Spring Flavor

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

Pre-vinaigrette but so pretty!

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

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

Rhubarb & cream

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

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

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

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

Happy Spring!

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.

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!

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

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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

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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!