Monday, November 4, 2013

The best 100% Whole Wheat Bread (My quest is over)

Some of you may remember my original mission in starting this blog: I discovered I didn't feel well after eating store-bought bread and decided to start making my own bread.  And I really wanted a nice whole wheat bread.  But it was hard.  The recipes were either sort of dry and lifeless or not all whole wheat.  Plus I had to add powdered milk to them (it helped the texture! I said), which is no good for people who are dairy free.  Other things can be substituted: butter, buttermilk, yogurt, maybe even milk, but not powdered milk.  But I've learned a few things through this journey.

Potassium bromate often "enriches" the flour from which shelved bread at the store is made.  (By the way, I put a lot of effort into that sentence to make sure it did not end with a preposition).  Brominated flour is banned in Canada, the UK, and Europe because studies suggest it might be carcinogenic.  The flour you buy at the store is not brominated.  The flour in the bread you buy at the store probably is.  I find it likely that this is what bothers my stomach.

White whole wheat flour is my new favorite ingredient.  Regular flour is made from red wheat, so whole (red) wheat is dark and dense.  Another species of wheat is white, and the whole white wheat is a lighter flavor and texture.  White whole wheat flour can easily be snuck into most recipes without anyone noticing.  I still wouldn't use more than half the flour as white whole wheat flour, unless you make other changes.

Finally, I've learned a lot about gluten.  Going gluten free seems trendy, and I've suddenly met dozens of people who can't eat gluten.  Some people can't, which is unfortunate, but it happens.  But then some people give it up for (seemingly to me, at least) no reason.  But gluten is a protein.  Some people can't eat certain proteins, I know people whose bodies can't break down (or who have allergic reactions to): soy, whey, peanuts, tree nuts, poultry, fish, and chickpeas (one of whom can't eat 4 of them).  The same goes for gluten.  So if neighbor swore that giving up gluten made him/her feel better, sure it's possible.  But every body is different and that doesn't mean that giving up gluten is right for everyone.  And if you are considering giving up gluten because your cousin's dentist swore it worked for him/her, I might first recommend what I did: give up PROCESSED gluten.  Make your own bread!  It's fun!

When I first started I remember mumbling something about needing the powdered milk because it's a "dough conditioner."  This is sort of true; powdered milk improves the texture of bread.  But the reason for this is that it adds protein to the bread.  This is why bread flour exists (it has extra protein i.e. gluten).  But as I discovered, adding actual gluten is what really helps whole wheat flour.  I was hesitant to buy it because I found it on a laundry list of "dough conditioners" and because there were so many whole wheat bread recipes that DIDN'T call for it, it couldn't be that much better, right?  Wrong. If you want to make whole wheat bread that isn't dense and dry, go out and buy Vital Wheat Gluten.  Right now.  It makes sense when you think about it: you need more gluten in whole wheat flour, so what do you add?  Gluten!

Okay, enough about gluten.  I found this recipe and the author was so in love with it that I knew I had to try it.  Not only did it turn out well, I'm pretty sure it's the easiest yeast bread I've ever made.  There's only one rise and it's in the pan.  I only used one bowl and the pan I baked it in.  It was great.  I noticed that the texture of the dough was very different than a lot of breads that I've made, but perhaps I was just more patient and didn't add too much flour this time (maybe that's why all my bread is dense and dry).  I don't think it was my fault.  Many doughs go from wet to dry with only a few tablespoons of extra flour.  This was sticky but not wet before I kneaded it and drier, but still light when I was done.  I also like to knead by hand because it makes your more in tune with the dough (plus it's stress relieving).

I just linked to the recipe, there is no kneed for me to copy and paste it since I didn't (and wouldn't) change a thing.  Well, except that I used canola oil rather than coconut (it's better for you and cheaper).

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Homemade Chocolate Hazelnut Spread (dairy free!)

The past couple of times I've been to Costco I was tempted by a 2 lb. bag of hazelnuts.  I frequently run in to recipes that call for hazelnuts that I blow off because hazelnuts are expensive.  But 2lb for $11?  That's a decent price for almonds, a good price for walnuts, and a great price for pecans, all of which I keep on hand.  And I like hazelnuts more than walnuts and pecans.  So I was looking for an innagural treat to make with hazelnuts and I went for the obvious choice: homemade Nutella.  There are a lot of recipes out there, some call for loads of butter (which is completely unnecessary with the richness that comes from hazelnut butter and melted chocolate, some call for heavy cream (which honestly I avoided because I didn't have any), some called for condensed or evaporated milk (see previous comment).  None of these were what I wanted.  It's chocolate and hazelnuts, it doesn't need complications and it doesn't need extra fat.  Finally I found this recipe.  While I wasn't opposed to putting a little skim milk in it (Nutella does), this one didn't even do that!  Perhaps the canola oil could have been eliminated or subbed with milk, but there was so little it didn't matter.  This recipe was exactly what I wanted: simple and delicious.  And the perfect thing to go in one of my jars of wonderful things.  I will say that I get pretty impatient because my food processor is super loud, so it wasn't as creamy and smooth as possible.  The key is to get the hazelnuts creamy before adding anything else.  But somehow my food processor is loudest when there are only nuts in it, and I just wanted to make it stop.  And what makes mine completely dairy free is that I used all dark chocolate chips because I see no reason to cut the chocolaty goodness with milk chocolate.


  • 1 cup raw hazelnuts
  • 2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil, plus more as needed
  • 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the hazelnuts in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast in the oven until the nuts have darkened and the skins have blistered, about 12-14 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly.
  2. Wrap the nuts in a kitchen towel and rub the hazelnuts to remove as much of the skin as possible. (Small bits of skin will remain.) Let cool completely.
  3. Melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler or in the microwave, stirring until completely melted and smooth. Let cool slightly.
  4. In a high-speed blender or a food processor, grind the hazelnuts until they form a paste. Add the oil, sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla and salt. Continue to process the mixture until the mixture is as smooth as possible. You may need to scrape down the sides occasionally.
  5. Add the melted chocolate and continue to blend until smooth and well combined.
  6. The mixture may be thin and a bit runny but it will thicken as it cools. If the mixture is very thick, add a drizzle of oil to keep the mixture more spreadable.
  7. Transfer the mixture to a jar and let cool to room temperature. Cover and store at room temperature or in the refrigerator. If stored in the refrigerator, you will need to bring it to room temperature to return to a spreadable consistency.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Carrot Zucchini Bread

After a Costco run where I picked up a bag of quinoa for $10, I commented that I had over 6 pounds of quinoa in my apartment.  A friend sent me this recipe to help me use it.  Fortunately, I had already been planning on making zucchini bread, so I had a few small zucchinis ready to be used.  However I had just used all my carrots, so I had to wait a few days before I made it to the store.  I looked at the recipe and immediate made a few changes: 3 cups of sugar?  Way too much, especially since carrots will add sweetness.  In that thread, I added a little unsweetened coconut to add a little more sweetness and texture.  Like I do with most quick breads, I used half white whole wheat flour and half all purpose flour.  I actually added a little extra flour because I thought it was too wet with the missing sugar.  I also swapped raisins for cranberries.  I added a couple tablespoons of toasted, chopped pecans and I will say I like the toasted flavor they added.  Finally, I added a couple tablespoons of ground flaxseed, for the Omega-3s.  Definitely not necessary, but it makes it a bit more balanced (there is no butter or oil added and a little extra fat helps).  It turned out to be super dense (due to the added wheat flour, I presume), so if I were to make it again, I would add a couple teaspoons of baking soda.  Also, I used an 8x4 loaf pan and still had plenty more so I made a couple baby loafs.  I could have filled the initial pan more given how little it rose, though.

I'm not taking a picture because this batch was super ugly.  See the link above if you want to have a good picture of it.  One thing that is super great about this recipe is something I've really been working on: it includes veggies in a breakfast food. I love snacking on fruit, but I have to make sure vegetables are convenient and easy to eat, otherwise I skip them.  And this recipe does that well.  Also, as I mentioned, I cut 3 cups of sugar down to 1 and thought that it was sufficiently sweet.  Would it be better with more sugar?  Definitely.  But the reduced sugar makes me feel better about eating a lot at a time because after all, I'm getting my veggies, right?

Carrot Zucchini Bread

1 c all purpose flour
1 1/4 c whole wheat/white whole wheat flour
1 t baking powder
(I would add 2 tsp baking soda)
1 t salt
2 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t ground nutmeg
1/4 t ground allspice
1/4 t ground ginger
3 eggs
1 c brown sugar
1 1/2 t vanilla extract
1 c fat free, plain yogurt (it might be fun to play with flavors, however)
1 c grated zucchini
1 c grated carrots
1 c cooked quinoa
1/2 c dried cranberries
1/3 c unsweetened, dried coconut
2 Tbsp ground flaxseed (optional)
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)
1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Grease & flour an 8″ x 4″ loaf pan and set aside.  In a medium bowl combine all the dry ingredients, including the spices, and mix well. Set aside.
2. In a separate, larger bowl, beat together the eggs, sugars and vanilla extract until smooth. Add the yogurt and mix together until fully incorporated. Next, add the grated zucchini & carrots and mix well. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture about 1/2 cup at a time, folding it in gently until smooth. Lastly, add the cooked quinoa, cranberries, coconut, flaxseed, and nuts, and mix well.
3. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for about 60 minutes, or until a tester that’s been inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes before slicing. Serve with a cold glass of milk or some hot tea, and enjoy!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Smitten Kitchen's Carrot soup with crisped chickpeas

It's starting to be that time of year that soup is super tasty.  My problem with soup is that I worry that I'll be hungry a few hours after eating it.  I don't think I usually have that problem, it's just something I worry about when I make delicious vegetable soups.  And I love carrot soup, so when I saw a carrot soups that is designed to be made with chickpeas from Smitten Kitchen, one of my favorites.  I'm just going to go ahead and give you the link, along with my approval.  What I did differently: I discovered the onions I keep on hand were not in good shape.  So I used about 10 green onions instead.  I also didn't use pita, which actually makes this a gluten free, vegan meal.  Another cool thing about this recipe: it uses all things that I always have on hand (except it uses MORE carrots than I usually have on hand).

Carrot soup with tahini and crisped chickpeas

I will say, it's a little involved.  None of the components were difficult, but there were 3 of them.  Like I said, I skipped the pita, but the other components were definitely worth it.  A yogurt (or tahini) sauce is always delicious swirled into soup.  And the chickpeas give it a fun texture and a little protein.

Also the picture above shows my new favorite way of transporting/storing food: in Mason jars!  The seals are tight, they are reusable and dishwasher safe, and they are super cheap (compared with all the tupperware out there).  Perhaps I will include some of my salad-in-a-jar recipes I've been eating for lunch.

I'll try to post more.  I have lots of pictures of desserts I've made lately, but then I lost the recipes :-).

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Chocolate Banana Peanut Butter Lava Muffins

I'm a little stuck on my paper.  As a result I've been baking a lot to try to loosen up.  And somewhere along the line I found this recipe.  I made a few modifications: I used buttermilk rather than sour cream, and replaced the cloves and nutmeg with more cinnamon.

Gooey Chocolate Chip Cookies

I don't like cookie dough, well not as much as cookies that are baked, at least.  But what's really ideal for me is something halfway between cookie dough and baked cookie.  In college I would bake cookie dough halfway and eat it with a spoon.  But my love of half baked cookies reflects on how I like my (chocolate chip) cookies: gooey.  We all have preferences, some like them cakey, some like them crisp. I've always been a fan of the Nestle Tollhouse cookie recipe because I've never found anything better.  But I never thought they were perfect.  So I sought out to find a better recipe.  Not just a better recipe, but cookies that stay gooey even after they cool.  I'm not trying to keep them soft; I'm trying to keep them gooey.  They are different.  But I was fairly successful in making cookies that stayed gooey until I finished all 3 dozen (roughly 3 days, I had a little help from my roommate, though).

So I did a few things, and I tried a few different recipes.  The first is gluten free: it uses almond butter (because almond butter is gooey) instead of flour and butter.  And the second just has different proportions from my typical recipe.  But it stayed gooey.  But a few other tricks I used:
I underbaked the cookies (obviously)
I baked them on parchment paper, and as soon as I took them out of the oven, I used the parchment paper to slide them onto the counter.  I also let them cool on the counter.

Other recommendations that I took into account when choosing recipes:
Use a lower flour to butter ratio
Use a higher brown to white sugar ratio

Almond butter chocolate chip cookies
I found the recipe here.

Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies {Gluten-Free}
Yields about 16 cookies
1 cup (250 grams) creamy almond butter
2/3 cup (150 grams) sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (60 grams) miniature chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).  Put parchment paper on a cookie sheet.
In a medium mixing bowl, mix together the almond butter and sugar. Mix in the egg, vanilla, baking soda, and salt until evenly combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
Drop cookies by the tablespoon onto a baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes. I baked them for 9 minutes.  
Slide the parchment paper onto the counter and cool as long as you can resist eating them.  For me, this meant I burnt my fingers on molten chocolate chips.

Gooey Chocolate Chip cookies (makes 20)
I combined this recipe with this recipe.  The result was a softer, moister dough than I'm used to, but that was pretty useful.  Oh, I also halved them both since I was making two recipes for one person + roommates.  So I'm telling you the half recipe, except it called for one egg and I just used a whole egg rather than halving it.
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened 
3/8 cup brown sugar 
1/8 cup granulated sugar 
1 egg 
teaspoons vanilla extract 
cups flour 
teaspoons cornstarch 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
1/4 teaspoons salt
3/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
The gluten free almond butter cookie is on the left and the more traditional, gooey cookie is on the right.

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Put parchment paper on cookie sheet.
2.  In a mixer, cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and beat well.
3.  Add flour, cornstarch, baking soda and salt and mix just until combined, then gently stir in chocolate chips.
4.  Using a cookie scoop or tablespoon (I use my hands and usually roll cookies into balls, but with this dough I just sort of glopped them on to the sheet), drop dough onto a parchment paper covered baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, until barely golden brown around the edges.  (The tops will not brown, but do NOT cook longer than ten minutes.)  I baked them for 8-9.
5.  Slide them on to the counter and let them cool there.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Zippy

I graduated college 5 years and 2 days ago.  And it's graduation season again.  Coincidently a few days ago I was randomly thinking about Tommy's: my favorite restaurant from undergrad.  It has a decent selection of vegetarian food and tasty, flavorful, relatively healthy non-vegetarian food.  And the milkshakes... the milkshakes were the real draw.  They really just took ice cream and milk and blended it, but they let you mix flavors.  But I'm not making milkshakes so, I'll stop talking about them.

I'll talk about my favorite order: the toasted cheese.  It's not grilled cheese because it's not greasy.  It's pita bread with cheese put in a toaster oven.  It's delicious and somewhat healthier than grilled cheese.  And my favorite toasted cheese is The Zippy: toasted cheese with sesame sauce, sunflower seeds, and veggies.

The Zippy
1 pita
3 pieces of cheese
2 Tbsp sunflower seeds
2 tsp tahini
1/4 green pepper
1/4 tomato

Heat the oven (or a toaster oven) at 350.
Cut the pita in half and put the 3 pieces of cheese in the pita.  Put half the tahini, sunflower seeds, pepper, tomato in the pita.  Heat until the cheese is melted 5-10 minutes.  Basically, I put it in when I preheated the oven and left it in a few minutes after the oven heated and it came out perfectly.

Remove from the oven, add the sprouts and enjoy!

Yum!  It's not quite The Zippy (the sesame sauce was a little sweeter than tahini), but it's awesome!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Homemade Larabars

Larabars are awesome.  They're like trail mix blended into one bar.  They are healthy, sweet but without added sugar and fairly filling for their petite size.  But they are expensive.  Not as expensive as some of the bars out there, but expensive enough that I can't justify buying them.  Honestly making them (especially if you use the good, organic stuff) is not much cheaper.  But it is fun :).

The concept is easy: start with a base of nuts or seeds and a sweet, bland fruit like dates or figs.  Blend it until it is a sticky goo.  Then add flavorings, then add fillings.  I made three kinds, two starting from a seed and date base and one starting from a nut and prune base.  In my experimenting I found it works better (especially with my little Magic Bullet rather than a real food processor) to make the nuts/seeds into a nut/seed butter and then add the fruit, and then the flavorings/fillings.

The basic recipe:

1 cup nuts or seeds
1 cup sweet, mild dried fruit (dates, raisins, figs, prunes, etc)
Flavoring as desired (orange zest, vanilla, cocoa powder, etc)
Filling (the dried fruit you want to flavor with, chocolate chips, etc)

1. Blend the nuts or seeds until they start to make butter.
2. Add the dates etc.  Blend until the paste is fairly uniform and sticky.
3. Add flavorings, blend.
4. Add fruit, blend try to mix uniformly and maintain the sticky consistency.

The flavors I made:
I started with a base of 1/2 sunflower seeds and 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1. To half I added a tsp orange zest and half a cup of cranberries
2. To half I added zest and juice of half a lemon (the juice changed the texture, but it was still managable) and a handful of dried blueberries.

I used 1/2 cashews, 1/2 cup prunes and about a Tbsp cocoa powder and added chocolate chips.  Mmm, dessert :).