Black Bread

Living in Lithuania, we ate a lot of dark rye bread, as it was extremely common. You’d have it for breakfast with cheese and salami, you’d have it as a beer snack, cut in sticks and fried, with fresh garlic and salt rubbed on it, you’d put butter on it and make sandwiches. It was dense and heavy and smelled of caraway and molasses.

You can find this kind of bread here in Portland sometimes, but not anywhere we typically go for groceries, and so when a friend of ours who happens to have a Russian husband posted that she tried this recipe from Smitten Kitchen and it turned out brilliantly, I had to give it a go.

As with any bread, it’s a time-consuming process, but well worth it if you like a good dark rye bread. It turned out wonderfully, the best bread I’ve made so far. This recipe makes 2 loaves.

Ingredients

  • 2 packages (1 1/2 tablespoons) active dry yeast
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees F, 40 to 45 C)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 ounce (about 29 grams) unsweetened chocolate
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 3 cups medium rye flour
  • 3 cups unbleached, all-purpose or bread flour
  • 1 cup bran
  • 2 tablespoons caraway seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallots
  • 1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds (optional)

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, combine yeast and sugar with warm water. Stir to dissolve and let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.
  2. Heat two cups water, molasses, vinegar, butter and chocolate until the butter and chocolate are melted. Set aside.
  3. Combine whole-wheat, rye and white flours in a large bowl. Set aside.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, combine two cups mixed flours, bran, 2 tablespoons caraway seeds, fennel seeds, salt, espresso and shallots. Add yeast and chocolate mixtures in small amounts while mixing with a wooden spoon or bread hook. Mix until smooth and beat for three minutes. (If you don’t like whole seeds in your bread, grinding them in a spice grinder, coffee grinder or mortar and pestle allows their flavor to come through without the texture. I left them whole)
  5. Add half cup of remaining mixed flours at a time, mixing until dough becomes cohesive and starts to pull away from the sides of bowl. It will be very sticky but firm.
  6. Scrape dough off spoon or bread hook, flour counter well, and knead to make a springy yet dense dough. You might not use all of the flour mixture.
  7. Form into a ball and place in a greased bowl. Turn once to grease top. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm area until doubled, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  8. Gently deflate dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide into two portions and form into two rounds. Place rounds seam down on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle loaves with cornmeal mixture, if using. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled and puffy, about 45 minutes to one hour. Slash an X into the top of a round before baking it with knife or razor blade.
  9. Bake in a preheated 350°F (177 C) oven for 45 to 50 minutes or until loaves are well-browned, or register an internal temperature of 200 to 210°F on an instant-read thermometer. Baking time in your oven may vary — check in on the bread when it is 2/3 to 3/4 of the way through the baking time to make sure it has not super-speedily baked. Remove from baking sheet to cool completely on a rack.
Baking Mess Black Bread Black Bread Black Bread Black Bread Black Bread Black Bread Black Bread

김치 (Kimchi)

김치 Kimchi!

Following in the vein of preserving foods, pickling, fermenting, etc – we decided to try kimchi, a korean fermented cabbage dish. Actually, there are hundreds of varieties of kimchi, anything from cabbage to radish to garlic stems to cucumber. Napa cabbage kimchi is the most common, and what you would refer to if just saying ‘kimchi’ without specifying which type. We followed the recipe for Traditional Napa Cabbage Kimchi from koreanbapsang.com, except we didn’t put radish in with the cabbage, and we left out the fresh shrimp. It turned out delicious and very flavorful, but not extremely spicy, so if you like it spicy, I would up the amount of chili flakes.
Ingredients

  • 1 large napa cabbage (5-6 lbs)
  • About 1 cup coarse sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon glutinous rice powder (찹쌀가루)
  • 1/2 cup red chili flakes (고추가루)
  • 1/4 cup fermented shrimp (새우젓), finely minced
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 3 tablespoons finely minced garlic
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 1/2 cup water

Directions

  1. Cut a slit about 2-3 inches deep in the root end of the cabbage, and then pry the cabbage apart into halves. This allows the leaves to be pulled apart and to stay whole, instead of being shredded by the knife. Repeat with each half, so that you have 4 whole quarters of the cabbage.
  2. If the cabbage looks dirty, rinse lightly in water to remove the loose dirt.
  3. In a large bowl, dissolve 1/2 cup of salt in 5 cups of water. Thoroughly douse each cabbage quarter in the salted water, then shake off the excess, and put into a large pot or bowl (we use our stock pot).
  4. Take each quarter cabbage, and sprinkle salt mostly on the thick white portions of each cabbage leaf, then replace into the large pot/bowl. Use about 1/2 cup of salt total for the whole cabbage.
  5. Pour the salted water from step 3 over the cabbage quarters, and let them sit in the salted water for around 6 hours, turning them over every 2 hours so that each part has time to soak. The thick white parts of the cabbage should be soft and bend easily when it is ready to take out.
  6. After the cabbage has been soaking for around 4 hours, mix the garlic, ginger, fish sauce, fermented shrimp, chili flakes and 1/2 cup water together in a large bowl.
  7. In a small saucepan, mix together the 1 tablespoon glutinous rice powder with 1/2 cup water, and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens into a paste. Take off the heat and allow to cool to room temperature, then mix with the other seasonings in the large bowl.
  8. Once the cabbage is done soaking, take the cabbage quarters out of the water and rinse thoroughly, making sure all the salt is washed away. Squeeze the excess water out after rinsing.
  9. Place one quarter of the cabbage in the bowl with the seasoning mix, and, while wearing kitchen gloves to avoid chili burns, coat each leaf with a little bit of the mixture, using about 1/4 of it for each quarter of the cabbage. Repeat with each quarter of the cabbage.
  10. Fold the top soft leaf parts of each cabbage quarter over the thick stem parts, and place into a glass jar or air-tight container. Press each down firmly to remove air pockets and make sure they are tightly packed.
  11. Rinse the seasoning mix bowl with 1/2 cup of water and pour over the cabbage. Seal the top and set out at room temperature.
  12. Leave kimchi out at room temperature for about 2 days, then place in the refrigerator. The kimchi is edible at this point, but will taste best after a few days to a week in the refrigerator.

Kimchi.
Kimchi.
Kimchi.
Kimchi.
Kimchi.
Kimchi.
Kimchi.

Baking Powder Biscuits

We’re always on the search for the perfect baked goods, and I think we’ve hit the nail on the head when it comes to good, standard baking powder biscuits. This recipe came from the Martha Stewart Baking Handbook, and the only modification we made was to substitute whole milk for cream in the dough. They come out fluffy inside and crispy outside, and they taste amazing. This recipe will make about a dozen biscuits, depending on exactly how thick you make them.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, cold

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit.
  2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Cut butter into dry ingredients using a pastry cutter or your hands, leaving fairly large pieces.
  4. Form a well in the middle of the bowl, and pour in the milk.
  5. Using a fork, mix together the milk and dry ingredients until nearly all the flour is incorporated.
  6. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter, and press together into a cohesive mass, incorporating the last bit of flour, but don’t knead any further than that. The dough should not be smooth.
  7. Press dough out so that it is about 1.5-2 inches thick.
  8. Using a biscuit cutter, cut as many biscuits as you can, as close together as possible. Gently form the dough back together, press flat and cut as many more as you can. Repeat until dough is used up (I like to munch on the remnants). Avoid working the dough as much as possible, you don’t want to develop the gluten structure in the flour.
  9. Place the biscuits on a baking sheet, and brush the tops with some heavy cream.
  10. Place sheet in the oven for about 25-30 minutes, until biscuits are lightly browned.
  11. Remove from oven and eat while still hot!

Baking Powder Biscuits

Feta Cheese

Well, we’ve just moved into a new apartment, and as we just took a beginning cheese-making class last week, we decided to make the first food adventure in our new place a bit of feta cheese. We got a tip on some fresh goat’s milk in town, and yesterday we got down to business and made the cheese. The cheese has to sit for 5 days before eating (you’ll see that later), so we haven’t really tasted it yet, but we’ll let you know how it is. Here’s the basic process:

  1. Take 1/2 gallon of goat’s milk, any kind but ultra-pasteurized (the ultra-pasteurization ruins the milk for making cheese).
  2. Heat milk in a pot (stainless steel or enameled) until milk reaches about 86 degrees F.
  3. Add about 3/4 tsp of cultured buttermilk. Stir gently with a wisk to make sure the buttermilk is thoroughly distributed through the milk.
  4. Cover and let the milk sit with the buttermilk in for about 1 hour.
  5. Mix about 1/4 tsp double-strength rennet (or 1/2 tsp regular strength) with about 1/8 cup water.
  6. Mix the rennet/water mixture into the milk, and stir gently with a whisk to make sure the solution is well distributed through the milk.
  7. Cover again and let sit for about 1 hour.
  8. After 1 hour, you should have a layer of curd formed. Cut it with a knife, and if the curd doesn’t stick to the knife, you’re ready to move on. Otherwise, let sit a little longer.
  9. Cut the curd into cubes and let sit for about 20 minutes, to let more of the whey release from the curd.
  10. Let sit for another 30 minutes, and stir gently several times during that period. It’s ok to break up the curd some while stirring, but try to leave it mostly in-tact. This is to again release more whey from the curd.
  11. After the 30 minutes, lay some butter muslin in a colander, and strain the cheese curd through. Keep the whey to make soup stock or for another recipe if you can use it. Make sure your piece of butter muslin is large enough to wrap up around the cheese curd into a bag.
  12. After most of the whey has drained off, tie the butter muslin up into a bag, and tie around a wooden spoon or some other long piece.
  13. You can use this to hang the bag of cheese curds above a bowl or above the sink, to let the rest of the whey drain out.
  14. Hang and let drain for about 5 hours, until the cheese curd feels nice and solid, and the whey has pretty much stopped draining from the bag.
  15. Unwrap the curd and place in a large bowl.
  16. Cut the curd again into cubes, and sprinkle with about 2 tbsp flake, sea or kosher salt. Make sure as much as possible that all sides of cubes are covered. Again, it’s ok if you break up the curd a bit.
  17. Store salted feta in a canning jar in the refrigerator for 5 days before using.

Feta Cheese
Cheese curd after being cut, resting and being stirred.

Feta Cheese
Butter muslin in colander, awaiting cheese curd.

Feta Cheese
Cheese curd tied up in the butter muslin for draining, and initially drained whey in a jar.

Feta Cheese
Cheese curd after draining for 5(ish) hours.

Feta Cheese
Cheese curd packed in salt and ready for brining in the refrigerator.

Sourdough Bread

I got a bee in my bonnet to try making sourdough bread, so I looked around at recipes and found this one at Scientific Psychic. We just baked the bread last night, and for a first try, I think it turned out pretty well. We’re going to try out a different recipe this weekend, so we’ll let you know how it comes out.

First of all for sourdough bread, you have to get a starter going. This recipe doesn’t use packaged yeast, so you have to generate your own. That’s what the starter is. It takes a few days to get the starter going, but once it does, you can keep it going and just dip out of it when you need it for baking.

Use a glass, ceramic or plastic container for the starter, nothing metal. Also, use wooden utensils for mixing – if you use a metal utensil that happens to be reactive, you can kill your yeast off. We did use metal measuring cups/spoons, and it still seemed to work ok.

The pineapple juice in the recipe is to add a small amount of acidity to keep out things like mold and other bacteria you don’t want growing in your starter. Many recipes just mix flour and water, so if you want to try that, just look up some recipes for starters and see how they do it. Whenever you add water, make sure to not use tap water, as it is often chlorinated and will kill your yeast.

Day 1: Mix 2 Tbsp whole grain flour and 2 Tbsp unsweetened pineapple juice and let sit for 24 hours at room temperature.
Day 2: Add 2 Tbsp whole grain flour and 2 Tbsp unsweetened pineapple juice and let sit for 24 hours at room temperature.
Day 3: Add 2 Tbsp whole grain flour and 2 Tbsp unsweetened pineapple juice and let sit for 24 hours at room temperature.
Day 4: Measure out 1/4 cup of starter after stirring it well. Discard the rest. Add 1/4 cup bread flower and 1/4 cup spring water and let sit for 24 hours at room temperature.

After the 4th day, your starter should be looking bubbly and smelling yeasty, and should grow in size a bit. Once you have a good bubbly, yeasty starter, you can keep adding 1/4 cup flower and water, mixing well and letting it sit overnight at room temp until you have enough starter to use for whatever recipe you are making.

Sourdough Starter

Sourdough Starter

Bread Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (5 oz.) whole wheat flour
  • 2 1/2 cups (11 oz.) white bread flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 cups spring water
  • 1/4 cup starter

Directions:

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Dissolve the starter in the water. It is important to use non-chlorinated water because chlorine will kill the gas-generating yeast and bacteria in the starter. Pour the water on the flour mixture while stirring. Shape the dough into a ball and cover the bowl with a towel. If your starter is very fluid, you may need to add 1/4 cup additional flour to obtain a dough that has a moist and firm consistency. The porosity of the bread depends on the amount of water in the dough. Wet doughs produce breads with big holes.

Bread Dough!

Leave the covered bowl at room temperature for approximately 18 hours (we left ours about 22 and it was fine). During this time the dough will approximately double in size.

Sprinkle some flour on a large cutting board. Empty the dough from the bowl unto the board and spread the dough gently so that it can be folded in thirds and then folded once more to form a ball. Cover with your towel and let the dough rest for 15 minutes.

Use a towel to line the large bowl. Sprinkle wheat bran or oat bran on the towel to keep the dough from adhering to the towel, and transfer the dough to the lined bowl. You may also use a wicker proofing basket or banneton, if available. Cover the bowl or proofing basket with another towel. Proofing is the final rise before baking. During this stage, the dough is allowed to rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. The towel allows some moisture to evaporate from the surface of the dough and will create a thin skin that eventually produces a crunchy crust. The best results are obtained when the dough is proofed in a warm place.

Just before baking

The crispy crust of sourdough bread is obtained by baking the loaf in a hot oven with plenty of moisture during the initial baking period. This can be accomplished by baking the moist dough in an enclosed space, such as a clay baking cloche, a cast iron Dutch oven, or by spraying some water on the dough when it is placed in the the hot oven and by keeping a shallow pan with water in the lower shelf of the oven to generate steam while the bread is baking. Controling the moisture of the whole oven is more difficult than using a covered brick oven or cast iron Dutch oven. Since the dough is very moist, the shape of the Dutch oven determines the shape of the loaf. If the Dutch oven is too large and the dough does not fill it halfway, the loaf will bake flat.

note – We didn’t have a dutch oven with a lid handle that would stand a 475 degree oven, so I just baked it on a baking sheet, and it did bake a bit flat, but not too bad. We moistened the outside of the dough before baking, and the crust came out pretty well.

Thirty minutes before you plan to bake the bread, place the covered empty cast iron Dutch oven in the oven and preheat to 475°F. When ready to bake the bread, work quickly. Open the Dutch oven, sprinkle some bran in the bottom of the heated Dutch oven to keep the bread from burning and sticking. Transfer the dough to the Dutch oven. Make some decorative 1/2 inch (1 cm) deep slashes with a razor blade, if desired. Put the lid on the Dutch oven. Bake the covered dough for 30 minutes at 450°F. Remove the lid from the Dutch oven, and bake for another 15 minutes at to 400°F (204°C) until the crust is golden brown. Be careful not to get burned by the steam as you open the Dutch oven. Transfer the loaf to a wire rack to cool for at least one hour.

note – since we baked ours on the baking sheet, we just preheated the oven, put the bread dough on the baking sheet and put it in after the oven was preheated. we baked it for about 35 minutes at about 425, and that was just about right. The time may vary depending on your particular oven.

Post-baking