Thursday, August 20, 2009

Homemade Hamburger Buns

I've been wanting to try making my own for quite awhile now, so when I saw Mother Earth News had a recipe I was excited to try it.
I've never made something that required a sponge before, but it wasn't hard at all. I made the sponge last night:

1 Cup warm milk
4tbs unsalted butter (I just realized I used salted- hopefully mine don't turn out too salty)
3/4 C whole wheat flour
1 C all purpose flour
1/4 tsp instant yeast
and (optional)
2 TBSP potato flour (or instant potato buds- I used the potato pearls and so far so good)
1/4 C dry milk
3 TBSP bread improver (I assumed that this meant wheat gluten, but who knows)

If you don't add the optional things, add an extra 1/4 to 1/2 C flour

Cover with plastic wrap and a towel and let sit overnight or at least 2 hours.

In the morning, comine 1/4 C warm water and 2 tsp instant yeast.  Add mixture to sponge, and stir in with a spoon (I tried my mixer and spilled yeasty water all over), then add 1 1/4 C flour, 2 TBSP sugar, and 1 1/2 tsp salt.  Knead by hand, or in a mixer for about 10 minutes (longer if by hand)  until dough is soft and smooth.  Cover with lightly greased plastic wrap and a towel and raise for 1 hour.  Pour out onto lightly floured surface, and divide into 6 balls.  Place balls on a lightly greased bun pan, cover with greased plastic wrap and a towel and rest for 10 minutes.  Remove towel (not plastic wrap) and flatten balls with your palm.  Replace towel and raise for about an hour.  Bake in preheated 375 F oven for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.  Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.  

Makes 6 buns.

Review:  The buns are good.  They have a light flavor that won't fight with hamburgers and ketchup.  I would make 8 or 10 buns out of the amount of dough one batch makes- they turned out huge.  I think I'd also use a big flat plate to flatten the dough with since my hand wasn't terribly even.  I think I'll make them again, but they are kind of a lot of work (not really any more than any good roll/bread recipe, but we're talking hamburgers here) so I probably won't make them often.  We don't eat hamburgers very often anyway.  Tripling the batch worked great- and the dough was a beautiful dough.  I'm not sure if that's what dough made with sponge is always like, but I'll definitely have to try other sponge recipes.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Book Review and Zucchini recipes

Several months ago I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. I think I've probably posted about it before, but my Mister has also read it recently, so we've been talking a lot more about being self sufficient and commenting on what we'd give up if we were to live that way. (We both recognize that we couldn't do it where we live now, and we'd have to move to the country somewhere.) For example, as I bite into a twix bar, my Mister says, "you couldn't eat those anymore", or as he mixes up a glass of gatorade after a run, I say, "that would have to be one of our exceptions to the "no food we don't grow ourselves or buy from a local source". It's a fun game, really. 

It's a fascinating book, and I really recommend it especially if you have any interest in gardening or self-sufficiency. It really makes you think about where your food comes from. It will also make you want to make your own cheese and grow asparagus.

One other thing it has made me think a lot about is eating foods during their season. Right now is the season for zucchini and tomatoes, so we've been eating those things a lot. Here are a few "recipes" we've been using a lot. I don't want to let anything go to waste, and these dishes are easy (I love one-pot meals) and different enough that I'm not gagging thinking about eating zucchini again tonight. Feel free to post your own zucchini recipes as well.

Summer Stew refers to anything thrown together with ingredients right out of the garden.  (2013 update: I'm going back through old posts to add pictures, so as I remake these meals, I'll add photos)

Moroccan Summer Stew
Saute olive oil, garlic and onions in a pan.  Add chopped potatoes, tomatoes and zucchini.  Add enough water to steam the potatoes and cover (you may want to let the potatoes steam for a bit before you add the zucchini and tomatoes so they aren't total mush).  Add a can of garbanzo beans, and several good shakes of cumin (add enough that you can smell it) and some salt and pepper to taste.  If it's too dry, add a little more water so that there's enough "sauce" to moisten the couscous you serve it over.  (I recommend couscous, but quinoa is good too, rice might be okay.)

Italian Summer Stew

Saute olive oil, garlic and onions in a pan (do you sense a theme yet?).  Add sliced zucchini, and tomatoes.  Add water if there isn't enough from the tomatoes to make it saucy.  Add oregano or basil (fresh basil from the garden is wonderful), and salt and pepper to taste.  Cover and simmer until zucchini are softened.  Add a couple of handfuls of pine nuts and two or three splashes of balsamic vinegar.  Serve over pasta.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Un-Stuffed Zucchini
(you can also stuff them, in which case you cut a huge zucchini in half, scrape out seeds, fill with the following mixture, top with cheese, and bake in oven for however long it takes for the zucchini to cook all the way- I'm helpful, I know- my mom can comment and tell everyone how long this takes- but my experience is that the kids eat the stuffing part and leave the zucchini part, so I've started making my stuffed zucchini un-stuffed)

Cook however much ground burger you want.  I think I usually use 1/2 pound, but it really doesn't matter.  Add garlic, and onions.  I like to add a little beef bouillon too. Saute, then add chopped zucchini, tomatoes and a cup or two of rice (depending on how many people you are feeding and how big your pan is).  Add enough water to cook the rice.  Cover, and cook on low for 20 minutes or so (until the water is gone and the rice is cooked).  Salt and pepper to taste.  Sprinkle with cheese (I like mozzarella), and serve.

Grilled Flatbread Pizza with zucchini: Recipe here.
Ratatouille: Recipe here.
Pizza: topping idea here.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Black and White

Recently I heard someone talk about their family in California and how they were affected by proposition 8, and how it showed them that some people are ready to jump up and follow the prophet, while others let things like that damage their testimonies. I have to state clearly, that I really like the person who was speaking, and I recognize that we all have different life experiences which shape us, but it made me wonder why we (subconsciously even) view the world in such black and white terms.

I've written about my feelings toward prop 8 and same sex marriage before, so I won't go into that again, but I wonder why the only "good" response to things like prop 8 is to immediately obey. I'm certainly not advocating that we immediately disobey any time the prophet speaks, I believe we should follow the prophet, but I think that we should allow that those who aren't given the spiritual gift of immediate confirmation also have a valid experience. I remember a few months ago in sunday school, a class member said that she always wondered why she struggled so much to gain a testimony of something, but she felt like once she did, she didn't lose it.

Too often we view those who struggle to gain a testimony of something (or even those who honestly and prayerfully have come to a different answer than our own) as lacking in some way. Instead of wondering why people allow difficult issues to damage their testimonies, perhaps we should ask ourselves how we can help others through trying times in their lives, and then acknowledge that everyone is given a different experience here on earth and one is not better or worse than another, they're just different, which gives us different views and teaches us different things. Life isn't black and white, it's shades of grey.