Honey Wheat Bread from the Slow Cooker (with vegan options)

I’ve been asked about baking bread in the slow cooker from start to finish and after seeing how wonderfully it rises in it, I knew a bit of research would give me the information I needed.  Now here’s the AWESOME part: it works with my favorite bread recipe!  *Does the kitchen happy dance!*

So here’s the recipe now made entirely in the slow cooker with vegan options of course:

Ingredients:

  • 2.5 tsp granulated yeast
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp and 1 tsp vital wheat gluten (rising agent)
  • 1/4 honey (or sweetener of your choice)
  • 2.5 Tbsp peanut oil
  • 3/4 cup lukewarm almond milk
  • 3/4 cup lukewarm warn
  • 3 & 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
  • Parchment paper
  • Bowl with water to dip your hands in
  • loaf pan smaller than your slow cooker; OR something to shape your loaf with; OR nothing of the sort if you don’t mid a dome of bread

Directions:

  1. Set the slow cooker on high with enough water to barely cover the bottom.  Cover and set aside.
  2. Fold your parchment paper into a rectangle that will fit snugly in your cooker. Set aside.
  3. Fill a bowl with some water (for dipping your hands) and set aside.
  4. If your milk and water are cold, combine them (equals 1.5 cups total) and microwave for 30 seconds.
  5. Mix all ingredients EXCEPT flour in a large bowl.
  6. Whisk briskly to incorporate the ingredients as much as possible.  This takes a bit as the vital wheat gluten likes to clump.  Doing this makes for a more evenly rising loaf so don’t skim on the whisking.
  7. With a large wooden spoon, slowly mix in the flour.
  8. Once you have a mixture too difficult to stir (roughly the second cup of flour), dip your hands in the bowl of water and begin kneading.  Continue to knead until all the flour is added and thoroughly mixed.  Keep dipping your hands as necessary to keep the dough from sticking to your hands and the bowl too much.
  9. Then transfer the dough to the parchment paper and shape into a loaf.
  10. Remove the lid from the slow cooker, place the dough in the parchment within (you can use ceramic plates, shallow bowls or anything similar to help shape the dough if you don’t want it round and your loaf pan doesn’t fit in the cooker; just make sure it’s not metal or plastic.  See image below).
  11. Cover the cooker and set it for high for three hours.
  12. Go watch two movies, take a stroll around the neighborhood, pick the kids up from school, knit a sock, play online, whatever.
  13. Come back in three hours and confirm bread is done (should be fully risen and pulling away from the sides of the parchment).  If you want a loaf with a crisper exterior, you can pop it into the broiler or on the top shelf in the oven at 350 degrees till sufficiently browned/crisped.

I wedge two ceramic plates on either side of the dough to create a more oblong shaped loaf.

Advertisements

Spinach & Ricotta Quiche with Seitan

I didn’t take pictures this time around (yes, I know, I’ve been so bad with that lately) but I have an excuse!  We had company last night and I get distracted whenever there is someone in our home.  Anyhow… I wasn’t entirely sure this would work as nicely because I was using Seitan instead of the traditional bacon or ham.  And… I kind of, sort of, didn’t measure everything because I was purposefully making a very large batch and sort of winging it.  So the below is guesstimates  Hey!  I said from the beginning that this blog was more so I could keep track of what I cooked than it was to help others cook.  You still love me, right?  RIGHT?!

Ingredients:

  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 1 & 1/2 cups Bisquick mix
  • 16 oz. package of frozen spinach
  • 32 oz. Ricotta cheese
  • 1 lb. mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 almond milk
  • sour cream
  • garlic powder
  • Beef Flavored Seitan – roughly the amount 2 cups of VWG can make

Directions:

  1. In a food processor, chop your spinach and cooked seitan into fine pieces then transfer it into a large bowl.
  2. Fully incorporate mozzarella, ricotta and Bisquick to the spinach/seitan.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs and milk thoroughly.
  4. Add the egg & milk mixture to your large bowl and again, fully incorporate.
  5. Pour mixture into glass/ceramic casserole dish (this makes a large batch so you might need two) about an inch deep.
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  7. Cook casserole for 30-45 minutes or until mixture starts to pull away from sides and becomes quite firm.  Careful not to overcook this as it becomes dry quite easily!
  8. Allow to cool, cut into squares and serve with a dollop of sour cream sprinkled with garlic powder.

Mango & Honey Sorbet

I can’t say I have much of a sweet tooth… unless it comes to ice cream or sorbets.  BUT before the Dictionary Thumpers start correcting me about the difference, Sorbets and sherbets are very similar dishes using fruits, a sweetener and either dairy (sherbet) or alcohol (sorbet).  Sherbets were originally termed “dairy sorbets” and I use the term interchangeably for this specific reason.  Most Americans do the same because appearance wise, there is very little difference.  Besides, I have this whole “it’s MY blog” attitude that will render any arguments futile.

Back to the discussion at hand… as I was saying, I LOVE ice cream or sorbets (dairy and otherwise) and was thinking yesterday how it’s been ages since I’ve had sorbet.  I asked Bre if she liked sorbet or sherbet and she stated that she LOVED sherbet!  GREAT!  Off to the freezer I went to grab her favorite flavor… mango.  I also grabbed some frozen black cherries.  I pulled out the almond milk (which is a wonderful flavor alternative for vegans or those lactose intolerant) and honey (you can use a sugar/water solution which is common for sorbets but as you all know, we don’t use sugar in our home).

And then… the food processor did a death rattle… or should I say… attempted to die a silent death because when I pressed the button, nothing happened.  My handy, dandy, fix-it-girl, loves-to-take-things-apart, wife came to the rescue.  She operated on said processor, discovered the issue, corrected it and put her back together, good as almost-new (let’s face it, I use the food processor a LOT).  The patient made a full recovery and we enjoyed the “fruits” of Bre’s labor (yes, she actually made that joke as we were eating the sorbet).  She also stated emphatically that she liked it far more than ice cream!  I have to agree with her, it was scrumptious!   So here’s how I do it (get ready for no measurements because this is a purely taste specific thing for most people).

Ingredients:

  • Your favorite frozen fruit (single flavors work better than multiple flavors unless both are distinctly sharp/strong)
  • Almond milk (I suggest coconut only it if compliments the flavor of fruit you are using.  Soy works well too.)
  • Honey, agave or sugar-water solution (sugar-water is a 1:1 cup ratio of sugar dissolved into boiling water and let cool, you can make this sweeter if so desired)

Directions:

  1. Add frozen fruit to your food processor and puree it on high until a either it’s a shaved ice looking consistency (the more frozen the better for this).
  2. Continue to puree the fruit while slowly adding almond milk to the mixture until it becomes a creamy consistency (this generally depends on the amount and type of fruit you use, I used four cups of cubed mangos and used about 1/2 a cup of almond milk but the cherries were a little over a cup).
  3. Taste test the mixture.  Slowly add a tablespoon of your sweetener at a time, fully incorporating it before tasting again, until it’s the desired sweetness.  Again, different fruits use less/more sweetener so it really is a personal preference.
  4. When finished, pour into individual serving size, freezable cups and put in freezer for four hours or until thoroughly set.
Other Options
  • Green tea sorbet: When making the sugar (or honey) water solution, use water infused with green tea leaves!
  • Chai sorbet: Same as above only with a chai tea bag.
  • Google it!  There are so many tasty and amazing suggestions out there that make this one of the easiest and most versatile desserts you will ever make.

Notes:

  • Alcohol instead of milk: I love to use wine coolers, fruity wines, and champagnes for sorbets.  But they will not cream the fruit so you will have to add according to taste and I strongly suggest doing so BEFORE adding the sweetener as that drastically changes the taste as well.  As for using heavier wines such as merlots or cabernets, this as wonderful to try but can sometimes wash out the taste of the fruit and very little is used.
  • What fruits to pick: Though this depends primarily on taste, the type of fruit you use will change the consistency of your sorbet.  Creamier fruits such as those in the melon family, mangos, cantaloupes, strawberries, etc. will have a more creamy appearance.  More watery fruits such as watermelon, lemons, oranges, etc. will have a more shaved ice appearance.  Don’t fret, they will still taste amazing.

Cooking with almonds

My obsession with almonds isn’t what you think.  I’m doing this for a few reasons.  First, there’s way too much soy in my diet and I need to cut back on it but am finding that difficult with being a vegetarian and eating tofu.  Second, if even a single 2 pound batch of almonds produces as much milk as my first attempt suggests, doing the other experiments will be a perfect way to ensure nothing goes to waste nor goes bad.

So here’s where I’m going to keep notes on my findings and tips I’ve gathered along the way.

Blanching Almonds:

  1. Boil water
  2. Place strainer over bowl
  3. Put almonds in strainer
  4. Pour small amount of water over almonds slowly
  5. Peel skin off of wet almonds
  6. Mix bowl often to allow steam to loosen skins
  7. Repeat steps 4 & 6 as necessary

Experiment #1: Almond Milk Tips

  • Don’t add any water than what’s necessary to create the milk.  Excess water doesn’t allow for the other processes to work.
  • Use ONLY cold water when mixing to prolong shelf life.
  • Don’t add vanilla extract, the alcohol flavor is noticeable.
  • Blanch the almonds first to allow for the other processes and to keep it from being bitter.
  • Almonds without their shells can be stored for up to 1 month if kept airtight in a cool dark dry place, or up to a maximum of 12 months in the refrigerator if kept air tight.  Almonds can be frozen for 2-3 years depending on temperature.
  • Soak, strain and freeze almonds for future use.  Using soaked/frozen nuts provides a much creamier and more nutritious milk than using dried nuts without first soaking.

Almond Milk Recipe:

  1. Blanch almonds
  2. Soak in a large bowl for 8 to 24 hours in fridge (will expand greatly so leave lots of room)
  3. Drain almonds. [Freeze what you aren’t going to use at the time or thaw nuts previously soaked and frozen.]
  4. Add 4 parts water to 1 part almonds in a food processor and allow to blend for a few minutes.
  5. Pour mixture into nut bag and strain
  6. Add flavoring (honey, vanilla bean, chai spices, etc)
  7. Refrigerate for 4 to 5 days

Chocolate nut milk: To the recipe for vanilla almond milk, add 2 tbsp raw cacao nibs or unsweetened cocoa powder

Cinnamon milk: To the recipe for vanilla almond milk, add 1 tsp cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg

Chai milk: To the recipe for vanilla almond milk, add 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon garam masala, and 1/4 tsp. nutmeg

Sugar-free vanilla milk: In place of the dates, add stevia to taste

Experiment #2: Almond Milk Curd

  • High acidic liquids, such as lemon juice and vinegar, is what curds the milk.
  • Bring to a slight boil first, remove from heat and slowly add acid.
  • Try fresh lemon juice.
  • Try orange to test flavor.

Curd Instructions:

  1. Using almond milk from above, warm milk to a rolling boil, stirring so it doesn’t stick
  2. Remove from heat and slowly mix in acidic liquid (will curd within seconds)
  3. Allow to cool and solidify (roughly 20 minutes)

Experiment #3: Almond Tofu

  • Unsuccessful.  Making it like a traditional soybean tofu proved not so easy and not exactly what I was looking for.

Experiment #4: Almond Yogurt

  • Haven’t tried yet.
  • Suggested: Don’t add anything to the yogurt (such as fruit) until after the yogurt has been made.

Experiment #5: Almond Milk Cheese

  • Haven’t tried yet.

General hints and tips:

  • To avoid lumps, mix the starch with an equal amount of cold liquid until it forms a paste, then whisk it into the liquid you’re trying to thicken.  Once the thickener is added, cook it briefly to remove the starchy flavor.  Don’t overcook–liquids thickened with some starches will thin again if cooked too long or at too high a temperature.
  • Cornstarch, arrowroot, and tapioca are the most popular starch thickeners
  • Starch thickeners give food a transparent, glistening sheen, which looks nice in a pie filling, but a bit artificial in a gravy or sauce.  If you want high gloss, choose tapioca or arrowroot.  If you want low gloss, choose cornstarch
  • Cornstarch is the best choice for thickening dairy-based sauces.  Arrowroot becomes slimy when mixed with milk products.
  • Choose arrowroot if you’re thickening an acidic liquid.  Cornstarch loses potency when mixed with acids.
  • Sauces made with cornstarch turn spongy when they’re frozen.  If you plan to freeze a dish, use tapioca starch or arrowroot as a thickener.
  • Starch thickeners don’t add much flavor to a dish, although they can impart a starchy flavor if they’re undercooked.  If you worried that your thickener will mask delicate flavors in your dish, choose arrowroot.  It’s the most neutral tasting of the starch thickeners.
  • Tapioca starch thickens quickly, and at a relatively low temperature.  It’s a good choice if you want to correct a sauce just before serving it.