Thursday, December 25, 2014

Unexpected Christmas Salmon

For our Christmas dinner this year, we planned to have salmon prepared using a simple wine poach. After a phone call with my aunt, uncle, and cousins, who eight time zones away were just finishing their dinner, we completely changed our salmon recipe to something new and fantastic!   They had just finished a Salmon en croute recipe from the BBC. We had most of the ingredients and improvised the rest.  We used a simple salad oil pie crust as the crust layered with PNW Chinook salmon, Emmer (Lonesome Whistle Farm), shallots (Groundwork Organics), and spinach.

Pie crust for the top and bottom.

Pesky bones to get out of the fillet.

Pre-baked lower pie crust layer.

Lemon, dill marinated salmon on a bed of Emmer, shallots, and spinach with a dash of 3 Horse Ranch Vineyards 2013 Vivacious and plenty of butter.

Thanks PDT&B for both the recipe inspiration and lovely pan in which to bake it! This is a great Christmas treat. Even with all of the ingredients, this went together quite easily and was enjoyed by all ages.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Festive Popcorn

We get a fabulous Bean and Grains CSA from Lonesome Whistle Farm who have become famous locally for their gorgeous purple heirloom popcorn.

Last year we were introduced to chocolate-peppermint popcorn.  It's so delicious! I've found many variations online labeled as Peppermint Bark Popcorn.  Some have sprinkles, milk chocolate, white chocolate, almond flavoring, and food coloring.  We simply like to use pure sugar candy canes (1/3 c crushed--about 5 canes) and dark chocolate (1 c melted chips) on our popped corn (1/2 c unpopped).

The most difficult part of this recipe is to crush the candy canes.  It is a fun afternoon activity to smash candy canes in a plastic bag with a heavy rolling pin on the living room floor!

Then, with the popcorn popped,

we just sprinkle on the candy canes and pour over the melted chocolate. 

So easy and so yummy.  This might be my new favorite winter potluck food!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Thanksgiving Weekend Treats

This year for Thanksgiving weekend we have had many of our family's favorite including filbert and pumpkin pies, turkey using America Test Kitchen's version of Julia Child's cut up method on a bed of my in-laws homemade stuffing, roasted Brussel sprouts, local wines, and mashed potatoes.

This year we've added some new recipes that have instantly become family favorites too.

First, the New York Times published an amazing recipe for Cranberry Sauce with Pinot Noir.  Allspice, cloves, cinnamon, rosemary, vanilla bean, orange, black pepper, and wine make for a scrumptious side dish.

I made Winter Breakfast Muffins with cranberries, raisins, and vanilla yogurt from Elin England's Eating Close to Home. Everyone including the cat liked them.

We had a beautiful batch of persimmons from our last CSA box of the season.  I found this interesting recipe for Persimmon Leather to be made in a toaster over.  I've made a couple of batches of these with Fuyu persimmons in the regular oven at 450F for about 15 minutes until the juices are running.  They're sweet little bites.

Lastly, I made a dinner salad/side dish with blanched collards, garlic bread crumbs toasted in olive oil, and toasted filberts from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.  I think that this is the antithesis of "Snicker Salad" that was one of the top recipes Googled in several states as reported in the New York Times this week.  I loved reading through this to see regional variations on food preferences.

What a joy it is to have a long weekend to have time to experiment with new recipes and savor the results.   

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Finals Breads

Teaching Bread 101 has been an incredible experience.  I've enjoyed working with my four colleagues and nineteen juniors and seniors from the Clark Honors College for this truly interdisciplinary perspective of wheat and bread.  So often as a teacher I am alone in my classroom exploring the subject at hand just from my perspective, and I have really appreciated that the students and faculty had such a broad range of backgrounds, experience, and expertise to bring to the classroom and daily discussions.

Our starters have been growing all term, and it was time to put them to the test using Chad Robertson's Tartine's Country Bread as published in the New York Times earlier this term.  The students each baked this bread with a group using the best of their cultivated starters.  For our final, I decided to bake two different sourdough breads.

Tartine's Country Bread
This is not a quick bread.  The rising and baking time alone (once the starter is active) is 12-24 hours.  I was up early with a yowling cat

so started my bread at 5am--and finished at 5pm later on the same day.

My starter has come a long way since the I first put the flour and water together.

I added the required water, whole wheat flour and white flour and mixed by hand and let the dough rest for 40 minutes.

Next, I added in the salt and more water and the dough changed completely.  It was wet and stringy.  I was really worried that it wasn't going to come together and I'd have to start over. However, after just a few minutes, I could feel the gluten forming as I mixed and it went from this mass of dough that would simply not stay together... something that was all integrated and ready for a second 30 minute rest.  This time I put it in the oven for a warmer fermentation.

Next, began the process of stretching and folding the dough every 30 minutes over 3 hours.  Fortunately, there are pictures to demonstrate what this folding looks like.

I even had some help in folding.

After 3 hours of folding, I divided the dough into 2 loaves and let it rest.  

Then each round went into a bowl covered a towels dusted with flour for a 5 1/2 hour rise.

Then I baked them in a casserole dish with a lid and then removed the lid to led the crust brown.

The first was a little dark.  Although it tastes delicious.  It has a perfect texture and an excellent flavor. The holes in the bread all have the sheen we've learned to identify in great bread. This is a great bread recipe.

The second loaf looked perfect.  This is the one I took to the final exam. I'm amazed at how different these two loaves tasted!  The second one is more sour and the texture is not as fine.  I baked it for 5 fewer minutes with the lid off, but I now wonder if the bread really needed that full baking time even if it got a little darker. 

I was also impressed by the student loaves today.  Each one was different.  The flavors, the colors, the textures were each unique.  So often in our industrialized world we want a product to be the same time and time again.  Familiarity is nice.  However, it's not as fantastic as eating and comparing nine loaves of bread and homemade butter and homemade jam!  I'm so impressed with the products and the learning that went into understanding the science of how to bake a loaf of bread.

A Inadequate Comparison--Bread Maker Sourdough

I also baked a second loaf based on a conversation from the end of the term. In our last regular Bread 101 class session, we looked at the energy requirements for production of wheat and bread.  It is in fact quite complicated to calculate how much energy is required to grow, process, and ship wheat and all the steps in production of bread.  A blog entitled "100 Days Without Oil" presented was a graph and calculations about energy usage to bake bread in various methods with a bread machine listed as the lowest energy usage to bake a loaf of bread.

We've had a bread machine for many years, which we've used off and on.  It's quick and easy to use, but the final products are not the same as traditional oven baked bread. They're fine right out of the machine, but quickly lose their appeal.  I used the bread maker to bake the recommended sourdough recipe for a comparison with the Tartine Country Bread.  I started this loaf when my Tartine bread had been going for 3 hours.  This bread was completed more than five hours before the Tartine loaf.

This recipe instructs to add the starter (mostly for flavor and yeast for rising according to the recipe) and water 

followed by sugar, oil, flour, salt and yeast.

The container goes into the machine for a fascinating 20 minute kneading session.

I'm always concerned that the dry ingredients will not get mixed into the wet.

The whole program is set for 3 hours 10 minutes including kneading, 2 rises, and baking.

Loaf ready for the first rise.

The final product looked ok, but the taste and texture were bland and crumbly!  Fresh from the machine the breadmaker bread has tasted fine, but I haven't discovered a recipe that holds up after a few days.  Forty-eight hours after baking it wasn't worth eating.

Bread reflections
We asked the students today what big lessons they learned about bread this term.  Beyond great experience with co-teaching an interdisciplinary course, my biggest lesson about bread is about patience.  I have not had success baking breads because I haven't been willing to give the bread the time to ferment, rise, and really develop.  Twenty four hours to develop and break down gluten makes a much better product than 3 hours quick to finish bread.  The Tartine Country Loaf is a labor of love and worth it in every single bite!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Preschool No Knead Bread

Throughout the term it has been fun to watch my daughter's class with their bread starter.  It's been growing right alongside my starter from home and the ones the Bread 101 class have cultivated.  I've overheard several conversations during parent pick-up and drop-off about growing the starter in class, how it's grown with wild yeasts, and when will they get to bake bread. One of the other preschoolers was so excited that my daughter got to take the starter home for the weekend that she requested to do the same.  Another member of the center staff also took some starter home and successfully made sourdough bread.  Hurray!

I think that it's exciting that the preschoolers get an opportunity to experience different types of baking at school and grow a small garden--I hear muffins and berries are particular favorites.  The children have the opportunity to see how they can help make their own food.  This spring, perhaps because of all the baking and talk of baking, my daughter wants to help cook or bake every time I go into the kitchen--and my son often follows.  I've had to think about ways to integrate them into the kitchen (lots of mixing on the counter). I want both of my children to get experience growing food, baking, and cooking.  Some of my fondest memories are of time spent in the garden and kitchen with family and friends.  I've been reading too about the benefits of building other skills such as math skills, reading comprehension, problem solving, cleaning up, and patience.  It's amazing to recognize that an everyday activity has all these skills embedded.  The article Caron Gremont 5 Reasons Kids Belong in the Kitchen particularly resonates with me, and I'm looking forward to trying out some of the other suggestions and recipes in the article.

This spring in one of our Bread 101 units we explored the rise of modernization and industrialization that allowed women to "get out" of the kitchen.  It makes me wonder: what have we lost as a society when children are not baking alongside their parents? It seems that we're lacking community building, skill development, and knowing where our food comes from if we don't spend time in the kitchens with our families.  This term bread has been a powerful medium for exploring wide ranging social and scientific implications of our changing food structures and exploring the impacts here in the Willamette Valley.  I'm looking forward to finding ways beyond this course for my family to continue to garden and bake together and be thoughtful about our food.

Like so many of the bread baking experiences from this term, baking No Knead Bread: Preschool Edition took a couple of tries to get the conditions just right.

I had recommended that on top of the dishwasher was a warm location for getting activity in the fermentation stage.  The helped kids put the bread together and let it rise overnight.

The next morning the dough was extremely, even overly bubbly.

The rising dough was prepared for overnight.  However, the heat must have been too much because rather than rise, it just got crusty and baked on the exterior overnight.  Whoops time to start over.

But, it led me to find this interesting article about temperature control written for the Bread Bakers Guild of America.  There's quite a specific science to determining the perfect temperature for each step in the baking process. There's almost too many variable to take in at once, but the resource looks useful for problem solving a specific problem step at a time.

When a baking project doesn't go well.  It's a perfect time to take a break, problem solve, and work some puzzles with women scientists.

Version 2 had a better time fermenting and rising at room temperature.

It resulted in this beautiful loaf of bread!

When I picked up my daughter at the end of the day, all of the kids and teachers excitedly told me about the bread!  The kids ate it with cream cheese, and my daughter was particularly thrilled to take an extra piece home for snack.  I'm so glad that the kids got to do this project in their class.  Thank you Megan and Carol for making it possible! What a great long term class project with delicious results.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Field Trips and Comfort Food

We are just entering our last week of the Bread 101 course.  After talking quite a lot this term about how wheat is processed into flour, we had the opportunity to take our students to the Camas Country Mill, the first flour mill open in the Willamette Valley since the Great Depression.  Our hosts, Steve and Stephanie, walked us through all the steps of flour production, how and where wheat and other grains are grown, the operation of a stone mill to produce 100% stone ground flours, and the shipping and distribution of the flour.  It was fascinating.  Plus we all got to wear pretty cool hair nets.

We each were sent home with a package of spring spelt flour an ancient grain that can be substituted for wheat flour.  Over the weekend, I used my package to create meals of comfort food.

Saturday Night Pizza
When my daughter was born, my friend Karen brought us calzones with a sausage and Swiss chard filling.  It was a flavor combination that I hadn't had before, but found I really enjoy.  This combination works equally as well as pizza topping.  I used my pizza dough recipe and substituted spelt in a 1:1 ratio for the flour.  I let the dough rise for nearly 2 hours, which is double the typical rising time I allow, and it was perfect.  The dough was easy to roll out, baked nicely, and had a good, strong whole wheat flavor.

The pizza is colorful with the Swiss chard (Groundwork Organics), and combined well with mozzarella cheese, olives, sausage, and tomato sauce.

We ate our pizza with Tusker beer brewed and bottled in Nairobi, Kenya.  Amazing how a taste can be so strongly associated with a place like other foods I ate in Kenya.  Tusker tastes just like I remember.  The cashier at the Bier Stein told me I made a good choice in taking the bottles home.


Strawberry Shortcake

Our second agritainment field trip occurred over the weekend to get strawberries. The U-Pick Strawberry field at Thistledown Farm has the best strawberries that I can remember in years!  In less than half and hour we filled our buckets.  We probably should have weighed the kids before and after picking.

But we got lots into our buckets. My daughter was very possessive the bucket she filled.


We've made four batches of strawberry freezer jam, will freeze more for the winter, and had strawberry shortcake for breakfast on Sunday.  The biscuits had 1 cup of spelt (Camas Country Mill) and 1 cup soft white wheat (Lonesome Whistle Farm).  The combination created a nice biscuit flavor.  The biscuits were a little crumbly; however, covered in strawberries, whipped cream, and milk this did not matter at all.

I think my whole family has found a new favorite breakfast food.