Monday, November 4, 2013
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
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
- 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.
- 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.
- Melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler or in the microwave, stirring until completely melted and smooth. Let cool slightly.
- 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.
- Add the melted chocolate and continue to blend until smooth and well combined.
- 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.
- 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.