Monday, February 16, 2015

Log Cabins in Springtime and Kielbasa with Kraut

Grandpa Charlie used to say we were British, Scotch, and a few other nationalities, with “a little bit of fighting German.”  Well, today that little bit of German is manifesting in my kitchen.  Yesterday afternoon, I made a modern version of Peach Kuchen.  Last night, I put some sourdough rye bread fixings in a bowl to “ferment” overnight, and this morning it has been fashioned into a round loaf that is raising in a casserole as I write.  There is a pot of Kielbasa Sausage with Sauerkraut simmering on the stovetop, sharing its aroma bountifully.  I put a few cut up potatoes in it to make a one-pot meal. 
The snow is falling softly still, as it has been all day.  I think we've got about 3” of light snow on the ground at this point, and the “winter storm” is forecast to continue until tomorrow morning.  The storm actually feels more like a lamb than a lion, but it is persistent, so the accumulation will be storm-worthy.  I’m happy to be snugly inside, enjoying the winter wonderland through the picture window. 

It’s a good day to be seated at my sewing machine, with visions of sugarplums dancing in my hands… soft and spring-tinted pastels marching across my design wall in a version of Fons and Porters “Cabin Rose”, a You-Tube video I came across that caught my eye.
Here’s the video, so I won’t give you a tutorial, other than to say I cut 2-1/2” pieces to form the bottom of the “cabin” block, and cut the strips for the “logs” into segments that measured for each round:  2-1/2” and 4-1/2”, 4-1/2” and 6-1/2”, and 6-1/2” and 8-1/2”.   Two logs make up each round of this half-cabin block, shown at right.

Here is the photo of my design wall, shown
below, with the first 32 blocks sewn.  I have not yet decided if I will make several baby quilts, a large throw, or a bed-sized quilt.  I love the soft pastels that combine to create a quilt very relaxing to look at.  It feels like springtime, even though the storm outside tells me it isn't! Recipes for the bread and kuchen follow.

Sourdough Rye Bread:
1 cup sourdough starter, 3 cups bread flour, 1-1/2 c water, 2 Tbsp. sugar (or honey or molasses)
Mix well, cover bowl and let stand overnight.  The dough should be doubled by morning.
In the morning, add: 
1-1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup rye flour plus additional rye flour to make
a soft but wet dough.  I used about 1-1/2 cups, but that varies depending on humidity and moisture in your flour. 
Put dough in a greased bowl, shown on left.  Raise until doubled, about 2 hours.  Scrape out onto a well- oiled board or countertop and fold over itself several times, as shown on right.  Round up, place on a sheet of parchment paper, sprinkle with flour, and put in a casserole bowl to raise for about 2 more hours, until doubled again, pictured below. 
Heat another covered casserole or Dutch oven in a 450 degree oven for 20 minutes.  Slash top of dough with a very sharp knife. Transfer the dough, parchment paper and all, to the hot casserole.  Cover and bake for 15 minutes.
Remove cover and bake another 10 to 15 minutes until golden brown.  Remove from parchment and cool bread on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before cutting.  Notice I did not add any additional yeast to this recipe… my starter is so active I didn't need to.  It made a large loaf, with a crisp, chewy crust and an interior that is tasty and hearty.


My sister, Doreen, gave me this recipe for Apple Kuchen, but I changed it a bit and made it into my  own version, with peaches instead of apples.
Peach Kuchen:
1 c. sugar (may add ½ cup more if you like it sweeter)
1 teaspoon salt
1 c. butter
Cream sugar, salt and butter in a mixer until fluffy.  Add:
3 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
Beat well.  Add:
2 c. flour
Spread 2/3 of batter in a greased 9 x 13 pan.  Top with:
1 can peach pie filling, spread over filling.  (May substitute any flavor pie filling you choose)
Spoon remainder of dough over peach filling.  Spread over filling as much as you can, with a butter knife or spatula.  Sprinkle topping over the top.

1 Tblsp. butter
1 Tblsp. flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 c. brown sugar
Bake 40-45 minutes at 350 until golden brown.

Are you ready for an ethnic meal?  What are your favorites?  Years ago… MANY years ago... a couple of friends joined us and we wives made ethnic dinners, complete with menus we printed out.  We dressed up, and ate by candlelight… as close to a romantic evening as couples with little kids can get!  I will always remember our Chinese meal, and my first attempt at making fried rice.  I added the eggs to the rice and heated it, instead of scrambling them on the side… and I ended up with a dish my friend’s husband referred to as... please pass the Chinese Oatmeal.  Remember that, Paula?  We had some good times, although in hindsight we really didn't get very adventurous, but outside of the Chinese Oatmeal, most of what we made was delicious.   Every time I make Fried Rice now, I think of that dinner and smile.  

Sourdough English Muffins

The temperatures are dropping and the cold wind blows!  It’s a good excuse to heat the kitchen up with bread baking.  I used to have sourdough going most of the time, but I haven’t done that for a few years.  Fruit flies love sourdough, and they invaded my house.  I lost that war, so the sourdough went out the door, followed by the fruit flies.  Lately, I've been making Artisan breads and they begin to sour naturally as they sit overnight, so I got the idea of keeping about a half cup of the soured dough in the bowl, and just adding to it for the next loaf.  After a week or more, the dough is nice and sour and makes a delicious, crusty bread with a tender, moist center. My late husband, Ted, used to be especially fond of the sourdough breadsticks, and when we were dating, he had a habit of sticking a few in his shirt pocket when he stopped by my house on his way to work, which prompted little sister Sherri to quip her version of Mae West’s classic remark, "Is that a breadstick in your pocket, or are you glad to see me?”  My shy guy giggled and blushed for many years after that when I made breadsticks, remembering her remark!!!  Sourdough has been around for thousands of years, and was once the only method people used to leaven their bread.  Ted told me that the old prospectors always made their bread with sourdough starter, and that's why they were referred to as "Sourdoughs".  I read online (and we ALL know everything we read online is true, don't we?) that San Francisco Sourdough is world famous and claims to be the best made... but in blind taste tests, another city in California made the best San Francisco sourdough bread.  San Francisco demanded a re-test, and the second tasting revealed the same results!  Now you will have the means to create your own masterpieces of sourdough baking.

When using sourdough, do not use metal containers or spoons... glass or even plastic bowls and wooden spoons are fine.  The dough has to be "fed" once a week, and if it isn't used weekly, store it in the refrigerator.  Whole grained breads contain more "wild yeast" than refined flour, so you might add a bit of rye or whole wheat flour to your starter to make it more active.  If desired, you can add a bit of extra yeast when making your recipes, to make a lighter dough that still has a good "sour" flavor.  We like light breads, so I usually add a bit of yeast to my recipes, although the hard-core Sourdoughs would cringe at the thought.  Starter will last forever if you continue to use it and renew it regularly.

To make a simple starter:
2 Tbsp. active dry yeast
1/2 cup water, 110 degrees
Soak yeast in water for 7 minutes  OR  add 2 Tablespoons Instant yeast (do not soak) to the flour.
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups warm milk, not hot
3/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. Apple Cider Vinegar
Mix with wooden or plastic spoon.  Keep it in crockery, glass or plastic... no metal!!!  Let starter sit for 3 or 4 days before using.  The lid should be loose over the starter… a cotton tea towel works fine as a cover.  Keep it in a nice, warm place.  Stir at least once daily.  Every 5 days or so, feed the starter with 1 cup water, 1 cup all-purpose flour, and 1 Tablespoon of sugar.  Mix well, and let sit at room temperature until it bubbles and raises a bit.  If you use the starter twice a week, you can leave it at room temperature, otherwise refrigerate it so it doesn't spoil.  The starter can also be frozen. 

Because I have the soured Artisan bread dough, I will use that as my starter instead of making this starter, but used the same recipes for making the breads.  I added 2 cups of warm milk to about 2 cups of my soured Artisan bread dough, 2 cups of bread flour, ½ cup Rye flour, 1 teaspoon instant dry yeast, and 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar.  I mixed it well and covered it with a clean tea towel and let it sit overnight.  Sourdough before sitting overnight is shown above,

Sourdough English Muffins:
1 cup starter
1 cup warm milk
1 to 2 cups flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
Mix well, adding only a cup of flour at first to make a soft, wet dough, and adding more flour as necessary.  I find my flour is very dry this time of year and a bit over one cup was enough.  Let stand at room temperature until bubbly, from an hour or two to overnight, if you wish.
Add to dough mixture:
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon Olive oil
Up to 1 cup all-purpose flour
Blend until smooth.  Knead in additional flour to make a dough that is soft but not sticky.  Let rest a few minutes.  
Roll out about 1/2 inch thick and cut into rounds.  (photo at right)
Place on baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal.  Turn over to get a bit of cornmeal on both sides.  Let rise until doubled. (photo above left)

Bake on dry griddle (I like electric best, set at about 350 degrees) until golden on each side.  Turn the muffins about 3 or 4 minutes after they begin to cook so that both sides are flat.  If they bake too long on the first side, they will rise and get round on top instead of being flat.  They can be turned again, after they begin to brown, to cook evenly on both sides.  Refrigerate muffins that you don't eat that day.  Makes about 1 dozen English Muffins.  Breakfast tip:  Slice muffin and toast lightly; fry an egg (yolk broken), and a couple of slices of crisp bacon or a sausage patty, topped with a slice of cheese for your own breakfast sandwich!  Also delicious toasted or plain, with the jam of your choice or honey.

Speaking of honey, yesterday was Valentine’s Day… my sweetheart has been gone for eight years, but my dear friend stopped by yesterday with a gorgeous floral bouquet and a box of chocolate mints!  She is also a widow, so I am her sweetheart this year!  It brightened my day, for certain.

The weather might be colder, but I’m rejoicing as the days get longer!  Now there is about an hour more daylight in the evening, and that makes me happy.  I don't know how much earlier daylight arrives, because I don't get up that early! The winter has been mild here in Cincinnati, with our biggest snowfall having come before Thanksgiving, which is early here.  My daughter told me we may still get a blizzard or two before we can claim it’s spring… and I think she jinxed us!  We are in the midst of a winter storm warning… about 3” on the ground so far, and it’s supposed to continue until tomorrow morning.  I’m thankful that I don’t have to go out and trudge through the snow!  I can enjoy it from my family room window, wrapped in a cozy quilt. I'm hoping you have a warm place you can watch it, too!