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.

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Æbleskiver

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

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

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

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

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

Pancake Star Wars

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s how the batter happened today:

Kamut Pancakes

8 oz Kamut flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons butter, melted

2 eggs

8 oz kefir

8 oz milk

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

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

 

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.