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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Apple Cake

Apple Cake

Apple Cake

Miss 4 and I have been reading a series of picture books, the latest of which is “The Wolf who visited the land of Fairy Tales.” The wolf goes on a quest to collect a recipe and ingredients to make apple cake. The book has a recipe at the back which inspired me to invent our own version; it has more protein and added micro-nutrients than a traditional recipe. This is a light thin apple cake that reminds me a little of  Tarte Tatin.

If you have young children, this is great for school lunches. Alternatively, read the book during the school holidays (or anything that features baking, ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ would work just as well) and then tie in the real world application with the story. Add in some dress-ups for acting out the story and that’s your morning filled!

Apple Cake

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup Nuttelex (or dairy-free spread, or butter)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 fresh eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup flour, sifted
  • 1/4 cup wheat germ
  • 1 Tbsp ground linseed
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp finely diced fresh ginger
  • 1/4 cup rice milk (or alternative)
  • 3 large apples, peeled and diced into small pieces.

 

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180’C / 350’F. Grease the sides and bottom of a round cake tin.
  2. Cream the Nuttelex (or butter) and sugar. Add the beaten eggs and mix.
  3. Gently fold in the baking powder, flour, wheat germ, ground linseed, and ground cinnamon.
  4. Gently stir in the apple pieces and fresh ginger.
  5. Stir in a little rice milk until the batter is smooth.
  6. Pour the batter into the cake pan and bake for 40 mins.

 

Alternatives

You can change the flavour profile in a variety of ways:

  • Add a splash of freshly squeezed lemon or orange juice.
  • Switch fresh ginger for ground ginger for a milder ginger flavour.
  • Increase the cinnamon to 1 tsp and add 1/4 tsp all spice + pinch nutmeg.

If your child is adverse to the apple being in chunks, consider experimenting with stewed apple or apple sauce. Keep an eye on your dry/wet ratios as this will have an impact.

Scones with Extra Goodness: Autism Mom

Enriched scones

Enriched scones

Miss 3 has a range of food allergies, intolerances, and sensory issues with food. To my great surprise, these scones were a massive hit with her. She will eat two of them for breakfast (or lunch) and prefers them without any kind of topping. They are light, fluffy, and tasty with only minimal amounts of sugar (so much healthier than store bought cake).

Her soy allergy means I have to do all our baking myself and she is now intolerant to  drinking milk but seems to cope okay if it’s baked or altered by probiotics (like yoghurt). She needs lots of calcium for her growing bones which is why this recipe is packed with dairy. The wheat germ helps to provide added protein (and is also a secret ingredient for bread and baking to help provide a soft, fluffy feel). The spelt and rice flour can be replaced by normal flour but for me it’s part of overall measures to have her on (a) a reduced gluten diet, (b) to have her grains as varied as possible, (c) to introduce as wide a range of macro and micro nutrients to her diet as possible.  Sometimes with autistic kids it’s about reinforcing the goodness in what they will eat rather than despairing about what they won’t eat!

Ingredients

DRY INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups plain flour (strong flour also works)
  • 1/4 cup wheat germ
  • 1/4 cup superfine white rice flour
  • 1/2 cup wholemeal spelt flour
  • 2 Tbsp ground linseed (or LSA)
  • 6 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 Tbsp brown sugar (or honey, or maple syrup)

WET INGREDIENTS

  • 50-70g chilled butter
  • 1/2 cup (or 150g) natural or greek yoghurt
  • 1 cup water

Allergies: soy free, egg free, nut free.

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 200’C.
  • Sift the dry ingredients (the wheatgerm and linseed will mostly remain in the sifter and can then be poured in).
  • Grate in the chilled butter and rub the mixture till it resembles breadcrumbs.
    • Note: Grating is most important when making dumplings as the butter remains intact and melts during cooking; I do find it rubs in very quickly this way when making scones.
  • Make a well in the middle of the bowl and add yoghurt. Mix gently.
  • Add the milk (about 1/2 cup at a time) and mix. Add a little water if necessary.
  • Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper. Use hands to gently roll and pat the scones.
    • Note: I find it immensely helpful to have a little bowl of rice bran oil to dip my fingers in so that the mix doesn’t stick to my hands. It also allows for a smoother finish to the scones.
  • Bake for 10 minutes @ 200’C. Check the scones; bake for up to another 5 minutes.
  • Allow to cool on a rack.

 

Variations

Star scones and Butterfly scones

Star scones and Butterfly scones

Butterfly scones

Butterflies, stars, cars, dinosaurs – whatever interests your child! Large plastic cookie cutters (i.e. the size of an adult’s palm) make wonderfully shaped scones that can help make these more appealing.

Blueberry and cream cheese scones

Blueberry and cream cheese scones

Blueberry and Cream Cheese scones

Add 1/2 cup of frozen blueberries and add wedges of firm cream cheese to the middle of the scone. (Miss 3 objected strongly to me combining ‘approved’ foods but I thought these were delicious!).

Feijoa Scones

Add 1/2 cup of thoroughly mashed feijoa pulp. Test the moisture / stickiness of the scones and add less milk if necessary.

Passionfruit Scones

Use passionfruit yoghurt (a good quality thick yoghurt like Puhoi or Piako). Consider drizzling passionfruit sauce or syrup on top.

Maple Syrup and Walnuts

Maple syrup has quite a mild taste so swap (and increase) the brown sugar for 5-6 Tbsp of maple syrup. Add 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup crushed walnuts. Consider adding a coffee icing.

Note: (1) Potential for nut allergy. (2) Great for adults but may not be suitable for toddlers (due to choking risk). (3) May not suit ASD kids due to the textural contrasts.

 

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.

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

How to make a vegan chocolate spread that is allergy free and tastes amazing!

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting. I use Nuttelex + coconut milk to make a vegan, allergy free frosting that tastes amazing!

If you have a child with food allergies then you may find it difficult to source safe versions of products like Nutella. Alternatively, you may have a child attending a nut free kindergarten or school in which case Nutella isn’t permitted (as it contains hazelnuts). If you want to use a treat spread, for school lunches or parties, then this recipe will help you make your own!

Ingredients

  • 115g allergy friendly spread like Nuttelex (buttery taste)
  • 2 cups icing sugar
  • 1/2 cup Dutch Cocoa Powder
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 – 5 Tbsp  coconut milk

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

Directions

  1. Whip the Nuttelex.
    • I like to use the food processsor (with a plastic beating tool rather than the metal cutting one).
  2. Sift in the cup icing sugar, and cocoa powder. Add the vanilla and 2 Tbsp milk.
  3. Beat until smooth.
    • I like to pulse it slowly in the food processor.
  4. Mix in more coconut milk, 1 Tbsp at a time, until you have a good thick smooth consistency.
  5. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

Easy Banana Muffins (or Banana Cake) that can be made vegan and allergy free!

Banana cupcakes & gingerbread spice cookies

Banana cupcakes & gingerbread spice cookies. Made vegan and allergy free.

Banana cake has long been one of my nemesis; I just haven’t had the knack. I’m so glad to have finally found a recipe that works! It also has the wonderful bonus of being dairy, egg, soy, and nut free! I have also made it gluten free 🙂

Ingredients

  • 2 mashed / pureed ripe bananas*
  • 5 Tbsp neutral oil (I use rice bran)
  • 1/2 cup water + 1/2 cup water
  • 1 1/2c plain flour (or Healtheries Gluten Free Bread Mix).
  • 3/4c sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 Tbsp vinegar (I use apple cider)

Tip: The riper the bananas, the better this will work! As the bananas ripen they convert starch to sugar. Really ripe bananas will mash more easily, be sweeter, and have a more intense banana flavour.

Gluten Free: You can, of course, use a different gluten free flour! The reason that I’ve listed that one is because it contains guar gum but no raising agents (as the recipe includes those). You could, for instance, substitute superfine rice flour and add guar gum. Personally, I don’t use xanthan gum as it can be grown using soy as a base. You may need to experiment a little with gluten free flours to get the cake just right (you may want to start with muffins as it’s easier to tell when they’re cooked). Keep in mind that gluten free baking is often moister, denser, and may require a longer baking time.

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

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 180’C and prepare muffin trays / cake tin.
  2. Mash your bananas until you have a smooth texture. Tip: A food processor can do this quickly for you but you’ll want to do the actual mixing by hand.
  3. Mix in the oil and 1/2 cup water.
  4. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  5. Add the wet ingredients (banana, oil, water) to the dry ingredients. Add the vinegar.
  6. Stir till just combined. (Slowly add additional water if required).
  7. Quickly get into cupcake cases, muffin trays, or cake tin, and pop in oven.
  8. Bake until skewer comes out clean. Approximately 12 – 15 mins for muffins and 30-40 mins for cake.

Icings: Check out these ideas for completely natural icings that don’t use any artificial additives and are easy to make.

Tips: I’ve made this recipe several times. Lessons learned: using the plastic batter-stirrer-attachment-thingy for the food processor makes for a denser end product (so does over stirring by hand); the rising effect that you get from the vinegar + baking soda means that you want to get this into the oven quickly (instead of having a lengthy sidebar with your toddler about how baking is really just chemistry in the kitchen).

Gingerbread / Spice Cookies (Allergy Free)

Gingerbread cookies

Gingerbread cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 cups plain flour (I have also used Healtheries GF Bread Mix)
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 2 tsp ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • 150g butter or allergy free spread (I use Nuttelex)
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 – 3 Tbsp Maple Syrup or Golden Syrup
  • Drop vanilla
  • Pinch salt

Note: These make a light more-ish spices gingerbread cookie (as opposed to one denser and chewier). Maple syrup will provide a more delicate flavour, golden syrup a more traditional one. The flavour notes are easy to experiment with, you can add more ginger and a pinch of nutmeg. I’ve made these a lot as my daughter loves them and this is her favourite combination.

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

Directions

  1. Cream ‘butter’, sugar, maple (or golden) syrup, and vanilla.
  2. Add flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices.
  3. Knead everything together. It will gradually turn from breadcrumbs to a soft cookie dough. Add a little water if you need to but just a tablespoon at a time.
  4. Refrigerate for 30 – 60 mins. You can leave it in a ball or roll it out. It’s tempting to try cutting it but (and I speak from experience) it doesn’t work very well at room temperature.
  5. Preheat oven to 180’C while rolling out the cookies.
  6. Place cookies on a baking sheet / lightly oiled baking tray.
  7. Bake for 12-15 mins.
  8. Take out from oven and allow to cool briefly before placing on cooling rack to continue cooling.

Tip: If you want a fancy (and easy) dessert reserve some of the cookie dough. Serve balls of French vanilla ice cream with little balls of cookie dough and a warm gingerbread cookie.

Note: These cookies are soft coming straight out of the oven and will harden overnight. They are delicious either way. They also freeze well.

Gingerbread cookies with chocolate icing

Gingerbread cookies with chocolate icing

Butter bean dip

butter bean dip

Butter bean dip

This is a great way to use up leftover Butter Beans with Butter & Garlic. Serve it with freshly made bread, rice crackers, pita chips etc.

Ingredients

  • Sauteed butter beans with butter (or rice bran oil) & garlic
  • Natural greek yoghurt
  • Lemon juice (or a pinch or citric acid)
  • Optional: fresh herbs like parsley, chives, coriander.
  • Optional: for a Moroccan style dip: add 1 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp paprika, and garnish with dukkah.

Note: Most of the ingredients for the dip have already been included when you cooked the beans; the flavour of the dip will be impacted by which optional extras you cooked with the beans (i.e. leek, shallots etc.)

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

Directions

  1. In a bowl, mix natural greek yoghurt with a teaspoon of lemon juice (or a pinch of citric acid).
  2. Mash the beans.
  3. Mix the bean mash into the yoghurt mix.
  4. The dip is tangy with smokey notes. You can adjust the flavour, if desired, by slowly adding any of the following: lemon juice, olive oil, salt, maple syrup, chilli.
    • Just remember that it’s easy to add more of something but much harder to balance if you put too much of something in!
  5. Garnish with fresh herbs and serve with freshly made bread, rice crackers, pita chips etc.

Tip: You can fork mash these for a rustic blend or pop everything in a food processor to get it smooth.

Butter Bean Dip

Butter Bean Dip (rustic blend)

Ancient Grains Bread (soft & fluffy!)

Ancient Grains Bread

Ancient Grains Bread

To make a 750g loaf. This was delicious with home made peanut butter.

Ingredients

  • 290ml water
  • 2T oil (I use rice bran oil)
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2T sugar
  • 3c bread flour
  • 2 T mix of:
    • Linseed
    • Pumpkin Seeds
    • Sunflower Seeds
    • Buckwheat
    • Puffed Quinoa
    • Coconut Thread
    • *You can mix this yourself or Hubbards conveniently sell a Seeds & Ancient Grains Mix
  • 2T milk powder
    • Baby formula also works and has the benefit of fortifying it with added vitamins & minerals!
    • Can replace with Almond Milk powder or Coconut Milk powder.
  • 3 tsp bread improver yeast

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

Directions

  1. Put everything into the breadmaker in order listed. Select Dough only.
  2. When it finishes, select Dough only again so that it goes through another knockdown/rising cycle.
  3. Take out dough, knead for a couple of minutes, and place in bread tin. Let it rise while oven heats.
  4. Heat oven to 220’C.
  5. Bake at 220’C for 10 minutes, then at 180’C for 30 minutes; you may want to lower the oven tray when you turn the temperature down. I also recommend removing the loaf from the bread tin for the last 5-10 mins of cooking to allow even browning along the base.
  6. Bread should sound ‘hollow’ if you take it out of the tin and knock on the bottom.

Note: This will not turn out the same if you simply cook it in the breadmaker (it will be okay but not amazing) because the bread is contained by the size of the breadmaker and you can’t vary temperature and distance from heat.

Tip: A longer rising time will result in fluffier bread. I have sometimes done 4 knockdowns (two lengthy and two short) and 4 rising times meaning that the bread with 4-8 hours of ‘proofing’ before baking. Gluten based bread loves getting knocked around; all that kneading and rising helps to elasticate the dough and allows the gluten + yeast to work together to create tiny air bubbles.

If you’re interested in the chemistry of breadmaking check out this great post from Serious Eats.

Did you know? A commercial bakery will go from start to bag in 3 hours or less when making bread; traditional methods (and sourdoughs) take 18-25 hours. One theory behind rising numbers of gluten sensitivity and celiac disease is our move away to industrialized baking; a longer rising time results in decreased gluten proteins as they break down and change. It’s something to think about if you’re considering decreasing gluten in your diet.

Ancient Grains Bread

Ancient Grains Bread