Butter :: Recipe

Bread and Butter.

Even in the home of a baker, where the bread was good enough to eat without any embellishments, we always had butter on the counter, soft, ready for spreading.

My dad would come home from the bakery with an armload of fresh baguettes, or a beautiful sourdough jaco, or maybe on occasion some kaiser rolls. The bread always went straight to the kitchen counter that separated the breakfast nook from the cooking area. We didn’t use bread knives, just tore off pieces as my mom was making spaghetti, or a turkey soup was slowly boiling. Every evening before dinner this happened, for as long as I can remember, and the bread was never eaten without butter. Spread thinly, sometimes not so thinly, I once questioned my dad about butter, knowing the bread could stand alone. He just laughed. It enhances all of it, Janie. The flavors, the wheat and the salt and the starter… What would bread be without butter?

Knowing what I know now, not only is bread better with butter from a taste standpoint, but mixing those carbs and fats are better for us as well. Butter is good for you! Haven’t you heard?!!!

Anyway, on this eve of Saint Brigid’s feast, we are making up a little bit of butter just for the fun of it. We already have some in the fridge, but in memory of a beloved and faithful dairymaid, we are butter churners tonight.

Here’s how you do it :

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Find a cute small jar with a lid.

Add the heavy cream–not too full–only half–so that there’s room for shaking. Just cream, nothing else.

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Shake–with or without music–with or without cousins… (My drama girl is always up for shaking…)

20 minutes (or less) of shaking. Shake, shake, shake! (At some point you will feel like nothing in there is moving, that’s because you  have now made whipped cream! Just keep shaking, trade off between little ones and grown ups so it’s not a chore, and some bit of time after this you will hear that the butter has separated. You can shake some after this, we do, but I’m not sure it’s really necessary…)

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And you have butter, and a wee bit of buttermilk, too. Strain off the buttermilk to use, or drink, (do NOT pour it down the drain; it’s too delicious) and enjoy  the wonderful fruits of your shaking!

Here’s an excerpt from The Life of Saint Brigid--Brigid, a woman of Christ whom I long to emulate!

Brigid saw Christ in everyone she met, and had a particular love for those less fortunate than herself.

When the poor came knocking at the kitchen doors, Brigid handed out loaves of bread, jars of butter and jugs of milk.

With her heart and hands opened wide, she even gave away the food meant for the chieftain himself!

Cheers, dear friends. Enjoy a moment of dairy-maiding!

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Sourdough Starter

Recently I’ve been sharing my sourdough starter as fast as I can bulk it back up. Two women two weeks ago, two more last week, and some for Dean who made sourdough dinner rolls and said they were kind of ugly, but delicious!

Here’s what I gave to Dean…

Typically my starter lives in my fridge, where I feed it once a week or less, if I’m not baking with it. It gets tucked all the way to the back left side, and usually has apples in front of it, or tubs of salsa, or a jar of homemade plum jam.

When I’m in a sourdough frame of mind, then the starter gets moved to the counter, where it lives in the open air and I feed it once, even twice each day. It goes bad out in the warmth if you don’t pay attention, so I keep it where I’ll always see it, right by the drawer that holds the dinner napkins and the phone charger. For the last two months, my starter has been working overtime.

Fido. I know it’s silly to name a sourdough starter, but Fi-means faithful and Do-is a lousy but fun version of dough. Catchy? Ha. Our family’s lore says that we Garaicoetxea folk (Ga-ra-ee-ko-eh-chay-uh… that’s the way you write our very Basque surname) brought our levain–our sourdough starter–all the way to the new world in the 1890’s. Since we were bakers in the Basque country, and immediately opened a bakery in California, it’s probably all very true! Here are some photos from my last trip there.

Anyway, what’s the big interest suddenly in sourdough? Well, articles are popping up everywhere about fermented foods, and so I thought I’d share a few links so that you might know a little more about this sour magic.

On food sensitivities

One person’s story on going grain-free, then reverting back to eating grains and their health benefits

The science behind sourdough, and a bit about San Francisco’s claim to sour fame

So, if you live near me and are tempted to try your hand at baking some of your own sourdough-based recipes, send me a message and I’ll put you in the giveaway lineup. If not, just make your own. Here are some sourdough starter recipes from trusted baking websites:

The Fresh Loaf

King Arthur

Bon Appetit–with some nods to Richard Bertinet, one of my favorite bread book authors, and a recipe for sourdough bread to boot!

Just be careful if you are inspired, but don’t want to bake sourdough bread yourself. Many of the commercial varieties aren’t all that special. Instead of using the traditional method of allowing the bread to ferment and rise over a long period of time–thus gaining that sour flavor and the benefits of fermentation, many of the large commercial bakeries simply add vinegars or souring agents to a typical loaf of industrial, yeasted bread… The ingredient list will be long, and you won’t gain any of the health benefits. Real sourdough bread has these three ingredients: flour, water, and salt. 🙂

Lastly.

Sourdough toast with butter and homemade plum jam. Stew and sourdough. French toast from sourdough bread. Bread pudding made from stale loaves. Egg in a hole. Grilled panini on homemade sour. Sourdough pancakes and waffles! Hot sourdough baked in a pot, on an open flame.

Are you hungry yet?

Quick and Yeasty (and quite delicious two days later…)

To yeast, or not to yeast.

Just recently I tried baking up my first batch of quick rolls made with yeast.

So, usually… if I want rolls then I make a batch of hearth bread (flour, water, salt and yeast–just basic) and mold the dough into rolls. Lots of the time I add rosemary, because we’re addicted to rosemary rolls here at the Meyer Casa.

Sometimes I make rolls by using baking powder and butter and eggs and such. There’s a recipe for gruyere rolls in my Crabtree and Evelyn Cookbook that I succumb to now and again.

But never have I baked a batch of quick rising (quick rising typically means lots of yeast,  plus some eggs, and probably butter!!!) rolls made with yeast. Wow! New! Super fantastique! Obviously I still have a lot to learn when it comes to baking…

So, just to be confusing, I posted the photo above, and it does NOT show one roll made with yeast and one roll made with baking powder, or some such other comparisony thing. No, they are both yeasty rolls and the one on the left collapsed. I thought it was hillarious and snapped a shot–with the lovely Lion (which looks like a sun) made by the hand of John Ronan in the background.

You already know–there is a huge difference between a bread product that rises with baking powder and/or soda, and something that is leavened by yeast. Sometimes the difference isn’t immediately apparent, and that’s actually the point. When things are warm, and out of the oven, our senses take over and it’s ALL GOOD!

But later. That’s the difference. A scone that is five hours old, made with baking powder, just isn’t all that tasty. But a roll like the one above, a yeast-leavened roll, kept safe all night in a little cozy basket, then popped into the oven and smothered with homemade plum jam in the morning? I promise you, it’s just as amazing as it was the night before. Maybe better–because there’s green tea too.

So, here’s my basket of yeasty rolls. They were fairly tasty with our dinner, but oh, so amazing in the morning.

And I shared some, just in case you’re thinking that I’m getting a bit off track with my giving (which I do from time to time.) I took several of these very rolls over to friends who were hosting my daughter for homework, and when I was presenting them with my typical explanation I realized that they own a pizza restaurant and that maybe I had picked the wrong folks to give a bread product to.

But later, they said Thanks! And that they liked them!

So, there you have it. Hoping to post the recipe soon to these fun little buns.

And wishing you all good cheer, and happy baking, and thanking you for your continued prayers for our beloved godpapa.

Ingredients :: Wheat to Wheatgrass

Every year when I order stalks of wheat to weave for Saint Brigid’s feast day on February first I end up with many leftover heads of wheat. I snap the heads off the stalks then put them into a bowl and leave them on my counter because they’re so unusual and lovely.

This year during Lent I wanted to grow another indoor plot of wheatgrass for all of us to watch turn from seed to new life. It shows in such lovely form the sacrifice that Christ made on our behalf. Have you read this parable lately?

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. John 12:24

So we took those old heads of wheat that I’ve been saving (in years past I’ve simply bought wheat kernels in bulk at the health food store) and started to dismantle them one seed at a time.

Each stalk holds between 30-50 kernels of wheat. We counted. 🙂

The chaff and the seeds. I don’t know why, but it makes me think of the sheep and the goats.

We prepared a bowl of soil that we could keep indoors and sprinkled our seeds fairly thickly on top of the dirt. We covered the seeds with a bit more soil and watered.

The wheat seeds sprout quickly, within a few days. And in no time your wheat needs a haircut!

And then the Vikings invade. At least they always seem to in our house.

We don’t mind, though. We like Vikings. And despite what you might think, they sing Christ is Risen just about as loud as the Greeks! Amazing.

Hoping you play with your food, too…

Some links on growing wheatgrass:

Basics on Wikipedia

Growing wheatgrass in various containers

Growing wheatgrass for Easter

Cheers!

Tuna for a Cracker

Olive Oil Crackers

Yes, I bake, but my husband is a fabulous fellow in the kitchen, someone who dances between the spice cabinet and the pantry, music blaring, wooden spoons dipping in and out of delicious sauces. He does all of the evening cooking around here, and I’m noticing that John Ronan is becoming something of a miniature version of my husband. They are often found together at 5pm, both clad in aprons, concocting dishes for dinner. I wasn’t surprised the other day when I came in from working in the garden and the little one had emptied the bottom half of the spice cabinet onto the island.

“I want to make something,” he announced with a broad grin. “With all of these!!!”

I don’t typically like disorderly clutter, but after three kids you learn that most piles have a lot to do with learning. After a deep breath, I racked my brain, trying to think of something we could make with that odd assortment of sesame seeds, sea salt, chili pepper, dried herbs, garlic, etc… Thankfully the light bulb flickered on. I had an olive oil cracker recipe that I’d wanted to try for a while, so I got to mixing, and voila!

CRACKERS! (By the way, that one with all the chili pepper on it was HOT!)

For toppings we used: sea salt, sesame and poppy seeds, garlic powder, piment d’Espelette (that’s the hot chili peppper) herbes de Provence, Italian herb mix and shaved parmesan. (Notice the three burnt crackers. I’m well known for burning things…)

The story only gets better. I really couldn’t imagine who we could share these trial by error crackers with–but then, our neighbor, Steve showed up on our porch, holding a raw filet of tuna that had just been caught in the channel. Steve’s the sort of mellow fellow who shows up on your doorstep with raw fish–AND who is willing to try anything made by the hands of a four-year-old. “Have a cracker!” I told Steve as he presented us his catch.

He ate a cracker dusted with sea salt.

And we had delicious fresh tuna for dinner.

Thanks, Steve!

Rosemary Rolls

Rosemary Rolls–some made into the shape of a heart

Mixed: 12:30 pm

Molded: 2 :00

Baked: 3:30

Gave to parents of brand-new-baby Salem Isabel!

Here’s a recipe showing how I bake using my kitchen aid as a mixer. I love to mix my doughs by hand, but every now and again I end up using the machine. Recently, when my shoulder was giving me painful fits, it was the only way I was able to make bread using just one arm.

EVERYONE in our home loves rosemary rolls–I love them most at the mixing stage, when I’m chopping the rosemary and the pungent smell fills the kitchen; it rubs all over my hands and lifts my spirits. With the smell seems to come an extra dose of hope and joy to my day, and those are two virtues that I can’t get enough of…

Rosemary grows like a wild weed here in Santa Barbara. Here’s a photo of one planted in our yard, which I’m trying to prune to fan out below my office window.

Rosemary is planted in medians along the roadways here, it crawls up stone walls, and sometimes the upright shrub can be seen reaching to the sky, pretending to be a tree… It’s from the mint family, which explains the intense aroma, and its native growing ground is in the Mediterranean. If you live in a colder climate, you can pot it and bring it indoors, like we did when we lived in Colorado. Rosmarinus means “dew of the sea” and maybe it’s my love for the ocean that causes me to bake these rolls so very often. (If you’re not my friend on facebook, where I post my weekly beach photos, friend me!)

Here is a quick recipe for one of my favorites! If you give it a whirl, I’d love to hear how the recipe worked for you.

(By the way, it’s basically my French bread recipe except for these three differences. It’s mixed with a machine, rosemary is added, and I’ve increased the amount of ingredients in order to make a bigger batch of dough for more rolls. Makes about 16.)

Time Commitment: Depending on the temperature in your kitchen, have to be in and out of the house for at least 3 1/2 hours in order to make these rolls. If you choose to retard the dough after the first rise, then it makes this recipe very flexible.

Tools you need:
  • Cookie sheets or bread peel
  • Large mixing bowl
  • an oven :)
  • Kitchen-aid or other such mechanical bread mixer thingy
  • Other tools I use, but that aren’t imperative: spray bottle, parchment paper, dough scrapers, baking stone,

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour (I use Trader Joe’s unbleached flour in the blue bag)
  • 1 cup bread flour (could use all TJ’s flour, but I like to add a bit of high protein bread flour to the mix)
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast (can use cake yeast, just need to double it)
  • 16-17 ounces of cool or lukewarm water
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt (I like sea salt)
  • rice flour or corn meal for dusting
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
What to do:

Step One: Combine all dry ingredients in mixer bowl set with a dough hook. Mix for a quick minute, then add all of the water. Mix on second setting (not too fast and not too slow) for about 6-7 minutes.

Step Two: Add rosemary. Mix for another two or so minutes. The dough should be flinging around the inside of the mixing bowl, hopefully not sticking to the sides of the bowl. If it’s really sticking, then add more flour little by little. Be careful not to over-flour your dough; it makes the bread awfully dense. Do the dishes, or the laundry, or light a candle while the mixer does its work.

Step Three: Oil a large glass or ceramic bowl. Transfer your dough from the mixer to the oiled bowl. Cover with a damp towel. Allow it to rise for at least an hour (in my kitchen it usually takes at least 90 minutes–and more typically 2 hours) until doubled in bulk. If I want it to rise more quickly, then I heat my oven to 100 degrees (this is a very low setting and many ovens don’t go this low, but you could just heat your oven for 4-5 minutes, then turn it off…) and proof the dough inside the warm oven.

Step Four: Time to prepare my pans for baking, then mold the dough. First, I take out a sheet of parchment paper and place it on a cookie sheet. I reuse my sheets of parchment paper 2-3 times. I sprinkle the paper with rice flour (you can also use corn meal or regular flour) in order to easily remove the bread when it’s baked.

Divide the dough in half with a sharp knife or dough scraper. Then divide each piece in half (that makes four). Then halve the little doughlets again (that makes eight!). Then in half again!!! 16 🙂 I love making rolls; my brothers can mold rolls using both hands at the same time. I’m not that gifted. Maybe someday.

To shape the rolls, fold the dough in thirds, then with the seam side down, begin to roll the dough like a top across your counter, spinning on the inside of your cupped palm. Make sure your counter is clean and not dusted with flour, so the dough sticks to it a bit. I tried to demonstrate this in the video. Once the rolls are shaped and placed on the parchment paper, cover them with a damp cloth.

(Step Four and a Half: This is an optional step, and is the point when you can easily put your molded loaves into the fridge for a period of retarding. I’ve retarded loaves for between two and twelve hours… Just make sure your molded dough is covered with a moist cloth; you don’t want it to dry out. If you’re putting the loaves into the fridge for just an hour or two, then it’s best to let them rise a bit before putting them next to your chilly leftovers. If you’re retarding your bread all night, then you probably don’t need to let them rise at all before you head to bed…

When you remove the dough from the fridge, if the loaves have fully doubled their bulk, then set them on the counter just a few minutes before you bake. If the dough hasn’t fully risen when you pull them from the fridge, then allow them to finish rising, then straight into the oven they go.)

Step Five: Allow the dough to again double in size. This rise takes less time than the first, usually about 40 minutes to an hour. About 30 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Step Six: Your rolls are ready to bake and the oven is HOT. Place your cookie sheet onto the baking stone in the center of the oven. Take a spray bottle and spray in your oven, (I like to spray below the bread, but be careful of the heating elements…) to create steam. I typically do this twice during the first 10 minutes of baking.  Bake for 10 minutes.

Reduce the heat of the oven to 425 degrees. Rolls take less time to bake than larger loaves–I typically bake the rolls for another 16-18 minutes (a total of 26-28 in all).

Step Seven: Remove the bread from the oven, and cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes.  Then, the best part. Share : )

Ingredients: Salt

Two loaves of French bread, made with our own sea salt

Mixed: 6:45 am

Molded: 9 am

Left on counter for 1/2 hour to rise before retarding in fridge for several hours

Baked: 1 pm

Gave to: Mr and Mrs B, and Mrs B’s parents who are visiting from Far Off Canada

When I put together this post a few weeks ago I started thinking further about the four ingredients needed to make a basic loaf of bread. And since I was headed to the beach the following day, I decided to try my hand at making sea salt from scratch. I’ve always been a bit of a “survivalist” (…wondering if that’s really a term). I like to think about what I would do if I lived centuries ago, or if we didn’t have all the resources available to us–resources like grocery stores and electric ovens and super speed computers. Anyway, making salt the old fashioned way seemed like a great way to find out about a very basic resource, and understand better one of the key ingredients in my bread baking.

I live only a little over a mile from the Pacific ocean. It didn’t take much research to convince me that salt making can be done with almost no equipment; all I really needed was a willing soul to wade out past the tide line and fill up some empty jugs with sea water, and a few sunny days for evaporation. In walked my energetic daughter. Perfect!

Making sea salt was easy and fascinating. While the evaporation process was taking place, I read a book titled Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky. I took some time, too, to browse the web and see what other amateur salt makers had to say. Here’s some of what I learned about this important ingredient in our diet:

  • Salt is derived either from water evaporation or from rock deposits. Chrystaline salt deposits are found on every continent.
  • Ocean water is 2.7 percent salt.
  • Both humans and animals need some sort of salt intake to survive.
  • Bread is icky if you leave out the salt. I know… I’ve done it…
  • If you want a really cool salt box, like the one we bought made of olive wood, then you can find them at Williams Sonoma or other kitchen stores. But if want to make salt in order to save money, it’d probably take you thirty years of monitoring your evaporating pans before you pay for your very cool box… Salt is cheap today, unlike the price it fetched during the Middle Ages. Some called it White Gold back then…
  • There are many resources on the web that speak of the uses and benefits, health risks and origin of salt. One website I found interesting is put together by the “Salt Institute” and this page of facts is packed with all sorts of information. Here’s another website (a commercial one that sells salt) that is filled with well-organized information regarding salt.
  • Just like anything else, salt intake needs to be balanced. Too much, or too little can get you into all sorts of health trouble.
  • Homemade sea salt is moist to the touch. I tried to dry a particularly wet batch in the oven and ended up making something that looked like white coral. I’m thinking that I probably destroyed some of the minerals in the salt when I overheated that batch.
  • One of my very favorite chocolate treats is found here in Santa Barbara, at a local chocolatier. Chocolate Maya sells a truffle with a dark chocolate exterior, a caramel interior, and it is topped with several rough grains of sea salt. Oh, my.
  • Most salt that is mined or made today is not intended for human consumption, but instead used in manufacturing. If you live in the north east, you might know that 16% of salt used in the US is for deicing roads during the winter.
  • Guess what Salzburg means?
  • And back to tasty treats… I recently tried Bequet caramels. They’re made in Montana and one of the varieties mixes the soft caramel with Celtic sea salt. What a great way to get your daily salt intake 🙂
  • Table salt is a simple combination of sodium and chlorine. Refined salts may have other additives, such as iodine and anti-caking agents. Sea salt, like the one I made!!! contains over fifty trace minerals in addition to the all important sodium chloride…

Okay, here is my salt making journey!

Even though it looks sunny and warm, Mad is wading out in ocean water that is about 61 degrees cold. Eek! Before I sent her out, I checked the water quality at this beach–Butterfly Beach in Santa Barbara–and it had just received an A+ rating…

My brave and adventurous daughter

We evaporated some salt water in the sun after quickly boiling the water over the stove, wondering if the grade A rating could be trusted. We also evaporated another batch that came straight from the ocean. Here is the salt that was boiled, forming crystals in the bottom of the pan after about five days in the sun.

I learned after a wild wind storm that you need to cover the sea water so that dust and tree debris is minimized. We eventually came up with a method where we would cover our glass pans with a clear thin acrylic cutting board, leaving a corner of the pan uncovered so there was adequate air flow.

Here I am filtering the sea water through a coffee filter after the wild windstorm

Here is another batch of sea water that is just beginning to show signs of something salty. Because I only evaporated a little under two gallons of water, it took just a few sunny days to complete the process in these shallow pans.

This is a picture of the salt that I thought was too moist, so I baked it. It was so hard that I ground some to a fine dust. I wouldn’t recommend doing this–I wouldn’t be surprised if I baked some of the trace minerals out in my hot oven…

Here is my Santa Barbara Sea Salt, looking so important in this beautiful olive wood salt box that my husband found

And here is a French Jaco, made with flour, water, yeast and homemade Santa Barbara sea salt!

So there’s my sea salt story. I enjoyed this process so much that I think I’ll keep it up during the warm months. I’d love to hear your salt facts and stories. Please share!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. Not from my favorite chocolate shop, not from the RealSalt website, not from Bequet, who makes the most delicious caramels in all the world. But I suppose there might be some give and takes with Mr. B, whom is right now eating my bread, because he teaches my daughter math, and is just a handy friend to have around. I’m no good at math. If anyone owes anyone anything–then I really must pay some royalties or a bigger allowance to my daughter who dives readily into the sea to scoop up salt water for simple experiments. Okay, this has gone on long enough. Later, and back to the regularly scheduled show– I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

You know what, though? I’m thinking that maybe I should write a children’s book on salt. The bread and the wine are covered… If you have a starting point for me please send that along.