Sourdough has been in my family forever. My mom always had a mason jar of it in the back of the fridge that she restored and fed every time we wanted her special pancakes. Family legend has it that my mom was given her sourdough starter from a group of tough cowgirls on a working ranch in high plains Eastern Oregon. These women were the wives of equally tough cowboys, one of whom was my dad, that drove cattle in harsh conditions, often away from the ranch. Sourdough was a staple. And while my mother was never a cowgirl, she did keep the sourdough.
It was only as an adult that I learned to bake bread with sourdough starter. It can be a difficult to get a good rise with sourdough bread. After baking many heavy, flat loaves of sourdough, I finally found the knack. To work properly, sourdough starter needs to be fed quite often, particularly the week preceeding baking bread. So get out your starter, feed it some flour and water every few days, and when it's nice and bubbly, you're sourdough starter is ready to go.
If you need to make a new sourdough starter, check out the Kitchen Sink Sourdough Recipe on my blog at One tomato, two tomato.
Here is my recipe for Spelt Sourdough Bread Buns, which is perfect for hamburgers buns or dinner rolls. Plan ahead because you need to start them the night before. I love the earthy nuttiness of heirloom spelt flour in these rolls. They are toothsome and dense without being to heavy. Sourdough bread likes to take it’s own sweet time, but the flavor is well worth it!
Spelt Sourdough Bun Recipe
By Tammy Kimbler
1 c active sourdough starter
1/2 c water
1/2 c whole milk
1 large egg
2 Tbs olive oil
3.5 c whole spelt flour
2 tsp salt
This recipe makes 8 buns that are a great size for burgers. Start this dough the night before for best results.
Remove one cup of starter from your active sourdough batch. Be sure to replenish your starter! In a non-reactive bowl, combine the starter with the water, milk, egg, salt and olive oil. Stir in the flour. You want a loose-type dough so you should still be able to move the dough around with a spoon. (We will add more flour later if it needs it.) Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap or a damp towel and set in a warm place to rise overnight for at least 12 hours.
The next day, turn the dough out onto a well floured surface and knead until pliable, adding more flour if needed. The dough should come together quickly. Let rest for 20 minutes, then divide the dough into 8 equal portions. Form rounds out of each piece of dough and place on a well oiled cookie sheet. Loosely cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap so that the dough surface does not dry out. Let rise in a warm place until the rolls have doubled in size. This may take 2-4 hours.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Bake the rolls on the top rack of the oven for 20-30 minutes until puffed and brown.
It was a cold, blustery day here in the heartland, and I wanted nothing more than something tasty and filling for supper. Determined to create as many cost-effective and healthful dishes as possible, I decided to raid my pantry and freezer for items I preserved last summer. In the dead of winter, a dish prepared with garden produce is good for the soul.
After tossing around a few ideas, I decided on one of my favorites — Cold-Weather Bean Soup. It’s easy to make and such a comforting one-pot meal. Plus, it’s nutritious thanks to frozen garden peppers, home-canned tomatoes, and freshly dug carrots, onions, and garlic. Keep the cold at bay, and read on to find out how to make this wholesome, savory bean soup.
Cold-Weather Bean Soup Recipe
16 oz. organic chili beans (like Eden Foods Organic Chili Beans with Jalapeño and Chili Peppers)
1 pint stewed or diced tomatoes (I use home-canned)
1 cup diced bell pepper
1 cup purple/yellow onion blend
½ cup thinly shredded carrot
1 t. finely minced garlic
½ t. cinnamon
½ t. cracked black pepper
1 T. fresh cilantro (optional)
Organic chili powder and salt to taste
1. Simply combine all ingredients in a pot and let simmer over medium low heat until vegetables are tender, stirring every so often. It usually takes about thirty-forty minutes for vegetables to completely cook.
2. Serve with freshly grated cheese, additional diced onion, chopped cilantro, or crushed crackers/tortilla chips if desired.
You may use dried, soaked, and rinsed kidney beans in place of organic chili beans. I just like the extra flavor that the chili seasoning, jalapeño, and chili peppers provide. I trust the Eden Foods brand because their products are organic, and all packaging is BPA-Free. You can check them out at Eden Foods for a variety of organic goods and seasonings at reasonable prices.
Please note that this recipe can easily be doubled/tripled and stored in freezer safe containers for a future quick meal. To serve, simply thaw in the refrigerator, pour into a pot, and reheat.
Mid-winter is my favorite time to harvest birch for sweet-flavored food and warming beverages. Birch trees are easy to identify in winter thanks to their distinctive bark. The bark is an eye-catching white, or pale yellow, slashed with dark horizontal marks, and frequently found peeling off of the tree in papery strips. Older birch trees may have much darker bark, but the younger branches will still flash silvery pale hues. Check the leaf buds and you'll find that they are alternately arranged on the twigs (in a hand-over-hand pattern rather than in pairs). Birch trees can grow from 30 to 50 feet tall, depending on the species of Betula, but are often shorter. They often grow near water.
Harvesting and Eating Birch
At this time of year, there are three ingredients I get from birch trees: tea from the twigs; a tea, spice, and flour from the inner bark; syrup from the sap.
Although you could prune off a few twigs here and there without harming the birch tree, you probably don't have to. Birch wood tends to be brittle, and smaller branches almost always break off the trees during winter storms. Just look on the ground soon after a storm and collect the windfall. That's also the best way to collect the cambium (inner bark). Take one of the thicker windfall branches and come in at an angle with a pocket knife. As you pare it down in a strip you'll be able to clearly identify the papery outer layer, softer inner bark layer, and hard central wood layer. It's that middle layer you want, but fine if the outer layer is clinging to it. Birch cambium is pale when first exposed to air, but then rapidly becomes a reddish-brown color. Note that stripping bark full circle around the main trunk can kill a tree, which is why I recommend collecting it from storm-broken branches instead. Both the twigs and the inner bark have a light wintergreen scent that is another one of the identification characteristics for birch.
Tapping Birch for Sap and Syrup
Birch trees can be tapped just like maple for their sweet sap, and that sweet sap can be boiled down to make birch syrup. The birch "sugaring" season starts just as the maple-tapping season is tapering off, around late March. The reason you see more maple than birch syrup for sale commercially is that the ratio of sap to syrup is far greater with birch (you need about 100 pints of birch sap to get 1 pint of birch syrup, vs. closer to 40:1 for maple). There is a right and a wrong way to tap trees for sap. Done correctly, the tree will remain healthy and can be tapped again in following years. Done incorrectly, you could kill the tree. Instructions for how to do it right are here.
How to Eat and Drink Birch
Break small twigs into short pieces. Simmer them in water for about 5 minutes. Strain out the twigs and enjoy as a hot beverage. When using the inner bark for tea, don't simmer it as you would the twigs – too much of the aromatic goodness evaporates away. Instead, put some of the inner bark (about a small handful per quart of water) into a heat proof container such as a canning jar. Pour boiling water over, cover, and let steep for 10 – 20 minutes. Strain, briefly reheat if necessary, sweeten if desired. To use the inner bark as a spice or flour, first dry and then grind it. Taste a pinch and decide if you think it is strongly flavored enough to use as a spice, or if you will combine it with other flours in baked goods. Use the syrup in any way that you would maple syrup...but expect a very different, unique, and pleasant taste! Also use it (or the sap) to make birch beer and wine.
Leda Meredith teaches foraging and food preservation skills internationally. You can find out about her upcoming classes and her books, watch her foraging and food preservation videos, and find her food preservation recipes and tips.
This winter I find I have been making a lot of soup for dinner. Soup is very satisfying, and when served with a salad and bread, creates a healthy meal. I had read where you take a variety of mushrooms, and create a Cream of Mushroom soup with them. Of course, by the time I actually decided to try this, I couldn’t find the original recipe, after having bought a mixture of so-called wild mushrooms in a package. There were cremini, oyster, king, but in reality, any mushroom is fine. So then started the hunt for a good recipe.
I turned to an ancient set of cookbooks given to my by my mother when I was first married, called the Doubleday Cookbook by Jean Anderson and Elaine Hanna, but in reality is a two book set. Just about anything you could ever ask for is in this two volume set. I’ve never seen it for sale anywhere, and suspect my mother got them through one of the popular book clubs available at the time. Of course, there was a recipe for "Deluxe Cream of Mushroom Soup," with the recipe itself being the essence of ease. Believe me, after trying this, you will never open a can of Campbell’s again. Here’s what the company of Anderson and Hanna came up with, with embellishments by Sue.
(Anderson's and Hanna's) Cream of Mushroom Soup Recipe
¾ lb of mushrooms, wiped clean and minced (feel free to use 1 lb, I did)
2 tbsp butter (no substitute)
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 ½ cups chicken broth, preferably homemade. A veggie broth can also be used.
1½ cups light cream (or half and half)
½ tsp salt or to taste
1/8 tsp white pepper
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
3 tbsp sherry (I think it adds a good flavor), but optional
I ran the mushrooms through the food processor first, but feel free to chop by hand. Saute the mushrooms in a large saucepan with the butter until soft. Blend in your cornstarch, add broth, and heat, stirring 3-4 minutes. Cover and simmer 12-15 minutes on the lowest heat, stirring occasionally. Puree half the mixture in a blender, etc., I used the food processor again. Return to the pan to heat. Add your remaining ingredients and heat ‘til warm. I splashed in some sherry, but make sure to use a good quality sherry, as cooking sherry will have too much salt.
Serve this with a crusty bread and a green salad, voila! Dinner is served.
The authors also suggest a more low cal version, eliminating the butter and cornstarch, and substituting the cream with skim milk. I can’t vouch for this, but if you’re watching your waistline, you might want to try it. You’d have to eliminate the sherry too.
This recipe is a gateway recipe to the wonderful world of homemade pizza. It is simple and delicious. It has plenty of flexibility for cooks at any level to grow into, learn from, experiment with, and/or hone their dough-making skills.This recipe is a hybrid of classic and quick recipes that I have adapted to fit my busy family’s lifestyle. The sky is the limit with this recipe: extra spices add flare, cast iron / deep dish pizza become a regular joy, calzones become a possibility — you name it.
The main aspect of what makes this so great is the short learning curve (due to the small number of steps). Mastering this basic recipe boosts confidence in the kitchen, provides a go-to meal when the cupboards start to empty, and opens up a world of culinary experimentation, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Without further adieu...
Basic Pizza Dough Recipe
Tools: Large bowl with non-airtight cover (I usually use a dish cloth), cookie sheet or pizza stone, measuring cups and spoons, cheese grater, large spoon or ladle.
Ingredients for dough
1 cup warm water
1.5 tbsp. (1 pkg.) dry active yeast
1 tsp. sugar
2.5 cups white unbleached flour
2 tbsp. olive oil
1-2 extra tbsp. of olive oil
In a large mixing bowl, combine water, yeast and sugar. Place the cover on the bowl and let it sit for at least 10 minutes.* Add salt to the flour, then add the combination to the yeast mixture, followed by 2 tbsp of olive oil. Stir the ingredients with wet hands or a wooden spoon. Mix until there is no more dry flour or lumps in the dough. An additional splash or two of water is sometimes necessary. Cover the dough and let sit for at least 10 minutes.* Begin preheating oven at 425 degrees. Before removing the dough from the bowl, pour a light coating of the extra olive oil onto the pizza stone/baking sheet. Remove dough from the bowl, and place it in a ball on the pizza stone/baking sheet. With wet hands, roll the dough in the olive oil so the outside is lightly coated. Start flattening the dough with either wet hands or a rolling pin. It is important that there are no space or holes in the dough once it is laid out.** When the dough has been worked to the thickness and shape of your liking, you are ready to make pizza.
*The longer you can wait for the yeast and dough to rise, the lighter and (in my opinion) tastier it will be. This recipe can have dough ready in 20 minutes: 10 minutes for the yeast to activate, 10 minutes for the dough to rise. I have found the best mix of taste-improvement and waiting time is: 20 minutes for the yeast to activate, 25 minutes for the dough to rise. This is where the versatility of this recipe shines. A good dough is created quickly, an even better dough results from taking it a little slower.
**This is step is hard to give direction on as to what the dough should look like. Here is where you can make your pizza as thick or as thin as you want it. Decisions need to be made whether to roll up a traditional handle-type crust around the outside or have cheese and toppings from coast to coast. This step is also very satisfying when done efficiently, usually after making a few attempts/mistakes.
The Rest of the Pizza
Once the dough is made, there can be no guidance on what to do next. Extra cheese, no sauce, extra sauce, meatlovers, veggie-lovers, whatever. Now that the dough is made, it’s all about the cook’s decisions from here on out. Just to bring this particular project to a close, I chose to go the veggie route. I used:
1 cup pizza sauce
8 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
½ green pepper, diced
1 small onion, diced
1 medium tomato, diced
Spread the sauce around the dough as evenly as desired. Sprinkle cheese evenly on top of the sauce. Add toppings.
Put in oven (preheated at 425) for 23-25 minutes.
Allow 5-7 minutes cooling once the pizza is out. The cooking process is not complete until after it cools. Enjoy!
Try this recipe once, twice, three times, and, in no time, homemade pizza is part of your routine menu planning.
Why do we strive to eat like lords when humble peasant dishes are so tasty?
Last week we celebrated Greek food over on my Mediterranean food blog, and I wanted to make some authentic bread to go with the olives, Feta and stuffed pies. This old-fashioned peasant bread was the perfect recipe.
At least 90% of my bread making is sourdough based. I prefer the flavor that sourdough imparts, and find most straight dough breads a bit insipid. But not Greek Country Bread. This heavy artisan bread is full of flavor, and will be ready by dinnertime if you start right now!
The unexpected flavor comes from good quality honey and olive oil, and barley flour. Barley flour is high in fiber and adds a rich nutty flavor to the bread. You can find barley flour at your local health food or natural foods store, or online.
As with many of my Mediterranean style recipes, inspiration came from one of my favorite cookbooks, Mediterranean Harvest by Martha Rose Shulman.
Greek Country Bread Recipe
3 cups hi-gluten bread flour
2 1/3 cups barley flour
1 tbsp active dry yeast
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
1 ½ - 2 cups lukewarm water
Add all ingredients to a large bowl, or a stand mixer bowl. Mix well to combine. Knead by hand until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes, or using a stand mixer for 5 to 8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place until almost doubled, about 2 hours. Gently fold to deflate. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a floured brotform.*
*Although I wanted the bread to be round, I did not want it to have the concentric brotform circles. So I first lined the brotform with a piece of parchment paper. You could also shape the dough into a free-form oval. Cover and let rise 1½ to 2 hours or until doubled.
Baking the Bread
Preheat oven and baking stone to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Gently flip the bread out of the brotform and onto a parchment lined peel. Score the round with a sharp knife. Slide the loaf onto the baking stone and bake for 25 - 40 minutes, or until interior temperature reaches 200 degrees. Remove from oven and let cool for up to an hour before slicing.
The traditional way to serve Greek Country Bread is with Feta, olives, and maybe a sliced, ripe tomato. Sounds like the perfect meal to me. The bread interior may seem almost undercooked. This is in part, due to the barley flour, a low-gluten, high fiber flour that lends itself to a dense, filling bread. In other words, the perfect medieval peasant bread is still perfect centuries later, for all of us.
While searching through the thousands of recipes I've clipped over the past couple of decades, I recently came across this one for "Yogurt Waffles". I was intrigued, because I happened to have A LOT of yogurt in the fridge that needed to be used up. Since it said it only made six waffles (and did I mention I had a lot of yogurt?), I quadrupled the recipe and proceeded to spend the afternoon glued to the waffle-maker. Initially, I was concerned, as this is a very light batter unlike any I had ever made. However, when all was said and done, I ended up with forty-six waffles of golden goodness. Crispy on the outside, tender on the inside ... my girls absolutely loved them. I did use some whole wheat flour instead of all purpose, and next time I'll probably use all whole wheat.
I stopped buying processed cereals a long time ago, so we are always looking for quick and easy breakfasts. The beautiful thing about waffles (and pancakes, too) is that they freeze really well and are so easy to pop into the toaster on hectic mornings. Cool them thoroughly after they come out of the waffle maker and then place them in freezer bags and freeze (if you package them while they are warm, they get steamy, soggy and, eventually, icy).
We are extra fortunate in that my Dad keeps us well supplied with his own maple syrup, so of course that's how the kids choose to top them. But these would pair well with fresh fruit, yogurt, canned fruit, apple cider syrup, you name it!
If you don't have a waffle-maker on hand, I encourage you to keep your eyes peeled at thrift stores or yard sales. I am definitely not one to recommend kitchen gadgets that take up precious cupboard space, but I think you might be surprised at how often you'll use it.