Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Spent Grain Sourdough Bread

Things are seriously cookin' around here in the Nostalgia Baking kitchen. I can barely keep the flour off the floors and counters.

On Monday, I received some spent grain from the brewing process going on up at the soon-to-be-opened Two Rivers Brewing. It was used for a pale ale, so use your imagination. Mmmm. The contents in this plastic bag smelled delicious.

Monday is sourdough baking day anyway, so I thought it would be a suitable addition to the mix this time around.

I've been playing with the basic Rustic Sourdough recipe on the King Arthur site for months now. Sometimes, I add a cup or two of rye flour instead of using all five cups of all-purpose; other times I've used a combination of spelt flour, white whole wheat, or whole wheat.

Here's what you'll need:

1 cup sourdough starter
5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. instant yeast
2-3 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 cups room temperature, lukewarm water
1/2 cup spent grains, rehydrated with water if dried (mine were not)


1. Combine all of the ingredients, except the spent grains, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Let it go at a low speed for about 30 seconds or so to bring things together.
2. Once the water is mostly absorbed, add the spent grains.
3. Knead, knead, knead, for 5-10 minutes until the dough starts to look smoother and more elastic. Do not be alarmed if this bread is sticky.
4. Transfer to a bowl that's been oiled so the dough won't stick and cover with a towel or plastic wrap. Set it in a draft-free, warm place for 90 minutes.
5. Go about your business; do laundry, read email, do work, etc.
6. When you return, the dough should be twice the size, and so if it is, preheat it to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. (I imagine you can also proof this, covered and in the fridge, for several hours or up to overnight.)
7. Flour a baking sheet (or use cornmeal--that's nice, too) and flour your hands. Turn the dough out onto the sheet, and separate it with a chef's knife or bench knife/pastry blade into two equal halves. Form them into whatever shape you want--I'm partial to a simple round ball--and tuck the ends underneath onto themselves. Cover them with a clean damp kitchen towel and let them rest and rise for another hour.
8. Bake in the very preheated oven for about 25-30 minutes. When the bottom sounds hollow when you tap the bread, you know it's ready.
9. Please resist the urge to cut hot bread. It's no fun on your hands and the bread just tears up. It really needs that time to cool.

Please don't be afraid of baking bread. If you want some starter and you live near me, I am happy to share. It's a nearly foolproof method for baking bread, provided you can keep your starter happy and bubbling, which really isn't too hard.

Here's how sticky this looked as it was kneading:

This bread took longer than it usually does, no doubt due to the added moisture of the spent grains (barley, wheat and crap! what else!). I actually took it out first, realized after five minutes that the inside was still jiggly, and then turned the oven back on and put the loaves in by themselves. This is a great way in general to get a better crust on the loaves. So is dousing the unbaked loaves with water before hand. In lieu of that, filling a pan underneath the baking sheet with super-hot tap water and then quickly shutting the door. Most home ovens don't come outfitted with the ability to make steam, and that's part of what makes the difference.

Oh! You want to know what it tasted like, right? It was tangy, nutty, and not nearly as dense as I'd thought it would be. See?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Irish Mac and Cheese

This is for Molly, who ate this at my house with her children and her sister. Molly's daughter Hallie, who wasn't quite one at the time, couldn't get enough of it. Everyone was spellbound watching her eat it. But really, it's for anyone else who wants it. I hope that means you'll make it, too, and tell me how you liked it.

This recipe didn't start out with such a goofy name, but last year I made this in March with Irish Dubliner cheddar and put it in this nice stoneware I got from King Arthur Flour with little Celtic designs on it and well, it's green, it's Irish, and it's cheesy. The name just kind of writes itself, ya know?

It all started, though, as Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese from Cooking Light. I used to have a subscription to that magazine until a couple years ago when they noticeably started dumbing down the copy--or either that I just overnight, by leaps and bounds, became a much better cook and outgrew the magazine. (Not likely. Magazine redesigns always make me upset, as inevitable as I know they are, having worked in them.) The funny thing is that this recipe has morphed so much that when my husband went to make it for me when I was very pregnant, how I'd been making it was totally different from what was on the recipe card (yeah, I use those. Sometimes. But I digress!). He asked me, "do we have everything for this?" And I said, "Yes, of course." He said, "I can't find the Gouda. We have no green onions." It became a comedy of errors. And he knows his way around the kitchen, so it's not about that, either. Nevertheless, I'd like to set the record straight.

1 slice of whole wheat bread
2 Tbsp. butter
1 cup chopped onions (original recipe and this photo's version have 1/4 cup or so of chopped green onions)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk (yeah, this is no longer a Cooking Light recipe!)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp of black pepper
2 ounces (1/2 cup) shredded Irish cheddar or other nutty-sweet-sharp cheddar
1 1/2 ounces (1/3 cup) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
5 cups coarsely chopped fresh spinach
4 cups hot cooked elbow macaroni (about 2 cups uncooked)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Place bread in food processor and blitz until coarse crumbs measure 1/2 cup.
  3. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until softened, 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute. Add the flour and cook for another minute, stirring constantly.
  4. Gradually add the milk, salt, pepper; stir constantly with a whisk until blended. Bring it to a boil and cook until thick (about 2-3 minutes).
  5. Add the cheeses and stir until melted.
  6. Add the spinach and macaroni to the cheese sauce and stir it until well blended. Spoon the mixture into a 2-quart baking dish coated with butter or cooking spray. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs.
  7. Bake for about 15 minutes or until lightly browned and bubbly. 
It's easy to do some of these steps ahead of time. Make the pasta and drain it well. Run cold water over it, and add a bit of olive oil, which will help keep the pasta from sticking together. Cover it and put it in the fridge until you're ready to use it. Ditto the spinach; you can chop and store it ahead of time. I sometimes make it with frozen spinach; typically, I do this in the winter. In the summer I use chard or spinach or whatever the CSA is yielding. I'm guessing that kale would work, too, for those of you who can't get enough of it. If you go the frozen route, however, you will need to squeeze every ounce of water out of the spinach until it's not emitting any more liquid.

This recipe doubles really easily and freezes well.

I have also used this with a slightly sweet Asiago cheese (Trugole, for the cheeseheads out there), with good results. Anything that melts well without getting too gritty or grainy will do the trick. Sometimes, I've swapped out the pasta for cavatappi, that crazy corkscrew pasta.

You may notice the green tint to the breadcrumbs. Here's what this one looked like before it went into the oven.

 I do believe I made these bread crumbs with some leftover parsley I had. (I keep breadcrumbs in the freezer and pull them out as needed.) You don't have to use a green pan, but if you have one, go for it. I won't make a stupid joke about how everyone is Irish when they eat this.  Nonsense. The name is admittedly a gimmick. It got your attention, didn't it?

While I'm at it, everyone is NOT Irish on St. Patty's day.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Fine Frenzy

Today I don't have a recipe for you.

Sniff, sniff.

Instead, I have an apple pie baking in the oven, nerves I'm trying to calm by doing other work (and sharing my nerves with whomever is reading), and a recipe that I need to post soon because someone asked for it. I'm going to call it Irish Mac and Cheese and I'm going to post it first thing tomorrow.

You can go here to see what my apple pie looks like, and find a recipe for it.

This is what the Irish Mac and Cheese looks like.

In the meantime, my pie is for a new friend who just happens to be a chef. It feels like an audition for a play that hasn't been written yet. Or heck, let's be more accurate. It's for a musical. Plays, for all their gravitas, typically don't have music.

When you tread in uncharted waters, you have no idea what will happen. I ran out of steam there with that metaphor. I think this means I need to get back to work.

So for the two of you who I know are following me--and who knows how many really are lurking here?!--I apologize for a chintzy post.

Please stay tuned. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Oat-Nut Crisps: Wheat Free and Easy

As a mother of twin boys who are three years old and don't stop talking/moving/doing/being, I am living proof that you don't really need much time to bake from scratch. You can do it while you are doing other things, and do things in steps. Indeed, this is often how I operate because there typically is no other way.

But all of that doesn't really apply to this recipe, except to say that I put this together while I was talking with Desmond, who was home from school today recuperating from a fever he had yesterday. I asked him what kind of cookies he wanted, and he said, "oatmeal." (My other child would have said, "chocolate chip" had he been here and had I asked.)

I adapted this recipe from King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking, which calls it "All Oats, All the Time." I decided a couple of things before I even made it: it needed some maple syrup and I wanted to see what would happen if I added a bit of flour to part of the batter. I also, as one might predict, upped the cinnamon. I discovered that my oven browned these more quickly and they became super crispy--almost too much and moreso than the recipe perhaps would have indicated. I attribute this to my convection oven, and the fact that I added a bit of liquid sugar in the form of maple syrup. Still, it seemed too fast and I'm wondering if it's a typo.

Oat-Nut Crisps

2 cups quick cooking oats
3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter (2 ounces,  1/2 stick, etc.)
3/4 cup packed light or dark brown sugar (I used light)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. real maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. maple flavor (not imitation maple extract, but something quality, like from Boyajian)

  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and lightly grease or line two baking sheets with parchment.
  2. Combine the nuts, oats, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt in the food processor and pulse until the nuts are finely chopped and evenly distributed.
  3. Beat the butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand mixer until smooth. Add the maple syrup and combine. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the side as necessary, and beat until smooth.
  4. Stir in the vinegar, extract and maple flavor, and then the oat mixture.
  5. Drop the dough by teaspoons onto the prepared baking sheets and bake for about 10 minutes, until the edges are barely browned. Make sure to rotate the trays at the halfway point. Here's where I deviates from the recipe, which advises 14 minutes. My oven is a bit fast, but even still, I had edges that were a bit too browned at 7 minutes. I would advise you to set your clock to five minutes and use your judgment. You may need another five minutes, like I did, or you may need more.
  6. Remove from the oven and let them cool on the pan for five minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.
  7. Yield: About 42 cookies
Notes: If you're using regular rolled oats, which you can, pulse them first in the food processor to break up a bit, and then add the cinnamon, nuts, leavening and salt.

You may look at these cookies and think there is not enough structural integrity for them to stick together as they cool. Don't worry. The nuts are strong--and the eggs help, too. 

When I got halfway through the recipe, I decided I wanted to see what would happen if I added flour: if I would still like the cookie, if it would be soft and chewy, etc. I'm happy to report it was, but I didn't like it as much. I added just a 1/4 cup to about half of the batter, and let them bake for about 10-11 minutes. The flavors weren't quite as intense as they were in the wheat free version; next time I will try half the batter with whole wheat pastry flour, which will be more delicate and perhaps more appropriate. Just 'cause.

I think I prefer them as thin as this, though:

What do you think?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Bacon Asiago Shallot Scones

This post is partially motivated by the desire to demonstrate that I do bake things other than cupcakes. The whole cupcake thing requires variety and creativity on a regular basis to keep the masses happy. It's also kind of a happy accident, but that's another story for another day....

Bacon-related scones are a different matter altogether. You cannot argue with good bacon; it is one of a handful of things that keeps me from becoming a complete (rather than part-time) vegetarian. Here, I've used something local and delicious from Klein Farms in Easton. Bacon plus sharp-sweet Asiago cheese plus shallots cooked in the bacon grease, of course! Why waste? And then toss it together in a buttery dough, chill it overnight (or freeze if you're impatient, for 1/2 hour or so), and then your house smells like bacony, cheesy heaven.

This is a riff on my usual scone recipe, which I've published elsewhere (strawberry scones! oh, early summer bliss!), with some additions. You can of course cook the bacon in a pan, but I like the hands-off nature of putting it in the oven so I can go about my business, prepping the rest of the ingredients. The trick with scones is to handle them as little as possible; you want them to be tender and flaky, not hard and unyielding like a hockey puck.

Bacon-Asiago-Shallot Scones

  • 4-5 thick slices of good bacon
  • 1 large or two small shallots, finely chopped
  • 1 cup shredded Asiago cheese
  • 2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • A couple of turns of the pepper mill (not terribly specific, I know)
  • 12 Tbsp. frozen butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature

The Bacon-Shallot Part
  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Place the bacon on aluminum foil on a lidded sheet pan. Please do not use a cookie sheet unless you want bacon grease all over the joint.
  3. Cook the bacon until it's starting to give off little tiny white bubbles, about 15-18 minutes. Transfer to a plate and place a couple of paper towels on top to blot up the excess grease.
  4. Pour the bacon grease from the bottom of the sheet pan into a cast iron or other pan of your choice and saute the chopped shallots until they soften and begin to caramelize. 
  5. Once the bacon has cooled, chop it into small pieces or use kitchen shears to cut into smaller-than-bite-size pieces. Set aside. 
  6. Shred the cheese. Did I have to tell you to do this? 
I love using kitchen shears for food tasks. Thanks for the tip, Nigella Lawson.
 The Dough Part
  1. Place the flour, baking powder and salt into the bowl of a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine.
  2. Add the frozen butter chunks and let it rip until you just barely hear a nob of butter rattling around.
  3. Transfer contents to a bowl and add the cheese, shallots and bacon. Add in the freshly ground pepper. Mix to combine with a spatula.
  4. After you've measured out the milk, crack the egg into the measuring cup and whisk to break up the yolk. Add milk-and-egg combo to the dough. Mix until it's just combined.
  5. You will notice this is a soft, mushy dough. Roll or pat it gently and use a 3-inch biscuit cutter to form the scones. 
  6. You should get about 12-14 scones, which you should place on two separate baking sheets.
  7. Cover the baking sheets with saran wrap, and then place a thin clean dish towel to seal up any cracks. Transfer to the refrigerator for a few hours or up to overnight.
Here's the point in the recipe ***************  where time elapses ********* and we have to wait******for the dough to be ready*******

Good night, little guys!
Bacon scones, ready to go to sleep for a bit and firm up.

Good morning! Are you ready for scones?

The Baking Part
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Remove scones from fridge and brush them with whole milk.
  3. Bake for 16-18 minutes until lightly golden on top. 
  4. Remove from the oven, let them cool for a few minutes on the sheet, and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Please, resist the urge. You will burn your mouth. 
These babies won't keep for too too long in a tightly covered plastic container, but I don't think you will have trouble gobbling them up. Alternately, you can freeze them if you like. Another option: if you want them smaller, you can certainly use any sized biscuit cutter; just reduce your baking time accordingly, if you're opting for that. Of course, you can also mix in anything else you want, swap out the cheese, opt for sausage or ham, and do herbs--the sky has no savory limit. I also do an Irish cheddar and chive variation, too.
This one was broken off for a toddler who did not finish it.