Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Classic Whole-grain Sandwich Loaf

Bread like everything else has its fashions and its seasons. I was intrigued to read Harold McGee's dissertation on breadmaking in today's New York Times. He mentioned making "an establishment loaf" in the 1970s from James Beard's Beard on Bread cookbook (1974, Alfred Knopf). Since I still have my much stained and spotted Beard on Bread and bake from it nearly weekly, this made me sit up.

As McGee details, much modern breadmaking follows the "no-knead" fashion. I've been curious to try a cottage loaf with an overnight rise, but haven't gotten around to it. Instead, I bake Beard's classic white sandwich loaf and a whole-grain sandwich loaf (plus a modified Cuban bread) week after week, month after month, because they are part of our diet, where we eat food made mostly from scratch, of basic ingredients. Sandwich loaves make wonderful toast and grilled sandwiches. I make them two loaves at a time and freeze them sliced and that way we are never out of bread.

Here is the recipe for the whole-grain sandwich loaf I make, modified from Beard's white loaf recipe. Maybe it is retro enough to be fashionable again. I can tell you that it is delicious.

Classic Whole-Grain Sandwich Loaf

One loaf will weigh one pound and will require approximately 4 cups of flour. I use King Arthur flour except where specified. (Note: this recipe is vegan, unless you use butter for the loaf pan.)

It will need a warm place to rise. I use an oven that was heated briefly at the lowest temperature, then turned off.

Flour and grain mixture:

1/2 c "white whole wheat" (could use a local flour like Westwind instead)
1/2 c stone-ground whole wheat (I use Ernst, made locally, and freeze it)
1/2 c stone-ground rye (I use Hodgson Mills, kept frozen)
1 c high-gluten bread flour
1 T flax meal (optional)
2 T wheat germ (optional)
1 1/2 c all-purpose unbleached flour, as needed

Other ingredients:

1 package active dry yeast (not instant rise), or 2 1/4 t bulk yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 t sugar
1 T salt

Mix the water, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl. Add a spoonful of flour and allow to proof for 30 minutes. (This allows the yeast to start multiplying and to produce the amylase enzymes it will use later.) Add 1/2 cup all-purpose flour and the salt and allow to rise until light and bubbly. (Skip this sponge stage if you are in a hurry or just impatient; I think it helps the bread to be high and light later.)

Now mix in the whole grain flours and the high-gluten flour, one at a time until the flours are all well blended with the dough. Then add 1/2 cup more all-purpose flour. By now the dough should be rather stiff. Turn it out onto a clean surface and continue adding up to 1/2 cup more all-purpose flour, kneading it in. Continue to knead for about 10 min until the dough is elastic, all the flour has been well incorporated, and when a dimple is made with your finger, the dough springs back into place.

Wash out the bowl and butter or oil it. Place the dough ball in it and allow to rise for an hour or two, so that it fills the bowl but not till it falls again. (Cover with a tea towel to help keep it moist and warm.)

Knead it again and shape into a loaf. This is accomplished by making it into a rectangular shape,then rolling up the sides and pushing out air bubbles, then pull the other sides into a seam and push out air bubbles again. Place the roughly cylindrical dough into a buttered or oiled loaf pan and allow to rise until the loaf is high above the edges of the pan. Place in a cold oven, turn to 400° and bake for 40 minutes. Remove from the pan. Bread should sound hollow when tapped. If you have doubts, place bread back on baking rack for a minute without the pan. Cool on a rack before slicing.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Hot Pretzels

For some reason, I've been afraid to make my own hot pretzels. In hindsight, I really don't know why I was so bunged up about it. I made some last week for a birthday party, and they were fairly simple and very tasty.

I got the recipe from my Gooseberry Patch Celebrate Autumn cookbook. The recipe is quite simple--2 packages of dry yeast, 1.5 c warm water, 4.5 c flour, 1/2 t salt, 1/4 c baking soda in 1 c water.

As with any yeast, you need to dissolve it in water that is around 110 degrees. Be very careful with the temperature because if it's too hot, the yeast will die. If it's too cold, the yeast will not activate. Take my word on this one and use a thermometer.

Put the flour in a large bowl and then add the yeast/water and salt. Mix and let rise for about 15 minutes.

While the dough is rising, put the 1c water with 1/4c baking soda into a shallow pan. Make sure it is mixed well.

Roll the dough into long strips that are about 8 inches long. They will look like--for lack of a better term--tubes of poop. That is why I didn't take pictures; it looked like poop. Anyway, let them rest in the soda solution for about 2 minutes and then take them out. Now they will look like slimy, wet poop. Form into whatever shape you desire. Some of mine looked like normal pretzels but many looked like the breast cancer ribbons, which is kinda of cool. Some were just gobs.

Put salt on them if you wish and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Serve warm with a variety of mustards.

You know what? Despite the poopy look, these tasted AWESOME! Much better than what you would buy in the middle of the mall. They were really, really good! They were a hit at the party. I brought 2 home and froze them for later eatin'. I had one tonight and it held up well...still kinda poopy looking but very very tasty!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Stuffed Cabbage

A few years ago, I tried to make stuffed cabbage and failed miserably. In hindsight, I used cabbage that was too small and so the leaves fell apart. Since then, I've resorted to making the "cheat" kind--you know, where you put the hamburger, rice, tomatoes and chopped up cabbage in a big pan, and cook it together. It's good but not the same.

Today, I decided to try, try again. At the supermarket yesterday, I picked up a Martha Stewart Living magazine. I grew fond of her show during Xmas break and so I first must apologize for prior Martha rippage. (I went off on FaceBook one day and my girl Alex called me out. When I'm wrong I say I'm wrong and I'm wrong.) Now I still think that M is a miserable human being--up on her show talkin' about which house she'll spend the holidays at; come on now--but girl know her homemaking stuff.

(As an aside: If I ever have a show like hers and several houses, I'd be all, "OMG, can you BELIEVE I even *have* more than one house? I mean, come on now! CRAZY" and I'd be all self-deprecating and cute and everyone would go, "She's such a nice girl! I don't begrudge her the 8 houses because she seems sweet." But of course the very fact that I am self-deprecating and sweet means I will NEVER have success like Martha's, but whatever).

So! Girlfriend had a recipe for stuffed cabbage in her magazine, I had leftover ground beef plus some cabbage from the market so I said, "What the hey?" I'm pleased to say that it turned out! Here are the pictures:

Those are my naked babies! Aren't they cute? Here they are with my homemade, canned bruschetta in a jar (and since I ran out of the bruschetta, I used the last of my homemade, canned salsa...see why I love my girlfriends?)

Here is the recipe, which I halved. Note that you can use whatever tomato sauce you want or make the bruschetta in a jar and use that!

1 head of cabbage (mine came from the farmers market and has been chilling in my fridge ever since)

12 oz of ground beef (TMZ beef from the market)

12 oz ground pork (I do not eat pork so I just skipped this; therefore, I did not half the beef...does that make sense, I hope?)

1 c of cooked rice (use about 1/2-2/3 c dry)

1/8 c chopped parsley (from my basement)

1/2 T paprika (food co-op)

Bring a pot of water to boil. Put your cabbage head in and let it boil for about 3-4 minutes.

Meantime, mix up your beef, rice, parsley, paprika and salt and pepper to taste.

Pull off leaves, one at a time, from the cabbage head. Put the hot leaf on the towel. You will burn your fingers a little, but you will live. Let the cabbage continue to boil on the stove. Put a scoop of the burger-rice goop into the leaf and roll one (hee hee, I said roll one). Put into a greased 11 x 7 pan. Do this until you run out of goop; I got 9 leaves full.

Pour your sauce on top. Take a picture cuz you just burned your fingers and you should have something to show for it.

Bake at 375 for about an hour.

Enjoy it and give a toast to Martha, will ya?