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Sourdough wheat pizza blends delicate, rustic flavor

I am reasonably sure I’ll never find “the dough” for me.  Of course, I used to say that about soul mates until The Bride came along, so I’ve learned never to say never, at least with much conviction. Hence, “reasonably sure” sounds more accurate.

More than once we’ve eaten our Friday night “make in” Pizza and The Bride’s spoken with a bite still in her mouth, her hand at her chin to catch stray cheese and her mouth in a bit of an Ah shape to guard against the heat all while saying, “This is Effin good.”

“Really?” I ask.

She’d swallow and say, “Yeah, this is the best you’ve made. Don’t change a thing.”

Then I go and change it. So instead of asking her now if she likes it, I say, “But is it as good as Tony’s?”

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It never is. It’s almost an unfair question because I’m not sure anyone will ever be as good as Tony’s.  Case in point:

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This thing is SOO MUCH better than it looks. And when you write a beautiful, definitive, perhaps THE ONLY pizza cookbook a person needs like this:

 

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…you got it going on. So it’s no shame not to be better than @tonyspizza415, and it gives me license to keep experimenting with doughs in search of ms. right.

All of which leads me to … my sourdough wheat pizza crust. In it, I used many of the tricks I have tried other times, including:

  • working some seminola into the dough for that complex texture and durability it provides,
  • using an egg (which I normally only use in pasta dough) because I’m told it adds a bit of bite to the crust along with some lightness to counteract the heaviness of the wheat,
  • a sourdough starter I made from 50 percent whole white wheat and 50 percent bread flour,
  • and my usual dashes of salt garlic and olive oil.
  • After about five minutes of kneading the grittier dough started to mesh with the lighter ingredients to become a sturdy, yet silky ball in my hands. I felt a great deal of promise lay in the bowl as I oiled it and set it for a good few hours of rise.

Note: I normally don’t do a lot of kneading or excessive rising for my pizza doughs. The simplicity of it is part of the beauty. Pizza doughs are easy to make decent, yet crucially delicate and complex to get that perfect snap and al dente mix that makes a crust like Tony’s so… Tonyish. This one, because of the wheat and because of the egg I decided to both knead more and let more time to rise, yet another experiment.

Finally, I did add a teaspoon of yeast, which I really don’t think is necessary. The sourdough starter has plenty enough activity after nine days of feeding, stirring and living, but with the density of the wheat and the texture of seminola, I wanted some backup.

And the results?

The crust was a nice blend of rustic texture from the seminola and wheat but delicacy that made it better than a slice of cardboard. The sourdough gave it a complex flavor I really love. The lift was good too. One complaint was it was a tad crumbly. In short…

I love it, but …

it’s still not Tony’s.

Sourdough Wheat Pizza Crust

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cup white wheat sourdough starter (here’s a good recipe, by Nourished Kitchen… mostly I stress a high quality starter and a good doughs to feed it. I got mine from Italy).
  • 1 cup bread flour
  • 1/2 cup white wheat, 1/2 cup seminola from Butte Creek Mill.
  • 1 tbl olive oil
  • 1 tbl honey
  • 1 egg
  • splashes of salt, crushed garlic or dry
  • 1/4 cup luke warm water with 1 tsp of yeast

Directions:

  1. Mix yeast and water and let stand.
  2. Sift doughs together and make a well. In the well crack the egg and pour in olive oil, garlic and salt. Stir with a fork outward until mostly blended.
  3. Add in sourdough starter and water and begin mixing with your hands. Add white wheat flour as needed until it’s not sticky.
  4. Knead for five minutes.
  5. Place in oiled bowl and cover for three hours. Punch down once or twice as needed.
  6. Roll out the crust into your best pizza shape and let stand for a few minutes (or more) covered with a towel (this really helps the slide-ability of the dough. If you want a crisp, extra thin crust skip this step because it does rise a bit).
  7. Sauce, cheese, toppings and slide into a 500-degree oven for 9-11 minutes.
  8. Top with dried red peppers, parmesan cheese. Let stand for five minutes, slice and serve.

I can’t believe its butter

My brother told me a telling story about the last days of his mother-in-law’s life. She was dying from cancer at much too young of an age. My brother went into her refrigerator and saw she was still eating a strange product called “I can’t believe it’s not butter.”

“You can have real butter,” he told her.

But that’s how we viewed such things for far too long as it turns out. We thought food scientists could make better, healthier food than the stuff God had sustained life on this planet with since its first global turn. We thought things like butter were death to us and for years we made it a pariah of food. We thought that eating butter was a treat that a dying woman could afford but the rest of us… not unless we wanted to join her.

We thought wrong, way wrong as it turns out.

For decades we’ve been sold a bill of goods that has cost us billions annually and ruined our health. It’s been one of the worst scams ever perpetuated on the American people.

A new all-encompassing study by the reputable National Institutes of Heath found that a high-fat, low-carb diet “improves nearly every health measurement, from reducing our waistlines to keeping our arteries clear, more than the low-fat diets that have been recommended for generations,” a new story in Men’s Journal reported.

“The medical establishment got it wrong,” a cardiologist said in the article. “Their belief system didn’t pan out.”

Indeed, the results were so sweeping it took everything we’ve ever been told about eating a “low-fat diet,” which often centers on food scientist-created products to artificially remove fat from stuff we now call food, and turned it on its ear.

Another physician said the evidence that saturated fat is bad for your heart has “disintegrated.”

“In fact, a new Annals of Internal Medicine review of 72 studies and hundreds of thousands of subjects found no strong evidence that saturated fat causes heart disease,” the story reports. An NIH researcher said in 25 years of clinical trials there has been virtually no opposition to this finding.

The study is truly a game-changer because not only does it explode the billion-dollar, low-fat, processed-food economy and the artificial weight-loss economy that has directly contributed to the epidemic of obesity our country suffers, but it directly challenges the calorie-counting shibboleth that has stubbornly refused to go away.

Because high-fat foods, i.e. natural foods like avocado, nuts, lean meats and yes, the deliciously extravagant culinary delight we call butter, are high in calories, those treating the human body like a calculator have long said simple math would bring weight loss. For the millions who have tried it, and failed, we know how defeating it can be to watch those calories and reduce the joy of food to a computerized intake system only to see our bellies continue to bulge.

The definite word on this is in: “We no longer think low-fat diets are the answer,” says American Heart Association nutritional committee member, Dr. Linda Van Horn.

The practical application is the millions of dollars that went into funding and researching low-fat, contrived diets are finally flowing toward healthier, organic, local, non-processed and yes, high-fat diets.

It turns out, I had it right when I wrote the secret of how I lost 100 pounds: eat right (which means eat real food) and exercise. No, I didn’t make that up. I’m not Al Gore. But after years and years of never-ending diets when I finally said “EFF That!” and just started eating what I knew was good for me and working out with discipline, the weight came off (helped I’m sure by sobriety for the first time in my life).

But you know who knew it? My Nonie.  Until the day she died at the ripe old age of 95 she never went to a hospital for an illness and refused to eat the crap that everyone around her touted as healthy. She loved butter. She insisted on it. I remember when my Aunt came over and made Pasta de Pesto and refused to put in butter because it was unhealthy. Nonie groused. She didn’t eat it much when the food came. Later she was still grousing.

“It needs butter,” she mumbled.

She was right, in so many ways!

I leave you now with my new favorite recipe that I’ve used a couple of times a week recently to combat the trend toward carbs and sugar in breakfast (like in my favorite granolas or English muffins or even many fruit and yogurt smoothies). I call it Butter Bomb Coffee! But really, it’s no more my invention than eat right and exercise. I got it from an earlier story in Men’s Journal, which made the compelling argument that butter in my morning coffee would quell cravings and give me an energy boost. The Bride and I both tried it and felt the immediate impact! Enjoy!

Butter Bomb Coffee

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Ingredients

  • 12 oz cup of hot coffee
  • 2 pats of butter
  • 1 spoonful of coconut oil
  • dash of cinnamon
  • splash of half and half

Put all ingredients except the coffee in a mug then pour hot coffee over it swirling until its mixed. It’s da bomb!

 

Vegetarian lasagna: vegetables and herbs shoved into old standby

Two things have surfaced in this blog of late:

Both came into play for dinner last night with vegetarian lasagna.

The whole idea is something of an abberation for me. Lasagna is really my first recipe. I didn’t make Nonie’s. I crafted my own and let it evolve. For more than two decades it has been the go-to-meal for company when I want to impress without the in-the-moment fuss. Plus, I’ve seen the reaction of maybe 100 people who  have tried it. Unless some were great actors, I can say 100 out of 100 love it. It’s became a not-so-secret pride.  A lot of people tout their lasagna. I smirk. I secretly wish things like a Lasagna cook-off at the county fair existed knowing I’d take the blue ribbon every time.

If our kids have a “family” meal, they’d likely all say lasagna.

So I don’t like to mess with it.

But in the spirit of the aforementioned two areas of focus and the prompting of the bride to mix it up for her class, I relented. I changed my lasagna  to a vegetarian lasagna for a one-night, impromptu test kitchen.

I was flying without net, and it didn’t suck.

Who doesn’t love the sight of a big pile of coarse-chopped basil?

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If you’re trying to work more produce in your meals, use this recipe. If you want the medicinal value of excellent herbs like garlic and basil, then you get a double bonus with this one.

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If you simply want to eat some great food with not too much hassle, well, it’s a grand slam. Enjoy.

Roasted Vegetarian Lasagna

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz. Ricotta cheese
  • 1 Eggplant, sliced into 1/4″ rounds
  • 1 red pepper sliced long
  • 1 green pepper sliced long
  • about 6 cloves of garlic, roasted
  • About half a bundle of basil – coarse chop
  • 10-12 sage leaves – fine chop
  • chopped Italian parsley – coarse chop
  • half a block of cream cheese – softened
  • 1/2 a cup of bread crumbs
  • 1 cup of grated asiago cheese
  • grated Parmesan cheese
  • Effin Artist marinara sauce (or recipe of your choice)

Directions:

  1. Coat all the vegetables with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder and chili powder (optional).
  2. Grill the eggplants and peppers until slightly blackened and roasted (or roast on a cookie sheet for 20 minutes). Onions optional (I love them, the Bride doesn’t, hence no onions).
  3. Remove and dice the peppers.
  4. Mix the ricotta and the cream cheese with the sage leaves, diced roasted garlic and the bread crumbs — smoosh with your hands until combined.
  5. In an 8×8 pan coat the bottom with sauce. Layer eggplants as the base. Spread the cheese mixture on top of the eggplant. Sprinkle the peppers. Add a layer of the coarse basil and parsley.
  6. Repeat the above if your pan isn’t close to full, but one layer is usually enough.
  7. Cover with sauce, top thickly with asiago and sprinkle over that with parm. *(tip: I’d dust in some more bread crumbs to soak up the moisture from the ricotta and vegetables).
  8. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes and serve with Effin Artist Garlic Bread and hot-pan, quick sauteed green beans.

Old school eggplant serves up fresh flavors

With Spring sprung, I’ve been trying to smash as many vegetables in our food plan every which way I can.

Part of this stems from a documentary binge I’ve wallowed in via Netflix. In the past couple of weeks I’ve watched:

  • Food Matters
  • Food Inc
  • Forks over Knives

I also watched a Vegan thing that frankly went the wrong way for me. Eating processed crap that’s called vegan doesn’t jibe with my own pursuit of hoof-to-head health. But the gluttony of documentaries kept pounding in a simple idea: Eat more vegetables, have fewer health problems.

Vegetarian apologist Joel Furham advocates a simple diet plan that he says cures your bodies ailment: For each 1 lb of raw vegetables, eat 1 lb. of cooked vegetables. He’s taken his fair share of attacks, but nobody gets sick eating more vegetables, and many do get well as Time magazine recently reported. He doesn’t mind much what you do to make the vegetables taste good, knowing that eating that much your tastes for health will align and you won’t be hungry for the crappy stuff that kills you.

This veggie brainwashing has taken hold. I’m still a dedicated omnivore who enjoys my bread and my desserts in moderation. But I now intentionally pack vegetables into my meals, every meal and especially snacks.

All of this is to promote an old school Italian way to get vegetables into your diet: the eggplant.

I use eggplants as much as I can because I love their versatility. For example, as a “pizza” appetizer:

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Or straight-up on the grill.

Or my favorite, old-school fried eggplant.

 

Here’s the recipe: It’s easy and it’s fantastic.

Slice them into rounds about 1/2″ thick.

Lay out three bowls, one with flour, one with eggs beaten, one with Italian breadcrumbs.

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Dunk each round in each bowl in order to fully coat.

Heat a thin layer of olive oil in a cast iron skillet. When warm fry no more than 3 rounds at a time. Don’t crowd them and keep the temp steady on your oil. Drain on a paper towel, lightly dust with sea salt and pepper and Parmesan cheese. Serve with your favorite Marinara sauce.

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Get those vegetables into your diet anyway you can. Your life depends on it.

Crush the chips craving with kale

If you are truly going to embrace a hoof-to-head lifestyle that puts healthiness at the center of decisions, then you have to deal with the snack thing at some point. You gotta snack. You gotta feed the cravings. You gotta have balance.

That’s why you see some pretty damn good desserts on this site. If we’re going to have something decadent, it aint gonna be a Hostess Ding Dong.

But many cravings can be quelled in healthy ways, as I’ve finally convinced The Bride recently, who has the fiercest potato chip cravings I’ve ever witnessed. That whole “you can’t eat just one” commercial should have starred her. Open a bag, and well, goodnight now, chips!

We needed a better approach.

I’ve been pretty slow to adapt to the kale craze because much like so many of the food fads –I’m talking about you Quinoa — they tend to be overhyped and quickly commercialized. Kale is no exception, but unlike many of the other culprits of social media sensationalism, Kale is a relentless garden favorite that keeps growing all winter long. There is absolutely nothing about planing some seeds in rotation and keeping a steady crop of kale around to pluck and enjoy.

I like its heartiness in salads. I’ve juiced it in my juice experiments, but as one would expect, it doesn’t produce significant yields. All these are just fine. But in kale chips, I’ve finally found something that live up to the hype. By changing the seasoning, from chili powder, to garlic to rosemary to soy, I can get different flavors much like different bags of chips. But unlike chips, these kill it in health instead of kill you with processed crap. Olive oil, garlic and kale — all medicinal foods that together, and cooked just right, taste great.

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There’s no real magic to making them so don’t get too worked up even if the first time they become road rash to the pan. You’ll slow it down and figure it out.

Here’s a few tips:

  1. Wash the leaves and let dry well even after you’ve spun them in a spinner.
  2. Take the big part of the end of the leaf only in one big chip. Then peel the stems to add to a salad later. The little guys just ain’t worth it and they crowd the pan.
  3. Massage the oil (and if using soy sauce, this asian flavor with a dash of sesame seeds is effin delightful) on the leaves.
  4. Season richly. Strong flavors are good here.
  5. Bake for 12 minutes at 325. About 10 minutes in, I take a spatula and scoop them up from sticking to the pan. It’s like fluffing them up for the final two minutes.
  6. Serve immediately!

Geranium sugar cookies make for flavor and conversation

The vegetable focus we’ve had in our home has been invigorating to me. It’s become a vital focus of our meal planning and overall health routine. But… let’s face it. The cravings still kick in time and again for something far less good for me.

That’s where baking comes in. The hubby has commented often here — and rightly so — that I’m not much for cooking. He’s the chef in our family. But, I love baking. Be it cookies, cakes, pies, whatever I feel like making, I’m usually in the kitchen mixing it up. Baking has turned into such a therapeutic experience for me. I really enjoy it. As much as I get pleasure out of the process of baking, I enjoy even more the ability to pass along my baked goods. Recently my brother and his wife, had a baby. What better occasion to present an exotic new sugar cookies I needed to try for a homework assignment! (Can you believe it… school homework is making cookies? I love school).

The assignment called to replace vanilla with geranium essential oil. I didn’t know what to expect. My first reaction was to ensure that I had the proper Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) essential oil in my kit. Next, I wanted to take the time to perform a thorough test of it using my sense of smell as the guide.

Upon first smell I was hit with huge floral notes. A symphony of flowers. As I sat in my quiet room, at my couch, which sits under my big window, I paid attention to the experience of how I felt with each scent. At first, a sense of calm came over me, followed by a general happy or satisfied feeling. The scent was just colorful to me. Based on the sensory experiment I was excited about replacing the vanilla in the cookie recipe.

Since it is just me and my husband at home, the two of us would have to suffice as the test cases. After I baked the cookies and let them cool for a couple of minutes, I asked my husband to try an unfrosted cookie first.

“Wow,” he said, which I took as a very good sign.

I tried it next (I’m always afraid to try my baking first, who knows why…). Wow, I thought. Really wow.

He said this would be a recipe you could bring to an upscale party, where gourmet food was being served, because the unique flavor would be interesting conversation.

I had decided that I would frost these cookies, and chose a very generic cream cheese frosting. The frosting called for vanilla, and I contemplated substituting the vanilla with the Geranium Pelargonium graveolens but I’m glad that I didn’t. I think that it would have been overboard if I would have used the geranium in the cookie as well as the frosting.

I handed him a frosted one and he grew more expansive.

“The cookie is light and flaky, which is perfect for the unusual, subtle flavor. These are elegant. Really elegant.”

I tried one with frosting. “Wow,” I thought. I wasn’t as expansive, but I admit, I felt really, really happy with my effort.

I was amazed at the subtle floral flavor that it added to the cookie. So different from the vanilla, and a bit unusual, but something that you could serve to people to give them a different take on your standard sugar cookie.

When my husband made me leave him a dozen of the cookies, I knew I had succeeded, even though my brother and his wife’s present will be a bit smaller now.

Don’t take my word for it. Try it yourself and share your experiences in the comments below. Thanks!

Geranium Sugar Cookies 2

Old Fashioned Geranium Sugar Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 drops of Organic Geranium Essential Oil Pelargonium graveolens
  • 4 ½ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Instructions:

  1. Cream together thoroughly butter, oil, powdered sugar and granulated sugar
  2. Add eggs and 2 drops of Organic Geranium Essential Oil Pelargonium graveolens and beat until smooth
  3. Stir in flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt.  Blend well.
  4. Refrigerate dough for at least 30 minutes
  5. Roll teaspoons of dough into balls
  6. Place on lightly greased cookie sheet or parchment paper
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes
  8. Leave cookies on cookie sheet for 2 minutes after taking out of oven, them move to wire racks. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 5 tablespoons soft butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 ½ cups powdered sugar

Instructions:

Mix all of your ingredients until you reach your desired consistency.

 

Recipe: Old school Italian with new school wheat

As an Italian kid growing up wheat anything was an aberration. We didn’t eat wheat that I can recall. I never recall Nonie even having it in her kitchen. Perhaps she did. I just knew I didn’t like wheat, plain and simple.

Now all things white are truly the enemy of the first rule of a healthy food plan: eat right. To eat right, you need to avoid the white. Whites like sugar, potatoes, rice and flour play havoc in our bodies. So the deeper I get into making dough the more I try to incorporate wheat flour. Today I took an old school Sicilian bread I’ve made and modified ever so slightly, and worked in two healthier grains: stone-ground wheat flour and flax meal.  Follow along in pictures and learn to make this bread for yourself.

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 1/2 cup flax meal (I used Bob’s)
  • 1 cup stone-ground wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons powdered garlic
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups lukewarm water
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 egg white
  • sprinkling of sesame seeds

Directions:

  1. Mix the yeast into the water and set aside for about 8 minutes or so.
  2. Mix all the dry in  a mixing bowl with your fingers like a rake. Cut in oil.
  3.  Pour water into the bowl. Using a dough hook on your kitchen aid, set to low, mix for two minutes. Then turn up one notch and mix for five more. If you don’t have a dough hook, just do some old fashioned kneading for 10 minutes.
  4. Take out of the bowl and knead for two more minutes. Form into a dough ball. Either put in an oiled glass bowl and cover with wrap or… break out the storage box like this:

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I love it and you’ll soon see why.

5. After the dough has doubled (about 60-90 minutes) we’re going to fold it over. This replaces the old “punching” method in a way that still activates the glutton but doesn’t impact the rise and lightness of the dough. Pizza dough should be punched. You don’t want bubbles in your crust. Wheat bread needs all the lift it can get.

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So the fold… First, wet your hands and then fold it about 2/3 over on itself. Then turn the dough and do it again. Check it out:

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Then fold it the other way exactly the same and flip, seam-sides down so it looks like this:

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Let it rise again for 30-45 minutes and repeat. Wait another 30 minutes and do it a final time. After 30 more minutes or so take your beautifully smelling dough out and set it up on a prepared peel or a baking sheet.

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On the peel, form into a free-form shape of your loaf. I don’t like bread pans. I like it to look more natural.  Like this loaf of Sicilian Bread I made last Christmas:

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It’s a bit more beautiful than a square loaf pan don’t you think? Anyway, cover the loaf with a towel and let it finish its final rise. All this gentle lifting will keep the loaf larger and lighter and resist the wheat’s heaviness. Go ahead and pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees.

Take a knife and cut a slit. Then brush the top with egg whites and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

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Now that’s it ready slide it into the oven.

After it’s been in the oven about three minutes, sprinkle some water on it with either the splatter off a brush or a spray bottle. This will help the crust color properly. Do it once or twice more within the first 10 minutes. Let it cook for a total of 42-45 minutes. It will sound hollow if you pound it with the heel of your hand when it’s done and it will look like this:

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Effin beauty, a mix of old school Italy with a little new school wheat.

News From The Test Kitchen: Tortillas

My experiments with the artistry of dough has moved in a circular fashion between the Italian food I feel fairly accomplished in creating, to the breads I feel most artistically satisfied in exploring to the other nationalities I enjoy but usually come up very short. I still haven’t returned to my failed tamale experiment. But I have kept at it with making tortillas. Slowly, they are emerging into something I make regularly and actually serve with a measure of white man pride. I don’t compare to anyone’s abuela to be sure, but these work.

The reason for making them is simple. Check out a plastic wrapped tortilla ingredient list and you’ll see a hodge-podge of impossible-to-pronounce ingredients that can’t be good for you. When you make them at home, you use four ingredients.  And even the bad ones taste way, way better.

I’ve stuck to whole, stone-ground wheat through all my experiments. It makes no sense to use white here as the wheat taste great and it’s one less time you have to use a processed, carb-kicking, sugar-blasting product. Wheat has a bad rep lately, but it’s largely undeserved.

So there wouldn’t seem like much to experiment with. The ingredients: Wheat, water, oil and salt. But like any dough, you have to recognize it’s alive, like a bottle of wine, evolving. No two dough’s are the same. Finding that magical balance is elusive. It’s an art.

I got fixated on why nobody uses yeast with tortillas. Why not? I wondered? The simple reason is the yeast puffs up too much and makes them too fat (the yeasty ones are on the left, the baking soda on the right):

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But it’s also just unnecessary. I liked the non-yeasty tortillas better. I even tried baking soda to see if a little lift was necessary. Turns out it just took some of the pliability from the dough. Nothing at all was needed to make the better tortillas.

Authentic tortillas require lard. It’s the way they are made. Some go on about how important this is. Frankly, the olive oil is fine and even if its not perfect, it is so much more healthy I didn’t even really consider butter or lard. To be fair, I tried both versions. I didn’t love them enough to choose them over olive oil. Four ingredients: simple. Less is more.

Of course, that didn’t stop me. I added two ingredients in my final version. I like it, but maybe just so I can think they are my “own” tortillas. Who knows? Try them and see:

Wheat Tortillas

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups wheat flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ancho chili powder
  • 1 tsp garlic
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2/3 c. warm water

Directions:

1) Start with the flour and spices in a bowl and mix.

2) Pour in the oil and cut it through the dough with your fingers. Make a well.

3) Pour the warm water in the well. Using your fingers as a rake work the dough through the well into a dough ball that looks like Shaggy on Scooby Doo emerges.

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4) Now work the dough, kneading it until it comes alive and begins to bond. This is work. Don’t rush it. Just mash it around like you did with Play Doh when you were five.

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5) Finally shape into a ball. Cover with clingwrap and set aside for an hour.

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6) Separate into golf-ball sized balls and re-shape. Place under clingwrap or a towel for another 15 to 30 minutes.

7) Heat a skillet (I love a cast iron here) medium hot and roll out the first dough ball. Use a lot of flour to keep them from sticking and roll very thin (you can see your hand through them). Cook for a couple of minutes on each side while you roll out the next one. Store in a towel so they keep each other warm.

Cooking note: I like a touch of burn to hit the flour, a touch of bubbling. Just a touch. That means the dough is cooked but still soft. It’s a fine line between that and burnt and hard. But under cooked is the worst because they taste doughy.

Enjoy.

News from the Test Kitchen: Hummus

I am trying to cut sugar out of my diet. After cutting alcohol out of my diet less than a year ago, this strikes me as cruel. But I also want to make significant health changes, so this is part of the bargain. I’m told there will be a payoff down the line. Hmmnph. Better be, is all I can say, like six-pack abs… that would be nice.

Anyway, I’m also trying to cut out any (all) processed foods. That part is hard for me because I’m addicted to potato chips. And not just the plain ones, but the ones with all of the chemically produced flavors. In fact the more flavored the better. Boy does this all suck. As I write about it, I get even more bummed out.

So, I have been trying to come up with a snack that is healthy and guilt-free. I thought about how much I love humus. Recently when we shopped in a well-known grocery store chain I reached for the hummus to study the ingredients. There’s that pesky soybean oil again! After much research we decided to try our hand at homemade hummus. Turns out that our version is incredibly tasty (I think I actually  like it better than the store-bought variety), and we think it is way more healthy. We didn’t have tahini, but we discovered that tahini is basically sesame seeds and sesame oil formed together to make a paste. My hubby said it’s like making peanut butter.

This is so good dipped in sliced vegetables and apples that I have finally found my substitute for my unhealthy, overly processed potato chips. Last night snacking vegetables dipped in humus I actually enjoyed it! Almost as much as sugar… almost, almost as much potato chips!

Of course, the hubby made this, not me. So here’s his recipe. Enjoy.

Ingredients:

  • 15 oz of garbanzo beans (dried or canned… I prefer dried, which means soak them ahead of time).
  • 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice (reserve the second at the end for taste).
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons sesame or sunflower oil
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil (reserve last one at end for desired consistency)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp paprika, more at the end for dusting

Directions:

  1. If using dried beans soak them overnight and then cook them enough to warm through. Reserve their water. Rinse to cool.
  2. If using a can, reserve liquid, toss into a pan and warm through, about six to eight minutes. Rinse in cold water to cool.
  3. Peel the husks. There’s a lot of talk about this on the Internet chatter. Frankly, it’s not that hard to peel them. you just slide them off.

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I wonder about this extra step. I wonder if grandmother’s seventy years ago bothered with it. I also wonder if I’m depriving the eventual finished product of added fiber and nutrients. I’ll look into these but for now I peel them because we wanted the smooth texture.

4. Set the beans aside. Chop the seeds with a cleaver along with the garlic to give it all a good mashing. Add to the food processor (or blender).

5. Add the sunflower or sesame oil, spices and lemon to the mash and whirl it.

6. Add the beans and blend for a minute. Add in the olive oil and a tablespoon of the reserved liquid. Blend for 30 seconds, check taste and texture. Add more reserved liquid and blend another 30 seconds. Repeat as needed until it is very smooth and cohesive.

7. Transfer to a container and refrigerate.

News from the Test Kitchen: Whole food mayo you can trust

From the test kitchen artistry heights of croissants and chocolate we dropped this week into the everyday existence of the mundane. In so doing we added to our list of things we simply won’t buy anymore from the store.

The previous list included pasta sauce and peanut butter and barbecue sauce and salsa and (most of the time) beans.  The Bride has been experimenting with different bath and beauty products, but it remains to be seen if she’s fully committed or if soon she’ll return to Sephora with her credit card burning in her wallet.

But as we goofed around with several products in the test kitchen, the Bride herself gave the seal of approval to these projects.

“We will never buy this from a store again,” she said delightfully.

In fact, she forbade me from writing about them (which I am sort of breaking here. The jar on the right pictured above is a sneak preview of the Bride’s claimed blog territory. Stay tuned).These items took very little time and were significantly better than the store-bought variety. I’ll mention only one: mayonnaise.

Mayo was the Bride’s idea. I don’t have it much, so I don’t pay it much attention. But when visiting her parents, she looked at the label of a jar of Best Foods. The ingredients she couldn’t pronounce freaked her out, not to mention the soy bean products. So we gave it a shot. Pictured below is about half-way into the process:

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Our recipe included just five ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups of sunflower oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice.

Put the eggs, vinegar, lemon juice and salt (start with a little and add a little more later if needed to taste) in a blender and give it a whirl.

Then with the top open as it blends, add in the first cup of oil. Blend for about a minute. Add in part of the second cup, blend another minute.

Stop to check taste and thickness. If needed add a bit more salt and the rest of the oil. It will emulsify into the perfect texture as you check it and blend. Ours took a total of the two cups and about three minutes blending. We only used a higher speed for about 10 seconds at the end.

Mayo has a bad reputation because it’s high in fat, which has never fully recovered from the industrialized food lobby’s demonization of fat to make billions of “low-fat” products that not only made us fatter, but killed many. So many of us who grew up thinking “I can’t believe it’s not butter” was good for us have to be reprogrammed. Mayo became “Miracle Whip” and egg whites became healthy even though so much of what’s best for us is in the discarded yellows.

Mayo, made from home and used with moderation, can be used without guilt. The ingredients are all healthy, there is no hidden crap from processed foods and the taste far exceeds Best Foods.

Add this to the list of “never again” buying at a store.

We recommend that the eggs you use in this recipe be as farm fresh, and organic as you can possibly get. It’s worth the added cost!