Desserts, Fermenting, Leftovers, Recipes

Cheater Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls

I call these rolls “cheater” because I use yeast in them.  They’re made with my sourdough discard, left from feeding my starters three times in a 12 hour period before I use the starter to make bread.  Each time you feed a starter, you’re supposed to discard half of the mixture from the previous feeding, so your starter can consume the flour easily and get happy and strong and bubbly.

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That’s how starter needs to be before making bread, but for these rolls, you can put your discard in a covered bowl and leave it overnight without feeding, if you wish, before you start the cinnamon roll dough.  That’s because of the addition of instant yeast, and that’s the cheat. I dump my white, whole wheat, and seven grain starter discard together, and that’s what I use to make my cinnamon rolls and other discard goodies.

Instant yeast is great.  I buy it in bulk at Winco.  For those like me who grew up with the little red-and-yellow packets of regular yeast that you were supposed to activate in warm water or milk with a little sugar, to make sure it was bubbly before you started making dough with it, instant yeast is like magic.  You don’t have to add it to warm liquid.  You don’t even have to add it to liquid first.  So this recipe is easy, fast, and still has the sourdough taste from the starter without the wait. (Sourdough typically takes 8-12 hours to double.)

The other nice thing about this recipe is that you can play not only fast with it, but loose.  I have used 3 cups of sourdough discard, pretty much the same amount of the other ingredients, and have just added enough flour to get a workable, kneadable dough, however much flour that turns out to be.  I ended up with about 30 cinnamon rolls that time.  But usually, I have about 2 cups of starter discard left, so these are the approximate amounts I use.  I’ve been winging it for several batches now, but the last two times, I thought I’d measure so I could write up a recipe. They always turn out tasty no matter what I do.

Cheater Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls

2 cups of sourdough starter discard (it doesn’t have to be freshly fed)

2 teaspoons of instant yeast

½ cup milk (I use milk kefir because I’m lactose-intolerant)

1 egg, lightly beaten

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup softened butter or butter substitute (I use MELT because I’m lactose intolerant)

1 teaspoon salt

Beat all these ingredients together in a mixing bowl until well combined. (I use my stand mixer with the dough hook.)

Add approximately 3 to 3 ½ cups flour, ½ cup at a time.  When you can’t use a hand mixer any more, use your hands to work in the flour, or use your stand mixer with the dough hook to work the flour in until you have a dough that just cleans the bowl.  I then use my stand mixer to knead the dough on medium speed for about 5 minutes.  After that, I hand-knead on a lightly-floured board, adding more flour as necessary, until the dough is smooth and elastic, about another 5 minutes. If you’re doing it all by hand, you’ll be mixing and kneading for about 10 minutes.  (This is too much for my arthritic hands, so my stand mixer has been a Godsend.) Shape the dough into a round ball.

Now, just a little dough lesson here.  Press your fingertip into the dough ball.  (Use your knuckle if you have long fingernails.) Your finger should leave an indentation for a moment, but the dough should spring back and the dent should disappear.  That’s the quality of elasticity you want, and it tells you your dough has been kneaded sufficiently to develop the gluten that holds breads together. Take note of this for later, because you’ll want to see just the reverse after the first proof.

Lightly oil a bowl or lidded container with a bit of mild-flavored oil, and place dough ball inside, turning to coat the top with the oil. (I use a square, plastic container with an airtight lid.  I like the shape because when I turn the dough out to roll it, it’s closer to the rectangular shape I want.)

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Cover the dough with a tight-fitting lid or plastic wrap or shower cap and place in a warm spot to double. With instant yeast, the dough will double in size in about 1 ½ hours.

(See, cheater!  Regular sourdough would take at least 8 hours, maybe longer.  I’m willing to wait for bread, but I want the cinnamon rolls done before the grandkids get home from school!)

While the dough is rising, prepare ingredients for filling; prepare your pan/s.

Ingredients for filling:

Soften ¼-1/3 cup butter or butter substitute (how much butter you use is up to you, and also depends on how much dough you have.)

Mix approximately ½ cup sugar with 2-3 teaspoons cinnamon (again, it depends on personal taste and how much dough you have.  You might need more cinnamon sugar if you have a big batch of dough.)

Grease a 9×13 inch pan with butter, shortening, or cooking spray.  (I use the paper that was wrapped around my MELT butter substitute and a little baking oil if necessary.)

When the dough looks like it’s doubled, press your fingertip or knuckle lightly into the center of the dough mass.  Unlike the last time, your finger should leave an indentation in the dough.  The dough should not spring back into shape.

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That tells you the dough has risen enough to go on to shaping your rolls.  (If the dough is still springy, leave it to rise longer but check about every 15 minutes.)  If the dough is ready, press the dough back lightly into the container with your knuckles and turn/scrape out onto a floured board.  How much flour you need depends on how sticky your dough is. You’ll be able to tell when you press down the dough if it is sticky or not. Never use more flour on your board than necessary to keep the dough from sticking at this stage. (Sourdough doughs tend to be sticky.  How sticky your dough is depends largely on the qualities of your particular starter. )

Pull and stretch your dough into a roughly rectangular shape, then use a floured rolling pin to roll it smooth and straight.  I usually roll mine out to about ¼ inch thickness.  Spread the softened butter over the dough, keeping it at least ¼ inch away from the edges.  Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar evenly over the butter, keeping it away from the edges.  Then it’s time to roll.

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I roll away from me.  Some people like to roll toward them.  Do what feels natural to you. Starting on one lengthwise edge, roll as tightly as you can toward the other edge.  When you get to the end of the roll, pinch the dough together tightly with your fingertips all along the length of the roll to seal it.  Sometimes it helps to moisten the edge of the dough slightly or moisten your fingertips, especially if you’ve put too much flour on your board!  Make sure there is flour on the board where the seam is going to land when you turn the roll onto the seam.  Push the ends of the dough into the tube you’ve made, and pinch them to seal, again with moistened fingers, if necessary. Now you’re ready to slice.

I always used to cut my cinnamon rolls with my sharpest knife, but I learned about string cutting on The Great British Baking Show, and it really does work better.  Cut a length of cotton string or dental floss long enough to wrap around the roll a couple of times.  Using a knife or bench scraper, mark your cuts by pressing lightly into the roll about 1 ½ inches apart. Slide the string under the roll to the first mark, bring the two ends up and cross them, and pull on the ends with equal pressure at the same time.

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The string cuts evenly all the way around and through without the distorting pressure of the knife, and your cinnamon rolls will be rounder.  As you cut each roll, place it in the prepared pan with sides just touching.  (You may need an extra pan if you made a lot of dough.  I sometimes use a small bread pan for just two or three extra rolls that won’t fit in the big pan.) Don’t overcrowd the pan.  The rolls won’t rise or bake well if they don’t have room to grow.  I can usually fit 18 at the most in the 13×9 inch cake pan.

Cover your pan of rolls with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place to double again.  This should only take about 30 minutes.  When rolls have doubled, preheat your oven to 375 F and bake the rolls for about 25 minutes, or until golden brown.  Remove the pan from the oven and place on a rack to cool.

Mix vanilla glaze, if desired.  Drizzle over rolls when they are cooled but still slightly warm, so the glaze soaks in a little bit.

Vanilla glaze:

1 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2-3 teaspoons milk

Add the milk one teaspoon at a time to the powdered sugar and vanilla, beating hard with a spoon, until you get a thick, but pourable glaze.  Drizzle with the spoon over the rolls until you’ve got the amount of glaze you like. Now, some people I know make double the glaze and really glop it on!  That’s okay, if you like them that way.  Other people make a cream cheese frosting.  I’m something of a purist.  A cinnamon roll is all about the sweet roll dough and the cinnamon for me, so I like a light, drizzled glaze best.  I want the cinnamon to be the star of the show, and in these rolls, it is.

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Note:  The last time I made these, I was out of powdered sugar, so I made a honey-caramel syrup with about ½ cup of water and ¾ cup of sugar, boiled together until just starting to thicken and take color, and then I added about ¼ cup of honey and a teaspoon of cinnamon.  (The honey keeps the caramel syrup from hardening.) I poured that shiny glaze over the cinnamon rolls, and it kept them really moist during the week it took Dennis to eat them all.  Later, I wished I’d used my vanilla sugar instead of plain sugar in the syrup.  Next time!

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Fermenting, Recipes, Side dishes

A Sourdough Story and a Thanksgiving Recipe

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Thanksgiving is approaching, as we all know.  I usually post a recipe or some links to past posts about Thanksgiving that contain treasured recipes, and I will do that again, but first, I want to tell you a little story about sourdough.

At our family hunting camp this year in September, I was making toast for my niece, Brielle, and my sister, Goldie, from a sourdough loaf I’d made a couple days before and brought to share with them.  I was explaining to my science-loving niece how sourdough works, and how homemade loaves are different from grocery store bakery loaves, and how to use the discard to make pancakes, waffles, and biscuits, and they were enjoying the tangy flavor of the toast and some homemade jams I’d brought.  My sister pipes up with “I ordered some Oregon Trail sourdough starter a while back, from an ad in a magazine, I can’t even remember what it was, and I never did anything with it.”  I made my sourdough starter three years ago and have been obsessed with sourdough for years.  And I’m just now hearing about this?  My sister said it came in an envelope, so I knew it was dehydrated.  When questioned closely, she couldn’t remember much about it, but she thought she knew where it was in her house.

In October, my husband and I were visiting Goldie and her family in the Brookings, Oregon area, and my sister handed me an envelope.  “Here, I found it,” she said.  “You take it. I don’t know how to activate it.  I’d probably just ruin it.”  The return address on the envelope said Carl Griffith’s 1847 Oregon Trail Sourdough.  My sister said I could give her some of the starter when I’d activated it, next time we met.

When I got home, I looked at the self-addressed envelope Goldie had given me. The envelope was post-marked 2013!  It contained a sandwich bag holding about a teaspoon of dried starter.  I wondered if it would still be good after 5 years in a plastic bag, stuffed in a drawer somewhere. (I don’t know where Goldie actually stashed it, but that’s what I’d have done.) I already knew how to activate a dried starter, because I’d dehydrated some of my own and sent it to friends with instructions for activation, but I wanted to find out more about the starter and the story, so I googled Carl Griffith’s 1847 Oregon Trail Sourdough Starter.  And that’s all you need to find the website and request some of Carl’s starter, although you can just click on carlsfriends.net.

Here’s what I learned about the history of Carl’s starter. Carl Griffith was the descendant of immigrants who moved west from Missouri in 1847 and brought their sourdough with them on their journey along the Oregon Trail.  The starter passed through three or four generations of the family before it came to Carl.  Carl learned to use the starter making camp bread in a Basque sheep camp and homestead in southeastern Oregon when he was 10 years old.  Later, he used it on a chuck wagon in the same way, making bread and biscuits in a cast iron Dutch oven, during cattle drives in southeastern Oregon.  Carl’s brochure, which he used to pass out with his starter, and which can be downloaded from the internet now, also has a number of recipes for using the starter.

I was really skeptical that after 5 years in a plastic bag, the wild yeasts in the starter would still be active, but I thought it was worth a shot.  All it would cost was flour and time. I activated the starter my way, using just water and flour, named it Carl 1847 (we tend to name our starters in the sourdough world—I have two others named Number One and Seven).  Much to my surprise, Carl 1847 was nice and bubbly in under a week.  I’ve yet to make bread with him, but I’ve made pancakes and waffles, cinnamon rolls (with the addition of some instant yeast), and my favorite bread for Thanksgiving, sourdough rolls.

Sourdough rolls made with Carl 1847 have a uniquely tangy flavor.  Every sourdough starter is different, and with the addition of different flours, the flavor and consistency of the starter changes, and thus the flavor of the baked good changes as well.  In general, heritage starters, because they have been kept going for so long and have continued to garner new yeasts and beneficial bacteria each time they are fed and used, have unparalleled flavor, although I have to say, my Number One and Seven are very good as well.  Number One was made from Guisto’s organic bread flour and now is being fed with Azure Standard’s organic Heritage bread flour.  Seven started with Number One, but then I started feeding her a mix of flours made from seven different types of organic grains:  buckwheat, hard white wheat, Heritage wheat, Kamut, Einkorn, spelt, and rye. To illustrate how different flours change the flavor of a starter and a bread or baked good, bread made with Number One is tangy but mild and uncomplicated, and bread made with Seven is tangy but with a very robust flavor from the heartier grains.  So whatever Carl 1847 is fed with will change him, adding new strains of yeasts and new flavors.  I’ve kept one jar of Carl 1847 fed with unbleached organic white bread flour from Natural Grocer, and one jar fed with the Azure Standard organic Heritage bread flour, which is finely ground whole grain. I’ll give the jar of white to my sister, and keep the jar of whole grain for myself.  Carl Griffith’s 1847 Oregon Trail sourdough starter lives on.

And with that, here is my recipe for sourdough biscuits.  I posted it some time back, but I’ve made some changes to the recipe since I’ve been using it more often.

 

Sourdough Biscuits

(no previous prep if using fresh discard)

For small batch (about 6):

1 cup active, bubbly sourdough starter

½ cup dry milk

1 cup flour

1 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. baking soda

1 Tbs. sugar

½ tsp. salt

Additional ¼- ½ cup flour for kneading

1 Tbs. butter, melted in 8 or 9 inch square or round pan (your preferred cooking oil can also be used)

Heat oven to 425 degrees.

Mix starter and dry milk together until smooth.  Mix baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt into 1 cup of flour.  Mix flour mixture into wet ingredients until flour is moistened.

Sprinkle ¼ cup of flour onto board.  Turn out sticky dough onto board and knead about 25 times until just at soft dough stage, adding more flour just as necessary to keep dough from sticking to board.  When dough is stiff enough to cut, roll to the depth of your biscuit cutter and cut biscuits.  (Press the floured cutter all the way through the dough to the board and then twist to free the cut biscuit from the dough.)

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Dip one side of the biscuit into melted butter in pan and turn over so buttered side is up. (This helps the biscuit brown beautifully.  So does the bit of sugar in the dough.) The sides of the biscuits should be touching each other so they rise up rather than spread out. Bake biscuits for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

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*Note: How much flour you need to work into the starter depends on how thick your starter or discard is. I feed my starters up pretty heavily for bread, and my discard, which I use for biscuits, pancakes, or waffles, is spoonable rather than pourable.  In other words, it’s thick, and doesn’t require much additional flour to make a kneadable dough.

Large batch (about 12):

2 cups active, bubbly sourdough starter

1 cup dry milk

2 cups flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

2 Tbs. sugar

1 tsp. salt

Additional ¼ – ½ cup flour for kneading

2 Tbs. butter, melted in 9×12” pan

 

Mix and bake as for small recipe above.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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appetizers, Desserts, Fermenting, Main dishes, Recipes, Side dishes

Sourdough Fun

Update 12/6/16:  I baked the sourdough sugar cookies again yesterday, and when I got out my paper copy of the recipe I’d printed off from Cultures for Health, I realized I had made a number of rather important changes to get the good result I had from my first batch.  I thought I’d better post an update, so here’s the amended sugar cookie recipe.  The link to the original recipe on Cultures for Health appears in the original post below.

Sourdough Snickerdoodles

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups piloncillo (Mexican brown sugar in the cone)*
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup fresh sourdough starter
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cream together butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract. Gently mix in the sourdough starter. In a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. Combine the wet and dry ingredients. Allow the dough to rest for 15 minutes.

Drop the dough by rounded tablespoonful onto a PARCHMENT PAPER–COVERED cookie sheet. (If you do not have parchment paper, spray the pan with non-stick cooking spray.  I used a bare pan in one trial, and the cookies stuck a bit.) Sprinkle the cookies with cinnamon and sugar if desired. (I did, it was good and made them taste like Snickerdoodles.)

Bake 12 minutes. (I baked 14-15 min. at my altitude, depending on the size of my spoonfuls.)

Notes:  Because of recent experiences with sourdough starter recipes being too wet, I reduced the amount of starter the original recipe called for and omitted the water.  My starter is 100% hydration, so it is wet and fairly thin.  I used whole wheat pastry flour in the dough. The original recipe called for types of unprocessed sugar I’d never even heard of before.  I did have some piloncillo in the house, which is an unrefined, Mexican brown sugar. It comes pressed into cones of varying size and weight.  It was a pain to break up (I had to pull out the food processor), but it made a delicious cookie.  I see no reason why subbing white sugar, organic or not, wouldn’t work.  Regular brown sugar will work. I have made one version with regular brown sugar, spices, and nuts, but I still need to tweak it a bit before I post the recipe.

~~~

In my last post, I said I would share links to other sourdough discard recipes if anyone wanted them, and my faithful reader and friend, Kelly, said yes!  So here are my favorite discard recipes so far.  I’m sure there will be others as I explore the sourdough websites, in particular, Cultures for Health.

First, the sourdough cookies.  I really liked these cookies, and my son and granddaughter did too.  I used piloncillo (Mexican brown sugar) instead of the sucanat called for (raw sugar), which I will not use again because it is a pain to deal with that cone of hard sugar.  Next time, I’ll use organic white sugar and reduce the amount by 1/4 cup, and I think that will make them taste even more like Snickerdoodles, my son’s favorite cookie. I sprinkled cinnamon and sugar on the tops of the cookies and called them Sourdough Snickerdoodles.  I have ideas about other incarnations of this recipe too, which I’ll be exploring shortly.  http://www.culturesforhealth.com/learn/recipe/sourdough-recipes/soft-sourdough-cookies

Another favorite recipe for using sourdough discard (remember, this is just sourdough starter batter that you have to use up before your starter becomes too big to be manageable) is the pizza dough.  I really, really liked this dough, so much so that after I tried it the first time, I made two batches of fresh dough the next day and froze them for future fuss-free pizzas.  The dough should be thawed overnight in the fridge, and I would take it out several hours before rolling to let it come up to room temperature.  http://www.culturesforhealth.com/learn/recipe/sourdough-recipes/sourdough-pizza-crust

The third recipe I liked for sourdough discard is an onion ring batter.  This recipe came from Cultures for Health also, but the recipe was for onion fritters.  I decided to add a little sugar and use the batter for apple fritters, which I love. I was very disappointed with the result.  The fritters would not hold together, and I finally figured out one reason was the lack of egg in the recipe.  A batter needs eggs, people!  Also, the batter wasn’t thick enough, and I ended up adding a lot of additional flour before I got something resembling a fritter.

However, I decided to try the batter, with the addition of an egg, for onion rings.  (Mostly, I wanted to use up my discard, and I had a lot of fat leftover from the apple fritter experiment that I wanted to use up.) I wasn’t terribly surprised when my altered batter created yummy onion rings.  So here’s that recipe, for those of you who aren’t afraid to fry.  (I really don’t like frying myself, but onion rings are about the easiest thing to fry, so don’t be timid.)

Fried Sourdough-battered Onion Rings

(serves 4-6)

  • 1½ cups sourdough starter
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. cornmeal
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground cayenne (optional)
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 large yellow or white onion, sliced into ¼ inch slices
  • ½ cup brown rice flour (or any flour you prefer)
  • Preferred fat for frying (I used a mix of refined coconut oil–not unrefined because it will burn at the temp needed for frying—and avocado oil.  I don’t feel guilty about frying when I use “healthy” fats.  You can use vegetable oil or peanut oil, also.)

Turn your oven to warm, and set cooling racks over paper towel-lined cookie sheets inside the oven.  You will probably need two racks.

Start fat heating in a deep, 2-quart saucepan. You’ll need several cups of fat, and this is why I prefer using a deep saucepan with a small bottom rather than a cast iron skillet.  You can get a deep fryer effect with less fat.  The fat should be at least 4 inches deep in the pan when melted/heated.  If you happen to have a deep fryer, follow manufacturer’s instructions for using.

It’s wise to have a candy thermometer or digital thermometer to monitor the heat of the fat.  The fat should come up to between 350 and 360 degrees.  (Hotter than that, and this delicate batter coating will burn immediately.  Cooler than that, and they will absorb too much fat and will not be crispy.)

Separate onion slices into individual rings.  In a medium bowl, combine sourdough starter, beaten egg, sugar, cornmeal, salt, and cayenne with a whisk. Combine baking soda and baking powder and sprinkle over batter; whisk until just combined.  Batter will foam and increase in volume.

Working in small batches, toss a few onion rings in flour to coat (a Ziploc bag works well for this).  Dip flour-coated rings in batter with a fork or tongs, and place immediately into hot fat. Don’t try to fry too many at a time; cook three or four at time, maximum.  If you crowd the pan, you’ll lower the temperature of the oil, with the results noted above, and it’s also harder to flip a bunch at the right time than a few. Fry until bottom is golden brown, turn, and fry for about a minute longer.  These onion rings cook very quickly.  They are done in just about 2 or 3 minutes.

Remove from fat and place on racks in oven to drain.  You can salt them now if you wish, but they don’t really need additional salt.  These onion rings are light and crispy. Enjoy!

The last recipe for sourdough discard also comes from Cultures for Health.  I like the recipes on this site, obviously.  This one is for Sourdough Egg Noodles.  http://www.culturesforhealth.com/learn/recipe/sourdough-recipes/rustic-sourdough-noodles

I made these for my Thanksgiving turkey carcass soup because, yeah, I needed to get rid of some discard, and I love homemade pastas!  This recipe calls for incubating the dough for 8 hours, so starting it early in the morning for dinner that night, or the night before for a lunch dish, is key.  However, when I was planning to test this recipe, I forgot that the dough was supposed to sit for 8 hours, and I didn’t get it started until 11 o’clock in the morning.  I figured I’d cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put the dough by the heating stove and see what happened in the time I had.  I was very surprised that in just 4 hours, the dough had more than doubled in size.

I took half of it out of the bowl (and I had only made half a recipe anyway because I didn’t want to sacrifice 6 eggs on an experiment) and rolled it for noodles for the turkey soup. I covered the rest of the dough and left it sitting on the counter, thinking I’d roll the other half when I got home from my granddaughter’s basketball game, if I felt like it. I could tell I’d have plenty from the one half for my pot of turkey soup.

I rolled the dough out on a floured board and cut it with a pasta cutter (which is old and dull, so I think I’d have been better off with a sharp knife), then spread the noodles on racks to dry for a couple of hours before being added to the soup.  Then I went off to my granddaughter’s game.

  

An hour and a half later, I got home and decided I was too tired to finish the soup and roll the rest of the noodles.  I cooled the soup and put it in a bowl to chill in the fridge so I could skim the fat (that wasn’t done when the carcass and pan drippings were put in the bags by SOMEBODY at my daughter’s house and frozen—wasn’t me!). I wanted to skim the fat off the soup before I added starch in the form of noodles.  The leftover noodle dough had risen again, even in the cool kitchen, so I stashed it in the fridge to deal with the next day. The rest of the noodles were left on the drying rack overnight. (Sometimes my ambition is too big for my energy’s britches.)

When I got up the next morning, I decided to finish drying the noodles in a warm oven, so they’d last for a few days before I had to use them up.  I decided to roll out the rest of the noodle dough that afternoon, dry it for just a bit, and then add it to my soup.  I love fresh pasta, and I didn’t want to pass up that fresh, tender pasta texture.  I’ll use the dried noodles in venison or bear stroganoff later in the week.

The noodles were wonderful, tender as only homemade fresh pasta can be. That half-recipe of dough made enough noodles for a big pot of turkey soup and one other dish for two.  If you are an empty nester, like I am, I’d definitely cut the linked recipe in half, or even quarter it, so you don’t end up making more noodles than you can easily use.  If you have a large family, by all means, make the recipe as it is in the link.

That’s it for this round of sourdough fun.  I’ve found a bread recipe I’m testing, and I’ll report on it soon.  The recipe was posted on a Facebook group by a guy who’s a doer, not a writer, and as is usual in such things, it’s a bit confusing as written.  As soon as I get the kinks worked out, I’ll share that.  It looks promising. The grandkids ate half a loaf when they came over after school to make dog biscuits. My grandson wanted to take the rest of it home, and that’s quite an endorsement from the food critic in the family!

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Fermenting, Uncategorized

Kombucha for Chickens

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Some of you will think I’m crazy.  But I’ve tested my theory several times, and each time I’ve found it to be true.  When I give my chickens a little kombucha several times a week, their eggs are almost completely clean. When the kombucha is withheld for several days, the eggs get poopy.

First off, some folks might not know what kombucha is.  Kombucha is fermented tea.  It’s fermented with some particular strains of bacteria.  You can make kombucha at home using raw, unflavored kombucha purchased in a health food store or obtained from someone who makes her own kombucha.  If you are interested in doing that, here’s the link I used to start my kombucha and SCOBY.  (The SCOBY is what grows in the kombucha.  The kombucha is the fermented tea that you drink.)  Kombucha is probiotic, very good for your gut.  And presumably, for a chicken’s gut.  Did you know they actually make probiotics for chickens? Yeah, that’s a thing. Some people buy probiotics for their chickens.  Some people feed them yogurt regularly.  I feed mine a little kombucha several times a week. And they love it.

I make my kombucha with green or white tea, mostly.  I have not ever given my chickens any kombucha made with black tea, because I want to keep the caffeine levels as low as possible.  Kombucha generally contains about a third of the caffeine in the tea it’s made from. Green or white tea contains less caffeine than black tea, thus the kombucha made from green or white tea contains less caffeine too.

Now, I’ve done a little research, and caffeine is apparently toxic to chickens (as it is to dogs). You’re not supposed to give them chocolate, tea bags, or coffee beans (I don’t know why anybody would, but nevertheless, you shouldn’t.)  However, many people do allow their chickens access to freshly brewed coffee grounds dumped in the compost pile, and these folks report no ill effects from the chickens eating the coffee grounds.  From what I understand from my reading, minute amounts of caffeine in things like spent coffee grounds doesn’t seem to hurt them.  I think small amounts of kombucha is probably the same. (You’re also not supposed to let chickens eat apple seeds, but mine ate windfall apples in the orchard all last fall. And when they eat an apple, they don’t leave anything but the stem.) So I think we can use an ounce of common sense here along with the kombucha.

I don’t give my four chickens a lot of kombucha at any one time, and I give it to them mixed with some scratch grains.  I put the scratch, about 1/3 cup or so, in an old pan, and pour on about a tablespoon of kombucha, or enough to just moisten the scratch.  I swirl and toss that around to coat all the scratch in the kombucha, and I let it sit for a minute to absorb the kombucha while I’m getting out their laying pellets.  I feed those separately.  They get the scratch/kombucha supplement about every other day.

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How was it that I began giving kombucha to my chickens in the first place?  In the summer of 2015, I was trying fermented feed for the chickens, for the probiotic effect, and I was using kombucha as a starter, mixing it in with their pellets and scratch and letting it ferment for 3 or 4 days before I gave it to them.  But with colder fall temps, fermenting the feed in the unheated pumphouse wasn’t working.  And it was another task when I really didn’t need another task. Then I thought, why bother with all that?  I have lots of kombucha, and it is easy to make more if I need it.  I could just keep a jar of it with their feed to mix with their scratch.

I did a little reading, noticing that many people reported giving their excess kombucha SCOBYs to their chickens, and I’ve done that too.  The chickens eat them like worms. No one reported any problems, and the SCOBYs retain quite a bit of kombucha in their layers. So I figured, why not?

I started noticing, a week or so after I began the kombucha regimen, that the eggs were clean.  Not just cleaner, but clean.  Rarely did I even get a little streak or smear of poop on an egg.  The majority of my eggs were pristine, like they’d been washed.  The change was noticeable, because they were pretty poopy before.  So I had nice, clean eggs all fall and into the winter.

In late winter, I came down with a bad case of influenza.  The old-fashioned stuff.  I was sick, really sick, for over a month.  During that time, Dennis took over feeding the chickens, and I hadn’t told him about the kombucha.  Didn’t even think about it until I was well enough to scramble myself an egg.  And then I noticed that the eggs were poopy again.

I told Dennis about the kombucha/scratch combo, and he started doing it.  Within a couple of days, the eggs were clean again.  No fooling.

Since then, we’ve had chicken minders for a week or so, at least three times, while we were gone on vacation.  I never tell them about the kombucha or ask them to do it because I don’t want the chickens getting too much kombucha. You never know how well people are actually listening when you tell them how to do something. Each time when we’ve returned, the eggs are poopy.  And each time, after a few days back on the booch, the eggs are clean again when I gather them.

The last time we left, the neighbor boy who was minding the chickens put a half-pan of dry scratch in the run for the hens so they had 24/7 access to it, something I never do, but it proved one thing to me.  It’s definitely the kombucha, not the scratch, that’s keeping those eggs clean.  I’d had a slight, niggling doubt about that, but this time was the clincher. I had poopy eggs for two days after we got back, until those chickens got some kombucha back in their systems.

In the first picture below, you can see that the eggs are very clean.  I don’t wash my eggs until I use them, if I need to wash them.  (If you have backyard chickens, you know why, but for those who don’t:  the reason you don’t wash eggs until you want to use them is that when the chicken lays the egg, it comes out with a protective coating that seals the shell and prolongs the life of the egg inside.  Store-bought eggs are washed, and they have shorter shelf lives than unwashed backyard eggs.) In the second photo, I’ve tried to take a close-up of the only egg in this carton (gathered over about a week’s time) that has any sign of poop on it.  It’s just a faint dark smear (not the reddish speckles–that is just pigment in the shell), and might not even be poop.  It could just be a smear of dirt from a chicken foot.  This is typical for my eggs when the chickens are getting kombucha at least three times a week.

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Kombucha for chickens makes cleaner eggs.  I don’t know why.  I could speculate, but I don’t know enough about the anatomy or digestive system of a chicken.  I just know it works.

 

 

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condiment, Fermenting, Recipes, Uncategorized

Berry Vinaigrette Salad Dressing for Spring Greens

I love those fresh greens from my garden and greenhouse:  spinach, lettuce, kale.  I’m picking them now, a little late because I didn’t have my usual volunteers (I’m blaming the drought for that) and because my surgeries kept me from getting into the garden and greenhouse as early as I usually am in spring.

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But now it’s time for fresh salad, and to go with those lovely, fresh spring greens, you need a special salad dressing.  I have one.

Some years ago (2013 to be exact), I made some raspberry- and blackberry-infused vinegars from my own homemade apple scrap vinegar and the pulp from my jam making.  I must say, those vinegars turned out beautifully, but I have not used them as much as I thought I would, so I still have some in the fridge, two years old but as delicious now as when I made them.  So to honor my fresh spring greens, I dug up my recipe for berry vinaigrette salad dressing.  Last time I wrote about this, I used my raspberry-infused vinegar, but this time, I used the blackberry-infused vinegar.  And all I can say is:  WOW!  Here is the recipe, with links to instructions for making your own infused vinegars.  I hope you will try this recipe, because I know you’ll enjoy it.

Raspberry or Blackberry Vinaigrette with Chia Seeds

(makes about ¾ cup)

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Ingredients:

2 tablespoons of minced onion (I like red onion in this)

¼ cup raspberry-infused vinegar or blackberry-infused vinegar

2 tablespoons of honey or agave syrup

½ teaspoon dry, powdered mustard or prepared Dijon mustard

½ cup olive oil

2 teaspoons chia seeds

 

Mix all ingredients in blender or food processor (if using food processor, you can mince the onions with it) or with a whisk in a bowl. The mustard will help to emulsify the dressing, but it will separate slightly, so it should be shaken well before using. If you like a sweeter dressing, add more honey or agave one teaspoon at a time until the sweetness level is right for your taste buds.

Now, if you don’t have any raspberry-infused vinegar, and don’t want to make it, for whatever reason, you can make this dressing without it. Simply substitute white wine vinegar or even rice vinegar for the raspberry-infused vinegar, and for the honey or agave, substitute raspberry jam or preserves. Again, taste your dressing to see if you’d like it sweeter. My version isn’t very sweet, as I don’t happen to care for sweet salad dressings.

Update:  When I started looking for recipes for raspberry vinaigrette salad dressings, I noticed that they all contained poppy seeds.  I have nothing against poppy seeds, but I don’t keep them in my kitchen.  However, I do have chia seeds on hand and am working on ways to incorporate them into more dishes (oatmeal and puddings, for example).  So I thought, why not?  At the time I decided to put chia seeds into this vinaigrette recipe, I didn’t know that chia seeds release a substance that thickens liquids.  This actually makes them perfect for a salad dressing, because they keep the dressing thick and emulsified.  In other words, they give the mustard, the traditional emulsifier for dressing (emulsification, put simply, is the smooth mixture of fats and liquids) a helping hand. This salad dressing won’t separate on you the way most vinaigrettes do.  And the chia seeds are high in Omega-3 fatty acids, good for your heart and other body parts, so it’s all to the good to incorporate them into as many dishes as you can.

Eat your spring greens with some delicious berry vinaigrette dressing with chia seeds.  It’s all good for you!

 

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condiment, Dairy, Fermenting, Recipes, Side dishes

Homemade Buttermilk Ranch-Style Salad Dressing

My husband is addicted to ranch salad dressing. I like it too, but I don’t like all the extra junk they put in the stuff sold in stores: soybean oil, for instance. I stay away from soybeans because they are treated with glyphosate herbicides. So I’ve been working on a buttermilk ranch-style salad dressing that is made with the freshest, healthiest possible ingredients. These include homemade buttermilk, cultured at home and full of good probiotic organisims (make it from organic milk for best health), homemade mayonnaise (also made with healthier, higher grade oils than the commercially-produced mayos), and home-grown and dried herbs. Now, you can make this dressing with store-bought buttermilk, store-bought mayo, and store-bought herbs, and it’s still going to taste better and be better for you than any ranch dressing you buy in a store. I hope you’ll give this a try.

Homemade Buttermilk Ranch-Style Salad Dressing

3/4 cup homemade mayo *

¾ cup homemade buttermilk **

1 tablespoon homemade apple scrap vinegar ***

1 tablespoon dried tomato skin powder ****(optional—I’m always looking for new ways to use this)

¼ teaspoon hot smoked paprika (regular paprika may be used)

1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes

1-2 tablespoons dehydrated onion bits (ground in clean coffee grinder or spice grinder) or onion powder

1 teaspoon dried tarragon

½ teaspoon dried hyssop (I like this herb, it adds a sharper greenness than parsley, but it isn’t common, and can be omitted)

Pinch (or more) of dried thyme

¼-1/2 teaspoon sea salt (I used pink Himalayan salt)

¼-1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper (I like freshly ground)

Start with the lesser amount of seasonings. Mix well in jar with tight lid. (You can see I used an old ranch salad dressing jar to make it easier for my husband to find it in the fridge. He’s a bit challenged when it comes to seeing what he’s looking for!)

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Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. You may substitute other herbs, or use fresh herbs, but fresh herbs will lessen the storage life of your dressing. I use dried in the winter when we eat fewer salads, and fresh in the spring and summer when my herbs have greened up and my own lettuces are producing, and we go through the dressing in a week or two.  Fresh chives are delicious in this dressing when you have them.

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Store in fridge. Keeps about 2 weeks in fridge, or longer, depending on the freshness of your buttermilk and mayonnaise. I’ve had it last over a month. It might separate, but you just shake it back together. Discard if the dressing becomes moldy.  That’s when you know the dressing has exceeded its shelf life!

Notes: *If you have not yet tried the easiest homemade mayo ever, please click here for the recipe. It is so good, and it also contains some probiotics if you use active culture yogurt and raw vinegar in it. If you use store-bought mayo, the dressing will still taste great.

**Making your own buttermilk is so easy. I love making it at home because I can make it the amounts I am likely to use. I used to buy it a quart at a time, and half of it would always go bad before I used it up. I hate wasting anything and discovered that I could freeze leftover buttermilk to use as a chicken marinade or in baking, but if it’s been frozen very long, the active cultures in it die, and then it can’t be used to make sour cream or more buttermilk, although I believe it’s still good for baking. (When you use buttermilk in baking, you need to add baking soda, which reacts with the acids in the buttermilk to make light, fluffy, baked goods).

So now I make my own buttermilk, about a cup at a time, which is perfect for making a batch of gluten-free buttermilk pancakes (recipe coming soon—so good!) or a jar of buttermilk ranch salad dressing, or cakes, biscuits, and other baked goods. To see how to make your own cultured, probiotic buttermilk as you need it, please click here.

***Those of you who follow this blog know that I make my own apple scrap vinegar. It is probiotic and tasty. If you’d like to try it yourself, click here.  You can make it on a small scale, in a half-gallon jar, which is how I started out. Now I have enough organic apple scraps from my apples to make it in 5 gallon buckets! But you can buy Bragg’s vinegar raw, or you can use any apple cider vinegar in this recipe.

****Also if you follow this blog, you’ve seen me write about saving my tomato skins when I make charred salsa, tomato-apple chutney, and Italian Red Sauce. I’ve found various ways to use them; please click on the links if you’re interested in new ways to use your dried tomato skins: pulled pork rub, braised and barbecued pork ribs. The tomato skins can be omitted from the ranch dressing recipe if you choose, but I like it.

I hope you enjoy this ranch dressing recipe enough to ditch the store-bought dressings with all the added ingredients that nobody needs to be ingesting. The bonus with this recipe is that you get some probiotics to boot! You really can’t beat that deal.

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Fermenting, Recipes, Uncategorized

Ginger Ale Update

I’ve got a new batch of homemade ginger ale fermenting.  In the past year, I have been learning more about ferments in general and about making homemade ginger ale in particular.  I still use the Sweeter Ginger Ale recipe below, but in contrast to the recipe and method I started with, I have learned that an open ferment produces better, bigger bubbles more quickly.

Therefore, the ginger ale mixture should be placed in a large bottle or jar and the top covered with a breathable fabric cover or coffee filter, and secured with a rubber band.  If conditions are warm, the ale will ferment within 48 hours.  When large bubbles appear, the ginger ale can be strained and bottled tightly for a second fermentation.  This is what produces a truly bubbly ginger ale, the second fermentation in an airtight bottle. The Sweeter Ginger Ale recipe below provides enough sugar for a viable second fermentation where others do not.

Generally, a 24-48 hour second fermentation in warm conditions is sufficient to produce good carbonation.  After small bubbles appear in the capped bottles during the second fermentation, the bottles should be chilled and stored in the refrigerator.  Care should be taken in opening the bottles.  They may foam over, so they should always be opened over the sink, or over a bowl if you wish to catch the overflow.

Sweeter Ginger Ale

(makes about 2 1/2 quarts finished ginger ale)

Simmer together for 5 minutes:

2 cups water

2 tablespoons minced ginger

1 cup raw sugar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Cool mixture.  Add:

5 cups cool water

1/4 cup lemon or lime juice

1/2 cup ginger bug (follow link for directions for making and maintaining your ginger bug)

Mix well and pour off into large jug or jar, cover with breathable fabric or coffee filter, and secure with rubber band.  Let sit in warm place for 2-3 days or until large, yeasty-looking bubbles form.  Strain and bottle in bale-top type bottles or other bottles with air-tight caps.  Ferment again in warm place for 24-48 hours, or until carbonated.  Chill before drinking.

My previous post about ginger ale, called Science Experiment, details the progression and development of this recipe and technique, and also tells how to make, feed, and store a ginger bug, which is the base ferment for ginger ale.  However, I recommend following the above procedure for making ginger ale.  It’s a wonderful holiday drink, and a great digestive after a large meal.  If you wish, you can allow your ginger ale to ferment longer for an alcoholic content and champagne-like bubbles, but beware opening the bottles!

 

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