Monthly Blog Post: Rose’s Bread Bible Bakers February 2017

This month our baking group is cooking up a healthy Flaxseed Loaf, which in my opinion makes a great everyday sandwich type bread. If you’re looking for a bread that incorporates whole grains, is rich in antioxidants as well as healthful Omega 3 fatty acids this bread may be just what you’re looking for. Here is an interesting tidbit from the World’s Healthiest Foods website:

Interestingly, bread enriched with ground flaxseed has also been shown to have a greater antioxidant capacity and a much lower glycemic index value (of approximately 51) than the same bread without the ground flaxseed addition. These research findings are great news for anyone who wants to include flaxseeds in baked dishes, in either whole or ground form.

This bread is one that I’ve made in the past – in fact I had notated some changes that I’d made to the recipe back in 2008. I pretty much stuck with those very minor changes this time around and will describe them for you below. One of the things that I loved about this bread is that it is relatively quick and easy to make, has a mellow flavor, and it bakes up with a really nice crust.

I can’t copy the recipe here, and it is not one that Rose has published anywhere other than the book, or if she has, I can’t find it. If you’re interested, however, see my “duh” moment below for a way to borrow the book if you want to try it out. I can assure you that you will learn so much about baking bread and enjoy so many of the recipes that you’ll not be disappointed if you buy the book.  Whether you borrow or buy, this book is really helpful when it comes to baking bread.

 

Dry ingredients, including the flaxseed ready for mixing

 

The recipe calls for a combination of three flours – all-purpose, whole wheat, and pumpernickel. In many recipes which call for whole wheat flour, I substitute an equivalent amount of King Arthur’s White Whole Wheat flour. If you look back at prior posts, you’ll see that I have used this flour in a number of recipes – Irish Soda Bread, Everyday Whole-grain Bread, and Pumpkin, Oat, and Date Muffins are three examples I’ve written about on the blog. You’ll get all of the benefits of whole wheat, but with a milder taste and texture so you’re able to sneak it into baked goods if you’re looking to up the whole-grain content.

I really have to be careful about how much flour and other dry goods that I buy and keep on hand. If I overdo it and don’t use it up quickly enough I end up with a variety of pantry pests. Keeping my dry goods in the freezer isn’t an option due to space limitations. I’ve invested in a fairly large selection of airtight Oxo POP containers, use traps faithfully, and can still end up with problems. For that reason, I did not want to invest in a bag of pumpernickel flour which is a more coarsely ground flour than the rye we used in our December recipe, Levy’s Real Jewish Rye. Therefore I replaced the pumpernickel flour with the Arrowhead Mills rye I had on-hand which made for a lighter, but equally tasty bread.

By the way, the one change I did not make this time around, but it is an option is to add one ounce of wheat germ and increase the water by one ounce. The idea here was to further increase the whole grain content, but since I didn’t have any wheat germ on hand I skipped over that. If you happen to have some on hand, however, it is a good addition.

Flaxseeds after a quick go round in the Vitamix

The required flaxseeds can be easily cracked or ground in a spice grinder (I have an old Cuisinart that is just large enough) or now I run them through my Vitamix using the Dry Grains Container. This container is great for making your own flour – think about the oat or chickpea flours, or superfine sugar that you can produce at home as you need it — saving your valuable time and preventing waste. The container is a pricey item (it has a special blade built into it) so you’ll want to shop around for the best price.

The dough after mixing

The remaining dough ingredients are pretty typical – yeast, water, honey, and salt. The honey provides a nice subtle sweetness and helps to enrich the color of the finished bread. I decided to experiment with a specialty pink salt that I picked up on a recent visit to Sur La Table. I must admit that I’m a neophyte when it comes to salt and didn’t have enough appreciation for this humble but essential ingredient. Although I know it is important to how our food tastes, I can’t say that I’ve ever done a taste test to compare different varieties, of which there are many. I read a very interesting article which includes an interview with Mark Bitterman, author of the book titled Salted: A Manifesto on the World’s Most Essential Mineral (a James Beard award winner by the way). I’m now intrigued and looking to get my hands on the book as I rethink my use of kosher salt and begin exploring other types of salt to use in my cooking.

If you’ve read and used enough of Rose’s yeast bread recipe’s you will be familiar with her basic techniques. The highlights for this recipe are a pretty rapid first rise – mine took less than an hour to double, followed by a beatdown and shaped second rise which also took less than an hour. I then popped it in the oven for 40 minutes at 375°.

 

The finished Flaxseed Loaf…time for a sandwich

On a closing note, I had a “duh” moment this weekend so I want to share that bit of learning with you. I finally realized that in addition to checking out physical books from my local library, I can also borrow e-books for free. Our Los Angeles library system (and many others as I understand it) enable you to borrow Kindle books which you can read on any Kindle-compatible device. If you don’t already have a copy of Rose’s book and want to take it for a free test drive, check to see if you can get it through your local library’s e-book lending service.

 

Are you finding ways to get more whole grains and healthful ingredients into your baked goods?  How are you doing it, and how is it working for you?

Butternut Squash and Carrot Soup

As the seasons change, one of my regular cooking projects is making homemade soups and stews. I typically make a large enough batch so that I can have some to eat that week and a supply to freeze for later. Ultimately I will end up with an impressive stash of soups and stews that I can take from the freezer and use to supplement lunches or dinners during the fall and winter months. Just imagine how great these are to have with homemade bread.

One of my favorite fall recipes is for a Butternut Squash and Carrot Soup from Joanne Weir. I had the pleasure of taking a couple of Joanne’s classes at Sur la Table a few years back, and I would love to take one of her culinary journeys to Tuscany, Spain or Morocco. tuscany-984014_1920The recipe is easy and straightforward, and the result is another creamy soup without added calories from cream so it is guilt free. When blended in a Vitamix you end up with a creamy, silky smooth soup with a texture similar to the Creamy Roasted Tomato and Basil Soup from an earlier blog post. Joanne recommends enjoying this soup with a nice Sauvignon Blanc. I would second that recommendation as this soup is filled with spices which include paprika, cumin, turmeric, and coriander.

This is a really simple soup to prepare. The two most difficult things are 1) cutting the butternut squash in half, and 2) neatly getting the soup from the pan to the blender. It is also a good recipe for advance prep work since you can roast the squash in advance. In addition, I tend to wait longer than the recommended 15 minutes for the soup to cool because it really is tricky getting the hot soup into the blender without spills or burning yourself. As with the tomato soup recipe, the Vitamix will reheat the soup while you’re blending it, although you may want to pour it back into the pan for stovetop reheating to ensure it is evenly heated.

P.S. – The recipe calls for a 1-1/2 to 2-pound squash, but often the ones in the store are much larger. This time around I bought and roasted a 3-1/4 pound squash with the intention of using half for the soup, and keeping half for another use. You can certainly just eat the other half or use it in another recipe. I’m contemplating a butternut squash and spinach lasagna recipe for the other half.

Monthly Blog Post: Rose’s Bread Bible Bakers September 2016

This month I discovered a superstar ingredient that has really taken my hearth bread baking up to a whole new level. You might wonder how that could be when using such simple ingredients – flour, yeast, honey, water, and a touch of salt. Read on to learn more about this important discovery.

Our September recipe was Rose’s Basic Hearth Bread. Although this was the first hearth bread during our bake-along, I have baked this recipe and several others many times over the years. This type of bread is a staple for me, and many years ago I invested in a La Cloche clay bread baker. My baker is similar to this version from King Arthur Flour, the only difference is that mine is unglazed.

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My well used La Cloche baker
When baked in the La Cloche, your bread develops an absolutely awesome crunchy crust. I typically preheat my oven an hour before baking, with the La Cloche cover in the oven as it preheats so that by the time I’m ready to put my bread in the oven the cover is good and hot. The accumulated heat in the lid creates steam when you put the bread in the oven which leads to the fabulous crust. I’d highly recommend a La Cloche type baker if you plan to bake this sort of bread on a regular basis. A less expensive tool that I’d also recommend is an inexpensive lame to artfuly slash the top of your bread. The plastic version I use from Sur La Table retails for $9.95, while a more impressive version with a black walnut handle from King Arthur retails for $34.95. I baked this bread according to the recipe directions with minor modifications to account for the La Cloche. For example, it is not necessary to add ice cubes to the oven to create steam, and after 30 minutes of baking, I removed the cover and baked the bread for an additional five minutes.

In addition to a crispy crust, one of the things I love about a bread like this is the flavor. Rose’s use of a starter which you can allow to ferment for up to 24 hours before mixing the dough creates a wonderfully developed flavor in the finished bread. For this go around, I allowed my starter and flour mixture to ferment for 1 hour at room temperature, and then refrigerated it for about 10 hours. I had great results with 10 hours of fermentation, but I do wonder what would have been with 24 hours. The point is to start your starter or sponge as early as you possibly can for awesome flavor development. As you may recall, last month I forgot to add the salt as I rushed off for a mani-pedi, but I made sure to include it this time.

Now let me tell you what I think really took this bread to a whole new level for a white bread. Rose includes ¼ cup of whole wheat flour in addition to the bread flour which she says acts to enhance the flavor. I’ve done this in the past, and the results have been good – this time I used King Arthur’s white whole wheat, but the real superstar ingredient was a new one for me. img_0140I had decided to try King Arthur’s Artisan Bread Flour, and I’ll admit I had my doubts as it is a good bit more expensive than their regular bread flour. The price on the website for the regular bread flour translates to $.99 per pound versus $2.65 per pound for the Artisan version without tax or shipping. According to the blurb on the front of the bag,

 “This medium-protein flour balances strength and flexibility -– perfect for baguettes and pizza dough. Use it to bake European-style hearth breads with crisp crusts and airy, flavorful interiors.”

While the sentence about balancing strength and flexibility makes me think about what a good workout regimen should do, this flour absolutely delivers the baking results advertised. By the way, this flour has a five star rating on the King Arthur web site with over 170 reviews. Indeed, it is so delicious that I will need to step up my exercise routine to compensate.

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Freshly baked bread elevates the humble tuna sandwich
Case in point, I decided to elevate the humble tuna salad I prepared for lunch with this bread. It was so good, I had to eat a slice of the bread by itself afterwards. By the way, as a bonus, I’ll share below how to make a flavorful, but low fat tuna salad to accompany the bread.

This bread recipe is a great one to use to build your expertise with making hearth breads, and the Artisan Bread Flour provides the opportunity to achieve super delicious professional level results. Honestly, I had dinner last night in a well-regarded local Italian restaurant and decided to eat one slice of their hearth type bread to compare. Theirs was good, but honestly mine was even better.

P.S. – if you’d like to follow my blog via Bloglovin’ it is a new option for you so you don’t have to miss a thing. Just click here. You can also follow me on Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.

P.P.S. – just learned that this recipe was previously published on food.com at this link.

Bonus Skipjack Tuna Salad Recipe

The tuna salad shown here uses:

  • 2 5-ounce cans of Wild Planet Skipjack Tuna with the juices
  • Approximately ¼ to 1/3 cup chopped onion to taste, I use brown, red, or green onions based on what I have on hand
  • 8-10 pitted Greek olives, chopped
  • 1-2 tablespoons chopped dill or parsley to taste
  • Approximately 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • Lemon pepper seasoning to taste, I use one by Scott’s Food Products

Note that you do not drain the tuna, instead you use the juices and just a tiny bit of mayo which keeps the fat down. Stir the ingredients up and enjoy with veggies, crackers or on a sandwich.

 

Pan-Roasted Orange Maple Sablefish recipe review

This is a quick review of a recipe for Pan-Roasted Orange Maple Sablefish that was originally published in Sunset magazine. Two reviewers rated this recipe with five stars, and I agree with their assessment.

As you may know, the common name for sablefish in Canada, the US, and the UK is black cod. This fish has a rich, buttery taste and is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Sablefish7I would definitely describe this as a “special occasion” meal as it is typically one of the more expensive fish in my local market — $30 per pound is not unheard of. I normally prepare it in what I call “Nobu fashion “ by marinating the fish for a day or two in a mixture of miso paste, sugar, and sake – a signature dish made famous by the renowned Nobu restaurants. This entre sells for $32 per serving in the restaurant, but it is easy to make at home.

I decided I wanted to expand my horizons by trying a different preparation and came across this recipe. It is perfect for a decoratively plated sit down meal as it presents very well, and it tastes fantastic. The cooking tips provided are very helpful and foolproof. The combination of orange, maple, and sweet potato flavors is classic, and the herb sauce drizzled atop is a great finishing touch. It is not a difficult recipe to make, but there is a bit of prep work and planning that you’ll need to do in order to bring it all together nicely. If you have a warming drawer, it is handy for keeping your vegetables warm while the fish cooks. The only change I made to the recipe was omitting the blackberries. LOL I did have some in the refrigerator, but I think I was so looking forward to eating the meal that I forgot to put them on the plates. Honestly, I was hurrying to take the photos so we could sit down and eat.

main_variation_Default_view_2_425x425.Here is my one recommendation. Sablefish is very delicate or fragile when cooked which makes plating the meal nicely somewhat challenging. One piece unfortunately slipped from my spatula and broke up as it fell onto the plate so of course I didn’t photograph that one. After this mishap, I attended a cooking class at the new Sur La Table store in Westwood Village and was introduced to a very handy fish spatula. Its unique shape is especially designed for fish and it was highly recommended by our instructor. I got to try it out last night with a rather thin large slice of swordfish and it worked great.

If you’re looking for a special occasion plated meal, this one is great…. give it a try and let me know what you think.

PS – if you haven’t tried a cooking class at Sur La Table, they are great fun. Do give them a try.