Saturday, July 30, 2011

Whole Wheat Bread- Tutorial

My whole family has fallen so in love with this bread recipe (the same one in the picture above), and I've made it so many times that I don't have to look at the recipe anymore. It's the best whole wheat bread I've ever had. It's soft (but not too soft), healthy, and delicious. Anyone who says whole wheat bread has to be heavy or dense has not tried this one. :) So, I decided to take pictures of each step of the recipe, in case anyone wants a little guidance on how to make bread. (This recipe uses a stand mixer. I know you can also make bread by hand, but I don't have experience with that.)

If you have any questions, leave me a comment below. :)

In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine all of the dry ingredients (see link above for recipe). *I make several batches of dry ingredients at a time, and store them in containers like this one (a quart size yogurt container). Pour into mixer bowl & stir (with paddle) to combine.

Pour water in a microwave-safe measuring cup. (I used 1 cup of water, since it's summertime. You use more in the winter.) Then I pour in 1/4 cup each of honey and vegetable oil. I found it's easiest to measure them all in the same cup- so rather than measure your water in one cup, and the honey & oil in another (while trying to scrape the honey out of the measuring cup), you just use one.

Microwave (mine takes about 30 seconds with room temperature water), then stir a little. The water is ready if it's between 110-120 degrees.

With mixer running, slowly add in liquid.

Once the dough is just combined, stop the mixer. The dough will look like this. Take off the paddle, cover bowl with a towel, and let it rest for a few minutes (5-10).

Put on dough hook, and knead on speed 2 for 8 minutes.

Dough looks like this after kneading- it's fairly sticky and might not seem done, but don't add any more flour unless it's super sticky- too much flour will make your bread dry. (It's okay for the dough to feel tacky, but if it sticks to your hands when you try to form it into a ball, add a tablespoon of flour and knead again briefly.)

When you pull off a small piece of the dough, and stretch it thin with your fingers, it should be a little transparent, like this. If it breaks before looking like this, knead it a little more (1-2 minutes at a time).

Take dough out of bowl, gather it into a ball, and pinch the ends under, like this. This becomes the underside of your dough ball, and when you flip it over, the top should be smooth.

Lightly grease a large bowl with a little bit of oil or nonstick spray; place dough in the bowl. (This is my 2-quart mixing bowl, and it's a good size for this) Cover with a piece of plastic wrap.

Place bowl in a slightly warm spot to rise. (I turn on my oven for a minute or two, turn it off, then put the bowl in. You want it a little warm for good rising, but not hot.) Rise until puffy, but not necessarily doubled in size, about 1-2 hours. In my warmed oven, I do 1 hr 15 min. While rising, grease an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 (or 8 x 4) inch loaf pan. I put my hand inside a ziploc bag, and spread the Crisco that way. Make sure to get every part of the pan.

Dough is done with the first rise

Dump out the dough onto a lightly oiled work surface (I started using my pastry mat recently for this, and it works well with no need for extra oil or flour). Flatten gently with your fingers. Pat/spread it into an 8" wide rectangle. (Note- don't oil the surface too much, otherwise your dough won't roll up properly, and you'll have big air pockets in the bread.)

Starting with the 8" side, roll up the dough into a log. You want to roll it up tightly, but don't push too hard.

Pinch the end of the roll (on the bottom) together like this, then pinch the side ends together (and tuck them under the loaf if you can).

Roll over, and you have a shaped loaf!

(This next step is optional, if you want the top of your bread to look more interesting) Sprinkle some oat bran on your work surface, next to your loaf. Roll the dough into the bran, pushing down a little to help it stick.

Place dough in greased loaf pan (you want it to touch all 4 sides, or come close to it).

Cover loosely with lightly greased plastic wrap, and put in a warm place for its final rise. You want it to rise until the center has crowned about 1" above the rim of the pan. For me, this takes about an hour.

Towards the end of the rising time, remove the dough to the counter or stovetop, and preheat the oven to 350º. Here it's done rising & ready to bake!

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes (mine takes 35) or until loaf registers 190º on an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center. (If your bread is getting darker than you'd like, tent it lightly with foil after 20 minutes of baking.)

Run a thin spatula around the edges to help loosen the bread

Turn it out onto a rack to cool. Cool completely before slicing (if you can!). I often set mine in the microwave while it's cooling, so nothing (like flies or small children!) disturbs it. You can also put it in a paper bag. Just don't seal it up until it's cooled. (Tips on slicing the bread are in this post.)

Here it is, a soft, delicious, homemade whole wheat bread! You can't get this from a store! You'll even want to eat the crust & the end pieces. :)

I store mine in a plastic bread container after slicing, but you could also store it in a large ziploc bag. Enjoy, and happy bread-making!

(PS- Thanks to King Arthur Flour for this great recipe!)

Monday, July 25, 2011

How to tell when bread is kneaded...

I'm making pizza for dinner tonight, and thought I'd share a tip on how to tell when your dough is properly kneaded. It's called the "windowpane test". Basically, you want your dough to be semi-see thru when stretched out. Here's how to do it:

1. Knead your dough for the length of time specified in your recipe.

2. Take off a small piece of the dough (about the size of a walnut)

3. Stretch it with your fingers (normally I use both hands)

4. If the dough breaks like this, it's not ready. Knead it for 2 or so more minutes, then test again.

5. After the right amount of kneading, you will be able to see light through the dough when held up to light, before the dough breaks. (White dough will be more see-thru than wheat dough, which is what I used for this pizza.)

That's it! Here is another article if you want to read more about it.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Refried Beans- Tips

I have made these refried beans a ton of times now, and thought I'd add some of the things I have noticed from cooking them.
  • I never measure the seasonings. I measure the beans & water (1 1/2 cups and 4 1/2 cups), then just start tossing things in- onion, garlic, some type of green chiles or pepper, and seasonings. Then I just season it to taste after mashing.
  • Speaking of onions & peppers- one thing I've done is save my leftover onion and/or pepper from a Mexican restaurant, toss it in the freezer, then add it to the crock pot when I make beans. Or, if you only use say half of your onion or pepper- just stick the rest in a ziploc bag & freeze it until you need it again. The texture changes a little, but that doesn't matter in this recipe.
  • The beans really firm up after you mash them. That doesn't affect anything if you're eating them right away, but especially if you refrigerate them for later, you will need to add more liquid to get it the right consistency. Sometimes I save some of the cooking liquid (in a separate small container) and add that in when I reheat it, or sometimes I add water- I haven't noticed a difference between the two. Just something to be aware of.
  • A tip my mom found when making these- when the beans have reached the right doneness in the crock pot, remove them. Don't turn off the crock pot and leave the beans & liquid sitting there until you're ready, otherwise they'll absorb too much liquid and be too mushy. (Leaving it in there for a little bit is fine, but not for something like an hour.)
  • Last tip- in addition to refrigerating these beans for later, you can also freeze them. I tried that this weekend for the first time. I froze about one cup of beans in a container (it was a freezable glass container). Then I took it out one morning, thawed it a little on the counter, and at lunch time I heated it in the microwave (I did 70% for 1 or 1 1/2 minutes). Then I stirred it, and made burritos with them. It tasted exactly like it did when I first made it! I am definitely going to do this more often. This week I'm planning to make a whole batch just to freeze.
I hope that helps, or encourages you to make these beans for the first time! :) They're great!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Strawberry Freezer Jam

If you're anything like me (up until last summer), you probably have no idea how easy it is to make homemade jam. Last summer the kids and I picked a bunch of strawberries from a local U-pick farm, and I tried my hand at making freezer jam. It seemed like the least-intimidating type to make (no glass jars, no boiling in big pots, etc.).

After trying my first batch- I was hooked!! After eating this strawberry jam, I have no desire to eat store-made jam. This kind actually tastes like strawberries!! And it's bright red! You can store it in the fridge for 3 weeks, or in the freezer for 1 year.

The only ingredients you need are berries, sugar, and instant pectin. You also need some type of container to store the jam in. I love these little jars made by Ball, because they're the perfect size, and they're stackable, but really any small container with a tight-fitting lid will work. I've even frozen the jam in ziploc bags (in 1 cup portions), then poured it into a container once thawed.

You can find detailed instructions here (including how to make different size batches), as well as more canning tips: The Pectin Calculator

***Strawberry tips I got from the Ball website:
  • Select strawberries that are firm, plump, deep red in color, shiny, and have attached green caps
  • Refrigerate until use to prevent deterioration or mold formation
  • Wash only when ready for use
  • Only mix one batch at a time, otherwise it might not "set" properly
Are you ready to make this??

Strawberry Freezer Jam
Printable version here

4 cups crushed strawberries (and/or other berries)
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup + 1 tbsp. instant pectin*

1. Rinse, dry, and cut the leaves off the strawberries. Mash them with a potato masher or other similar tool to measure 4 cups. (Crush until they are mostly mashed, but there are still little bits. Don't puree.)

2. In a large bowl, mix the sugar and pectin. Next add the crushed berries and stir for 3 minutes. Ladle into 5 1-cup containers, leaving about 1/2 inch space at the top to allow for expansion when it freezes. Let sit for 30 minutes. Then, either refrigerate (for up to 3 weeks) or freeze (for up to 1 year). Enjoy!!

* The pectin is available in small packages, which only make 2 (1-cup) containers, or in a jar. It's cheaper in the jar, and you can make whatever size batch you want with that.

Daniel helping to cut off the tops

I mash them in a flat plastic container using my Pampered Chef Mix 'N Chop

What they look like after crushing. The size of the chunks you leave in it is up to you. I like mine fairly well mashed.

The 3 ingredients you mix together to make jam

The boys mixing it all up, then I used a ladle to get it in the jars.

(The kids couldn't keep their hands off the fresh berries!)

You can use other berries, too. These are some I made last year using strawberries and strained raspberries & blackberries. The possibilities are endless!

Enjoy! Let me know if you have any questions!