sourdough crackers

Sourdough Crackers

A great place to begin sourdough baking is with crackers or lavash. Every baker who keeps a starter alive has discard. Most of us hate to waste. Instead of tossing your discard away, simply add oil, salt and enough flour to create a soft dough. Most sourdough bread bakers obsess over getting a good rise, but you want crackers to be flat and these will be! Besides, SD discard makes these flatbreads much more flavourful.

Basic Dough

3.5 oz/100 g 100% hydration sourdough discard (SD) 

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 tsp salt

2-4 heaping Tbsp flour

Dough add-ins

1/4 cup Blue Cheese or goat cheese, crumbled

2 Tbsp Sun-dried tomatoes

1/4 cup toasted walnuts, pecans, sunflowers or sesame  seeds

1 Tbsp toasted cumin, coriander, ajwain, fennel or nigella

Chili flakes

Dried rosemary, thyme, sage or oregano

Roasted or finely chopped garlic

Top-ons

Flaky Vancouver Island or Maldon salt

Chili flakes

Once you have fed your starter, get ready to work with the discard or simply cover and leave in the fridge (up to 24 hrs) until you are ready to create cracker dough. Add olive oil, salt and two tablespoons of flour to the discard. Mix.  Add more flour, little by little, until a dough forms and you can knead it in the bowl a few times. 

Add-ins are all optional.  Any add-in ingredients high in moisture, such as soft cheese or roasted garlic may require that more than 4 tablespoons of flour are added to make a dough. 

Flour types will also affect dough formation. In general, cracker dough can take more processed white flour than it can whole or sifted grains, like rye, buckwheat, wheat, barley, cornmeal and spelt.  The more you experiment with different flours and add-ins, the more you will learn about your dough and what you like in a cracker. 

I like to add flaky salt and chill flakes as top-ons (even though the dough may contain both) for instant cracker-bite-appeal. 

Rolling out cracker dough is easy.  Lay out a piece of parchment paper on your counter and dust it and rolling pin with flour.  Roll dough out as thinly as possible. Sprinkle over with top-ons if desired. Prick with a  fork to create a regular pattern. 

Bake on a baking sheet at 325 F for 15-30 minutes.  A very thin cracker will cook faster than a thick one. 

Your cracker is ready to take out of the oven when it is browning around the edges. Remove parchment and using oven gloves, pick it up and see if it bends and is pliable in the middle of a cracker sheet.   If so, it needs more oven time. Sometimes I turn off the oven and leave the cracker sheet inside for an hour or so to really dry out. It’s a good sign if your sheet of dough has cracked in a few places and that may get you thinking about this product’s name.

Finally, how do you cut your crackers? I go with a rustic approach, breaking the baked cracker sheet or lavash into shards, serving in a tall glass. But you may want to use a pizza or ravioli cutter to cut the dough into triangles, rectangles or squares before baking. Ensure even baking by cutting all the shapes into similar shapes. Individually cut crackers will bake in 15-20 minutes.

 

Stir-Fry Success

The key to a great stir-fry lies in a few ground rules.

Number One: Don’t even think of turning on the heat and pulling out your wok if all your veggies and proteins aren’t prepped.

Number Two: Rely on a quick marinade to make proteins sing.

Number Three: Stir-fry pork, beef, chicken, seafood or tofu after you have stir-fried your perfectly chopped veggies. Keep the two separately stir-fried and mix it all together at the finale.

What makes stir-fried veggies so deliciously tender-crisp? Even size. Chop each carrot into a match-stick or uber-thin slice, preferably on a slant. Cut every broccoli or cauliflower floret as if identical. Shave off slices of Napa, green or purple cabbage.

If cutting veg isn’t your thing, you can go for bigger pieces, just make sure they are all the same size to ensure even cooking. Onions, bell peppers and bok choy stems stir-fry effortlessly if cut into equal-sized quarters or eighths. Green onions taste great cut into two-inch pieces. So do leeks. Green beans, snow and snap peas simply need stems removed.

Whether it is tofu, ground pork or sliced beef, all will taste better if they are marinated in soy and sherry for at least 10 minutes. I keep half pound portions of pork tenderloin, flank steak or boneless chicken thighs tucked away in my freezer. All are easier to slice thinly when partially frozen and can defrost fully while marinating.

A tablespoon of corn starch in a marinade will help thicken a stir-fry’s essential sauce. Nobody likes an oily stir-fry yet many stir-fry beginners add too much oil to the equation. The trick is to heat a dry wok on high heat (preferably gas) add oil (preferably a neutral organic one) and swirl it around to cover the wok’s sides, then start tossing in ingredients, very quickly.

Said ingredients must be ready within reach from the stovetop, including water or stock, essential for steaming vegetables once the wok gets dry, a phenom that happens within the first few minutes of your average stir-fry. Splash in half a cup of water or stock, put the lid on and let your stir-fry cook itself, gradually adding veggies starting with the longest-to-cook ones.

Seasoning is essential to taste and rare is the stir-fry in my kitchen that doesn’t contain freshly grated ginger and garlic. Because they are grated and cook in an instant, these seasonings can be added into the protein’s marinade or tossed in at the very beginning, stir-fried for just a few seconds before adding longer-cooking, bigger pieces of veggies such as onion, cabbage, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy stems, Gai lan stems, chayote or kohlrabi.

The last thing I might throw into a stir-fry is sliced leaves, bean sprouts, snow peas or freshly chopped herbs. In the case of this recipe, I tossed in whole basil leaves just before sliding the entire event on to a big white platter.

Stir-Fried Pork with Peppers and Black Bean Sauce

Serve this on steamed rice or noodles.

1/2 lb/200g pork tenderloin, thinly sliced against the grain (or firm tofu)

1 Tbsp corn starch

1 Tbsp soy sauce

1 Tbsp cooking sherry or wine

1/2 tsp sambal oelek *optional

1/2 tsp sesame oil

1/2 tsp granulated sugar

Freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup neutral oil, divided in half

1-inch knob ginger, peeled and finely grated

2 cloves garlic, finely grated

1/4 cup fermented black beans or 1 tbsp Lee Kum Kee black bean and garlic sauce

4 green onions, sliced into 2 inch pieces

1 small red onion, cut into eighths

2 bell peppers, thinly sliced

2 cups green beans, topped and tailed

1/2 cup water

8 leaves fresh basil or mint

In a medium bowl, combine sliced pork and corn starch. Add soy, sherry, sambal oelek, sesame oil, sugar, black pepper and set aside to marinate at least 10 minutes.

Heat wok on high. Add 2 tbsp oil and swirl around the sides. With a large Chinese spatula/shovel stir-fry ginger and garlic for 30 seconds, add black beans, green onions, red onion, bell peppers and green beans. Stir and cook until wok gets dry, add water, drizzling around the sides of the hot wok, stir until combined. Put the wok lid on. Wait until veggies are tender crisp, about 2-3 minutes. Transfer to platter.

Return the same wok to high heat, add remaining 2 tbsp of oil, swirl around sides. Add marinated pork or tofu, stir fry until golden brown, adding a tablespoon or more of water or stock if wok gets dry. Add reserved vegetables and fresh basil or mint. Stir to combine. Transfer to platter and serve immediately.

Shanghai Bok Choy

Whether it is green stemmed Shanghai bok choy or “regular” white-stemmed bok choy this vegetable is meant for the wok. Baby or full size, bok choy stir-fries beautifully when it is washed and chopped in similar sized pieces. Stir-fry the thicker stem portions first and toss in the chopped green leaves afterwards. Because greens release a lot of water while cooking, no extra water or stock is needed, but you will need a cover to steam until just done. 

2 tbsp oil  

1-inch fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated

1 lb/400g bok choy

1/2 tsp sea salt

Wash and prep the bok choy and ginger, arranging in bowls or plates beside the stove-top. Heat the wok on high.  Add oil, swirl to cover the sides of the wok and toss in ginger. Using a large Chinese spatula, stir for 10 seconds then add the chopped bok choy stems and sprinkle with salt. Stir-fry about 2 minutes or until slightly tender. Add all the chopped leafy ends, mix and cover. Leave to steam 1 or 2 minutes or until leaves are wilted and stems still firm but deliciously tender.

Smeared Cauliflower

Ginger Turmeric Smeared Cauliflower

Make this a vegan one-pan meal with the addition of chickpeas.  Serve with hunks of whole grain bread and a leafy green salad. 

Paste: 

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp water

1 cooking onion, small, peeled and quartered

1 inch ginger, coarsely chopped

I inch turmeric, coarsely chopped

1 large clove garlic

1 tsp coriander powder

¼ tsp hot chili flakes

1 tsp cumin seeds

Salt and pepper

1 tbsp olive oil

1 head cauliflower, rinsed whole, cut into steaks, loose greens

6-8 grape tomatoes, sliced in half

1 cup chickpeas * optional

Preheat oven to 400 F

Whirl oil, water, onion, ginger, turmeric, garlic, coriander powder, hot chilli flakes, cumin seeds, salt and pepper in a small food processor.  

Brush oil evenly over the bottom of a rimmed baking sheet. Scatter cauliflower steaks and pieces and smear on paste with a spoon or basting brush. 

Bake 40 min. flipping halfway through.

Chinese Steamed Fish

As we usher in the New Chinese Year today, let’s eat fish!  Not only is fish a fine food to eat on Friday (especially if you’re Catholic) but if you’re speaking Mandarin, fish (鱼 yu) symbolizes prosperity, because  yu is a  homonym for surplus.

Steaming is a healthy and delicious way to cook fish creating a sumptuous sauce to spoon over rice.  Moreover, steam heat is gentle yet fast.  Cooking is done in 8-10 minutes.  Once your fillets pass the flake-test,  you can leave your fish covered in the steamer and it will stay warm while you set the table or finish stir-frying some Chinese greens like bok choy or gai lan.

Chinese-style steamed fish

1 lb/450 gm       sea bass, cod, salmon, haddock, tilapia or halibut fillet, cut into 4 pieces

Sauce:

2 TBS    black bean and garlic sauce OR 2 tsp soy sauce

2 tsp      toasted sesame oil

2 TBS      water

2 TBS      Japanese mirin or cooking sherry

1 three-inch knob ginger, peeled and thinly sliced into matchsticks

3 green onion OR 1 small leek, thinly sliced lengthwise

2 TBS      fresh coriander, chopped

Mix sauce ingredients in a small bowl.

Place fillets in a heat-proof dish that will fit inside an aluminum or bamboo steamer. (Or, create your own steamer by placing a rack set in a large skillet.)

Using a spoon, place an equal amount of sauce on each fillet. Sprinkle over with ginger matchsticks and green onions or leek.

Bring several inches of water to boil in the steamer. Wearing oven gloves, place the dish with fillets into the steamer.

Cover and steam 8-10 minutes on high, or until the fish flakes at the touch of a fork and is opaque in the middle.

Garnish with fresh coriander and serve over steamed rice.

© 2015 Madeleine Greey

Cookies! White choc macs

Fine baking is all about good ingredients and a reliable recipe.  That’s why I turned to one of my baking idols, Bonnie Stern, for this cookie recipe’s foundation.

Desserts, first published in 1988 and revised ten years later, is over 200 pages of sweet perfection. My revised paperback edition is well-loved, covered in stains and filled with dog-eared page after page of handwritten notes.  I found “Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies” on page 108, where I had scribbled “Great!” 20 years ago and made plans to substitute half the chocolate with macadamia nuts.

Mac lovers have a thing for these nuts from Hawaii and you’d think I’d have no trouble finding them on Vancouver Island, just 2,361 miles away…  After two supermarket scans, I had given up all macadamian hope until David pounced on two bags at Country Grocer in Cobble Hill.

Bonnie wrote this recipe after lunching with “Mr. Chocolate Himself” (Bernard Callebaut) making me woeful not to have a chunk of his white stuff in my cupboards. I had to make do with PC white chocolate chips.

Luckily, butter fared better. Freshly purchased from Cow-Op, I had a glorious half-pound of Avalon organic unsalted butter that was whipped into a frenzy by Krystal, driving our cookie operation inside the KitchenAid mixer.

Ten minutes earlier, Krystal had placed two cold eggs from the fridge into a bowl of warm water to gently warm them up to room temp for the bake. I knew Promise Valley’s farm stand eggs were the finest and freshest I could find, their deep orange yolks ready to enrich this already rich mix.

For added flavour and a hint of nutrition, I substituted all-purpose with True Grain’s Sifted Spelt. Whether it’s sprouted, whole or sifted, spelt doesn’t disappoint in chocolate cookies.

This recipe delivers gooey, sugar-loving smiles and zillions (okay, just 50) cookies. If you can, hide some in the freezer — a tactic I’ve employed too often to really call successful any more.

Macadamia White Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup/2 sticks               unsalted butter, softened

1 cup                              brown sugar

½ cup                             granulated sugar

2                                     eggs, room temp

1 ½ tsp                          vanilla extract

1 tsp                              water

2 cups                           whole, sprouted or sifted Spelt

1 tsp                              baking soda

½ tsp                             sea salt

1 cup                             white chocolate chips or shredded

1 cup                             macadamia nuts

Preheat oven to 350 F

In a mixer using the whisk attachment, cream butter, brown and granulated sugar on high for about 2 minutes or until very light. Mix in one egg at a time. Mix in vanilla and water.

In a medium bowl, whisk together spelt, soda and sea salt.

Add flour mixture to creamed butter in mixer using paddle attachment until combined.  Add white chocolate and nuts until just combined.

On a baking sheet lined with parchment, drop cookie mix by the teaspoon and gently roll into balls.

Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Leave on baking sheet for 5 min. before transferring to a cooling rack.