Three Loaves: A simple delicious idea!

This is a bit different from my usual posts… and it’s one of the most beautiful ideas I’ve ever heard. Have you heard of the Three Loaves Movement? Bread. Lots of loaves of every sort of bread you can imagine.

I found out about this from the most recent issue of Vegetarian Times. Jerry Stone founded the Three Loaves Movement to help fight hunger by making it simple, personal, and enjoyable. The idea is simple: you bake 3 loaves of bread, then you keep one loaf for yourself, you give one loaf to a friend, and give one loaf to a needy person. You can sign up for Three Loaves and you’ll get a bread recipe every month that makes three loaves. Some recipes are for breads that are recognizably sandwich bread, others are sweet breads, some are savory…the recipes (at least the ones I’ve been able to track down) are a mixture of vegan and vegetarian. Stone has a food blog, Cooking Stoned (a play on his name), which is a vegetarian blog, but oddly, doesn’t have an archive of Three Loaves recipes on it — only three recipes, and no links to Three Loaves recipes which were published on other blogs. 😦

If you want to join the Three Loaves Movement, sign up at: http://threeloaves.info/. And be sure and scroll down to look at variety of loaves posted to Instagram! Oh yum! 

This month’s recipe — the first since I signed up — has already been sent out, but once you confirm your email address, you’ll get a new recipe starting next month. In the meantime, you can go ahead and start baking with this month’s recipe: Vegan Multigrain Sandwich Bread.

I have two notes on this recipe. I’ve seen some of the other recipes and most use ingredients that most people already have on hand. I think this recipe’s author is a bit too optimistic to assume that most people will have these ingredient already on hand, or that they can just pop into the local grocery store and get them. But don’t let that put you off from joining Three Loaves! There are other recipes the project has used that are much more mainstream! And yes, I’m going to give you a link below!

The second note is about the amount of sweetener in this recipe. I would caution you about making the suggested substitutions because the author did not adjust the amount of sweetener or even note that the amount would need to be adjusted. Honey is significantly sweeter than sugar —you will always need less honey than sugar for the same effect — but I don’t know where agave syrup falls on the sweetness per volume scale. ?? So be wary of substituting honey or sugar for the agave syrup, unless you know how much to adjust the amount.

Now for the other recipes…I’ve been doing some internet sleuthing off and on since discovering Three Loaves and waiting impatiently for my first recipe to hit my inbox. So far I’ve found four more Three Loaves recipes, in addition to the three recipes on Jerry Stone’s food blog, and this month’s recipe. I’ve made a “3 loaves” tag on my Delicious bookmarking account, so you can browse all the links to Three Loaves recipes I’ve bookmarked. So far I’ve found: Blueberry and Thyme Bread, Ginger and Cardamom Bread, Dilly Buttermilk Sourdough Bread, Spice-swirled Cranberry Sweet Potato Bread, Sticky Caramel-Pecan Babka Loaves, Honey Wheat Brown Bread, and Cheesy Garlic Bread Challah, in addition to this month’s Vegan Multigrain Sandwich Bread.

I will bookmark more as I find them. If you have any links to a Three Loaves recipe (not just a recipe that makes 3 loaves, but one distributed by the Three Loaves Movement) that’s not in my bookmarks, please drop it in the comments and I’ll add it!

Now, let’s get baking! For ourselves, for our friends, and for those who really need some nice warm home-baked kindness!

Buckwheat Sourdough Starter (recap)

Some of you may recall my Buckwheat Sourdough Pancakes from a couple of years back. I didn’t keep up with the starter after a while (I’m the only one who likes buckwheat cakes around here), but recently made the starter again, this time with the idea of using it for other things. So, I’m reposting a more concise version of the instructions for making the starter — just the starter — today. In the next two weeks I’ll post some other yummy things you can make with it, besides the  Buckwheat Sourdough Pancakes.

Organic buckwheat flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill brand)
2 cups of lukewarm water
1 pkg active dry yeast
2 cups slightly warm water
1 Tbls buckwheat honey (or other honey)

20150528_102458You will need 4 cups of buckwheat flour total for the first week, just to create and feed the starter, more if you make buckwheat cakes with it at the end of the first week. I usually buy two packages Bob’s Red Mill organic buckwheat flour at a time when I’m shopping.

I began the starter on a Monday and “fed it” as follows Tues-Friday, so that it’s ready to use by the weekend. Choose whatever timing works best for your household.

Day 1: In a glass bowl or other non-reactive container (not metal!), dissolve 1 pkg of active dry yeast in 2 cups of warm water. Stir in 1 Tbls honey, then 1 cup buckwheat flour. Leave the starter in the glass bowl, lightly covered, either with plastic wrap or a lid not fastened down, in a dim room.

Day 2: (The day after you mixed up the starter.) Stir well, then remove and discard 1/2 cup of the starter. Add 1/2 cup buckwheat flour and 1/2 cup water. Stir well.

Day 3: Same as day 2

Day 4: Same as day 2

Day 5: Same as day 2

Day 6: Remove 1 cup of the starter and set aside to make buckwheat cakes or to use in baking. Add 1 cup buckwheat flour and 1 cup warm water to the remaining starter mixture. Cover the remaining starter mixture (a lid works better than plastic wrap) and refrigerate.

20150528_102622You will not touch the starter again for another week when you will once again remove 1 cup of the mixture for buckwheat cakes or baking and add 1 cup buckwheat flour and 1 cup water. Do this every week.

The starter must be tended weekly, removing some and feeding with more flour and water. If you don’t want to make up something using part of the buckwheat starter ever week, just discard what you remove and feed as directed. (If you neglect the starter it will get nasty. Throw it out and make a fresh batch. It only takes five days until a new batch is ready to use, so don’t fret if your starter dies. It happens.)

A well-tended starter will develop a wonderful spongy, almost mousse-like texture over time. Don’t worry if feeding and making/baking doesn’t work out to exactly one one week: it won’t hurt anything to wait an extra day to feed the starter and use what you remove. Because I have more time for cooking and baking on the weekend, I set my starter up to be ready to go on a Saturday…and if Saturday is too busy, I use it and feed it on Sunday. You can let it slip a day here and there. The main thing is that you need to tend it weekly. Work out when to make the starter according to the rhythm of your daily life and when you’d be most likely to use it.

Next week: Buckwheat Sourdough Muffins!

Cornbread Dressing

People love cornbread dressing. It’s traditional at Thanksgiving, but the popularity of “dressing” or “stuffing” (even when there’s nothing being stuffed except friends and family) has spawned various boxes of “instant” dressing so that you can have it with any meal. I haven’t tried the boxed versions, but I can tell you how to make it from scratch. It’s easy! 😀

First make up a batch (or two) of Granny’s Cornbread. This is the basis of the dressing. (My mother and grandmother always added crumbled stale white bread that had been left out to get stale just for this purpose, but I omit this.) Saute green onions, bell pepper and celery in a small amount of oil in a skillet. (If you’re making gravy, reserve some of the green onion and bell pepper to be sauted and added to the gravy.) I cook up a lot of “the green stuff” (as we called it around our house when I was growing up). After crumbling up the cornbread (let it cool or you’ll regret it), stir in the green stuff mixture until the proportion looks right. Add some vegetarian broth and stir in until you have a moist mixture, wetter than you prefer to eat it because some of that moisture will cook away when you bake it. Stir in a bit of sage (or whatever seasoning you prefer for stuffing). Bake 350 until the top is slightly browned and crispy. Stir and serve. If it’s too dry, add a bit more broth. If it’s too moist, return to the oven. There really isn’t a set time for it to be “done” because all the ingredients are already cooked, though the seasoning needs a bit of heat to really meld with the flavor of the stuffing. It’s done when it looks right to you.

The problem most people have with holiday dressing is that some people will think it didn’t come out right because it’s too dry, while for other people it will be just right. Likewise some people will find it disgustingly wet while others think it’s just right. There’s no way to please everyone unless everyone likes their dressing the exact same way. Myself, I prefer a dry-ish stuffing, with just enough moisture that if you grabbed a handful and squeezed it, it would stick together, but tending to crumble a bit as you scoop it out. Dressing that has the consistency of mush and is served with an ice cream scoop is too wet for me. 😉 It seems to me that dressing that tends more toward dry than wet is the best way to go because I always dress the dressing with gravy. 😀 If anyone complains that the dressing is too dry, pass them the gravy boat! 😀

As you can see, there are countless ways to modify this recipe. The herbs you use will put a stamp on the flavor, as will the amount of celery you use. Using regular onions instead of green onions are an option (green onions snip up so fast that aside from being traditional in my family, they’re much faster to prep), and if you want to shock your guests you could slip some hot chiles into the mix instead of bell pepper. Garlic fiends might want to saute some garlic with the green stuff. It would guarantee the holiday wouldn’t be crashed by vampires out looking for a good time since Halloween. 😉

Ginger Bread

Gingerbread hot from the oven, cooling next to my mug of tea.

Gingerbread hot from the oven, cooling next to my mug of tea.

I love this recipe! It tastes better than any other gingerbread recipe I’ve tried and it’s faster and easier to make, too. A child could make this. A college student or person starting out in their first apartment could make this because it requires nothing more in the way of appliances or utensils than an oven, 2 bowls, a spoon and a loaf pan. I melt the butter in the microwave, but even that’s optional: it can be melted on the stove. This recipe is adapted from a public domain recipe in The Women’s Institute Library of Cookery, Volume 1: Essentials of Cookery, Cereals, Bread, Hot Breads which is available as a free ebook in many formats from a number of online sources including Project Gutenberg and Manybooks.net. The only change I’ve made to the original ingredients is that the recipe below uses 1 tsp more ginger than the original. The original recipe did not specify the size of the pan, the temperature of the oven, or the cooking time: those details are what I’ve come up with on my own. I’ve also rewritten the instructions which were lacking in specifics and details (not to mention the lack of microwave!).

IMG-20130929-03151There are two unusual things about this recipe, both of which caught my eye immediately. One is that unlike most gingerbread recipes, this isn’t cake-like and cooked in a flat pan such as brownies are. The other thing that struck me is something I’ve never seen before: the butter is added to the batter last. The technique looks fairly normal up to that point: dry ingredients are mixed together, wet ingredients are mixed together, then they’re combined. But the butter is usually mixed with sugar first in most recipes for bread-type baked goods. That’s best done with a mixer. Here, with the butter melted and added last, all the mixing can be done easily by hand. Why not combine the butter with the wet ingredients? The melted butter is hot or at least warm: it will not play well with the egg—or for that matter the cold milk. I tried this once, thinking that I’d cool the butter with the milk and then combine with the egg. The butter went from liquid to solid in nothing flat when it came in contact with the cooler ingredients. The old cookbook knows best! 🙂

It can be a little awkward stirring the butter into a dough that’s already come together, but it works, making this the easiest gingerbread ever! 😀

2 c. flour
1/4 c. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 egg
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. molasses
1/4 c. butter or margarine (1/2 stick or 4 Tbls)

Preheat oven 350.

Melt butter gently in the microwave (or stovetop). Combine the flour, baking powder, soda, sugar, salt, and spices in a medium-sized bowl. In another bowl, beat the egg. Add the milk and molasses to the egg, beating in well with a fork or spoon until the mixture is homogenous. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients. Stir, then stir the melted butter into the batter. Pour the batter into a well-greased (I spray with PAM) 4″x 8″ loaf pan, and bake 50 minutes at 350.

Turn out onto wire rack and let cool somewhat. When it’s cooled enough that you won’t burn yourself, but is still warm, cut a slice and enjoy! (Try it with a ginger beer, or toast it and spread with peach or ginger preserves!)

To Make Gingerbread Men:

Mix as above, then add approximately 1 cup more flour to make a workable dough. Roll out thinly. Cut out gingerbread men using your favorite mold (mine are ninjas and zombies). Bake 10 mins on greased cookie sheets. Cool, then add icing and decorate as desired.

Granny’s Cornbread

My maternal grandmother lived with my mother and I until a series of strokes rendered her not only unable to take care of herself, but made it impossible for us to care for her either. I got a couple of her recipes from my mother (who by-and-large preferred instant to cooking from scratch after a long day at work).

The recipe was transmitted orally; as far as I know it was never written down before I wrote it out. Hence the unusual format of the ingredients which I attempted to put in a list as it was explained to me many years ago.

Slather with the spread of your choice and enjoy!

Slather with the spread of your choice and enjoy!

2 eggs
1 cup flour to 1 cup cornmeal
1 tsp baking powder to each measure of flour and cornmeal (In other words, 1 tsp for each measure of flour and 1 tsp for each measure of cornmeal for 2 total if you use 1 cup of each)
4 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbls oil
“Enough milk to make a stiff batter”

Mix ingredients. I stir together the dry ingredients, then add the oil and eggs, beating in a well I’ve made in the center of the bowl, incorporated a bit of the cornmeal mixture at the edges, splashing in milk, beating by hand a bit more, a bit more milk, etc until the consistency looks right to me. I usually try to be more precise with recipes I post but this is an old family recipe which has been handed down from generation to generation and it’s done more by look and feel — and experience — as recipes often were in the 19th century.

Scrape into a greased pan. (Batter should not be liquid enough to “pour”. I have to spread it out in the pan a bit with the spoon.) My grandmother oiled the pan with cooking oil. A cooking spray such as PAM may be used instead.

Cornbread, hot from the oven!

Cornbread, hot from the oven!

Bake 400 F about 20 minutes or until brown and toothpick comes out clean. Cooking time is affected by how wet the batter is as well as the size and shape of the pan. Your results may vary.

Using the 1 cup flour and 1 cup cornmeal will give you one one 8 x 8 inch square pan of cornbread. I don’t know how far you can go using this proportional method of flour, cornmeal and baking powder, but I’ve doubled this recipe for a 9 x 13 inch pan (2 cups each flour and cornmeal, 4 tsp baking powder, all other ingredients doubled) and it turns out fine.

What always makes me shake my head and smile from the first time I wrote this down through all the years I’ve made cornbread is this one ingredient instruction: “enough milk”. 🙂

Sweet Weekend Buckwheat Sourdough Starter Buckwheat Cakes

I’d never eaten buckwheat cakes until on impulse I bought a bag of mix. Then I was hooked. Being me, of course, I wanted to make them from scratch. Also, typically, I wanted to thrown in a new variable or two into the equation. I had the idea of making sourdough buckwheat because the yeast, I reasoned, would ensure the pancakes were fluffy and had a bit of “lift” since I didn’t trust myself to be able to fake my way through pancake levening, having never made pancakes from scratch. (We’re not regular pancake eaters or I’d have done something like this before now.) Then I stumbled onto a jar of buckwheat honey, which tastes amazing (if you like the flavor of buckwheat, because the honey tastes just like buckwheat cakes, only sweet). I had to incorporate this into my mad buckwheat sourdough scheme somehow.

Researching sourdough starters and buckwheat cakes I found that the proportions for most were a two to one ratio of water to flour, with equal amounts flour and water to feed the starter. Instructions varied widely on the amount of flour and water to use to make the starter and amounts to use to feed, as well as the number of days feeding before it can be used, the frequency of feeding, and the temperature (room temp or refrigerated).

I’d had some experience with starters a long time ago: a neighbor had given me “Herman” which I finally had to throw out because the monster was taking over and I couldn’t keep up with it. Then several years later I bought a sourdough starter and made sourdough bread quite a lot. I don’t remember what brought that to an end, but I seem to recall that the bread tasted worse and worse the longer I used it. Perhaps that famed sourdough tang just got too tangy.

Now here I am, decades later, nursing a sourdough starter again, having not only not learned any lessons from previous experiences, but not even remembering the details of those experiences well enough to guide me this time around. (Which is why it took me two tries to get this right.)

After giving it some thought, I went with 1 cup organic buckwheat flour to 2 cups of lukewarm water. I’m the only one in this household who likes buckwheat cakes, so I didn’t want to end up with enough to feed an army. I dissolved 1 pkg of active dry yeast in 2 cups of warm water, stirred in 1 Tbls buckwheat honey, then 1 cup buckwheat flour. (Bob’s Red Mill brand).

I left the starter in a glass bowl, lightly covered with plastic wrap in a dim room during the week when I was feeding the starter daily.

I started the starter on a Monday, then removed and discarded 1/2 cup Tues and added 1/2 buckwheat flour and 1/2 cup water, stirring well before discarding and stirring well after adding the flour and water. I did this Tues through Friday.

On Saturday I removed 1 cup of the starter and set aside to use for buckwheat cakes. I transferred the remaining starter to a plastic bowl with a lid. I added 1 cup buckwheat flour, 1 warm water to the remaining starter mixture. I left the starter out, covered, while making pancakes, then refrigerated the starter. I didn’t touch the starter again until Saturday.

Saturday morning I took the starter out of the fridge for an hour or so, then removed 1 cup for pancakes and added 1 cup warm water and 1 cup buckwheat flour to the starter. I left it out, covered, while I made buckwheat cakes, then refrigerated it again until the next Saturday.

Thereafter I fed the starter once a week, usually on Saturday or Sunday, removing 1 cup of the starter which I used to make buckwheat cakes.

The starter and pancake batter develop a wonderful spongy, almost mousse-like texture over time. The buckwheat cakes are thick, fluffy, and very filling.

For buckwheat cakes:

1 cup buckwheat starter
1 cup buckwheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup milk
1 egg
2 Tbls oil
2 Tbls buckwheat honey (or other honey)

Stir all ingredients together, until no lumps remain. (I add ingredients in order listed, stirring flour into the starter a little bit, then adding everything else on top and stirring it all together at once.)

Preheat lightly greased griddle. I cook the pancakes on “5” on my electric stove, which is the exact midpoint setting. Higher and they tended to burn, lower and they tended to stick. You’ll need to experiment a bit to find the right temperature on your stove. I grease the griddle with a small amount of cooking oil. I don’t measure this, but if I had to guess, I’d say 1-2 Tbls.

Scoop out by 1/3 measuring cup of batter and pour onto lightly greased griddle. This is a thick batter, which makes a fluffy tender pancake. I scoop out the batter from the cup with my finger and then spread the pancake on the griddle using the bottom of the measuring cup swirling outward in a spiral until the batter is evenly distributed in a circle several inches in diameter in the center of the griddle. (If you prefer a thinner pancake batter and thinner pancakes, adding a little bit more milk should do the trick.)

Conventional wisdom says to turn pancakes when they start to bubble in the middle. I would add one other requirement: the edges of the buckwheat cakes need to show signs of being cooked or being firm. The edge will look slightly dry. The pancakes are delicate and you’ll need a firm edge to get underneath and flip them. I usually cook mine about a minute to a minute and a half on the first side, then slightly less time on the other side.

Serve with butter or margarine and maple syrup. If you want sweeter, with a stronger buckwheat flavor, try drizzling some buckwheat honey over the pancakes instead of maple syrup. If the edges of the pancakes are too crumbly when you start eating, this just means they didn’t get enough margarine (or butter) or syrup. 🙂

This recipe makes 7-8 pancakes. They’re very filling. (I usually only eat two, three if I’m ravenous and don’t mind feeling stuffed afterward — and that’s if I’m only having buckwheat cakes. It’s more like one or two if there’s other things on the breakfast table. Your mileage may vary.) If you don’t use all the batter on Saturday morning, cover it and refrigerate it, then take it out and use it up Sunday morning! 😉

The next Saturday, remove a cup of starter to make pancakes and feed the starter 1 cup buckwheat flour and 1 cup lukewarm water. Refrigerate until the next weekend. If you don’t make pancakes every weekend, throw out the starter that’s removed (or use in another recipe) and feed the starter, then refrigerate the starter. The starter must be tended weekly, removing some and feeding with more flour and water, whether you make pancakes or not.

Don’t worry if you can’t make pancakes on Saturday: it won’t hurt anything to wait until Sunday to make pancakes and feed the starter. You just need to remove some starter and feed the starter sometime each weekend.