Posts Tagged steel-cut oats

It’s my life!

Followers of this blog will know that I’ve been on a serious bread baking binge for months, and I’m amazed at the proceeds. I experimented with different flours, different add-ins and different amounts of yeast, and the sandwiches have been awesome. Bread with chestnut flour was particularly tasty (even the cat liked it), but some combination of wholewheat flour and steel-cut oats seems to be my favorite right now.

But let’s face it, making bread takes time, and there were Saturdays when I felt that all I did was wait for bread, which took a serious chunk out of the rest of my weekend life. The workflow goes something like this:

  • measure out ingredients (a few minutes)
  • wait for the yeast to start frothing (15 minutes, perhaps)
  • mix and knead (another 15 minutes)
  • wait for the mix to rise (2 hours, 3 hours, often longer)
  • knock down, prepare for baking (a few minutes)
  • wait for the loaves to rise (another couple of hours)
  • heat oven, bake (an hour, almost)
  • wait for the loaves to cool (longer than you think)
  • slice and eat (no time at all)

The challenge was to tame that workflow so that my bread was a slave to me rather than the other way around. It took a bit of planning, but it’s worked surprisingly well – it was the method for the hugely successful black rice bread from a few weeks back, but it works for more than that. My thanks to a few recipe books, and to the Brit over at Alliums for his inspiration. The faults, such as they are, are mine.

The answer lies in forgetting everything your mother ever told you about yeast dough imploding at the merest hint of a chill. It’s heat that kills yeast, not cold, the experts say now. So rather than waiting around for my bread dough to double in size, I make my dough on a Friday night and throw it in the fridge overnight. Come Saturday, I take the vastly expanded dough out of the fridge, squidge it into loaf tins and then go off and run my morning errands while it warms up and then starts rising again.

By the time I’m back from the market, and maybe from a bike ride too, it’s ready to bake.

I am no longer a slave to my bread. It’s my bread that’s a slave to me.

Anyone want some (home-made) marmalade on (home-made) toast? And anyone got other tips to help me claim back my life?

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Oatmeal with a twist

I like a wholegrain breakfast ahead of the work day, or (even better) as a line-the-stomach venture before a bike ride or a ski trip. I do hot breakfasts in the winter, and cold ones in the summer, when I just throw oats together with buttermilk and fruit and pretend it’s low-cal muesli without the nuts.

For winter warmth, steel cut oats were my big discovery a few years back, especially after I realized that all you need to do is boil them up with water, cover the pan and let the porridge sit overnight to thicken up. The next day you spoon a portion into a bowl and nuke it warm.

Then I flirted with farro, which is higher in protein and more nutritious than oats. I like it a lot, and kept going for a couple of months of breakfasts.  But even after I tried whirring the pre-soaked grain around in the food processor for a few seconds to speed up the cooking time, farro takes forever to cook, and I meandered back to the steel cut oats. Depending on my mood, and on what I have in the house, I add a sliced up banana, a handful of raisins or cranberries, along with a splash of buttermilk, and I’m ready for the day.

But the oatmeal I tried at a Tucson cafe this week might just have transformed my life. Instead of using water or milk to cook their steel cut oats, Liv Cafe at the north of the city, cooks oats in apple cider, for a sweet-but-not-sweet start to the day.

I don’t know what proportions Liv uses for its oatmeal, but here is what I did.

Steel cut oats with apple cider
1 cup steel cut oats
2 cups water
2 cups apple cider (not the alcoholic kind, if there are any Brits reading this)
generous pinch of salt

Bring the oats and liquid to a boil and then switch off the heat, stir the porridge and cover overnight. Store in the fridge, and reheat a portion as you want it.

Serve with fruit, yogurt, milk, cream, nuts, spices. The choice is yours.

Ever so easy, and oh, so good.

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By bread alone

I’ve been on a big bread-baking binge for the last few weeks, and we’re getting through the loaves as though they would soon go out of fashion. And given the fact that I can’t find a recipe without tweaking it, I’ve even started a notebook to log what I did, so I don’t look up the wrong recipe by mistake.

Events so far included two (rather large) yummy loaves of bread with steel-cut oatmeal (based on a food.com recipe , but with half wholewheat flour), two with some oat flour mixed in with white and brown wheat flour (less successful), and one particularly delicious loaf with chestnut flour, which was also based on an internet recipe. I baked this in a tin rather than free-form, because how else can you turn bread to sandwiches, used half wholemeal flour for the non-chestnut portion instead of all white and substituted pumpkin seeds for the sultanas the recipe suggested. It was very unusual, very chewy, very nice.

But chestnut flour is a bit exotic to be using for an everyday loaf, so today I moved on to flour from red fife wheat, which is the wheat they used to grow in Ontario back in the day, and which meets my vague goal of trying not to buy too much from too far away. (I’ll still do marmalade.) The seller tells me the grain was ground to flour yesterday, it’s that fresh, and I should keep any leftover flour in the freezer because there’s no preservatives at all.

I admit I wimped out of using all red fife flour for this one, because I thought my bread would probably be just too dense, so went for a white-wholewheat-red fife mix, in equal parts. I started with this recipe from a blogger who must live only a few streets away from me, judging by the coffee shops she writes about. But I tweaked things around a little. The result smells glorious.

Red Fife Bread (makes two smallish loaves)
2 cups each of stone-ground strong white flour, stone-ground wholemeal flour and red fife flour
2 ¾ cups warm water
¼ cup honey
1 tsp dried yeast
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp kosher salt
3/4 cup pumpkin seeds (optional)

Mix 3 cups of the flour with the water, honey and yeast, cover (I used a damp tea towel) and then allow it to proove until it’s nice and bubbly. It took about 90 minutes.

Add the other three cups of flour, plus salt and olive oil and knead until it’s smooth, using a little bit of flour as needed — I probably used another quarter of a cup, although the recipe suggests it might be as much as 1-1/2 cups. The dough  was very sticky at the start, b but it got better as I kneaded — very soft and elastic. Work in the seeds (if you are using them), and allow the dough to rise until doubled in size — about an hour.

Knock dough down, and put in two well greased bread tins. Allow it to rise again, until it’s doubled in size.

Bake in preheated oven at 425F for the first 15 minutes, and then at 375 for the final 30 minutes. It should sound hollow when you take it out of the oven.

All the recipes say don’t eat bread until it’s cooled, because it will be so hard to cut. Is waiting even an option?

Of course, I already have four different sorts of organic flour, and all the reading I’m doing from my new and borrowed bread books say to keep organic flour in the fridge or freezer because it won’t last long in a regular cupboard because of the way it’s processed.

Hmm. If I get into breadmaking in an bigger way, we’re going to need a bigger freezer.

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Fun with farro

I’m not sure which particular bucket I’ve been burying my head under for the last few years, but I for one had never heard of farro, the high-protein it grain of 2008 or so (or so the Internet tells me).

But a rider on a bike trip I just came back on swore by it as the breakfast fuel to die for, and given that steel cut oats revolutionized my life when I discovered then a few years back, I thought it had to be worth a try.

I admit it doesn’t look like much — it’s a whole grain that was available at Rube’s Rice in Toronto’s St Lawrence Market – and the cooking process was every bit as long as the Internet recipes said it would be.

But I think I could get hooked on this one, if I can find the time to cook it ahead of time and microwave it back to life in the mornings.

Here’s what I did, in a combination of recipes and invention, because, as anyone who reads this blog knows, following recipes is not my strong point.

Breakfast farro with oats

1/2 cup farro
2 cups water
1 can coconut milk
a handful of dried bananas
a handful of quick cook oatmeal

I brought the water/farro mix up to the boil, switched the pot off and left it, covered, to sit on the stove overnight. That’s the way I cook steel-cut oats and it’s the perfect lazy way to make that work. It doesn’t work quite like that for farro, and by morning the grains were no longer tooth-cracking hard. But they were still a long way from being cooked. So I threw in a can of coconut milk and some very old dried bananas (one of the recipes I was looking at the previous day talked of coconut/banana/faro combination as being an especially good one) and simmered the whole mix gently for another 20 minutes or so.

That seemed to do the trick for the farro, but the mix was somewhat sloppy, and I didn’t really want to throw the excess liquid away, as another of the internet recipes suggested. What about oats to thicken things up?

Add oats, simmer for another five minutes, and there you have it. Four portions of breakfast, one for immediate consumption and three for later (I offered a taste to the spouse, and he rejected the idea). I think it would work with any dried fruit, or with fresh fruit too. You could add milk, or buttermilk, or yogurt too. And the coconut milk is optional too. You could just use water, or maybe even milk. Not sure about the milk. A lot of boiling for that one.

Easy. Honest. And tastes really nice.

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