Go Crackers!

Crackers are easy to make and delicious when you do. Like all things kitchen, however, they take a little bit of forethought. My New Year’s Resolution for April is to have DIY crackers on hand.

mish mash

My favorite whole wheat crackers are flour, olive oil and salt. I mix the dough, it rests, then I roll it through the pasta machine. Cut into large pieces, placed on dry baking sheets and salted, these crackers bake up quickly, though can over brown if not watched carefully. Here is a whole wheat/white flour blend cracker that I used recently in a class. They are still whole-wheaty enough in flavor, but the leaveners give them an extra lift. Crinkle cutters are good for straight-edged crackers, but you can also use cookie cutters, both shown above. Thinly rolled dough is best; I usually roll to the 3rd setting on my Atlas pasta machine.

Cheers!

Whole Grain Crackers

Yield: 24-30 (size dependent)

Prep time: 10 minutes    Rest time: 45 minutes to overnight     Bake time: 5-10 minutes

3/4 cup (94g) unbleached flour

1 cup (128g) white whole wheat flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1-1 1/2 teaspoon salt (less if using salted butter)

1/4 cup butter, room temperature

2 teaspoon honey
1/2 cup ice-cold water

Coarse flaked sea salt to taste

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Pulse to mix. Add the butter in pieces and pulse to mix. Add the honey and pulse.While pulsing, add the water, a bit at a time, until a ball forms. Remove dough to lightly floured work surface and knead for 1 minute. Wrap the dough in plastic and let rest for 45 minutes at room temperature, or overnight in the refrigerator. The dough will firm up as the grain slowly absorbs the liquid.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

When dough is ready, uncover and cut into 4 equal pieces. Use a rolling pin to shape it into a flat strip of dough, as thin and as evenly as you can.

Or, using a pasta roller, lightly flour the dough and roll a few times through the lowest setting (1) as you would when making pasta dough. Roll the piece of dough through the next setting (2). This should be thin enough, but you can try setting 3 as well.

Sprinkle the dough with flaked salt, then dock the dough well with a fork. Using a crinkle cutter or pizza wheel, cut the dough into the size & shape of your choosing. Place each cracker on an unlined baking sheet. Continue with the remaining dough.

Bake until golden brown at the edges, 5 to 10 minutes, and let cool before eating. Store in an airtight container or zip lock bag for up to 2 weeks.

Preserve

I have a freezer. It’s a relatively small chest freezer, of which I don’t care for the dumping and digging that occur, but it fits my space and I love it being there. The best thing about a freezer, aside from storing monthly shops of beef, chicken, tortillas, nuts and grains, the best thing is summer produce in winter. Just look at this tomatillo salsa:

campari for the cook

Amazing color! Added to the frozen garden tomatillos, were frozen roasted jalapeños, some pan roasted garlic, and salt. Simple, delicious, fast. I don’t remember if this sauce became tacos or enchiladas or what, but having access to just-picked foods in my freezer reminds me, again, how lucky I am. Now’s the time to think gardens, veggie-growing, and putting away for next winter. Do it!

Cheers!

Oatmeal Bread

I’ve had this recipe for years and don’t remember where it came from. Before my seemingly never-ending voyage into the realm of whole grain and naturally yeasted breads, this was my go-to. I resurrected it recently for a bread making class with 8-14 year olds, adding some whole wheat flour to the mix.

mini loaves

This dough is dairy-free, but you can replace some or all the water with warmed milk producing a slightly softer finished product. While this dough makes a great sandwich loaf, I have also used it for cinnamon rolls and dinner rolls; I’ve also made breads with cinnamon & raisins added to the recipe. This does require the largest standard sized loaf pan or you can make 3 mini loaves as shown above. The recipe is straight forward bread making so give it a go!

Cheers!

Oatmeal Bread Makes 1 9 ½- x 5-inch loaf

This dough uses a soaker: hot water over oats and no dairy.

Prep time: 35 minutes       Rising time: 2 ½ – 3 hours         Baking time: 40-45 minutes

1/2 cup (60g) rolled oats

3/4 cup (12 oz/177g) boiling water

1 cup (125g) whole wheat flour

3 cups (384g) unbleached white flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (1 teaspoon instant yeast)

3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (14 oz/207g) lukewarm water, divided

2 tablespoons honey

1 1/2 tablespoons oil, plus more for bowl

Place oats in large mixing bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer). Pour boiling water over and let sit for at least 30 minutes. Whisk together the flours and salt. Set aside.

Place ¼ cup lukewarm water into a small bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over the water. Let sit for 10 minutes then whisk together.

When oats are ready, add the honey, oil, yeast mixture, and 5-6 cups of the flour mix. Mix thoroughly with a bowl scraper or strong spoon. Scrape dough onto a well-floured counter and begin kneading, adding more flour as you go. Kneading is complete when the dough smooth (smooth with oaty bumps) and tight. Lightly oil a large bowl and place dough in it. Cover with plastic and leave in a warm (78-82ºF) place for 1 to 1 ½ hours or until the dough has doubled in size.

When dough is ready, return it to a lightly floured work surface. For a loaf, press the dough gently into a 7- x 10-inch rectangle. Roll the dough into a cylinder shape, pinch the seam closed and place in a lightly oiled 9 1/2- x 5-inch loaf pan. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and leave in a warm place again.

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Let dough rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour. The loaf should be ½ to 1 inch higher than the sides of the pan.

When dough is ready, remove towel and place pan in the heated oven. Bake for 20 minutes then rotate the pan, and bake for another 20-25 minutes. The bread is done when it thumps nicely on the underside, is a nice brown color, and reaches an internal temperature of 195-200ºF. Let cool in pan on a cooling rack for 10 minutes then remove loaf and continue cooling.

Spring Flavor

As I teach a lot of kid’s classes, I work a lot of weekends, and rarely get to the Saturday Farmer’s Market, something I sorely miss. There is a hopeful expectancy among the farmers and producers, as well as among the shoppers: what will I find today?? This past weekend I was able to go. Our NW Spring has been cold so far, cold and rainy, but my sister and I caught the market an hour or so before any rain. Yay! Saturday evening I’d be making dinner for my Mother-in-law’s birthday, or as we generally refer to it, Spring. We celebrate Spring and she gets presents! Shopping the market for dinner was my goal.

Pre-vinaigrette but so pretty!

With the cool temperatures, some greens are filling stalls and the storage veggies are still in supply, but options are meager. I came home with Loki salmon, Foraged & Found wood sorrel, Nash’s chioggia beets, knotted rolls from Tall Grass, and some beautiful Glendale Shepherd aged sheep’s milk cheese. With potatoes on hand and chives snipped from my patch, we managed to have a lovely meal, complete with an einkorn-crusted rhubarb & cream tart!

For me, Spring should taste like light and vigor and growth and the wood sorrel is that in abundance! Complete with a lemony-zing, this little green is a powerhouse of flavor. Due to its high levels of oxalic acid you shouldn’t consume too much in one sitting but the flavor is there so you don’t have to. Since I was starting a new class series the next day, I took the opportunity to run through 2 of the recipes, adding those to our menu. Potage Parmentier, leek & potato soup, with its light taste, easy texture & mouthfeel, is another perfect addition to a Spring menu.  The bright green and slight onion of the snipped chives adds an additional bit of interest. Though rich, the classic Pommes Dauphinois, with thinly sliced red potatoes and only a touch of the Glendale cheese, was delicate and gently flavored. The richness countered that bright acidity of the wood sorrel. Beets and potatoes are two of the over-wintered storage vegetables that I don’t grow weary of!

Rhubarb & cream

The springiest of all flavors, however, has to be rhubarb. This vegetable as fruit is strange. I still wonder how the first human was brave enough to  try the stalk after those trying the leaves grew very ill. In our western Washington climate, this is our first choice of a truly local fruit. I made a light einkorn tart dough and pre-baked it for 10 minutes to set the bottom. I then filled the crust with chopped rhubarb, macerated with white & brown sugars, adding a combination of cream and beaten egg to fill into around the tangy fruit. The picture doesn’t do the flavor justice but this solo rhubarb was very good.

Teaching cooking & baking classes has many advantages: better hours, more menu variety, a sense of empowerment for those learning. I love my job. A downside for me, however, is that while I get to focus on a variety of menu items, I cook & bake for classes rather than just for me. Having dinners such as this one, our yearly celebration of Spring, gives me opportunity to think outside and away from the cooking class box. Cooking foods for my eaters: what can I do with her salmon this year?  Should I do rhubarb with strawberries for dessert? Nope, I’m only going to use rhubarb: strawberry-rhubarb would be for him. This gratin is for my class but it’ll be perfect!

Our bodies need food for fuel, but making food is best when it’s for others. Sharing that food as a meal, cook included with this community of eaters, makes it all worthwhile.

I cheated with asparagus from CA/MX. I can’t wait for that stuff!!!

Happy Spring!

Doughnuts

Baked. Cake or Raised, but baked. Never as good as fried, but at home, when I don’t want to mess with a fryer, because I don’t have a reliable fryer, I’ll bake. And you know?  Baked will do, more than do, in a pinch.

The internet is full of doughnut & donut recipes but the ones I found most reliable, the way a doughnut should be, using ingredients most likely already in your pantry, are those from Lara Ferroni’s Doughnut. The Vanilla Cake, a standby and perfect covered in powdered sugar, is reason enough to buy the book.

The Doughnut recipe that really wowed me, though, was the Baked Raised. I got a nifty twisty pan from William Sonoma to make these:I left that photo huge on purpose! I did tweak the recipe, using less yeast (just add more time), less salt, a bit more flour, but those aren’t big changes. This dough is very slack (read sticky) but it needs to be. The finished doughnuts are light, airy, and REALLY close to their fried sisters.

Some keys with baking donuts: there should be extra fat in the batter to compensate for the oil lost from frying; use the right pan, which for me is the Norpro brand (you need the wells to be deep enough for good proportions); use a pan for baked raised (I cut the doughnuts then placed the circles of dough into pan’s well); you REALLY don’t want to over bake; as with any and all baking projects, measure key ingredients with a scale; and finally, make these when the weather permits walking some of them off.

Happy baking!

 

 

 

Three Quarters

Concrete counters on the east side of the room, dishwasher drawer installed and functioning beautifully,  one of two undercounter fridges in place, the sink sitting in all it’s squared-line glory, the drawers crafted and sliding. IMG_1020Still to come another little fridge, drawer fronts, cupboard doors, and the remaining countertop, whose process began this last weekend!

IMG_1022We expect a new range and, eventually, some kind of shelving will attach to the walls. The project is moving along, and even though not 100% complete, the Tiny cleans up nice. I have a deadline of August 30th. I’m hopeful we’ll hit it. Here’s to Mr. DIY. Cheers!

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Getting There

I love grains. I love whole grains. I love to convert standard white flour recipes to 100% whole grain, while maintaining all the goodness that imbued the original product. Going from 0-100% works sometimes, for some things, but whole wheats are tricky. Yeasted, flakey, or laminated doughs can be problematic with whole grain flours. How I tire from excitedly finding recipes called Whole Wheat This, only to discover the amount of actual whole wheat is 25% or less of the total flour used. That is not a whole wheat cookie or scone or croissant! Whole grain flours typically result in a heavier baked good. The germ & bran resident in the flour are tough, make the flour heavier, and can act like tiny needles, popping those bubbles of gas in the bread dough. Increased liquid in, and more time for, a whole grain recipe can work wonders. Changes in technique can be a boost too. Gently folding a high-hydration dough rather than conventionally kneading, using a smaller amount of yeast so the dough takes longer to rise, gives the germ/bran extra time to soften can both result in a lighter loaf.

This day I decided to take on the croissant. Traditional white flour croissants are light as air, flakey, crispy, melt-in-your-mouth delicious. But they are also white flour. White flour with nothing to offer nutritionally that wasn’t artificially added back in after milling. White flour that was a status symbol, food for the elite while the poor ate its nutritional counterpart. White flour so ubiquitous that millions now suffer from the inability to easily digest it. White flour that triggers the body’s insulin response faster than table sugar. White flour indeed.

There are those making 100% whole grain croissants but I decided I would work my way up to that goal. I made these:IMG_0595

Clocking in at 62.5% white whole wheat, 37.5% white unbleached flour, and 70% hydration. I used the same dough folding technique that I use for my sourdough: every 20-30 minutes of 2 hours, lifting the 4 corners, one at a time, of dough in a bowl, and draping that dough over the mass, leaving the dough to rest between.IMG_0594

I sandwiched the cold butter between layers of this raised, well-rested dough, and rolled and folded and chilled for a number of turns. The final shaped croissants were plastic protected then refrigerated overnight before a morning bake. What a treat!IMG_0597

This first attempt thrilled me. They weren’t as light as air because they actually contained nutrition. The layers were evident, the flake palatable, and the butter? Grass-fed and rich. So rich and delicious were these that I’ve taken a break from further testing to let my overindulging self recover. Another month of cardio and I’ll be back to increase the ratio to 80/20.

Delicious food doesn’t have to cause trauma for our bodies. Why don’t more bakeries try their hand at adding more whole grain flours to their croissants, sables, and cakes? It’s maybe more expensive and there might be a learning curve, but what a service to provide. In the mean time, I’ll continue my efforts in this tiny kitchen, documenting what I try, what works, what fails, what has to be repeated. With love & butter – Lisa

Practice

You can only become good at something, improve at something, if you practice that something. In the case of the kitchen, that often means making the same things again and again. As for a kitchen blog, that means redundant posts. I have things I love to make: scones, my sourdough loaves, all things pasta, and soup. When the scones are perfect, I take photos. When the loaves emerge from the oven with slightly charred ears, I rejoice. And take photos. When I’ve discovered a new method for marrying flour & butter, I make pie, more scones, and take photos.

Lately I’ve ventured further into the land of 100% whole grain flours: white & red wheat, emmer & einkorn, and Kamut. My baking has been scones, pies, and bread, but 100% whole grain. The photos? Pretty much the same.

50/50 whole wheat & white whole wheat flours
50/50 whole wheat & white whole wheat flours

The flavors? Amazing. The sources? Local. The white flour rush? Non-existent. Most whole wheat baking includes some white flour. White flour lightens the product, helps give a better rise, makes the process easier. Up till now, my sourdough has always had 20-30% white flour, and the starter is, and will continue to have, some white flour in its makeup. There are ways, though, to use only whole grain flours with success.

Where you can, increase the liquid in whole grain recipes a little and let the dough or batter rest so the germ & bran have time to absorb that liquid. Whole grains are thirsty and that extra liquid helps the resolute germ/bran soften, to become more manageable in baked goods. If a recipe calls for dairy, use something soured or cultured like buttermilk or kefir or even yogurt. Reduce the baking powder a little and add in some baking soda. The cultured dairy provides a more complex flavor profile, and the reaction of acidity+baking soda gives whole grains a better lift.

Different whole grain flours are better for different things. Whole wheat pastry flour is a great substitute for white flour in cookies, muffins, scones, and even cake. Emmer can also be used for these same products, resulting in a slightly more rustic texture and a more whole-wheaty flavor, in a good way. My new favorite chocolate cake is all very low gluten einkorn. Hard white whole wheat flour is great to use with einkorn for pizza dough, can make a very good scone, is wonderful for bread, and surprisingly, makes my current favorite chocolate chip cookie.

IMG_0053
100% whole grain yum

I found this recipe in Good to the Grain: Baking With Whole Grain Flours, but have reduced the amount of sugar as I usually do, and rather than standard whole wheat flour, I use white whole wheat, reducing the amount of flour by a bit. I even renamed these cookies to showcase what I think about them.These cookies are good. Really good. This recipe uses cold butter and the final mix, executed with hands in an almost knead, is a method I’ve never used before with a cookie. The mass of dough, torn into cookie portions, rather than scooped or rolled, results in a  bumpy & lumpy cookie, with pools of chocolate, crisp yet tender.  While you certainly do NOT want to over bake these, you will be really glad you tried this recipe. Cheers!

The Best (Whole Grain) Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes 8 to 12 large cookies

1 ⅓ cups white whole wheat flour

¾ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup (1 stick) cold butter, cut into small pieces

½ cup brown sugar

⅓ cup sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup chocolate chips (the darker the better!)*

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

Place the cold butter and the sugars into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. With the mixer on low speed, mix just until the butter and sugars are blended, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the egg, mixing until combined. Mix in the vanilla.

Add the flour mixture to the bowl and blend on low speed until the flour is just starting to combine, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.

Add the chocolate chips to the batter. Mix on low speed until the chocolate is evenly combined.

Use a spatula to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, then scrape the dough out onto a work surface. Use your hands and a dough scraper to fully incorporate all the ingredients. Scoop mounds of dough, about 3 tablespoons in size, onto the baking sheet, leaving 3-inches between them (about 6 to a sheet).Bake the cookies for 12 to 14 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through, until the cookies are evenly dark brown. Let the cookies cool on the parchment paper.

Recipe adapted from Good to the Grain.

*an alternative to chocolate chips is to chop up your favorite 70% dark chocolate bar, having a variety of sizes of chocolate in your cookie.

Make Over

The Tiny is getting a redo. We’re going to be a little bit bigger. Unified hardwood with the rest of the house. A little more countertop made from concrete. Undercounter fridges and a big ass sink. Right now it’s a mess and I’m exhausted so I won’t finish my post on Kamut. Instead I’ll show you pictures. Of the mess. I’ll update when things are looking more kitchen-like and maybe I’ll finish my other posts. Cheers!

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extraction
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bringing reclaimed hardwood into the original kitchen space; spending a little quality time with the 80 yr old subfloor
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cement work is detailed
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the pour; can you imagine ever cooking in this space??