Monday, July 29, 2013

Spelt Rye Bread

I have to make a confession. I have tried many times to make decent bread using spelt flour... and failed. I know that spelt has less gluten, much less gluten, than regular wheat flour. I also know that, aside from being quite trendy it is very healthy for you. And super tasty. So, I decided to try once again. But with a twist. I decided to compensate for the lack of gluten by adding some. And I also gave the bread a flavor boost by adding a mixture of flours. This bread, with my own combination of whole wheat, rye and spelt flours is super delicious and even 'safe' for vegans. By that I mean, it includes only the basic four ingredients needed for bread: flour(s), water, yeast and salt. Oh, and the added gluten. No eggs or honey. So try this and let me know what you think. It rises slowly but is well worth the effort.

Here's What You'll Need (for one large loaf - about 2 lbs (1 kg.):
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup whole rye flour
1 cup whole spelt flour
2 Tbs. instant dry yeast
about 2 cups water
2 Tbs. gluten
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. sugar (brown sugar optional)

Here's What You'll Need To Do:

1. Mix the flours and the yeast evenly in a large bowl. Add the sugar, salt and gluten and mix thoroughly.

2. Add the water gradually, mixing by hand, until you have a soft fairly sticky dough. Work slowly as the whole grains need time to fully absorb the water. When all the water is absorbed, cover and let the dough rest for about 20 minutes. This is the autolyse, sort of. A true autolyse would be without the yeast.

3. Remove the dough to a lightly floured surface, and knead, with stretching and folding, to develop the gluten. After a few minutes the dough will come together and become less sticky and more elastic.

4. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let it rise until doubled in volume, about two hours. This bread will rise slowly, even with the added gluten so don't be surprised if it takes a while.

5. Remove the dough from the bowl. Gently shape it into a loaf form, and place it in a 9 X 5 (23 cm X 13 cm) loaf pan that is lightly oiled. Let it rise, covered, until it is just higher than the edge of the pan.

6. About 20 minutes before the end of the rise, preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C). Bake the bread for about 35 minutes or until it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Cool on a rack completely before slicing.

7. Enjoy!!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Pao de Queijo - Brazilian Bread That's Gluten-Free

I admit That I am new territory here with this bread. Firstly, I have never presented any bread from South America before. Yes, about 2 years ago I brought a recipe for tortillas, but, truthfully, they are mostly from Mexico. And very similar to the Laffas we all know and love from the Middle East in all its variations. This one is totally different.

Let's start with the name, Pao de Queijo, a Portuguese name literally meaning 'Cheese Bread'. But that doesn't begin to describe what makes this bread so special, and why it is so easy to make/bake.

No yeast. No baking powder or baking soda. Gluten-free flour. Done in 30 minutes, including the prep time. What could be easier? And as if that is not enough, the sharp cheese makes it simply delicious all by itself. Serve these warm from the oven all alone, or with just a small pat of butter. Yum!!

Here's What You'll Need: (for about 6 muffin-sized rolls)
1 cup cornflour (not corn meal)*
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup warm water
1 tsp.salt
1 egg, beaten lightly
1/3 cup yogurt
1 cup sharp cheese (Cheddar, Kachkeval, or a good sharp goat cheese,  for example), grated finely
* You can use potato starch (flour) or tapioca starch (flour) instead.

Here's What You'll Need To Do:

1. Preheat the oven to 450 F (220 C) . Lightly oil a muffin tin with butter or oil.

2. Place the flour into a medium bowl. In a small pot on the stovetop, mix the oil, water and salt and bring them to a boil.

3. Mix the oil-water mixture into the flour, followed by the egg, then the yogurt. Mix it all to form a very thick batter.

4. Add the cheese and stir to combine.

5. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, about 3/4 full.

6. Place the muffin tin in the oven, reduce the temperature to 350 F (180 C), then bake for about 25 minutes until they are a deep golden brown.

7. Cool on a rack, but serve while still warm.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Second Home - Mediterranean Olive Bread

When you think of typical Mediterranean foods, certain images immediately come to mind. Salty white cheeses like the famous feta and its universal cousins. Olive oil and olives. Ripe, firm tomatoes. Fresh herbs like oregano, basil of course, thyme, rosemary.

And bread, two styles especially. There is the thick-crusted 'artisan'-style loaves. Basically a boule, baked at a high temperature until almost black. The interior remains soft and white while the crust is so crunchy you almost have to saw it open. Almost. Then there is the 'country' loaf. A softer crust with a white and fluffy interior. Almost heaven and made with only a few select ingredients. White bread flour, yeast, water and salt. To soften the crust just a little more add an egg. To brown the crust add some sugar. That's it.

This bread is from the second category. It has a robust crust but not at all crunchy or chewy. The interior is soft as soft can be. Fluffy. It is a variation on a bread found throughout the Mediterranean in one form or another. Another variant can be found in the wonderful baking book Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads. I have replaced the typical butter with olive oil to cut down on the saturated fats, and to add the flavor of the oil. Olive oil does not suit a lot of baked goods, but is perfect for Mediterranean bread. Also, just so you wouldn't mistake it's origins, I have added about 1 cup of roughly chopped green olives. The aroma in your kitchen will be unbelievable. And if you can manage to wait until it cools, you won't be disappointed.

Here's What You'll Need:
2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups bread flour (or AP flour)
1 Tbs. dry yeast
2 Tbs. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 1/3 cups warm water
2 eggs
1/4 cup butter (or Olive oil)
1 cup green olives, roughly chopped (or half black)
1 egg, lightly beaten

Here's What You'll Need to Do:

1. In a large mixing bowl, add 2 cups of the flour and the other dry ingredients (yeast, sugar and salt). Mix thoroughly.

2. Make a well in the center, then add the water, while stirring, to form a thick-ish batter. Beat in the eggs, then the butter gradually. Or the olive oil if using it instead of the butter.

3. Stir vigorously until the batter is smooth and silky, then add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough 'cleans the bowl'. Continue to knead until the dough is smooth and shiny and only just barely sticky.

4. Place the dough in a lightly-oiled bowl, turn to coat, then cover and let it rise until doubled in volume, about 1 1/2 hours.

5. Deflate the dough. Push it out with your fingers until it forms a rough rectangle. Sprinkle the drained olives evenly over the surface of the dough, then roll it up, jelly-roll style from the long side to form a 'log'. Tuck the ends underneath the log, and place it on a parchment -lined baking sheet. Cover with a kitchen towel, to rise a second time, about 45 minutes.

6. About 20 minutes before baking time, pre-heat the oven to 350 F (180 C). Brush the loaf with the beaten egg, then bake for about 35 minutes until it is a deep brown. It will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.

7. Cool on a rack.

Oh, and it makes amazing toast!