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.

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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??

Resolution for January 2

I do resolutions throughout the year. Last year, I had a New Year’s Resolution for December 27, 2015. It didn’t have anything to do with cooking. My resolution for today does: plan better lunches for the weekend. Guess what? I resolved for today and I achieved my goal!

Saturday Lunch
Saturday Lunch

How pretty is that? During the week, Spouse usually takes dinner leftovers-don’t worry, they are really good and I’m usually jealous-while Junior & I get what I’ve foraged from the fridge or freezer or from stopping by PCC after karate, or I forage and he makes himself some Annie’s Homegrown Mac/Cheese. Weekday lunches will get their own resolution to improve, but it’s the weekends that are the most problematic. We’re all home doing projects, I’ve thought about food all week, I’ve managed something for breakfast, and I’m planning something maybe more labor intensive for dinner and I’m asked: What’s for lunch? A simple question. Drives me batty. I don’t want that negative energy, don’t want remodel monies going to take out, I’m here, I love to cook, so plan for it. This minestrone is so easy & I already was baking bread that could go with. Having the pantry items of cannellini & tomatoes, the fresh onion, garlic & carrot, and the celery seed pounded with salt are standard, why not eat this for every winter Saturday lunch? We just might! Cheers!

Minestrone Soup                               

Preparation time: 15 minutes     Cooking time: 30 to 40 minutes        Serves 4 to 6

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium red onion, chopped

2 medium carrots, peeled and diced

1 large celery stalk, diced (or about 1/4 teaspoon pounded celery seed)

Pinch of red pepper flakes

1 clove garlic, minced

1 ½ teaspoons salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

1 (14 ½-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained and finely chopped (save liquid)

1 large potato, diced

1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary

5 cups water, as needed

1 (10-ounce) bag frozen green beans (or anything green-kale is awesome!)

¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Place a large pot on the stove over medium heat. Pour the olive oil into the pot. When the olive oil is warm, add the onions, carrots, celery, red pepper flakes and garlic. Stir the vegetables to coat with oil. Stir in the salt and pepper. Cook for 5 to 8 minutes, until the onions begin to turn golden.

Add the tomatoes, potatoes, beans, rosemary, the saved tomato liquid and about 5 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and let the soup cook for 15 minutes. Test the vegetables for tenderness.

During the last 5 minutes of cooking, add the frozen green beans. Taste for seasoning and adjust if needed.

Ladle the soup into bowls and sprinkle with Parmesan.

 

 

 

New Year, New Theme

Good morning! It’s 2016 and I’ve given this blog a new look. As with many new beginnings for me, I want things clean and tidy and organized, flat surfaces cleared so my thoughts can flow. This new year has my tiny kitchen getting a small overhaul of its own. We’re expanding it a bit, adding more counter space, changing the cabinets and countertop, adding a larger sink and moving the fridge to undercounter. I hope it’s done by early February. For now, I’m working in a temporary basement space, a space that will someday be a kitchenette on purpose. This is several steps ahead of camping, and way ahead of cooking in a standard hotel room, a tiny spot with less distraction. I’ll post pictures in a while. For now, hold the past with grace and the future with hope. Happy New Year!

Æbleskiver

The food highlight for me this Christmas was the Æbleskiver I learned to make at Birgitte Antonsen‘s Christmas In Denmark class. After assisting Birgitte in her 2014 class, I was sure I would make these fun holiday treats. That did not happen. After assisting again this year, I was adamant that Æbleskiver would be part of our festivities. And it was-twice!

Christmas Eve afternoon, my parents came over for tea, Apples to Apples, treats, and gift giving. I had the batter proofing, the pan heating, the butter melted, and the powdered sugar ready for sprinkling. The batter is pancake-like, but yeasted. Brigitte uses whole grain spelt flour in her recipe and only 1 tablespoon of sugar. I made the batter with Kamut-surprise!surprise!- adjusting the amount down to account for how thirsty Kamut can be, and I used coconut palm sugar. aebelskiver 2

When the pan is hot, spoon a little melted butter into each round, then fill each round with almost too much batter. After the batter has set, use a wooden skewer to gather the overfilled batter back into the round, and work the cooked underside around so that the raw batter can meet the hot pan. Continue to rotate the now round, so all sides get in contact with the hot Æbleskiver pan. When golden brown all around, remove the pancake/fritter/Danish Holiday Treat to a plate, sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve with strawberry jam. Our Christmas Eve batch turned out great but Spouse & I both wanted just a bit more sweet and I wanted a bit more cardamom.

Not on our original Christmas Brunch menu, I whipped up more Æbleskiver batter to share with my in-laws. I did add 1 more tablespoon of coconut palm sugar and increased the 1 teaspoon cardamom by 1/4. These little things were good! Addictively good! For next year’s holiday, I will have strawberry jam in my freezer to serve with these treats. Happy Holidays!aebelskiver 3

ps. If you’d like to learn to make Æbleskiver, sign up for PCC Cooks email list. Birgitte’s class will hopefully be offered next Fall. Registration opens for Fall around the end of August, and we all know that time does fly.

Pancake Star Wars

Junior received a set of Star Wars pancake molds for Christmas. We tried them out using our usual batter ratios, but with 100% Kamut. I didn’t read the instructions and realized after the batter was all over the first set that I should have sprayed a little something on the mold. Those pancakes went directly to the chickens. The next set, a Millennium Falcon and X-Wing turned out, except that the X-Wing looks more like a starfish:IMG_0376

The next pair, a Tie Fighter (or Tie Interceptor) and a Millennium Falcon looked pretty good (as compared to my very unstaged stove top):IMG_0374

until I tried to flip the Tie Interceptor Fighter. It crashed hard:IMG_0375

Of the 3 shapes, the Millennium Falcon was the simplest and most sure to have recognizable results. Junior had fun but what a pain to clean these things! These are the types of gadgets that seem too good to be true in their super cute packaging on the shelves at Williams Sonoma.  When the pushing gets to shoving, when the batter actually hits the griddle, it’s not really very cute. We’ll use them again; maybe we can produce some stop motion breakfast battle movie.

I was very happy with the Kamut, which produced crazy fluffy, crazy light results. I did make this batter thinner than I usually do, what with using the molds. And I didn’t drop any frozen blueberries or raspberries onto the cooking batter like I usually do. If you’ve not tried raspberry pancakes, you really should.

Here’s how the batter happened today:

Kamut Pancakes

8 oz Kamut flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons butter, melted

2 eggs

8 oz kefir

8 oz milk

Preheat a griddle or pan. I love using cast iron. In a larger bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the melted butter, eggs, kefir, and milk. When the pan is ready, ladle out 1/3-1/2 cup batter. After the pancake gets bubbled, flip it.

Serve with syrup or jam or apple butter or apple slices sautéed with butter and cinnamon or add yogurt to the pancakes with any of these other things, it’ll all be good!

 

Ratio

I’ve made pasta for a while. I learned with cup measures, translating those to my scale, but still using a number of eggs rather than the weight of eggs. That changed recently when I read Michael Ruhlman’s Ratio. Ratio goes behind the cups & weights to the relationship of the ingredients with each other. For me, this revolutionized pasta. With a 3 to 2 ratio, I now weigh the eggs IMG_7201first than add 1 1/2 times that amount of flour. Whether the large organic eggs I bought are on the small end of the grade, or if I’m using Beatrice’s generous large offerings, it makes no difference; the pasta dough is perfect, every time.

This day the pasta was for lasagna. I roll the sheets thin for lasagna, creating 4 or 5 layers in the baking dish. The pasta melts together with the béchamel, mozzarella, and simple tomato sauce, a recipe that I first learned from Iole Aguero. I make the pasta using mostly white whole wheat flour, rolling with a hand-crank Atlas Pasta Machine, and not letting the dough dry before IMG_7205assembling the dish. The tomato sauce is best using fresh cherry tomatoes at the height of summer. The flavor explodes! During non-peak tomato season, I use BioNaturae’s bottled strained tomato, simmering a few crushed garlic cloves and red pepper flake, adding basil chiffonade at the end of cooking if I have any on hand. Béchamel is béchamel. Make whatever version you love. Iole’s lasagna uses four cheeses and is very decadent. I use only two: mozzarella and parmesan, partly because I’m cheap and partly because I like this to be more than just a special-occasion dish. I will even use a meat sauce if I have extra, IMG_7203or if I’ve made a bolognese and want to go the extra steps to lasagna instead of just to tagliatelle. Assemble the dish with a hint of sauce along the bottom of the dish, followed by pasta sheets cut to fit, then more sauce, béchamel, and cheese. Repeat until your dish is full and cheese reigns over all.

As with many of the foods I want to write about, I take pictures during the process but forget to take pictures on the final product. Regarding lasagna, with the counters wiped and the saucepans cleaned, the aromas begin wafting from the oven, it’s dinner time. The table is set and we tuck in. Only after stowing leftovers into the fridge do I slap my forehead Homer Simpson Style, realizing I didn’t finish the photos. Oh well. It was delicious. Try the ratio. I think you’ll be pleased.

Fika

In October, two of my three nieces spent 3 weeks in & around Sweden, France, and the UK. The first leg of their trip was Göteborg & Stockholm. After photos of their arrival, the cobbled streets and brightly colored buildings around their inn, Instagram lit up with photos of Fika. I had never heard the term Fika so turned to Google. Much more than coffee break, Fika embodies the social, the gathering of friends, accompanied by coffee and, usually, something sweet. Growing up the child of a Norwegian Grandmother and Swedish Grandfather, my parents, aunts & uncles ALWAYS had coffee break-mid morning and mid afternoon. The idea that coffee break was an actual Thing, a big deal, a Swedish phenomenon even, tickled me. My niece at home found this book, which I promptly ordered, and with more pictures from my Eurotravelers, began investigating Fika.

Stocking up on cardamom, I first explored Johanna Kindvall’s Vetebullar. Always one to throw whole wheat flour into everything I make, the first batch didn’t respond well. The second batch made true to recipe, white flour and all, was amazing. I tweaked the third batch with half whole grain and while it was ok, wasn’t like that second batch. On my baking docket is a fourth batch of Vetebullar, one to incorporate my new-found love: Kamut.

After getting the vibe of the recipes, I turned to Tartine Book No. 3 for more. No. 3 is the culmination of Chad Robertson’s time in Scandinavia, exploring different grains, studying and creating with native bakers. With two-thirds of the book devoted to bread, and bread the reason I have the book, I forgot that the remaining recipes are pastry. Pastry using spelt and Kamut and barley and rye. These recipes, none overly sweet, fit easily into what I was reading about Fika. I arranged a baking day with Niece No. 1 and set a date for a Family Fika Event.

The Sunday following Thanksgiving had the World Travelers, most of my family and in-laws, gathered in the afternoon. We pulled espresso drinks for all, ate Vetebellar Twists & Rolls, Chamomile-Kamut Shortbread, Kamut-Walnut Shortbread, Fig-Walnut Cookies, Cardamom Einkorn Crumb Cake, an allergen-free Chocolate Sunflower Cookie, with a few other offerings. We talked and laughed and cheered on the Seahawks.IMG_0240

The Seahawks, and Fika, won.