet Portuguese Bread

Host kitchen for the BBB this month was Tanna at My Kitchen in Half Cups, and she chose a wonderful sweet loaf to make.  Can I just say once again how much I love working with a dough as silky soft and supple as this one was?  And it bakes off so tender too!  The crumb is absolutely pillowy soft.  (Even when you leave it in a few minutes too long.)  I used instant yeast instead of the osmotolerant and it was still very happy dough.  The range for the brown sugar was 30 - 100 grams and I used a mix of brown and granulated coconut sugars.  The granulated form of coconut sugar has a caramely flavor to it that I thought would be nice in a sweet bread.  And since I didn't have any spuds on hand for potato water, I added a teaspoon of potato starch to give an approximate effect.  It seemed to work; like I said, the dough was heavenly to work with.  Oh, my two loaves were done in about 35-40 minutes.  Much faster than specified, but my oven tends to run hot even when I turn it down.  Next time I'll take them out earlier and probably bake in a cake pan.  I'd also skip the egg wash and brush with melted butter after baking.  This bread made fabulous french toast; my daughter went bonkers over it and had it for both breakfast and lunch the next day.  And what regular toast it makes too.  Mmmm, mmm!  Give it a try, I'm sure you won't be disappointed!  And from what I've seen of the other posts, this one has been baked repeatedly this month.  ☺

Sweet Portuguese Bread
(Massa Sovada)

Over night sponge:
72 grams bread flour
2 ¼ teaspoons osmotolerant yeast (Instant Yeast worked just as well too)
114 milliliters potato water, or whey or water (potato water or whey really make it extra tender & soft)

Mix together the sponge ingredients the night before baking the bread.  Leave sitting at room temperature for 8 to 12 hours (overnight).

6 tablespoons butter, room temp.
30 to 100 grams brown sugar
lemon zest
1 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, room temp.
120 milliliters milk, room temp.
460 grams bread flour (you can use part whole wheat if you like)
2 tablespoons flax seeds, ground

Beat sugar and butter until creamy. Add zest and salt and beat. Beat in each egg separately and completely; mix will appear curdled. Stir in milk and sponge. Stir in 2 ½ cups flour and beat vigorously (in a stand mixer it would clear the sides of the bowl, by hand lifting the spoon up should stretch the dough about a foot.)  Add remaining flour to make stiff dough. Knead 5 minutes or more to incorporate all the flour. Dough should be smooth, soft and very supple with a slight stickiness. Looks a little like very thick cake batter or a brioche dough.

Shape into ball, oil bowl and dough ball. Cover and allow to rise about 2 hours, should almost or triple in size. Divide into loaves, shaped into balls. Allow to rest 20 to 30 minutes before final shaping with rolling pin.

Press in a cross and then an X with a narrow rolling pin. For best demarcation of indents be careful to dust dough ball well with flour.  (I used a wok chopstick to indent my dough.)

Shape and place into well oiled cake pans seam side down. Allow to rise an hour to 2 hours; more than double in size. Brush with egg wash if you want that beautiful glossy finish. Bake 350°F: 50 minutes as two loaves, 35 minutes as four loaves.  (Or until done in your oven!)

I think this would make a fabulous braid too!  May try that next...

Monday, August 23, 2010

Calico Eggs - using the bountiful garden zucchini

Everyone has their favorite way to prepare scrambled eggs.  This is one of ours.  My youngest daughter has been willing to practically wrestle for these since she was about 18 months old.  I originally made it with diced tomatoes and zucchini.  However, one day when I did not have tomatoes on hand, I substituted salsa and we loved it that way.  Over the years you learn not to plant too many zucchini in the garden, but in case you have an abundance of the little buggers waiting to be used up, this is one more way.  I still remember the stories my high school english teacher used to tell of the time she planted an entire row of zucchini as a novice gardener.  It got to the point where the neighbors would lock their doors and pull their shades when they saw her coming with a paper bag...  ☺  This year with just one nice big plant, I have enough production to use up without ending up with the huge "cow" zucchinis.  Of course we would usually just shred those for later use in quick bread.  Great Grandma's zucchini bread was THE best.  Anyway, this little recipe/formula can be adapted to taste and to feed as many as you would like.  I love using my handy dandy veggie chopper for the zucchini, as I detest chopping by hand.  We like cheddar cheese in it, but you could use anything you prefer.  Pepper Jack would really add a southwest kick to it, paired with the salsa...

Calico Eggs
feeds 2-3

3 farm fresh eggs
1 tbsp milk or cream
1 small garden zucchini, diced
2 tbsp salsa
2-3 tbsp shredded cheese
1 tbsp butter

Melt the butter in a small skillet and saute the zucchini until slightly tender. 

Meanwhile, beat the eggs and milk or cream in a bowl.  Add to the zucchini along with the salsa and cook on low.

Season as desired with salt and pepper.

At this point you can either sprinkle the cheese on top and finish it in the oven, frittata style (very pretty), or you can simply scramble in the cheese as well.

Invariably when I make this to share with my daughter, I hear a lot of "My turn, my turn, MY turn!"  Followed by "um, num" noises of appreciation.

These are nice and fluffy and very tender.  Just remember to cook your eggs over a low flame or burner.  And if your salsa is particularly runny, you may saute it with the zucchini to remove some of the moisture.  This is also a nice fresh dish when made with garden tomatoes.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Chewy Cranberry Almond Granola Bars

This has been such a winning recipe, I've had trouble keeping them in "stock".  I actually tend to do half batches of these yummy, chewy bars because I can try different fruit/nut combos more often that way, but my family would be perfectly happy with a full batch of the cranberry almond once a week or more often.  They hold very well, covered at room temperature.  I really like to use the extra thick cut rolled oats that Bob's Red Mill produces because we like our oats to have a whole lot of oomph.  They really hold up well to soaking too if that is something you like to do with your oats.  I would only try to serve that to my kids with the thick oats.  We do not hold with mushy oats in this family.  Sooner or later though, I must get them to like farina.  It's still one of my favs and I never get to have it.  C'mon, who out there likes lumpy cream of wheat?  Me, I do!  I'll take it smooth or lumpy, but there is something comforting about those little lumps.  At any rate, I would stick to old fashioned oats for the granola bar, otherwise you'd just be making a cookie in bar form.  Plus, quick oats have very little nutrition left in them as far as I'm concerned.  (Again, we don't do mush.)  If you look at the difference in texture between that first picture and the next one, that's all a product of how long you cook the butter and honey together.  The longer you cook it, the better adhesion you get for the oats.  (To a point.)  That top one was my first batch and while seriously tasty, was just a bit crumbly.  You can see on this batch that the bars are holding together very nicely.

The recipe may be halved for an 8x8" pan.  Since these are baked, feel free to use a cheaper honey to ease up on the food budget.  Save expensive raw honey for no-bake applications.  And compare this ingredient list to those storebought granola bars sometime.  Which would you rather feed your family?  ☺

Chewy Cranberry Almond Granola Bars

4½ cups rolled oats
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup honey
1 cup almonds, sprouted, crispy or toasted
1 cup dried cranberries

Mix together the oats, flour and soda in a bowl and set aside.  Melt the butter, honey and vanilla in a large saucepan over low heat and cook and stir for about 5 minutes.  When it is quite bubbly and completely incorporated with a somewhat thick syrupy consistency, it will bind the oats well.  Just don't turn it into hard candy.  ☺  If your saucepan is large enough, mix in the oat flour mixture until well combined, and then the cranberries and almonds.  Otherwise do it in a bowl.  Turn the mixture into a buttered 9x13" pan and press down well with buttered hands or a sheet of buttered waxed paper.  Bake in a 325º oven for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.  I like them on the 15 minute side.  They will be nice and moist.  Let cool before cutting with a sharp knife.  They will store at room temperature for at least a week; probably twice that, though I highly doubt they will last that long.  Or you can put them in the freezer and take them out for breakfasts or snacks as needed. 

I LOVE being able to have something on hand that my hubby will take out the door with him for breakfast.  (Which he normally skips.)  And the girls love them for between meal snacks.  I like them since they are wonderfully filling.  (Bonus - no refined sugar!)  I cut the 8x8" pan into 16 servings.  Another variation I was thinking of trying is blueberry pecan, but I might cut back on the honey by ¼ cup on that one since the blueberries are so sweet.  Next up with this recipe is trying the unbaked version with no soda because it is bloody hot here right now!  No turning on the oven when it is 95º out.

Adapted from Katie at Kitchen Stewardship  - check out her healthy snacks to go ebook!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"Oops" Jam with Pomona's Pectin

Okay, I know I can't be the only person who has taken something out of the freezer and then gotten distracted and ended up with a bag of oops the next day.  It's happened more than once to me.  This last time it was not one, but two Costco sized bags of frozen berries and fruit.  Fortunately they were not brand new and so not full.  I had a bag of berries and a bag of mixed fruit for smoothies for the girls.  They were out because I had intended on taking out enough berries and peaches for a very small batch of jam to tide me over until I could pick up some from Nana.  As it happened however, the next morning I found the completely thawed out bags of mushy fruit on top of the freezer.  *Sigh*  I hadn't intended on doing a major batch of jam; the kitchen is currently P.H.D.  But I hate waste.  So jam it was, or throw it all out. 

I had two different kinds of pectin in the pantry.  Ball Original Fruit Pectin, which I have used before to great success, and Pomona's Universal Pectin.  I will be donating the Ball pectin to the food bank because I found out that it is made with dextrose as the first ingredient.  Stupid corn derivatives.  Always, always, always read labels.  Even on different sized packages, the ingredients can differ.  So anyway, this was my first time using the Pomona's pectin and I am very happy with it.  It is pure pectin derived from citrus peel and no other additives.  And it is activated by calcium, not sugar.  That means you don't need the cloying amounts of sugar sometimes called for in regular jam recipes.  Some of those recipes call for equal amounts or even more sugar than fruit.  I don't know about you, but I would prefer more fruit as opposed to the standard fruit flavored sugary stuff you find on grocery store shelves.  With this pectin I was able to use half the sugar amount and could have used even less.  This being the first time, I decided to use the higher amount.  If you have never used Pomona's Pectin, go check out the website and FAQs at

So I dumped the bag of berries into my food mill, and milled those into purée, then went fishing in the melted smoothie fruit for all the good peaches and strawberries I could find.  I have a recipe I love for strawberry peach jam with maybe ¾ strawberries and ¼ peaches, give or take.  This jam would be a mixed berry peach.  I ended up with 6 cups of fruit and berry purée when all was said and done.  That's a batch and a half.  I only did one batch so far as I am out of extra jars.  Now the Pomona's gels when completely cool, so I used the freezer plate test to check the gel before jarring the jam.  Worked great.  It will still take some getting used to, but I am very happy with the result.  The flavor is intensely fruity and nicely sweet without being cloying.  And the consistency is a nice soft spreadable jam.  Not too firm, and not runny.  I also like that you get multiple batches out of one package of pectin.  I may even try some of the other recipes on the Pomona's website that use the pectin like you would use gelatin for some dessert applications.  Meanwhile, I'll grab some more jars and finish up that last half batch later today or tomorrow.

Berry Peach Jam

4 cups fruit purée (about 2/3- 3/4 berries and 1/3 - 1/4 peaches)
¼ cup lemon juice
½ tsp butter
2 cups evaporated cane sugar (the box says you can use as little as ¾ cup!)
2 tsp Pomona's pectin powder (Pomona's pectin is dextrose/corn free)
2 tsp calcium water (from the Pomona box)

Wash and rinse your jars and let stand in hot water.  I like to put the jars, lids and rings right into the water bath canner until I am ready.  One less pot with which to deal.  ☺  Put the fruit, lemon juice, butter and calcium water into a large saucepan.  (The butter helps prevent foaming but I think it rounds out the flavor in a very subtle way and would never leave it out even if I didn't need it.)  Measure out the sugar into a separate bowl and thoroughly mix in the pectin.  This pectin will lump if not thoroughly mixed.  Bring the fruit mixture to a boil, add sugar pectin mixture and stir vigorously for a minute or so to dissolve the pectin.  The directions say to bring back to a boil and then remove from heat.  I boiled it a few minutes and did a gel test on a frozen plate.  Remove your jars from the hot water and fill to within ¼" of the top.  Screw on the two piece lids.  (Bring the water back to a boil while you are filling.)  Put the filled jars in the water to cover and boil for 10 minutes for half pints, 15 minutes for pints.  Remove jars from water and let cool.  Check seals - the lids should be sucked down.  (I've never had a jar not seal after water bath canning.)  The jam will gel when completely cool.  I got exactly 2½ pints out of this batch.

I think I'll try a marionberry syrup for the next round.  You just use half the amount of pectin.  I LOVE fruit syrups.  In the meantime, PBJs for the kids and toast for me!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Emeril's Grilled Marinated Flank Steak - Finally soy free!

Emeril's marinated flank steak used to be one of our favorite flank steak recipes.  Until the corn and soy allergies came into play.  That basically took all asian dishes off our menu.  Most of the sauces, pastes and rubs have soy in them.  And if they don't have soy, then they definitely have some corn derivative.  So I got all fancy schmancy and made soy sauce substitute and hoisin sauce and black bean sauce from scratch!  Trouble was, the salted black beans I got at the asian grocery, (also known as fermented black beans), were not black beans as listed right there on the label.  Oh, no.  They were black SOY beans.  No wonder we were still having problems.  Oh I was just crushed.  And more than slightly ticked.  If they were bloody black soy beans, it should have said soy beans not just black beans.  I guess I don't know enough about asian ingredients.  And it's a lot of work to do all that stuff from scratch.  So we gave up on those recipes for the foreseeable future.
     The thing is, food allergies, sensitivities and chronic food sensitive conditions like celiac are becoming both more common, more understood and better documented.  This has greatly improved the offerings available to people who need them.  Just ask someone gluten free that was diagnosed ten years ago.  Or even five or so.  Gluten free used to mean cardboard or tennis shoe texture for baked goods.  Now there are some options and mixes that even gluten loving folks would like.  Bless the ever changing food industry.  That's one of the reasons I went for a food degree.  That was a subject that would always be innovative.  (Of course it helps that gluten free is also now becoming an in vogue health trend promoted by celebrities.)  And so I happened upon yet another new product.  Coconut Aminos.  Well what the heck is that?  It's a non-soy sauce alternative made out of coconut sap of all things.  I don't even remember how I found it, I was probably doing an online search for soy substitutes.  So I made a trip to the nearest Whole Foods, praying that they would have it in stock and, YES!  There it was.  Now this stuff is interesting.  It's naturally fermented and therefore fizzy.  So don't shake it up really hard before you open it.  Ask me how I know that...  (It doesn't seem to be fizzy anymore in the last couple years - they have improved their formula and it tastes even better.)  But it does have a very complex flavor similar to soy sauce, not as salty though.  Plus it evidently has all these health benefits typical of unadulterated coconut products.  It's raw and enzyme rich (good for your gut).  Well, that's always a good thing.  Modern guts need all the help they can get.  Plus it has 17 different amino acids in it.  I decided to take it on a test drive with Emeril's super easy recipe.  I did add some additional sea salt to make it more equivalent to standard soy sauce.  The result was fabulous.  While I didn't do a side by side comparison of the two marinades, it tastes just like it should to my memory.  I'll definitely be trying it in other recipes calling for soy sauce.  This stuff is a god-send!  

Update:  I took this down to the folks for Christmas so they wouldn't have to prepare meals for so many days.  My dad asked for the recipe!  He has never asked for a recipe before.

Grilled Marinated Flank Steak - Soy Free

1 (2 to 3 pound) flank steak 
½ cup red wine or dry sherry 
½ cup soy sauce coconut aminos
2 tbsp Creole seasoning, recipe follows
2 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
½-1 tsp sea salt (to taste - we were already used to reduced sodium soy sauce before we had to give up soy)

Update:  Add an optional ½ tbsp South River Chickpea and Barley Miso (optional but awesome for authentic flavor, omit if using soy or tamari)

Place the flank steak in a gallon ziploc bag. In a 2-cup measuring cup combine the remaining ingredients.  Taste and adjust salt to preference.  Pour the marinade into the bag with the steak, seal and marinate in the refrigerator at least 4 hours and up to 12 hours in advance. Preheat your grill. Remove the steak from the marinade. If desired, pour marinade into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower heat to medium-low and simmer the marinade for 10 minutes.  Remove saucepan from heat and keep warm. Place the steak on the grill and cook to desired doneness, about 6 minutes per side for rare. Transfer the steak to plate and let stand for 5 minutes before carving. Cut the steak across the grain into thin diagonal slices, and serve with the marinade sauce.  (We don't usually deal with cooking the marinade since the steak is flavorful and juicy enough without it.)

Essence (Emeril's Creole Seasoning):

2 ½ tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried leaf oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme

Combine all ingredients thoroughly and store in an airtight jar or container.
Yield: about 2/3 cup

Recipe from "New New Orleans Cooking", by Emeril Lagasse and Jessie Tirsch. Published by William and Morrow, 1993.

If you do decide to cook the marinade for a sauce, this dish is great served over rice.  (Which unfortunately is on my daughter's list of sensitivities.)  Otherwise it's great with a salad and some homemade bread.  If you've had to give up soy for yourself or a family member, do try out the coconut aminos.  I'm sold.  The next hurdle will be to come up with a soy free black bean sauce.  That one may prove insurmountable, but we'll give it a run for its money!  I have heard of a chickpea based tamari, so...

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Honey almond caramel bars

It's interesting how a recipe sometimes turns out completely different than you expected, but you end up liking it anyway.  When I found the original recipe I was looking for something to use up some coconut butter I had on hand.  I assumed it would turn out like an english toffee.  That is, something crunchy.  Silly me, the recipe did call them caramels and not toffee.  But though it was not what I expected, I found myself going back and eating way too many of them.  My daughters loved them too.  I will possibly make this instead of my homemade bit 'o honey candies when those run out for the girls.  (Those were just a mistake, I don't know if I could recreate them anyway.  May have to try though since they are an oft requested treat.) 
     Don't use an expensive raw honey for these since you'll be cooking the heck out of it anyway.  I recommend a light honey like clover or wildflower honey.  I used raspberry honey which is actually pretty strong.  For candy though, which concentrates the flavor, I'd go lighter unless you really love honey.  We do as it happens.  We're even fortunate enough to have a source of raw fresh honey from Nana's house.  I'd never use that for cooking or baking though.  It's strictly an eating honey.
     Now this candy, though it is a candy and therefore to be eaten in moderation, is happily made from more healthful ingredients than your typical "turtle".  No nasty corn syrup here.  Sorry, having a daughter with a pronounced corn allergy has changed my world.  You just try finding a food with more than five ingredients that does not contain hidden corn or soy.  Hey, candy making is fun though!  I even made homemade candy corn last Halloween!  (Another fabulous use for "marshmallow syrup" which is a homemade invert syrup to use instead of corn syrup.)  Get the book, you won't regret it!  If you enjoy honey though, you may want to give this one a try.  They are creamy crunchy and have that lovely honey tang.

Honey Almond Caramel Bars   (Honey Caramels With Chocolate, Almond and Coconut)
1 cup whipping cream
1 cup honey
½ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup coconut butter (a.k.a. coconut cream concentrate) 
¾ cup sliced almonds
¼ cup shredded, unsweetened coconut

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Over medium heat in a large saucepan, heat honey, cream, coconut butter, vanilla and salt.  Stir constantly using a whisk.  The mixture will be quick to boil - you want it to bubble lightly.  Continue to stir until mixture reaches about 260 degrees.  Turn off the heat and stir in almonds and coconut.  Grease well an 8x8" pan or line with greased foil.  Pour in the caramel mixture and spread out.  Sprinkle chocolate chips on top and let sit for a few minutes.  The chips will quickly melt and then can be spread evenly over the caramel.  Allow to cool or put in refrigerator to cool faster.  Once cool, cut into little squares and place on wax paper.  Or just leave in pan and take them out as you want.

Makes 9-16 bars depending on your level of self control...
Adapted from