rice

Makin' Dough in Mexico

For the last several months I've been busy making dough… sourdough! I love it. It's so old school, tactile, physical, chemical, biological, nutritious, delicious... I love saying "I'm makin' dough" and I love making my own culture. Sourdough culture. (And it's Mexican sourdough - which is pretty cool!) And it may seem very technical at first, but once you figure out what works for you, it can be a fun creative free-style type of baking. It requires no fancy equipment, or special ingredients - and kneading dough is a great way to relieve stress. And if you're stressed about money, then you can say sing "I'm making dough" while you're kneading it and you'll start feeling rich - haha!

For all the healthy bakers out there on special diets who are interested in knowing, I'm still avoiding commercial yeast, and generally avoiding wheat. (I'm not allergic to wheat or celiac - just sensitive.) BUT - I learned that eating a little sourdough bread made with (some) wheat flour (which becomes fermented through the process) is easier on my system than non-fermented wheat foods. (Yay!) Fermentation, and moderation are the keys. Learn more about sourdough history and health here - super-interesting stuff.

I made my first sourdough starters from scratch - and it was so satisfying in that old school DIY way. Egyptians were making sourdough bread thousands of years ago - and when I was little I was convinced that I was Cleopatra in a former life... not that she would have been baking bread. You can make your own sourdough starter from scratch too - here are some great instructions for the novice. I made a wheat starter, a rice starter and an oat starter from these general directions and they all worked fantastically. For gluten-free bakers, a rice starter is super-easy to make (as the rice flour ferments quickly) and it's possible to make some tasty gf sourdough breads - I'll share the recipe I recently came up with when I have a chance. Here's the first rice/oat loaf I made - it was dense like pumpernickel and delicious:

I also used this technique to make a great little wheat starter. Basically it's a stiffer doughier starter (as opposed to the runnier "pancake batter consistency" starters like above). I made it with water that had (organic) raisins soaking in it. If you live in a drier environment that doesn't have a lot of yeast in the air, I recommend using raisin water (as the raisins have natural yeast on them, as well as sugar to feed the yeast). You can use the raisin water in the first technique I mention too. Right now I prefer a wetter starter (like the first one I mentioned).

My very first loaf ever I freestyled, and made it with a wheat/oat stater and all freshly ground oat flour. It was very dense. Very sour. Oh well.

My second loaf I made similarly, but added a bit of "dough enhancer". It had a bit more air… but tasted horrible. I recommend keeping it natural and avoiding dough enhancer (which includes commercial yeast). The Egyptians didn't have dough enhancer. ;)

At this point I was almost ready to chuck my starters, as I wasn't having much luck, I was wasting a lot of flour, and it was already a week into the experiment. (Maybe I had to wait longer for the starters? They looked and smelled ready. Maybe my experimental oat breads weren't the right consistency to rise?…)

So for my 3rd loaf I used my stiff raisin water starter and these general directions for Berkeley sourdough bread (as well as all all-purpose wheat flour - since it's impossible to find freshly ground whole wheat flour in these parts. I'd rather used refined flour than rancid whole grain flour. I also didn't think it was going to work…). But this one rose beautifully! All that gluten sure helped. I baked it in a cast iron skillet (which made a stellar crust) and enthusiastically misted it with water to create steam (as per the directions) and THE OVEN LIGHTBULB EXPLODED IN MY FACE. I was in shock. Luckily, I came away unscathed. I was REALLY REALLY LUCKY. We pulled out the glass and enjoyed it anyways. Livin' on the edge. It was awesome! Check it out:

What did I learn? Be careful misting around oven lightbulbs for starters! Be patient. My first starters eventually did work. It was the winter, and the room temperature was pretty cool, so they took much longer than I thought they would. Also, for my first 2 loaves, I was working with hardly any wheat gluten, and that requires a much different style of bread making. When trying something new, sometimes it's a good idea to follow a recipe. ;)

More tips: here's a great resource with recipes for sourdough bakers - and check out Dan Lepard's step-by-step instructions for rye sourdough

Currently I keep about 1-1.5 cups of wheat starter, and a separate rice starter in the fridge. With each I make one loaf per week (one wheat-based loaf, mostly for my sweetie, and a wheat-free loaf) and I feed them about once a week. They are my pets - my Yeasties. :)

And that was the start of my sourdough making adventures! I now feel like a bit of a veteran as I have many loaves under my belt, made with a variety of ingredients and techniques, and even baked some in a toaster oven - like the one in the top photo which was a raisin swirl bread - yum. I'll be sharing some of my favourite recipes eventually - including my oat and rice sourdough loaf - which can be made gluten-free - woo! In the meantime, I'm still really busy making dough.

xo Patty

Almond Rice Horchata

Home-made horchata is definitely where it's at. I don't think I'll ever buy rice milk or almond milk again, as home-made almond/rice horchata is similar, but much better. I've just started making my own horchata with: almonds, rice, honey, vanilla, cinnamon, lime zest, and a pinch of salt. I would love to make this with agave syrup too, but, funnily enough, agave syrup is impossible to find in this part of Mexico. It's even possible to make "sugar-free horchata" with no sugars at all, or a little bit of stevia... I'd really love to make horchata from sprouted/germinated almonds - though I haven't been able to find any raw almonds that are still "raw" since California has been irradiating their almonds. Anyways, after several experiments, here's my new horchata recipe:

Recipe: Almond Rice Horchata


My first ever horchata in progress: almonds, rice, cinnamon, and lime zest soaking in water.


Wish you were here: A refreshing and nourishing glass of almond horchata hits the spot when it's too hot to cook. When it's +44C (with humidity) this is a good thing!

Disfruta! Enjoy! 

PS - I'm just starting another wave of traveling, so my posts will still be super-sporadic. I wish I had more time to post all the wonderful things I'm learning, but there's always mañana. ;) Next stop: Costa Maya

Me Encanta Horchata

I'm back on the grid! Living in a little Mexican town, on a tropical lake, with a lovely fresh produce market, in a sweet little casa with wifi and a gear-laden kitchen. Soy muy afortunada. The jungle was awesome, but I was ready to move on. The rainy season is just starting, which means even more bugs, and I was getting eaten alive out there. Serves me right. ;)

There's so much that I've learned, and so much I want to share...

One amazing drink I discovered is an elixir of the gods called horchata. Every now and then, I'd see vendors at the side of the street selling it, and wonder what it was. Really, I wasn't that curious because the name didn't sound that appetizing. I even noticed it in the grocery stores, as a thick white substance sold in bottles. I ignored it, since to me it looked like mayonnaise or something creamy, yuk. One day, I noticed a bottle in an otherwise empty fridge of a kitchen palapa where we were staying. I picked it up and read the ingredients, which were: rice, sugar, water, almond, cinnamon, vanilla. What?! That sounds awesome... The directions said to mix some of this syrup with water, and enjoy over ice. I tried it. ¡Fantastico!

I learned that Mexican horchata is basically a sweet aromatic rice milk, usually made with raw rice and flavoured with cinnamon and vanilla, served on ice. Originally from Spain, it's traditionally made with tigernuts (chufas), so Spanish horchata probably tastes quite different than Mexican horchata. It's also made with ground almonds, sesame seeds, rice, or barley. I'd love to try all the differnet kinds.

Mexican horchata makes a great drink on it's own, or spiked with rum. I like adding horchata syrup to coffee or black tea as a dairy-free creamer/sweetener - or mixed with hot fresh ginger tea. Adding a teaspoon or two of concentrate to an agua de fruta (fruit blended with water), or smoothie is awesome too. Here is one of my favourite combos:

Recipe: Papaya Horchata Smoothie

Generally, the commercial horchata concentrates you can find here are mega-sweet, so I recommend using a lot less than the directions call for. You can find the concentrate in most grocery stores down here, the quality varies and different brands have different ingredient ratios, and some are less sweet. Of course, it's best to make your own! This rice and almond Yucatecan horchata recipe sounds awesome.

I'd eventually like to concoct my own horchatas, like: almond honey horchata, sugar-free brown rice horchata, sesame ginger horchata, chocolate spice horhchata, maple walnut horchata, agave jicama horchata... and of course, a traditional Spanish horchata de chufa.

The little bit of reasearch I did revealed some fascinating history, and that people are very passionate about this drink. I'd love to learn more - please share your horchata info, recipes and links - gracias!

Thanks for the pic Crispin!