Our Daily Bread

[donotprint]Right after college, one of my roommates got a bread maker. After a couple months of excitement, she started to complain about feeling alienated from her bread. The machine was quietly tucked away never to be seen again.

Given this experience, I resisted getting a bread maker for a long time. But a few years ago I ended up with one and haven’t looked back. I have a Zojirushi which seemed like a good idea because it has two paddles and produces a traditionally shaped loaf. But now it’s pointless because a couple years ago I decided to use the machine to make the dough and then bake it in the oven. Those paddle holes in the bottom of a loaf are disheartening. And the crust always came out way too dark in the machine.

Just in case there are some other folks out there who are as pre-occupied with bread as I am, I thought I’d share my stand-by recipe. It’s mostly whole grain and is the main source of flaxseed in our diet.[/donotprint]

Whole Wheat Flax Bread Machine Recipe

This recipe is inspired by Flax Prairie Bread from Ameriflax. I usually use King Arthur’s all-purpose flour for this bread, but if you have bread flour by all means use it instead of the all-purpose flour. It delivers.

1 1/4 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup ground flaxseed
2 tablespoons safflower oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 cup all-purpose flour or bread flour
2 cups white whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast

Put the water, salt, flaxseed, oil, honey, and flours in bread machine pan. Create a small well in the top of the flour and pour in the yeast. Run the machine on the Dough setting. When the dough is ready, punch it down and form it into a loaf shape. Place the dough in a greased bread pan. Cover with a light-weight towel.

Allow the dough to rise for an hour or until it is doubled in size. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 28 minutes. Remove loaf from pan by turning it upside down and catching it with an oven mit. Allow the loaf to cool completely on a cooling rack. If you put it away before it cools, it will get soggy. Store in an airtight container.

Yield: one loaf of lovely bread
Prep-time: 10 minutes

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Nutty Apricot Turnovers

[donotprint]A year ago I would have dismissed you completely if you told me I’d be making pastry dough from scratch and turning it into little turnovers full of dried fruit and nutty goodness. My mission is to make quick and easy snacks that are healthy too. But alas, it’s time to fess up to the fact that I’ve been playing around with pastry dough lately. I’ve been keeping it off the blog. I’ve been leading a double life.

These turnovers are made with a pastry dough that I’ve modified to include yogurt and white whole wheat flour. The innards include walnuts, pecans, dried fruits, and ground flaxseed. I had a lot of fun making them…and even more fun eating them.

I used to be really frightened by the thought of working with pastry dough. And I still sort of am. But I’m starting to think we should all make pie. I took a pastry class a while ago and it really helped to see a professional whip out a pie shell and see the consistency of the dough, etc. I’ve still got a lot to learn. Thank goodness I’ll need to practice practice practice.[/donotprint]

The recipe for the filling is flexible. Don’t have ground flaxseed handy? Try replacing it with some wheat germ. Don’t have pecans? Just replace them with walnuts. Don’t have dried dates? Try replacing them with more dried apricots and raisins. Other than that, I’d try to stick to the recipe.

Turnover dough:

2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup white whole wheat or whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter, cut into pieces
1/3 cup plain Greek style yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, pulse the flour, sugar, and salt together a few times. Evenly distribute the butter pieces over the flour mixture and pulse 5 or 10 times until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs with the occasional pea-sized chunk. Add the yogurt and vanilla and pulse until mixture starts to form into a ball.

Remove dough from processor. Form into a disk as best as you are able. Knead it a few times if necessary. The dough will be wetter and stickier than most pastry dough. Wrap the disk tightly in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for at least one hour, preferably overnight.

Filling:

Make sure the walnuts and the pecans are minimally altered. They should not be salted or flavored – just nuts.

2 dried dates, pitted (preferably Medjool)
2 unsulfered dried apricots
2 tablespoons raisins
1/4 cup walnut pieces
6 pecans
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
Pinch salt
1 teaspoon agave nectar or honey
2 teaspoons apricot preserves

On a cutting board, finely chop the dates, apricots, raisins, walnuts, and pecans together. Transfer to a small bowl. Add the flaxseed and salt. Stir to distribute. Add the agave nectar and preserves and stir to coat.

To Assemble:

1 egg
1 teaspoon milk
All-purpose flour

In a small bowl make an egg wash. Beat the egg and milk together. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Prepare a work surface by dusting it with flour. Get out your rolling pin and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. The dough gets unfriendly once it warms up, have everything ready to go and work as quickly as you can. Don’t make this on the hottest day of the summer.

Take the dough out of the refrigerator and remove plastic wrap. Place on floured work surface and dust the top of the dough with additional flour. Beat on the dough with the rolling pin a few times in order to make it malleable while still cold. Roll it out to 1/4″ thickness, turning it occasionally (a quarter or half turn) and dusting with additional flour when it starts to stick.

Cut dough into four squares. Gently pick up with your hands or by resting it over the rolling pin. Dust off any excess flour with a pastry brush. Transfer to the parchment-lined baking sheet.

Place 2-3 tablespoons of the dried fruit mixture on each square. Wet the edges of the squares with the egg wash using a pastry brush. Fold each square over into a rectangle or triangle. Gently press edges together with the tines of a fork. Cut a small hole in the top of each turnover to allow any steam to escape. Brush the tops with more egg wash.

Bake for 13-15 minutes or until tops are golden brown. Transfer to cooling rack with a large spatula. Allow to cool 5 – 10 minutes. Serve immediately.

Yield: 4 turnovers (I cut them in half to serve to the kids)
Prep-time: 30 minutes (not counting the time the dough rests in the refrigerator)
Bake-time: 13 minutes

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Almond Butter Balls

When all else fails, I usually have some almond butter balls in my freezer. These are a little tricky to form into balls. But that’s because they have a fraction of the honey most recipes for peanut butter balls call for and they have glorious crispy rice cereal which makes them crunchy!

Feel free to replace the almond butter with cashew or peanut. I used natural-style almond butter. But this recipe is extremely flexible so feel free to experiment.

3/4 cup powdered milk
1/2 cup crispy brown rice cereal
2 tablespoons wheat germ
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed (optional)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted almond butter
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a small mixing bowl, stir the powdered milk, cereal, wheat germ, flaxseed, and salt until combined. Set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, stir the almond butter, honey, and vanilla extract with a rubber spatula until combined. Add the powdered milk mixture and stir until uniform.

The mixture may be on the crumbly side. To form into balls, take a tablespoon of the mixture and squeeze it with your hands more than roll it. I pass it back and forth between my hands squeezing and rolling gently with my fingers as I pass. This might be tough for kids to master. If the mixture is too crumbly, add more of something gooey such as honey or even a tablespoon of vegetable, coconut, or flax oil.

Serve or store in the freezer for up to 3 months. Allow to thaw for a couple minutes before serving.

Yield: 30 balls
Prep-time: 20 minutes
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Peanut Butter Clusters

[donotprint]These somehow manage to give me a sugar buzz even though they don’t seem to be totaly overloaded with it. I’ve really got to get some piece of software that will spit out nutrition information for recipes.

Anyway, these are tasty, as you can well imagine. It’s sort of like a reese’s peanut butter cup and a kit kat decided to quit their day jobs and move out to the country to start running their own organic co-op.[/donotprint]

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1/2 cup peanut butter (homogenized works best)
1/4 cup chocolate chips
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed or wheat germ(optional)
1 1/2 cups corn flakes cereal

Place peanut butter, chocolate chips and maple syrup in a medium saucepan over low heat. Stir constantly with a rubber spatula until chocolate is melted and combined.

Turn off heat but leave your saucepan on the burner. Quickly stir in flaxseed or wheat germ. Immediately add cereal and stir gently with rubber spatula until well-coated. If the peanut butter mixture starts to get too firm, reheat it a bit.

Place mini muffin paper cups in mini muffin pan and spoon heaping tablespoons of the cereal mixture into the cups. Cover and allow to set for 1 hour. Serve or store in an airtight container. Best eaten the same day.

Yield: approximately 22 clusters
Prep time: 15 minutes
Set time: 1 hour

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Chocolate Banana Pops

[donotprint]My kids had a wonderful time making these and getting terribly messy in the process! This is the quickest way I’ve come up with to use up over ripe bananas lurking in the kitchen.[/donotprint]

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2 tablespoons powdered sugar
2 teaspoons cocoa powder (preferably dutch process)
1 teaspoon ground flaxseed
2-3 bananas cut into 2-inch thick slices
Popsicle sticks

Mix sugar, cocoa powder, and flaxseed in a small shallow bowl. Roll the banana slices around in the powder mixture until coated. Transfer to plate and insert popsicle sticks. Serve immediately. The banana can sometimes slip around on the popsicle stick, but just eat it and try another one.

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Almond Bon Bons

[donotprint]This is recipe that might not belong among the “healthy” recipes that are supposed to grace the pages of this blog. But, at least it’s fresh and homemade. Much better to indulge with these when your sweet tooth can not be denied.

Some people have asked me if they can replace the rice syrup with honey or corn syrup, to which I resoundingly reply “No!”. I really try not to use unusual ingredients unless I feel they are truly necessary. The bon bons would probably turn out fine with another sweetener, but the rice syrup gives the bon bons an oh-so-lovely carmel-like flavor. It is not to be missed.[/donotprint]

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1 1/4 cup whole almonds
1/3 cup brown rice syrup
1/4 cup organic almond butter or peanut butter
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed (optional)
1 cup quality chocolate chips

Grind almonds in a blender until texture resembles a course meal. A few larger chunks are fine. Be sure not to grind too long or you will make almond butter. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, warm syrup and almond butter over low heat until well blended and smooth. Remove from heat and add ground almonds, salt and ground flaxseed. With a sturdy spoon, stir until well combined and mixture sticks together and begins to form a ball.

Make one inch balls by hand and place on wax paper. Your hands will get greasy.

Melt chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave. If using a microwave, use 20% power for 2 minutes and check. An additional minute at low power may be required. The chips will hold their shape. Stir with fork. If about half of the chips appear to have melted, keep stirring until all of the chips are melted. This may take a couple minutes. By keeping the chocolate’s heat low, the cocoa butter and chocolate solids are much less likely to separate and the chocolate will remain in temper.

If using a double boiler, be very careful not to let any water come into contact with the melting chocolate or it will sieze. Over low heat, stir constantly until 3/4 of the chips are melted. Remove from heat and continue to stir until smooth.

Using a fork, dip the balls in the chocolate one at a time until thoroughly covered. Place in airtight container on wax paper and allow to set for approximately one hour. Serve cold or at room temperature. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container. These taste best when they are very fresh, but will keep for a week or more.

Makes approximately 30 balls.

[donotprint]Note: To learn more about tempering chocolate, read Mark Bittman’s article Chocolate Gets Hot But Holds Its Temper. Bittman makes it look easy in the video. I’ve tried tempering a handful times and was successful once. That’s why I’ve avoided the tempering process in this recipe. But I’m still fascinated by it and will conquer it someday.[/donotprint]

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