Whole Grain Bread

love making my own bread.  Kneading the dough is so relaxing.  I made 6+ loaves weekly for my large family for years until we moved to Ohio….where my bread failed suddenly and miserably!  Think bricks.  I tried and tried to make it happen and finally gave up.  Years later I discovered why. The water where we live is extremely hard.  It is also possible that the flour I purchased was an all-purpose flour, rather than hard wheat flour, which will also cause loaves to be rather flat. Thankfully, I recently learned that adding some lemon juice to the dough fixes this problem.  I made sure to buy hard whole wheat flour this time, too.  Hallelujah!  Fresh bread again!  My family has decreased in size as the kids have gradually grown up, so I don’t make 6 loaves a week anymore.  I have to admit….it’s a WHOLE lot easier to only knead 2-4 loaves at a time!

  Homemade Whole Grain Bread

Yields 2 loaves, 8″ x 4″ (see note below)

  • 6 c. hard whole wheat flour (hard white whole wheat is even better for a sweeter loaf)
  • ½ c. dry oatmeal
  • 1 T. salt
  • 4 ½ tsp active yeast * (or 2 pkts)
  • 1-2 T. olive oil
  • ¼ c. honey or maple syrup
  • 2 ¼ c. water
  • ½-1 T. lemon juice (optional, only for if your water is quite hard)

Mix 2 c. of flour with salt in large bowl.  Set aside 1½ c. flour in a small bowl for kneading into the dough later (you probably will not use all of this flour.)  Set aside remaining 2½  c. of flour and oatmeal in yet another bowl.

In a saucepan, heat water, honey or maple syrup, oil, and lemon juice, if using, to 105-110 degrees.  Remove from heat and sprinkle yeast into the water.  Stir briefly and let rest 5 minutes, or until a little bubbly.  Pour yeast mixture into the bowl with the flour and salt.  Beat with a wooden spoon, or a whisk, until smooth and for about 1 minute longer to develop the gluten.  Let rest for 5 minutes (if using a spoon, just leave it in there.)  After that, add the remaining flour and oatmeal, mixing well.  The dough should look shaggy.  If it seems too wet still, add a handful of flour from your small bowl of kneading flour.  Dust the counter or kneading area with some of the kneading flour.  Turn out dough onto this and knead** in the remaining flour (give or take, depending on the weather and how dry the milled flour actually is this time and how accurately you measured the flours and water.)  More can be added if the dough seems extremely sticky.  Knead for 10 minutes, gradually adding a little more flour to the counter under the dough, until dough is elastic and springy.  It will slightly push back as you knead it.  If you add too much flour as you knead, the bread will come out hard; if too little is added, it will come out doughy and won’t bake well.

Let the dough sit while you wash the large mixing bowl out and spray or wipe it with olive oil.  Give the dough another knead or two and see if it bounces right back at you.  This will tell you that you kneaded it enough.  Better not enough kneading than too much!  Place the dough inside the bowl, flipping it over so that the top is coated with oil, or you can spray the dough with the oil.  Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap, and place in a warm (not hot!), draft-free area.  Let rise until double in size.

Oil your 8”x4” bread pans.  Punch the dough down and knead 2-3 times.  Divide the dough into 2 parts.  Form into loaves.  If there is any seam, place it bottom side down in the pan.  Slit the loaves lengthwise and spray or use pastry brush lightly coat with olive oil.  Let rise until double in size – about 1” above the pan. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown.  The finished loaves will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.  Loosen the sides of the bread with a non-metal spatula and tip them out onto a cooling rack.

The bread slices best when it is 12-24 hours old, leaving smoother slices and less crumbs.  It can be sliced, bagged, and frozen for later use.  It keeps bagged on the counter about a week.

*If using fast or instant rise yeast, you will mix the yeast into the first mixture of flour and salt.  Heat the oil, honey, and water to 120-130 degrees.  You do not have to proof the yeast, or wait for it to dissolve in water.   Beat liquids into the dry ingredients and continue with recipe.

** Knead bread by folding the far side of the dough toward you and push down and away with the heels of your hands.  Then spin it ¼ a turn and fold over again.  Keep doing this for 10 minutes.  You can scrape excess dough off of your fingers that clings at the start and knead that into the dough as you go.  As you near the completion, you will add less and less flour to the surface beneath the dough – just enough to keep it from sticking to the counter and you.  It will change texture and turn from a slight messy shaggy heap into a ball, and finally into a tighter ball of smooth, elastic dough, which will spring back at you as you knead it.  This will be at about the 10 minute mark.  Try not to over-knead the bread.  If you have under-kneaded it, you can knead it a bit longer after you prep the rising bowl.

Note:  If you find that this doesn’t rise as high as you would like, you can double the recipe and put it into 3 loaf pans.  This makes a higher loaf.

Soy Yogurt

I’ve been on a journey for a while now, and it’s really not over yet.  Ever since I got married (32 years ago today!) and we decided to become vegetarian for our health’s sake, I’ve been reading books and learning everything I can about health.  With the internet, things got easier to find.  I love learning new things and I marvel at how well the Creator made us, giving us just the right food to help us live well.

Recently, I’ve been learning about how probiotics and cultured foods benefit us.  I won’t bore you with the details here.  Instead, I’d encourage you to dig into the research for yourself!  There are a lot of kinds of cultured foods out there, from sauerkraut to pickles (not the vinegar ones on the grocery shelves) to kimchee!  It’s easy to choose a favorite one to eat often.

I bought and tried cultured pickles.  They are STRONG.  I can eat them occasionally, but they aren’t something that I’m going to enjoy eating every day.  (And your best bet for getting a healthier flora in your gut is to partake of cultured foods at least daily.)

If you don’t make your own cultured foods at home, then they are pretty pricey in the markets.  I looked into making sauerkraut with wonderful jars that keep the smell from permeating your kitchen.  It looked like a really good way to make fermented foods myself, however, my favorite way of eating sauerkraut involves heating it…and that destroys the good bacteria.  Rats.  I still might make some of my own, but it won’t be my source of the healthy “bugs.”

If the sauerkraut was out, and the pickles weren’t favorites enough to eat daily (and my family wouldn’t even touch them, btw), then I needed to figure something else out.  As I googled “cultured foods” I found the answer.  Yogurt.  I love the stuff…at least most of the non-dairy ones I’ve had.  Unfortunately, it, too, is fairly expensive to buy ready made ~ and full of all kinds of stuff.  Carageenan (which I’ve recently learned isn’t that good for us), tons of sugar, and other tidbits that our bodies really don’t need.  So, back to the computer I went to see about making it myself.

I found tons of recipes, but most of them called for yogurt making machines, which I didn’t want to sink money into until I knew if this process was even going to work!  Then I found the best site yet ~ that I can’t find now to share with you, sorry! ~ one that told many different ways to ferment yogurt without the expensive investment.  This is the second best site that gave different ways to try, but doesn’t actually include the one I’m going to share with you here.

One of the challenges of making your own yogurt is beginning one with the proper culture.  Some recipes call for using probiotic capsules opened into it, but that didn’t feel very authentic to me.  Others said you needed specific starter kits from a health food store, but that they don’t work to re-use your own yogurt to make your next batch.  Instead, you’d need to buy a starter kit again!  What?  Not sustainable?  Next!  I chose the option of buying a non-dairy yogurt at the store and using it to culture my soy milk.  I chose a coconut yogurt that had 6 different bacteria listed on the label.  I figure if I’m going to repopulate my insides, I want the best amount I can get.  My first attempts were actually pretty poor, because I hadn’t found the best way to incubate it ~ I either didn’t keep it warm enough, or killed it with too warm of a spot, so I had to buy more packaged yogurt.  I again started with the 6-bacteria coconut version.  This time it worked!  Yay!  The next time, I used half of a tablespoon of my successful yogurt (with the 6 bacteria) AND half of a tablespoon from Almond Dream yogurt that contains 7 bacteria ~ a couple of which were different from the ones in my coconut yogurt!  I get the best bunch of probiotics going with so many different kinds.  And the more batches that I’ve made, the thicker the yogurt has gotten.

When you make yogurt like this, you must be patient.  (Not my strong suit.)  There are things that you must do to make it work correctly.  Believe me, because I tried the shortcuts that I thought would work.  Nope.  Stick to the “rules.”  For instance, the milk must be heated to 180° even though you have to cool it back down to 110°.  Why?  Because it changes the way the proteins line up with each other so that the bacteria can thicken it.  Otherwise, you get cultured milk….sorta.  (It was very disappointing, but I didn’t waste it.  We had it in our smoothies.)

Okay, here is the recipe.  If you have any questions about “why” something needs to be done, ask me.  I won’t bore everyone else with the details here.  🙂

Soy Yogurt

Equipment you will need:Soy yogurt equipment

  • a thermos that will hold at least 4 1/2 cups.  (I wish mine was large-mouthed to make clean up easier.  If yours is small-mouthed, get a bottle brush with which to wash it out.)
  • an instant-read digital thermometer, or one that can latch onto a small saucepan so that you get a constant reading.
  • a small 1-qt. saucepan (mine has a cute little spout on each side to make pouring into the thermos a snap!)

Ingredients:

  • 4 c. unsweetened soy milk with nothing other than soybeans and water (the other kinds sort of work, but this type thickens much better.  Trader Joe’s has it in an aseptic package, as does Eden, I believe.)
  • 1 T. evaporated cane juice crystals or sugar (I’ve read that maple syrup doesn’t work, but haven’t personally tried it, and honey is antibacterial, so it will kill off the bacteria you are trying to feed.  I don’t know about agave.)
  • 1 T. room temperature packaged non-dairy yogurt, or some from your last batch.  Even if you forget to save a little before you eat it all, you can scrape out the dregs from the serving/storage bowl and use those.  It doesn’t take too much, actually!

Take your yogurt culture out of the frig to allow it to come to room temperature while you continue with the recipe.  Heat the milk in the small saucepan to 180°.  If you have used unsweetened milk with no thickeners, you won’t need to stir it, even on high heat.  (I have a ceramic stove top that doesn’t get as hot as gas or some electric stoves, though.)  If you bought a soy milk with other things in it, you’ll need to keep the heat on medium so that it doesn’t stick, and you’ll need to stir it.  At first, you can walk away for a while and just check on the milk occasionally, but once it reaches about 145-150°, you’ll want to stay right there, because it rapidly gets to the target temp.  Remove from heat once it has reached 180°, stir in the sugar, and cool in the pan until it is between 105-110°.  (If you are in a hurry, you can set the pan on a wet towel, or in a sink with cold water in it.)  Once it’s cooled, stir a little of the milk into your yogurt starter until smooth, and then stir a little more to it.  Pour the starter culture mixture into the pan of milk and stir it well.  Pour it into the thermos and screw the lid on tight.  Set it aside for several hours.

When you think of it as you walk through the kitchen, uncap the thermos to allow any built-up pressure from the bacteria growing to escape.  (Sometimes I forget, though.  Then it does whoosh a bit when I open it at the end!)  Just don’t jiggle it around a lot as it’s fermenting, as it seems to dislike that.  After about 6 hours, check to see if it is thickening by opening it and gently tilting the thermos.  If it is thick, you are ready!  The longer you leave it, the stronger the flavor becomes ~ and to a certain extent, the thicker it gets.

Pour it into a glass storage container and cover.  If it isn’t as thick as you’d like, leave it to cool on the counter for an hour or two before refrigerating.  Once it is cold, it will thicken a little more.  Now you can stir in extra sweetener, mashed fruit, jam, or whatever you’d like to flavor it.  It works great as is in smoothies!

Are Your Pots and Pans Making You Sick?

My daughter just passed this video on to me today ~ and it kinda scared me.  This is a video of how to do a simple test to see whether your pots and pans are leaching chemicals and/or metals into your foods.  So many of us are trying to eat ultra healthfully with organic produce, etc., etc. ~ but what if we are putting that marvelous food into cookware that deletes its effectiveness at making us healthier?  *gulp!*

This video link takes just about 8 minutes to watch.  It may change our lives!  (I don’t know, because I still have to go test my pans…and then show my husband.)

Click for Chef Mark Anthony’s video

How to clean mildewy towels

Yes, I’ve been AWOL lately.  I apologize.  I think summer does that to me.  Once the cooler weather hits, I’m sure I’ll be posting plenty of yummy things!

Until then…here is a website that a friend shared with me that tells how to clean mildewy towels!  Of course, everyone has hand towels, dish towels, and dish cloths in your kitchen that stay wet too much of the time if you are cooking a lot.  Even just a humid summer with the windows open all day can make the towels in your bathroom begin to smell a little off.  But did you ever send your kid on a camping trip and have them come home with towels and wash cloths that could crawl away by themselves?  Or have somebody forget to rinse out their swimsuit and leave it in a plastic bag a few days…ick.  This is the solution!  I can’t wait to try it out.

How to Clean Your Stinky, Mildewy Towels

Let me know how it works for you!

Summer = fruit flies

It is lovely weather.  The windows are open and a breeze is blowing through the house.  I love to bring home marvelous fresh fruit from the grocery store after a winter of apples, pears, and bananas.  Unfortunately, it would seem I also bring home fruit flies from the market.  Or perhaps they come in through the screened windows.  Whatever the case, I am not impressed!

Last year a friend told me her secret to getting rid of fruit flies.  It works so well that I thought I would share it with you.  Certainly I can’t be the only one slapping at the little buggers.  Man, they are fast!

Get out a small glass jar and put an inch or two of apple cider vinegar in the bottom.  Place plastic wrap over the top of it, fastening it with a rubber band.  Poke some small slits in the top.  If you find the fruit flies are not attracted to this, your holes need to be enlarged.  If the fruit flies are escaping, then your holes are too large.

Let me know how this works for you.