Sourdough Crêpes

(Sourdough crêpes with  real maple syrup, blueberries and red currants. Served with pastured pork sausage patties)

I love crêpes. I have never been a huge fan of pancakes, flapjacks or any other type of griddle cake. I think the reason for that being probably because most of the ones I had in restaurants growing up were probably made from a mix, and served with fake maple syrup.

(Image courtesy of ASKO Storhusholdning)

I started to really appreciate pancakes when I lived in Norway and enjoyed pannekake, a thin, crêpe-like pancake, served with butter and sugar mostly, and often jam. Sometimes with bacon on the side – which I liked to roll up in my pancake just to be weird. Where I lived in Trøndelag, you eat Norwegian pancakes rolled up. Although  I have also seen them served folded up like a crêpe as well. This was a revelation to me, because I found myself looking forward to pancakes in Norway.  I also enjoyed vaffler – Norwegian waffles, another breakfast item that I never liked in the US. But Norwegian waffles are delicious, light and chewy and served with brunost (a caramelized whey cheese) and jam, and a pot of strong coffee, black.

Image courtesy of Restaurant Leon

Now that I know more about cooking and ingredients, I know that European flours are very different from their American counterparts. For example, I learned from Julia Child’s Book, My Life in France, that French flour has a lot less gluten in it than US flour. So perhaps it was my gluten intolerance all along that kept me from enjoying American pancakes and waffles.

In the past year, as I have been baking with sourdough, I came across a delicious recipe for sourdough crêpes, that held my pannekake cravings at bay.

Sourdough Crepes. I was inspired to make these from another blog, Sarah’s Musings

 

I came across her blog post when I was looking for new things to do with my sourdough starter. With just two people in the house, I found myself struggling to use my starters every week. I have a whole wheat and a spelt starter. I usually make this recipe with my whole wheat starter, since I use my spelt starter more often.

 

Sourdough is a great way to start baking bread in a more healthful and traditional manner. Many people with gluten, or wheat intolerance (not Celiac’s), myself included, have found that it is easier to digest wheat products that are sourdough. We love serving these  sourdough crepes with butter, berries, Brunost (Norwegian whey cheese), maple syrup or berries in syrup with either nitrate free bacon or pasture raised sausage on the side. Enjoy!

 

INGREDIENTS:

 

1 cup sourdough starter

2 eggs

2 TBS melted butter

¼ tsp salt

1/4- ½ cup milk

extra butter for cooking

 

METHOD:

 

Preheat your 8” or 10” cast iron skillet on the lowest temperature. Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Once skillet is hot, add a tsp of butter to the pan and let it melt. Then add about 1/3 cup of batter to the pan. Tilt the pan in a circular motion to be sure the batter evenly covers the pan. Cook for about 2 minutes, and then carefully flip, cooking for about another 30 seconds. Repeat  – don’t forget to add more butter before each crepe. I usually heat my oven to 200F, and place each crepe once it is finished on a cookie sheet in the oven to keep them all warm until they are all cooked and we are ready to eat.

 

I guess now I will be playing around with recipes for gluten-free crepes and pannekake! If you want to follow my Gluten-free adventures more closely, and see what I am eating, that I don’t post about, be sure to follow The Leftover Queen fanpage on Facebook!

Sourdough Spelt Pizza Dough

Gal_Liz_Jenn_making pizza

(Gal, Liz and Jenn making Pizza)

Pizza night is a weekly tradition in this house, and something we love to share with friends and family when they come to visit the homestead. Two weeks ago, I had a reunion with my best friend from high school, Liz, or as she is affectionately known to me, Lizard. We fell out of touch, like many of us do, over some boys…and we hadn’t been in touch for nearly 10 years. BAD BOYS. I thought about her often over the years, and we were so happy to be reunited on Facebook! She lives in Brooklyn, with her beautiful family, and she and her awesome husband came to visit us.

Pizza is the perfect food for entertaining. It is also a great way to feed a crowd when you are not sure what kinds of dietary restrictions people might have. Toppings can range from all veggies, to anchovies, some sausages, or whatever. You can even use pesto or barbecue sauce in place of traditional tomato sauce. You can even forego the cheese, if someone in your group is lactose intolerant. Making pizza together is a great way to spend time with friends – rolling out the dough, making personal pizzas, and then enjoying it together, with a nice glass of red, maybe a beer, and a lot of laughs! See how much fun we are having?

Gal_Liz_Jenn_making pizza 2

We are really passionate about our pizza here. Roberto grew up eating pizza in Italy, and I grew up thinking I didn’t like pizza (don’t blame me, blame “cheesefood”). This all changed when I discovered thin, crunchy, crust, fresh mozzarella cheese and the amazing array of fresh toppings that one can come up with when you make pizza at home! So you could say that we are both very picky pizza eaters. We might even be pizza snobs. So, in order to do justice to homemade pizza, we have been experimenting and creating for the past two years to come up with THE PERFECT PIZZA (TM).

We used to use the Olive Oil bread dough from Artisan Bread in 5, religiously. However, during that time, we had a bit of a wrench thrown into the works, when I discovered that I was having trouble with wheat. So we experimented with gluten free flours, and pizza dough recipes, and all of them really left a lot to be desired. So we had some sad and disappointing Friday nights. I was determined to find a pizza dough that was up to par taste and texture wise, and at the same time didn’t make me wake up with a hangover feeling the next day. This is where the sourdough comes in. I had heard through the blogosphere that people with wheat intolerance (NOT Celiac) were able to tolerate sourdough bread products. It has to do with neutralizing enzyme inhibitors, which interfere with digestion and breaking down phytic acid, which generally blocks mineral absorption. Sourdough cultures also predigest or completely break down the gluten during the fermentation process. Creating a bread that is more digestable. I also used spelt flour, because I have found that it is not as “heavy” as whole wheat, and closer to the feeling of a traditional pizza crust, like you would find in Italy.

For us, one of our secrets to making a super flavorful pizza is to use tomato paste in place of tomato sauce. This is a family secret, that one of my great aunts came up with. Roberto feels that this “proprietary” information should not be shared with the public. But like I told him, now maybe if we have homemade pizza at someone else’s house, maybe they read my post, and we will like it all the better! :) That punch of tomato paste flavor really comes through in all its sweetness once it is baked in the oven. Also, the cheese matters. Get the best quality mozzarella that you can, not the shredded stuff. Nice slices of fresh mozzarella add something wonderfully light to the pizza – and go easy on it. It is OK to have some bare spots, where you can actually see only sauce. Trust us…

Spelt_pizza_on_Plate

Some of our favorite toppings are: fresh tomato slices, fresh mushrooms, prosciutto, arugula, anchovies, olives (capers if we are too lazy to pit olives) peperoncini peppers, and sun dried tomatoes. And you must remember to salt and pepper your pizza, and a nice drizzle of olive oil over top doesn’t hurt either!  We mix and match the toppings on different pizzas. Usually we make 2 pizzas, and then have leftover for lunches. Another favorite is using pesto as the sauce, and then adding thinly sliced potatoes, that you have baked slightly beforehand.

Perhaps the most important aspect  to the perfect pizza is a HOT oven. We preheat our oven 20 minutes ahead to 500 F. We bake our pizzas on cookie sheets, lined with parchment paper. This makes the crust super crisp and delicious! I have heard all the rage about pizza stones, and one day I might add one to my kitchen tools. But I use my Italian husband as a barometer for a good pizza, and so far, we have done well without the need for a pizza stone.

So we suggest you get your crust ready tonight to have pizza tomorrow!

INGREDIENTS:

¼ cup sourdough starter

5 cups spelt flour

2 TBS olive oil

1 TBS salt

2 cups water

3 cups sprouted spelt flour (or you can use regular, if you prefer)

1 tsp olive oil

METHOD:

Combine starter, 5 cups spelt flour, olive oil, salt and water in a large bowl. Cover loosely with a towel or lid and allow to stand in a warm place for 5-10 hours, or overnight is best. Next add 3 cups of sprouted spelt flour and work it into the dough, enough so you can handle it without it being too sticky. Form the dough into a ball, and rub 1 tsp of olive oil all over it. Place it back in the bowl and let it stand 20 minutes. Then knead the dough with your hands until it is smooth and elastic, then place it back in the bowl, and allow it to double in bulk – about 1 hour. At this point you can use it to make pizza. This recipe makes about 4 large cookie sheet rectangular pizzas. If you are not going to use it all, you can rip off 4 grapefruit sized balls and store each one in a freezer bag, until you want to use it. When you want to use it, take it out to defrost, and then roll out, and put your favorite toppings on.

Canning Berries in Syrup and Blueberry Bread for Lammas Day

blueberry-cake-bread_on-dish

Lammas or as it is known in Celtic Britain, Lughnasadh is a Northern European celebration of the “first fruits of the harvest” or beginning of the harvest season. It is still observed in England, Ireland and Scotland today, usually on August 1st. In modern times it is reserved for family reunions, bonfires and dancing. The Christian church has also established a ritual of blessing the fields on this day. In the past it was mainly a grain harvest festival, the name being translated to “loaf-mass” after the festival was co-opted by the Christians, but the festival also includes the harvest of berries. I decided to celebrate by bringing the two meanings of the festival together for this holiday and make a blueberry (berry) sweet breakfast bread (grain) to celebrate. As with most celebrations, even if it is celebrated one day, there are preparations to be made in the week or so leading up to it.

berry-picking_collage

Since this is a harvest festival, we needed to harvest our berries first, something I have been looking forward to all summer. Now that we live in Vermont, and have very obvious changing seasons, it is much easier to recognize and connect with the celebrations that were important to our ancestors. They lived more in tune with nature, marking the seasons by what was in bloom, and other events such as various livestock cycles. In our attempts to become more sustainable, and more in touch with natural cycles, we decided this year, to go berry picking. This way we are getting the freshest fruits, at their prime in our location, and then preserving those berries for fall and winter eating. We went to Fruitlands in Marshfield, Vermont to pick blueberries and raspberries. We picked 6 pints of raspberries and 12 pints of blueberries. We probably should have gotten more. We ended up freezing 4 pints of each, and the rest I canned in syrup.

*tip* to freeze berries, do not wash them (if they are organic and you know they are not sprayed with pesticides). Place them on cookie sheets in a single layer, not touching, and place in the freezer for an hour. Then you can bag them – this extra step prevents them from sticking together and freezing in one big mass.

We left 1 ½ pints of blueberries fresh – half a pint we ate on the car ride home, and the rest, we used in smoothies and to make this Lammas Day bread.

wild turkeys

We had a great adventure at Fruitlands – not only was it a beautiful and sunny day but it was picturesque – on the grounds of a quaint bed and breakfast, covered in various gardens. But we weren’t alone in our picking adventures, we were accompanied by some guinea fowl (which I thought were wild turkeys – thank you Darlene, for letting me know – I am still working on becoming a country girl)!  They weren’t too happy about me taking their picture and were screaming bloody murder, the whole time, but surprisingly didn’t run away! The lady doth protest? Methinks, not.

We brought with us a small cooler with ice packs to keep the berries nice and cool on the drive home. This is an important step during hot summer days.

makingberriesinsyrup_collage

I raw packed the berries in order to retain the most freshness. I will try preserving other fruits in honey or maple, but for my first time using this recipe, I made the syrup according to the directions, and used organic cane sugar. I normally don’t use cane sugar, but canning is more of a science than an art – there is acidity and pH levels to consider. All of these factors directly affect the ability of the jar to seal properly and prevent harmful elements from spoiling all your hard work.

As my friend Amber, from Adventures in the Pioneer Valley pointed out in the comments, here is a great resource. She says: “there are some helpful guides out there that can help you figure it out. If anyone’s interested, I think the National Center for Home Food Preservation has some of the best resources. They give details on what you can adjust in a recipe vs. what you can’t, amongst other helpful tips. The link: http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/publications/publications_usda.html”

Thanks Amber!

*tip* after jars have cooled and before storing, rub your finger over the lid to see if the seal is down. For added security, I always remove the bands from the lids, and shake the jar upside down over a large bowl, to make sure they have sealed properly. If the contents fall out, then the jar is not sealed. If they have not sealed, you can try re-processing, or just storing in cold storage for more immediate use.

berriesinsyrup

Why can, when you can freeze? Sometimes in the country, and elsewhere, power can go out. If you have all your winter storage in the freezer, or fridge you could lose it all in a matter of hours. Which is why I chose to freeze some, but can the majority. Yes, you do lose some nutrients in the process of canning, but at least you are not in danger of loosing your entire food storage due to a power outage. There are other options such as dehydration, but that still requires the use of electricity. There is also sun-drying (not so useful during a rain spell – and berries are quick to spoil). I am certainly open to these other wonderful methods, but canning is still a good option in my book.

The blueberry breakfast bread was delicious. I am still trying new sourdough recipes and some have been delicious, while others have been dismal failures. This bread was an exception – sweet, and crumbly. It is wonderful served for breakfast or tea. Delicious with an ice cold glass of milk too as a quick snack! Read the rest of this entry »

Versatile Sourdough – Bread, Cake and Pretzels

Culturing_loq

One of my latest kitchen experiments has been baking with a sourdough starter. I have been baking all our breads, pizza doughs, pastries, cookies, cakes, etc from scratch now for over 2 years. One of the many ways in which I vote for better food with my money daily. Not only is baking from scratch cheaper than buying, but most recipes whether bread, cake, or pretzels, three of the recipes I am going to share with you today, have under 10, and more often, under 5 ingredients, no preservatives, corn syrup, or weird chemicals. I challenge you to find that at your grocery store!

I had also heard that many people with gluten sensitivity (not Celiac) did better eating baked goods made from true fermented sourdough than baked goods leavened more commonly with yeast. I waited until our big move to experiment with sourdough, as once you have a starter, you have to feed and maintain it to keep it healthy and alive. So now, besides 2 dogs, a cat, 10 chickens, kefir – both dairy and water, kombucha, and yogurt, I have added sourdough culture to my feeding schedule! I can’t say with certainty if it is the sourdough or the spelt flour I have switched to that allows me to enjoy breads and the like without feeling like I have a hangover the next day. I still eat all of these things sparingly, although my dear husband, who is a major carb addict, seems to be enjoying his daily bread without any side affects. It took eating this kind of bread, for him to realize that he was having a bit of a problem with the other kinds.

Anyway, sourdough is extremely versatile, and not all sourdough starters are created equal. You can try to capture your own, or you can purchase one. I decided to start by purchasing one from Cultures for Health. Several weeks later, I got another one from Erik a friend who sells hand roasted coffee at our local farmers market. He traded me sourdough starter from Ischia, Italy and kombucha for some Viili culture. I think I got the better deal.

sourdoughbread-ring

I started experimenting by baking bread from the book Baking with Sourdough by Sara Pitzer, from Storey Publishing and then tweaked it a bit, to make it more to our liking. After I figured that out, I started playing around with various herbed breads, which is how I came up with the Za’atar Spice Bread Ring.

sourdough_chocolate_cake

After I had that under my belt, or better yet, in my stomach, I wanted to try something I had never heard of – Sourdough Chocolate Cake, from the same book, which I also tweaked. This cake was really fantastic and probably one of the best chocolate cakes I have ever had. We are not big cake eaters in this house, so I can affirm that it froze well, and also lasted in the fridge for about 2 weeks. I am sure you could have a lot of fun with this recipe, including making various kinds of icing. Roberto liked spreading nutella on his, and I enjoyed mine plain or sometimes with a schmear of almond butter.

sourdoughpretzel_onplate

Most recently I tried making Sourdough Pretzels, all the same ingredients (except honey in place of sugar) but tweaked the method a little bit to allow all the flour to ferment. The pretzels turned out being more like pretzel shaped bread, than actual pretzels. I got a lot of helpful suggestions on facebook like adding sparkling water or lemon juice for better rising. So I think I will have to try again. Although Roberto likes them, since he can grab one, kind of like a roll to have with meals, without needing to slice anything.

I have continued on experimenting with making sourdough spelt pizza dough, buckwheat pancakes and crepes, as well as muffins. The pizza dough, pancakes and crepes have become staples in our house (look for these recipes soon), while the muffins still need some work. But the wonderful thing is, each week I have to feed my starter, which means at least once a week I should bake something and so I am trying to keep creative. I have been yeast baking free for almost 3 months! I definitely encourage you

to try your hand at it too. If you would like to try and catch your own starter, my blogging buddy Michelle over at Big Black Dog has a great post about it!

I am going to share THREE recipes with you today. For one, I want to show you just how diverse sourdough is – it is not just for bread! And also because my mom is coming to visit for a few weeks, and my posting rate may be a bit slower these next few weeks – so I wanted to keep you busy while I on vacation! :)

************************ Read the rest of this entry »