Monday, February 20, 2017

Lessons In Sourdough

As I promised earlier in the month I would share my successes with you after the workshop on baking with sourdough.

Sourdough is a fermentation of flour and water which is used as a leavening agent for bread.  The product is a slightly sour bread.  The older the sourdough starter is the sourer the baked product is.  I tried several starters and had many failures.  This fermentation occurs as the starter absorbs yeast spores from the air and the moisture in the mixture allows them to grow. 

I discovered that the temperature of your house is important for getting a starter going.  Yeast needs warmth, moisture, and food to grow.   When I started playing with the starters, it was November.  I was trying to get the starters going in the evenings and we turn our heat down to low at night.  The first ones did not work.

The two starters that worked the best I started by placing them in jars on the counter over my dishwasher after I turned it on (the counter top is warm when the dishwasher is on), then I moved them to a inside wall so they would stay warmer overnight.  In the morning I moved them to a table where the sunlight streams in.  Seventy to eighty degrees is prime growing temperature.  The successful recipes that I used had yeast added to the flour and water.  This gave the fermentation a boost.

Before mixing your starter, it is important that you sterilize the glass or plastic container that you will be using.  The sourdough starter will cause a chemical reaction with metal and stain it.  You do not want to have a lid on the jar while you are trying to get the starter going.  It needs the air.  One extra hint.  put your container on a plate as it will rise and may grow outside your container.

USDA research shows that sourdough fermentations are safe from food borne illnesses if the following steps are taken.  1. Equipment is clean and sterilized. 2. The starter is stored in the refrigerator when not in use.  3.  Starter may be left out of the refrigerator if it is being used and fed every day.  Adding yeast got the starter in shape enough to use after 48 hours of fermentation.

To use the starter if you do not have it out, remove from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature.  Then feed it and let it ferment 12 hours before using.  Be sure to save at least 1/2 cup for your next batch of bread.  I found that since most recipes call for 2 cups of starter it is best to save around a cup of starter.  And when feeding it to bake with feed with a cup of flour and 1 cup of warm water.  If I am feeding it to put back in the refrigerator, I use a 1/2 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of warm water.

Starter stored on the counter will need to be fed everyday.  Starter stored in the refrigerator will need to be fed once a week if not being used.  Do not keep more than a quart of starter as it will weaken the yeast action.  If you have an adequate supply of starter, and you are not going to cook with it, you may either place a portion into another clean and sterile jar and give to a friend or just dump in the trash.

We do not bake bread every week, so I remove and feed my starter on Sundays,  It is best if you can choose a day of the week and take care of your starter that day.

The other thing that will help your sourdough bread rise is a chemical reaction with baking soda.  Baking soda should be added after the first rise as you are shaping your loaves.  Be sure to mix it in well as some of my loaves ended up with brown streaks from not getting the soda mixed in well.

Remember that sourdough bread does not have preservatives.  Place what you can not eat in a few days in the freezer.

Bread made with sourdough needs many hours to rise, so plan ahead and start early in the day or you will be us late waiting for it to bake.   Our favorite bread was the french bread.  We also enjoyed flap jacks and biscuits.  Here is the french bread recipe.

Sourdough Bread
2 cups sponge (active sourdough)
2 cups flour (or more)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon warm water

Sift dry ingredients (flour, sugar and salt) into a bowl; make a well in the center and set aside. Mix oil thoroughly with sponge. Add this to the well in the flour. Add enough flour to make a soft dough for kneading. Knead on a floured board for 10 to 15 minutes. Place in a greased bowl. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place for two to four hours or until doubled in size. Dissolve the baking soda in warm water and add to the dough. Knead it in thoroughly. Shape dough into loaves in bread pans and set aside to rise. When doubled, bake at 375°F for 50 to 60 minutes.

Sourdough French Bread
Prepare as for Sourdough Bread, but add 1 tablespoon yeast to the starter. Shape into two loaves by dividing the dough in half. Roll each half into a 15×12-inch rectangle. Wind up tightly toward you, beginning with the wide side. Seal edges by pinching together. Place rolls diagonally on greased baking sheets that have been lightly sprinkled with cornmeal. Let rise until doubled, about one hour. Brush with cold water. Cut with scissors or knife to make one or two lengthwise or several diagonal ¼-inch-deep slits across tops of loaves. Place baking sheets in a hot (400°F) oven with a pan of boiling water placed on a rack below the bread. Bake 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush again with water. Reduce the temperature to 350°F and bake 35 to 40 minutes until golden brown. Brush a third time with cold water and bake two to three minutes longer. Makes two French loaves.
Note: The addition of the commercial dry yeast helps give a lighter, airier texture to the bread.

Here is a great resource with some good recipes.

Link to Sourdough Publication from Alaska Extension

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Prepare Moist and Tender Meat Quickly

Are you nervous about using a pressure cooker? Come to this workshop to learn how to safely use pressure cookers to prepare delicious meals.

Food Handler Training

Food Handler Certification is required for everyone working in food service and for volunteers cooking and serving food to the public.  I have completed the training to be an instructor.  My first 3 classes are scheduled so you can be in compliance before the March 1 deadline.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Want a Crunchy Snack Chickpeas to the Rescue

Looking for a fun and healthful snack that has wide appeal?  Try this tasty treat that you can make anytime.  Chickpea nuts!

You can make them by drying cooked chickpeas (a.k.a. garbanzo beans) in your oven until they're nutty and crispy. Simply drain and rinse a can of chickpeas in a colander, pat dry with a paper towel, and roast everything on a lightly oiled pan for 1 hour at 325 degrees.
Allow to cool and then serve in an attractive bowl.

There are so many reasons to like them...
  1. They taste like roasted peanuts.
  2. You can season them a bunch of different ways: with chili powder, Italian seasoning, grated Parmesan cheese, and even garlic powder.
  3. They're easy to make and require only 5 minutes of your time.
  4. They're much lower in calories and less expensive than regular nuts. Consider that a half-cup of roasted chickpea nuts has only 134 calories while a half-cup of peanuts has 419 calories! Plus the chickpea nuts contain 6 grams of fiber.
  5. Chickpea nuts are only .05 per ounce while peanuts are about .23 an ounce. That is a substantial savings!
  6. You can keep cans of garbanzo beans in your pantry, ready to come out and make a delicious bowl of nuts on just an hour's notice.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Pizza Dough to Help You Switch to Whole Grains

Last night during our cooking school for people with diabetes, we discussed the importance of choosing foods made with whole grain.  The current recommendation is to make half of your grain foods whole grain every day.  Whole grains will help you feel fuller and will have a positive impact on your digestive system and protect you from heart disease. 

It seems in food there is always a food trend that is going to be the cure for everything that ails you.  Currently it is coconut.  When I was a child it was wheat germ.  Moms added spoonfuls of wheat germ to casseroles and meatloaves.  Then we move to soybeans.  They were toasted for a snack and boiled and mashed and added to hamburger.  As I got older, I remember bran was the thing.  It was added to muffins, cookies, meatloaves, and even yogurt.  I even made bran muffins with applesauce instead of oil for my kids to have for a snack.

Whole grains contain the great fiber that is in the bran of the grain kernel.  The germ of the grain kernel is the powerhouse of the seed.  It is where the majority of nutrients are stored to sprout the seed when it is planted.  There are many trace nutrients in the germ that we do not get in other foods.  The largest part of the grain kernel is the endosperm.  The endosperm is where the carbohydrate part of the kernel is.  There are very few nutrients in this part of the grain kernel.  When we eat products that do not have whole grains we are missing out on the germ and bran and all of the many nutrients in those parts, so it really does make sense to eat the whole kernel instead of parts like we did in the past.

To help you revamp your favorite pizza.  Here is a quick whole wheat pizza dough recipe from the Tuff's Health and Nutrition Newsletter.  You can have it ready in 20 minutes using your food processor.

Quick Whole-Wheat Pizza Dough - Recipes Article

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Quick Meal Tip - Using Convenience Foods

Yesterday we had our quick meals for busy families workshop during which I made a meal in less than 20 minutes for less than $2.00 a person.  Over the next few weeks I will share information from this workshop to help you save time and money.

This tip is to use convenience foods to save you time and money, but choose wisely.   There are a variety of box mixes that can help you speed up your meal.

Starting in the freezer section, here are some ideas
  • Frozen Vegetables can be added to casseroles, skillet meals, or serve as a side
  • Frozen Green Chile is a definite time saver, no peeling or chopping needed
  • Frozen pizza can be used as the beginning for a tasty nutritious pizza by adding lean meat and vegetables
  • Frozen pie crust can be used to make a delicious quiche
  • Puff Pastry can be used as a topper for a pot pie
  • Frozen bread can be rolled out to make meat, cheese, and vegetable handheld pies
Yogurt can be used as the base for a tasty dessert with fruit and chocolate
Canned biscuits can be used to make mini meat pies

Boxed foods pasta or potato mixes can be stepped up with added cooked meat and vegetables to make a speedy casserole

When you add ingredients to a boxed food, be sure to choose a low sodium option as boxed foods are often high in sodium. This way you are spreading out the sodium and reducing the total per serving.

Use your imagination and think outside the box!

Here is the recipe we used yesterday

Ramen Dinner
1 pound hamburger
2 packages Ramen Noodles with season packets (Use your favorite flavor)
1 16 ounce package frozen vegetables without added seasoning
2 cups water

Brown hamburger, drain and rinse.  Break up noodle blocks as you add to the hamburger.  Add the season packets, frozen vegetables and water.  Stir well, simmer about 5 minutes until vegetables are thawed and cooked.  We used Beef with a zucchini, cauliflower, and carrot melody.  Try oriental with stir-fry vegetables or maybe spicy will add the perfect zip to your meal.