Thursday, March 29, 2012

Oatmeal Sourdough Bread

Remember that overnight oatmeal I made last week? In searching for something fun and creative to do with the leftovers, I came across the perfect recipe - Oatmeal Sourdough Bread. I mean, what could be better - a delicious bread that uses not only my leftover steel cut oats, but sourdough as well? Perfect!

This recipe was actually super easy.

It starts with the two main ingredients - leftover cooked steel-cut oats and sourdough starter.

Then, right in the bow of my stand mixer, I added water, salt, oil and maple syrup (the recipe called for molasses or honey, but I used maple syrup to match the flavoring in the oatmeal).

Then, as that mixed with the dough hook, it was time to add the flour. The recipe called for three and a half to four cups, but I needed almost another full cup in order for the dough to come together nicely.

I then kneaded the dough by hand for a few minutes. I was amazed at how smooth the dough was. I mean, other the pieces of oatmeal you could see throughout the dough. And then we were ready for the first rise.

Now, this being sourdough, the key ingredient is time. The first rise is supposed to be a minimum or four hours. I chose to let mine rise overnight. And considering that I started the dough in the afternoon, that "overnight" turned into almost 16 hours.

The good news is that I learned that my sourdough starter is nice and healthy. Because man did this dough rise!

I actually hadn't expected to see quite this much dough - I'd only expected to make one loaf. But there was plenty to make two good sized loaves.

Which then rested for another couple of hours.

The hardest part of the process was deciding what pattern I was going to slash into the top of the loaves before popping them into the oven.  The dough was so soft, though, that, in the end, I went simple.

It was interesting to see how the two loaves baked up. I'd intended to rotate the pans halfway through the baking, but got busy playing with the kiddos and forgot.  So the crusts baked up a little unevenly... the loaf on the top rack darkened much more than the one on the bottom...

But I was more curious to see the inside.

Holy holes! 

And it tasted delicious. It was a really interesting combination of sweet, from the oatmeal and maple syrup, and tangy, from the sourdough.

And with the crisp crust and airy crumb, this bread made a great side for soup or base for sandwiches.  I will definitely be making this again.

Oatmeal Sourdough Bread
(slightly adapted from Baking Bites)

1 cup sourdough starter
1 cup cooked oatmeal (steel cut are recommended)
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon salt
3 1/2 - 4 cups bread flour (I needed almost a cup more)

Combine starter, oats, water, syrup and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. With mixer on low, slowly add the flour until the dough comes together in a ball. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, adding extra flour if necessary. Knead until dough is smooth and somewhat firm.
Place the ball of dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for at least four hours, or overnight.
Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a floured surface. Gently deflate the dough and shape it into a round loaf (I made two). Transfer the loaf (loaves) onto a parchment lined baking sheet (or two...) and cover loosely with plastic wrap (I sprayed my plastic wrap with non-stick spray so that it wouldn't stick to the dough). Allow loaf (loaves) to rise for 1-2 hours.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Just before baking, slash the top(s) of the loaf (loaves) with a sharp knife.
Bake for 40 minutes. When the bread is done, it will sound hollow when tapped.
Allow bread to cool completely before slicing.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

March Daring Bakers' Challenge - Dutch Crunch Bread

This month's Daring Bakers' Challenge was an interesting one for me - a combination of new and not so new, and of simple and creative.

Sara and Erica of Baking JDs were our March 2012 Daring Baker hostesses! Sara & Erica challenged us to make Dutch Crunch bread, a delicious sandwich bread with a unique, crunchy topping. Sara and Erica also challenged us to create a one of a kind sandwich with our bread!

I had never actually heard of Dutch Crunch bread before (thus, new) and the pictures associated with the challenge were truly intriguing. The required recipe for this challenge was not for bread - we could use any bread recipe we wanted to (thus, old... for me, at least...). Rather, the recipe we were each required to use to fulfill this month's challenge was for a topping with which to coat our unbaked breads. This topping, once baked, gives the rolls or loaves a unique and very beautiful crackled look.

As luck would have it, I was in the position of needing to bake bread when the challenge was announced So I got to work right away.

I prepared my usual white bread recipe, but rather than shape the dough into two loaves, as I usually do, I made one loaf, and, with the other half of the dough, six rolls. Right before shaping the dough, I prepared the topping, which is very simple.

Combine all ingredients in one bowl:

Whisk together to form a paste:

As you can see above, mine started out a little thicker and clumpier than a paste, so I added a tiny bit of extra water (a tablespoon or two, no more), and continued to whisk. I soon had a thick but not clumpy paste.

I set the prepared topping aside to rest as I shaped my bread dough. Then, after 15 minutes or resting, I went to grab the topping to coat the bread, and was amazed to see how much it had grown so quickly!

While it might not show in the photo, I put a nice thick coating of the topping onto the loaf...

...and onto the six rolls.

I have to say, this was one of those times that I wished I had a window into my oven. I couldn't wait to see what these would look like.

But let me tell you - the wait was well worth it.

How cool do those look? The color, the crackling pattern - it looked just like the pictures I'd seen online! (yes, I googled for images when the challenge was announced - remember - I'd never heard of this before, and wanted to know what to expect!)

Even the loaf came out looking cool.

Very, very exciting.
But the challenge was only half complete.

You see, Dutch Crunch bread is considered a sandwich bread. So once the bread was made, we were challenged to use it as inspiration for a delicious sandwich.
In our family, daddy is the master sandwich maker, so I let him take the lead on this second half of the challenge.

He used pretty much everything he could think of - ham, turkey, muenster cheese, lettuce, tomato, mayo, mustard, onion... Layered everything right up on those beautiful rolls.

And it tasted delicious.

Here's the thing... I think the sandwich would have been delicious no matter what roll it was on. The Dutch Crunch roll just made it a lot more beautiful to look at.

And I am going to be honest. Some members of the family didn't care for the topping... Which meant that other members of the family (ahem... me...) ate an awful lot of Dutch Crunch bread that week.

Funny enough, my favorite sandwich that I had on the bread during the week was a simple grilled ham and muenster.


Sara and Erica, thank you so much for this fun challenge - it was really fun to try something new and to bake up such beautiful bread right in my own kitchen!

To see the other cool breads and sandwiches crafted in the kitchen this month, check them out here.

Dutch Crunch Topping (for bread or rolls)
(from Baking JDs, March 2012 Daring Bakers' Challenge)

2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (105-115ยบ F)
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used sesame oil, and I really liked the results)
½ teaspoon salt
1½ cups rice flour (white or brown; NOT sweet or glutinous rice flour)Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and beat with a whisk; beat hard to combine. The consistency should be like stiff royal icing – spreadable, but not too runny. Add more water or rice flour as necessary. Let stand 15 minutes.
Coat the top of each shaped but not yet baked loaf or roll (any bread recipe you choose) with a thick layer of topping. It works best just to use your fingers or a spoon to spread the topping onto the dough. You should err on the side of applying too much topping – a thin layer will not crack properly.
Let stand, uncovered, for any additional time your recipe recommends (I applied the topping about 15 minutes into a 30 minute final proofing time for my bread. You can apply it sooner, or just prior to putting the bread into the oven. Different bakers saw different results, depending on the amount of time between applying the topping and putting the bread into the oven.)
When baking, place pans on a rack in the center of the oven and bake your bread as you ordinarily would. The Dutch Cruch topping should crack and turn a nice golden-brown color.


Friday, March 23, 2012

Overnight Pumpkin Oatmeal

One of the benefits of afternoon kindergarten is the morning play-date.

One of the challenges of the morning play-date, however, is what to serve. See, I like to provide snacks, and usually of the homemade variety, when having people over to our house. But when having people over for breakfast, that either means waking up way earlier than I want to or preparing things ahead of time.

For today's play-date, I found something that I could prepare ahead of time, but that would still provide something warm and delicious - pumpkin oatmeal that you make in the crockpot.  How cool is that?

Now, you probably know by now that my preference is always for buying and eating my foods as fresh as possible. Unfortunately, finding fresh pumpkin is a little difficult in March. So I made due with canned.

The other interesting ingredient for these was the oats. Not that oats are new or odd, but for oats that you plan to cook for such a long time, the best ones to use are steel cut, rather than the old fashioned rolled oats I already have. I had never actually seen steel cut oats before, and found them quite fascinating when I opened the container.

The preparation was pretty much as easy as could be. Take all ingredients and put them into the crock pot.

A quick stir, put on the lid, set the cooker to low, then go to sleep.

Doesn't get much easier than that.

When I went into the kitchen in the morning, it smelled pretty darn good. So I took the lid off of the slow cooker, gave the contents a quick stir, and here's what we had, all ready for breakfast with our friends:

Okay, okay, I'll admit that it didn't look all that extraordinary all in the pot tucked in the corner, but the smell was heavenly, and it plated up beautifully.

And the best part? Everyone liked it! Little miss said it tasted like pumpkin pie. My friend and I thought it was delicious. The highest complement? Even little man liked it! Score!
The only downside is that it makes a huge batch, and oatmeal generally doesn't re-heat well out of the fridge, but I'll cross that bridge when I get to it... like... tomorrow morning... 

Overnight Pumpkin Oatmeal
(slightly adapted from Laa Loosh)

1 15 oz can of canned pumpkin
5 cups water
1 1/2 cups steel-cut oats
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 heaping teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 (scant) teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
optional -  garnish with a few dried cranberries, for a fabulous taste and dislpay

Combine all ingredients (except dried cranberries) in slow cooker. Cook on low for six hours. Stir well before serving.  Sprinkle dried cranberries on top of each serving, if desired.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Sourdough Surprises #1 - Sourdough Donuts

I am so excited for this post - it is the inaugural post for the Sourdough Surprises!

Every month, we hope that you will join us in baking something new, featuring your sourdough starter.

This month we chose donuts, and what a tasty choice it was! We found this delicious looking recipe, which was the inspiration behind this month's theme, and decided to jump right in.

Making sourdough donuts is actually not all that difficult. Rather than create a new, yeast-based starter, as the recipe above indicates, I just made sure that my starter was well fed to be at full strength.

The dough comes together super quickly.

The dry ingredients are mixed together:

And then there's the star of the show, our starter:

Which is combined with the other wet ingredients - an egg, some oil and some sour milk:

And then the two are combined:

The best way to bring the dough together is by hand. While it starts out a bit messy, within a minute or so, you have a nice ball of dough.

Then it's time to shape the donuts! On a floured surface, roll out the dough, but not too thin.

And cut! I don't have a donut cutter (since I am not a big one for single-purpose kitchen tools...), so I used a cookie cutter.

To cut the holes, I used a round apple corer.

While I was preparing the dough and cutting the donuts, I was also heating my oil for frying.

Once the oil hit 360 degrees (that handy "donut" marking on my thermometer!), it was time to fry!

These fried up pretty quickly, so I had to keep an eye on them.

Once they came out of the oil (and drained for a minute... I didn't want them too oily!), I dropped them right into a bowl of cinnamon sugar.

And don't forget those little donut holes!

And pretty soon we had a whole plate full of these:


We even left a few with no holes in them, so that we could try filled donuts, too. A little cream filling and my little frosting squeezie bottle did the trick...

I need to work on making sure that I get enough filling in all of my donuts, but these were definitely a fun change of pace.

We all loved these donuts - they were delicious. They reminded us very much of apple cider donuts that we have eaten from our local orchard. Which gave me an idea...

Could I replace the sour milk in this recipe with apple cider? Would that work with the sourdough? Combine that thought with the fact that I wanted to try baking these donuts, rather than frying them, and I knew I'd be making a second batch.

I not only replaced the sour milk with apple cider, but substituted one tablespoon of apple sauce for one of the two tablespoons of oil.

I baked the donuts at 375 degrees for 15 minutes, and sprinkled the unbaked donuts with cinnamon sugar (rather than rolling them later), and the results were pretty good.

We all agreed that the fried donuts were better - they had a crisper crust and a better crumb, but that didn't stop little hands from grabbing the baked version...

This was a delicious introduction for the Sourdough Surprises, and I will definitely be saving this recipe for future use. I think I'll try the apple cider version again, but will try frying them next time, so they'll be saved for a special occasion.

I can't wait to see the sourdough donuts all of you came up with, and I hope you'll sourdough with the Sourdough Surprises next month!

Sourdough Donuts
(from Under the High Chair)

1/2 cup sourdough starter
2 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sour milk (soured with vinegar or lemon juice)

Prepare a wok or deep fryer for frying. Prepare a tray with paper towel for draining doughnuts. Heat oil to 360 degrees (use a deep fry thermometer).
Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, cinnamon and salt.
In a separate bowl, mix together remaining ingredients and add them to the dry ingredients.
Bring dough together gently with you hands.
Sprinkle some flour onto a work surface and turn dough on to it. Knead it gently about 3 times to help bring the dough together.
Roll out to a thickness of 2 centimeters and cut with a doughnut cutter. In place of a donut cutter, I used the combination of a circle cookie cutter for the donut shape and an apple corer for the donut hole.
Fry cut dough until golden brown. Test the first one for doneness by breaking it in two and checking to see if the middle is doughy. Drain fried donuts on paper town.
Toss donuts in cinnamon sugar (or vanilla sugar) to coat.


And be sure to check out the new Sourdough Surprises blog for future announcements, challenges and reveals!

I have submitted these donuts to Yeastspotting!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Chocolate Banana Sourdough Loaf

I wanted to do some sourdough baking this morning, but in order to do so, I needed to make sure that my starter was well fed. Which meant that I needed to feed my starter last night.

I don't like to actually discard my "discard" starter, so, well, I just had to find a quick recipe to bake last night, too!

A quick peek at my favorite listing of sourdough quick bread recipes gave me exactly what I was looking for - a chocolate sourdough quick bread!

I made a couple of minor changes, since I wanted to make it a teeny touch healthier... or... I really wanted to add in a banana.

I started by sifting (whisking) together my dry ingredients.

But, to brighten up the flavor a bit, once they were sifted together, I gave a good sprinkling of cinnamon over the top of them.

I then combined my wet ingredients. But instead of the quarter cup of oil that the recipe calls for, I mashed up a banana and used that.

I then folded the wet ingredients into the dry.

The batter was thicker than it was supposed to be, so I actually added an extra quarter cup of milk.

And then I added a healthy handful of chocolate chips.

The chocolate chips were so big and gooey that it was a bit tough for me to test the bread for done-ness (the toothpick always had chocolate on it!), so I may have over-baked it by a minute or two, but it looked and smelled so yummy when it came out of the oven.

I couldn't wait to cut into it. So the pictures are the best I could get, considering I took them at night by the light of the overhead kitchen light...

Let's just say that daddy said that this is his favorite way to eat a banana.

I'm thinking that this may be made every time the starter needs a feeding...

Chocolate Banana Sourdough Loaf
(slightly adapted from Smart Mama Sourdough)

1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup sourdough starter
1 ripe banana, mashed
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9" x 5" loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder and cinnamon. Make a well in the center of the combined dry ingredients.
In a separate bowl, combine the sourdough starter, mashed banana, milk, egg and vanilla.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and gently mix until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.
Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and bake for 45-55 minutes, until the loaf tests done.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Crumb Topped Apple Pie

Did you know that yesterday was pie day? This is one that I actually knew about. Every year on March 14th, it's pie day. It's kind of a nerdy thing. It's actually Pi day. Pi, the mathematical constant relating a circle's circumference to its diameter... abbreviated to two decimal points as 3.14... thus... March (3) 14th (.14) becomes: Pi(e) Day!

Nerdy or not, I knew we'd be celebrating. So first thing in the morning, I made some pie crust pastry and set it to chill in the fridge as little miss, little man and I went about our morning.

Once little miss was at school and little man was down for his nap,though, it was time to get to work. I had an eight-pound bag of apples on the table begging to be turned into a nerdy math day celebration. But rather than make my usual double crust apple pie, I chose to make something new - a crumb-topped apple pie.

The first thing I did was to roll out my pie crust and return it to the fridge while I prepared the filling.

Sliced apples, some brown sugar and some cinnamon were combined, then poured into the prepared pie crust.

I then topped it with a combination of brown sugar, flour and oatmeal (with another sprinkle of cinnamon), into which a couple of tablespoons of butter were rubbed in. The actual recipe called for nuts rather than oats, but I wanted to keep this toddler friendly, so I made the swap.

Then the pie went into the oven and made the house smell absolutely lovely for the better part of an hour!

So after dinner (quiche - or, as we called it last night, egg pie!), we were ready to dig in!

This was delicious, and a fun change from the standard apple pie. And it was totally fun to do in the middle of the week, too.

So how did you celebrate Pi(e) Day??

Crumb Topped Apple Pie
(slightly adapted from, Southern Food)

1 unbaked pie shell, 9-inch (I used this recipe)
6 cups peeled apple slices (I used 6 apples and it fit my pie shell perfectly)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt

For the topping:
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Combine brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt; sprinkle over the apples and stir gently to combine. Pour apples into prepared pie shell.

Combine topping ingredients until crumbly; sprinkle over top of pie.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until apples are tender and topping is browned.


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