Mix Up

11 Nov

I am a saver. I am not a hoarder, I have full ability to clean, purge, recycle, and toss, but I do hang on to things that I might need. I am currently reducing this collection of Might Need Someday, clumsily inching my way toward minimalism. My fridge and freezer reflect my attitude toward saving. Any usable leftover, be it tomato sauce, pinto beans, grated cheddar, or small chunks of mozzarella, can be found squirreled away in my freezer, a myriad assortment of Pyrex & Kerr & Deli containers. Items stay in the fridge if I know I’ll use in a day or two. This system usually works for me, but confusion or misidentification can happen.

My favorite story of incorrect freezer ID, was the lunch I sent to work with Spouse a few years back. It was post Thanksgiving and there were turkey leftovers in the fridge and I was certain I had mashed potatoes in the freezer. Still jammied in a dimly lit kitchen, I pawed around the freezer until I found that container with the frozen white mass inside. Success! I opened it, threw some turkey on top,  and packed it, the last item in Spouse’s lunch carrier. Later that day, Spouse sent what I thought was a rather cryptic email regarding his lunch, so I ignored as one of his less-than-better jokes. Pizza was on the menu for dinner and I readied my longer-rise partial Emmer pizza dough. When it came time to assemble ingredients, I pulled items from fridge and freezer: strained tomatoes-frozen, mushrooms-fresh, pesto & pepperoni-frozen, arugula-fresh, but I could not find the made-by-me mozzarella that I knew I had saved, the reason we were even having this meal, it was not in the freezer. A quick drive to QFC allowed me to purchase an inferior replacement, and pizzas were baking when Spouse returned home.

Ever so smug, Spouse quipped about more mozzarella, and described to me his lunchtime experience. He had heated up his lunch, but the mashed potatoes weren’t responding as they usually did. They were remaining pretty solid and frozen. He removed the turkey and heated the rest for a bit longer. When it was finally pliable, he realized instead of potatoes, I had given him a large, healthy portion of mozzarella cheese to eat with his turkey. Delicious. He ate it, finding it completely hilarious. I was mad that I didn’t get to use my beautiful cheese on the pizza, but eventually found myself laughing out loud at the faux pas.

Ok. So fast forward to this morning. In my fridge I had a baggy of butter bits, leftover butter from my current class, butter still papered but handled by kids so my assistants didn’t want it for themselves. I had taken it home, knowing I could use it in something baked. In the same fridge compartment as the butter bag, I had found another bit of something that I assumed was more butter, so all of it, plus a little more to reach 6 ounces, went into the bowl of fresh-ground Einkorn, orange zest, currants, kefir, and the leaveners. Scones for Junior on Veteran’s Day.

The scones mixed and baked up beautifully. I did however notice a small anomaly: some of the butter seemed to be coagulated rather than melted-how weird! I sampled a scone and the light crisp butter/flour magic was there, along with the slight of orange, the bit of currant-sweet and…what was that? The coagulated something was cheese! That extra bit I threw in? Parmesan. Not butter. It was a tiny amount so the scones aren’t so much savory as they are confusing. I’m hoping the jam Junior adds will cover my crime, an offense his taste receptors, if detected, will not appreciate. Oh well. Perhaps it’s time for a fridge system overhaul!

ps: this is the same scone I always make!

Mmmm sweet cheesy goodness!

Eat Cake

9 Oct food

I have found a chocolate cake that I love. I have a simpler chocolate cake, an any day, make-on-a-whim chocolate cake that is really good, but this new one? It is very good. I found the recipe a few years ago on The Faux Martha, made the cake as written, in collaboration with my baker niece, Annie, for Spouse’s birthday. I collaborated with Ann because this cake uses an Italian Buttercream, a Salted Caramel Italian Buttercream. Planning a dinner party for 20 allowed me few extra neurons to devote to something I had never made before, something that sounded so-daunting. Annie, a caramel pro, produced a beautiful product with which we filled the cake before finishing with ganache. Despite the rave reviews and Annie’s reassurances to the contrary, that intimidating buttercream left the recipe to sit unceremoniously disheveled, piled in with all the Others on the shelf directly behind my office chair.

A few months ago, for reasons I can’t fully remember, the cake returned to my consciousness. Planning a baby shower for a dessert-loving co-worker, I knew I had to make this cake. This time I reduced the sugar a bit and used fresh-ground, whole grain einkorn flour. Einkorn, with its naturally lower gluten levels, produces an excellent pastry flour. Though any finished product might be a tad more dense, not sifting away the ground germ & bran keeps the protein levels high. Low gluten, high protein. Einkorn is crazy. I made a few iterations then my niece Betsey came over with her camera for Cake Day. Here’s what went down.food

A basic butter cake using natural cocoa powder, but with half & half rather than just milk.food-121


I wanted a 6-inch by 6-inch square finished cake, so used a 12-inch square for baking. One recipe yielded four 3/4-inch layers. I reduced baking time, watching the oven closely, to account for the increased surface area.

The buttercream will have its own post, but while the cake baked, I made the caramel, ensuring time for some cooling before adding it to the whipped butter. I did find that if the caramel had cooled a bit too much, the buttercream became Toffee Buttercream, also delicious.food-57



The ganache frosting is enriched with egg yolk and a small amount of butter, cooled, then whipped for a matter of seconds to incorporate a bit of air. If it goes grainy, you can rewarm, recool, rewhip.food-34

Finally, the layers were filled with buttercream, each pressing into the last. I chilled the cake, then finished with the ganache frosting.food-154

food-157Since Betsey is a photographer and nothing beats natural light, she set a charming garden scene for the finished photos. We didn’t cut this cake open. It was to be eaten the next day for a Nephew-FatherInLaw Combo Birthday. This, along with the other two cakes I made. It was, after all, Cake Day.food-13-2

I’ll leave you to use the recipe linked at The Faux Martha. If you want to try Einkorn flour, I used it ounce for ounce as the recipe is written. Enjoy!

Bakers Gotta

22 Jul

It’s been hot. This is Seattle and it’s been hot. Record-breaking, sleep-interrupting, Why-isn’t-everything-air-conditioned hot. The garden needs more water and extra shade. The lawn is already August-brown. The rhubarb and raspberries are in complete denial. My looks-great cement-everything patio radiates warmth well after sundown. We’ve filled the house with box fans. I can barely produce a meal. However, I love to bake. I miss baking. I am happy when I bake stuff. So I did. On the patio.

With this. IMG_6991

I made these.


Quarter-size sheet pans, raspberries, blueberries, same old recipe, and a convection toaster oven. Life began to feel normal, less record-breaking, more me. Otherwise, I’m making a lot of kids-class versions of Doro Wat, Injera, Tomatican, Empanadas, and Picnic Chicken. In an air-conditioned, well-appointed, kitchen classroom.


Happy July!


7 Apr

Granola has been an often seen item on our breakfast menu for almost 30 years. During that time it has experienced several incarnations. In the beginning, it was a recipe learned from an older, mama-of-many, friend, a staple at her breakfast table, primarily rolled oats, a bit of cinnamon, a few chopped almonds, some wheat germ, drizzlings of honey and olive oil, baked low and slow, with raisins added post oven. I lived that version for quite a while.

Always learning something new, I took the cereal through a Nourishing Traditions phase, with added yogurt and water, soaking for 12-24 hours before setting it to bake. More recently, I tried a grain-free version that was delicious, decadent with its assortment and quantity of nuts and seeds.

Not grain-free by any means, I am conscious of the amount, type, and quality of grains that I and my family consume. I don’t think our bodies need lots of rolled oats at breakfast, and I actually balk at their use since learning that oat producers marketed the grain as human food only after the demise of horse-drawn transportation, but I do use the grain in my current granola. In a lesser quantity, with other plant-based proteins to balance the potential glycemic hit of the grain, I use it for economy. Just like General Mills.

IMG_6711I use about half nuts and seeds and half oats, a bit more generous with the nuts/seeds. I like, in varying degrees: almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, hemp hearts, and ground flax, all of which mix with organic regular rolled oats. These prone-to-stale items are kept on hand in the freezer, staying fresh longer when I over buy, the many little bulk bags corralled together in larger Ziploc.

IMG_6709After sprinkling liberally with cinnamon, I pour melted coconut oil, maybe 1/4 cup for 1 pan of granola, across the olio (a gratuitous homage to words I never knew before doing newspaper crosswords), along with a few tablespoons of honey, a pinch or two of salt, then I stir. This goes into a 325F oven for 30-45 minutes, stirred 2 or 3 times during baking.

IMG_6708When the slightly golden cereal cools, I might add some raisins or dried currents, but generally add fresh fruit before eating. Invariably, many of the hardly chopped almonds never make it to the half-gallon canning jar which serves as the granola’s home, their delicious coconut/honey/cinnamon coating hard to resist!

As granola is very open to adaptation and experimentation, the ratios here can be adjusted to your taste or dietary needs. You can chop by hand, resulting in the uneven pieces as pictured, or have a more uniform cereal, giving the larger almonds & walnuts a whirl in the food processor before combining with the other ingredients.

This cereal is lovely with any milk and fresh strawberries, served with yogurt and frozen berries, or used as the topping for a fruit crisp. Don’t settle for boxed or bulk ready-made granolas. This food is easy to make, easy to store, easy to eat, allowing you, once again, to control the quality of the food you eat. Cheers to that!

So It Begins

7 Apr

Another quarter of creating with young bakers starts tomorrow. Another quarter of leaving the house earlier than we’re used to, hauling equipment and ingredients to a ungainly kitchen, sanitizing and setting up. While we have an additional half-hour this go-round, recipes still have to be thoroughly thought through to fit within our frame. I’m expecting to see mini double-crust pies, cream puffs, pastry cream, cheesecakes, and crackers; pita, pizza, and a daring roulade. Things may be over-mixed, rolled too thin, or unevenly baked, but I’m betting on delicious. These bakers dive in, anxious to try, anxious to touch, smell, and taste. There’ll be a lot of hand washing. I’ll try to take photos to show you our process and results.

Over the past 4 years, the venue has not been ideal, some of the relationships have been uneasy, the initial learning curve was steep, and the resulting day has always been exhausting. Filled with gratitude as I set out to start, what will probably be my last quarter in this kitchen, I think of everything I’ve learned from the students, what I’ve learned about myself, all the tricks and tips I’ve picked up from the place itself; I am grateful for the parents who let me work with their kids; I am grateful for Junior plugging along with me. I have been transformed by this funny little class I dove into 4 years ago.

If there is anything you’d like to do, something you’ve thought to try your hand at, I don’t know how to encourage you enough to take the plunge. I hope you do. Cheers!

All hands

All hands

The Reason For Frozen Fruit

25 Jan

Years ago, a friend gave me this recipe, one she received from her German mother-in-law. She called it Kuchen, though I’ve never found a recipe for kuchen like it. Regardless, this Kuchen is delicious, adaptable for breakfast or tea, and super simple to throw together.


Here goes:

2 cups of flour (this batch was 100% whole wheat pastry) + 1/2 cup cold butter + 1/2 cup sugar (while this is original recipe, I always reduce to 1/3 cup, usually always use coconut palm sugar, and as this was for breakfast, reduced that to a little bit more than 1/4 cup) into the bowl of a food processor, and pulse to crumbs. Remove 1 cup of the mixture and set aside. Add to the food processor 1 teaspoon baking powder + 1/4 teaspoon or so salt + 1 egg. Process until combined. Dump the flour/egg mixture into the 9-inch fluted tart pan (or and similar sized oven safe dish, pan, or tin), then press the mixture evenly over the bottom and up the sides.


Cover with a single layer of fruit, fresh or frozen. Berries are my favorite, but larger fruits work nicely when sliced thin and arranged artfully in a slightly overlapping single layer.


Cover the fruit with the reserved flour mixture. Slide this pan onto a larger baking sheet, then slide both into the preheated 375F degree oven. Set the timer for 15-20 minutes. Remove when it looks something like this:


If you want to use blueberries, add some lemon zest. If you’re doing an apple version, sprinkle some cinnamon over the fruit before the reserved crumbs. Use a variety of fruits, keeping it single-layer deep. Try this with different flours or combinations of flours. Reduce the sugar or use the whole original amount. In less than 30 minutes, you will fill your kitchen with amazing aroma, announcing to guests, or resident sleepyheads, that you’ve been thinking about them, that they’re special, that they are worth some delicious effort. You don’t have to tell them how much effort!



The Library

4 Dec

I love the library. I love researching books, reading reviews on Goodreads or Amazon, then searching KCLS, placing holds, picking up books for free. After only 2 weeks since joining the Artisan Bread Bakers Facebook Group, sifting through millions of posts, I reserved Flour Water Salt Yeast by Ken Forkish. A large portion of the posters among the 10,000+ members of this group think highly of Portland’s Ken Forkish of Ken’s Artisan Bakery. I had known about the Portland bakery for some time, but didn’t conclude, until after perusing Amazon’s Look Inside feature, that the Ken spoken of in the group and the bakery Ken were the same.

Stack of beauty

Stack of beauty

Now, I don’t particularly like Facebook. I periodically purge my activity log, removing likes and photos and comments, knowing any and all that I post are used to target me and my “friends” by the movers/shakers of our consumer-driven economy. After reading the new Terms & Conditions the other morning, I committed myself to another purge, to update my Ello account, and perhaps leave Facebook for good. This time. Really. I’ll do it. Except for 3 groups that I really like. Damn it.

New bread

New bread

I suppose if I’m to be hardcore, I would end all my friendships, keeping only the 3 groups and probably my *Like* of NPR and Anne Lamott, or I could hide all my friends to not see their posts, so then I wouldn’t accidentally comment on or like their posts, but could still peek once in a while….

Bulk rise, 3 folds total

Bulk rise, 3 folds total

Anyway, the Forkish book is good, I think especially good for those wanting to get started in artisan-style bread making. Flour Water Yeast Salt contains more information on the process of bread making, including more commercial yeasted recipes where the user can practice method, using higher hydration levels, longer proofing times than “regular” bread recipes call for.

Ready for pan

Ready for pan

I have made a few batches of The Whole Wheat Saturday bread, a same-day bake, tweaking the recipe by adding more whole wheat than the 50% required, and baked as sandwich bread. It turned out well, working nicely for sandwich and french toast, as well as pizza dough.

Good crumb, nice crust, and flavor

Good crumb, nice crust and flavor

Mushroom & basil

Mushroom & basil

The bread has many of the characteristics of the longer rise wild-yeasted bread I usually make, has the ease of active-dry yeast, a bread I can whip up on a much shorter notice. It doesn’t, however, have the soul of sourdough.

I began my relationship with sourdough in a class, 20+ years ago, simultaneously working my way through Nancy Silverton’s Breads of the La Brea Bakery. I used Silverton’s method for years, including the early posts on sourdough here, until I happened on Chad Robertson and Tartine. Tartine Bread changed everything I thought I knew about sourdough. Where Forkish’s book would have had more thorough explanation, I jumped into high hydration, long ferment, lactic versus acetic acid starters, creating the leaven/levain with a relatively tiny amount of starter, without water wings, nose plug, or goggles. Robertson’s story, the lay of the book, the not-dumbing-down-too-much captivated me. The learning process has been bumpy but satisfying, the experience now my benchmark for other methods.

All that to say, I’ll keep working through Flour Water Salt Yeast. This initial loaf is a keeper, and some cookbooks are worth the price for even just one good recipe. As for connection, when I read through the introductory section of Robertson’s next book, Tartine Book No. 3, showcasing the many ancient grains he has worked to incorporate, I cried. I cried because of Einkorn. While super useable and full of information, Flour Water Salt Yeast didn’t affect me this way. I don’t cook or bake based on emotion, but bread making is soulful and ancient, something created with hands, something to be broken by hand, and something to be shared. Connection.

Here’s how Junior and I make French Toast.



French Toast • serves 2

4 slices Whole Wheat Saturday Bread from FWSY

2 eggs

1/4 cup milk

2 teaspoons cinnamon

pinch of salt

1 tablespoon butter, for pan

butter & syrup for serving


Preheat Griswold No. 8 cast iron skillet to medium.

Combine the eggs, milk, cinnamon, and salt. Whisk until well blended.

When skillet is ready, melt the butter in pan. Dip bread, 1 slice at a time, into the egg mixture. Let the mixture drip a bit then carefully lay the bread into the pan. Repeat with remaining slices. Cook a few minutes, then flip, cooking a few more. We like the outside slightly crisp, with the inside still soft but not raw.




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