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Posts Tagged ‘Bread’

Cornbread Two Ways

It’s good to be back after an inadvertent eighteen-month hiatus from blogging!  I have no terrible or fantastical reason for being away so long.  Life just got very busy, and as I continually rearranged things on my plate to devote enough time to the day-to-day priorities of my life or to make room for new activities or experiences, I found that I simply did not have a big enough plate for all of the things I wanted to fit on it. I found, however, that I missed the experience of blogging and of being an active participant in a very awesome and active online foodie community. When I read about Vegan MoFo 2010 and realized that for the first time I was not too late to jump on board, I decided to take advantage of a perfect opportunity to jump back into this site and to once again have fun sharing my experiences in the kitchen.  I’ve signed up for Vegan MoFo and look forward to gaining momentum throughout the month. While I recognize my limitations (!) and will not attempt to post every day, I will post frequently, so please be sure to check back often!  Now, onto the food …

As we move into the holiday season we suddenly have reasons and happy excuses to make all of the side dishes that we may lazily ignore the rest of the year.  Bread climbs right to the top of that list for me at this time of year. Who doesn’t love home made bread?  (But who always has the time to bake a loaf while tending to the rest of dinner?) Cornbread is a quick way to add delicious homemade bread to a meal, and it readily pairs with thick autumnal soups and stews.  I also love it because it is so easily customizable – just add your favorite herbs or additions and you have endless (easy!) possibilities.  Below I have shared recipes for Caramelized Onion and Rosemary Corn Bread and a more classic Jalapeño Cheddar Corn Bread.

The first recipe came about because I love caramelized onions.  They are so simple to make: all that is required is patience.  They add a beautiful depth of rich flavor to any number of meals.  I like to make a large batch and keep some on hand in the refrigerator to add to soups, sandwiches, or vegetable dishes.  They elevate simple corn bread to a sophisticated side dish, and they pair nicely with the rosemary, but feel free to experiment with your favorite fresh herbs.

For the more traditional version of cornbread, I used Daiya Cheddar Style Shreds.  I have never made liberal use of vegan cheeses, mostly because the flavor and texture turn off my taste buds.  I have found with Daiya, however, that I like its creaminess and flavor in traditional comfort foods liked “grilled cheese” and “pizza” on the infrequent occasions that I order those items (mostly at Whole Foods hot bars when traveling).   It works really well in this recipe because it melts into the batter well and is complimented by the spiciness of the jalapeño.  (If anyone has any opinions about or successes with Daiya cheese, I’d love to hear about in the comments!).

Enjoy!

 

 

Caramelized Onion and Rosemary Corn Bread

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 ¼ cup corn meal
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
1 cup almond milk
¼ cup canola oil
3 tbsp melted Earth Balance butter
3 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped

1.    Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium heat.  Add the onions and stir often until they begin to become soft and translucent, about 10-15 minutes.  Turn the heat down a bit and continue to cook the onion for 30-45 more minutes, stirring often, until the onions have turned a deep, golden brown.  Remove from heat.
2.    Pre-heat the oven to 400F.  Lightly grease an 8×8” baking pan.  Whisk together the dry ingredients in a medium sized mixing bowl.  Add the almond milk, oil, and melted butter and stir until well blended.  Fold in the onions and rosemary.
3.    Spread the batter into the pan and bake for approximately 20 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Allow to cool slightly in the pan on a rack before serving.

 

 

Jalapeño and Cheddar Corn Bread

1 ¼ cup corn meal
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
1 cup almond milk
¼ cup canola oil
3 tbsp melted Earth Balance butter
1/3 cup Daiya cheddar
1 green jalapeño, diced

1.    Pre-heat the oven to 400F.  Lightly grease an 8×8” baking pan.  Whisk together the dry ingredients in a medium sized mixing bowl.  Add the almond milk, oil, and melted butter and stir until well blended.  Fold in the Daiya cheddar and jalapeño.
2.    Spread the batter into the pan and bake for approximately 20 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Allow to cool slightly in the pan on a rack before serving.

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Naan

I love Indian food.  I first experienced Indian food in a small restaurant in Elyria, Ohio.   My friends Gitta and Heidi introduced it to me during the second semester of our freshman year at Oberlin.  That semester, I managed to bring my car to campus, despite restrictions on first years having their cars at school, we began to go on “big adventures” (as they seemed in those days) into the small towns that dotted the rural Ohio landscape southwest of Cleveland.  Once or twice a semester we would make it up to the big city, mostly to go to Coventry to shop, watch a movie at the cool little theater that would refrigerate your leftovers and feed your meter during the movie, and to eat some good Indian food.

I lived in Boston twice for two short periods of time (about six months in total) and continued the love affair with Indian food that I had started in college.  Boston is home to some incredible Indian restaurants.  I very distinctly remember taking my first spoonful of a bowl of soup in an Indian restaurant in Brookline and, for the first time, fully understanding the meaning of “layering of flavors” as a multitude of flavors exploded on my tongue, one after another.  There was also an Indian restaurant in Coolidge Corner that was quite good, and another two in Harvard Square that I enjoyed, as well.

The second time that I lived in Boston, the summer just after graduation, I roomed with my friend, Liz, who had spent a life-changing semester abroad in India during college.  There were several Saturdays that summer spent in the kitchen making our own Indian dishes.  This was when the idea of home cooked Indian food because more accessible to me, and I began to develop a sense of how I could recreate some of these dishes on my own.

Fast forward to now.  I live on an island that until recently did not have an Indian restaurant of its own.  I would try to get my fill on trips to the Mainland, but Indian restaurants can sometimes be tricky for the vegan to navigate because many dishes are made with cream or yoghurt.  The ones that are amenable to vegan diets are willing to mark the dairy-free items on the menu or happily point them out to you.  While this makes eating in such places much less difficult, it still limits one to a few items on the otherwise expansive menu.  So, over the years, I’ve amassed several Indian cookbooks and have begun to rely on what I can improvise in my own kitchen.

Last week I was feeling the urge for a full Indian spread for dinner, and for me that included naan.  Naan is a leavened bread popular in North India.  This bread is traditionally baked in a tandoor (clay oven).  Tandoors get very hot, and it can be difficult to recreate the heat and cooking environment of a tandoor in a home kitchen.  As I considered this dilemma, I remembered a book I had glanced through about vegan grilling, which contained a chapter on breads.  Grills get very hot …. perhaps they could better mimic a tandoor than my oven could?

My mind was made up – I decided to bake my naan on our outdoor grill.  I adapted the naan recipe in The Food of India to make a vegan version and, after letting it rise for several hours, I divided the dough into five balls and stretched them all out into small disks.  I then brushed each side of the disks with canola oil, fired up the grill, and baked bread.  It took, in total, less than four minutes to bake up, and it tasted fantastic.  The texture was not identical to what you get in an Indian restaurant, but oh my goodness it was good.  And, I must admit, it felt pretty awesome to bake bread on a grill, like I had tapped into my inner (vegan) Bobby Flay.  I feel inspired to apply this newfound knowledge of grill-baking to other projects in the future!

Naan

2 ¼ cups flour
2/3 cup soy milk
1 tsp active dry yeast
¼ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
¼ cup canola oil
1 6oz container plain soy yogurt

1.    Place the flour, yeast, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl.

2.    Heat the soy milk in a saucepan until warm.  Ina separate bowl,  whisk the yogurt and oil until well combined.

3.    Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the milk. Stir, and then add the yogurt mixture.   Mix well.

4.    Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.  Add more flour if the dough is too sticky.  Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover, and let rise for 2-3 hours.

5.    Punch down the dough, divide into five balls, and stretch out into thin disks.  Brush each side with canola oil, and stack the prepared disks on a plate.  Bake the disks on a grill over medium flame/heat until the tops are puffy and the bottoms have begun to brown (about 2 minutes), flip and bake for an additional 1 ½ – 2 minutes.

Naan getting puffy

Naan getting puffy

Naan browned

Naan browned

Naan ready for dinner

Naan ready for dinner

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Hawaii has many, many bananas.  Anyone who has ever lived here can attest to the bounty of banana trees that permeate the yards and gardens of the islands.  Banana trees are incredibly low maintenance to grow, but they are high maintenance to maintain.  They grow prolifically in the mineral rich Hawaiian soil, full tropical sun, and Pacific rains, which is  exactly the challenge of attempting to tame them – they get big, bushy, and can take over if you’re not careful.  Most households with banana trees also have their banana tree machete to keep the trees at bay, to chop down the bunches of bananas when they are ready, and to hack away the trees that are past their prime.  We used to have banana trees of our own when we first moved to Maui, but now we are just the happy beneficiaries of the fruits of our neighbor’s banana tree labors.

This abundance of bananas explains Hawaii’s abundance of banana bread recipes.  As you drive along any rural road in the islands you will encounter numerous road side stands and shops selling auntie’s or uncle’s homemade banana bread – guaranteed to be the best in the islands.  Everyone has their favorite.  Over the years, I have amassed a large number of banana bread recipes in my recipe binder and I happily have plenty of opportunities to try them all out.

 

 

I made this bread last week when we were gifted with a large bunch of bananas from our friend who lives next door.  It has a particularly tropical flair due to the addition of coconut, lime, and macadamia nuts.  It was adapted from an old Cooking Light recipe.  If you want to take it a  step further and dress it up for dessert, you can quickly whisk together some confectioners sugar and lime juice to create a glaze to spoon over top of warm slices;  garnish with coconut and sliced mac nuts and – voila! – fancy dessert.   Personally, I like mine plain and simple, but I will warm up a slice in the microwave and smear a bit of warm soy butter over it to enjoy for breakfast before skipping out the door to work.   The beauty of banana bread, in my opinion, is in its versatility.

 

 

Coconut, Lime, and Macadamia Nut Banana Bread
Makes 1 loaf

2 cups flour
¾ tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup soy butter or margarine
1/8 cup canola oil
3-4 mashed bananas
¼ cup vanilla soy yogurt
3 tbsp spiced rum
3 tbsp lime juice
½ tsp vanilla
½ cup unsweetened flaked coconut
½ cup chopped macadamia nuts

Extra flaked coconut to sprinkle on the top of the loaf

1.    Preheat oven to 350F.

2.    Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and set aside.

3.    Cream together the soy butter/margarine and sugar with a mixer, then add the oil and mix until well combined.  Add in the banana, soy yogurt, rum, lime juice, and vanilla and mix until blended.  Add the flour mixture and mix at a low speed until just combined.  Stir in the coconut and macadamia nuts.

4.    Pour the batter into a 9×5 inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray and sprinkle the top of the loaf with the extra flaked coconut.  Bake for 50-60 minutes, until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

5.    Cool for 10 minutes in the pan on a wire rack before removing from pan.

 

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St. Patrick’s Day could be summed up as such for me: finding new and interesting ways of using Guinness in the kitchen. (I posted this without the knowledge that Guinness is not, in fact, vegan (thank you, Romina!)  For more on this, please read the comments for this post … and, for you vegans, here is a link to a list of vegan beers to help you find an alternative to Guinness) For the last couple of years I’ve rested on the laurels of Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes, which probably would have made yet another appearance this year had I not still been in sugar overload recovery from Dan’s birthday a week ago. This year I decided that I wanted to make something more savory, so I researched different traditional Irish entrees and quickly came to realize that the culinary influences from the Emerald Isle have not made their way into my cooking. Colcannon, corned beef and cabbage, corned beef hash, and even shepherd’s pie are all strangers to my kitchen. After careful consideration, I finally settled upon a Guinness and beef stew recipe from the Food Network and a brown Irish soda bread recipe from Cooking Light to veganize (the shepherd’s pie will just have to wait). Below I have copied the recipes directly from their origins and edited them to reflect my adaptations. These two recipes make a wonderful and satisfying dinner for any night, not just St. Patty’s Day, so eat up!

Erin Go Bragh!

Seitan and Guinness Stew
Adapted from Food Network

2 cups seitan, coarsely chopped
1 ½ tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp flour
Salt & pepper
Pinch of cayenne
1 onion, coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp tomato paste, mixed with 4 tbsp water
1 ½ cups Guinness
3 carrots, large dice
2 Yukon gold potatoes, large dice
1 sprig thyme
Chopped parsley, for garnish

1. Toss the seitan with ½ tablespoon of the oil. In a small bowl, season the flour with salt, pepper, and cayenne. Toss the seitan with the seasoned flour.

2. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a Dutch oven over high heat. Brown the seitan for five minutes. Reduce the heat, add the onions, crushed garlic and tomato paste mixture to the pot, cover, and cook gently for 5 minutes.

3. Pour the Guinness into the pot. Bring the Guinness to a boil, then add the carrots, potatoes, and thyme leaves. Stir and adjust seasonings.

4. Cover the pot and simmer over low heat for 1 ½ hours. Garnish with parsley and serve.

Brown Irish Soda Bread
Adapted from Cooking Light2 cups whole wheat flour
1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chilled Earth Balance butter, cut into small pieces
1 1/4 cups soymilk, mixed with 1 ¼ tbsp apple cider vinegar1. Preheat oven to 350°. Mix the vinegar with the soymilk and set aside. Lightly spoon flours into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine whole wheat flour and next 6 ingredients (whole wheat flour through salt) in a large bowl; cut in Earth Balance butter with a pastry blender or 2 knives. Make a well in center of flour mixture; add the soymilk mixture. Stir just until moist.2. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead lightly 5 or 6 times. Pat dough into an 8-inch circle on a baking sheet lightly coated with cooking spray. Using a sharp knife, score dough by making 2 lengthwise cuts 1/4 inch deep across the top of the loaf to form an X. Bake at 350° for 35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Cut into 12 wedges.

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Easter Tea Ring

It has been a week since my last post and I offer my apologies.  It has been a hectic few weeks at work and, as a result, I have not been spending much time in the kitchen.  Today is finally a day off but, along with the culinary endeavors, many other things have been neglected, as well, so today is one of those “productive” days off.  It is still Sunday, however, which always deserves a special breakfast.

As you may recall, I rang in 2008 with a New Year’s Pretzel and froze half of the dough for later use.  Yesterday I pulled that dough out of the freezer and let it defrost in the refrigerator so that we could enjoy an almost ready-made breakfast this morning.  My bread baking cookbook, The Cook’s Encyclopedia of Bread Machine Baking by Jennie Shapter, has a recipe that I’ve had my eye on for some time: an Easter Tea Ring.  I decided to make the tea ring today because Dan and I won’t be home for Easter – we’ll be leaving on Saturday to spend six days on Kauai.

The book’s version calls for a dried fruit and pecan filling, which I replaced with fresh berries and sliced almonds.  I also subbed in the sweet dough from the New Year’s Pretzel.  I was able to quickly roll out the dough, fill it, and set it aside to rise for thirty minutes, during which time I weeded out a spot behind the cottage for a new garden plot.  Then I popped it into the oven to bake for 30 minutes, during which time I uncluttered the cottage.  We then enjoyed the tea ring with a pot of Earl Grey tea on the back deck.    This recipe is very easily adaptable to whatever you want to fill it with – be creative!

Easter Tea Ring
Adapted from The Cook’s Encyclopedia of Bread Machine Baking

½ recipe of New Year’s Pretzel dough
1 tbsp + 1 tsp Earth Balance butter
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/3 cup sliced almonds
¼ cu shredded coconut
¼ cup golden raisins
½ cup fresh blueberries

3 tbsp powdered sugar
1 tbsp orange juice
Sliced almonds for decoration

1.    Place the dough on a floured surface and roll it out to a 12” by 18” rectangle.
2.    Melt the Earth Balance butter and brush it over the dough.  Sprinkle the sugar, cinnamon, almonds, coconut, raisins, and blueberries evenly over the dough.
3.    Starting from one long end, rollup the dough (just like when making a jelly roll).  Turn the dough, if necessary, to ensure that the seam is on the bottom.
4.    Curl the dough into a circle, brush the ends with the remained of the EB, and press together to seal.  Place the ring on a lightly oiled baking sheet.
5.    Use a pair of scissors to snip through the circle at 1 ½ – 2” intervals, making sure to cut 2/3rds of the way through the dough each time.
6.    Cover the dough with lightly oiled plastic and leave it in a warm place for about 30 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 400F.
7.    Bake the ring for 25-30 minutes, until golden.  Cool on a wire rack.
8.    While the ring is still warm, make the glaze by mixing together the powdered sugar and orange juice.  Place a sheet of wax paper under your cooling rack to catch any dripping glaze.  Drizzle the glaze over the ring and sprinkle with sliced almonds.
 We also had an unexpected visitor drop by for breakfast this morning:

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This month I’ve joined the renegade web-based baking group known as the Daring Bakers, and my first official challenge was French Bread. When I read “Bread” in the title of the challenge post, I though “how challenging can this be?” Then I scrolled through the 14 page (12 point font!) Julia Child recipe and wondered “What have I gotten myself into?”

The recipe itself, while it is an all day endeavor, is not labor intensive – it involves lots of rising time with intermittent spurts of active working of the dough. I made the bread last Saturday and had to arrange all of my errands and outings around the various stages of the recipe. While the bread was baking I was simultaneously congratulating myself for completing my first Daring Bakers challenge, hoping that my loaves would come out looking like loaves, and deciding that I would most definitely not be again making what I was affectionately calling “all day bread”. After I pulled my two loaves out of the oven, I defied the part of the recipe that dictated a 3-4 hour wait time before breaking bread. I immediately served one loaf for dinner that night, but I let the other loaf rest for the required amount of time. Both of them were delicious. Incredible, in fact. Dan swooned over it like I had served him the greatest thing since sliced bread. (OK, OK! I know. I KNOW. Please stop throwing rotten tomatoes my way …) Uh-oh. Maybe I shouldn’t have let him have at the bread? Because now I feel obligated to not deprive him of what he has proclaimed to be the most amazing bread he has ever had. And believe me – this man loves him some bread. He knows his stuff.

The original recipe, in all of its glory, includes many different variations for how to make the bread (by Kitchen Aid stand up mixer or by hand) and how to shape the bread. I kneaded by hand and made two medium sized loaves, so those are the parts of the recipe that I will post below. Additionally the originally recipe called for the bread to be baked in canvas. I did not have any canvas so I baked my loaves freeform on a baking sheet and crossed my fingers. Happily, my loaves came out very pretty and loaf-like.

The loaf

Julia Child’s French Bread

1 package dry active yeast
1/3 cup warm water, not over 100 degrees F in a glass measure
3 1/2 cup (about 1 lb) all purpose flour, measured by scooping dry measure cups into flour and sweeping off excess
2 1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups tepid water at 70 – 74 degrees

1: The Dough Mixture – le fraisage (or frasage)
Stir the yeast in the 1/3 cup warm water and let liquefy completely while measuring flour into mixing bowl. When yeast has liquefied, pour it into the flour along with the salt and the rest of the water. Stir and cut the liquids into the flour with a rubber spatula, pressing firmly to form a dough and making sure that all the bits of flour and unmassed pieces are gathered in. Turn dough out onto kneading surface, scraping bowl clean. Dough will be soft and sticky.

Depending the humidity and temperature of your kitchen and the type of AP flour your use, you may need to add additional flour or water to the dough. To decide if this is necessary, we recommend stopping during the mixing process and push at your dough ball. If the dough is super sticky, add additional flour one handful at a time until the dough is slightly sticky and tacky but not dry. (Note: I needed to add extra flour)  If the dough is dry and feels hard, add 1 Tbsp of water a time until the dough is soft and slightly sticky.

Turn dough out onto kneading surface, scraping bowl clean. Dough will be soft and sticky. Let the dough rest for 2 – 3 minutes while you wash and dry the bowl.

2: Kneading – petrissage
The flour will have absorbed the liquid during this short rest, and the dough will have a little more cohesion for the kneading that is about to begin. Use one hand only for kneading and keep the other clean to hold a pastry scrapper, to dip out extra flour, to answer the telephone, and so forth. Your object in kneading is to render the dough perfectly smooth and to work it sufficiently so that all the gluten molecules are moistened and joined together into an interlocking web. You cannot see this happen, of course, but you can feel it because the dough will become elastic and will retract into shape when you push it out.

Start kneading by lifting the near edge of the dough, using a pastry scraper or stiff wide spatula to help you if necessary, and flipping the dough over onto itself. Scrape dough off the surface and slap it down; lift edge and flip it over again, repeating the movement rapidly.  In 2 -3 minutes the dough should have enough body so that you can give it a quick forward push with the heel of your hand as you flip it over. Continue to knead rapidly and vigorously in this way. If the dough remains too sticky, knead in a sprinkling of flour. The whole kneading process will take 5 – 10 minutes, depending on how expert you become.  Shortly after this point, the dough should have developed enough elasticity so it draws back into shape when pushed, indicating the gluten molecules have united and are under tension like a thin web of rubber; the dough should also begin to clean itself off the kneading surface, although it will stick to your fingers if you hold a pinch of dough for more than a second or two.

Let dough rest for 3 – 4 minutes. Knead by hand for a minute. The surface should now look smooth; the dough will be less sticky but will still remain soft. It is now ready for its first rise.

3: First Rising – pointage premier temps (3-5 hours at around 70 degrees)
You now have approximately 3 cups of dough that is to rise to 3 1/2 times its original volume, or to about 10 1/2 cups. Wash and fill the mixing bowl with 10 1/2 cups of tepid water (70 – 80 degrees) and make a mark to indicate that level on the outside of the bowl. Note, that the bowl should have fairly upright sides; if they are too outward slanting, the dough will have difficulty in rising. Pour out the water, dry the bowl, and place the dough in it.  Very lightly grease the bowl with butter or kitchen spray as well to prevent the risen dough from sticking to the bowl.

Slip the bowl into a large plastic bag or cover with plastic, and top with a folded bath towel. Set on a wooden surface, marble or stone are too cold. Or on a folded towel or pillow, and let rise free from drafts anyplace where the temperature is around 70 degrees. If the room is too hot, set bowl in water and keep renewing water to maintain around 70 degrees. Dough should take at least 3 – 4 hours to rise to 10 1/2 cups. If temperature is lower than 70 degrees, it will simply take longer.

When fully risen, the dough will be humped into a slight dome, showing that the yeast is still active; it will be light and spongy when pressed. There will usually be some big bubbly blisters on the surface, and if you are using a glass bowl you will see bubbles through the glass.

4: Deflating and Second Rising – rupture; pointage deuxieme temps (1 1/2 to 2 hours at around 70 degrees)
The dough is now ready to be deflated, which will release the yeast engendered gases and redistribute the yeast cells so that the dough will rise again and continue the fermentation process.

With a rubber spatula, dislodge dough from inside of bowl and turn out onto a lightly floured surface, scraping bowl clean. If dough seems damp and sweaty, sprinkle with a tablespoon of flour.

Lightly flour the palms of your hands and flatten the dough firmly but not too roughly into a circle, deflating any gas bubbles by pinching them.   Lift a corner of the near side and flip it down on the far side. Do the same with the left side, then the right side. Finally, lift the near side and tuck it just under the edge of the far side. The mass of dough will look like a rounded cushion.  Slip the sides of your hands under the dough and return it to the bowl. Cover and let rise again, this time to not quite triple, but again until it is dome shaped and light and spongy when touched.  You may need to lightly re-grease your bowl and plastic wrap for the second rise to prevent sticking.

5: Cutting and resting dough before forming loaves
Loosen dough all around inside of bowl and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Because of its two long rises, the dough will have much more body. If it seems damp and sweaty, sprinkle lightly with flour.

Making clean, sure cuts with a large knife or a bench scraper, divide the dough into:
2 equal pieces for medium round loaves (pain de menage or miche only)
After you have cut each piece, lift one end and flip it over onto the opposite end to fold the dough into two; place dough at far side of kneading surface. Cover loosely with a sheet of plastic and let rest for 5 minutes before forming. This relaxes the gluten enough for shaping but not long enough for dough to begin rising again.

While the dough is resting, prepare the rising surface: rub flour thoroughly into the entire surface of a large tray or baking sheet to prevent the dough from sticking

Step 6: Forming the loaves – la tourne; la mise en forme des patons
Because French bread stands free in the oven and is not baked in a pan, it has to be formed in such a way that the tension of the coagulated gluten cloak on the surface will hold the dough in shape.

For Small, Medium, or Large Round Loaves – Pain de Menage, Miches, Boules: The object here is to force the cloak of coagulated gluten to hold the ball of dough in shape: the first movement will make cushion; the second will seal and round the ball, establishing surface tension.

Place the dough on a lightly floured surface.  Lift the left side of the dough with the side of your left hand and bring it down almost to the right side.  Scoop up the right side and push it back almost to the left side. Turn the dough a quarter turn clockwise and repeat the movement 8 – 10 times. The movement gradually smooths the bottom of the dough and establishes the necessary surface tension; think of the surface of the dough as if it were a fine sheet of rubber you were stretching in every direction.

Turn the dough smooth side up and begin rotating it between the palms of your hands, tucking a bit of the dough under the ball as you rotate it. In a dozen turns you should have a neatly shaped ball with a little pucker of dough, le cle, underneath where all the edges have joined together.  Place the dough pucker side up on a flour-rubbed tray or baking sheet; seal the pucker by pinching with your fingers. Flour lightly, cover loosely and let rise to almost triple its size. After turning upside down on the baking sheet, slash with either a long central slash, two long central slashes that cross at right angles, or a semi-circular slash around half the circumference.

7: Final Rise – l’appret – 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours at around 70 degrees
The covered dough is now to rise until almost triple in volume; look carefully at its pre-risen size so that you will be able to judge correctly. It will be light and swollen when risen, but will still feel a little springy when pressed.  It is important that the final rise take place where it is dry; if your kitchen is damp, hot, and steamy, let the bread rise in another room or dough will stick to the canvas and you will have difficulty getting it off and onto another baking sheet. It will turn into bread in the oven whatever happens, but you will have an easier time and a better loaf if you aim for ideal conditions.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees about 30 minutes before estimated baking time.

Step 8: Preparing for Baking
Turn the loaves upside down on the baking sheet. The reason for this reversal is that the present top of the dough has crusted over during its rise; the smooth, soft underside should be uppermost in the oven so that the dough can expand and allow the loaf its final puff of volume.

9: Slashing top of the dough – la coupe.
The top of each piece of dough is now to be slashed in several places. This opens the covering cloak of gluten and allows a bulge of dough underneath to swell up through the cuts during the first 10 minutes of baking, making decorative patterns in the crust. These are done with a blade that cuts almost horizontally into the dough to a depth of less than half an inch. Start the cut at the middle of the blade, drawing toward you in a swift clean sweep. This is not quite as easy as it sounds, and you will probably make ragged cuts at first; never mind, you will improve with practice. Use an ordinary razor blade and slide one side of it into a cork for safety; or buy a barbers straight razor at a cutlery store.

10: Baking – about 25 minutes; oven preheated to 450 degrees (230 degrees C).
As soon as the dough has been slashed, moisten the surface either by painting with a soft brush dipped in cold water, or with a fine spray atomizer, and slide the baking sheet onto rack in upper third of preheated oven. Rapidly paint or spray dough with cold water after 3 minutes, again in 3 minutes, and a final time 3 minutes later. Moistening the dough at this point helps the crust to brown and allows the yeast action to continue in the dough a little longer. The bread should be done in about 25 minutes; the crust will be crisp, and the bread will make a hollow sound when thumped.

If you want the crust to shine, paint lightly with a brush dipped in cold water as soon as you slide the baking sheet out of oven.

11: Cooling – 2 to 3 hours.
If you do not let the French bread cool, the bread will be doughy and the crust will be soft. If you want to have warm French bread, re-heat the bread after it has cooled in a 400 degree oven, uncovered and directly on the oven rack for 10 – 12 minutes.

Cool the bread on a rack or set it upright in a basket or large bowl so that air can circulate freely around each piece. Although bread is always exciting to eat fresh from the oven, it will have a much better taste when the inside is thoroughly cool and has composed itself.

12: Storing French bread
Because it contains no fats or preservatives of any kind, French bread is at its best when eaten the day it is baked. It will keep for a day or two longer, wrapped airtight and refrigerated, but it will keep best if you freeze it – let the loaves cool first, then wrap airtight. To thaw, unwrap and place on a baking sheet in a cold oven; heat the oven to 400 degrees. In about 20 minutes the crust will be hot and crisp, and the bread thawed. The French, of course, never heat French bread except possibly on Monday, the baker’s holiday, when the bread is a day old.

The Inside Shot

 

Served with sliced yellow pear tomatoes from the garden, drizzled with olive oil that has been pureed
with basil and mint, and sprinkled with salt and pepper.

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This is one recipe two different ways. And yes, it is yet another recipe featuring the banana-cranberry duo. What can I say? I live in Hawai’i – that means I almost always have bananas sitting on my kitchen counter. I also still have those bags of cranberries lingering in my freezer, which are a constant reminder of my gluttonous hording every time I open the freezer door. Consider these cranberry recipes my penance, an attempt to atone for my rapacious behaviors. Happily, cranberries add a lovely burst of tart to what could otherwise become overly sweet concoctions.
I used this particular recipe to first make muffins and to then make a loaf of bread. I adjusted the recipe slightly from the muffins to the loaf, including the addition of chocolate chips to the loaf (mmmMMMmmmmm … you can’t go wrong with chocolate, bananas, cranberries, and walnuts ….) Before we get started with the recipe, however, I think that I should take a step back for a moment and explain some of my ingredient choices, which are certainly recurring items in my baked goods.
Vegan baking is decidedly different from the traditional form of baking in that it excludes that universal binder: eggs. Replacing other dairy items – milk, butter, and even cheese is easy given the abundance and wide availability of soy, nut, rice, and oat milks, soy butter (my favorite being Earth Balance), and soy cheeses such as Tofutti cream cheese. Eggs are the only things for which there is not a direct replacement. Eggs serve two purposes in baking: they bind together ingredients and they add moisture. There are many egg replacement options for vegan baking, including egg replacers such as Ener-G Egg Replacer, apple sauce, bananas, oil, and soy yogurt. I almost always use soy yogurt as I find it adds tremendously good moisture to baked goods (and it helps to avoid what is commonly referred to as “the vegan texture” – baked goods that are dense, dry, and crumbly. I have made it my personal mission to make baked goods that no one even feels the need to qualify as vegan – they are just damn good treats.) When replacing eggs, I use a ¼ cup soy yogurt per egg ratio. Often times I will also use just a little oil to assist with the binding of ingredients in a recipe.
One other ingredient that may leave a vegan chef scratching their head when it comes to replacing it is buttermilk. By adding apple cider vinegar to soymilk you can recreate the effects that buttermilk will have in a recipe. The vinegar acts as a coagulant in the soymilk and thickens it up nicely.
In this recipe I used both whole wheat flour and oat flour. You can buy oat flour at the store, but I just make it myself by processing whole oats in my Magic Bullet or food processor. You can also replace the oat flour with the flour type of your choice or just use all whole what flour.
The muffins served as dessert, breakfast, and a power snack with peanut butter smeared on top. The loaf was brought to a potluck barbecue and performed a blink-of-an eye vanishing act. I brought the loaf to the potluck pre-cut and separated with pieces of wax paper, which made it much easier to enjoy at the party without the hassle of having to cut the loaf.

Banana-Cranberry-Walnut Muffins
Makes 12 muffins

½ cup soymilk + 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
½ cup soy yogurt
½ cup sugar
2 bananas, mashed
1 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp vanilla
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup oat flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ cup walnuts, chopped
½ cup fresh cranberries

1. Preheat oven to 325F. Lightly grease your muffin tin.

2. Mix the soymilk and vinegar and set aside for five minutes.

3. Mix together the soy yogurt and sugar with an electric hand mixer until well blended. Mix in the mashed bananas, soymilk mixture, oil, and vanilla and mix until well incorporated.

4. Sift in the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and beat until just blended. Fold in the walnuts and cranberries.

5. Fill each muffin tin to almost the top. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until lightly browned. Turn out muffins onto a wire rack, cool, and enjoy!

Banana-Cranberry-Walnut-Chocolate Chip Bread
Makes one loaf (I used an 8 x 4” pan)

½ cup soymilk + 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
½ cup soy yogurt
½ cup sugar
3 bananas, mashed
1 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp vanilla
1 1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1 ½ cup oat flour
¾ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ cup walnuts, chopped
½ cup fresh cranberries

1/2 cup chocolate chips
Oats for sprinkling on top of loaf

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease your bread pan.

2. Mix the soymilk and vinegar and set aside for five minutes.

3. Mix together the soy yogurt and sugar with an electric hand mixer until well blended. Mix in the mashed bananas, soymilk mixture, oil, and vanilla and mix until well incorporated.

4. Sift in the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and beat until just blended. Fold in the walnuts, cranberries, and chocolate chips.

5. Pour batter into the bread tin, smooth the top with a spatula, and sprinkle with oats. Bake for one hour, or until lightly browned. Turn loaf out onto a wire rack, cool, slice, and serve.

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