No fuss, no muss, and a whole lot of fibre…

Last night I made a batch of one of my easiest homemade breads. It’s more of a method than a recipe, although the proportions have been worked out after much experimentation. (In the EAT section of my site, you’ll find other recipes, including other breads).

There’s nothing like homemade bread for breakfast, or a sandwich, or just as a snack – but I’m always trying to sneak in some more healthy goodness. One of my tricks is always to add some chickpea flour, for extra protein. This one also benefits from whole wheat flour, and whole grain rolled oats. It is a bit time-consuming (you’ll want to start a day ahead, or first thing in the morning to bake for dinnertime), but it’s worth the wait, and doesn’t require any kneading at all.

Enjoy!

Better For You Bread

If you’ve been following my posts for a while, you’ll remember my obsession last year with sourdough. I still love it, but the care and feeding of an infant dough all the time can be kind of time-consuming. I still follow my “no store bought loaves” rule pretty well all the time (even hamburger buns, although I don’t know the last time I actually used them for burgers). Yet I will admit to using store-bought yeast as it does speed up the process.

I’ve made lots of changes to bread that really help it be healthier than what we buy in the store. Of course, eliminating salt really helps. Yes, salt can be a regulator of the rise, but frankly, with modern yeasts, that is really rarely an issue. Keeping the amount of sugar down is just plain good for you, and using something more natural, like maple syrup, is better than a refined version. What else can I do to make the break healthier?

Recently I needed chickpea flour for a recipe – and in my neighbourhood, we have lots of neighbours from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and the Middle East – all of whom rely on this staple in their cooking. That means we can get it in huge bags, very cheaply. But what to do with the rest? I tried an experiment a couple of weeks ago with my bread, and it turned out really well. The texture was not compromised; if anything it was better, and the added bonus was to increase both the fibre and protein content of the bread.

Here’s what I did:

I always start with water that has been boiled then cooled to lukewarm, because that gets rid of some of the chlorine, which can inhibit the yeast. Begin with 3 cups.

I added a tablespoon of maple syrup and sprinkled on two tablespoons of traditional yeast, not the breadmaker or instant kind. This should sit in a warm place for about 10-15 minutes until it is good and foamy. Stir it with a fork and add to a large bowl. You can mix this bread with a mixer and dough hook, or by hand with a spoon and your hands, but the batch is a little large for a food processor. You could cut the recipe in half, but it seems a waste to heat the oven for a single 8″ loaf

Many traditional recipes have fat – butter, lard, or oil, but I added none to this. I did add a cup of chickpea flour, and then 5-6 cups of 100% whole wheat flour. Add the flour a cup or two at a time, with the machine running, or with the spoon, stopping to knead in by hand when it becomes difficult. About halfway through add tasty treats if you want – this batch had sunflower seeds, but I’ve also done raisins and cinnamon or other kinds of nuts or seeds.

Knead until the flour is incorporated and you’ve used just enough that it feels elastic and not sticky – or if using the mixer, until it cleans nicely away from the sides of the bowl. Remove it from the bowl, spray the bowl with cooking oil or wipe gently with cooking oil, and put the dough back in, turning to coat. Let it rise, covered with a clean tea towel, for an hour or so (not much more, or it will deflate).

Then shape it into two loaves, or a loaf and a cookie sheet with 12 buns (divide the second half of the dough into 12 even pieces, and press or roll into discs, about 4″ or 10cm across). Cover with clean cloth and let rise for another hour. This is a great project for when you are also making soup, when you are snowed in, or when you have a long project you’re working on at home.

About 20 minutes before the end of the rising time, heat the oven to 400F. Bake your loaves about half an hour; if you make rolls, check them about 20 minutes in. Tap on the bottom and listen for a hollow sound to be sure they are done. Remove from the oven and take them out of the pans to a wire rack immediately.

The “no store bread” rule has meant I can enjoy my bread without eating too much of it, and that’s a compromise I’m willing to work for.

Alterations and substitutions: 

I have also substituted 1c/250 ml old-fashioned oats, soaked in an equal measure of hot water, for 1-1/2 c/375ml of the wheat flour.

I have used 1 c/250 ml of dark beer instead of the same amount of the water – this can make a very light loaf with a lovely flavour.

Any kinds of nuts, seeds or dried fruit can be added, about a cup or 250ml in total. Herbs, olives, or sundried tomatoes also make a very interesting bread.

 

If she's lucky, the girl will have one of these with her soup…

  Our daughter is coming tomorrow for a visit, in advance of her anniversary party. She tells me she’s sick, so soup will be in order. If we aren’t too greedy, she might get one of these as well.

These sun dried tomato olive herb buns are adapted from an old favourite, the Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook. I love that there is no added sugar or and very little oil. We switched up the flour to 100% whole wheat and added olives when I ran out of tomato pieces.  I also shaped them like burger buns so they would be great for sandwiches of all kinds. All the fresh herbs are from our garden, and we skipped the salt. For a vegan version, simply omit the egg white glaze. Makes 12.

2c/500 ml boiling water

6 sun dried tomato halves, not oil packed, cut in slivers

6 stuffed olives, chopped

1T/15ml yeast

875ml/3.5c whole wheat flour

1/4 c chopped herbs (I used rosemary, oregano and thyme)

1 beaten egg white

In a 2 c glass measure, pour boiling water over tomatoes and let stand about 5 minutes. Then scoop them out with a slotted spoon into another dish and set aside for later. Pour off enough liquid from the measuring cup so you have 310ml/1-1/4c and let it cool to lukewarm.

Sprinkle the yeast over the lukewarm tomato water and let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.

Measure flour into a large bowl. Stir yeast mixture with a fork, then with a wooden or silicone spoon, mix it all at once into the flour, stirring until it mostly cleans away from the sides of the bowl. 

Scrape onto a lightly floured surface and knead about 30 times until smooth. Shape into a ball.

Spray your mostly-clean bowl with cooking spray or coat with a very light coating of olive oil. Put your ball of dough in it and cover with a clean tea towel. Let rise in a warm place about an hour, until doubled. (Honestly it was quite chilly in the kitchen today but it worked fine).

Punch down the dough then knead in the herbs, tomatoes, and olives until well distributed. 

Divide into 12 pieces and on a lightly floured surface, pat each into a circle about the size of a burger bun. Place on cookie sheets on parchment or Silpats, about 3 fingers apart, and cover again. Let rise for another hour. Notice how if you are working on something at your desk in the home office, the buns summon you to take a regular break to move around.

Preheat the oven to 400F /200C/ Gas mark 6. Brush tops with egg white if you are using it, and bake for about 20 minutes until golden brown and they sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. 

Remove from the pan and cool on a rack.

We're crazy for crisps…

English friends, full disclosure…not chips, or what you might call crisps. Fruit crisps are a summer dessert and breakfast staple. This one started with a layer of stewed rhubarb, although simply chopping with a little maple syrup would work well. Any summer fruit (or mixture) will do.

Put the fruit in a square pan. In a large bowl mix 1/4c melted butter, 1/4c maple syrup or brown sugar, 2c large flake rolled oats, and 1/3 c each of unsweetened coconut and walnuts. Change it up with nuts and seeds as you like. Add more oats until you have a consistency that’s not too wet and sprinkle over the fruit.

Bake in a 350F oven for 30 minutes for pre-cooked fruit or up to an hour for fresh fruit, until topping is nicely browned and fruit is soft and bubbling. A glass pan lets you see what’s going on underneath.

We served ours with a tasty yogurt topping but whipped cream, ice cream or nothing at all and it would still be divine. (1/2 c fat free plain yogurt mixed w 1t maple syrup and 1/2t vanilla is plenty for two).

  

We really tarted up breakfast this morning…

  

A sure sign of the spring food garden is an abundance of rhubarb. In fact we had so much last year, that a whole bag went undiscovered in the back of the freezer and we found it when tidying up to prepare for this year’s harvest. This delicious tart is one of the results.

Stew at least 4 cups (1l) of chopped rhubarb with sugar to taste (we like ours tart, no pun intended) and cool. Eat as is, or to make this tasty tart, preheat oven to 375F . On a sheet of parchment, roll out one sheet of puff pastry to about 12″/30cm. Place on cookie sheet. Put rhubarb in the centre and turn in edges to lap over filling and contain it, leaving top open. Brush pastry with a beaten egg and bake for about 30 minutes or until golden. We served ours with a spoonful of plain fat free yogurt, sprinkled with a little cinnamon.

Love the coffee mug? It’s from Krysta Oland’s Morning Sun Pottery.

Bake on Saturday, Loaf Around Sunday

After a quick trip to the T-Dot to visit the kids and the in-laws, life is getting back to normal, food wise, at least. Yesterday I baked an updated version of English muffin loaf, with multigrain flour instead of white. It’s a fast mix, no kneading, and you can ignore it and do other chores during the rising. Here’s the recipe:

2c plus 1 T/265 ml  multigrain flour (make your own or try a mix including bran, rye, oat, spelt, kamut, or cracked wheat, and flax or sesame seeds if you like)

1T/15 ml or 1 packet active dry yeast

2t/10ml brown sugar (or honey or maple syrup)

1c/250ml lukewarm 1% milk (any milk will work, including nut milk)

1/4t/2 ml baking soda

Mix dry ingredients (except soda) in a large bowl. Stir with a wooden spoon to make a thick batter, then for 15-20 seconds more until it looks stretchy. 

Cover with a tea towel in a warm place and let rise for about 45 minutes til double.

Dissolve soda in 1T/15ml water and stir vigorously into batter, continuing just until it looks stretchy again. 

Grease or spray an 8″ loaf pan. Scrape batter in, cover with towel and allow to rise again about 40 minutes.

Bake in a 375 oven 45-55 minutes until it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove from pan right away.

Tastes best when toasted.

We had ours with a pepper and mushroom omelette. The sun is finally doing its work and the snow is beginning to recede. Thankfully, we just might see spring after all.

Happy Father's Day, Dads!

We’ve just been going through albums looking at photos of our dads…and our kids with their dad. What a happy thing that is. But all that reminiscing was hard work, so we need a solid, manly breakfast. How about this? Leftover steak and mushroom pie from last night’s dinner…

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Delicious!

Sweet Start to a Rainy Sunday

Cherry Apple Crisp

Before our recent holiday, we packaged up any fruit we couldn’t finish, and threw it in the freezer. These sweet dark cherries and apple slices came in handy when we wanted a warming breakfast for a gray, drizzly spring day. Brown sugar, rolled oats and butter formed the crisp topping, spiced up with a shake of cinnamon. The addition of some tangy, fat-free yogurt made it just right.

For two:

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a heatproof glass dish, put 3 cups of fruit. Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix 2c/500ml large-flake oats, 3T/45ml brown sugar, and 1/4c/6oml melted butter with a shake of cinnamon. Pour this on top of the fruit and bake – 30 minutes if you use fresh fruit, or 45 if you use frozen, as we did.

Top each serving with 1/4c or 60ml of yogurt.

Can't Put a Damper on This Canada Day

Well, it has been a soggy Canada Day weekend, and today’s forecast doesn’t look promising. However our family has a sure-fire start to the day, no matter the meteorological outlook. It begins like this:

20130701-084826.jpg. Everyone has a favorite way to eat fresh, local strawberries, and in our house it’s shortcake. But cake is really a misnomer, because it has to have biscuits along with the freshly-whipped cream. And before it disappears, it looks like this:

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Happy 146th birthday, Canada. Have a safe and wonderful day. Oh, and Happy Birthday to you too, Dad!

Date Night

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Sticking with a healthy eating plan means making good choices, but for those of us brought up to not waste food, sometimes the food prompts the menu, rather than the other way around. In this case, four rapidly-ripening bananas and a bunch of leftover dates from holiday baking needed to be used or thrown away. There was only one solution: banana date muffins. We started with a basic whole wheat muffin batter and added four mashed bananas, a cup of chopped dates, and half a cup of ground hemp seed (thanks Mariposa!)

Just one of these tasty muffins has enough calories, fibre, protein and fruity goodness to carry us through the morning. The rest are in the freezer for one of those days when shoveling takes precedence over breakfast making…we know they’re coming!