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.

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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!



Peanut Butter and Cherry Jam Oat Bars

A rainy, October day inspired these bars.  It was yesterday.  I wanted something healthy, not too sweet, a snack, and different from regular ol’ oatmeal (which I love to have for breakfast every day in some fancy form) or peanut butter and jelly (which is just an old classic that I never tire of).  So, I thought why not combine the two into a afternoon treat to have with tea!

Now, typically, I don’t bake vegan, because I am a wholehearted believer that nothing is better than real butter. and real milk. and real eggs, and furthermore I don’t need to bake vegan, since I’m blessed with zero food allergies.  But when you find yourself without butter, without eggs, and it’s pouring rain outside and you can’t find the strength to walk less than a half a mile to the corner store, you improvise.  So vegan is my improvisation.  And instead of walking to the store, I walked to my backyard to pick an avocado.  Yes, that’s right, these have avocados in them.  You may have noticed from previous posts that I have incorporated avocado in place of the fat (oil or butter).  It’s a sneaky way to incorporate heart-healthy and cancer-fighting fats into your diet.

I used a german cherry jam in these bars, but any jam can clearly be used.  Additionally, the peanut butter could be omitted for those who don’t like peanut butter.  And of course with the streusel topping, feel free to be creative, adding any kind of nuts, seeds, or coconut.

Peanut Butter and (Cherry) Jam Oat Bars

1.5 cups whole oats
1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp all spice
1 flax egg (1 tbsp flax+3tbsp warm water)
3/4 avocado mashed well
1/3 c honey
1/2 tsp vanilla
3 tbsp almond/soy milk

1 cup peanut butter
2/3 cup cherry jam (or any other flavor)
juice from 1/2 an orange
orange rind from 1 orange

Streusel Topping:

2/3 cup oats
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
water to moisten

Combine the dry ingredients (first eight) in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix the flax egg with the mashed avocado, honey, vanilla, and almond milk.  Stir well to combine.  Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture.  Stir to combine, gently.  Should be the consistency of cookie dough.  If too moist, add a little more flour.

Pat the mixture into the bottom of a greased 8×8 square baking pan.  Spread the peanut butter on top.  In a small sauce pan, heat the jam with the juice of half a small orange and the rind.  Boil down until mixture thickens a bit.

Spread the jam mixture over the oat bottom and the peanut butter.

Mix the streusel topping.  Sprinkle streusel over the bars and spread to even out.

Bake in 350 oven for 25-30 minutes until jam is bubbly and streusel is golden brown.

Cut into squares and enjoy with afternoon coffee or tea!  These also freeze well.


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!


Apple Ginger Cardamom Jam

So, my oven broke.  And since I’m living in a so-called “developing” country, and eeeevvverrrrything takes longer to get done, it might be awhile before I can post anything that requires an oven.  SADness.

Soooooooo, I decided to can, since I have a plethora of jars.

Has anyone out there made apple jam before?  With an abundance of apples in these parts, I figured why not give it a try.  I know it’s not your typical fruit to be used in jam, but it actually turned out quite delightful!  And paired with cream cheese on whole-grain, homemade bread?  You can’t beat it.

Apple Ginger Cardamom Jam

*Note: this recipe doesn’t make very much…about enough for 4-5 small mason jars.  If you wish to make more, double it!

6 cups grated, peeled apples
Juice of one lemon
2 cups sugar (or more if you prefer it more sweet)
3 tsp ginger (more if you want more kick)
15 green cardamom seeds

Place peeled, grated apples in pot with lemon juice, sugar, grated ginger and cardamom pods. Cook all on medium-high heat for about 25-30 minutes, or until you get a nice jam-ish set. The temperature should be around 240 degrees.

When slightly cooled, place in prepared, sterilized jars, and following hot water bath canning procedures.