April 24, 2009

Leftovers Make Cheese Croutons

You gotta love cheese to enjoy this bread. I've been a big fan of cheese most of my life. When I was pregnant the second time I had a lactose intolerance. Cheese was the dairy product I missed most. Even one slice of this will sooth a cheese craving.

The dough has lots of grated cheddar cheese, plus some grated Parmesan. Here and there are bits of salty feta, too.Here is a photo of the bread ready to roll into a loaf, spread with the herb, lemon zest and lots of feta.

When Sweetie bought a five pound bag of grated cheese at Costco I discovered just how much cheese that is! There are bags in the freezer, each with 2 cups of the cheese, plus a big gallon bag in the fridge. Seemed like a good time to make a bread with cheese.

This one is pretty simple, using sourdough starter, some bread flour and whole wheat flour, a little olive oil, some milk, a bit of sugar and salt, and both cheddar and Parmesan cheeses.

Once the dough was set to rise, I decided to jazz it up a bit by making a swirl in the loaf. The added flavors of the swirl include lemon zest, fresh marjoram, and feta cheese. It turned out that I didn't use enough marjoram to really make it a visual swirl (I used fresh marjoram from the garden, but it's early enough in the season that I only had a tablespoon, minced, once I was done),
but the baked bread is alive with the flavors of the herb, lemon and feta. Sort of like a quick trip to Greece, maybe. With three kinds of cheese, it's a true Cheese Bread.

On the off chance that there are leftovers, you can cut them up, toast the cubes, and have cheese croutons for salad or to top soup.

The dough is soft, but not sticky. I didn't glaze the top, but I did slash it diagonally. Eat this while it is still warm and you won't need to add a thing. I did find that ti took longer to bake than I had thought it would. Do bake it until it gives a hollow sound when the bottom is tapped when you turn it out to cool on the wire rack. If you don't get that sound, put it back in the pan and baked some more. You can tent it with foil while it finishes baking if the crust gets too brown.

Once it is cool it becomes a great sandwich bread, especially for cured meats like salami or ham. If you are a true cheese fanatic, try making a grilled cheese sandwich with this bread. Outstanding!

Cheese Cheese Cheese Bread with Herb and Lemon
1 cup sourdough starter
1 cup milk at room temperature
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup cheddar cheese, finely shredded
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup whole wheat flour
2-3 cups bread flour, divided
2 tablespoons freshly minced marjoram (oregano could be used instead)
1 teaspoon lemon zest - yellow part only
about 1 cup feta cheese

In stand mixer bowl, mix together the sourdough starter, milk, olive oil, sugar, salt, cheddar and Parmesan cheeses. Take the whole wheat flour and 1 cup of the bread flour and mix together in a medium bowl. Use the dough hook on the mixer and add the flour mixture to the sourdough mixture. Add additional bread flour and let machine knead the dough as you do until the dough is soft but not sticky.

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for another minute or two. Shape into a ball and place ball in oiled bowl or whatever container you use to let bread dough rise in. Lightly oil the top of the ball, then cover with plastic wrap, place in a warm, draft free place and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.

Punch dough down and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Using your hands. spread the dough into a rectangle roughly 9" x 11". Distribute the herb and zest evenly over the surface, leaving about an inch at the ends free of herb and lemon zest. Distribute the feta evenly over the herb-lemon zest mixture, again leaving the ends free of cheese. Roll up jelly roll fashion along the long edge and seal the edges by pinching them. Turn under the ends and place, seam side down, in a bread pan. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft free place until the bread just reaches the top of the pan, about an hour.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree F. oven for about 45 minutes or until hollow sounding when bottom is tapped. Let cool on a wire rack before slicing.
Makes one loaf.

This is my entry this week in Susan of Wild Yeast's Yeastspotting (http://www.wildyeastblog.com/category/yeastspotting/ ) event, a wonderland of delightful recipes collected each week to bemuse and inspire those who love to bake with yeast.

April 17, 2009

Happy Cows and Other Delights

Lots of the bread recipes I make contain dairy products. Not too far from the local high school there is a park that has a dairy herd in residence next door. Since I tend to buy local, it's quite possible that some of their efforts go into my bread, too. Here is a photo of the herd at a distance, along with some wine grape vines (wine being another local product that is enjoyable) and hills off in the distance.

By the way, spring butter tends to be just a bit better than butter the rest of the year. Look at that grass and you'll see why. Of course it could be that they are just happy California cows.

The bread baker's dog likes his walks...most dogs do...and one of his favorite walks takes us past the cows and to the laguna, our local waterway. It is enchanting year round, but the spring is especially wonderful.

We were lucky enough to get fairly close to this great white heron among some reeds in a shallow area. There were also ducks nearby, but this big one is quite a sight up close.

Still not food, but these seedlings will soon be producing food and are keeping this blogger quite busy getting the garden prepared for them. No fresh bread for the dog, either, but that should change in the next day or so. Stay 'tuned'.

April 11, 2009

Easter Egg Nests

Happy Easter!

Spring seems especially welcome this year. This morning we took the Bread Baker's Dob for a walk and saw a mother duck and about a dozen little ducklings swimming around through the reeds. They were new enough that they had gold spots on their backs and they swam pretty close to the mamma duck, especially when they saw us watching them.

Eggs have been a symbol for new life and for spring for a very long time. A book that a dear friend gave me for my birthday a few months ago had a recipe that is perfect for Easter and spring. Bread nests made of sweet dough hold colored eggs that cook while the dough bakes. Most of the work has been done tonight (Saturday), but they will be held in the fridge overnight and baked in the morning for our Easter breakfast, so this will actually be posted on Sunday.

The yeasted dough is called 'dolled up' because I took the basic sweet dough and added cardamom, nutmeg, and candied ginger for flavor, brown sugar instead of white, also for flavor, but then changed the 1/2 and 1/2 to nonfat evaporated milk and the egg to egg substitute to reduce the fat just a bit. The dough is really lovely and easy to handle. Even with all the additions, when baked it is a mildly spiced and barely sweet dough, so add jam at the table if you like.

The eggs came out of the oven soft boiled and you should remove the dyed egg from the nest within the first 10 minutes after you serve them because otherwise the shell tends to stick to the dough a bit.
Sweetie would have liked the egg better hard boiled, but MuniMan enjoyed them soft boiled. He said it reminded him of his childhood, in a good way.

Dolled Up Sweet Dough
A variation on Basic Sweet Dough in Breaking Bread with Father Dominic

3-4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 cup whole wheat bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 cup whole wheat sourdough starter OR 1 package of RapidRise yeast mixed with ½ cup warm water
1 cup non fat evaporated milk
¼ cup (1/2 stick) butter
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
½ teaspoon candied ginger, finely chopped
¼ cup egg substitute OR 1 egg, lightly beaten
½ teaspoon vanilla

Sift 1 cup of the all-purpose flour, the 1 cup of whole wheat bread flour, salt, cardamom, and nutmeg into a large mixing bowl. Stir until well blended. Set aside.

Placed evaporated milk, butter and brown sugar into a saucepan and heat until butter is nearly melted. Remove from heat. Add the finely chopped candied ginger and stir a few minutes to help mixture cool. Let cool to 110 degrees F.

Add milk mixture to flour mixture; beat well. Add egg and vanilla; stire until blended. Add 1 cup all-purpose flour, stir until thoroughly incorporated. Gradually add enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough that is rather sticky.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead 3 minutes or until dough is smooth and silky. (Add additional flour if needed while kneading, but only enough to keep it from sticking a lot.) Cover with a slightly damp towel and let rest 10 minutes.

Egg Nests

1 recipe Dolled Up Sweet Dough
8 eggs in the shell, uncooked, dyed or plain
1 egg, mixed with 2 tablespoons water, for egg wash
sesame seeds or coconut, or finely chopped nuts
Divide dough into 18 equal portions. Set two portions aside. Cover half of the portions with plastic wrap, but leave on the counter. You can unwrap them when you've made the first 4 nests.

Take a portion. Roll it into a rope about 12 inches long. Repeat with another portion. Twist the ropes together.

I find that if you start in the middle, twist one side to the end, then twist the other side to the end, it works very well.

Form the twisted rope into an oval and trim off any excess and make a continuous twist rope oval.

Take one of the two portions that were set aside and divide it into 4. Take one of those pieces and form an oval…you can add any dough you trimmed off, too. Place the oval on a Silpat mat, parchment lined baking sheet, or greased baking sheet. Place one of the eggs in the middle.

Put the rope oval in the palm of your hand, turn it over and lightly pat it with a wet hand.

Set the rope oval over the egg and let the wet dough seal with the flat oval already on the pan.

Repeat with the rest of the dough. You should finish with eight nests.

NOTE: I used uncooked eggs and dyed them in a water bath that had been made from about 6 drops food coloring, 1 tablespoon cider vinegar, and boiling water. The eggs should be close to room temperature so they don’t get shocked and break when put in boiling water. The eggs dye very quickly and can be removed to a paper towel lined glass baking pan or pie pan to drain and dry. They are in the dye bath only about 5 – 10 seconds. I dyed them right before I rolled out the ropes and then refrigerated the pans of rolls overnight. They sat out for about 1/2 hour before I baked them.

If the house or kitchen were very warm, you could probably pre-heat the oven and bake them about 15 minutes after removing from the fridge.

Cover nests and let rise in a warm, draft-free place 30 – 45 minutes if baking right away, or until nearly doubled.
About 15 minutes before the end of rising time, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Brush the dough, but not the eggs, with egg wash; sprinkle dough with sesame seeds, coconut,

or finely chopped nuts. Bake 20 – 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from pan and let cool on racks about 5 minutes.

The eggs cook while the dough is baking. These nests look wonderful grouped together on a buffet .

They can also be served on individual plates.

Makes 8 egg nests.
These bread nests are an entry this week in Yeastspotting event usually at Susan's wonderful blog, Wild Yeast. For a yeast lover this even is a never ending inspiration and delight. This week it's being hosted by Zorra of 1x umruhren bitte blog instead, and you can find it here.

April 04, 2009

Going Seedy

Spring has sprung and my sunspace is full of seedlings for summer veggies. They are mostly in seed trays and have grown from seeds that I pre-sprouted in damp paper towels, then planted individually in the trays.

They again had a day in the sun and wind to harden them off for planting out in the garden, but the soil really isn't warm enough, so they may grow ever larger in the sunspace for a while.

All of those seedlings had me thinking of seeds when I was deciding what kind of sandwich bread to make this week. Although I've made some bread with seeds, I decided to see if I could pack a nice whole wheat and oatmeal loaf with lots of sunflower seeds and see how that worked.

It turned out great! The flavors are nice and earthy, there is a good chewiness and, when toasted, an nice crunch to each bite.

We took a picnic with friends on Wednesday and brought the boule. It went well with cheeses and salad. This recipe is based on the Oatmeal Bread I made not that long ago. I really like oatmeal...can you tell?...and Sweetie loves molasses, so I threw some of both in with the seediness. The bread baker's dog really enjoyed it toasted...I think he liked that crunchiness, too.
This is my entry for this week to the wonderland for yeast lovers, Susan's weekly round-up on Yeastspotting over at Wild Yeast. Check it out and be prepared to drool.

Sunflower Whole Wheat Oatmeal Bread
Makes two (2) loaves

1 cup cooked steel cut oats (not quick cooking)
1/3 cup lukewarm water
¼ teaspoon active dry yeast
pinch of sugar
1 cup whole wheat sourdough starter
1 tsp salt
¼ cup molasses
1 cup quick cooking rolled oats
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup bread flour
1 ½ - 2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sunflower seeds (plain, not roasted or salted)

Cook oats per instructions, remove from heat and allow to cool completely and absorb any excess water. You want a big "glob" of cooked oats.

Proof yeast in lukewarm water and pinch of sugar. Allow to sit for 5 - 10 minutes until foamy.

In bowl for stand mixer or large bowl, break up cooled oatmeal into medium chunks, and using the dough hook (if using stand mixer), stir in sourdough starter or proofed yeast, salt, and oatmeal until cooked oatmeal is completely broken up. Add the molasses and stir to combine with oatmeal-yeast mixture.

Whisk to combine the oats, the whole wheat flour, the bread flour and 1 cup of the all=purpose flour in a bowl or large measuring cup.

Add in about a cup of flour mixture and stir until wet dough formed. Add in another 1 ½ cups flour mixture until shaggy dough ball is formed. Add in remaining flour 1/2 cup a time until soft dough ball that cleans bowl if formed. Allow dough to rest for 10 minutes to absorb excess flour. If using stand mixer, hand knead for 5 or 10 quick turns.

Dough should be soft and very slightly tacky. If clumps of dough stick to hand, knead in additional AP flour one palmful at time.

On lightly floured surface, spread the dough into a rectangle roughly 10 inches by 10 inches. Sprinkle evenly with ¼ cup sunflower seeds. Roll up like a jelly roll, seal ends, then fold ends to middle. Push down to again spread the dough and sprinkle with another ¼ cup sunflower seeds. Again roll up and fold ends to middle. Knead 5 – 10 times, turning ¼ turn after each knead.

Again push dough into rectangle and sprinkle with ¼ cup sunflower seeds. Roll up, fold in ends and knead some more. If you see a section that seems low on seeds, sprinkle on some more…about a tablespoon…and keep kneading. In the end you should have kneaded in the remaining ¼ cup seeds and the dough should look pretty seedy.

Place dough in greased bowl, cover and let rise until double (about 2 - 2 1/2 hours). Punch down, form 2 loaves, place in 8 1/2 x 5 greased loaf pans, lightly grease top of loaves, loosely cover, and allow to rise until dough is about 1/4" above edge of loaf pans. (I made on half into a boule this time).

Slash top of loaves down center if desired.

Place loaves in preheated 375 degree F. oven and bake 30 - 35 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 190 degrees.

Allow to cool completely before slicing.