Assistant Professor of Medicine

Culinary medicine to me is a coming together of the soothing comforts of home cooking and the healing touch of The Great Physician. The culinary medicine courses I have taught in the past have had other names, but they are all focused on the role of foods and nutrition in health.

My first foray into culinary medicine was when I was gardening and cooking on the farm as a child.  I took a demonstration to the Iowa State Fair when I was 14 on how to cook the vegetables from my garden so they retain the most nutrition possible. I was about 8 years old when I gave my first nutrition presentation to our little 4-H club that met in a neighbor’s home. Probably my all-time favorite award I ever  won was for my yeast bread baking skills when I was about 10 years old. The yeast bread I took to the fair that year was a beautiful monkey bread decorated with a glaze and candied cherries. At the time I was a little disappointed that I did not win the Iowa State Fair bid,;another girl did because the judge said the box I covered with contact paper to hold the bread took away from the overall appearance of my 4-H project. I was only a tiny bit set back because I knew that bread was a great work of art and I learned a lot about presenting food that day. Months later at the end-of-the-year awards banquet, I was given this little 1-inch metal lapel pin that simply said “bread” on it. I was so thrilled and every time I come across that tiny pin, I remember the joy baking bread gave me even as a child.

I was making bread for as long as I can remember. I have wonderful memories of helping my mom deliver fresh, hot breads in exchange for money to buy groceries and pay the bills. Everyone loved our bread and I still deliver fresh yeast breads to neighbors and friends especially at Christmas and Easter.

I co-authored a textbook for college level students using the title of “Nutrition and Diet Therapy” but today, that text would be more appropriately called “Culinary Medicine”.  It is divided by diseases and describes the most appropriate nutrition for each. This is also the approach we take in our Culinary Medicine class at the University of Central Florida. The students spend time in the classroom and in the kitchen honing their ability to translate science into application for their patients.

 

What’s Healthier, Ground Turkey or Beef?

The Culinary Medicine students at the University of Central Florida Medical School are working on developing a repertoire of recipes that are both nutritious and delicious. The question about beef vs. ground turkey came up. We are interested in finding out what is better for us, ground turkey or beef?  The perception is that ground turkey is better, but does that hold up when the nutrient composition is analyzed?

A little research gives us the facts: Ounce for ounce ground turkey,  especially the ground turkey typically found in grocery stores, and lean beef have about the same amount of fat.  Ground turkey is a little higher amount of cholesterol than beef. Beef is higher in iron and several other micro-nutrients. Many packages of lean ground beef and ground turkey have similar fat content, but the type of fat differs with ground turkey having a little less saturated fat. Individual package labels will vary as both beef and turkey have a wide spectrum of fat content depending upon the company, cut and additives.  Overall, ground turkey and beef are very comparable. If comparing sliced turkey breast from a whole bird, the comparison would show a different story because ground turkey typically contains some skin and often dark meat which is higher in iron than turkey breast and also higher in saturated fat.  A black bean burger will often have the highest amounts of fiber and the lowest amount of fat, winning the nutrient wars on most individual nutrient comparisons except red meats contain more iron.

The choice for the overall winner of a-New Kind of Burger-comes down to personal preferences. Considerations might include differences such as economy, ingredients on hand and preference for vegetarian, red meat or poultry.

Adding vegetables to a meat patty is a great way to extend the protein and lower the fat content of the whole burger. The difference the vegetables make in nutritional value is way more beneficial than exchanging one meat for another.  Fat content can theoretically be reduced by up to 70 % depending upon how many vegetables are used.  I have used carrots, onions, peppers, cabbage, sauerkraut, beets, celery, garlic, potato, eggplant and many other vegetables when making burgers and the different vegetables can offer exotic flavor combinations to burger menus.

In the following recipe, oatmeal is used as a binder. We tried bread crumbs in the Culinary Science lab but they turned the mixture a little gummy. Oatmeal is also nice because it is a gluten-free option. Mayonnaise works well as a binder.  We tried egg but the mixture included so many vegetables that it was hard to form a patty that would hold together during cooking.

A little olive oil or spraying the baking pan or foil with non-stick cooking spray is important. In the Culinary Medicine Lab, the burgers stuck to the foil. The foil did not look like it was sprayed, or if it was, not adequately. It only takes a 1 second spray to keep the burgers from sticking so added fat content is minuscule.  If for health reasons a natural oil is preferred, lightly brush olive oil over the baking surface to prevent sticking.

This burger was made with lean ground beef, fresh garlic, zucchini and topped with cheese and spinach. Below is a recipe for ground beef and a flavorful mixture of veggies and my favorite black bean burger.
This vegetable and beef burger made in the UCF Culinary Medicine lab was made with lean ground beef, fresh onion and zucchini and topped with cheese and spinach. Below is a recipe for ground beef, chicken, turkey and a flavorful mixture of veggies or use the bean variation for my new favorite black bean burger.

A New Kind of Burger

1/2 lb ground chicken, beef, black beans or turkey
5 (about 1-inch each) fresh mushrooms, finely chopped
3/4 cup finely chopped summer squash
2 tablespoons finely chopped green onion
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon of sriracha sauce or Worcestershire sauce (for beef)
1/2 cup oatmeal, processed for a few seconds in food processor
1/8 teaspoon creole seasoning (such as Tony Chachere seasoning)

Combine all ingredients and form into 5 patties.  Place patties on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees or until internal temperature reaches desired doneness. (For Beef: 135 degrees for medium-rare, 145 degrees for medium, 155 degrees for medium-well and 165 degrees for well done). Bake black bean burgers just until heated through and vegetables are tender crisp.

Serve with your favorite cheese, lettuce, tomato and special sauce.

Tip: The burgers will hold together better when a food processor is used to finely chop the vegetables. Fold the meat into the vegetable mixture. The food processor turns the meat to mush very quickly and the result is a burger with a gummy texture. The beans on the other hand, do really well in the food processor. Process the beans and vegetables separately to get the best texture.

Makes 5 Burgers

 

The recipe below is a special sauce created by a team of students by accident. They mistakenly added creole seasoning to a yogurt base instead of the creole mustard called for in the recipe.  The result was a great, new sauce that would be perfect on the “New Kind of Burger”.

1/4 cup yogurt
1 tablespoon sour cream
1/4 teaspoon creole seasoning
1 teaspoon creole mustard
1 teaspoon ketchup
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon cider vinegar

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and chill a few minutes before serving.

Nothing Bundt Cakes-Double Chocolate and Red Velvet

Red Velvet and Double Chocolate mini bundt cakes send a special message of love for Valentine’s Day.  I experimented with beets to turn the batter into red velvet with mixed results. Fresh beets give the batter a beautiful red color but turns a brown color when baked. A real red for a traditional red velvet cake requires a little red food coloring in addition to mashed beets.  The advantage is that the beets add antioxidants to mini bundt cakes.

Fresh Beets Bleed Red-with lots of nutrients and antioxidants.
Fresh Beets Bleed Red-with lots of nutrients and antioxidants.

 

Beets are cooked until tender and then processed in the food processor. Once processed, the beets turn the batter red, but the bundt cakes turn brown when cooked as seen in the photo below.
Beets are cooked until tender and then processed in the food processor. Once processed, the beets turn the batter red, but the bundt cakes turn brown when cooked as seen in the photo below.
Bundt cake with beets is in the background. It turned brown as the batter reaches a high temperature and starts to set up. Chocolate batter with added beets and red food coloring is in the foreground. For the recognizable "red" found in red velvet cakes, a little food coloring helps the batter maintain its bright color even when heated.
Bundt cake with beets is in the background. It turned brown as the batter reaches a high temperature and starts to set up. Chocolate batter with added beets and red food coloring is in the foreground. For the recognizable “red” found in red velvet cakes, a little food coloring helps the batter maintain its bright color even when heated.

 

Baking soda and vinegar have two different purposes in this recipe: the soda neutralizes the acid in the chocolate and it also leavens the cake.
Baking soda and vinegar have two different purposes in this recipe: the soda neutralizes the acid in the chocolate and the combination of vinegar and soda leavens the cake.

Turn bundt cakes out of the pans within about 10 mintues of when they come out of the oven but let cool completely before frosting or adding a fruit garnish. Bundt cakes often taste even better the second day but everyone who passed through my test kitchen just had to have one immediately while still warm….If that is the case in your house, no worries, melted frosting and warm cake has an allure all its own. I gave up long ago trying to keep hands off of my warm bundt cakes. But, (and that’s a big but), if there are some still sitting when cool, store in  an air-tight container, either frosted or unfrosted.   Warm cake can be garnished with fruit when if it will be eaten within an hour or so but the fruit does not hold very long when it comes in contact with the warm cake.

Turn bundt cakes out of the pans within about 10 mintues of when they come out of the oven but let cool completely before frosting or adding a fruit garnish.
The inspiration for the double chocolate cake comes form Joanna Gaines recipe printed on a cedar shake and sold online at Magnolia Silos.

Joanna Gaines of Magnolia Silos fame sells recipes printed on cedar planks. It seems like everyone wants the recipe when I give food gifts so they are such a great gift for tucking into a box of bundt cakes.  The Magnolia Silos recipe starts with a box mix which I did not want to use because I really love making cakes from scratch, plus I really like the flavor of homemade cakes, plus I really like the whole foods/ingredients in homemade cakes and if I needed one more reason to make a cake from scratch, it would be so I could tell everyone I did it!  I love the oohs and aaahs and it is really about the same amount of time to bake this cake from scratch or from a mix.

Nothing Bundt Cakes
The inspiration for mini bundt cakes comes from the bakery chain called “Nothing Bundt Cakes”. They used red food coloring for the Red Velvet cake in the center of this photo. To get the same color when using beets, omit the chocolate and chocolate chips and stir in 1/2 cup cooked, mashed beets. 
My sister Debbie sent this photo of mini vanilla cakes she made. For vanilla bundt mini cakes, omit chocolate and chocolate chips. For an amazing vanilla flavor, use a high quality real vanilla extract. The vanilla flavor sometimes does not come through in foods but mini bundt cakes do not reach that high of a  temperature  and the vanilla flavor of a good extract with shine through.
My sister Debbie sent this photo of mini vanilla cakes she made.  Omit chocolate and chocolate chips in the following recipe to make  vanilla bundt cakes. For an amazing vanilla flavor, use a high quality real vanilla extract. The vanilla flavor sometimes does not come through in foods but mini bundt cakes do not reach that high of a temperature and the vanilla flavor of a good extract with shine through.
Debbie also made these gorgeous lemon mini bundt cakes. She made a homemade lemon curd and used lemon zest to garnish the mini bundt cakes.
Debbie also made these gorgeous lemon mini bundt cakes. She made a homemade lemon curd and used lemon zest to garnish the mini bundt cakes.  Omit cocoa powder and chcolate chips in following recipe and add 1 teaspoon of lemon flavoring and 2 tablespoons of lemon zest to the cake batter.

 

Bundt cakes are usually decorated with frosting but mango, strawberries and blueberries make a gorgeous presentation.
Bundt cakes are usually decorated with frosting but mango, strawberries and blueberries make a gorgeous presentation.

Both dark chocolate and beets  add antioxidants to Double Chocolate Mini Bundt Cakes.  Make the cake batter without the beets for double chocolate cake. Spoon half of batter into mini bundt cake pans and bake. Add cooked, mashed beets and red food coloring to the remaining batter and bake.  Red velvet cake is often dry, but beets keep the cake moist and tender.

Double Chocolate and Red Velvet Mini Bundt Cakes

1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
1/2 cup dark chocolate pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter and sugar in mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla, eggs and cocoa powder. Combine flour, salt and baking soda in mixing bowl. Stir flour mixture into butter/sugar mixture at the same time as stirring in vinegar and yogurt. Fold in chocolate pieces.

Spray mini bundt cake pans with cooking spray and immediately spoon batter in pans. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until top is slightly moist but springs back when touched.  Turn out of baking pans and allow to cool. Decorate with frosting or fresh fruit.

For Red Velvet Chocolate Cake:  Add 1 teaspoon red food coloring (optional) and 1/2 cup cooked, grated beets.  Microwave 1 beet that is  pricked with a fork for 3 to 4 minutes until tender at 100%.  When cool enough to handle, cut off stem and root end; peel beet. Process in food processor until finely chopped and stir into batter.

Makes about 12 Mini Bundt Cakes

For Vanilla Mini Bundt Cakes: Omit cocoa and chocolate chips. A high quality vanilla will make these mini bundt cakes even better.

For Red Velvet Cake with a strong red color and no food coloring, omit chocolate and chocolate chips. Prepare cooked and mashed beets and stir into batter.

For Lemon Mini Bundt Cake: Omit coca and chocolate chips from main recipe. Stir in 1 teaspoon lemon flavoring and 2 tablespoons lemon juice.

 

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 lb powdered sugar
2 to 4 tablespoons cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt (optional)

Whip cream cheese and butter until smooth. Beat in powdered sugar, cream, vanilla and salt. Beat several minutes or up to 10 minutes for the lightest fluffiest frosting ever. Pipe onto the center of each bundt cake or drizzle lightly over the top.

 

100% Spelt Sourdough Bread

Ancient grains like spelt, leavened with wild yeasts found in sourdough cultures, produce bread that fits on a low FODMAP diet.  Those suffering from IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) or gastrointestinal  (GI) problems after eating processed foods or gluten may actually be reacting to fructans.  Wheat (along with onions) is thought to contribute 95% of the fructans that can cause GI distress. Fructans are carbohydrates that require an enzyme to breakdown. If this enzyme is not available to breakdown the chains of fructose, fructans can cause discomfort.

Spelt is an ancient grain mentioned in the bible as one that can be grown even during a drought. So even though it is a type of wheat, it contians fewer fructans than other varieties of wheat.  The fermentation process that occurs when wild yeasts are used in spelt bread further breakdown any naturally ocurring fructans. The result is a bread that fits well on a low FODMAP diet.

Most spelt bread found in bakeries or grocery stores have only a small amount of spelt flour in them. The rest contain all sorts of grains that do not fit in a low FODMAP diet. Making your own 100% spelt sourdough bread takes just a few special ingredients and only a little hands on time.  Spelt flour is found in most grocery stores or markets that sell specialty flours. I grind my own flour using whole spelt berries from the field or grocery store. It is so amazing for kids and even adults to watch those tiny berries of spelt turn into a flowing river of flour.

4 year old Carson takes his job of holding the cup to catch the freshly ground spelt flour very serious.
Four year-old Carson takes his job of holding the cup to catch the freshly milled spelt very serious.

Spelt has several unique characteristics. Spelt flour absorbs more water than other grains so the dough has a higher hydration and will be slightly stickier than other bread doughs.  Spelt has fewer fructans than other wheat and those are broken down further during the long fermentation period by the bacteria in a sourdough culture.  Refrigerating the dough after it is kneaded is the best way to create the perfect atmosphere for fermentation to take place.

Spelt can be sprouted, rolled like oats or soaked to be used in recipes. For this bread, the spelt is milled into flour and used just like any other flour.

The whole spelt goes into the top of the hopper and can be ground into coarse or fine flour.
The whole spelt grains go into the top of the hopper and can be milled into coarse to very fine flour.

Spelt bread takes a little longer to bake because of the higher level of hydration. The most reliable way to tell when the bread is done is to use a thermometer to determine the internal temperature. Many experts recommend whole grains be baked to 205 degrees but that really depends on how tight the crumb is. This loaf of spelt sourdough was removed from the oven when it reached 200 degrees. The crumb was moist but not doughy.

The internal temperature should be at least 200 degrees for 100% whole grain.
The internal temperature should be at least 200 degrees for 100% whole grain bread.

Spelt bread can be baked in a multitude of shapes. The recipe is perfect for one 9 x 5-inch loaf pan or it can be shaped into two round balls. Slash the top of the loaves to allow for oven spring, that instantaneous  rise when the dough hits the heat of the oven.  The slash in the top of the dough gives a place for the bread to rise.

Spelt bread in loaf pan.
100% whole spelt sourdough bread  can be baked in a loaf pan as well as in a boule shape.  This loaf of bread was slashed down the center to allow for oven rise.

Whole grain breads are known for having a tighter, denser crumb. Several ingredients in this recipe give spelt bread a great flavor and texture. Orange juice contains vitamin C which helps give a good rise to each loaf. Vital wheat gluten is added to give more strength to the cells. The sourdough culture helps increase the keeping quality of the bread. The potato flakes act as a dough conditioner.  All of these together produce a great-tasting loaf.

 

100% Spelt Sourdough bread has a tight, flavorful crumb.
100% whole wheat bread  typically has a tight,dense crumb like the loaf above. The loaf in the photo below is lighter in texture with a wonderful  crumb. The difference is the addition of orange juice to enhance the texture of the crumb, extra gluten to increase the elasticity of the dough and less salt since too much salt interferes with the proofing of the dough.
Start this 100% spelt sourdough bread with a wild yeast culture that is vigorous. Test by spooning a small amount of culture in a dish of water. If it floats, it is ready to use in bread. If you are unsure if it is ready, just add 1/4 teaspoon of quick acting yeast to the recipe to make sure the bread rises well.
Start this 100% spelt sourdough bread with a wild yeast culture that is vigorous. Test by spooning a small amount of culture (aka starter) in a dish of water. If it floats, it is ready to use in bread. If you are unsure if it is ready, just add 1/4 teaspoon of quick acting yeast to the recipe to make sure the bread rises well. Go ahead and add the 1 cup of starter even if you decide to add a little yeast.

100% Spelt Sourdough Bread

1 cup spelt sourdough starter
3 cups spelt flour
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons orange juice
1/4 cup non-fat dry milk powder
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
2 tablespoons instant potato flakes
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons melted butter

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl, mixing well.  Knead until mixture forms a slightly sticky, smooth dough. about 5 to 8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl and turn to bring greased side up. Cover with plastic wrap and store in refrigerator overnight or about 8 to 12 hours.

Form dough into a loaf or two round boules. Place in a greased loaf pan or baking pan.  Cover with plastic wrap.  Let rise for several hours or until almost double in size.

Bake in 375 degree oven for 40 to 45 minutes for loaf shape or until internal temperature reaches 200 degrees.  Two smaller, round boules will bake in about 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool in the pan about 10 minutes and turn out onto a wire rack. Slice and serve warm or store in an airtight container when cool.

 

Panettone

 

Andria and Ashley found one of the perks of living in Italy included a short walk to the bakery for fresh bread. The bread loaves in Fabriano were baked without salt which took a little getting use to.  Panettone, on the other hand, was love at first bite.  A wonderful, orange zest-flavored sweet bread with an iconic shape  defines Panettone.   At Christmas, this was the gift Andria was given from her place of work.

To achieve the traditional shape, Panettone molds made of paper can be purchased in kitchen stores and online. They work well but  I improvised using an empty tin can. I removed the contents, took off the label, cleaned it well, sprayed it with non-stick baking spray and filled. It worked beautifully. The trick is to fill the can at least 2/3 full so that when it rises, it is above the can rim and blooms into a beautiful Panettone shape.

The can contains the shape until the dough rises above the rim and then the dough can bloom into the beautiful. traditional Panettone shape.
Baking the panettone in a tin can creates the perfect shape. The can contains the dough until it rises above the rim and then the dough can bloom into the beautiful, traditional Panettone shape.

The European term for a sourdough starter is a “pre-ferment” or a “levin”.  A starter can also be called a “culture” but all of these terms are referring to the same wild yeast fermentation process which  can be used with or without purchased yeast. A starter gives  Panettone a little more flavor and a longer shelf-life.  The following recipe calls for a starter. Use the one you have or follow the directions on this blog to create a starter. If you do not want to take the time to make a starter, it can be omitted, just adding slightly more flour or water to make a soft, almost sticky dough.

Panettone, a favorite sweet bread at Christmas in Italy, is beautiful with only a few almonds and pearl sugar decorating the top.
Panettone, a favorite sweet bread at Christmas in Italy, is beautiful with only a few almonds and pearl sugar decorating the top.

 

Dried apricots, pineapple,  craisins and almonds are secretly hidden in the center of each panettone, making for a delicious surprise when it is sliced.
Dried apricots, pineapple, craisins and almonds are secretly hidden in the center of each panettone, making for a delicious surprise when it is sliced.

Panettone
3 cups bread flour
3 tablespoons gluten
2/3 cup water
1/2 cup active starter
1 tablespoon instant yeast
3 eggs
1/2 cup butter, softened
½ cup sugar
1 ¼ teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon orange oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract
½ cup golden raisins
½ cup chopped dried apricots
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup chopped dried pineapple
1/2 cup sliced almonds, divided
2 tablespoons each grated orange and lemon zest

Combine all of the ingredients, except dried fruit and nuts, in a stand mixing bowl and mix just until combined. Then use dough hook and knead for about 5 to 10 minutes or until dough is smooth and soft.  Fold in dried fruits and nuts. Cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise for about 2 hours or until puffy and slightly risen. Spoon dough into a panettone mold or a can that has been sprayed with non-stick baking spray. Container should be about ¾ full. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 1 to 1 ½ hours or until light and slightly risen. Brush with egg white that has been mixed with 1 tablespoon of water. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sliced almonds and pearled sugar. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 45 minutes or until no longer doughy. Let cool about 10 minutes and remove from mold unless paper molds are used which the Panettone can be cooled and served in.

Tips:

If Panettone is browning too quickly, cover with foil the last 15 to 20  minutes of baking.

Panettone is traditionally cooled upside down and can be cooled by carefully inserting skewers into the bread and hanging bread on a cooling rack, upside down.

Secret for Crusty, Flavorful Bread – Fermentation

Every bakery has fresh bread but there is only one place in the whole world that can produce  crusty, warm bread that you can sink your teeth into  just minutes out of the oven. That one special place is your own kitchen.

Artisan  breads are often seen as so amazing and elusive  that only specialty bakeries can produce a true loaf. It has not has always been that way. There was a time when every log home, covered wagon and sod grass hut had homemade bread. It was made with whatever ingredients were on hand whether it be milled corn, rye or later on wheat.  Only three ingredients were necessary and even those could be changed depending upon what crop was harvested and when. Today, recipes sometimes suggest the precision of a scale but in days when bread was made in every home,  flour was more likely measured by handfuls before measuring cups and spoons or scales were available.  It was and still is a simple process: Wild yeast was introduced into a grain and water mixture. The gasses this produces leavens the bread. This type of dough takes time  and develops a complex depth of flavor. Nothing more complicated than mixing flour, salt and water.

Making bread today can be just as easy. Use any combination of grains for a variety of different loaves.  They all start with the same fermented flour and water mixture. Below is a photo of the flour and water mixture when bubbles break the surface after the mixture has started fermenting.

The bubbles rise to the surface and burst as sugars ferment and create gas that leavens bread.
The bubbles rise to the surface and burst as sugars ferment and create gas that leavens bread.

Starter can be made with 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour with 2 tablespoons of whole wheat, rye or spelt flour added. Combine flours and water in a mason jar and allow to stand on the counter for a day or two  or until bubbles form on the top (I had some bubbles coming to the surface after 30 hours so I was ready to move to the feeding step).  To feed starter,  add  1/2 cup each of water and flour.  Allow to stand for another day or two. Repeat this until a starter is created that can float on water as seen in the photo below. If the starter fills more than half of the mason jar, discard half of the starter before adding more flour and water. I like the consistency of the starter to be similar to a very thick pancake batter but just about any consistency will work.

Test the strength of your starter by spooning a small amount in a bowl of water. If it floats, it means it is strong and vigorous enough to leaven your bread.
Test the strength of your starter by spooning a small amount in a bowl of water. If it floats, it means it is strong and vigorous enough to leaven your bread.

When your starter walks on water (aka floats on water), it is ready for baking. Combine 1 cup starter and several different grains like 2 tablespoons spelt, oatmeal, wheat germ, rye, or barley. Mix just until a shaggy mass forms either by hand, in a mixer, food processor or bread machine. Let stand for several hours, covered in a greased bowl.  Fold the dough over on itself a few times and let stand covered for one hour in a greased bowl.  Repeat folding and resting one more time and then the dough is ready to form into a loaf.  A bread machine can be used to mix the dough (see the following photo) and then turn off the machine to allow the dough to rest.

Whether the dough is kneaded by hand or machine, it should be soft and supple with more water for whole grain flour than white flour and more water for bread with an open crumb versus a bread with a tight texture often seen in 100% whole grain breads.
Whether the dough is mixed by hand or machine, it should be soft and supple with more water for whole grain flour than white flour and more water for bread with an open crumb versus a bread with a tight texture often seen in 100% whole grain breads.

Once the dough has been rested and folded over, gently shape it for French bread or into a ball for artisan whole wheat bread. Let bread rise until almost double in size. It can take 1 to 2 hours in a warm room or over 8 hours in a cool place like the refrigerator. Allow refrigerated bread come to room temperature at least 1 hour before baking. Place a pan in the bottom of the oven while it is preheating and pour boiling water into it just as the loaves are put in the oven. This will create steam and a light, crispy baguette.  Bake at 375 degrees on a preheated stone for 30 minutes or until interior of bread reaches 205 degrees. I usually let the bread rise until about 45 minutes or one hour before serving time so that it is coming out of the oven just in time for warm bread to grace the table.

Artisan Bread

1 cup of starter
1 cup water
3 1/2 to 3 3/4 cups flour (white or whole grain or combination)
1 Tablespoon sugar or honey
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl, using just enough flour to form a wet, shaggy dough. Stir and cover.    Let dough sit out on counter in a greased and covered bowl several hours. Fold dough over on itself a few times and let rest 1 hour.  Form into two loaves and place on parchment paper, a floured towel or in baking dish that has been sprayed with non-stick spray. Cover with plastic wrap or damp towel.  Let rise 1 to 2 hours or until double in size. Slide loaves onto a preheated baking stone, or if baking on a baguette sheet pan or stainless steel sheet, bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 30 minutes or until loaf has a hollow sound when tapped.  Serve warm.

Antipasto Platter Features a Tower of Brie

How many engineers does it take to plan, design and execute antipasto platters for Andria’s wedding. In this case, it was 6 engineers, 2 doctors of physical therapy and 1 with a MS in social work to plan and design a tower of brie cheese surrounded with just the perfect tiny bites.   Three stacked rounds of cheese made tiers resembling a wedding cake. The towering cheeses were the starting place for antipasto platters to be served at Andria’s wedding.

Hilary Austin, Samantha Kallman, Tessa Mauer, Shelby Jones, Andria Nyenhuis, Ciera Sebelius, Jordanna Pedersen, Sara Small, Abby DeWitt work out the plan for antipasto boards.
Hilary Austin, Samantha Kallman, Tessa Mauer, Shelby Jones, Andria Nyenhuis, Ciera Sebelius, Jordanna Pedersen, Sara Small, Abby DeWitt work out the plan for antipasto boards.

Andria and her fiance’ made 90 cutting boards for serving the 5 course meal. The first course, an antipasto platter, took a little creative action when Andria and Friends got together.

SONY DSC

Andria and Friends tried all kinds of different arrangements to see which one would make the best display for the wedding platters. Determining the flavors that went best together was the next goal. Antipasto typically is made up of cured meats, dried fruits, marinated vegetables and cheeses. So the analysis also included exactly which ingredients would surround the brie-mini -wedding-cakes.   The slight tang of fresh grapes paired well with the cheese. The rest of the antipasto platter pulled together really quickly by arranging nuts, dried fruit and crackers at the base of the trio of brie rounds.

Antipasto trays in production.  The wood for the trees came from the farm in Iowa. Greg and Andria designed and made them with help from family.
Antipasto trays in production. The wood for the trees came from the farm in Iowa. Greg and Andria designed and made them with help from family.

A rose made from prosciutto and thinly sliced cheese garnished each tray.  It was made by placing 1 slice of prosciutto on one slice of cheese.  Starting at narrow end, roll cheese up with prosciutto in the center. Ruffle out the prosciutto and cheese slightly to give the roll a rose petal effect.  Place a toothpick through all of the layers at the base of the meat and cheese.

The rose is created with a slice of prosciutto and a slice of cheese, rolled and held in place with a toothpick.
The rose is created with a slice of prosciutto and a slice of cheese, rolled and held in place with a toothpick.

Antipasta Platters

Start with three different sizes of brie set up on top of the other for a “mini wedding cake”.

Add an assortment of  Italian inspired tiny bites such as:
Cured Meats: Prosciutto, hard salami, pancetta
Dried fruit: Apricots, dates
Fresh Fruit: Figs, red grapes, green grapes
Marinated Vegetables: Peppadews, tomatoes
Olives: Castelvetrano, Cerignola
Bread Sticks, foccaccia bread,
Crackers, cheese straws
Parmesan Reggio Cheese, feta, fresh mozzarella
Fresh herbs: Rosemary, basil, bay
Nuts: Almonds, pecans

Arrange tiny bites around brie and serve as a first course.

 

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The tables were beautiful and the antipasto platters were a perfect centerpiece.

Macadamia Crusted Mahi Mahi

Sometimes a meal is special because of an event and other times it is special for the food itself. There was one specific meal that I will always remember because of the event and it just happened that the food was really special too.

Coulter would be deployed with the United States Marine Corps the next day but just for the evening we had a little precious time with him for a meal together. Dave and I flew across the country to see him off.  Little did we know that one of his men were killed in a motorcycle accident and another one was in the hospital. He attended the funeral  and then needed to head to the hospital to visit the other marine. That meant we had literally 2 hours to spend with him. We went to a restaurant in San Diego  that Coulter chose. It was a memorable meal in that goodbyes before a deployment are never easy but I remember how proud I felt. He was putting himself out there for his marines, for his country and for us.  It was one of those meals where the food was not really that important compared to having he chance to share heart to heart with him, but it turned out that the food was exceptionally good. Dave ordered Macadamia Crusted Mahi Mahi and I still remember it as special.  The following recipe recreates the flavorful  macadamia nut topping and the beautiful texture of the mahi mahi.

In recreating this recipe, it needed to have a crunching topping  and the fish all perfectly done at the same time. To achieve this, the fish is cooked for about 5 minutes before the topping is added. By adding the macadamia nut topping to the partially baked fish, both the fish and topping  come out perfectly done at the same time.

Mahi Mahi is done when it turns from  translucent to opaque white and it flakes easily when a fork is inserted into the center of the fillet. The reason the fish turns color is because the heat denatures the proteins as they reach a specific temperature. It is similar to what happens to egg white as heat is applied. The egg white turns from a clear liquid to an opaque white. It is difficult to take the temperature of most fish fillets because they are too thin for a thermometer to accurately record the temperature. Just as reliable as a number on a thermometer is the change of the fish color.  If there is any difficulty seeing a change in color, a backup test is inserting a fork in the thickest part of the fillet and twisting it slightly to see if the fish flakes. When the fork test shows flakes of fish as well as white, opaque flesh, the fish is done.

A Mango Salsa with just a touch of citrus balances the saltiness of the macadamia crusted fish.
A Mango Salsa with just a touch of citrus balances the saltiness of the macadamia crusted fish.

We just happened to have fresh mahi mahi for this recipe but most other fish can be used. The time can be increased 4 to 5 minutes for thicker fish or decreased a little for thinner fillets. Using a fork to check if the fish flakes easily and looking for a change in color of the flesh are both doneness tests that work on any fish.  Fish does continue to cook a little after it is removed from the oven so allow it to stand a few minutes before serving.

Macadamia Crusted Mahi Mahi

2  pounds mahi mahi
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup unsweetened canned coconut milk
1 cup macadamia nuts|
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

Mango Salsa

2 fresh mangoes
1/4 cup cilantro , chopped
1 tablespoon fresh Thai basil
1 jalapeno, minced
1 tablespoon lime juice

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place fish on foiled lined baking sheet that has been coated with non-stick cooking spray. Sprinkle both sides of fish with salt and pepper. Bake for 5 minutes. Spoon coconut milk over fish. Combine nuts, bread crumbs and butter in food processor and process until coarsely chopped. Top fish with nut and bread crumb mixture. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes longer or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

Combine all ingredients for mango salsa and serve with fish.

Makes 6 servings

 

Carson takes his fishing serious. A sting ray was the first thing he ever caught and it caught everyone in the boat by surprise.
Carson takes his fishing seriously A sting ray was the first thing he ever caught and it caught everyone in the boat by surprise.

 

 

 

Ashley and Dave took over the fishing pole after Carson caught a sting ray, but they are at a loss of what to do with it.
Ashley and Dave took over the fishing pole after Carson caught a sting ray, but they are at a loss of what to do with it.

 

 

Homemade Mozzarella Cheese

I have been putting off making homemade mozzarella cheese because it seemed complicated, but once I got my ingredients together, it was done in less than a half hour.  This is one of my bucket-list foods to make, and I was so excited with the results.

My inspiration for this recipe was a dairy farmer who sold milk out of the back of his red pickup truck. I called him on the phone and he said, “Just look for the red Dodge in the Tractor Supply parking lot”. Sure enough, I found him and the milk was straight from the cow. Goats milk or milk from the store can also be used.

Milk, citric acid and vegetable rennet are the only ingredients I needed. A thermometer assures I do not overheat the milk.  It is as easy as heating the milk to 95 degrees and adding the dissolved citric acid.  I heat the milk a little more to 110 degrees and stir in the quarter of a rennet tablet. To my amazement, the curds started forming immediately. I simply removed the curds and drained the whey. I used the microwave to heat the curds for about 20 seconds so they could be stretched. The curds have to reach 135 degrees so they can be stretched and folded back on itself to form a ball. Pretty simple.

 

When the liquid is yellow and the white curds start forming, drain off the liquid whey. Save the high protein whey for making smoothies, bread or substitute for the liquid in other baked products.
When the liquid is yellow and the white curds start forming, drain off the liquid whey. Save the high protein whey for making smoothies, bread or substitute for the liquid in other baked products.

 

The curds start to form in just a few minutes after adding the vegetable rennet and citric acid to warm milk.
The curds start to form in just a few minutes after adding the vegetable rennet and citric acid to warm milk.

 

At this point, the cheese needs to be warmed to 135 degrees and stretched in order to become smooth.
At this point, the cheese needs to be warmed to 135 degrees and stretched in order to become smooth.

 

The fresh mozzarella ball is warmed, stretched and becomes a beautiful, smooth ball. It is ready to slice and serve.
The fresh mozzarella ball is warmed, stretched and becomes a beautiful, smooth ball. It is ready to slice and serve.

 

Fresh Mozzarella

1 gallon whole milk
1 1/2 cups cool water
1/4 vegetable rennet tablet
1 1/2 teaspoon citric acid
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

Pour milk into a 5-quart pan.  Dissolve the citric acid in 1 cup of water in a small bowl,  Stir into milk.  Heat milk to 90 degrees over medium heat, stirring 5 or 6 times.  Meanwhile dissolve the rennet in the remaining 1/2 cup of water.  When milk reaches 90 degrees, stir in rennet solution.  Use a gentle up and down motion and stir for about 30 seconds.  Heat the milk to 105 degrees. The milk will start to coagulate.

As the curds start to form, gently stir for 1 minute. The curds are white and shiny like yogurt. The whey is yellow.  Turn off after the one minute of stirring. If the milk is all white and has not started to separate into curds and whey, heat the milk a little longer but to no higher than 110 degrees max.

Spoon the curds into a microwave-safe dish. Gently hold the cheese curds so that they whey can be drained off.  Gently remove as much liquid from the curds and place curds in the dish. Microwave the curds for about 20 seconds or until about 135 degrees. Add the sea salt. Gently stretch and fold the cheese back on itself just 2 to 3 times. Shape the cheese into a ball and served immediately. It will keep up to 1 week but is best eaten the day it is made.

 

Paige working hard at making sure the curds are soft and stirred gently.
Paige working hard at making sure the curds are soft and stirred gently.

 

Blueberry Cinnamon Roll Bread

It is blueberry season in Florida, but we just visited Ashley and family in the Midwest where the snow is  melting off.  It reminds me of the first green wheat sprouting up from the black, rich Iowa soil, sometimes even peeking out from a snow covered field. I can still remember my Dad explaining the difference of these first green sprigs of wheat and the wheat that would ripen late in the year. This wheat planted in the fall and allowed to sit in the soil over the winter is a hard, red wheat which is wonderful for bread baking. It creates a beautiful loaf of bread. Crusty outside with a tender crumb.

For that beautiful loaf, a gentle kneading action may create the perfect gluten formation but a great texture only happens with a flour made from wheat with the optimum protein content. Gluten is a protein and the harder the wheat the higher the protein content. King Arthur makes a bread flour with a higher protein content but I was surprised to learn that some of the best bakeries in the country use all purpose King Arthur flour. It gives a rustic looking peasant loaf.

Premier bakeries use this commercial flour labled Sir Galahand which is the same as  King Arthur flour labeld as unbleached, all purpose flour.
Premier bakeries use this commercial flour labeled Sir Galahad which is the same as King Arthur flour, sold and  labeled as unbleached, all purpose flour in most grocery stores.

A few years ago it would have been hard to find specialty flour but now there is a wide variety found in many larger grocery stores. The flour choice determines how much strength the gluten has and how much kneading is optimum.

Cast Iron is a great substitute for a wood fired clay bread oven.
Cast Iron is a great substitute for a wood fired clay bread oven.

The following recipe suggests kneading 5 to 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. This takes a little experience but most breads will turn out well even if it is kneaded a little too long or a few minutes shy of the optimum. Blueberries tucked into the center of the loaf are so delectable in the bread that it is impossible to complain about anything like kneading or texture. In the photo below, whole wheat is used in the dough. Just substitute 1 cup of whole wheat flour for 1 cup of all-purpose flour.

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I use fresh blueberries and roll them up in the center of the dough but a bakery in Elk River, MN that makes this kind of bread also uses rhubarb or apples and calls it Apple Fritter Bread.  I tasted a similar bread from a bakery in Pella, Iowa where the apples are mixed in with the dough before the last rising. It is called simply “Apple Bread”. Even though that was 40 years ago it has remained one of my favorites.
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Bake the bread in a loaf pan, clay or cast iron. Each creates just a slightly different crust but each loaf is a delicious. I use the lids to keep the dough from drying out while it rises but bake the bread uncovered.

My favorite bread pans are stoneware with a lid. They  functions as a bread baker with similar results as an oven with a stone.
My favorite bread pans is stoneware with a lid. Stoneware functions as a bread baker with similar results as an oven with a stone.

A loaf-shaped pan is  nice for producing a slicing bread.  When Andria was living in Italy, I noticed that European breads are often round, bole’  or baguette shaped.  In the US, the traditional shape comes form a loaf pan. The Fritter bread I buy at a local bakery  is loaf shaped as pictured below.

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Blueberry Cinnamon Roll Bread

1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup non-fat powdered milk
2 teaspoons fast acting yeast, proofed in 2 T water
1  teaspoons salt
1/4 cup sugar
¼ cup butter, melted
1 egg
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Filling:
1/4 cup softened butter
1 cup fresh blueberries
1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

In a large bowl, combine  water, dry milk powder,  yeast, salt, sugar, butter, egg, and flour until a shaggy dough. Knead until smooth (about 5 to 10 minutes). Let rise until double in bulk, about 1 to 1 ½ hours. Roll into an 6 x 10-inch rectangle.

For filling, spread butter, blueberries, sugar and cinnamon over dough and roll up with filling in the center. Place in loaf pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Let rise until almost double, about 1 hour. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until no longer doughy. Let stand 10 minutes and turn out of pan. Cool, slice and serve while slightly warm.