Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Grrr granola & bread... yeah crackers!

This post is a part of Tuesday Twister at Gnowfglins 
and Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop

I want to tell you that I have a love/hate relationship with granola.  Before I started soaking all my grains I loved granola for breakfast.  Plain yogurt, honey, raisins and granola all together was sheer bliss for me!  I have not had granola for a while now, but with some yogurt in my fridge and some Soaked and Ready Oats left from my adventures in No Bake Granola Bars, I decided it was time to bring back some bliss by making granola!  Fool that I am!  You see the hate part with granola is I hate to make it.  I always burn it--- grrr!

One thing I've learned about granola is that if you use maple syrup instead of honey (or a mix there of) it will not burn as quickly as it does with just honey.  So, I found an old recipe I had for granola & instead of honey I used maple syrup.  Now, let me share with you some more lessons I've learned about granola:

 Isn't that a cute little batch of granola in my cute new toaster oven?  I had just enough oats for a half batch...
  • Granola has to be babysat.  Do not think you can get your granola going inside your oven & then go put your son to bed- the same son who will not stay in his bed long enough to fall asleep unless you lay there with him.  Especially do not do this if you are using a recipe that calls for baking at 350 and stirring every 10 minutes.  Try a lower temperature!  I started the granola, stirred after 10 minutes & then went in with my son- peeling myself away after what I thought was 10 minutes...

    I don't know if you can tell from this picture very well- but I came back to a tray full of smoking granola!  Don't you hate it when you burn food?  I mean really, if I'm going to do that, why don't I just save myself a whole lot of work & throw my money directly into the trash, right?  Part of the reason why this burned has to do with another granola lesson:

    • Make sure the granola is in an EVEN layer.  You see, it started out nice & even, but when I stirred it the first time I just left it uneven & lumpy.  The thin areas are where it burnt first.  I did manage to salvage a little bit of granola off the top.  Enough for about two servings- so here it is...

    A little too much of a "roasted" flavor, but not bad.  As soon as I can get to the store to buy more oats I am going to try Wardeh's recipe for raw soaked granola.  I don't have a dehydrator & the lowest my oven goes is to 170, so it won't be "raw" but I think I will use a temp of about 250 & take it slow.  Hopefully I will have a happier story to tell you soon!

    Now, I know most food blogs post wonderful pictures and recipes of marvelous food success stories.  However, I think it's good for me to share my failures with you sometimes- then you know it's OK to try something & not succeed at it!  Which brings me to my next sad story- sourdough bread.  I am still trying to find success in this arena.  I have been feeding and using my sourdough starter, keeping it out on the counter, and now in the dark cupboard, trying to find a way to make my own bread without using commercial yeast.

    A big reason why I want to do this is because once we are in Rwanda (see "my other blogs" on the side panel for more info on this) I would love to be able to make my own bread using natural yeasts.  The traditional bread in Rwanda is a flat bread made from flour, oil, and water, called Chapati.  Finding & buying commercial yeast is expensive.  The American style bread they sell in the stores comes in paper bags (the president of Rwanda has outlawed plastic bags).  Mostly it is white bread & stale!

    So, I tried again yesterday to make sourdough bread, and I am ..this.. close to just giving up!  Sarah  was sweet enough to come over to my blog & comment, after I talked about my attempt at her Sourdough multi-grain bread.  For my latest attempt at sourdough I decided to try a short/warm rise to see if it would be less sour.  Instead of starting the bread the night before I started it in the morning & put the dough in the oven with the light on & a pot of just-boiled water in there.  I let it "rise" for about 5 hours, but I think it needed more time.  I did the same thing with the second/in-pan rise, letting it "rise" (I put this in quotes because my dough did not rise much at all!) for about 7 hours.  And I should have read Sarah's comments sooner- then I might have remembered to slash my loaves so I didn't end up with the splitting-out-the-side look!
    These were a couple of small, dense loaves, but the good news is that they are not too sour- so the taste is OK!  I received a dehydrated Oregon Trail sourdough starter in the mail, which I need to revive & try out- so maybe here in a week or so I will see if this starter works better for me.

    And, just because I like every story to have a happy ending- let's talk about the Sourdough Crackers from Sarah's blog.  I love these crackers!  They don't care if your starter is active or not & they are a cinch to make!  The healthiest way to make these would be with sprouted flour, but since I don't have any I used spelt flour (first time using spelt too).  My cookie sheets are big enough that I divide the dough in half & roll it out, using an oiled rolling pin, onto parchment paper.
    The shape doesn't have to be perfect (obviously!).  The thinner you roll them the more of a chip-like texture they will have & stay crispier.  I use a pizza cutter to cut the dough before it bakes- so quick & easy!  You brush with olive oil & sprinkle with salt (I used sea salt).  I baked both of my sheets at the same time, on different racks.  Check them half way thru the cooking time to see if you need to rotate them.  I would also suggest you make these early enough in the day that they can sit out & cool for several hours, like start in the early afternoon.  These need to be completely cool & dry before you store them. 
    Great to have around as a snack and so much better for you than anything you can buy in the store!  Now I want to make some hummus to dip them in-  yum!



    1. I am glad you share your successes and obstacles - we all need to hear that! It sounds to me like you're making progress on your sourdough - so don't give up!

      One thing you might want to do is shape your loaves right after kneading and put them in the loaf pans (slash the tops). Just that one rise, then bake when they are doubled in size. Don't worry about the time. It varies with temperature and dough. Also, keep your dough on the "wet" side, just a bit sticky. It is easy to add too much flour and end up with dense, heavy, not-risen well loaves. Just my initial impressions, I don't know if they will help.

      Thanks for sharing your week in the Twister!

    2. I made granola -once- and it looked very much like your burnt version. :-)

      Sourdough bread can be challenging at first. The first few times I made it my loaves were little bricks. I make bread once or twice a week now along with crackers and pizza and pancakes on occasion and I think that really helps keep my starter active. It would be wonderful for you to have in Rwanda.

    3. thanks Wardeh- I saw your bread recipe on your site today so that is the next one I'm going to try
      and thanks Millie too!

    4. I am with you on the sourdough bread experiment. Although your loaves look much more edible than mine, so don't give up.
      I went to a cooking demo, they said to flatten out the dough (when forming a loaf of sourdough bread) into a rectangle. Fold 1/3 over and then the other 1/3 over that. Place in a loaf pan and let them rise this way. Doing this makes the bread rise much better according to them.
      Good luck!

    5. @Tiffany- thanks! I have tried the folding technique (when the dough is workable) and do think it helps. Since I have been on this quest to make a good sourdough loaf we have been eating nothing but sourdough & I think I am ready to take a break- too much sourdough! I even tried making sourdough garlic breadsticks the other night :p I don't recommened it!


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