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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Why should I be worried about natural colour annatto?

Annatto Seeds

Annatto Seeds

I was surprised recently to discover that a popular brand of frozen fries uses food colouring – natural colour annatto. There’s something wonderfully reassuring about ‘natural’ when it’s marketing products despite how ambiguous it is; nature is full of things, from lions to mushrooms, that will kill us with ease.

What is annatto?

Pungent red seeds from the annatto tree are used to provide a golden colour and tangy flavour in many processed foods; it can also be used as a colouring agent in cosmetics. This colouring is often referred to as natural colour (annatto), annatto extract, or colour E160b.

They are also used in Mexican, Latin, and Carribbean cooking as a culinary spice, to make achiote oil, and to make adobe paste.

What are its benefits?

The seeds have been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years in Caribbean and Latin American cultures. It’s believed that they can have a number of benefits including helping digestion, eye health, bone health, and aging.

Why should I be concerned?

Annatto as a colouring agent can have just as much of an adverse effect on children as artificial food colours. As a parent you might keep a watchful eye to see if artificial red colouring will make your child hyperactive but most of us won’t be aware that a natural colour, that can be found in everything from butter spreads to fries, can cause just as strong an adverse reaction (across the spectrum from neurotypical to autistic). It can also be tricky to become aware of the link between food and behaviour because there can be a time delay, of a few hours to next day, before a normally bright, bubbly, sociable child becomes a  screaming, angry, yelling, defiant and hysterical one. It’s particularly useful to be aware of if you have an atopic family where food sensitivities, allergies, and eczema are a issue.

Families with children sensitive to annatto have reported side effects such as:

  • Irritability
  • Grumpiness
  • Headaches
  • Headbanging
  • Hyperactivity
  • Oppositional behaviour
  • Extreme mood swings (that are out of character)
  • Irritable bowel symptoms
  • Hives / Rashes
  • Asthma
  • Severe allergic reactions

 

Where can I find more information?

I started looking into annatto while reading Sue Dengate’s Fed Up; the most useful online source that I found was a Fact Sheet from the Food Intolerance Network which includes references to scientific studies and personal experiences from a number of affected families.

Crispy Asian Pork Belly

Crispy Asian Pork Belly

Crispy Asian Pork Belly

One of the treats I miss giving up is the crispy salted pork belly at the hole-in-the-wall cookery inside the Chinese supermarket. Like all Asian takeaways, it’s not safe since the soy allergy was diagnosed. Instead. I made my own and it is both delicious and free of all major allergens.

Ingredients

Liquid marinade

  • 3/4c Chinese cooking rice wine
  • 1T balsamic vinegar
  • 2 1/2T coconut amino acids
  • 1T lemon juice (or 1 lime)
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves (sliced)
  • 1 sliced red chilli
  • 1 tsp Chinese Five Spice
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 250 ml water

Everything else

  • 1-2 brown onions (cut into wedges)
  • Pork Belly
  • Neutral Oil (i.e. Rice Bran Oil)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Water (added at intervals during cooking)

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

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 220’C.
  2. In a big roasting pan, mix up the liquid marinade.
  3. Cut the onion(s) into wedges and place in a line in the pan. There needs to be enough onion to cut as a support for the pork belly. It will help to moisten the meat and also act as a structural support to keep the crackling raised up out of the jus.
  4. Prepare the pork belly. You will need a very sharp knife in order to score it; I like doing a diamond pattern. This is important not only for helping it to cook but also for cutting it up later in order to serve! Dry the pork belly, apply a little oil over the top, then rub in salt. Crack some pepper over the top as well (if desired).
  5. Place the pork belly onto the foundation of onions (with the fat on top).
  6. Cook at 220’c for 30-40 minutes or until the rind has crackled.
  7. Add 1/2c water to the liquid in the bottom of the pan. Reduce oven heat to 160’C and cook for another hour.
  8. Add 1/2c water to the liquid in the bottom of the pan. Continue cooking at 160’C for approximately another 60 minutes or until the pork is very tender.
  9. Reserve some of the juices to drizzle over the pork when serving. Consider serving with Asian greens and steamed rice. (I chopped up bitter leafy Asian greens and lightly braised them in the marinade before serving as a side dish with the onion, chilli, garlic etc.).

 

 

Cinnamon Playdough

Cinnamon Playdough

Cinnamon Playdough

Making playdough is something I love to do. Home-made playdough keeps better, is easier to wash out of carpet, and is better for your child. Until recently I’ve been using a few drops of food colouring;  after realizing how sensitive Miss 2 is to artificial colouring,  she does persist in eating little bits of salty dough, and reading Sue Dengate’s book about the impact of chemicals on child development – I’ve realized that I need to make a change.

It’s possible to buy ‘natural’ food colouring if you look hard enough but it’s expensive so instead I decided to experiment with what I already had cheaply and readily available in the kitchen.

Cinnamon makes a lovely light brown and is gently scented. Add ground ginger and you have Gingerbread playdough!

Ingredients

  • 1c plain flour
  • 1/4c salt
  • 1T cream of tartar
  • 1T oil
  • 1T cinnamon
  • 1c boiling water

Note: This makes a small batch, just double if you want a big batch.

Directions

  1. Mix dry ingredients.
  2. Mix in oil.
  3. Slowly add boiling water. (You may not need all of. It should be smooth and pliable not sticky).
  4. Store in air tight container.

Candied Salted Caramel Pumpkin Seeds

Candied Salted Caramel Pumpkin Seeds

Candied Salted Caramel Pumpkin Seeds

I love this recipe! It’s a fantastic candied treat that’s great for parties and for holidays. If you have food allergies in the family, it’s also a great recipe to pass to grandparents who want to spoil the kids! It’s also ideal to take to kindergarten parties and pot lucks as it’s free of all major allergens!

Don’t be put off by the idea of pumpkin seeds – these are nothing like the raw ones that you get in salads. These are as different as corn is after it’s popped and are sweet, salty, and crunchy like M&Ms. They are dangerously addictive and are great eaten straight, sprinkled on fruit crumble, or on top of ice cream.

Ingredients

In the oven:

  • 2c pumpkin seeds
  • 2 1/2T sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • 3T water
  • Oil for roasting dish

Caramel sauce

  • 1 1/2T allergy-free spread (i.e. Nuttelex) / butter
  • 2 1/2T brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt

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

Note: If nut allergies are not a concern,this recipe will also work well with peanuts, cashews, and almonds.

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180’C and lightly oil a baking dish (I used a silicon flan / pie dish).
  2. Mix all of the oven ingredients together and pour into the baking dish. Note: the water is important because it helps the spices to stick to the pumpkin seeds (and the seeds will absorb the water a little as they puff up during cooking).
  3. Bake the pumpkin seeds for 20-25 mins until golden and crunchy.
  4. Once the pumpkin seeds are cooked, mix the caramel sauce ingredients together in a pot. Cook for 1-2 minutes until the ingredients have melted and turned a deep golden brown.
  5. Mix the caramel sauce and pumpkin seeds together until well coated. Spread on a tray and allow to  cool.

Better Food Fair – check out these great products for wellness & healthy living!

Strawberry Rhubarb raw food cake.jpg

Amazing cakes from The Raw Kitchen! Vegan, paleo, and gluten free.

I had an amazing time today at the Better Food Fair and Go Green Expo thanks to some promo tickets.

Check out the slideshow for some of the awesome products!

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Purebread have some great gluten-free products (including bread that is also soy free!). Enter discount code nopesticides to get $3 off every loaf, buns, pizza packs, & flatbreads.

Lalele Organic is a mobile food shop with beautiful organic popsicles. They had a huge range of gourmet flavours; like: Orange & Cardamom, Feijoa Sorbet, Mango & Coconut & Masala Chai.

Raw Kitchen have amazingly delicious raw foods (their cakes are fabulous!). It’s a wonderful treat if you have food allergies! They’re online, have a cafe in Auckland (NZ), and have also published a beautiful recipe book.

Storm & India have beautiful bespoke organic teas. I’m drinking their Vintage Chai while I type!

All Natural Mums have an exciting range of kids products like pretty play make-up sets, hair chalk, and edible, organic nail polish.

Dr Martha Nessler was lovely to meet and chat with about doTERRA essential oils.

NuFoods have a yummy nut butters; I liked the Almond & Coconut best.

Munch Cupboard have some great products, like reusable sandwich bags.

Angel Foods are bring a vegan, dairy and soy free, cheese to New Zealand. Cheeses like Daiya are apparently cheap in the USA but shockingly expensive in New Zealand so it’s great to see an addition to the market.

Be Nourished have a range of fermented products, like Sauerkraut and Kimchi, to promote inner gut health.

Pure Coco have a range of natural products including allergy friendly chocolate!

Love Skin have beautiful botannical hand blended oils for a touch of luxury.

 

The Good Vitamin Co


I was really excited to have an opportunity to test The Good Vitamin Co‘s Kids Good Omega 3; Omega 3 (commonly found in fish oil) is great for brain development and has a number of other health benefits too.

We got a big bottle of the Omega 3 and samples of the others (which is appreciated!). Miss 2 asked for some as soon as she saw the bottle and after trying them said “please more!” (lol, kiddo, tomorrow!) They’re really cute to look at; I thought they were tiny penguins but I’m guessing they’re actually the standing King Salmon character. They looked tempting enough that I had some too. Really nice flavour and much preferable to the big adult fish oil capsules I’ve taken in the past! Awesome that they’re allergy-friendly and New Zealand formulated  🙂