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.

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.

Pumpkin Scones

Today. For breakfast. Breakfast at 11AM because I was still in bed reading recipes until 10. These were yummy. I found them on The FauxMartha. I fell in love with The FauxMartha upon discovering and recreating her Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake. Oh my goodness. When visiting the site this morning, I found this scone recipe. I had all the ingredients, failed to take any process photos, used Emmer instead of white whole wheat, and reduced the sugar by a tablespoon. I didn’t use any pepita seeds.

Pumpkin, spices, cream, butter, flours, sugars, etc.
Pumpkin, spices, cream, butter, flours, sugars, etc.

With the use of Emmer and pumpkin, the scones end up with a rather meh color. Taking photos of them against my wood counter tops heightens that meh, but these scones were light, tender, not overly spiced, and with the glaze, a perfect sweet for our family.

Pumpkin & cream glaze
Pumpkin & cream glaze

Some days I take the time to make a recipe my own. Today I just wanted to make pumpkin scones.



More Apples

With the bonanza of apples resting in the basement right now, Junior and I have been busy perfecting apple crisp. I have often thought of apple crisp as the lazy baker’s apple pie, and while that may be partly true, apple crisp is a delicious, soul-warming comfort food all on its own. Rather than the incomparable buttery flake of pâte brisée, the topping of a crisp has several different pleasing elements. The crisp topping I enjoy has the nuttiness of Emmer, a depth of sweet brought by coconut palm sugar, paired with a smidge of dark brown sugar, only a bit of rolled oats, and very cold butter, chopped in, luxuriously coated by the flour and sugars.

Another factor contributing to apple crisp’s lazy reputation is that the apples don’t have to be peeled. Since this dessert is already homey and rustic, left-on peel adds fiber and increased nutrition to the dish. Baked apple peel may take getting used to, so I generally go partial peel, using my apple peeling device to remove most of the skin, but not obsessing with any bits not captured.

Peeler extrodanaire.
Peeler extraordinaire.

Apple crisp can also be made in individual baking dishes, assembled then frozen to be baked later. I love the look of, and indulgence felt by, my own, just-for-me dessert dish. If you keep the added sugars low, this can make a lovely winter morning warming breakfast.

Ready for oven.
Ready for oven.

Here’s our latest version, but experiment with other flours such as Emmer or spelt or Einkorn. Toss the apples with honey instead of granulated sugar. Increase the oats or eliminate entirely. Try adding nutmeg or cardamom or use a mix of different apple varieties. Have fun!

Apple Crisp

Serves 4-5

15 minutes to assemble/45-55 minutes to bake


1/2 cup all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour

2 tablespoons packed light-brown sugar

1 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces

1/3 cup rolled oats

1 1/2 pounds apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch chunks

(or use about 1 1/4 pounds frozen, cut-up apples)

1 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons granulated sugar (or a little more if your apples are tart)

1 tablespoon butter for greasing baking dish


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Rub 1 tablespoon of butter all over the inside of a 8-x 8-inch baking dish or 4-5 4 1/2-inch ramekins. Set aside.

Prepare the apples: peel then cut into quarters and remove the core. Cut each quarter into 3 or 4 pieces so they are about ½-inch chunks.

Place the apples into a large bowl and toss with the fresh lemon juice, cinnamon, and the 2 tablespoons of granulated sugar. Pour the apple mixture into the baking dish. Set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, mix together flour, brown sugar, salt, and the 1 tablespoon granulated sugar.

Cut butter into flour, using a pastry blender until the butter looks like small peas.Add oats, mixing with the pastry blender until combined.

Sprinkle the flour mixture on top of the apples.

Place baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake until golden and bubbling, 45 to 55 minutes, or until bubbling. If using individual ramekins, check for doneness at 40 minutes.

Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

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.


Mmmm Pie

Pie. Double crust chicken pot pie. Greg Atkinson’s Excellent Apple Pie. Pumpkin pie for morning-after breakfasts. Hand Pie. I love pie. My mom has always been a pie-maker. The patina on her rolling-pin is a testament to pie. Her pie dough was, and is, oil-based, rolled between layers of waxed paper to prevent sticking. The beauty of the thin dough, clinging for life to a single piece of waxed paper, hovering over the waiting pie dish, only to be lowered and released from its paper captor, soon to be filled with apples or berries or peaches, still lives in my memory.

The pie I love now owes its greatness to butter. France’s Pate Brisee sounds much more elegant than its English relation, Pie Dough. Pronouncing bree-zay is like speaking of the breeze, fresh air, being at the coast; all life and joy and light. Pie Dough sounds pedantic, plodding, heavy. Done right, however, pie dough is anything but heavy, regardless of what pronunciation you choose.

The pie I chose to make this day were little apple hand pies. The dough was a standard butter pastry. I will show you the filling first, then walk through the recipe for the dough. The filling consists of 2 apples, peeled, cored, and cut into a small dice, tossed with 1/4 cup of sugar, 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. Here’s the method:

Peeling the apples in September!
I diced apples from the freezer which I peeled & cored in September!
I tossed the apple with a little coconut palm sugar and cinnamon,
cooked until apples softened, which if using fresh apples might take 7-8 minutes,
and let the excess juice drain off.

Next came rolling and cutting the dough. For the hand pies, roll out one disc of dough to about 1/8-inch thick. Cut circles using anything with a 4 1/2- to 5-inch diameter. I used a mini tart pan.

Gather scraps re-roll/cut. I cut 9 circles using a 4 1/2-inch cutter.

Each circle received 1 generous tablespoon of apple filling. Then one side folded over the other and the edges crimped with a fork. You can use some egg wash around the edge to make sure the crimped edge stays closed.

Pies in transition.
Pies in transition.

At this stage, the pies should be chilled for another 30 minutes while the oven heats to 425F. Ziploc’d, the pies can be frozen now for baking at a later date. When you are ready to bake, the pies should be pricked with a fork or sharp knife and then brushed with an egg wash.

Ready for the oven.
Ready for the oven.

The oven should start at 425F for 5-7 minutes. This high heat helps to set the bottom crust, avoiding any sogginess. For the remaining bake, reduce heat to 375F, checking on the pies after 15 minutes. Total baking time depends on the thickness of the dough. Bake the pies until golden brown and sort of cracked-looking on the surface.

These little pies were quick and easy, and oh so very tasty!


Pie Dough

enough for 1 double crust pie/16 or more hand pies


2 1/2 cups flour (1 used ½ white unbleached, ¼ emmer, ¼ whole wheat)

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) cold butter

5 to 6 tablespoons very cold water

How to:

1. Cut the butter into small pieces. Keep cold in the refrigerator.

2. Place the flour and salt into the food processor. Whiz to mix.


3. Place cold butter into processor. Pulse the machine 5 times for 1 ½ seconds each time, until the butter is the size of green peas. Don’t over process!


4. Add most of the water while quickly pulsing the machine so that the water can mix throughout the flour.

5. Turn off the machine. Remove the lid and test the dough by pinching some between your fingers. If it sticks together really well you are done. If it still wants to fall apart, add the rest of the water while quickly pulsing again. Don’t over mix or the dough will be tough.


6. Dump contents onto work surface. Quickly push the bits together into a mound. Cut mound in half. Quickly form each part into a flat but thick disc, about 1-inch thick.

7. Wrap each disc in plastic wrap. Chill for 30 minutes or up to 24 hours.

8. Remove one disc from the fridge, unwrap on a lightly-floured work surface.

The dough is cold so may need to sit out for a few minutes before rolling.
The dough is cold so may need to sit out for a few minutes before rolling.

9. Start rolling from the center of the disc moving away from yourself. Pick up the dough, rotate a quarter turn, roll again from the center away from you. Repeat this until you reach the desired thickness.

If the dough the cracks or becomes grossly misshapen, take bits of dough from other areas and patch where needed. Roll the dough to press it together.


10. Place the dough onto pie plate, ready to fill or use cutter to make hand pies.

11. Repeat process with the additional disc of dough.

Toe•may•toe, Tah•mah•toe

Bluebird, having a summer sale of 10% off any order, had me crunching numbers for emmer and einka. I can source emmer at my coop, but einka, the name Bluebird uses for einkorn farro, is harder to find. I was happy indeed that ordering einka from Winthrop, including USPS shipping, was less money than the one Seattle source that I know of. I ordered 10 pounds.

a box of beauty

Fast forward 2 days. It’s Saturday, Farmer’s Market day. I haven’t been doing the Saturday market, opting for the closer-to-home, a-little-less-expensive Sunday market. However, the Saturday market is where you score excellent clams and amazing kombucha, so with clams & pasta on the menu, I went. I make a clam & pasta dish originating with Mario Batali’s Simple Italian Food, a book I bought before ever knowing who Mario Batali was. Since it’s summer and warm out, I brought home some whole wheat linguine to boil up rather than mix up handmade pasta. When the mail carrier brought me a box from Winthrop, however, my plans changed.

I thrilled that my order from receipt Thursday mid-morning had grain at my door Saturday mid-afternoon! Wasting no time, I loaded the mill, knowing we’d be trying Einka pasta with our clams.

Nutrimill at the ready
Nutrimill at the ready
Einka and backyard eggs
Einka and backyard eggs

I’ve not used a lot of gluten-free flours, but the einka does remind me in texture of oat flour, even the way almond flour looks and feels. I found 1 recipe for einkorn flour pasta and it was essentially identical to how I always make pasta so I did 3 heavy cups of flour and 3 eggs. The flour is very loose when processed in the Nutrimill, the air has not been compressed out of it via packaging/storage. The dough came together nicely, and I left it to rest for 30 minutes.Kneaded, ready to rest

I use a pasta machine for rolling but I do knead the dough before it rests, per Marcella Hazen’s insistence. I got the moisture level just right, with little sticking and no crumbling.

Dough, folded into thirds, making its way through the rollers
Dough, folded into thirds, making its way through the rollers

While the rolled dough waited for cutting, I got the water boiling, and proceeded with the other items on dinner’s menu: clams, kale, green peas for Junior, green salad, and baked-this-morning sourdough bread. When the dough is perfect, I love using the cutting attachment on the pasta machine.

A busy stove
A busy stove

The pasta turned out great. The texture and bite of the noodle seemed like the other whole wheat version I make. For a low-gluten grain, the final product was not slimy, and it held together in the sauce. I look forward to more recipes with my new stash of Bluebird Farm Grains Einka.

Bon appetit!
Bon appetit!

For the Love of Grain

I am a grain geek. Bins filled with hard red wheat berries, oat groats, rolled oats, rye berries, medium ground white wheat flour, anything with a Fairhaven label excite me.    The idea of a 3-day conference on the 10,000 year relationship with wheat makes me swoon. The textures, slight variations of earthy color, the potential alchemy, combine to give culinary and intellectual satisfaction. However all this, the single grain that will always draw me in, whether in a bakery, a deli case, on a website or store shelf, is Emmer Farro.

I learned of emmer after searching for locally grown wheat and wheat flour. I was in the midst of my quest to Not Buy Food From China, a journey that revealed many negative things regarding our food systems in America. Easily mired in unpleasantries, my discovery of Bluebird Grain Farms lifted my eyes and heart. There was good afoot, people choosing to hoe a harder row for the well-being of humanity. Emmer is an ancient grain, dating back about 17,000 years, the mother grain of modern durum wheat. It is a simpler grain than the highly hybridized modern wheat, containing only 28 chromosomes, rendering it high in protein but much lower in gluten than its modern counterpart. Bluebird’s seed stock of  Triticum dicoccum came from the World Seed Bank 30 years ago.

Sadly, since emmer is low in gluten, it is not an ideal flour to use for my sourdough bread. The long fermented dough needs the strength of gluten to get it through that final push to a beautiful oven spring. I have tried combinations of flour with emmer, but don’t yet have the ability to produce a satisfactory loaf. Emmer is, however, perfect for pastry, cookies, my Neapolitan-type pizza, and are delicious as cooked whole berries. Emmer and the hard red wheat grown by Bluebird have been my pantry favorites.

At Christmas, per my request, I received Sally Fallon’s book, Nourishing Traditions. I have friends and acquaintances who spoke highly of the book and a few simple internet searches revealed that many others felt the same. I figured there was gold to panned, information to be gleaned. I dove into the read, as is my usual way, but found myself mired yet again, this time in the “fact” that all grains are killing all of us, slowly but surely, and the only remedy is to soak the flour, just-ground whole wheat only, for 12-24 hours, to eliminate the toxins that are found in grains. Wanting to do what’s right or best nutrition-wise, I began soaking/fermenting flours before finishing a recipe; if we wanted pancakes on Saturday morning, I better have the batter soaking before 8PM Friday night. My poor family. Not all the recipes I tried worked: the soaked flour biscuits were hockey pucks, and the soaked flour bagels looked mottled and grossly misshapen. Everything had a pronounced sour overtone.

I learned that using flour made from sprouted wheat was free of toxins, so I began sprouting the berries, dehydrating them before grinding into flour.


This flour had a sweeter taste but made it easier to make cookies and biscuits and pizza. My devotion to the 2-gallon jars of upturned, rinsed grain, and the daily growl of my Nutrimill grain grinder were constant. As hard red wheat is less costly, and since sprouting and soaking was making the grain healthier, I moved away from emmer, using only the stronger grain in an all-purpose fashion.

In the midst of this new grain regimen, my sister was diagnosed with Stage 4 Breast Cancer. Overnight her diet became soy-free, corn-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, most meats-free, ground nut-free, sugar-free, and anything remotely resembling estrogen-free. In a blink, my internet searches became variations of How To Eat For Cancer, and where my new-found practice might fit in. As with any search of the interwebs, I found conflicting advice on every topic I looked for. I quickly became further mired, now learning that most foods would certainly kill most of us. Grain is healthy vs grain will kill you. Soy is your best friend, I mean fermented soy is your best friend, I mean, soy in any form will kill you. Sprouted grain is perfect for your body vs sprouted grain still contains those little wheat toxins and will not only kill you, but will make you obese before you die. Only eat raw. Only eat vegan. Only eat the Nourishing Traditions way. I don’t remember at just what point, but I became angry with food, mostly angry with grain.

Around this time, I began to realize that I didn’t feel as good as I had at Christmas. I had eaten more holiday foods that I normally avoid, and I definitely had partaken in my share of emotional eating regarding my sister’s health, but this was different. My naturopath set me onto some supplements but the chief alteration I made was to stop the hyper frenzy of grain preparation. As I focused my thoughts and awareness, I realized we had begun eating more wheat products because of the “healthy” way I was preparing them. Our fruit and vegetable and true protein consumption had gone down. In a pattern predictable for me, I had brought my body out of balance.

For the last two months, I have worked to correct these nutritional missteps. I solicited advice from a nutritionist and educator who I know and respect. She was gracious to share some of her family practices, some of her views on grain preparation/consumption. She was careful to acknowledge that these practices are what work for her and her family, that everyone’s body is different, having different nutritional requirements. Her words brought a deep breath of very fresh air and freedom. I am feeling settled again.

The bread I make is with 80% heritage whole wheat that I usually grind, and 20% white unbleached organic flour. The dough has a high moisture content and the ferment is long. Bread makers the world over, who work to follow old traditions, make bread this way. While this bread is digestive-friendly, we don’t eat it as often as we were. For the weekend day when we have pancakes or waffles, I use emmer flour. As emmer makes great pasta, I aim to make my own rather than purchase from the store. Occasionally I make emmer raspberry scones, perfect with a scrambled Beatrice egg for breakfast, or a kuchen with seasonal fruit. An emmer berry salad with diced tomato, cucumber, onion, and parsley is a refreshing lunch or side dish. We don’t have more than one grain per meal, but include meat from well-husbanded animals, and lots of chemical-free fruits and veg.

Not all grains are equal. Not all wheat grains are equal. The grain grown by Bluebird, and farms like it, offer a path to ancient foods, produced without pesticides, herbicides, and stored without fumigants. This food is much closer to the grain that humans first adapted to eat, while far removed from the wheat so many are now intolerant of. Additionally, not all bodies are equal. I have to listen to mine, encouraging those I cook for to do the same.


It would seem the grain of Sumerians, Pharaohs, and Romans is making a comeback. Word on the street has it that Chad Robertson of Tartine is working on a sourdough loaf utilizing ancient grain like emmer. This will be the next book I ask for at Christmas.