Return of the Bread

The bread has returned after much trial and error.  No small amount of wandering in the wilderness of doughy ignorance was required to at long last arrive at bread that summons as expected, every time. The former incantation involved measuring by cups, and experimentation brought me to the following spell ingredients, some using weights:

The Dough

 

  • 22 oz (by weight) white flour (pref. all-purpose)
  • 1t salt
  • 1-1/4C starter
  • 1-1/4C + 2T warm water
  • 1/2C vegetable oil

The dough should be a smooth consistency that doesn’t stick to your fingers like The Blob. Finding this consistency can be a matter of trial and error. If it dough is too sticky, add flour one tablespoon at a time until it is not longer desperately clinging to your fingers. If the dough is too dry, use the same approach but with water.

Place the dough in a large bowl, cover with a damp towel, and keep in a warm place for 12 hours.

When summoned, it will be a large mass that can then be kneaded and split into twin loaves.  Again cover with a damp towel.

The remainder of summoning is the same.  I think I’ve discovered that 50 minutes in the oven is ideal.

Variations

Oatmeal Cranberry Bread!  I make the dough with an additional 2T of molasses.  After the first rise, I then add 1C Oatmeal, and 1/2C Cranberries (in the form of ‘Craisins’).  Make into loaves.  Let rise.  Bake.  It summons splendidly.

Advertisements

Spiced Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies (of enduring tastiness)

For a long time I made my grandmother’s recipe for oatmeal cookies.  Recently I started wanting crispier cookies and then we tried this vegan experiment which demanded finding a different recipe.

This recipe is almost certainly a lingering winner.  I am even experimenting with a protein-like bar variation.

  • 3/4 cup margarine
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup soy milk
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp ginger powder
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 3 cups quick cooking or rolled oatmeal
  • 1 cup dried cranberries

Cream together the margarine and sugars until smooth. Add vanilla and soy milk and mix well.

Add flour, baking soda and spices until well mixed, then stir in oats and cranberries.

Spoon 1 1/2 inch balls onto an ungreased cookie sheet and bake 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees, or until done.

But, of course, I’m not posting here just because I like to use copy/paste.  My first modification to this was to find a way to increase the crispiness.  I tried baking for 20 minutes and that didn’t do it.  My attempt to bake for 25 minutes failed due to “I’ll remember” as apposed to using a timer… oops.  What I also did on that attempt was use vegetable oil instead of margarine — which I think helped.  The cookies did come out crispy, but some were a tad scorched.  I do also notice a huge difference depending on the pan used… so, as they say, ymmv.

My next, measured, test will be to follow the same second modification but to definitely time them for 25 minutes.  There is a chance I cooked them for 30 minutes which is why they were overly crisp, though still edible.

Protein Bar Attempt #1

This is a relatively easy variation.  Changes and additions were…

  • +1 cup flour (so, 2 cups)
  • 2oz (basically, two servings) protein powder of choice (mine was one soy, one rice)
  • +1/2 cup soy milk (so 1 cup)
  • Optionally, replace cranberries with another berry mix like an anti-oxidant mix

I then spread this out on a cookie sheet to get it as flat as possible.  Bake the same way.

Results:  It was edible, in a good way.  It wasn’t as dense as I wanted nor as protein-like.  It was also more moist than I inteded.

Next time:  an additional scoop of protein, 1/2c less flour (so 1-1/2c), and +5 minutes cook time.

Breakfast Gruel ~ Or How to Make Oatmeal, Not Glue

Unlike John, I simply can’t cope with drinking my breakfast. I love milkshakes, I even like some smoothies. Maybe I’ve seen WALL-E and taken it too much to heart, but I just can’t do breakfast-in-a-cup. But, also wanting to get through my day without getting into the chips left over from the last gaming session, and wanting to acquire some basic daily nutrition, I too have a daily morning routine.

Half a cup of steel cut oats, steamed (basically).

Now, I never liked rolled oats as a kid, nor cream of wheat, or really any kind of hot cereal, whether it was breakfast fare or otherwise. To me they always ended up in a form better suited to papering walls than filling my insides. But this radically new approach has changed all that, especially with the switch to steel cut oats. Steel cut oats have much more fiber than rolled, they just take a lot longer to cook — typical Western approach to food, convenience over nutrition, right?

I will freely admit that a lot of what I know about generalized technique I got from Alton Brown’s early seasons of “Good Eats”. Over time, I’ve noticed a pattern when he’s dealing with starches in some kind of small, pellet like form (rice, oats, barley, polenta, &c.) – start with high heat and fat (butter, oil, what have you) to get some caramelization going, get boiling water into the situation as quickly as possible, cover as tightly as possible, and then let things go low and slow for as long as possible without losing a very gentle simmer/very low boil. Because this is almost like baking, and the margin of error is very narrow, I actually have this down to fairly precise details at this point to avoid disaster.

I use my smallest sauce pan, with a lid, and a kitchen towel (for weight on the thin lid, if you have a heavy lid, don’t bother). In the small pan I heat a silver dollar sized pour of olive oil. Once good and hot, into this goes the half cup of steel cut oats. Begin moving them about immediately and quickly so that all the kernels are coated in oil and none are sitting there deep frying in a small pool. Keep this over fairly high heat, moving frequently. When you start to hear consistent popping noises, pour in one and one eighth of a cup of water, a pinch of salt and whatever spices you like. I usually go with cinnamon, but powdered ginger, clove, nutmeg or all four can be very nice. Heck, I’ve even had it with zatar and it was really good, too. If you have an electric kettle and don’t mind the effort, make that cup of water already boiling when it goes in. Otherwise, get it up to a boil as fast as you can. Once boiling, slap on the lid, pile on the towel to help keep it down (being sure none of the edges hang over near your flames!), and reduce the heat to low. I sometimes do this on two different burners, the big one for the very hot stages and my tiniest one for the simmering stage. Set a timer for 30 minutes. Yes. That long. If you do the first half in your jammies, breakfast is ready by the time you get dressed and have a cup of tea.

When the timer goes off, uncover, add a reasonable amount of honey and if you like, a splash of milk (not half and half or cream!) or almond milk works on certain days. Stir briefly and serve immediately.

No more cereal of limitless sticking potential! Hello daily fiber.

Draught of Fortitude (aka My Morning Shake)

When was the last time you saw an adventurer linger over breakfast?  It’s always a victory feast or some such.  Perhaps it’s because putting on all that armor takes so long, saddling the horse takes time, or perhaps they’re just focused on the loot.  Me…?  I’m usually bleary-eyed, uncoordinated, confused, trying to brush my teeth with my comb, and hoping my socks match.  So I really need to make sure my breakfast is nutritious, quick, and sticks with me.  So what better than a protein-like shake that I can just pour and quaff?  I could try not eating, but I fear I’d join the ranks of the Commuter Zombies.  Nrrg…

I started with a shake that would fill me up, and then moved on to a shake with extras which help contribute to my general well-being.  It’s kind of the same logic as “A Spoonful of Sugar Helps the Medicine Go Down”.

The ingredients all have a rationale.  The plain yogurt avoids adding too much sugar.  This shake does not suffer from lack of sweetness, and if something like Vanilla yogurt was used this would be too sweet.  The whey protein is one of the good proteins (note that flavored varieties have sugars added…), and protein sticks with a person longer; part of the goal here is to manage hunger and snacking.  The oatmeal is there for the fiber, but not too much because oatmeal is also a carbohydrate – which is bad sugar.  Turmeric is good for joints.  Cinnamon is good for the heart.  Ginger is good for many things.  Bananas taste good – oh, and they have potassium.  The frozen fruit mix is mostly for flavor, but if you choose wisely you can work in some anitoxidant properties.  Fairer weather (or climates) are great for this because it’s easier to work in readily available fresh fruit.  The milk is simply a thinner; calcium is good for a person and the yogurt already has plenty of that.  This could also be thinned with alternatives to milk such as rice or soy milk.

I also think I’ve finally found a process of blending this together so it does so cooperatively.  This is mixed half-batch at a time.  I don’t have a Blender of Holding… only a Blender of Might.  So half-at-a-time is necessary.

Draught of Fortitude (serves 6 humans, or one human six times, or one Giant)

  • 1 Blender of Might – using a whimpy blender for this may result in dodging a lid (roll save vs. blender lid…)
  • 32 oz plain yogurt
  • 2 oz whey protein
  • 1/2 c oatmeal
  • 10 dashes turmeric
  • 10 dashes cinnamon
  • 4 T chopped ginger
  • 4 large bananas
  • 24 oz mix frozen fruit (blackberries, strawberries, etc. – fresh is nice if you have it)
  • milk to thin

Add yogurt (16 oz), followed by (remember… half) whey protein, oatmeal, turmeric, cinnamon, and ginger.  The whey protein and oatmeal add body; protein will stick-with-ya longer.  The turmeric is for joint health, cinnamon is good for the heart, and ginger is good for many things.

I usually halve (as in break-in-half) the bananas and then stick them down into the yogurt.  They don’t have to be buried, just slightly submerged to help make room for the rest.  Add the fruit and then the milk.  Usually I will add the fruit, cap the blender, and pour the milk through the pour cap in the top – but I’ve seen a few blenders that don’t have a pour cap.

Start blending this slowly, perhaps on the second speed.  Your blender may go up to 11, but if you start there, you’re probably going to break something – especially if you fail to dodge an ejected blender lid.  Not that I’ve ever done that.

When you’re done, the blender may be too full to pour.  I usually use a ladle or a measuring cup to scoop some out into appropriate vessels.  If I am not serving 6 humans or a giant, I will put these into something I can keep in the refrigerator all week.  This is one of the reasons for the mixed fruit; they make the shake a pleasant rich-purple color instead of a strange brown due to the turmeric and banana (after a few days).

Since I don’t strictly measure the ingredients, I’ve had this last all week some times.  It keeps well over that time, and doesn’t adopt a funky flavor.  One reason for this is that I will separate it into multiple small containers.  The less contact it has with air, the longer it will take to spoil when kept in the fridge.

So this one is more mixing that strict “cooking”.  That’s why the rules are really more like guidelines!