Sunday, March 30, 2014

Logan Bread

As soon as I saw the recipe for Logan Bread I was fascinated and wanted to bake a batch.

You see there is a claim at the beginning of the recipe that states that a 2-by-2-inch square of the bread will sustain a man for a day. And at the end of the recipe it says the recipe yields enough squares of the bread to sustain two men for 16 days.
The statement at the beginning of the recipe that caught my attention.

The recipe makes 32 squares or as the recipe states, enough to sustain two men 16 days.
The cookbook from my childhood. I remember loving the cover art.

The recipe for Logan Bread comes from "The New York Times Natural Foods Cookbook," by Jean Hewitt and published in 1971. According to the book, the recipe is called Logan Bread because it was developed for numerous Canadian ascents on Mount Logan.

The cookbook was passed onto me from my parents and as a teenager I remember making a really good recipe for Oatmeal Bread from it but somehow missed seeing the Logan Bread recipe until a few weeks ago when I was just flipping through the pages.

Now of course sustaining and satisfying are not the same, so I think eating just a square of this bread for a whole day wouldn't be much fun. But after making and tasting the bread, I can definitely see why you wouldn't starve.

The bread is dense and made with nutrient rich ingredients like wheat germ, sesame seeds, powdered dry milk and whole wheat flour. There also is a good amount of sweetness from honey, molasses and raw sugar.

The bread is made by mixing all of the ingredients together in one bowl and it requires no kneading or rising. 

In the recipe it states to bake the bread in a roasting pan, with no mention as to the size of the pan. I ended up baking it in two pans, one was 9x13 and the other was 10x14. I also increased the baking time by 25 minutes.

The original recipe called for baking the bread for one hour but when I checked it I could tell that it was still doughy in the middle. 

After baking, you should cut the bread into squares and set them on a cooling rack to dry out a bit before individually wrapping and enjoying when you are in a rush and need some serious sustenance. Store the bread in the refrigerator.

Here's the recipe with my alterations:

Logan Bread
1 quart water
4 pounds whole wheat flour
1 1/2 pounds raw sugar or brown sugar
12 ounces non-fat dry milk solids
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 tablespoons sea salt
2 cups honey
1 cup blackstrap molasses
1 1/2 cups oil (I used canola)
1 cup sesame seeds
1 1/2 cups wheat germ

Preheat oven to 300 degrees and grease two baking pans (9x13 to 10x14).

In a very large bowl mix all the ingredients together very well. Divide the batter between the two baking pans and bake for 1 hour and 25 minutes or until brown and baked through.
Put all the ingredients into one bowl.

Mix well.

Divide the dough among two greased baking pans.

Bake for an hour and 25 minutes and cut into 2x2 squares.

Cut the bread into 2x2-inch squares and allow them to air-dry until semi-dry. Individually wrap the squares with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.

Let the squares air-dry until they are semi-dry before individually wrapping.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Cherry Peach Pie

Two cherry peach pies that are ready for their top crust.

Fruit pie making is fun because there is lots of room for flexibility. The only recipe you need is one for the pie crust and then the filling is up to you — berries, peaches, cherries, apples, pears, rhubarb - any fruit, frozen or fresh, works.

Toss the fruit of your choice with the desired amount of sugar (about 1/2 cup for naturally sweet fruits like peaches and blueberries and up to a full cup for tart fruits like sour cherries and rhubarb) and add some flour or cornstarch to thicken (between 3 and 6 tablespoons depending on how juicy the fruit) and you've got pie filling. Other nice additions like cinnamon, ginger and vanilla are up to you.

It's also fun to experiment with mixed fruit combinations like this Cherry Peach Pie that I recently made with my friends Anne and Tiffany. I brought the crust ingredients, Anne brought the cherries and Tiffany brought the peaches and in no time we had two pies baking in the oven. It's liberating not to feel limited to a recipe.

So pick your fruit and go bake a pie.

Here's the only recipe you'll need, the one for pie crust:

Pie Crust
3 cups flour
1 cup Crisco
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup ice water

In a large bowl, combine flour, salt and sugar. Add Crisco and using your fingers, break it into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs with some large pieces remaining.

Add the water, a few tablespoons at a time until the dough is moist enough to easily pull together into a ball. Make sure you add enough water since a dry dough is difficult to roll out. Divide dough in half and roll out on a floured surface for the bottom and top crusts.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Spring Break Helpers

Elise, Kayla and Eleanor were on dessert duty today. They dished up ice cream and made pudding.

It was a really busy day at the Wednesday Community Meal.  So we were lucky to have extra help from some energetic students who are on Spring Break.
Zane prepped potatoes, sliced pears and made the vegetarian option of the day using beautiful big mushrooms gleaned from Food Front Cooperative Grocery in Hillsdale.

We served 454 meals during our two hour service. We changed our menu a few times today but most of the guests got homemade enchilada casserole as their entree. Of course we also served soup, salad and dessert.

The enchilada casserole that was the main entree of the day. Ava helped make and serve it.
Colin served dessert in the dining room.

Thank you Zane, Ava, Elise, Colin, Kayla and Eleanor for helping us out. I really appreciate it!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

If you need a last minute crowd pleasing treat, these Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies are just the thing to make.

The recipe calls for shortening instead of butter which makes a chewier cookie which is what I prefer. If you want a crisper cookie you could substitute half of the shortening for butter.

A good dose of sea salt and using premium dark chocolate chips (I use Callebaut) are what makes these cookies really stand out.

Only one bowl is needed to mix them up and in no time you'll have fresh baked cookies and the best smelling house on the block. The recipe makes five dozen 2-inch cookies.

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
(makes 5 dozen cookies)

1 cup shortening
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt
4 cups old fashioned oatmeal
2 cups dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl cream together the shortening, sugars and vanilla.  Add the eggs, baking soda and salt. Mix well. Add the flour and mix again.

Adding the flour.

Mixing in the flour.

Finally stir in the oatmeal and chocolate chips.

Add the oatmeal and dark chocolate chips.
After stirring, the dough is ready to scoop.

Scoop 1-inch balls and place 2-inchs apart on lightly greased or parchment lined sheetpans. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown.

Cookies that are ready to bake.

Let the cookies cool a bit on the sheetpan before transferring them to cooling racks.

Mmmmm warm cookies!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Big Batch Cookie Tips

About a third of my recent big batch of clover cookies.

Sugar cookies are not something you whip up last minute.

It takes time to make the dough, roll out the dough, cut the cookies, bake the cookies, make the royal icing, color the royal icing, fill the piping bags, decorate and finally an average of 8 hours for the cookies just to dry.

Don't get me wrong, I love making and decorating cookies and consider it my fun artistic outlet. It's just not something you should jump into without careful thought.

This is especially true when you want to make a really big batch of decorated sugar cookies. I recently agreed to make 250 clover cookies for a concert and decided I should make a list of tips in case you find yourself in similar circumstances.

I hope this helps.

Big Batch Sugar Cookie Tips

1. Make sure you have the time — It took me two full days just to bake and decorate the 250 clover cookies and one day for them to dry and I work fairly fast. You don't want to feel rushed when you are making decorated cookies because that's when mistakes happen and you get frustrated. If you over estimate the time you need by a full day, you won't regret it.

2.Make a few extra cookies — I always make an extra dozen cookies because things happen like your finger touches the wet icing or your husband snitches one from the counter. In the end, you don't want to be short.

3.Choose a doable design — Some cookie designs are just not suitable for a big batch. Designs that are overly intricate, have too many colors or too many steps will drive you insane. Save these tricky little buggers for small batches and pick something simple when you have to make hundreds. The clover cookies were a good choice since they require only two colors and come together quickly.

4. Get your supplies together before you start — When you have a big project ahead, you don't want to be making multiple store runs while you work. Figure out the quantity of everything you'll need and get it before you start. For 250 2-inch cookies I needed 5 batches of dough and 3 batches of royal icing — That's 2 1/2 pound of butter and 3 pounds of powdered sugar.

5. Clean and clear up space —Making and decorating cookies is always more pleasant if you start with a clean kitchen. You are going to need a lot of clear open counter space for the decorating and drying so you want to have this space ready for all the cookies before you start.

6. Stay positive — A good attitude is important when you are making the same cookie over and over and over again. Don't rush and think of how great they'll look when they are done. Playing some happy music while you work also helps keep your spirits high.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Just Enough For Everyone

Today's lunch of roast chicken and rice. We garnished the plates with sliced apples and cantaloup from The Oregon Food Bank.
Today was one of those rare days at the Wednesday Community Meal when we served a hearty meal to every single person who came to our door and in the end had nothing left over.

Considering we have no idea how many people we will serve each week because the meal is free and everyone is welcome, this is a rare feat indeed.

I honestly don't know how or why but everything worked out just perfectly.

We served 348 meals today. For the first 200 meals or so, we served oven-roasted chicken, rice, salad, soup and dessert. Then we moved on to serving food gleaned from Good Samaritan Hospital and Phil's Uptown Meat Market — Chicken Satay, Ribs, Fried Fish, Green Curry or Beef Curry alongside salad, soup and dessert.

The salads we served today.
Dessert today was homemade apple crisp made by Cheryl.

Of course if more people came to our door we wouldn't have turned them away for lack of food. We had a backup stash of pizza in our refrigerator that was generously donated from Pizza Schmizza on Northwest 21st ready if we needed it.

And if so, we would have heated up the pizza in a heartbeat because we aim to feed everyone who comes to our door.

Don't worry about that pizza going to waste. On other days of the week people can come to the door of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral for a bag of canned food, so we'll hand out the pizza tomorrow as an extra treat. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Brown Soda Bread

Homemade Brown Soda Bread

I had no idea what soda bread was until I first encountered it Northern Ireland where I lived for a short time in the early 90s.

There, soda bread was everywhere, the round and rustic flour coated loaves prominently displayed in bakery windows and slices served with pats of butter in restaurants.

After buying a loaf to try for myself I determined that I really liked soda bread and deemed it a very tasty hybrid of a biscuit and bread.

There was no need to make homemade soda bread in Northern Ireland since it was readily available and cheap. Irish bakeries typically sell three versions of soda bread — white, brown and currant. My favorite is brown which is made with half whole-wheat and half unbleached self-rising flour.

Once I was back in the states though finding soda bread was a different story. Not many eat it here except maybe at an Irish restaurant or pub or for St. Patrick's Day. If I wanted to continue enjoying soda bread, and I definitely did, I had to make it for myself.

The leavening in soda bread comes from self-rising flour which is just flour mixed with a bit of baking powder and salt and baking soda, hence the name soda bread. The bread is very easy to make since it contains few ingredients, doesn't need to rise and bakes in just 25 to 30 minutes.

You can buy self-rising flour in the grocery store but it is much less expensive if you make it yourself. For every cup of flour, just add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder. With this recipe you can easily make self-rising flour when you need it at your convenience.

Here is the recipe for Brown Soda Bread:

Brown Soda Bread
(makes 2 loaves)
2 cups self-rising wheat flour
2 cups self-rising unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 to 3 cups buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease or line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, mix the self-rising flours with the baking soda. Make a well in the middle of the mixture and add enough buttermilk to moisten the ingredients and form a soft dough.
Make a well in the flour mixture and add enough buttermilk to form a soft dough.

Turn half of the dough onto a well floured surface and pat into an 8-inch round. Place the round onto the baking tray and with a floured knife score the dough into eighths, pressing the knife into 1/3 of the depth of the dough.
A scored loaf ready for the oven.
Repeat with the second half of dough and bake the loaves for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown and the bread sounds hollow when tapped with the fingers.
Loaves of just-baked brown soda bread.
A slice ready to be enjoyed.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Irish Spice Cake

Flavorful Irish Spice Cake is just the thing to serve at your St. Patrick's Day celebration. It's spicy, not too sweet and very satisfying. 

A bonus is that it takes just 15 minutes to get the cake ready for the oven. A square of this rich cake that's coated with a tart lemon glaze and spiked with raisins and hearty doses of ginger and allspice is a traditional Irish treat and especially nice served with a dollop of softly whipped cream.

Irish Spice Cake
1 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1 cup water
1 cup raisins
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 tablespoons boiling water
2 eggs
1 tablespoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 to 10-inch square pan and line the base with a strip of parchment paper that extends over two opposite sides. Also butter the parchment.
The prepared baking dish.

In large sauce pan, combine the butter, sugar, corn syrup and cup of water. Cook over medium heat until the butter is melted, stirring constantly.
Combine the butter, sugar, corn syrup and water in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until the butter is melted.

Remove the mixture from the heat and add the raisins. Set this aside to cool slightly.
Remove the butter/sugar mixture from the heat and stir in the raisins.

In medium sized bowl, dissolve the baking soda in the 2 tablespoons of boiling water. Add the eggs, salt, ginger and allspice and whisk well.

Dissolve the baking soda in the 2 tablespoons of boiling water.

To the baking soda mixture, add the eggs, salt, ginger and allspice.

Stir until well combined and add to the butter/sugar/raisin mixture.
Add this mixture to the butter/sugar/raisin mixture.

Finally, add the flour and mix until well combined and smooth.
Finally, add the flour.

Whisk until smooth.

Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish and bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until done and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
The cake before baking.

Let the cake cool a bit in the pan before removing and placing on a cooling rack.

The baked spice cake.
After cooling for a bit, the spice cake lifts easily out of the pan.

While the cake is still warm, drizzle with the lemon glaze.

Lemon Glaze
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2/3 cup powdered sugar

Whisk the lemon juice and sugar together until smooth. Drizzle evenly over the warm cake.

Drizzle the glaze over the cake while it is still warm.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

St. Patrick's Day Cookies

Simple shamrock cookies for St. Patrick's Day. There are also a few lucky four leaf clovers in the bunch.
All it takes to make a pretty assortment of more than three dozen St. Patrick's Day shamrock cookies is one afternoon, one batch of sugar cookie dough and two colors of  royal icing.

These cookies are so easy and the perfect project for novice cookie decorators. For the shamrock design, made using two colors and the wet on wet technique, you don't even need to bake any special shaped cookies. 

I used a variety of scalloped square and round cutters but you could add the shamrock decoration to any shape. Heck, you could even use a plain old drinking glass to cut the cookies.

For a tutorial on how to decorate the solid green shamrock cookies click here.

And, here is how to add a shamrock design to cookies:
Outline the cookies with white piping consistency royal icing. Let the outline dry for a bit while you fill two piping bags, fitted with #2 tips, with flood consistency white and green royal icing. Flood an outlined cookie with the white icing.

Use a skewer or scribe tool to evenly distribute the icing. Giving the cookie a gentle shake also helps.

Immediately add three drops of the green icing

Use a skewer or scribe tool to draw through one of the dots.

Wipe the skewer or scribe clean with a paper towel and draw through a second dot.

Again wipe your tool clean and draw through the last dot. And there you have it, a cute little shamrock cookie. Boy that was easy.

When you get the hang of it, you can work fast, decorating three cookies at a time.

Super cute.

It's also fun to make a few four leaf clovers. To do this, just add four green dots instead of three.

For the larger cookies I added a shamrock to each corner.

Just swipe through the green dots, working towards the center and being careful to wipe the tool you are using after each swipe.

Be sure to let the cookies dry completely before serving or packaging. This usually takes 6 to 8 hours.