December 15, 2012

Oatmeal Bread

A couple years back Sarah and I were part of Companion Bakeshop's bread CSA before they got their new location on the West Side of Santa Cruz and Sarah started going to the farmer's market on a regular basis.  Back then I would drive down to a small commercial kitchen near the Seven Bridges Homebrew Co-op and pick up a bag full of bread, granola, crackers, and a hot breakfast cereal blend.

The regular consumables were of course delicious and usually didn't last very long.  But Sarah typically has a grab-bag breakfast and I eat microwaved oatmeal so cooking up a big pot of hot mash just doesn't happen in our house.  The breakfast blend wasn't eaten.  In fact I think I still have two bags of the stuff sitting in my freezer.

I had to find something to do with it all, we got a half pound of this stuff every week and it started piling up fast.  We thought we might be able to give it away to our friends but they all had the same CSA and had just as much of it as we did.  I tried grinding it up into flour to put into pancakes but so much of the blend was millet and red quinoa that the pancakes came out too crunchy.  And grinding it all in my little Krups coffee mill was just a huge pain in the neck.

What I finally set on was to make bread out of it.  One loaf uses up about half a bag and since it's cooked before going in the final product is not at all crunchy.

Cooked Oatmeal Bread

Cooked Oatmeal Bread

1 1/2 Cups Thick Cooked Oatmeal or Cereal Grain Blend
2 Tbs. Butter
2 Tbs. Honey
1 1/2 tsp. Salt
2 1/4 tsp. dry yeast
3/4 Cups Warm Water
5 Cups All Purpose Flour

For 1 1/2 cups cooked oatmeal use 3/4 cups rolled oats and 3/4 cups water.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook, stirring constantly, until well thickened.  Stir in butter, honey, and salt while still hot.  Allow to cool until just warm to the touch.

When oatmeal is cool add the dry yeast, warm water, and about 4 1/2 cups flour.  Either using your hands, a large wooden spoon, or a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment gently mix the flour into the oatmeal batter until a rough dough forms.  If using a stand mixer, add the remaining flour and incorporate it gently before setting the mixer to mid speed for about seven minutes.

If mixing by hand use the remaining flour to dust a wide work surface (I use my kitchen table) and turn the dough out to be kneaded.  Knead in the usual way for about seven to ten minutes until well smoothed.  Use as much extra flour as is needed to prevent sticking.

Turn the kneaded dough (machine or hand) into a well oiled bowl, cover with a towel, and set in a warm place to rise for about 1 1/2 hours.  

Deflate the dough gently before forming the dough into a blunt, squat, cigar shape and transferring into a prepared bread pan.  I prefer to line my baking pans with parchment as this allows for easy removal of the bread after baking.  Cover with a small sheet of plastic wrap or parchment before covering again with a towel and allowing an additional 1 to 1 1/2 hours rising time.

About 30 minutes to an hour before baking heat the oven to 450F.  Set a cast iron skillet on the bottom of the oven and set a rack at about half height.  When the dough has risen, slash the surface (allows for extra expansion and a lighter crumb) and slide onto the center rack.  Before closing the oven throw a handful of ice cubes into the hot iron skillet and immediate close the oven door.  

Allow to bake at 450F for five minutes then reduce the temperature to 350F and continue baking another 30 - 45 minutes.  

The bread is done when the surface is well browned and a hollow sound is heard when the bottom of the loaf is tapped with your knuckle.

If find this to be the best with butter.

Have fun.

December 1, 2012


Saturdays have become "Breakfast Day" at the Hungry Hippo (current name for the kitchen) and waffles are often on the menu.  I grew up eating waffles made by my mom and never really thought about what went in them.  Only when I started making them myself did I realize that waffles are really just breakfast cake, lots of fat and sugar, not much fiber or other good things.  I know they've got eggs and milk in them, but they're still just cake.  Sarah and I have tried making more robust and healthy waffles but our efforts usually just end up resembling crisp oatmeal.  Crisp oatmeal is all well in good when it's called for, but crisp oatmeal does not a waffle make.  We keep coming back to this recipe because they're just really good.

This is my Mom's recipe...


2 Eggs, Separated
1 3/4 Cups All Purpose Flour
1 Tbs. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Salt
1/4 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Canola Oil
1 1/2 Cups Milk

Lightly oil and heat your preferred waffle iron.

Separate the egg yolks and egg whites into mixing bowls.  Into the yolks add the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, oil and milk.  Wisk together until smooth.

With an electric egg beater or using a stand mixer beat the egg whites to stiff peaks.  Fold the whites gently into the rest of the batter.

Pour the appropriate amount of finished batter (1/2 cup?) into the prepared iron and cook as per usual.

We usually top our waffles with plain yogurt and some kind of fruit jam or butter.  Syrup is a good stand-by but if more interesting things are to hand then we go with those instead.

June 30, 2012

Been Away, Drinking Dark and Stormies

So. I haven't been posting anything for a while...


Why? Mostly it's because Sarah and I have just been too busy in the evenings to be bothered with taking photos of and writing about the food we've been eating. She's been taking pictures of our weekly menus since she's been writing them up so I could potentially post those somewhere. Meh. Maybe I'll get to it someday, but don't count on it.

Also, I've been taking on slightly more of a leadership type role at Aikido of Santa Cruz and have been home in the evenings much less often to cook. Because of this Sarah has been planning easier dinners, things like sandwiches or veggie burgers or baked tofu on rice, stuff that's easy to prepare and quick to clean up. Unfortunately also not really post worthy.

But, I still had a bunch of photos on the camera. Mostly things from a year back that I just never got to. I had some free time this weekend and figured I'd just get the photos onto the network and set things up for a few posts at once.

This will be the first of the "old stuff" posts that I should have written a long time ago.

So, I'm sorry, we've been away, drinking Dark and Stormies.

Sarah and I have been on a cocktail kick lately. First it was wine (it's still wine really, just not as often), then sour beer for a little while (still this too actually), now it's cocktails. I've been reading up on the classics, trying to get a feel for how the most traditional drinks are built and how they relate to both each other and some of the newer cocktails being invented today.  I think I'm starting to get a good feel for things, but, not being a professional bartender, I have only myself and Sarah to practice on.  Boo hoo...

The Dark and Stormy is a classic.  Easy to make, easy to drink.

Dark and Stormy:

  2 oz. dark rum
  Juice of 1/2 fresh lime (1/2 - 1 oz.)
  4 oz. ginger beer

Build over ice in a tumbler in the order given. Stir briefly and gently. Imbibe.

Now.  Ginger beer (or ginger ale) can of course be purchased.  But why would anybody do that when making it yourself is so much more fun and tastes so much better?  That's right, no one.  The recipe below is one I've adapted from one posted by Jeffrey Morgenthaler, the head bartender at Clyde Common, a great tavern in Portland, Oregon.

I've kept the basic structure of Morgenthaler's recipe, keeping the ratio of sugary to watery, but I've had to change the way the ginger gets in.  He uses ginger juice, which is a pain in butt if you don't have a juicer, something I don't and don't want to own, so instead I make a ginger simple syrup and up the water in the recipe to make up for the reduction in the "watery" ginger juice.

As Moregenthaler says, you can make the ginger beer in one of two ways: ferment by adding yeast, or add the syrup with lemon juice to carbonated water.  I prefer the natural fermentation method because it's more fun and I think the flavor is better in the final product.  Also, if you need to buy the carbonated water to mix the syrup with you've completely defeated the purpose of not just buying ginger beer in the first place.

A note on soda making: I've read into it a bit and am leaving out many many steps.  Please read more detailed instructions elsewhere before moving forward.  Nothing scary to worry about, there are just particulars I won't mention.

Ginger Beer:
  modified, makes one bottle

  3 oz. Ginger Simple Syrup*
  2 oz. Lemon Juice, fresh or not
  11 oz. lukewarm water
  25 granules Red Star Champagne Yeast (really, the tiniest amount, less than a pinch)

Add all ingredients to a well cleaned 16 oz. bail-top style beer bottle.  Let sit at room temp for approximately 24 hours.  Carefully and slowly check for carbonation by releasing the bail-top.  If carbonation seems sufficient move bottles to the fridge, if not let sit for another 6-12 hours and check again.  Continue to release the excess carbonation from the bottles once they move into the fridge as the fermentation will continue slowly despite the low temperature.   Drink.

*Ginger Simply Syrup:

  2 cups water
  2 cups sugar
  2 oz. ginger, peeled and finely diced
  1/2 tsp. black peppercorns
  1 cardamom pod, broken

Boil water, sugar, and spices for about 3 minutes.  Let spices steep in syrup at least 1 day before straining into a clean jar.  Use liberally.