Our Easter celebration last weekend consisted of brunch at M’s grandmother’s with his family. The spread included delicious asparagus, bagels with cream cheese (even a vegan cream cheese!), a fresh salad and lots of fruit options. We opted to bring some homemade english muffins, a baking adventure which I had never embarked on. Obsessed with my new sourdough starter I was determined to find a recipe that would only rely on sourdough to get the muffins rising, and I found rave reviews about the recipe over on The Fresh Loaf. And let me tell you- this recipe was per-fect. Don’t make them alone, you won’t be able to resist feeding someone cute a warm, crisp english muffin right off the pan!

I made a batch and a half and cut out the muffins using the screw lid of a mason jar. We made our muffins purposefully small, knowing we’d be adding them to a buffet of goodies, and we ended up with about 2 dozen 2″-diameter beauties. You can see them rising in the picture above. It was a pretty quick recipe to whip up, really only relying on the starter to give them a boost. They didn’t rise all that much during their time on the table, but once they were in the pan they popped right up with a delightful springy-ness.

The english muffins in the hot skillet, fresh from their rising

3-4 minutes later they have popped right up, and are flipped to brown on the other side.

I followed the recipe exactly, substituting almond milk for the dairy and setting the disks to rise on semolina flour. I also used about 3/4 whole wheat flour and 1/4 white flour which made them very hearty but, fortunately, didn’t impact their ability to rise at all. We found them to have perfect nooks and crannies excellent for holding jam or other toppings.

I whipped up a quick jam using local peaches canned last summer, some frozen strawberries picked last summer, orange zest and about a tablespoon of honey. They went over well with friends and family alike, and also helped to slow my ever-growing starter. Now I’m convinced we can use sourdough to make any yeasted recipe! Ours imparts a very, very slight tang, which makes it wonderfully versatile. I’m looking forward to sourdough pizza crust, bagels and cinnamon rolls, once this semester finally ends!

Happy rising!

Warm Winter

March 10, 2012

This winter has been the strangest New England winter I’ve seen since we moved to the area when I was a kid. Yesterday it was 60 during the day and then snowed huge, wet flakes for about an hour after the sun went down. Although the weather may be reminiscent of spring, the local food is still coming in to the tune of potatoes and parsnips rather than asparagus and garlic scapes.

We have eaten an assortment of roasted root veggies too many times to count over the last few months, and although parsnips and carrots are never sweeter than when they’re roasted with a dollop of homemade mustard, it can be come redundant to eat potatoes several times a week. Today we had many parsnips, a few potatoes and a large, possibly too old to eat rutabaga hanging around leading me to roast them up for the belly-filling meal only roasted veggies can provide. But not before I whipped up a bit of a glaze to make them slightly more exciting than meals past.

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I made a sweet mustard-balsamic glaze and poured it over a few potatoes, one large rutabaga, 4-5 medium parsnips, 2 small carrots, half a large onion and a few cloves of garlic- all locally grown. My glaze consisted of the following:

-1 1/2 T homemade, coarse mustard
-2 T Balsamic Vinegar
-2 T olive oil
-2 T warm water
-1 T agave
-salt, pepper, oregano and paprika to taste

I have agave kicking around that a friend of mine was looking to get rid of, but it isn’t a product I tend to use much of. If I make this again it will be with maple syrup for a sweetener but anything on hand will do. I roasted veggies in a pyrex baking dish at 400 degrees F for about 40 minutes, stirring once or twice. A lovely way to rework an old favorite!

And now something super exciting- my first loaves of sourdough!

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Apologies for the terrible picture, it’s the product of late night bread baking and an Iphone camera. I used my starter and followed the sourdough recipe from  The Tassajara Bread Book using mostly local whole wheat flour and a bit of rolled oats. The use of so much whole wheat made the bread pretty dense but gave it a great wheat flavor. Next time I think I’ll use a 2:3 ratio of white flour to whole wheat and see how it changes. The bread had a great texture, lots of the bubbles and crannies I associate with sourdough. Hopefully my next loaves will photograph a bit prettier!

For anyone looking to make bread (sourdough or otherwise) in a chilly winter apartment I combated the temperature by placing my rising dough in a bowl covered with a towel on the top rack of my oven. On the bottom rack I placed a bowl with boiling water and closed the door. It kept the temperature warm and the air moist- perfect for growing yeast! I had to reboil the water half way through the rising but it worked great!

Best,
W.

Meal Time

February 29, 2012

One of the most common reactions to hearing that I’ve been vegan almost 6 years is “what do you eat?!”, as if the plant kingdom isn’t full of delicious, nutritious foods. Initially as a young vegan my concern was only with eliminating animal products from my diet but as I have grown and learned, my aims have shifted more towards purchasing foods whose origins I feel comfortable with and wish to support. Generally speaking this means locally sourced ingredients when possible, which is a continual process of grocery list refinement.

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We order produce from a local co-operative business that I spent the summer interning for last year. They source mostly organic, local or regional produce year round and deliver it right to your door! Above are some delicious local salad greens (yes, even in the winter!!), cabbage, carrots, beets and some not-local kidney beans and raisins with imported balsamic vinegar.

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I love eating a meal that started with the most basic ingredients and, after personal effort and thought became something special and delicious. I am eating dinner alone a few nights a week simply due to scheduling differences between me and my partner, and it has been challenging for me to have the energy to make a meal instead of relying on whatever is lying around. Making these tortillas reminded me how nice it is even just to cook for myself, and leave leftovers for the one I love to appreciate on his schedule.

These corn tortillas were freshly pressed from masa harina and served with a black bean and corn mixture and some definitely not local avocados. The black beans I cook from dried beans several cups at a time and then freeze individual portions in glass jars. The corn came from a farm stand down the street. In July I bought 18 ears, lightly steamed them, then sliced off and froze the kernels for later use. The heat in this mixture also came from dried hot peppers I got as a part of a CSA a year ago.

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The condiment on this meal was some of our homemade tomatillo salsa. We used tomatillos, cilantro, onions and garlic all from our CSA last winter and spiced it up with some cumin and lime juice. We followed a canning recipe to be safe and processed the jars. It has been delightful to open a jar of this green deliciousness in winter months and remember that summer will be back again!

The salsa is perched on my tortilla press, which I bought off craigslist some months back. I’m not one for single-use kitchen tools- but this press sits on a shelf proudly next to my waffle maker.

Sunday Afternoons

February 26, 2012

I’m home alone for a few hours, a stack of work for the week ahead and yet, I can’t help but catch up a few projects I’ve been meaning to put into motion.

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Mustard may be the most used condiment in our house. We love it on just about everything from salad to roasted veggies to steamed greens. We had been buying the standard, Whole Foods-brand dijon and, although it is a fine mustard, I wanted the challenge of making something suited to our tastes. And- I love being able to cross off any item from our grocery list that doesn’t get processed by our own hands- even something as simple as mustard.

At M’s new job the kitchen makes a great, spicy mustard with horseradish. Since ours tends to be so all purpose, I decided to go for something a little softer. I adapted this recipe from Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook.

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Instead of using a seed grinder I used a technique borrowed from another mustard recipe that used only seeds and no powder. I soaked the brown mustard seeds over night in water equal to their own volume. This morning it was simple to spread them on a plate and crack the right amount with the back of a spoon. I wanted a fair amount of whole seeds, and the soaking had already started to release some mustard goodness which i could smell as soon as I poured them out. Aside from that, I followed the recipe to the T using mustard powder, apple cider vinegar and adding just a touch of honey, hoping for something very mildly sweet with a spicy edge. It needs to sit for about 12 hours before the flavors mellow, and I can’t wait!

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My second project was a breakfast of champions- some homemade granola! We have been buying granola in bulk at Whole Foods for about $4-$5 a pound, and this thrifty version cost us far less, with bulk oats running about $0.99 a pound.

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My ratio was adapted from an old recipe I’ve used and some others I found on line, ours is made of the following:

5 cups rolled oats
1 cup nuts/seeds
1/2 cup dried fruit
1/4 c milled flax seed
2 T canola oil
1/4 c maple syrup
1 t salt
2 t cinnamon

I made a double batch, tossed everything but the flax and fruit together then baked for about 30 minutes at 350, tossing once and swapping the positions of my two trays so they browned evenly. Then I added the fruit and flax, let it cool and funneled it into glass jars for storage. My nuts were a combination of walnut pieces and sunflower seeds and the fruit were chopped, pitted, California dates.

I saw recipes using up to twice as much sweetener and twice as much dried fruit so, feel free to up the sugar content if it doesn’t meet your tastes- we tend to be a low sugar home around these parts. At the store many granolas have whey powder which, as a vegan, I don’t eat, or honey which, as a vegan, I don’t eat unless its from a local apiary. So making it ourselves opens up the options to craft it to suit our tastes and dietary desires!

If this recipe makes 6 servings- each one has 17 grams of sugar, 18 grams of fiber, 40% of your daily iron requirements, 13 grams of protein and 12% of your daily calcium. Not bad for a breakfast treat!

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And- the most exciting event of my morning was waking up to see this beautiful bubbly friend of mine. My sourdough starter took a little bit longer than Katz suggested but our space is about 10 degrees cooler than he recommends- we’re frugal! I am crossing my fingers that I can make delicious loaves in the next week or so. At this point my starter lives on  the counter and I feed it about a T of flour every day and stir it about twice a day. Once I start baking and it is stabilized it will live in the fridge and only get fed about once a week.

Happy Sunday!

Starting Something New

February 19, 2012

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What is this ghost like creature taking up residence on our kitchen table? A very exciting new creature indeed, friends! Beside the stacks of textbooks, the scribbled on outline for my thesis and an empty French press sits my brand new sourdough starter.

Following Sandor Elix Katz’s advice in his famed book, Wild Fermentation, I began trying to cultivate my own wild yeast to bake into delicious loaves of bread.

Any recipe for sourdough bread requires the addition of starter in place of some portion of the flour and liquid found in other bread recipes. Some starters can be made from bakers yeast, or bought from a company that specializes in producing starter to be regenerated in a home kitchen. Traditionally, however, starters are made by allowing whole grain flour and water to sit at room temperature and cultivate the wild yeast already found on the grains and in the surrounding environment.

Katz reminds his readers that bread was made in this way for hundreds of years before we even knew there were living organisms responsible for making our bread rise and for imparting that distinctly sourdough tang. I began my starter with locally grown and milled flour and tap water hoping to grow something totally unique to this environment.

I worry my apartment may be on the chillier side for yeast cultivation, but this morning, less than 48 hours after I began, I was greeted by tiny bubbles on the surface of my starter and a distinctly sour smell as the good organisms are competing for space with the bad microorganisms. Hopefully this bodes well for the future of my little guys!

If all goes according to direction I’ll have lovely loaves to post about this time next week. Fingers crossed!