March 31, 2010

What's Cooking today at Le Chateau Soleil?

Whole Wheat Mash Bread.  It takes a full week to make.

Recipe: Red Hots!

This was my birthday dish.  I have to say it is fabulous if you have the time to do it.  This is a 100% whole wheat chipotle cinnamon roll with tequila lime icing.

First, I must give credit where credit is due.  This recipe is adapted from Peter Rhinehart's Whole Grain Breads book.  It is a ground-breaking book when it comes whole grain bread baking techniques.  I cannot recommend it highly enough for any person looking to master the art of whole grain baking.

I also have to preface this recipe.  If you do not have a sourdough starter going at your home, this recipe could take you an entire week to make.  There are many things quick and easy about gourmet cooking.  This is not one of them.

Red Hots
If you do not have sourdough starter going or have never made sourdough starter, you can find a recipe here to make sourdough starter from scratch.  It will take about 5 days.  Once your starter is going, then you can continue with the recipe below.  The rest of the recipe only takes 1.5 days.

A soaker is just a mix that gets the flour wet and allows it to soak overnight softening up the fiber in the whole wheat flour.

1 3/4 C whole wheat flour
1/2 t salt
3/4 C soy milk or other non-dairy milk

Mix in a bowl until flour is full hydrated and allow to sit overnight at room temperature.

Sourdough Starter
5 T Active sourdough starter
1 1/2 C whole wheat flour
1/2 C plus 2 T of room temperature water

Mix in a bowl until all ingredients form a dough.  Knead for one minute and allow to sit overnight at room temperature in a loosely covered container.  The dough will double in size overnight.

Tequila Lime Icing
I give the icing recipe here because it should sit overnight in the fridge for maximum flavor development.  I highly recommend doubling the icing recipe.
1 C powdered sugar
1 T soy milk or other non-dairy milk
1 T tequila
Zest of one lime

Whisk together ingredients until smooth.  Cover and put in fridge overnight.

Final Dough
Sourdough Starter
7 T whole wheat flour
5/8 t salt
3 T agave nectar
1/4 C soy milk or other non-dairy milk

In the morning, tear the soaker and sourdough starter into 10-12 pieces and place in a bowl.  Add other ingredients and mix by hand until a soft, slightly-sticky dough forms.  Knead by hand for 3-4 minutes.  Wet your hands and your kneading surface with a bit a water to keep the dough from sticking.  Then, let the dough rest for a few minutes while you prepare a clean bowl with a light spray of oil.  Knead the dough for one more minute then place it in the bowl and cover.

I cover the rolls with foil so they don't dry out but also the foil can create a dome so it doesn't touch the rolls.  Let the dough rise until it doubles, approximately four hours at room temperature.  In colder seasons, it could take six or even eight hours to double.

After the dough has risen, lightly flour your work surface and gently turn the dough onto the flour.  DO NOT PUNCH IT DOWN.  Whoever came up with the idea of "punching it down" just plain old didn't understand the art of bread.  You want to preserve the gluten structure that has developed as much as possible.

Lightly dust the dough with flour and gently roll it to approximately 1/2 inch thick.  Also, it is helpful to roll the dough in as square of a shape as possible.  That will make rolling the Red Hots easier later.

Chipotle Cinnamon Filling
6 1/2 T raw sugar
1 1/2 T cinnamon
1 t chipotle powder

Mix in a bowl and set aside.

When the dough is fully rolled out, using a spray bottle, mist the dough lightly and then sprinkle all of the filling over the dough all the way to the edges.  Leave an inch of dough at the top without any filling as that will seal the dough to itself once it is rolled.

Mist the filling with water again once it is all on the dough.  This just helps it stay in place while you roll.

Roll the dough tightly and keep it seam-side down on your work surface.  Then, using a dough cutter or a knife, cut the roll into thick slices, about two inches thick.  Place each slice on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.

Let the rolls rise another three to four hours.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Place pan in the oven and reduce temperature to 350.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Rotate the pan 180 degrees and bake another 10 minutes.

The buns will turn out to be a rich brown color.  Let cool for five minutes before icing.

Recipe makes about 8 medium-size rolls.


March 29, 2010

Plating Basics: Cashew-Peanut Puree and Raspberry Preserves with Root Vegetable and Whole Grain Artisan Mash Bread

That's right folks.  PB and J with carrot sticks!  To show that presentation is a huge part of any appealing gourmet dish, I used a recipe that was so simple and so common that you can practice plating with any meal or snack.

I recently attended the Asheville Bread Festival in Asheville, NC where I had the opportunity to take a workshop from bread master Peter Rhinehart.  He actually discussed plating and said that he always looks for four things:

-Balance--Does the dish look balanced?
-Unity--Does the dish appear unified or does it look like you just went through the buffet line?
-Focus--Does the dish have focus and is the focus on what's important in the dish?
-Flow--What is the energy and spirit of the dish?  Did you capture it?

BUFF.  These are relatively subjective assessments, but it gives you an idea of what the pros look for when it comes to plating.  Here are my tips:

-Construct something--Find an interesting way to create something visually that people have never seen before.  There is as much art in presentation as there is in the cooking.  In our picture above, we elevate peanut butter and jelly with carrot sticks to a high art through presentation alone.  This dish could easily be served in a high end restaurant or it could end up in a school cafeteria based on presentation.  Find the art in your food.

-Look to add contrasting colors and flavors--Garnish and toppings are essential to any dish and are meant to be eaten.  Here I added a small sprig of Chinese broccoli flowers from my garden to draws the focus of the dish from the bottom to the top.  It also adds a floral hint to it all.  Use your imagination.

-Find the canvas--Don't try to add garnish where it won't be seen.  We eat with our eyes before it gets to our mouth.  Find the areas of your dish that look visually bland and find a way to add color or contrast.  Here the peanut butter is tan and the bread is brown.  It's very monochromatic.  So, we offset the peanut butter with the jelly and the bread with the flowers.  Suddenly, the dish has "flow" and energy.

There are no hard and fast rules here.  Play around.  See what looks artistic.  You can't make a mistake and your skills will improve each time you are intentional about plating.

March 26, 2010

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution

For those who haven't seen the previews yet, check out the new ABC show premiering tonight, Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution.  

He is in Huntington, WV, the most obese town in the most obese area of the country and he is trying to introduce them to healthier eating.  Although he does not currently advocate for a plant-based diet (as he will some day), he is helping Huntington take a huge step in the right direction.

This is required viewing for those who want to make change in their communities related to food choices.  Let's learn from Jamie's successes and mistakes and see if we can make a difference too.

P.S. For those jonesing for new recipes, my birthday celebration turned up a great twist on cinnamon rolls and more thoughts on plating.  Stay tuned!  

March 17, 2010

Recipe: Vegetable Melange with Wild Garlic and Zest of Lemon

Here is a great example of how you can make a dish outstanding or mediocre with all the same ingredients.  Remember, your end product is the result of your process.  If you have a mediocre process for cooking, i.e. throw everything in a pot and come back 45 minutes later, the result will be nowhere as good as it could be.  Use some thoughtful techniques, which I will describe here, and you can produce something incredible.

 Vegetable Melange with Wild Garlic and Zest of Lemon

This dish is quite versatile.  It can elevate cleaning out your fridge to a high art.  Here's what I used but feel free to adapt the ingredients to what vegetables you have on hand.

Mirepoix of green onions, wild garlic*, carrots and fennel bulb.  About 2 cups total.
3 zucchini, roughly chopped
3 C white beans
4 C of fresh kale and collards, roughly chopped
4 C mushrooms, sliced
23 oz. jar of tomato puree
1 T fresh thyme, chopped
1T fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
Fennel tops, cilantro and lemon zest for garnish
2 C brown rice
4 C water

*Note: Wild garlic grows everywhere around Atlanta and looks like a very thin green onion or a fat chive.  You can substitute garlic, garlic chives, chives, or whatever garlicky item you have on hand.

First, boil 4 cups of water.  Add 2 cups of brown rice.  Cover and simmer for 45 minutes.

Build your flavors
You should always build the flavors of your dish.  There is a spark of hope in most people's cooking as they always begin cooking by frying onions and garlic.  Why?  By browning onions and garlic, it develops deeper flavors in the food than if you just throw everything together.

So, we do this with each dish and with each ingredient.  Does this mean you may have to cook some things separately?  Yes.  Does this mean it may take longer or be more complex?  Yes. Is it worth it?  Yes.

Start by water frying your mirepoix until brown.  Now you've got a bunch of brown stuff that I call flavor, some of which has stuck to the pot.  So, now you need some liquid to pull that off the pan and incorporate it into the dish while building flavor at the same time.  Some people like to deglaze their pan with, say, white wine.  That would work fine here if you want.  I love the taste of browned mushrooms, so I use that instead.

Mushrooms have a ton a water in them that you want to draw out to deglaze your pan and incorporate all the flavors together.  Throw in your mushrooms and cover the pan for two to three minutes.  This will allow the mushrooms to begin to steam and release their juices.  You can add some salt if you like which will also help release the juices.

Once you see liquid in your pan, remove the cover, stir to incorporate the flavors and continue cooking on high heat until all the liquid is gone and the mushrooms begin to brown.  Congratulations, you just added another layer of flavor to your dish!

Now add your tomato puree.  You can even cook this down using the same technique if you want to concentrate the flavors more.  This is the reason people use tomato paste.  It's tomatoes cooked down into a more flavorful paste.

Add your zucchini, white beans, kale, collards, thyme and cilantro.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for 10 - 15 minutes.

Use Fresh and Cooked Elements
The taste of cooked vegetables can be wonderful, however, it can also feel heavy as the vegetables seem "spent."  All the life has been cooked out of them.  To really improve the flavor and freshness of your dishes, add fresh/raw ingredients after the cooking has finished.

For example, lemon and other citrus will almost vanish in your dish if you cook them.  So, once the cooking part of the recipe has finished, turn off the heat, then add the lemon juice just before you serve.  It really perks up the flavors in a dish.

I always garnish with fresh tastes as well.  Garnish is supposed to look nice AND be eaten.  It is supposed to complement the dish.  Garnish is not a sprig of parsley next to a dead hunk of meat.  This ain't Sizzler.    

Garnish with the fresh fennel tops, cilantro and lemon zest.

Plate Artistically
Part of gourmet cooking is plating your dish so it is interesting and appealing.  Even with all the work and effort, this dish is basically vegetable stew with rice.  So, how can you make that look interesting?

I packed my rice into a small cup and turned it onto the middle of the plate.  I added the vegetable melange around it.  I then garnished the rice with the fennel tops, cilantro and lemon zest and added a few sprigs of the wild garlic to stand up straight out of the rice.

If you garnish the vegetables, you might not see it.  So, garnish the rice which is like a blank canvas waiting for some color.

When everything is said and done, here's the final product:

Serves 4-6


March 13, 2010

Recipe: Roasted Butternut Squash Ravioli on Zuchini Ribbons with Sage Cream Sauce

Here's another wonderful pasta dish that is sure to impress.  Let's take it step by step:

Roasted Butternut Squash Ravioli

Squash Filling
1 organic butternut squash
2 leeks
1/2 C toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Take one organic butternut squash and cut it in half length-wise.  Lightly spray a cookie sheet with oil and place the halves open-side down on the sheet.  Cook at 400 degrees until soft and tender, probably 45 minutes to an hour.  Let cool.

Scoop out the squash leaving the skin behind.  Then mash the squash in a bowl with your hands or a potato masher.

Dice the white part of two leeks and water fry it in a pan until it carmelizes and browns.  Add it to the squash with the walnuts, salt and pepper and mix well.

Sage Creme Sauce
This is a basic soy milk creme sauce with sage.  For another take on the same creme sauce, check out my Garlic Thyme Gnocchi with Fennel Creme Sauce and Bok Choi Twists. 

1 medium size onion
1 rib of celery
1 medium-sized carrot
1 C non-dairy milk
1/2 C silken tofu
1/2 C water
1 T nutritional yeast
2 t miso (any kind will work)
1 teaspoon of sage
Salt and pepper to taste

Dice the onion, celery and carrot.  Water fry in a large sauce pan or small pot until brown, about 5 minutes.  This is your mirepoix.  

Add the non-dairy milk, tofu, water, nutritional yeast, miso and spices.  Blend with a hand-blender or pour mixture into a blender.  Blend until smooth.  Heat on medium-low until warm.

Note about the sage creme sauce: Remember to taste the sauce before you add the salt.  Miso is naturally very salty, so you should go easy on the added salt.  Also, if you want more sage taste in your sauce, add more sage.  If you are using fresh sage, you may need to add more to get the same taste from dried sage.

Ravioli Dough
If you have never made pasta before, it's easy.  Click here for Cooking Basics on Dough.

1.5 C Semolina flour
1.5 C Whole Wheat flour
1 C Water

Adjust flour or water as necessary to get a smooth, slightly tacky dough.  For a really smooth, pliable dough, make this the night before and let it rest in the fridge overnight until you are ready to use it.  You can make the dough up to three days in advance.

In a large stock pot, fill half way with water and put it on the stove on high to boil while you prepare the ravioli.

Roll the dough thin, to about 1/4 inch thickness.  As you make the raviolis for the first time, you'll see what is about the right thickness.  To cut the ravioli dough, you can use a biscuit cutter, a glass, a coffee mug, a ravioli roller, a cookie cutter, or anything you have on hand that will create circles or squares about 3-4" across.

Add a teaspoon of the squash filling to the middle of each round of ravioli dough.

Note: Be careful not to get filling on the edges or your ravioli may open when you boil it.

Using a small bowl of cold water, wet your finger and moisten the edges of the pasta round.  Then, fold the top of the round over the filling and seal it even with the bottom round.  You can use a fork to crimp the edges together.

Once you have made all the raviolis, drop them in the boiling water 8-10 at a time so they have room to spread out.  They will sink to the bottom and after a minute or two, they will float.  Once they float, give them another 30 seconds and take them out with a slotted spoon.

Zucchini Ribbons
These are very easy to do.  After washing your zucchini, use a zester or similar tool to scrape green strips off the zucchini and set aside.  Be artistic.  See the picture above.  This will be your garnish on top of the dish.

Then, with a peeler, shave the rest of the zucchini into thin ribbons.  Very lightly steam these until warm.  You can even do this in the microwave for 30 seconds.

Final Plating
Remember, presentation is a wonderfully creative part of gourmet cooking.  So feel free to get creative.

I placed a small pile of the zucchini ribbons on the plate.  Then, I stacked the ravioli around the ribbons and ladled the creme sauce on the ravioli.  I garnished with the fresh green zucchini strips.  You could also throw some fresh sage on with the zucchini strips to garnish.

Serves 4-6

Serve and enjoy!

March 8, 2010

Health Basics: Heart Disease

Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans.  One American suffers a heart attack every 25 seconds.  37% of those heart attacks result in death.  Most all Americans know someone who has high cholesterol or who died from a heart attack.  However, what most people do not know is that heart disease is reversible and preventable.  So, this should be a high priority for public health officials, right?  

From April through October of 2009, more than 1,000 people died from the H1N1 swine flu.  Because of this outbreak, President Obama declared a national emergency.  During that same timespan, an estimated 380,000 people died from heart disease.  No national emergency was declared.

So, what can we do to reverse or prevent heart disease?  Eat a low-fat, whole-foods, plant-based diet full of vegetables, fruits, legumes, grains and starches.  Add in some exercise and you're on the road to ending one of America's worst killers.  Then, spread the word.  Our government hasn't made this the priority that it deserves to be, so tell your friends and family.  

Here are some good resources to check out on reversing heart disease:

The Spectrum by Dr. Dean Ornish
Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn

March 7, 2010

What's cooking today at Le Chateau Soleil?

A new twist on whole grain cinnamon rolls.  Recipe to follow soon!

March 5, 2010

Nutrition Basics: Protein

Any time I tell people I eat a plant-based diet, they will predictably ask, "where do you get your protein?"  It is a refrain heard constantly by vegetarians.  Yet, when asked, how much protein does a person need?  Those same people have no idea what to answer.  So, here's the scoop without getting too technical:

Protein is used to repair damaged tissue, build cell walls, among its many functions.  The average person needs around 30 grams of protein per day.  One cup of brown rice and one cup of lentils equals about 23 grams of protein.  That's almost your entirely daily need if you ate nothing else all day!

It turns out that it is nearly impossible to be protein deficient when you are eating a diet that is full of unprocessed whole foods, starches and vegetables.  Even the needs of body builders are only 12% higher than your average person.  That would put their needs in the 35 - 40 grams per day range.

This is why my recipes are not packed with mock meats and other plant-based products like tofu, seitan and tempeh.  They have their place in plant-based cuisine but these sorts of refined protein foods are simply not necessary to meet one's daily protein needs.

So, where do I get my protein?  From an amazing array of vegetables, legumes, grains and starches that provide all the protein my body needs.   

March 4, 2010

Put Down That Recipe!

Many people say they can't cook but they can follow a recipe.  Although that is still cooking, what they mean is that they can't cook unless there is a recipe.  Going from being a cook to a chef is knowing the properties and tastes of ingredients so that recipes are minimally necessary.

My advice?  Put down that recipe!  Give it a brief look and then don't look at it again.  Smell the spices and learn why they are paired together.  Get your hands in the dough and learn what it feels like so you might be able to recreate it another day without the recipe.

The more you do this with recipes, the more comfortable you will get leaving recipes behind and getting creative with your cooking.  You think a dish needs thyme?  Throw it in!  Who cares if it's not in the recipe?  There are no recipe police... only emerging chefs in the kitchen.

So, go ahead.  Dump the recipe and make up the rest.  You will be a far better cook for it.

March 3, 2010

Recipe: Garlic Thyme Gnocchi with Fennel Creme Sauce and Bok Choi Twists

Thanks for being patient and sticking with me for the first recipe.  There were some cooking basics I had to get out of the way so readers could understand my recipes.  This is advanced stuff, but worth the effort.  Please read the entire recipe before venturing into this dish.  Trying to do this ad hoc could throw your dinner off by multiple hours.

Fennel Creme Sauce
1 large leek
1/2 fennel bulb
1 medium-sized carrot
1 C non-dairy milk
1/2 C silken tofu
1/2 C water
1 T nutritional yeast
2 t miso (any kind will work)
Dash of nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste

Dice the leek, the fennel bulb and the carrot.  Water fry in a large sauce pan or small pot until brown, about 5 minutes.  This is your mirepoix.  

Add the non-dairy milk, tofu, water, nutritional yeast, miso and spices.  Blend with a hand-blender or pour mixture into a blender.  Blend until smooth.  Heat on medium-low until warm.

Notes on creme sauce: Remember to taste the sauce before you add the salt.  Miso is naturally very salty, so you should go easy on the added salt. 

Garlic Thyme Gnocchi
Remember the previous post on dough.  This is where it will come in handy.

For those who aren't familiar, Gnocchi is potato pasta.  Potatoes have no gluten, so we have to help it pasta-ize with durum wheat flour.  Durum wheat is the wheat grain with the highest protein content and readily will turn anything into pasta in the right proportions.  Whole wheat durum flour is difficult to find, however, you may find semolina flour or farrina flour at your local market.  Semolina and farrina are akin to the white flour of durum wheat.  At that point, we begin to get away from whole food cooking, but regular whole wheat flour does not usually have enough protein to stand up to boiling as pasta.

You can find other recipes on the web for pasta, even plant-based ones that use regular whole wheat flour.  All those recipes will add some kind of protein, either tofu or eggs or gluten flour.  Again, in trying to eliminate the processed foods and animal foods, whole durum wheat flour is the best choice if you can get it.

2-3 lbs. of potatoes
2-3 C of durum wheat flour
2-3 cloves crushed garlic
1 T fresh thyme, diced
Bake the potatoes in a 400 degree oven for 45-60 minutes until soft and tender.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Once cool, remove the skins and mash the potatoes by hand in a bowl until most of the chunks are gone.  DO NOT blend or put your potatoes in a food processor.  You will get wall paper paste.

Mix in the spices by hand.

Note:  I'm a big fan of using your hands to mix your food.  Forget the spoons.  Your hands are the best way to tell that the consistency of your dish is just right.

Now, add in the durum flour 1/2 cup at a time.  How much durum flour will you need?  Enough to make the potatoes into a workable dough.  Why is this so imprecise?  Your potatoes will vary in weight and water content.  The only way to tell is by mixing in the flour by hand.  This is real cooking.  Anyone caught using a spoon on this step will be put in a gnocchi time-out! 

Once you have your dough, roll it into long snakes between a half inch and an inch in diameter.  Then slice off half inch pieces and place them on a cookie tray dusted with more flour.  They can even sit out uncovered for hours without worry.

Then, you boil them like any other pasta.  For additional flavor, boil them in vegetable broth instead of water.  They will initially sink to the bottom.  After a minute or two, they will begin to float.  Give them another 30 seconds and take them out.

Bok Choi Twists
Bok Choi is a wonderful vegetable that carries a ton of water in it.  It has bright green tops and pure white stems.  The taste is reminiscent of a very mild horseradish.

It is a great accompaniment to the thicker fennel creme and gnocchi.  Chop off the base of the bok choi and wash the leaves individually to get all the dirt off.  Then slice the bok choi length-wise so each piece is long, narrow and has the white base with the green top.

Steam these VERY lightly... just enough to wilt the green but not the white.  The white should stay crisp.  It will be barely warm.  No salt.  No pepper.  Just bok choi in all its natural goodness.

Note:  Great cooking shines through not only in your choices to add ingredients but also in your choices to leave things as they are.  Explore the natural taste of plant foods.  Plants have a ton of flavor.  Think also about meat in American culture.  No one just eats plain meat.  They spice it and cover it up with all kinds of flavorful sauces which are derived from plants.  Explore them.  Plants are where flavor comes from.  

Final Plating 
Align the bok choi on the plate so all the white is on one side and all the green leaves on the other.  Twist the leaves together.

Spoon the gnocchi onto the plate and then spoon the sauce over it.  Don't mix them together in a big bowl first.  This isn't the old country buffet.  Plate all your food before serving.

The green tops of the fennel have delicate sprigs that are very flavorful and fresh-tasting.  Pull these off the fennel leaving the thick green stems behind.  Garnish your creme sauce with a generous amount of these fennel sprigs and serve!

Note: The fennel taste in this dish is quite mild.  For more fennel taste, finely dice more of the fennel bulb and garnish the dish with the diced fennel before you add on the green fennel sprigs. 

Serves 4-6


Cooking Basics: Mirepoix

What the heck is Mirepoix? (pronounced MEER-uh-pwah)

Some call it the "Holy Trinity" of cooking.  It is the basis for many stocks, soups, sauces, stews, stuffing, and many more dishes.  I just call it good old flavor.

Typically a mirepoix is:

onions (2 parts)
celery (1 part)
carrots (1 part)

In New Orleans, it is onions, celery and bell peppers.  Mirepoix is usually chopped up and is the first thing you water fry in a pan until brown.

What do you get when food turns brown in a pan?  FLAVOR!  Some people call it "carmelization."  Whatever you call it, anything you add to your mirepoix will have significantly more flavor.

Check out my recipe for: Garlic Thyme Gnocchi with Fennel Creme Sauce and Bok Choi Twists.  I use a mirepoix of leeks, fennel and carrots.  Leeks are very onion-like.  Fennel bulb is very celery-like.  It worked great!

Try out a mirepoix in your next sauce or soup.

March 2, 2010

Never Trust An Overweight Chef

Time for a new paradigm in cooking...

Never Trust An Overweight Chef

It doesn't take much time watching the Food Network to understand why 2/3 of America is overweight and sick from a rich Western diet high in fat, animal protein and processed foods.

Here is a quick sample of recipes featured this week on the Food Network:
Mini Skillet Meatloaves
Bacon Mac and Cheese
Bacon and Egg Soup
Sausage and Kraut
Frozen Banana Ice Cream Sandwiches (using a full pound of Nestle's tollhouse cookie dough)

These are the kinds of recipes used to teach America how to cook.  Somehow it became acceptable again to cook with as much fat and sugar and meat as possible.  Many of the chefs are overweight too  likely from eating all the rich food they cook.  This trend needs to change.

I will admit that I watch the Food Network on occasion for ideas and inspiration.  I can learn something from any person who cooks.  However, it is time for all chefs with or without a TV show to focus their teachings on plant-based foods, not meat and on taste, not fat.

It is time to be part of the solution...

March 1, 2010

Cooking Basics: Dough

For some reason, people freak out with the prospect of having to make a dough.  So, let's demystify the world of dough.

Grind up grains and mix it with water and you get dough.  Add more water and you get a slack dough that won't hold it's shape which can make bread with big holes like foccacia.  Add more water and it turns into batter for pancakes or crepes.  Roll it out, boil it and you get pasta.  Add yeast to a firm dough and you'll get bread.  Pound it flat and you get flatbread.  Let it sit for a few days and you get sourdough.

Contrary to popular belief, it's hard to mess up dough.  After learning the basics, I started making all my own breads, pastas and crackers.

Give this a try...

Mix by hand:

1.5 cups of whole wheat flour
.5 cup of water

This is a 3:1 ratio.  3 parts flour.  1 part water.  This will make a good-old middle-of-the-road dough.  Firm and a little bit tacky... kind of like touching a Post-It note.  Remember what this dough feels like.  You will have this consistency dough for many breads, crackers and pastas.

I will refer to this kind of dough and texture in future posts.