Saturday, June 25, 2016

Teatime with Sourdough English Muffin Bread

I love English Muffins (similar to crumpets but made with yeast instead of baking soda, and booked on both sides, unlike crumpets).  But making them from scratch is a bit more work than I wanted to do this weekend.  So I made a loaf of English Muffin bread.  If you use almond milk it is vegan and it makes wonderful toast that has a texture and crumb just like English muffins!

For I do like my afternoon tea.  My Dad  who adopted me, is English, though second generation U.S. born, and my biological mother was a Woodworth (descendent of Walter Woodworth, one of the original colonists in America) so there's more than a small amount of English blood in these veins.
Afternoon tea - just little tradition that means a lot to me.

I made this with my Azure Standard wild yeast sourdough starter but if you just wish to make it without, use the ingredients amounts in the (parenthesis). Adapted from a recipe on the King Arthur flour website, I simply modified it to compensate for the flour and liquid that occurs naturally in the starter.  (I have not tried it without the yeast, just letting it raise overnight in a warm kitchen with the sourdough acting as a leavening might work.)
It's pillowy enough to satisfy that morning bread craving, but sturdy enough to toast just enough to stand up to that thick slather of jam.  Plus it has all those little nooks and crannies of English muffins that trap your butter (if so inclined) in creamy pools or just soak up the sweetness of spread fruit. Plus it  just slices and toasts, perfect on those extra mornings when an attempt to separate a store bought English muffin before caffeine might might result in bloodshed..

You will need 2 bowls and a hand or stand mixer. There's no kneading involved and just a short rise time.

No Knead Sourdough English Muffin Bread

2 and 1/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour (3 cups if no sourdough starter)
1 cup Azure Standard wild yeast sourdough starter (optional but trust me, it's worth it)
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon instant yeast
1/2 cup milk (1 cup if no sourdough starter)
1/4 cup water (add up to 3 Tablespoons more if needed while mixing if it is dry)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
cornmeal, to sprinkle in pan


Whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, and instant yeast in a large mixing bowl.
Combine the milk, water, and oil in a separate, microwave-safe bowl, and heat to between 120°F and 130°F. (about a minute and forth seconds in my little microwave).  Stir and take the temperature with a meat thermometer or check with your finger - it should be hotter than lukewarm but not so hot you couldn't take a bath at water that temperature).

Pour the wet into the dry ingredients and beat with the mixer on HIGH for 1 minute, scraping down the sides with a spatula.  You will see little threads of gluten forming at the end of a minute. That is good!  The dough will be very soft, thicker than cupcake batter and thinner than traditional muffin batter.

I ended up adding 3 tablespoons more of water as my batter was fairly dry - that's dependent on the liquid in your sourdough starter.  You  don't want a runny batter but the mixer should be able to mix it on high without it bogging down.

Lightly grease an 8  and 1/2" x 4 and  1/2" loaf pan, and sprinkle the bottom and sides with cornmeal, shaking it around to coat bottom and sides.

Scoop the soft dough into the pan, leveling it in the pan as much as possible.

Cover the pan, and let the dough rise in a warm spot until it's just barely crowned the rim of the pan (no more than 1/4 inch over).  For my loaf it was about an hour and a half rise time.
Bake in 400 F preheated oven 22 to 28 minutes, till it's golden brown and its interior temperature is 190°F.
 Let cool 10 minutes in the pan on a wire rack.then carefully work  knife around the edges to loosen it
Remove from pan, slice and toast while you get the rest of afternoon tea put together.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Sourdough Beer Bread

Most beer breads, a wonderfully easy quick bread, call for a LOT of sugar and butter as well as a full can of beer. With a crackly, crisp top and a soft crumb, it's really a tasty bread. This recipe, made with the wonderful wild yeast sourdough starter from Azure Standard, uses less of all of that.
Now I know you are thinking - is she daft?  Why add a sourdough starter to a quick bread that also has leavening?  In risen bread the acids in the sourdough make for a great dough conditioner, improving BOTH taste and texture.  In a quick bread, the acids won't have time for that, but it DOES amp up the the taste, plus adding the probiotics that are in sourdough can't hurt.  It is the faintest of sour tastes, tasted on the back of the tongue, but really quite nice and it makes for a very moist bread. Plus it's a nice way to use up an abundance of sourdough when you've been busy and have't made any sandwich bread. :-)

Sourdough Beer Bread

3 cups flour (I used a half and half mix of  King Arthur white and  Bob's red Mill whole wheat pastry flour)
3/4 cup Azyre Standard wild yeast sourdough starter (the only sourdough starter I've not been able to "kill off" - it's super easy)
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons of sugar
1 cup plus 4 Tablespoons beer (slightly less than a full bottle but if  batter is a bit dry, use it all)
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Melt butter and set aside.  Spray a 9 x 5 loaf pan with non stick spray. Dust a little flour inside, then shake out.

In a medium bowl, thoroughly mix the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar.  Add the sourdough starter and beer, stirring with a spatula until moist and combined.  Pour into loaf pan.  Pour melted butter over top (makes for a nice crackly top).
Bake for 45-50 minutes until golden on top and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Loosen bread from sides of pan with knife, let cool a few minutes then remove from pan and cool on a rack slightly before slicing.  This also makes some great toast for breakfast.  My husband had a piece every single morning instead of his usual bread.
If you want easy muffins from this recipe - add the butter INTO the batter and place into 12 greased muffin cups (about 2/3 full). Bake for 30 minutes. For savory dinner muffins, reduce sugar by 1 Tablespoon, add 1/2 teaspoon of dried herbs and sprinkle sea salt on top.  Guinness as the beer with rosemary makes a particularly nice dinner muffin to accompany vegetable soups or stews. They have a light crunchy outer shell and a very soft filling and though not photogenic, are really tasty.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Simply Organic - Pasta Quick and Easy

Spaghetti is one of my favorite foods.  As kid who wouldn't eat pasta sauce until I was about ten (my Mom would explain to the waitress on the rare meal out -" yes, just buttered noodles"), I love it now and eat it two or three times a month.  I often make spaghetti squash or zucchini "zoodles" if I'm cutting back on  non-complex carbs but a small plate with veggies fits in with any meal plan, especially if you use very lean meat or veggie proteins.

But I often don't have time on a work night to make sauce from scratch and that's usually when I check the freezer for pre-made frozen sauce to find out we used the last of it the previous week. The jarred sauces are either  gourmet expensive or full of corn syrup (in the cheaper ones.)  The packaged seasoning mixes to add to your tomatoes often have a lot of salt, sugar AND MSG as well as stuff I can't pronounce (and with a Ph. D in one of the forensic sciences, I've taken more organic chemistry than should be allowed by law).

What's a healthy cook to do?
Simply Organic Spaghetti Sauce Mix

Link  (cut and paste in your browser)

Simply Organic is part of a member owned co-op responsible to people and planet and have a wide assortment of some really great seasonings, this is just the first time I've tried the pasta sauce.

I found the product at a neighboring village's health food store (small family place) and it made an excellent sauce. I've also seen it at a larger chain neighborhood grocers.  I simply added to a 15 ounce can of Muir Glen fire roasted tomatoes (worth a few extra cents), a couple of shakes of extra dried basil, a shake or two of crushed red pepper and a teaspoon of raw honey (because I refuse to leave any recipe un-tweaked). 

It has organic cornstarch in it already so you can thicken up the sauce without adding extra tomato paste which cuts down on prep time. With a small can of drained and rinsed sliced  black olives and 3/4 pound ground grass fed sirloin, it made an excellent low fat, low artificial ingredient pasta sauce that was not only thick and fresh tasting - it was on the table in 30 minutes!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Oatmeal Waffles

Think you can't eat waffles while eating healthy? There IS more to life than maple syrup.  These light and tasty vegan oatmeal waffles are topped with low fat vanilla yogurt, fruit and a dash of cinnamon for a great, filling breakfast that won't weigh you down.

The waffle batter recipe is from the website Minimalist Baker which I just love.

Link to her is here: (just cut and paste in your browser window).

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Dog Days of Summer - Crock Pot Cooking

With sometimes unexpectedly hot weather for the time of year, using the oven is NOT something you look forward to. I was visiting my Dad out West, near the coast where no one has a.c. What they did have was record breaking 95+ degree temperatures. So the oven was OUT.

Still Dad - Mr. Meat and Potatoes - wanted a good meal and I wanted something healthy. Grab your trusty crock pot. He didn't have much in the way of seasonings but with what he did have I made a really good roast, that also made a nice au jus with no added salt like the packaged brands so he could have a French Dip sandwich or two out of the leftovers after I was gone with some buns I picked up at  the Safeway bakery. There is no need to sear the roast first. Simply place in a crock pot and tuck in a few slices of onion around it.  Then sprinkle with about 4- 5 shakes of Worcestershire sauce, a teaspoon of Italian seasoning, a dash of extra basil, some cracked pepper and over the top pour 1/3 - 1/2 bottle of beer (depending on how big your roast is). Cover and cook on low 6-8 hours. Served with some baked potatoes (microwave) and veggies (microwave) it made for a nourishing supper without heating up the house and the meat was very moist and juicy.

If you are having a family get together and feeding a larger group, borrow a second crock pot, wrap your bakers in there and cook on low while the meat cooks.