Friday, May 25, 2018

Give Us Our Daily Bauernbrot!

What can I say?  I LOVE BREAD!  And so does most of the world's population!  I've eaten breads from various places around the world, and somethings that the local's pass for "their bread".  But nothing tastes as good to me as a German farmer's bread or Bauernbrot in the German language.  It's not all rye, it's not all white, but a little of both.  I found a recipe online years ago, and I've been making this bread ever since.

There was a day when we never bought bread, because I made our own.  This bread and a sourdough style.  But that is when I had a lot of time on my hands.  Now, I do not have so much spare time, but I do like to make a good crusty loaf of Bauernbrot here and there!

I've never had any problems making my bread at our high elevation of 6,035 feet (1,849-1/2 meters) and it works great at lower elevations as well.  So, I'm sharing my recipe here and I hope you all have the same great success as I have.  Well, after making hundreds of loaves in my lifetime I should have it down!

It's not something that's quick, nor should you try to put it into a bread machine.  Just follow the instructions and you should get a high quality loaf of bread that German's will even rave about!

German Style Farmer's Bread (Bauernbrot)

(makes 1 nice hefty loaf, or you can split dough and make two small loaves)

3/4 cup dark rye flour (I only use Bob's Red Mill, but that's just me)
3/4 cup bread flour - do not substitute with all-purpose  (I only use King Arthur, but again, that's just me)
3 Tablespoons barley malt - I think this ingredient is what makes it unique; you could use honey, but why? (you can get it here)
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast (usually get the bread machine or "RapidRise" yeast in the little brown jar)
1-1/2 cups lukewarm water (tap is fine, just don't use ice cold from your fridge door dispenser)

Put all ingredients in your mixing bowl (I use the bowl from my Kitchen Aid mixer) and stir with a rubber scraper until you have a lovely brown slurry.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.  It's always a thing for me to see how tight I can get the wrap.  I try to get it very tight where it doesn't even look like there is any on top!  Oh, back to the recipe and away from my quirks.  Let the mixture sit out for about an hour at room temperature, and then put in your refrigerator.

I find that if I'm getting ready for work, I just mix this up first thing, and then pop it in the fridge before I leave.  This is always good to do on a Friday if you want to bake on Saturday.

Let your starter ferment in the fridge for at least 24 hours.  I've made this with no fermenting, and it's good, but it always seems to be a bit better when I make it this way.

Take your starter from the cold.

Bread Mixture:
2-1/2 cups bread flour (see notes to bread flour above)
2 Tablespoons caraway seeds (I get this in a bulk container on Amazon)
1-1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt (never used any other kind, but I would stay away from table salt)
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast (see notes to yeast above)

1 Tablespoon oil - DO NOT PUT IN MIX NOW (I just use canola oil)

In a small bowl, mix all dry ingredients together with a fork and carefully pour on top of your starter. DO NOT MIX.  Cover again with plastic wrap and let this sit in a warm area for at least 5 hours.  Again, I've made this in a hurry and didn't let this sit for long, but under ideal conditions it's best to let it sit for the prescribed time.

Your starter should be bubbling up and over the flour mixture (see photo).

After your mixture has sit, ADD the oil now and knead on your Kitchen Aid mixer, using the dough hook, on medium-low speed (about setting 4) for 10 minutes.  Add flour by the teaspoons full if the dough is too sticky.  Your dough should be coming off the sides of the bowl and forming a dough blob on the hook.  I also stop the machine and scrape any bits that stick to the sides of the bowl.  Let the dough rest for 10 minutes, and then knead again for another 10 minutes.

I used to do this by hand, but I've learned that the Kitchen Aid is easier and my forearms don't end up looking like Popeye's!

You should have a fairly smooth dough and the sides of the bowl should be clean.  Scrape out of the bowl onto a flour-dusted surface and knead a few times by hand.  This does feel very nice because your dough will really become smooth and elastic.  Those crafty (but tasty) caraway seeds like to jump out during your hand-kneading session, but just use the dough to pick them back up.  Form this into a ball by tucking the sides underneath the ball and keep rotating it as you do this.

You should have a wonderfully silky feeling ball of dough.  Spray your mixing bowl with cooking spray, drop the ball in with smooth side up, and spray the top with more cooking spray.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise (we call this proofing in the biz!) in a warm area for about an hour.

If it's very warm in your house, this may only take 45 minutes or so.  If it's super chilly, this could take up to 2 hours.  You will want the dough to rise until it's doubled in volume in the bowl.  DO NOT over-proof to where your dough is spilling out the top and over the sides of the bowl. I've done this before when I took a nap and forgot to wake up in time!  This is not good because all of the yeast's rising power is nearly spent, and you'll have a hard time proofing it the required second time. Sorry, I only have a picture of the dough before proofing.

Once your dough has doubled: AT THIS TIME, place a large oven stone (or un-glazed tiles) onto the lowest rack of your oven.  Leave room for something metal that can hold water.  I use an old loaf pan.  Pre-heat your oven to 405° F.  Hot!

Then take out doubled dough and knead a few times more and reshape into a ball. Place dough, top-side down into a prepared round brotform, flour and cover to proof for another 45 minutes or so.  The dough should be doubled again, with a nice dome shape springing-forth form the top of the brotform.  Sorry, I did not take a picture of this either.  Bad photographer!

A brotform or bread proofing basket (you can purchase here), is the traditional way of making free standing loaves, but if you don't have one, just scatter a liberal layer of corn meal on a board or flat cookie sheet, place dough on top of corn meal, top-side up, dust dough with flour and cover with a clean cotton tea towel to rise for about 45 minutes.  It should double in size.  The corn meal is very important as it lets you slide your proofed-to-perfection loaf into the oven. You can't bake a loaf of deflated dough, and it's deflated because you couldn't slide it off the board.  Don't skimp on that!

When you are ready to bake your bread, draw a cup of hot water from your tap, and set near your oven.  Carefully turn out your loaf from your brotform onto a corn meal treated board.  If you think it's a bit flat, you can let it sit for another 20-30 minutes, but I usually just bake it from here.

Slash the top of your loaf with a very sharp razor or bread lame (you can purchase the fancy one I have here), or make your own by purchasing safety razors (double-sided) and affixing them to wooden stir sticks.  Slash about 1/2 inch deep, three parallel cuts that are evenly spaced across, turn loaf 90 degrees and repeat.

Slip the bread from the board onto the hot stone, pour the cup of hot water into the heated metal vessel and quickly shut the oven door.  This creates steam to help with an extra rise and makes the outside crusty.  Bake for 15 minutes.

Turn down the oven to 400° F and bake for an additional 25-35 minutes or until the bottom sounds hollow when you thump it and the internal temperature is 190° F or more.  During the baking, I will mist the top of the loaf with water from a spray bottle and rotate it on the stone.  This helps give the loaf a more even bake and the occasional mists of water make the outside VERY crusty.

Remove your fresh baked loaf of bread onto a wire rack to cool.  Do not cut until completely cool.  That is, if you have the will power!  Nothing beats butter on a warm slice of fresh-baked bread!

This bread is delicious fresh, toasted, and it keeps well in a plastic bag.  It also freezes beautifully.  The crumb has a tight, but soft and spongy texture, with a light malty flavor, and accents of anise from the caraway seeds.  The crust is a deeper malt flavor (sometimes I bake at a higher temperature to deliberately "catch" or burn it a bit), and it is so satisfyingly chewy that you'd be crazy to cut off these crusts.

So, that's it!  Intimidating isn't it?  Of course not!

With a little practice and PATIENCE, you too can bake a damned good loaf like this.  Perfect for anytime, and perfect everytime.  Happy baking!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Soooo Late! But Soooo Worth It!

First of all...I am so sorry for not posting anything on here for, um, two years!!  I don't know if anyone even reads this thing, but I still feel guilty about it.

Lots has happened over the past two years I tell ya!  Dale has officially retired from the Army after 26 glorious years.  Congratulations, Babe!  However, you would think with him being home (finishing up his Master's Degree) that he would be whipping up all sorts of tasty meals, but no, I get home from work and I still hear the "What's for dinner?" question.

Well, we are cheating a bit and have enrolled in Dream Dinners.  It's a bit like Blue Apron or Hello Fresh, but it's way, way easier!  I'll blog more on that another time.  When I do cook, I love using my Instant Pot!

I'm here to give you this great and easy recipe (adapted it from this recipe) for a mega-load of super-delicious Sloppy Joes!  I've made them in my Instant Pot (my latest favorite gastronomical gadget!), but you could just mix up the ingredients and put it all in a good ol' slow cooker and cook on low all day.  But who wants to do that any more??  Not me!

Sloppy Joes were always a favorite of ours when we were kids.  However, my mother had a very basic recipe (ketchup and mustard with a little sugar) and she just always threw it together with no measuring at all.  But, she's never made 5 pounds of Joes at one time.  That's a lot of guess work!

Here is a good recipe that I've tried and tested at work at the U.S. Air Force Academy, on my coworkers.  They are always ready and willing tasters when it comes to my food!

Sloppy Joes for a Crowd - Instant Pot Recipe (6qt or 8qt)

(Served 12 adults with no problems at all)

5 pounds lean ground beef (I used 93%)
2 large onions, diced fine (a food processor would make all your veggie chopping much easier, I'm just sayin'!)
1 large green bell pepper, diced fine
1 large red bell pepper, diced fine
1/4 cup garlic, minced (yeah, that's a lot, but worth it, but use less if you want)
2 1/2 cups ketchup
1/4 cup tomato paste (you can use a little more if you'd like to help thicken more)
1/4 cup soy sauce (not low sodium soy sauce)
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 heaping tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 1/4 cup water 
2 tablespoons olive oil
Kosher salt & ground black pepper to taste

Using a 6 quart Instant Pot, press "SAUTE" on the highest setting and add the olive oil.  Then crumbled all of the raw hamburger meat into the pot and season to your taste with salt and pepper.  Yes, all!  I guess you could do this in small batches or in a large pan on your stove. Use a wooden spoon or a handy meat thingie like this, and start browning the meat.  This may take some time, but it works and you'll get all of the meat cooked.  You will have to either drain off the juice/fat at the end, or ladle it out.  Either way, you want your meat as dry as you can get it.  Do not turn off your Instant Pot.

Add the onion and saute that while mixing into the cooked ground beef.  Do this for about 2 minutes.  Add the bell peppers and garlic, and again, saute while mixing into the ground beef.  Saute for about 2 minutes more.  Don't worry about making the veggies soft, because the pressure cooking will take care of that!  Add the brown sugar, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and water and mix with the mixture, making sure to scrape the bottom of your pan.

Turn off your Instant Pot and layer the mustard, tomato paste, and ketchup onto the top of your beef mixture.  Put on lid and "PRESSURE COOK" on highest setting for 10 minutes.  Naturally release the pressure for 10 minutes and then rapid release the remaining pressure.  Open the lid and stir well.

If your mixture is looser than you would like it, turn on "SAUTE" on the lowest setting and simmer for 30 minutes, or until you get the right consistency.  If your mixture is too dry, add a little water.

Place your Instant Pot on "SLOW COOK" on the lowest setting and call up the crowd!  I served these with the little Savory Butter Rolls by King's Hawaiian.  Yumo, Sloppy Joe Sliders!

This large and satisfying recipe is great for potlucks, family get-togethers, kid's parties, etc.  There were 12 of us and we I had leftovers to take home to the husband.  Who didn't have dinner ready on the table, of course!  Hope you enjoy this!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Super-Duper Small Gummi Sushi! Yes, you can be a sushi chef too!

Dale and I were running errands today, and we stopped by a great shop near us called, Rocket Fizz.  It's a super-cool candy and soda shop, and they had these gummi kits from Japan.  You made your own gummies and then assembled them to look like different foods.  

Of course I had to get the sushi kit.  I love novel and quirky things like this.  It's very detailed oriented, looks nearly really, and it's miniature!  My favorite criteria!

It's called "Poppin' Cookin' Sushi Kit" and it was really fun to make.  After we downloaded the English instructions from HERE.  The instructions on the box are fine, if you are fluent in reading Japanese!  There are pictures, but in this case, they are not worth a thousand words.

Here is the box.  It's about the size of...well, a box of tampons.  That's really all I could think to compare it to.
This plastic pouch is inside, but don't just rush in and tear it open.  You need to cut where it indicates because you use this as your templates and "plates."
After you cut open the pouch, remove this tray and all of the mysterious packets and hardware.  That little spoon is cute and looks like a tiny spade.
I trimmed the edges of the pouch.
Here are the different color coded packets of mix, the mixing tray, and the squeezy thing, and spoon.
The first thing I did was mix up the rice.  I just used a small spoon to spoon in the minute amounts of water you're suppose to use.  This mixture reminded me of when I attempted to make my own rice cakes.  Now, that was an utter failure, but I won't bore you with the details on that.  Back to our clever sushi!
So, after I made the "Tamago" or "egg omelet," I moved to the "tuna" or "Maguro."  It was nice that you didn't have to work really quickly, but I didn't want to lollygag.  Can you believe that the word "lollygag" didn't show up as a misspelled word?  Ha!
Making the "salmon roe" or "salmon eggs" was THE COOLEST thing I've done all year.  I felt like one of those super-hip molecular chefs.  Just follow the instructions and you cannot go wrong!  The results are amazing, and a little gross, but they do look like fish eggs when you are finished!  This reminded me of that novelty soda in the early 90's called Orbit.  Anyone remember that?
There was a little black stick of candy that you roll out, while using the handy template on the pouch wrapper.  I improvised and was able to make another strip of "Nori" or "seaweed paper" for my tiny omelette sushi.
After all of my ingredients were prepared, it was time to make some sushi!  I took the rice and used the little template to pack together into little cakes for my omelette and tuna.
I also took a piece of the seaweed paper and made into a ring and pushed a little rice into it.  Then I spooned in some of the salmon eggs.  I was thrilled by how real they looked, all plump and shiny!
After I assembled the other pieces of sushi, I assembled the "tuna tower" by using some of the tuna and egg, and chopping them up roughly with my spade spoon.  Then I had to carefully top off some rice that I shaped into a disc.  Working in miniature is a lot harder than you would think!
These were so adorable and merited me pulling out my Nikon and snapping some macro pictures.  The tuna almost looks like the real thing!

I tried one piece and it was so fruity and jellied that it was a bit overwhelming for me.  Something tasted really strong of peach, and well, I loath peach!  Dale gobbled up the remaining "meal."  He even used some the candy mix for "soy sauce."  I kept searching for the wasabi and pickled ginger...but to no avail.

There were other kits, and I think we will get them when Dale's boys, John and Nicholas come out.  This will be a good project for them.  There were burgers, pizzas, and that was all I recalled seeing. 

If you are ever in the Colorado Springs area on the north end of Nevada, you need to check out this candy shop.  I was like a kid in a candy store!!

P.S.  I couldn't get myself to get a "breast milk" flavored lolly.  That was just too...ew, but of course that didn't stop me from taking a picture of it!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Good enough to eat, but not for me...

I love, love making things with fruit, but I won't eat them.  It's odd because I have an idea what would be a good fruit combination, but I don't like fruit.  Most fruit I've never even eaten.  Crazy, I know!

Even though fruit scares me, I find it can be very beautiful.  Nature is so strange, but yet so alluring!

Dale and I are going to our friend's, John and Val, for a BBQ today.  Of course I wanted to bring everything under the sun, but we limited ourselves to two things.  Dale will be making a cucumber salad, and I made this tart.  

German Fruit Tart

(serves about 12)

3 eggs
75 grams (3/8 cup) sugar
75 grams (1/3 cup) soft butter
1 packet German vanilla sugar
1 pinch salt
150 grams (1 1/4 cup) pastry flour (half all purpose flour and half cake flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder  

Generously grease and flour a German flan pan.  I recommend that you do this first and have it set aside.  Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. 

Beat eggs in a large bowl, using a hand mixer at highest setting; add sugars, salt, and soft butter, and continue beating at high speed until frothy.  Sift flour and baking powder together and add and beat until well blended.  Pour batter into the prepared pan and smooth.  This will be fairly thick, so be sure you carefully push the batter into the "moat" of the pan.  This will create the depression in the inverted finished cake.  Bake for about 12-15 minutes or until golden brown and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Let the cake cool completely on a wire rack before turning out and assembling.

You can find these specialized ingredients and pan online (Google German Flan Pan) or in German grocery stores, and sometimes the pans show up in thrift stores.  We just take it for granted that we've always had one.  Our pan was from Dale's German mother,  Jenny.  My Grandma Bahls also had one, and made wonderful cakes when we were growing up.  

Tart Filling:
Assorted fruit, sliced; anything that's in season is best, but you can also used canned (I used some canned Mandarin orange slices in the tart pictured)
1 packet Clear Glaze; follow the instructions on the package

Arrange your fruit in a pleasing pattern.  I love this part!  I'm so anal when it comes to getting it just right.

Spoon the hot glaze over top to set the fruit.  Let this cool before serving.

Take a pint of cold heavy cream and add two packets of "Whip It" stabilizer (if you have it), and packet of vanilla sugar.  If not, you can just whip the cream with a little sugar and a few drops of vanilla and serve over the cut slices of the tart.

Enjoy!  I'll just enjoy the pleasure of making something beautiful and delicious for others!