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

Eat Cake

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

food-123

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

food-58

food-117

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!

Sourdough-ish Pancakes!!

Here at home we (and by we, I mean I) pronounce “pancake” as either /peeeeaaaaannnncake/ or with its more common pronunciation, /ˈpænkeɪk/, but spoken loudly. With slammers. You know-exclamation points. This latter phenomenon is due, mostly, to a commercial parody sketch from MTV’s mid-90’s show The State, Betty’s No-Good Clothes Shop and Pancake House. (We are moved by comedy.) This morning I made: PANCAKES!!

I have begun anew my study on the Theory and Practice of High Hydration Sourdough. I hope to be writing about it over the coming months. How this study leads to pancakes is in the sourdough starter. Getting the starter to be thoroughly alive, fully wild and active, strong enough to withstand the rigors it will face when combined, for many hours, with mostly whole wheat flours and ample water before finding refuge in the hot oven, requires regular feedings, discarding most of the old to make new. The “old” starter being discarded is perfectly fine. It could be renewed as well, but in a short while I would have a bathtub full and my family would complain. Today I couldn’t bring myself to yard-waste the blessed goodness, using it instead to augment some pancakes.

Little bowl of microbial life!
Little bowl of microbial life!

There are many recipes online for sourdough pancakes, some just adding additional ingredients to large amounts of sourdough starter, and others requiring most of the batter sit overnight. I usually don’t have much starter in excess at any one time; my bread formula requires a long ferment, using only a tablespoon of the stuff for the levan, meaning I don’t maintain more than 1 cup. Additionally, as I have yet to think “pancake” at bedtime, I needed something doable when I wanted to make them, eliminating any morning-after, lack-of-planning regret.  Combining starter with some of the beautiful einkorn flour I grind was a happy solution.

Nutrimill at the ready.
Nutrimill at the ready.

Einkorn is an ancient grain, finding itself in re-cultivation due to its lovely flavor, as well as its high protein but low gluten content. Protein content in modern wheat links to the amount of gluten in the grain. High protein flours are strong flours, suitable for bread making. Soft flours are lower in protein/gluten and work well for pastry. Grains such as einkorn, and its cousin, emmer, are both higher in protein but their gluten levels are more akin with pastry flour. These rediscovered, ancient forms of wheat will undoubtedly bring change into our current baking lexicon: high protein, low gluten wheat flours.

Pure beauty!
Pure beauty!

While einkorn is not strong enough to hold a sourdough loaf together, it is perfect to blend with the stronger flours fermenting in the starter, adding flavor, more protein, and much in the way of self-satisfaction, to pancakes or waffles. Aside from the starter, this pancake recipe looks like any other. I do add a bit of baking soda, as the starter won’t have much time to create any big life with the einkorn. Since this batter is whole wheat, it can benefit with a sort of autolyse: letting the starter, flour, and liquid, in this case kefir, sit for 20-30 minutes before continuing with the remaining ingredients.

Letting the flour and liquids mingle a bit.
Letting the flour and liquids mingle a bit.

Autolyse gives the whole wheat time to absorb liquid, so you may need to add some additional milk or kefir before baking, but wait until you incorporate all ingredients to adjust. I don’t add any sugar to the batter, allowing for real maple syrup to be used when eating. This helps control the total sugar, but still allows for a nice bit of sweet to balance the nuttiness of the flour. The fruit added to these pancakes truly makes them a summer delight. My favorite way to bring a little summer to one of our dark, rainy NW January mornings, is to use frozen raspberries instead of fresh. Magic.

Oddly lit, almost ready to flip.
Oddly lit, almost ready to flip.

Sourdoughy Summer Pancakes

(with Einkorn!)

1 cup/128g einkorn flour

1 cup/160g 100% hydration sourdough starter

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup kefir (buttermilk)

2 eggs

3 tablespoons butter, melted

Raspberries or blueberries or other diced summer fruit

Method:

Preheat a griddle until drops of water dance across it.

While the griddle preheats, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.

In a small bowl, combine the kefir, eggs, and butter. Mix well.

Add the kefir mixture and starter to the flour. Fold together until just combined.

Using a 4-ounce ladle, scoop batter onto the hot griddle. The batter will be thick. Use the back of the ladle to spread and smooth the batter on the griddle.

Drop berries onto the raw cake.

Flip when bubbles form and/or the edges begin to dry.

Adjust the temperature under the pancakes as needed.

If you don’t do sourdough, you can make great pancakes with whole wheat pastry flour, spelt flour, or grind up some emmer or einkorn. Use 2 cups(256g) total flour, increase the liquid to 1-1/4  to 1-1/2 cups, and add 1 teaspoon of baking powder. I would urge you to not shy away from using the melted butter. A good quality organic or grass-fed butter brings a satisfying richness, marries well with the fruit,  and makes these pancakes delicious.

Yum!
Happy Pancakes to All!

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: Buttermilk Scones

Fumbling around the internet for cookie recipes or cake recipes made with lower amounts of sugar, seeking the What Happens When of reducing sugar in a recipe, trawling the sea of information for specifics that could only really be found in the mind of a food scientist or seasoned pastry chef, I bumped into Tuesdays With Dorie. Tuesdays With Dorie is a blog designed for people with blogs wishing to work through the recipes of Baking With Julia, and other books by Dorie Greenspan, over the course of a year, posting results on, yes, a Tuesday. As usual with internet searches, this was not what I was looking for but, intrigued, I signed up. I got the green light from the TWD élite in time for a March start.

I have owned Baking With Julia since purchasing my First Edition copy the year published, in 1996. I had fallen headlong in love with cooking and baking, was taking classes, feeding family and friends and coworkers, dreaming of little cafes. This book is a companion piece to one of Julia Childs’ PBS cooking shows. The series filmed in her kitchen, has the illustrious Julia keeping company with a variety of breadmakers, pastry chefs, restaurant owners, cookbook writers, each creating some of their signature baked items for her. I never watched many of the PBS episodes but have fiddled with several recipes in this book. For any number of reasons with me and cookbooks, I found the 2 or 3 recipes that became standards, and have rarely picked up the book since. Tuesdays With Dorie sounded like a motivating way to give the book another look and write more posts here. Happily, the first assignment for March is one of my standards: Buttermilk Scones.

One stipulation of TWD is that we are not to include recipes in our posts, instead encouraging others to purchase the beautiful book for themselves. For this rendition of scones, I have measured equal parts just-ground whole wheat and organic white unbleached all-purpose flours, salt, leaveners, cold butter in pieces, and coconut palm sugar. (Always try new recipes as written, then give yourself permission to try different flours or sugars or mix-ins, as long as they are in kind.)

mise en place
mise en place

The original method calls for combining the dry ingredients in a large bowl, and for working in the cold butter with fingers, a pastry cutter, or a knife & fork. I am comfortable with this method, but usually use a food processor for this first step of the process.

flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, and lemon zest
Ready for pulsing.

A food processor is powerful, so pulsing the mixture into a coarse meal happens in less than a minute. I am able to keep the cold butter away from my warm hands, processing it quickly so it stays cold. At this point, I pour the flour/butter mixture into a mixing bowl before adding the liquid.

Ready for buttermilk
Ready for buttermilk.

As these scones are Buttermilk Scones, the recipe calls for buttermilk. When I have buttermilk on hand, I always save 1 cup for scone-making. The slightly sour, thick liquid works a magic with the other ingredients. When I don’t have buttermilk, I can use 1 tablespoon of vinegar + enough milk to make 1 cup total. The recipe calls for lemon or orange zest to be added along with the buttermilk. I zest the fruit over the food processor bowl instead, letting the long strands from my zester pulse with the butter. Also at this point, you can add a few currants or other diced plump dried fruit. I have even mixed in blueberries or pieces of firm pear with great success. I mix the flour and milk with a fork until combined. Like biscuits, scones don’t want to be overworked. While still in the bowl, I work the dough/batter with my hand, kneading gently until I can gather into a ball.

Ready for the work surface.
Ready for the work surface.

On the counter, I gently knead the mass for 2 or 3 more turns. The ball of dough is then divided in half, flattened into disks, brushed with melted butter, and cut into wedges. The disks should be 6- to 7-inches in diameter. You can also sprinkle extra sugar over the brushed-on butter.

Ready for cutting.
Ready for cutting.

For tiny scones, I create 3 disks instead of 2, with a diameter of 4-inches or so. This makes a nice size scone for a tea-tray. With all the cut scones positioned on a parchment-lined baking sheet, we are ready for a hot oven.

Ready for the oven.
Ready for the oven.

These scones only bake for 10-12 minutes. The hot oven of 425F gets the cold butter melted, leaving little caverns for the steam and leaveners to push out further. The result, even with the whole wheat I use, is some lovely light, flakey, crisp outside, tender inside just-baked yum.

Mmmmm
Mmmmm!

With the light glistening off my mirabelle plum jam, I will excuse myself now to go enjoy some Baking With Julia goodness.

Buttermilk Scones • Baking With Julia • Contributing Baker: Marion Cunningham • pages 210-211