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.

Oatmeal Cookie Journey (gluten-free)

Cookies…cookies…cookiesCOOKIES!!!

You guessed it….I love cookies!  (Of course, Cookie Monster was my favorite Muppet.)  Sadly, I haven’t been doing much baking lately, though.  Kinda lost my mojo without wheat flour to make it brainless easy.

Last night and this morning I had such a craving for oatmeal-raisin cookies that I couldn’t Oatmeal Cookie (gluten-free; first attempt) 002help but make another attempt at turning out a good whole-grain gluten-free cookie.  Since I want you to be brave, too, at trying to create new recipes in your kitchen, I am going to take you on this oatmeal cookie journey.  I will tell you what I was thinking as I turned this recipe that I made for years and years with whole wheat flour into this gluten-free version.

First of all, oatmeal cookies are marvelous for attempting to remove the wheat flour, because there isn’t much of it in the recipe at the beginning!  As long as you are using gluten-free oats you are almost home free (or if you are just avoiding wheat and don’t get deathly ill if you get a hold of some teeny amounts gluten, use regular oats.)

To replace the 1 1/2 c. of wheat flour, I decided how hard could it be to use oat flour?  I scooped up 3 c. of oats (because I always double this recipe or they are gone much too soon) and whizzed it up in a dry blender.  (It’s okay if the oats look more like meal than a smooth flour when you are done.)  When I measured the flour after whizzing it, I was 1/4 c. short.  Well, rats!  Rather than try to whiz up that small amount of oats (they get kind of lost in the bottom of the blender and it doesn’t work particularly well), I decided to just throw in some almond meal for the final 1/4 c. that was missing.  Almond meal gives the look and feel of whole wheat flour.  At the last minute, I pondered my coconut flour.  It can help with the baked texture of things to also mimic whole wheat flour.  So, I tossed in a 1/4 c. of that, too!  I figured at worst I would have to add some extra liquid since it seriously soaks up moisture like a sponge left out to dry in the summer sun.

Turns out it was a good choice at the last minute to toss in that coconut flour.  Oat flour can be a little sticky in comparison to whole wheat flour.  The little bit of coconut flour just mopped up any sticky ideas the oat flour might have had and sat back to enjoy the ride.

I chose to add jumbo organic raisins in these cookies – and I made them fairly big since I was in a hurry.  (It only took me an hour to make a double batch from start to finish – not bad.)  Chocolate chips are a nice switch from raisins if you’d rather.  Butterscotch chips are fun, too, if you can find vegan ones.  Coconut flakes are great with any of the above options or by itself (I found some sweetened coconut shreds without any nasty chemicals at Trader Joe’s and I am thrilled.)

I originally thought I was going to have to tweak this recipe again later, but after the whole batch is finished, I don’t think I will need to do so.  They are a little fragile when you first take them off of the cookie sheet, but they firm up nicely as they cool.  If you like, you can leave them on the cookie sheet until they are not so fragile before removing them to a cooling rack.

Oatmeal CookiesOatmeal Cookie (gluten-free; first attempt) 001

  • 1/2 c. Earth Balance buttery sticks (1 stick)
  • 1/4 c. melted coconut oil (virgin is best)
  • 1 1/4 c. evaporated cane juice crystals
  • 2 T. molasses
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 tsp. Ener-G egg replacer powder
  • 1/4 c. + 2 T. non-dairy milk
  • 1 1/4 c. + 2 T. oat flour (1 1/2 c. oats whizzed into meal/flour)
  • 2 T. almond meal/flour
  • 2 T. coconut flour
  • 3 c. oats (I used half and half ~ rolled oats and quick oats)

Preheat oven to 375°.  Cover your cookie sheets with parchment paper (this is vital to make vegan and gluten-free cookies work the best.)

Mix the first 5 ingredients together until smooth.  Stir in the egg replacer powder.  Add the non-dairy milk a little at a time, whipping it into the batter.  By the time it is all in, you should have a lovely fluffy batter.  (Add any extras here, like raisins, chips, coconut, etc.) Mix the dry ingredients in a separate bowl before pouring it all into the wet ingredients.  Mix thoroughly.

Using a teaspoon or a tablespoon, scoop dough against the side of the bowl to press it.  This will give you a sturdier cookie.  You could also press the dough in your hands if you prefer.  Drop spoonfuls onto the cookie sheet.  Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Remove to cooling rack.

Variations:  Add 1 c. raisins, nuts, chocolate chips, and/or coconut

 

Unburgers

When I was 18 I worked in a health food store in western New York called Ye Olde Nut Tree.  They served something called Unburgers that Jean Young created when she worked there.  They were made daily for the snack bar.  (The “batter” kept in the frig. for a day or two.)  Hard-working, non-vegetarian, construction workers would come in just because they loved them.  They were served on buns with alfalfa sprouts, tomato, etc., or on split open pita bread with cream cheese, avocado, cucumbers, and alfalfa sprouts, topped with an oil and vinegar dressing.

I made Unburgers so many times that I had inadvertently memorized the recipe.  When I quit working there, I wrote my memorized recipe down and made it for my growing family.  Unfortunately, the original recipe contained 9 eggs!!  Needless to say, I had to turn them into a vegan version when we gave up eggs. 

The recipe makes 12-16 patties, but they freeze marvelously.

The Nut Tree (the shortened name) exchanged owners and names, moved, and eventually went out of business.  For any of you who used to go there to eat lunch, now you can make your own at home.

Unburgers

  • 1 pkg. extra firm Morniu silken tofu
  • 2 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 T. Bragg’s Liquid Aminos or soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. sage
  • 1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2-1 tsp. salt
  • 1 T. Savorex, Vegex, or Marmite paste (from original recipe)
  •                OR (my preferred method)
  •                2 T. Brewer’s yeast flakes
  •                1 1/2 tsp. Spike seasoning
  •                1/2 capful Liquid Hickory Smoke
  • 1 1/2 c. walnuts
  • 3 c. quick oats (you may use half rolled oats for a chewier texture ~ for gluten-free, use certified gluten-free oats)
  • 1/2 c. raw sunflower seeds

Whiz in blender everything except walnuts, oats, and seeds until fairly smooth.  Add walnuts – allow blender to run until no large pieces remain.  Pour into large bowl and stir in oats and sunflower seeds.  Let stand for 5 or more minutes.

Preheat electric griddle to 250-275 degrees F.  (I suppose you could use a square stove-top griddle, but you couldn’t cook as many at a time on it.  Use medium-low heat.)  Drop large scoops of mix onto griddle and flatten into patties.  (Sometimes this isn’t a quick process – be patient.)  When browned (about 8-10 minutes), turn them over and continue cooking another 3-5 minutes.  If you flip them too soon, they will be gooey inside.

Serve with gravy, on sandwiches, or alone with guacamole and slices of tomato on top.  Try one crumbled onto a salad.

Makes 12 large patties, or 16 medium patties.  Freezes well with waxed paper between layers.

Sunrise Cereal

Okay ~ you know breakfast is an important meal, and you know you should be eating it consistently.  But if you have to open a boring box of cold cereal one more time you are going to scream.  Not to mention that it would be nice to eat something hot on cold mornings.  But who in this day and age has time to fix such a luxury?  It’s all you can do to get out the door on time.  And please don’t mention crock pots, because cleaning those is no picnic, either!

Relax.  I have the solution for you.  It’s quick ~ the clean-up is easy ~ what more could you ask for?

Sunrise Cereal originally came to me from hubby’s Aunt Ann.  It was designed to be baked for an hour in the morning!  Yikes!  I was never ahead of the game to pull that one off.  Hungry children demanded food much faster.  Then someone told me about baking cooked cereals overnight in the oven.  What a marvelous plan!  You wake up to breakfast finished and waiting for you.  And it’s very forgiving – baking for 8-12 hours with little change in the finished product.  (The full 12 hours will give you a slightly crispy outer layer and a harder-to-clean casserole dish, though.)  I needed to adjust the amount of water from the original recipe and add some vanilla and, perhaps, sweetener – that was all.  Perfect.

My hungriest teen son is very happy when he sees I’ve made this.  My food-fussy youngest son isn’t impressed by it.  Each person is so very different in their tastes!  If you like cooked grains, you’ll enjoy this cereal.  And don’t be afraid to play with your food.  🙂  Try making it more than just “cooked cereal.”  When you add your non-dairy milk, use dark chocolate almond milk instead!  Or coconut (my favorite thus far is Silk’s brand)…or BOTH for a Mounds bar flavor.  Make some sweetened raspberry sauce, or use jam, with coconut milk for a taste treat.  When Silk’s eggnog or Pumpkin Spice are in season, use those in place of the other milk – but you might not need sweetener with those.  Or drizzle some natural peanut butter over it all…and maybe a sprinkling of chocolate chips and chopped bananas?  Maybe plain berries and/or nuts.  I’m sure you can think of other interesting combinations.  Who says breakfast can’t be fun?  🙂

This recipe calls for specific grains, but I’ve found you can mix and match if you don’t happen to have certain ones on hand.  Each dish then becomes individualized – complete with different textures dependent on the grains you choose.  You can also vary the amount of water if you like a different consistency for your cooked grains – creamier or chewier.  The last picture shows the creamy texture I got with the full amount of water and substituting steel-cut oats for the bulger wheat.  (Please note – you may used pearled barley instead of the hulled barley, but it’s the refined version – like white rice instead of brown.)

Sunrise Cereal

  • 1/4 c. each – brown rice, oatmeal/rolled oats, millet, hulled barley, and bulger wheat (or other grain)   ***Please note
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 4 1/2 c. water
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. stevia or 1/2 c. other sweetener (optional)

Rinse and drain in a fine mesh strainer the barley and millet.  Combine all ingredients in a 2-qt. casserole dish the night before.  Cover with foil, or use the lid of the casserole if it has one.  Bake at 200° overnight.  Fluffy and nice as soon as you wake up! 

You may add raisins – if so, add a bit more water.  Serve with non-dairy milk, sweetener as desired, and any add-ins you like.

Optional – mix everything the night before, decreasing water to 3 1/2 c.  Pop into a 350° oven in the morning for 1 hour.

Any leftovers can be refrigerated and microwaved the next day with good results.  Mash in your bowl and serve with non-dairy milk and any sweetener you wish.  If you prefer not using a microwave, put the amount desired in a pan with some non-dairy milk (and optional sweetener) and use a potato masher to thoroughly mix things and reheat on the stove.  I regularly prepare a double batch of this for J and I to eat for several days.

***Note:  My family doesn’t care for bulger, so we substitute steel-cut oats for texture and extra creaminess.  You could just add extra rolled oats if you don’t want the chewier texture.  If you aren’t looking for a creamier version, use the bulger, or just increase one of the other grains, or all of them to make up the extra 1/4 c. – or throw in a different grain completely.  This recipe is very flexible.

For a gluten-free version ~ Omit bulger and barley.  Substitute 1/4 c. steel-cut oats for the bulger and an extra 1/4 c. millet for the barley.