Multigrain Sourdough Loaf

I am so excited to share this recipe with you! As I mentioned in a previous post, sourdough is a new kind of monster for me, so I didn’t want to post a recipe until I had experimented and felt like I had a handle on it.

Well…it is so fun! Alex and I have had a blast caring for our little sourdough starter baby, trying new recipes (sourdough pancakes anyone??), and of course…eating our homemade bread. I highly recommend it…BUT it does take some effort to get your starter up and running. In my post about starting a sourdough experiment, I included some links to articles I found helpful when researching how to make a sourdough starter and I also added some tips that I learned through trial and error.

Once you have your starter…here’s an awesome recipe that I just made and fell in love with. It has the taste of sourdough, but the nuttiness of hearty multigrain bread!

Multigrain Sourdough Loaf

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup sourdough starter (levain)
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 3.5 cups white flour + more for dusting
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup rye flour
  • 1/2 cup spelt flour
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 T salt
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1 T flax seeds
  • 1 T rolled oats
  • 1 T sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 – 2 T pepitas

Directions

  1. Day before: Activate your starter! Get it out of the fridge and feed it (discard all but 1/2 cup of it, then add 1 scant cup flour and 1/2 cup water. stir and leave on counter covered lightly but not air tight). Feeding it the day before will get it active!
  2. Night before: Approx 12 hours after feeding it, take 1 tablespoon of your active starter and mix it with 1/2 cup flour and 1/3 cup water. Leave it overnight to feed and get really active! This will yield approx 2/3 cup starter! You can also just measure out 2/3 cup of starter 12 hours after feeding it but I have had better results with the 1 Tablespoon, 1/2 cup flour and 1/3 cup water mixture. (Put the rest of your starter back in fridge until you want to use it again.)
  3. Mix your active starter in with 2 cups of warm water. Use your hands to ensure it is dissolving in there.
  4. Add the olive oil and rye, spelt, whole wheat and white flour to the water mixture. Total amount of flour is 5.5 cups (you can switch up the amounts but the majority should be white in order for it to have a high enough gluten content to hold together and make a good textured loaf!). Use your hands to mix it together – stop once it is fully incorporated.
  5. Cover with plastic wrap and leave for at least 30 minutes for the dough to rest and absorb the moisture (called the autolypse).
  6. Add the 1 T of salt and sugar and knead into the dough by folding it in. If you need, add a little bit of water to help dissolve the salt and sugar. Mix until you no longer feel grains underneath your hands!
  7. Fold in the oats, flax, sesame and sunflower seeds – no need to knead the bread a lot, just get them in there.
  8. Cover with plastic wrap and leave 4-6 hours in a warm spot so it can rise. Keep an eye on the bread and every once in awhile you can give it a few folds by pulling the dough over itself from top to bottom, rotating the bowl so you do it four times on each side of the dough. This helps get air into it to form the nice bubbles you want!

    img_0115

    Dough after folds!

  9. Tip: If your kitchen is really cold, I sometimes turn my oven on WARM just for 5 minutes then turn off the heat and pop the bowl in there. If it feels TOO hot, let it cool down for a second before popping the bowl in. It is just nice to make it nicer than room temperature to help the yeast do it’s job and make the dough rise.
  10. Coat outside of the dough with pepitas and lightly flour it! After 4-6 hours and the dough has risen (maybe doubled in size), scrape the dough out of the bowl and roll it in pepitas (or sprinkle them on top of it), pressing them gently into the dough so they stick. Place the pepita covered dough on a lightly floured work surface. Fold the dough again by pulling the dough over on itself, rotating the bowl so you do it 4 times in each direction. The loose bits should be facing up, while the side on the counter is smooth and coated in flour.
  11. Shape the dough into a round shape by rotating it on a nonfloured work surface. Pinch the loose bits together and then carefully pick up the dough and flip it so the loose bits are down – place it on a non-floured area of the counter. Gently cup the dough with your hands and rotate it multiple times on the counter. It needs to be an un-floured area so the surface tension helps the dough stick to itself and form a tight ball.
  12. Line a bowl with a lightly floured kitchen towel and place dough in it (bottom up) for a second rise. Let it rise 30-40 minutes while you preheat the oven!
  13. Preheat oven to 450 degrees and place your dutch oven inside it so it heats up.

    IMG_9754

    ❤ my dutch oven!

  14. When you are ready to bake, carefully tip your dough out of the bowl and into the hot dutch oven. Heating up the dutch oven ensures your bread won’t stick. If you don’t want to heat your dutch oven, you can put corn meal in the bottom – that has also worked for me!
  15. Use a sharp knife to score the bread. Simple is once down the middle or a cross on top. I’m still not an expert at scoring, I’m excited to try fun shapes. The important part is that you cut it enough that the dough can open up. Creating this weak spot for your bread to expand will ensure your bread doesn’t crack in other places!
  16. Bake covered in dutch oven at 450 degrees for 20 minutes. 
  17. Reduce temperature to 425 degrees and bake for another 10 minutes covered. 
  18. Uncover the bread and allow it to bake another 20 minutes at 425. Keep an eye on it – the crust should get golden brown, almost to the point where you think it’ll burn – this helps it develop a nutty flavor and delicious texture inside.
  19. Remove from oven and allow to fully cool on a wire rack before you cut into it!
  20. Store in an airtight plastic bag! Enjoy 🙂
Advertisements

Banana Oat Chia Muffins

Long weekend means a road trip up the California coast to spend time with friends on the cliffs of Cambria. We’re taking off early so I wanted a breakfast snacky I could bring on the road and share around. Since I had some forgotten bananas looking lonely on the counter and I didn’t want to leave them to rot over the weekend, I decided a tasty and hearty banana muffin was the way to go!

Whether you’re heading out of town or staying in to enjoy the long weekend at home, these muffins are a perfect breakfast or midday treat. 🙂

Banana Oat Chia Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup coconut oil (melted)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 tbsp plain greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325.
  2. Mix the coconut oil, brown sugar, and maple syrup in a large bowl. Add the mashed bananas and mix. Whisk in the eggs and almond milk – it is best if they’re not super cold because the coconut oil will clump up and harden. Add vanilla, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Stir in the whole wheat flour, rolled oats, greek yogurt and chia seeds until just combined.
  3. Grease a muffin tin with coconut oil or cooking spray – they can get stuck so make sure you oil it well OR you could use the little muffin tin liners.
  4. Evenly distribute the batter into 12 cups. Mine were filled almost to the top. I sprinkled with some extra oats so they didn’t look naked! 😉
  5. Pop into the oven for 25 minutes. Set the tin to cool on a wire rack or in a cooler area of the kitchen. After 30 minutes or so, use a knife to gently pop out the muffins, scraping around the edges if necessary!
  6. Let cool completely and then store in an airtight container for maximum freshness and deliciousness!

Enjoy your long weekend!

IMG_9806IMG_9803

Starting a sourdough experiment

As a kid, our annual trips West to see grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins were a special time of year. To me, California was an incredible place.

Bakersfield was a wonderland (ha!) where my Grandpa Gordon took me on rides in golf carts and I would spend all day playing in the pool with my cousins.Los Angeles was home to my Grandma Betty and her fantastical paradise of a garden where I learned about the natural world. From the squash she grew herself to the box turtle who lived in a corner of her backyard farm to the baby bird we saved (temporarily) and fed with an eye dropper…it was a miraculous place filled with discovery where anything and everything was a science experiment. And Cambria, where my Grandma Barbara had (still has) a magical beach house on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific was the world of….sourdough bread.

When I wasn’t busy creating pulley systems out of strawberry baskets and string with my brother to transport our stuffed animals from the entry way to the loft two floors up, I was begging my grandma to let me eat a piece of sourdough toast even though it was in between meals. I loved the tang, I loved the airy bubbles that soaked up the butter, and I loved that it was special because I only ate San Luis Sourdough when I was in Cambria (40 miles North of its origin).

To be clear, I’m not sure why we didn’t eat sourdough when we were at home in Arlington, Virginia. I am sure they had it. Hell, maybe my dad even had it in the house and I didn’t even know. But whenever we were on the Central California Coast, it was all I wanted.

Fast forward 15 years and I now am lucky to call California my home. While my sourdough consumption is no longer limited to one time a year, it still has a special place in my heart and every time I bite into a perfectly buttered piece of toast, I think of those summertime visits.

When I began baking bread last year, I knew that sourdough was something we were going to have to try! Especially once we started experimenting with kombucha and reading about fermentation and yeast – I knew it was the next project.

Starting a sourdough experiment

So now we’ve done it! We have made sourdough bread with a homemade sourdough starter. There’s a lot to read about sourdough – it is quite overwhelming actually. It was pretty intimidating reading all of the articles using lingo I didn’t understand and and the recipes that only make sense if you have a kitchen scale to weigh ingredients. But I struggled through it and gathered information and in the end realized that while it takes precision to make really good bread consistently, sourdough is also quite resilient and we have yet to completely mess it up…

Instead of writing my own complete beginner’s guide to sourdough – I’m attaching some links I found helpful. Once I perfect a recipe, I’ll post it, but for now I’m still experimenting and every loaf turns out a little different!

 

Recommended Literature

Sourdough Starter from King Arthur Flour – clear and easy to follow (not intimidating) directions on how to make a sourdough starter. King Arthur Flour also has a lot of recipes that are not as intimidating as the sourdough aficcionado bloggers, but I found that other recipes were more interesting and yielded better tasting bread.

How to Make Sourdough Bread from Kitchn– complete with definitions of terms (starter, leaven, autolypse, bulk fermentation, proofing, etc.), suggestions for kitchen materials you should get, a recipe including weight but also cups/tsp if you don’t have a kitchen scale, pictures of all the steps, and gentle encouragement not to get intimidated!

Tips

Sourdough Starter

  • Don’t freak out It’s hard to mess up your Sourdough Starter. We found it difficult to keep a perfectly timed schedule of feeding it, and it hasn’t died yet…It’s quite resilient!
  • We use mostly all purpose unbleached flour, but sometimes mix in half whole wheat.
  • Feeding it can be a hassle but you get used to it – our routine is to measure out about 1/2 cup to keep into a measuring cup. We throw the rest away (wasteful but necessary so you don’t drown in starter that grows exponentially) and scrape out the container. Then pour the 1/2 cup back into the container, add the fresh flour (scant 1 cup) and water (scant 1/2 cup) to feed it with and mix it up with a silicone spatula!
  • If you keep your starter in a mason jar, it’s fun to put a rubber band to mark the top of the freshly fed starter because then you can see how much it rises!

Recipes & Tracking

  • Try different recipes and keep a detailed written log of exactly what you do so you can track what works and what doesn’t. At first I was just kind of trying my best to stick to recipes (not my strong suit) and crossing my fingers that it worked but now I try to write down exactly what I did so that I can replicate if it turns out amazing!IMG_9367
  • Recipes that have a high proportion of water to flour yield a wetter dough (like the Kitchn recipe above). I find that it is harder to work with and way more frustrating because it gets stuck to your hands and is harder to shape…BUT it yields delicious bread with yummy crust. I’ve had great results with it when I put it in a loaf pan but have had trouble with high hydration dough when trying to bake a boule in the dutch oven.
  • Every kitchen environment and oven is different so your bread might need more time to rise or less time to bake than someone else’s. Be patient – it is so fun to watch your bread rise. I always get so proud when I watch it growing over time! AH amazing! 🙂

 

Baking Tools

  • Buy a cast iron dutch oven! It is so amazing to bake in! Mine is from Lodge and is 6qt. I dust the bottom with corn meal before tipping my bread into it and popping it into the oven. IMG_9754
  • I have yet to buy a proofing  basket – I use a mixing bowl lined with a kitchen towel and dusted with flour. I want to buy a proofing basket soon, I’ve just been lazy.
  • I bought a scale now ($25 at target) but I had fine results just measuring my flour in cups, so don’t be deterred by that. You can easily find conversion measurements online!

As we continue finding recipes and tips that we like, I’ll post more about our sourdough journey. 🙂 As always, my hope is simply to inspire you to experiment and have fun with your food. Cheers!

Dal, Saag “Paneer”, Raita & Naan

As you know well by now, Alex and I like making different cuisines in our kitchen. Sometimes we try to make it as authentic as possible and sometimes we try to incorporate different ingredients for the sake of experimentation or for using up what we have in the fridge. I think it is important to give yourself flexibility and room to breathe – do not hold yourself to such high standards that you are scared to try cooking the food of other cultures. Having said that, Alex and I are very aware that when we are preparing food from cultures other than our own, we will never be experts and our food will never be authentic. So when we made this feast, we were very conscious of the fact that it is simply Indian-inspired. We did not have all the traditional ingredients, so we have simplified the spices. I hope that makes these recipes accessible to you and that you are encouraged to try making these dishes.

When we go to our favorite local spot for Indian food, Radhika, Alex and I know we are going home with leftovers. It is one of those cuisines where we can’t help but order too much because 1) everything looks amazing and 2) the combinations of various plates is crucial to the experience! Like Thai food, when we go out for Indian we expect to get lots of plates and share. I cannot imagine going to an Indian restaurant and ordering Lamb Vindaloo and then sitting across from someone who ordered Veggie Korma and not getting to taste it. Ah, that would be torture! For me, the meal is made by the combination of the spicy, sweet, creamy, or tangy dishes on top of rice and bread.

With this in mind, Alex and I decided to make a full meal of Indian-inspired dishes. We have experimented with a few dishes in the past but had never made a full homemade feast. We had a great time preparing everything and an even better time eating it. Whether you want to try out just one dish or you want to go big and make the whole meal – enjoy!

Timing your feast:

  1. Prep your naan dough and let it rise 2-4 hours.
  2. In the last hour of dough rising, begin your Dal and let it simmer.
  3. Make your raita and pop it in the fridge so it’s ready when everything else is.
  4. Prep your ingredients for saag paneer and begin cooking the onions.
  5. Form and roll your naan so they’re ready for cooking. Melt butter.
  6. Add the other ingredients for the saag paneer and finish cooking – turn off heat and keep it warm!
  7. With everything else done – it’s time to cook your naan!
  8. Serve dishes and eat! 🙂

 

Naan

Since I’ve been having fun baking bread, we decided to try out Naan for the first time! It was so fun to make and it turned out amazing! It wasn’t quite as thin and crispy as we wanted it, so we’re excited to try it out again – but it bubbled up and had blackened bits just like in the restaurants, so we were thrilled and proud of ourselves.

Here is the naan recipe we used for guidance. Our notes and suggestions:

  • We left out the seeds.
  • Prep your dough earlier and let it rise for 2-4 hours. We didn’t plan in advance so we only let our dough rise 1 hour because we were hungry (it turned out great but we will try longer next time to see the difference).
  • Cook other parts of your meal during the last half hour of the rising process. Then roll your dough before you make your saag paneer and cook your naan last, once your saag is complete. That way it will be piping hot when you get to the table!
  • The hardest part for us was getting the dough to form a “teardrop” shape like they call for in the recipe. It was hard to control the dough and get it narrower at the top and wider at the bottom. We ended up using our hands to kind of push it into that shape but we also just decided it wasn’t our priority and kind of let it be whatever shape it wanted as long as it was thin!
  • Keeping it in the towel lined basket was perfect for keeping our breads piping hot until they were all ready and our dinner was served!

Dal

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 1 medium sized onion, diced
  • 2 cups red lentils
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh ginger
  • 2 tsp cumin + more to taste
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper + more to taste
  • 1 sprinkle of cinnamon
  • 1 jalapeño, minced (optional)
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1/2 can diced tomatoes + juice
  • 4 cups veggie stock
  • salt + pep to taste

Directions

  1. Heat a medium sized sauce pan over medium heat. Add diced onion and let cook for a few minutes until softened but not brown. Note: a lot of recipes call for Ghee (clarified butter), I have never used this. You can juse olive oil or vegetable oil just fine.
  2. Add ginger, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cayenne pepper (& japapeño if using), sugar, bay leaf, salt, pepper and lentils to the pot. Stir to ensure the lentils get coated in the oil and spices. Sauteé for 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add the tomatoes and rice vinegar, then pour in the vegetable stock. Bring it all to a boil and then lower to a simmer and cover. Let cook while you prep your other dishes!

Raita

Ingredients

  • 2 cups plain yogurt (we use a Greek variety)
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1 medium cucumber finely chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • Sprinkle of cumin & coriander (optional)

Directions

Combing all the ingredients in a medium bowl (we use a tupperware so if we don’t eat it all we can easily cover it up and pop in fridge). Chill in the refrigerator until other dishes are done!

Saag “Paneer”

This dish of spinach, indian cheese, and spices is a favorite! My sister-in-law Jessica fell in love with Saag Paneer at her longtime favorite restuarant in DC, Masala Art because it is without fail a bright & fresh green color. However, she hates that when she and my bro try to make it at home it turns brownish! Alex and I aren’t as turned off by the brown as she is so it hasn’t bothered us in the past. BUT this time, it stayed green! I think it’s because we used a food processor to get the spinach really finely chopped and then we didn’t cook it for very long at all. We’ll see if using those same methods next time work magic again!

A lot of recipes give you instructions for how to make your own paneer (Indian cheese) at home but we have not yet attempted it! Instead, we use feta – not authentic but still delicious! We stick to a sheep’s feta that comes in a block and we cut it into small cubes. It has worked well for us but we are excited to make paneer at some point and try that out too!

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4-6 cups fresh spinach, chopped VERY finely or blended in a food processor
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, finely diced
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • sprinkle of cardamom & cinnamon
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1/2 can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt

Directions

  1. Use a food processor to finely chop the spinach. If you do not have a food processor, chop it as finely as possible with a knife.
  2. Heat a large sauteé pan with olive oil over medium heat and add the onion. Cook for 5-7 minutes stirring occasionally so the onion softens and gets aromatic without browning too much. Add the garlic, ginger, and spices. Add a little water to keep the spices from burning. Cook 5 more minutes, stirring to keep the spices from sticking to the pan.
  3. Add the spinach and stir. Then add the tomatoes. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring. Turn off the heat before the spinach turns brown!
  4. Add the yogurt by the tablespoon, stirring after each one and stop when you achieve the desired creamy green appearance. Then add the feta blocks and stir.
  5. Taste and add additional salt, pepper, cumin, coriander, or cayenne pepper as needed!

After completing the Saag Paneer, put the top on to keep it warm and continue working on your naan! Once all dishes are done – plate your meal and serve! 🙂

IMG_9178

Have fun! 🙂

Spice Recommendations: We have enjoyed buying different Indian Spice Mixes from a spice store near us. It’s fun to add a bit of these mixes to these dishes. Right now we have Vindaloo VooDoo from SpiceStation. We have also purchased other curry mixes. However, the basic necessities are Cumin, Coriander, a pinch of Cinnamon & Cardamom, a little sugar and a little spice. So stick with those if you don’t have other mixes!

Sesame & Flax Crackers!

Making bread really changed my attitude about what is possible to make at home. I had never even considered baking it at home, so it really opened my eyes to the possibilities. Making my first batch of crackers was a similar experience. When I announced to my coworker that I had made crackers – she looked at me funny and then was like “Wait, how do you even do that?”

To be honest? It is so flipping easy, I wish I had discovered it sooner. The base is quite literally flour, water, salt and baking soda. Add a few extra ingredients to make it tasty. Roll it super thin and cut into your desired shape and TA DAAAAAAA!

The scary thing is how easy it is…because once you realize that, you’ll be making them all the time and eating your weight in these thin & seedy crackers. Not a huge problem, because I guarantee these crackers are more nutritious than those sold in a box, but everything in moderation is still a guiding principle I fully support.

So do what you will with portions- but definitely make these because they’re so dang easy and so delicious topped with cheese or hummus!

Sesame & Flax Crackers

Ingredients

  • 1 – 3/4 cup spelt flour (I also did a batch with white flour & whole wheat flour – they were all delicious)
  • 3 tbsp melted butter (vegan? Veg oil or melted smart balance would work!)
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar (optional – I’ve done with and without and both were great)
  • 1/8 tsp vanilla extract (adds complexity and delicious flavor!)
  • Sprinkle of paprika (feel free to experiment with different flavorings…rosemary would be delicious!)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Add in: 2 tbsp  flax seeds, 2 tbsp sesame seeds

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375
  2. Melt the butter in a microwave safe bowl. Then add honey, vanilla, paprika and water. Once mixed, stir in the spelt flour. Mix and knead with your hands, forming a ball with the dough.
  3. Sprinkle salt and baking soda evenly over top of dough and knead until you are confident they are mixed throughout the dough.
  4. Add flax & sesame seeds and knead to mix thoroughly.
  5. Divide dough into 4 small dough balls. Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen cloth so the dough is kept moist while you work with each piece.
  6. Cover a work surface with a rectangle of parchment paper and cover it with flour. (If you don’t have parchment paper – you can do it right on the counter and then transfer the crackers to the baking sheet after, it is just slightly annoying to transfer each cracker!)
  7. Take one dough ball and place it on your floured parchment paper. Use a rolling pin and some muscle to get the dough as thin as possible. If you think it’s as thin as you can get it…roll for another 2 minutes! The thinner it is, the more crisp your crackers will be. The first time I did this, the crackers turned out tough because they were too thick, so take this part seriously!
  8. Once formed into a very thin, large rectangular shape (the edges will be uneven, don’t worry), use a knife to cut the crackers in 1.5 inch strips. Then cut them into squares by cutting them the other way. The edge crackers won’t be square, but they’ll still be delicious and perfect for dipping into hummus.
  9. Lift the edges of the parchment paper and carefully transfer the crackers to the baking sheet.
  10. Put into the oven for 8 minutes. After 8 minutes, take them out and check how they’re doing. You want them browned on edges and crisp. If not ready, flip them over and put them in for another 2-5 minutes, keeping your eyes on them to make sure they don’t burn. When you think they’re ready, take them out of the oven and let cool. As they cool, they crisp up so don’t worry if they don’t seem crunchy when you first take them out.
  11. Sample a cracker once it is cool enough to eat. If you like the taste, do the same steps with the other 3 pieces of dough.
  12. If you want to add extra salt, feel free to sprinkle it on top of the crackers before baking OR mix more into the dough. I also added a lavender & oregano seasoning to one batch and it turned out delicious so you can get creative if you want to make different flavors 🙂

Note: Your first batch may feel difficult because you have to roll 4 different times and keep an eye on the crackers while doing the 4 different batches. After you make the crackers a few times, you’ll get the hang of the timing. I bake two sheets at a time and prep the next batches while the first two are baking – it just takes time to get the process down. It’s important to divide into small balls, if you try to do more dough at once, it won’t get thin enough!

Storage: Store crackers in an airtight container. They should last a few weeks, but I doubt they’ll be around that long! Top with homemade hummus or other of your favorite dips and cheeses!

PB Flax & Oat Breakfast Cookies

As a self proclaimed chocoholic at the age of 3 (“Grampa? I’m a chocoholic” is a family favorite quote from my childhood), a boyfriend-identified peanut butter addict last week (guess I should cut back a little?), and a lover of healthy and delicious treats…These cookies are the besssssstttt!

Easy to whip up, delicious to chow down, and nutritious to boot – these little drops of protein & salty sweet heaven will be sure to please! Eat them in the morning, afternoon, or evening – no guilt necessary because you deserve this treat and your body will thank you!

PB Flax & Oat Breakfast Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar packed
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg (vegan? try 1 mashed banana or 1tbsp ground flax with 3 tbsp water)
  • 1 cup rolled oats (I supplemented half Coach’s oats that are cut different)
  • 1/4 cup flour (spelt, whole wheat, white, or GF will work. I used white this time!)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tbsp flax seeds
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix the peanut butter, brown sugar, vanilla extract & coconut oil together with a fork (or standing mixer if you have one). Soften coconut oil in microwave if necessary.
  3. Stir in egg (or egg replacement).
  4. Add oats, flour,  and baking soda. Mix well!
  5. Sprinkle in flax and chia seeds. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  6. Take a golf ball sized amount of dough into your hand, squeezing it together so they are dense and round – place on greased or parchment paper lined cookie sheet.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes, keeping an eye they don’t get too brown. They should be soft when you take them out – they harden up as they cool. Optional: While still warm, push down softly with a fork to spread them out a bit, being careful not to smoosh them so much they fall apart!
  8. Enjoy!!!! 🙂

Cinnamon Pecan Swirl Spelt Loaf

I was fortunate enough to grow up in a very musical family. At age 5, I began playing the cello and I took private lessons and participated in youth orchestras until I graduated from high school. I now work at a music education program for youth, so clearly it had a huge impact on me and what I value in life. But that isn’t what this post is about…

For awhile, I had private lessons each week about 45 minutes from my house. My mom would pick me up from elementary school on early release Wednesdays and drive me to my lesson (thanks mom).  Lucky for us, Great Harvest Bread Co. was on our way home so we would sometimes treat ourselves and stop after my lesson. It blew my mind that they gave each customer a slice of bread to enjoy while deciding what loaves to buy and take home. It was the best! I’m not even sure if Great Harvest still exists, and I certainly haven’t frequented one in years. I think we stopped going when mom was diagnosed with Celiac Disease – sad days. But clearly it made a lasting impression on me because 15-20 years later, I still remember it so fondly – good marketing technique Great Harvest!

The loaves always switched so I didn’t get the same every time but my all time favorite was definitely this delicious loaf that was essentially a giant cinnamon bun with buttery, spicy swirls and chunks of nuts (either walnuts or pecans). It was insane and I loved it.

All this is to say, I finally felt like I had mastered the spelt bread loaves I’ve been making for a few months so this week I decided to switch it up. Inspired by my childhood memory of drooling over this delicious nutty spiced swirl bread…I decided to make a Cinnamon Pecan Swirl Spelt Loaf.

Cinnamon Pecan Swirl Spelt Loaf

For the most part, the method is the same as in my Basic Spelt Loaf recipe. I’ll summarize the method but will mostly emphasize the steps that are different – so please refer to that recipe if you need a refresher on the basic steps of bread making!

Ingredients

Bread

  • 4.5 cups whole spelt flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp honey (or raw sugar)
  • 2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water + 3/4 cup warm almond milk

Cinnamon Pecan Swirl*

  • 1/3 cup butter – softened to room temperature (not melted)
  • 2 tbsp raw sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup raw pecans chopped

*I think next time I’m going to add more of every type of filling to make it even more decadent, so just experiment with the amount of sweetness and nutty bites you like!

Directions

  1. Combine the water and almond milk in a microwavable bowl and warm it up (not too hot). I decided to do half almond milk because some of the recipes I glanced at for sweet breads used dairy instead of water. I’m not sure if it made a difference but the loaf turned out great so it’s what I’m putting in this recipe – feel free to experiment with all water though!
  2. Stir the honey or sugar into the warm water mixture and add the active dry yeast. Let it sit until foamy – about 10 minutes.
  3. Combine salt and spelt flour in a large bowl. (Less salt than my regular loaf)
  4. Add yeast liquid to the flour and combine using hands or spatula (or standing mixer if you have one). Once combined, flour the sides of the bowl and leave the dough for 1 hour to rise. Cover with a dish towel and leave in a warm place.
  5. While dough is rising, mix softened butter together with 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon and a dash of salt.
  6. Once dough has risen, empty it out onto a well floured work surface. Knead it a little bit and then use a rolling pin to roll it into a rectangle (short end should be about the length of your loaf pan!). Do this carefully, mine stuck a lot and I had to use spelt flour on top of the dough to make sure it didn’t get too stuck to the pin – don’t get frustrated, just be gentle!
  7. Spread the butter mixture evenly onto the dough rectangle. Then add the pecans and sprinkle the rest of the sugar and cinnamon on top!
  8. Carefully roll the dough into a loaf – start at one side, using pressure to keep the roll nice and snug but not so tight you squeeze it into a weird shape…be nice to it! Keeping it snug will ensure it rises evenly and there’s no big gab between the layers!
  9. Place the loaf into a greased loaf pan being careful to put the side with lines or folds on the bottom!
  10. Leave your loaf to proof for 30 minutes, covered with a dish towel in a warm place.
  11. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.
  12. Optional: Combine 1 egg and a tiny bit of milk and brush it over the top of your bread before baking! I did this but don’t know if it made a big difference. You could also spray your bread with a little water as soon as you put it into the oven – the steam helps create a crust.
  13. Bake for 15 minutes at 450 degrees (keep an eye so the top does not get too brown!). Then turn down the oven to 350 and bake for 20 more minutes. If the top is getting too dark, cover it with aluminum foil. The goal is to make sure the inside is fully cooked, without burning the top! You want to make sure those delicious swirls get baked through and are not soggy, so I recommend baking the full 35 minutes!
  14. Most important step – ENJOY THE HEAVENLY AROMA IN YOUR HOUSE WHILE IT BAKES! 🙂
  15. Remove from oven – unlike my regular spelt bread, it did not feel quite as hard and didn’t sound hollow when I removed it. This made me worried but once it cooled and I cut into it…it was absolutely perfect! So if it is browned and feels relatively solid, don’t be too worried if it doesn’t sound perfectly hollow!
  16. Remove from loaf pan and allow to cool on a rack of some sort OR be sure to rotate the side it is cooling on so it is cooled on all sides!

Eat warm or toasted, slathered with butter or margarine and enjoy! 

 

Spelt Breadmaking Basics

If you’re like me, you probably never really thought about baking bread as an option. For some reason, it’s one of those things that seems like a mystery but we don’t dwell on it too long and we go on buying loaves from the grocery store with not much thought.

Well, that changed for me about a year ago. Due to a lot of digestive and GI problems, I was put on a very limited diet, the FODMAP diet. Ever heard of it? (Struggling with GI problems? Check out the diet here and the reasoning behind it here.)

Anyways, for 2 months I was on the strictest diet ever (dinner party host’s worst nightmare) and despite being kind of terrible, it was also an interesting challenge. Alex and I got very creative with our cooking, and its what really inspired me to try baking my own bread! Wheat flour was on the DO NOT EAT list. Having grown up with a celiac mom, that didn’t bother me too much because I grew up eating homemade cookies, pancakes, banana bread, etc. with rice flour or gluten free flour mixes. (Though I do not think my mom typically baked her own GF yeast bread – like I said, bread making remained a mystery to me.) However,  unlike people with celiac disease, folks on the FODMAP diet can eat spelt flour which is something I had never tried before so my interest was piqued.

What is spelt?

Spelt flour is an “ancient grain” that has low levels of gluten, is easy to digest, and has a higher protein content than wheat flour. I’m not an expert on any of this, but Alex and I quickly decided we liked the taste of spelt bread. Now that I’m off the strict FODMAP diet (but continue to watch what I eat and use it as a reference point), we continue to use spelt in all of our breads and baked goods. I highly recommend you try it, especially since my go-to recipe for spelt bread is really easy.

More info about spelt here. Where to buy it? I actually order it online from Amazon. They do carry it in certain stores, like Whole Foods, and you may try looking at your regular super market. I have found that I go through the small bags really quickly since I bake a lot of bread AND some of the brands at Whole Foods (VitaSpelt) are expensive. I recommend Bob’s Red Mill or Arrow Mills brand, and be sure to get whole spelt flour, not white spelt flour! I order Bob’s Red Mill spelt in packs of 4, 24oz. bags and store the open bag in an airtight container.

IMG_7264

Spelt Bread Recipe

After deciding to give it a try, I researched online and found a recipe that was easy enough not to scare me away. This is the one I used, and it continues to be my basic guide for spelt bread. Honey Spelt Bread

I continue to use the same proportion of ingredients as they recommend in that Food & Wine recipe, but I have switched up a few things while experimenting. Here’s my version of the recipe & directions!

Ingredients

  • 4.5 cups whole spelt flour + more for dusting
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1-3/4 cups *warm* water
  • 2 tablespoons honey or agave or sugar
  • A loaf pan – 4X8 is the standard size

Directions

  1. Put the water in a microwavable bowl and microwave for 15-30 seconds so its lukewarm but not hot. Add your honey and yeast to the water and stir. Leave it for 15 minutes until its creamy and yeast has bubbled a little…It’s coming to life!
  2. Combine spelt flour and salt in a large mixing bowl – I use a whisk to make sure salt gets dispersed. Add the yeast mixture to the flour and combine with a spoon or your hands until its well mixed together. It will be sticky – that’s normal. Its also why I use a spoon and not my hands for this part…it’s sometimes hard to get off!
  3. Shape the dough into a ball, lift out of the bowl and dust the sides of the bowl with flour. Place the dough back into the bowl and cover with a dish towel or lightly greased plastic wrap.
  4. Then place your dough somewhere warm and leave for an hour or doubled in size– I usually turn my oven on WARM for a few minutes, then turn it off and place the bowl in there. Just make sure its not so hot it will cook your bread or damage the towel or plastic wrap. You can also just leave it on the counter if your kitchen is relatively warm.
  5. Lightly grease your loaf pan – I use olive oil and rub it around with a tiny piece of paper towel or my hands.
  6. Sprinkle spelt flour on a cutting board or clean work surface. Carefully coax your dough out of the bowl, it is okay if it’s a little stuck, that happens. Flour your hands and knead the dough by folding it in half one way and pushing on it, then folding it in half the other way and pushing on it. I usually do this just a few times. Spelt flour doesn’t need to be knead as much as wheat flour.
  7. After kneading the dough, shape it into a log the length of your loaf pan. Put the side that has visible folds on the bottom so the top is smooth.
  8. Cover again with a dish towel or greased plastic wrap and leave for 30 minutes or until it’s risen in the pan. This process is called “proofing.” I’m still perfecting the length of time, I change it up and sometimes leave it an hour or so. There’s such a thing as “over proofing” bread, but I don’t really know what that means…I think it gets too much air in the dough so there’s big holes. I haven’t noticed that in my loaves, but they always taste great!
  9. While the dough is proofing, preheat your oven to 450 degrees.
  10. Using a sharp knife, make a vertical cut down the center of the loaf a 1/4 inch deep or so. You can also make 4-5 horizontal cuts if you prefer. As the dough continues to rise in the oven, it will make a nice shape and also help air escape if necessary.
  11. Bake at 450 degrees for 30 – 35 minutes, keeping an eye on it so it doesn’t get too dark!
  12. Once it is done, take the bread out. Using oven mitts, turn the loaf pan over (use a knife on the edges if necessary) and pop your loaf out onto a clean surface. Using the mitts pick up the loaf and put it on top of something that will let the air get on all sides of it so it cools properly. 
  13. Once it has cooled…eat it!

PLEASE don’t let the number of steps deter you. It is a fun process and I know you can do it. Also, it gets easier each time and by now it is a piece of cake for me (or a piece of delicious bread…). Wishing you luck and can’t wait to hear how it turns out for you!

Additional Notes

  1. Toppings! This loaf of spelt bread has raw pepitas on top! I spritzed the dough with water and then pressed the pepitas into the top to add a nice crunch to the crust!
  2. Mixer – most bread recipes call for a standing mixer with dough hooks. Don’t let that deter you. Thus far I have not had any significant trouble using my stirring or hand mixing method. I may end up purchasing a mixer because it’ll make my life easier but don’t let your lack of mixer stop you from trying recipes!
  3. Yeast – You can buy fast acting yeast in little packets from the grocery store in the baking aisle next to the brownie mix (yum). Do this the first time you make bread, but if you decide you like making bread and/or pizza dough, you should buy the little jar because it’s more affordable than buying tons of the little packets!.

Cranberry Pecan Spelt Bread

Today I baked up one plain spelt loaf and a second, loaded with cranberries and pecans. Alex and I ate our freshly baked bread for Sunday lunch, dipped in Pasolivo Extra Virgin Olive Oil (the best!) with a drop of balsamic and topped with homemade almond, basil pesto and goat cheese.

(Not pictured: we ate carrot sticks and tomato slices too… don’t worry, we got our veggies in!)

So yum!

IMG_7192