Thursday, September 27, 2012

Gluten-Free Adventures: Sourdough!

During my gluten-free adventures, I've experimented with several bread recipes and settled on a quick bread that is super convenient and tastes great toasted with peanut butter and jam. I posted about it here. But recently I happened upon a recipe for a gluten-free sourdough, shared by the King Arthur Flour company. As expected, the recipe used King Arthur gluten-free flour mixes and seemed pretty complicated. But my interest was piqued. Sourdough! Without wheat! Is it really possible? Just for the record, I personally LOVE wheat bread, especially gluten-filled, fluffy, chewy sourdough. But out of solidarity for TinySprite, I thought it would be so fantastic if we could all enjoy sourdough together. Now, I've never made sourdough before. In fact, the last yeasted bread I made was many months ago, and I've always used the supermarket-type baker's yeast that comes in those little paper packets. But this recipe got me thinking about making a sourdough with a "wild" starter, that is: using only the yeast and bacteria that are naturally occuring on the flour (or in the air) already. The rationale is that this starter is less robust, requires longer fermentation and therefore results in tangy-er, more sour, more flavorful bread. I was sold on tangy-er. If that's a word.

So I tried it. And I made a gluten-free sourdough. And, I liked it! Okay, it's not the sourdough you're thinking of; after all, there's no wheat in it, remember. But the flavor is sour, and the crust is chewy, and even though the crumb is dense rather than fluffy, I'm calling it sourdough. And I want to share it with you.

I read a whole bunch of books and articles and recipes on how to make a sourdough starter. And some on making gluten-free sourdough. But there aren't too many on making a gluten-free wild sourdough, so I kind of had to make it up as I went along.

First, I used a mixture of brown rice flour, sorghum flour and millet flour. I'm guessing you could use other types too, like garbanzo, quinoa, amaranth, white rice, etc. I measured 2T of flour and added 4T of filtered water. You'll want to make sure the water you use is not chlorinated (later I used bottled water, which also works). I mixed the flour and water together in a small glass cup. Some recipes call for pineapple juice instead of water, reasoning that the added sugar should speed things up. Some others toss in cabbage leaves or grapes to kick off the yeast culture, but I wanted to be purist. I left my cup alone, swirling it every now and then, whenever I walked by it. Honestly, I think I bothered it way too much that first day.

Not surprisingly, nothing whatsoever happened the first day that I could tell. The next day, I fed it with 2T more flour and 4T more water. On the 3rd day, I noticed small bubbles.

I wasn't sure if they were "real", but I was pretty excited. Over the next few hours, the bubbles became more pronounced. I'll show you how mine progressed:

By the 5th day, I was pretty sure I had a nice yeast culture going. And it was totally "wild" -- I didn't add any baker's yeast at all. You can also tell by the smell that something good is growing. It should smell yeasty/beery, like bread dough. Mine kind of smelled vinegary and acidic.

The length of time it will take for your culture to get to this point will vary depending on the temperature and humidity of your kitchen, and on your particular yeast and bacteria, of course. Once the culture starts going, it should not become contaminated. You'll get to know how fast and how often it needs to be fed. After a feeding, mine would bubble up a lot, then slow down and completely go flat after about 6 hours or so.

At the 6th day, I decided to grow it up to make a batch of dough. I added:

1/4 cup of flour + an equal weight of water every 12-24 hours. 

At this point, you should be measuring ingredients by weight instead of volume, because this method is much more accurate, especially for baking. By day 10, I had enough for dough. After this point, I neglected to take process pictures (actually I was half afraid it wouldn't turn out -- but mainly I was so frazzled that I didn't have the presence of mind to stop and get the camera at each step. But if you click over to the recipe site I used, you'll see she posted some process photos).

I used the recipe I found at The Art of Gluten Free Baking. Now that I'm looking at it, it might seem overwhelming, especially if you haven't baked bread before. But trust me; I think it's probably easier than sourdough made with wheat flour, which you have to work, knead, and rise several times. Gluten-free dough doesn't need that much attention. Basically what you do is add some flour to your starter, some water, salt and sugar.
Here's what she writes as her method (if you click over, she also goes into greater detail about the process):
Sourdough Bread (Boule), Gluten-Free (edited 5/2/11 to correct flour cups measurement)
Special Equipment Needed
-kitchen scale (this recipe is best done by weight rather than volume–although I’ve included approximate cup measurements)
-4 qt Dutch oven w/a lid: Le Creuset, Mario Batali, Lodge, Dansk are all good brands
-a 4 qt bowl (one the same size as your Dutch oven)
-stand mixer (this will work best, but a hand mixer will do in a pinch)
-parchment paper and plastic wrap
-spray bottle with water for spraying top of the crust
-instant read thermometer is nice to double-check the interior temperature of finished bread, but you can do without it (they are cheap–get one!)
Ingredients (measurements are in weight ounces, not fluid ounces)
15 oz (about 3 C) flour (I use a combo of equal parts sorghum, brown rice, and tapioca) (100% BP)
30 oz (a bit less than 4 C) sourdough starter (200% BP)
approximately 6 oz (3/4 C) water (40% BP)
2 tsp salt (2% BP)
2 tsp xanthan gum (1% BP)
2 TBL granulated sugar (4% BP)

After adding the flour, the dough became very dry and crumbly. If you have an electric mixer and a dough hook, this is a good time to bring it out. I tried mixing by hand, and I don't think I'll do that again next time. Mix, mix, mix. Make sure all the flour is completely hydrated. The consistency should be wetter than what you think bread dough should be like. More like a thick cake batter. Line a non-metal bowl with parchment, pressing the wrinkles out as much as you can so that the bread will pour in smoothly. Pour the dough into the parchment-lined bowl and let it rise for 6-8 hours.

If you have a cast iron round French oven, that is ideal. I don't, so I used a Chinese clay pot. It's best if the rising bowl is the same size as the pot you plan to bake in. After the rise, lift out the risen dough by grasping the edges of the parchment paper. Be gentle. The dough should have doubled in size. Carefully place the dough into the preheated pot, cover with the lid and replace into the oven. Bake for 45 minutes covered, then remove the lid. If you have a thermometer, you can check to make sure the internal bread temperature is 200F. Take the pot out of the oven and cool on a rack for 15 minutes before removing the bread. When cool enough, pull the bread out using the parchment, peel off the paper, and admire. Slice and enjoy! 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Caterpillar Meatball Lunchbots Bento

Mini burgers! Or meatballs. Whichever. TinySprite asked for this shape specifically, for the second bento in a row, so I obliged. I used the dot picks for antenna, and cut a tulip shape from cucumber for the face, and decorated with nori. The bug lies on a bed of lettuce in this Lunchbot Trio. Her veggie sides: corn off the cob, carrots and Okinawan sweet potato. Fruit sides: grapes, strawberries and blueberries. All done!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Rilakkuma Bear Burger Bento

Bear burger! This one has turkey and bison (combined because I wasn't sure how well the bison taste would go over), decorated with cheese and nori to make his face upon a spinach bed. There's homemade barbeque sauce in the little container, alongside carrots, strawberry and cinnamon sprinkled apple chunks. Easy peasy, and a hit with my meat-loving girl ^_^

Monday, September 24, 2012

Breakfast For Lunch Bento

I find that I tend to use the LunchBots Quad to try to give me some inspiration on days that find me kind of tired (or lazy). They're great for using up whatever odds and ends you happen to have lying around that don't seem to be enough for a whole lunch. Well, guess what? When you put them all in here, they somehow come together to add up to a complete and filling meal. I had a couple eggs and a sweet Italian sausage so I quickly tossed them in the frying pan to scramble up together. Topped with a few green onions, it'll make a tasty protein serving for TinySprite. The last of the roasted Brussels sprouts and a few carrots fill out the veggie section, and I squeezed a cup of cottage cheese / blueberries / pumpkin seeds alongside some baby super-ripe strawberries. The last section holds watermelon balls, because we're clinging to summer no matter what the calendar says. How about you?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Pickled Sticky Rice LunchBot Bento

I made one of my favorite one-pot meals for today: sticky rice! See my method here. Since TinySprite is allergic to soy, I omitted the lup cheong (Chinese sausage) and replaced the meat with regular ham. I've also used Canadian bacon before (in this bento) and it went over just fine. This batch got shiitake mushrooms and a new kind of green: broccoli stalks. I thought it would give a little bite to the rice. And another new kind of green as well: pickled mustard greens. I know it sounds crazy, but my kids love pickled vegetables. Even mustard greens. Weird, right? It has a very strong flavor and totally changed the way I usually think of this dish, but in a good way. They liked it! Go figure. I put my girl's portion in the LunchBot Trio alongside: fresh pear slices, blueberries, strawberries, Okinawan sweet potatoes and carrots.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Furikake Mahimahi in Panda Bento

Furikake Mahimahi Bento by sherimiya ♥
Furikake Mahimahi Bento, a photo by sherimiya ♥ on Flickr.
We try to eat fish at least once a week, but it seems I've been slacking off here, since (scrolling down) I don't see any fish in my photostream lately. When I saw this nice mahimahi at the market I thought it would be a nice change from the usual salmon (although I love salmon). I cut the fillet into smallish pieces, then pan-fried in butter (olive oil is good too). At the end, I sprinkled some furikake on all sides. I've also made this using kewpie mayo, smearing the fish with it and then sprinkling the furikake and frying. This works, but the furikake might burn if you fry too long. For TinySprite's bento, I tossed a few pieces atop hapa rice, stuck a few carrots on the sides and topped with fish-shaped Okinawan sweet potato. A couple of fish skewers completes the theme. The top tier holds berries, radish and cucumber. Just sprite-sized. ^_^

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Chickpea Cauliflower Curry LunchBot Bento

I decided to make a vegetarian dry curry today, using a recipe that called for simply tossing chopped vegetables with olive oil, curry powder and brown sugar, then roasting the whole thing in a baking pan at 400F until tender and fragrant, about 30 minutes. I used diced eggplant, onion, red capsicum, cauliflower, potatoes and chickpeas. It's a nice mild flavor that the kids can handle, and a good way to get them to eat eggplant. I served it over some fresh spinach leaves in their bento, but it's good over hot rice as well. It's on the dry side, which makes it idea for bento, with no thick sauce to drip all over everything. This Lunchbot Quad keeps the curry separate from the rest of the food, which includes: carrots, corn, Okinawan sweet potato and broccoli; strawberries and raspberries; and pluots and blueberries. I thought this was a pretty big meal for my kindergartner, and I was pleased that she was able to finish it all. Score!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Honey Soy Ginger Baked Chicken Bento

Today's chicken is a little different from the usual shoyu chicken, but the ingredients are the same. I used the recipe from the Mom 100 Cookbook by Katie Workman, which caught my eye because the photographs that accompany the recipes are very cool. They look messy and a little sloppy, just the way most meals look in my house. Plus, she shows variations for folks (like for those who prefer less spicy, etc.) Anyway, here's Katie Workman's version:

Honey Ginger Soy Chicken Recipe (from The Mom 100 Cookbook by Katie Workman)

1 cup of honey, at room temperature
3/4 cup of low sodium soy sauce (I substituted coconut aminos and it tasted okay)
1/2 cup very finely minced or grated fresh ginger (from about one thick 4-inch piece)
1/4 cup minced garlic (8 to 12 cloves)
2 chickens, 3 to 3 1/2 lbs. each, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 8 pieces each
5 scallions, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces, from the white to about halfway up the green (optional)

Whisk everything except the chicken and scallions together, and add to chicken. Marinate a few hours or overnight. Arrange chicken in baking pan and scatter scallions on top. Bake the chicken in a covered baking pan at 350F for 30 minutes. Uncover, turn chicken, increase temp to 375F and continue to bake 30-40 minutes longer. Serve with pan sauce.

It was kind of sweet, but a nice balanced combo with the garlic, ginger and shoyu. The kiddos liked it a lot. I sent a few pieces to school with TinySprite, atop a bed of furikake rice, surrounded by corn off the cob and a broccoli tree. The upper tier of the panda donburi bowl holds peaches, strawberry, grapes, homegrown tomatoes and a steamed Okinawan sweet potato.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Slow-Cooked Pork Stew Bento

Yeah, I know it's not fall yet, but I had a little pork shoulder so I decided to toss it in the slow cooker with some potatoes, carrots and celery and make a kind of stew. It had been cool for a few days last week and I can smell fall coming, so we might as well dust off the stewpot and get ready for those hearty warm meals. This kind of bento is a cinch to pack, because all I do is heat it up and ladle it into the thermal food jar just before the kids go to school. The little side box with fruit (peach, strawberries and blueberries) can be packed the night before. It might not be the cutest looking lunch, but it's nutritious and filling, and it'll keep my kids satisfied though the afternoon. And... that's the whole point, right? Happy Bento-ing! ^_^

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Little Tebasaki Drummettes Bento

I haven't made tebasaki (salt grilled chicken wings) in a long time, and the kids love it (see the method and recipe here). Usually I use a mix of drums and wings, or the entire wing, but I could only find the drummettes this time. They're kid- and bento-sized, and I was happy to see them fit in this box so perfectly. I made TinySprite a little rice "cupcake" with furikake and a baby radish "cherry", plus some lightly steamed broccoli and purple carrots on a skewer. The removable container holds more carrots, a few homegrown tomatoes, pluots, and a little Okinawan sweet potato bear shape. Just right!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Soy Chicken Drumsticks Bento

Shoyu chicken was my absolute favorite dish as a child. I always requested it if my mom ever asked. This version is one I've posted before, and it's a Vietnamese style using fish sauce and coconut water. It has a different, less sweet flavor that I really crave, and when you make it in the slow-cooker you can enjoy the aroma for hours while you dash in and out of the house between kid chauffeuring duties. We are now cutting out soy due to allergies, so I had to adapt the recipe further (substituting with coconut aminos), but as MisterMan says, "It still tastes almost the same, like you know what it's supposed to be." Well, good! I guess. Kids (my kids, anyway) really like shoyu chicken, and I served this one over rice in the bento (out of view), and all the rice got devoured. Something about chicken & rice. The rest of the round box contains: Okinawan sweet potato flower shapes, steamed broccoli, carrots, pluots and golden watermelon. I didn't mean to buy a golden one, but it wasn't labeled as such. There's something weird about a yellow watermelon, though it tasted just like the red kind. I topped with a radish cut like an apple, with sesame seed detail. Simple!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Enchiladas of Love Bento

Enchiladas of Love Bento by sherimiya ♥
Enchiladas of Love Bento, a photo by sherimiya ♥ on Flickr.
The kids get chicken enchiladas today, made with corn tortillas and filled with shredded chicken, onions, olives and cheese; smothered with red sauce and topped with more cheese. I packed MisterMan's in the rectangular two-tiered EcoLunchbox. The enchiladas lay on a bed of lettuce, with cilantro and tortilla "I love you" cutouts. I used the teeny tiny alphabet cutters that I think I found at Daiso. All the letters fit on three round plastic wheels, so there aren't a bunch of little letter cutters to get lost. It's so convenient! The upper tier contains cottage cheese with sunflower seeds and blueberries, alongside a handful of homegrown tomatoes, dinosaur egg pluot, strawberry and grapes.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Chick and Egg Salad Bento

I had to make egg salad since my 9-year-old informed me that he'd never had it before. What? Whoops. I remember eating egg salad sandwiches when I was about his age, with all kinds of weird stuff like sweet pickle relish inside. Or maybe those were my sardine sandwiches? My childhood friend Barb showed me how to make a sardine sandwich with relish and tabasco; I still think that sounds really good, don't you? In fact, it may be time to introduce the kiddos to a sardine sandwich! I'll try that on 'em next week, maybe. For this batch, I mixed a few hard-boiled eggs (diced up with the handy-dandy egg slicer) with plain yogurt, sweet pickle relish, mustard, onions, salt/pepper and topped with diced ham. I put it on a lettuce salad but I'd like to serve it in a pita next time (at least for MisterMan). For fun, I nestled a baby quail egg chick on top. The upper tier of her favorite panda bowl contains sliced peaches, blueberries, grapes and strawberries. For the record: they both loved it. Yay!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Domokun Calzone Bento

Domokun Calzone Bento by sherimiya ♥
Domokun Calzone Bento, a photo by sherimiya ♥ on Flickr.
I made fun calzones for the kids; using regular pizza dough for MisterMan and the Gluten-Free On a Shoestring recipe for TinySprite. I filled with a variety of meat (pepperoni, salami and ham), plus arugula and cheese, then for Domo I sealed it up in a vaguely rectangular shape. While the dough is still sticky (don't dust with flour), add on some little dough pieces for arms and legs. They'll stick there without falling off throughout baking! I'm showing you MisterMan's version here. This version will puff up during baking because it's a regular yeast flour dough, but the gluten-free version will just sit there and look just the way it looked before baking. In a way, it's easier to bake creatures using gluten-free dough for that reason. But I think puffy Domo looks kinda cute. I put some red capsicum and cheese details on his face, along with black capsicum eyes, and tucked him into the stainless steel tiffin with some steamed broccoli. The upper tier contains steamed corn off the cob, carrots, blackberries and blueberries, strawberry, lychees and plums.

Here are some other Domos I've made (using sandwich bread): here and here. And my first one, for a field trip (he looks kinda funny to me now) here!
Added to What's For Lunch.