May 25, 2009

Experimenting with White Wheat Flour

It took some doin', and several failed attempts, but I did some researching and experimenting and finally came up with a healthier white-wheat bread that didn't taste like, or have the texture of, well....cardboard. Although personally, I've never munched on cardboard, nor have I toasted it, I'm just sayin'....

Now this is not a "true" whole wheat bread, but rather a hybrid of sorts (half white bread flour, half white wheat flour), but even still, healthier and tastier than store bought white bread and lighter, better texture and holds together better than a whole wheat bread. Don't get me wrong, I luv me some dark brown, hearty, nutty whole wheat bread, but that's not what I was looking for this time. I just wanted to try out some healthier choices and use up that white wheat flour that's been sitting in my fridge since the previous failed attempts.

The first attempt as mentioned, failed miserably. I tried to use my traditional white yeast bread recipe and just swap out ALL of the bread flour for the white wheat flour. Well, to be honest, it was indicative of the aforementioned feared "healthy" bread. It was heavy, tasteless, and reminiscent of, you guessed it, cardboard. The white wheat flour, contrary to popular belief, doesn't "behave" like white flour but more like whole wheat flour (duh, right) only without all of the yummy flavor and texture that a "red wheat" flour has. So you can't just swap it out in a recipe and just expect it to be/act/taste the same...ain't gonna happen.

It didn't take long to find that others on the same mission were having difficulty adjusting their recipes as well. In fact, it's common for bakers to use bread conditioners in order to achieve the texture of store bought bread. Yes, yes, I knew that, but there are bread gurus out there that know much more about the subject than I, and frankly, I don't have the time to get all into it right now, so I'll leave that to the experts. Besides, it makes no sense to me to add a bunch of chemicals and additives that you are avoiding in the first place, right? However, if you're so here.

Ok, so then I did even more researching and read stuff here and there about natural bread conditioners. Although I found some recipes requiring powdered milk, I usually only tend to add milk (and eggs) to my sweet doughs, I decided to go ahead and replace some of the water with milk. Hindsite, I could have probably replaced most of the water for milk (perhaps, 1/2 C water and 1 3/4 C milk, I did only use 2% afterall), but oh well, it is what it is. Next, I decided to swap out the sugar for honey (healthier carbs ya know) and swap out olive oil for the shortening (healthier fat ya know) and finally, I lowered the salt as much as I thought I could without inhibiting the rise. (healthier for the heart ya know)

Heart Healthy White Wheat Bread

1 ¾ C Very warm water (110 degrees F)
½ C low fat milk (1 or 2%) also warm
2 pkgs ( 4 ½ tsp) Active dry yeast (not fast acting)
3 Tbsp Honey
2 Tbsp Olive oil
1 ½ tsp Salt
2 C White Wheat Flour
3 ½ - 4 C Bread Flour (high gluten)
Drizzle of olive oil for bowl

The directions for mixing and rising are pretty much the same for my traditional white yeast bread, so I won't bore you with all of that again. However, I did find that you may have to increase the rise time, on both the first and second rise.

In addition, I decided since I planned on using this for toast, toasted sammies and/or brandied french toast, I'd make it in the traditional loaf style, which I hadn't done in quite some time for yeast bread. Sooooo, after the first rise, punch it down (ok, gently people, it's not your ex's face) Now it's time to shape the loaves.

For making traditional 4 x 9 loaf pans; divide dough in half. (Keep one half covered while working the other) Flatten one half with hands or rolling pin into a rectangle that is about 10 x 8. Beginning at the 10-inch side, roll dough up into a fat log. Pinch all along long the edge to seal. Pinch each end to seal. Fold ends under loaf and lightly pinch, attaching them to the bottoms. Place seam side down in a greased pan. Repeat with other half of dough, making 2nd loaf.

Cover with a lightweight clean towel and let rise in warm place 40 to 50 minutes or until double in size. Preheat your oven to 350F. (a good 20 min ahead)

Place loaf pans in center of hot oven. Bake 30 to 40 minutes or until loaves are deep golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. Personally, I prefer this tap method, it's what I grew up on and how I was taught. However, if you're new to baking bread, or you're just not sure, tip loaf out of pan onto a towel as you hold it. With your other hand, use an instant read thermometer, and stick it into the bottom of the loaf. The temp should be around 190-200F. If the loaves are not quite to temp but browning too quickly, you can tent them with aluminum foil.

Ah, look at that beautiful bottom!
When done, remove bread from pans to wire rack. Allow to cool away from draft. Then cut using a sharp serrated knife. Wrap in aluminum foil to keep fresh.

So now, you're probably wondering......

Is it really healthier or worth it? somewhat. Did it taste good? mmmm, just ok by itself, better as toast, even better for a sandwich, but I did use it for my brandied french toast and it was awesome! Would I want to eat only this instead of my fluffy white traditional bread? probably not. But honestly, if I had diet restrictions, or really wanted or needed to eat a "healthy" white bread, this would fit the bill.

Will my fat ass will be slathering on some strawberry jam sooner or later anyway? probably YES. (oh yeah, and how healthy is that Jiff peanut butter anyway? 'cuz oh baby, that's gonna happen) Alright, alright, I know, I went through all of that trouble to make a "healthier version"...Maybe I should use that healthy heart buttah I've got stuck in the back of the fridge. (baby steps)

By the way, my next post, will be probably be about the strawberry jam I just put up today ;) (LOL, ok, not kidding!)

Simple Seafood Salad w/ Shane's Mayo!

½ C dry elbow macaroni
1 ½ C frozen med. sized salad shrimp, thawed
1 ½ C lump crab or imitation crab
1/3 C chopped onion
1/3 C chopped celery
1/3 C mayonnaise
1 Tbsp chopped fresh dill
Garlic salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Place macaroni in salted boiling water. Cook until al dente, rinse with cold water, drain, and set aside to cool.
Add in the rest of the ingredients and toss gently just until mixed.
Place in fridge for at least a couple of hours for flavors to meld.

Couldn't be simpler. Right? Well it was, almost. Let me explain...

So I woke up this morning and decided I wanted to make a seafood salad today. My mom used to make a plain ol' (immitation) crab salad with just onions, celery and mayo and called it a day. Although I love the taste, I wanted to vamp it up a bit. 'Lo and behold I open up my inbox and am greeted with Shane's (aka Culinary Alchemist) blog post about making homemade mayonnaise. It was fate.....or at least that creepy same wavelength vibe I got goin' on wit my beeps (bakespace peeps). Seriously, it's getting scary how much we think alike. While I don't want to be a copycat blogger (this is supposed to be about seafood salad lol), I have to show some pics and do some 'splaining about my very first mayo adventure (Lucy Ricardo style). I would like for you to head over to his blog and check it out for yourself. This stuff IS amazing, you gotta try it.

So first off, it was a matter of deciding which ingredients to use as he suggests several different combinations. Ah hell, who am I kidding? That part was easy, I just used what I had on hand hehehehehe. I chose (uh hem, had) Emeril's Dijon Mustard, classic olive oil, sea salt, and of course an egg. I did, however, honor Shane's mayo with the use of real lemon, not the bottled stuff I'm inclined to reach for out of convenience. Besides, "the bakespace science guy" scared me with stories of bottled lemon juice not having a high enough acidic level to kill the nasty salmonella. (insert green shocked face here)

Ok, next up...oh, I need an appliance...lemeseeeeee, what to use? Blender or food processor? (one day, I hope to have the dual gadget thingy that has both units with one base, hint hint to the fam)

I decided to dig out and dust off the Cuisinart BLENDER BEAST, which rarely sees daylight, because well, to be truthful, I only use it in the summer for margaritas and frozen daiquiris. (I hate the stupid square design of the pitcher AND it doesn't fit into my freezer, grrrrr) Anywho, following step one, I start to blend the first part of the ingredients and (like an idiot) take off the little top to peek in...uhm, yeah....splattered, right in the eye. Grab towel, blot eye. Go to pour in the rest of the olive oil in a steady stream (covering hole partially with hand while pouring, because I'm smarter now, right?) and yes, I'm dumb enough to take yet ANOTHER peek before it emulsifies (yeah, [eye roll], I know). Blot eye again. Finally, within minutes really, it works it's magic and before ya know it...waaaaallllla yummy fresh REAL MAYO goodness!

So I'm attempting to scoop it all out, with one eye shut, mayo all over my spatula, my hands, AND my forearms (yeah, don't ask) of course licking my fingers and tasting as I go, (think Lucy and Ethel in the chocolate bon-bon scene) cursing this stupid damn blender all the way. I found myself wondering why in the HELL didn't I just use my food processor??? Then I realize...duh, the bottom comes off and there's a big HUGE hole at the bottom that I'm able to sit the whole thing on top of the jar, use a spatula to scrape all of it down into the jar without wasting a DROP (or is that a dollop?) Ok, so now maybe the blender wasn't such a bad idea after all.

Was it all worth it you ask? HELL YA! It's true when they tell you that once you taste homemade you'll never again want the store bought, chemically laced, jellied blob of grease that they call "real" mayonnaise. I say bye bye Hellman's...good riddance! Props to my beep Shane, I should've listened to you a year ago. It really was simple and sooooo worth it. So now I'm wishing I had Spryte's (another beep) "I tried your recipe and liked it" blog badge....I'll have to work on that. ;)

May 15, 2009

Spring Gardens and some Healthier Recipes

Hold on a sec, let me blow the dust off of my blog page....K, that's better. Haven't been here in what seems like ages (you didn't give up on me did you?). Like most folks, it's a busy time of the year and yeah, life gets in the way. I have tons to blog about, just no time. Since my last posting I've put in my veggie garden (ok, just tomatoes, peppers and leeks), planted a new herb garden (moved them all to one spot), put in a strawberry bed, cleaned the pond, dug in the dirt, mulched, basic spring yardwork crap, PLUS baking and cooking, testing new know the drill. Not to mention my Bakespace get-together trip to Pittsburgh coming up, as well as 2 graduations, and my youngest daughters grad party AND birthday (damn I'm tired) So lots to blog time right now. I will though....sooner or later.

Sooooo anywho, meanwhile, I've been working on some heart healthy recipes for the guys at the firehouse. Ya, contrary to popular belief (or fantasy), not all firefighters are in the rock-hard body shape you see in the calendars (ducking as hubby throws his boot at me from across the room) So I decided while I was at it, it was time for hubby and I to get our act together and try to eat healthier too.

Well, one of our ff brothers is home from surgery (6 way bypass) and we're all pitching in taking turns at taking dinners/meals over, to help the wify-poo thru the recovery process....although after he's home for awhile, she may want an ax LOL (Lavenna, honey, take some advice and put his uniform on beforehand, you'll get more insurance money) Ok, baaaaad firehouse humor, my husband has ruined me!

Back to the task.... I thought now is the perfect time to revamp some recipes, learn more about heart healthy choices and most importantly...make it taste good???? Does everything healthy HAVE to taste like cardboard? really? Well I've found tons of recipes for dinners and lunches, but I noticed not so many were for breakfast foods and/or baked goods. (uh-uhm, my downfall, obviously) So I took some advice from my bakespace buddies and started researching stuff to "swap" out, so that I could use some of my own favorite recipes, just try to make them healthier.

The first thing that came to mind was my absolute favorite breakfast...Brandied French Toast. (ok, well hubby's pecan waffles are pretty good, but I'll have to work on those next) So this conversion was pretty simple. I just swapped out the eggs for egg beaters, low fat milk for the cream, and used wheat bread instead of white. It still tasted great. So then I decided I'd work on a healthier type syrup, something bursting with flavor. I came up with a Blackberry Concord Wine syrup, made with honey instead of sugar, and my favorite wine, a soft red, from one of our local wineries.

While conjuring up my magic (and feeling pretty good about myself...oh wait...maybe that was from the extra glass or two of wine I had hehehehe) I decided I'd multi-task and do another topping, creating a dish for the Bakespace challenge. This month's challenge was to create a dish using strawberries and eggs. Ah HAH! Perfect. So I dug into the back of the freezer and yup, had some strawberries. Cool. But I wanted to make something slightly different than the syrup first I thought JAM! But alas, not enough sugar (oh wait, I'm trying to do healthier right?) so I opted for a less sugary topping. Still, way less sugar than a jam or jelly. Here's the recipe for the Strawberry Concord Wine Fruit Topping. O-M-G good stuff! Now, needless to say, I'm anxiously awaiting the arrival of some baby strawberries....hopefully I can come up with a version suitable for canning. MMM MMM MMM Will I blog about it? Sure....sooner or later.....right now, I think I need a nap!