Tuesday, April 7, 2015

"Happy Families" Chapatis

The other day, quite by accident, I stumbled on this video, about a family, the Pereiras, sharing their heritage through making bread from their native land. Their kids join them, and in the spirit of togetherness with a touch of competition, everyone makes their chapati the way they prefer.

The recipe seemed fairly straightforward, so on a Spring Break morning, I decided to give it a try.


1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons butter or olive oil (I melted my butter for this step.)
3/4 cup hot water (or as needed for proper dough consistency; mine required a little less)
More butter for spreading (not shown)

First, mix together the dry ingredients. Then add the butter or oil, as well as the hot water, and mix until the dough is soft and elastic, but not sticky. (Because it is far simpler to add more hot water, rather than try to fix the mess after you've added too much, add less than the recipe calls for at first, then add more when it becomes obvious you need more to make the entire mixture stick together.)

Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface to make it smooth.

Divide the dough into about 10 balls and let them sit for 5 minutes. In the mean time, heat up a skillet over medium heat until hot, then grease lightly. (Yes, there are more than 10 balls in the picture below. I made 1.5 recipes' worth, but then decided it would be too much of a pain to divide it into 15 pieces. 12 is so much simpler to figure out without using a kitchen scale.)

Roll one of the balls of dough thin, like a tortilla, then spread softened butter over the dough. This is simpler if you spread the softened butter from the center toward the edges. By the time I was finished, between the butter used in the recipe itself and the butter used to spread over the flattened dough, I had gone through almost 2 sticks of the stuff. (Remember, though, I made a slightly larger batch. I expect a single batch would only take, oh, less than a stick and a half.)

Fold the buttered dough onto itself to introduce layers into the dough. This is where I found it far simpler to use a square shape than to use a circle. In the video above, each member of the family has a preference for their "perfect" chapati, some preferring circular shapes and the mother preferring the square. I chose the square.

The family in the video sometimes sprinkles sugar over the butter before folding it. I made one like that for my husband, who requested it. He said the sugar didn't end up making the chapati sweet, as he had expected. Rather, it just acted as a counter to the salt which was in the butter. (I'd prefer to use unsalted butter, but at our sources, buying salted butter in bulk is just too good of a deal to justify the extra expense of buying unsalted in single pound packages.)

I also found that folding each corner into the center of the dough made it easier to maintain a nice square shape, instead of ending up looking like . . . well, I'm not sure exactly what. The Pereiras fold theirs in more folds, but as I couldn't get the video to play on my iPad at the time I wanted to look it up, I just winged it. (Turned out delicious, anyway.)

No, this is not rerolled yet. I forgot to take a picture of that step. Sorry!

After folding, reroll the dough to a thinner size, although not as thin as the original size, or you'll end up with butter all over the place. Then place it into your heated and greased skillet.

Cook the chapati until there are brown spots, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. (Or, in my case, closer to a minute and a half.) Flip the chapati and cook on the other side, as well.

The recipe says that you can make it fluffy by heating the finished bread over a direct flame, holding the bread in a wire basket. I considered doing this, because we cook over propane flames, but finally decided to forego this step.

The chapatis end up flaky and very tasty.

You can dress up your chapati, if you prefer. My husband likes to put homemade peach jam on his, but the Junior Taste Tester preferred honey. Me? I just love the flaky, buttery goodness, which as far as I am concerned, needs no embellishment.

Next time, I'll have the girls help out, now that I know to some degree what I am doing. Then perhaps we will follow the Pereiras' example in having fun family evenings just baking and customizing our individual chapatis.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Sharing the Gift

In the midst of a world where gloom and unhappiness seem to permeate the news, it's nice to know there are still people out there making messages meant to bring cheer.

Merry Christmas!!


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Mexican Cajeta

This is Ginger, our "champion" milk goat.

And this is Amber, who is also a good milker, but only produces about half of Ginger's volume.

Between the two of them, they can produce over a gallon and a half of milk daily.  With our large family, this is great, because the kids (human kids) can have as much milk as they need. But sometimes, we experience something of a backlog.

There are times when our refrigerator contains roughly nine 2-quart jars in various stages of fullness.  That is when I find myself looking for ways to use up goat milk, just as I sometimes find myself searching for ways to use up eggs, when our chickens are extra-productive.

One great way I've found to use up excess goat milk is making cajeta, a Mexican caramel usually made from goat milk, rather than cow's milk.  It is a reduction and caramelization of a milk and sugar mixture, which can function as either a sauce or a candy, depending on how long it is cooked.  My recipe is a tweaked combination of a few recipes I have found, starting with one at Everything Goat Milk.

Ingredients for about a cup of cajeta:

1 quart goat milk
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon cornstarch (optional, but I use it)
1/2 teaspoon Mexican vanilla, added just at the end (Other flavorings can be used.)

Additional equipment needed:
  • Large metal pot, preferably without non-stick coating, which doesn't always hold up well under caramelization.  Remember, milk and sugar mixtures can expand at times during the cooking process, so allow for plenty of room in the pot.
  • Wooden spoon with flat end
  • iPad with Netflix application
That last piece of equipment can be substituted for any other thing you might have which will keep you from going absolutely bonkers as you stand over a hot stove stirring for roughly an hour, if you are making a single batch.  But who makes just a single batch?  I find it a waste to put all the effort into making cajeta for just a cup, which would be snarfed about as quickly has spoons could be found to dip into the container, so I tend to quadruple it in a stock-pot, which can triple the time.  Hence, the Netflix.

First, in a small amount of the goat milk, thoroughly mix the baking soda and cornstarch, being sure to eliminate any lumps.

Pour the rest of the milk into the large metal pot and dissolve the sugar in it.  After the sugar is dissolved, stir in the baking soda mixture.

Bring the mixture to a boil over medium to medium-high heat, stirring constantly.  Adjust the heat so the mixture will continue to boil steadily, without boiling over.

Keep stirring.

Turn on your Netflix reruns of "Murder, She Wrote", "Mythbusters", or whatever strikes your fancy.

This time, it was "Murder, She Wrote".

Keep stirring.  Delegate stirring to a Master Kitchen Helper for a while to give your arm a break.

Return after your Master Kitchen helper complains that the heat is just too much, and keep stirring.

After a while, the mixture will thicken and develop a caramel color.  At this point, any haphazard stirring you may have been doing must stop.  It is serious now.  If you do not ensure you are stirring all along the edges of the pan or across the entire bottom of the pan, your mixture may stick and burn.

Keep cooking until you have reached a consistency you like, whether a sauce or a candy, remembering that it will thicken as it cools.  Mix in the vanilla or whatever other flavor you have chosen to use.

According to Pati's Mexican Table, the cajeta makers at La Tradicional de Salago in Celaya, Mexico, can tell cajeta is done when the mixture makes a pattern of waves on the wooden spatula as it is removed from stirring the mixture.  In addition, if the spatula is run across the bottom of the pot, the actual bottom of the pot should be visible, if only for a brief glimpse.

When I go by the measure of the waves on the spatula (or in my case, the wooden spoon), I find it produces a candy consistency cajeta.  This is, according to my husband, who spent much of his youth off and on at his grandparents' house in Mexico, genuine cajeta.  When I ignore the waves on the spoon and just look for the tiniest glimpse of the bottom of the pot, it produces something more like a sauce, which is more convenient to use as a topping or to put on toast, but not the kind of cajeta usually made down where he comes from.

If you have made a large batch, you can preserve it using jars and canning lids.  Pati's states that the Mexicans simply cap the jars, then turn them upside down to create the seal.  I've tried that, and it did seal, but I felt a little nervous about the safety.  The next time I did it, I put the jars in a water bath, just to make me feel better.  (Scientifically, though, why would the water bath help?  The jars should have already been sterilized, and the cajeta has been raised to roughly 230 degrees Fahrenheit, much higher than the 212 degrees at which water boils.  It just helped me psychologically.)

My favorite way to enjoy candy cajeta is on a spoon.  Just take a spoon, scoop on a little cajeta, and suck on it like a lollipop.  My kids will even accept this as a substitute for a "normal" dessert, and it's great for bribing Master Kitchen Helpers to do their schoolwork when they are reluctant to do so.

Naturally, it is possible to follow a similar procedure with cow's milk and create a caramel product, and those who do not have access to goat milk are welcome to do so.  It probably even tastes good.  But it won't be cajeta.

By the way . . .

Because of the long cook time, it sounds attractive to make cajeta in a crock-pot, and stories of people doing so intrigued me.  However, when I tried it once, I walked away with "We Are Never, Ever Getting Back Together" stuck in my head.  (As in, I am never, ever, ever trying that again.  Like ever.)  It is much more difficult to control the quality of the product, and after a certain point, it kept me tied to my kitchen in 20-minute intervals long after I would have already finished my stove-top cajeta and had it poured safely into canning jars to seal.  In addition, because stirring the solution in the crock-pot left small amounts on the sides of the crock-pot, it produced a carbonized smell, instead of the comforting smell of warm milk happily caramelizing.  By the time I called it a failed experiment, the product had not thickened to my satisfaction, and it tasted burnt.  To top it all off, I ended up scrubbing the soaked crock-pot with a metal scrubber for longer than an entire "Murder, She Wrote" episode.  That was definitely enough of that.

More nannies and kids, just for the fun of it.  These ones we do not milk.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Tibetan Flatbread

Normally, a hot summer is not sufficient incentive for me to give up baking bread.  But for some unknown reason, I found myself one day this summer in desperate need of bread, but completely unwilling to turn on my oven.  To top it off, I was too exhausted to want to spend the time it would take to make tortillas.

"There's got to be some kind of flatbread aside from tortillas I can bake on the stovetop!" I exclaimed and turned to the Internet.

Sure enough, I found several different recipes for stovetop breads, but the one which intrigued me enough to get me out of my chair and into the kitchen was a recipe for Tibetan flatbread.


1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon olive oil (I've had even better results with 2 Tablespoons!)
1 cup + 2 Tablespoons water (This is divided.)

There are a few things I should note about the ingredients.  First, the olive oil should be pure olive oil, rather than extra virgin, as it can withstand high heat better without burning.  Also, this flour mixture is not set in stone.  If you only have all-purpose flour at home, feel free to use 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour.  I have found my family enjoys this recipe best when I use 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, and 1/2 cup flour ground from oat groats.  I'm curious what would happen if I tried this recipe with even more oat flour and less all-purpose flour:  how much of a role does gluten really play in this recipe?  But that's a question to be answered another day.

First, combine the dry ingredients--flours, baking powder, and salt--in a mixing bowl.  Add the 1 cup of water.  With more whole wheat flour, a little more water may be desired:  you want the result to look like more like a batter than a dough, nice and gooey.

Next, take a COLD 12-inch frying or saute pan (one which has a lid) and add the olive oil, spreading it around to ensure it covers the entire pan.

Pour the batter/dough into the pan and spread it around more or less evenly.  Then take the 2 Tablespoons of water and pour them in around the sides of the dough.  (I know you were wondering where they fit in!)

You may be looking at this and thinking, "Wow, that's a lot of oil and water just sitting around my cold dough.  Do I really want all this stuff in there?"

Yes, yes you do.  You see, as the bread cooks, all this stuff is going to be used to create steam and be absorbed into the bread, which gives it an absolutely luscious taste far beyond anything you thought you could create with flour, baking powder, and salt.

Put the lid on your pan and cook it over medium high heat for 10 minutes.  Then flip the bread over, cover it again, and cook it for 5 more minutes.

This is what it looks like after it's been flipped.
You can let it cool some in the skillet, which I think produces better results, but if you are really in a hurry, you can pull it out on a cutting board and let it cool there.

Cut it and serve!

The olive oil makes it so tasty that no butter is needed, in my opinion, but it does taste good with either honey or jam.

This has actually become a staple in our house this summer, as a fast bread I can make to serve with our summer garden vegetable soups or as a quick breakfast bread.  There are never any leftovers.

One day I hit upon something which we decided was sheer genius:  we call it Tibetan Flatbread, Pizza Style, although it is probably closer to focaccia style.  After the bread had cooked the first 10 minutes and was flipped, I sprinkled on some grated mozzarella cheese, some Parmesan cheese, and some Italian herbs before covering the pan and cooking for the last 5 minutes.  After it finished, I slightly tilted the lid to allow for some heat to escape and waited for 15 minutes or possibly even longer.  (I was waiting for people to come back in after morning chores.)  It was an instant hit--so much so that I made it twice in the same day!  I'm sure this could be expanded to make actual pizza, with sauce, etc.

I'm not sure making bread gets any simpler than this!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Garden Vegetable Soup

One of the great pleasures of the summer is home gardening.  There's nothing quite like the feeling of watching something grow from seed to the point where you can pick it and serve it for supper.

Of course, not everyone is a master gardener, especially me.  This year, our family decided to plant a little of this and a little of that, to see what survived or even thrived in our desert climate.  Our success rate has been better for some things, like zucchini and Swiss chard, and not quite as good with others, such as peas, green beans, or tomatoes.

At this point in the season, we can usually find something ready to pick every day, whether it's a single yellow squash, the odd cucumber or two, or perhaps a few fruits off our stunted ocra plants.  Aside from the cucumbers, which can be sliced, salted, and served immediately, we almost never find something in a quantity great enough to serve as a side dish at dinnertime.

While I was looking at a pile of a little of this and a little of that on my kitchen counter top, several weeks ago, inspiration suddenly whacked me in the head.  Soup!  Since then, we have made pot after pot of nourishing vegetable soup, using mostly items from our garden, and I've never had to worry about not having enough peas to cook up as "just peas" or enough green beans to steam alongside spaghetti.

When a sister asked me for my recipe, I told her I take whatever vegetables I have, including leftovers if they are there, and throw them in.  Each time, it is a little different, but each time, it is delicious.

This is the soup I made the other day.


Tomatoes (I actually used one store-bought tomato, seeded, in addition to the ones seen here.)
Yellow squash (half of the one seen here)
Zucchini (half of the one seen here)
Green beans
Swiss chard
Baby potatoes
Onions (not in the picture, but my husband reminded me I had some chopped ones in the refrigerator already)
Corn on the cob, already cooked, left over from another night
2 chicken bouillon cubes
1 teaspoon Italian herbs
2 Spicy Italian sausages (Normally, I use 3, but my husband had given in to a craving the day before, so I only had 2.)

The hardest part about this soup is the cutting and chopping to prepare for it.

Chop the tomatoes into pieces about a half inch square.  (Or not.)  Some people may say the tomatoes should be peeled.  I might have said that, as well, before I met a wonderful Mexican woman when I worked in food service.  She tried to teach me her recipe for albondigas, a fabulous meatball soup which I never could master, and as part of the vegetable broth of the soup, she simply cut tomatoes into wedges and threw them in the pot to saute with the onions before adding water.  So that is now what I do when I use fresh tomatoes.  (If I do not have fresh tomatoes, I add a can of salt-free canned diced tomatoes, including the liquid.  This gives the broth a nice color.)

Peel the yellow squash.  Slice and quarter the yellow squash and zucchini.

Cut off the ends of the green beans, then cut into pieces about 3/4-inch to an inch long.

Cut off the stem end of the ocra, then slice.  If the ocra feels a touch woody, it may manage to turn out all right in the soup, as it has plenty of time to cook.  If it is more than a touch woody, feed it to the chickens and get a different ocra.

If you've never worked with Swiss chard before, you are really missing something wonderful.  Swiss chard is an ideal vegetable for us to grow in our climate, because it is more heat-tolerant and generally hardy than spinach.  It is full of good nutrients--everything from iron to protein--and as long as it is cut neatly, continues to produce.  Where we are, if it is protected, it can even survive the winter and come back in the spring.

Swiss chard can be boiled as spinach can and tastes very similar, but as a much hardier leaf, it takes more time for it to be finished cooking.  Amazingly enough, my family likes boiled Swiss chard, so we're lucky it happens to be one of the vegetables we can grow well enough to eat on a regular basis.

The Swiss chard stems can also be chopped and cooked in recipes very much like celery.  For this reason, when I make my soup, I chop Swiss chard stems to put in the pot during the saute phase and chop the leaves separately to add later on.

We had not planned on growing potatoes, but at the time we were planting our garden, a russet potato in our pantry was trying to grow.  So we shrugged, cut it up, and planted it, just to see what would happen.  The day I made this soup, we noticed that several of the thriving plants had taken a turn for the worst and had died, so we dug up the ground to see if any potatoes had been produced.  To our delight, we found several tiny potatoes, just enough for soup after they were washed well and the larger ones cut up to match the smaller ones.

If you happen to have leftover corn on the cob, cut it off the cob.

Slice and quarter the sausages.  (Or the other way around, which is usually what I do.  I quarter the sausages lengthwise, then slice them.)

Once everything has been chopped, it is time to start cooking.

In a heated non-stick pot, add the tomatoes, onions, and Swiss chard stems.  Saute for about 5 minutes, then add 6 cups of water, the 2 chicken bouillon cubes, and the 1 teaspoon Italian herbs.  Bring to a boil.

Add the green beans, ocra, and potatoes.  Bring again to a boil, then add the squash, zucchini, and Swiss chard.

It will look like the Swiss chard is not even in the water and has filled the pot impossibly high.  Don't worry; it will cook down.

Cover the pot with a lid for about five minutes, then stir.  By this time, some of the Swiss chard should have reduced enough to be able to stir it into the broth.  Bring the pot to a simmer and cook for another five minutes or so.

Add the corn and the sausage.  Return to simmer, and let it simmer until the potatoes are cooked through.  (If you are not quite ready to eat yet--your biscuits aren't quite out of the oven or someone has just gone outside to milk the goat--keep the burner on low and allow the soup to sit just at or below the point of simmering.)

And that's it!  You can use whatever fresh vegetables or leftovers you have on hand, provided they are the kind of vegetables which cook well, rather than primarily salad vegetables, like cucumbers or lettuce.  If you do not have Swiss chard, try chopped cabbage.  (A winter version of this soup, when you may not have any garden veggies at all, calls for chopped cabbage, chopped cauliflower, onions, canned diced tomatoes, canned green beans, and canned corn.)  If you would rather have pasta than potatoes, add about 3/4 cup orzo and let it cook the last 10 minutes of boiling/simmering.  If you prefer a different meat, or if you have some leftover chicken or roast on hand, you can use that, as well, although you may need to season the soup a bit more.  (The beauty of the Spicy Italian sausage is that it tends to flavor the soup well, so seasoning aside from the bouillon and the herbs is unnecessary.)

Exercise your creativity and have fun!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Not Quite San Francisco Sourdough

Remember the book my sister sent me at Christmastime?  Remember the sourdough starter I attempted to make at that time?  (The one my husband said couldn't be made because there weren't enough wild yeasts and bacteria floating around in the desert?)

Well, events being what they were, I had to leave it in the care of my teenagers for a few days . . . which wasn't a good idea.  When I returned, I found a mess which deserved only discarding.  After that, with school starting right away, I didn't think I could give a seed starter the care it needed, so I postponed trying again.

When Spring Break finally came along, I decided it was time.  I began again, following the schedule outlined in the book, and watched in delight as bubbly things started happening.  (Obviously there are enough yeasts and bacteria in the desert in springtime to make starter-type things happen!)  And then the bubbly things stopped happening.  My starter ceased to be active, and I realized I had missed a critical stage in its development when it had needed more ingredients added.  (Discard #2.)

With a sigh, I started yet again, even though school was coming back into session, as well.  I decided to take the book's author at his word when he said the mixture only needed to be aerated two or three times a day, hoping the long stretch of my absence each day wouldn't adversely affect the growth of the living beasties inside my bowl.  It seemed to work, and this time, I understood more what I was looking for in the starter's development.

Finally, I had a "mother starter" finished and waiting in my refrigerator, and with a little trepidation, decided it was time to try out a sourdough recipe.  (Still being the scientist, I had been recording everything I did in this experiment on my notebook . . .)

I chose the San Francisco Sourdough recipe to start out with, because I thought it would be kind of fun.  The reason I have entitled this entry "Not Quite San Francisco Sourdough" is because I knew my bread couldn't be San Francisco Sourdough without the same kinds of yeasts and bacteria found specifically in the San Francisco area.  But aside from that, the recipe is supposed to produce a loaf fairly similar to a San Francisco Sourdough loaf.

The resulting bread was chewy, dense, and delicious.  It did not rise as much as I thought it would when I shaped it in loaf pans, so I decided the next time around, I would try a different shape.  It had a distinct sour flavor characteristic of good artisan sourdough breads, and my husband and I called it a success, overall.  (At least it was a step in the right direction, even if it looked a little funny.)

After a couple more attempts at sourdough recipes, and a few more mistakes which helped me refine my technique, I finally tried making a whole wheat sourdough.  I was very careful with my scoring, which had given me trouble some other batches, and the bread came out rather pretty.(In the words of the Junior Taste-tester, "Minecraft bread!")  While I have never been a fan of normal whole wheat bread, I found I actually enjoyed the flavor of the sourdough whole wheat bread.

So with that success under my belt, I decided it was time to demonstrate the technique for the blog.  The recipe I am using is the whole wheat sourdough bread.

The funny jar in the front is the mother starter.

For the starter:

1/4 cup (2 oz/56.5 g) mother starter, cold or at room temperature
1 1/3 cups (6 oz/170 g) whole wheat flour
1/2 cup plus 1 Tablespoon (4.5 oz/128 g) lukewarm water (about 95 degrees F or 35 degrees C)

For the dough:

All of the whole wheat sourdough starter (12.5 oz/354 g)
1 1/2 Tablespoons (1 oz/28.5g) honey or agave nectar, or 2 Tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 cups (12 oz/340 g) lukewarm water
2 Tablespoons (1 oz/28.5 g) vegetable oil (optional)
3 1/2 cups (16 oz/454 g) whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons (0.5 oz/14 g) salt, or 1 Tablespoon coarse kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons (0.17 oz/5 g) instant yeast (optional)

This recipe takes at least two days to make, so be prepared to start early.

To make the starter, combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl.  If you are using a stand mixer, use the paddle attachment and mix on the lowest speed for 1 minute, then increase to medium speed for about 30 seconds.  If you are mixing by hand, stir for about 2 minutes, until well blended.  If the starter does not feel doughlike and tacky or slightly sticky, stir in additional flour or water as needed.  (I find, for me, if I measure the starter and flour by weight, I need no alterations.)

Weighing the mother starter.
Weighing the whole wheat flour.
Transfer the starter to a lightly floured work surface and knead for about 30 seconds.  Place it in a clean, lightly oiled bowl, cover the bowl loosely, and leave at room temperature for 6 to 8 hours, until the starter increases to about 1 1/2 times its original size.  Use the starter immediately to make the final dough or refrigerate overnight or for up to 4 days.  (It's a good idea to pick a non-metal bowl for this; less chance of having reactive issues.  I use Corelware or glass.)

This is the starter before time sitting on the counter.
This is the starter after sitting on the counter . . . It's aliiiiive!!
To make the dough, cut the starter into 10 or 12 pieces and put them in a mixing bowl.  Dissolve the honey in the warm water (if you're using sugar, just add it with the dry ingredients), then stir in the oil and pour the mixture into the mixing bowl.  Stir to soften the starter, then add the dry ingredients, along with the instant yeast (unless you're making the "purist" version, like I do).  If you are using a stand mixer, use the paddle attachment and mix on the lowest speed for 1 minute, or stir with a large spoon for about 1 minute, to create a wet, coarse dough.  Let the dough sit for about 5 minutes to fully hydrate the flour.

In a stand mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium-low speed, or continue mixing by hand, for 2 minutes.  The dough will firm up slightly and become smoother.  Adjust by adding a little more water, 1 teaspoon at a time, if it is too firm.  (I had to add a little more flour this time.)  The dough should be supple and a little sticky.  Continue to mix with the dough hook on medium speed (or by hand) for 4 minutes more, increasing the speed or kneading more vigorously the last 20 seconds.  The dough will be slightly sticky, but stronger and more elastic.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface.  With wet or oiled hands, reach under one end of the dough, stretch it out, then fold it back onto the top of the dough.

Stretching the dough.
Folding the dough.
Do this from the back end and then from each side.  (So you'll be doing this four times--top, bottom, left, right.)  Flip the dough over and tuck it into a ball.  Place the dough into a clean, lightly oiled bowl, cover, and let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.  Repeat this process three more times.  (So, yes, you'll be doing the entire process four times.)

After the final time, immediately cover the bowl tightly and refrigerate the dough overnight or for up to 4 days, or, for the "purist" version, leave the dough out for 2-3 hours before refrigerating.  The dough should rise to about double or triple its original size within 8-12 hours in the refrigerator.

On baking day, remove the dough from the refrigerator about 3 hours before you plan to bake (or 4 hours for the "purist" version).  Put the dough on a lightly floured surface and divide it into two pieces for loaves.

You can see by the air pockets that some yeast action has been happening overnight.
Shape the dough and place it on the back of a pan covered in parchment paper to rise.  (Well, I've tried that, and it's not terribly easy to work with, so I decided to try an alternate method I had seen ages ago, with something else:  covering a pizza paddle in corn meal and rising it on that.  It was much, much easier to transfer to the baking stone after it had risen.)

Mist the dough with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap, then let the dough rise at room temperature for 2-3 hours or up to 4 hours with the "purist" version, until increased to 1 1/2 times its original size.

Preheat the oven and baking stone to 500 degrees F or 260 degrees C.  Place a pan on a lower rack to use for steam.  Uncover the dough 15 minutes before baking and score it with a sharp serrated knife or razor blade.

Transfer the dough to the oven, pour 1 cup of hot water into the steam pan, and lower the temperature to 425 degrees F or 218 degrees C.

Bake the loaves for 15 minutes, then rotate the pan.  The total baking time is 35-45 minutes for loaves.  The bread is done when the top and sides are a deep, rich brown and the loaf sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom.  (If you want to be really scientific, the internal temperature should be above 195 degrees F or 91 degrees C.)  For a crisper crust, leave the bread in the oven for 5-10 minutes after you turn off the oven.

Cool on a wire rack for at least 45 minutes before slicing or serving.

I got distracted and left mine in the oven a little longer than I had planned.
Extra crusty and chewy!
This bread is absolutely fabulous when spread with chevre, a soft goat cheese, or when eaten with soup.

On a side note, this batch of bread is proof that you can take a mother starter which has been sitting completely neglected in your refrigerator for two months (!), scrape off the top portion, and use only a few ounces of the bottom portion to resurrect your mother starter.  Still tastes good!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Hungarian Hunza Bread

My in-laws have many chickens.  This means they have many eggs.  Since we are a larger family, and I cook a wider variety of foods, they end up sending many of them our way.

Sometimes it can get a bit overwhelming.

The other day, after feeling mildly triumphant at finishing off a dozen eggs by serving my family breakfast burritos (with homemade tortillas and salsa, of course), I was surprised to see my mother-in-law at the door with a large bag of filled egg cartons.

"The 18-pack ones and the dozen at the bottom need to be used.  They're older."

I did a quick count and realized that I'd been handed 7 dozen eggs, 4 dozen of which needed to be used quickly.

I ran through my mind ways to freeze eggs in portions, but realized that may or may not do me any good, with the chickens continually producing, and more chickens getting into the productive stage soon.  After all, when would I choose to access the frozen eggs, if I am still getting more?

I pulled out my cookbooks and started browsing.  The largest criteria for consideration was the number of eggs required in the recipe.  Between a yeast coffecake, egg bread, and a quiche, I managed to go through 17 of the 4 dozen eggs.  I planned German pancakes for the next morning (6 more eggs), and then turned to the Internet, searching for egg-y breads.

One such bread, seemingly tailor-made to my need to rapidly consume eggs, was this recipe for Hungarian Hunza Bread.

See that?  6 egg yolks!  I put it on my list of breads to work on the next day, after garden planting.  (It ended up being before garden planting . . . A huge windstorm came through our area, blowing up so much dust that digging in the dirt would have been an exercise in futility.  Anything we might have turned up would have blown away.)


3 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast (2 T of my yeast--not sure if it's active dry)
1 cup warm water for yeast
8 cups bread flour (I used all-purpose.)
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 teaspoons salt
6 egg yolks
1 cup margarine, melted
1 1/2 cups warm milk (I used hot water and powdered milk.)
1 cup golden raisins
2 egg whites, beaten, for the tops of the loaves before baking

Mix the yeast in the warm water and set aside for about 10 minutes to allow it to dissolve and become frothy.

Prep other ingredients by melting the margarine and separating the egg yolks from the egg whites.

I used to separate eggs by moving the yolk from one half of the eggshell to the other, which method never really failed me.  But with our change to home-grown eggs, rather than store-bought eggs, I started using an egg separator.  Why?  Well, it's a rare home-grown egg, indeed, which is completely clean on the outside, even if you take the time to wash it just before using it.  (It's unwise to wash an egg in water unless you are planning on using it right away, because it removes the protective bloom on it which keeps it fresh for long periods of time.)  So, to avoid having bits of hay, dirt, or simply bacteria in my eggs, I no longer use my eggshells as egg separators.

I'll be honest:  it's harder with an egg separator.  But it's worth it to me to know the end product is clean.
The recipe in the link is written to be mixed by hand, without a stand mixer.  But after reading reviews from other bakers, I decided to go ahead and use my stand mixer, starting with the standard beater, rather than the bread hook.
First, I put the warm milk, melted margarine, sugar, and salt in the stand mixer bowl and mixed them.  When I was convinced the temperature was cool enough to not be a danger to the eggs (ie., they wouldn't become partially cooked upon entering the mixture) I added the egg yolks and kept stirring.
I added a couple of cups of flour and mixed, then added the now frothy yeast mixture.  When that was mixed in, I continued adding flour until the mixture started looking "stringy" behind the standard beater.  Changing the beater for the bread hook, I gradually added flour until the dough formed a ball around the hook, then continued adding small amounts of flour to the bowl so the dough wouldn't stick to the sides while it was being kneaded.
I've found, with bread doughs containing more eggs, it is very difficult to successfully perform my trick of adding a small amount of oil right at the end, then letting the ball of dough go around once more, greasing the bowl.  (After which, of course, I would stop the mixer, remove the dough hook, and flip the dough over for rising.)  For some reason, although the dough does reach a point in the mixing where it will be kneaded without sticking to the bowl, the moment I stop the mixer, it sticks horribly!
So instead of rising the dough in the same bowl, I now cave to necessity, oil a separate bowl, then turn out the dough into it.  After twirling the dough around a few times to make sure the bowl is well-oiled and to oil the dough, I flip the dough, then cover it with a damp cloth and allow it to rise.

See?  Dough in separate bowl . . .

You can see how much is still sticking to the mixer bowl, even after scraping.

I should know by now that egg doughs take longer to rise, but I was still surprised when I returned to my kitchen in a panic after having forgotten all about my rising dough to find . . . nothing much had happened.

Given that our area was experiencing a storm and my kitchen was a bit cooler than usual, I decided to use my broken oven as a proofing area.  I used the oven light and a pot of boiling water to add heat to the small space and prayed the dough would rise more quickly in this slightly warmer environment.

It worked!  It still took a while (um . . . 2 hours after being put in there?) but the dough finally reached a point where I was satisfied it was ready to be shaped.
I'm sure my family thinks I decided to omit the golden raisins, as I am notorious for hating raisins, but here they are!  In the recesses of my mind, I seemed to remember that golden raisins weren't as noxious as regular raisins, so I decided to go ahead and use them.

The instructions merely stated, "Knead in the raisins," after placing the dough on a lightly floured surface, of course.  I had no idea how one kneaded in raisins, but recalling to my memory a picture in a book about kneading bits of cheese into bread dough, I figured it couldn't be much different.

Many thanks to the Senior Master Kitchen Helper, without whose assistance these pictures would not have been possible!!

Place the loaves into greased loaf pans, cover, and allow to rise in a warm place.  (I put them back into my "proofing oven", with freshly boiled water.)

This time, it only took about an hour for the loaves to rise to a reasonable size for baking.  After brushing egg white on the top surfaces, they were ready!

I am sure this bread would have done much better in maintaining an even appearance if I had been able to bake them in a regular size oven.  But, as my indoor propane oven is broken, and with the horrible winds and blowind dust outside, I was unwilling to take them to the electric oven installed in my pumphouse, I was limited to using my electric countertop oven.  (The one in which I baked Rieska in my former office!)

When baking larger loaves in a small oven, there is the danger the top may brown too much, even with the convection oven function on.  This can be avoided by placing aluminum foil on the tops of the loaves for the last 10 minutes or so of baking, but it is not foolproof.

The recipe said to bake these loaves at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 35-40 minutes.  I know from experience that when convection cooking, it is better to lower the temperature slightly and bake longer, but at about 38 minutes, the loaves looked so brown and seemed to be done, even with the aluminum foil slowing down the browning process, so I went ahead and took them out of the oven.  (Despite misgivings . . . I had made an egg bread the day before, and it was supposed to bake closer to 50 minutes or an hour . . .)

They looked beautiful and nicely brown, but they really should have been left in longer.

See that doughy spot?  If I had followed my instincts and left them in as long as the other egg bread, it would probably have come out well.

Even so, we tasted the bread, around the undone part.  I couldn't really taste the raisins, so that was good (unless, of course, it means that my taste buds are starting to disappear as I get older), and the bread, itself, was very sweet, fluffy, and delicious.  My husband and most daughters like it enough I will probably try it again, this time putting the aluminum foil on a little earlier and cooking the bread at least 10 minutes longer, if not more, for good measure.

And hopefully next time I'll have the added advantage of being able to use a large oven!