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Whole Wheat Bread with Caramelized Onion and Sweet Potato

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This is yet another variation of my 100% whole wheat bread recipe…and a delicious one at that. This does entail an extra step (sauteing the onion and sweet potato until caramelized) but it’s worth it. After cooled, they are added to the dough while being kneaded and they melt into the dough offering a soft texture and subtle flavor. Anyhow, the recipe is below.
Whole Wheat Bread with Caramelized Onion and Sweet Potato

Makes 2 loaves

¼ cup olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

1 medium sweet potato, diced

6 cups whole wheat flour, divided

2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten

3½ cups water, divided

4 teaspoons instant yeast, divided

2 teaspoons kosher salt

¼ cup honey


Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a heavy skillet then add the diced onion and sweet potato. Sauté for five or ten minutes, or until caramelized.
Add ½ cup of the water to the pan. Simmer until the water evaporates completely and the sweet potato is very soft. Transfer to a plate to cool, using a spatula to include the olive oil as well (as this becomes part of the bread). 
Separate some of the remaining ingredients in two bowls using this ratio: In one bowl combine 4 cups of flour, the vital wheat gluten, and 2 cups of water. Stir it just until combined; cover with plastic wrap and set aside. In a second bowl, combine the remaining 2 cups flour and 1 cup water and 2 teaspoons of yeast. Stir it just until combined; cover with plastic wrap and set aside. Allow the bowls to rest for at least an hour. After the ingredients have rested and have begun to ferment, combine the contents of both bowls to an upright mixer that is fitted with a dough hook. Add the caramelized onions and sweet potato along with the oil in which they were cooked. Also add the remaining ingredients: the salt, honey, and remaining two teaspoons yeast. Knead the dough on medium speed for about 8 minutes, then cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for one hour. Transfer the dough to a work surface, cut it into two pieces, gently shape it into loaves, and place them either on a baking sheet or in loaf pans. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 45 minutes. Preheat an oven to 425F/218C. If making free-form loaves, slash them with a razor just before they go into the oven. Bake the bread for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on. As the bread bakes rotate the loaves in the oven once or twice to ensure even baking. Remove the bread from their pans and allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing.

Whole Wheat Rye…and that’s all

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Whole Wheat Rye Bread

Makes 2 loaves

4 cups whole wheat flour

3 tablespoons vital wheat gluten

2 ¾ cups water, divided

2 cups rye flour

4 teaspoons instant yeast, divided

2 teaspoons kosher salt

2 tablespoons caraway seeds

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup dark molasses


Separate the ingredients in two bowls using this ratio: In one bowl combine the 4 cups of whole wheat flour, the vital wheat gluten, and 2 cups of water. Stir it just until combined; cover with plastic wrap and set aside. In a second bowl, combine the 2 cups rye flour and remaining ¾ cup water and 2 teaspoons of yeast. Stir it just until combined; cover with plastic wrap and set aside. Allow the bowls to rest for at least an hour. After the ingredients have rested and have begun to ferment, combine the contents of both bowls to an upright mixer that is fitted with a dough hook. Also add the remaining ingredients: the salt, caraway seeds, olive oil, molasses, and remaining two teaspoons yeast. Knead the dough on medium speed for about 8 minutes (if the dough is too slack or too firm adjust it’s consistency with more flour or water), then cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for one hour. Transfer the dough to a work surface, cut it into two pieces, gently shape it into loaves, and place them either on a baking sheet or in loaf pans. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 45 minutes. Preheat an oven to 425F/218C. If making free-form loaves, slash them with a razor just before they go into the oven. Bake the bread for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on. As the bread bakes rotate the loaves in the oven once or twice to ensure even baking. Remove the bread from their pans and allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing.

Le Pain d’Ezéchiel (bis)

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I haven’t posted this recipe in a while, but it is still my favorite bread, and is in fact still the #1 reason people visit my little blog. To read my views on this bread, click here. For pictures of it being made and additional directions, click here.

Whole Wheat Ezekiel Bread
Makes 2 or 3 loaves
12 cups water
2 tablespoons white beans
2 tablespoons red beans
2 tablespoons spelt berries
2 tablespoons lentils
2 tablespoons barley
2 tablespoons millet
2 tablespoons bulgur wheat
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cooked beans and grains
½ cup cooking water
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast
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4 cups whole wheat flour

3 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
2 cups cooking liquid
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1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup olive oil
3 teaspoons kosher
3 teaspoons instant yeast

Boil the grains in the water in logical succession according to cooking times: first the white and red beans (about 60 minutes), when they are soft add the, spelt berries, lentils, and barley (about 30 minutes); lastly, add the millet and bulgar (about 10 minutes). The key is that after each addition the previous grain must be soft enough so that when all of the grains are in the pot they will all be equally soft; undercooked grains (especially the beans) can really ruin this bread. And as the grains cook add more water to the pot as necessary because the cooking liquid, which is full of nutrients, will become part of the recipe (keeping a lid on the pot will slow it’s evaporation). After the grains are cooked allow them to cool in the liquid to room temperature, refrigerating if necessary. After the grains are cooled drain them, squeezing them with your hands or the back of a spoon, reserving the cooking liquid.
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Place two bowls side-by-side; one will hold the pre-ferment, the other autolyse. In one bowl combine the cooked and drained grains with ½ cup of the cooking liquid, 2 cups whole wheat flour, and 2 teaspoons instant yeast. Stir it just until combined then cover it with plastic wrap. In the other bowl combine 4 cups whole wheat flour, 3 tablespoons vital wheat gluten, and 2 cups cooking liquid; stir it just until combined then cover it with plastic wrap (take care not to get yeast into this bowl). Allow the bowls to rest at room temperature for about an hour, during which time the preferment will begin it’s job multiplying yeast and fermenting flour, and the autolyse will soak liquid, swelling the gluten.
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After an hour or so, combine the ingredients from both bowls into the bowl of an upright mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the honey, olive oil, salt, and 3 teaspoons of yeast (add the yeast and salt on opposite sides of the bowl. Knead the dough on medium speed for about 8 minutes. Place the dough in a lightly oiled container, cover it loosely, and allow to ferment for 1-2 hours, or until doubled in bulk. Deflate the dough and allow it to ferment an additional 30 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and cut it into 2 or 3 pieces. Shape into loaves and place into lightly oiled pans. Loosely cover the loaves with plastic wrap and allow to ferment for 30-60 minutes, or until double in size and when gently touched with a fingertip an indentation remains.

Bake the breads for about 30-40 minutes, adding steam to the oven a few times (either with ice cubes or a spray bottle) and rotating the breads every ten minutes. The breads are done when they are dark brown and sound hollow when tapped upon. Remove the breads from their pans and allow them to cook on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes before slicing.

Urban Simplicity.

Bread!

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I made this bread tonight. Made the preferment while I took a nap after work, mixed the dough before I went to the health club, and baked it while I ate dinner. Beautiful, delicious, and easy to make. And it is, of course, made with 100% whole wheat flour. Honey-oatmeal. I’ve posted this recipe–and variations of it–before but not in a while. It’s one of my favorites and one I make often so I thought I’d re-post it.

Whole Wheat Honey-Oatmeal Bread

Makes 2 or 3 loaves

6 cups whole wheat flour, divided
2 cups oatmeal, plus additional for coating
2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
3 ½ cups water, divided
2 tablespoons instant yeast, divided
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup honey
2 teaspoons kosher salt 

Separate the ingredients into two bowls using this ratio: In one bowl combine 4 cups of flour, two cups of oatmeal, the wheat gluten, and 2 ½ cups of water; stir until just combined. In the second bowl combine the remaining 2 cups of flour, 1 tablespoon of yeast, and 1 cup of water; stir until just combined. Cover the bowls and allow the ingredients to rest and begin fermenting for at least an hour, but up to 12. Then combine the contents of bowl bowls into the bowl of an upright mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the remaining tablespoon of yeast, along with the olive oil, honey, and salt. Knead the dough on medium speed for about 8 minutes, then cover and allow to rise for one hour. Transfer the dough to a work surface, cut it into two or pieces, gently shape it into loaves. Dust the counter with extra oatmeal and roll the loaves in it, gently pressing oatmeal into the surface of the raw dough. Place the loaves into oiled loaf pans, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise for 45 minutes. Preheat an oven to 425F. Bake the bread for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on. Remove the bread from their pans and allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing.

Urban Simplicity

Thoughts on the Parable of the Leaven…a story within a story

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So if you’ve been to this blog before you know that I like bread. A lot. I enjoy eating it, of course, but I also enjoy making it. I’ve often said that bread makes itself, that we merely provide the correct conditions and guide it along; I am really fascinated by its process. I’m also really interested in the history of bread and roles it has played throughout civilization and especially religion. Bread is in fact mentioned hundreds of times in the old and new testaments. But what I’d like to touch on here is the Parable of the Leaven (sometimes called the Parable of the Yeast). This is mentioned in both the Gospel of Matthew 13:33, and in the Gospel of Luke 13:20-21.

He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty poundsof flour until it worked all through the dough.”

But before I go any further let me say this (as I’ve said on a few occasions)…I read the bible as almost entirely metaphor. I believe there are stories and teachings in it that can aid us even today in 2013 if we look close enough, but sometimes it is a difficult process…I know it is for me. I am not here to try to preach or tell you what this means, just simply to say what I feel (because I can guess, but I do not know what it means…I can only guess and translate it to my life).

This said, lets look at the word parable. It comes from the Greek, parabolē, which we’ve interpreted as a sort of story or analogy. But it’s original meaning is a bit different. The word parabolē is actually a phrase; two words, meaning to “throw” or “toss” (bolē) “next to” (para), so loosely this can be taken as the story or meaning is next to or within the story. Hmmm…

Now lets look at the leaven itself (this is where it gets really interesting). But first I have to say a few things about yeast. It is a naturally occurring living organism; a form of fungus, actually. It is relatively dormant until provided the correct conditions. Mainly, the correct temperature, moisture, and food (the carbs and sugars in flour). When it has these three conditions it eats. More specifically it feasts, and on a biblical scale (yes, I see the pun here). As it feasts it gives off gases (don’t we all), mainly carbon dioxide but also ethyl alcohol. As these are released they form pockets of air or gas in the dough, and as the yeast continues to eat and give off gas these pockets or bubbles grow, sort of inflating the bread. This is how it rises. But ok, enough about the science of it, back to the leavan…the biblical kind.

In biblical times yeast did not look like the spoonful above. It would have been more like the spoonful in the first picture (which today we call a sponge, starter, poolish, or preferment), or the next picture of the ball of dough (which today is sometimes called a biga or in French, pâte fermentée ). Commercial yeast–as pictured in the spoon above–was not available in biblical times (it’s not like they had a supermarket to go to), in fact it was only invented in the last 120 years or so and was likely not readily available for decades after.
Now here’s the fun stuff. The English word leaven comes from the French levain. The French phrase for sourdough is pain au levain (bread with [natural] leaven). This is also where we get the word for the region of the Eastern Mediterranean (where of course, most of the biblical stories originated), the Levant, which means “rising” in French and is used thus because the sun rises in the east. But the word goes back further; it comes from the Latin word levāmen, which in addition to “raise,” it can also mean , relief, alleviation, consolation, or solace. Knowing this–and the meaning of the word parable–offers an entirely different view of this particular parable for me. Lets read it again.
He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty poundsof flour until it worked all through the dough.”
Some translations say that the woman mixed a “small amount” of yeast (or leaven) into a large amount of dough. And this is what is often cited when this parable is discussed. But look at the parable again, only this time where it mentions yeast (leaven) replace it with whichever of the original meanings you like…relief, alleviation, consolation, or solace. And she worked it all through the dough.
Wow.
While you’re thinking about that, I’m going to keep typing. I wanted to try this for myself. While I do consider bread making a form of solace for me I wasn’t sure how to mix solace into the dough, so I used yeast instead. And as the parable insinuated, I used a small amount  and let it work (itself) throughout the dough. And in this case, the word yeast could be replaced with faith, I suppose. A small amount of faith, solace, relief, etc can go a long way, and in fact, can work their way through us, sort of creating a heaven-on-earth (ok, now I’m stretching it…but I got you to think).
Anyhow, I did use a really small amount of yeast to make the loaf of bread pictured…I used 1/24th of my usual amount (which was 1/8th teaspoon opposed to 3 teaspoons). It rose, as I knew it would, it just took longer. I mixed it before bed and let it rise over night. After waking and preheating the oven, it probably fermented and rose for about 10 hours…sort of like a sourdough (but not really). Anyhow, there it is below, before risen and after.
I’m going stop now because this is starting to make my head hurt a little. But I can’t halt without one more observation. I really love how Jesus’ parables are spoken in such basic terms and using analogies of such common things of his day. But there is always more within (within us and within the parable). What if the women in the story was our creator and we were the dough…Mother Universe kneading a small amount of consolation, relief, and solace into us and she/he (our genderless Source) wants it to grow and raise (leaven) us up to be full of compassion for one another. What it it’s already within us and we just need to acknowledge it…to allow it to foster (ferment) and grow (rise). Just a thought. Now the difficult part is to let it happen. And that may be the story (each of our own personal stories) thrown next to the story or the story within. At least it’s something to think about.
100% Whole Wheat Bread
Makes 2 loaves
6 cups whole wheat flour, divided
2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
3 cups water, divided
4 teaspoons instant yeast, divided
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup honey
Separate the ingredients in two bowls using this ratio: In one bowl combine 4 cups of flour, the vital wheat gluten, and 2 cups of water. Stir it just until combined; cover with plastic wrap and set aside. In a second bowl, combine the remaining 2 cups flour and 1 cup water and 2 teaspoons of yeast. Stir it just until combined; cover with plastic wrap and set aside. Allow the bowls to rest for at least an hour. After the ingredients have rested and have begun to ferment, combine the contents of both bowls to an upright mixer that is fitted with a dough hook. Also add the remaining ingredients: the salt, olive oil, honey, and remaining two teaspoons yeast. Knead the dough on medium speed for about 8 minutes, then cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for one hour. Transfer the dough to a work surface, cut it into two pieces, gently shape it into loaves, and place them either on a baking sheet or in loaf pans. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 45 minutes. Preheat an oven to 425F/218C. If making free-form loaves, slash them with a razor just before they go into the oven. Bake the bread for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on. As the bread bakes roate the loaves in the oven once or twice to ensure even baking. Remove the bread from their pans and allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing.

Two Breads and Two Recipes

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This is a continuation of this post where I listed a recipe for grissini. As I had mentioned, I am currently reviewing this book (which I highly recommend thus far) and have been testing a few of the recipes…so here’s a couple more. The recipes listed below–though originally derived from the book in mention–were borrowed from BreadBasketCase (click here and here) for the simple reason that I came across them and wouldn’t have to retype them (I am getting so lazy). Anyhow, both recipes are good, but the ciabatta is outstanding. That recipe I followed exactly, but the raisin-pecan bread I deviated a bit by using currants and walnuts (it’s what I had on hand). I like to post recipes that are simple to make (so that people actually make them), and these may seem complicated at first glance but they actually are not. If you read through the (somewhat lengthy) directions you’ll see they are pretty easy to follow.

Ciabatta with Stiff Biga
–From Bread, by Jeffrey Hamelman

BIGA
6.4 oz. (1 1/2 cups) bread flour
3.8 oz. (1/2 cup) water
1/8 tsp. instant dry yeast

DOUGH
1 lb. 9.6 oz. (5 3/4 cups) bread flour
1 lb, 3.6 oz. (2 1/2 cups) water
.6 oz. (1 T.) salt
.13 oz. (1 1/4 tsp)instant dry yeast

1. BIGA. Mix the yeast, flour and water until just smooth. The biga will be stiff and dense, and may need a few more drops of water to mix entirely. Cover the bowl and plastic and leave for 12 to 16 hours at room temperature.

2. MIXING. Add all the ingredients to the mixing bowl except the biga. In a stand mixer using a dough hook, mix on low speed for 3 minutes. As the dough comes together, add the biga in chunks. The dough will be quite sticky and slack. Finish mixing on medium for 3 1/2 to4 minutes. The dough will still be sticky.

3. FERMENTATION AND FOLDING. Put the dough in a mixing bowl sprayed with baker’s spray. Fold the dough twice, after one hour and again after two hours. This is where you fold quickly and assertively, adding no extra flour.

4. DIVIDING AND SHAPING. Flour the work surface copiously. Invert the dough onto the work surface and pat out the larger air bubbles. Lightly flour the top surface of the dough. Cut the dough into 3 rectangles, weighing about 18 ounces each. Gently shape into rectangles. Place the dough piece onto floured bread boards (I used floured parchment paper). Cover the shaped dough with baker’s linen and then plastic.

5. FINAL FERMENTATION. About 1 1/2 hours.

6. BAKING: Preheat oven to 460 degrees.
To transfer the proofed dough to a baker’s peel, spread the fingers of both your hands. With a quick, deft stroke, invert the dough piece so that the side that was touching the bread board is now on top. Place one hyand at each end of the dough piece, bring your fingers underneath, and pick it up. Here you will slightly punch the dough for easier transport; there should be wrinkles in the center of the loaf as the transfer it to the peel. [I just picked up the parchment paper and put it on top of a pre-heated baking stone–I’m using his instructions here just to show why I think they’re hard to understand.) Fill the oven with steam, load the ciabattas, steam again, and bake for 34-38 minutes. (I used the steam machine; otherwise you can use either an ice cube or boiling water method to get steam. Hamelmans thinks you should use all three: ice cubes on a heated skillet before the bread goes in, boiling water on a heated pan when the bread goes in, and spritzing with water too). Lower the oven temperature by 10 or 20 degrees if bread is taking on too much color, but be sure not to underbake. Remove the bread from the oven and let cool on a baking rack.

WHOLE WHEAT BREAD WITH PECANS AND GOLDEN RAISINS
–from Bread, by Jeffrey Hamelman

Makes two loaves

1 pound (3 5/8 cups) whole wheat flour
1 pound (3 5/8 cups) bread flour
1 pound, 5.8 ounces (2 3/4 cups) water
.6 ounces (1 T) salt
.16 oz. (1 1/2 tsp) instant dry yeast
4.8 oz. (1 cup) golden rains, soaked and drained
4.8 oz. (1 3/8 cups) pecans

1. About 30 minutes before starting, pour warm water over the golden raisins and let them sit for up to 30 minutes to soften. Drain the rains well.

2. MIXING: Add all the ingredients except the rains and pecans to mixing bowl. Mix on low speed for 3 minutes (using dough hook if you have a KitchenAid) to incorporate the ingredients thoroughly. The dough consistency should be moderately loose. Turn the mixer to the second speed and mix for about 3 minutes more. Add the drained raisins and pecans (the recipe doesn’t say whether they should be chopped, so do whatever you want). Mix on low speed, just until the rains and nuts are thoroughly incorporated.

3. BULK FERMENTATION: Put in large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for about two hours. If it’s more convenient, you can put the dough in the refrigerator and let it rise overnight.

4. FOLDING: After the dough has been rising for about an hour, take it out of the bowl and put it on a lightly floured work surface, pat it out it into a rectangle, and fold it, as if you’re folding a business letter, in thirds, and put back into the bowl.

5. DIVIDING AND SHAPING: The dough can be put into loaf pans or you can make it free-form into a round or oblong shape. Divide the dough into half, and place the dough pieces on a lightly floured work surface. Cover the rounds with plastic and let rest 10 to 20 minutes, until relaxed. Shape into a blunt cylinder just slightly smaller than the loaf pans if you’re using the pans. Otherwise, shape into round or oblong shape.

6. SECOND RISING: Cover loaves with oiled plastic wrap or with cotton or linen towel and let rise for another 1 to 1 1/2 hour.

7. BAKING: Preheat oven to 450. If you have a baking stone, put that in the oven and preheat it too. Put the loaf pans on the preheated stone, or on the oven rack if you’re not using the stone. Lower the temperature to 425 after 20 minutes. Bread baked in the loaf pans will take 30 to 35 minutes to bake. Loaves baked freeform will take about 40 minutes.

Urban Simplicity

Parmesan and Black Pepper Grissini

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Pencil-thin breadsticks…grissini. Beautiful, aren’t they? Easy to make, too. These are coated with Parmesan and black pepper making them even more tasty. But you may be wondering why I am making bread with refined flour (opposed to whole wheat). Well, I do now and again. But the real reason is that I just received this book to review for ChefTalk and this is the first recipe I’ve tried. It is a really good book; I recommend it at this point…I’ll post a link to the review when finished. Anyhow, this recipe is about as easy as they come. Simply place most of the ingredients together in a bowl, knead it, allow it to ferment, cut it into strips, roll it in cheese, and bake them. Now all the recipes in the book are not this easy (in fact most are not), but this is an adaptation of the one in the book (of course I’ll eventually make these with 100% whole wheat). I do hope you try these; they are simple to make and additively delicious.

Parmesan and Black Pepper Grissini

Makes about 5-6 dozen

4 1/3 cups bread flour

1 1/3 cups water

5 tablespoons olive oil

3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 teaspoons salt

1 3/4 teaspoons instant yeast

1/3 cup grated Parmesan, plus extra for dusting

black pepper for dusting


Combine the flour, water, olive oil, butter, salt, yeast, and 1/3 cup of Parmesan in the bowl of an upright mixer fitted with a dough hook. Knead the dough on medium for about 8 minutes, then cover it with plastic wrap and allow it to rise for about an hour. Preheat an oven to 375F. Roll the dough into a thin oblong shape and cut it into thin strips. Dust the work surface with a small amount of Parmesan and black pepper; roll the strips of raw dough the cheese and pepper. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled baking sheet; place them close but not touching. Bake the grissini for about 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Urban Simplicity.

Things That Can be Carried on a Bike (#424)

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A nylon bag containing a computer, a canvas bag containing an extra camera, an electronic reader, two books, a journal, a small tripod, and various writing tools; a dough rising bucket containing a small paper bag which contains a smaller plastic tub of homemade gravy; a round tin resting atop the dough rising bucket containing 4 chive crepes stuffed with beef stroganoff; two loaves of freshly baked oatmeal-flax bread.

Urban Simplicity.

Le Levain

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7/99, as in July 1999…this is my 13-year-old levain (sourdough starter) which I brought out of hibernation. I’ve yet to make 100% whole wheat bread with a natural starter…this is next on my list. After that, naturally leavened whole wheat Ezekiel Bread. I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, if you want to read more about sourdough–with pictures, info, and how-to instructions–click here. For an Ezekiel Bread Recipe, click here.

Urban Simplicity.

Potato Bread with Cheddar, Beer, and Onion (recipe and photos)

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The below recipe is one that I’m working on for an article for an upcoming issue of Artvoice magazine, it’s about cooking with beer. The only liquid in the pictured bread is–you guessed it–beer. The recipe does not contain 100% whole wheat flour as when I write for paid publication I tone it down a bit on the “whole wheat thing“…some but not all I’m sure share the same affinity as I for entirely whole wheat recipes (but this can easily be adapted to using whole wheat with any of the recipes on this blog). If you are interested in more beer-inspired recipes I’ll link the article when it comes out next week. Anyhow, it’s a pretty straightforward recipe and the bread is super delicious. Enjoy.

PotatoBread with Cheddar, Beer, and Onion
Makes two loaves
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
4 cups beer
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 large onion, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon caraway seed
2 tablespoons yeast, divided
3 large eggs
4 cups unbleached bread flour
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Combinethe potato and beer in a small pot, bring it to a boil then lower toa simmer. Cook the potato for about 15 minutes or until very soft,allow to cool to room temperature. Transfer the beer-potato mixtureto a medium bowl and stir in the whole wheat flour, caraway seed, 1tablespoon of the yeast, and 1/2 of the minced onion. Allow thismixture to ferment for at least an hour at room temperature. Transferthis mixture (the pre-ferment) to the bowl of an upright electricmixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the eggs, bread flour, andremaining tablespoon of yeast. Runthe mixer first on low speed, until it gathers the ingredientstogether, then on medium speed; knead the dough for about 6 minutes.Then add the butter and cheese; knead the dough for another 2minutes. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl or rising bucket,cover it and allow the dough to ferment for 60 – 90 minutes. Thengently press the dough down and allow it to ferment another 30minutes. Divide the dough into two pieces and shape it into loaves.Sprinkle the remaining minced onion on the top of the loves and rollthem gently, pressing the onion into the dough, then place them inlightly oiled loaf pans. Preheat an oven to 425F and allow the doughto ferment and rise for about 45 – 60 minutes. Bake the dough forabout 30 minutes. When it is initially placed in the oven spritz theoven with a little water, lacking a sprayer toss a few ice cubes onthe oven floor to create steam. Rotate the loaves after 15 minutesand spray the oven again. The bread is done when it is golden brown,the onions are browned, and sounds hollow when tapped with a finger.Remove it from the oven and their pans and transfer it to a wirecooling rack or clean towel which has been folded to doublethickness. Allow the bread to cool 15 minutes before slicing.

On Being Kneady

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If you’ve been to this blog before you know that I like to bake bread…a lot. And like many bakers over the years I have come to rely on the mechanical means of an electric mixer to do the tough work…knead the dough. Most of my bread recipes, in fact, include a direction something like this “…combine the contents in anupright electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Knead the dough onmedium speed for about 8 minutes…” But this wasn’t always the case; I’ve been baking bread for hobby and profession for something like 25 years…and during the early years I didn’t own a mixer.  In fact, for the few years that I was a restaurant’s owner we (my sous chef and I) baked all of the restaurant’s bread without the aid of a mixer. But over the years I’ve not only come to rely on them–at work and at home–but also enjoy them. But as some of you may also know, I have been sans mixer (at home) for the past month or so (as previously posted here and here). Anyhow, I had the day off today and felt like making bread (and a pizza for dinner out of the same batch of dough), so I kneaded it by hand…and I’m glad I did. When I knead dough by hand I remember things. I remember the basic ingredients that go into a dough because I can feel them in my hands. I remember the miracle we call bread–and the crazy chemistry that happens in bread dough–because I have time to think about it. But mostly I remember how difficult our fore-cooks (especially the homemakers) must have had it–not just with bread, but putting three square meals a day on the table using only there hands and a live fire. I’m glad for electric mixers (and, in fact have a new one on order); I’m glad how efficient they are and that they enable me to do other things while the dough is being kneaded. But I’m also glad when I knead the dough by hand…because it makes me remember what a miraculous thing it is.

WholeWheat Honey-Oatmeal Bread
Makes2 loaves
6cups whole wheat flour, divided
21/4 cups water, divided
1cup oatmeal, plus additional for coating
1cup plain yogurt
2teaspoons kosher salt
1/4cup olive oil
1/4cup honey
3teaspoons instant yeast, divided
Separatethe ingredients in two bowls using this ratio: In one bowl combine 4cups of flour, 1 1/4 cups water, along with all of the yogurt andsalt. Stir it just until combined; cover with plastic wrap and setaside. In a second bowl, combine the remaining 2 cups flour and 1 cupwater with 1 cup oatmeal, the olive oil, honey, and 2 teaspoons ofyeast. Stir it just until combined; cover with plastic wrap and setaside. Allow the bowls to rest for at least an hour, but up to 12.
Addthe remaining teaspoon yeast and the contents of both bowls to anupright electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Knead the dough onmedium speed for about 8 minutes, then cover with plastic wrap andallow to rise for one hour.
Transferthe dough to a work surface, cut it into two pieces, gently shape itinto loaves. Dust the counter with extra oatmeal and roll the loavesin it, gently pressing oatmeal into the surface of the raw dough.Place the loaves into oiled loaf pans, cover with plastic wrap, andallow to rise for 45 minutes. Preheat an oven to 400F.
Bakethe bread for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown and soundshollow when tapped on. Remove the bread from their pans and allow tocool for 10 minutes before slicing.

Two Loaves of Ezekiel Bread, a Spinach Pizza, and a Mechanical Malfunction

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I haven’t posted a recipe for Ezekiel Bread in a while, but it is my favorite bread. The picture of the pizza above and the bread below were both made using the recipe that follows. Interestingly, Ezekiel Bread recipes are still one of the number 1 ways that new visitors find there way to this blog. I’m not sure how these recipes (all variations on a theme) became so popular, but if you Google it you’ll see why this is. Likely, I think people are looking for a recipe that is not complicated, and also one that works. I really believe this is one of the most misunderstood bread recipes there is. If you’d like to read my interpretation of it–with additional pictures and step-by-step instructions–click here. If you want to read why I adjusted the liquid content in the recipe (which is the same recipe included in this page), click here. If you want to see the original post on this recipe–which includes white flour and the most comments any other post on this blog has ever received–click here.

Whole Wheat EzekielBread
Makes 2 or 3 loaves
12cups water
2 tablespoons white beans
2 tablespoons redbeans
2tablespoons spelt berries
2 tablespoons lentils
2tablespoons barley
2 tablespoons millet
2 tablespoonsbulgur wheat
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cooked beans and grains
½cup cooking water
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoonsinstant yeast
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4 cups whole wheatflour

3tablespoons vital wheat gluten
2cups cooking liquid
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1/4cup honey
1/4 cup olive oil
3 teaspoons kosher
3teaspoons instant yeast

Boil the grains in the water inlogical succession according to cooking times: first the white andred beans (about 60 minutes), when they are soft add the, speltberries, lentils, and barley (about 30 minutes); lastly, add themillet and bulgar (about 10 minutes). The key is that after eachaddition the previous grain must be soft enough so that when all ofthe grains are in the pot they will all be equally soft; undercookedgrains (especially the beans) can really ruin this bread. And as thegrains cook add more water to the pot as necessary because thecooking liquid, which is full of nutrients, will become part of therecipe (keeping a lid on the pot will slow it’s evaporation). Afterthe grains are cooked allow them to cool in the liquid to roomtemperature, refrigerating if necessary. After the grains are cooleddrain them, squeezing them with your hands or the back of a spoon,reserving the cooking liquid.

Placetwo bowls side-by-side; one will hold the pre-ferment, the otherautolyse. In one bowl combine the cooked and drained grains with ½cup of the cooking liquid, 2 cups whole wheat flour, and 2 teaspoonsinstant yeast. Stir it just until combined then cover it with plasticwrap. In the other bowl combine 4 cups whole wheat flour, 3tablespoons vital wheat gluten, and 2 cups cooking liquid; stir itjust until combined then cover it with plastic wrap (take care not toget yeast into this bowl). Allow the bowls to rest at roomtemperature for about an hour, during which time the preferment willbegin it’s job multiplying yeast and fermenting flour, and theautolyse will soak liquid, swelling the gluten.
Afteran hour or so, combine the ingredients from both bowls into the bowlof an upright mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the honey, oliveoil, salt, and 3 teaspoons of yeast (add the yeast and salt onopposite sides of the bowl. Knead the dough on medium speed for about8 minutes. Place the dough in a lightly oiled container, cover itloosely, and allow to ferment for 1-2 hours, or until doubled inbulk. Deflate the dough and allow it to ferment an additional 30minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface andcut it into 2 or 3 pieces. Shape into loaves and place into lightlyoiled pans. Loosely cover the loaves with plastic wrap and allow toferment for 30-60 minutes, or until double in size and when gentlytouched with a fingertip an indentation remains.

Bake thebreads for about 30-40 minutes, adding steam to the oven a few times(either with ice cubes or a spray bottle) and rotating the breadsevery ten minutes. The breads are done when they are dark brown andsound hollow when tapped upon. Remove the breads from their pans andallow them to cook on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes beforeslicing.

 
 
And here’s the quick story of a mechanical malfunction. I was about 4 or 5 minutes into kneading the above recipe and was washing dishes when I heard a loud grinding sound coming from my mixer. I look over to see that, while the motor is running and making very loud sounds, the dough hook is not moving. To make a long story short, it broke. I believe it is something with the gears…sounds like one either broke or came off its shaft. I took it over to the local Sears to have it sent out for repair. I could not find a single small business who would repair it locally. It is only two years old but only had a one year warranty and it would have cost me more to have Kitchen Aid ship it than Sears. Whatever…very frustrating. I have no idea how much it will cost to repair, nor do I know when it will return…the confused man in the repair department at sears said possibly 6 weeks (what?). Anyhow, I have to admit that this is a more than frustrating to me…it’s a bit scary. I haven’t been sans upright mixer in many years…you can see its empty spot waiting its return below. Looks like I’ll be going “old school” for a while…mixing by hand. Egads!
  
 

100% Whole Grain Bread (recipe, photos, info)

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As many of you know, I like bread. A lot. I enjoy making it, but more importantly I enjoy eating it…and I do not believe it makes you fat. I could easily be a poster boy for the high-carb diet…I eat bread, pasta, or rice at nearly every meal and am well within my proper body weight. The key, I believe, is whole grains…they are really good for you. I also believe that everyone should make their own bread (at least sometimes)…not only will it nourish your body, but also your emotions; there is something very primal about having your hands in raw dough and transforming ingredients so basic into something so complex. It is, in short, an alchemistic art-form. And breads you purchase–even though they may say “whole grain”–have a lot of other things in it besides the grain. Take a look at this label for “whole grain bread”…a paragraph long list of mostly unpronounceable ingredients is unnecessary.  In truth, to make a really good and wholesome loaf of whole wheat bread you need only these four ingredients. In the recipe pictured here–bedsides the seven-grain mix–I count eight other ingredients…all recognizable and pronounceable. If you don’t have a seven grain mix you can use whatever grain you have (brown rice works great). This is made in the same way that I make Ezekiel Bread, only it’s easier because you can boil the grain all at once (click here or here for Ezekiel Bread recipes). Anyhow, this recipe is way easier to make than it may seem at first look. I hope you try it…both your body and soul will be glad you did. If you’d like to read more about how to bake with whole wheat–it’s similarities and differences with white flour–follow this link.

Urban Simplicity.

Whole Grain Bread
Makes 2 loaves
1 cup (6.6oz/187g) 7-grain mix
3 quarts (96floz/2.83L) water
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fully cooked grains
2/3 cup (5.3 oz/157ml) cookingliquid
2 cups (11oz/312g) whole wheatflour
2 teaspoons (.2oz/5.6g) instantyeast
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4 cups (21oz/595.3g) whole wheatflour
2 tablespoons (.5oz/14g) vitalwheat gluten
1 1/3 cups (10.5fl oz/315ml) cookingliquid
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1/4 cup (2fl oz/59.1ml) honey
1/4 cup (2fl oz/59.1ml) olive oil
3 teaspoons (.3oz/8.5g) instantyeast
3 teaspoons (.5oz/14.1g) koshersalt
Combine the grain and water in a mediumpot and bring to a boil; lower the heat to simmer and cook the ricefor about 45 minutes or until very soft. As the grain cooks add morewater to the pot as necessary because the cooking liquid, which isfull of nutrients, will become part of the recipe. After the grainsare cooked allow them to cool in the liquid to room temperature,refrigerating if necessary. Then drain it, squeezing it with yourhands or the back of a spoon, reserving the cooking liquid.
Place two bowlsside-by-side; one will hold the pre-ferment, the other autolyse. Inone bowl combine the cooked and drained 7-grains with 2/3 cup (5.3oz/157ml) of the cooking liquid, 2 cups (11oz/312g) whole wheatflour, and 2 teaspoons (.2oz/5.6g) instant yeast. Stir just untilcombined then cover it with plastic wrap. In the other bowl combine 4cups (21oz/595.3g) whole wheat flour, 2 tablespoons (.5oz/14g) vitalwheat gluten, and 1 1/3 cups (10.5fl oz/315ml) cooking liquid; stirjust until combined then cover it with plastic wrap (take care not toget yeast into this bowl). Allow the bowls to rest at roomtemperature for about an hour, during which time the preferment willbegin it’s job multiplying yeast and fermenting flour, and theautolyse will soak liquid, swelling the gluten.
After an hour or so, combinethe ingredients from both bowls into the bowl of an upright mixerfitted with a dough hook. Add the honey, olive oil, salt, and 3teaspoons (.3oz/8.5g) of yeast (add the yeast and salt on oppositesides of the bowl). Knead the dough on medium speed for about 8minutes. Place the dough in a lightly oiled container, cover itloosely, and allow to ferment for 1-2 hours, or until doubled inbulk. Deflate the dough and allow it to ferment an additional 30minutes. Turn the dough out onto afloured work surface and cut it into 2 pieces. Shape into loavesand place into lightly oiled pans. Loosely cover the loaves withplastic wrap and allow to ferment for 30-60 minutes, or until doublein size and when gently touched with a fingertip an indentationremains. Preheat an oven to 450f (232.2C). Bake the breads forabout 30-40 minutes, adding steam to the oven a few times (eitherwith ice cubes or a spray bottle) and rotating the breads every tenminutes. The breads are done when they are dark brown and soundhollow when tapped upon. Remove the breads from their pans and allowthem to cook on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes before slicing.

Whole Wheat French Toast with Pineapple Syrup and Caramelized Apple

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This is a simple-to-make hearty and flavorful breakfast, and it also happens to be my son’s favorite (somewhat of a Saturday morning tradition). French toast can be made in any number of ways, but the key to a really good one is great bread and flavorful syrup…of course the syrup can be purchased but it is just as easy to make it at home in about 5 minutes. And to make homemade syrup is as simple as boiling fruit juice (I used pineapple juice toady, but any juice will do) until enough moisture evaporates and it becomes syrupy and the flavors are concentrated…this, after all, is how the maple syrup companies do it, but only on a large scale. Sometimes (often) I’ll “boost” the syrup’s sweetness with a tablespoon of sugar or honey; today I added sugar. While most of us recognize this recipe as French Toast (likely because of the custard the bread is soaked in), if you are a true Francophile you may know this as pain purdu, or “lost bread” because it is a great way to utilize stale–or lost–bread…but trust me, made with really good bread this is anything but lost. To see other versions of this with many more pictures f it being made, click here.

Urban Simplicity.

I Like to Cook at Home

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“Cooking is a great destresser because it serves as a creative outlet,” says Debbie Mandel, author of “Addicted to Stress.” “And while stress can numb your senses, cooking activates them. It’s a sensory experience with aroma, taste, touch, visual delight and even sizzling sound.”

I could easily start and finish this post with it’s title: I Like to Cook at Home. Though I cook all day at work I still like to cook at home; it’s my favorite place. Often the busier the day at work the more I want to cook myself dinner at  home. I don’t eat like I cook on the job–most chefs don’t–otherwise I would be either as big as a house or in the grave. At work I cook tons of red meat and often use cream and lots of butter. At home my meals are based on pasta, olive oil, bread, pizza, and vegetables. On-the-job cooking is often stressful; at home it is relaxing. Cooking at home can be a form of therapy. Most often it is just my son and I, or even just myself. The above picture is tonight’s meal in progress. Chicken ragu in one pot, macaroni boiling in another; broccoli aglio e olio sauteing in the foreground, and a seven grain mixture boiling in the rear (which I’ll make into seven grain bread in the morning). At work I never allow a radio or stereo playing (there’s enough white noise in a stressful kitchen), but at home I always listen to music or NPR; tonight I was listening to Fred Eaglesmith. I can’t image not wanting to have the desire to cook for myself; I feel blessed. People ask me all the time if I don’t get tired of cooking. No is always the answer. But if I were to elaborate I would say that while I still enjoy and feel lucky enough to cook for a living–no matter how stressful–my most favorite place to cook is at home, and sometimes just for myself.

I don’t have a typed recipe for tonight’s meal to offer, but this one–which contains fish and is one of my all-time favorite pasta dishes–is really good and similar to the chicken version we had tonight. If you’d like to read an article I wrote for Artvoice a few years ago on these very same thoughts, click here.

Urban Simplicity.