Whole Wheat Bread

Flour. Water. Yeast. Salt. With all the variations of bread out there it’s kind of amazing how these simple ingredients can create such magic. We’ve been making No-Knead Bread for a few years now, and I got a boost of inspiration recently at Trifecta where they serve a small sampling of breads (I think they do that to get you hooked!) This recipe is a variation of No-Knead bread. It includes whole wheat and rye flours. The ratio of flour to water really impacts whether the bread is airy or dense. The more water the lighter the bread, more holes like a ciabatta. This recipe created a slightly more dense bread than the original no-knead bread, but it came out really nice with a crunchy crust. I found a great website, Penni Wisner, that has quite a few variations on this style bread, she says you can mix any kind of flour as long as you keep it to 20 ounces of flour. Although I do like the original version which calls for 3 cups of flour and that measures out to around 13 ounces in weight. Since different flours will yield different weights it’s good to use a scale rather than measuring in cups. The great thing about this bread is that it is incredibly easy to make. Just a few minutes here and there within a 24 hour period, most of the time it’s either rising or baking.

Whole Wheat Bread

  • 5 oz whole wheat flour
  • 2 oz rye flour
  • 13 oz bread flour
  • Generous 1/4 teaspoon dried, instant (rapid-rise) yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 15 oz water

In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal (you can rest dough on parchment paper as well, it’s less of a mess) Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450°F. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Adapted from Penni Wisner

General Tso’s Chicken

When you have a craving for New York style Chinese food, this happens. General Tso’s Chicken. Since we’ve moved to the West coast Chinese takeout has not been the same. Portland has an abundance of asian food -Thai, Vietnamese, Korean, but is remarkably lacking in Chinese takeout. And there are definite differences between East coast and West coast Chinese food. Like where is the Lo Mein? That’s a NY thing. And why do I have to order rice, it really doesn’t come with the dish? And where are the dried noodles with duck sauce? Where is the duck sauce? And then there’s the sticker shock too, $18 for General Tso’s Chicken? It’s like $6 in NY. With rice! So here we are with homemade Chinese food. The ingredient list looks a bit overwhelming but many items are just repeats of the same for each sauce or marinade. Chinese wine, Shaoxing wine, was nowhere to be found so we replaced it with dry sherry as the recipe suggested. 

The dreaded deep frying went relatively well without smoke alarms going off, but I’m still uncomfortable with deep frying. So results? It’s delicious. However it’s not the General Tso’s Chicken we were expecting. If I were to make this again I would use a Tempura batter for the chicken. But I’m glad we made it and it was a fun thing to do on a Saturday afternoon.

General Tso’s Chicken

For the Marinade

  • 1 egg white
  • 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
  • 2 tablespoons 80-proof vodka
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs (or chicken breast), cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch chunks

For the Dry Coating

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

For the Sauce

  • 3 tablespoons dark soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine or dry sherry
  • 2 tablespoons Chinese rice vinegar or distilled white vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons chicken stock
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seed oil
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 2 teaspoons peanut, vegetable, or canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic (about 2 medium cloves)
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger (about one 1-inch piece)
  • 2 teaspoons minced scallion bottoms (about 1 scallion), plus 6 to 8 scallions, white parts only, cut into 1-inch lengths
  • 8 small dried red chilies 

To Finish

  • 1 1/2 quarts peanut, vegetable, or canola oil for deep frying
  • 2 cups steamed broccoli florets
  • Steamed white rice for serving

For the Marinade: Beat egg whites in a large bowl until broken down and lightly foamy. Add soy sauce, wine, and vodka and whisk to combine. Set aside half of marinade in a small bowl. Add baking soda and corn starch to the large bowl and whisk to combine. Add chicken to large bowl and turn with fingers to coat thoroughly. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside (we put it in the refrigerator until we were ready to cook it).

For the Dry Coat: Combine flour, corn starch, baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Whisk until combined. Add reserved marinade and whisk until mixture has coarse, mealy clumps. Set aside.

For the Sauce: Combine soy sauce, wine, vinegar, chicken stock, sugar, sesame seed oil, and cornstarch in a small bowl and stir with a fork until cornstarch is dissolved and no lumps remain. Set aside.

Combine oil, garlic, ginger, minced scallions, and red chilies in a large skillet and place over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until vegetables are aromatic and soft, but not browned, about 3 minutes. Stir sauce mixture and add to skillet, making sure to scrape out and sugar or starch that has sunk to the bottom. Cook, stirring, until sauce boils and thickens, about 1 minute. Add scallion segments. Transfer sauce to a bowl to stop cooking, but don't wipe out skillet.

To Finish: Heat 1 1/2 quarts peanut, vegetable, or canola oil in a large wok or Dutch oven to 350°F and adjust flame to maintain temperature.

Working one piece at a time, transfer chicken from marinade to dry coat mixture, tossing in between each addition to coat chicken. When all chicken is added to dry coat, toss with hands, pressing dry mixture onto chicken so it adheres, and making sure that every piece is coated thoroughly.

Lift chicken one piece at a time, shake off excess coating, and carefully lower into hot oil (do not drop it). Once all chicken is added, cook, agitating with long chopsticks or a metal spider, and adjusting flame to maintain a temperature of 325 to 375°F, until chicken is cooked through and very crispy, about 4 minutes. Transfer chicken to a paper towel-lined bowl to drain.

Add chicken and steamed broccoli to empty skillet and return sauce to skillet. Toss with a rubber spatula until all pieces are thoroughly coated. Garnish with a few scallions. Serve immediately with white rice.

Adapted from Serious Eats

Citrus + Fennel Salad

I think this winter is testing my patience with gray skies and rain, then cold, then more rain. Hello El Niño! But little by little the days are getting longer now and it’s not like I need to turn the lights on at 4pm anymore. And there’s also an abundance of citrus this time of year. Good stuff. Blood oranges, Tangelo, Cara Cara oranges, all kinds of grapefruits I’ve never heard of. And they make such great salads. I made a similar salad three years ago when I first started the blog. Wow I just realized that was only my second post on this blog, the 16th will mark a three year anniversary for Pixels + Crumbs! For the recipe below I didn’t specify an amount for the olive oil, the amount of juice you get from cutting the citrus may vary so you can adjust to the appropriate amount. It should be more juicy, not too much olive oil. Just a few splashes should do. Enjoy! oh and sunset at 4:50! Woo hoo!

Citrus + Fennel Salad

  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 1 grapefruit
  • 1 navel (or seasonal) orange
  • 1 blood orange
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese
  • 1/4 Toasted Pecans
  • Olive oil
  • Fresh parsley

Trim off the fennel stems and save fronds for garnish. Slice the fennel thin with a mandolin. To segment the citrus slice off the top and bottom, with a sharp knife trim off the skin and pith. Cut each segment away from the membrane and cut into pieces. There will be a lot of juice that you will want to use for the salad so it’s best to use a cutting board with a juice groove, or cut over a bowl. In a large bowl toss together the fennel, citrus and juice. Add a few splashes of olive oil and toss to combine. Divide the salad on 2 plates and garnish with feta cheese, pecans, fennel fronds and parsley.