You Should Know About… Sourdough

Welcome back to the “You Should Know About…” series, a collection of blog posts that will pop up every now and again that feature health and wellness tips we can all use to live the most wholesome life we can!

Sourdough

So bread. Yeah that’s right, bread. I think we can all agree that it’s pretty magical. And unfortunately, thanks to a host of low carb, get slim quick diets, it’s gotten a bad rap. What’s up with that? Yes, if you’re gluten intolerant, you should probably shy away from it, but otherwise, try switching up the kind of bread you’re eating, instead of cutting it out entirely. I think we all know about the virtue and health benefits of choosing whole grains, but don’t forget to take another look at the way your bread is made, instead of only what it’s made from.

And that, my friends, is what brings us to sourdough.

If you’re familiar with sourdough, then you’ll have experienced its characteristic taste- a slightly sour, almost tangy and chewy bread with far more flavor and depth than you would ever expect from anything made almost entirely from flour. What gives it these traits is its fermentation process. Unlike “regular” bread, which rises from the addition of yeast (small microorganisms that feed on sugars), sourdough uses a starter, which is made only of flour and water that is left for a number of days so that it can ferment. Once the starter has been created, it’s basically alive with small (good for you!) bacteria that eat sugar and thus help your bread rise, making it like a homemade version of yeast. Pretty crazy, huh?

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So why is this important? It all comes down to that crazy fermentation process. For one, the bacteria present in sourdough create more lactic acid, which leads to less phytic acid; this makes it much easier for your body to digest sourdough bread. Digestion is also aided by the pre-digestion of grains that occurs when the bacteria in the starter goes to work on the dough. What’s more, all that beneficial bacteria in the starter eventually winds up in your gut, where it aids digestion, immune function, and mineral absorption while also controlling yeast population so that overgrowth doesn’t occur. And perhaps coolest of all, the extensive process of making sourdough (remember, it takes days for that starter to ferment) causes the gluten to break down into amino acids, which means- you guessed it- easier digestion. But it also means that some gluten intolerant folks are able to eat it as well.

Some other reasons sourdough is awesome: it has a lower glycemic index, meaning your blood sugar won’t spike; it’s got a whole host of beneficial nutrients; it’s naturally preserving, because the acetic acid produced inhibits the growth of mold; it’s one of the oldest forms of breadmaking.

Making your own sourdough is rather time consuming, so your easiest option is likely to buy it. Just be sure to get authentic sourdough (anything from a bakery is a sure bet; if you’re at the grocery store, read the labels). And then be proud of yourself as you partake in the glory of bread, because you know you’re eating something that will make your body happy.

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Sweet Potato Biscuits (Vegan)

Sweet Potato Biscuits

A couple of weeks ago, a friend showed me a list of ultimate carb-on-carb recipes. Included on that list were sweet potato biscuits.

Please and thank you and get me a can of sweet potato puree ASAP.

I like to think I’m being different than all the other pumpkin obsessed people out there in the world, but given the fact that a) this recipe is adapted from last year’s pumpkin biscuits b) I posted a pumpkin recipe not too gosh darn long ago and c) let’s be real, sweet potato is basically as crazy popular this time of year as pumpkin (I saw a sign for sweet potato waffles the other day that need to be in my belly right now), I’m not sure that’s true. But that’s okay, because, ummm, BISCUITS!

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Let’s get down to business, shall we?

Breaking down some thingamajigs: these little babes are vegan! All it takes is a quick sub of coconut oil for butter and nondairy milk for regular milk, and there ya go. Also, they’re whole wheat, because we like to put good stuff in our bodies and stay nice and full after eating these for breakfast (and lunch and dinner and snack). Finally, they’re super moist and soft because of that added sweet potato. So you know, besides making these super hipster and fall-y, the sweet potato also does some heavy recipe lifting.

Is there anything it can’t do?

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Fall is here, and I’m already counting down the days until Thanksgiving. Let’s go!

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Sweet Potato Biscuits

adapted from this recipe

Makes about 10 biscuits

Ingredients:

2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 Tbs baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 Tbsp cane sugar or sucanat
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 1/2 Tbsp solid coconut oil
3/4 cup sweet potato puree
1/2 cup almond milk
1 Tbsp honey or maple syrup

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450F. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add the oil (make sure it’s solid) and incorporate it into the dry ingredients using a pastry cutter, a fork, or just your hands until it’s broken down. In a separate bowl, mix together the sweet potato, milk, and honey/maple syrup. Add to the dry ingredients all at once and stir until the dough comes together.

Turn onto a floured surface and knead a few times before rolling out the dough to a l-inch thickness. Fold in half, then pat out 1 inch thickness again. Fold the dough in half one more time, and pat it out to 1 inch thickness again. Using a 1 1/2-inch round biscuit or cookie cutter, cut out as many circles as you can. Gather together the scraps of dough, re-roll, then cut more circles. Continue until you’ve used up all the dough.

Place biscuits onto a prepared baking sheet and bake for 12-14 minutes, until golden brown.

 

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Gluten Free Pumpkin Bread

GF Pumpkin Bread

I’m not sure how I feel about posting a pumpkin recipe two days after fall begins. I mean, how food blogger cliche can you get? I might as well have made a green smoothie in a mason jar and stuck a striped paper straw in it.

But then I would be depriving you of this new (gluten free!) pumpkin bread, and that would just be a real shame.

About a year ago, I made this super soft pumpkin bread, and it was crazy comforting. Like, seriously. But this time around, when that annual pumpkin craving started to hit, I had a full bag of oat flour lounging about, and just like that, this pumpkin loaf became gluten free.

Although the two versions of this bread are pretty darn similar, this isn’t one of those “substitute and you can’t even tell the difference” recipes. For one, the oat flour makes the loaf a bit more dense- perfect for a more substantial breakfast or snack. Secondly, all those oats give the bread a nutty depth that is one hundred percent perfect for a fall recipe full of pumpkin and spices.

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As you can probably see in the pictures, my loaf got a bit browned on top, so I would recommended tenting it with some foil during the last fifteen minutes or so of baking. That way, you’ll have more of a nice even browning on the top, instead of the more color challenged version I’ve got going here.

It’s time to start baking with pumpkin again! Get ready for the onslaught…

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Gluten Free Pumpkin Bread

Ingredients:

1/2 cup cane sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 3/4 cups oat flour

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, applesauce, pumpkin, and eggs until fully combined. Add the baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Slowly add the flour (I would recommend adding it 1/2 cup at a time, instead of all at once) and carefully mix until just combined. Spoon batter into the loaf pan and smooth over the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the top is browned, about 50-60 minutes. If the top is getting too browned but the inside is still under baked, simply put a piece of tin foil over the top and continue to bake until fully cooked.

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Socca (Chickpea Flour Crepe) {GF, V}

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It finally struck me the other day that people actually read these posts. How bizarre. Aren’t there some cat videos out there that you should be watching, or Buzzfeed quizzes you’re meant to be taking? Why in the world are you here?

Not that I’m saying you shouldn’t be here (please don’t leave). I guess I just find it somehow hard to believe that there are people out in this world that I’ve never met who stop by this little space and read some of my words and look at some of my pictures and maybe even try some of my recipes. And that’s just pretty darn cool.

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So thank you. Seriously. If I could, I would bake you all cookies and almond meringues, and we could drink tea and eat chocolate cake and have a grand old time. But since that option is obviously off the table, I’ll just keep on giving you food pictures and posts with too many exclamation points, and I guess for now that will have to do. But I’ll keep working on that virtual tea party option!

Remember when we made crepes? And they were super simple and delicious and we couldn’t believe we waited that long to make them? Well now we’re doing it again, but this time we’re using chickpea flour instead of wheat for a whole lotta protein and fiber, and it’s pretty great.

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Socca is a traditional pancake that originated in the South of France, and it can be used so many different ways. In this version, I topped mine with some tomato sauce, cheese, capers, and kale, threw it under the broiler for a few minutes, and made myself a nice little pizza. If you go this route, I would suggest making your socca a bit thicker so that it can hold all that deliciousness on top.

Other options include topping it with some sliced avocado and sea salt, rolling it up with some turkey, tomato, and sprouts, or even folding it up with a scoop of filling lentil salad inside. The chickpea flour makes this crepe hardy and nutty- the perfect accompaniment for just about any filling or topping. This is your chance to be creative at lunchtime… go wild!

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Socca

Ingredients:

1 cup chickpea flour
1 cup water
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
optional: any seasonings or herbs of choice

Directions:

Whisk all of the ingredients together in a bowl until smooth. Allow mixture to rest for 30 minutes to 2 hours.

Heat a well greased pan or cast iron skillet* over medium high heat. Add enough socca batter to extend to the edges of the pan. Cook for about three minutes, until the edges are firm and beginning to lift from the edge of the pan. Flip the pancake over, then cook the other side for about 2 minutes, until it is lightly browned.

 

*If available, use a cast iron skillet to make a socca pizza. This way, you can just add your toppings to the socca while it’s still in the skillet and then stick the pan directly in the oven

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Bulgaria + A Simple Bread Recipe

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If you’ve been following this blog for the past few months, then you’ll know that I spent my summer interning with the Bread Houses Network in Gabrovo, Bulgaria. It was an incredible experience full of love and carbs, and if you don’t mind, I’d like to share some of it here with you.

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First things first- what exactly is the Bread Houses Network? It’s an international non-profit organization that is based on the simple concept of using bread as a way of connecting communities and bridging gaps between people regardless of race, ethnicity, class, gender, or handicaps. Founded in 2009 as part of the International Council for Community Cultural Centers, BHN came about when its founder, Dr. Nadezhda Savova, was visiting Bethlehem and learned that the name of this famous city actually means “House of Bread”. Inspired by this terminology, Nadezhda began to realize that bread is a common cultural element all around the world, a phenomenon that she saw first hand when she visited over 70 different countries while achieving her PHD in Anthropology from Princeton. When she later returned to her native Bulgaria, she began the difficult task of converting her grandmother’s former home, a structure that was falling down and didn’t even have a roof, into the world’s first ever Bread House.

The story of this Bread House and its creation is phenomenal. Crafted only be volunteers, it was rebuilt during a long cold winter in freezing temperatures. In fact, on the very day the roof was completed, after the final hammer had been swung, it started to snow for the first time. Then, one day while they were working, a man happened to walk by. When they told him their plans for a bread house, he commented that they didn’t have a traditional wood fire oven. That man then surprised them all by saying that he was a world renowned oven builder, and that he would come back the next day and build them one for free. And that, friends, is the very same oven that I had the privilege of baking in throughout the summer.

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The Bread House in Gabrovo operates very simply. It is a place for community members, tourists, students, orphans, friends, strangers, the disabled and more to all come together and make bread. There are countless metaphors and symbols to be found in this process, and I encourage you to explore the website linked above to learn more about them. Down the street from the Bread House is a social enterprise bakery, in which traditional artisan sourdough bread is baked everyday and sold in order to preserve the country’s bread making traditions and earn money to sustain the organization. Again, I highly recommend checking out the social enterprise section on the website, because it’s really an amazing project.

While in Bulgaria, I had the opportunity to meet some of the kindest, most welcoming people around. I interacted through the beautiful process of sharing bread, and even though I hardly spoke a word of Bulgarian, on numerous occasions I found myself laughing along with all of my fellow bread makers. While I could obviously go on for hours about this incredible experience, I’ll stop myself here to spare you the memoir that would inevitably follow if I continued. But if you have any questions AT ALL, including how to become involved with this organization yourself, please let me know! I would be oh so happy to answer them, and this organization is in dire need of any help that you are willing to give.

Finally, I will leave you with the incredibly simple bread recipe we use in our workshops. It’s so easy, in fact, that we don’t even have specific measurements when we make it, and kids make it all the time! And the aroma of fresh bread wafting through your house? Heavenly.

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The Bread Houses Network Bread

Makes two loaves

Note: Unlike most bread recipes, this one isn’t exact; in fact, we never used measurements during workshops. What I have provided is about as close to a recipe as can be written. As for the spoonfuls, a regular dinner spoon is about what you’re going for, and you want the water to be warm, not hot. And relax! This bread is pretty much impossible to mess up.

Ingredients:

1 kilo all purpose flour (approx. 8 cups)
2 packages yeast (approx. 4 1/2 teaspoons)
1 spoonful sugar
1 1/2 – 2 spoonfuls salt
Warm water

Directions:

Preheat oven to 4ooF/200C. Place the flour in a large bowl and create a well in the center. Add the yeast and the sugar into the center of the well, then sprinkle the salt around the outside of the ring, up on the ridges. Pour the warm water into the well until it comes about halfway up the sides. Let sit for around ten minutes until the yeast is bubbling and the water is frothy.

Using your hands, begin to combine the mixture into a dough, starting from the inside and gradually adding more flour from the outside. Keep adding more water as the mixture becomes too dry, and continue to mix by hand until it comes together in a dough. If the dough becomes too wet, simply add more flour. Turn dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until it is smooth and elastic, about 5-10 minutes (this will take some arm strength!). If you have a friend, dividing it up to knead makes the work a lot easier.

Let dough rest for at least 10 minutes, but you can also leave it for up to 2 hours. Once you are ready to bake, divide it into two round loaves* and place on a baking sheet. Lower the oven temperature to 350F/180C and bake the loaves for 10-15 minutes, until they are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped from the bottom.

 

*During workshops, we would divide the dough between participants and let them make shapes and figures out of it that would be baked into bread. This exercise is particularly great for children, but it’s also fun for adults too! When I’m home, I also like to make rolls out of the dough by rolling it into balls and placing them in a casserole dish to bake. You can use this dough to make any sort of bread or forms you like!

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Peanut Butter Banana Scones

PB Banana Scones

This past weekend, we celebrated my grandmother’s eightieth birthday. She technically doesn’t reach that milestone until August 31st, but there was a party and cake and speeches, so in my mind she’s already eighty and that’s that.

This is the grandmother I’m named after. It’s a long story, one I won’t get into here, but our real name involves a tongue twisting collection of Greek syllables and I couldn’t be prouder that I get to share it with her. This is the grandmother that taught me how to bake koulourakia. The one that watched The Price is Right with me whenever I came by at 11am. That taught me how to play poker. This is the grandmother that asks me anytime I make a dessert, even if it’s apple pie, “Does this have tofu in it?”

This grandmother raised one headstrong girl and three rowdy boys, one of whom grew up to be my father. She’s kind and sassy, caring and wild. I don’t call her nearly enough, and I don’t tell her thank you when I have the chance. And so, even though it’s not quite time yet, I’ll go ahead and say it.

Happy Birthday Yiayia. Love, your FGC ;)

PB Banana Scones

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Peanut Butter Banana Scones

1 and 3/4 cup white whole wheat flour

1/4 unbleached all purpose flour

1/3 cup cane sugar

1/2 tsp sea salt

2 tsp baking powder

2 Tbs coconut oil, melted

3 Tbs peanut butter

1/2 cup peanuts

1 banana, cut into chunks

3/4 cup almond milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

To top: a few teaspoons almond milk, some cane sugar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375F. In a large bowl, combine the flours, sugar, salt, and baking powder. Add the coconut oil and peanut butter and cut into the flour using a pastry cutter, two knives, or a fork. Once they have been incorporated, place the bowl in the freezer for 15 minutes.

After the mix has been frozen, fold in the peanuts and banana. Create a well in the center of the mix and add the milk and vanilla. Carefully combine the dough by gently folding it with a spoon. Mix just until combined; there may still be a few traces of flour, which is okay.

Turn dough onto a floured surface and pat into a circle that is about 2-inches thick. Brush with almond milk and sprinkle some cane sugar on top. Cut into 8 triangles and place them on a baking sheet. Bake for 18-20 minutes, until golden.

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Lemon Oat Biscuits

Lemon Oat Biscuits

Is there such a thing as summer time? And is it twice as fast as normal time? Because I swear it was just June… and now it’s time to go back to school?! What kind of madness is this?

(Yes, I do write paragraphs comprised of only questions)

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While it’s true that things will stay hot and humid down here for a good long while, it still feels like summer ends whenever that back to school bell starts ringing. And boy is that day closing in like a thousand pound freight train.

I’m not ready to start reading books again!

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And now onto the cookies… hearty oats are ground down to a fine flour. To that we add some cane sugar, leavening, salt, AND LEMON ZEST. Notice the all caps here. Do not skip that lemon zest friends! It’s the key ingredient that takes these cookies from relatively pleasant to OMG-what-is-that-delicious-flavor??? You only need a little, but boy does it do a bang up job.

Once the wet ingredients are added, we roll out the dough into a big ole log and slice up a batch of cookies. Place them in the oven for a bit, and suddenly you’re all set for snack time, tea time, and beyond.

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Lemon Oat Biscuits

Makes about 14 cookies

adapted slightly from My New Roots

Ingredients:

3 cups rolled oats
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
zest of 1 large organic lemon
½ cup cane sugar
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
3 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F. Place oats in a food processor and pulse until a rough flour is achieved. Add the the salt, baking powder, lemon zest, and sugar and pulse until combined. In a separate bowl or measuring cup, mix together the applesauce, coconut oil, and vanilla extract, then add to the food processor. Pulse again until a dough is created.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll into log. Slice into rounds about 1/4 inch thick and place onto a baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until lightly browned.

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Creamy Chocolate Chia Ice Cream (Vegan)

Chia Ice Cream

I’m back in the good old USA!!!

First things first: I am terribly sorry to have completely abandoned this space for the past couple of weeks. Things got crazy with traveling and working and lack of internet problems. But it’s all good now, and regular posts will officially be starting back up again.

I also would love to do a post soon about my work in Bulgaria. It was a really inspiring and amazing time, and my favorite part was seeing how so many different people could connect through the simple process of food and bread making. But then again, we all knew that baking was about more than just cookies, right?

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Okay, but now this ice cream. This ice cream. It comes from the incredible mind of Izy over at Top With Cinnamon (if you don’t follow this blog, go check it out RIGHT NOW) and it is mind blowing. But seriously. Because it is ice cream made out of chia seeds!!!!

So we all know that traditional ice cream is basically made by churning some form of custard. But with this recipe, we’re instead churning chocolate chia pudding to create a thick, creamy, chocolatey frozen explosion. And now that I’m back in the humid streets of Charleston, such a treat could not be more welcome.

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This recipe is pretty darn simple (no egg tempering required, thankyouverymuch) but, like most ice creams, it requires a bit of planning ahead to account for all of the chilling and churning and freezing required. So no instant chocolate craving satisfaction, unfortunately ;)

It’s good to be back!

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Creamy Chocolate Chia Ice Cream

adapted ever so slightly from Top With Cinnamon

Ingredients:

3 cups almond milk

6 tablespoons cocoa powder

6 tablespoons agave nectar OR maple syrup

1/2 cup chia seeds

1/2 cup chocolate chips/chunks, melted

6 dates, pitted

Directions:

Combine the milk, cocoa powder, agave/maple syrup, and chia seeds in a bowl. Whisk in the melted chocolate (if your chocolate is still hot, add some of the milk mixture to the chocolate to bring it to the same temperature without seizing, then add the chocolate mixture to the rest of the milk). Add the dates, then let chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours to thicken.

Once the chia pudding has thickened, blitz it in a food processor until completely smooth. After it has been pureed, strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve to remove any remaining chia seed bits. Return to the fridge to chill until ready to churn. Then freeze according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.

Once the ice cream has been churned, spread it into a shallow pan, cover with plastic wrap, and leave in the freezer for a few hours until it has reached your desired consistency.

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