Not only is April’s TSNEM theme Edible Crafting, but it’s also the month of the annual Ferment!Ferment! festival. Which means an extra push for me to try some new ferments. The pic above shows the seven fermented foods that Cuzme and I made and brought to the fest. I tried a lot of new techniques, recipes & ideas and I’m thrilled with how they all turned out. There will be much more experimenting, tweaking & testing but I’ll go over these ferments if any of you would like to give them a try.
Let’s start with the sourdough tortilla bites. I’ll write a future post that goes more in-depth about sourdough starters but for now, if you have a sourdough starter, this is an easy recipe for using your starter without all of the work that goes into bread or other leavened baked goods. I love making bread but there are so many other things that you can make with your starter! The sourdough contributes a really nice flavor to the tortillas. Just mix the dough either the morning of or the night before you’d like to use it. I started with this recipe from The Prairie Homesteader and made a few modifications.
Sourdough Tortillas or Tortilla Bites (vegan)
- 1.5 cups white whole wheat flour (you might need more or less depending on humidity, type of flour & other ingredients)
- 3 Tbsps melted coconut oil ( I used Trader Joe’s organic)
- Himalayan sea salt (around 1 tsp)
- 1/2 cup sourdough starter (room temp)
- 1/2 cup homemade cashew milk* (room temp)
- small pinches of dried powdered ginger & citric acid (not necessary but helps keep tortillas soft, click here for more info on natural dough conditioners)
*to make cashew milk: soak cashews in enough water to cover plus a little more (they swell a bit while they’re soaking). Soak at least 4-5 hours – an overnight soak is great. Drain and rinse well. Using blender, pulverize until they won’t blend any more and/or are pretty creamy. Add dechlorinated water in a 3:1 ratio. I usually start with 1 cup of cashews before soaking and add 3 cups of water. Puree until creamy. I usually then strain through my brew bag, which is made of a voile fabric – tighter than cheesecloth, looser than muslim. You might not need to strain if you have a killer blender. Not much pulp remains after straining – I’m looking into interesting things to make with what does remain. If you make more than you need, you can freeze the extra.
- Combine the melted coconut oil, sourdough starter, cashew milk, sea salt, ginger & citric acid (if using). Note: if your starter & cashew milk are cold, this might cause your coconut oil to revert to it’s normal solid state and make it difficult to mix in. This happened to me the first time. This is why I recommend using room temperature starter and cashew milk.
- Gradually add in flour until combined. I use a stand mixer for this but you could do this by hand or with a hand mixer. You’re looking for just enough flour so the dough holds together and is slightly sticky to the touch. It should be able to form a cohesive ball.
- If using a stand mixer, change to your dough hook and knead for a couple of minutes. Otherwise, turn out onto a nonstick or floured surface and gently knead for a couple of minutes.
- Place in a bowl, cover and leave in a room temperature or slightly warmer area for 8-24 hours. There should be some headspace in the bowl – the dough will rise a bit.
- After fermentation, flour your rolling surface. If you’re making regular size tortillas, pinch off enough dough for the size of tortilla that you’d like. Mine were around the size of a ping pong. If you’re making bite size tortillas, pinch off as much dough as your surface can accommodate. Regardless, roll out using a rolling pin. I rolled most of mine out pretty thin, around double credit card high. Some were a bit thicker and all were good. It’s also pretty difficult to roll out perfect circles – slightly wonky shaped tortillas taste just as good as perfectly round tortillas. I used a biscuit cutter for cute round tortilla bites.
- Preheat your skillet or grill pan to medium-high. A cast iron skillet is perfect for these – no oil is necessary. I haven’t made this on a different type of pan but a little oil might be necessary for other skillets that aren’t of the no-stick variety (I’ll have to test this in the future and amend this post). They cook pretty fast, between 30 seconds to just over a minute per side.
- Eat fresh or refrigerate for a day or two. They can also be frozen. Unused dough can be refrigerated for a few days.
Serving suggestions: We’ve eaten these with cheese, beans, avocado, tomatoes and Mexican spices (garlic, cumin, cilantro & dried chiles) but they also work well with other spices. I combined homemade yogurt with Ras El Hanout (shown above), a North African spice blend, for a dip that worked well with these. I bet mango salsa would be delicious, as would traditional Thai or Sri Lankan fillings, flavors and spices. The coconut is apparent so think savory flavors that compliment.
Variations: Use milk, water or whey instead of cashew milk. Use butter or lard instead of coconut oil. Add herbs or spices to the dough when mixing. I’m betting you could stuff these if you sandwiched a thin layer of cheese (regular or nut) or other soft or meltable filling between two of them before cooking. They’re very versatile and quite delicious.
Fermented Cashew Cheeses
If you haven’t tried a fermented nut cheese before, I highly recommend it. They’re not true cheeses, but are a nice substitute for vegans and those who are lactose-intolerant. For the rest of us, they’re just plain tasty. They’re not only versatile, readily taking on whatever flavorings you add, but are also chock-full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and probiotics. They make a great snack or party dish. I’m just beginning my journey down the fermented nut path but I’m in love so far.
Most recipes call for adding a starter culture to nut paste and allowing fermentation to take place at room temperature for a few days. However, fermented nut cheeses seem to be a lacto-driven ferment, meaning that a strain or more likely, multiple strains, of lactobacillus bacteria are driving the fermentation. Lacto strains vary in their preferred temperature range but many lacto strains do well at higher temperatures, say between body temperature and around 110º F. It occurred to me that I could make cashew cheese like I kettle sour beer and make yogurt, by keeping it at a consistent warmer temperature. I use an Anova sous vide stick for this – sous vide uses a circulating water bath to keep food at a specific and constant temperature. The food is contained in either a plastic or glass container (bag, jar, etc). This is also how I make yogurt. If you don’t have a sous vide setup, you can do this in any area that you can keep a relatively constant and controlled temperature in the 104-110º F range. A yogurt maker would work very well. Other ideas (some of which I used before I got the sous vide stick) include using a heating pad or grow mat in a box, cooler or other enclosed area, using a water bath with an aquarium heater (or several), or using the inside of your stove or a cooler with a low-watt light bulb inside. You’ll need to test these out a bit but it’s pretty easy to rig up one of these methods. Regardless, this is a fast and very reliable way to ferment nut cheese.
This was my first batch of fermented nut cheese. As you can see in the first photo, I made three different flavors of cashew cheese. I made a base batch and split it into three, adding different seasoning combinations to each.
- 4 cups of cashews
- de-chlorinated water
- 1/2 cup lacto-fermented pickle brine
- 2 vegan probiotic capsules (I used Jarrow brand)
- 1 Tbsp aged rice miso (I used homemade)
- 1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice (fresh preferred but bottled is just fine if you find yourself lacking lemons)
- 1.5 tsps fresh rosemary, finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 3 small tomatoes, roasted
Roasted Red Pepper:
- 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning blend (Marjoram, Thyme, Rosemary, Savory, Sage, Oregano & Basil)
- 6 mini bell peppers, roasted
- 1/3 cup minced pickled beets (I pickled mine with a little star anise & cinnamon)
- 1/4 cup brine from pickled beets
- 1/2 tsp Hawaij spice mix (ginger, cinnamon, cloves & green cardamom)
Note: I made these knowing they would be consumed that day. While they were quite flavorful and were consumed immediately, I might knock down the spicing a bit if I were planning on holding them for a day or two before consuming.
- Soak 4 cups of cashews in dechlorinated water for 4-6 hours. Use enough water to cover the cashews plus a little more (about 1/2″ above the cashews).
- Drain and rinse cashews with dechlorinated water.
- Cream in food processor. You might need to do this in several batches depending on the size of your food processor. It takes a while for them to cream but keep going until you reach smoothness. You might need to stop & stir occasionally to keep things going.
- Add your pickle brine and probiotic capsules & mix thoroughly. You can do this in the food processor or in a bowl if you’re doing a large batch.
- Place in a 105-109º F (40.5-43º C) area overnight (or between 8-10 hours). As mentioned above, I use my sous vide stick to do this. I placed the cashew mixture in a glass jar, capped it with a plastic lid and placed it in a water bath (below the lid line) overnight with my sous vide stick set to 109º F.
After your cashew paste has fermented to your liking, transfer it back to the food processor. Add miso, nutritional yeast flakes and lemon juice and thoroughly combine. You could also do this with a hand mixer or by hand.
- Split your cashew puree into three parts. Using food processor, hand mixer, hands, spoon or fork, thoroughly mix in seasonings into each batch.
- The beet cheese was not as firm so I served that in a bowl. I molded the other two cheeses by placing a piece of cheesecloth into a plastic container formerly occupied by fruit or veggies (the kind that you find berries or grape tomatoes in at your grocery store). The cheesecloth should be larger than the container, enough to drape over the sides. Spoon your cashew cheese onto the cheesecloth, smooth out and wrap the cheesecloth over the top. This made for an easy to transport and quite presentable cashew cheese.
I’m continuing to experiment and refine my fermented cashew cheese process and recipes – more posts coming soon!
I’ve been looking for interesting things to make with the whey left over from straining my homemade yogurt and came across this recipe. I followed the recipe with less whey, adding cream to taste. It made a really tart but interesting spread. And while it was a nice accent to other foods, it was too tart on its own. However, I think this would make a really interesting tart caramel-type candy if I added sugar to it. So, more experiments to come. Give it a try if you have a bunch of whey on hand & let me know how it goes, please.
Pickled Beets & Turnips
I didn’t specifically make these for the Ferment! Ferment! fest – I made these a couple of weeks before as I had too many beets & turnips on hand. I didn’t write down the recipe but used a 2% brine (this is a great site for brine %s), star anise and a bit of cinnamon for flavorings. Very tasty.
Yogurt with Ras El Hanout
Ras El Hanout is a spice blend from North Africa. It’s one of my favorite blends and we use it in all kinds of dishes. It’s an easy addition to yogurt – serve it with homemade tortillas, rice or couscous. It would also be nice with all kinds of meats.
That’s it. This post took far, far too long for me to write – I started it three weeks ago, jeez. I am going to get better at this whole blogging regularly thing, I promise. And I need to add more pictures, too. My kitchen lighting stinks but I’ve come up with some work-arounds and am getting better at color correcting. I’m continuing to ferment and will be updating and sharing my successes (and failures) here.
I also co-host a weekly podcast on all things fermented called Fuhmentaboudit. Each show usually features a guest but I actually talked about my ferments, and more specifically, the ferments in this post, on a recent episode, #160. You can listen to it on iTunes, Stitcher, or right here on Heritage Radio Network, the amazing not-for-profit network that allows us to spread our love of fermentation.