What I’ve been doing today: I baked whole wheat loaf bread, flatbread and peppermint chocolate chip okara cookies with flour I ground by hand this morning.
Well, a few days from the start of spring. I solar cooked some long grain brown rice with turmeric to eat with stir-fry leftovers. Afternoon temperatures have been in the mid-60s, so I’m putting the fig tree on the balcony for a few hours every day. I also baked another loaf of whole wheat bread and soaked soy beans for making soy milk in the evening.
Another sourdough loaf made with 100% hand ground whole wheat flour, plus water and sourdough starter. That’s it! Eating my freshly baked bread is always wonderful.
Normally, my cooking and baking is spread out throughout the week. I bake two loaves of bread and one batch of cookies a week, and make two batches of soy milk and two dinners with leftovers each week. Sometimes, however, there is a confluence of events and I have a day spent largely cooking and baking. I had to bake a loaf of my 100% whole bread for myself, make milk, make cookies, and cook a pot of chili for dinner. I had spent an hour the day before grinding flour so I wouldn’t have to grind flour on baking day. I’ve been using a cup of whole wheat flour in my cookies lately, so I ground extra for that purpose.
I solar cooked pinto beans with dried whole red chiles I grew on my south facing balcony. Recently, I bought a copy of the new book The Homemade Vegan Pantry, which provides homemade alternatives to commercial staples like milk, cream, butter, bacon (really) and much, much more. I learned that the beany flavor of homemade soy milk can be removed by quick-soaking the beans by pouring boiling water over them and letting them sit for as little as an hour, rather than letting the soak in cool water for eight hours. I tried it; it does work as the author says but we are so used to our homemade soy milk that it didn’t really make a significant difference in taste to us. I will probably only use the quick-soaking method when we forget to soak the beans overnight or in the morning to make milk in the evening.
I made the milk, strained out the okara (Japanese word for soy pulp) and let it cool in the refrigerator, then baked my loaf of bread. I ran some errands on foot during the afternoon. In the evening, I baked my peppermint chocolate chip okara cookies and added the beans to a pot of vegan chili with diced tomatoes, corn, and fresh cilantro. The next day, Dan packaged some of the chili into individual serving portions and put the bags in the freezer.
The Dan’s Sandwich Bread loaf bread in my book Wild Bread was always healthy, but now it contains more freshly ground whole wheat flour. I developed the formula to please my husband Dan. He has never liked 100% whole wheat breads like I do, so I created a bread that used unbleached flour as the matrix with soaked cracked whole grains, ground flax seeds and whole caraway seeds added to it.
While Dan has been vegan since 1992 (I’ve been vegan since 1986), he mostly ate a veganized version of the standard American diet until I came along and started introducing healthier food like whole grains and kale. Over the years, he has gradually adapted to an ever-healthier diet. Since turning 50 this past year, however, he has become more health conscious than ever. He has been trying to eat more whole grains and cut down on his sodium intake, for instance.
I suggested that I could modify his sandwich bread recipe to include some whole wheat flour. I used hard winter wheat whole grain flour for the first two sourdough feedings, a total of 5 oz flour. I used unbleached flour for the third feeding and to add directly to the dough mixture: Not a huge change, but meaningful nevertheless. The baked loaf looks a little darker than the former version, but otherwise, it rose in exactly the same amount of time and retained the same crumb (texture).
Dan likes it. He wants to keep the current whole wheat percentage for now. Taking into account the fact that I put 8 oz active starter back into the storage jar before I mixed the dough, the whole wheat percentage is roughly 20% of the flour mixture.
Dan toasts his bread almost daily to make a vegan “BLT” — tempeh bacon, lettuce and tomato salsa sandwich.
I like my homemade sourdough bread fresh. If I need to bake a loaf of Dan’s caraway bread one day but I don’t need bread until the next day, I wait to bake my loaf. Because the time in between bakings is so short, I don’t bother putting the saved sourdough starter back in it’s storage jar. Instead, I put it into a second bowl that stays on the kitchen counter 24 hours (if it’s a hot summer day, I’ll put that bowl in the refrigerator overnight to prevent over-activity). I keep it fed as usual with my freshly ground whole wheat flour and bake my whole wheat loaf the next morning.
Adapted from Wild Bread: Handbaked sourdough artisan breads in your own kitchen.
Nov. 20, 2015