Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Coming Full Circle

My brain is a funny thing these days... Even though it shouldn't come as a surprise to me, I still find myself shocked at the fact that tomorrow will mark two years of blogging for me! I don't know what posessed me to start writing a food blog on a day where the rest of the country was out celebrating, and some days I don't know what kept me going this long! All I can say is that I am honestly humbled, and extremely grateful, for all the readers that I have (who comment or not!), and for the friends I feel I have made along the way across the globe. You have no idea how much your input and words mean to me, and I thank you all for giving me a purpose and enough ideas to continue cooking for another year (or 12!).

I may not be as regular at updating my blog these days as in the beginning, but this year marked some significant changes... namely my return to full time schooling. As I've teetered my way towards a balance of work and play, I've been able to return back to this blog and my beginnings, and remember what I really love to do. I may graduate with an official Nutrition Management diploma next year, but in my heart, and to you all out there, I am still the baker.

The next couple days will be full of fairly decadent creations for me - a Kahlua Fudge Cake that I made for my friend and old professor Stan's anniversary, an equally rich and sinful Quintuple Hazelnut Cake for Andrew's birthday as well as a couple other sweet treats that make the most of the unseasonal heat we've had in Ontario the past few weeks - but before I dive headlong into the butter and sugar fray, I'll pass along these hearty, slightly sweet bagels that I made as part of my "feeding mom" series (I really should make a tag category for all of these!). I stumbled across a new hot cereal mixture at the Bulk Barn a few weeks ago called "Sunrise Blend", which was full of superfood goodness: bulgur, buckwheat groats, quinoa flakes, red rice and flaxseed. I snatched up a small bag of it and it soon found its way, along with some homegrown Red Fife flour and local buckwheat honey, into the latest mid morning snack option on my mom's menu.

I'm sending these circles of sunshine off to Susan's YeastSpotting event this week! Happy Canada Day and (early) Independence Day to all those celebrating!

Super Sunrise Bagels
Makes 8
3/4 cup refreshed sourdough starter, room temperature
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup Red Fife (or whole wheat) flour
3 tbsp buckwheat honey
2 tbsp whole-grain hot cereal (like Scotch oats or another long cooking grain, not instant)
1/4 cup boiling water
2 1/2 cups Red Fife flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup rye flakes (or large-flake oats)
1 tbsp vital wheat gluten
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup warm water
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp buckwheat honey (for boiling)
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer or a large mixing bowl, combine the sourdough starter, 1/4 cup water, 1/2 cup Red Fife flour and honey.
  2. Let stand for 2-3 hours.
  3. In a small bowl, combine cereal and boiling water, allow to stand 2-3 hours.
  4. Separately, whisk together 2 1/2 cups Red Fife flour, all purpose flour, rye flakes, gluten, salt and cinnamon.
  5. Stir the soaked cereal, warm water and vanilla into the starter mixture.
  6. On slow speed, add the flour mixture gradually to the mixing bowl.
  7. Knead dough for 10-12 minutes, until elastic and smooth.
  8. Place into an oiled bowl, cover and let rise until almost doubled, 5-7 hours.
  9. Deflate the dough and shape into 8 balls. Allow to rest 20 minutes.
  10. Preheat oven to 400F, line two baking sheets with parchment and bring a large pot of water to a boil, adding 1 tbsp honey.
  11. Shape the dough balls into rings and, two at a time, drop into the boiling water.
  12. Cook rings 1 minute on each side, then drain well and place on the prepared sheets.
  13. Bake for 30 minutes, cool completely on a rack.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 292.3
Total Fat: 1.6 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 4.1 mg
Total Carbs: 61.4 g
Dietary Fiber: 8.5 g
Protein: 11.6 g

Saturday, June 27, 2009

For Simplicity's Sake

There isn't much I can possibly say about this compote, other than it's absolutely delicious. Devilishly tart (though you can add more sugar or even honey if it's too sour for you), the tang of the rhubarb melts smoothly into the Summery sweet strawberries and creamy apples, turning the three ingredients into a chunky, rich mixture that you could add to pretty much anything. I stuffed some into a Pop-Tart like pastry that I made with leftover pie dough scraps (I promise the pie is coming soon!), but I have to admit my favourite method of enjoyment is off a rather large spoon.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Apple Compote
24 two-tablespoon servings
1 lb rhubarb, chopped roughly
2 large apples, diced (peel if desired)
6 large strawberries, quartered
1 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
  1. Combine rhubarb, apples, and water in a sauce pan, bring to a boil.
  2. Add sugar, and simmer until pulpy and thickened.
  3. Do not overcook as the fruits will turn to mush!

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 23.8
Total Fat: 0.1 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 0.8 mg
Total Carbs: 6.0 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.9 g
Protein: 0.2 g

Friday, June 26, 2009

A Cup of Meh

Ever had an idea for a recipe that, in your mind and on paper, looked brilliant - patent making, gazillions of books publishing perfect - but in practice all you manage to garner is a barely satisfactory "meh"? It's bound to happen at least once every once in a while, especially when you're like me and can't bear to be tied down to the oh-so-constricting black and white recipe text! With luck, the results are those that are still edible. That was the case with these very ugly, yet fairly tasty blobs you see before you.

I'm hesitant to call these a total all-in-all failure, since Andrew attested to their good taste, but they looked nothing like how I had intended. There's no way you could possibly tell my intent from the photos, but I wrote the recipe to be a type of marble cupcake. Instead of the typical chocolate/vanilla swirl, though, I had the (at the time) ingenious idea to try a double-chocolate marble effect with milk and dark chocolate batters instead. The white chips were a hasty afterthought, and the fact that they sunk right to the very bottoms of the cakes is evidence of the fact that the initial cake recipe was (unbeknownst to me) flawed. In retrospect, I could have added more flour or cocoa powder to try and thicken the batter (that was about as thick as skim milk when I went to pour it) but I forged ahead, quickly trading in the marbled look to try for a Zebra Cake appearance. In two separate bowls, the batters looked different enough in colour to make separate layers, but the thinness of the batter just meant that it all kind of mushed together.

Ah well. You can't win 'em all, right? I have a little bit of a pet project to do now, and I must be owed a success or two down the line somewhere!

Here's what I did this time, if you have any suggestions give a holler in the comments!

Double Chocolate Marble Cupcakes (Version 1)
Makes 26
Milk Chocolate Batter
190 g granulated sugar
87 g flour
35 g unsweetened cocoa
25 g powdered skim milk powder
3 g baking powder
3 g baking soda
pinch salt
1 egg
250 mL whole milk
60 mL canola oil
10 mL vanilla

Dark Chocolate Batter
87g flour
45g unsweetened cocoa (dark if you can get it)
3 g baking powder
3 g baking soda
pinch salt
1 egg
250 mL brewed, cooled coffee
60 mL canola oil
5 mL vanilla
150 g dark brown sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 350F, grease or line muffin cups.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together granulated sugar, flour, cocoa, milk powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  3. Beat together egg, milk, oil and vanilla, set aside.
  4. In another bowl, combine the second amounts of flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  5. Separately, beat together the second egg, coffee, oil, vanilla and brown sugar.
  6. Add the milk mixture to the first bowl of dry ingredients and beat 2 minutes.
  7. Add the coffee mixture to the second bowl of dry ingredients and beat 2 minutes.
  8. Dollop amounts of milk and dark chocolate batters into the prepared cups, filling no more than 2/3 of the way full.
  9. Use a chopstick or skewer to lightly swirl the batters.
  10. Bake 23-25 minutes, until the toothpick test comes clean. Cool in tins 10 minutes before turning out onto rack and cooling completely.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 132.1
Total Fat: 5.4 g
Cholesterol: 17.5 mg
Sodium: 28.8 mg
Total Carbs: 20.5 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.2 g
Protein: 2.4 g

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Going Around in Circles

Summer always translates into insanity for our family - between birthdays (6 of them!), varying work shifts, vacations and the work we put into keeping the garden at bay, it's not unusual for us to be in 5 places at once, and usually without a decent meal on hand! My mom's been settling into a new routine in a new office building (without the awesome co-workers that so willingly eat my goodies :-( though) and the levels of stress are definitely reaching peaks as high as the temperatures are! In Toronto at least, the heat has swung a full 180 degrees from last week's rainy and cold dreariness to a hot, humid, skin melting climate. Luckily for us, we have air conditioning that (theoretically) works, though it is definitely not coping these days! Thank God I made two batches of bagels for mom in advance, because running a hot oven and keeping a huge pot of water boiling on the stove these days? Um, no... I'll pass.

Poppyseed - Egg Bagels
Makes 8
2 cups flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tbsp vital wheat gluten
1/2 tsp salt
1 packet instant yeast
1 cup warm water
1 tsp honey
1 egg
1 egg yolk (reserve white for brushing)
1 tbsp honey (for boiling)
Poppy seeds for topping
  1. In a large bowl or stand mixer basin, whisk together flours, gluten, salt and yeast.
  2. Combine warm water and honey, then pour into the flour mixture.
  3. Mix to begin combining, then add the egg and yolk and mix to form a smooth, satiny dough.
  4. Knead for 7-10 minutes, until very elastic and springy.
  5. Place into an oiled bowl, cover and allow to rise 1 hour.
  6. Preheat oven to 400F, line 2 cookie sheets with parchment and bring a large pot of water to a boil, adding the honey.
  7. Deflate dough and divide into 8 balls.
  8. Shape balls into rings, and 2 at a time, drop into the boiling honey-water.
  9. Cook for 1 minute each side, then drain well and place on sheets.
  10. Brush boiled bagels with remaining egg white and dip in poppy seeds (or sprinkle for a less dense coating.
  11. Bake for 30 minutes, cool completely on a wire rack.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 253.6
Total Fat: 2.4 g
Cholesterol: 53.1 mg
Sodium: 18.5 mg
Total Carbs: 47.7 g
Dietary Fiber: 4.5 g
Protein: 11.2 g

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Tearing Up the Recipe Card

I have an awesome dad. For as long as I can remember, he's always been challenging me to strike out my own paths while growing up and never letting a challenge scare me away. Step back, take a breather, then re-assess and dive on in, he'd say. What's the worst that can happen? I'm given to entertaining pessimistic thoughts on more than the rare occasion, so I'd always have some smart-alecky remark for him when he'd ask me, but we'd always take it in stride and laugh it off, and lo and behold I would almost always be pleasantly surprised. Nobody has shown me more how to laugh at myself even when I feel like jumping off a cliff, how to slow down when everything moves at breakneck speed, and - perhaps most importantly for a blogger like me - how to fix a laptop when your little sister empties a full glass of milk into the keyboard! I haven't been the perfect daughter, or even necessarily a good one most of the time, but I try to do right by my dad and make him as proud of me as I am of him. We've had our battles and our tribulations over the years, but as I've grown up I've come to realize that our relative time on this earth with those we love is all too short, and not worth wasting with emotions of anger and guilt.

It is in the spirit of my dad's adventurous nature and love of new experiences that I made this cake to cap off this Father's Day, after a round of golf at our local club. I had started off looking at the now infamous Gourmet Raspberry Buttermilk Cake, a simple, single layer confection studded with juicy berries and tangy from rich buttermilk, but I began formulating so many changes to the recipe that I could hardly make any comment as to how the original fares within my kitchen! I will say that my recipe (which I can proudly call mine!) is nothing short of fantastic, and as long as there is some form of fruit hanging around our house it's as variable as the selection allows.

So thanks, Dad, for all you've given to me and all you've put up with over the years. Give me another 31 or so and I'll try to return the favour! And if I can't, at least I'll try to have kids to blame it on :-).

Pear - Crowned Ginger Cake
Serves 10
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 oz cream cheese, softened
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 large, ripe pear, peeled and sliced
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F and grease a 9-inch pan (I like a springform for unmoulding's sake).
  2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, set aside.
  3. Beat cream cheese and brown sugar until fluffy.
  4. Add anilla, ginger and egg, beating well.
  5. Mix flour mixture alternating with buttermilk into the creamed blend.
  6. Pour into cake pan.
  7. Arrange pear slices on top.
  8. Bake 20 to 25 minutes.
  9. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then remove the sides of the sringform and move to a wire rack to cool completely.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 145.5
Total Fat: 2.8 g
Cholesterol: 28.0 mg
Sodium: 42.0 mg
Total Carbs: 27.9 g
Dietary Fiber: 0.9 g
Protein: 2.8 g

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Swirly Saturdays

When I made these buns for my mom's luchtime carb addiction addition, I was in a cinnamon-raisin type of mood. But I was also craving cinnamon rolls - the super yummy, ever-so-slightly gooey, tear apart and devour while still warm delights that I remembered from the breakfast buffets we had after a sleepover night at one of my childhood friend's houses. Her mom always brought out two, sometimes three pans of them straight from the oven just as we were waking up so they were the perfect temperature for still-molten frosting (but unburned mouths) by the time we crawled out of the sleeping bags strewn over the floor. Granted, this was gourmet-in-disguise as I found out later, since the souls of the always perfect buns were a little more Poppin' Fresh than Martha Stewart.

Now, I've made a couple versions of rolls myself along the years, with various fillings from coconut to coffee to Nutella, and yet I've never blogged about making actual cinnamon rolls. And, if you're looking for a bun like Deb's creation over at Smitten Kitchen... you're out of luck for now (though if you need a killer cinnamon bun in loaf form, see Kelly. No, really, go.). These buns were a little more towards my mom's metabolic speed, and my roll-shaping capabilies! Don't get me wrong, one of those crammed-full-of-yum treats will eventually grace this blog (God willing!) but I knew I needed something portable and not covered in potentially sticky frosting that fould just rub off on the inside of the plastic bag on Mom's way to work. I did want to encapsulate the spirit of the sticky cinnamon bun, though, so I came up with what I thought was a rather ingenious solution - roll the filling inside a dough strip, then roll the tube of filled dough into a swirly bun! A self-contained gooey cinnamon-raisin filling, no messy cutting, and every bit of the taste would still be in there! An added bonus, I discovered, was that pan clean up is a GAZILLION times easier.

I used my sourdough starter along with a "booster" of regular yeast for the dough, because I hadn't been sourdough-ing it much at the time and it was a little lazy reacting during pre-ferment. If you have a good, strong starter though, leave out the yeast and all will still be well! If you only have packaged yeast, just add 40g flour and 40 mL water to the ingredients, and add the remaining pre-ferment water/flour measures as well. Questions? Leave a comment or write me a note. A Flickr set of the shaping technique I used is posted as well.

Check out more yeasted creations over at this week's Yeastspotting.

Raisin Syrup Sourdough Swirls
Makes 8 large buns
80g (unfed) whole-wheat sourdough starter
1/2 cup warm water
150g whole wheat flour
170g all-purpose flour
100g whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp skim milk powder
All the pre-ferment (above)
1/2 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp golden syrup
1 tsp dry active yeast
2/3 cup warm water
Golden syrup
Pumpkin pie spice
  1. Combine pre-ferment ingredients until well-hydrated. Cover and let stand at room temperature 4 hours - overnight.
  2. For the dough, whisk together the flours, salt, and skim milk powder in a small bowl.
  3. In a separate large bowl (or stand mixer basin), mix the pre-ferment, oil, syrup, yeast and water well. Let stand 5 - 10 minutes.
  4. Slowly mix in dry ingredients until everything is incorporated into a soft, smooth dough.
  5. Place into an oiled bowl, cover and allow to rise in a warm place for 2 hours, until almost doubled.
  6. Gently deflate dough, folding it over itself 4-5 times and pressing out the air.
  7. Separate the dough into 8 portions (mine were approx 3.5oz each) and form each into a rough ball.


  1. Working with one ball at a time, shape the portion into a long rope.
  2. Roll the rope out into a flat oblong using a rolling pin.
  3. Drizzle a ribbon of golden syrup down the centre of the oblong, then dust with pumpkin pie spice and dot evenly with raisins.
  4. Fold the "short" ends of the dough over the edge of the filling and press the edges (on the "long" sides) to seal.
  5. Next, fold one "long" edge over the filling, then cover with the other "long" edge (like a letter-fold). Pinch seam to seal.
  6. Roll up into a swirl shape with the seam facing inwards. Pinch the end to seal. You should have a tight scroll shaped bun when finished, without any leaking filling.
  7. Place the shaped buns onto two lined baking sheets, cover and allow to rise one hour.
  1. Preheat oven to 425F.
  2. Place the risen buns in the oven and immediately decrease the temperature to 400F.
  3. Bake for 25 minutes, until golden and hollow-sounding when tapped on the bottom.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 215.3
Total Fat: 1.9 g
Cholesterol: 0.2 mg
Sodium: 51.4 mg
Total Carbs: 44.4 g
Dietary Fiber: 4.9 g
Protein: 7.5 g

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Taming of the 'Fu

Meet Mr. Fu. He's a pretty good friend of mine.

Now, I know that 'fu has been given a pretty bad rap over the decades as "Hippie Food", a bland spongy or even slimy mass of congealed bean matter that no one but unshaven vegan radicals and Asian restauranteurs would consider a food product. I've been there - I used to live there. You would never convince my 14-year-old self to go near anything close to soy in any way, shape or form, yet now I'm a staunch consumer of the bean both in processed and baby forms. Good thing, too - with all the protein and nutrient rich things I can't eat (eggs, dairy, meat, nuts, wheat products), soy products are pretty much the last remaining thing on my list aside from beans that's readily available and versatile. Not to mention pretty darn photogenic!

The trick to taming the 'fu, I've learned, is in drying it out. Counter intuitive, I know - but that's how a lot of the veggie-serving restaurants out there prepare their soy for marinading and stir-fries. Drying out the tofu makes it more receptive to the flavours of marinades and sauces, not to mention stewing liquids! When I first started poking around for preparation ideas and methods for this otherwise alien ingredient, most of what I found involved coating the whole brick in (usually) a soy sauce based mixture and baking the heck out of it. I tried that, and though it did work in terms of flavour, the result was too salty and spongy for my tastes.
So I kept looking, and came across this brilliant method. When I started reading it, I felt that "instant duh" thought bubble forming. It was so obvious, yet for some reason it was beyond my scope of reason at the time. Needless to say it works like a dream, and I've done this a good 8-9 times (each batch makes 4 servings - and I'm the only tofu freak here) without ever having a problem. For seasoning, I've just been using kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper, though I have some Montreal steak spice I'll probably try soon. Maybe the next block!

I didn't really like the result I got the first time when I finished the slices with a home made sweet and sour sauce. Ketchup (yes, I know) has become my dip of choice - it gives the pieces an almost "chicken nugget" type appeal (especially when I pair it with oven fries!).

So here's the basic run down of what I do:
  • Get a block of firm or extra firm tofu (I like love the President's Choice Blue Menu Extra-Firm Low Fat kind - say that 5x fast!).
  • Unwrap it from the plastic and wrap in a clean cotton cloth (not terrycloth) towel.
  • Between two flat surfaces - I use two cutting boards - weight the block down to press it slightly without crushing it. Leave it for about an hour.
  • Unwrap the block and slice it into 8 pieces - I usually make triangles for simplicity's sake. You will want them fairly thin - see the photo.
  • Generously - and I do mean generously - season both sides with whatever you like (I usually just use S&P).
  • Take a large, non-stick frying pan and place it over medium heat. DO NOT ADD ANY OIL OR FAT. Hear me? JUST SAY NO! Fat of any kind will immediately suck into the slices and kill any chance you have of drying them out.
  • Stick the slices in the pan in one layer (as you can see, I had to make 2 batches) and leave them there for about 1 minute without moving them.
  • Then, with the back of your spatula, squash the slices down to extract as much water as you can. I usually take 6-8 minutes per pan for this, especially since I also love getting the crust on the surfaces.
  • Flip the pieces over and so the same thing for the other side.
  • You don't have to, but I also like lightly crisping up the side edges by standing up my pieces in the pan and cooking them a few minutes.
  • Your tofu is now dried out, chewy and ready to marinade, sauce or eat plain!
I really hope you found this useful - I know I'm not giving this trick up anytime soon! I also just realized that this method lends itself perfectly to the Summer months too - no bothersome long oven usage to heat up the house!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Tale of Two Cookies

I have to start this post off - like so many these days - with an apology for my blogging absence these past couple days. Life's not only been busy, but my omnipresent insomnia has taken it's toll on my energy during the day so it's tough to get enough of my brain together to write a post! Luckily, being in the kitchen for short stints isn't too difficult, so I've managed to save up a wealth of material to share with you in the coming weeks when I'm not able to bake and cook so freely!

Today I've actually got a bit of a double dose of goodness for you, featuring both an original recipe and a review of a mix from the relatively new (and Canadian) gourmet company Epicure Selections (and if you are all a-Twitter like I am, they are @homeofepicure). One of the four products they generously sent to me from their home base in Victoria B.C. was a mix for Cranberry - Chocolate - Orange Biscotti, and the best way I could think of to see how it rated was to stack it up against a home-made scratch version. They also sent me a mix for focaccia bread, which I performed a similar experiment with and will blog (with review) in the near future.

Epicure Selections is a "party system" based corporation, led by a woman named Sylvie Rochette. It is 100% Canadian owned and operated, originally developed to provide a varied line of seasoning blends and spices covering a range of ethnicities - Indian curries and tandoori, Spanish, Asian , and even Caribbean. Since it's debut in 1991, the company has since moved from 4 initial spice mixes to a wealth of culinary ingredients, cookware and recipe books. They also recently began a charity known as The Epicure Foundation™, which supports community initiatives and organizations working to improve food security in Canada. For those who purchase the products alone, there is a good selection of online recipes available (though not in an easily browsable format... you must search for an ingredient and recipe type), and the company seems open to suggestions both for recipe submissions and product ideas. For those looking for healthy ways to feed their families, the site also features a "healthy eating" section with portion size information and free downloads.

There are some snags of course, as with every company out there!

I worry about the "party" system of selling turning into the slightly-less-than-harassing tactics of companies like Tupperware or Pampered Chef, who hound buyers to host parties on their few weekends free. Hopefully this won't be ES' progression in the marketplace, as I would love to be able to access their other products without the hassle that their current system of ordering demands. Although there is an online order function on the website, when I investigated further I found that the only way to complete your transaction is by contacting one of their consultants (which they provide a search tool for). Customer service via e-mail is also lacking - even though a contact form is provided, I never recieved a response to my questions regarding the procurement of Nutritional Facts tables on their listed goods - which, along with the ingredients lists and product origins (vanilla and peppercorns from where?) are missing from the website. As a sufferer of multiple food allergies and a member of a family with both diabetics and dieters, I would be reluctant to purchase any food product that I couldn't easily look up information on. The other major downside of the Epicure Selections line is the high price they charge for the products they offer. For a 3-oz bottle of black peppercorns (mind you in a self-grinder), ES sets the price at $17 CDN, without shipping fees. Similar products and sizes on the market are in the range of $5-$7, and there is no postage to be paid. Particularly when products like vanilla extract ($15 for 4oz) are concerned, I'm especially leery when a "gourmet" angle is used to market and no mention is made of where it came from.

However, the ES baking mixes (currently for foccacia and biscotti) do provide an avenue for busy home cooks to make something special with a minimum of time and ingredients. Since I'm not a fan of making anything from a mix myself, I decided to see just how each of the boxes stacked up against some home-grown competition! The first test I ran was on the foccacia mix, which retails for $14.95 and makes about 24 average cookies - a price I found quite high, and when I asked my peers how much they would be willing to pay for such a product I didn't get a dollar value more than $9. The nutritional information on the box didn't list the total number of servings the package would yield, but some quick math with the package size indicates that one of their packets will make roughly 15, so we wound up with an excess yield - never a bad thing! Each cookie's worth of dry mix contains 160 calories, 0.5g fat (0.3g saturated), 90mg sodium and 37g carbohydrates. You do have to add 4 eggs, 1/3 cup of water and 1/3 cup of melted butter to the mixture as well. Ingredients-wise, the mixes are thankfully brief, the only additives in the biscotti being the soya lethicin in the chocolate chips themselves. This mix is vegan alone, and I haven't tested this with any egg replacers so I can't comment on it's versatility.

So, the mix looked pretty solid on paper, but how would they hold up in practice? Well unfortunately this mix came fatally flawed. For starters, the mix instructions ask for 1/3 cup of water to be added. The problem was, with the water, melted butter and eggs added, the dough was still extremely floury (2nd photo) to the point of me adding 1/4 cup extra water to compensate (3rd photo). In hindsight, I would have preferred to use orange juice for the extra 1/4 cup, since the orange flavour and aroma were very muted. That said, once the extra liquid was added the mix was a dream to shape into the logs and went through it's primary bake phase without a hitch. Slicing the cookies (from my experiences something best done when the logs are very warm) was also incredibly easy, and I didn't have any broken cookies at the end. The second bake (actually more of a toasting) took 10 minutes longer than the directions indicated - not surprising due to the extra liquid - but the result was crunchy yet not teeth-breaking cookies that would hold up to dunking or eating straight.

I chose a recipe for pecan and raisin biscotti from an old Christmas cookbook of mine to modify for the "scratch" cookie counterpart, which made 24 cookies. It calls for oil rather than butter, and only 3 eggs, with chocolate chips, dried cranberries, orange juice and zest, and was only $3.34 for the whole batch. My dough was stickier than the ES mix, but a light spray of canola oil on my palms led to easy shaping for it's first bake. Due to the lack of the extra fat and richness of the missing egg and butter, these cookies did crumble more easily and I had 2 of the 24 collapse on me. They baked prefectly in the amount of time specified in the recipe and were equally as crisp as the mix-made cookies without being hard.

The blind taste tests carried out with a group of my mom's former co-workers echoed my opinions of the mix vs. home made cookies: you just cannot substitute the same feel and taste of a recipe with a mix. Both versions of the biscotti were sweet and crunchy, but the batch baked from the recipe packed more of a flavour punch with each element than the packet content's did. They also liked the fact that the home-made cookies used just orange zest and juice for the flavourings instead of an artificial extract, and had larger "bits" of chocolate and cranberries.

Provided the price came down a tad, and the instructions for making the cookies were revised on the packaging, I would recommend this ES mix as a passable alternative if you just had to have home-made cookies without the extra measuring and ingredients. If you had the extra ingredients on hand, you can easily bump up the flavour to your tastes.

So, want my recipe for biscotti? Here you have it!

Cranberry - Orange Biscotti With Chocolate Chips
Makes About 24
1 3/4 cups flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons grated orange rind
2 tablespoons light olive or canola oil
1/3 cup orange juice
1/2 tsp vanilla
3 eggs
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Whisk all the dry ingredients in a bowl.
  3. In another bowl, mix rind, oil, juice, vanilla, and eggs in a bowl.
  4. Add to flour mixture with the cranberries and chocolate, then mix well to make a soft dough.
  5. Shape into a long, fairly narrow log.
  6. Place on a baking sheet that's greased or lined with parchment paper.
  7. Bake 30 minutes, then cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Reduce oven temperature to 325°F.
  8. Slice log diagonally into 1/2-inch slices, placing them slices upright on baking sheet.
  9. Bake 20 minutes - until toasted but still a little soft (they continue to harden as they cool).
  10. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Amount Per Serving
Calories: 126.9
Total Fat: 3.0 g
Cholesterol: 25.5 mg
Sodium: 8.5 mg
Total Carbs: 23.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.2 g
Protein: 2.5 g

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Rings of Rye

Yup, I'm back at it again! Bagels were back on the menu for mom this week, as a respite from a stretch of rolls and loaves I had been trying out. I decided on playing with a new kind of flour (rye) for the body of these ones, as well as giving a pure sourdough - risen batch another go. That choice was almost the death of these bagels!

Let me explain.

I began with a sourdough sponge method of prepping the bread dough - simple enough: starter + flour + water + time. Well, when making a dough that relies on strong gluten bonds for chewiness and body (like a bagel mixture) it helps if you use a flour actually containing gluten. Rye has gluten - less than regular flour, but it is there. However... the dark buckwheat flour - that I grabbed for the sponge by mistake - does not. Thank God I had two hours to recognize my error while the sponge was proofing to adjust the final flour mixture! An extra half tablespoon of vital wheat gluten is all it took, but had I not caught it in time these would have been more like handcuffs shackling me to the kitchen instead of supple snakes of chewy bread that I could shape and boil! Even then, the dough is very sticky given the addition of apple cider and molasses, but the smell your house will begin to fill with as these bake is well worth it. My mom likened it to the cider shack at our local orchard during harvest season - spicy, warm and comforting with an ever so slightly bitter edge. The buckwheat flour actually boosts the apple flavour by giving it a nutty background, and I have to say I'd use it again for the same effect! If you don't have buckwheat on hand, just use regular rye flour in the sponge... it's what I would have done!

Unlike the previous ones I made, these bagels do three rises in total - one for the sponge, one rest at room temp, and a final, 12 hour cold rise in the fridge. It provides an infinite depth of flavour for the sourdough portion, and results in a dense, chewy finished product. I would definitely do this again, especially if using commercial yeast. Passing these off to YeastSpotting, hosted by Susan of Wild Yeast, for this week's round up!

Sour Apple Rye Bagels
Makes ten 4-oz bagels
3/4 cup refreshed (preferably rye-fed) sourdough starter, room temperature
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1 tbsp molasses
1 cup unfiltered apple cider, warmed
2 cups dark rye flour
1/2 cup rye flakes
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tbsp vital wheat gluten
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp crushed fennel seed
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tbsp brown sugar
  1. Combine the sourdough starter, water and buckwheat flour in the bowl of a stand mixer, stirring until smooth. Let sit for 1-2 hours.
  2. Stir in molasses and apple cider.
  3. Whisk together rye flour, rye flakes, AP flour, gluten, salt, fennel and nutmeg.
  4. With the mixer (fitted with dough hook) running, begin adding the dry mixture to the blend in the bowl.
  5. Continue mixing to form a stiff, pliable and mostly smooth dough. Knead for 10-15 minutes, until supple.
  6. Place into an oiled bowl, turning to grease the top. Cover and allow to rise 2 hours.
  7. Deflate the dough and knead briefly, then place back into the oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 10-12 hours.
  8. Preheat the oven to 400F and bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the brown sugar.
  9. Divide dough into 10 equal pieces, shaping into rings. Place them on greased or lined baking sheets.
  10. Two by two, drop bagels into the boiling water and cook 1 minute on each side. Drain and place on the prepared baking sheets.
  11. Bake 25 minutes, then cool completely on wire racks.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 229.1
Total Fat: 1.4 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 3.6 mg
Total Carbs: 47.2 g
Dietary Fiber: 9.2 g
Protein: 9.4 g

Monday, June 8, 2009

A Marathon of Domestic Poportions

I made this today. All of it. After 7 hours in the kitchen, this is what I had to show for myself: two dried fruit and nut loaves (the muffins were from leftover batter), a pan of gluten free brownies with walnuts, peanuts and chocolate chips, and a batch of apple and rye sourdough bagel dough. Not pictured was what sucked up most of my day - the chicken-ancho cacciatore made completely from scratch (from jointing and skinning the bird to chopping the veg to stewing it all together). A labour of love - and the family stuffed themselves full!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

I'm My Own Apprentice!

So, have you heard? There's a new baking kid (or kids, as it may be) in town, with a brand new challenge for the world of oven and flour owners worldwide. They are the undertakers of one of the most insanely delicious feats I've come across, baking their ways merrily through The Bread Baker’s Apprentice! Now, since I (sadly) haven't acquired that book yet (fingers crossed!) I figured I would live vicariously through their experiences, picking and choosing the recipes that my family would eat (and I could afford!).

I couldn't help but notice one of their delicious undertakings being bagels. Now, I am nowhere NEAR the bagel / bread expert that Reinhart is, I did use his recipe as the learning platform for all the bagelly goodness on this blog (inlcluding all of the ones on this post). So, though these bagels are all total rip-offs and are in no way affiliated with the BBA challenge, you must admit I have pretty awesome timing! Do, please do, if you own this book, check out the challenge at Pinch My Salt's blog. New members are always welcome from what I've seen and by gooy would you have a learning experience 10x better than in any classroom!

Because I have been completely remiss in keeping up with these bagel posts (and posts in general!) I'll condense the rest of the post into the just the 3 recipes I have for you. Yes, I know there are 4 different bagels in the photos, but I don't think I bothered writing down the first batch's formula since it was my earlier Sourdough Bagel recipe with the simple addition of granulated garlic, oregano, black pepper and parmesan cheese. I actually made these more to use up some of the ingredients from the pantry's ever growing stock than for my mom to fall in love with. I mean, don't get me wrong, she liked them (especially with cream cheese), but she likes her carbs to come sweet.

Sweet it shall be, then! My next bagels were created as a tribute to one of my mom's favourite desserts of all time: Pecan Pie. Through random fits of late night brainstorming, I came up with a combination of ingredients (including golden corn syrup, toasted pecans, evaporated milk and Skor toffee!) that approximated the flavour and gooeyness of the Southern treat. I was just taking them out of the oven when she came home from work, and the first thing she said was "it smells like pecan pie in here!". These bagels were probably devoured the fastest of any batch I've made yet - and apparently toasted with honey (did I mention she likes sweet?) was the order of the day.

Pecan Pie Bagels
Makes 10
1/2 cup warm water
1 tbsp corn syrup
1 pkg active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (yes, another one)
1/4 cup warmed evaporated low-fat milk
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 cups flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp gluten flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup Skor toffee bits
1/3 cup chopped pecans
2 tbsp corn syrup (for boiling)
  1. Pour warm water into a large bowl (preferably in a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook).
  2. Add the syrup and yeast and let stand 10 minutes, until foamy.
  3. Add remaining water, milk and brown sugar, mixing well.
  4. Whisk together flours, cinnamon, gluten, and salt in a separate bowl.
  5. With the mixer running on low, add about 1/2 the dry ingredients to the wet mixture.
  6. Add the toffee bits and pecans.
  7. Add the remaining dry mixture until it is all incorporated.
  8. Knead on medium-low speed 5-7 minutes. Finished dough will be very stiff.
  9. Place into a greased bowl, turn to grease the top and cover. Allow to rise 1 1/2 hours.
  10. Deflate the dough, divide into 10 pieces and allow to rest another 5 minutes.
  11. Shape each dough portion into a ring shape and place on greased or parchment-lined sheets. Cover and let rise 40 minutes.
  12. Preheat the oven to 375F and bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add syrup to the water.
  13. Place the risen bagels, two at a time, into the boiling water mixture and cook 1 minute each side.
  14. Drain well and place back on greased or lined sheets.
  15. Bake bagels 30 minutes, until crusty, and cool on wire racks.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 278.4
Total Fat: 6.0 g
Cholesterol: 5.6 mg
Sodium: 42.0 mg
Total Carbs: 50.0 g
Dietary Fiber: 4.0 g
Protein: 7.6 g

I made some bagels with fruit too, just a week after the pecan pie treasures, just so my mom could justify her bready noshing (only to herself, because really, who doesn't like carbs?) as being a source of antioxidants. I went for the double-whammy effect on the antioxidant front, since when I went into my freezer that morning for some lemon zest (my original pairing plan with the cherries) I came across an open bag of walnuts that I had tossed in there at some point. Since they were chopped fairly small, their taste was able to permeate the entire dough while still having that tiny crunch feeling with every bite.

Cherry Walnut Bagels
Makes 8
1 cup warm water, divided
1/4 cup warmed (1%) milk
1 pkg active dry yeast
1/3 cup sugar
2 cups flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tbsp gluten flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup dried cherries
1 tbsp honey (for boiling)
  1. Pour 1/2 cup warm water into a large bowl.
  2. Add the sugar and yeast and let stand 10 minutes. Add remaining water and milk, stir well.
  3. Whisk together flours, gluten and salt.
  4. Slowly begin beating about 1/2 the flour mixture into the proofed yeast.
  5. Mix in walnuts and cherries, then remaining flour.
  6. Knead for 5-10 minutes, either by mixer or by hand.
  7. Place into a greased bowl, turning to grease the top. Cover and let rise 2 hours.
  8. Punch down the dough, divide into 8 balls. Shape into rings, cover and rest again for 35 minutes (alternatively, place into fridge for up to 24 hours. Bring to room temperature before proceeding).
  9. Bring a large pot of water to a boil with the honey, and preheat the oven to 375F.
  10. Place the bagels, two at a time, into the boiling water for 2 minutes.
  11. Drain well, and place on lined baking sheets.
  12. Bake for 30 minutes and cool on a rack.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 308.4
Total Fat: 4.2 g
Cholesterol: 0.4 mg
Sodium: 7.4 mg
Total Carbs: 59.6 g
Dietary Fiber: 5.1 g
Protein: 9.9 g

The most recent (and last for this post!) bagel making adventure involved brown sugar, flaxseed, cereal and maple! I definitely planned these out as "breakfast bagels", though I can attest to the fact that they were eaten as not only breakfast, but for second breakfast, elevensies, and occasionally afternoon tea. One may have served as dinner that week too.

Maple Flaxseed Bagels
Makes 10
1 1/4 cups warm water, divided
1 pkg active dry yeast
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp maple extract
2 cups flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup high-fibre hot cereal (I used Bob's Red Mill)
1 tbsp gluten flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
Flax seeds for topping (about 2 tbsp total)
  1. Combine 1/2 cup warm water, yeast and sugar in a deep bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Let stand 5 minutes, until foamy.
  2. Stir in maple extract.
  3. Combine flours, cereal, gluten, salt and cinnamon in another bowl.
  4. With the mixer running, slowly begin adding the flour to the wet ingredients, beating well to fully incorporate it all.
  5. Knead (by mixer or by hand) 5-7 minutes, until stiff and pulling into a ball.
  6. Place into an oiled bowl, cover and let rise 1 1/2 hours.
  7. Punch down the dough and divide into 10 even balls.
  8. Allow to rest 10-15 minutes.
  9. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375F and bring a large pot of water to a boil (at this point you can add maple syrup to the water for even more flavour).
  10. Shape each dough ball into a fairly thin ring, placing on lined or greased baking sheets.
  11. Two by two, drop the bagels into the boiling water and cook for one minute on each side.
  12. Remove with a slotted spoon or spider, draining thoroughly, and place back on the sheets.
  13. Top the bagels with a light sprinkle of flax seeds.
  14. Bake for 35 minutes, rotating sheets 1/2 way through baking time.
  15. Remove bagels immediately to a wire rack and cool completely.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 210.1
Total Fat: 2.8 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 3.9 mg
Total Carbs: 41.0 g
Dietary Fiber: 5.8 g
Protein: 8.2 g

So, thus ends my tale of recent bagelling! When I hit the "exam wall" at college (yeah, these recipes/photos are that old) I had to scale back my projects to more or less single-processes (2 rises + bake) versus the additional boiling time and attention bagels demand. Were these bagels Reinhart quality? Doubtful - I never retarded the dough overnight, nor did I follow a set formula anywhere near as detailed as The Master would have documented. These bagels were chewy, dense and shiny like all the other (real) bagels in this world, yet they were something different. They were pieces of me tht I could give back to my mom!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Love and Cacciatore

I am in some serious love today... with the sun, the lack of humidity, the clean(ish) air, the blue sky, and my garden!! There was nothing that could alter the perfection of my backyard this morning. I took my puppy outside to amble around the expansive space (that was all lawn 2 years ago and has been rapidly converting into garden plots ever since), and paused at what, last year, was my impeccably kept herb garden. Was being the operative term here. Somehow, when I was selecting the herbs for the six sections of the plot (separated only by a row of surface stones), I managed to pick what has to be the most invasive herbs in the world! I grabbed the spade and started to dig. And dig. And dig. Out went the mint, the other mint (apparently the Ginger Mint from two years ago reared it's ugly head again), the dill and the chives. I saved my lavender only because it smelled so freaking wonderful that I couldn't bear to kill it. After tossing all the offending herb-weeds into our biobag and surveying the total wreckage of the garden, I knew I had to take a photo. So I did!

See? All the rocks are levered out of place (I'm sure my stepdad'll be thrilled with me for that - they weigh a ton so I used the spade for leverage), the soil is all strewn across the stone, and the mint is blissfully, at least for now, gone.

That was pretty much the only work I did today, though this weekend was full of blazing ovens and bubbling pots. Do you remember a month or so ago when I mentioned the PC grilling products I recieved to review, including steak and chicken? Well the time had come to make the chicken earn it's keep in my freezer - or rather get out of my freezer! It was making my tofu nervous... and I won't even start on the effect the steak is having on the constitutions of the green beans from last year's garden! Cacciatore was to be made, as per the promise I had made to the dear FH, and my mom was awesome enough to uncork a bottle of Cabernet Franc for me to use. In addition to the chicken legs, my freezer also yielded the last bits of last year's passata, and I finally had a use for some of the tub of damned Ancho chili paste sitting in the back of my fridge! Andrew (the aforementioned FH) was kind enough to take us out to the supermarket to pick up the bevy of other veggies I planned to use - namely a big-ass onion and two types of peppers.

At home, we divvied up the prep tasks - A skinned and seasoned the chicken, chopped up the bell peppers, shelled garlic and readied the herbs and spices while I worked on the onion, the other pepper and the carrot. I broke out some spicy chili oil for the saute, and we got to work (and A took some photos, good boy!). Mise en place is definitely key to the initial stages of this stew, as we found out after venting the smoking oil out of the area when we weren't quite ready! Once everything is perfectly browned and the liquids are added though, it is smooth (and hands free!) sailing. The best part about cacciatore (like most stews) is that you can cook it all you want... the longer it sits the better it gets! We cooked our (very full!) pot for over an hour - I recommend at least two, until the meat falls off the bone. And using the "Free From" chicken drumsticks like we did actually did seem to make a difference - they became very tender very quickly but stewed well without disintegrating, and both flavoured the pot and aromatized the house something wonderful! A wound up taking almost all of the stew home in a Tupperware (after several quality control checks of course) but we were left with about a cup or so of the veggie / tomato mixture that my mom laid claim to. She had it the following day for lunch with some of the Monday Bread, and declared it out of this world.

If you're worried about the spice quotient in this recipe, don't be - Anchos are very mild peppers, almost earthy in flavour, and browning the pastes really brings the sweetness out of the tomatoes and peppers while cutting out the sharp edge. The potatoes at the end were a last minute addition by me, since I wanted to turn this into a full "meal in a bowl" for A without him having to cook up the traditional rice or potatoes to serve alongside.

Cacciatore Alla Ancho
Serves 4
6 skinless, bone-in chicken thighs
2 tsp salt
2 tsp black pepper
1 tbsp chili-flavoured oil
1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
2 large red peppers, sliced
1 cubanelle pepper, sliced
1 large carrot, sliced
1/2 lb cremini mushrooms, sliced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp dried basil
2 tbsp ancho chile paste
1 cup red wine
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup water
2 cups crushed tomatoes
2 Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed (do not peel) and cubed
  1. Sprinkle chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat.
  3. Add chicken and saute until browned on all sides. Remove and set aside.
  4. Add onions and saute until richly browned.
  5. Stir in peppers, carrot and mushrooms, cook until mushrooms wilt and brown.
  6. Add garlic and saute until fragrant.
  7. Add the tomato paste, then cook (stirring constantly) until the paste darkens slightly.
  8. Add bay leaf, oregano, basil and chile paste.
  9. Add the wine, stock and water, stirring to dislodge all the browned bits, then mix in the tomatoes.
  10. Bring to a boil and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring well.
  11. Add back the chicken, then cover and simmer on low heat for 15 minutes.
  12. Stir in the potatoes, re-cover and cook another 55-60 minutes, until they are cooked through.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 396.8
Total Fat: 8.5 g
Cholesterol: 85.9 mg
Sodium: 1,069.8 mg
Total Carbs: 47.8 g
Dietary Fiber: 10.0 g
Protein: 30.2 g

Monday, June 1, 2009

Monday Bread

Ah yes, the Monday. The anarchist of the week, imploder of leisurely bliss and general harbringer of not-so-nice things. It's the day where bad phone calls are made and received, packages begin to get lost in the mail, fish at the market become slimy and unpalatable, and if you live in France, the markets are closed. Yup, that would be Monday.

But Mondays are also a time for beginnings - of the week, new jobs, Springtime and school vacations. Businesses open shop, and bakers pull out their mixing bowl and flour and make the week's first loaf of bread.

So Mondays are filled of both everything and nothing, good and bad. Like the bread that I made this Monday morning. A very (very!) good creation made out of the "bad eggs" of the kitchen. Not literal eggs, of course! I'm talking about the odds and ends every cook (good or bad!) seems to always have around the pantry, fridge and freezer. The brown-almost-black bananas, not quite fruit fly material but about two days away from the composter, the half cup of oats nobody wanted for breakfast, the last tiny scoop of buckwheat kernels lurking at the back of the shelves, and of course... the sourdough starter hanging out in the back of the fridge. All of these ingredients, plus a few for good measure, made their way into the loaf of bread my mom will take to work with her this week. As the self-appointed chief "Bread Maker for Mom" it's my duty to make sure that whatever I put into mom's breadbasket be healthy, filling, preferably sweet and definitely tasty! I set out with a plan in mind as I was driving home from an appointment this morning, and that's when Monday happened...

Since I was planning on also making bagels tomorrow I wanted to refresh my starter - it was due for a feeding anyways, but I wanted it in prime form with a couple good meals eaten before I got down to work. The original plan was to give it a good dose of rye for the tang and almost "cidery" flavour it would lend to the imaginary apple-spice dough, but when I opened the cupboard... no rye flour. HUH? How could I, queen of 10 000 flours, not have RYE in my pantry? Sigh. Okay, well, it still needed a meal. And I was not going out again. Well, what did I have? I needed something rich, earthy... aha! Buckwheat flour. Dark buckwheat flour to be specific. It would have to do. I fed both the "keeper" starter in my jar and the "toss-off" that I poured into a measuring cup for, well, bread I supposed. I let the mixture bubble on the counter and did a quick recipe card flip-through for a basic bread recipe. I knew from previous I had made that it was a pretty basic substitution going on - and besides, I'm a baker by feel! Give me a basic list of ingredients - for me it's just a plain old white sandwich loaf from my mom's files - and I'll run with it! A pinch of yeast (1/4 tsp) boosted my snoozing starter right back up to health, and I proceeded to mow the kitchen over for add-ins.

"Buckwheat... hmm, okay, like pancakes... hey, bananas! They're looking pretty grim... I'll use them! What else... well it's breakfasty now, so - oats! Yes, oats will do nicely, and there's honey behind them! Happy days! And we can't have oats, honey and bananas without cinnamon. Lets get that from the pantry... hey, ground flaxseed and skim milk powder! Cool, those are going in too. And I've been needing to use up that spelt flour... But it needs crunch. Nuts? Nah, too big. Aha! Kasha! That would be perfect... buckwheat on buckwheat! Eureka! IGOR, START THE MACHINE!!! I mean, umm, me... preheat the oven... yes."

Yup, I talk to myself in the kitchen, don't you? *Looks around nervously*. Okay then. Moving on!

So that's how this Monday Bread came about: all the unwanted odds and ends of kitchen life that would otherwise bog down and burden the space we call home got cobbled together into a sweet, decadent, chock-full-of-goodness dough. Good, happy ending, right? Well yes (eventually), but not yet. Like I would know, right? So I set it aside and went about my early afternoon, dreaming up a peanut butter and honey schmear-like filling for what promised to be an amazing loaf of bread. An hour and a half later I returned to beautifully risen dough that I then realized was... TOO STICKY TO ROLL OUT. Ix-nay on any filling plans. I pressed, pleaded and pouted with the dough but no way was it going to be anything more than a sticky, lumpy, bumpy log of dough. So I let it be. Mondays are Mondays, and bread will be bread, so into a (thankfully greased!) loaf pan it went and onto it's second rise. Given the pitiful amount of regular yeast in the dough and the less than active starter I used, I figured I had a good hour to wait so I hopped into the shower to rid myself of flour dustings and honey smears.

Apparently my house managed to sit at the perfect ambient temperature for bread dough of any kind - read: warm and humid! - for a good long time, and even though I was only gone 30 minutes when I came back to check the yeasty action it was ballooning over the top of the pan! Well, crap. I threw on the oven and anxiously paced the hall between the kitchen and my bedroom, waiting for the magical oven beep to signal I could stop the madness of my loaf. I couldn't get it in there fast enough! Then it was just a matter of waiting... and then NOT hearing the oven timer go off a half hour later! Luckily I had a sense of when the baking should have finished, so it was only there a minute or two longer, but really - how many things can go awry in one day? Even if it IS a Monday?

In the end, as you can see, this day full of "oopses" and "darn its!" turned into a perfectly decent result. It's not perfect, or pretty, but it's sumptuous, it's satisfying and it's a sweet way to begin your week. Happy Monday, everyone!

"Monday Bread"
Serves 16
1/2 cup whole wheat starter (fed or unfed)
2 tbsp buckwheat flour
1 tbsp warm water
1/4 tsp dry active yeast
1 tbsp honey
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup large flake oats
2 tbsp ground flaxseed meal
3 tbsp skim milk powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup toasted buckwheat kernels (kasha)
2 medium overripe bananas, mashed
  1. Combine the starter, buckwheat flour, water, yeast and honey in a large mixing bowl or stand mixer, stirring well to make smooth. Set aside for 1 hour.
  2. In a bowl, combine flours, oats, flaxseed meal, skim milk powder, salt, cinnamon and buckwheat kernels, whisking well.
  3. Gradually stir 1/2 the flour mixture into the yeast / starter blend, then add the mashed bananas, beating in well.
  4. Beat in the last of the dry ingredients to form a sticky but complete dough. You probably won't be able to knead it, but mix it vigorously (a stand mixer with a dough hook DEFINITELY helps!) for 6-8 minutes.
  5. Place into a greased bowl, lightly oil the top and cover. Let rise 1 1/2 hours, until doubled.
  6. Punch down and shape into a log. Place into a greased loaf pan and cover lightly, let rise another 30 minutes - 1 hour, until almost doubled.
  7. Preheat oven to 350F.
  8. Bake loaf for 30 - 35 minutes or until golden brown and hollow-sounding when tapped.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 156.7
Total Fat: 1.2 g
Cholesterol: 0.3 mg
Sodium: 32.5 mg
Total Carbs: 32.0 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.9 g
Protein: 5.5 g

Check out all the other amazing yeasty creations at YeastSpotting, hosted by Susan of Wild Yeast!