Saturday, March 27, 2010

Heidi's Honey Oat Wheat Bread

I went to a luncheon with some of the ladies at church for my friend Rockelle's 40th birthday. I had signed up to bring bread, so I baked 4 loaves of my Honey Oat Wheat Bread and took two of them with me to the lunch. I think there were about 8 ladies there, and a few kids, and when I left, I had an empty bread basket and lots of compliments.

This is a variation of a couple of different recipes and my own experience. I originally got the idea from the cookbook that came with my Kitchen-aid mixer, but my recipe is much different from the original. I don't have a photo right now of the finished bread, but stay tuned and I will post one next time I make the bread, probably tomorrow or Monday.

I always use fresh ground wheat flour in my breads unless I'm using only white flour (mainly French bread). I have hundreds of pounds of hard red winter wheat that I inherited from my grandparents. They stored it for years and years, and used a lot, but there is a lot leftover. Hard red winter wheat is just not the best for baking bread. It works fine in quick breads, but just does not have the gluten necessary to trap the gasses produced when yeast dough rises, and inevitably falls in the oven. I found, through many frustrating batches of bread that even when I added gluten and/or dough enhancer, I still did not get good quality, light bread; I mostly baked a lot of bricks.

I phoned my parents' friends who are renowned bread bakers and begged for mercy and for help, and luckily, they were ever so kind and taught me a lot. I still want to use this wheat I have been storing, but now, when I grind wheat, I put in 2 cups of hard white winter wheat to 1 cup of hard red winter wheat and it seems to make the perfect flour. I grind it at a nice fine texture and it works just great for all of my needs.

A note about baking pans: Everyone always raves about my bread crust. I cannot take credit for the crust, I must give credit where it is the pans I use. I bake, for the most part only on stoneware baking pans, and I hope to never go back to metal, glass, or any other material. It is so worth the investment!!

OK, now back to the recipe! Rockelle has been begging me for the recipe ever since the luncheon, but it's only a recipe in my head, and I promised her I would take the time to type it out, so here goes:

Heidi's Honey Oat Wheat Bread

  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 1/2-4 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. active dry yeast
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1 Tbsp. water
  • Oatmeal

Place water, honey, and olive oil in small saucepan. Heat over low heat until mixture is very warm (120-130 degrees F).

Place white flour and 3 cups whole wheat flour, oats, salt, and yeast in mixer bowl. Mix at low speed (in Bosch or speed 2 for Kitchen-aid) for about 15 seconds. Continuing on low speed gradually add warm mixture to flour mixture and mix about 1 minute. Add eggs and mix about 1 minute longer. Continuing, add flour 1/2 cup at a time and mix about 2 minutes more or until dough clings to hook and cleans sides of bowl, adjusting speed as necessary. Knead about 2 minutes longer.

Place dough in greased bowl (I spray with Pam), turning to grease top. Cover and let rise in warm place for about 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.

Punch dough down and divide in half. Shape each half into a loaf and place in greased (or Pam sprayed) pan. Let rise about 1 more hour or until doubled in bulk.

Beat together the egg and 1 Tbsp. water. Brush the top of each loaf with the egg mixture and sprinkle with oatmeal. Bake at 350 F for 25-30 minutes; the tops of the loaves should be golden, not dark. Remove from pans immediately and cool on wire racks.

If your family is like mine, one of these loves will never know what it is like to be cool!

Making Gnocchi Pasta by Hand!!

It's funny how things evolve from one thing into another! I received a couple of boxes of Tastefully Simple's Chicken and Dumpling Soup for winning a contest. I made the soup for my family, and to be honest, it was terrible! It was a perfectly good waste of chicken and water, just yucky. Everyone ate, just because it was dinner, but we didn't even save the leftovers.....and, it's expensive at $8.99/package. Lucky for me I didn't pay for it.

Since that fiasco, I had been thinking that surely I couldn't do worse at making chicken and dumpling soup from scratch. That was the plan when I set out and started boiling a chicken. I boiled the chicken and let it cool, and then assigned my son Conner to pick the meat from the bones while my hubby and I were on a date last week. To quote Conner "ew, gross!". I told him to deal with it, he's a boy after all, and how does he think chicken gets into our soups? A real teaching moment.

K, so the chicken sat in the broth for a couple more days in the fridge before I got around to using it. I kept rolling ideas around in my head and deciding exactly what kind of chicken soup I wanted to add my dumplings to. Nothing really jumped out at me, so I kept thinking and looking online for recipes.

My husband loves the gnocchi soup at Olive Garden, and I've been thinking for some time about trying my hand at making gnocchi from scratch. You can see where this is going.... I was pondering the soup, and the gnocchi idea just kept nagging at me. Soooo....of course I had to make chicken gnocchi soup, and pitch the dumpling idea altogether this time around. Gnocchi are really little dumplings anyway, right?

If you have never tasted fresh made gnocchi, you are so in for a treat should you try your hand at this! I have never in my life tasted such tender, delicious little pillows of perfection. This soup was so good that my family fought over the leftovers and begged me to try making gnocchi chicken Alfredo and substituting gnocchi for spaghetti with my spaghetti sauce. It really was not all that time consuming, really, no...really! I spent probably 2 hours total in the kitchen from start to finish, and keep in mind I was a beginner, never making this before. I have never been that big of a fan of gnocchi until I tried these!

For the uninitiated, gnocchi are little pillows of pasta made mostly from potato, with a little flour to bind the potato together (as to not crumble while cooking) and, in the case of my gnocchi, also an egg. I found a gnocchi recipe on this blog, which frankly scared me silly after reading this:
  • "Gnocchi recipes aren't for the faint of heart. Many, many things can go awry. I'm not trying to scare you off or dissuade you, I just want you to know what you are in for. Gnocchi-making takes practice, patience, and persistance. At their best potato gnocchi can be light and delicate. At their worst, dense, rubbery, and/or soggy. The very worst are the gnocchi that come apart in the boiling water before they even reach your plate."
Yikes! I was already boiling my potatoes....what had I gotten myself into? The soup was in the works and I was ready to go. I highly suggest, for those who want to try their hand at gnocchi making, to carefully read that blog post at least a couple of times.

I am lucky enough to have a potato ricer. I've actually been lucky enough to have stored one for years, having been told once by Martha Stewart on some cooking show that every cook worth anything should own a ricer. I didn't want to be ashamed should Martha come knocking, so I dutifully purchased a ricer only to continue mashing my potatoes the old fashioned getting a man to do it!

Who knew, that some day I would decide to make gnocchi and that a ricer would indeed become very handy. You see, when making gnocchi pasta, it is very important that your mashed potatoes have no lumps, and a ricer is perfect for that. The blogger I got the recipe from uses a couple of forks to mash her potatoes, but trust me, a ricer is not expensive, and a huge time saver on the potato mashing step of the recipe.

I won't go into the gnocchi recipe details here because she does a fabulous job on her blog and you can pop over there to read all about it.

So, in spite of being skeptical of the outcome, once my potatoes were cooked, I continued with my gnocchi adventure. Below you can see a photo of my completed pasta. It was not all that hard, at least not for me. I am an experienced cook, and have made pasta a few times, and bread about a zillion times...give or take a few.

Here is a photo of the finished pasta after boiling. I was so surprised at how quickly they cooked. The blogger said that when they pop to the surface, they are done, then wait 10 seconds and remove them from the boiling water. They seriously popped up in only about 30 seconds. I was not prepared for that, but I was pleasantly surprised. I just couldn't believe that they could be done already!

I wanted to make a simple soup, simple in ingredients, and simple in taste to allow the flavor and texture of the gnocchi to become the focus of the dish. I ran through my herbs in my head and just couldn't come up with a suitable flavor that I wanted to add to the soup, so rather than make a seasoning error, I allowed the celery, onion, garlic, and carrots along with salt and pepper to flavor the soup.

I started the potatoes cooking for the gnocchi, and while they cooked and then cooled (see gnocchi recipe), I worked on the chicken soup.

Heidi's Chicken Gnocchi Soup
  • 1 chicken, whole, cleaned, covered with water, and boiled until tender and coming off of bones.
  • 8 cups reserved chicken broth from boiling chicken
  • 3 cans evaporated milk
  • Olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 6 stalks celery, diced
  • 6 large carrots, peeled and grated
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Corn starch for thickening
Note: when I boiled the chicken, I didn't add any seasonings or veggies; I simply cleaned the chicken, covered it with water and boiled it until the meat was coming off of the bones. I also refrigerated the chicken in the broth overnight so I could skim the fat from the top of the pot.

To make the soup, cut the chicken meat into smaller chunks, and reserve 8 cups broth in a measuring cup. Add the garlic, onion, celery, and carrots to the cooking pot and drizzle with olive oil. Simmer the veggies until tender and add back in the broth and chicken. Add the evaporated milk and bring the soup to a simmer and allow to cook while you continue with the gnocchi making.

Once I reached the point that my gnocchi were ready to boil, I thickened my soup with a corn starch and water roux. I probably used 1/4 cup of corn starch and just enough water to make it liquid. You can add more or less, depending on how thick you want your soup. I wanted it creamy and thickened, but not too thick. It was more runny than a typical clam chowder. Once the soup was thickened, I turned it off and began boiling the gnocchi. As each batch of gnocchi finished, I just transferred them straight into the soup.

It was as easy at that, and our soup was ready to eat. Below you can see the finished product....mmmm....still makes my mouth water thinking of it!