Baking the Bread, Baking the Bread

In this age of gluten-free this and carb-free that, when wheat is the food equivalent of a whipping boy, I am here to tell you that there still is not much better than a warm piece of fresh-baked bread.  Here are some easy recipes to get you started.  Break out that stick of butter for slathering on the warm slice and get baking.

Apple Cheddar Quick Bread

  • 3 cups flour (I like using white whole wheat, you can use white, whole wheat, or a combination)
  • 1 Tbs sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 Tbs of a neutral oil (like sunflower or safflower)
  • 1 bottle hard cider
  • 2 cups grated apple
  • 1 cup grated cheddar (I suggest either sharp of smoked cheddar)

You can make this either in a Bundt pan or in loaf pans.  Grease your pan/s well.  Heat oven to 350 while making dough.  Mix first 4 ingredients together in a bowl.  Make a well in the middle and add the rest of the ingredients.  Mix fully but don’t over-beat.  Put into pan/s, bang on the counter a couple of times to even the dough.  Bake 30-50 minutes (depending on pan).  Check with a knife in middle of the loaf to check if bread is done.  Cool slightly, remove from pan.  Cool a little more then slice and eat.

Multi-Grain Loaf with Root Vegetables

  • 1 cup hot water (a note on hot water below)
  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 Tbs honey
  • 1 cup grated root vegetables (beet, carrot, turnip, parsnip)
  • 1 Tbs neutral oil
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup mixed grain cereal (I use Rob’s Red Mill 5-grain rolled cereal)
  • 1 cup red (dark) whole wheat flour
  • white whole wheat flour, 2-3 cups as needed

Follow sponge method for making the bread (put the hot water in a bowl big enough for making dough, sprinkle the yeast on the water then add honey and 1/2 cup of the white whole wheat flour and stir).  After a couple of minutes, mix in the oil, salt, cereal, and whole wheat flour.  Add white whole wheat, half a cup at a time, mixing well until you have a nice bread dough.  It should be elastic and slightly tacky.  It shouldn’t stick to your hands but will be slightly sticky feeling.  Knead it (I knead right in the bowl, you can do it as you prefer) adding a little bit of flour if needed.  Don’t add too much, it will be very dense and dry if you overdo it.  Put a little oil in the bowl, put the bread in and turn over to oil all the sides.  Cover the bowl and set aside in a place that is not too cold (on a kitchen counter is good) and allow to rise.  Every hour or two, punch down and knead the dough for a few minutes then cover the bowl again.  Do this for 4 or more hours (if you aren’t going to bake the bread within 6 or so put the dough in the fridge and bring to room temperature before shaping, baking) then shape the dough.  You can shape it into a rustic boule or put it in a bread pan.  Either way, either grease the pan or line it with parchment paper.  Brush the bread with water, allow to rise one more time (about 15-20 minutes) then bake until the bread is browned and sounds hollow when thumped on all sides (including the bottom).  Remove from heat, allow to cool slightly, cut and eat.

Onion Dill Rolls

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 Tbs dried dill
  • 1 heaping Tbs brown mustard
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp neutral oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbs sugar
  • 4 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 5-7 cups flour (again, I like to use white whole wheat but you can use that, dark whole wheat, white, or a combination, as you like)
  • 1/4 cup oil or melted margarine (I like Earth Balance) for dipping rolls
  • extra dry dill and kosher salt for sprinkling

Put the water, onion, dill, and mustard in a blender and blend until onion is well pureed.  Put this mix in a small pot with the oil and heat until very warm but not boiling.  Meanwhile, in a bowl mix together the salt, sugar, yeast, and 3 cups flour.  Mix the warm liquid into the dry ingredients.  Mix well.  Add flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until you get a dough that holds together well and can be kneaded.  Knead (either in the bowl or on a board) adding flour, a little at a time as needed, to make the dough elastic and not sticky.  It will be tacky, that’s fine.  Oil bowl and dough.  Cover and follow the rising, punching, kneading process above.  Grease a cake or Bundt pan.  Make rolls (pinch off pieces of the dough, pull dough over itself a few times to make the rolls in one smooth shape), roll in the oil or margarine, put in the pan.  When all the rolls are made sprinkle the tops with dill and salt.  Allow to rise one more time, 15-30 minutes.  Then bake at 350 until rolls are browned and sound hollow when tapped, ~20 minutes.

Fresh Bread and Chick Pea Stew, Oh My

Putting vegetables into every possible dish is a popular theme these days.  It is also a good idea.  I am a big proponent of maximizing consumption of fruits and vegetables.  So, in such an effort here are two recipes that use vegetables in expected and unexpected ways and are delicious.  Enjoy!

Loaf Bread with Whole Wheat, Zucchini, and Pumpkin Seeds 

  • 3 cups very warm water
  • 2 Tbs molasses
  • 1/4 ounce yeast
  • 5 cups unbleached white flour
  • 1 Tbs salt
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 small zucchini or yellow squash, grated
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 3 1/2 – 5 cups whole wheat flour
  • oil for the bowl

Put the hot water, the yeast, the molasses, 1 cup of the white flour into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal chopping blade and pulse to mix.  Allow to stand a few minutes then add in the rest of the white flour, the salt, the oil, the zucchini, and the pumpkin seeds.  Run the machine until the pumpkin seeds and zucchini are chopped up very fine.  Then add in two or three cups of the whole wheat.  At this point you will need to take the bread out of the food processor and add the rest of the flour by hand, kneading it in.  You want a dough that is not sticky, add flour as needed until you reach that point, mixing each addition in well.  The dough will be somewhat tacky, which is fine, just not sticky.  When you have the dough just right put a teaspoon of oil in the bottom of a big bowl then put the dough on top of it.  Turn over so all the sides are oiled then cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit in a warmish place (like the kitchen counter) until the dough is doubled in size.  Punch down, cover the bowl tightly with the plastic wrap, and put in the fridge.  Leave there overnight.  When you are ready to bake the bread remove the dough from the fridge and punch down again.  Allow to come to room temperature and rise again, this will take at least an hour.  Punch down and then divide into three equal parts.  Shape each third to fit in the bottom of a bread pan and put each piece into a bread pan.  Allow to rise at least half an hour then bake at 350 until bread is lightly browned and sounds hollow when knocked, at least 25 minutes.  Remove from oven, let stand a few minutes then remove from pans and allow to cool.  If you need to loosen from pan use a plastic knife or spatula, don’t scrape the bread pans with a metal knife.  This bread has all the benefits of whole wheat and the fiber, vitamins, protein, and flavor of the squash and seeds.  It makes excellent toast.

Now this stew is full of vegetables, tastes delicious, smells great, is very quick and easy to make, and goes great with toasted whole wheat bread (see above) or rice (or both).  Use a combination of the vegetables you like best or have on hand from the italicized list below.  If you use tomatoes with salt added you might not need any more but if you use salt-free tomatoes you will need to add some salt to the pot.  This is such a fresh and simple summer stew that it doesn’t need any added spices, herbs, or vinegar – let the flavor of the veggies shine through, you won’t regret it.

Chick Pea and Vegetable Stew

  • 2 Tbs good olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped small
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 1 large can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tomato can full of water
  • 1 regular size can chick peas, drained
  • 20-30 fresh green, wax, yellow, or purple beans
  • 1 small zucchini or yellow squash
  • 2 cups fresh spinach, baby leaves or chopped big leaves
  • 2 small beets, chopped small
  • 4 small Japanese turnips, chopped small
  • 2 cups chopped kale or chard
  • 1 cup shelled peas
  • 1-2 ears corn, cut off cob
  • 1 small bell pepper, chopped
  • 1-2 potatoes, chopped small
  • 1-2 cups shredded cabbage

In a soup pot heat the oil over medium-high then add the onion, celery, carrot, and garlic.  Cook a few minutes, stirring to keep the vegetables from browning.  When they are starting to soften add the tomatoes, water, chick peas, and whatever other vegetables you are using.  Stir well, bring to a low boil.  Cover the pot and cook over medium heat for 30-45 minutes.  Taste, season with salt if needed.  Serve hot.  Eat.  Eat more.  Enjoy.

Best Zucchini Bread

You really know it’s summer when you start getting more zucchini than you can possibly eat plain.  Forget those adorable, skinny little courgettes – these are huge, dachshund size squash with their own zip codes and personality.  Of course you cannot throw them out and can’t pass them up – what do you do with them?  Here is the first of several recipes to come.  This is the perfect way to get more veggies into your diet, use up those green giants, and also have lovely cake/muffins/bread around for guests.  Enjoy!

Best Zucchini Bread Ever

for bread:
3 eggs
1 cup oil or melted butter
1 ½ cups sugar
2 cups grated zucchini
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups flour
3 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ginger
¼ teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

for topping:
½ cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325. Well grease either two bread pans or a baking dish (or muffin tins or Bundt pan – whatever you like). Beat eggs with a whisk until they are frothy. Beat in oil and sugar. Stir in zucchini and vanilla. Then stir in spices, salt, baking soda and powder, then flour. Pour into pans, sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon. Bake 45 minutes then check with a knife. It might take as long as 60-65 minutes to bake, depending on pans.
Cool, remove from pans, cut and serve.

Variations:
-you can use grated carrot, apple, yellow squash instead of the zucchini or any combination of the four
-you can add nuts or raisins to the bread
-you can use ½ cup oil and ½ cup applesauce in place of 1 cup oil
-you can use the zest of an orange or lemon in the bread or as part of the topping
-you can substitute lemon or orange juice instead of vanilla
-you can add chopped candied ginger to the bread