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

 

Gluten-free Vegan Pancakes

We’ve all heard the horror stories about gluten-free pancakes.  I didn’t want any I might make to become another statistic of wasted ingredients thrown into the garbage because the results were abysmal.  While my family is eating “normal” pancakes, I don’t want to chew on cardboard frisbees or disintegrating messes of grainy goo.

If you’ve been reading my other gluten-free posts, you know I am also not a fan of the weird ingredients of starch this and gum that.  My family is accustomed to whole wheat everything, so a hearty replacement is necessary for my palate.  I’m not a fan of white flour anything.

I took my tried-and-true wheat pancake recipe and messed around with different flours.  Although my first attempt could have used some more salt, they were very good.  Fluffy texture, hearty taste…though a little more fragile than typical wheat pancakes.  The next batch I added ground chia seed and extra liquid.  That took care of their fragility!  I’m very happy with the final results.

Gluten-free Vegan Pancakes

  • 1/4 c. millet flour
  • 1/2 c. buckwheat flourGluten-free Pancakes
  • 1/2 c. brown rice flour
  • 1 T. ground chia seed
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 heaping tsp. baking soda, sieved
  • 1/2 heaping tsp. baking powder, sieved
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Ener-G egg replacer powder
  • 1 1/4 c. rolled oats
  • 1 3/4 c. + 2 T. juice, such as organic apple or white grape
  • 1/2 c. non-dairy milk
  • 2 tsp. non-flavored oil (I use extra light olive oil)
  • optional – sweetener to taste.  I find the juice is enough for me with sweet toppings

Whisk the flours, chia seed, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and egg replacer powder together in a mixing bowl.  Whiz the oats with the juice, milk, and oil in the blender.  Whisk the liquid with the dry ingredients for 30 seconds or so until bubbly.  Let rest for a minute while you heat the griddle to 300° F.  It will thicken up as it rests.

Pour 1/4 c.-sized pancakes blops from the batter onto the hot griddle.  Make sure you leave enough space between them for spreading out.  When they begin to be a little dry around the edges, flip them over.  When they are toasty brown on the underside, remove them to a serving plate.

Peach Cobbler (or Blueberry…or Blackberry…or….) plus a gluten-free option

Years and years ago, when women wrote their recipes more cryptically than they do today (a pinch of this, a dash of that, a slow oven…as in wood-burning stove/oven!), my grandmother crafted a cobbler that was out of this world!  My mother recreated it for a “normal” oven and I grew up adoring cobblers of any kind.  When we lived in Oregon, we picked wild Marion blackberries on the side of the road that were as long as my 7-year-old thumb and thicker – and they had very little seeds, as I recall.  They made the best cobbler I ever can remember.  (I tried to recreate it with frozen Marion blackberries…oh, no.  It was more of a seed-crunch cobbler.   Ick.)

When we became vegan, I figured out what to do with the handed-down cobbler recipe.  I had tried and tried to tweak it to make it healthier…and gave up to a certain extent.  If I was going to eat the cobbler-of-my-childhood/vegan-version, it wasn’t going to be super-duper healthy.  It was going to be dessert…with whole grain flour.  (Hey, I couldn’t give in entirely to unhealthy living!)  🙂

A few days ago a friend dropped off some South Carolina peaches that he brought back from his trip.  They smelled amazing!  I could have crawled in the bag and absorbed that perfume into my skin.  We ate some of the peaches, but when my boys went away for a 5-day camp-out, I knew I was going to have to make something with the fruit before it went bad.  My mouth started to water thinking about cobbler.

And then I remembered…my cobbler recipe is a wheat flour recipe.  And two days ago, I splurged and had some real, live pizza complete with a wheat crust (but vegan cheese…so maybe it’s not truly “real”) ~ and I’m paying for it with an achy body still today.  The last thing I wanted to do was make and eat more wheat ~ especially with my wheat-tolerant, eating-machine boys not there to help devour it.

First I prayed for guidance and then bravely started working on what was hopefully going to be an amazing gluten-free, vegan version of my grandmother’s recipe.  I’m sure she would be astonished.  As I type this, it is in the oven baking…and I am on pins and needles wondering how it will turn out.  I peeked in the oven at the half-way point, and it looks promising!  I’m so excited.  The peaches have sunk down in the batter perfectly!

Meanwhile, let me give you the just-plain vegan version of the recipe.  Then if the gluten-free one turns out, I’ll add that, too.  Remember, this is a special treat with plenty of sweetener and fat.  If you prefer a less sweet dish, cut down on the sweetener in the batter by 1/2 a cup, but I don’t recommend reducing the fat content any more…been there/done that…and it wasn’t pretty.

This makes a 4 quart casserole full as it rises.  It will drop down some as it cools.

Vegan Cobbler

  • 1 1/2 c. evaporated cane juice crystals (or sugar)
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 T. baking powder, sieved
  • 2 1/4 c. whole wheat flour (I prefer white whole wheat – King Arthur’s or Trader Joe’s)
  • 1/2-3/4 c. vegan margarine (Earth Balance is great.  I often substitute 1/2 of it with solid coconut oil – refrigerate it if necessary to make it firm up during the summer.)
  • 1 3/4 c. non-dairy milk
  • 4 cups or more of fruit (peach, blueberry, etc.)  This may be frozen or fresh, I’ve used both successfully.  I usually use 6 cups of fruit.
  • 1/4-1 c. sugar (depending on how sweet your fruit is – I tend to use 1/4-1/2 c.)
  • 1 1/2 c. boiling water

Preheat oven to 350°.  Spray baking dish with oil.

Mix dry ingredients (first 4) together in a mixing bowl with a pastry blender.  With the pastry blender, cut in the vegan margarine (and coconut oil if using) into the flour until the mixture is crumbly and has small pea-sized pieces of dough sticking together.  You want to get the fats mixed in with the flour so that it is well distributed throughout the batter.  Stir in the milk just until everything is moist.  The batter will be lumpy and fairly wet.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, spreading it out to the edges.  (You can click on the picture to see just how lumpy it will look.)  Place the fruit evenly across the batter.  Sprinkle on the 1/4-1 c. sugar.  Pour boiling water over it all.  Bake for 1 hour.

_________Update on the gluten-free cobbler__________

After actually allowing the cobbler to cool (only because I could test the taste and texture better without a burned tongue) I took a nibble of the crust.  Mmmm…it was very good and the texture was spot-on.  But before I really could tell you how it came out, I had to eat a big spoonful of it to know for certain.  (I was willing to go the distance for all of you!  Such a sacrifice!)  Oh, man…was it good.  I would have no problem serving this to anyone.  It has a slightly nutty flavor that the wheat version doesn’t, but it doesn’t detract from the overall dessert.  I think the sweetener could certainly be reduced in the batter.  Without the slight bitterness of the wheat, it doesn’t need as much.  On the other hand, if you want a knock-down, drag-out dessert that will go the distance, leave the sweetener as is!

Gluten-free Vegan Cobbler

  • 1 1/2 c. evaporated cane juice crystals (or sugar)
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 T. baking powder, sieved
  • 1 c. brown rice flour
  • 1/2 c. almond meal
  • 1/2 c. buckwheat flour
  • 1/4 c. coconut flour
  • 1 T. Ener-G egg replacer powder
  • 1/2-3/4 c. vegan margarine (Earth Balance is great.  I often substitute 1/2 of it with solid coconut oil – refrigerate it if necessary to make it firm up during the summer.)
  • 2 c. non-dairy milk
  • 2 or more pints of fruit (peach, blueberry, etc.)  This may be frozen or fresh
  • 1/4-1 c. sugar (depending on how sweet your fruit is – I tend to use 1/4-1/2 c.)
  • 1 1/2 c. boiling water

Preheat oven to 350°.  Spray baking dish with oil.

Mix dry ingredients (first 8) together in a mixing bowl with a pastry blender.  With the pastry blender, cut in the vegan margarine (and coconut oil if using) into the flour until the mixture is crumbly and has small pea-sized pieces of dough sticking together.  You want to get the fats mixed in with the flour so that it is well distributed throughout the batter.  Stir in the milk just until everything is moist.  The batter will be lumpy and fairly wet.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, spreading it out to the edges.  Place the fruit evenly across the batter.  Sprinkle on the 1/4-1 c. sugar.  Pour boiling water over it all.  Bake for 1 hour.