Sunday, February 19, 2017

Cabbage and Carrots - Ethiopian Tikil Gomen

Herb and Seed Sourdough Bread

This is essentially the same recipe as my Basic Sourdough Bread, but spiced up a bit. The method is the same though. Adding herbs and seeds is a good way to make your bread more exciting, even if it's not turning out as well as you'd like...

If you haven't already, please read my post on Sourdough Starters. You'll need a Starter to make this work. Your starter should be fully active before starting this recipe, meaning it's been out on the counter and has been fed sometime in the last 24 hours. If your starter has been in the fridge, pull it out, feed it and wait 12 hours, feed it again and wait at least 12 hours before starting this recipe.

Making sourdough bread takes a long time. This recipe takes 36 hours from start to finish. There are 3 fermentation periods, each of which is about 12 hours or half-a-day long, so you can work on the bread in the morning and evening. 

Active sourdough starter (about 1/3 cup)
3/4 cup, plus 2 tbs, plus 4 cups Bread Flour*
3/4 cup, plus 2 tbs, plus 2 cups Water
1/4 cup Olive Oil
2 Egg
1 tbs Honey
2 tsp Salt
4 tbs Herbs (I use a mix of rosemary and herbs de provence)
4 tbs Seeds (I use a mix of sesame seeds, poppy seeds, caraway, and fennel)
Extra flour for kneading and shaping the dough

Mix 3/4 cup flour and 3/4 cup water into the starter. This will make about 12 liquid ounces. Cover the starter mixture with a cloth and let it ferment at room temperature** for half a day (10 to 14 hours***).

Transfer about 2 ounces of the starter mixture to a clean glass and mix in 1/4 cup flour and 1/4 cup water. Reserve this for next time you make bread.

In a small bowl, combine the salt and herbs. Mix in enough water to saturate the herbs, about 3 tablespoons.

Lightly grease a large glass or ceramic bowl. Add the remaining starter mixture, 4 cups of bread flour, 2 cups of water, the olive oil, 1 egg, and honey. Mix with a wooden spoon or your hands to form a soft sticky dough. Cover the dough and let it rest about an hour so the flour can fully absorb the liquid.

The slap-and-fold kneading method is ideal for this dough. There's a great tutorial video of this kneading technique here. Before you stick your hands in the dough, grab a dough scraper and make sure your herb and salt mixture is close by.

Transfer the dough onto a clean non-metallic countertop and begin kneading with the slap and fold method. Knead for about 10 minutes, then add the salt and herb mixture and knead another minute to combine.

Scrape all the dough into a pile and scoop it back into the mixing bowl. Lightly grease the top of the dough and cover with plastic wrap. Let it ferment at room temperature for about half a day (10 to 14 hours).

This recipe makes 2 loaves and I like to shape them into batons because I find them easy to work with. There's a great tutorial video of this shaping technique here. Before you stick your hands in the dough, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and make sure you have your scraper handy.

Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough in half. The two blobs of dough will be very sticky, so sprinkle with just enough flour to move them without them sticking. One at a time, pat each blob of dough into a disk shape. Stretch each of the edged out and fold them into the center, flip it so the seams are at the bottom, and gently pat the dough to form a smooth round ball. Let the balls rest 1 hour. The resting period drastically improves the texture of the bread crust and helps the dough raise.

After the dough has rested, shape into batons as shown in the video. Place the batons side by side on the baking sheet. Beat an egg in a small bowl and brush it all over the two batons. Sprinkle on the seeds, try to get them to stick to the sides as well.

Lightly drape a piece of plastic wrap over each baton and tuck in the edges so the dough wont dry out. Let it ferment just under half a day (6 to 10 hours).

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Slash the tops of the batons a few times with a razor. I use a spare blade from my husband's shaving kit for this. If you don't have a razor, you can snip the top with scissors instead.

Bake for 30 minutes. My oven is uneven, so I rotate the tray part way through for even browning.

Let the bread cool at least 30 minutes before cutting. The inside continues to cook after if comes out of the oven. Cutting it too soon will give the bread a gummy texture.

Tips and Misc
Wash your dishes right away after working with the dough. The stuff dries like glue and you'll save yourself a lot of work if you clean up immediately.

* A note on bread flour
I use an extra high gluten bread flour called Pendleton Power (14.5% protein), which I buy from Big John's Pacific Food Importers in Seattle. Standard bread flour is about 12% protein, which will yield good results, but the texture may not be as good. This won't come out as well with all purpose flour. I sometimes swap out a cup of bread flour for a cup of whole wheat flour in this recipe.

** A note on "room temperature"
My kitchen is usually around 65 to 68 degrees. If your kitchen warmer or colder than this, you may want to move your dough to a different place to ferment.

*** A note on "half a day"
This is a very flexible recipe! No need to time anything out too precisely. This bread takes a long time to come together, so just work on it when you have time.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Simple Roasted Vegetables

If you want to get more vegetables into your diet, this is one of the easiest ways to do it. Slow roasted vegetables are a delicious and savory addition to any meal. You can make them in big batches and store the leftovers in the fridge. Have them with eggs for breakfast, with crackers at lunch, or with some meat and pasta for dinner.

This method works with just about any vegetable and is easy to customize with your favorite seasonings. 

1 Pound of fresh vegetables
2-4 Tbs olive oil (more oil for better browning and fuller flavor, less to reduce calories)
1 Batch of Savory Red Seasoning
   2 Tbs nutritional yeast flakes
   1 Tbs onion powder
   1/2 tsp Salt
   1/2 tsp Black Pepper
   1/2 tsp Berbere Spice
Preheat the oven according to the chart below. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. This is optional, but highly recommended. The long bake time can make the pan a royal pain to clean. 

Scrub and chop your vegetables. The size is up to you, just try to make all the prices about the same size. 

Pile the vegetables into a gallon sized plastic bag (I use inexpensive twist top bags). Add the oil, blow into the bag to puff it up, twist the top closed, and gently shake to distribute the oil. Add the seasonings and blow, twist, and shake again to evenly distribute. 

Dump the vegetables on the baking sheet, spread them out evenly and pop them in the oven. Bake according to the chart below.

Oven Temp and Cook Times

425 Degrees 15 Minutes
Asparagus, Bell Pepper 

425 Degrees 30 Minutes

425 Degrees 45 minutes

375 Degrees 30 minutes
Brussels sprouts

375 Degrees 45 minutes 
Butternut squash, celery root  

325 Degrees 45 Minutes
Broccoli, Cauliflower

Vegetables that do better on the stove top
Mushrooms, Green Beans, Sweet Potatoes, Onions, any of the dark green leafys. 

Monday, February 6, 2017

Basic Sourdough Bread

Sourdough Starter

Bread's got a bad reputation lately, but it hasn't always been that way. Bread has been a staple of the European diet for thousands of years, so why is it suddenly so bad for us? It's all about how it's made.

Store bought bread has been optimized to be fast and cheap to make. Industrialization is all well and good for some things, but it's turned bread from a nutritious food staple to junk food. There are 2 issues at play here:

  1. Our guts can't break down the nutrients in most grains. Ever notice corn kernels in your poo? It's not just corn that we can't digest, most grains are that way. Grains are full of nutrients, but our guts need help use them.
  2. Store bought breads are full of sugar. The sugar makes the bread dough rise fast, which manufacturers love. It also gives the bread a soft texture and sweet flavor, which we love. Unfortunately, the sugar is about the only part of the bread our bodies digest. This gives us a brief sugar high followed by a crash.
Before we had commercial yeast and sugar to leaven our breads, we had to do it with sourdough. The yeast in sourdough is slow. It takes no less than 24 hours to leaven a loaf of bread. During that time it's fermenting. The yeast slowly digests the flour and lets off CO2. This not only makes the dough raise, it also pre-digests the grain, unlocking the nutrients that our guts couldn't use before.

It's that simple. The natural fermentation that occurs when making sourdough makes bread a guilt-free nutritious food. Now here's how to make healthy delicious sourdough bread at home:

Making a Starter

Sourdough bread only take 3 ingredients: flour, water, and yeast. A starter is a simple mix of flour and water inoculated with yeast. You can get some starter from a friend, or you can make it yourself.

I think it's a great idea to make your starter from scratch. It helps you get acquainted with the fundamentals of bread making. Also, the flavor of each starter is unique to the place where it was made, so your starter will "taste like home" in a certain sense.

Making a starter from scratch will take about 3 weeks. To do so, mix half a cup or flour and half a cup of water in a glass container (I use a pint sized mason jar). Drape a small towel of cloth over it to keep stuff from falling in there and leave it on the counter. Once a day, scoop off the top half of the mixture and mix in 1/4 cup of fresh flour and water. After a week or two, you'll start to notice bubbles in the mixture. ITS ALIVE! By the end of 3 weeks, the mixture will be a fully mature starter, producing lots of bubbles and a tangy yeasty smell.

Storing and Maintaining a Starter

Taking care of a starter is a little like having a pet. You need to feed it and care for it regularly. I named mine Mittens.

You can keep your starter out on the counter indefinitely. Just remember to keep it covered with a cloth and feed it once a day. Feed it by scooping off the top half and mixing in 1/4 cup each of flour and water.

If you aren't using it regularly, you can put your starter in hibernation in the refrigerator. Feed it as you normally would by scooping off the top half and mixing in 1/4 cup each of flour and water. Transfer the starter to a clean glass container and cover with plastic wrap. Poke a few holes in the plastic to let it breath and put it in the fridge. I've kept my starter in the fridge for several weeks without any problems.

To wake a starter from hibernation, move it to the counter and feed it. Let it digest 12 hours, feed it again, and wait another 12 hours for it to be fully revived. Now your ready to bake!