Feb 25, 2011

You're Gonna Want To Check Back Next Week For...

Remember being about 9 or 10 and having to remember all those dates for History. "Why do we have to know this anyway? It's so BORING!!!"

Next week, I'm going to bring some history to life....bread history that is. Bread has been around for a long time... a long, LONG time as you will see when we tackle the 600's with a recipe for these...

And something "old" from this country...

Which has become one of America's all time favorite foods!

And something from our very own US of A's history...

Yummy Sourdough!!

Come back, I'll have photos, recipes, tips and tricks for making some "historical" breads!


In this blog, I'd like to cover all different kinds of breads as well as some requests I've had from my family and friends. Today I get to make one of my favorite kinds of breads, tortillas. The tortilla has very few ingredients, 3 to be exact. Water, Salt and Masa Harina, a flour that is made from cooking dried corn kernels with lime and then grinding them up to a flour consistency. You can find it HERE.

Today I'm Making Tortillas

I usually mix the salt and flour around a bit and then add in the warm water until the dough is soft and fluffy and sticks together.

The Masa Dough

This next step was not on the bag of masa but someone told me to "rest" the dough for 20 minutes before forming in small balls. I covered the dough with a damp flour sack towel so it wouldn't dry out.

Letting it Rest

In case you have never seen one, this is a very simple tortilla press. You can make tortillas without one, but it's alot more difficult to get them all the same shape, thickness and size. And since it was under $15, very affordable.

Tortilla Press

You can see a piece of plastic wrap in between the layers. This is to prevent the dough from sticking to the press when pressure is applied.

Press closed

I get my pans ready before I begin the process. I'm using two today so I can keep the process moving along. You want the heat under the tortillas to be about medium high.

The Baking Pans are Prepared

And I usually get an area ready I can put the tortillas after they are cooked to keep them warm.

Where They Will Go

Now you get to play! Pick up a small amount of dough, compress it just a bit and roll into a ball shape like this. Mine was actually too large this time. It should be about 1 in. or so.


Place onto the middle of the lined tortilla press and press all the way down. Open again and...

Put Into Press

Voile! A beautiful little tortilla. Nice and round and flat. Pick up the plastic wrap and transfer the tortilla to your hand then then into the pans. Cook for about a minute on each side or until you see a few little brown areas develop.

The Pressed "raw" Tortilla

Repeat until all the dough looks like this. I nice little plateful of homemade corn tortillas. You can use them in any recipe that calls for corn tortillas.

Making A Plate Full

Since I made these right before lunch, I decided to make a couple of tostados. I took a couple of the tortillas and fried them just a bit in corn oil.

Using What I Made

I had some cooked black beans in my refrigerator so I took them out, heated them up and sprinkled on some "latin seasoning" I found at my local dollar store.

Mix the Black Beans

I like to keep my black beans whole rather than making them refried.

Tortillas Layered With Beans

Next, I added some shredded chicken I made in earlier in the week. Its just boneless chicken tenders and thighs (out of the freezer) with a jar of salsa and just a bit of chicken broth and the "latin seasoning" shown above cooked for about 10 minutes in the pressure cooker.

Layer on Some Chicken

A little lettuce and cheese....


And let's not forget my very favorite hot sauce in the world...

My Favorite Hot Sauce!

And here you have it, Tostados! These were absolutely delicious and you could really taste the tortilla and how fresh it was!

The Finished Tostados!

I hope you give these a try. They are really very simple and fun to make if you have the right supplies.

Feb 22, 2011

Using The Breadmaker to Make French Baguettes

Today, I'm going to show you how simple it is to make bread using a bread machine. This is the machine I have, a Chefmate. I've had it for years and it's done a good job making all kinds of loaves and doughs. The manual contains quite a few recipes!

Owner's Manual & Recipe Book

This is the recipe I chose for today.... French Bread. Now alot of people thing you can't make French Bread in a bread machine because the crust just can't come out right. But what is all you are using it for is to make the dough?

How They Are Supposed To Turn Out

So I used this recipe from the book to make a 1 pound loaf on the dough cycle today. To this recipe I also added 1 tsp. of Vital Wheat Gluten, 1 tsp. of apple cider vinegar and about a Tbsp. of potato flakes. What a combo you say? All of these help to make the crumb more "holey" and light and a true French Bread has a really nice soft inside and a crispy, crunchy outside.

The Recipe

With the bread machine, all you have to do is measure in the ingredients, set the cycle you want and step back as the dough is mixed and kneaded. I usually check back with the machine after a couple of minutes just to make sure there is enough flour and water to make a nice dough ball. Once I know that is ok, I just wait until the timer goes off signaling the cycle is ready for the next step.

Using The Dough Cycle To Mix & Knead Dough

Although my machine is a little older, it still has a few options you can choose and this photo shows you the dough cycle. I would LOVE to get a machine that makes a loaf of bread in a more traditional loaf shape rather than this upright one, but until then, this one is my little workhorse.

My Machine's Dough Cycle

Here is the dough at the point where it comes out of the bread machine.

First Rise

After rising for about an hour, the dough needed to be divided into pieces and rolled, seam side up, into the traditional French Bread shape for another rise of about 30 minutes.

Dough Divided and Shaped

The loaves are then flipped over, seam side down, brushed with a little bit of Olive Oil, slashed 3 times on the top and put on an oiled pan for 15 min. This is the time I preheat my oven to about 500 degrees even though the recipe only calls for 4oo. I have a broiler pan on the bottom rack of the stove filled with lava rocks that goes in as the oven is preheating so it gets VERY hot too.

The Last Rise

Using the method of some artisan breads, I quickly open the oven, slide out the broiler pan of rocks, toss in about 1 cup of water, put the bread into the oven, and close the door to allow the steam to really build in the oven. I also turn the oven temperature down to the recommended 400 degrees and set the timer for 25 minutes.

Right Out Of The Oven

And, Voila! Beautiful little mini French Bread baguettes! You should have smelled my house! Wow, there really is nothing like the smell of fresh baked bread!

It was really hard to wait while the little loaves cooled. Since this was the first time using the dough cycle, I wanted to see the insides and see if I got the crumb I was going for.

Here they are after about 45 minutes of cooling. I absolutely LOVE the way they looked inside. The taste test proved they WERE as good as they looked. This bread was very easy to make and the results were phenomenal! My only regret is that I didn't make the 1 and a half size dough so I could have more to eat!! Next time.....

Feb 18, 2011

A Wonder Mill for Valentines Day!

Oh Happy Day! Got this beauty for Valentine's Day from my hubby. (He knows what a practical girl I am!!) We bought some wheat at our local Health Food store to run through it. Directions state to run about 2 cups of wheat berries through the machine and throw away the flour so any thing left in the machine from the "making" gets taken out and doesn't make your flour taste gross!

I have another large bag of White Wheat to run through it this weekend TO USE.... Yay! So next week, I'll try another bread recipe and if I get on the giddy-up this weekend, I'll try to review this wonderful WonderMill so you can see for yourself what a truly quick and efficient machine it is.

Feb 16, 2011

My First Loaf ....er, Loaves Of Bread

After watching the the documentary, How To Cook Your Life, I knew this was where I wanted to begin my bread journey. The movie documents filmaker, Doris Dorrie's summer spent taking a culinary class at a Zen center that was taught by Edward Espe Brown, author of The Tassajara Bread Book. I was mesmerized at the setting, the people, and the reverence for the cooking process not to mention all the wisdom and skill displayed by Brown himself. If you don't have his book yet, I would highly recommend getting it. There are recipes for bread, muffins, pastry, rolls and even butters and pies!

A link to Amazon for this book can be found in my right had sidebar.... #1. ---->

Today I'm making the basic, Tassajara Yeasted Bread following the recipe HERE. The substitutions I incorporated today are: I used clover honey for my sweetener, and a half and half mixture of %100 King Arthur (KA) whole wheat flour and KA All Purpose Flour in the "sponge." In the second addition of flour, I used half and half of KA All Purpose Flour and Gold Medal Better For Bread flour. In our area today it was rainy, and I found I didn't need all of the second addition of 4 cups of flour, more like about 3 1/2 cups. I also punched the dough down after an hour and went for a second rising of 40 minutes. This recipe of bread is supposed to make 2 - 4 1/2 x 8 1/2 pans worth. After brushing the bread with an egg wash, I sprinkled a bit of 7 grain mix from the health food store on top.

Let me just say, it's been YEARS since I made bread that required kneading AND I LOVED IT!! There is just something so soothing about the over and over action of your entire body. Here are a few pictures of today's bread making......

Creating the Sponge

Kneading, Rising and Baking

A few bread myths...
  1. "It takes too long to make bread from scratch." I didn't find that to be true especially with this recipe. Since there were several steps, I would just measure out the flour for the next step while I was waiting.
  2. "It costs too much money to make and buy all the equipment." Bread is very forgiving. Remember, people have been baking it for EONS! Flour, salt, water, yeast and a little sweetener cost very little compared to a $3 loaf of bread at the store AND you know every little ingredient that goes into it. I also found everything it took to put it together; measuring cups and spoons, bowls, spatulas and pans already in my cupboard or I've seen pans at the thrift shop for literally less than a dollar.
  3. "I work and can't stay home to babysit bread all day." Well, have you ever thought about a an electric breadmaker. Most of them are programmable so you don't need to do more than measure a few things before work and set it up to be done when you get home.
  4. "But it doesn't taste like store bread." Thankfully that one IS the truth! It tastes way better!

Feb 15, 2011

Creating The Scene

Bread. The Staff of Life. It's been made all over the world for as long as people have occupied the earth. Taking simple ingredients like flour, salt and water and a form of leavening such as yeast, sourdough or baking powder, a complex and tasty food has resulted that enters into our lives at nearly every meal!

I've made bread before. Some good, some not so good. But this year, I'm going to attempt to mix chemistry with a bit of my soul and come out with the ultimate, best tasting, "Blue Ribbon At The Fair" bread!

Each week, I'll be posting photos and recipes of the bread I bake. A few of the types I'm hoping to cover are the loaf breads, 5 minute artisan breads, pizza dough, pita and flatbreads and bread created from flours I've ground myself! I will also be reviewing bread books and tools as well as flours and grains from different millers.

Become a follower today! I enjoy your comments and suggestions and look forward to taking this journey with you.