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Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns

May 20, 2011

Baking bread for the first time has certainly sparked, within me, anew kind of passion for baking.  Visiting Amy’s Bread at the Chelsea Market a couple of times has definitely helped as well.  Watching professionals form buns, twists and loaves may just be my new favorite pastime.  Their efficiency is impeccable.  Though Chelsea Market always smells of sweet cupcakes and brownies, I can’t help but avoid them all and head straight to the bread shop.

If I lose my sweet tooth, will I need to change the blog name?

Whatever, it’s all sweet inspiration right?  And, I have yet to even loosen my sweet tooth.  In fact, I learned all about sweeteners today in class, so I’ll be back to baking treats soon.  Only now that I have reliable information, I’ll be working with healthier alternatives.

For now, back to sandwich breads.

Kneading bread is a total hands on art form.  I don’t bother with a mixer.  For me, it’s more enjoyable and therapeutic to form the dough with my bare hands, to feel it’s weight and texture change and smell the yeast.  No worries if you don’t knead, when the recipe calls for kneading “until smooth and elastic,” use a standing mixer to work the dough for about 10 minutes until the texture forms. This recipe originally comes from Mother Earth News.  I made a few alterations; simply adding more whole wheat flour in place of all-purpose. The buns overall are firm, but light and slightly sweet.  In the future, I will halve the sugar. Decide what’s best for you and go for it.  It’s quite satisfying  to eat a homemade burger with a homemade bun.  That’s so (from) scratch!

Whole Wheat Hamburger Buns
Recipe adapted from Mother Earth News
Makes 6

1 cup warm milk (lukewarm is 85°-105°)
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, partially melted in the milk
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast (if substituting with active yeast, dissolve it in the milk before adding other ingredients)
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1/4 cup warm water
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon salt

1: In a large bowl mix milk, butter, flours and yeast.  Cover and let sit for 2 hours or overnight in a warm location.  (For overnight, it may be necessary to cover the batter with a plastic wrap to keep it from drying out.  I wrapped it with a damp cloth, then covered the bowl with another clean cloth and the batter was fine.)
2:
In a separate bowl, mix water and yeast.  Work into the rest of the batter.  Slowly mix in remaining flours, sugar and salt.
3: On a clean and lightly floured surface, knead dough until smooth and elastic.  Roll into a ball.  Lightly oil outside of the dough, place back in the bowl and cover.  Allow for 1 hour to rise in a warm location.
4:  Preheat oven to 375°F. Prepare baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly oil the bottom.
5: Cut dough into 6 equal parts, then roll each part into a round bun.  Place on the baking sheet, but allow about 5-10 minutes before baking.  Dough will become slightly puffier.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown.

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Mango & Mint Sorbet

May 17, 2011

One of the senior classes at my school made Mango and Mint Sorbet.  I didn’t get to try any, but all the talk had me craving a bowl.  Turns out the stars were alined just right, because I took home a little extra mint from my own class and mangoes were on super-sale at the market!  Sometimes life is just on-point.

Mango & Mint Sorbet
Makes about 4 cups

Ingredients:
2 ripe mangos, skinned and sliced or chopped
2 Tablespoons raw honey
3 Tablespoons or 1/4 cup coconut milk
4 teaspoons fresh mint, minced
Optional: 1/4 c. cubed mango

Purée mango, honey and coconut milk in a blender until smooth.  Pour into a 5 cup freezer-safe container.  Stir in mint (and cubed mango).  Seal and freeze for 1 hour.  Remove and stir, then return to the freezer.  Keep in the freezer for about 4 hours, stirring each hour.  (Stirring each hour creates a creamier texture, otherwise the sorbet may be somewhat icy.)

Chop Chop: How to Cut a Mango

May 13, 2011

When shopping for mango, choose one based on when you plan to use it.  Mango used that day should be slightly soft, but with no sinking spots or discoloration.  If you don’t plan to use it for a few days, then choose a firmer mango.  Don’t bother judging it by color, but by firmness and smell.  They should have a sweet aroma detected from the stem (photo below).   Keep mango away from refrigeration until ripe.  Ripe mangos last about a week in the fridge, or several months if frozen.  Okay, now for the fun…

The easiest and safest way to cut a mango is when the skin is still attached.  Skinning a mango first will result in loss of juices from the fruit and possibly a slippery, dangerous mess.

Place the mango on the cutting board so that the stem faces you.  Use a large knife to cut as close to the pit as possible (between 1/2 and 1/3 into the fruit).  There should be two clean (sort of half) pieces and one with the complete pit.

You may quarter the mango or leave in two large pieces.

Carefully score a cross pattern through the flesh of the fruit.  To score is simply to make shallow cuts, so be sure not to go through the skin.  Otherwise, you may end up with a bunch of bite-sized mango pieces with the tough skin on one side.  Speaking from experience, that result is no fun.

This is called the Hedgehog Cut.  My cut is a little abstract and less of a formal cube, but you get the idea. My initial cut was too diagonal.  To make cubes, score straight with no slant in the pattern.  Push the skin inside out with one hand, then with a paring knife cut the pieces away from the skin.

Any large chunks may be cut, so that each piece is roughly the same size.  It’s not necessary, except for appearance.

If you are puréeing mango into a smoothie or sorbet, save yourself some time and effort.  Begin with the first step of cutting the mango away from the pit, then score the fruit lengthwise. Use a regular silverware spoon to scoop out the fruit slices.

If there is still plenty of fruit around the pit, use a paring knife to carefully trim edible pieces.  All of the odd cuts are perfect for purées or a quick snack while you’re hard at work in the kitchen!

Chop chop!

Squashed Soup with Coconut Milk

May 11, 2011

Butternut squash is a welcomed friend in our home.  When I first see it at farmers’ markets I know that is usually a sign that cool weather is approaching, but for some reason I don’t care.  This squash always puts a smile on my face.  It’s quite versatile, as it can easily be stewed, puréed into soup, mashed, roasted or even turned into pie filling.  Also, because of their durable outer skin, they store well past their season in a cool, dry environment. Seriously, how magical is this squash?

When Jonathan and I lived in Thailand, there were days when we just couldn’t take another bite of rice.  On those occasions,  we would visit a chain restaurant that served various soups and our favorite was a sweet, creamy pumpkin.  This recipe is an older one I created that is reminiscent of that sweet pumpkin soup.  Today I substituted with butternut squash, and added a little broth to make it a bit more savory.  I also dazzled it a bit with crunchy diced pieces of squashed that were seasoned and sautéed.  Butternut squash seeds are equally (if not more) delicious toasted and garnished on the soup.  Confession; I just needed the time to work on my knife skills for school.  Another confession; I am obsessed with eating butternut squash seeds and the skin.  Is that weird?  I don’t get questioned about the seeds, but usually about the skin.  Hmm… 

Either way, I can’t go without toasting the peeled outer layer and munching on it like chips as an appetizer.  Even peeled very thin, the skins aren’t usually all-the-way crisp, but have a firm, but slightly chewy bite.  I usually enjoy them unsalted, but season any way you like. You be the judge and let me know what you think.

Updated Note: Only make squash chips if using a squash directly purchased or given from a gardener.  Store bought squashes are generally coated with a wax that may cause digestive issues.

Squashed Soup with Coconut Milk
Serves 8-10

Ingredients:
4 – 5 teaspoons oil
2 1/2 pounds skinned, seeded and chopped butternut squash
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
optional: 1 leek, sliced
2 teaspoons turmeric
1/4 teaspoon grated clove
2 cups broth or water
1 1/2 – 2 cups coconut milk
salt and pepper

Optional Toppings: 
plain yogurt
sautéed and seasoned butternut squash seeds or small dice

1: In a large pot, heat squash with oil and a pinch or two of salt on low heat. Cook until squash begins to soften. Stir frequently to keep squash from browning. Add garlic (and leek).  Cook until garlic becomes aromatic (and leek softens). Add turmeric and clove and continue to heat 1-2 minutes more.  Add broth and bring to boil.  Reduce heat and simmer about 30 minutes.

2: Remove from heat.  Add coconut milk and salt and pepper to taste.   Use an immersion blender (or carefully transfer to an upright blender) to purée or liquify squash mixture.  If using an upright blender, remember to cover the lid with a dishtowel to prevent the hot liquid from escaping. Serve hot or cooled.

Butternut Squash Chips
Serves 4

2 cups peeled butternut squash skin, cut to roughly the same size
2-3 teaspoons olive oil
salt

1: Preheat oven to 350°F.  Prepare baking sheet with silicone mat or parchment paper.
2: In a medium bowl, toss squash peels with olive oil and salt to taste.  Spread out on baking sheet and bake 20-30 minutes, until crisp.  (Timing will depend on thickness of peels.)  

Coleslaw with Cranberries and Walnuts

May 7, 2011

Whether they’re jazzing up a sandwich, delivered as a side or presented as the house salad, coleslaw is one of my favorite dishes.  Due to enormous appreciation, I am not shy to trying coleslaw raw, tossed with vinaigrette or smothered in a mayonnaise or ketchup concoction.  Yes, the North Carolina slaw is combined with ketchup and spices for a little alternative kick in the face.

There may be no wrong way to enjoy slaw, there certainly are certainly non-palatable methods to make it.  I learned this after burning my taste buds while eating a slaw that was swimming in vinegar. Lesson learned; don’t attempt to impress a date by finishing a meal, especially if the meal was made by a restaurant staff and not your date. Yeah…

Honestly, the best slaws ever eaten are made by friends and family.

Today’s recipe will not burn your taste buds, but excite them.  I tried out this coleslaw at an Easter gathering.  This is a smothered (preferred) version full of sweet and tangy flavor and crunchy texture.  Something simple, but beautiful to make tomorrow for a Mother’s Day luncheon!
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Coleslaw with Cranberries and Walnuts
Serves 10-12

Ingredients:
2/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
3 teaspoon horseradish mustard
1 Tablespoon teaspoon honey
salt and pepper
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1 small head green or savoy cabbage, thinly sliced or shredded
2 medium carrots, cut into matchsticks
2 Tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup crushed walnuts, toasted

1: In a small, deep bowl, whisk together  oil, vinegar, mustard and honey.  Season with salt and pepper.  Set aside.
2: In a large bowl, toss together cabbage and carrots.  Drizzle dressing over vegetables, then toss.  Refrigerate 1 hour or overnight.
3: Toss slaw with parsley, cranberries and walnuts before serving.

Tassajara Whole Wheat Bread

May 4, 2011

Jonathan and I both have English roots. Well, mine are adopted, but I’ll claim them if I can get away with it! I recently noticed how English, yet very American our most common breakfast is. Toast and tea to make our mums proud. But, toast slathered in peanut butter and plain tea. No milk. No sugar. Our fathers smile.

Before I started culinary school, I made a personal goal to bake my first loaf of sandwich bread on my own. After baking babkas, galettes and all kinds of sweet breads and cookies, I figured it was time to bake something completely wholesome and practical. Receiving a homemade loaf of bread as a going-away present pushed my goal into gear! And I figured I wouldn’t be without an expert baker as a teacher, hence The Tassajara Bread Book by Edward Espe Brown.

I first learned about Brown and the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center last year, after watching a section of the documentary, How to Cook Your Life. Immediately I noticed the bread book being featured in some of my favorite craft/food blogs, in articles and references from other books. One glance into it and it’s evident that it’s a true master bread guide. The recipe featured here for the Tassajara Yeasted Bread is quite condensed and includes some of my insight. While a very basic recipe is included in the book, there is a thorough step-by-step pre-chapter that includes detailed drawings. I highly recommend it to bread-baking amateurs like myself. It’s not just a bread book though, it contains many dessert recipes, including the secret to making delectable cinnamon buns!

The recipe is quite time-consuming, but foul-proof foolproof and definitely worth it. The recipe makes a hearty, yet surprisingly (for being whole wheat) chewy bread that doesn’t easily crumble and makes perfect toast…for peanut butter breakfasts. We’ve gone through four loaves already and planning to do more baking this weekend!

Tassajara Yeasted Bread
recipe from Tassajara Bread Book, by: Edward Espe Brown
Makes 2 standard loaves

Ingredients:
3 c. lukewarm water (85°-105°F)
1 1/2 Tbsp (or 4 1/2 tsp) dry yeast
1/4 c. sweetening (I used brown sugar)
Optional: 1 c. dry milk
4 c. whole wheat flour
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4 tsp salt
1/3 c. oil or butter
3 c. additional whole wheat flour
1 c. whole wheat or unbleached all-purpose flour for kneading
oil

1: In a medium or large bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Stir in sweetening and dry milk until dissolved. Slowly add flour and stir until batter is thick. Make sure the flour is fully incorporated. The book notes to “beat well with a spoon (for) 100 strokes.” This is my favorite part of the recipe and the most simple to follow, so I recommend it. 100 stokes! Cover with a towel and allow dough to rise in a warm area for 45 minutes. A cool or cold area will cause the dough to take longer to rise.
2: Fold in salt and oil. Slowly add the additional whole wheat flour. Dough should be very thick. Flour a clean surface with 1/4-1/3 of remaining 1 cup flour (for kneading). Knead dough on the floured surface until dough is elastic and smooth. Add more flour as needed to keep dough from sticking to the surface and hands. Form into a ball.
3: Lightly oil a medium or large bowl. (I use the same bowl without issues, but you may want a new, clean bowl.) Place dough in the oiled bowl, then flip dough over to make sure all sides are lightly oiled. Cover with a damp towel, place in a warm area and allow dough to rise for 50-60 minutes. Dough should double in size.
4: Simply punch down dough to about 2/3 the size. Cover again and allow dough to rise again for 40-50 minutes, or until it doubles in size again.
5: Shape dough into loaves, then place into loaf pans. (I used 9 x 5-inch pans) Allow dough to rise 20-25 minutes.
6: Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut one or two slits, 1/2-inch deep into the top of each loaf, to allow steam to escape. Bake 50-60 minutes, until golden brown. Allow loaves to cool before slicing.

Storing: The Tassajara Bread Book recommends sealing the bread in an plastic bag and storing loaves in the refrigerator or freezer. Freezing the bread will affect its flavor. Jonathan and I usually go through a loaf of bread in three days or fewer, so I seal and store one loaf in the refrigerator and one on the counter. This bread contains no preservatives, so it is prone to spoiling on the counter sooner than store-bought.

Savory Homemade Seitan

May 1, 2011

Finally, weather is lovely in New York!  Trees and shrubs are in full bloom with a delicate rainbow of pastels and I can finally see green grass sprouting in the former muddy sloshes.  I believe this calls for a picnic!

Nothing says picnic like  barbecue seitan sandwiches.  Seitan is an all natural “wheat meat.” A food that is made of wheat gluten, the protein from whole wheat flour.  Combined with seasonings and some liquid, seitan is boiled, then ready for consumption. Although you can go further with the cooking and fry it, add it to stew, barbecue it etc.  The texture can be chewy or tough, depending on how it is cooked after the boiling process.  And by tough, I mean, you may need a steak knife for this vegan dish!  Sound complicated to make?  Well, it’s absolutely not!

There are actually two ways to start making seitan.  You can make your own wheat gluten from scratch by separating the starch from the protein of  whole wheat flour.  Separation is done by kneading and rinsing dough under running water.  This process can be time-consuming and a little messy, but there are plenty of good “how-to” videos online.  If you go through this process, you’re a champ!  The second option is simply to purchase vital wheat gluten from the market.  Brands may vary in price, but I purchased a 22 oz bag (5 cups) of Bob’s Red Mill at the regular local grocery for less than $7.

Seasoning seitan can be done almost anyway your heart desires.  Go wild.  My friend Patrick helped get me addicted to nutritional yeast, so for me it’s a vital seasoning.  If you’ve never used nutritional yeast, go for it!  It’s not the yeast used to make breads rise.  In fact, it’s inactive, but primarily used as a seasoning because of it’s nutty, cheese-like flavor. Beware that making seitan will cause your whole house to smell like gravy/brothy goodness.   Neighbors may inquire. 

Savory Homemade Seitan
Serves 10-12

Ingredients:
2 c. vital wheat gluten
1/4 c. nutritional yeast
1 tsp marjoram
1 c. warm vegetable broth
1/4 c. soy sauce
1/4 c. water
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3 c. broth
4 c. water
1 Tbsp molasses
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped or minced
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed with the flat part of a knife blade, skin removed and left ‘whole’
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1: In a large bowl, mix gluten flour with nutritional yeast and marjoram.
2: In a medium or large bowl, stir together 1 cup broth, soy sauce and 1/4 cup water.  Slowly stir the broth together with the gluten mixture. Once the mixture thickens, use your hands to knead into a dough that is tough and elastic, but not too sticky, about 2 minutes. Form into a loaf and set aside.
3: Meanwhile add remaining ingredients (below the line) to a large cooking pot. Heat on the stove at medium-high.
4: With a serrated knife or kitchen shears, cut the seitan loaf into 1-2 inch chunks or 1/2-1 inch thick slices.  (Note that the seitan will enlarge during the cooking process, so don’t cut the pieces too large.  Also, do not pile the seitan pieces as you cut them.  They have a tendency to stick back together.  Keep separated until placed in the broth.)
5: Place seitan pieces into the broth mixture on the stovetop. Cover slightly and bring to a boil.  As soon as it begins to boil, turn down the heat and simmer 1 hour.  Stir occasionally.  (Make sure the broth does not boil again, as it will alter the texture of the seitan.)
6:
Use a draining spoon to remove seitan. Set broth aside for another recipe (ie gravy, stew etc).  Seitan is now ready to be sautéed, fried, baked, added to stew or made into a sandwich.

* For a Quick BBQ Seitan Sandwich…
1: Heat 2 teaspoons-1 Tablespoon olive oil in a medium sauté pan. Sauté  4-6 large seitan slices until browned on both sides.  Smear both sides of seitan with your favorite barbecue sauce.  Cook on both sides about 30 seconds, then remove from heat.  Add to a bun with your favorite toppings. Enjoy!