A while back my husband and I bought a mammoth, 25-pound bag of pinto beans — a decision which has had its ups and its downs. On the plus side, beans are cheap, healthy, and filling, and buying in bulk cuts down on wasteful packaging. On the other side, we’ve had to store a bag of beans that weighs almost as much as our two-year old and takes up just about as much space.
Difficulties of storing and lifting aside, we’ve had fun finding new ways to enjoy our seemingly never-ending bean supply. Bean soups, southwestern bean salads, and beans as a side for Texas barbecue have been plentiful. However, I think my favorite bean dish to date is this Indian-inspired curry, with hearty pinto beans as the star and delicate baby kale in a supporting role.
The spice (heat) level can be kicked up or down according to your preferences, and the intensely flavored beans make a great vegetarian main dish either on their own or served with rice or bread.
A note on curry powder: Your results will vary slightly based on the curry powder blend that you use. I used an organic, salt-free, store-brand containing a mix of coriander, turmeric, mustard, cumin, fenugreek, paprika, cayenne, cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves. Yield: 4 to 6 hearty servings on its own, or 6 to 8 served over rice.
Curried Pinto Beans with Kale Recipe
2 cups dried pinto beans
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
1 (14.5 oz) can diced organic tomatoes, with the juice (substitute 14.5 oz fresh tomatoes if desired)
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger root (or about a 1-inch chunk of fresh ginger root, peeled)
3 medium-sized cloves garlic, peeled
2 medium-sized shallots, peeled and quartered
1 jalapeno, stem removed (cored and seeded for less heat)
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, plus more for garnishing
2 tbsp curry powder
2 cups chopped baby kale (substitute baby spinach if desired)
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
Place the beans in a large pot and completely cover with water. Cover and let the beans soak at room temperature for 4 to 6 hours.
Strain off the soaking water and cover the beans with fresh water so that the water level extends two-to-three inches above the beans. Add the salt and pepper and bring the beans to a vigorous boil, stirring once or twice. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for one hour, stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat if necessary.
Place the tomatoes, ginger, garlic, shallots, jalapeno, cilantro, and curry powder in a blender and blend until completely smooth. Stir the curry mixture into the beans, place the lid on the pot ajar (to allow steam to escape but prevent splatters), and cook over med-low heat, stirring occasionally, for one more hour or until the beans are tender and the sauce is fairly thick. Add the baby kale and cinnamon, stirring until the greens are softened, and finish by stirring in the vinegar.
Typically this sort of dish would be served with basmati rice, but I like to serve it with wedges of warm, whole-grain naan (or even toasted sandwich bread) for dipping or sopping up any extra sauce. My husband likes to dress his beans up with a dollop of Greek yogurt and a drizzle of Sriracha. I like mine simply garnished with a sprinkle of finely chopped cilantro.
My second day of work, I was handed a Classic Sourdoughs revised A Home Baker's Handbook by Ed and Jean Wood and a Sourdoughs International Original San Francisco Culture. I was so excited to head home and start my baking with mouth watering bread. I was told by Ed that I would need to proof the culture first. Now, you really have to understand that I don't bake. I don't really cook even. If I get the milk and cereal in the bowl at the same time, I think that I am tearing it up in the kitchen. So proofing meant to me, that I would be making sure that it was OK. I related it to proof reading a book. All I could think is great! I will get to taste all of these breads to make sure they are OK. Wow, I was completely off!
Proofing, as I learned when I opened my new cookbook, was keeping the culture at a certain temperature for a given amount of time. This is when I closed the cookbook and wondered what was the best sourdough bread available at the grocery store. Proofing was an overwhelming concept to me. I think this is for many first time bakers. After about five times of reading and re-reading the chapter on proofing, I bit the bullet and charged ahead to build the proofing box.
I was excited to build the box. Now this was up my alley. Ed has developed a simple way though to build a proofing box. He takes a Styrofoam cooler, mounts a light bulb (low watts) on the bottom so that it is on the inside, attaches a dimmer switch and you have a proofing box. The cooler is placed with the top on the floor. I have added a thermometer through the side so I can see the temperature from the outside of the box. Some put a thermometer on the floor under the proofing box. Either way works.
Proofing Box Tips
Here are some tips that I figured out through trial and error. One, I put a towel under the proofing box. This helps if you have an uneven surface. Then I put a bowl with some water in the proofing box and turned on the dimmer switch. I played with the different temperatures until I found the two temperatures that I needed. I put black marks on my dimmer switch with the temperatures so that it would be easy to find where to put the dimmer switch. Now I was ready to try it with my sourdough culture.
I recommend to proof one culture at a time, especially when you are first starting out. Having a thermometer on the outside of the proofing box allowed me to see the temperature during the proofing process without having to lift up the proofing box.
The proofing box is very important to maintaining consistent temperatures. You can use the proofing box with your dough also. We have heard of people placing ice in the proofing box to bring temperatures lower when they are unable to lower temperatures in their home.
The proofing box scared me, almost to the point of throwing my hands in the air and saying no way to sourdough. But once I accepted that I really wanted to make this amazing bread, I jumped in and it was extremely easy.
I have conquered the proofing box! Now on to baking with sourdough! Next week I will tackle pizza crust ... please check back and see how it goes.
I love to bake and eat homemade bread; however I always was disappointed in the texture of sandwich bread. Most recipes are a little too heavy or crummy to accompany sandwich fillings. A few years ago I discovered the secret to wonderfully textured sandwich bread quite by accident.
I was milking goats and making cheese nearly every day. I was also making something that I called yogurt cheese which is basically the equivalent of Greek yogurt. In making cheeses and yogurt a byproduct is produced called whey. I had a lot of whey and I hated to see it go to waste every day.
I was baking bread one morning and had a giant pot of warm whey it was the perfect temperature so I decided to experiment and use whey to replace the milk and water in my recipe. I was happy to discover that using whey resulted in flavorful evenly textured bread neither too heavy or to light.
After a little research I learned that the reason that whey works to improve breads texture is that it is an acid. Commercial bakeries usually use acid in some form (vinegar, vitamin c, or even whey) to improve crumb and shelf life of bread. Now I almost never bake yeast bread without whey or sourdough starter.
The Best Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread
10 cups whole wheat flour (my favorite is King Arthur white wheat)
4 cups warm whey plus 1 additional cup of water or whey
(If you don’t have whey on hand use half water and half yogurt)
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons yeast
¼ cup honey
¼ cup melted butter
Electric mixer instructions: In a large electric mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment add the flour, salt, and yeast incorporate them well. Next melt the butter and honey together on low and allow it to cool to the touch. Turn on the mixer and in a slow stream add the warm whey and melted butter and honey. Allow the mixer to incorporate the ingredients for about a minute.
At this point there may be a bit of flour on the bottom of the mixer bowl. Stop the mixer and use a silicon spatula to scrape all of the flour and unincorporated dough together. Then turn the mixer on and slowly add as much of the extra liquid to make a soft, slightly sticky dough.
Resist the urge to add additional flour. I have found that kneading more water into whole wheat bread dough and having a wetter dough results in a much better textured loaf.
Allow the mixer to knead the dough for at least 5 minutes and no more than 10 minutes.
When the bread is well kneaded coat your hands in vegetable oil, using your hands and a silicon spatula remove the dough from the mixer bowl. Coat the mixer bowl with a little vegetable oil or butter and put the dough back in the bowl. Turn it a few times to coat the outside with oil.
Cover with a dish cloth and place it in a warm place and allow it to rise until it doubles in size - about 2 hours.
After the dough rises it should lose some of its stickiness. Punch the dough down with well-greased hands.
For sandwich loaves place the dough in 3 standard loaf pans lined with parchment paper or well-greased.
For rolls, form them into fist shaped balls and place them on a parchment lined cookie sheet.
Allow to rise once again for about 1 hour.
Fifteen minutes before you are ready to bake them preheat the oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit and place a pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven.
You can also bake the bread at 550 degrees for the first 5 to 10 minutes and add the water to the pan right after you insert the bread. The shock of the heat will cause the air pockets in bread to expand and the bread to increase up to 20 percent in size. The steam will prevent the exterior from becoming crispy. (My husband, Shaun’s, 2 cents)
In a bowl, scramble an egg with 2 tablespoons of water, brush the tops of the loaves with the egg mixture, and slash each loaf with a sharp knife. When the oven is pre-heated, quickly place the loaves in and bake them for 45 minutes.
Remove the loaves from the oven and allow them at least 30 minutes to cool before slicing to allow the loaves to firm up and finish cooking internally. Of course, if you want hot fresh bread and aren’t concerned about the shape of the slices you can eat it straight out of the oven. Yield 3 loaves.
I hope you enjoy this recipe! Please feel free send me any suggestions, tips, or experiences that might help to make this blog more informative and interesting. Thanks.
Many people mistake the distilling process as the “alcohol creation” process. Rather is it the process in which a chemical, in this case ethanol alcohol, is removed from another chemical. The process is centuries old, and is used in a myriad of applications from alcohol distillation to essential oil extraction.
Luckily, our blog is primarily focused on alcohol distillation. Why luckily? Because who doesn’t like a stiff drink every now and again?
The overall process of alcohol distillation can be summed up into 3 parts: Fermentation, Distillation, and Finishing. The next 3 installments of this blog will hit each of these topics in some depth. However, this episode will give us a brief overview of each segment.
Any of you who have ever made beer or wine will see this process as old hat, but in the effort for maximum clarity we will cover it for everyone. The basics of the fermentation process are thus:
- Introduce sugar to liquid and yeast
- Over time the yeast process the sugar into alcohol
- After a certain time the yeast stop producing alcohol as the sugar has been fully consumed.
What most people don’t understand is, alcohol is really just the excrement of yeast. Yes, alcohol is yeast pee. (Makes you look at your gin and tonic a bit differently doesn’t it?!?!?)
In the case of most, not all, alcohols, grains are used as the sugar source. In their raw form they are offered as starches, but after a boiling process, and the addition of malt or certain enzymes, the starches are converted into sugar, which are then processed by the yeast, resulting in a number of chemicals including ethanol alcohol.
Once a liquid fermentation is finished, the liquid is then heated in a still.
The still has seen many forms and adaptions. For our current example, we will stick with the basics. All stills consist of 3 things; a boiler, a column, and a condenser. As the liquid is increased slowly from room temperature to approximately 190 degrees (F), the liquid vaporizes and rises through the column. Once it reaches the condenser it comes in contact with a cold surface and condenses back into a liquid state. It then exits the still in the form of a number of different chemicals.
During the fermentation process a few very specific chemicals are excreted by the yeast. Acetone, Methanol, Ethanol, and Isopropyl are just a few of the major ones. Each of these chemicals have different boiling points. As we know from high school chemistry water boils at 212 degrees (F). These other chemicals have distinct boiling points as well.
As we increase the temperature of the liquid in the still these chemicals vaporize and go through the distillation process. However, all the alcohol distiller wants is the ethanol. (What do I do with the other chemicals you ask? Keep an eye out for a future post on distillation waste, and their uses.) Through the process known as “cutting” the distiller is able to segregate the different chemicals leaving the ethanol in a pure state.
The finishing process is the final process before bottling. This process has a few different steps, and depending on the alcohol type desired will depend on which of these steps you would use.
Filtering – Filtering alcohol primarily does 2 things. It removes off flavors and it smoothes out the overall taste and flavor.
Flavoring – Whether you make the decision to add a commercial type of flavor such as an essence (a cross between an essential oil and a extract), or if you soak fruit in the spirit, or use some type of spice to influence the taste, flavor options are almost endless.
Oaking/Aging – Whiskey doesn’t get its color from the grains used in the fermentation process. Instead it gets its color from the oak in which it is stored. Although it gets much of its flavor from the grains, another layer of flavor is also added through the oak, or other hardwood, used in the aging process. Same goes with bourbon, scotch, tequila, and other brown spirits.
The finishing process is a step that is kept in mind from the beginning of fermentation. Often you will choose certain grains based on the type of finishing you plan. If you plan on making bourbon, then grain selection is of upmost importance, as bourbon is made of at least 51% corn.
Obviously, the alcohol distillation process is in depth, but this process helps break it down into a few steps that are rather easy to manage. With just a little practice each of these steps get easier. I mean c’mon, if Tickle can do it….
Our next blog will go into depth on the fermentation process specifically. CHEERS!!!
Following these instructions for naan provides delicious, diverse food with minimal prep time. It is a great accompaniment with Indian dishes, can be used as a hearty wrap, or just scarfed down right out of the pan (because you have dough ready and there is no other prep work). It's also the best food I have come across to do the "toss in the air to flip sides without use of a spatula and look really cool" move. For great Indian cuisine recipes click here and here.
Spatula or wooden spoon
1 ball of pre-made bread dough
1 tbsp butter or olive oil
Follow the recipe on my "Basic Artisan Loaf" blog post.
After the dough has risen (at least 2 hours) take a half fistful of dough and place it on a lightly floured counter or nonstick mat.
Preheat a pan or skillet at medium-high with a tablespoon of butter or olive oil (feel free to use as much or as little as you want depending on tastes, but 1 tbsp is a good place to start).
With a rolling pin, flatten the ball of dough as thinly as possible. (You may need to coat the dough lightly with a pinch of flour to avoid it sticking to the pin).
Transfer the dough into the preheated pan and let it cook for 2-4 minutes. The dough may rise a little as it cooks.
Flip and cook the other side. With the spatula / wooden spoon, compress the cooked side down in an attempt to thin the dough out even more. Cook for 2-4 minutes.
Remove from the pan and allow 1-2 minutes cooling time.
"When mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy." That saying has been around the block once or twice. Well, at Winn Sisters Farm, it is said a little differently. If everyone is happy, then so is mama. You see, my husband has given me the title, Director of Happiness. You might ask how one directs happiness and what the job entails. I might ask how I got a job that I didn’t apply for … or did I? Directing happiness has also been called being codependent … which to me, means your happiness depends on the happiness of others. This is a learned behavior and believe me, I was a great student.
My mother was my teacher and the title I would have bestowed upon her was Master of Happiness. She taught me how to love and encourage. One of the best classes she taught was Baking Cinnamon Rolls 101. Cinnamon is amazing. It can trigger memories as soon as its aroma drifts past your nose. Don’t tell anyone, but I put a sprinkle or two in my “regular” white/wheat bread. When you toast it, the faint hint of cinnamon floats softly in the air like dandelion seeds in the wind. Breakfast and ambiance all rolled into one. Ahhhhh … so … back to those cinnamon rolls. Mom would mix up bread dough and proceed to roll it out, spread margarine (I know, I know) and cinnamon/sugar, then roll it back up, position it in a semi-circle on a baking sheet, and slice it every inch or so. It would always bake a little too long because like all moms, she had many tasks going on simultaneously. They would come out of the oven ready for a nice drizzle of glaze. They were delicious and I will forever remember everything about them.
Cinnamon and Honey
Having the ability to bake cinnamon rolls is definitely in the job description for the Director of Happiness. When someone says, “I was just thinking of the cinnamon rolls you bake," their eyes seem to glaze over. They fondly remember the warm wonderful gooeyness of bread perfected by adding butter, cinnamon and honey. That always makes me happy! Usually, I make a basic bread dough, let it rise, punch it down and then prepare it for cinnamon rolls. But, sometimes, after the first rising I prepare it as I would cinnamon rolls and then roll it right back into a loaf of bread. It is then sliced into one inch slices and placed into a loaf pan. This way it can be used for French toast or placed into the toaster. Either way, it creates happiness.
The abundance of butter (never margarine), cinnamon, and honey or brown sugar is what makes my cinnamon rolls so memorable. Never be stingy in using those ingredients and never, ever be stingy in spreading happiness. So, go ahead and spread some happiness and make sure you use a lot of butter.
I am ashamed to admit how long I had lived here in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia before I learned that I was really close to the "Peanut Capitol of the World". Being from New England, peanuts were not up there on my list of produce items to try to source locally. Happily, I now know better.
A year and a half ago, my friend Nancy and I had taken a road trip to go to our first "Heritage Harvest Festival" at Monticello. We came home 'the back way' from Charlottesville (aka Rte 460), stocking up on molasses at 'Adams Country Store' (more famous for its country hams and dandoodle sausages) and stopping at every Mom and Pop antique store we could find. At one of them, we asked where the locals go to buy their peanuts. In unison, two older gentlemen said "Wakefield Peanuts." And so Wakefield Peanuts it was!
My family couldn't get enough of the homemade peanut butter, sugared peanuts and homemade peanut brittle, so a few months later we took another day trip out that way to secure more molasses and peanuts. This past summer, I stocked up on several bags of peanuts at the farmer's market (did you know they keep quite well in the freezer?), but last week, horror of horrors, my supply ran dry.
It's been a busy few months for me and time is scarce. So another day trip out to Wakefield was out of the question. Luckily, the nice folks at Wakefield Peanuts are willing to ship, so a few days later I had FIFTY POUNDS of raw, shelled, skinned peanuts delivered right to my door (do yourself a favor and pay the extra $10 for the skinned ones. It's not a fun task and it takes forever to do yourself!) Shipping is included, so your cost will be the same as mine: $85. Have you priced peanuts lately? It's a deal. I repackaged them (5 lbs fits nicely into a gallon sized bag) and shared the cost with friends, and we are once again enjoying homemade peanut butter, which is shockingly easy to make if you've never tried it.
How to Make Peanut Butter
First, roast the raw, shelled, skinned peanuts at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 to 20 minutes, depending upon how dark you like them. Let them cool, and put them into a food processor (don't try to use a blender, you'll most likely kill the motor). Pulse/process for a few minutes. It may take awhile, but eventually it'll start to get more creamy. It the peanuts are really dry, you can add in some peanut oil, and if you'd like to add some salt or honey for taste, go right ahead. When it's smooth enough (or chunky enough) for your liking, you're done! Stored in the fridge, it lasts a long time (well, my kids tend to devour it in no time, but you know what I mean.) It doesn't seem to separate like the store-bought 'natural' kind, either, so that's a bonus in my book!