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.

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Sugar Cookies

Sugar Cookies 001 Since we’re all short on time at this time of year, I’m going to keep any comments brief.

It is a tradition with my kids to decorate sugar cookies for the holidays as a family – well, minus hubby, who just isn’t interested.  Sometimes the kids are really good about prettily and carefully crafting their cookies.  Other years, not so much…and we end up with houses turned in a funny way and becoming elephants, snowmen upended and being crafted into ice cream cones.  No…I do not know why, nor do I understand.  But since three out of four of them are adults, who am I to argue?  lol  However, it is my creations you see pictured here.  😀

Sugar Cookies

  • 1/2 c. Earth Balance buttery sticks
  • Sugar Cookies 0121/4 c. extra light olive oil
  • 2 T. soy sour cream
  • 2 c. evaporated cane juice crystals, or sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla (or more)
  • 4 1/2 tsp. Ener-G egg replacer powder
  • 1/2 c. + 2 T. non-dairy milk (may need a smidgen more)
  • 4 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 6 c. white whole wheat flour (King Arthur’s or Trader Joe’s brand)

Preheat oven to 375°.  Cover cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Thoroughly cream “butter,” olive oil, sour cream, sugar, and vanilla.  Add in egg replacer powder.  Stir milk in little at a time, beating until well mixed.  Stir in salt and baking powder.  Then add the flour, mixing carefully until no dry spots remain.  If dough seems crumbly, add a little bit of milk – but be very careful here – it doesn’t take much to make a soggy mess suddenly!  It is the right consistency when a small ball of dough can be lightly kneaded and come together.

Roll dough into balls and flatten with a glass dipped into evaporated cane juice crystals/sugar.  (You may need to rub your cookie-dough-smeared palm on the bottom of the glass before the first cookie so that the sugar will stick to it.)  OR  to make cut-out cookies take a good-sized lump of dough, knead it until it is more cohesive, and roll it out on the kitchen counter.  You shouldn’t need any flour if you are careful and use something like a dough scraper or a thin pancake turner to gently scrape up the cut-out dough from the counter.  This makes for a much nicer flavored cookie!  If all else fails, use a little flour on the counter.

Bake for 6-8 minutes.  Remove to cooling rack.  Decorate as desired.  (Or leave the sugared round ones plain.)

Yields approximately 6 dozen (depending on the size of your cookie cutters)

Sugar Cookies 017

Eggnog Snickerdoodles

I love snickerdoodles!  I love eggnog (veggie-style)!  To combine them together?  Oh, yum.  These are chewy and flavorful.  Mmmm…

Eventually, I need to experiment with a gluten-free model, because right now I’m having a terrible time not stuffing one of these into my mouth Cookie-Monster style eating one of these.  The ones you see pictured are actually for my son-in-law’s birthday.  (Never mind that I promised him a batch of these almost a year ago…shhhhh.)

To make them as regular snickerdoodles, omit the rum and brandy extracts/flavorings.  Replace the nutmeg with cinnamon.  That’s about it.

Eggnog Snickerdoodles

  • 3/4 c. Earth Balance vegan buttery sticks
  • 1 1/2 c. evaporated cane juice crystals or sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. rum extract/flavoring
  • 1/2 tsp. brandy extract/flavoring
  • 1 T. Ener-G egg replacer powder (no water)
  • 1/4 c. non-dairy milk (may increase 1-2 T. later if dough seems dry)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 T. soy sour cream
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 3/4 c. white whole wheat flour (King Arthur’s or Trader Joe’s brands are my favorites)
  • 1/4 c. evaporated cane juice crystals or sugar
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg

Heat oven to 400°.  Cover cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Combine “butter,” sugar, and extracts/flavorings in a large mixing bowl.  Stir in Ener-G powder and salt.  Add half of the milk, stirring until well combined.  Add the other half of the milk and mix heartily until things are fluffy (a wooden spoon does the best job of this fluffy business.)  Fold in the sour cream.  Mix the cream of tartar and baking soda in, followed by the flour.  Mix 1/4 c. sugar and nutmeg in a cereal bowl.  Roll dough into balls (ping-pong-ball sized) and put into the nutmeg mixture.  Swirl the cereal bowl to cover each cookie completely with sugary nutmeg.  Place on cookie sheets and bake for 8-10 minutes.  Cool on racks.

Yields approximately 40 cookies.

Apple Pecan Muffins

I got a message from a friend who is cooking for a group of young people involved in an Christian outreach program this summer.  She needed 2 dozen vegan muffins ~ could I help?  How could I say no?  Especially since this amazing woman is cooking for these kids even though she recently fell and broke her shoulder!

These are some of my favorite muffins and I wanted to share them with you.  But I confess I haven’t made them recently, because hubby and I would be tempted to eat them, wheat and all.  So, this was the perfect excuse to bake them for the recipe photo-op, but with temptation being removed!  🙂

I’ve been making this recipe for a very long time.  I made and froze these before my last baby was born so that once I needed them, hubby could bring them to me in the hospital to eat.  (Hospital food and veganism just don’t seem to dovetail very well.)  That baby is now 15!!  And I’ve been making them longer than that.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I used to.

Apple Pecan Muffins

  • 2 c. white whole wheat flour (King Arthur’s or Trader Joe’s are good)
  • 1 c. quick oats
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon (best if you can get ahold of Saigon or Ceylon, etc.)
  • 2 tsp. baking powder, sieved
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda, sieved
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Ener-G egg replacer powder (do not add water)
  • 1 c. chopped apple (the finer you chop it the softer it will be)
  • 1/4 c. broken pecan pieces (or chop if you want finer pieces)
  • 1-1 1/2 T. fresh lemon juice
  • soy milk added to lemon juice to make 1 c. total**
  • 3/4 c. unsweetened applesauce (or 1/2 c. applesauce & an extra 1/4 c. oil)
  • 1/4 c. extra light olive or melted coconut oil
  • 1/2 c. maple syrup or honey

Preheat oven to 375°.  Spray muffin cups with oil.  Whisk lemon juice and soy milk together and set aside.

Mix flour, oats, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and egg replacer powder in a mixing bowl.  Add pecans and chopped apple, tossing to coat apple with flour mixture.  In a smaller mixing bowl, whisk together the soy milk/lemon juice mixture (which should have curdled into vegan buttermilk) with the applesauce, oil, and maple syrup/honey.  With a rubber spatula, scrape wet ingredients into dry ingredients and fold together until no dry spots remain. 

Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.  As you can see from the picture of the unbaked batter, these will be very full muffin cups!

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.  Place muffin pan on wire rack to cool for at least 15 minutes.  (Trust me on this, okay?  It’s absolutely necessary, or your muffins will not let go of the pan and you’ll have muffin pieces that are slightly gooey because they haven’t finished setting up in the pan.)  Remove from pans with fingers ~ if they won’t let go with just a tiny tug, then let them cool a little longer (esp. in the summer if you don’t have the A/C on.)  Place on rack to finish cooling.

** I have only tried this with soy milk.  It probably works with other non-dairy milks, but I cannot vouch for how they behave.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Let’s face it ~ most people realize that cookies are not health food.  And those of us who are vegan realize that most cookies contain milk, eggs, and butter (or worse, hydrogenated oils.)   But sometimes, the siren song of cookies in the bakery window is just overwhelming.  Despite a desire to eat a whole-plant-food based diet, sometimes the cookie monster inside simply won’t be put off with another piece of fruit for dessert or an imitation cookie (you know the kind ~ the ones even undiscriminating little kids won’t eat.)

Before you succumb to that cookie (or worse yet, a package of store bought ones), hurry home and make these.  They are not CHIP- or Forks-Over-Knives- approved; they contain too much sugar and fat for that.  But they are a far sight healthier than Toll House chocolate chip cookies that most of us grew up eating!

I spent several years perfecting this recipe.  I wanted to cut the fat, do away with the dairy products, and use whole wheat flour.  I had some pretty sad and sorry cookies at the beginning!  You get the benefit of all that trial and error.  The final piece to the puzzle was parchment paper.  I know it’s a pain to use and adds extra expense, but it is worth it.  No more squashed cookies trying to peel them off of the pan with the spatula.  No more stuck-on goo to scrape off before the next ones can be put on the cookie sheet.  And no more washing the pans, either.  If you are careful about keeping the dough off of the sides, you can just throw the paper away, wipe the pans off, and put them back in the cupboard.

I usually have “one extra note” to make about my recipes.  Here is today’s.  When it comes to vanilla in cookies (or anything, for that matter) use a heavy hand.  If the real stuff is too expensive for you to do that, then by all means use imitation.  The taste difference will amaze you.  Confession:  I don’t measure my vanilla – I guesstimate and splash it in.  (I taught my kids to do this, and it got my daughter, K, in trouble one of the years she wasn’t homeschooled.  She was in home ec. making chocolate chip cookies and her teacher spotted her splashing in the vanilla and romped on her for it.  It was too expensive for such a thing and besides that, you are supposed to measure it, don’t ya’ know!!  When it came time for the teacher to taste test all the groups’ cookies [not a bad job to have…], guess which ones got the highest praise?  Ha!  Vanilla for the win!)

Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 1/2 c. non-hydrogenated soy margarine, softened (1 stick), such as Earth Balance
  • 1/4 c. light olive oil or melted coconut oil
  • 3 c. evaporated cane juice or sugar (you can use 2 ½ c., but it’s better with 3)
  • 2 T. molasses
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 T. Ener-G egg replacer powder (no added water)
  • 1/2 c. non-dairy milk (I use Silk plain or vanilla soy)
  • 1/2 c. chopped walnuts (optional, but it adds extra nutrition and omega 3 fatty acids)
  • 2 c. chocolate chips (more if you want them bursting at the seams)
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. baking soda, sieved to remove lumps
  • 4 1/2 c. King Arthur’s or Trader Joe’s ‘white’ whole wheat flour (from spring wheat that is sweeter and not as strong in flavor)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place parchment paper on cookie sheets.  This step is non-negotiable.  Without it, I cannot be responsible for how awful your cookies look.

With a wooden spoon, in a large bowl, combine margarine, olive or coconut oil, cane juice, molasses, and vanilla.  Thoroughly stir in egg replacer powder.  Add a third of the non-dairy milk, or so, at a time, beating it in completely after each addition.  Keep whipping it until fluffy and creamy.  Tip the bowl some to make it easier.  (You can toss the milk in all at once, but it tends to cause separation and then you have to work harder to whip it together.)  Stir in nuts, chocolate chips, salt, and baking soda, mixing well.  Stir in flour until no dry spots remain.  Don’t be afraid to add an extra 1-2 T. non-dairy milk at this point if the dough seems crumbly.  You want the dough to just stick together if you press a clump on a spoon, or between your fingers.  The moisture content of whole wheat flour varies causing slight differences each time.  Just don’t add too much extra milk, or your cookies will be very flat and hard.

Drop by tablespoon onto parchment-covered cookie sheets.  (Or roll into balls for perfectly round cookies.)  Bake 10-12 minutes.  Remove to cookie racks to cool.  If you want smaller cookies dropped by teaspoon, reduce the baking time to 8-10 minutes.

Molasses Cookies

I’m going to add a fun recipe today.  Not only because everybody needs some fun in their dietary life, but because I already have a picture taken of these cookies!  (It seems one of my children shared an illness with me and cooking something new to photograph for a post is just a little out of my comfort zone today.)

Molasses cookies are a favorite for my husband and a couple of my sons.  It was vital that I find a way to make a vegan version, even if I’m not fond of molasses cookies.  (I suppose that keeps me from eating many.  I may be on to something here….)  I pulled out my Land O’ Lakes Cookie Collection a few years ago and set to work.  Fortunately, they were already lower in fat than most of the other recipes in their book (but hey, what do you expect – they are selling butter!)  It didn’t take too much tweaking to come up with a solid recipe.  These make a dark, thin cookie with plenty of flavor, and if you like a super crispy cookie, bake them the longer time listed.

There are some important things you should know, just in case you like to tinker with recipes like I do.  (I can’t seem to leave new ones alone – sometimes that’s a good thing, but sometimes it spells disaster!)

~The original recipe called for “light” molasses, but I’ve never seen such a thing.  I thought I could make it lighter another way.  Nope.  #1 – Don’t substitute honey for any of the molasses.

~  Most of my low-fat cookies need one single “magic” ingredient to come off the cookie sheet easily.  However, these won’t spread well or brown correctly if you use it with these.  #2 – Don’t use parchment paper on the cookie sheets.

~ If you are in a hurry, do not make these cookies!  #3 – Do NOT skip the refrigeration step.  You will fail at rolling the balls out and just have to lick cookie schtick off of your palms instead.  Now, if your goal is to just eat cookie dough – well, that’s up to you!  🙂

~ If you like really large molasses cookies you will need to make a change.  #4 – For larger cookies, place them plenty far apart.  These babies spread like crazy!

Molasses Cookies

  • 1 c. evaporated cane juice crystals or sugar
  • 1/2 c. (1 stick) Earth’s Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks, softened (these contain no trans fats)
  • 1/2 c. unsulfured molasses
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Ener-G egg replacer powder
  • 1/4 c. + 2 T. non-dairy milk
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 2 1/4 c. white whole wheat flour* or w.w. pastry flour (*This is spring wheat flour that is sweeter and whiter that typical whole wheat flour.  I use King Arthur’s or Trader Joe’s brands.)
  • sugar for rolling

In a large bowl, combine evaporated cane juice crystals, “butter,” and molasses until smooth.  Stir in egg replacer powder.  A couple of tablespoons at a time, stir in the non-dairy milk.  This keeps the batter from separating.  Add baking soda and seasonings, beating to mix well.  Next stir in the flour.  Cover and refrigerate until firm – at least 2 hours.

Heat oven to 350°.  Shape rounded teaspoonfuls of dough into 1-inch balls.  (This seems small, but they spread way out.)  Roll in sugar.  Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until slightly firm to the touch.  Remove immediately.

Makes about 4 1/2 dozen cookies.