Thursday, January 31, 2013

Chocolate Bread--Beta Testing Continues

One of my chocolate bread beta testers has been waiting quite impatiently for the next round of testing. I was finally able to make that happen today!

This time I only made the 100% whole-wheat (white wheat) version. And, since I knew there was a demand for it, I used all of the dough for chocolate bread.

I melted the chocolate and spread it on the dough before rolling it up. I like the way it looks lots better this time.

I recommend waiting to slice the bread until it is completely cool. It slices cleanly and it tastes better.

Speaking of taste, it was a hit with all testers. In fact, the 17 month old tester kept asking for bread all day long!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Chocolate Bread--Beta Testing

I decided to bake chocolate bread for Valentine's Day. I had never eaten chocolate bread, but I had eaten chocolate croissants, which are heavenly. Maybe next year I'll be ready to make chocolate croissants.

I envisioned chocolate bread as similar to cinnamon bread. Except chocolate, not cinnamon. I read many recipes and came up with this:

I used my roll dough and Nestle's semi-sweet chocolate chips. I made two half-batches. One was 1/4 soft white whole-wheat flour and 3/4 all-purpose flour. The other was 1/4 soft white whole-wheat flour and 3/4 hard white whole-wheat flour. With each, I made three little loaves of chocolate bread and one large loaf of cinnamon bread.

Pictured above: on the left is the 100% whole-wheat bread; on the right is the mostly-white bread.

All testers, ages 17 months to adult, loved both kinds. The adults agreed that there was (gasp!) too much chocolate. In my next attempt, I plan to melt the chocolate and spread it on the dough before rolling it up.

One of the beta testers took the whole-wheat cinnamon bread home.

Further testing of this batch will occur after dinner tonight!

First Love

Last night, for the first time in a long, long time, I made toast with my regular whole wheat bread and topped it with butter and honey. I loved it all over again!

That was how I first fell in love with whole wheat bread--the homemade kind, using freshly-ground whole wheat flour. That's what I tasted as a teenager when I visited my older sister. The rhythm of life in her home included grinding wheat, baking bread, and eating buttered whole wheat toast topped with honey.

It's just one of those perfect flavor combinations.

It's nice that this bread is nutritious. But that is beside the point.

This is whole grain happiness!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Whole-Wheat Maple-Walnut Oatmeal Bread, aka Delicious Bread

It's cold today! It's been in the single digits all day. I didn't ride with Pedal to Possibilities today because of the cold--I need better gloves and socks. But I do need to go grocery shopping. So I've been shoveling my walk and driveway and cleaning the snow off of my car bit-by-bit. I can only take about 10 minutes and then my fingers start freezing.

I just walked back in the house, greeted by the scent of baking bread! Maple-Walnut Oatmeal Bread, made with white whole-wheat flour. It smells very promising!

As soon as the bread came out of the oven, I had to run some errands. When I returned, it was completely cool--and ready to try!

There is a reason maple and walnut are paired together so often That pairing works quite deliciously here!

The recipe is the same as Maple Oatmeal Bread, except, like Whole Wheat Maple Oatmeal Bread, the flour is freshly-ground white wheat. And, of course, it contains walnuts.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Baking Brady Bread

Baking bread is fun.

Baking bread with other people is more fun.

Baking bread with the people at Brady Bread Bakery is very fun.

Under Bob's watchful eye, the sponge, dry ingredients, and oil are all mixing together in this awesome mixer. That's enough dough for 30 pounds of bread!

The dough from the mixer is divided into two tubs for rising. This is just after this tub of dough was punched down.

Bob starts to scale the dough and Marilyn gets the pans ready. I didn't get a picture of all of us forming the loaves, because everyone works as quickly as possible to minimize the time between the first and last loaves so the rising time is pretty much the same.

Tony covers the formed loaves--two sets of four pans linked together placed on a tray--and sets them in the proofer.

While waiting for the bread dough to rise, we have time to do such tasks as put labels on the plastic bread bags. There's always time to sit and chat as well!

Marilyn keeps a close eye on the oven thermometer to keep a steady temperature. This oven has several racks that rotate while baking. It can hold more than our batch of 30 loaves!

Marilyn and Andrew watch the bread closely during the last few minutes of baking to determine when it is ready to come out. There are two of those great ovens side-by-side! I wouldn't mind having one like them.

Thirty beautiful loaves of bread cool on the racks! Note all of the bread pans below.

After forming the 30 one-pound loaves, there's always a small amount of dough left--perfect for trying out something new. Tony is tasting Bob's creation. He filled the center of the dough with chopped fresh garlic and onion before baking it. It was sensational!

A successful morning of baking! Not only did we produce thirty loaves of beautiful and delicious bread, but we all had an enjoyable time.

The proceeds from the bread sales fund some important projects: Jail Ministry, Brady Faith Center, and Pedal to Possibilities.

Monday, January 21, 2013

I Don't Think So

It seemed like a good idea. So I tried it.

It looked good. It smelled wonderful. It tasted fine.

But I don't think so.

Whole-Wheat Maple Oatmeal Bread with cinnamon and raisins.

But the cinnamon and raisins overpower the maple and oatmeal. Especially the maple.

On the other hand, this encourages me to try making my "regular" Cinnamon-Raisin Bread with 100% white whole-wheat flour!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Blueberry Muffins--Updated

I volunteered to bake a dozen blueberry muffins for an upcoming meeting.

Since I don't have a blueberry muffin recipe that I'm very enthusiastic about, I thought I would look around for one. I bought lemons when I went shopping because I definitely wanted to find a recipe that included lemon. I was also hoping for a whole-grain recipe.

I got lucky! The first place I looked, I found what turned out to be a great recipe. Thank you, King Arthur Flour recipes. Here is the recipe I found.

My tweaks:
  • I used flour that I ground from hard white wheat.
  • You'll notice that this recipe does not have any lemon in it. Otherwise, it looked so good that I checked the reviews. Some people had used lemon zest and reduced or left out the almond extract. So I left out the almond extract and added the zest of one lemon.
  • I used frozen blueberries for two reasons. For one thing, I already had some. Also, they are the small kind, from Maine, so you end up with the blueberry-goodness distributed more evenly throughout each muffin. The only bad part is that frozen blueberries tend to leave blue streaks in the muffins.
  • Another day I may write about the issues related to buying fresh blueberries in the middle of winter in a northern climate.
  • I didn't put a topping on because I didn't want to add any sugar. I think these muffins are already plenty sweet. They are muffins, not cupcakes, after all. In particular, I didn't want to use their suggested cinnamon-sugar topping because I don't think lemon and cinnamon mix very well. Another time I would like to try sprinkling some chopped or slivered almonds on top, but I didn't have any today. (I only buy almonds if I plan to use them for something specific because I love them way. too. much!)
  • I followed their directions for mixing the ingredients together. But next time I think I will add the wet ingredients to the creamed mixture, and then add the dry ingredients, followed by stirring in the blueberries. Their order seemed counterintuitive to me, since you want to mix the flour as little as possible. I'll update this if I find I'm wrong. Update: My way of mixing--dry ingredients after wet ingredients--was easier and worked beautifully.

The muffins smelled divine while they were baking.

The texture was very delicate. The taste was heavenly. No butter needed.

These muffins combine great taste and texture with 100% fresh whole-grain goodness.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Whole Wheat Maple Oatmeal Bread

This is good-tasting bread! The maple and the oats are prominent and yet complemented by the whole wheat.

I hope other people like this bread, because I want to keep making it. It gives me satisfaction to bake bread and rolls for people. It gives me great satisfaction to bake whole-grain bread and rolls for people!

This is the same as the Maple Oatmeal Bread. Except the flour is all whole wheat, freshly-ground, of course. A quarter of the flour is from soft white wheat. The rest of the flour is from hard white wheat.

Happy Oatmeal Month!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Hot Cocoa

Okay, so there are no grains in hot cocoa. I have no justification for posting this here, other than I dare not write a chocolate blog, and, while, as a rule, I don't want to stray from the focus of this blog, I will from time to time.

This is one of those times.

I love cocoa. It's one of my major sources of milk, so I drink it nearly every day. Winter, summer, spring, autumn; cold or hot--it doesn't matter--I drink my cocoa.

I don't drink any of the store-bought cocoa mixes. To me, they all--even the "really good" ones--have a funny aftertaste. Also, it's impossible to know how much milk--if any--is in a serving. And the ingredients lists are always too long and complicated.

I make my own cocoa mix. The ingredient list is really short. I know how much milk is in it. I like its aftertaste.

You probably won't like it. That's okay. I share it to show how easy it is to make your own.

Here's a typical cocoa recipe:
Ghirardelli Hot Chocolate (from the Ghirardelli Unsweetened Cocoa container)
 1-1/2 T. Ghirardelli Unsweetened Cocoa
1-1/2 T. sugar
1 C milk
Stove top: Mix cocoa and sugar and set aside. Pour milk into a small pan. Add cocoa mixture and stir. Heat, while stirring, until steaming.
Microwave: Mix cocoa and sugar and set aside. Pour milk into a mug or cup and heat on high for 1 to 1-1/2 minutes. Remove from microwave and stir in cocoa mixture.
Go here for another typical cocoa recipe.

Here's my cocoa recipe:
Kathy's Hot Cocoa
3 T. Ghirardelli Unsweetened Cocoa
1 T. (scant) Splenda
1/3 C instant nonfat dry milk
1-1/4 C water
Mix cocoa, Splenda, and dry milk in a mug and set aside. Heat water in a microwave oven until hot but not boiling or even simmering--150ish degrees. Pour hot water into the mug containing the cocoa mixture; do not overfill. Stir well, using a small whisk or spoon. Add the rest of the hot water and stir.
  • Why Ghirardelli Unsweetened Cocoa? To me, it tastes a lot better than cheaper brands, even Nestle's and Hershey's. I'm afraid to try Scharffen Berger Unsweetened Cocoa, lest it spoils me for Ghirardelli.
  • One of the reasons I think you will not like my recipe is because I use so much cocoa compared to sweetener. If you develop your own hot cocoa recipe, you can determine what ratio suits you.
  • In moderation, dark chocolate has health benefits: “... recent research about the health benefits of chocolate may persuade you to explore the world of chocolate a little more. The findings suggest that the consumption of chocolate may help prevent high blood pressure, improve heart health, and provide a bounty of antioxidants. … a 2005 USDA study found that unsweetened cocoa powder contained the highest concentration of beneficial compounds of all chocolate products. ... Natural cocoa powder [not “Dutch processed” or “alkalized”] provides the most benefits.” (See "Be Choosy About Chocolate" at Spark People.)
  • And, by definition, cocoa has very little fat content.
  • Until given a better sweetener choice, I'll use Splenda. In general, I'm not a fan of artificial sweeteners. I'm somewhat conflicted about using it in this recipe.
  • Why dry milk? Early on, I tried making hot cocoa using different kinds of milk and even adding cream. Now, while I've weaned myself to nonfat milk, I still love whole milk and cream. But, surprisingly,  I didn't think cream or milk with fat added to the flavor of hot cocoa. Maybe because I love the flavor of cocoa so much. Since I don't really like nonfat milk, I rarely drink it or use it other than in cooking. So I use dry milk. Instant dry milk actually costs more than fresh milk--presently about $3.50 per gallon reconstituted for the Carnation dry milk that I buy at BJ's compared to about $1.95 fresh--but I found myself throwing away lots of expired fresh milk. I don't find any difference in the flavor of fresh or dry when cooking with it. Although I can taste it in the hot cocoa--another reason why you may not like my recipe--I actually like it.
  • I don't know why, but I find that hot cocoa tastes better made with water that is hot but not too hot.
  • I resist the urge to add flavorings to my hot cocoa. I want to keep it simple and straightforward.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Brady Bread Bakery

Yesterday I baked bread with five other people at Brady Bread Bakery. The bread we baked was for people from local Catholic parishes and LeMoyne College who have bread subscriptions. The proceeds help support Jail Ministry, the Brady Faith Center and Pedal to Possibilities.

We baked 45 loaves of bread. See pictures here. It was a lot of fun. They bake on Tuesdays and Fridays. I will join them every Tuesday that I can.

This morning I joined the ride at Pedal to Possibilities. We rode a pleasant eight miles, starting and ending at the Brady Faith Center. Those of us who could stay for awhile shared some delicious, freshly-made split pea soup and Brady Bread bread. They ride Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings at 8:45. I plan to join them every Monday or Wednesday that I can.

The immense good that has already happened through Pedal to Possibilities and Brady Bread is due to Andrew Lunetta, a pretty amazing 23 year old!

Home Baking

I'm all for it!

Awhile back I was in a conversation that turned to baking. My friend extolled my baking and deferred to my expertise because I bake "professionally." I reminded her of the absolutely delicious loaf of raisin-cinnamon bread that she baked and gave me at Christmastime, that she was indeed a baker.

I bake a lot and people do buy my baked goods. That doesn't necessarily make me a better baker than anyone else, just a more prolific one. And maybe a more interested one.

I think anyone who wants to can bake. And if they want to, I encourage them to do so. I think we need lots more home baking and home cooking and lots less processed, mass-produced food.

I write this blog in part to encourage others to bake--to share what I know and learn about baking, present ideas, and to give information about baking.

I encourage you to bake. Whether you bake once in a while or regularly, I think it enriches your health and your life.

When you bake something yourself, you know what's in it. You can make something that is (or should be) inherently healthful, like bread, more healthful. Even if you are baking white bread, you can use fresh, high-quality ingredients in appropriate proportions (lower on the salt, sugar, and fat) and no preservatives. And if you want to bake whole-grain bread, I'm your cheerleader! Even if you bake something that's not so healthful, like brownies, you can still use fresh, high-quality ingredients, no preservatives, and you may even find you prefer them with whole-grain flour. I do!

When you bake something yourself, it is fresh. You get to enjoy it at its peak of deliciousness. Not to mention you get to enjoy the lovely scent of whatever you're baking.

There is a sense of satisfaction, even accomplishment, when you bake something yourself. I don't know if baking skills will ever be necessary for your survival, but when you can bake, your world is a little better for it

My dinner: Buffalo-chicken pizza with broccoli, peppers and onions, on a whole-wheat tortilla crust.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Maple Oatmeal Bread--Updated

Update 1/12/ 2013: While this bread was delicious, I didn't find it amazing. But after getting some requests for me to bake it, I baked and tasted it again--after it was completely cooled. Then I could really taste the sweetness and the flavor of the maple syrup--and it was amazing!

I was attracted to this oatmeal bread recipe because of the maple syrup in it. Besides it being delicious, I live in maple syrup country. So it's always nice to be able to use it in my baking, as well as on my pancakes and waffles.

Maple Oatmeal Bread
2 1/2 cups boiling water
1 cup rolled oats
1 package (2¼ tsp.) dry yeast
3/4 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon oil
5 cups flour
Put the oats into a bowl. Pour the boiling water over the oats and set aside for an hour.
Mix the yeast, syrup, salt, and oil into the oats. Mix in 3 cups of the flour. Cover the bowl and let rise for an hour.
Add more flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough is the correct consistency. Knead for 10 minutes. Cut the dough into two pieces, then shape it into loaves and place in greased loaf pans. Cover and let rise another 45 minutes.
Bake at 350 for 40 - 50 minutes.
I changed the recipe a little. Since it didn't specify the type of flour, I presumed all-purpose flour. After kneading the dough, I put it in an oiled bowl, covered it, and let it raise until almost double. Then I formed the loaves. It just didn't "feel" right to not let it raise after kneading and before forming the loaves. Sometime I'll try it that way and see what the difference is.

I didn't have time to make a whole wheat version of this today, so I want to try that really soon.

Right now it is baking. I can smell the maple syrup!

And here is the baked bread! Now I have to wait for it to cool enough that I can slice it and taste it.
The crust is surprisingly, well, crusty. Like this might work well baked on a baking sheet and steaming it for the first few minutes in the oven to create an even crunchier crust. The bread is moist, dense, and coarse. You can really taste the sweetness of the maple syrup. All in all, it's delicious!