Bread ‘N Jam – Yummy!

There’s nothing like bread and jam.  Homemade.  I was recently inspired by a plum preserves recipe I found in an old issue of Food Network Magazine.  I’m not typically a huuuuuuge fan of this magazine, but when I travel, I seem to indulge in more entertainment-like magazines.  While doing some spring cleaning I came across this recipe, and with the plethora of plums available in my town at this time, I got super excited  and inspired to create my own plum jam, which in the end, I called Spiced Plum Jam, mainly because it’s quite different from this original recipe.

Aaaaaaaand, With the lack of good, whole grain breads here in Costa Rica, I have taken to making my own.  I wanted something beyond the typical whole wheat sorta flatbread bread that I always fall back  on.  I was craaaaaaaving a rustic, crusty-on-the-outside, holy-and-light-on-the-inside kinda bread.  So I went with Ciabatta.  Ciabatta is often called “Italian Slipper Bread” because it is a fairly wet dough and hence why it creates a slipper-like shape.  I did not realize that making ciabatta took so many steps, but it did, and in the end it was completely worth it.  Crispy, artisan bread and homemade sweet, fresh spiced plum jam.  Pure, simple goodness.

So first, here is the recipe for my version of the jam, which is super duper easy, by the way.

Spiced Plum Jam

6 cups sliced plums
1 cup sugar
3 cinnamon sticks
½ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp allspice
Juice of one lime

Place the plums, sugar, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg and allspice in a large, wide saucepan.  Squeeze the lime through a strainer into the pan.  Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves, and the mixture boils, about 10 minutes.

Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until a candy thermometer registers 220˚F, about 25 minutes.  (To be sure that the mixture has reached the gel point, spoon some onto a chilled plate and put in the freezer until cool. The liquid should set; if not, continue to cook and retest after a few more minutes.) Remove the pan from the heat and let cool 30 minutes.

Enjoy fresh, and store in the refrigerator up to 10 days (if it lasts that long)!  Otherwise, prepare for canning procedures, which can be found here.

__________________

As for the bread recipe, I used this one, and the only difference I did was substitute the last 25 ounces of bread flour for whole wheat bread flour.  The rest I followed to a T.  And it turned out great.

Enjoy the bread toasted with cream cheese and jam, or butter and jam!  Also sliced bananas on it tastes great also!



Whole Wheat Zucchini Twists and Drunken Tomato Jam

It’s been another one of my experimenting days.  I’ve been into that a lot lately.  I must be going through a phase in my life…everything I do lately in the kitchen is about experimenting!  I never used to be this way.  It’s been fun though, and keeps things fresh and interesting.

Though, honestly this invention isn’t that unique or interesting.  It is however, delicious, hearty, versatile – both the jam and and the mini loaves can be paired in a number of different ways…not just together as I have them posted.

I was inspired by a recipe for tomato jam I saw recently, and so with the plethora of cherry tomatoes from my garden I had to put them to good use!   I added my own little touch of red wine when I opened the fridge to grab something and old bottle of red wine I had stashed in the fridge for cooking was staring right back at me screaming, “USE ME UP!”  So, I did.  I think it turned out quite delicious!  And baking fresh yeast bread is one of the easiest things – if you can read, you can do it.  So read on.  And furthermore, kneading fresh dough is quite a meditative process!  So meditate on!

First, the tomato jam recipe:

Drunken Tomato Jam

2 pints cherry tomatoes
3 large sprigs of thyme
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup red wine
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 tsp salt

Place everything in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil, turn down and simmer until thick about 30-40 minutes.  Set aside to cool.

Now for the bread recipe:

Whole Wheat Zucchini Twists

1 medium zucchini, grated
2 tablespoons salt
2 1/2 teaspoons yeast
1/2 cup warm water (110-115 degrees F)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour

Shred the zucchini and place in a colander with the salt to drain excess water.

In a large bowl mix yeast, sugar and 1/4 cup water, stir to dissolve.  Set aside 5-10 minutes until quite bubbly.

Add flour, zucchini and remaining 1/4 cup warm water to yeast mixture.  Mix well.  Turn onto a well-floured surface and knead 8-10 minutes until elastic, adding flour as necessary.  Place in a greased bowl, turn to coat all sides.  Cover with a towel and set aside 1-2 hours or until doubled in size.

When doubled in size, punch dough down with one fist and turn onto floured surface again.  Divide dough into 4-inch long (or larger if you want larger loaves….these ones are small, like mini, personal loaves), skinny logs.  Then take two logs and pinch to top together.  Twist together (one log over the other) creating a twisted loaf.  Pinch the other end together.  Repeat with the remaining logs until all used up.  Set loaves on a baking pan, covered, in a warm place to rise another 45 minutes.

Whisk egg white well in a small bowl.  With a pastry brush, gently brush egg on the risen loaves, being very careful not to flatten them.  They will be fragile so don’t brush too hard!  The egg white will allow the loaves to have a nice golden, glossy finish.

Place in preheated oven at 325.  Bake about 30-35 minutes or until golden brown.  Watch these carefully because the time may vary…(my oven does clearly register temperature, so I kind of have to guesstimate this one).

When finished serve warm with the slightly cooled  tomato jam.  Bon Appetit!


Pure Wholesome Goodness Scones

I didn´t quite know what to call these scones.  They are chock-full of all kinds of pure wholesome goodness…so I just went with that.  It´s a bit uncreative, but it honest, straightforward, and transparent.  I like that in a person, so why not in a scone?

Scones are pure comfort food for me, topped with some marmalade and paired with tea.  It´s a breakfast, brunch or afternoon tea´s lover.  Truly.  And scones, though they sound fancy and British, can be whipped up in no time, in and out of the oven, and in your mouth in 40 or so minutes.  Every scone recipe goes the same way – you mix the dry ingredients, cut in the fat, and then add the liquid.  It´s the same for biscuits.  Scones are a lot like biscuits in the chemistry side of things.  But we´re not talking biscuits, we´re talking scones.  So let´s talk.

I´m gonna go out on a limb and say these scones are quite healthy.  Many scones are not, often carrying ingredients such as heavy cream and lots of butter….though in moderation, there´s nothing wrong with those kind.  But these kind, are not those kind.  These scones are dense, flaky, rich, spicy, and not too sweet.  Perfect with chai tea and milk and honey.  I hate to admit, I ate three of them the day I made them, and they are disappearing quickly with house visitors….!

Pure Wholesome Goodness Scones

Makes about 15, depending on the size you cut them

1 cup buckwheat flour (or rice flour or any other kind of flour)
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup oats, quick-cooking or regular
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
1/4 cup raw sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 stick butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2/3 cup any dried fruit mixture (raisins, apricots, cherries, figs, prunes, etc), cut into small pieces
3/4 cup+2 tbsp buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp raw turbinado sugar
1tbsp milk

Preheat oven to 375 F.  Line a baking sheet with wax paper.

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients (first 11 ingredients).  Slice in the butter.  Using your hands or a pastry blender, work it into the flour, until it creates a roughly crumbly mixture, leaving small pieces of butter present.  Add the dried fruit mixture, mix.  Add the buttermilk and vanilla extract.  Mix well to combine all dry ingredients with wet.  Dough should be sticky.  If it´s too sticky add a tiny bit more flour.  Transfer the dough to a very generously floured surface.  Fold over 4-5 times, and flatten into a roughly round disc about 1-1 1/2-inch thick.  Cut into triangles of your desired size.  Brush each scone with milk, and top with raw sugar.  Place on prepared baking sheet and bake in oven 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown.  Cool on rack, and enjoy warm with tea!!


Rainy Day Kitchen Inventions

Sometimes in life there are things so unique, so wonderful, that they simply cannot be recreated and be exactly the same nor exactly as wonderful.  That’s what happened last night in my kitchen.  A very, very, rainy Saturday night and I decided to bake something (what I typically do many times with rainy days or bored days).  Lately, I have been exploring with other ways to use avocados with the abundance of them I have in my backyard.  Besides previously tried and tested recipes of avocados in cakes, avocados in smoothies, I thought I would try a bread – a quick bread.  And as I write this, I am enjoying this bread that was merely invented, created, and not noted on paper.  Nor can I even remember what I did.  I mean, I could try, and I would probably most likely succeed, but I just fear it won’t taste as darn good as it does (But, if someone really wants it, I’m pretty darn sure I could remember it to almost a T, so let me know).  But for now, better to just enjoy it thoroughly and cherish it’s uniqueness.

So this bread, is an Avocado Banana Bread with chunks of Dried Pineapple (and it’s made with whole wheat flour).  It is loosely based on my mother’s long-standing, ever-so famous, Chocolate Chip Banana Bread (which, she may disown me if I post the recipe for that), with many substitutes to make it weeeeellll..….a bit healthier.  But the good flavor isn’t compromised much at all!  The avocado is the fat used in place of melted butter and gives the bread a nice, smooth texture.  Some of the sugar is substituted with honey, giving it a hearty sort of nutty, sticky flavor, in addition, so does the whole wheat flour.  And the chunks of dried pineapple give it a little tart kick every bite you take. It is just perfect.

And so as I sit here with the rain pouring down on the tin roof above, I think how there is nothing more satisfying when I go into the kitchen, with just an idea, without a recipe, with whatever ingredients I have on hand, and the product that comes out of it all is successful.  It is just like any art, where the separate paints make an eye-catching picture, or little pieces of clay make a life-size sculpture, or individual dancers make up a ballet.  You can’t quite know how it will turn out until you just do it.  And when you do, there is nothing more satisfying.