Thursday, August 21, 2008

Dig out those sunflower seeds!

I went back through the blog to see when the last time I made a new bread recipe during menu planning this past weekend and I couldn't believe it was way back in June when I made that sourdough loaf!

I knew I had to rectify that this week, so I made sure to find time to prepare this Sunflower-Wheat Loaf. Because whole-wheat flour tends to take awhile to absorb liquid, a sponge is created first by stirring together the flour, instant yeast, salt, sweet honey, canola oil and robust molasses. This mixture sits for an hour or so - this will make the kneading process easier and allow you to add less flour since the wheat had a chance to absorb the liquid. If you don't have instant yeast, you can certainly use active dry - just dissolve it in the warm water first and let sit for a few minutes.

When the sponge was ready, we stirred in bread flour, wheat germ and a little cornmeal for crunch. Using bread flour will help lighten the loaf so it isn't like a brick from that heavy whole-wheat. When kneading, use just enough of the extra bread flour to keep the dough from sticking to your hands - however, it shouldn't be dry either... just tacky to the touch. Once the gluten had developed from all that fun kneading, we finished the loaf off by working in a handful of sunflower seeds.

Once the dough was rolled up and slid into the loaf pan, we set it aside long enough to just about double in bulk - the time for this will vary for a number of reasons... you can tell when it has risen enough when you gently push your finger into the dough and the indent remains. If it quickly fills in, the dough needs more time to rise. I know how hard it is to resist hot, homemade fresh bread, but do yourself a favor and let the baked loaf cool completely (or as long as you can) before slicing into it. Waiting allows the texture of the bread to set up and you will have a much easier time slicing it. We both had our first piece with just a light smear of butter and it was quite tasty. When we went for our next slice, we made sure to toast it first and the flavors jumped out even more! Not dense, but not as light as a regular white loaf, we thought this was an excellent compromise between the two - if you want to add a fruity component, knead in a quarter cup or so of dried fruit (apples, blueberries, apricots or raisins would be nice) when you add the sunflower seeds. Doing that would make this an excellent breakfast-type bread as it is just a little sweet from the honey added.

When Jeff brought in those treats we made for treat day yesterday, I also gave him a big bunch of fresh basil I cut in the morning to share since we just have so much. Even doing that, I still wanted to cut the plants back a bit more, so I took enough off to prepare this Edamame with Pesto and Cavatappi for our dinner tonight.

The pesto is a bit different in the fact that it has no nuts or cheese added - I thought this was a bit odd, but I went ahead anyway. The pesto does get a boost in flavor by the addition of fresh mint to the basil leaves and a couple shots of fresh lemon juice. Once we had whirled that together in our trusty food processor, we dropped the corkscrew-like cavatappi into a pot of boiling salted water to start cooking. A few minutes before it was al dente, we also tossed in a few cups of edamame to cook along side (less dishes!). Do be sure to save a bit of the starchy cooking liquid before draining the pasta and green soybeans... I know if I don't do it before hand, I've forgotten and remembered as I watched it go down the drain!

The pasta and edamame are then added back into the cooking pot (again, less dishes!) to be tossed with the pesto and a few halved grape tomatoes. While there was no cheese in the pesto, each serving gets a shower of sharp Parmesan cheese before serving. Bright, fresh and pretty hearty, I loved the grounding flavor the fiber-rich edamame brought to this dish. In my first couple of bites, I found myself looking for the richness that a few toasted nuts would have added in the pesto, but by the time I finished my plate, I didn't miss them at all!


  1. That bread sounds sooooo good! You must have AC :o) I have really missed baking this summer--I don't have AC and it has been so humid in MN this summer! As much as I love to bake, I just cannot bring myself to turn on the oven and heat up my apt even more. I hear that it is supposed to cool off a bit this weekend, though...

    I love the idea of the pesto with no nuts and cheese! Thanks for sharing it!


  2. Courtney - Can you believe the weather today? Woo! The house cooled down to 64 degrees this morning with all the windows wide open.