Saturday, August 17, 2013

Wild Yeasted Sourdough Stoneground (mostly) Whole Wheat Bread

I have always wanted to be able to make wonderful, toothsome, crusty, chewy bread.  I've tried several different recipes and methods over the years, and have had very limited success with this endeavor, which discourages me from trying very often.

But with renewed ferver, I'm making bread, a la Michael Pollan's Cooked.  I located rye (in People's bulk department) and stoneground heirloom whole wheat flour (packaged and much more expensive than the bulk department). I've wild-caught yeast, which was almost instantaneously bubbly (raising my hopes for this attempt), mixed the leaven and soaked the flours (I'm using filtered water because San Diego water is highly suspect).  My leaven wasn't as active as it needed to be and sank (along with my hopes a bit) instead of floating in water, so I added commercial yeast (much to my chagrin) per his suggestion.  I've mixed leaven into flour mixture with sea salted-water and bulk fermented.

I love the sourdough smell of the starter!  I love the sourdough smell on my hands!  I love that he encourages mixing everything with your hands.

Shaped the dough into 2 loaves (wow, that's a sticky dough but not dissimilar to Grandma Robert's rolls, the only bread I've made well consistently and loved) and proofed for days (longer than intended) in the refrigerator.  Trying to get it out of the bowl and into the very hot dutch oven involved a lot of scraping.  And trying to get the beautifully baked loaf out of the dutch oven involved a lot of prying with various implements.  It did not escape unscathed; part of the bottom stuck to the dutch oven.  How does one prevent that from happening? [Answer: allow the dutch oven to preheat for 15-30 minutes at 500 degrees - then it's much easier to pop out]

But the bread was wonderful!  Crusty, chewy, toothsome, sour, whole-wheaty goodness!  I made really good (dare I say excellent?) bread!  True, it could have had more airlift but whole wheat is notoriously height-challenged.
And I have a problem with throwing away 80% of the starter every day; this is too wasteful.  Seems to me recipes of yore would use that portion of the starter as the leaven for the daily bread baking.  So I need to play a bit more with this recipe before I publish my own version (so for now, here's my recipe from previous attempts).  But I've never felt so encouraged!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Eat Produce for Breakfast (a long-winded recipe for Vegetable Hash)

Bread and sugar in various permutations seem to be the mainstays of breakfast in our typical western modern diet.  And while I absolutely love fresh, homemade, organic, whole grain muffins/waffles/quick breads/biscuits/scones/toast/pancakes/french toast, I'm constantly trying to make them healthier or I skip them altogether for a fruit- or veggie-based option.

If we're not quite ready to quit our sugary bread breakfasts, we can improve the taste and wholesomeness of our favorite scratch comfort recipes.  Using whole grain flours (especially stone ground) is a good way to start the rehab process: begin trading out 1/4 of the white stuff and gradually increase the ratio of whole grains to refined grains to ease your taste buds into it.  Step 2 might be to stir in your choice of seeds, nuts, fruit or veggies into the mix: try chopped almonds and dried cherries, or pecans with chopped apples or pears, or walnuts with shredded squash.  Bake up and serve topped with a heavy spoonful of seasonal sliced fruit, cooked up into a compote or served fresh.  Or take rolls, biscuits and pastries in a savory direction: decrease or eliminate sugar from the recipe, and stir in or stuff with a spoonful of baked sweet potato and fresh rosemary, sauteed peppers and cilantro, sun-dried tomatoes and basil, caramelized onions, or whole cloves of roasted garlic.  Hungry yet?

Or maybe we're ready already to dive right into fruits & veggies as the center of a lighter first meal of the day.  When the weather is warm I want a smoothie: a handful or 2 of blueberries and a chopped nectarine (or local seasonal fruit of your choice), maybe spinach or kale, a frozen banana (if you've got one lurking in the freezer), a scoop of probiotic-rich yogurt or some coconut milk, a few dates or spoonful of local honey, a big pinch of local bee pollen, splash in some orange or apple juice, and  blend with 1/2 cup or so of ice.  Stir in chia or hemp seeds or top with granola for some crunch.

Lean and mean green drink more your speed?  Then you probably know how to make one.  They tend to be a bit too fibrous and, well, vegetal for me.  But I do like them quite a lot when made with fruit and strained through a colander (just kidding; how 'bout using a juicer?  But then we'd lose all that fiber...): berries, carrot, orange, apple, beet, and/or celery, maybe dates, lots of kale, some spinach or lettuces, and a little flat-leaf parsley (I guess I like my green drink less mean, and mildly sweet).

Of course there's a whole host of other options within a wide range of healthfulness: baked fruit crisp, fruit salad, sauteed greens, roasted potatoes, apple sauce (ok, maybe just for babies), fruit with granola and yogurt, vegetable-filled quiche...oh, and here's a novel idea: eat a fresh, beautiful, naked piece of fruit!

But if you are fortunate, and have time for a slow morning, I highly recommend a highly satisfying vegetable hash.  This is a "mother" recipe, readily adaptable to what's in your pantry and the changing seasons...

All-Veggies-In Hash                       Serves 4
1 pound potatoes (blue, Yukon or fingerling), cut into 1/2" cubes (or mixed root veggies of your choice: sweet potato, parsnip, beets, turnip, celery root, sunchoke..)
6 cloves garlic in their skins
olive oil (or sunflower oil, coconut oil, ghee...)
sea salt
1 small sweet onion, quartered and sliced thin (or red or yellow onion, shallots or leeks)
1 small crockneck squash, diced or sliced small & thin (or other seasonal veggie: carrot, fennel, broccoli, mushroom, winter squash, corn...)
1 large poblano chile, diced (or more seasonal veggies)

In a roasting pan or on a cookie sheet, toss potatoes and garlic with about 2 tablespoons of oil to coat, sprinkle with salt to taste and roast at 450 degrees for 45 minutes or so, stirring once about 20 minutes in, until golden and crispy.

Meanwhile, in a medium-sized skillet or pan, caramelize the onions (cook slow & low, stirring frequently, until the color of caramel) on medium-low heat in 1-2 tablespoons oil and a pinch or 2 of salt.  Then add the other veggies and saute until soft.

Remove the skins from the garlic and toss all ingredients together with a few grinds of black pepper.

If you like, serve topped with shredded cheese, a dollop of sour cream and a poached or fried egg.

Want to add more produce power?  Add fresh chopped parsley, cilantro, chives, tomato, avocado, salsa or hot sauce, or homemade fermented ketchup.  Want even more veggies?  Serve on a bed of sauteed kale, or fresh arugula, dandelion, cress or hardy mixed greens.

...and that was my breakfast this morning.