Monday, April 6, 2015

Sourdough Blueberry Muffins - Quickbread Style

I already had a recipe for blueberry muffins that the family loved.  But I just came into possession of a new sourdough starter with roots going back to the gold rush.  And it is already doing wonderful!  I really wanted to keep it happy since it perked up so quickly after I received it.  It hadn't been fed for two months and still was doing amazingly great.  So I have been on a mission to use it and keep it happy.  We did a batch of our favorite chocolate waffles, added a bit to a loaf of granary bread to get the consistency perfect, and then I decided to try a muffin recipe.  Now while my kids love sourdough, I don't really prefer noticeable sour flavor in certain baked goods.  Since this recipe only made a few muffins, I thought it was a perfect trial.  I was very pleased with it, even before baking them.  I used tall muffin cups and got 6 huge muffins.  For standard baking cups or an unlined tin, I would suggest making 8 muffins.  There is no sour flavor since the sourdough just acts as the acidic activator for the leavening.  It's just like a quick bread.  They have great texture and an awesome crust.  Sublime with butter spread inside but delicious plain as well.

Sourdough Blueberry Muffins
makes 6-8 muffins

1 cup sourdough starter (fed recently)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
¼ cup melted butter
1 cup light spelt flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
½ cup sugar
½ cup blueberries

Preheat oven to 400ºF.  Combine the sourdough starter, egg, vanilla and butter until fully mixed.  In a separate bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients, then toss in the blueberries.  Mix the dry ingredients with blueberries quickly and carefully into the wet mixture, taking care not to over mix.  Scoop batter into lined muffin cups.  Bake for 20-22 minutes until golden brown and done.

Eat them warm, eat them cool, add butter or not.  Just enjoy!  And keep your starter happy!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Brown eggs and natural dyes? Yes you can!

A couple years ago I did a post about natural Easter egg dyes.  They turned out great and only took a few hours of prep and soaking combined.  This week, a friend asked if the technique would work with brown eggs.  Good question.  I thought it would and since we always get pastured brown eggs from the farmer I figured I would try it out.  So here are my notes for doing brown eggs.

The method is the same.  Four cups of foodstuff chopped up (I used my food processor) into a quart of water, 3 tbsp for the turmeric which is dried spice.  Onion skins go a long way so you might even get away with 2 cups especially with the brown eggs.
Red/Pink:  Beets
Orange:  Yellow Onion skins
Yellow:  Turmeric
Green:  Red Cabbage + Turmeric
Blue:  Red Cabbage (For more navy blue tones, add blueberries)
Violet:  Red Cabbage + Beets

To make the dyes, use 4 cups of chopped or grated (beets, cabbage, onion skins) with one quart of water and 2 tablespoons of vinegar.  Turmeric is 3 tbsp powdered spice per quart.  Bring to a boil, then cover and keep at a hard simmer for 30 minutes.  Strain the dye into a bowl and mix in 1 tablespoon of salt.  Let cool until not steaming, then soak your hard boiled eggs for 30 minutes in the dye.  For all colors except red, rinse and set on a napkin to dry.  The colors will intensify somewhat when dry.
One thing I added this year, mostly because they were freezer burned because R left them uncovered in a bowl in there for weeks, was ¾ cup frozen blueberries to the red cabbage mixture.  I wanted to boost the blue a bit for brown egg dying.

Big Tip #1:  Heated dye works better.

Big Tip #2:  Multiple coats are your friend for the reds.

So for the red/pink, I did the normal 30 minute soak and then took them out carefully to set on a napkin to dry.  Really, additional coats after that can just be dipped in to get the best coverage and set to dry again.  There will be a prettier side and a not so pretty side.  I reheated the dye when it cooled off and did a few more coats.  I think there were at least 10 dunks to get what you see in the picture, but it only takes a second to dunk and set out.  Remember not to rinse the reds or purples.

For the orange, I had enough dry onion skins to fill a 2 Qt pan.  Those eggs I only soaked for 10-15 minutes since the dye looked very concentrated.  You will want to check on them every 5 minutes or so after 10 minutes.

The yellow also only soaked for about 15 minutes.  These eggs you will want to rinse since the turmeric leaves a powdery residue.  Be careful!  Turmeric stains big time.

The green turned out a little different because I didn't mix the dyes like last time, I did a double soak.  First in blue, then in yellow.  I think I like the mix better, but I still got some nice mossy greens.  Those two eggs were different browns, the one in front a very light brown.  The one in back really took the blue dye more.

Blue was an easy and straight forward soak.  I gave it another 15 minutes with reheated dye to get them nice and saturated with color.

Lastly were the purples.  Starting with a nice saturated blue soak, then a shorter soak in the red and a few extra coats of red added on to dry.  Same technique as for the plain red.  No rinsing when done.

I think the brown eggs turned out great and actually look almost the same as the white eggs with natural dyes.  Perhaps a smidge darker and more of a saturated color effect.  They did take a little bit more time to get the results I wanted.  But I didn't have to worry about getting eggs I wouldn't normally buy.  So there you go.  If you want to try brown eggs for dying, it works just fine!

Oh yes, here are the eggs straight from the farm.  Occasionally there are some that are a bit lighter and I tried to choose the lightest ones for the green.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Guilt Free Chocolate Pudding - No cook

The search continues for a cooked, corn starch free pudding.  But in the mean time, I found this amazing recipe in Danielle Walker's Against All Grain meals made simple cookbook.  It is a beautiful cookbook with large glossy photos and appealing recipes, not to mention make ahead options, nutrition facts and grocery lists.  She also has some great chocolate custard style pudding and fudgesicle recipes on her website that are cooked egg custard style.  S and I loved them but they were too rich and dark for R.  But this recipe, this uncooked, almost sugar free recipe is fantastic.  I can say yes to this treat any time without feeling like I am giving the kids something unhealthful.  It is high in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants.  Heads up, you really need a high speed blender to get this super silky smooth like regular pudding.  Otherwise the chia seeds can leave a little bit of gritty texture.  In the original recipe, the only sweetening is from pitted dates.  And it is great just that way too, but I found that I liked the roundness that just a tablespoon of maple syrup gave to the flavor.  Even my picky hubby thought the taste and texture was just about perfect.  Now that is a win!

Healthful No Cook Chocolate Pudding
serves 4-6

1 can (13.66 oz) coconut milk 
½ cup hot water
4.5 oz pitted dates (I used Medjool; Deglet Noor, which are smaller, would be around 18 dates)
½ cup raw cacao powder (I used fair trade cocoa powder)
¼ cup chia seeds
1 tbsp melted coconut oil (the mix gets hot enough you don't have to have it melted)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp maple syrup (optional addition not in original recipe)
¼ tsp sea salt
dark chocolate shavings, coconut flakes or berries for garnish

Put everything in a high speed blender and process at high speed until completely smooth.  Danielle says for about 45 seconds but I let it go a couple minutes to get ultra smooth.

Pour/scoop into serving dishes, cover and chill for at least 6 hours or overnight.

 This is straight out of the blender and still warm and you can see how thick it is already.

Garnish with chocolate shavings or berries if desired.

Or get fancy and pipe it into a fancy serving goblet.  Garnish optional.

This mixture also makes fabulous fudgesicles!

Freeze overnight in dixie cups or a popsicle mold and enjoy!  My kids like peeling off the dixie cup paper.

Monday, March 30, 2015

BBB Granary Style Loaf

The BBB hostess invited us to have fun and play in the sandbox with this recipe, originally meant to be used with a proprietary flour grain blend your can find in England.  While it is available by mail order though spendy, she encouraged us to experiment with what we had or could find and just have fun with it.  Other options included sprouted flours and malted wheat flakes.  Now I have purchased those in the past from King Arthur, though they don't always have that import in stock.  But I decided against an order since I don't use them enough.  What I did have was sprouted oats.  Well, malted wheat flakes are sprouted and rolled...  So are these.  Good enough for me.  And I already had some barley malt for flavor.  In the end I loosely followed the two King Arthur recipes that My Kitchen in Half Cups referenced.  And I still ended up tweaking it right up until baking.  Sandbox play indeed.  Here is the recipe as I made it.  Check out the original post to see her different versions!  This got thumbs up from my eldest as she ate a nice fresh piece with butter.  I can't wait to try it toasted.

Granary Style Loaf
makes 1 loaf

¾ cup lukewarm water (reduced from 1 cup because I was using mostly spelt)
1 tbsp barley malt syrup
½ cup sprouted rolled oats (used instead of malted wheat flakes)
75 g sprouted wheat flour
75 g whole spelt flour
150 g white spelt flour
½ tbsp instant yeast
1 tbsp softened butter
1 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp sourdough starter (added after overnight rest)

Dissolve barley malt syrup in the water in a mixing bowl.  Add in sprouted oats or malted wheat flakes.  Mix in remaining ingredients except sourdough starter.  I used my stand mixer and the paddle attachment.  My dough was firm by design to accommodate the spelt.  Allow to rest and rise overnight in a covered bowl.  Next morning, work in the sourdough starter and a couple teaspoons water if necessary to achieve an elastic dough that is only slightly sticky.  Form into a loaf and place in a buttered loaf pan to rise until almost doubled.  (I also brushed the top with softened butter while rising.)
Bake in a 375º oven for 35-37 minutes until golden and registering at least 190º in the center.  Mine finished at 204º.  Allow to cool before slicing.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Light and Fluffy Coconut Cream Pie - no corn starch required!

Happy Pi Day of the century!  It's so hard when you are the only coconut cream pie lover in the house.  I think my kids might try this but I'm not sure.  My other pie loving cohort moved two time zones away.  This pie is a fusion of a chiffon and a cream pie.  I love it because it is corn free and I prefer it to a thick and heavy pudding pie.  You do still make a custard, but it is lightened twice.  Well, lightened in texture, not in calories, this is still a very rich pie!  The coconut milk in the custard gives it more coconut flavor too.  I tried out this recipe for the pie crust (Alan's pie pastry) and it turned out great.  That was even using spelt flour which is very finicky in crust and tends to turn out tough because the protein is so water sensitive.

Toasted Coconut Cream Chiffon Pie
12-16 servings

1 tbsp gelatin
½ cup sugar
3 eggs, separated (or 3 egg yolks and the equivalent of 3 powdered whites, reconstituted)
1 can (13.66 oz) coconut milk (I prefer Thai Kitchen)
Pinch salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
¼ tsp cream of tartar
1 pint heavy whipping cream, divided
1 tbsp powdered sugar
1 (10 inch) pie shell, baked and cooled (use your favorite recipe or even store bought)
½ cup shredded coconut, toasted
¼ cup flaked coconut, toasted (for garnish)

Combine sugar and gelatin in a 2 Qt saucepan.  Blend egg yolks and coconut milk together and add to sugar mixture.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture boils.  Remove from heat and stir in salt, vanilla and ½ cup shredded toasted coconut.  Chill in the refrigerator or an ice bath, stirring occasionally, until mixture thickens and mounds up slightly when dropped from a spoon.  

Beat egg whites or reconstituted dried egg white and tartar until stiff peaks form.  Fold into custard.   Whip 1 cup heavy cream until stiff.  Fold into mixture.  Pile into the cooled pie shell and refrigerate while you make the topping.

For the topping, whip the remaining cup of cream with the powdered sugar until stiff peaks form.  Stabilize with ¼ tsp gelatin dissolved in a bit of cream if desired.  Add at the soft peak stage.  Scoop or pipe onto the edge of the pie as desired.  Sprinkle the toasted coconut flakes over the whipped cream.  Refrigerate for a few hours to fully set.  


Saturday, February 28, 2015

BBB makes Kouign Amann

These are amazing little bites of crispy, buttery, chewy pastry goodness.  I've had Kouign amann on my radar ever since a relative emailed me a picture of one from a bakery, asking if I could make it.  It looked wonderful!  So when I saw that the Bread Baking Babes were making them for this month's challenge, I knew I had to find time to bake along as a buddy.

I had pinned a recipe and video from chefsteps about "queen" "ah-mahn" a while ago and I did make very slight adjustments to the recipe based on that and other bakery renditions I've seen.  I used mostly spelt, but added 100g of regular all purpose flour for strength.  I hoped to maintain the open flakiness that way.  I also reduced the water by 25 ml to account for the use of spelt and increased the dough butter by 10g.  Finally, I added just 15g sugar.  That was only a quarter of the sugar used in the video dough, but there was none in the BBB recipe.  I figured with all the sugar sprinkled and rolled in, not too much should be in the dough but I did want to feed the yeast a bit extra for optimal rise.  For the butter block, I did add a tiny bit of flour since I didn't use european butter and could have been concerned about moisture content.  I also added just a bit of sugar and salt as shown in the video recipe though not nearly as much as they did.  Just to really get that salted caramel flavor and crisp.  I ended up using about ½ tbsp flour, 25g sugar and 1.5g salt mixed together.  I sprinkled it on top of the butter block and bashed and folded it in as I formed the block until it was mixed and nicely pliable.

Laminating dough is a challenge, I will admit.  My croissants turned out pretty good last time, but I still had butter bleeding out on any turn over two.  The same happened here.  But they still turned out wonderful.  I highly advise putting a sheet pan under the muffin tray to catch any butter oil and sugar that boils over the edges.  Otherwise you will have a very smoky house.  Not that this has ever happened to me...  Snicker, snicker.  I think refining my laminating will help reduce that effect and get these even crispier when done.  I'm also thinking the butter block doesn't need the salt and sugar if you are rolling out on the salt/sugar mixture.  The pastries are plenty buttery and sugary and delectable as it is!

For an example of beautiful lamination and supreme flakiness, check out the host kitchen's post at Notitie Van Lien.  Here is the recipe as posted on her blog.  Next time I make these I will do a plain butter block as indicated for the BBB recipe but I will still do a sugar/salt sprinkle for the final fold.  That little bit of saltiness is sensational.

Kouign Amann 
makes 12 pastries

300-340 g strong plain flour (plus extra for dusting when rolling)
5 g fast-action yeast
¾ tsp salt
200 ml warm water
25 g unsalted butter, melted
250 g cold unsalted butter, in a block
100 g caster sugar for sprinkling on the dough (the final fold just before rolling it out and after it’s been rolled out - not between the other layers), plus extra for sprinkling on top

1. Put the flour (start with 300g) into the bowl of a freestanding mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the yeast to one side of the bowl and the salt to the other. Add the water and melted butter and mix on a slow speed for two minutes, then on a medium speed for six minutes. Add a little extra flour if the dough is too sticky. The dough should be soft but not sticky (so don’t add too much).

2. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and shape into a ball. Put into a lightly oiled bowl.  Cover with cling film and leave to rise for one hour

3. Sandwich the butter between two sheets of greaseproof paper and bash with a rolling pin, then roll out to a 14 cm square. Place in the fridge to keep chilled.

4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a 20 cm square.  Place the butter in the center of the dough diagonally, so that each side of butter faces a corner of the dough. Fold the corners of the dough over the butter to enclose like an envelope.

5. Roll the dough into a 45x15 cm rectangle. Fold the bottom third of dough up over the middle, then fold the top third of the dough over. You will now have a sandwich of three layers of butter and three layers of dough. Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for 30 minutes. This completes one turn.

6. Repeat this process twice more, so you have completed a total of three turns, chilling the dough for 30 minutes between turns.

7. Roll the dough into a rectangle as before. Sprinkle the dough with the caster sugar and fold into thirds again. Working quickly, roll the dough into a large 40x30 cm rectangle. Sprinkle the dough with caster sugar and cut the dough into 12 squares.

8. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin with butter. Gather the dough squares up by their four corners and place in the muffin tins, pulling the four corners towards the centre of the muffin tin, so that it gathers up like a four-leaf clover. Press these corners well together, they can open up when unattached to eachother. Sprinkle with caster sugar and leave to rise (room temperature), covered with a clean tea towel, for 30 minutes until slightly puffed up.

 I rolled my dough out on a sugar/salt mixture.  Both sides.
 I also buttered the tin and used the sugar/salt mixture to "flour" it.

9. Preheat oven to 220ºC.  Bake the pastries for 30-40 minutes, or until golden-brown. Cover with foil halfway through if beginning to brown too much (and they will). Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a couple of minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Be careful not to burn yourself on the caramelized sugar, but don’t leave them to cool for too long, or the caramelized sugar will harden and they will be stuck in the tin. Serve warm or cold. Warm is best!

If you don’t want to eat them all in want go (or just if you want to, but shouldn’t), bag and freeze them. Before you eat them: Defrost them and place them in a warm oven (180ºC) for about 4-6 minutes or until warm, they will crisp up again.

(slightly adapted from: Paul Hollywood – BBC “The Great British Bake Off”

Monday, February 9, 2015

Northwest Salmon Soup

This recipe comes courtesy of a special magazine publication by Better Homes and Garden, Soups & Stews, 2014 second printing.  I couldn't find any copy of the recipe online and this turned out exceptional so I simply had to share it.  I have made a number of the recipes in the magazine and been very pleased.  This is a beautifully simple soup, not heavy but nicely warming.  Hubby commented that it would be a wonderful summer soup, he loved the addition of the kale, and he would welcome seeing the soup again any time.  The girls both asked for seconds and thirds.  I must say, the smell of onions sauteing with paprika is delightful.  We will definitely be seeing this healthful soup at our table again!

Northwest Salmon Soup
barely adapted from BHG
serves 4

12 oz. fresh or frozen salmon fillets, thawed
2 tbsp butter
1 large yellow onion, chopped
½ tsp paprika
¼ tsp fresh ground pepper
4 cups chicken broth (32 oz.)
2 cups chopped fresh kale or baby kale
2 cups chopped Yukon gold potatoes or new red potatoes
½ cup shredded carrot, about 1 medium
1 tbsp snipped fresh dill
sea salt and fresh ground pepper

Optional toppings:
sour cream
kettle chips
fresh dill
salmon roe

Remove skin and bones from salmon if necessary.  Cut into 1" pieces and set aside.  In a large sauce pot, melt butter over med-low heat.  Add onion and cook for 10-12 minutes until tender, stirring occasionally.  Season lightly with salt and pepper while cooking.  Increase heat and brown onions until just golden.  Stir in paprika and pepper.

Stir in chicken broth, kale, potatoes and carrot.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cover.  Simmer about 10 minutes until potatoes are tender.  Add the salmon and dill.  Cook, uncovered for about 3 minutes until salmon flakes easily.

Top with desired garnishes and serve hot.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Egg salad for one or two

I love egg salad sandwiches.  Normally however, I can't eat but one half of a sandwich.  Especially the larger kind you might find at a coffee shop.  My youngest girl and I usually split one of those since we both really like the egg salad from Tully's.  Growing up, my mom made egg sandwiches.  Not egg salad, just egg.  They consisted of bread lightly spread with mayo and layered with plain, sliced hard boiled eggs lightly salted and peppered.  They were fine sandwiches for school lunches and such, but now I really prefer the egg salad.  I came up with this mixture based off the profile of the coffee house sandwich we like.  Mildly seasoned with just a tiny bit of crunch.  And just enough to feed my daughter and I since Daddy doesn't like eggs and my eldest would prefer tuna salad.  I recently started steaming my hard cooked eggs and I have never had farm eggs peel this beautifully!

Egg Salad for One Sandwich

2 hard boiled eggs, roughly chopped
2 tsp mayonnaise
1 tsp sour cream
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp finely chopped celery
scant 1/8 tsp onion powder
2 tsp dill relish
pinch fresh ground pepper
pinch dill weed
fresh chives, optional

2 pieces sandwich bread
lettuce leaf, optional

Gently combine all salad ingredients in a bowl.  Chill if desired, to blend flavors.  Serve on sandwich or sourdough bread and add a piece of lettuce to your sandwich if desired.
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