Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Amish Friendship Bread Part 2: Buckwheat Bread

Ready to cook dough

So, I did what I said I would. I tried to use the the Amish starter instead of yeast. Well, it kind of worked...
Just to add more factor to this already complicated experiment, I decided to make a bread with one third whole wheat, one third buckwheat, and one third all-purpose flour. I used the Amish starter in place of the yeast-milk-flour mixture I made in the first bread (which I will now refer to as the egg bread). For the egg bread, Laurence made me wait 20 minutes for the mixture to rise, but I figured that since the Amish starter had been lying around in a plastic bag for 12 days, I didn't need to wait as long. I just dumped the contents of one bag into my bowl and let it bubble for 10 minutes. When I came back, there weren't many bubbles, but there were some, so I just went on with the bread.
I wanted this bread to be a sort of rustic bread, meaning no eggs or butter. I just mixed flour w/ starter and water. Then I left it to rise for an hour and a half in a bowl with some olive oil while I did my math and biology homework. When the timer called me back to the kitchen, I peeked underneath the towel used to cover the bowl, and I was surprised to see that the dough had barely risen! I raided the pantry searching for a solution, and surprise! A half-empty packet of instant yeast was lying inside! I immediately made a mixture like Laurence had shown me and let it rise for half an hour. Then I incorporated it to 2/3 of the dough, leaving 1/3 with only the original starter as a test. I kneaded the dough one more time and then shaped it into 3 loaves; one of them had the Amish starter as its only source of yeast. I let them rise for another 2 hours.
My dad was curious to know if a loaf of uncooked bread dough could be left in a oven overnight with the oven programmed to cook the bread in the morning. If this worked, we could have hot bread in the morning! So, I only cooked the loaf without extra yeast and one of the other loaves that night, and I left the other one on the side. I cooked them for 30 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
The bread turned out good, but on the dense side. There was little noticeable difference between the two two loaves cooked at the same time. The one without the extra yeast was slightly denser, but both were good. The loaf that was left in the other oven overnight, however, turned out quite different. This one had much larger bubbles (see photos), but it was flat and harder than the other two. I think this is because it had more time to rise, but then flattened out when the yeast stopped eating. The loaf was probably drier because it stayed in the hot oven half an hour after it stopped cooking. The oven was programmed to finish cooking at 7:30, but my mom got out of bed at 8:00 (I slept in until 8:30).
A cause for this bread being denser than the egg bread might be the fact that buckwheat flour is gluten free. Gluten is a long protein that can stretch and curl up when kneaded. This creates a sort of web that traps air bubbles, meaning that less gluten will trap less air and have less structure. In fact, this is why bread flour has more gluten than cake flour. Since a third of my flour was gluten-free, I guess it's normal that my bread was denser.
All in all, the bread was good, but my dad still thinks it could have used more salt. The buckwheat flavor was pronounced and went well with cheese. My dad says it reminded him of savory crèpes (also made with buckwheat), and my mom compares it to heavy German bread.

Pictures here!

I guess I'll give you the recipe, but I think there are probably better buckwheat bread recipes out there. I made this bread without a recipe. I replaced the Amish starter by a package of yeast in the recipe below.

  • 1 cup All-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1 package rapid rise yeast
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt (I used about 1 tbsp, but apparently that was not enough)
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • lukewarm water (about 1 cup, but this stuff isn't exact)
  1. Heat the milk with sugar until it is just slightly warm to the touch.
  2. Pour in the yeast and stir. Let it rise for 20-30 minutes until it is bubbly.
  3. Put the yeast and the flours together with the water and salt in a large bowl and combine everything with your hands to create a smooth dough, adding more water or flour as necessary. It is better to be a bit wetter than dry.
  4. Knead as described below for 5-10 minutes (I'm not really sure, I didn't time myself)
  5. Put the oil into the bowl and place the dough back inside. Let it rise covered by a kitchen towel for 1 hour and a half, or until it doubles in size.
  6. Knead it again, shape it into one or two loaves, and place it on your baking pan. Let it rise covered for another 2 hours.
  7. Heat the oven to 350 and bake for around 30 minutes.
  8. Let cool and enjoy! (I'm not sure if this recipe will work, I put it together myself, and only made it once)

I tried to upload a video of me kneading, but it didn't work :( I guess I'll try to explain using words. You use the base of your palm and your wrist to flatten and stretch the dough way from you. Then you roll it back up into a log and squish it again. You keep doing this for 5-10 minutes. In general, Laurence told me to knead until I saw many little bubbles in the dough.
Of course, if you have a Standing Mixer with a dough hook, use that. I think that if using a mixer, then you have to knead for a shorter amount of time.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

My first Bread!

I've always wanted to make real yeast bread, but not until recently did the want turn into a craving. Ever since I got that friendship bread starter thing, I have been aching to knead a soft sticky dough. This weekend, I finally got the opportunity I had been waiting for. Though it was completely unplanned, I think this bread-making went rather well.
When we came back from the cross-country skiing place at around three on Saturday, I realized they were a few packets of rapid rise yeast left over from the time I made monkey bread with a friend a long time ago. The packets said "Best if used by Oct 2007", and I decided to see if the eukaryotic fungi were still alive (I'm learning about classification in Biology.) To do this, I heated a cup of milk to a lukewarm temperature stirred half a packet of yeast into it. After 20 minutes, nothing had happened. I added the second half, and in 5 minutes the mixtures was bubbling. Success! Unfortunately, I didn't have a clue as to what to do next. Fortunately, a family friend who knew how to bake bread was with us in Tahoe. This family friend (Laurence) and her family were spending the weekend with us at our cabin. Laurence explained to me that I had to feed the yeast before starting the actual bread. We added 3 tablespoons of flour and a bit of sugar to the milk and yeast and left it to rise for half an hour.
After that amount of time, I combined 3 cups of flour with 1/4 cup sugar, 1 egg, and a pinch of salt using my fingers (sticky!) and then added the yeast mixture. Laurence told me to add water until the dough became knead-able. I then took the dough out of the bowl and kneaded it for a while using a "flatten and roll" motion. After that we put it back in the bowl and let it rise for an hour.
When it doubled in size, I kneaded it again, but this time I added 3 table spoons of butter and bi t of flour the maintain the correct dough consistency. Then I shaped the dough into a "twist" (see photo) and 2 small loaves. We let it rise 2 more hours, and when it doubled in size again, we brushed the dough with an egg yolk and cooked it for 30 minutes in a 375 oven.
The bread was delicious. It turned out as a kind of breakfast bread because it was slightly sweet and buttery. I think it tasted best toasted with a bit of jam, and my parents liked it with salted butter. The texture was close to Mexican pan, a light bread with many small bubbles.
I had put little pieces of sugar on the loaves, but I think I should have placed them underneath the egg yolk. They didn't melt or caramelize.

Since I have lots of pics, see them here.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Easter Muffins!

I was browsing through one of the food blogs I read, and I found a recipe for muffins with a chocolate egg inside! My family doesn't really celebrate easter too much, but the recipe looked tasty and visually appealing. I found this recipe on Baking Bites, and it is the first recipe I have tried from this blog. The recipe called for Mini Cadbury Creme eggs, but as I was unavailable to find any of those, I used Mini Cadbury Caramel eggs.
As usual, I made a small adjustments to the recipe. I lessened the sugar from 3/4c to 1/2c, but I did not use whole wheat flour like I often do. These muffins just didn't seem to ask for the extra flavor. When I finished making the batter, I was surprised at how thick it was. The muffins I made last week had liquid batter, but this batter was like dough. Also, there didn't seem to be enough for 12 muffins. My dad encouraged me to add more milk than the recipe asked for, but I decided that I would follow the instructions and see what happened. So I divided the batter equally into the 12 muffin holes and pressed the eggs into each muffin-to-be. I had to use a spoon to fold the batter around the eggs to cover them, and I got my fingers all stickied. Since I am in Tahoe again (in the mountains), I cooked them in a 375 oven instead of 350 and for 18-20 minutes instead of 14-16.
We ate these for dessert Friday night. They were drier than average muffins, more like a dry biscuit. The soft caramel-filled-chocolate-eggs created a pleasant contrast with the crusty muffin. When I compare my muffins with the picture on Baking bites, they look... different. Mine rose much more and look drier. I don't know why, because all I changed was the amount of sugar. Well, they were good anyway, but if I make them again, I might add a bit more butter or milk.

Well, here is the recipe from Baking Bites, with my comments in parenthesis.

Cadbury Creme Egg Muffins
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder (This will make them rise more than in the picture on Baking Bites)
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar (I used a 1/2 cup)
2 large eggs
1/3 cup butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
12 mini Cadbury creme eggs (make sure you use minis, but any filled type should do)

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs, melted butter and vanilla until smooth. Whisk in milk.
Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir until just combined and no streaks of flour remain. (there won't seem to be a lot of dough, but it works out) Evenly distribute muffin batter into prepared pan. Place 1 mini Cadbury creme egg in the center of each muffin. You can use a small knife to pull a bit of batter over the top of the muffin, if you like.
Bake for 14-16 minutes, until the top of the muffin springs back when lightly pressed and the edges are a light gold.
Cool on a wire rack before slicing.

Makes 12.

Thank you Baking Bites!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Amish Friendship Bread Part 1

On Friday March 14, (I know, a long time ago) I cooked the "friendship bread". First I have to explain the theory behind this. Ten days before that Friday, my friend Cynthia gave me a plastic bag with bubbly batter in it and a set of instructions (copied below). I had to mush the bag every day for ten days, and on the sixth day add some sugar, flour, and milk. After ten days I added more milk, sugar, and flour and put a cup of it each into 4 new bags to give out to friends. Then I baked the bread with some stuff added to the remaining batter. Sounds cool doesn't it? I think the batter in the bag contained yeast because it bubbled and made gas.
When it was finally time to bake, I saw that after taking out batter to give out to friends, there was barely any left, and that what I was adding to it could have been its own recipe as a quick-bread. This was a bit disappointing because even though the bread was delicious, I expected something (for lack of a better word) cooler.
The resulting bread was sweet and cinnamony in a good way. We ate it for breakfast dipped in milk or coffee. Also, I replaced half of the flour by whole wheat flour because I like the taste and texture, and I cut down on the pudding mix. I don't get why you need pudding mix, and I will have to try the recipe without. I think the recipe should be perfectly do-able without the "friendship starter."
Since I only managed to give out one of the 4 bags I had separated, I decided to keep the 3 bags and bake the batter itself to try to form real bread. Wish me luck...

Now for the recipe! (It's copied from Cynthia's email) I included the steps for the first couple of days in case you want to know, but I don't think the yeast-flour-sugar-milk mixture is necessary.

day 1: you get the bread (batter) today, do nothing to it

days 2-5: mush the bag
you just knead it around in the bag for about a minute or so

day 6: add 1 cup flour, 1 cup milk and 1 cup sugar.... then mush the bag so it all gets mixed
let the air bubbles out too because when i got to this part it was so full the bag broke

day 7-9: mush the bag

day 10:
1. pour contents into a non-metal bowl and add 1.5 cups each of: flour, sugar, milk... stir until smooth
2. measure out 4 separate batters of 1 cup each and put each into a one gallon ziploc bag (4 bags total)
these bags are for giving out to friends, also copy this sheet or something to tell them what to do
you might want to keep one for yourself if you want to make it again in another 10 days
3. remaining batter is to be baked into the bread, here’s how you do it
first you add...

3 eggs
1 cup oil (or 1/2 cup oil, 1/2 cup applesauce)
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1.5 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups flour
1 large box or 2 small boxes of pudding mix, preferably vanilla or banana (I don’t know if you actually need this, but it was on the recipe)

then mix it all together

grease two loaf pans
mix together 1/2 cup sugar and 1.5 tsp cinnamon, use some of this to dust the pans (I didn’t do the topping)
pour the batter in and use remaining cinnamon/sugar mix to sprinkle onto the batter
bake for 1 hour (45 min if convection oven) at 325 degrees
cool for 10 minutes

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Self Rising Flour... should crawl into a corner and DIE!

It is one of my deepest desires that whoever invented self-rising flour regret it until he/she dies. If he/she is already dead, they can regret it FOREVER!!!! Self-Rising Flour is pointless. The only reason I can see for it is saving cookbook writers money. If you have been reading my blog, you know that recently I made biscuits, but I forgot the baking powder because the recipe asked for self-rising flour. Well, this morning, my mom and I made a cake, but we didn't notice the recipe asked for self-rising flour until it was in the oven. TOO BAD! Since the batter also contained beaten egg whites, we decided to let it slide. In any case, I think recipes should stop using this tricksy method and let the cooks omit baking powder if they really want to use self-rising flour.
Just to help y'all out, if you ever come in contact with something that looks freakishly like a recipe with self-rising flour and you don't have any of that horrible stuff, don't forget to add a teaspoon and a half of baking powder and a half teaspoon of salt.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Arroz con leche (my version) and Jicama salad (improvised)

In Spanish class, my teacher decided to have a restaurant "project". In other words: make groups of 3-6, bring food from a specific Spanish-speaking country, choose a waiter, and eat! I was in a group of 3 with Annabel and Jonathan, both of them Sophomores I don't know very well, but generally pleasant people. We chose Mexico as our country and I volunteered to bring dessert and appetizer, Annabel brought fruit salad and drinks, and Jonathan brought his dad's tortilla soup. The drink was Sprite, but the fruit salad was tasty; it included apples, grapes, and oranges. The tortilla soup was strange. It tasted good, but the texture was like liquid goo... I don't know what went inside the pot, but I think cornstarch gives this kind of texture.
Anyways, down to the most important part: Me! As a starter, I decided to make Jicama [heekahmah] salad. I had bought pre-cut jicama during the weekend, but I needed more than just that. I looked in the fridge and I found packaged pre-cut lettuce and grated carrots. I just tossed everything together and put it in a Tupperware. Done!
The Arroz con Leche (rice pudding with cinnamon and raisins) was more complicated. The problem with rice pudding is that you have to stand in front of the pot stirring constantly. This was a problem because I had homework and I can't concentrate if I have to get up every five minutes to stir. Earlier in my life, I had made rice pudding in the oven, and I wondered if I could adapt the baked recipe to arroz con leche. I boiled milk with a cinnamon stick, sugar, and raisins. When it started to bubble I poured it into a buttered oven dish and added the rice. I gave a quick stir and cooked it in a 250 oven for 50 minutes. After that amount of time, it wasn't done yet, so I mixed it again and put it back in for another ten minutes. When I brought it to school it was pretty good, but on the dry side. As there was a large quantity of leftovers, my family and I ate some for dessert for dinner. My dad had the great idea of adding some milk to the rice in his bowl. I followed suit, and I agree that it gives the pudding a better texture. Maybe adding more milk to the rice before cooking it would eliminate the need for this, but I don't know yet. If I ever try this recipe again, I will attempt to fix this problem.
Also, the rice pudding was brown instead of white, probably because the raisins were there the entire time. Most recipes instructed adding the raisins during the last fifteen minutes, but I wanted them nice and plump. The color was not bad, just surprising.
Now for the recipe!

My version of Mexican Style Baked Rice Pudding (Arroz con Leche)
  • 5 c. milk
  • 1 cinnamon stick with a lot of flavor, or add a little powdered cinnamon as well
  • 1/2 c. raisins
  • 1/2 c.–more to taste sugar
  • 1 1/4c. uncooked rice
Pre-heat the oven to 250F. Put everything except the rice in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring regularly. While the milk is heating, butter a oven-proof casserole-style pan that can hold more than 5 cups. Taste the milk and make sure it is sweet enough (it will taste less sweet when it has been absorbed by the rice). When the milk mixture starts to boil (it may take a while) pour it into the dish and mix it with the rice. Put the dish into the oven for 50 minutes. After this time mix it well and oven-ify it again for another 10 minutes. Serve with milk or cream on the side.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Chocolate Biscuits

I was re-reading through some of my cookbooks when I found a recipe for chocolate chip biscuits calling only for five ingredients, all of them found at all times in my kitchen: flour, butter, sugar, chocolate chips, and milk. The recipe asked for self-rising flour, but quick research told me to add 1 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt per cup of All-Purpose flour. Since there was no need for a special trip to the supermarket, I decided to make the dough Friday and bake it Saturday morning. I followed the recipe an ended up with a soft dough which I cut into triangles... At that moment, I realized I had forgotten to add the extra baking powder! I mush the dough back together and did my best to mix the rising agent in, without thinking about the salt I had also forgotten. When I baked the biscuits the next morning they rose some, and they tasted yummy warm with jam. My family and I agree they were a bit dry (only 1/4 c. of butter for 2 c. flour!) and could have used a pinch of salt. Next time I'll do better! :)
The recipe I used is from Cookshelf Chocolate, a cookbook somebody gave to me a while ago. This is the first recipe I made from this book and it turned out pretty good, so I will probably try out some other desserts from it eventually. If you want the recipe for the Biscuits, double clicking on the picture of the recipe should bring a readable enlargement.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Claypot Catfish in an Ironpot using Red Snapper

Last November I gave my mother a small iron pot for her birthday. I then used it to try to make claypot catfish following this recipe, but using tilapia instead of catfish (I couldn't find any catfish). It was tasty, but it was different from the kind you find in restaurants. It was soup-like, perhaps caused by the fact that the small pot was filled to the brim with fish and liquid.
Anyways, I tried making some again, but without a recipe. I used red snapper because, once again, our local supermarket did not carry catfish. The first time, I noticed the fish was still white and soft, so this time I decided to first pan fry (pot fry) the fish. I put the fish away in a bowl and replaced it with three cloves of garlic and the same amount of ginger chopped into "chips". I cooked the garlic and ginger with some fish sauce, soy sauce and a spoonful of sugar taking care to scrape the small bits of fish stuck on the bottom of the pot into the sauce. Next I I placed the fish back into the pot and mixed it as one would mix a salad to get dressing on every leaf. It continued to cook for about five minutes, and then it was time to eat!
My dad and I decided to serve it with chinese wheat noodles and a cucumber-carrot-lettuce salad. It was tasty, but a bit on the salty side. Next time I will omit the soy sauce.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Poll Results! How do you like your steak cooked?

1 (7%)
3 (23%)
Medium Rare
4 (30%)
Well Done
1 (7%)
I don't eat steak
4 (30%)

Votes so far: 13

So, it was a majority of medium rare and people who don't eat steak! I like my steak medium rare too :). I'm actually surprised at the number of my friends who don't eat steak. Are y'all veggies, or do you just not eat beef?
Yay! someone voted raw! I assume this person eats steak tartare, raw ground beef served with onions and capers. Learn more on Wikipedia.
Steak! with fries? a seasonal salade to make it healthy! and please serve it shaken, not stirred.