Sunday, July 31, 2011

Soft Whole Wheat Healthy Dinner Rolls

Sometimes a loaf won't do. I mean sometimes you need the chewy crust of an artisan loaf but with the soft interior and small shape of a roll. Oh, and it should be healthy too, did I mention that? These rolls are the perfect thing. They are easy to make, using only ingredients found in every supermarket. And they are super-healthy as well. Don't be put off by the longish ingredient list. I'll bet you have most of the things already/

Here's What You'll Need:
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups AP flour
1/2 cup wheat bran
2 tsp. dry yeast
1/2 Tbs. salt
2 Tbs. sugar
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup shelled sunflower seeds
about 1 1/3 cups warm water

Here's What You'll Need To Do:
1. Combine all the dry ingredients (the flours, bran, yeast, salt and sugar) in a large bowl.

2. Add the water and mix to make a shaggy dough. Then remove to a lightly-floured surface and knead the dough for about 10 minutes until smooth and just barely sticky.

3. Place the dough in a lightly-oiled bowl, turn to coat, then cover and place in a warm location until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.

4. Remove the dough to a flat surface and stretch it out into a rectangle. Pour on the seed mixture, close up the dough, letter-fashion, then knead it to evenly distribute the seeds.

5. Form the dough into rolls about 2 oz. (60 g.) each. Cover and let them 'rest' for about 30 minutes.

6. Heat the oven to 350 F (180 C), and bake the rolls for about 15 minutes or until lightly browned and they sound hollow when tapped.

7. Enjoy!!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Banana Nut Muffins - Little breads (or cakes?) from America

For a long time the debate has raged: just how to differentiate bread and cake. I mean, they both use mostly the same ingredients, flour, sugar, water, salt etc. And yet they are clearly not the same. The difference I think, lies in the ratio. For example, a typical bread recipe uses let's say 3 cups of flour and a tablespoon of yeast. Maybe a cup and a half of water. Cakes, on the other hand have maybe one and a half cups of flour, and 3 eggs along with a cup of water (or juice). And much more sugar, of course. Then there are muffins, America's contribution to the whole confusing situation. They are kind of like little cakes, but some of them are decidedly 'bready' in their texture. Some sources say Marie Antoinette actually said "let them eat brioche" a kind bread so rich it could conceivably be confused as a cake. Or could it? Whatever you decide, these muffins might be little cakes, or if spread with butter, breakfast breads. Either way they are delicious!

Here's What You'll Need:
a few ripe bananas (the kind that are too soft to eat but not ready to throw out yet)
1/3 cup melted butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbs. espresso coffee (optional)
a pinch of salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 cups AP flour
1 cup chopped walnuts

Here's What You'll Need To Do:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C).

2. Mash the bananas in a large bowl. Add the melted butter and mix until well blended.

3. In a small bowl, beat the egg lightly, then add the sugar and the vanilla. Mix well, then add this mixture to the banana mixture and mix thoroughly.

4. Sprinkle the salt and the baking soda over the top and combine with the mixture in the bowl.

5. Add the flour gradually, mixing just until combined. Finally, fold in the walnuts.

6. Spoon the mixture into a greased muffin tin, filling each cup about 2/3 full.

7. Bake for about 15 minutes or until a strand of uncooked spaghetti comes out clean.

8. Yum!!!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Snack Time - Spicy Crackers for Dipping

This is a new one for me at least - crackers. I have tried unsuccessfully to make good crackers in the past. Each time, they were not quite there. What can I say, crackers are seemingly easy to make, but if you don't watch out for the little things, then somehow they just don't make it. So, I experimented and have come up with a formula, sort of. Of course crackers have to be crispy, and therefore have a relatively high amount of oil (or equivalent). But not too much or they become crumbly. And also, like pie-crust, don't work the dough too much to develop gluten. This is a cracker, not bread.

Here is a recipe for a fairly basic cracker, with just a hint of flavor that is both easy to make, and also has great keeping quality. It is based on a recipe from The Baker's Companion, by King Arthur Flour truly a tremendous baking resource everyone should have in their kitchen. But only if you're serious about baking.

Here's What You'll Need:
1 1/2 cups AP flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 Tbs. tomato paste
1 Tbs. dry milk powder
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. sugar
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. Tabasco sauce
about 1/2 cup water
1/4 cup margarine

Here's What You'll Need To Do:
1. In a large bowl, or in the bowl of a food processor, mix the dry ingredients (flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt, baking soda, milk powder, cumin) until evenly distributed.

2. Add the Tabasco sauce and tomato paste, and mix.

3. Add the margarine, cutting it in small pieces and continuing until crumbly.It should resemble the pea-sized pieces you get when making a pie-crust.

4. Gradually add the water adding just enough to make a rough dough. Form it into a ball, then knead it just enough to make a workable dough.

5. Divide the dough into two pieces keeping one piece covered while working with the other.

6. Roll one piece out until very thin, about 1/8 inch (2 or 3 mm). Cut the dough into cracker-sized pieces. I used a fluted pasta cutter, but a sharp knife would work just as well. Or a circular pizza cutter. Using a fork pierce each cracker a few times. This prevents them from puffing up during baking. Move the crackers with a spatula to a parchment-lined baking sheet.

7. Heat the oven to 350F  (180C). Bake the crackers on parchment paper for about 20 minutes turning them around halfway through, until a nice golden brown. These crackers smell amazing while baking because of the cumin. If you wish, you can change the spices to whatever you wish using this recipe for a basic formula for crackers.

8. Cool on a rack, and store in an air-tight container. Bon appetite!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Basic Healthy Beautiful Bread - Artisan Whole Wheat Boule

After all is said and done, sometimes what you really want is a slice of healthy, hearty bread that tastes great and is good for you at the same time. Oh, and it should be pretty, too. This bread, inspired by the Master recipe for whole wheat bread in Jeff Hertzberg's magnificent Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day, is just such a bread. It tastes great. Just as important, it has a slightly chewy crust and a soft, but strong crumb. Perfect for sandwiches loaded down with meats or cheeses and with sauces or marinades or other wet ingredients. It does not become mushy but rather is up to the job it's supposed to do, i.e., it is there for you when the going gets tough, and doesn't disintegrate into crumbs all over your clothes. It is also pretty, looking ever so much like a nice artisan loaf without the 'muss and fuss' of working with sourdough.

This is a straight dough, mixed and baked the same day, similar to a challah but not quite as enriched It is shaped like a French boule (french for ball) but of course flat on the bottom. Also, the slashing which is both functional (lets the gas escape so the bread doesn't explode sideways in the oven while baking) and decorative. I have no doubt you'll love it once you try it.

Here's What You'll Need:
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups AP or bread flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbs. dry yeast
3/4 Tbs. salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg
about 1 1/3 cups warm water

Here's What You Need To Do:
1. Mix the dry ingredients (the flours. sugar, salt and yeast) together in a large bowl or in the bowl of an electric mixer until evenly distributed.

2. Add the egg, oil and most of the water and mix to form a rough dough. Add water or flour to form a smooth, slightly sticky dough. Knead the dough in a mixer vigorously for about 10 minutes (or 15 minutes by hand), until the dough is very smooth and only slightly tacky.

3. Place the kneaded dough into a lightly oiled bowl, turn to coat, then cover with plastic wrap to rise until doubled. This will take about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

4. Take the dough from the bowl, and, trying desperately not to degas the dough too much, form the dough into a boule. This is best done by stretching the dough from the top away from you towards the bottom. After each stretch, turn the dough by about 45 degrees. When the dough is 'stretched, place it, folds on the bottom, onto a baking tray. Cover the boule with a damp kitchen towel to rest for about 45 minutes.

5. Start heating the oven (400 F, 205 C) about 30 minutes before baking. Just before baking, slash the bread twice or three times with a serrated knife, spray with a little water and place in the oven.

6. After about 15 minutes reduce the temperature to 350 degrees. Bake for a total of about 35 to 40 minutes. If you have a baking stone, you can move the boule from the baking sheet to the stone for the last 10 minutes of baking to give more crispiness to the crust.

7. Cool on a rack.