Breads, Pastry, Pasta
Sweets & Breakfast Treats
Chicken or Turkey
Vegetarian & Vegetables
Roasted Tomatoes (oven dried)
Sauces, Dressings & Condiments
Make It With Milk
Breads, Pastry, Pasta
Sweets & Breakfast Treats
Chicken or Turkey
Vegetarian & Vegetables
Roasted Tomatoes (oven dried)
Sauces, Dressings & Condiments
Make It With Milk
What does a middle-aged German girl like me know about bagels? Well I know they were a childhood favorite of mine growing up in the 1960’s in a community with one of the first bagel shops in the area. Bagels and lox were a treat in our house and I learned to appreciate both the appropriate texture and flavor at a very young age. We didn’t have the Brugger’s or Einstein’s shops known today – no these shops were small local bakeries that perhaps learned the craft of bagel baking in New York or Chicago – and opened up in my neighborhood I’m guessing on the demand from the Jewish community.
What do I know about bagels today? Well first of all I haven’t eaten a bagel in more than 46 weeks. Prior to my voyage into the from scratch food routine, I had avoided bagels for a couple of years because of the calorie content – a whopping 72 calories per ounce – or about 364 calories for an average size bagel. Spread on the cream cheese and we’re talking 1/3 of the calories I might consume in an entire day. But I got a craving for bagels this week and naturally if I wanted them, I would have to make them myself.
Research led me to the particular recipe I’ve included in this post – not too technical for my abilities – but descriptive of what I remembered about the texture and flavor of a really authentic bagel. A bagel by definition is known as dense, chewy and rather doughy with a nicely browned and crispy crust. That’s the bagel I was in search of!
Naturally I wanted some kind of cheese spread to go along with my bagel. Since I didn’t have the necessary mesophilic starter for cream cheese, and since I was hoping to do something low-fat, I decided to use this recipe that I’ve had my eye on since getting my cheese making book for Christmas. It’s super simple to make, and since you add your own salt and/or herbs, it can take on whatever flavor profile you love. I was happy to see Meyer lemons were in season, as they tend to be a bit sweeter than regular lemons (they are a cross between a lemon and either a mandarin or common orange).
While these two recipes took up a big part of my Sunday time (ie: I prepared no other food for the week), they were really worth the effort. I brought the majority of them into work today at the delight of my co-workers, or at least that’s what they tell me. Enjoy!
Meyer Lemon Cheese
½ gallon milk (I used 2%, you need a little milk fat)
¼ cup lemon juice (I used Meyer Lemons)
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or other herbs
Heat the milk on the stove in a large pot, stirring frequently until it reaches 185-195°. Remove from the head, add the lemon juice to the milk, and stir. Cover the pot immediately and let rest for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes check you curds and whey. The whey should be clear and not milky. If it’s milky, add a little bit more lemon juice to the pot and wait a few minutes more.
Pour the curds into a colander lined with cheesecloth. I save the whey from both the curds dripping through the cheesecloth as well as from the rest of the cheese-making process. (see week 41)
Tie the corners of the cheesecloth and hang the curds over a bowl to drain for about an hour. Remove the curds from the bag and add the salt and herbs. My cheese was a bit dry, so I just added back some of the whey I had saved to make it creamier.
Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks, if it lasts that long.
Bagels (from the book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day, by Hertzberg and Francois)
For The Dough
3 cups lukewarm water (100°F)
1 ½ tablespoons active dry yeast (2 packages)
1 ½ tablespoons Kosher salt
1 ½ tablespoons sugar
6 ¼ cups bread flour
Extra flour for dusting
Sesame seeds and/or poppy seeds
For The Boiling Pot
8 quarts water
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
This dough mixes best using a 14-cup capacity food processor with dough attachment, or a heavy-duty stand mixer with a dough hook. Mix the yeast, salt, and sugar with the water in the bowl of your mixer or food processor. Add the flour to form what will become a very sticky dough. If you don’t have a machine to use, keep your hands wet to incorporate all of the flour.
Cover the dough and allow it to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses (or flattens on the top), approximately 2 hours. You can use the dough immediately, but it may work better refrigerated for a few hours. I also read in Mark Bittman’s book, that refrigerating or resting the dough for several hours will also contribute to a more developed flavor.
Twenty minutes before baking time, preheat your oven to 450°F, with a baking stone (preferably) in the middle rack and an empty broiler tray or cast iron pan below. You will use the second pan to create steam. If you don’t have a baking stone, a lightly oiled baking sheet should work.
Generously dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 3-ounce piece of dough about the size of a small peach. Dust the piece with more flour (on your counter top as well) and shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter turn as you go. (Tuck and spin, tuck and spin. You’re creating elasticity in the dough.) Set the dough ball on a floured surface and keep working the rest of the dough. Cover the balls loosely with a towel that has been lightly floured (you’ll use this towel again in a bit). Let the balls rest for 20 minutes.
Start you water boiling (don’t forget to add the sugar and baking soda once it begins to boil).
Next, punch your thumb through the dough ball to form the hole. Hold the dough in your hands and ease the hole open with your fingers as you rotate the dough in a circle. Your dough should look like a fat bicycle tire. The hole will get smaller as the dough rests, so don’t worry that it’s too big.
Drop the bagels into the simmering water one at a time, making sure they are not crowding one another (3-4 at a time). Let them simmer for 2 minutes, then turn them over to cook for one more minute. (I was so busy dropping bagels into the water and shaping the others that I forgot to take pictures. Whoops!)
Remove them from the water with a slotted spoon and place them on a clean kitchen towel (the one you used to cover them) that is lightly floured. This will help absorb some of the excess water and keep them from sticking.
Place the bagels on a well-floured peel if you’re using a baking stone, or on a lightly greased baking sheet if you’re not using the stone. Sprinkle with poppy seeds and/or sesame seeds. Yes they looked funny, I was worried.
Slide the bagels directly onto the hot stone or baking sheet onto the middle oven rack. Throw 2 ice cubes into the broiler pan or cast iron pan and quickly close the door to keep the steam inside. Bake for about 20 minutes until brown and firm. Repeat process with the rest of the batches.
Oh and if you find my description or process to not be helpful, take a look at a post by the authors of the recipe.
A lot happened during week 41 that I’m just not at liberty to talk about – seriously. Let’s just say that I had a lot of food prep to take care of this week in advance of “someone” coming over to our house to photograph said food. Naturally it wasn’t just the food prep that took some time but also the cleaning up of the house – kitchen and pantry (I cleaned and reorganized it all from floor to ceiling) – noticing dust and crumb collection I somehow had blissfully ignored until then. Now if you think you know what is going on, you obviously read my previous post when I felt I was at liberty to talk about all this activity.
The food preparation included setting up a meal of slow cooked pork carnitas served on homemade corn tortillas and topped with fresh made pico de gallo, Queso Blanco cheese I also made from scratch, and sour cream which I chose instead to use strained yogurt (yes, I made that too). Other food also in line for a snapshot or two was flaxseed crackers, chocolate graham crackers, granola, and cinnamon raisin English muffin bread. Besides the still photos, there were also two videos involved where I needed to demonstrate how easy and fun it is to make the Queso Blanco cheese and tortillas. Other than the cat walking though the room and meowing during the cheese demo and me messing up the first tortilla I pressed, things went okay.
It is kind of amazing to me that I’m actually enjoying a number of the things I now make on a regular basis, which certainly beats the heck out of me resenting it all. That said, I still don’t love cooking beans, in fact I really dislike cooking beans. Today I cursed the pots of beans that were cooking on the stove as I either had the heat up too high where they kept cooking over the top, or I turned it down too low and they stopped simmering completely. Turned out I overcooked both of them (and yes, the pots I used were too small). So Lisa in all of her brilliance suggested I turn the mess into refried beans rather than make the big pot of chili I had intended. Bless her little culinary heart – that was a great idea and saved me from total bean resentment.
I also discovered something magical this past week somewhere in between cheese making and bread baking. I happened to read something, somewhere, about a woman who was a cheese maker and didn’t like wasting any of the byproducts (such as the whey), so she used it in place of milk when she baked bread. I saved a quart of the whey from the first batch of cheese I made for the photo shoot, and gave it a shot in making my English muffin bread. The results were, well magical. The bread was lighter, the air pockets in the bread were numerous and I swear this bread tasted more and more like its English muffin counterpart than any previous attempts.
So here is my recipe for the bread, which you can make as regular English muffin (plain) or as cinnamon raisin.
English Muffin Bread
1 ¼ cups milk (or whey liquid)
½ cup whole-wheat flour
1 ½ – 2 cups unbleached white flour
2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
½ tablespoon sugar for regular bread or 2 tablespoons for cinnamon raisin
2 teaspoons cinnamon (for cinnamon raisin)
¾ cup raisins (obviously for the cinnamon raisin only)
Heat the milk or whey until it reaches 125°F
Next, lightly oil an 8 x 4 inch loaf pan and sprinkle the bottom with cornmeal or corn grits
In a large bowl combine together ½ cup of whole-wheat flour and 1 cup of the white flour (reserving the other cup of white for later). Add the yeast, sugar, salt, soda (and cinnamon if making cinnamon raisin bread). Stir in the milk or whey and beat well with a whisk.
Next add the raisins if you’re making cinnamon raisin bread, and slowly add the other ½ to 1 cup of white flour. The batter should be stiff and sticky, but not something you can pour. If it seems too wet, add just a bit more flour. Depending on the conditions, I use a little more than ½ a cup and not quite the full cup left.
Place batter into prepared pan, spreading it out evenly. Cover and let rise in a warm place until the dough doubles, about 1 hour 15 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 400°F. Bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes. Remove from pan immediately ad cool on a cooling rack.
This bread is best served toasted, just like English muffins are best served toasted. Resist the temptation to eat a slice warm from the oven and instead let it cool and then toast one up with a generous slathering of butter.
The Green Bay Packers just beat the Chicago Bears and are heading for the Super-duper Bowl. It’s getting pretty exciting here in Wisconsin. Oh yea, and I made some cheese and yogurt. Talk about excitement!
I have to say I’ve been way excited all week, long before this football craze came along. I’ve been hoping to try my hand at a few other types of cheese besides the mozzarella I made a week or so ago, perhaps something quicker and easier to build up my confidence a bit. And yogurt – well I really never considered making it at home since it’s a product well within the limits of my rules – however everyone was saying it’s just so darn easy and economical – so I had to try my hand at it.
When I was in college back in… well it doesn’t matter what year it was… when I was in college I had a yogurt maker. Making yogurt was one of my first ventures into natural foods and hey, everyone was doing it. All I knew of making yogurt were the instructions that came with the yogurt maker. Heat some milk, add some plain yogurt as the culture, pour into the small glass jars and snap on the lids, then turn on the machine. There it sat quietly on the counter of my apartment, doing its yogurt magic overnight while I slept snugly in the next room. The following morning I would find something in those jars that was perhaps slightly runny, but pretty much looked and tasted like yogurt.
Fast forward to this past week. I no longer have that yogurt maker of my college days, and while a friend offered to lend one to me I had already been reading enough online about making yogurt in a Crockpot, and decided that would be my yogurt maker of choice. Okay I’m really trying to curb my enthusiasm here. Making yogurt in a Crockpot is totally awesome! In fact I’m trying my best to eat what I made quickly enough so I can make another batch this week. What’s so great about this method is that I know a lot more about food than I did when I was 20, and understanding what it takes to get the consistency I wanted takes nothing more than a bowl, a colander and some cheesecloth. I now have yogurt, Greek yogurt, and something that resembles sour cream in my refrigerator – all from one batch of Crockpot yogurt.
Before I get to the yogurt recipe I also made some cheese this week in preparation for a photo shoot and video that’s happening this coming Tuesday. Oh, I didn’t mention that earlier? Yea, it’s funny what happens when your communications director at work sends out a press release on your blog project. Seems like I got myself involved in an upcoming story and online video for our local paper, as well as a spot on a morning show this coming Friday. I’m excited and a bit nervous. And yeah, I’ve been cooking and cleaning all weekend in preparation. So the cheese recipe, “queso blanco”, will complete the meal I’m making, which is my pork carnitas on homemade corn tortillas, topped off with some homemade queso blanco and homemade yogurt “sour cream.”
Okay, here are the really easy steps to making Crockpot yogurt. My Crockpot, which I’m guessing is about 20 years old, didn’t quite get the milk to temp in the time the recipe said it would, so I think I have a shortcut for the next time I make it that I’ll include in the steps to follow. I honestly don’t believe you really need a Crockpot, and I’m going to try it without the next time I make it.
What you’ll need to make the yogurt is:
½ gallon of milk
2 packets of yogurt starter, or 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
1 Crockpot or slow cooker of your choice
1 kitchen thermometer (this is science baby, make sure you have one and use it)
1 large and warm bath towel (yes, for making yogurt)
So first, you need to get your milk up to temperature. All signs point to using milk that isn’t ultra pasteurized, just like in making cheese. I used skim milk and it didn’t affect the texture or taste of the yogurt, at least not to the point I expected it would.
The recipe I used said to set your Crockpot on low for 2 ½ hours to get the milk between 180 – 190° mainly for the purpose of creating a sterile environment for inoculating the milk with yogurt culture. My 20-year old Crockpot took 4 hours, so next time I’m just going to bring it to temp in a pot on the stove.
Next, once it reaches 180° you need to let the milk cool down to 110° which is the magic temperature for inoculating the milk. It took about 2 hours for the milk to cool down to that temperature so don’t wander off too far, you’ll want to keep checking.
Once the milk is at 110° you’ll notice it has formed a skin on the top while cooling. Remove the skin and discard. Take about 1 cup of milk out of the pot and using a whisk, mix it with the yogurt culture. Now add that back to the pot of milk and whisk that mixture.
Grab your bath towel and take your Crockpot of inoculated milk to a warm part of the house. With the cover on the Crockpot, wrap the whole baby up in the bath towel and let it sit in that warm spot for about 8 hours. That’s right, 8 hours. You need to plan your day out around yogurt, both the heating and cooling, as well as allowing yourself the full 8 hours for it to create yogurt magic.
After 8 hours you have yogurt. You can put your Crockpot insert into the refrigerator if it’s time for bed, or portion out the yogurt into glass or plastic containers. I lined a colander with cheesecloth, set the colander over a bowl, and took some of the yogurt out, putting it into the cheesecloth to make ‘sour cream’. I covered the colander with plastic wrap and set it in the refrigerator overnight. The next morning I had a very thick yogurt I’m going to use as sour cream – to top off the pork carnitas!
The next day I also took some more of the yogurt and placed it into the cheesecloth lined colander to thicken it up a bit to the consistency of Greek yogurt. That took about 3 hours in the refrigerator.
So it’s true, I’m a yogurt-making convert and this house is going to be filled with the dairy air for at least the next 12 weeks to come. I only have twelve weeks left in my year – I can hardly believe it.
Being the kind of person who likes to drive around the neighborhood at night because I’m curious to see the inside of other people’s houses, I stumbled upon a website a little while ago that takes a peek into other people’s pantries. The Perfect Pantry author Lydia Walshin has been food blogging since 2006, and her website is a great place to dig in to find a great recipe or to peek into someone else’s pantry. Some of them are awesome while others are honestly quite horrifying.
Lydia let her readers peek into my pantry this week which inspired me to write about how my “well-stocked for inconvenience” pantry has been helping me through this one-year challenge. Before we peek further, I also want to give a shout out to Outpost’s Pantry Raid girls, Diana and Carrie, who not only are darling and funny but were also an inspiration to me to take on this challenge. Don’t miss their blog on Outpost’s website – it’s not only fun but the recipes are truly delicious and inspired.
Now on to my pantry. Part One of my inconvenient pantry focuses on the dry good essentials – items I just can’t do without, and in a pinch, will help me pull together a either a baked good meal. These ingredients are the backbones of the things I used to buy ready-made, such as bread, crackers, chips, breadcrumbs, tortillas, pita bread, polenta, rice pilaf, granola, pizza crust, granola bars, and all beans that are canned.
I like to store them in vintage jars, my favorites being vintage herring jars, which are appealing for their size as well as the lid graphics. Of course I like to collect vintage anything and finally found something with a purpose. I’m actually about three steps shy of hoarder, so watch for me soon on your favorite Discovery channel.
Here is a chart of the pantry essentials and why you want to keep them in stock:
|Item||Why I keep it stocked|
|Rolled Oats||Granola, granola bars, and the occasional cookie|
|Quick Cooking Oats||Instant oatmeal in the microwave, ingredient in multi-grain bread, ingredient in meatloaf if I don’t have breadcrumbs made. Convenience food? Don’t judge.|
|Corn Grits||Polenta, ingredient in multi-grain bread, bottom coating for a variety of breads and pizza crust|
|Masa Harina||Corn tortillas, corn chips, also thickening agent in some Mexican stews|
|White and Whole Wheat Flour||Wow, need I explain? Breads, pizza crust, popovers, muffins, thickening agent (roux), cakes, cookies, crackers (it’s no wonder I’ve gained 5 pounds)|
|Instant Yeast||I get a good rise out of this!|
|Flax Seeds and Flax Meal||Breads, crackers, granola bars, banana bread|
|Sesame Seeds||Bread topping, crackers, Asian cooking|
|Quinoa, Couscous, Rice||Salads and side dishes galore!|
|Beans & Lentils||I admit I hate cooking beans and don’t do it all that often. Red lentils have come in handy for making dal since it’s quick to cook.|
|Nuts & Seeds||Are you old enough to remember Euell Gibbons? Ever eat a pine tree? Okay – Granola, granola bars, breads it is.|
|And Finally, Chocolate Chips||Seriously! Granola bars, pancakes, banana bread, and a nice little snack every now and then.|
My New Year’s resolution (or acclaim as I’d put it) was to make the best of my final fourteen weeks and try to make something new each week. This past week I tried to make mozzarella cheese and tortilla chips. The operative word here really is “tried.”
The cheese came out “okay” mostly because I didn’t do enough research ahead of time, like watch cheese-making videos on the web. Little did I realize the curds have to be as hot as the sun before you handle them and then stretch them into what should resemble cheese. So I overworked them a bit at first and lost a bit of the milk fat. We did enjoy them on what I was hoping would be the perfect pizza on New Year’s eve – homemade crust, sauce made from scratch from the tomatoes I canned, and homemade cheese. It just wasn’t meant to be perfect I guess, as I overworked the crust as well as the cheese, but I was pretty proud of taking inconvenient to the extreme.
The tortilla chips, well I’m going to save that story for another post when I get them right.
Watch for Part Two of my pantry posts next week, which will be appropriately titled “condiment whore.”