Vegan Friday: Ashley’s Overdue Post, Easy Crusty Vegan Breads and a Watercress Soup

by ashley

By Ashley Morgan

 

Life has been hectic for me over the past couple of weeks, between loads of car troubles and planning a weekend vacation, I’ve just been burnt out. I’m hoping to get back on track soon and I’ll be posting more about my vacation to Fort Myers/Sanibel/Bonita Springs this past weekend.

 

I’ve been growing my own yeast for the past two weeks. I heard online about how yeast are naturally occurring in the air, and since buying it is so expensive, I thought I’d try to do it myself. It’s been a lot of fun, albeit a bit disgusting if you really think about it. The wonders of nature, right? If you are unfamiliar with yeast, it is the bacteria that makes bread rise. Since yeast is so expensive in grocery stores, hence making it the same price or cheaper to buy bread, I thought this was a cool experiment for making cheap bread at home. In the process of researching this, I found many bakeries keep their own colonies of yeast for the sole purpose of cutting cost, which makes a lot of sense to me.

 

So for Vegan Friday this week I thought I’d show off what my little yeasts had made: two types of wonderful bread, foccacia and a crusty white bread. To go along with the bread I whipped up a quick watercress and spinach soup, adapted from a Whole Foods recipe. Enjoy!

 

Basic Foccacia and/or Crusty White Bread Recipe

(Allow at least 24-48 hours for this recipe)

6 ½ cups bread flour

1 ½ tablespoons yeast, either store-bought instant or homemade

3 cups lukewarm water

1 ½ tablespoons kosher salt

 

Mix all dry ingredients well, ensuring to incorporate them evenly. Add the water and start to incorporate the ingredients well with a wooden spoon or your hands (if you like to get dirty). Don’t worry about kneading the dough, as this recipe does not require kneading. Once well-incorporated, transfer to a large pot or bowl and let rise for at least two hours at room temperature. The mixture should double in size in the two hours. Once doubled, cover either with lid or plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator for at least another two hours to up to 5 days. The longer you leave in the refrigerator, the more flavor the dough will have. It may deflate some in the refrigerator, but that’s okay.

 

Once you’re ready to bake, take a hunk of dough out (if you’re not planning on making the whole thing) and form. Here is where you will make the distinction if you are making foccacia or white bread. Foccacia is formed in a low rectangle, using your fingers to form “dimples” on the top of the dough to ensure even baking. The white bread can be formed into a loaf, rolls or any other shape you desire. Once your dough is formed, let it rise on the baking sheet for about 45 minutes. It should expand more than rise. Cut ½ inch slits in the top of the white loaf just before baking, and add a shallow pan of water to the bottom shelf to add crispness to the crust. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and let bake until golden, 15-25 minutes depending on how you have formed the loaf. A finished loaf will sound hollow when gently tapped on the underside with a knife.

 

OPTIONAL: Just before baking, you can drizzle the foccacia with olive oil and herbs, to add additional flavor.

 

 

Spinach and Watercress Soup

 

1 bunch watercress (to taste)

1 bunch spinach (to taste)

1 ½ cups cashews

½ cup walnuts

½ cup coconut water

2 tablespoons coconut oil

2 cloves garlic, peeled

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground white pepper

 

Wilt the watercress and spinach in a large sauté pan. Set aside and add cashews, walnuts, garlic and coconut water to a food processor. Process until smooth. Slowly blend in the watercress, spinach, coconut oil and spices. Once smooth, transfer to a saucepan to heat to desired temperature. Serve hot with crusty bread.

 

The bread needs a lot of love and attention, but the soup is creamy and oh-so-easy. The perfect combination J And there is nothing better than the smell of freshly baked bread in your home.

 

Please let us know if you try any of our recipes, we’d love to hear from you.

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