Monday, 27 April 2015

Sourdough Coastal Cracker Crisps

After living for two years in Vancouver, British Columbia, I came away with a love for Raincoast Crisps made by Lesley Stowe Fine Foods.  They are so delicious and go well with savory dips and spreads like hummous or baba ganoush.  I had never heard of them before until I hit the West Coast of Canada and have never seen them since moving to Australia.

I don't buy commercially prepared crackers anymore.  After some uncomfortable reactions from the seasonings and preservatives in store-bought crackers,  I began to make my own crackers so I know what is in them.  It isn't really a big deal to make your own crackers.  You kind of develop a taste for homemade and I find they fill you up faster.  There are a few versions of Raincoast Crisp recipes on the net and I have adapted this recipe from a compilation of these.

If you don't want to ferment the cracker crisps for easier digestion and a lower GI rating then leave out the sourdough starter and mix to bake immediately.  It think the fermentation process is worth it and it is easy to mix the batter before bed, let it stand overnight, and then bake in the morning.  I mixed mine in the morning and then left the batter to ferment for the day before baking, slicing and then toasting in the evening.

Please give these cracker crisps a try because they are so delicious!

  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 1 1/2 Tbsps. apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup of honey or maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup of sourdough starter
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup of dried cranberries or raisins
  • 1/4 cup of pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup of sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 cup of hulled millet
  • 1/4 cup ground flax seed
  • 1 Tbsp. of fresh rosemary, chopped

In a medium sized mixing bowl, gently whisk soy milk and apple cider vinegar to achieve a thickened sour milk.  When mixture has thickened add honey and whisk to combine.  Next whisk in 1/2 cup of sourdough starter and then the whole wheat flour.  Finally add the last of the flour, baking soda, and salt; stir.

The batter is fairly runny at this stage.  Next add your favourite dried fruit -I prefer cranberries but use whatever you like; pumpkin and sunflower seeds; flax seed, hulled millet, and rosemary.  Stir until the ingredients are thoroughly mixed.

Coastal Crisp batter.
Coastal Crisp batter after 8 hours.

Set aside the batter for about 8 hours and then pour into a greased loaf tin and bake at 350F degrees or 180C for 35-40 minutes depending on your oven.  Cool for about 10 minutes and then remove from tin.  Allow the loaf to cool completely; you can expedite this by placing in the fridge.

Batter in a bread tin and left to
raise for an additional hour
After baking.

Once the loaf is cool to cold, cut into thin slices and further toast/ dehydrate on a cookie sheet in a preheated (350F degrees or 180F) and then turned off oven or place in food dehydrator to achieve a crispy cracker.  Store in an airtight container for up to 2 months.  Makes about 45 cracker crisps depending on the shape and size of your loaf pan.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Sourdough English Muffins

Sourdough everything is still on the brain here in my house.  After a couple of loaves of mediocre sourdough bread, I decided to scale back and rethink my sourdough strategy.  So far, I have had amazing sourdough flavour in all things sourdough but the rise and crumb of my loaves and cake have been a little hit and miss.

In a quest to improve my baking endeavors, I decided to buy some organic rye flour to super boost the friendly bacteria in the starter and moved it into permanently into the fridge.  Organic rye flour is reputed to be the best thing for sourdough feeding and the starter responded to the switch up from whole wheat flour to rye in a very positive way.  Because I intended to take a sourdough break, I fed the starter with rye flour but added less water to make it much thicker and borderline paste in an effort to go longer until my next feed.

After about two weeks or a little less in the fridge, I decided to feed my sourdough beast and use the discarded sourdough starter portion in my usual yeast bread recipe.  I followed my normal bread recipe and simply exchanged a half cup portion of flour with a half cup of sourdough starter.  I usually leave my yeast bread dough on the counter to double for two to four hours but surprisingly the dough doubled within an hour.  The sourdough starter seemed to super boost my bread with the end result being an incredibly light and delicious loaf of bread minus the sour flavour - as it didn't have time to develop.

Sticky dough
The key to sourdough is to have a powerfully active sourdough starter and a very wet and sticky dough. Just mix your dough so that all the ingredients are combined but ensure the dough is way too sticky to handle.  The long rising time will deepen the flavour and allow the dough to become more manageable and elastic without kneading.  I only kneaded this dough with a tiny bit of flour for a few seconds before dividing and shaping so it is really easy.  

~ Please take note:  to identify if your sourdough starter is active enough, it should be full of bubbles and have doubled in its container before using.  When you spoon the starter out to use, it should basically deflate. These are good signs that your starter is very active.  The starter should smell very sour but not like nail varnish.  If it does smell strongly of alcohol or of varnish, discard at least half to two thirds and feed with flour and water to form a wet paste and place back in fridge for at least a week while it recovers then evaluate again. ~

The dough after an 8 hour rise.
With my confidence boosted that my sourdough starter, Beastie, was showing signs of being super charged up; I fed him some more rye flour and rested him for a couple of days in the fridge and then pulled him out for an attempt at sourdough English muffins.  My first batch was halved - just in case I failed.  I began by mixing the dough in the morning and covered with plastic wrap and left in a warm spot until suppertime.  By this time, the dough had doubled so I dumped out the very sticky dough, kneaded it a few times with a bit of flour until I could gently handle it.  Finally, I rolled it in a log and sliced into about 10 pieces.  I shaped these up and then let rise on my baking tray until double and after a couple of hours, baked.  These English muffins were so light and so perfectly risen with a gentle sour taste, that I jumped for joy.  Not a speck of yeast was used to achieve greatness and it is this recipe that I share with you today.
The English Muffins after a two - three hour rise after shaping.

Sourdough English Muffins after baking.

I have now completed a few batches of multi-grain sourdough English muffins.  This recipe produces light, tangy and perfect English muffins that are delicious with your favourite topping.

They freeze exceptionally well and I guarantee they won't last long on the counter as they will get gobbled up for breakfast, lunch or snacks.  My kids like them instead of buns for a sandwich and they are awesome toasted too.   Enjoy!

  • 1 cup active sourdough starter
  • 1 cup warm filtered water
  • 1 cup soy milk or any milk of your choosing
  • 2 Tbsps. honey or maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil or your choice of oil
  • 2 1/2 cups of white baking flour
  • 2 1/2 cups of multi-grain or whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp. salt

In a medium sized bowl, combine sourdough starter, water, milk, honey and oil;  whisk gently until combined.  Next stir in the white flour.  Then slowly add the last 2 1/2 cups of multi-grain flour and salt ensuring that the dough is very wet and sticky.  Hold back on the last 1/4 cup of flour if it is starting to feel like it is getting too dry.  Whole wheat flour tends to absorb a bit more liquid so so be prepared to adjust the flour by a small amount if it is a bit dryer than you want.  Sourdough dough likes to be very sticky.

Now, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave it in a sheltered spot on the counter and let it rise until double for about 8 hours.

Once dough has doubled, punch down and scrape the dough out of the bowl onto a floured counter.  With a sprinkle of flour, knead a few times until dough is a bit more manageable.  This dough should still be very wobbly but more elastic.  Flour and roll out to about 1/2 inch thick and cut out in circles about 3 inches in diameter.  Place on a cookie sheet lined with baking paper to set aside for a second rise until double.  This may take up to three hours.  When ready, bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit or 200 degrees Celsius for ten minutes.  Makes 20-24 English muffins.

I mixed in the morning, punched down dough at supper time and shaped for second rise to bake at about mid-evening which produced a very mild sourdough flavour.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Cilantro Tomato Chutney

While our family strives to keep our sugar consumption on the low side, we do enjoy things that are sweet  - in moderation.  With tomatoes being competitively priced right now in WA, I decided to venture into sweet chutney-making for a small amount to dose on my burgers or to enjoy with my Shepherd's Pie.  Chutney is great as a condiment on burgers; with ham or turkey; spread on an egg'n bacon rolls; or even served with your favourite Indian take-away.

My chutney project started in the morning as the recipe requires a bit of time for the onions and tomatoes to release a bit of liquid.  Then as I had a number of other kitchen chores to do, I just set my bowl aside and came back to it after lunch.  It is school holidays this week so the kids and I were laying low and I was getting some extra cooking done as the pantry was empty of just about everything.

I don't really have the room for large batches of condiments so this amount is just right for our fridge and won't last long enough to worry about it going off.  Give this chutney a try as I am sure it won't disappoint.

  • 1 kilogram of tomatoes, medium dice
  • 3 medium sized onions, small dice or finely sliced
  • 3 Bird's-eye chilli peppers, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups of natural cane sugar
  • 1 tsp. Madras curry powder
  • 1 1/2 tsps. mustard powder
  • 1 1/3 cups of apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. natural sea salt

Chop tomatoes and onions and toss with sea salt in a medium-sized bowl.  Set the mixture aside for a few hours or overnight in fridge to allow the tomatoes and onions to release a bit of liquid.

Drain the salty liquid from the mixture; add the chilli, garlic, sugar, and spices to the tomatoes and onions in a medium-sized pot. Cook gently on medium heat for about 8 minutes and then add the apple cider vinegar.  Stir to combine.  You can now leave you chutney chunky or blend about 1/3 of the mixture and leave the rest chunky.  I used a stick blender directly in the pot and blender for a few seconds to get the texture I wanted.

Now bring the mixture to a gentle simmer and reduce until about 1/3 of the original amount or to a desired thickness.  Be careful not to let your chutney burn as it is sweet and it is thickening so as it is reduced it might have a tendency to stick to the pot.  Stir often! Just before removing thickened mixture from heat, add chopped cilantro and stir well.

Ladle into hot sterilized jars.  Hot water can the chutney for long term storage or store in fridge.  This recipe makes about 4 cups.  It should keep for a month or two in the fridge if the jars are properly sterilized.  The chutney will thicken a bit more in the fridge.