Thursday, August 18, 2011

Easy and Fast (sort of...) Sourdough Bread

The most ancient method for making bread, bar none, is without doubt, sourdough. All other aspects of bread making aside, the oldest method is clearly sourdough. It requires patience above all because, when done in the traditional way, just setting up the process can sometimes take weeks or months. And once the 'starter' is working, then you have to let the dough sit and ferment and grow sometimes for days. This comes from the days when there was no instant yeast or even fresh yeast, the kind we buy in small cubes of 50g (almost 2oz.). So... you have to set up a water and flour solution and leave it uncovered to ferment and, hopefully, collect some wild yeast from the air in your kitchen. Different places have different strains of yeast, and so some sourdough 'starters' are particularly prized. But actually, because wild yeast is pretty much anywhere, you can always start your own starter, with a lot of patience, and a little luck.

But there is another way. Let's be clear about this. Yeast, whether wild from the air, or from a package at the supermarket, is still yeast. We can help the process along, and have sourdough bread almost identical to the artisan breads that take weeks to produce. Here's how...

Here's What You'll Need:

for the starter:
1 cup AP flour
1 cup warm water
1/4 tsp. instant yeast

for the dough:
1 cup rye flour
1 cup AP flour
all of the starter
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. sugar
1 tsp. instant yeast
enough water to make a soft (slightly sticky) dough

Here's What You'll Need To Do:
1. Mix the flour, water and yeast together in a glass bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, then leave it on the counter, at room temperature for at least 24 hours. The starter will bubble up then collapse. When you open the plastic wrap, it will smell sour.

2. The next day, mix all the remaining ingredients in another bowl, adding just enough water to make a soft, but slightly sticky dough.

3. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, covered with plastic wrap, until it doubles in size. This will be slower than usual, about 2 hours or more depending on the temperature in your kitchen.

4. Remove the dough from the bowl without deflating too much. Divide it into two pieces and shape into loaves. Place each piece in a loaf pan 8 1/2 X 4 1/2 inches. Cover and let the loaves rest for about an hour or until they rise just over the tops of the pans.

5. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes at 350F (175C). Cool on a rack.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Vegetables or Fruit - You Decide! Zucchini Muffins

I don't usually toot my own horn, but sometimes it really is the right thing to do. This week Breadmantalking has been chosen by as one of the Best on The Web and is featured on their website. You can visit their website here.

This is a very serious question. Is zucchini a fruit or a vegetable? Or something in between (is there such a thing?). It's true we eat it (usually) like a vegetable. In stir-fry for instance. Or stuffed with luscious risotto style rice and other veggies. Some people eat it raw in a salad like a cucumber, which is, after all, a first cousin. So which is it? In truth it is confusing, because we actually eat it as a vegetable, usually, but it is a fruit. BTW, so are tomatoes, peppers and even eggplants! So this recipe, rather than confusing, should actually straighten you out a bit. But I suspect you will end up even more confused!

Here's What You'll Need:
1 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 cups grated or finely chopped zucchini
1/1 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 to 1/2 cup raisins or currants

Here's What You'll Need To Do:
1) Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line muffin tin(s) with papers, or grease each cup.

2) Beat the sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla till smooth and somewhat lightened in color, about 1 minute at high speed.

3) Add the baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon, beating to combine.
4) Add the flour, beating just till smooth.
5) Add the zucchini, nuts, and raisins or currants.

6) Divide batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups, filling them about 3/4 full.

7) Bake the muffins for 18 to 20  minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into a muffin comes out clean.