Friday, February 22, 2013

Honey Whole Wheat Sunflower Seed Bread

Winter weather warnings today found me hunkered down at home grading papers and baking.   It's nice to take a break from grading to punch down a dough and form it into a loaf.  This recipe is adapted from a February/March 2010 Taste of Home magazine. It's remarkably tender given that it uses almost 100% whole wheat flour.  It also has a nice, nutty taste that is enhanced when it's toasted.  The original recipe makes three loaves, way too much for our little family!  I did my best to halve the recipe and am pretty happy with the results, but note that the amounts are approximate!  

Honey Whole Wheat Sunflower Seed Bread
1 1/2 cups hot (not boiling) water
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup honey
1 package (1/4 oz) rapid rise active dry yeast
1/8 cup bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 - 3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1 or 2 teaspoons butter

Stir the oil and honey into the hot water to dissolve the honey.  In the bowl of a mixer, whisk the yeast, bread flour, 2 cups of wheat flour and salt.  With the mixer running, add the water/honey mixture and mix until well combined. (You might need to stop the mixture and stir it by hand to be sure all of the flour is incorporated.) Using the dough hook of the mixer, turn the mixer on again and begin beating the dough, adding up to another cup of flour until the dough pulls away from the sides and becomes elastic.  Knead the dough for at least five minutes, adding more flour to prevent it from sticking it to the sides--but add as little as possible. Add the sunflower seeds and either knead a few minutes more in the mixer or by hand.  Place the dough in a clean, lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a draft-free spot  for about an hour.  (I heat 2 cups of water to boiling in the microwave and then put the dough in the microwave with the hot water for the rise.)  After the dough doubles in bulk, turn it out onto a lightly floured board and form into a loaf.  Place in an oiled loaf pan (5x8) and let it rise again--about 30 to 45 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Once the dough has again doubled in bulk, put it into the preheated oven and bake for about 30-40 minutes, until well-browned.  Remove from the oven and rub the top with butter while it's still very hot.  Take it out of the pan and let the bread cool until it's warm to the touch before slicing and serving.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Signs of Spring Blog

Bill Hamilton, the biology professor (and one of my dearest colleagues) at Penn State New Kensington has a blog entitled Ecologist's Notebook, where he writes about his observations of nature on his forays in the area.  Bill and his wife, Deborah, are responsible for the campus's Nature Trail, one of the crowning jewels of the New Kensington campus!

For a few years, Bill has been posting notes under the title "Signs of Spring." In the past, the Signs of Spring have been welcome indications as winter wanes that spring is indeed nigh.  This year is a bit different and Bill's been noting "signs of spring" even in January. He recently posted about unusual honey bee behavior during the 60+ degree weather we've had recently.  Check out his "Signs of Spring 2: Honeybees" post.  Robert is quoted! :)

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Spicy Peanut Noodles with Broccoli

I had every intention of being a regular (and reliable!) honey recipe blogger in 2013, which was my New Year's resolution.  My father blogs about the joys and challenges of faith almost every Wednesday on Rodge Wood blog, and one day maybe I'll get it together enough to follow his example. (Story of my life, Dad!)  I haven't given up on my resolution--I'm telling myself I'm just getting a bit of a slow start.

In any event, this delicious (and spicy) noodle dish comes together quickly if you have all of the ingredients. Great for a snowy day.  It's also easily adaptable to what you might have on hand.  Even though the dish is called Spicy Peanut Noodles with Broccoli, the "must-haves," it seems to me, are peanut butter, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, honey and some kind of long noodle.  Other veggies--bok choy, a sweet red pepper, and/or spinach would be great additions or substitutions. If you don't use broccoli, though, change the name so you don't confuse your diners. :-)   This dish got a thumbs up from Robert, who is the chief recipe taste tester here.

Spicy Peanut Noodles with Broccoli
1 pound linguine or spaghetti (or, any kind of long noodle that you'd prefer like rice noodles)
1 bunch (about 1 lb) broccoli florets and (peeled) stems, cut into about 1 inch pieces
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter (preferably unsweetened and unsalted)
3/4 cup water
1 tablespoon white vinegar (or slightly more rice vinegar if you have it)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon sesame seeds (slightly toasted if you'd like)

Cook pasta in a large pot of salted water, according to package directions, until al dente.  Drain and place in a large bowl.  In another large pot, bring water to a boil and blanch the broccoli florets for about 4 or 5 minutes, until they are brightly colored but still have a bit of a crunch.  Drain the broccoli and run under cold water to stop the cooking and help them retain their color.

While pasta and broccoli are cooking, slowly stir the water into the peanut butter and stir to combine thoroughly.  Add the rest of the ingredients, and stir into a smooth paste.  Pour over the hot noodles and toss to mix well.  Add the cooked broccoli and toss again to distribute. Sprinkle about 1/4 teaspoon sesame seeds on each serving.   Makes four servings.