Warm Up for Winter: Lets practice feeding an army

We'll call that an intermission

…and now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

The Northern California Rennaissance Faire was fantastic. I have been spending all my weekends there since the end of August before the gates even opened to the enthusiastic throngs of patrons. In that time I was building the village of Willingtown, buffing up on my Elizabethan language skills and mostly shepherding children in and out of the Funny Farm petting zoo. Now, a week after our final days there, our apartment still hasn’t recovered, but I’m starting to get back into my normal routine, and that means recipes!

With holidays approaching and family visits already being planned, it’s important to load up on recipes that can feed a big group without breaking the bank or a sweat. This chili is an old standby that I learned to make from my mother when I was in elementary school. She never wrote down a recipe, but I learned to make it by feel and have since then taken down the recipe. It takes time when you start with dry beans, but the actual work involved in making it is minimal and the results are woth the wait. Just beware, the batch size is rather hefty. We often brought it to potlucks because it is vegan yet tastes as hearty as any classic meaty chili so its sure to please anyone. It’s also delicious, filling and incredibly cheap to make bucket-loads of!

Black Bean Chili

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups dry black beans soaked overnight
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups vegi broth
  • 2 cans fire roasted tomatos
  • 1 can corn with liquid
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 2 onions
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 3 dried ancho chilis, chopped into 1cm squares
  • 2 dried chipotle morita peppers, ground (sub chipotle meco for more heat)
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 bay leaves
Directions:
Rinse your soaked beans until the water runs clear. Then bring beans, water and broth to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 2 hours or until beans are soft all the way through. Add more water if necessary to keep beans covered during this time. The liquid will reduce as it simmers. Coarsely chop onion and garlic and set in a shallow pan with the oil to slowly sweat over low heat, stirring occasionally to make sure they don’t burn. Once soft, add them to the beans and liquid. It doesn’t matter if the beans aren’t soft yet when you do this; the flavor will seep into the beans as they cook. Once the beans are soft, add the rest of the ingredients and allow the chili to simmer for an hour at least. The longer it can go, the better since the flavors need time to come out of the chilis pods and permeate the beans and corn. This is a relatively mild chili, though it may still have too much kick for some people. Leave out the seeds of the peppers for a milder batch or substitute the Chipotle Morita with Chipotle Meco for a spicier dish. For the adventurous, consider adding cayenne pepper or fresh jalapenos as a garnish.  Serve with a dollop of sour cream and cornbread for 8 people.

Hearty Black Bean Chili and Cheddar Cornbread

The Cheddar Cornbread is a recipe I developed myself  from the ones published by Alton Brown and Epicurious. It is the most tender and moist cornbread I have ever had! I have the bad habit of not following recipes, which drives Colin nuts, but produces amazing results. I look at around a dozen different recipes for the same thing and then narrow it to the two of three best looking ones. Then I play with the proportions(and the ingredients I have available) until I find exactly the product I want. It’s an artistic take on what is science side of cooking.

Cheddar Cornbread

Ingredients:

  • 1 cups corn meal
  • 1/2 cup corn flour
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon gluten
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 3/4 cup full fat yogurt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 can of corn, lightly drained
  • 4 ounces extra sharp cheddar
  • 3 green onions
  • 1 tablespoon butter for greasing the pan
Directions:
Preheat oven to 425°F.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients and mix with a fork. Make a well in the center of the bowl and crack both eggs into it. Add, cream, yogurt, and corn to the well and wisk liquids with your fork, slowly incorporating the flour mixture. Chop green onions and cube cheese into 1/2 in. pieces. Set 1/4 cup of cheese bits aside to top bread with.  Add remaining cheese and green onion into the batter and incorporate fully. It should have the same texture as thick pancake batter so that it scoops easily, but still flows. Grease an 8×12 or 9×9 baking pan and pour batter into the pan. Sprinkle reserved cheese pieces on top evenly. Bake for 18-20 minutes until bread has risen and top is golden brown. Serve warm with Black Bean Chili or as a stand alone snack.

 

 

Advertisements

Adventures in Sourdough

Again, I am sorry for the late release! My school schedule is interfering with my blog much too efficiently. The worst part is that I had the post written earlier today and just needed to add photos before posting and noticed as I was about to get into bed that I had forgotten to complete the entry. Without much further ado, please enjoy my first sourdough post.

Since I love sourdough and have a breadmaker, I figured I needed to get to where I can stop buying San Francisco Sourdough from the grocery store. About 5 days ago, I got a dry sourdough starter from Kitty Sharkey. It had been sitting in her kitchen for a while but she’d never

I’m working off of this recipe from King Arthur Flour.

July 5, 2011: Attempt No. 1

Attempt No. 1- Dough on the sheet

First, I cut the recipe in half. I(not knowing any better) used whole wheat flour not white. The dough was very dry and I added an unknown quantity of water to get better texture. I think the dough was still too dry but i didn’t want to deviate that far from the recipe. I think I mismeasured the flour or something becasue it shouldn’t have been so dry. I set the dough to rise in a pyrex bowl for one hour and was thrilled when it seemed to have doubled in size. I pulled it out of the bowl and all the air when right out of it. Crap. The recipe calls to let it rise again so I put it on a baking sheet and let it go for another 45 minutes. One problem. It didn’t really rise again. Nope, it spread laterally though. Didn’t get any flatter, just spread out. Weird… but I decided to bake it anyway. It needs more gluten for sure if I’m going to use all whole wheat flour. The loaf  turned out very flat, dense, chewy, and not very sour but hearty. I ate some with butter and jelly and it wasn’t too bad. It tasted a little yeasty though which makes me wonder.

Attempt No. 1 - A bread flavored brick

July 7, 2011: Attempt No. 2

Same recipe but this time I used half whole wheat flour and half white  and added 1tbsp vital wheat gluten. I didn’t feel like heating the whole house to bake what might well turn out to be a brick, so I’m baking in the bread maker. The dough turned out a MUCH better texture this time and I was very hopeful. I put it to rise in the bread-maker pan and decided I wouldn’t try to move it for fear of deflation. So much for that. In trying to get it into the bread machine the jerk from getting the pan into the clamps deflated the dough substantially. I actually HEARD the air go out of it. Sadface.

Attempt No. 2 - Deflated but doing okay

But, miraculously, the bread worked! It could still stand to be improved, but it’s much less dense and isn’t too crumbly. It didn’t taste as yeasty as the first loaf and rose much more. It’s still chewy, but I like that in a sourdough loaf. The crust didn’t turn out particularly nicely but its got a good crunch to it which is a goooood start.

Attempt No. 2 - Looks like bread alright!

July 10, 2011: Attempt No. 3

This one was another half and half loaf using the same ratio as before but I did I full recipe instead of a half. I added two tablespoons of vital wheat gluten and gave it a single rise of an hour and a half. I did this one in the breadmaker again since that seemed to work well last time and I’m really happy with the results! The crust looked much better since I was able to keep it moistened while rising and turned a beautiful golden color. The bread was still a touch crumbly on the inside, but it was nice and moist and light.

Attempt No. 3 - Looks like bread, tastes like bread, must be...

My mother was a baker for many years. She Delivered bread of Bread Workshop in Berkeley when I was very young and got hooked on baking. I just got hooked on fresh bread. She then worked for the Cheeseboard until she helped found the Arizmendi Bakery Cooperative in Oakland in 1997 and worked there until 2004. Sufice to say she’s got a lot of experience with breadmaking and sourdoughs.

Attempt No. 2 vs. 3 - Double recipe and stronger starter

She came over last weekend and gave me some tips for improving my starter and bread and I think it worked. Turns out I’d been feeding it too often but the goo(flour and water mixture) I’d been giving it was too liquidy and not enough of it.  I’m now feeding it about two cups of goo per one cup of starter and the good is very thick; I’m calculating the ratio by equal weights instead of equal volumes which is what my starter recipe had called for. Clearly it’s not the best recipe. Once I started halving the starter at every feeding, giving it a thicker goo and doing so less often it got waaay more active. The whole thing is permeated with bubbles and it tastes nice and sour but in the right way. Not like yogurt or cheese, but like SOURDOUGH! :] Now I’m not afraid it’ll die in the fridge!

The recipe I had been going off of had also stressed that using metal utensils or containers for the starter would somehow weaken or even kill it. I think this might be an old wives tale. I’ve been mixing up my goo with a  fork and stiring it into my starter with the same utensil and it’s doing really well. I’m not going to get a special small wooden spoon just for stirring my sourdough starter and I doubt most people do.

July 15, 2011: Attempt No. 4

Potluck! Time to try out my bread on a bunch of friends and strangers! I made this one with onion kneaded into the dough before letting it rise for an hour. Again the same recipe as above, but I used all white flour this time becasue I was in a rush to get it done. It was lighter and rose more than any of the others had. The slices were tender but stable and didnt crumble despite being handled roughly. The sour flavor was a little better, but I’m hoping it’ll get even stronger as the starter matures.

July 17, 2011: Attemp No. 5

I’m running out of the whole wheat flour so I’m using all white again. Made another full recipe based on the King Arthur Flour site. I think I added a little too much water since the dough was a little wet. I did a one hour rise this time and used a spatula to stir it in the pan it was rising in before giving it a second half hour rise. The starter is definitely getting much better. When I pulled it out of the fridge last night, I was a little worried becasue I saw no bubbles. I left it out overnight to come up to room temperature and this morning it was gorgeous again! Completely bubbly and had grown since the night before when i pulled it out. The bread was a little denser, but still very tender with a really crunchy crust. The texture was great and flavor even better than before. I’m thrilled with the way this bread just keeps getting better and better. I’ll try a new recipe soon and maybe I can go back to experimenting with whole wheat flour now that I’m getting the hang of white flour sourdough.

Attempt No. 3 - From starter to finish

I hope my adventures in sourdough have given a little insight into making sourdough at home. I’ll be sure to add updates on the blog as I learn more. And if anyone wants a bit of starter in the San Francisco East Bay, I’m more than happy to share. Just let me know!