How do I make my bread light and fluffy?

Musings on baking bread

Musings on baking bread

I’ve written previously about ‘Everything you wanted to know about baking bread‘ and it occurred to me today that it’s a little more process driven than ingredient focused. My journey making bread began because my daughter’s allergies precluded me buying bread (unless I wanted to pay $10 a loaf!). For a long time, I was making all our bread by hand which I found restrictive and time consuming (combined with the level of special needs care she required). I later moved, very happily so, to a Panasonic Bread Maker. That allowed me a little more time to experiment with ingredients and research.

I gave serious contemplation to buying a sourdough starter (sourdough is much easier to digest than commercial bread) but my daughter doesn’t like the tangy taste. I researched ways to make the bread I was feeding my daughter more nutritious. I also made myself more aware of the chemistry involved and how different ingredients impact hydration ratios and rising.

Supermarket bread is essentially refined white flour (so basic starch) with a token amount of other ingredients potentially added; Julian Lee wrote an excellent article in 2018 revealing commercial bread-making processes in New Zealand. At home, you can start with high grade (or strong) white flour but add extra nutrition into the mix.

Whole Wheat

If you can afford to buy stone-ground whole wheat flour then you can make some pretty fine bread. If you’re shopping at the supermarket then it’s sufficient to be aware that the wheat kernel is made up of bran (fiber), the germ (protein and nutrition), and the endosperm (a starchy tissue). You can probably guess which part white flour is made from!

At the supermarket you can buy strong white flour and also buy bags of wheat bran and wheat germ. Not only do these have different nutritional profiles but these also have different impacts on the properties of your bread. Wheat bran has a drying quality and may require additional hydration. Wheat germ will naturally make your bread moister and fluffier.

Keep in mind that you don’t need to make a loaf entirely of white flour. When baking, I usually have 70-80% of my ‘flour’ made up of white flour and then use a range of dry ingredients to make up the weight. This equates to 350-400g of white flour and 50-100g of other flours and seeds.

Wholemeal Spelt Flour

Wholemeal spelt flour has a high nutritional profile and is easier to digest. It also has less gluten so will produce a denser loaf and may require guar gum to help it bind.

Wholegrain Kamut Flour

Like spelt, kamut flour is lower in gluten and easier to digest. It’s a brand name for khorasan wheat and is an older variety of wheat. There have been small studies performed which suggest that kamut flour has health benefits (over standard flour) and may help to reduce certain inflammation markers. It’s important to remember that one of it’s other benefits is that it is an organic wholegrain flour (as opposed to highly refined bleached white flour).

Ground Linseed – Sunflower – Almond (LSA)

Whole seeds can make a loaf dense and the texture doesn’t appeal to everyone. It’s not necessary to pour heaps of whole seeds into your bread dough. You can add plenty of protein, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids just by adding 2 Tablespoons of ground seeds to your bread dough.

Popular powerhouses of nutrition include linseed (flaxseed), sunflower seeds, almonds, and chia seeds. Quinoa is another but I found even small amounts of quinoa flour to have a noticeable taste in the bread.

You might like to rotate different seeds in order to vary your nutritional profile. The cheapest and easiest option is to alternate between ground LSA and ground chia seeds.

Gluten Free Grains

One of my favourite ways of making multi-grain bread is to use Red Mill Gluten Free Mighty Tasty Hot Cereal. If you’re picturing a cereal box with some puzzlement, it’s actually a mix of freshly milled whole grain brown rice, corn, buckwheat and sorghum. It’s a handy way of adding a broader nutritional profile to the loaf and is so finely milled that it doesn’t overwhelm the loaf. It’s weight-dense so you only need a small amount; it still produces a fluffy loaf and is incorporated into the texture without being obtrusive.

 

 

 

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Are sunflower seeds good for me?

Sunflower-seeds-picture

What are the nutritional benefits of sunflower seeds?

Sunflowers make a beautiful addition to gardens in the summer and a great science project for kids but are their seeds also an overlooked source of essential nutrients?

What are the benefits of sunflower seeds?

Sunflower seeds are rich in Vitamin E, copper, B vitamins like thiamine, selenium, magnesium, fiber, folic acid, and more. They are a source of essential fatty acids; especially linoleic acid and oleic acid. Additionally, sunflower seeds are also an excellent source of  amino acids (especially tryptophan) which make up the building blocks of proteins, B Vitamins, phytosterols, and more. They are also a source of healthy polyunsaturated fats which your body needs.

What is the nutritional breakdown of sunflower seeds?

SunflowerSeeds-Nutrition

Can sunflower seeds help improve my health?

As well as helping maintain your body, sunflower seeds are are most highly correlated with boosting cardiovascular health thanks to their ability to reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol and to prevent hypertension.

Since they also contain minerals like magnesium and selenium, you may also find they help with ‘growing pains’, leg cramps, and tension headaches.

Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that helps to reduce inflammation throughout the body. This makes it popular for warding against everything from heart disease, to helping with IBS, or with chronic inflammation as the result of multiple allergies / intolerances.

In my case, I have a child with multiple allergies (from grass pollen, to dust mites, to food), and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and autism (with associated digestive / gut issues), so anything I can include in her diet that helps with inflammation is great!

What are easy ways to include sunflower seeds in my diet?

You could buy them coated in chocolate or dusted in flavourings (like sour cream and chives) but that’s off-setting their health benefits with other calories and additives! Here are some healthier (and still easy!) ways to eat sunflower seeds:

 

Easy Carrot Cake

Best Ever Carrot Cake

Chelsea Sugar’s Best Ever Carrot Cake

Carrot cake is a delicious winter cake. It’s a great way to use up those extra carrots (while they’re cheap and plentiful) and get some warmly sweet spiced cake into lunchboxes or afternoon tea. My inspiration for the recipe is this Best Ever Carrot Cake which I’ve amended to add in some different micro-nutrients; also, swapping from nuts to seeds makes it suitable for childcare and schools with no-nut policies.

Carrot cake with seeds and ancient grains

Delicious carrot cake with seeds and ancient grains.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • pinch Allspice
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar or raw coconut sugar
  • 200g grated carrot
  • ½ cup sultanas or raisins
  • 2 tsp ground chia seeds
  • 3 – 4 Tbsp Hubbards Seeds and Ancient Grains Toppers
    • or, a mix (as desired) of coconut thread, linseed, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, buckwheat, puffed quinoa.
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup rice bran oil or canola oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

Allergies: dairy free, soy free, nut free.

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180°C bake (160°C fan-forced). Grease a 23cm cake tin (6cm deep) and line with baking paper.
  2. Sift all of the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl.
  3. Add carrot, sultanas, ground chia seeds, and coconut + seed mix and stir until combined.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, oil and vanilla.
  5. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined.
  6. Pour the cake mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the surface. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until cooked (when a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean). Remove from oven, cool for 10 minutes then remove from the cake tin and peel away the paper.
  7. Optional: make cream cheese icing to decorate.

 

Cream Cheese Icing

  • 50g butter, softened
  • 125g cream cheese, chopped
  • 1½ cups Icing Sugar

Cream Cheese Icing
Beat butter and cream cheese together until combined. Stir in Chelsea Icing Sugar, then beat mixture on high speed until light and fluffy.

Mushroom melt burgers

Mushroom melt burgers

Mushroom melt burgers

Grilled mushrooms with melted cheese make a quick and easy vegetarian meal.

Ingredients

  • Portobello mushrooms (or similar big fleshy mushrooms)
  • Piquant easy-melt cheese (like goat cheese or blue cheese)
  • Fresh salad ingredients (like sliced tomato, grated carrot, baby spinach, lettuce, sliced beetroot, watercress, mungbeans, sliced cucumber).
  • Hamburger bun, brioche bun, gluten-free wrap or bun.

Cheese

If goat cheese seems too…well, goaty, consider a goat-buffalo cheese blend. Similarly, if blue cheese seems too strong consider a creamy mild blue cheese. Alternatively, use a strong tasty or colby cheese + grated parmesan and mozzarella!

For dairy free / soy free / vegan cheese consider: Daiya or Angel Food

Burger buns

If allergies aren’t an issue, there a range of burger buns to choose from, or go up-scale and use a brioche bun. For gluten-free (or soy free) then you may want to use a gluten free bun or wrap. You can also skip the bun (and substitute rice or beans) and tell your child (or yourself) that you’re simply having a super fancy ‘deconstructed’ burger.

Allergies: gluten free*, dairy free*, soy free, egg free, nut free.

Directions

  1. Prepare your salad ingredients.
  2. Grill the mushrooms and cheese.
  3. Assemble your burger. Add dressings (like sauces and mustard) if desired.

Flourless Banana Pancakes

Gluten Free Banana Pancakes & Raspberry Compote

Gluten Free Banana Pancakes & Raspberry Compote

Miss 2 has gone off porridge recently, which is a shame as it’s a cheap, healthy, and filling gluten free breakfast. I wondered how else I might coax her into eating oats and made up these beautiful banana pancakes – she loved them! The idea of including variations was actually inspired by her as she asked for them again and wanted to know if we could make Peanut Butter banana pancakes.

This an easy recipe to make up (for breakfast, snack, or dinner) if you have food allergies in your family. I’ve made it sometimes as Miss 2’s dinner when we’ve had a particularly trying day and we both need some comforting. It’s also a cheap and easy recipe to teach teenage boys to make when they get home from school – more nutritious than filling up on white bread!

Tip: There are two ways that you can make this recipe; you can make it with fork mashed bananas + rolled oats for a more rustic texture or use a food processor to blend the banana smooth + use oat flour. I like to do the latter as I have a little (non-motorised) beater that I use and happen to have oat flour in the cupboard (along with all a multitude of other flours).

Ingredients

  • 1 ripe banana (mashed)
  • 1/2c oats
    • Finely cut ‘quick cook’ porridge oats are best, or, oat flour.
  • 3 1/2T milk / almond or rice milk
  • Pinch salt
  • Pinch cinnamon
  • Optional: 1/4 tsp guar gum + 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
    • If you are using oat flour, this will provide a slightly lighter texture.

Tip: If cooking for celiacs make sure that the oats are certified as gluten free as it is possible for cross-contamination to occur if there are wheat fields nearby.

Allergies: gluten free, dairy free, egg free, soy free, nut free.

Variations

Directions

  1. Mix everything together well in a bowl (or food processor).
  2. Heat frying pan or skillet.
  3. Throw in some butter or neutral oil (like Rice Bran Oil), add a few tablespoons of pancake mix. Cook on both sides until golden brown.

Baked Chicken & Peaches

Baked Chicken and Peaches.jpg

Baked Chicken and Peaches

This is a great dish to make in summer when fresh peaches are cheap; I made it recently on a dark Autumn day with the skies full of rain – tinned peaches work just as well and bring a bright note to the day!

It takes very little time too mix up and put in the oven; combine it with some vegetables and instant mashed potatoes for a quick meal that is also toddler / child friendly!

(FYI I buy plain potato flakes from a bulk buy store rather than buying boxed instant mashed potato from the supermarket.)

Ingredients

  • 2 chicken breasts (boned & skinned)
  • 1/3c brown sugar
  • 1 peach / 1/3 of a 400g tin of peaches
  • 2 pinches of ground ginger
  • 1 pinch allspice or ground cloves
  • 1/2T lemon juice

Optional

  • Superfine white rice flour or cornflour (corn starch) to make gravy.
  • Potato flakes + boiling water + rice bran oil + salt + almond milk to make mashed potatoes.
  • Broccoli.

Allergies: gluten free, dairy free, soy free, egg free, nut free.

Note: The recipe will also work well for larger amounts just double or triple the ingredients based on the number of chicken breasts you are cooking.

Directions

  1. Take a pyrex baking dish and put in the brown sugar.
  2. Put in the chicken breasts (turning them to coat them in sugar).
  3. Lay slices of peaches over the chicken breasts.
  4. Sprinkle the ground ginger, allspice, and lemon juice over the chicken and peaches.
  5. Bake in a preheated oven at 180’C for approx. 30 minutes. Baste regularly with the chicken juices. Cover in tinfoil if needed.
  6. Optional: After removing the chicken and peaches, whisk in some superfine white rice flour (or cornflour) to make a sweet gravy.
  7. Optional: Serve with steamed broccoli, mashed potatoes, and gravy.

Homemade BBQ sauce

Homemade BBQ sauce

Homemade BBQ sauce

My daughter’s sensitivities means that we’re following an RPAH Failsafe exclusion of all additives most likely to cause adverse reactions; combine that with her soy allergy and it rules out commercially made sauces. I recently started making mayonnaise and wanted to branch out into BBQ sauce to go with wedges and grilled meatballs 🙂

Ingredients

  • 1/2 diced shallot (or 1 tsp onion powder)
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
    • (210g tin)
  • 3 – 4 Tbspn apple cider vinegar + 1/2 tsp citric acid
    • Alternatively, replace the apple cider vinegar + citric acid with 1/4 cup lemon juice.
  • 1 cup unsweetened apple sauce
    • (300g tin)
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp garlic granules (or garlic salt)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp allspice

 

Directions

  1. If using a shallot, dice finely and saute in a large pot in neutral oil (i.e. rice bran oil). Note: onion powder will make a smoother sauce than the shallots but can be tricky to find!
  2. Add the rest of the ingredients and whisk until well mixed.
  3. Heat on a medium heat and bring to a boil. Allow to boil for 4-5 minutes, stirring often. Then turn heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for an additional 15 minutes.

Tip: This bubbles and spits a lot while cooking (and it’s hot!). Keep small children away while cooking and choose a pot with a lid. I ended up holding the lid with one hand and stirring with the other!

Tip: You can adjust the flavour to suit as this starts to thicken. You may like more sugar, or more acid tang, or to add chilli.

Homemade BBQ sauce

Homemade BBQ sauce

Chinese Pork Koftas (grilled meatballs)

Chinese Pork Koftas

Chinese Pork Koftas

I’m always looking for new ways to tempt Miss 3 to eat her protein.  She took great delight in helping me make these and enjoyed eating them too. I’ve made simmered soft meatballs in passata, grilled meatballs, and these pork koftas are a bit of a twist on something that would commonly use Middle Eastern spices. The great thing about these is that you can easily experiment with different spices and vegetables that you have to hand!

Ingredients

  • 500g pork mince
  • 2 Tbsp quinoa powder / rice flour / plain flour
  • 2 eggs
  • generous pinch salt
  • 2 -3 tsp chopped Chinese chives
  • handful green runner beans (finely chopped)
  • 1 – 2 tsp Chinese five spice
  • Optional: vegetables to skewer.
    • I used Swiss Brown Mushrooms that I’d picked up cheaply at a farmer’s market but you could use eggplant cubes, juicy capsicum, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, peeled garlic etc.
  • Optional: sesame seeds to garnish
  • Neutral oil (I use rice bran oil)

Allergies: gluten free*, dairy free, soy free, egg free, nut free.

Directions

  1. Soak the bamboo skewers in water while preparing the mince. (A wide shallow bowl or the kitchen sink will both work). Soaking up the water helps keep the skewers from burning in the oven.
  2. Preheat the oven to 200’C these would also work well on the BBQ.
  3. Mix all the ingredients together.
  4. Form little meatballs. You can either push the skewer through these or wrap them around the skewer.
  5. Alternate meatballs and vegetables.
  6. Baste with oil and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  7. Bake for 15-20 minutes (turning halfway through) or until the pork is cooked through.
  8. Serve with a spiced plum dipping sauce and steamed rice.

Tip: Kids will love helping make these. If you don’t want your toddler having their hands in raw meat (I didn’t!), put them in charge of handing you the skewers and sprinkling the sesame seeds.

Chinese Pork Koftas with spiced plum sauce and steamed coconut rice

Chinese Pork Koftas with spiced plum sauce and steamed coconut rice

Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic

Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic

Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic served with bacon, brussel sprouts, and rice noodles.

I really love the simplicity of this dish and that it’s a one pot meal when cooked in the wok. Miss 2 even ate a brussel sprout after licking all the gravy off it!

Ingredients

  • 40 cloves of garlic (peeled; hard end cut off; cut in half any large cloves)
  • 3 large skinless, boneless chicken breasts (cut in half)
    • You can use chicken tenderloins or thighs instead.
  • Neutral oil (i.e. Rice Bran Oil)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 3 cups chicken stock + 1/2 cup in reserve
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1T dried basil
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2T fine white rice flour
  • Optional: 2 chopped rashers of bacon (middle or shoulder)
  • Optional: approx. 8 brussel sprouts (chopped in half)
  • Optional: Wild Mushroom Powder

Allergies: soy free, gluten free, dairy free, egg free, nut free.

Directions

  1. In a large skillet / frying pan / electric wok, heat the oil.
  2. Put in the chicken and garlic. Once the chicken is partially cooked, put in the bacon and brussel sprouts to cook as well.
  3. Cook until the chicken is browned on both sides.
  4. Add 3 cups of the chicken stock, lemon juice, basil, and oregano. You may want to keep back some of the lemon juice and add after tasting (it can be quite a strong flavour).
  5. Bring mixture to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
    • Note: If you want to serve with rice noodles, you can rinse the noodles under hot water until you are able to separate them and then cook them in the simmering broth. Not only will this help to reduce the broth but the noodles taste amazing!
    • Taste the broth and add salt + pepper to liking. If you’d like slightly more umami flavour, consider adding  a dash of one of the following: coconut amino acids, wild mushroom powder, soy sauce, or hoisin sauce.* Food allergies will impact choice.
  6. In a small bowl or cup, whisk the rice flour and 1/c of reserved chicken stock. Add this slurry to the cooking mixture and cook until the sauce thickens (you may need to increase the heat).
  7. Serve with rice noodles, rice, or mashed potatoes.

Note: The secret to this recipe is to lightly sear the outside of the garlic cloves – you want them to go soft, sweet, and squishy inside (like when roasted (otherwise the garlic can be a bit overwhelming). In the traditional French recipe the cloves are left intact (skin on) and the dish is cooked in the oven (then you suck out the gooey inner and discard the skin).

 

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Easy Pizza Pie! Healthy, delicious, and packed with vegetables.

I was so excited to discover our corner dairy has started stocking locally made Middle Eastern flatbread. It’s baked and delivered fresh each day, soy free, additive free, and wonderfully cheap. I’m having fun experimenting with it to make pizza, pizza pie, and wraps. The latest experiment involved making a vegetarian pizza pie that contrasts a salty crispy top with the tangy sweetness of tomato and the rich flavour of melted cheese. Not only is it a great way to get vegetables into your kids but it’s also a useful idea to keep in mind for jazzing up leftovers.

Ingredients

  • 2 x large flatbread (dinner plate size)
  • Leftover tinned spaghetti or pasta sauce
  • Thinly sliced vegetables (I used mushrooms, fresh spinach, and zucchini).
  • Grated cheese (I used Colby and Parmesan)
  • Neutral oil (I use Rice Bran)
  • Rock salt + garlic granules / smoked garlic salt / dukkah
  • Optional: If you like meat then you it’s easy to add tinned tuna, cooked chicken, roast pork, leftover (cooked) mince, sliced boiled egg, etc…

Allergies: soy free, egg free, dairy free*, nut free.

Directions

  1. Place the first flatbread on a pizza tray or lined oven tray.
  2. Lightly spread on tinned spaghetti or pasta sauce.
  3. Layer on sliced vegetables (and meat, if using).
  4. Cover in grated cheese(s).
  5. Place the second flatbread on top.
  6. Brush with neutral oil or melted butter.
  7. Grind rock salt over the top and sprinkle on garlic granules. Alternatively, you could use a smoked garlic salt, or dukkah, etc.
  8. Cook in a preheated oven at 180’C for approx. 10 mins (until cheese has melted and the pizza pie is thoroughly heated through). Keep an eye on the top (you may want to move it lower in oven or lower temperature slightly if the top is browning and crisping too early).

 

Tip: For other great pizza ideas – consider making a scone base pizza!