Saturday, May 12, 2012

Sourdough Bread Tips

Sometimes I wonder if I shouldn't call this blog the "Sourdough Blog" since a huge majority of my posts seem to have sourdough in them!  That is my life right now though, my sourdough starter is always out on the counter and it gets used almost every single day.  We have 6 people in our family, plus additional workers who eat some meals with us, so I am feeding at least 7 if not 10 people at every meal.  I make two loaves of homemade bread about every other day.  Other days I am  making sourdough pancakes, sourdough crackers, sourdough muffins, sourdough biscuits, sourdough desserts, etc*.  My husband really has noticed a difference in the eczema he has had on his fingers and skin problems with his feet.  He thinks he is sensitive to gluten and sourdough reduces the effect.

If you are making sourdough bread I want to share with you a few tips that may make it a little easier for you.  Start out with my favorite & go-to bread recipe, which you can see on this post here.

*I always include at least 6 hours of "souring" time even if the recipe does not instruct you to do so.  This is the minimum time needed to allow the sourdough starter to do it's job working on the flour.

  • Did you know that eggs are a natural dough conditioner?  I always add an egg now to my sourdough bread recipe.  I like it not only for the little bit of added nutrition, but also because it helps condition the dough.
  • What's the easiest way to slice a loaf of bread?  Upside down!  First, always allow your loaf to cool completely before slicing.  (Ahem, although I must admit that one of my favorite treats is to cut the end piece off of the still very warm loaf & drag it through some butter.  Mmmm, warm sourdough bread & butter- I love it!)  Next, make sure you use a long serrated knife made for slicing bread (trust me).  When you flip the loaf over you are slicing through the softer side & ending at the crust; instead of trying to force the knife through the crust & smashing your loaf in the process.  Just flip it!
  • Ever run out of time to make sourdough?  Making true sourdough bread requires some advance planning since it takes at least 8 hours.  I know that if I don't get my dough started by 2pm that I'm going to be up late at night waiting to bake it, cool it, store it.  You have a couple of options here.  #1 is to add a tiny bit of commercial yeast to your dough, like 1/2 teaspoon, to speed up the rise.  I do not prefer this option, so let me suggest instead option #2.  Skip the first rise of your bread & put your dough directly into greased loaf pans.  Sometimes there still isn't enough time, so what I will do is make my dough right before bed and let it rise in the loaf pans while I'm sleeping.  When I get up in the morning I go right to preheat the oven & then bake the bread while I'm getting ready & making breakfast.  This has worked well for me, if you're kitchen is cooler than mine, or you want a longer rise time, then you'll need to plan accordingly.  Try it out & have some fresh baked bread with your morning eggs!
  • How do you keep the bread from sticking to the pan?  Always keep your butter wrappers!  After I use a cube of butter I fold up the wrapper & put it back in the refrigerator.  Next time I need to grease a pan I wipe that wrapper all over the pan & it works great.  I have been using my stainless steel pans & I love them.  When I grease them with butter the loaves just fall right out.  Have you thrown out your non-stick pans yet?  The toxins in non-stick cookware should motivate you to have a goal of replacing any non-stick coated pans as you are able.
Those are some tips I wanted to share with you today.  Do you have any great bread tips you want to share with us?

Keep on baking!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Shake up your Ketchup

Most ketchup on the store shelves contain high fructose corn syrup (unless you can find an organic one).  When I am able to, I buy organic ketchup in bulk.  However, here in Rwanda I don't have that option.  There also may be times when you have run out of ketchup & need a stand in.  I would like to share with you a recipe for ketchup that you may decide you like better than the stuff in the bottle anyways!  With the added spices it makes for an interesting flavor, plus it is sweetened mostly with honey which makes it better for you too.  (Try to use local raw honey to help boost your body's immune system.)

Ketchup with a Little 'Tude
6 oz. tomato paste*
6 Tablespoons white vinegar (you can just fill the empty tomato paste can!)
6 Tablespoons water (again I use the can to measure)
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional)
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon clove powder (I don't have this, so it is definitely optional.)

Combine all ingredients in a glass jar.  Mix well.  Store in the refrigerator.  That's it!

(The original recipe called for simmering this mixture  for 15 minutes, but I've found that to be unnecessary because I don't mind it a little thin.  If you want your ketchup thicker then bring it to a boil and simmer, stirring often.)


*There is one problem I have with this recipe:  using canned tomato paste.  BPA in cans, especially tomato products, is not a good thing.  If you can find tomato paste not in a can, or in a BPA-free can you'll be better off.  But sometimes we just have to do our best with what we've got!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Gluten Free or Nearly Gluten Free Big Batch of Sourdough Pancakes

Previously on this blog I posted a recipe called "Transitional Sourdough Pancakes", which I had created as a compromise for my family when they didn't like the taste of completely sourdough pancakes.  However, I have a new favorite pancake recipe for our family, and no compromise is required!  In fact, these pancakes are so good I can eat them as is, without any syrup or adornments at all.  However, you may want to try them with homemade fruit syrup (see below) or buttermilk syrup.

This recipe makes a large batch: big enough for our family of 6.  Even if your family is not this large, I would suggest making a big batch of pancakes because once they are cool you can freeze them (put parchment paper between each one and put in an air tight container).  Then when someone needs a quick snack, or you find yourself running late one morning, you can just grab them, pop them in the toaster & in a minute you'll have pancakes!

If you have a gluten free sourdough starter going, then these will be completely gluten free.  If you're like me and keep a wheat sourdough starter then these will be "nearly" gluten free (sourdough breaks down some of the gluten in wheat).  This recipe started out as one from the Cooking Traditional Foods Menu Mailer website.  I modified it slightly, made it a much bigger batch, and arranged the ingredients and instructions so it was easier for me (and hopefully you too).

Tip:  the night before you make these pancakes you want to make sure you have enough sourdough starter for the next morning.  I normally only keep about 1 cup of starter going on my counter, so what I do is get another jar (see my reused peanut butter jars in the photo?), divide my existing starter between the two jars, and then add another cup of flour and water to each.  Be aware that with such a big feeding your starter is going to get really excited and will grow quite a bit beyond where it starts; allow enough space for it to nearly double its size during the night.  I put my jars in a small bowl just in case they overflow- because that's a mess I have experienced a few times & it's not fun!

Big Batch Sourdough Pancakes
1/2 cup butter or coconut oil

1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup tapioca, bean, or other gluten free flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

4 cups sourdough starter
4 eggs
4 tablespoons honey
1 cup milk (or milk substitute)

1.  Put your frying pan on low heat and melt the butter or coconut oil in there while you complete the rest of the recipe.  Once melted set aside in a measuring cup to cool slightly.
2.  In a large bowl whisk together the flours, baking soda, and salt; removing all lumps.
3.  Add remaining ingredients (including melted butter or coconut oil) and whisk to combine.
4.  Turn heat up to medium on your frying pan.  Once pan is hot, place a desired amount of pancake mix on to cook.  If you prefer thinner pancakes (as we do) use your measuring cup to smooth/spread the batter on the pan.
5.  Flip once the bubbles on the surface begin to pop.  Cook an additional minute or two.  Keep warm on a plate in the oven (with the light on or just slightly warmed & turned off) while you cook the rest of the batter. 

Variations:  When you add in the wet ingredients you can also add 1 cup fruit or vegetable puree.  Such as smashed ripe bananas, applesauce, sweet potato, squash, etc.  Add a bit of cinnamon too if you do!

Fruit Syrup
3 cups frozen berries (such as:  blueberries, raspberries, or a mixture)
1/2 cup real maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in a small pot over medium heat until berries are juicy.  You can put it in a blender if you want a thin syrup instead of with fruit bits.  Serve warm.  Store leftovers in the refrigerator.

*This syrup is also a great flavoring for homemade yogurt or cream cheese.  Yum!


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Thinking About Coconut Oil...

Wow, I have been so quiet on this blog!  I feel I owe you an explanation, even if it is a little weak.  Most of my day is scheduled with homeschooling my two oldest children in high school classes.  Once I cook dinner and we eat, I am just too tired to blog much of the time!  Not to mention the fact that we have slow internet here which sometimes is just impossible to use.  But I am still here!

I have been thinking about posting about coconut oil.  Many of you may have heard of coconut oil and may know about it for cooking (if you don't, it is so good for you)!  When I placed my first order from Tropical Traditions they sent me a book that is full of testimonies about the health benefits of coconut oil.  It is amazing!

Now I have my own testimony to share with you.  For a long time I had something on my leg- either a skin tag or a wart, I don't know.  But every time I would shave I would nick it & it would get bigger.  Eventually it was nearly the size of a small pencil eraser & dark in color.  Sometime last year I started using coconut oil exclusively as my lotion for my skin.  Time went by and then one day I realized something- my bump on my leg was getting smaller!  It continued to get smaller and now I can tell you that bump on my leg is completely gone without a trace & I am sure it was the coconut oil.  If it was a wart maybe it was the antiviral properties of the coconut oil, I really don't know, but I wanted to share this testimony with you.

Now I just realized I have two skin tags on my neck (which I hate) so I am going to start applying coconut oil to them & see if they don't pack their bags & git!  I'll let you know!

Here are a couple of other websites that I recently saw talking about using coconut oil:
Cooking Traditional Foods
160 uses for coconut oil (found this post in the comments of the previous post)