Archive for December, 2011


Soaked Grain, Jalapeno Soda Bread (Baked)

[ Equipment: oven or slow cooker with temperature control, a 8.5 x 4.5 x 2.5 (inch) loaf pan. For more information about the terminology in this recipe, see Low Temperature Baking: A Journey of 3 Paths ].

This savory sandwich bread has a texture and taste like that of a soft yeast bread, chewy with plenty of heat and tang from the pickled jalapeno peppers and sour cream. Leave out the peppers and it would make a great sourdough soda bread. For the same amount of flour, it doesn’t rise quite as high as yeast loaf could. It’s a heartier bread with an open crumb.

The flour was a blend of regular all-purpose flour and whole wheat flour, about 25% by volume. My first LTB soda bread, a Harvest-Spiced Gluten-Free Soda Bread, contained a binder of egg and ground flax seed. This eggless bread didn’t require a separate binder. It wasn’t kneaded; instead the crumb got its chewy quality from long fermentation of the wheat flour – like a slow-rise yeast dough.

Soaking whole grain flour in an acid medium broke down phytic acid, which inhibited absorption of nutrients in the body, and improves digestibility and taste (for those who are partial to the taste of whole grain flour). It seemed to break down some of the gluten proteins, but may also have helped with texture – just as in slow-rise doughs, but without the yeast action to develop gluten bonds.

However, my main concern about soaked grains in LTB was that excessive exposure to moisture could produce a hard and/or dense bread with coarse texture, as happened in my early experiments with slow-rise breads. Too little moisture meant the dough would not rise as high, because the acid-soda reaction needed moisture. Too much moisture would weigh the dough down. The soaked grains worked well in this recipe, because only 1/4 of the total flour was treated, and because the soaked grains were evenly distributed throughout the dough. The loaf stayed moist and delicious for a day or two. Afterwards, I toasted slices for crunchy hot sandwiches.

The recipe lists a strong “soured milk”, which I made by mixing a 1% low-fat milk with a white vinegar (4% acidity). Traditionally, this is like the formula for a buttermilk substitute, and buttermilk should work too if combined with an extra tablespoon of vinegar. About the pickled jalapenos, my local market had cans of sliced pickled jalapenos under the La Costena brand. After chopping them, I pressed them gently on a paper towel to soak up any runny juices and prevent soggy pockets in the loaf.

This recipe was my first bread baked in a convection oven. As seen in the pictures, the crust came out a nice golden color – darker than what I could obtain in a slow-cooker oven. It has not been tested in a slow-cooker oven. None of my cookers will accommodate a 8.5 x 4.5 inch loaf pan. Anyone who tries this bread in a slow-cooker should expect longer baking time and a lighter crust. If the loaf fails to rise fully in a cooker, try replacing the the foil cover with the one used in my original large potato bread.

Makes 1 loaf
– 1100 calories per loaf
– Oven Temperature: 250°F/121°C

  • 1-1/2 cup all-purpose flour (6.4 oz)
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour (2.4 oz)
  • 1-1/8 cup soured milk (1 cup milk + 2 tablespoons white vinegar – see text)
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 1/4 cup chopped pickled jalapeno peppers (drained, see text)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 5/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon double-acting baking powder

1. In a small bowl, stir whole wheat flour into 1/2 cup soured milk. Cover and allow flour to soak for 12 hours. The picture above shows the soaked wheat flour before and after the 12 hour fermentation.

2. In a large bowl, whisk all the dry ingredients until well combined.

3. In a small bowl, stir together the soaked flour (including all liquid), sour cream, chopped pickled peppers and remaining 5/8 cup soured milk.

4. Add to dry ingredients and stir to evenly distribute and a wet dough forms. Do NOT overmix.

5. Spoon the dough into a 8.5 x 4.5 x 2.5 inch loaf pan and spread out evenly.

6. Cover the loaf pan with aluminum foil. Cut out a rectangular opening in the foil, leaving a 1-inch border around the pan. Then cut a 1/2-inch diagonal slit at each corner to form 4 flaps (see areas circled in red in the picture above). The flaps should remain flat for now.

7. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes and check height of loaf. When the loaf is almost touching the foil, lift the foil flaps up and away from the loaf, using tongs or two spoons.

8. Continue baking for another 35 to 40 minutes or until inside temperature of loaf measures about 205°F/93°C.

9. Remove foil cover and let cool. Unmold.

9. Slice and serve. Excellent toasted.


Appliance Review: LTB In A Cuisinart Convection Toaster Oven

[ Equipment: digital convection oven, cookie sheet, 8-1/2 x 4-1/2 x 2-1/2 (inch) loaf pan, 8 inch square cake pan. For more information about the terminology in this recipe, see Low Temperature Baking: A Journey of 3 Paths ].

Until now, all the slow-baked pastries I’ve made have been 7 inches or less in diameter, the maximum size that will fit in my temperature-controlled slow-cooker oven. When I resolved to try making them in standard size pans (8 inch or larger rounds and squares), I ordered a digital convection toaster oven (a Cuisinart CTO-395 with Exact Heat sensor) for these bigger jobs. The CTO-395’s 0.6cu capacity sits somewhere between a regular toaster oven and a full-size counter-top oven.

The circulating heat and top/bottom heating elements not only bake food faster but also more consistently, even at 250°F/121°C. General LTB recipe guidelines still apply, however, and the convection feature does reduce baking time. The CTO-395 dehydrates foods very quickly too. With a second baking rack, I’d be able to dry two trays of food at once. Cuisinart sells extra racks for $14 each.

The digital thermostat keeps the temperature fairly stable (no more fidgeting with the heat dial), but I continue to monitor it with a thermometer. Since this toaster oven consumes around 1800 watts, it’s not even close to matching a slow cooker for energy efficiency. For large scale LTB baking (entertaining) and recipe testing, it’s my appliance of choice. Prices for digital counter-top ovens have fallen drastically. many going for less than $100 US. I’ve seen the Cuisinart CTO-395 on sale for less than the price of a high-end plain bread toaster.

Below are the results of some of my tests baking and dehydrating with the convection oven. With the exception of the banana chips, the tests were run with prepared mixes and doughs from my local market, so I could get some idea of how well convection ovens bake at low temperature. All required some modification to the instructions or to the mix for good turnouts.

First up is Jiffy Blueberry Muffin Mix, which I made into a cake in an 8-inch square pan, following instructions on the box.

The picture above shows slices from two Jiffy cakes, one baked at 375°F/190°C on the left and the other at 250°F/121°C. The high temperature one rose higher and fluffier, but was dry, virtually tasteless, almost like eating cotton. The Jiffy mix contains artificial blueberries, which apparently lose their aroma and flavor when baked at high temperature. The 250°F cake retained the blueberry flavor, had a moist, dense texture, and I could also taste the eggs.

To boost the LTB cake’s height, I added 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder to the mix. That cake rose higher in the oven, but collapsed, because the center didn’t heat up fast enough. In the picture above, I covered the pan with aluminum foil and cut out a 4-inch hole so that the batter in the center would bake faster.

This picture compares two Jiffy cakes baked at 250°F/121°C for 35 minutes (about 60% more time than at 375°F/190°C). The top one is the plain mix, baked in an uncovered pan. The second one contains the extra baking powder and was baked in the foil-covered pan as described in the preceding paragraph. It rose to the same height as the high temperature cake with similar browning on the edges.

The texture of the second cake is as fluffy as the high temperature but with stronger blueberry and egg flavor.

Next trial was Nestle Toll House prepared cookie dough. Out of the package, the dough is scored into 12 chunks for 12 “big” cookies.

The instructions said to break off pieces of the dough and place them on the baking sheet. To help the cookies bake faster, I flattened the chunks into 2-inch disks.

The recommended oven temperature was 325°F/163°C for about 10-15 minutes. I baked them at 250°F/121°C for about 15-20 minutes until the edges were a light golden color.

In the pictures, I only made a batch of 3 cookies, but the baking sheet (a 10-inch sheet from Wilton) could accommodate 4 of them, and up to 6 cookies with careful placement. Each chunk of dough spread out into a 3-1/4 inch cookie. LTB Toll House cookies fresh from the oven: such intense chocolate, milk and molasses flavors that one cookie satisfies like a whole box of the regular kind.

The oven can fit a 8.5 x 4.5 x 2.5 inch loaf pan, so I made a chocolate banana loaf cake from a Betty Crocker chocolate cake (devil’s food) mix. For the one in these pictures, I measured out half of the mix by weight (approximately 9.5 oz). Then I added 1 egg, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/3 cup mashed banana and about 1/2 cup water. The batter was a little thicker than as prepared by the box instructions. The baking powder helped boost the rise, and the reduction in overall hydration balanced texture vs. baking time.

Because the center of a loaf cake heats up slowly, I covered the pan with foil and cut out a hole leaving about a 1-inch foil border around the edge. The foil border is meant to mediate over-baking at the edges of the cake, while exposing the center to maximum heat and vapor dispersion.

Baked at 250°F/121°C for about 1 hour, the cake more than doubled in height. In the future, I might try 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder instead, because the center sank a little, which sometimes happens when there is too much leavening.

Although it it contains just 1/3 cup of mashed banana pulp, the banana flavor really stands out in the moist chocolate cake.

Because convection ovens circulate hot air with a fan, I expected them to be very effective food dehydrators. For the the last test, I made banana chips on the 2-piece broiling pan that came with the oven. Perforations in the top section of the pan let air circulate around the food, and the bottom section (drip pan) holds the top up to avoid scorching from the heating elements.

So that the banana chips don’t stick to the pan, I greased the perforated section with vegetable oil. I laid out 1/4-inch thick slices on the pan, positioning every slice over 1 or more holes. I didn’t treat the slices with any preservative. They turned brown a little as they dried.

The lowest settable temperature in my Cuisinart oven is 150°F/65°C, too high for drying fruits and vegetables without damaging beneficial enzymes. I propped the oven door open with a crumpled piece of foil, just enough to keep the temperature steady around 110-120°F/43-49°C.

About 5 hours later, the slices had deflated into chips. They were still soft. I peeled them off the pan, loosening them by sliding the blade of a plastic knife underneath, and dropped them into bowl lined with a paper towel. A few more hours of air-drying hardened the chips.