Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Ice cream cake, two sourdoughs, cornbread, and C.R.O.W.W.

This week I made ice cream for the first time in months. I also made a sourdough whole wheat bread, helped make some sourdough waffles, took another stab at C.R.O.W.W (cinnamon raisin oatmeal walnut whole wheat) bread, and made some cornbread.

Ice cream cake

I made this cake for my friend Mia's birthday. I was happy to make it because (1) Mia is great and (2) it was good practice for my nephew's birthday cake next weekend. His ice cream must be chocolate, but we could do something more interesting with this one.

Malted milk ice cream cake

I used The Perfect Scoop's recipe for malted milk ice cream (p. 51), omitting the salt and reducing the malted milk balls from 350 g (2 cups) to 210 g. (The first time I made this ice cream everyone loved it, but it had so many mix-ins that it was hard to taste the ice cream.)

Two options for malted milk: Carnation and Horlicks

I used Carnation malted milk powder, since I could tell how much sodium it had (a fair amount, but not so much that I couldn't eat it).

Carnation has 100 mg sodium per 3 T serving.

I'd found some Horlicks in an Indian market in Berkeley, but its sodium contents were so shabbily labeled that I was afraid to use it. Seriously, why would you measure salt instead of sodium? And why would you measure it in grams instead of milligrams?

Horlicks has 0.5 g salt (200 mg sodium?) per 25 g (2 T?).

The night before churning the ice cream, I made a chocolate cookie crust in a springform pan, following a recipe for mock chocolate cookie crust. I let it cool overnight on the stove. The next morning, I put it in the freezer for about 20 minutes as I churned the ice cream.

Chocolate cookie crust in a springform pan

It'd been so long since I'd made ice cream, I'd forgotten little things like how to transfer the ice cream into the container, or setting something to catch drips. It didn't help that I was transferring to a much wider container than usual. I sprinkled on the chopped malted milk balls as I transferred the ice cream.

It worked out pretty well, although the crust was difficult to cut through. I'll do some things differently next time:
  • Try not to pack the crust as much. (I considered not using as much crust, but everyone objected to that.)
  • Smooth the ice cream with the underside of a metal measuring cup, as described in America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook, p. 629. (I didn't find that recipe until after I'd made the cake.)
  • Remove the bottom of the springform pan, as well as the sides, before cutting.
  • Put the pie onto a flat plate before cutting. (To do: Find/buy a large, flat plate.)
  • Press handfuls of rainbow sprinkles onto the sides, as ATKFC suggests. (My nephew specifically wanted rainbow sprinkles on his cake. For anyone else, I might use nuts or chocolate.)
  • Put a plate under the springform pan in the freezer, to avoid drips of ice cream.


In sourdough land, I made a whole wheat sourdough bread and the sponge for sourdough waffles. Both were OK but could use improvement.

Whole wheat sourdough bread.

The sourdough bread (Hensperger p. 280) was marred by a too strong taste of molasses. I've used molasses before in bread and liked it, but (1) this was the bottom of the bottle and (2) the other molasses breads had strong-flavored ingredients like cocoa and coffee that probably masked the molasses. If I make this bread again, I'll use honey or sugar instead of molasses. The texture was fine, but the bread wasn't even tasty when toasted; it just smelled a little like burnt molasses.

Two sourdough starters in the bread machine.

The recipe calls for 1 cup of sourdough starter, preferably next-day white starter made with whole wheat flour. Instead I used about 2 T of a rather solid (Josey Baker) whole wheat starter. Then I added enough of a rather liquid white starter to make 1 cup. Other changes I made to the recipe:

  • Reduce salt to under 1 t.
  • Reduce yeast to 1 t.

The sourdough waffles, from this King Arthur Flour recipe, were going to be pancakes, but we couldn't find all the parts to our griddle. The mix was a bit thin for waffles, and they didn't cook up as nicely as usual. (No pictures: we ate all the evidence.) Next time I'll use less liquid or more flour. Or I'll make pancakes.


I made the same cornbread I made last week, but I used an 8-inch pan instead of a 10-inch pan. The cooking time was longer, but it was just as good. I like crust, so I slightly prefer the 10-inch pan, even though it's harder to handle.
Cornbread in an 8-inch cast-iron pan

This time I used a flavorless oil (canola or peanut) instead of hazelnut oil, and the cornbread still came out tasty. This bread was just for me, so there were leftovers, which were good for at least a day or two.


I made this bread like last time, except for the following changes:
  • Doubled the raisins (to 1 cup)
  • Doubled the nuts (to 1/2 cup)
  • Used toasted pecans instead of walnuts

1 cup of Berkeley Bowl's jumbo raisins mixed medley

1/2 cup of pecan pieces

The upshot? This is a tasty loaf of bread. Doubling the pecans and raisins was a good thing to do and didn't cause problems with mixing. (OK, they weren't perfectly mixed, but they weren't all on the bottom either. I call that a win.)

Slightly misshapen, as usual

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Recipe reviews: Sodium Girl's Limitless Low-Sodium Cookbook

This evening I gave my aunt a copy of one of my favorite cookbooks, Sodium Girl's Limitless Low-Sodium Cookbook by Jessica Goldman Foung, who blogs at I spent a bunch of time adding bookmarks for recipes I liked or loved, and little "don't do it" signs for a few recipes I don't recommend. It'd be silly to do that again the next time I give someone this book, so here are my notes.

This cookbook isn't perfect. The directions don't always seem tested, and sometimes they're unnecessarily convoluted. I suspect that Sodium Girl is a self-taught cook who happens to be a wizard at figuring out combinations of ingredients that work without salt. These recipes use tons of herbs, spices, and other flavorful ingredients, such as tamarind paste. Although not every recipe works, the ones that do are utterly delicious.

Loved it

  • Tamarind "teriyaki" chicken skewers (p. 90)
    • Don't bother skewering the chicken. Just stir fry and serve it over rice.
  • Salad of grapefruit + avocado with toasted pumpkin seeds (p. 125)
    • So good!
    • Half a jicama is enough.
    • Try it with 1/4 cup or less of olive oil. (It calls for 1/3 cup, but that seems like overkill.)
  • Pistachio + broccoli pesto-crusted salmon (p. 196)
    • Use half the amount of pistachios.
    • Trader Joe's sometimes has unsalted, shelled pistachios; get them online if not in the store.
    • Don't go overboard on the broccoli.
    • This makes a lot of pesto; you could probably reduce those ingredients by 25%.
    • Don't buy too much salmon; 4-6 oz per person is plenty.
    • This recipe is very filling (lots of good fats!).
  • Pork + fennel meat loaf (p. 226)
    • Yum!!!
    • Don't bother basting with ketchup so often. Once before it goes into the oven and once halfway through baking is plenty.
    • We've made this twice in the last week.
  • Whiskey orange pulled pork (p. 227)
    • Cook [the boneless pork butt] until the meat falls easily from the bone??? Riiiight.

Liked it

  • Mushroom broth barley soup (p. 143)
    • Makes a lot (enough for 8 people, not 4 to 6).
    • We omitted the dried mushrooms (probably because we didn't have any). It was fine without them but would probably be better with them.
    • The whole black peppercorns were a bit much; just use more ground pepper.
    • We reduced the cooking time (15 minutes simmer -> 5, 45 minute covered simmer -> 30).
  • Chicken wraps with plum sauce (p. 212)
    • Tasty!
    • The sauce makes the chicken gray; consider coloring the chicken somehow to make it more appetizing?
  • Pumpkin turkey pasta (p. 217)
  • Beef taquitos (p. 222)
    • I think we've made this with chicken a couple of times.
    • Don't bother rolling up the stuff and baking it; the tortillas fall apart. Just bring out the meat and some warm corn tortillas, and let people roll their own.
  • Moroccan lamb stew (p. 239)
    • We might have loved this, but I only made it once a long time ago, so I don't remember.
    • Can use > 2# of lamb, even without the bone.
    • We used an entire orange (from a serious juicer).
    • The couscous can wait until just before show time.
  • Quick chai tea cookies (p. 250)
    • Sliced almonds taste better than pumpkin seeds.

Don't bother

  • Homemade chorizo patties (p. 67)
    • Might have been good with some salt.
  • Fraiche start carrot quiche (p. 68)
    • We tried this twice, without success.
    • Once we used creme fraiche, and once greek yogurt.
    • With creme fraiche it was too creamy and not eggy enough.
    • The crust was better the second time, when we used half shortening (and half butter) instead of all butter.
  • Beef + broccoli with szechuan orange sauce (p. 225)
    • Coating the beef (step 3) was a waste of time; stir frying would've been easier and better.
    • We used oranges instead of mandarin oranges; mandarins would've been better.
    • We didn't like it enough to try again.

Want to try

Pickles, curry, .... We haven't made even half the recipes I want to try. I'll put a list here eventually.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Cornbread & sprouted whole wheat bread

Yesterday I made two tasty breads:
  • Bread Machine Sprouted Grain Bread, from the One Degree organic foods website
  • Company Corn Bread, from p. 305 of the Better Homes and Gardens New Baking Book (which was new in 1998)
I wanted to make a sandwich bread, but I couldn't use my normal recipes because I'm almost out of regular bread flour. (Most of the sandwich bread recipes I like are about 50% whole grain.) I'd had some sprouted wheat flour for a while and not known what to do with it, so I searched the web for recipes that use 100% sprouted wheat flour. Of three recipes that looked reasonable, this was the only one with reviews, and the reviews were positive.

I made the following changes to the One Degree recipe:
  • 1 t salt (instead of 1.5 t)
  • 1.5 t yeast (instead of 2.5 t; next time I might try 1 t)
  • raw cane sugar (turbinado) instead of coconut palm sugar
When I opened the flour bag, I realized that the flour smelled a little stale. Sure enough, it was 3 months past its "best by" date. Oops.

Best by 3 months ago

I went ahead anyway. We needed bread!

I set up the bread to cook on a delay. It was too early to set it up for the next morning, so instead I timed it to be done by an hour before the latest time I expected we'd be home. We ended up coming home early, and the bread hadn't even begun to cook. I'd forgotten to reset the bread machine clock when time sprang forward the week before. I was too tired to wait for the bread, so the cooked bread stayed in the machine for hours. Oops.

Despite the stale flour and extended time sweating in the bread machine, this was still a tasty loaf of bread. It had a bit of a flying roof, but mostly the texture was very nice. The recipe had said to set the crust to light, but I didn't, and I'm glad.

The worst of the flying roof
On to the cornbread. It's a simple, quick recipe that I'd made before and was sure would work. I made the following adjustments:
  • no salt instead of 3/4 t
  • TJ's roasted hazelnut oil instead of plain cooking oil
  • sodium-free baking powder (Hain's Featherweight)
Delicious. This stuff is great warm or cold, and nobody missed the salt. The recipe has quite a bit of fat (1 T butter in the skillet plus 1/4 cup oil in the recipe). The fat no doubt helps the flavor, and the pan required no cleanup afterward.

I'd used roasted peanut oil the previous time I made this cornbread. I loved the taste (roasted peanuts, yum!), but some of our guests didn't seem so enthralled by it. The hazelnut oil is more subtle, and it's been great in every bread I've used it in. (Walnut oil, on the other hand, didn't make a good tasting bread.)

The cornbread cooks in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet in a 400-degree oven. The texture is great, but the bread could be thicker. Next time I might try an 8-inch skillet. The recipe suggests a 9-inch round baking pan as a substitute, but I love using cast iron to cook.

The cornbread in the skillet 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Nine-grain honey bread: meh

Saturday I made nine-grain honey bread (Hensperger p. 190), which is a simple bread with some honey and butter. About half the solid part is whole grain flour or soaked nine-grain cereal.

I set up the bread before going out for a few hours, and it was ready in time for dinner. The bread was a little bitter tasting at first but good once you got used to it. A thick slice of bread and a slice of swiss cheese... that was dinner, and it wasn't bad.

Nine-grain honey bread

I made the smaller size loaf (1.5 pounds), reducing the salt to 3/4 t and bread machine yeast to 2 t. I used the Basic setting (not Whole Wheat), with a Dark crust and the delay timer. If I make it again, I'll reduce the yeast to 1.5 t, since the top of the loaf collapsed a bit. But I'm not sure I'll make it again.

The top of the loaf collapsed a bit.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Swedish rye and Turkish flatbread

This weekend I had 50-50 success with two new breads: a sweetish Swedish rye and a Turkish flatbread that I'd hoped to have with shawarma.

Swedish rye

Swedish rye 

This bread (Hensperger p. 136) has honey, fennel seeds, and orange zest for flavor. The only change I made to the recipe was reducing the salt and yeast by 40%. (The salt went from 1-1/4 teaspoons to 3/4, and the yeast from 2-1/2 teaspoons to 1-1/2.)

Before I went out Saturday evening, I set up the Swedish rye for a delayed bake ending at midnight. I was a little sad about not having warm, crusty bread in the morning, but I thought that letting the bread rest overnight might be good, since fennel seed can be sharp at first. As it turned out, the bread's crust stayed crisp longer than usual, so I got to have cool and crusty bread in the morning.

This bread has a very nice, slightly sweet flavor. My picky nephew didn't "like" it, but he didn't refuse to eat it, either. I count that as a victory. My husband also liked it very much. It might just join our list of staple recipes.

Update: This bread lasted a whole week, without going noticeably stale. A week from Saturday, I had the last of it in a tunafish sandwich.

Now on to the failure.

Turkish flatbread

The flatbread attempt came about because of an invitation to a friend's house for homemade shawarma and kefta. (He and his wife always make me a smaller, low-sodium version of whatever they're cooking, proof that they love me!) He was going to serve the meats with pita bread, which I didn't plan to eat, partly because I assumed the pita would have a tons of sodium (it's not too bad, actually) but mostly because I'm used to shawarma with flatbread. So I figured I'd make a low-sodium flatbread.

I found a recipe and video by Ana Sortun that looked perfect. The recipe is for yufka, a Turkish flatbread, and the video shows how to make it and the filling for shawarma. The recipe seems detailed enough, but the video has lots more details—like shaping the dough into a flat circle with your fingers before rolling it out—that make it worth watching. The ingredients are very basic—oil, water, flour, salt—and we reduced the salt by half or so.

I had spent most of the day at a choral rehearsal (concerts next weekend!), so my husband made the dough in the morning while I was out. He just followed the recipe directions, not bothering with the video. The dough seemed good after resting for 4 hours.

Then I took over, and things went south. I rolled out 6 misshapen circles of dough, managed to cook a couple of them, and then couldn't separate the rest of the dough from the wax paper. (The recipe recommended parchment paper, but I don't know if that would've been any better.) The dough seemed way too thin and prone to break, and after I pulled it off the paper, it was much bigger than the 9" circle they recommended.

Lots of dough and waxed paper in our compost bag

The directions for cooking seemed fine, but because the dough was so thin and doubled in spots (being too big for the pan), the bread ended up mostly crisp instead of soft. The crisp parts were fine for scooping up hummus (yes, my friend made me a batch of low-salt hummus!), but I threw away most of the bread. Oh well.

Out of 6 tries, 2 semi-succeeded; I ended up having the shawarma with rice instead

So how'd I screw up so badly? First, I didn't watch the video before shaping the dough, so I just kind of rolled the little dough balls between my palms. If I'd watched the video, I would've folded the edges of each piece into its center, before rolling it into a sphere and covering it with flour. So the shaping technique was suspect, but more importantly the dough didn't have enough flour on it.

I did look at the video before rolling out the dough, but I think it misled me when it said to roll the dough as thin as humanly possible. The dough probably wouldn't have torn if it wasn't so thin.

Next time we try this, I'll let my husband make the dough again, since he kneaded it so nicely (and I dislike kneading). I might pre-shape the dough, but I'll try to get him to roll it out, since he's used to wielding a rolling pin. (He's a great pie maker.) Then, as soon as each bread is rolled out, I'll cook it.