Bakers Gotta

It’s been hot. This is Seattle and it’s been hot. Record-breaking, sleep-interrupting, Why-isn’t-everything-air-conditioned hot. The garden needs more water and extra shade. The lawn is already August-brown. The rhubarb and raspberries are in complete denial. My looks-great cement-everything patio radiates warmth well after sundown. We’ve filled the house with box fans. I can barely produce a meal. However, I love to bake. I miss baking. I am happy when I bake stuff. So I did. On the patio.

With this. IMG_6991

I made these.

IMG_6996

Quarter-size sheet pans, raspberries, blueberries, same old recipe, and a convection toaster oven. Life began to feel normal, less record-breaking, more me. Otherwise, I’m making a lot of kids-class versions of Doro Wat, Injera, Tomatican, Empanadas, and Picnic Chicken. In an air-conditioned, well-appointed, kitchen classroom.

IMG_1287

Happy July!

The Reason For Frozen Fruit

Years ago, a friend gave me this recipe, one she received from her German mother-in-law. She called it Kuchen, though I’ve never found a recipe for kuchen like it. Regardless, this Kuchen is delicious, adaptable for breakfast or tea, and super simple to throw together.

Breakfast

Here goes:

2 cups of flour (this batch was 100% whole wheat pastry) + 1/2 cup cold butter + 1/2 cup sugar (while this is original recipe, I always reduce to 1/3 cup, usually always use coconut palm sugar, and as this was for breakfast, reduced that to a little bit more than 1/4 cup) into the bowl of a food processor, and pulse to crumbs. Remove 1 cup of the mixture and set aside. Add to the food processor 1 teaspoon baking powder + 1/4 teaspoon or so salt + 1 egg. Process until combined. Dump the flour/egg mixture into the 9-inch fluted tart pan (or and similar sized oven safe dish, pan, or tin), then press the mixture evenly over the bottom and up the sides.

IMG_0022

Cover with a single layer of fruit, fresh or frozen. Berries are my favorite, but larger fruits work nicely when sliced thin and arranged artfully in a slightly overlapping single layer.

IMG_0023

Cover the fruit with the reserved flour mixture. Slide this pan onto a larger baking sheet, then slide both into the preheated 375F degree oven. Set the timer for 15-20 minutes. Remove when it looks something like this:

IMG_0024

If you want to use blueberries, add some lemon zest. If you’re doing an apple version, sprinkle some cinnamon over the fruit before the reserved crumbs. Use a variety of fruits, keeping it single-layer deep. Try this with different flours or combinations of flours. Reduce the sugar or use the whole original amount. In less than 30 minutes, you will fill your kitchen with amazing aroma, announcing to guests, or resident sleepyheads, that you’ve been thinking about them, that they’re special, that they are worth some delicious effort. You don’t have to tell them how much effort!

Cheers!

IMG_0025

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: Phylloccine Ice Cream Sandwiches

TWD’s first June recipe was for Savory Wheat Crackers, pages 163-164. I love making crackers, make crackers often, but with the end of May and beginning of June slammed with birthdays, kids baking, work travel, and preparation for the next karate belt test, I hoped that June’s second recipe would be doable.

This dessert was fairly simple, though I did make a few substitutions. The recipe calls for vanilla ice cream and raspberries to be the main players. I happened to have some brown sugar vanilla, as well as some strawberry ice cream, both homemade in the freezer, so opted for 2 versions, and, as I had just used the day’s raspberries, pulled in strawberries instead.

The structure of the sandwich comes from phyllo dough ribbon nests, baked with a bit of clarified butter and a sprinkling of sugar. I left the berry-mint salad unsweetened, figuring, rightly, that sweet from the ice cream would be sufficient for the entire dessert.

Here are the steps:

Thawed phyllo dough
Thawed phyllo dough
Phyllo sliced like noodles
Phyllo sliced like noodles
Phyllo noodle nest, splashed with clarified butter, sprinkled with sugar
Phyllo noodle nest, splashed with clarified butter, sprinkled with sugar
Strawberry puree to mix with berries & mint
Strawberry purée to mix with berries & mint
Baked to golden brown
Baked to golden brown
Whipped cream anchor
Whipped cream anchor
Nest on cream
Nest on cream
Berry/mint salad on nest, topped with icecream Right: strawberry Left: brown sugar
Berry/mint salad on nest, topped with ice cream
Right: strawberry
Left: brown sugar
Nest on icecream, skewered by fruit, whipped cream on side
Nest on ice cream, skewered by fruit, whipped cream on side

While my first impression visually was “Mid-90’s Circus Dessert,” the taste of this dessert was delicious. The slightly less sweet, homemade Brown Sugar Vanilla Ice Cream was a great balance for the berries and the barely sweetened crunch of the phyllo nests. This would be an easy, but “fancy” dessert to pull off for any dinner party.

 

Phylloccine Ice Cream Sandwiches • Baking With Julia • Contributing Baker: Gale Gand • pages 405-406