Jul
12

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Whole wheat pretzel buns

From time to time you’ll see the fast food chains advertise a special promotion featuring pretzel buns.  They are great with hamburgers but where they shine in particular in my opinion with bbq chicken breast.

Pretzel buns formed ready to boil

Pretzel buns formed ready to boil

Now, you’ll seldom if ever see pretzel buns in the grocery – they just don’t keep very well.  The good news though is that they are really easy to make at home – and you can’t get fresher than that!

If you’ve make bagels at home – and you should – making pretzel  buns is pretty much the same process.

The key for that great and characteristic crust is to boil the raised buns in a basic water solution before baking – an easy way to go is with baking soda – but I use wood ash (lye) because the wood fired pizza oven I have keeps me in loads of wood ash, and I need it around anyway for making massa for homemade tortillas.

So, easy, simple, quick – and since they are best consumed within a day or so after baking are ideally suited to making in your own kitchen.  Of course, I’m making these with home ground whole wheat flour, but if you don’t yet have your own mill commercial flour will do.

Click on the post title to expand for the recipe.


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Whole Wheat Hot Dog Buns

Out of the pan and just sliced.

Nothing quite says summer like burgers, sausages or hotdogs on the grill or roasted over a fire.  But damn, if the food isn’t becoming pricey!  It seems like only a couple of years ago hot dogs were 99 cents for a dozen nice ones.  Now even the cheap ones are twice that when they come on sale.

If you want to skip right to the fantastic whole wheat hot dog recipe just click on the post title now.

Hot dog buns risen and ready to go in the oven

Anyway, to be perfectly honest commercial hot dogs are only an occasional feature in our home, with homemade sausages being a more common feature – but for roasting over an open fire nothing quite beats hot dogs – so they occasionally find a place in our grocery order.

It’s not only the dog themselves that have climbed in price – the buns too are getting silly expensive – like $2.99 for eight!

Bun pan and the results

We routinely bake our own buns – generally whole wheat with the flour we grind on our homebuilt mill – which produces higher quality product at a fraction of the price.  So when I saw a New England style hot dog pan on the King Arthur website for $30 bucks US I picked it up.  I mean that’s less than 15 uses to more than pay it off.

The thing is built incredibly solidly.  The silicon coating may eventually fail but the underlying steel is heavy enough to last for a few generations if taken care of – now that’s the type of investment I like!  It also cuts prep time even more – simply form the dough into the pan and let it do it’s second rise in the pan then slide into the oven and that’s it – perfectly sized buns for hot dogs (or sausages!)

Now the instructions on the KA website call for putting a cookie sheet over the top of the pan – I’ve never bothered,  the buns are a bit taller but I prefer the less dense feel.

All in all this is a great kitchen tool – if you are short cash just form buns individually, but if you can afford the investment I think you’ll be very pleased with it.

Click on the post title to expand the recipe.

 

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Homemade Whole Wheat Pasta

Home Pasta Machine

Home Pasta Machine

Fresh pasta is a feature of high end Italian restaurants – and with good reason its flavour and texture blows away the dried competition.  Underlying that foundation to a great meal though is the reality that making pasta at home is easy, quick and fun.

You’ll need a pasta machine – here we’re making rolled pasta not the extruded sort (that’s for another day).  These are low cost, I picked up one recently for the cottage on special for $20 and generally come with the main rolls whose gap can be adjusted as well as spaghetti and linguine making rolls.

To use whole wheat flour – I grind mine in the homestead mill for the freshest flavour – you’ll need to increase the hydration compared to using most commercial flours – so this recipe adds an additional egg to the dough.  While you can do the kneeing by hand a stand mixer makes life very easy and I would find it hard to go back to living without one in my kitchen.

Homemade whole wheat pasta with garden fresh sauce

Homemade whole wheat pasta with garden fresh sauce

The other thing to bear in mind is that while the overall process doesn’t take much time from you (particularly if you have a stand mixer) it can’t be rushed.  For the dough to be rolled out easily it needs to be left for a couple of hours in the fridge.  So make the dough in advance and toss it in a ziplock in the fridge – for a few hours or a couple of days.

When you are ready for your fresh spagetti or linguini put your salted water on the stove to boil and generally I find that by the time the pot is boiling – under ten minutes for me – the pasta is ready to be dropped in.

Cooking time for fresh pasta is significantly less than for the dry version so keep that in mind when timing the other components of your meal.


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Steamed Whole Wheat Chinese Buns

whole wheat buns in steamer

whole wheat buns in steamer

Sometimes it can be a challenge to get light and airy buns when baking with whole extraction whole wheat flour – but steaming makes it a breeze.  These buns are the perfect thing to stuff with slow cooked pulled pork or other meat filling.  Give them a try and you’ll be sure to add them to your baking repertoire on a regular basis.

Try to get the freshest whole wheat flour you can manage.  Home ground is best but otherwise look for a supplier that can ensure the flour hasn’t been sitting around for a while.  But, if you can pull off this recipe (and you can) you can build your own grain mill using these instructions.


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Whole Wheat Naan – bread machine makes it simple

Homemade Whole Wheat Naan

Homemade Whole Wheat Naan

When I first started making homemade naan several years ago I did the mixing and kneading by hand.  It’s a bit of work to say the least.  But, now I let the bread machine do the work.  You’ll need to “trick it” to get the job done but it does an excellent job.  A stand mixer would perform equally well not doubt – as long as it can handle making heavy bread dough.

So, what’s the “trick”?  Well, a standard bread machine cycle won’t kneed the dough well enough – so you need to put it through the initial mixing and kneading cycle a few times.  I usually find it’s three cycles on my double paddle machine – but your mileage may vary.  But the result you want to achieve is the same slightly shiny stretchy dough.

Whole wheat naan on baking sheet

Whole wheat naan on baking sheet

Apart from the need to put the bread machine on the dough cycle and reset it twice – allowing it to continue with the full dough cycle on the third go – making awesome whole wheat naan is easy and fast.  It’s a great way to accompany Indian food such as the slow-cooker butter chicken we posted.  Like the butter chicken you can prepare your naan dough the day before and if you don’t bake it right away you can put it in a ziplock bag in the refrigerator until you roll it out and bake it the next evening, so the two make a great pair – folks won’t believe you didn’t take the day off to slave in the kitchen when you put a meal like this in-front of them.

Finally, there are a bunch of ways to bake your naan.   You can do it on a skillet or frypan on the stove top – flipping it over to finish both sides,  you can make it in the pizza oven, or you can bake it on an overturned cookie sheet either in the oven or on the gas bbq.  I usually favor the oven method since it allows me to bake the half dozen naan all at once, rather than doing one or two at a time.  You still will need to flip them over halfway thorough the baking process even in the oven.   The actual baking time is under ten minutes total.

In the time that it takes me to roll out the naan, the oven to heat up to temperature and the naan to then bake is just about what it takes for the rice to finish cooking and the table to be prepped – a pretty efficient meal plan all told.

Give it a try and you’ll be all smiles.  Click on the show title for the full recipe.

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Whole Wheat Wonton Wrappers – simpler than you think

Stack of homemade whole wheat wonton wrappers

Stack of homemade whole wheat wonton wrappers

Often things that appear intimidating the the uninitiated are a breeze to pull off for those that know a few tricks.  It’s that way with  so many things including many in the kitchen.  Wonton wrappers are one of these.

I think most folks who’ve eaten spring rolls, pot stickers, egg rolls or wonton soup would dismiss the idea that they could produce so thin a dough at home.

Yet, it actually extremely easy to get great results – and do so quickly – using whole wheat flour to boot!

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Rolling out wonton wrappers – it’s easy to get them thin if you are patient.

There are a couple of tricks to making the process easy.  The first, as is the case with our whole wheat bread we want to add a bit of acid – in this case white vinegar – to make the gluten stretchier.  Whole extraction flours have a lower ratio of gluten to the rest of the flour since we’ve got all of the germ and bran mixed in.

Now like the song lyrics you “can’t rush love” or was that “can’t buy love” you actually might be able to do both but you can’t rush making wonton wrappers.  A good rest is required after the first kneed to allow the gluten to strengthen – I generally prefer to make the dough, bag it in a ziplock, place it in the fridge and come back to roll it out the next day.

Now you can do all the rolling out with only a stout rolling pin, but if you have a pasta machine – and you should – this will really speed up the process.

The final secret is corn starch and the liberal application of it when rolling out the dough.  Forget flour, corn starch is it.

Now this recipe forms quite a few wrappers;about three dozen give or take,  but the great news is that the wrappers refrigerate and freeze well, so you can make a big batch and freeze what you don’t need right away for another meal – and there will be many more meals featuring these as soon as folks try them.   If you want to keep folks thinking you’re some kind of genius for mastering these I promise I won’t whisper to them how easy it really was,  then again, maybe just being willing to try something new and seemingly daugnting qualifies you as a minor genius….

Click on the post title for the full recipe.


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Whole wheat cinnamon buns

Bread Dough rolled out, oiled and spinkled with sugar and cinnamon and ready to be rolled up

Bread Dough rolled out, oiled and sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon and ready to be rolled up

It’s telling that a whole franchise – and a rather successful on at that – can be built on one very narrow product – cinnamon buns.  I guess, upon further reflection I guess that isn’t so unique, but it may be a bit telling as to how easily many of us part with cash that we’d be willing to pay such a premium for what is really a very simple bread product.

If you haven’t made cinnamon buns at home you should.  The process is really very simple – and the bread machine takes all of the real effort out of the process.

This is one more case where silicon bakeware really shines.  Cleanup of any sugary “leakage” from the buns is easily snacked on or washed up.

Cinnamon buns ready for second rise before going in the oven

Cinnamon buns ready for second rise before going in the oven

 

For soft sided buns put the dough into a pan so that when doubled in bulk the buns contact each other, if you want harder outer crusts place them on a baking sheet with separation between the buns.

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Whole Wheat Sugar Cookies – Mini Baker Approved

Whole Wheat Sugar Cookies

Whole Wheat Sugar Cookies

These whole wheat sugar cookies can be whipped up in a few minutes, no fuss no muss – and they are great cookies.  The combination of the nutmeg with the nuttiness of the whole wheat flour makes for a great combination.  In fact, because of this no-nut nuttiness flavor they add great variety to the school lunchbox – and I’m assuming that if you have kids their schools is likely a nut free zone too.

Junior Baker engaged in cookie fabrication!

Junior Baker engaged in cookie fabrication!

Quick easy recipes like this are an awesome way to introduce the younger members of the family to the joys of cooking.  Get them hooked on this and other skills and you’ll probably give them a better foundation for a happy life than those “nut free” schools.

Combined with letting the kids go from whole grain to whole grain flours on the home built grain mill – that they can take apart and adjust – to cookies that go into their lunches and get offered up to friends and family with pride is such a cool way to demystify food.

 

 

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Whole Wheat Crepes

Whole Wheat Crepes with Cherries

Whole Wheat Crepes with Cherries

I think there is a general perception that crepes are difficult to prepare.  Nothing could be further from the truth – they are far simpler to prepare than the pancakes we’ve already written about.

The reason for the misconception may be that they represents a bit of an indulgence when wrapped with a sweet filing – sliding closer to desert than dinner or breakfast.   But, by using whole grain flour (provided it has been ground very finely) is a great way to improve the nutrition and taste of this awesome breakfast meal. shhh don’t let on that this wonderful breakfast is both easy and healthy.

In this case the crepes were paired with freshly prepared cherry sauce, but you can wrap them around pretty much any sweet filling.

Whole wheat crepes - tilting the pan to distribute the batter

Whole wheat crepes – tilting the pan to distribute the batter

If anything, the secret to getting good crepes is in the wrist, being able to tilt the frying pan or skillet to thinly distribute the batter.  Hand in hand with that is the need for a good non-stick surface.  It’s no secret that I am partial to my cast iron cookware – and my frying pan is a hand me down from my grandmother – cast in long defunct foundry that was located less than an hour away from my home.  It has such a nice surface that the crepe will slide across the pan when the lower surface has cooked.  The cast iron is also nice in that it holds the heat and cooks the crepe while off the burner with me tilting the pan.  That said,  the pan is heavy and the handle usually hot enough that I wrap the tea-towel that graces the handle of my oven around the handle of the pan to reduce the heat transfer.  If your wrist isn’t up for the challenge a lighter non stick pan that you can manipulate may serve you better in this role.

 

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Whole Wheat Tortillas

Whole Wheat tortillas are a snap to make at home.  While I really enjoy corn tortillas in order to make them you really should have a good tortilla press – such as the homestead tortilla press you can build for yourself.  Whole wheat tortillas don’t require a press – only a rolling pin.

Homemade Whole Wheat Tortillas

Homemade Whole Wheat Tortillas

There are two “tricks” to making whole wheat tortillas;

  1. Once you’ve kneaded the dough let the dough sit covered for at least a half hour
  2. Don’t use a seasoned or greased cast iron skillet – it will smoke.  I keep one cast iron skillet that is used just for the production of tortillas – corn and whole wheat.

It really is that simple to make great tortillas – and fresh tortillas are great in addition to being cheap to produce in your own home.