Friday, 29 July 2016

Harvesting and Preserving Herbs

Last year I wrote a post on growing herbs and vegetables. They started as tiny plants and over the summer they have grown so big that I was not even able to use them up. So to preserve them for the winter I have been picking small bunches here and there. Some to be dried, other to be frozen.

  • Drying herbs.

Cut some young, healthy twigs. Tie them with a twine and hang to dry in a shaded, drafty place. I make cone-like, loose fitting covers for the herbs, so they so not get dusty. Once dried, you can roll the bunches between palms of your hands to crumble them. Best do it over a clean table or a sheet of parchment paper. Store in airtight canisters. Do not forget to mark them with proper names. Once dried and crushed it is hard to tell basil from oregano. Maybe not so hard but better be safe than sorry, right?

Remember that dried herbs are more potent than fresh ones. 

  • Freezing herbs.
Pick healthy, young herbs. Rinse and dry them well. Once completely dry, chop them finely and place in a container or ziplock bag and put in the freezer. Some herbs, like sage, I like to
freeze whole leaves on cookie sheets and then put in a container. They are very fragile so be careful. Sage is wonderful for flavoring the oil or in marinades. 
You can also make sage butter, very helpful when roasting chicken or a Thanksgiving Turkey.

Dill, parsley and mint can be frozen in water in ice cube trays. Fill the cube in half with loosely packed, chopped herbs. Fill with water. Freeze. Pop the cubes into a container or a bag and keep in the freezer. Makes a great addition to sauces, soups and drinks (mint).

I hope that you have found those tips helpful. Let me know.


Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Homemade Sourdough Bread. Yeast Free.

I have found this recipe years ago on a blog that is no longer online.  I am glad that I copied it rather than bookmarked, as this bread is easy to make and the result is a soft and moist inside with delicious crunchy outside.
It always turns out well so it is perfect for beginner bakers.

Lees Sourdough Bread

240g of active rye starter 100% hydration

280g water
390 g white wheat bread flour ( I use )
90 g dark rye flour
11 g salt

Take your starter out of a fridge and let warm up for an hour or two.

60g of recently fed, warmed up  STARTER  out of a jar * (put the rest in the fridge)
90g water
90g  rye flour
Mix all the ingredients, cover and leave until it doubles in size.

*If you have not fed it for a few days, do so (50g of rye flour + 50g of water) Mix well, cover and leave for a few hours or overnight.

When the starter is ready, add water and mix, add both flours and mix well. Cover and let the dough rest for 20 minutes.
Add salt and work the dough for a few minutes until it is not so sticky anymore (6-7 min). Brush a mixing bowl with olive oil, place the dough and cover with foil. Let it raise for 21/2 hours.
Now: The recipe calls to divide the dough, into 2 round loafs and leave them to rise again for 21/2 hours in baskets., folding once at half time. I skip this step.
I line a baking pan with parchment paper, place the dough and let it rest for another 30 min.

Preheat oven to 250 C (495F) with a pizza stone in it. I do not use one. I do not use the dome either. Perhaps one day I will have all those accessories for a serious baker.
If you have the dome put in the oven about 15 min. before you are ready to bake your bread. Make cuts on your bread dough, remove the dome, place the bread on the stone, spray quickly 10x with water and cover so the steam does not escape.
In my case, no stone means using a baking pan. Once the oven is hot, spray the bottom of the oven a few times, 5 sprays on the bread and put it in quickly. Turn the temperature down to 230C (450F)
Bake for 18 minutes. After that time turn the temperature down to 200C (405F) and bake another 18 minutes.
Baking with cover – first ,bake 15 min. Remove cover, bake another 10-15 min
Turn the oven off and let the bread sit in the oven for another 10 minutes for a crispy crust.

It may seem like a lot of work and many steps but once you get a hang of timing there is very little work involved. Mostly waitingJ

  1. Make sure you have active starter
  2. Mix the dough and let it raise
  3. Place in the pan and let rise
  4. Bake
  5. ENJOY!
Simple, is it not? Let me know how your bread turned out.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Refreshing Lavender Lemonade

Another heat wave is upon us and there is nothing better to quench the thirst like Lavender Lemonade. I always thought that it would be like drinking cologne and resisted the urge to try it for the longest time. Oh boy, was I wrong. Do not delay and brew some goodness.
Time-saving tip in the recipe so read carefully.*

Lavender Lemonade
Step 1 - Making Simple Syrup
1 cup packed, golden brown sugar
1 cup water
1 heaping tablespoon of lavender buds.
Bring water and sugar to boil. Add lavender. Stir and remove from heat. Let cool. Strain.

Step 2 - Making Lemonade
1 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 cups of water (the amount of water depends on your personal taste preference)

Mix lemon juice, water and ½ of simple syrup. Stir and taste. Keep adding simple syrup until you reach the desired sweetness.
Chill for an hour. Serve with slices of lemon.
If you want to serve lemonade with ice, use a bit less water when making lemonade, so it does not get diluted too much.

*The tip:
Buy organic lemonade. Add ¼ cup of simple syrup per 1 liter of lemonade. Taste and add more syrup and/or water if desired.

If you make lemonade often, make a double batch of simple syrup. Store unused part in the fridge.


Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Make Your Own Rye Sourdough Starter. 7 steps tutorial .

In the last year the amount of bread that my family eats have been reduced by half, if not more. It is not because we have fallen victims of the popular Gluten-Free diet fad. We all absolutely love breads and pastas. Why stop eating it then? Simply because not only the waistline was ever expanding but also both my husband and myself felt bloated all the time.

All the yeast, preservatives and additives that make the breads soft and fluffy have negative impact on our health. We have started noticing the difference during our travels, when we indulged in a freshly baked banquettes or pizza and did not feel bloated after the meal.

That got me thinking that not only the look, taste and texture of breads in North America are different, but the ingredients must greatly differ. The best solution was to reduce the amount we were eating. I actually stopped eating bread all together and lasted for about 6 months.  It has been very hard to break the lifelong habit of having a sandwich for lunch.

Recently I have decided to try my skill at baking bread at home. I also decided that I did not want to bake with yeast. Hey, why make it easy?!
Here is a simple recipe for Sourdough Starter. This recipe is from a book by James Hamelman “Bread”
This starter has wild yeast and bacteria, that will make bread rise naturally.
Day 1

225 g dark rye flour
225 g water (room temperature)

Mix the ingredients and place in a clean jar. Cover with foil and leave for 24 hours in the warm place (23-27 C). In my experience 25 C is an optimal temperature. In 22-23 C range the starter takes a lot longer to get active.

Day 2

Use 112 g of mixture from day 1
112 g dark rye flour
112 g water

Mix well, place in a clean jar and cover with foil.

Day 3/4/5/6

112 g of mixture from the previous day
112 g dark rye flour
112 g water

If possible on days 3 to 6 feed the mixture every 12 hours – 112 g mixture from previous day, 56 g water, 56 g flour in the morning. In the evening add 56 g water and 56 g flour. 
Do not worry if you do it all in one step like on day 2. You will end up with a good starter anyway.
By day 3 your starter should be doubling after a few hours. It will drop down afterwards but that is normal so do not fret.

On Day 7 your starter should be ready to be used.

To store the starter – cover it and put in the fridge. Remember to feed it ONCE A WEEK by adding 50 g of rye flour and 50 g of water. Take the jar out of the fridge for about an hour so it warms up a bit. Add flour and water. Stir well and leave out for another hour. Once you see that it starts to grow or form bubbles put it back in the fridge.

Share your experience with making bread at home and favorite recipes. Check back soon for my tried and delicious bread recipes.