Sunday, April 24, 2016

Whole Grain Sandwich Bread

I had never made a 100% whole grain sandwich bread before, so I was excited when I saw Smitten Kitchen's Oat and Wheat Sandwich Bread recipe this past fall. I made the recipe as-written and was delighted except that I felt it used way too much yeast--the resulting bread was almost boozy. However, the texture was perfect: light without being wonder-bread squishy and tasting pleasantly of wheat. I really think that home-grinding the wheat berries to order makes a huge difference in flavor. I sniffed my last remaining cup or so of storebought pre-ground whole wheat pastry flour the other day and it smelled rancid and bitter. With freshly-ground flour, this bread is sweet and nutty.
To fix the boozy quality, I reduced the yeast to 1 TBSP. I rearranged the recipe a bit to suit the order of how I make it, but mostly it's the same as smitten kitchen except the yeast reduction.

INGREDIENTS for 2 loaves
1 1/4 c milk
1 1/4 c water
3 TBSP white or brown sugar or honey (I use regular raw sugar)
1 TBSP instant yeast
1 large egg
1/4 c oil (I use vegetable or avocado oil since I find that olive oil dominates in this recipe)
635 g hard red wheat flour (freshly-ground or storebought)
160 g rolled oats
1 TBSP kosher salt

  1. Heat the milk and water together (I use a large Pyrex measuring cup in the microwave) until the mixture is between 102-115 degrees
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the regular paddle, combine warm liquid, sugar/honey and yeast
  3. You can re-use the same measuring cup to whisk the egg and oil together. Then add to ingredients in the stand mixer bowl.
  4. Mix together
  5. Add flour, oats and salt. I usually grind my wheat berries right into the mixing bowl, then add the oats and salt
  6. Mix for one minute and then let stand five minutes. It'll be super sticky
  7. Switching to the dough hook, mix on medium-low for two minutes. The dough will still be sticky, but it will be starting to come together a bit. If it's still extremely wet, you can add a bit more flour but I've never had to
  8. Mix a further four minutes or a bit more, until the dough has pulled away from the sides and formed a ball. Once it reaches the ball stage, you want to knead a bit more. For me it's between 4-5 minutes
  9. Flour your work surface and turn the dough out. Knead by hand a few times
  10. Oil the same mixing bowl (I use cooking spray) and put dough in it. Cover with a tea towel and let rise at room temperature for about an hour until it's well puffed in the bowl. You could do a cold ferment overnight in the fridge, but I prefer the shorter rise
  11. Once the dough has risen, turn out onto your re-floured counter and divide into two lumps. I actually weigh my dough but that's not required
  12. Roll out the dough into a rectangle that is roughly the width of your loaf pan and then fold up tightly like a letter, tucking in the ends. The tighter your parcel the better, otherwise you can get air holes. Place in a greased loaf pan and repeat for the other dough lump
  13. Cover the loaves with your tea towel and let rise again until they reach over the sides of the pan, about an hour. 
  14. About halfway through the second rise, preheat the oven to 350F
  15. Bake the bread for 35-40 minutes. You can rotate halfway through for even color but I mostly don't bother
  16. The bread is done when it reads 190F on an instant-read thermometer
  17. Remove from oven and from loaf pans and let cool on a rack. The texture will be better if you let it cool fully before cutting
  18. Slice into whatever width you like. I slice and then freeze my loaves
Not only does this make delicious sandwich bread, but I feel it also makes superlative toast

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Sesame-Marinated Asparagus

Sacrilegious as it is, I have never been fond of asparagus. The rest of my family loves it, so many a special family dinner had asparagus front and center. Sigh. The first time I can remember liking it was when I was in the UK and my host dad came home with a bag of it fresh from a farm and they steamed it lightly and we ate it by the stalk with no adornment. My suspicion is that the freshness mitigated that very special asparagus tang or funk that I've never enjoyed. The second time I found myself liking it was when my mother-in-law brought this sesame marinated asparagus to family dinner. I always take a stalk or two when it is offered both as politeness to the contributor of the dish and also to make sure that I still don't like it all that much. Lo and behold, I took seconds. The sesame and rice vinegar marinade is so simple and satisfying. My asparagus did turn a bit yellow after sitting overnight in the fridge so I'm not sure if I did something wrong or that's just how it goes. We all still ate it happily, however.
The original recipe calls for seasoned rice vinegar, which we never have around. We always have plain rice vinegar and mirin, however, so I did half and half of each of those instead. If you find you're out of sesame seeds, I'm sure the dish will be edible without them. Taste the marinade carefully before adding to the asparagus and adjust it to your flavor profile preference. We use a mirin with no added sugar, which will make a very different dish than with a sweeter mirin.

1 lb asparagus, washed and trimmed--I like to soak the asparagus to really dislodge any grit
2 TBSP plain rice vinegar
2 TBSP mirin
OR use 1/4 c seasoned rice vinegar
1 TBSP sesame oil
1 TBSP toasted sesame seeds (optional)

  1. Bring about 1 inch of water to boil in a wide frying pan or skillet
  2. Add asparagus, cover, and cook for 3-5 minutes until it is your desired tenderness
  3. Plunge the asparagus in an ice and water bath until fully cool (a few minutes)
  4. Drain and then place asparagus in your serving bowl/dish
  5. Pour over the dressing and stir gently
  6. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally
  7. Sprinkle over the sesame seeds when ready to serve