Friday, November 13, 2009

Fall Granola

I was asked yesterday why I make so much granola. My response? "We like it, don't we?" The answer is obviously yes. The stuff flies outta the jar! But people enjoying granola isn't the only reason I make it. I also make it because it is super simple and really fun to make. There's almost no way to screw up. All you need are oats, and any of your favorite seeds, nuts, fruits, seasonings, sweeteners... in any combination, really.

I'm always working on my granola recipes. They're in no way scientific, but I've experimented with many different combinations, and will continue to. I'm sure I'll never settle on just ONE granola recipe.

I always thought I liked my granola chewy. I turned my nose up at crunchy granola, or loose granola, that didn't clump together. But this week's granola recipe pleasantly surprised me. Crunchy? Yes. Sort of loose? Also yes. I didn't have these on hand, but I think cut-up dried apples would have gone more nicely than the dried tart cherries and cranberries I put into this batch. Or some crystallized ginger. Next time. There will definitely be a next time. For now, I am just going to savor my new batch, either right out of the palm of my hand, or sprinkled on plain yogurt.

This Week's Granola

Approximately 3-4 c oats
3/4 c pumpkin seeds
3/4 c sunflower seeds
1/3 c sesame seeds
3/4 c slivered almonds
3/4 c dried flaked coconut (unsweetened is preferred but not necessary)
1/4 c oil
1/3 c brown sugar
1/3 c honey
1 T vanilla extract
1 1/2 c chopped dried fruit

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toast the oats, seeds, almonds, and coconut on a sheet pan, dry, in the preheating oven, for about 6-8 min, or until the coconut begins to brown or become fragrant. Allow to cool just a bit, and then pour into a big bowl. Mix in oil, sugar, honey, and vanilla. Mix until all ingredients are adequately integrated and coated well. On parchment paper, in one layer, spread the granola mixture. Bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes. Check it at 15 minutes. If it's nicely browned, it's done. If not, you can let it go a bit longer. Once out of the oven, allow to cool about 10-20 minutes on the pan. Add the dried fruit right on top of the granola and, using a spoon or a bench scraper, incorporate the fruit into the cooling granola. This way, the fruit doesn't bake and become too chewy. Allow to further cool before storing it in a jar or eating.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I can't believe I did it, but I did it!

Last night I baked my first ever batch of sourdough bread. I had been working on the starter for about a week and, although I sort of botched it by not saving enough to keep the thing going post-bread making, the bread turned out amazingly. Not to toot my own horn or anything, but this bread was a-may-zing. Is amazing.

I used Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice to make the starter and the Basic Sourdough. This book is incredible. It's by the same guy who wrote Brother Juniper's Bread Book, which is what we used as a guide when I worked in a bakery. I took this one out of the library about a week ago after seeing it on shelves and hearing it was awesome. I'm telling you, the book lives up to the hype. I am going to need a copy for Hanukkah or something (hint hint!)...

Not only are the recipes amazingly easy to follow, but Reinhart's commentary and description of the Stages of Bread have are indispensable. For instance, I never knew that what makes sourdough sour isn't that it is made of wild yeast but instead because of the bacteria it attracts during fermentation. I also didn't know there was a unique bacteria in the San Francisco Bay Area that is named after it: Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis. Who knew? This book has copious amounts of information--everything I ever wanted to know about baking hearth breads. Even the esoteric method of steaming bread in the oven in order to create a great crust with adequately baked bread beneath.

Following Reinhart's method in the book is advised (by me). I took mine basically straight from the his, except my starter was 100% organic whole wheat, and the bread dough itself was a mix of white and whole wheat, about 3 to 1, which is unusual for me, but I thought I'd go more by the book or this one.

I will post my own recipe for other sourdough in the coming weeks, so be on the look out. For now, revel with me in the sourdough skills! Thank you bacteria!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Soup soup SOUP

So, I wasn't going to post this recipe. The main reason is that I was browsing Everybody Likes Sandwiches, one of my favorite blogs, and I found a recipe (follow the link!) for Sweet Potato, Corn, and Jalapeño Bisque. I traced that link back to a recipe here, by the Wednesday Chef (another blog favorite!). Wednesday Chef sent me here. And, finally, to a recipe in "Cooking Up a Storm: Recipes Lost and Found From The Times-Picayune of New Orleans" (Chronicle Books, 2008). I figured, if this recipe is already all over the web in various renditions, why do I need to post my version? I will look like a poser.

As I ate my soup for the past week and a half, for lunch some days, snack and dinner others, people would ask me, "What is that soup?"

Usually when people ask me what I am eating, I refer them to my blog. But now, I found myself at a loss. I could tell them what it was, but it was far less satisfying just telling them what it was! Today was the second week of me finishing off this delicious soup. It's sweet, it's spicy, it has corn in it (who doesn't love corn in their soup?), and I'm telling you, if you bring it to work, people will want to know what you are eating and where they can get some. And you will feel good eating it, too. Don't be disappointed, I don't have a photo. Sorry.

Here's my adaptation, inspired first by Everybody Likes Sandwiches, Second by the Wednesday Chef, Third by the New York Times, and Finally, as a guide, by Cooking Up a Storm. This recipe will yield 3 quarts of soup. It is a lot, but it keeps fairly long in the fridge, or you can donate one container to a friend who never uses her stove.

1 T oil (not olive)
1 chopped leek
3 crushed and chopped garlic cloves
5 sweet potatoes, rough chopped
about 3 c leftover cooked pumpkin (or winter squash)
4 c good veggie stock+4 c water
1 jalape
ño, seeded if spice scares you, and chopped
2-3 c frozen corn kernels
1/4 c molasses
medium-big dash cayenne
dash salt
dash pepper
small dash cinnamon

In a large saucepan, cook leek and garlic in oil, about 5 minutes. Add sweet potatoes and liquids. Bring to a boil, then reduce. Cook until potatoes are tender, about 20 min. Add cooked pumpkin. Simmer. Use immersion blender to puree soup. Simmer. Add the jalapeno, corn, molasses, and stir well. Now add the rest of ingredients. Serve. Or put in containers and save for lunch tomorrow!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Maple Oatey Bites

I have been cooking a LOT this week. I get home from work or school around 7 or 8 and, although I'm exhausted, I find myself either dreaming about food in the car ride home, specific dishes I want to actualize, or when I get home, my brain shuts off, and my legs walk me into the pantry. Once there, my arms pull things off the shelves, and I end up with something like I did tonight. It's that no-control kind of cooking I wrote of once before. I mindlessly end up putting things together. Even baking, from scratch, recipe-less all the way.

This is my most recent. If you like maple, chocolate, oats, and tart dried fruit, all in one bite-sized cookie, give these bad boys a shot. Since I made them from scratch, though, they do need a little help from you in the shaping process. If you decide not to roll the dough into a log and refrigerate for an hour before slicing and baking, make sure you flatten the dough from small balls into flat discs before baking, or they will stay pretty round once out of the oven. Tasty, but round.

Maple Oat Bites

1/3 c vegetable oil
1/3 c brown sugar
1 egg
scant 1/4 c maple syrup
1 c whole wheat flour
1 c oats
1 t salt
1/8 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1/2 c dried cherries
1/3 c sunflower seeds
1/3 c chocolate chips (bittersweet are the best)

In a bowl (or electric mixer), beat oil, sugar, egg, maple syrup, and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients, next, and mix. Finally, add the cherries, seeds, and chocolate chips. Once thoroughly combined, dough will come together pretty well. Roll into 2 logs and refrigerate for an hour, then slice and bake at 350 for 10-12 min. Cool on a rack. Or eat hot!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Waffle Sunday

Last night, instead of going out on Halloween, I read my Harold McGee On Food and Cooking and decided I, Meghan Bernhardt, was going to recreate the original waffle. Mr. McGee's book told me waffles originally came to the US from Holland in the 18th century. That's a long time ago, I know. And a long time ago, food often didn't taste so good. You know, in the evolution of food tasting good, I'm just saying, a lot of basics we eat today are improved-upon versions of their tasteless pasts. So I did a little research, because McGee doesn't say much about waffles being yeasted doughs, only that they came from wafers (see the WAF- in both words?). Anyway, I wanted to know the truth about them yeasted waffles. While America's first waffles may have been from Holland, way back when, Belgian waffles apparently came from Belgium in time for the 1964 Worlds Fair! And it's the Belgian waffles that are yeasted.

So here's my yeasted waffle. It was really exciting to make, as I thought it would be. Using yeast and other more natural leavners is really fun (keep an eye out in the next month or so for my sour dough experiment). You get to see the expansion, the rising process taking place, and that's pretty darn cool. This waffle dough rests in the fridge overnight and, in the morning, when you rise, all you have to do is heat the waffle iron and go from there.

Truly satisfying. In my opinion, best served with fresh blueberries, maple syrup, and a fork.

Waffle Batter

1/2 c warm water + 1 c warm milk
1 package yeast
2 t agave syrup
2 lightly beaten eggs
1 c milk (yes another one)
2 t vanilla
pinch salt
2 c whole wheat flour

In a large nonreactive bowl, sprinkle yeast on top of water+milk. Let stand for 5 min while you make sure you have your other ingredients ready. Add agave, eggs, milk, vanilla. Mix. Add salt and flour. Mix until just incorporated. Cover in plastic wrap, place in fridge, 8 hrs-overnight. After fridge rise, head waffle iron.
Scoop batter with a ladel, ice cream scoop, or a 1/2 c measurer onto the hot plates. Cook until brown and crispy. And enjoy!