Go Crackers!

Crackers are easy to make and delicious when you do. Like all things kitchen, however, they take a little bit of forethought. My New Year’s Resolution for April is to have DIY crackers on hand.

mish mash

My favorite whole wheat crackers are flour, olive oil and salt. I mix the dough, it rests, then I roll it through the pasta machine. Cut into large pieces, placed on dry baking sheets and salted, these crackers bake up quickly, though can over brown if not watched carefully. Here is a whole wheat/white flour blend cracker that I used recently in a class. They are still whole-wheaty enough in flavor, but the leaveners give them an extra lift. Crinkle cutters are good for straight-edged crackers, but you can also use cookie cutters, both shown above. Thinly rolled dough is best; I usually roll to the 3rd setting on my Atlas pasta machine.

Cheers!

Whole Grain Crackers

Yield: 24-30 (size dependent)

Prep time: 10 minutes    Rest time: 45 minutes to overnight     Bake time: 5-10 minutes

3/4 cup (94g) unbleached flour

1 cup (128g) white whole wheat flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1-1 1/2 teaspoon salt (less if using salted butter)

1/4 cup butter, room temperature

2 teaspoon honey
1/2 cup ice-cold water

Coarse flaked sea salt to taste

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Pulse to mix. Add the butter in pieces and pulse to mix. Add the honey and pulse.While pulsing, add the water, a bit at a time, until a ball forms. Remove dough to lightly floured work surface and knead for 1 minute. Wrap the dough in plastic and let rest for 45 minutes at room temperature, or overnight in the refrigerator. The dough will firm up as the grain slowly absorbs the liquid.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

When dough is ready, uncover and cut into 4 equal pieces. Use a rolling pin to shape it into a flat strip of dough, as thin and as evenly as you can.

Or, using a pasta roller, lightly flour the dough and roll a few times through the lowest setting (1) as you would when making pasta dough. Roll the piece of dough through the next setting (2). This should be thin enough, but you can try setting 3 as well.

Sprinkle the dough with flaked salt, then dock the dough well with a fork. Using a crinkle cutter or pizza wheel, cut the dough into the size & shape of your choosing. Place each cracker on an unlined baking sheet. Continue with the remaining dough.

Bake until golden brown at the edges, 5 to 10 minutes, and let cool before eating. Store in an airtight container or zip lock bag for up to 2 weeks.

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.

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.

IMG_0053
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.

The Library

I love the library. I love researching books, reading reviews on Goodreads or Amazon, then searching KCLS, placing holds, picking up books for free. After only 2 weeks since joining the Artisan Bread Bakers Facebook Group, sifting through millions of posts, I reserved Flour Water Salt Yeast by Ken Forkish. A large portion of the posters among the 10,000+ members of this group think highly of Portland’s Ken Forkish of Ken’s Artisan Bakery. I had known about the Portland bakery for some time, but didn’t conclude, until after perusing Amazon’s Look Inside feature, that the Ken spoken of in the group and the bakery Ken were the same.

Stack of beauty
Stack of beauty

Now, I don’t particularly like Facebook. I periodically purge my activity log, removing likes and photos and comments, knowing any and all that I post are used to target me and my “friends” by the movers/shakers of our consumer-driven economy. After reading the new Terms & Conditions the other morning, I committed myself to another purge, to update my Ello account, and perhaps leave Facebook for good. This time. Really. I’ll do it. Except for 3 groups that I really like. Damn it.

New bread
New bread

I suppose if I’m to be hardcore, I would end all my friendships, keeping only the 3 groups and probably my *Like* of NPR and Anne Lamott, or I could hide all my friends to not see their posts, so then I wouldn’t accidentally comment on or like their posts, but could still peek once in a while….

Bulk rise, 3 folds total
Bulk rise, 3 folds total

Anyway, the Forkish book is good, I think especially good for those wanting to get started in artisan-style bread making. Flour Water Yeast Salt contains more information on the process of bread making, including more commercial yeasted recipes where the user can practice method, using higher hydration levels, longer proofing times than “regular” bread recipes call for.

Ready for pan
Ready for pan

I have made a few batches of The Whole Wheat Saturday bread, a same-day bake, tweaking the recipe by adding more whole wheat than the 50% required, and baked as sandwich bread. It turned out well, working nicely for sandwich and french toast, as well as pizza dough.

Good crumb, nice crust, and flavor
Good crumb, nice crust and flavor
Mushroom & basil
Mushroom & basil

The bread has many of the characteristics of the longer rise wild-yeasted bread I usually make, has the ease of active-dry yeast, a bread I can whip up on a much shorter notice. It doesn’t, however, have the soul of sourdough.

I began my relationship with sourdough in a class, 20+ years ago, simultaneously working my way through Nancy Silverton’s Breads of the La Brea Bakery. I used Silverton’s method for years, including the early posts on sourdough here, until I happened on Chad Robertson and Tartine. Tartine Bread changed everything I thought I knew about sourdough. Where Forkish’s book would have had more thorough explanation, I jumped into high hydration, long ferment, lactic versus acetic acid starters, creating the leaven/levain with a relatively tiny amount of starter, without water wings, nose plug, or goggles. Robertson’s story, the lay of the book, the not-dumbing-down-too-much captivated me. The learning process has been bumpy but satisfying, the experience now my benchmark for other methods.

All that to say, I’ll keep working through Flour Water Salt Yeast. This initial loaf is a keeper, and some cookbooks are worth the price for even just one good recipe. As for connection, when I read through the introductory section of Robertson’s next book, Tartine Book No. 3, showcasing the many ancient grains he has worked to incorporate, I cried. I cried because of Einkorn. While super useable and full of information, Flour Water Salt Yeast didn’t affect me this way. I don’t cook or bake based on emotion, but bread making is soulful and ancient, something created with hands, something to be broken by hand, and something to be shared. Connection.

Here’s how Junior and I make French Toast.

Breakfast
Breakfast

French Toast • serves 2

4 slices Whole Wheat Saturday Bread from FWSY

2 eggs

1/4 cup milk

2 teaspoons cinnamon

pinch of salt

1 tablespoon butter, for pan

butter & syrup for serving

Method

Preheat Griswold No. 8 cast iron skillet to medium.

Combine the eggs, milk, cinnamon, and salt. Whisk until well blended.

When skillet is ready, melt the butter in pan. Dip bread, 1 slice at a time, into the egg mixture. Let the mixture drip a bit then carefully lay the bread into the pan. Repeat with remaining slices. Cook a few minutes, then flip, cooking a few more. We like the outside slightly crisp, with the inside still soft but not raw.

 

 

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.

 

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

 

School Lunch

I don’t know the quality of school lunches in my day, of how they might be rated by today’s *ahem* standards. I don’t know if they were full of textured vegetable protein, if any of it was fresh-made, if the dietitians considered ketchup a vegetable. I do remember the lunch carts being wheeled through the hallways, the Lunch Ladies that commandeered them, the red tokens we handed over, and the 75-cents that faculty paid, in cash.

I didn’t take part in those hallway procured meals very often. I remember when I did, it felt exotic and very inclusive. My lunches were usually a sandwich (woefully so on tuna salad day,the white bread overly saturated with the mayonnaise and pickle juice), a piece of fruit, and a cookie or other small yum-yum. Mini bags of chips and Hostess desserts were the hallmark of a Field Trip Sack Lunch, always the best brought-from-home lunches.

Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese was one of the few lunches I did get to buy on occasion. Carrying the tray hosting the divided melamine plate, with the square, cardboard-like, overcooked, hot-held grilled American Cheese sandwich in one section, a small bowl of water-based from-a-can tomato soup in another, some unremembered fruit, and the finale: a serving of full-sheet pan chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. Perfection.

We often had tomato soup and grilled cheese lunches at home, so I don’t know why this school menu was such a favorite of mine. It could have been the comfort factor, it could have been the power of that chocolate cake. What I do know now, tomato soup and grilled cheese it still one of my favorite comfort lunches, except no more canned soup or American Cheese or wimpy bread.

Tomato soup is easy to make. This batch started with some onion & garlic, gently cooked in a combination of butter & olive oil. Shallots are my first choice for this soup, but I don’t always have those on hand. When the onions are translucent, the organic canned tomatoes, some fresh thyme, and a few cups of water or chicken broth join in, then the covered pot simmers for 20 minutes or so. Adding salt is always dependent on the tomatoes used-some canned tomatoes are laden with the stuff!

Set to simmer
Set to simmer

After the simmer, the soup needs to be blended, which can be done in a standard blender, but I forego the mess and danger of traditional method and always use my immersion blender. The original recipe calls for a bit of baking soda to help balance the acidity of the tomatoes. If I’m using cream to finish the soup, I will omit the baking soda, letting the dairy fat mask any startling acidity, but leaving enough to make the soup interesting.

Ready to blend
Ready to blend
Baking soda fizz
Baking soda fizz

Grilled cheese at my house is always on my Tartine 60-70% whole wheat Country Loaf, with Tillamook Cheddar. Tillamook is not the greatest or most sustainable cheddar in the land, but Junior eats it so that’s what I have on hand, cooked with butter on cast iron.

Sturdy bread
Sturdy bread
Perfect on a rainy day!
Perfect on a rainy day!

Food memory, food as comfort, the taste preferences of any individual are all very mysterious. Why do I like this lunch? The slight acidity of the soup? The crunchy whole wheat nuttiness of the bread? The decadent nature of the full-fat, full-dairy cheese? How all three elements play together? I will ponder these, perhaps unanswerable, questions while I eat my lunch, remembering that there will be some chocolate at the finish. Bon Appetit!

!!
!!