Category Archives: bread baking

Greetings From the Chaos #Kitchen #chocolate #fudge

Picture courtesy of Cat’s Eye

Laura’s Chaos Cooking Tip #4: Cook clear and concentrated when confronted with Death By Chocolate

Alone in a kitchen with baking ingredients. Somewhere in Germany, 9:30 am.
     Quick breads are exactly what they claim to be. Quick. If you follow the recipe. My favorite is a basic banana bread. But I don’t want banana bread. I want chocolate. I want Death By Chocolate.
     This basic banana bread recipe calls for flour, sugar, an egg, some butter and about a cup of bananas. Some vanilla, some salt and some sort of raising agents.
     Ok, something dry, something wet and some grease. I can do that.
     I need a cup of something wet and mushy like bananas: so I start with 150 grams of melted dark chocolate and mix that with cream cheese until it looks nice and creamy.
     Heart is starting to pump faster and I haven’t even had any coffee yet.
     Add 1 cup dark brown sugar, a packet of vanilla sugar and I put in 2 eggs because I have the feeling this needs more moisture. Add butter: let’s use olive oil instead and pretend to be healthy, about 4 tablespoons. Add 1 cup of whole-meal spelt flour, a dash of salt and 1 teaspoon baking powder and, what the heck, a half cup of cocoa. Remember, this is Death By Chocolate.
     Thinking is becoming sharper.
     Mash that all together and see if it’s moist enough. A splash of olive oil to sink the cholesterol levels and we’re ready to go.
     Now who says you have to bake this fast? I think I’ll drop the temp down to like 300° (150° C.) Put the whole mess in a greased loaf pan an away she goes!
     The icing: Yes, icing. How about something like Aunt Cathy’s never-fail fudge recipe? I just can’t find it anymore. (Note to self: get that recipe so I can share with you guys, it’s wonderful.)
     Melt yet more dark chocolate and add sweetened condensed milk. I don’t know how much but you have to get it off the heat before it gets weird and then stir the daylights out of it. Set it aside but don’t refrigerate it because it will get all hard again. We want it soft and spreadable.
     Thoughts are racing. Is this ‘fight or flight’ or a sugar rush?
     As I write, this wonderful creation is baking away, the outer crust almost frying in the greased loaf pan. Now I need a cigarette.
Chaos Tip #4a: Always set the timer.

Greetings from the Chaos Kitchen #ambaking

Tear-and-Share Vegan Bread by

Laura’s Chaos-Cooking Tip #1: 

     Beat the winter blahs with bread baking.

     Yeast dough smells yummy when it’s rising, kneading dough is a fun way to let off some steam and you get to punch the daylights out of something!

     But isn’t bread baking hard? No, not at all. All you need is yeast, flour, water and salt.

     First, skim some sort of recipe. Just look one up on the internet. I found a vegan recipe, just follow the link up there, by googling ‘vegan bread recipes.’ Ok, flour, salt, powdered yeast, soy milk and something else. After skimming the recipe, go into the kitchen and see what you have in the pantry. Well, I don’t think we can buy powdered yeast, but I have these little 40 gram blocks of fresh yeast. Is that still vegan? Yeast, check. Flour, check. I don’t want to use soy milk in bread, how about olive oil? Check. Doesn’t yeast need sugar to feed on? I read that somewhere. Sugar, check. Water, duh. This is the twenty-first century.

     Dump the flour in a bowl and make a depression in the middle. I don’t know why, just do it. Mix the yeast with lukewarm water and a teaspoon of sugar and stir it until it dissolves. This part has to be right. If the water is too hot, the yeast will die! And I just throw the whole block in because what am I going to do with a half a lump of yeast?

     Now you may open the wine bottle.

     Pour the yeast mixture into the flour. Throw in some salt. A teaspoon looks about right. Pour the olive oil over the top. Maybe four tablespoons. I don’t like to dirty a spoon, so I count. One banana, two banana, three banana, four…tablespoons. Then get your hands in there and mix it up.

     Man, this looks really dry and crumbly. How much flour is in a bag? I already threw the empty bag in the fire. Checking a pizza dough recipe, I notice that 500 grams of flour would have been enough. And looking in the drawer at another bag, I notice that the bag was a whole kilo.

     Pour a big glass of wine, get out the half a lump of yeast that is still in the fridge (oh, that’s what you can do with that!) Mix with water, who cares how hot, get out the oil and one banana, two banana…

     Sip wine.

     Get your hands back in there. Mix it around until it starts to look like dough. Ok, this looks better. Cover the bowl with a kitchen cloth and let stand for about an hour and a half in a warm, draft-free corner of the kitchen where no mice will go. Grab the wine and get out of the kitchen.

     Don’t panic when you come back coz it’s ALIVE! Now picture someone who you might have a beef with and punch that sucker in the face. Funnily enough it feels like flesh. Punch punch punch punch! Take it out of the bowl and throw it onto a floured board and punch some more. Some may call this kneading, but I call it stress-management.

     Now, there’s lots of turns this scenario could take. One could slice the dough into small handfuls and make rolls. Maybe stick some of those big Spanish olives inside or some fresh chopped herbs and sautéed garlic. Or some vegan cashew cheese. One can bake half of the dough and put the rest in the fridge for the next day.

     Punch punch punch sip gulp.

     One could roll the dough out flat and put some tomatoes on top, maybe some homemade pesto, fresh chopped red pepper, sliced mushrooms, onions, garlic. Then throw it in the oven and make pizza (since this is probably a pizza dough.)

     Punch punch punch gulp.

     OR…I can see an evil twin moment coming…the situation gets out of hand…

The Chaos Kitchen #ambaking

The Most Awesome Raisin Bread

     Bread baking is easy. All you need is flour, yeast, salt and water. And a baking apparatus. Bread dough can be wound around a stick and held over a fire. Bread dough can be placed in a clay form with a lid and buried in a fire pit. Or bread dough can be laid out nicely on a parchment-covered  baking tray and placed in a preheated electric oven for an hour.
     Compared to other periods in history, the flour we buy today is of a high quality. For that matter, the bread we buy today is cheap and also of a very good quality. (Both points can be disputed and I invite you to dispute here in the comments.)
     So why bother baking your own?
     I like to bake bread because I can control the amount of salt going into it. I can decide what type of grain I want to use. The sweetish, yeasty, not-too-fermented smell of rising bread dough fills the room with a nostalgic, warm nuance.  The smell of baking bread is the heart-racing epitome of all baking experiences put together.
     Have we forgotten chocolate chip cookies so quickly?
     For the moment, yes. Another reason I bake: because in Germany I can’t buy some of the products I would like to have, like decent cookies. So I make them myself. Now in Germany, the bread is excellent. No doubt about that. But I can’t get a decent raisin bread.
     And as easy as writing down the four ingredients for baking bread, I slammed together a raisin bread last night that knocked my socks off. And I actually wrote down the ingredients and their approximate measurements because I would like to do this again.

          Raisin Bread

Soak in just enough hot water to cover and set aside:
1 c Raisins (more or less to taste)
2 T Crushed Linseed (optional–Omega-3 oils)
Mix together in a bowl:
4 c Flour of choice (Keep another cup or two in reserve)
Yeast (one packet dry yeast, ½ cake fresh yeast–mine are 42 g)
4 T Olive Oil
250 ml Buttermilk
½ c Dark Brown Sugar
2 T Cinnamon (more or less to taste–add nutmeg, allspice, ginger, anything you’d like)
     Mix with a fork or get in there with your hands. Now, if you’re using fresh yeast, you might want to activate it. I mixed it with warmish water and a bit of sugar, put the flour on the top, then the oil and the buttermilk.
     Add the raisins.
     Now you have to get in there with your hands. Knead for about 10minutes. The structure of the dough changes. If it’s too wet, add more flour. If it’s too dry, add warm water, oil or buttermilk, depending on how many calories you want to add to the bread.
     Where’s the fun in this, you say?
     Bread dough takes on the feel of flesh. The manner in which one kneads is entirely up to the kneader. Punching is a great way to release tension. Think of it as a physical workout! Takes some of the guilt away when we add more butter. And I quit smoking last year, so it gives my hands something to do.
     Knead, knead knead, punch, Punch, PUNCH!  When the dough has that silky, smooth feel, place in a bowl, cover with a dish towel and put in a warm dry place to rise, about an hour. (I’ve read that the dough can turn too ‘beery’ and smell too fermented when left too long. Check this out: The Fresh Loaf)
     Speaking of more butter: I melted one good tablespoon of butter and added some brown sugar and cinnamon. After the dough had risen, I wanted to roll it out, dribble the butter and sugar over it, then roll it up like a sort of swirl. Ha. That didn’t work. I ended up kneading the butter and the sugar into the dough. Which seemed to be ok. So I divided the dough into 3 loaves, put them on a parchment-lined baking tray and allowed them to rise again, like 20 minutes. Which didn’t happen in a cool room, so I put them in the oven at 150° C–no fan.  300° F, that is.
      I have an electric oven with a fan. I have arrived.
     After maybe 20 minutes or so, I turned the fan on. I may even have turned the temperature up to 350°. After only having a wood-powered oven for so long, I am so used to keeping my eye the goods, that I don’t pay a lot of attention to the temperature or the time. At some point I took the loaves out when the tops were lightly browned.
     I allowed them to cool as long as I could contain myself. The loaves felt soft and I was worried I hadn’t left them in long enough. But after they had cooled, the knife slid through the cakey texture and the aroma of cinnamon and brown sugar almost moved me to tears.