Monday, November 24, 2008

'Cheating' Method Of Sourdough French Bread

I have made a lot of sourdough bread, and it is common for me to have a starter going in my kitchen. However, I always wondered if many stores and bakeries cheat and make their sourdough without a traditional starter. This would involve less time and effort, and thus be less costly. Also, many store-bought sourdoughs have a much more tart aroma and taste to them, which leads me to believe they were 'cheating'. I thought I would try my hand at this cheating and see if it would work for me also. This is what I tried, it turned out great!

Sourdough French Bread (Easy method, no starter)

4-5 cups bread flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt
2 pkgs. dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1 cup sour cream or plain full fat yogurt (I used my homemade sour cream, see post dated 10/22
2 Tbsp. vinegar
1 egg white
1 Tbsp. water

First, mix a package of yeast with the cup of warm water (100-110 degrees), then add a Tablespoon of sugar and stir gently. Allow the yeast to rise for about 15 minutes. It will really grow a head on it so be sure to place in a container that will contain it. I use a very large coffee mug that I have pre-warmed, a cool cup will cool the water down too much.

Combine 1-1/2 cups flour and remaining dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add water, sour cream or yogurt, and vinegar and beat well. Stir in additional 2 to 2-1/2 cups flour until dough forms.

On floured surface, knead in 1/2 to 1 cup more flour until the bread dough is smooth and elastic. I usually knead it about 100 cycles. Place dough in greased bowl, turning dough over once to grease top. Cover and let rise for 45-60 minutes.

Grease large cookie sheet. Punch down dough and cover with an overturned bowl on the counter for 15 minutes. Divide the dough in half. Roll each half to about a 14x8" rectangle. Starting with long side, roll dough up tightly and pinch edges firmly to seal. Place seam side down on prepared cookie sheet. Cover and let rise in warm place until doubled, about 15 minutes.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Bake bread for 25 minutes. Beat egg white and water in small bowl until frothy. Brush over partially baked bread. Return to oven and bake an additional 5 to 10 minutes until bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped. Immediately remove from cookie sheet and cool on wire rack.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sick Puppy

I've been taking a break from my blog, I've been a sick puppy. Pneumonia has been kicking my butt for at least 2 weeks and there isn't any light at the end of the tunnel. I have all sorts of subject ideas to write about and hopefully I can start writing again soon. It will all depend on how I feel, and it will be a day to day process. I hope to return soon, bye! - Marty

Monday, November 10, 2008

Homemade Yogurt Cheese

I got another wild, random idea today, which can be a bit scary for the people around me. I've been bored silly lately, laying on the couch. Today was Day Eleven of being sick. The doctor told me this morning that I have pneumonia and started me on some antibiotics. I can't get off the couch for long periods of time, so my idea could not involve anything strenuous nor time-consuming.

I had been reading some materials regarding home cheese making, and kept seeing references to making yogurt cheese. Apparently it is so easy to make it is almost criminal. The idea is to drain the whey from the solid part of a container of yogurt. I used 5 squares of cheesecloth that were about 3 feet square each (this ended up being much larger than I needed.) I used this many layers of cheesecloth because, ironically, I learned while reading about cheese making that cheesecloth is almost worthless in actually making cheese. The holes are too big for many cheeses. Some normal materials are much better for this kind of work.

I had a 32 oz. container of Dannon Plain Yogurt and poured it into the middle of this square. Then I tied a string tightly just above the top of the yogurt, and left a couple of feet to use for hanging it in my kitchen. Placed below the bag of yogurt was a bowl to catch the liquid. It hung for about 7 hours and I squeezed it slightly by hand before opening the cloth.

The final product looked like cream cheese, maybe slightly more solid. I'm sure that if you vary the draining time you can vary the final consistency. The final yield was probably 30-40% of the original 32 ounces. By itself it tasted fine, but was uneventful. I read a few recipes on the net and decided to add some salt, pepper, garlic and onion. This time I just used powdered onion and garlic but I will probably use fresh items next time. I also added finely chopped chives and parsley, mostly for color.

I can't taste much at all since I have been sick, so I had the boys taste-test it for me. They both liked it; my son Tyler said that it reminded him of French Onion Dip. However this is a bit thicker than standard sour cream dip. It is also a lot healthier than a dip made of sour cream. Next I will have to try it on some good crackers, bagels, or anything else I can think of eating it with, and will vary what spices I add to it.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

What do I do with all these leaves?

I started using the fallen leaves in my yard to my advantage some years ago. This is the easiest way I have ever used to get rid of my leaves, and they all go into the garden soil.
Using a mulching mower, I put the side guard down in the mulching position, where there is no discharge out the side. First I mow over the leaves, sometimes a couple of times depending on how many leaves I have. This will reduce a lot of leaves down to almost nothing. Next I put the bag attachment on to my mower and start going over the leaves again to collect them off the ground.
If the weather is conducive to tilling I will dump the leaves right into the garden and till them in. If it is too wet or cold to till, then dump them into your compost pile or make a pile on the garden. The first chance you get to do any tilling the following spring, till them all in to the soil.
This stuff is like gold in the garden. Many times you will see me going well into the neighbor’s yards to get their leaves up. However, I haven’t heard any complaints from them yet.

Home grown horseradish

It's the time of year to dig my horseradish. You can dig it any time after mid-summer but after the first frost is best. I have dug it as late as December, but forget it if the ground is frozen.
My plants were here when I moved here 12 years ago and haven't stopped coming back every year. Every year I dig up every root I can find and it still pops up every spring. Some growing directions state to keep a few of the roots aside to plant for next year's crop. I have never needed to do this.
First I cut the leaves down to about an inch, if that, off the ground. After digging up the roots as deep as I can get them (I never get the whole root, some are very long!) I lay them out in the yard and spray them hard with a hose, with the sprayer on 'jet' setting. You could do this inside in a sink instead, but this is easier and not nearly as messy.
Next using a 'tater peeler' I take off all of the outside layers until the remaining root is very white. For roots thicker than 1/2 inch, cut them lengthwise until they are about 1/2 inch across. Then cut crossways into about 1/2 inch slices.

The next part involves chopping the pieces in a food processor. Do this OUTSIDE, preferably with a breeze blowing, no kidding. I run an extension cord out to my porch for the processor. Grinding horseradish makes working with hot peppers look like kindergarten, it's right up there with chemical warfare.

Put an inch or two, at most, into the food processor. Having a second processor here is helpful, because the tougher pieces can scratch the plastic bowl of your processor. Keeping the processor at least at arm's length, grind the pieces down until they look like fine sawdust, or like the horseradish you see in the store. This might take 5 minutes or more, depending on the toughness of your roots. CAREFULLY remove the top of the processor and mix in about a teaspoon of salt. Pour white vinegar into the horseradish, just barely covering it. Spoon into jars or small freezer containers. If you are planning on freezing any of the jars/containers, leave about 10% of the room in the jar for expansion.
In the refrigerator it should remain pungent for a month or two. In the freezer it will remain pungent for a longer time, how long I don't know because it doesn't usually last that long in my house. The best way to keep fresh horseradish is to only dig enough to make one batch, but I like to get it all done at once.
This will light up your sandwiches, roasts, and corned beef. It's also good to add to home-canned pickle and/or pepper recipes.