There are few virtues a man can possess more erotic than culinary skill.
Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses
by Isabel Allende

Starting in November of 2009 Michelle at the Big Black Dog formed a group to bake its way through Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Zoë François and Jeff Hertzberg. I loved Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, so I signed up with the group. Michelle first had us do a couple of warm-up assignments, which were my first attempt at blogging. The first "Official" post was on January 15, 2010, and it was followed by 41 more, on the 1st and 15th of each month. When I signed on I said I would bake the whole book, and like Horton (the elephant) I meant what I said and I said what I meant. I finished baking the book on October 1, 2011. Having completed that challenge, now I am just going to do some stuff, and post about it. As part of that stuff Michelle is posing a new, and different, challenge for us each month.

I am still baking bread, mostly the Five Minutes a Day kind, and if you would like to try the Five Minutes a Day bread method there are some links, with recipes, in the right hand column to get you started. Please give it a try.

But first, a word from my sponsor . . .
Depending on to whom you listen, however, our standard of living, may, or may not, be threatened by climate change--global warming. Though scary, it is hard to sift through all the shouting and conflicting information to figure out who is right on this issue.
One person, Greg Craven, has suggested changing the question from "which side is right" to "what is the wisest thing to do given the uncertainties and the risks involved?" To me, this seems like a very productive way to refocus the conversation. So, if you are confused about, concerned by, or interested in the issue of global warming please take a few minutes to watch his VIDEO. If you find it interesting or helpful, please pass it on to others.

This day be bread and peace my lot.
Alexander Pope

How can a nation be great if its bread tastes like Kleenex?

Julia Child

Everyone is kneaded out of the same dough but not baked in the same oven.
Yiddish proverb
(And some are only half baked.)

There is no love sincerer than the love of food.
George Bernard Shaw, via Sharon

Of all smells, bread; of all tastes, salt.
George Herbert

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Apple and Honey Whole Grain Challah and Sweet Potato and Spelt Bread (41 of 42)

The Color Purple: Royal Burgundy Beans and Cosmic Purple Carrot

This time out we are doing Apple and Honey Whole Grain Challah and Sweet Potato and Spelt Bread.  The recipe for the Apple and Honey Whole Grain Challah includes, not surprisingly, diced apples and honey.  The dough is also enriched with oil and eggs (I used egg substitute).   The recipe suggested Braeburn apples, which we like a lot, but those are not in season here yet, so we made do with what was available at the farm stand.  The recipe directs us to shape the challah as a turban, but at least for my skill level the directions in the recipe were a bit sketchy.  Fortunately, Jeff had posted some pictures of the process at Challah done two ways from the same dough and these helped immensely--at least as to the theory if not as to the execution.  

My loaf started looking somewhat turbanesque

But as it rose, and spread, it became decidedly more beret-like


It baked up fine, however. 

 As an enriched bread the loaf was nice and tender and it tasted very good.  We would definitely recommend this bread, Judy. 

 As you can see, I may not have diced the apples finely enough, but the chunks were nice in the finished product.

Next we moved from apples to sweet potatoes.  And spelt.  From previous posts (Olive Spelt Bread and Roasted Garlic Bread) we know that spelt is basically an heirloom wheat grown mostly in Europe for livestock feed.   Like many of the other less common grains we have used, spelt is hardy and can be grown in difficult conditions.

As for Sweet Potatoes, they seem to suffer from a bit of an identity crisis.  Sometimes they are called sweet potatoes and sometimes they are called yams.  There also appears to be somewhat of a regional convention.  Our daughter Ellen is a graduate of Clemson in South Carolina.  She observed that when you simply asked for a "potato" there, you got a sweet potato.  To get what she considered to be the "default potato" she needed to specify an Irish Potato.

Wikipedia offers that "[t]he softer, orange variety is often called a yam in parts of North America, a practice intended to differentiate it from the firmer and more nutritious variety of sweet potato that is beige on the outside and yellow on the inside."  But, as Wikipedia notes, "yam" is also a tuber "which is native to Africa and Asia and belongs to the monocot family Dioscoreaceae." (This is as opposed to the sweet potato which the article notes "is a dicotyledonous plant that belongs to the family Convolvulaceae.")  The African/Asian yams "can grow up to 1.5 m (4.9 ft) in length and weigh up to 70 kg (154 lb)."  Good thing the recipe specified one large sweet potato rather than one large yam!   According to Wikipedia, "[t]o prevent confusion, the United States Department of Agriculture requires sweet potatoes labeled as 'yams' to be labeled also as 'sweet potatoes'."   Well, as usual, the government has fixed everything. 

This bread was pretty straight forward--just a basic dough using spelt and AP flour.  The only addition was a shredded sweet potato.  My sweet potato was orange on the inside, (it should have had a sign stating "I yam what I yam") and I shredded it with the skin on to preserve nutrients.

Instead of forming an oval loaf as the recipe suggested I baked it as a boule.  I formed it into a ball and placed it in my frozen whipped topping container couche lined with parchment paper.  Then I covered it with a recycled hotel shower cap and let it rise. 

We spare no expense in pursuit of HB in 5 excellence.  
(Actually, that is not true.  Judy over at  Judy's Bakery of Johnson City did a test, comparing King Arthur Flour to Sam's Club Flour.  She felt that KA flour gave noticeably better results, though that opinion was not shared by all her tasters.  Also, Sam's is bleached (KA is not), and Jeff and Zoe have specified that it is important to use unbleached flour in their breads.  I use Gold Medal Unbleached and get it when it goes on sale. My suspicion, which is shared by some of Judy's testers, is that the KA difference would be much less significant in the whole grain breads I bake, where the AP flour is just a fraction of the flour in the recipe, than it appears to be in an all AP flour bread.  So I do spare the expense of KA flour.)

I baked the Sweet Potato Bread in my Flame Orange Le Creuset covered pot, uncovering it about 2/3 of the way through. 

The sweet potato in the dough kept the bread very moist.  In fact, the first attempt looked done at the time specified in the recipe, so I took it out.  It fell!  So I baked the other loaf about half again as long, and took its temperature before I pulled it out.  It was still pretty moist, but at least firm enough to stand. 
The bread was just OK, quite soft and tender, and a little too moist. It is possible that I added too much sweet potato, and that is why it seemed to moist.  I did not notice a particular sweet potato flavor, however.  We liked it much better toasted. 

So that is it for this, the penultimate assignment.  Only one more to go. Tune in again next time for the big finish!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Wild Rice Pilaf Bread and Lentil Curry Bread (40 of 42)

The first bread for this assignment was the Wild Rice Pilaf Bread.  According to our friends at Wikipedia, wild rice is four species of grasses that grow in shallow lakes and streams.  Included in the group is an Asian variety and a Texas variety.  Texas Wild Rice is a perennial, and is threatened with extinction due to its limited range and loss of habitat.  The article notes that  "often, only the flowering head of wild rice rises above the water" and that "[t]he grain is eaten by dabbling ducks and other aquatic wildlife, as well as humans."  The article offers
The species most commonly harvested as grain is the annual species Zizania palustris. Native Americans and non-Indians harvest wild rice by canoeing into a stand of plants, and bending the ripe grain heads with wooden sticks called knockers, so as to thresh the seeds into the canoe.

The size of the knockers, as well as other details, are prescribed in state and tribal law. By Minnesota statute, knockers must be at most 1 inch in diameter, 30 inches long, and one pound in weight. The plants are not beaten with the knockers but require only a gentle brushing to dislodge the mature grain.
They are not making this up.  Minnesota Statute 84.111 provides
It shall be unlawful to use, in harvesting wild rice in any public waters in this state, any watercraft other than a boat, skiff, or canoe propelled by hand, which boat, skiff, or canoe may have a top width of not more than 36 inches and a length of not more than 18 feet, or any machine or mechanical device for gathering or harvesting the grain other than with flails not over 30 inches in length nor over one pound in weight, which flails must be held and operated by hand.
According to the 2010 MINNESOTA HUNTING REGULATIONS "Any person violating any of the laws or rules pertaining to wild rice is subject to a fine up to $1000 and/or 90 days in jail."

From a Healthy Bread standpoint, the Wikipedia article notes that "wild rice is high in protein, the amino acid lysine and dietary fiber, and low in fat. Like true rice, it does not contain gluten. It is also a good source of the minerals potassium and phosphorus, and the vitamins thiamine, riboflavin and niacin."  Of some interest, at least to me, is the fact that, according to the USDA database, one cup of cooked wild rice has 166 calories, compared to 216 calories for a cup of cooked long grain brown rice.

Wild rice can take a long time to cook, which is where my rice cooker comes in handy.  I just threw 3/4 cup of wild rice and 2 cups of water into the cooker and set it on the brown rice cycle.  I went about my business and it beeped at me when it was done.

As I recall, which is getting to be an iffier proposition each year, my first exposure to wild rice was in college (I went to one of the many "Harvard[s] of the Midwest"--Lawrence University in Appleton Wisconsin).  My good friend Court was from a farm in Iowa, and he would bring back all sorts of good food from the farm--fish, duck, pheasant, and homemade wine.   To take advantage of this bounty we commenced to having the Sunday Night Epicurean Society™.   We hosted not only young ladies we were hoping to impress but also friends and favorite professors.  Court's Mom & Dad supplied several recipes, including one for a Wild Rice Casserole.  It had ground beef, onions, green peppers, mushrooms, almonds, wild rice and several cans of cream of something soups.  It was very rich.  And wonderful. 

Being older, if not wiser, I went a little lighter direction with the extra wild rice I had after making the Wild Rice Pilaf dough.  I made a Wild Rice Salad. 
I took some lightly cooked beans from the garden, some cherry tomatoes, a diced apple, half a red onion, diced, and some pecan pieces and tossed them with the cooked and cooled rice and some light vinaigrette.   Not as rich, but still plenty tasty.

The bread was pretty tasty, too.  In addition to the wild rice it had sautéed onion and mushrooms--the "pilaf" part.    I made the first loaf using my 1x2 couche.  I set the 1x2s on some drawer liner to keep them from sliding apart as the dough rose. 

The bread baked up beautifully, if I do say so myself. 

I used my perforated Italian bread pan to bake the rest of the dough, making 2 loaves. 

Next up was the Lentil Curry Bread.  This bread was in the chapter Breads with Hidden Fruits and Vegetables, and the lentils were certainly hidden.  You cooked them until soft and then pureed them in their cooking liquid.  As the recipe notes, lentils are high in fiber, protein, folic acid and B vitamins.  In fact, according to Healthy Eating: All About Lentils "one serving [of lentils] will give you 37 percent of your daily iron and more than half your daily fiber."  They are also one of the quickest cooking legumes--no soaking.  According to the All About Lentils article "dating as far back at 7000 B.C., lentils are one of the oldest cultivated crops."  The article notes that "[l]entils come in a variety of colors, including green, brown, red, yellow and black" and that "[l]entils have a sturdier texture and more peppery flavor than beans, peas or other legumes."  Also, "[w]hen you eat a combination of grains and legumes (such as rice and beans or bulgur and lentils), you create what's called a 'complete protein.' These power combos contain the same protein building blocks as meat, which makes them a great way for vegans and vegetarians to get protein."  To that end, here is a recipe for a good and healthy soup using lentils and brown rice, but I do not remember where I got it 
Lentil Brown Rice Soup
1 T olive oil
3/4 c celery ,chopped
3/4 c onion, chopped
6 c water (+ 1 can chicken broth to make it "soupy"? Add toward end of cooking)
3/4 c lentils
2 cans no salt added diced tomatoes
1/2 t garlic powder
1/4 t pepper
3/4 c brown rice
1/2 t rosemary
1 T Worcestershire
1/2 c carrots, shredded
Sauté celery and onion in oil in a Dutch oven. Add water and lentils. Cook 20 minutes. Add remaining ingredients except carrots. Simmer 45-60 minutes. Add carrots. Cook 5 minutes more.
 Although I made a half batch of the Lentil Curry dough I used a full dose of (sweet) curry powder.  As my trophy wife said, "if you are going to use it, you might as well taste it."  She is pretty nice and she is pretty smart.  And pretty pretty, too.

I posted a tip from Cooks Illustrated on the Discussion Board which suggesting using a pan a lava rocks (like those for a gas grill) to create steam.  My home improvement store did not have lava rocks, but had ceramic briquettes, which I got.
I put them on the bottom rack while preheating, then put about a half a cup of water in, closed the door for a minute, then put the bread in and added another half cup of water.  Seemed to work well, lots of steam, but I do not know how to determine if there was a measurable difference in outcome.

I also baked this bread in my perforated Italian bread pan, and it baked up beautifully.  

As you can see, the combination of the curry powder and the lentils lent it an interesting color.  The crumb was good too.

So that is 40 done, just 2 to go.  Tune in next time for the penultimate post (absent a green-white-checker finish).