Thursday, February 24, 2011

treat your garden to coffee and watch it grow...


i was in the mall the other day when i passed by starbucks and noticed there was a bin full of coffee grounds packed nicely in aluminium foil bags. i asked the staff and was told these are given away free for use in your garden.


since we are already composting our organic waste, coffee grounds is a nice addition. furthermore after brewing, most of the acidity has been removed and tests on coffee grounds show that they register a pH of around 6.9 which is as good as neutral. they are rich in nitrogen so your plants would definitely love them. and the fact that they smell good too! oh yeah, the smell is a natural insect repellent.

just treated some coffee grounds to our plants. will see how they grow.

thanks to starbucks for this initiative. we need more of such environmental consciousness!

i just checked with starbucks malaysia, seems like most starbucks in klang valley region participate in this program but less so elsewhere. if your local starbucks aren't part of this program, talk to them. perhaps place a bin there for them to toss their coffee grounds so that you could collect it from time to time.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

the china study

this is one of the books that could change your view and perceptions of food, forever!

the author contends that a diet high in animal protein is the cause of many degenerative diseases afflicting our modern society these days. current scientific studies tend to isolate and identify a single agent causing a specific ailment. say high cholesterol is linked to heart disease. insulin deficiency is linked to diabetes. dr campbell however doesn't agree with this approach as he uses a different angle and his studies over the years found that a diet rich in animal protein is directly linked to a whole series of affliction known as our current "lifestyle disease".

it's hard to argue with the data as it's collected from 880 million people in china, the largest medical study ever done.  from wikipedia link above,

"The authors conclude that people who eat a whole plant food diet that avoids consuming animial proteins and fats from beef, poultry, eggs, fish, and milk will minimize and/or reverse the development of chronic diseases. They also recommend adequate amounts of sunshine to maintain sufficient levels of Vitamin D and dietary supplements of vitamin B12 in case of complete avoidance of animal products. They criticize "low carb" diets (such as the Atkins diet), which include restrictions on the percentage of calories derived from complex carbohydrates." 

i seriously urge you to read this book and reconsider your diet!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

current favourite whole wheat bread recipe

though i haven't blogged much about bread baking lately, i'm still doing it every weekend. will make the dough on saturday, let it ferment over night and bake on sunday. i've been tweaking the recipe bit by bit and have observed the changes. current favourite is still richard bertinent's ciabatta recipe tweaked for whole wheat flour.

here's the recipe again.

to ferment overnight or at least 12 hours (this is your biga):
  • 350 gm of organic whole wheat flour
  • 2-3 gm or quarter teaspoon of instant yeast
  • 200-220 gm of water (if it's too dry, a bit more water is fine here)
  • 1-3 teaspoon apple cider vinegar (optional but recommended!)

on baking day
  • everything above, mix with
  • 350 gm organic whole wheat flour 
  • 100 gm organic bread flour  (also known as white flour)
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast 
  • ~10 gm sea salt or rock salt 
  • 330 gm water
  • 30 gm olive oil (use more if you prefer)

the vinegar is a nice addition. the dough ferments faster and the yeast is a lot more active. said to aid digestion of whole wheat, i don't know about this but i like the effect of the added vinegar. i used to do 100% whole wheat but the substitution of just 10% white flour results in very good rise. you could of course opt for 100% whole wheat.

this is a very wet dough. you can't knead it. it has to be so wet as we are dealing with almost 100% whole wheat flour here. if you ever cooked brown rice, you know that cooking whole grains require lots of water. same here!

so instead of kneading, you use the "stretch and fold" technique as illustrated in this video by richard bertinent. you really need a dough knife here!

don't over stretch yourself working the dough. work for a few minutes, let it rest for a few minutes then work on it again. better results than working on it continuously for 10 minutes. after you are done (say after 10 minutes or you couldn't be bothered anymore!), let it rest for about 30 minutes in a well oiled (olive oil) bowl.

after 30 minutes, it should have grown at least 50% in volume. pour it out (if you didn't oil the bowl, you'll regret now) on a flat surface and divide into 2 or 3, up to you. you could also switch on your oven now, set it for 250C or maximum temperature.put in your baking sheet now.

divided into 2, you get 2 large loaves of slightly more than 0.5kg each. divided into 3, you get 3 loaves of roughly 330 gm each.

once divided, gently stretch the dough again and fold into half. be gentle... to do this, you need 2 dough knives as there's no way your hands could handle the very wet dough. use the dough knives like an extension of your hands. place the ready dough on a piece of wood or baking sheet coated with lots of rice flour. you need this so that you could slide the dough into the oven.

once the oven is ready, use a very sharp knife, oil it slightly and slice on the top of the dough. slice it length wise or breadth wise or both. most likely you won't get a nice cut as the very wet dough will somewhat stick to your knife. never mind, let it be. slice for a depth of around 1 cm. if you don't slice it, as the dough rises up during baking, it may "break" at the sides, resulting in a not so pretty loaf of bread. if sliced at the top, it'll rise more evenly. anyway, it's okay to forego this step. most books recommend using a double edged razor blade but even with this, it still sticks as we are dealing with a very wet dough here. i know as i've tried this!

prepare a handful of ice cubes and throw into the oven after you slide in the doughs. be very quick here! you don't want too much heat to escape from the oven.

after 5 minutes at 250C or whatever max temperature your oven can handle, set it down to 220 C and let it bake for another 20 minutes.

then take it out! you are done!

if you desire for a slightly burned crust (i like this!), instead of 20 minutes, let it bake a little longer.

there you go! crusty, soft best tasting whole wheat bread. haven't tasted better!