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.

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!

 

 

 

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.

 

Mix Up

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!

Biscuits: Whole Wheat

Partly because I’m going to a whole grain conference, a mini-version of The Grain Gathering (yes, there is such a thing), and because the biscuits I recently  posted weren’t very tall, and because that’s what I wanted for breakfast, yesterday I made a biscuit using all Hard Red Wheat flour. I normally would have used a combination of whole grain flours, but didn’t have any Einkorn or Emmer ground and ready to go.

All-whole wheat products carry a reputation. These food items have been known to be heavy, healthy (not in a good way), and hard to digest. Memories of hockey-puck-bread commiserating ingastro with not-quite-presoaked-enough soup lentils, give pause, even concern about making “healthier” versions of loved baked goods. Whole wheat products often have sweeteners added to aid the leavening but I don’t want to add sugars to my non-dessert foods. Happily, I’ve learned that adding cultured or fermented ingredients can do wonders for whole grain baking. Just as with refined flour baking, the acid in buttermilk or kefir helps break down the long, tough strands of gluten resident in strong flours, resulting in a more tender finished product. Instead of using the regular milk often called for in biscuit recipes, I use milk kefir.

Kefir "grains"
Kefir “grains”

Kefir begins with little starter globules referred to as grains, globules that look like the large tapioca in bubble tea, combined with fresh milk that sits at room temperature until the milk thickens.

Cute cloth top from my friend Jen!
Cute cloth top from my friend Jen!

When thick, the kefir is strained, the thick sour milk recipe ready, and the grains able to restart the cycle in a clean jar.

Separating the liquid from the grains
Separating the liquid from the grains
Milk kefir ready to use
Milk kefir ready to use

I make kefir in 1-pint jars, keeping it on hand in the refrigerator until needed. Having it at the ready for biscuits or scones or waffles is a treasure.

As for the matter of biscuits, my whole wheat recipe is below, with additional step-by-step instruction found here. Using a little baking soda, along with baking powder, gives the lactic acid in kefir something more to play with. Additionally, a taller biscuit can be achieved by simply leaving the dough thicker before cutting out the circles. Yesterday’s batch was delicious!

100% Whole Wheat
100% Whole Wheat
Concord grape jelly
Concord grape jelly

Whole Wheat Biscuits

2 cups (9 oz) whole wheat flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

4 tablespoons butter

1 cup milk kefir

 

Preheat the oven to 425F.

Combine the dry ingredients. Add the butter, cutting in until it resembles small peas.

Add the kefir. Stir just until moistened.

Scrape mixture onto a lightly floured work surface.

Gently knead the dough for about 10 turns. Using a bench scraper can help get the kneading started.

Press the dough out until ¼- to ½-inch thick.

Use a biscuit cutter to form circles, or for thicker biscuits, press a drinking glass, with the circumference you prefer, into the dough.

Place biscuits on pan or in a baking dish. Biscuits can be snug on the pan or sit apart. Thicker biscuits will need some space between them for even baking.

Bake for 10-20 minutes, depending on the thickness and closeness you have chosen.

 

Tuesdays With Dorie: Baking Powder Biscuits

Summer patio breakfast: sliced fresh peaches, scrambled Beatrice egg, perfect Spouse-made latte, and a warm-from-the-oven baking powder biscuit laden with organic butter and homemade raspberry jam. Cozy winter fireside dinner: minestrone of winter vegetables with a grating of parmesan, Unti Segromigno, and a warm-from-the-oven baking powder biscuit to sop up the broth. Late spring afternoon tea: sliced strawberries with barely sweetened whipped cream all over a warm-from-the-oven baking powder biscuit. Who cares about the tea! Biscuits: easier than pie and able to be dressed for any meal.

As with all baked goods, achieving a light, flakey biscuit requires some technique. One needs to keep a light hand when incorporating the shortening, when mixing in the milk, and especially, when kneading the dough. While I have made biscuits for years, I had never tried the Baking With Julia recipe until today. I was happy to see, in Baking With Julia, that Dorie references the expression, “she has a good biscuit hand,” a fine compliment for a biscuit baker. The technique in the book is straightforward and I found the instructions clear. I strayed from the recipe as written by using a blend of flours and rather than use “solid vegetable shortening”, I used organic butter.

As always, be ready.
As always, be ready.
A mix of white whole wheat, red whole wheat, and unbleached white flour, baking powder, salt, butter.
A mix of white whole wheat, red whole wheat, and unbleached white flour, baking powder, salt, butter.
Butter in varying degrees of chunkiness.
Butter in varying degrees of chunkiness.
Just-combined.
Just combined.
Use a bench knife or bowl scraper to help with the loose, wet dough.
Use a bench knife or bowl scraper to help with the loose, wet dough.
Lightly kneaded-no more than 10 turns.
Lightly kneaded-no more than 10 turns.
Roll gently or pat out the dough; thickness dependent on need and size of cutter.
Roll gently or pat out the dough; thickness dependent on need and size of cutter.
Ready for oven.
Ready for oven.
Mostly whole wheat with a little more butter and some raspberry jam.
Mostly whole wheat with a little more butter and some raspberry jam.

 

 

Biscuits are homey food, often with regional differences that some take very seriously. If you’ve never made biscuits like this, you should. Begin with any recipe from a reliable source, including this one from Baking With Julia. Try the recipe as written, usually using only all-purpose flour. All-purpose flour ensures higher chances at a better rise, and you won’t, potentially, need to fiddle with any extra liquid that whole wheat sometimes requires. If your first attempt is more hockey puck than flakey, try again. Biscuits are worth the time and learning effort.

For no reason I know of, my family, well at least my sisters and I, began referring to the little backsides of very small humans as biscuits. When my nieces were very, very young, when my nephews were very, very young, when Junior himself was very, very young, their backsides, while thankfully sharing little in comparison except for shape, were likened to the flakey, golden-brown, disc-shaped baked good known as a biscuit. As with so many folksy expressions, I don’t know the why or from where of this one, but I will leave any attempt at further analysis for another time, in another post, on another blog. In the meantime, I think I’ll have another latte.

Cheers!

Baking Powder Biscuits • Baking With Julia • Contributing Baker: Marion Cunningham • pages 211-212

 

Tuesdays With Dorie: Vanilla Pound Cake

It is officially summer in Western Washington. All of the 40F degrees and rain of (especially) November, February, and March are a distant and hazy memory. The gardens are relentless in their demand for water, raspberries ripen daily, hollering “pick me! pick me!”, dinners cooked and served al fresco, Junior entertaining us in the small but useful above-ground pool.

The cusp of this glorious summer had my sister getting married, and me working to make the after-party happen. While the caterers handled the delicious and very authentic taco bar and sides, I and some others worked magic for the dessert table. The varied array looked lovely and yummy! One of my offerings was to turn this flourless chocolate cake into pretty 3-bite morsels. I found the pan I wanted, but needed to test it on something here at home. As the Vanilla Pound Cake from Baking With Julia suggested using a tube or Bundt pan, I baked the cake as minis.

When I think pound cake, my mind  jumps to lemon. I love lemon pound cake, every sugary, dense, buttery bit of it. I had never made nor tasted any pound cake other than lemon. (OK-I may have had some Sara Lee from the freezer case at a potluck during a past life but that could never count.) This recipe is a straight-forward, everything at room temperature butter cake. Here’s what I did!

Mise en place
Mise en place
Sifted
Sifted
Sugar waiting to join butter
Sugar waiting to join butter
Eggs waiting to join sugar & butter
Eggs waiting to join sugar & butter
Flour taking turns with milk while vanilla looks on
Flour taking turns with milk while vanilla looks on
Cute cakes cooling
Cute cakes cooling
Just-picked raspberries and a powdered sugar dusting
Just-picked raspberries and a powdered sugar dusting

My new pan worked beautifully. Recipe formulation always takes into account the size of pan a cake will bake in. As I veered greatly from the pan size for this recipe, I had to guess on bake time. I stayed close to the oven and was happy with the result. The recipe calls to cut the cooled cake into slices, but the mini cakes were perfect to serve whole. The cakes were sweet, sturdy and tender, only lacking a dollop of whipped cream to keep the berries company. Rather than send all the extras to Spouse’s break room, I have several cakes Ziploc’d in my freezer, waiting to serve summer guests on the patio. As for the wedding chocolate cakes, they were light, moist, very chocolately, and the first thing to disappear from the buffet. Cheers!

Vanilla Pound Cake • Baking With Julia • Contributing Baker: Flo Braker • pages 251-252

Tuesdays With Dorie: Mocha Brownie Cake Rewind

With the first assignment being scones I had baked for years, starting Tuesdays With Dorie in March was easy. So easy, it felt like cheating. March’s second assignment was Mocha Brownie Cake. The cake looked delicious, but I was emerging from 3 weeks of cake research and testing for Wednesdays, and, subsequently, Junior’s birthday. I had to admit that I was actually sick of cake and would NOT be doing a second TWD blog post for March. I *gasp* didn’t want to think about cake!

The Fates showed mercy, though, (I’m not sure The Fates do mercy, being fate and all) and gave April three Tuesdays in which I could work with Dorie. The occasional third Tuesday in any given month is a Rewind week: one can revisit a previous favorite or  pick up a recipe that had otherwise been skipped. This wildcard week would give me two entries for the month, since I had no intention of doing April’s 2nd project: lefse. I grew up in a Lefse Household, and while I appreciate it for the heritage tag, and while I could have borrowed the electric skillet gizmo to bake them on, the cloth-lined rolling-pin to roll them with, as well as the special stick to flip them from my Mom, I don’t like lefse enough to have squeezed the project into my early-April life.

Needing the TWD projects to remotely fit into my IRL existence, I decided the Mocha Brownie Cake would be perfect for the Spring (aka Birthday) Dinner I make yearly for my lovely Mother-in-law. This cake did not disappoint.

Here we go!
Here we go!
Eggs, vanilla, & sugar
Eggs, vanilla, & sugar

The recipe calls for 5 eggs which should be beaten until a bit thickened and doubled in volume. This step highlights one of my favorite metamorphoses of the humble egg.

Thicker & doubled in volume: sheer beauty
Thicker & doubled in volume: sheer beauty
Before
Unsweetened, bittersweet, milk chocolate, & butter before
During
during
Being added
then being added

As always, the better the chocolate you start with, the better chocolate tasting the whateveritis you’re making will be. The recipe instructs to use 4.5 oz semisweet plus 2.5 oz unsweetened chocolate; I used something closer to 50/50 Scharffen Berger unsweetened and Cordillera Milk Chocolate. Intense!

Called for 1 pan; I used 3. Didn't want to hassle with slicing
Called for 1 pan; I used 3. Didn’t want to hassle with slicing
Ganache step 1
Ganache step 1

The mocha element for this cake comes from strong coffee (I used a shot of espresso) added to the chocolate and cream of the ganache. The chocolate I had on hand was almost equal parts: 70% Cordillera Dark Chocolate and 65% Sunspire Bittersweet Chocolate Chips.

Ganache Step 2
Ganache Step 2
Oh My Ganache!
Oh My Ganache!
1st layer to springform
1st layer to springform
Cover with 1 cup of ganache; chill
Cover with 1 cup of ganache; chill
Repeat with 2nd & 3rd layers, spreading ganache between, then chilling
Repeat with 2nd & 3rd layers, spreading ganache between, then chilling
Cover the top, chill, then unmold
Cover the top, chill, then unmold
Do final coat of ganache over top & sides, then celebrate spring!
Do final coat of ganache over top & sides, then celebrate spring!

The cake was a little dry from guessing on the baking time for 3 thin layers rather than 1 thick layer. Next time, I would bake for 18 minutes rather than 20. While I followed the recipe closely, measuring each cup of ganache for the filling, I barely had enough left for the final coat, so had to spread a thin layer rather than pour a smooth one. Next time I will increase the ganache quantity. That being said, this cake was delicious! It was not overly mocha-y, while being a very sincere hit of chocolate. Most important, the guest of honor found it beautiful and delicious. I look forward to making this cake for many Springs to come!

The last piece
The last piece

Mocha Brownie Cake • Baking with Julia • Contributing Baker: Marcel Desaulniers •       pages 282-283

One a penny, two a penny

I grew up in an evangelical (many years before it became the 11-letter word it is today) Christian environment, one “free” of traditional church liturgy and that oppressive ancient church calendar. Phew! So many saints to honor and fete-who has time for that?! We celebrated Easter as the Resurrection of Christ, with a nod to Spring, enjoying Easter baskets and egg hunts. A staple on our Easter breakfast table were hot cross buns.

The Smithsonian magazine shared some interesting facts regarding hot cross buns just this morning. Perhaps because mythology ascribed the buns with special powers, Queen Elizabeth I, in 1592, declared the yummy baked goods could only be sold on Good Friday, Christmas, or for burials. Not to be denied, people began baking the buns in their home kitchens, but if caught, had to surrender all the contraband to the poor.

Today is Good Friday, always such a poorly named day to me. As a child, I would have appreciated knowing that this particular use of the word “good” was an antiquated form of “holy”, as opposed to the answer of some tricky church father riddle, or irony gone wrong. What I did know then, however, hot cross buns were delicious. So, to honor this day, I hastily decided to bake a batch. The recipe I found, hastily, is from Epicurious, a site I often use. I made a few adaptations: 50/50 whole wheat/white unbleached flour, 1/3 cup coconut palm sugar, no raisins, and I skipped the pastry dough cross thingamajig. Here’s the process:

The milk, the yeast, the sugar, flour, butter, zest & spices
The milk, the yeast, the sugar, flour, butter, zest & spices
The shaggy dough
The shaggy dough
Eggs
Eggs

As an aside, I took this picture to show the difference (a little difficult to see with my lighting situation) between the 2 eggs from our backyard and the 1 egg (organic though it be) from a store. As an additional aside, since I decided hastily to make these buns, I read the ingredient list, measuring, cracking, etc, before reading through the entire method. One egg plus one yolk are for the dough, 1 egg is for the wash before baking. I removed a yolk and enough estimated white from this bowl.

Dough almost there
Dough almost there
When you want to stop kneading because it's hurting your carpelly wrist, keep going just a bit more and the magic happens
Ready

When you want to stop kneading because it’s hurting your carpally wrist, keep going just a bit more and the magic happens: the dough will become smooth and elastic and tight and beautiful. It always does.

The dough takes a rest somewhere warm for about 1 1/2 hours, after which it should be doubled in size. The recipe instructed to divide the dough in half, forming each half into logs, 12 inches in length. Each of these were to be cut into 12 pieces, I did 10, then the pieces formed into rolls, placed on a baking sheet to proof/rise again for 45 minutes. Before going into the preheated 400F oven, each roll was egg washed, then some scored with a cross, while most were left alone to wear a cross of icing when served.

Proofed
Proofed
Rolls
Rolls

Stories of food seem quaint and sometimes funny to our modern sensibility. While I don’t hold any hope that these buns, per myth, will stay fresh and mold-free for an entire year, I do think these very tasty rolls could have some power to cement a friendship. If the person sharing a hot cross bun is gluten- and lactose-tolerant, non-paleo/primal, and an omnivore, a “strong friendship and bond” could be enjoyed for the coming year. I’d hang out with someone who fed me these and a hot cup of tea! Happy Easter!

Powerful!
Powerful!

 

 

Wednesdays

In January I started a new Wednesday routine: I load a bin or two with sheet pans, measuring cups, pastry cutters, and parchment paper; aprons, bowls, required ingredients, and recipe packs; drive the 40 minutes to venue where I unload, sanitize, and set up a teaching kitchen for a group of 8-12 year olds. The space is tiny, the oven is not ideal, but the students are eager, sometimes excepting Junior who attends by default, and we bake.

We are a homeschooling household. While there are many misconceptions of homeschooling and homeschoolers, I will simply say that we chose this path for Junior’s education as it best meets the learning requirements of his right-brained self. We cover all the subjects required by our state, we get assessed every year, but we most certainly do not stay home. Homeschooling, or  home-based instruction, means we as parents get to guide our child’s schooling path. We could choose to take classes through our school district or through state online programs; we could choose to take classes through one of several homeschool coops; we could organize our own classes with a group of families, hiring an instructor for any given subject; we can learn through books, movies, video games, the public library, an established curriculum, field trips, most of which we employ at one time or another. Our beloved Seattle Homeschooling Group has partnered with two of our city community centers to provide weekly classes for families. As a mom, a homeschool teacher, and a baker, I chose to lead a fearless group of student bakers.

The actual time in the community center’s own Tiny Kitchen has to be thought through like a well-choreographed dance. We have an hour to demonstrate, then mix, roll, shape, bake, clean up, and taste.  Each recipe dictates whether we will work individually, in small teams, or as one group. Sometimes the students do the measuring, but if timing is tricky, they will add pre-measured wet to dry. Who knew that making biscuits could take such a long time?! As everything hinges on baking time, we sometimes shape/bake one recipe, then while baking, we measure/mix another recipe to finish at home.

Biscuits
Biscuits

Before getting to the kitchen, however, I need to find the recipes, test the recipes, re-write the recipes in a consistent, easy-t0-follow way, along with information pages regarding ingredients, methods, and equipment. As with many areas of cooking and baking, I have the recipes down that I use at home on a regular basis. For a class, one in which I want to share method and taste experiences, I need to find good recipes for things I don’t necessarily make, recipes that will work in our facility, within our timeframe, and with my group of bakers.

Piles of printouts/testing donuts
Piles of printouts/testing donuts

While I look for recipes that call for lower amounts of sugar, budget limitations keep me from introducing the more expensive alternative sweeteners, such as my dear coconut palm sugar. When recipe testing, I make the smallest batch the measurements will allow, I don’t want to mess around with anything less than 1 whole egg, and then send most of the finished product to Spouse’s break room. The office break room is an excellent abyss to toss in loads of sugar, butter, and flour! On chocolate chip cookie day, Spouse took 6 versions of 3 different recipes, set up a taste test, and tallied the results. The least favorite cookie was that with the least amount of sweetener, coconut sugar at that, and a little more whole wheat flour. I didn’t use that recipe in class.

Yum!
Yum!

Winter Session had us making pretzels, pumpkin bread, pancakes, and hand-pies. Spring began with scones and will continue with breadsticks, baked donuts, fish crackers, and a triple layer, chocolate whipped-cream filled, buttercream frosted yellow layer cake, unless there is a mutiny and the students demand a chocolate cake like last time. The chocolate cake was really good. So good that I’m leaving it here. Bon appetit!

Chocolate Cake

Makes 2 8-inch layers

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

3/4 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup cultured yogurt, plain

1/2 cup canola or grapeseed oil

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup strong brewed coffee, hot

 

How to:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

1. Butter 2 8-inch round cake pans. Scatter flour around, coat butter, knockout extra. Cut a circle of parchment paper to fit the bottom of each pan. Place in pan.

2. In a medium-size bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or use a hand mixer in a large bowl) combine the eggs, buttermilk, yogurt, canola oil, and vanilla. Beat together until smooth.

4. On the lowest speed, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Mix on low until there are no more clumps of flour. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl.

5. Pour in the hot coffee and mix until combined.

6. Pour the batter into the cake pans. Try to make the two pans have the same amount of batter.

7. Gently place the pans into the oven.

8. Bake for 20 minutes then check the cakes. Bake these until the tops are just set and no longer wiggly. This cake should be moist so try not to over bake.

9. Let cool, then run a knife around the edge of the pan. Put a piece of parchment on a plate. Place the parchment and plate upside down over a cake pan. Flip the cake pan over so the cake will fall out onto the parchment-lined plate. Repeat with 2nd cake. Cakes should be completely cool before frosting. Wrap each layer in plastic wrap, place in a Ziploc bag and put in the freezer. Cold cakes are easier to fill and frost.(the freezer doesn’t dry out the cake like the fridge will).

Recipe from Somewhere on the Internet.