Oatmeal Bread

I’ve had this recipe for years and don’t remember where it came from. Before my seemingly never-ending voyage into the realm of whole grain and naturally yeasted breads, this was my go-to. I resurrected it recently for a bread making class with 8-14 year olds, adding some whole wheat flour to the mix.

mini loaves

This dough is dairy-free, but you can replace some or all the water with warmed milk producing a slightly softer finished product. While this dough makes a great sandwich loaf, I have also used it for cinnamon rolls and dinner rolls; I’ve also made breads with cinnamon & raisins added to the recipe. This does require the largest standard sized loaf pan or you can make 3 mini loaves as shown above. The recipe is straight forward bread making so give it a go!

Cheers!

Oatmeal Bread Makes 1 9 ½- x 5-inch loaf

This dough uses a soaker: hot water over oats and no dairy.

Prep time: 35 minutes       Rising time: 2 ½ – 3 hours         Baking time: 40-45 minutes

1/2 cup (60g) rolled oats

3/4 cup (12 oz/177g) boiling water

1 cup (125g) whole wheat flour

3 cups (384g) unbleached white flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (1 teaspoon instant yeast)

3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (14 oz/207g) lukewarm water, divided

2 tablespoons honey

1 1/2 tablespoons oil, plus more for bowl

Place oats in large mixing bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer). Pour boiling water over and let sit for at least 30 minutes. Whisk together the flours and salt. Set aside.

Place ¼ cup lukewarm water into a small bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over the water. Let sit for 10 minutes then whisk together.

When oats are ready, add the honey, oil, yeast mixture, and 5-6 cups of the flour mix. Mix thoroughly with a bowl scraper or strong spoon. Scrape dough onto a well-floured counter and begin kneading, adding more flour as you go. Kneading is complete when the dough smooth (smooth with oaty bumps) and tight. Lightly oil a large bowl and place dough in it. Cover with plastic and leave in a warm (78-82ºF) place for 1 to 1 ½ hours or until the dough has doubled in size.

When dough is ready, return it to a lightly floured work surface. For a loaf, press the dough gently into a 7- x 10-inch rectangle. Roll the dough into a cylinder shape, pinch the seam closed and place in a lightly oiled 9 1/2- x 5-inch loaf pan. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and leave in a warm place again.

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Let dough rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour. The loaf should be ½ to 1 inch higher than the sides of the pan.

When dough is ready, remove towel and place pan in the heated oven. Bake for 20 minutes then rotate the pan, and bake for another 20-25 minutes. The bread is done when it thumps nicely on the underside, is a nice brown color, and reaches an internal temperature of 195-200ºF. Let cool in pan on a cooling rack for 10 minutes then remove loaf and continue cooling.

Resolution for January 2

I do resolutions throughout the year. Last year, I had a New Year’s Resolution for December 27, 2015. It didn’t have anything to do with cooking. My resolution for today does: plan better lunches for the weekend. Guess what? I resolved for today and I achieved my goal!

Saturday Lunch
Saturday Lunch

How pretty is that? During the week, Spouse usually takes dinner leftovers-don’t worry, they are really good and I’m usually jealous-while Junior & I get what I’ve foraged from the fridge or freezer or from stopping by PCC after karate, or I forage and he makes himself some Annie’s Homegrown Mac/Cheese. Weekday lunches will get their own resolution to improve, but it’s the weekends that are the most problematic. We’re all home doing projects, I’ve thought about food all week, I’ve managed something for breakfast, and I’m planning something maybe more labor intensive for dinner and I’m asked: What’s for lunch? A simple question. Drives me batty. I don’t want that negative energy, don’t want remodel monies going to take out, I’m here, I love to cook, so plan for it. This minestrone is so easy & I already was baking bread that could go with. Having the pantry items of cannellini & tomatoes, the fresh onion, garlic & carrot, and the celery seed pounded with salt are standard, why not eat this for every winter Saturday lunch? We just might! Cheers!

Minestrone Soup                               

Preparation time: 15 minutes     Cooking time: 30 to 40 minutes        Serves 4 to 6

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium red onion, chopped

2 medium carrots, peeled and diced

1 large celery stalk, diced (or about 1/4 teaspoon pounded celery seed)

Pinch of red pepper flakes

1 clove garlic, minced

1 ½ teaspoons salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

1 (14 ½-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained and finely chopped (save liquid)

1 large potato, diced

1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary

5 cups water, as needed

1 (10-ounce) bag frozen green beans (or anything green-kale is awesome!)

¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Place a large pot on the stove over medium heat. Pour the olive oil into the pot. When the olive oil is warm, add the onions, carrots, celery, red pepper flakes and garlic. Stir the vegetables to coat with oil. Stir in the salt and pepper. Cook for 5 to 8 minutes, until the onions begin to turn golden.

Add the tomatoes, potatoes, beans, rosemary, the saved tomato liquid and about 5 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and let the soup cook for 15 minutes. Test the vegetables for tenderness.

During the last 5 minutes of cooking, add the frozen green beans. Taste for seasoning and adjust if needed.

Ladle the soup into bowls and sprinkle with Parmesan.

 

 

 

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!

 

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

Resolution

This may be a bit early. It’s only just December, but I do make resolutions for the New Year. I make them throughout the New Year. I made a new resolution on November 23, 2014: I will clear my counters before beginning any cooking or baking project. My kitchen is tiny. The counters are a flat surface that collect all manner of ephemera: recipes to try, Netflix to return, receipts waiting for transport downstairs, flyers to remember, shopping lists to add to, the grain mill hopper waiting for empty, baking pans, to-be-filed recipes, and other miscellaneous waiting for their transport downstairs, reading glasses, car keys, Lego sculptures, groceries to be put away.

This all came to a halt when I, frazzled from a late return home, rushed to get dinner biscuits into the oven. I scooted a free 12-inch area on the counter, got flour everywhere before getting biscuits into the oven, when I stopped to take in what I was doing. What a disservice to myself and my well-being! I, who love to cook and bake, barring any joy or pleasure from my kitchen time, increasing my stress and unhappiness, all because I hadn’t been taking a few minutes to tidy before starting/ending my kitchen projects. I put any perishables away, and did a perfunctory clean-up after dinner, but the next morning I moved everything from counters to table. The table could have all day to be sorted and cleared, if need be.

The notorious paper depot
The notorious paper depot
IMG_6425
The pasta machine stays put til we party
IMG_6426
Where things queue for basement delivery

I am by no means a hoarder, I just get distracted. I sit down at the computer and find I’ve started a blog post which always takes far longer than I imagine it should, then I rush upstairs to make breakfast and shower and rush out the door to Junior’s karate. I return home after the Post Dojo Friend Time, the dishes are in the sink, the dishwasher unemptied, the espresso area not tidied….

I am happy to report since 11/24/14 my counters have remained clear. After a project, after shopping or milling or washing, all put away-filed, pantryed, moved to the proper place. I purpose to take the few minutes needed. I keep my eye on my desktop clock!

Thanksgiving was at my sister’s, but I made bread, cake, mashed potatoes, and a roasted beet salad, cleaning counters after each before beginning the next. I cooked and baked, busy right up until Time To Go, but felt relaxed. I don’t have a photo, but here is the salad I made-it was delicious and held up well for leftovers. Cheers!

Roasted Beet Salad with Orange & Fennel

4 medium-large red beets

8 small golden beets

2 naval oranges

4 satsumas

1 small bulb fennel

1/2 medium red onion

1 lemon, juiced

Fresh cilantro leaves, optional

Olive oil

Gray sea salt & fresh ground pepper

Preheat oven to 425F

Wrap the beets in foil, keeping different sizes separate, and roast until a knife easily penetrates to the center of them, about 1 hour. Remove from foil and let cool

Cut the ends from each orange and peel with a sharp knife, removing peel and white. Working over a bowl to collect juice, cut out each section of the orange from its surrounding membrane. When orange is sectioned, squeeze the remaning membranes over the bowl, collecting any additional juice.

Peel the satsumas in the same way, but slice the fruit into circles.

Cut the top from the fennel, then slice the bulb in half. Slice each half into very thin half-moons. You can use a mandoline.

Clean the onion, cut in half from stem to root, and slice as thinly as you can.

When beets are cool to handle, peel/slip off the skins. Cut the large beets in thin wedges and the small beets into rounds.

Juice the lemon and combine with the orange/satsuma juice, along with the fennel and onion slices. Stir to combine.

Arrange the beets on a platter. Distribute the fennel, onion, and juice evenly over the beets. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt/pepper. Garnish with cilantro leaves if using.

 

Hamburger Helper

When my mom returned to nursing two days a week, my sisters and I received the commission to make dinner. We loved our New Boys and Girls Cookbook from Betty Crocker. It was chock full of hints for making mealtime memorable.

Yes, the marveling female
Yes, the marveling female
Helpful tips
Helpful tips

It was also sprinkled with testimonials from other Real Life kid cooks, offering opinions or encouragement to their non-published peers.

Real life kids!
Real life kids!

The recipes were basic and worked hard to be appealing to young cooks-we did make the bunny-shaped canned pear salad with cottage cheese tails:

Bunny goodness!
Bunny goodness!

When we weren’t using a cookbook, we turned to the pantry for assistance. Mom kept a supply of Bisquick, those little blue boxes of cornbread or pizza dough mix, the brand I don’t remember, hard taco shells along with packets of seasoning, and boxes of just-add-meat convenience, Hamburger Helper.

Ground beef was the meat of economy. Finding new ways to funnel ground beef into our dinner menus was tricky. God bless the food industry for making life easier! Hamburger helper was a favorite of ours, all of those flavors scientifically engineered to please each and every sensor of the human tongue, a kind of meaty creamy pasta-y mess. An almost instant hotdish, the memory of which makes me shudder. When my dad developed colon cancer, red meat disappeared from our home. It would be years of remission later before burgers and beef tacos returned to the dinner table.

These days, Marcella Hazen’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking is my hamburger helper. Better yet, it is my local, grass-fed, definitely not economic, chuck-roast-ground-as-needed helper. I love making her version of Bolognese. Beef with some vegetable simmered in milk, then wine, then tomatoes, cooked slow for over 3 hours, finishing with a little butter and hand-cut tagliatelle. Sometimes I make the sauce a day before, letting the flavors mingle and mellow, before marrying it with pasta.

My mom, growing up in a time where those in the kitchen produced everything by hand, from scratch, appreciated the time and money-savers provided to her in almost every aisle of the grocery store. A Hamburger Helper dinner would be ready in 20 minutes. This Marcella Hazen version takes significantly longer with its “just an intermittent bubble breaking through to the surface” simmer, but it doesn’t need attention during the entire cooking time. The shortlist of simple ingredients requires careful choosing for quality. The slow cooking process brings out all that the whole food, real ingredients have to offer. With the comfort of time-taken, a unrushed cook can bring a meal for savoring to the table, connecting participants to the ingredients, to the process, to the person who brought the process to light. Gracie Mille, Marcella!

Bolognese Meat Sauce

Marcella Hazen, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking

Yield: 2 heaping cups

Ingredients

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

3 tablespoons butter, plus 1 tablespoon for tossing the pasta

1/2 cup chopped onion

2/3 cup chopped celery

2/3 cup chopped carrot

3/4 pound ground beef chuck

Salt & pepper

1 cup whole milk

Whole nutmeg

1 cup dry white wine

1 1/2 cups canned imported Italian plum tomatoes, cut up, with their juice

1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds pasta

Freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese at the table

Method

Put the oil, butter, and chopped onion in the pot, turn heat onto medium. Cook and stir the onion until it has become translucent, then add the chopped celery and carrot. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring the vegetables to coat them well.

Add the ground beef, a large pinch of salt, and a few grindings of pepper. Crumble the meat with a fork, stir well, and cook until the beef has lost its raw, red color.

Add the milk and let it simmer gently, stirring frequently, until it has bubbled away completely. Add a tiny grating-about 1/8 teaspoon-of nutmeg, and stir.

Add the wine, let it simmer until it has evaporated, then add the tomatoes and stir thoroughly to coat all ingredients well. When the tomatoes begin to bubble, turn the heat down so that the sauce cooks at the laziest of simmers, with just an intermittent bubble breaking through to the surface. Cook uncovered, for 3 hours or more, stirring from time to time. While the sauce is cooking, you are likely to find that it begins to dry out and the fat separates from the meat. To keep it from sticking, continue the cooking, adding 1/2 cup water whenever necessary. At the end, however, no water at all must be left and the fat must separate from the sauce. Taste and correct for salt.

Toss with cooked drained pasta, adding the tablespoon of butter, and serve with freshly grated Parmesan on the side.

Note: Once done, you can refrigerate the sauce in a tightly sealed container for 3 days, or you can freeze it. Before tossing with pasta, reheat it , letting it simmer for 15 minutes, stirring it once or twice.

A Whole Cookie

Junior loves pumpkins. He began carving them for Halloween the day they hit our local grocer-mid September maybe?

Junior's effort!
Junior’s effort!

Along with carving pumpkins, he wanted me to buy Sugar Pumpkins for decorating in the house, and eventually use for food. Rent’s Due Ranch included both Sugar and, the newer, slightly larger variety, Winter Luxury Pie Pumpkins in the box of mixed winter squash I bought from them. I baked one of the Luxury pumpkins.

Baked Luxury
Luxury

The squash baked beautifully, giving a good portion of dense, not-to-watery flesh. I whiz the pulp in the food processor to have a uniform texture, eliminating any stringy strands. From here, the pulp can be used or frozen. I made pumpkin bread, two times, two versions, two different days.

Fancy meez!
Fancy meez!

I didn’t have two eggs for the first batch so used some soaked Chia as a replacement. I used part coconut palm sugar, part evaporated cane juice. The recipe I have uses a small bit of applesauce, only 1/4-cup. I also used a smaller, stoneware loaf pan, baking the extra batter in custard cups. The resulting bread was dark, dense, and very moist.

Batch A
Batch A

For the second batch of bread, I increased the applesauce, reduced the sugar, using only ECJ as I was out of the darker coconut palm, had two eggs, and baked the entire recipe in a standard-sized, metal loaf pan. The resulting loaf was a bit more applely, and while still moist and less sweet, it didn’t have the dark, open-crumb mystery of the first. A third batch is due, wherein I will use Emmer, coconut palm sugar, very little ECJ, the same amount of applesauce, a bit more pumpkin purée, repeat the chia, maybe a little smidge of clove, and bake in the stoneware. I’ll let you know.

Batch B
Batch B

On a tangential note, I doubt I am the only one who lives with embedded Momisms, those phrases heard repeatedly during childhood, only to pop into one’s consciousness as an adult. The most common Momism for me in the kitchen is “Oh Honey, there’s a whole cookie left in there!” Originally heard when scraping cookie dough from a mixing bowl, I now hear it whenever there’s anything edible or usable left on a spoon, spatula, the bowl of a food processor, or the skin of a baked pumpkin. I don’t really hear it as judgement, more a reminder, a reminder sometimes answered by frugally gathering every remaining bit, other times whisking marked bowl or spoon to the sink, no further thought given. On this day, I took the reminder.

A whole cookie
A whole cookie

Pumpkin Bread (Version A)

Makes 1 standard loaf•10 minutes to assemble•30-45 minutes to bake

Ingredients

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup coconut palm sugar

1/4 cup non-gmo canola oil

1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 egg

1 tablespoon chia seed + 3 tablespoons water (let sit!)

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup pumpkin purée

1 1/2 cups + 3 tablespoons (7.6 oz) whole wheat pastry flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup water

Method

Preheat oven to 350F

Butter or oil the loaf pan.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the sugars, oil, and applesauce. Whisk well.

Add the eggs, one at a time, to the sugar mixture. Whisk each addition thoroughly, then add the spices, vanilla, and pumpkin. Mix thoroughly, again.

Sprinkle 1/3 of the flour over the wet ingredients and fold gently together. Pour in 1/3 of the water and fold again. Repeat with remaining flour and water.

Fill the prepared pan up to 2/3 full. If you have extra batter, use any appropriately sized, buttered ovenproof dish to bake it in.

Start checking for doneness at 30 or 35 minutes. This bread is best if not over baked.

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

 Ingredients

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

Method

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.

Neighbors

Next door is very close to our door. Next door finally has some love. Next door got some curb appeal, which doesn’t take much in our little ‘hood. Next door radically upgraded the backyard, the property we have a view of. The backyard has a maintained small-child play area, a red paver patio between house and play area, a patch of moss-dandelion-buttercup-free green grass lawn, and a stretch of vegetable beds, the area of which matches my own.

12 years of bamboo growth screening the yard someone finally cares about.
12 years of bamboo growth screening the yard someone finally cares about.

Next door has chickens, which we welcomed, ourselves being aficionado of all things Gallus. And, next door has a rooster-not welcomed by the surrounding neighbors, the town officials, nor us when awakened pre-alarm clock. Next door are relatively new to the neighborhood and may have chickens because we have chickens, perhaps not checking city guidelines for backyard poultry. Next door does not speak English as a primary language. We’ve chatted a few times. We’ve talked chickens and gardens a bit. We’ve waved and smiled a lot. I, despite many fizzled attempts otherwise, am primarily, well, only, an English-speaking person. I do, however, speak cookie.

2 flours, 3 sugars, an egg, and other sundries.
2 flours, 3 sugars, an egg, and other sundries.

Today I am going to stop by and find out if they are aware of the Rooster Restrictions. I will bring cookies. I hope they like them. A few are just oatmeal, but the rest contain chocolate-covered raisins I found in the baking drawer. I tested one pre-treadmill. It was really good.

Yum.
Yum.

Here’s how I made them today.

Oatmeal Cookies Makes 14 3-inchish cookies

Ingredients

1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/4 cup white unbleached flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 1/2 cups rolled oats

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature

1/4 cup coconut palm sugar

1-2 tablespoons dark brown sugar added to the coconut palm sugar to make 1/3 cup total

1/3 cup evaporated cane juice sugar

1 egg1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup raisins (or chocolate covered raisins)

Directions

Preheat oven to 350F

In a small bowl, whisk together the flours, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and oats.

In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugars. Beat until it looks like a smooth paste.

Add the egg and vanilla. Mix until combined. Scrape down the mixer paddle or beaters, the sides and bottom of the bowl.

On very low-speed, add the flour mixture. Beat on low-speed just until it looks mixed in. Scrape the bowl again, turning the dough over to find any unmixed flour.

Still on very low, add the raisins and mix only until they and the flour are completely mixed in.

Use a spoon or 1-ounce cookie scoop to place mounds of dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet pan. (You should be able to fit 12 cookies, spaced evenly, on a standard size baking sheet.) Flatten the mounds a bit with your fingers held flat or use the bottom of a measuring cup.

Note: at this point, you can put the pan of uncooked cookies into the freezer, freeze then put in a Ziploc bag. They can be pulled from the freezer and baked at a later time.

Place the pan of cookies into the pre-heated oven.Set the timer for 10 minutes.Check the cookies and continue baking a few more minutes if they look really raw.It is better to under bake cookies than over bake.

Let cool for a minute or two, then slide the cookies onto a cooling rack. Repeat the scooping, flattening, and baking until all dough used.

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.