Sourdough Bread

The following recipe calls for an active starter, and by active I mean vigorous. Mine has  habit of oozing out of her jar and across the counter. 

Giving yourself enough time, you can sinc your bread making with an anxious starter  and have bread on the table before dinner. See the past post on Adventures with sourdough to get started.

Step one: feed the starter 1/2 Cup of whole meal flour, 1/2 Cup tepid water and one tablespoon of honey.

Combine all of the ingredients together until smooth. Tuck back into the warm spot in which you have housed your jar. In three to four hours your starter will be ready to use in the following recipe. Or sooner, depending on how warm it is.

The following will make a nice loaf or bread rolls. How large the roll is up to you. They do make fantastic burger buns, or dainty dinner rolls. Size matters so, your call.

1 1/2 C Starter

1C tepid water

2 1/2 C bread flour (or more)

1 tsp salt

( I’m sure you are wondering where the yeast in the recipe is, an active starter will not need yeast. But if this freaks you out too much, add a scant 1/2 tsp of dry active yeast to the starter and water. I won’t judge)

 

In a large bowl mix all of the ingredients together, don’t worry if the dough is not smooth. If all of the flour does not incorporate it’s okay. Cover the bowl with cling film and let it rest for 20 minutes, this step allows the flour to rehydrate into the dough. After the 20 minute rest, tip the dough out onto your floured kneading surface.  Knead for 5 minutes , sprinkling with flour if you need to. The dough will be slightly tacky. Place the dough right back into the bowl ( no need to wash it) let it rise covered with cling film for three hours ( yes, three… it’s not a typo) .

I keep mine in the oven with the light on, its just enough heat to facilitate the rise.

Three hours later you should have a nicely risen dough. Have you decided what you’re making? Loaf or rolls? For a loaf you could use a pan, which I would recommend. It’s a soft dough. For rolls I used muffin tins ( because I wanted cloverleafs)

No matter what you’re doing, it will need a second rise. So, back into the oven mine went to proof until it was doubled in size. I would like to give you a time frame for this but, I don’t know how warm your proof spot is or if you have used the dry active yeast (again, not judging)

Heat the oven up to 375*F or 190 Celsius and bake the bread for about 30-35 minutes ( rolls may take less time) the true test is to tap the bottom to see if it sounds hollow.

Place on a rack to cool completely .

 

Enjoy!

 

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Adventures in Sourdough

I do not understand the bread phobic. Carb avoiders baffle me. The truly gluten intolerant I get, but the rest of you…

Who amongst you can resist a freshly baked loaf?

Well, not me. I love bread with a passion. The smell, taste, texture make me swoon. Making bread is my therapy, in the time it takes to kneed and shape a loaf I am thoroughly zen. The smell that swirls and wafts through out the house is better than any potpourri  on the market.

The dough is first shy, it wants to please. Then with confidence it rises into the soft pillow that will willingly take on any shape and flavour you choose. Placed into the oven it swells and grows taking on a burnished golden tan. Left to cool, the crust crackles and snaps.

And then I get to eat it. How is this not a happy thing?

I know what you’re going to say. You’re going to say: I have no time for such things. You’re going to say : The loaf I pick up at the market is fine. You’re going to say : it’s too hard. You’re wrong.

It takes less time than you think, try reading the list of ingredients on your store bought loaf, and it is easy. I promise.

A little effort, a little patience, and an adventurous spirt is all that is required. That, and just a few ingredients.

Shall we start?

First I will introduce you to what is called sourdough. It requires a starter.

A starter is essentially naturally fermented dough. And although there are many recipes out there that have a long list of ingredients, mine is simplicity itself. It imparts a full rich taste and aroma that is like nothing else. It is a natural leavening agent, with little or no extra yeast needed. It’s a science experiment in your kitchen. It is a live thing, in need of nurturing and regular feeding. It will be the least demanding pet you have ever care for.

Here is what you will need:

A large jar (like a ltr canning jar) mine lives in an old mustard jar.

1 Cup whole meal flour ( I used a grain called ‘Red Fife’, It’s an heirloom grain making a strong comeback with serious bakers) 

1 Cup tepid water ( out of the tap is just fine)

Place the flour and the tepid water into the jar, add one tablespoon of honey. Stir until smooth. Place a piece of paper towel over the rim of the jar. Secure with an elastic band.

Place the jar in a warm corner of the kitchen somewhere out of the way . In about 48 hours you should see activity.

 

 

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Red Tin Recipe Box :Tomato Catsup

 

roasted ingrCatsup, Ketchup. Tomato, Tamato.

A condiment consisting of pureed tomatoes, onions, vinegar,sugar,spices, etc.

The very thing no french fry can live without,  no hot dog or burger either. Why so we love it so? And when did we all stop making it ourselves? Have you read the ingredient list of the commercially prepared stuff? Didn’t think so. If you had, you would never buy it again.

 

I came across my Grandmother’s recipe for Tomato Catsup not too long ago. The problem, as with all old recipes, is there is little instruction and even less measurements. It was a common thing, everybody made it,why do you need to be told how? Obviously the genetic memory for catsup making passed my generation. I have no such information in my DNA (I’ve checked) baking, yes. Catsup, no. So, here I was with the most vague of recipes with the ingredient list that read:

ripe tomatoes ( basket) peeled and chopped with 6 onions (large) green pepper, 5 chopped apples, 2c sugar

1tsp cayenne, 1 tables cloves, 1 tables cinnamon 3c cider vingar

Combine all and cook for 3 hours, no water–slowly.

Right.

Sorry? …Basket?  A green pepper?

Trust me, I was ready to reach for the Ouija board, or visit a medium. Fortunately my aunt was available for some much needed clarification.

A basket = 6 ltrs, green peppers might have been 6 of them. The rest was not that difficult, unless you start thinking about how much this is going to make. So I had to break the recipe down to something far more manageable.

I had to reach for the conversion charts, and  consult my live resource.  Once I worked out how many cups one tomato would get me, and the same with everything else, it all fell into place. It took a week…no really.

So, here is the revised recipe, in a manageable amount that is fairly easy to make at home. Once the sauce is made, you can put it into canning jars to process.

The only special equipment you are going to need is a slow cooker, and possibly an emersion blender. It makes the process easier, but not the end of the world if you do not have these things.

1 3/4 C onions

3 C peppers ( I suggest red peppers)

2 1/2 C apples

12 C tomatoes

1 1/2 C Cider Vinegar

1/2   C brown sugar

1 tsp ground cloves

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp cayenne

Set your oven to broil, and prepare a pan for all of your tomatoes and peppers.

As I used canner tomatoes, and I worked out one tomato equals a half cup . So, you will need 24 good sized canner tomatoes. Place the tomatoes on the pan and place under the broiler, wait for the skins to blacken and blister, then turn the tomatoes and blacken the other side. Once both sides are blackened, take them out and place them into a large bowl. Cover the bowl with cling film or a large plate until they are cool enough to peel.

In the mean time use the same pan to roast the peppers. Lets just talk about the peppers for a sec. I find green peppers to be bitter and horrid, it gets worse when they are cooked. I don’t use them, they are not allowed in the kitchen or past the front door for that matter. I have become a pepper snob. I will only use red, yellow or orange. For this recipe I used red peppers.  I roasted them in the same way I did the tomatoes and measured out the amount I needed.  Peel and half the onions, as I had worked out one onion would net me about one cup, you will need two large onions ( I did three, just in case as my definition of large may be different from yours) place these on the tray and roast as the tomatoes and the peppers ( I hope you decide to use red ones, I really, really do.)

Measure out the rest of the ingredients and combine. If you are using a slow cooker, use the high setting until the ingredients start to break down. This will take several hours, at some point ( six or eight hours) you can use the emersion blender to make a smooth sauce , then turn the setting to low and let the catsup to reduce and thicken. Stove top cooking will be much the same, it will take a little more babysitting… Cook on a low heat stirring occasionally with the lid off. Once the ingredients have broken down, you can use a blender in small batches make a smooth sauce. Or you can let the still chunky sauce cool and use a food mill, something every catsup making house wife had back in the day.

 

I let my sauce reduce overnight in the crock-pot on low, eight hours later I had a perfectly reduced catsup. The only thing that was required was to adjust the seasonings ( notice how the recipe does not call for salt or pepper, or even garlic for that matter!) The only task left now was to jar and process it. I managed to get 5 pint jars form this recipe, enough to keep us all winter long…and possibly spring…and surely into next fall.

I think I know what everybody is getting for Christmas.

finished jars

 

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Red Tin Recipe Box

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Shortly after my Grandmothers’ passing, my Aunt sent me various and assorted ceramic nicknacks, old photo albums and a red tin recipe box. Part of my share of her estate. This small unassuming box, overflowing with paper and barely able to close was put away into a cupboard, and there it sat for over a year.
Yes, I knew it was there. Yes I ignored it. One day, I told myself, I will go through it. No, really, I’ll get to it. And still it sat behind the cupboard door for over a year ( okay, going on two)

Gran loved to cook, and enjoyed good food. When my Grandfather passed, I was given all of the Gourmet magazine they had collected. The joke was, it was my inheritance. All of those magazines from the decedent and over the top ’80’s, but I loved them, as he knew I would.
Now, at Grans passing I was given all of her recipes; knowing I would love them.

You know, it’s amazing what a little bit of house reno will force you to do…Long story short, furniture was moved and cuppords cleaned. And there was the red tin recipe box.

“What are we doing with this?” my Husband asked, “I’ll get to it” I said.

It’s now a week later, and I did have time to go through the box. I could not believe what I found. Recipes written in my Grandmothers’ hand. Some in pen, some in pencil and barely legible. Most of them obviously well used.

But what took me aback, were the recipes from my Paternal Great-Grandmother (Mme Stagg), and from Aunt Lottie, my Grandfather’s sister. As well as a recipe for Snickerdoodles written in my Mothers’ grade school hand. I was holding my family history, my family tree was in this box.

I had no idea of the treasure I possessed.

All of the women I would have loved to ask to recipe share had left me their favourites. I could not ask for a better inheritance.

It’s my intention to work through the recipes ( the ones I can read an any rate) and share. The weather is getting cooler, and canning season is in full swing. I have a tomato catsup to try, and a date nut loaf to bake. All from the  Recipe Box.

Cheers!

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Chocolate Bacon Praline Shortbread Cookies

 

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For the cookie:

2 cups of all purpose flour

1 cup of softened butter (unsalted)

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 tsp of salt

 

 

For the Praline:

3/4 cup of granulated sugar

4 rashers of bacon

pinch of salt

 

For the chocolate:

3 oz of dark chocolate chips, melted

 

 

Method:

In a bowl, mix together the flour, softened butter, the sugar and the 1/2 tsp of salt. Blend with a fork until the butter is the size of peas. Then mix with your hands till the dough just comes together ( it will be crumbly, but should hold it’s shape when squeezed in your hand)

Place a long sheet of plastic wrap on your counter surface, and place the dough in the middle. Wrap the plastic around the dough, squeezing tightly till you have a log shape. Tie the ends. Place the dough into the fridge for one hour to firm up.

 

Now you can start on the praline.

Slice the four rashers of bacon into 1 cm pieces, cook over medium high heat in a pan until crisp. Drain the bacon and set aside to cool.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside. 

In a skillet with a heavy bottom, pour in your sugar. Heat the sugar over medium heat until it starts to melt. Swirl the pan to help incorporate the unmelted sugar, and continue to cook until you have a caramel/amber colour.

Take the pan off the heat and quickly add the cooked bacon, stir to coat the bacon and pour out on to your parchment lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt.  Set aside to cool.

Remove the dough from the fridge.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat your oven to 350*F.

Slice the dough into 1 cm coins, place on the baking sheet 4 cm apart ( they don’t spread that much) The dough may crumble and not quite hold its round shape, if that happens, gather the dough in your hands and let it warm up. Roll the dough into a ball, then flatten in the palm of your hand and place on the baking sheet. (alternately, all of the cookies can be made this way)

Bake the cookies for 15 minutes or until they brown just slightly around the edges. Cool on a baking rack.

Gather up the cooled praline and place in a zip top bag. Using a rolling pin or other effective implement, give the praline a few hearty whacks to break it up into small pieces. Set aside.

Dressing the cookies:

Carefully spoon one tsp of the melted chocolate onto the cookie, and sprinkle some of the praline on top. Place on a bakers rack to let the topping sit and firm up.

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Adventures in Sourdough Bread

flower loafI’m not sure why the art of bread making has been lost to home cooks. I understand it takes time ,and for the most part we have precious little of it these days. But if you break down a bread making recipe, most of the time it takes to make it , the maker is hardly involved. It’s the rise time that turns most off. Surely you do not have 10 hours plus to make a single loaf of bread! Look at the recipe again, and your involved time is really an hour.

Ah! Now it makes sense!

Trust me, even the most overworked soccer/hockey parent can make a loaf of bread. Get the kids involved and you have a learning experience they will never forget. Bread is patient and forgiving. It doesn’t need to look pretty to be tasty, you can add flavourings and make different shapes. But the basic recipe stays the same.

Why go to all the trouble? Have you read the ingredient list on a loaf of bread? They contain shelf stabilizers and sulphites, mono and diglycerides. Bread, in my opinion should have four  basic ingredients:

Flour(s)

Yeast (or starter)

Water

Sugar

That’s it! Simple and pronounceable ingredients.

Sourdough is an old method of making bread, it involves making and using a starter as the primary leavening ingredient. Depending on your school of thought, It started in Egypt when a baker left a bit of dough out in the sun, and discovered it had fermented. Basically making what we now refer to as a “sponge”. Some bakers will make a starter using milk products like low-fat milk and unflavoured yogurt. While I found it gave good flavour to use a starter made this way, it did not leaven the bread and extra yeast was needed.

jar of starterThe recipe given below is for a starter that uses store bought yeast. After awhile, it will mature and you will not need to add yeast, you will just need to feed it. Adding flour and sugar every few days it will thicken and become a sponge that will be the only leavening agent you need for your sourdough breads, pancakes, English muffins, pizza dough and any other thing you can think of! Sourdough cinnamon rolls anyone?
Here is a real time workable sourdough bread starter, that actually worked!
1 packet of active dry yeast
2 1/2 Cups of warm water ( body temp)
2 Cups of AP flour
1 TBSP of honey

Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup of water, stir in everything else. Mix until smooth.
I put my mixture into a large canning jar and covered it loosely with cling film. Remember this is a living thing and needs to breathe.
Leave it stand at room temp for 5-10 days.

You will find the water separates from the flour and it will smell quite alcoholic. Believe me, this is what you want. You can stir it back together, and it will be just fine.
Next, I’ll tell you how to use and feed it.

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“Come to the Dark Side Cookies”

“Come to the Dark Side Cookies”

aka: Oatmeal and Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies

 1 cup all-purpose flourOatmealcookie

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1/3 cup packed brown sugar

1 whole egg

2 tblsp 2% milk

1/2 tsp vanilla 

1 cup quick cooking rolled oats

1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

Process:

Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Set aside. In another bowl; beat together sugar and butter until combined. Add to the sugar and butter mixture; the egg, milk and vanilla. Beat together until combined. Add dry ingredients,( a little at a time), to the wet while beating together until combined. Stir in the oatmeal and chocolate chips. Let dough cool in frig for 1 hour before baking.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Roll cookie dough into small 1 inch balls and place on parchment covered baking sheet 2 inches apart.

Flatten each ball with a flour coated fork. Top each cookie with 3 chocolate chips. Bake cookies for 10 min or until the bottoms start to brown. Cool the cookies on a cooling rack. HINT: let the baking sheet cool a bit before putting next batch on baking sheet. And the dough cooks better if, once you are done forking the dough you let it set out for a couple minutes before putting into the oven. 

Makes about 24 cookies. Welcome to the dark side. :)

 
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Sausage and Mushroom stuffing

It’s wonderful when you have recipes in your repertoire that have been passed down through your family. I don’t have as many a Chef does, but the ones I do have are well loved by my entire extended family.

My Grandmother told me this one came from my Mother. My Aunts and their families also make this, so now it’s officially traditional.

This will stuff a 12 pound turkey, or you can make it in a casserole dish. My apologies for having mixed metric and imperial, but this is how it was given to me. And in Canada, items sold by weight are always in metric.

You will need:

12 C bread crumbs ( we use a “stuffing” bread, its already seasoned) and yes, it must be fresh bread you use. Not dried bread crumbs for coating.

500 gr Bulk Pork sausage

1/3 C butter

1 1/2 C  celery, diced small

3/4 C onion, diced small

1 C roughly chopped mushrooms ( we use button)

1 tsp pepper

1 TBSP each of : dried sage, dried thyme, dried marjoram

poultry seasoning to taste

In a pan large enough to hold everything but the bread crumbs, melt the butter and add the celery and onions. Cook until translucent. Add the mushrooms and allow the them to cook through. Add the bulk sausage and the herbs, cook until the sausage is no longer pink.

Adjust the seasoning, and add the entire contents of the pan to the bread crumbs.  Mix well.

At this point, you can stuff the turkey or place the stuffing into a greased casserole dish.If you are stuffing the turkey, do this just before the bird goes into the oven. If you are planning ahead, cover the casserole dish and put it into the refrigerator for baking the next day.

 

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Home Cured Salmon

At least once a year I make eggs benedict for Jen and I, usually on new years morning. Jen loves to have cured salmon on hers. So this year I decided to make my own cured salmon for a fresher taste. Making your own home cured salmon is easier than you think. Here’s how:

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Home Cured Salmon

1 pound Atlantic salmon

2 sprigs of fresh dill

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup sea salt

1 tblsp fresh cracked black pepper corns

1 oz vodka

Layer a dish with plastic wrap.

Place all the dill on top of the plastic wrap.

In a small bowl mix together the salt, pepper and brown sugar. Pour the dry mixture that is in the small bowl over the dill that’s on the plastic wrap evenly.

Check the salmon for any small bones. Remove any bones that your fishmonger may have forgotten. Then place the salmon, skin side up, on top of the mixture. Pour all the vodka over the salmon. Close the wrap over the salmon. Apply weight to the salmon with small food cans in another dish. Place in frig for two days.

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After 2 days unwrap your now cured salmon, rinse off the curing mixture with cold water and pat dry your salmon. Slice thin. That’s it. Easier than you thought eh?

 

 

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Cranberry and Orange Relish

Jen and I didn’t like the canned jellied blob of cranberry sauce that most people have. You know the one. Tastes like the can and sweeter than candy. We wanted something fresh tasting with a different texture. After searching through many cookbooks, we came across this cranberry relish recipe almost 20 years ago. Over the years we have tweaked it to suit our taste.

This relish is NOT cooked ,it is macerated. Macerating is a term mostly used for the soaking of fruits and/or vegetables in a liquid to break them down. As the cranberries and orange macerate, their flavours will develop or open up and mix together. I usually make this relish a week before Christmas. This gives the ingredients time to macerate or even age if you will.

The cranberries are bitter and tart. The orange is sweet and acidic. With the addition of the sugar and the liqueur, after a week of aging, all of the ingredients will mellow and compliment each other. Making this a perfectly well balanced, fresh and fruity relish for your holiday turkey, chicken, pork or even on pancakes.

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Cranberry and Orange Relish

1 Navel orange (wash, chop orange into a large dice) That’s the whole orange. Trust me on this one. The whole orange. Skin,pith and everything. (except the seeds if you can’t find a navel orange).

1 cup fresh cranberries ,rinse under cold water

1/4 to 1/2 cup of sugar (this depends on how sweet you want it)

1 oz Orange liqueur (I use Grand Marnier)

Put all the ingredients into a food processor. Puree until smooth. Put into non reactive container. Place in frig for 3 days to 1 week before using. This recipe freezes well also.

Just made                                                                  After one week

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