Svara the Baker

food, kids, Recipe, Svara

Lately Svara has been enjoying baking more.  But it can’t just be any baking – it has to be baking as much as possible BY HERSELF.

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At seven years old I certainly can’t let her have free range of the kitchen, so I help her get out the ingredients and materials needed.  She reads the recipe to find out everything she needs, and then she does all of the mixing, measuring, etc.   I help with the oven.  Maybe in another year or two I’ll take another step back and let her get out the ingredients, clean up, and even place things into the oven herself.

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For now it is enough ‘herself’ for her to proudly exclaim that she has made these goodies ALL BY HERSELF.  She couldn’t be more proud.  Neither could I.

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Svara’s favorite cookbook is Live Learn Love Eat (you can find it for sale here by the author).  This book is written by a vegan mother of three.  The recipes are very child friendly and family friendly.  It is both the fact that the book has children in it AND the fact that she can easily read and understand it herself that appeals to Svara.  I love this cookbook as well!

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The recipes Svara made on this particular day were the chocolate cupcakes with raspberry frosting.  Mmmm!  The recipe for both are here on her blog.  The only thing we did differently was that I put the raspberry puree into a sieve to get the seeds out.  I wanted a smooth frosting.

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Svara had a blast making these cupcakes, and of course eating them as well!

I’m sure it’ll be a matter of days before she’s in the kitchen again paging through the cookbook for another recipe to make 🙂

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Roselle Juice

food, Recipe

I’ve posted before about some roselle jam that I made.  Yesterday we got some roselle in our weekly organic delivery box.  I still have some roselle plants growing, but they need to be trimmed and re-planted.  The roselle that we got this week is a different variety.  I’m going to try to plant the seeds to see if they’ll grow, as I much prefer it!  They are bigger, and aren’t covered with the prickly hairs like the ones we have are!  It was SO much easier to peel the roselle when I didn’t have to worry about my fingers!

One of my sisters said that she’s growing some roselle at her home (also called hibiscus), so I wanted to show how I make my juice!  I don’t have an actual recipe because I never know how much I’m going to get.  What I do is rinse the roselle a few times, and then peel off the outside layer, which is what you use.  Inside there is a seed pod, which you do not eat.  I put all the roselle bits into a pan and cover with water. I put quite a bit of water.  I think here I had approximately 4 cups of roselle pieces and I used about 7-8 cups of water.  Bring to a boil and let it simmer for 5-20 minutes, it really doesn’t matter how long.  The water should turn a deep red and the roselle pieces should be wilted and soft.  Strain into another container, and add sugar to taste.  I made this as a concentrate, so after sugaring it to taste (just to balance out the sweet and tart as roselle is quite tart!) you can mix it with water/ice  50/50.

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I took about 2 cups of the concentrate and added a bunch of ice to cool it down and we took it out on a spontaneous evening picnic, yum!

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Homemade Roselle Jam

food, Recipe

One of the plants that I am growing here at our house is roselle.  I thought I had a post about some roselle juice that I made, but I guess not.  All I have is this photo of when our roselle plants first started growing, that was almost a year ago!  Since then we’ve had roselle juice a few times, and I have planted more roselle plants from the seeds of the first plant.

Usually I get 5-10 roselles, so just enough to make a few cups of juice.  But this time I had a bumper harvest, I had this medium saucepan full!

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I could have just made a bunch of juice (Naren would have preferred that), but I wanted to take the chance to make something different.  Who knows when I’d have so many roselle again!  So I used about 2/3 of the roselle to make some jam, and used the rest for juice.

When making things with roselle, you have to peel off the outer part.  The inside is the seed pod, which you do not want to use!  The toughest part of this job is that the roselle are covered in little tiny hairs.  They are not soft hairs, they can actually prick into your skin, it’s owy!!  I don’t know of all roselle varieties are like this.  I assume not because I haven’t seen comments about pokey roselle hairs anywhere else.  But mine have them, so I have to be careful!  I cut them off the plant with scissors. Then I hold one in my left and with with a small paring knife in my right hand I peel off the  outer part.  Here is what they look like when they are all prepped:

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There was a recipe in the book Joy of Cooking for roselle sauce, so I altered that (it had a TON of sugar in it) to make this.  I thought it would be more of a sauce but it was actually more jam-like in consistency.  Here is what I did:

Roselle Jam

2 1/2 cups prepped roselle

1 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

1T cornstarch, tapioca starch, or other starch (optional, makes it more like  a jam than a sauce)

 

Add the roselle, water, and sugar to a medium saucepan.  Simmer for about 5 minutes, until the roselle pieces are all softened.  If you want to use it as is, you can, just let it cool down.  A great substitute for cranberry sauce!   If you want more of a jam consistency, add the 1T of starch mixed in with a little water to dissolve, and simmer for 2 more minutes or until thickened.  let cool and refrigerate.  Ours was in the fridge for about a week and a half before we used it up, we used it as jam.  I think it would taste great mixed with applesauce as well!

 

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Roselle jam is So pretty!  It is a rich reddish-pink.  It is so strong colored that you’d be tempted to think there is food coloring in it.  But nope, it’s all natural!  I’m hoping to have another bumper crop of roselle sometime so I can make more jam.  I think it’d be great in some homemade danishes!

 

Peanut Butter Fudge Swirl Vegan Icecream

food

It’s been awhile since I’ve shared any recipes here.  I can’t bear to share a recipe without a photo and I usually forget to take photos of my creations!  But today I made an effort to take out the camera and shoot a photo of the icecream I made yesterday.  It is just too tasty!

Lately I’ve been making a lot of mint chocolate chip icecream since I found a source of natural peppermint extract that is well priced and very tasty!  But it’s good to mix things up and I have been loving peanut butter and chocolate since being pregnant.

I have been wanting to get more protein in my diet, so I thought I’d make the base of my icecream with silken tofu.  It’s not usually my favorite base for icecream because it can give the icecream a tofu flavor.  But peanut butter icecream is one that, in my opinion, totally covers up the tofu taste.

I have been making non dairy icecream for so long that I hardly ever follow a recipe now, I just toss things into the blender.  Here’s what I tossed into the blender this time:

Peanut Butter Fudge Swirl Icecream

300g soft silken tofu

enough almond milk to bring up volume to 3 cups

approximately 1/2c peanut butter

1/2 organic raw sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

Blend well and chill in fridge for at least 2 hours.  Place in icecream maker and churn!

Layer the finished icecream in a container with fudge sauce.  Place in freezer for several hours to firm up.

Fudge Sauce:

Not much of a recipe really, but I put 100g of nondairy chocolate in a glass bowl, chugged in some soymilk and melted it together. I let it chill for a little bit before layering it with the finished icecream so it wouldn’t make the icecream melt too much.

I made this icecream last night and half of it is gone already.  Oops!  Svara peeked into the container when I was making her icecream cone for dessert and inquired as to why it wasn’t full.  I’m busted!  But at least I’ve gotten a protein boost, right?

Sweet Almond Vegan Cream Cheese Spread

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Ever since I made this vegan almond feta recipe I’ve had many ideas bouncing around in my head on how I can make variations using the same basic recipe.  Vegan cheesecake, cheese spread, herbed feta, etc.

The first thing I tried was to make a cheesecake, but using leftover almond pulp from making almond milk.  It did NOT turn out the way I expected.  It was edible, but not very enjoyable.  Naren wouldn’t touch it after the first nibble, so I ate the rest.  A lot of the creaminess is taken out of almonds when you make milk out of them!  Probably most of the fat, and who knows what else.  So I will NOT be doing that again.I’ll be finding different things to do with my almond pulp!

So it was back to using blanched soaked almonds.  Today’s recipe experiment turned out MUCH better!

I decided I wanted to skip the whole put it in a cloth and let it drain in a colander all night step, I just wanted to blend and be done.  I remembered making a cashew cream cheese from the book Go Dairy Free (an excellent cookbook and dairy free resource!) a couple years ago out of blended cashews and a few other ingredients.  It was good, but I much prefer the taste of almonds to cashews. So I decided to combine that with the vegan feta and make a sweet cream cheese spread!  This is what I did:

Sweet Almond Cream Cheese Spread

  • 1 cup blanched almonds, soak overnight (I placed my almonds in boiling   water for 1 minute, drained, and squeezed off the skins)
  • 2 T water
  • 3 T coconut oil (you could use any sweet or mild oil, not olive!)
  • 4T powdered sugar (you could use any sweetener you like, and it could be cut down to 3T I think)
  • 1T lemon juice (add more if you like it more tangy)
  • pinch of salt

Blend all ingredients together in food processor.  If you have a vitamix blender, go ahead and use that to get the mixture ultra smooth!  I know it would be too thick for my blender so I didn’t even try.  You could make it in a blender and just add more water, and then wrap it in cloth/cheesecloth and let it drain in a colander overnight.  But I was too lazy today.  I blended it for about 10 minutes total in my food processor to get it as smooth as I could.  Then just scoop into a container and put in the fridge!  I’m sure tomorrow it will be even more stiff, but I already used it tonight for a snack.  A cream cheese and jam sandwich!

 

I’m very happy with how this recipe turned out!  It’s always nice when a food experiment turns out tasty.  I think next time I’ll add a little extra lemon juice and/or reduce the sugar a tad.  It didn’t need to be as sweet as I made it when added to a jam sandwich.

I think this would also make a great sweet spread!  Like a dip for graham crackers or something.  Maybe even add in a little cocoa powder! It’s a bit too stiff for a frosting, but I wonder if it could be made into a cream cheese frosting by adding a little almond milk and beating it up (after it has cooled all the way).  I just might give that a try!

 

Vegan Rice Casserole

food

Because I like to cook, I love having nice pots, pans, etc. in the kitchen.  But because we don’t plan to stay in Malaysia forever I do not like spending money on high quality kitchen stuff.  So there are a lot of things I do without in the kitchen.  Last month when one of the stores here had a special where if you spent a certain amount you could buy some pyrex pans for really cheap, I just couldn’t resist!  I was so excited!  Luckily we happened to  be spending the required amount of money that day to be able to purchase two pans at the reduced price (70% off!)  I bought one 10 by 10 glass square baking dish, and a 2L round casserole with a lid.   Finally I can bake a proper casserole!!  Here is the first one that I made in that dish.  I had some leftover rice, so decided to make a “tuna” rice casserole.

Vegan Rice Chickpea Casserole

4cups (approximately) cooked rice

1 3/4C (1 can) mashed chickpeas (add up to 1tsp kelp powder for fishy taste if desired)

2 c chopped broccoli or other vegetable of your choice

Some sauteed mushrooms and celery would be awesome in this as well, I didn’t have any on hand.

Cream Sauce:

3 cups non dairy milk of your choice (I used unsweetened almond, loved it!)

2-3T margarine or oil

1 small onion, chopped

3T flour

2T nutritional yeast (optional, makes the sauce more “cheesy”)

salt and pepper to taste (I used about 3/4 tsp salt, next time I’ll use 1tsp)

Bread Crumb Topping:

Approximately 1c toasted breadcrumbs.  I mixed in 1T nutritional yeast, 1/4 tsp of pepper and paprika.  You can use any herbs/seasonings you’d like.

To make sauce:

saute onion in butter or oil until golden brown (I did it on very low heat for about 20 minutes so they were somewhat caramelized – yum!!).   Remove from heat.  Add flour and stir.  Slowly add milk, stirring to prevent lumps.  Add nutritional yeast if using and stir. Cook over medium heat until thick and bubbly.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  I know this pot is very large for this little sauce, but this is my pressure cooker pot which has a nice thick bottom and will not burn the onions!

Add the broccoli and mashed chickpeas to the cream sauce:

Mix it up!  Taste and adjust seasonings if desired.  It still needs to be stirred with the rice, so it should be a little on the salty side right now.

Stir into your cooked rice.  I used leftover rice and I’m not really sure on the amount.  My best guess is about 4 cups, but it could have been a little more.  add enough so it’s creamy but not soupy.  Taste and adjust seasonings.

Pour your casserole into your casserole dish and top with breadcrumbs.  Bake at 350 F for approximately 1 hour.

Ta-Da!

 

When I make this again I think I’ll use peas instead of broccoli.  I love broccoli, but when it’s in a casserole it kind of tends to overwhelm the other flavors.  I added kelp powder to my chickpeas, but I won’t do that next time.  I’ll definitely add more black pepper, I ran out this time, only had a dash 😦  Other than that it was quite tasty!  I know it was a success because Naren asked if there were leftovers the next day.

 

 

Spicy Vegetarian Spaghetti Sauce

food

My grandfather (my mother’s father) is from Sicily. My grandmother is from Germany, but she learned from her mother-in-law how to make lots of Italian food to keep my grandfather happy!  Needless to say, I also grew up to eat a lot of Italian foods!  Probably not nearly as authentic, but they were homemade and yummy!  Mostly meatless, my mom makes killer lasagna and spaghetti!  They are still two of my favorite foods.  I make lasagna only once or twice a year since it does take some time.  But I eat spaghetti at LEAST once a week, usually more!  Svara eats it even more often, having it on those occasions when she doesn’t like what we are having.  There is almost always leftover spaghetti in the fridge!  Naren, on the other hand, is NOT a huge spaghetti fan.  So in order for him to enjoy spaghetti I must make the sauce from scratch, include extras to make it chunky, and make it spicy as well!  Here is our spaghetti from last night:

It is not made 100% from scratch, as I don’t often have time to do that, but it is still super tasty!  I make many variations on this recipe, here is the one I made yesterday:

Spicy Chunk Spaghetti Sauce

1 20 oz jar spaghetti sauce (any variety you choose)

1 onion, chopped

5 garlic cloves, minced (more or less according to your taste)

1 package mushrooms, chopped

1 zucchini, chopped

2 cups water

1/4 cup nutritional yeast (gives extra body and flavor to the sauce, optional)

1/2 tsp each garlic powder and black pepper

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp chili flakes (more or less according to your taste)

2Tbs olive oil for sauteeing

Sauté onions in the olive oil until browned.  Add garlic and sauté for another minute.  Add mushrooms and cook for about five minutes, until soft.  Add zucchini and cook for a few more minutes until they start to get tender.  Add the rest of the ingredients (I dump in the spaghetti sauce and then pour the water into the spaghetti sauce jar to help rinse it all out and dump that into the pan as well) and let simmer until zucchini is tender.  Taste and adjust spices if necessary.

Yesterday we had it with the vegan almond feta cheese on top, it added some great creaminess and flavor to the dish!

This recipe is VERY flexible.  If I have half a jar of spaghetti sauce in the fridge, I’ll halve the recipe.  I use whatever veggies I have on hand, or even textured soy protein or veggie ground instead (I make my own seitan and grind it in the food processor) for a spicy spaghetti “bolognese”.

Serve with a fresh salad and some homemade garlic breadsticks and you can’t go wrong!

Vegan Almond Feta Cheese

food

I have recently started enjoying pinterest, especially as a place to pin recipes that I want to try!  One of those recipes that I pinned was this gorgeous looking almond feta cheese.  I had exactly one cup of almonds left, and decided to give it a try, as feta is one of my favorite cheeses!  I have tried a couple different tofu feta cheeses, but I didn’t really enjoy them very much.

I’m SO glad I tried this recipe out as I LOVE the results!  It’s not exactly like feta, but it IS pretty close and can be used in feta-like circumstances such as in a pasta salad, on a pizza, etc.   I think if I make it again I will reduce the lemon juice just a tad and maybe reduce the olive oil as well to make it less calorie-dense.

Since the recipe has been posted in a couple places already, I will also post it here for your convenience.  I found the recipe here.

Almond Feta Cheese

adapted from Vegetarian Times, April 2009

1 cup (240 ml) whole blanched almonds (I blanched my own by placing into boiling water, boiling for 1 minute, draining, and then popping off the skins).

1/4 cup (60 ml.) fresh lemon juice (I will reduce this to 3Tbs next time)

3 Tbsp (45 ml) extra virgin olive oil (I will reduce this to 2T next time unless I’m serving guests)

1 clove garlic

1-1/4 tsp (6 ml) fine sea salt

1/2 cup (120 ml) cold water

1/4 cup (60 ml) extra virgin olive oil (I only used 2T and it was plenty)

1 Tbsp (15 ml) fresh thyme leaves (optional)

1 Tbsp (15 ml) fresh rosemary leaves (optional)

Place the almonds in a bowl of room-temperature water; allow to soak for 24 hours, then drain and rinse.

In a powerful blender, purée the almonds, lemon juice, 3 T olive oil, garlic, salt and water until very creamy, 5-7 minutes. (The original recipe calls for a food processor, but I used a blender as the previous poster suggested).

Place a triple layer of cheesecloth over a strainer and spoon the cheese mixture into it.  Bring up the ends of the cheesecloth, twist the top and squeeze slightly to remove some of the excess liquid; tie the top with a twist tie or elastic. Allow to drain in the refrigerator overnight, or at least 8 hours. (I didn’t have cheesecloth so I just used a clean kitchen towel.  I think next time I’ll try to get some cheesecloth as I didn’t have any liquid drip out, though liquid did seep into the whole towel).

Preheat oven to 200F (You can cook at higher temp, just keep an eye on it, mine got a little too brown though it was still tasty!).  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper (I cooked mine in a lightly greased small glass pan).  Turn the cheese out onto the parchment and shape it into a disk about 3/4-inch ( cm) thick.  Bake for 40-50 minutes, until the top is firm and dry. Cool, then chill.

When ready to serve, place the cheese on a plate.  Top with additional olive oil (I only used about 2 Tbsp/30 ml instead of the 1/4 cup/60 ml), sprinkle with herbs, and enjoy. (I used basil and rosemary rather than the herbs called for, since that’s what I had on hand; I think pretty much any fresh herbs would be fantastic with this).  Makes 4 appetizer servings (seemed to me that it would serve more like 6-8 as an appetizer, I thought it would turn out smaller than it did).

The cheese spread beautifully on crackers!  Actually the texture reminded me very much of cream cheese or even cheesecake!  I’m wondering if it had some sugar added, and used canola oil instead of olive oil, whether it would taste like a cheesecake.  I definitely will try that someday!  The texture was more like cheesecake than any tofu cheesecake that I’ve made.  Creamy and dense!

At first I just put the grapes on the plate for the photos, but after finishing the photos I decided to try the cheese with the grapes and I found it was very tasty!   I think tomorrow morning I will try the cheese in a vegan omelet with some mushrooms.  yummers!   These are the vegan omelets that I made last week when I didn’t have any eggs in the house (I don’t eat eggs often, but Naren still enjoys them regularly).  These omelets turned out so well that Naren didn’t even know they were not egg until I told him!  And I didn’t even add any black salt since I don’t have any.  I think that makes this recipe a winner!  The main tip I would give about those is not to flip too early, my first one was slightly messed up, but still tasty!

If you try this recipe and/or have other ideas on how to change things up for it, let me know!  Hm… what about making it into a mini chocolate cheesecake?

Vegan Icecream – Mint Oreo

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I love icecream!  Who doesn’t, right?  But what I don’t like is knowing how much fat and dairy I’m eating when I eat icecream.  Luckily since I have my own icecream maker I can (and do!)  make my own vegan icecream often!  One of my favorite icecream flavors of all time is mint chocolate chip.  Unfortunately mint extract is hard to find and very expensive here, but I did buy it once and made a few batches of mint icecream.  This is a photo of one batch that I made using crushed oreos instead of chocolate chips.

I don’t like using food coloring, so I either leave it out or use natural alternatives.  For this batch I tossed in a handful of fresh spinach leaves in the blender with the icecream base and just look how GORGEOUS the color came out!  Plus you can’t taste the spinach AT ALL!!

The basic icecream recipe that I usually use is from

Vanilla Icecream from Lick It! Creamy Dreamy Vegan Ice Creams Your Mouth Will Love (you can see this recipe and a couple more in the book preview on amazon, but I also suggest buying this book, I LOVE it!)

ingredients:

  • 1 (14-oz) can full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 1/4 cup nondairy milk (I usually use soy but also like almond)
  • 1/2 cup agave nectar or granulated sugar (I always use sugar)
  • 1 tbs vanilla extract
  • optional: 1/2 cup additions such as chocolate chips, cookie bits, etc.

directions:

  1. prep ice cream maker according to instructions. (I keep my icecream maker canister in the freezer all the time so I can make icecream whenever I’d like)
  2. place coconut milk, nondairy milk, sugar, and vanilla extract into a medium bowl and whisk until well combined. (I prefer to use the blender to blend it all up since I use sugar and it also makes it easy to add spinach or any other ingredients that need blending)
  3. cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.
  4. freeze in ice cream maker according to directions.
  5. add optional additions about 5 minutes before the end of the freezing time, if you are adding them.
  6. enjoy immediately, or freeze to reach desired consistency.
To make the mint version I added a handful of spinach, reduced the vanilla to 1tsp (you can also just leave it out) and added mint extract to taste.
Looking for more icecream recipes?  Check HERE to see two more recipes from this same book!
Now get busy and make yourself some awesome icecream!!

Breads Galore!

food

I know, I know, as usual it’s been way too long since I’ve last posted!  I have mostly been posting on my crafting blog, so if you’d like to see what I’ve been up to lately, head on over there!  I even have a giveaway going on now for five gift certificates to my etsy shop!

But on to business!  I have definitely been doing more than just crafting lately.  One of the things I do at least once or twice a week is bake bread.  Since Svara is allergic to dairy, it rules out almost all of the breads at the store (except for an organic one that has seeds that Svara doesn’t like), so I have no choice.

Last week I had the urge to bake a LOT of bread one day, as I wanted to bake more than just Svara’s usual multi grain bread.  Plus it had rained in the morning so it was cloudy and cool (well, cool by Malaysian tropical standards).  So I made a total of FOUR types of bread!  First the usual multi grain, then walnut and onion, ciabatta, and lastly a cinnamon raisin pull apart bread.  Here are some photos of my bread baking marathon:

And here are some closeups of the cinnamon raisin pull apart bread.  I saw the recipe on another blog, you can find the recipe here.

 

So with all these photos of breads I have to give a recipe, right?  I’ll share my usual recipe for multi grain bread that I make at least once a week.  The thing about bread baking is that it is VERY flexible.  You can change the amounts of ingredients and as long as the final dough has enough flour and is kneaded enough, it’ll turn out!  But here is my general recipe:

Multi Grain Bread

10 oz warm water (1 1/4c) (use leftover water from boiling potatoes if you have it)

2 tsp yeast

1 1/2 tsp salt

2 T olive oil

2T powdered soy milk  *see note

1-3T of sugar or honey (optional)

1 pound of flour ingredients **see note

Mix together the water, sugar/honey and yeast and let the yeast start to bubble a bit. Stir in the oil, powdered soymilk, and salt.  Start adding the flour 1/2 cup-1 cup at a time.  When you have stirred in enough flour to be able to knead, turn it out onto a floured surface, and knead for 10-20 minutes.  Add flour as needed to keep it from sticking.  The longer you knead it the better your bread will rise.  Place the finished dough into an oiled bowl and let rise, covered, until doubled (about 1 hour).

Shape the dough into a loaf and place in a greased loaf pan (or make a round or long loaf and place on a greased cookie sheet).  Let rise until at least doubled (about 1 hour).  Bake in a preheated oven at 375 F for approximately one hour or until browned and sounds hollow when you tap on the bottom.  Let cool on a rack for at least 1/2 hour before cutting.

 

*Feel free to use powdered dairy milk if you eat dairy, and you can also skip this and use milk (dairy or non dairy) instead.  Or just skip this altogether, but it does add softness to the bread

**About the flour.  I have found it easier to weigh the flour for bread making rather than measuring since it’s more accurate and I can more easily sub different flours, but you can definitely measure instead. You can start with 3-4 cups of flour options and then add more as necessary.  So what are your flour options?  My usual mix is:

4 oz unbleached bread flour (has more protein than regular flour)

2 oz ground flaxseed (adds a lot of healthy oils and other nutrients)

4 oz. rolled oats (they break down most of the way as the bread is kneaded, so you don’t need to grind them into a flour but you can if you wish)

6 oz whole wheat flour (you can skip the unbleached and use all whole wheat flour instead if you prefer a heftier loaf of bread).

Other flours you can add in place of the rolled oats are buckwheat, millet, teff, barley, rye, anything really, it’s very flexible!  If you don’t want to add the ground flaxseeds you can substitute any flour, or other ground or whole seeds such as sesame, sunflower, etc.

Bread Making Tips

When I make bread I actually use a breadmaker to do the stirring and kneading of the dough.  I then take it out of the bread machine and let it rise in a bowl and shape it myself.  I don’t like the way the breadmaker shapes and bakes the bread, but it sure is awesome for saving time and kneading the dough!  I bought mine on clearance a few years ago and love it!  Just check the dough while it’s kneading to see if you need to add any extra flour or water to get the dough perfect.

Feel free to add any extras to your bread to make it unique.  Leftover cooked grains are great.  Leftover cooked oatmeal is a good way to use up those leftovers from breakfast.  Just be sure that if you add anything with extra liquid you check to see if you need to add extra flour to compensate.

Baking Bread in a Tropical Climate

When I first moved to Malaysia I had a hard time baking bread.  It was so frustrating since I’ve been baking bread since I was a child!  My bread would not rise, or turn out bad tasting.  After doing lots of research and reading and experimenting I finally figured some things out.  First of all, it’s hot here so you do NOT need to start your bread with warm water.  In fact, I usually start with ICE water!  If I start with warm water, the dough will rise VERY quickly.  Also, when bread dough is too warm while rising it allows a certain bacteria to grow in it which will give the bread an off taste, kind of sourish but not nice like sourdough bread.  It is not a harmful bacteria and won’t make you sick or anything, but I find it rather unpleasant.  So I start with ice water which keeps my dough cool enough while rising that this will not be a problem.  Another thing you can do is to rise the dough in an enclosed area (such as inside a microwave) with some ice packs around the bowl.  This keeps the air cool enough that the unpleasant taste will not develop.  Some people have success letting bread rise in the fridge, but for me this takes too long and sometimes doesn’t work as well.

If you’ve read this post all the way to the end, congratulations!  I hope you try baking your own bread, experimenting with it, and having fun!