Monday, July 6, 2015

Sesame Ginger Miso Dipping Sauce

I'm not sure why I was on the hunt for a miso dip, but I was. I wanted something we could use for dipping with raw cut veggies as an antidote to the inevitable "Mom-I'm-hungry-when's-dinner?". I hit gold on allrecipes. In fact, so much did my children love the dip that they ploughed through a container of cut vegetables that I'd meant to last for a few days in fifteen minutes flat. I particularly love this dip because you don't have to drown your food in it--a little dab will do you. One recipe make enough for several days for a four-member family.

When I made it today, I forgot the ginger at first and learned that it is really important to the end result. Without it the dip was boring and unmemorable.

Of course, I changed the initial recipe. I omitted the lime juice because I felt it was tart enough and then I messed with the proportions a bit so that you can use one 1/8 cup (2 TBSP) measure for everything--in some cases scant, in others overflowing. The fewer dishes I need to dirty, the more often I will make a recipe. Finally, I added some grated garlic because I had the Microplane out anyway and I love the ginger/garlic combination.

1/8 c. (2 TBSP) miso paste; I use shiro (white) miso
1/8 c. rice wine vinegar
1/8 c. (scant) honey
1/8 c. (very scant) sesame oil
1 tsp grated ginger, or to taste
1/2 clove garlic, grated or to taste (be careful--raw garlic gets stronger with time)

  1. Whisk miso paste and rice vinegar together in a small bowl until the miso is dissolved
  2. Whisk in remaining ingredients
  3. Taste and adjust flavored as desired
  4. Serve with cut raw vegetables
  5. Store remainder in fridge

Friday, May 22, 2015

Berry Crumble Bars

I am a creature of habit, made even more so by having kids. My life as family chef is so much easier when I know that Mondays and Tuesdays are steel cut oat or Greek-style yogurt mornings, Wednesdays are for smoothies and Thursdays and Fridays are for hard-boiled eggs. I am eternally thankful that both kids love eggs as much as their parents and that we can get top-quality pastured eggs from Green Bow Farm thanks to their egg CSA. I like to serve our morning eggs with fruit (most often grapefruit in winter) and some sort of baked good such as Applesauce Quinoa or Flax Bran muffins (or those delectable Cinnamon Sugar Biscuits). In the depressing shoulder season between fall and winter fruits and early strawberries, I often combine the fruit and baked good into one by making these berry crumble bars (also known as crumble bumble bars for some season).

My recipe is taken from Megan Gordon's Blueberry Breakfast Bars posted on The Kitchn. I made a very few adjustments based on my own preferences, such as using cinnamon instead of lemon in the filling, and substituting pepitas for the sesame seeds. The kids love these bars and the adults in the family think they're pretty great, too. I think that they'd be tasty mixed into some thick full-fat yogurt, as well, and they're delicious on their own alongside a large cup of tea for an afternoon pick-me-up.


12 oz berries of any type, fresh or frozen--I don't bother to thaw first
1/4 c sugar (I used coconut sugar but any type would do)
2 TBSP ground flax (or you could use 3 TBSP flour)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Splash of water if the berries are frozen

Crumble crust
50 g rolled oats
100 g rye flakes (or any combination of any flakes)
60 g almonds (Gordon specifies sliced but I've used whole with no issues; I just pulsed them a few times before adding the other ingredients)
30 g pepitas, pecans or sesame seeds
120 g whole wheat flour (soft or hard wheat or spelt though the bars might be a bit crumblier with spelt)
1/2 c (75 g) sugar (Gordon calls for light brown sugar but I've also used just plain sugar with no problems)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp kosher salt
3/4 tsp baking powder
8 TBSP (115 g) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small cubes
1 large egg, beaten
2-4 TBSP ice water

  1. Grease an 8-inch square pan and preheat the oven to 350F
  2. Place all of the filling ingredients in a small saucepan and heat over medium, stirring a few times, until the mixture is bubbly. If you're using frozen berries, add a splash of water to help them not stick to the pan and stir more frequently at the beginning. Set aside
  3. If using whole nuts, process them briefly in the food processor until they're chopped medium fine
  4. Add the remaining ingredients up to the butter and pulse together until blended and chopped fine
  5. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture looks like small peas
  6. Add the beaten egg and pulse until combined
  7. Add the water and pulse, starting with 2 TBSP. Expect the mixture still to look crumbly but it should be clumping together
  8. Press about 2/3 of the crumble crust as evenly as you can into the bottom of the prepared pan
  9. Pour over the berry filling
  10. Distribute the rest of the crumble mixture over the berries somewhat evenly
  11. Bake about 30 minutes, or until the topping is brown

Monday, May 4, 2015

Applesauce Quinoa Muffins

We are big fans of quinoa as a side dish here, but sometimes I overestimate what we need and am left with 1 or 2 cups of cooked quinoa for which I have no dinner or lunch plans. When this happens, I fold them into muffins!

I use my Flax Bran Muffin recipe and add some elements from the Applesauce Oatmeal Muffins to come up with something tasty.

This time I used coconut sugar (also known as palm sugar) because I figured the kids would enjoy the toffee quality it brings. I also ground my own soft wheat berries, hence the measurement in grams. I had 1 cup of quinoa and it worked fine, but don't hesitate to make the same recipe using up to 2 cups if that's what you've got. Finally, I used kefir in place of buttermilk, because that's what we've got in the house these days. These muffins rose very high so I think they liked the substitution.

2 eggs
2 cups kefir or buttermilk
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups sugar (regular, raw or coconut)
1 cup unsweetened applesauce OR equivalent amount of cooked mashed sweet potato or pumpkin OR grated zucchini)
1/4 cup cooking oil or melted coconut oil (there are approx 13 g coconut oil to the TBSP so 52 g)
2 1/2 cups (300 g) whole wheat pastry flour (if desired, you can substitute 3/4 c. almond meal for 3/4 c flour)
3/4 cup ground flax seed (I use a coffee grinder and keep the whole flax seeds in the freezer)
1 cup oat bran
1 TBSP baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp assorted spices (I do a mix of cinnamon, ginger, cloves or allspice)
1-2 cups cooked quinoa
1 cup chopped nuts (a combination of walnuts and pecans is nice) optional
1/2 TBSP crumble topping per muffin (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and prepare two 12-cup muffin tins
  2. In a large mixing bowl, lightly beat the eggs
  3. Add kefir, sugar, oil and applesauce. Stir until mixed.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, almond meal (if using), flax, oat bran, baking soda, salt and spices
  5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir until just mixed
  6. Stir in the quinoa
  7. Add the nuts and stir briefly
  8. Spoon the batter into the muffin tins (I load them pretty full)
  9. Top each muffin with 1/2 TBSP crumble topping if using
  10. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean (it's usually closer to 20 or even 22 minutes)
These muffins freeze beautifully. I defrost for 1 minute in the microwave and then toast them in the toaster oven on Medium for a crunchy-ish top

Friday, April 10, 2015

Sweet Potato Chips

Half of the family loves sweet potatoes. Of the other half, Gwendolyn basically rejects them in all forms and has done since she was about a year old (before that she loved them). I just prefer them in the form of oven fries or chips. I have tried roasting them to crispy perfection and failed many times. After too long at high heat, they just get too burnt-tasting to be pleasant (though the sweet potato loving contingent would still eat them).

I decided to try a high-low method of roasting at high heat, covered, for a while and then finishing at low heat to achieve crispy goodness. This worked very well now I can have baked sweet potato chips with minimal effort. Not quite as light as the deep-fried store bought ones, but still very good.

2-3 medium or large sweet potatoes, well scrubbed with the pointy ends cut off
1 TBSP oil
Salt and pepper to taste (or try using other spices such as sumac, smoked paprika or chipotle)

  1. Preheat the oven to 425F and line two baking trays with parchment or Silpat
  2. Ideally using a mandoline, slice the sweet potatoes evenly into rounds of your desired thickness (I use the medium setting on my mandolin)
  3. Toss the sweet potato rounds with oil and seasonings (I usually do this in a bowl rather than directly on the trays)
  4. Distribute the rounds evenly over the trays and cover with foil
  5. Roast, covered, for ten minutes at 425
  6. Lower the oven heat to 300F and remove the foil
  7. Continue baking until the sweet potato rounds are crispy but not too brown. It's a good idea to stir them a few times. I think this took an additional 20 minutes or so; I'd start checking around 15 minutes. Note that the sweet potato chips will crisp further once out of the oven, so when they stop looking wet, take one out and let it rest a minute or two and then taste for desired texture
  8. Store in an air tight container. If they're well-dried they should last several days

Friday, April 3, 2015

100% Whole Grain Hot Cross Buns with Dried Cherries

Having spent time in the UK, I have a fondness for hot cross buns, though I never had a homemade one there, just the storebought ones. I've tried a few different recipes here at home, and by far the one I liked the best was the Whole Wheat Hot Cross Buns with Dried Cherries and Lemon from Cookin' Canuck. This year, of course, I'm grinding my own flour, which causes a few modifications to the original recipe. I used a combination of hard red wheat, soft white wheat, and spelt in these just because I could.  Cookin' Canuck using volume measurements so I converted to weight for the flour and used a standard of 4.5 oz per cup.  I also converted the coconut oil and honey to grams because I hate having to fill and scrape a measuring spoon multiple times (honestly, you'd think I could be consistent with my grams vs. ounces but since my scale goes back and forth, I use the easiest conversion I can find on the Internet). In addition, because I am using instant yeast, I can streamline the mixing method a bit. I am also going to try making a paste cross instead of just using yeast: for years I've copped out and done glaze but since the paste is just flour and water, I think I can handle it and then just put the glaze over the entire bun. Omit as you please.

4.5 oz spelt
7 oz hard red wheat
6.5 oz soft white wheat
OR any combination of grains/flours adding up to 18 oz (1 lb 2 oz)
2 1/4 tsp or one package instant yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
78 g coconut oil (6 TBSP) melted
3/4 c. (6 fl oz) buttermilk or kefir or yogurt/milk combination
64 g honey
3 large eggs
2/3 c. dried tart cherries, chopped roughly if desired

1/4 c. flour (I'd just use white all-purpose)
2 TBSP water (start there and add more as needed)

1/3 c. powdered/icing sugar
1-2 tsp lemon juice
A few gratings of lemon zest
Pinch of salt
Water or milk

  1. Combine the flours, yeast, salt and cinnamon in the bowl of a stand mixer
  2. Warm the kefir/buttermilk until quite warm but not over 140 degrees. I just use my glass measuring cup in the microwave
  3. Stir the coconut oil and honey into the buttermilk and then add to the dry ingredients, stirring by hand a bit to combine (so flour doesn't get everywhere)
  4. Using the same measuring cup if you like, crack the eggs and lightly beat them before adding to the mixing bowl. Again stir a little by hand
  5. Using the dough hook, knead the dough on medium until it is quite stretchy, scraping once or twice. I think I kneaded mine for 6-8 minutes
  6. Add the dried cherries and run the mixer for a minute or so to blend in and then finish mixing them in by hand
  7. Turn out onto a lightly floured counter or board. My dough looked too sticky in the bowl, but when I turned it out to and kneaded by hand a few times, the texture was just right and I didn't add any more flour--your mileage may vary
  8. Place the kneaded dough into a large bowl (I didn't grease mine) and cover (I used a tea towel) until doubled in size, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. I was surprised at how readily my dough rose even though it was 100% whole grain
  9. Punch down the dough and divide into 12 roughly-equal pieces that you then roll into balls
  10. Grease a 9x13 inch baking pan and space the dough balls evenly, leaving a bit of room for them to expand
  11. Let rise an hour or two until it has doubled and the balls are touching each other
  12. Preheat the oven to 350F
  13. When you're ready to bake the buns, make the paste, mixing the flour and enough water to get a pipeable consistency
  14. Put the paste into a pastry bag or plastic bag and snip of the tip. Pipe a cross on each bun (I did all one direction first then all the other)
  15. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until golden. Expect the buns to be smooshed together in the pan
  16. While the buns are baking, whisk together the powdered sugar, salt, lemon juice, lemon zest and water until you have quite a thin glaze
  17. As soon as the buns come out, brush the tops all over generously with the glaze, which will make them super glossy and lovely
  18. Cool on a rack and serve warm or store in an air-tight container and warm or toast to serve

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

100% Whole Grain No-Knead Bagels

As I've posted before, I'm in love with my Komo Fidibus grain mill. I am having such fun making recipes I've already converted to whole wheat pastry flour, as well as converting old recipes that used some white flour into 100% whole grain.

After the success with crumpets (though I want to do some tweaking of griddle temperature and cooking time to improve the texture further), I decided to re-visit bagels. The girls loved crumpet sandwiches in their lunches and I thought that bagel sandwiches would also be great with the advantage that no-knead bagels are much easier to make than crumpets (in my opinion) despite the dual boil/bake cooking method.

I started with my own Homemade Bagels recipe, based on the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day method. I and my in-laws had thought that the sourdough starter they've had for over 40 years was gone forever--ours had died a few years back and theirs got lost in the move they made to our neighborhood. That would have made it difficult for me to follow my original recipe. Thankfully, I mentioned this to my friend Melanie (featured in the original bagel post) and discovered that she had the starter! I'd completely forgotten that we'd gifted her some when Elspeth was a baby and it's still going strong. This stuff is robust! She gave us some and I charged it up enough to have some to give to my in-laws and I know they are absolutely delighted to have it back again. The moral of my story is twofold: starter is for sharing AND so are problems. Many times I've casually mentioned a problem to a friend, not thinking they could help, and suddenly the solution appeared.

Back to the bagel recipe, I'm having a love affair with spelt at the moment, so decided to use that for the bulk of my grain, along with hard red wheat for its higher protein. The first batch I made was delicious, but the dough was very sticky. Spelt absorbs water differently from regular wheat and as I was using a higher proportion of spelt to wheat, my dough was just a bit too wet. All I did was reduce the water to 2 1/4 cups instead of 2 1/2 cups and that was all it took.

This second batch was still well-hydrated, but it was easy to work with and the finished bagels came out beautifully--glossy on the top and slightly crusty with moist but not gummy interiors. I changed the cooking water to use only 2 TBSP of honey rather than 1/4 c. sugar and baking soda. I really should be using barley malt syrup or diastatic malt powder but my interest in authenticity doesn't stretch that far. Finally, I lowered the cooking temperature to 425F from 450F because ours is a convection oven and the first batch was a bit too crusty.

You can still make this recipe if you don't have a grain mill. Just use the same weight of pre-ground spelt and hard red wheat--the advantage of ingredients by weight over volume.

Yum! We are going away to a cabin in the San Juans after Easter and I'll make ahead a big batch to serve as our picnic lunches either stuffed with turkey, ham and cheese or peanut butter and jam. And now I have a new school lunch in the rotation, as well!

2 1/4 cups (18 fl oz) water
1 cup sourdough starter (the batter-like kind)
2 TBSP kosher or Maldon salt
1 1/2 TBSP sugar or honey or barley malt syrup
1 lb spelt
12 3/4 oz hard red wheat

5 quarts water (approx--I just fill our largest Dutch oven to within an inch of the top)
2 TBSP honey, barley malt syrup or baking soda

  1. You'll need a clean 6 qt container that is not absolutely airtight. I use a Rubbermaid 'Servin' Saver' 6 qt square container and have been very happy with it
  2. Put the water, starter, salt and sugar in the container and give it a mix
  3. Put the container on your scale and zero it out
  4. Add the spelt and wheat (I just grind the flour right into the container)
  5. Use a large wooden spoon to mix the flours into the water. You are not aiming to knead the dough and you should expect a pretty wet dough. After I mix as much as I can with the spoon, I went my hands and mix the dough with them until the flour is incorporated. Again, you're not kneading, you just don't want dry and wet patches
  6. Place the lid on the container loosely and put the dough in the fridge for a day or two (or three). Using the starter makes the rising take longer but the flavor is superb. You can speed things up slightly by leaving the dough out at room temperature for 8 hours.
  7. You know your dough is active when you see air bubbles in it and it has risen
  1. Set out a baking tray lined with Silpat or parchment for your dough lumps
  2. If you're going to bake your bagels right away, preheat your oven to 425 degrees F with a pizza stone set on the middle rack and a broiler tray on the shelf underneath
  3. Remove the dough container from fridge and sprinkle with all-purpose flour
  4. Weigh out as many 3 oz (or smaller) dough lumps for the number of bagels you wish to make. Because I want to try the boil-n-bake-later approach, I'd weigh out all of my dough and would expect about a dozen and a half bagels (always less than the authors say--maybe it's the starter)
  5. Working quickly, shape into a flattened ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on four sides, rotating the ball a quarter turn as you do this (that's nearly verbatim from the book but is still hard to explain until you've done it)
  6. Place on your lined baking tray and cover lightly with plastic wrap and let sit for 20 minutes (I've let them sit for longer with no ill effects; in fact, I think a longer rise might be even better). Proceed to the boiling step
  1. Prepare another baking tray lined with a tea towel and sprinkled with flour
  2. If you are going to use the freeze-ahead method, you'll need a baking tray lined with Silpat or parchment
  3. If you are going to bake the bagels right away, you'll need to prepare a peel to get the bagels in the oven by sprinkling it with flour. I highly recommend the Super Peel; I don't think I could use a regular peel successfully. If you don't have a peel, take a baking tray and line it with Silpat or parchment and either put the whole tray in the oven or lift out the lining and put the lining directly on the baking stone. The latter works just fine and eliminates any issues with bagels sticking to the pizza stone, which happens from time to time
  4. Using a large Dutch oven (ours is 7+ quarts) or a stock pot, bring the water to a boil. The bagels do sink to the bottom of the pot and stick for a while until they float
  5. Once the water has boiled, lower heat to a simmer and add the honey, barley malt syrup or baking soda
  6. Now you'll form your bagels. I was surprised at how easy this was--the dough felt wonderfully silky and behaved well. Take each dough lump and use your thumbs to make a hole in the center. Work the dough around the outside so that it's evenly distributed around the hole. The hole needs to be 2-3 times the width of the bagel wall or it'll close up entirely during baking
  7. Drop the bagels gently in the water one at a time trying not to crowd them too much (I can do four at a time in my Dutch oven)
  8. Simmer for two minutes. Most times, the bagels will sink to the bottom and then float up before the two minutes is up. If they haven't, I gently prod them with a slotted spoon and ease them off the bottom of the pot
  9. Flip the bagels over and simmer for an additional minute. Test for doneness by using a slotted spoon to lift the bagel out. Several of mine have been really squashy so I've let them cook a bit longer. The surface will be gummy because of the water, but they should still feel firm to the touch. The bagels shouldn't be hard or anything, but you'll get the hang of it once you've handled a squashy one
  10. Remove the bagels to the tea towel sprinkled with flour to absorb some of the water
  11. Proceed either to the FREEZE FOR LATER or BAKING DIRECTIONS sections
Bagels are great eaten hot from the oven. These days I'm too lazy to bake them ad hoc and I'll freeze them baked and split, but you can give this freezer method a try if you wish
  1. Once your bagels have sat on their tea towel for a moment, line them up on your baking tray with Silpat, parchment or waxed paper. You're going to freeze the bagels on this tray first so that when you bag them, they won't stick together
  2. Put the tray in the freezer (we're lucky to have an outside freezer with lots of room. If you've got a small or full freezer, you'll have to improvise) and freeze until solid
  3. Transfer the bagels to a very thick freezer bag, or you could wrap them in foil and then bag them. They'll be susceptible to picking up odors/flavors from the freezer, so wrapping them well is key
  4. On the day you're ready to bake them or the night before, set the desired number of bagels onto a metal tray (this helps them to thaw faster) and leave until thawed. It may be possible to bake from frozen, but I suspect you'll have a better result if you thaw them fully first
  5. Once the bagels are thawed, proceed to BAKING DIRECTIONS
  1. Twenty minutes before you want to bake the bagels, preheat the oven to 425 degrees if you haven't already done so. You want the rack in the middle, preferably with a baking stone on it (hence the preheating for so long). A second rack should have a broiler tray or something that can hold water.
  2. Boil 1 cup of water or have really hot water from the tap and have it ready by the oven. I forgot this the second time and my bagels were fabulous, so don't stress out about this step
  3. Prepare your peel by sprinkling it with flour if you haven't already done so. If you don't have a peel or Super Peel, take a baking tray and line it with Silpat or baking parchment
  4. Place the freshly-boiled or thawed bagels on your prepared surface and sprinkle with the desired toppings
  5. Use peel to transfer the bagels onto the baking stone. Alternatively, put the whole tray in the oven or lift out the lining and put the lining directly on the baking stone
  6. Quickly add the boiling water to the broiler tray and close the oven
  7. Bake for approximately 15-20 minutes or until the bagels are golden
  8. Eat immediately or cool and split them before freezing. They'll stay fresh in an air-tight container on the counter for about four days

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Whole Wheat Crumpets

When I and my good girlfriends worked downtown, we would often meet to have lunch or tea at The Crumpet Shop in Pike Place Market. I usually had ham and egg on crumpet and it made a tasty lunch. But I haven't worked downtown for years, so if I want crumpets, I have to make them myself. Frankly, the urge didn't come upon me particularly often. I've made crumpets a few times using the King Arthur Flour recipe, but I was never totally satisfied with it.

Well, someone on my baking group posted a beautiful photo of her homemade crumpets and I was inspired. She told me she used the Paul Hollywood crumpet recipe and I had to give it a go. I nearly followed the recipe as-written except that instead of using strong white flour, I used strong (hard red) home-milled wheat flour, from which I sifted out some of the bran. I also used the stand mixer to do the beating for me, but you could do it by hand. The Hollywood recipe is a bit fiddly because of the two leaveners added at separate times and the two rest periods, but the results are well worth it! They were far better than the King Arthur ones and, I dare say, better than Crumpet Shop's (though that could be due to their freshness). The children and I were having a "moment" yesterday afternoon, but after we ate our crumpets slathered in butter, homemade nectarine freezer jam and honey (we're big on doing halvsies in our house), suddenly our moods were dramatically better.

Today's challenge was to see if I could make the crumpets using all home-milled whole wheat\ flour. I opted to use half soft wheat berries and half hard wheat berries. I sifted out the (biggest particles of) bran and ended up with 11.5 oz flour, which worked great because I find I need more liquid in a recipe when I use whole wheat flour. The yeast easily did its job and they were no less light and delicious than the other kind, though of course they're darker and taste more, well, wheaty.

I had a problem getting the crumpets out of the rings both times, definitely worse with the whole wheat batch, but that's a small price to pay. Still not sure why Hollywood has you turn the crumpets in their rings instead of removing the rings before the flip--adding the amount of batter to each ring that he suggests didn't give me a crumpet tall enough to reach the griddle if I flipped it in its ring. I tended to flip the crumpets then remove the rings (with difficulty) so the second surface could reach the griddle. I cooked on a cast iron griddle and I find that long, slow preheating is key.

Next time I'll be doubling the batch and hoping that means we manage to freeze some, but I'm not too optimistic...

Revelation in May 2017 is that there are two secrets to very bubbly crumpets: add quite a bit of extra water to compensate for the extra absorption of whole grain flour (I've long since given up sifting out any bran!) and only add a smallish scoop of batter to the ring so it can freely rise and cook through.

6 oz (175g) soft wheat berries or whole wheat pastry flour
6 oz (175g) hard wheat berries or whole wheat bread flour
14g instant yeast (or two packets or 4 1/2 tsp)
12 fl oz warm milk
1 tsp sugar
10 oz  warm water (Hollywood recipe calls for 5-7 oz)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
Oil for the crumpet rings and griddle

  1.  Mill the flours and add to the bowl of a stand mixer, stir the flours and yeast together
  2. Dissolve the sugar in the warm milk. My milk was just over 100 degrees, but you have more leeway when using instant yeast and mixing it with the flour first so as long as you're under 140 you should be ok
  3. Pour the milk into the flours and stir in a bit so it doesn't slosh everywhere
  4. Beat on low to medium for up to three minutes until you get a very smooth batter
  5. Cover and let rise 40-60 minutes. I found Hollywood's tip that the dough should rise and then start to fall super helpful. I err on the long side of rising time because the whole wheat dough does take longer
  6. Stir down the dough, then dissolve the salt and baking soda in the warm water. Add the water to the dough and again stir a bit by hand to avoid sloshing. Mix until well blended. Another helpful Hollywood tip is that the batter should be the consistency of double cream. I thought my batter reached that texture, but it was also very springy--my gluten strands were strong. Don't be afraid to add more water as you will definitely get better bubbles with a thinner batter
  7. Cover and let sit 20 minutes. While the batter sits, heat a cast iron griddle on medium-low so it has a nice long time to distribute the heat
  8. After the final rest, grease the griddle and 4-6 crumpet rings (my griddle fits 6). Turn up the heat to a bit higher than medium (I do 5.5 or 6 out of 9)
  9. Fill each ring until it's about 1/2 full  if you want crumpets tall enough to split. My size 16 portion scoop worked perfectly
  10. Cook until the top is set and you're seeing lots of bubbles. I find that my crumpets need a LONG time to cook, up to ten minutes a side. This is not consistent with Hollywood's recipe but is what I've found all the times I've made crumpets
  11. Either remove the rings before or after flipping and cook just a few minutes on the second side. Despite the greasing, I always need to use a knife to get the crumpets out and it is irritating (just think of that warm crumpet dripping with butter to regain your will)
  12. Serve warm or if you're managed not to eat them all at once, toast (splitting optional) before serving

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Welsh Cakes

Most of the members of the dessert group I'm part of on Facebook seem to live in the UK and there are several who either live now or once lived in Wales. Thus, March 1 for them means St David's Day and a good reason to make Welsh cakes. While I am a fan of soda bread for St Patrick's Day, haggis for Burns' Night and pancakes for Shrove Tuesday, I have never eaten nor made Welsh cakes until today. I hadn't really heard of them, in fact.

After seeing a photo on the group, I was determined to give it a go. I decided to use Jamie Oliver's recipe, though I did halve it because 35-40 cakes seemed a bit much for a family of four. I only made a few slight modifications, otherwise. I used home-milled soft wheat berries for the flour and added baking powder and salt to compensate for it not being self-rising. I used a whole small egg instead of halving a large egg, made up my own mixed spice, and substituted dried tart cherries for the raisins or currants.

Welsh cakes are so interesting: the recipe reads like a reasonably standard scone recipe, but you cook them on the stove. I was very dubious that they would cook through and I couldn't quite imagine the texture. I think the reason they work is there is so much butter in them and it melts and cooks. At any rate, they're crisp on the outside and tender on the inside but not exactly in the way a scone is. I'm a new convert and will be adding these to my repertoire. They also make a fair amount (I think I got something like 10-12) so I can make a big batch and possibly freeze a few to accompany an egg on a school morning.

240 g (two cups assuming 120g per cup) whole wheat pastry flour or milled soft wheat berries
1 TBSP baking powder
1/2 to 3/4 tsp salt
Scant 3 TBSP sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground allspice
pinch ground cloves (you could also add some nutmeg if you like)
1/2 c dried tart cherries
113 g (1 stick, 4 oz) cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
1 small egg
1-2 TBSP milk

  1. Put the flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and spices in a food processor and pulse a few times to combine
  2. Add the dried tart cherries and pulse a few more times to cut the cherries into smaller pieces
  3. Add the cubed butter and pulse 10-15 times until the butter has been cut in and the mixture looks like coarse meal with irregular lumps of butter
  4. Tip the mixture out into a large bowl and make a well. Crack the egg into the well and mix in with a fork
  5. Add the milk, a tablespoon at a time until the mixture barely comes together
  6. Dump out the dough onto a clean counter or piece of parchment or waxed paper and pat into circle
  7. Because I am using whole wheat flour, I let the dough rest for ten minutes so it can absorb the liquid a bit more. While the dough is resting, heat a cast iron or other heavy skillet on medium heat
  8. Once the dough has rested, roll out to about 1/2 inch thick and cut into rounds. You may need to flour the dough a bit. My biscuit cutter is bigger than the one Jamie Oliver used, so my yield was less
  9. Do a test cake and adjust the heat so that the cake will cook in about 4 minutes on each side. I started out at the exact middle setting, but had to go up to a medium-high for a while until my cast iron got really hot. Turn the cakes when they are a deep brown. They will puff slightly when you turn them
  10. Remove to a plate and eat as-is or dust with cinnamon-sugar or serve with cream as you would a scone

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Vegan Chocolate Truffles

When I run across a recipe that I find unusual in some way, I often race to try it, especially if it uses an unconventional ingredient in a dessert. I love the Texanerin Baking site (the chickpea chocolate chip cookie recipe comes from there) so when she posted a recipe for Healthier Raspberry Truffles using avocado, I was all over it.

My mother-in-law is a Valentine baby, so what better excuse than to make her these truffles for a birthday/Valentine gift. However, because I knew the girls would want to taste them, and because I've found that I'm not super-fond of boozy desserts, I decided to omit the liqueur and replace with the suggested 2 tsp vanilla extract. We did keep the raspberry theme by coating half in freeze-dried raspberries as she suggested, and alternating with cocoa-coated ones in our gift box.

These truffles are a snap to make and they are delicious. Grandma was most impressed. You'd never know there was avocado in there and they're wonderfully light yet rich. However, when you substitute only 2 tsp vanilla extract for 2 TBSP of liqueur, you end up with a mixture that is crumblier than it should be, at least for forming them--they were awesome for eating. So, since nice chocolate was on sale and I had enough for a new double batch, I decided to try adding some instant espresso mixed with warm water in addition to the vanilla to see if more liquid would solve the texture issue. It did! This second batch formed way easier and tastes just as good. There is no discernible coffee flavor; it just brings out the chocolate more. We are bringing a dozen coated ones to a dinner party but then I formed and froze the rest uncoated because they will be a perfect little something on days when one or more of us needs a perfect little chocolate something! I suspect that you could thaw them and then coat them with cocoa or freeze-dried raspberries--or freeze-dried strawberries or toasted coconut, but I also suspect that we will just eat them unadorned and may not even wait until they thaw completely...

1/2 a ripe avocado (about 80g--err on the side of more rather than less_
6 oz good quality chocolate (we used Theo 70%)
Pinch of salt (forgot this the second time, but it was ok)
1/2 tsp instant espresso
1/2 TBSP warm water
2 tsp vanilla extract (or you could try a lesser amount of coconut extract or almond extract)
15-20 freeze-dried raspberries, crumbled and/or cocoa powder and/or toasted coconut to garnish

  1. Put the avocado flesh in a medium-sized bowl and smash well until there are no big chunks remaining
  2.  Mix the instant espresso, warm water and vanilla extract in a little dish and set aside
  3. Break the chocolate into small pieces and melt, either using a double boiler or 50% power in the microwave for 2 minutes, then stirring, and cooking an additional 90 seconds or until melted
  4. Add the melted chocolate to the avocado, stirring well and smashing any lumps of avocado with a spatula
  5. Stir in the coffee/vanilla. The mixture will start firming up as you do this
  6. Refrigerate 20-45 minutes--if the mixture is too sticky when you try to form it, refrigerate a bit more
  7. Form into small balls. I used my smallest cookie scoop and got 16 truffles compared to the 20 truffles Texanerin got. Roll the balls in the raspberries/cocoa/coconut or freeze uncoated. Texanerin says that these should be refrigerated and eaten within a day but, as there is no dairy to go bad I'm not sure why this is the case

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Cinnamon-Sugar Biscuits

I was the ecstatic and tearful recipient of a Komo Fidibus 21 home grain mill for Christmas. It is a thing of beauty and my longing for it was inspired by reading Dan Barber's The Third Plate, a simply fantastic book about taking the idea of local food one step further. My hope is that I will grind all of our grains and legumes freshly before each use (as opposed to grinding in bulk and using the flour bit by bit), and the Fidibus 21 will make that a snap. How fortuitous that at about the same time I read Barber's book, I found out about Erin Anderson's The Homemade Flour Cookbook, which the awesome Seattle Public Library has on its shelves.

While I expect that most of the time I will use my usual wheat-based recipes and grind the flour for them fresh, I also am excited to experiment with new grains. Anderson's cookbook is great for this. The first recipe I tried was her Biscuit Cinnamon Rolls, which use einkorn (one of the many ancient wheat-related grains out there). We all loved them, but I felt they were a bit dry and einkorn is very expensive. I decided I wanted to try them with spelt, as everything I'd read suggested that quick breads made with spelt have a very tender crumb. It's also cheaper, at least at our co-op. I also modified Anderson's recipe by reducing the melted butter because I could not manage to use up anywhere near the whole 6 TBSP to paint the dough, substituting regular cane sugar for the brown sugar (the caramel notes in brown sugar are just too much for me), and using kefir instead of buttermilk. My husband has started fermenting a bunch of stuff and always has some kefir going spare, whereas we don't keep buttermilk around on a regular basis.

One thing I have noticed is that I like cinnamon-sugar things to be more cinnamon-y than most recipes call for. However, I can go too far in the cinnamon department and end up with a less satisfying end product. So, a 1-1 ratio of sugar to cinnamon is too much cinnamon, but 3 or 4-1 sugar to cinnamon (which is closer to what most recipes call for) is not enough. I settled on something like 2-1 sugar to cinnamon, but as I eyeball it most of the time, results may vary.

These modified cinnamon biscuits were delicious, definitely better (to my family's taste) than the original. They are a great combination of crispy exterior and tender interior. You know when your 7 year old says, "Put it on the blog, Mommy!" that you've made a winner. The recipe below is unapologetically based on how I will make it in future. I have no idea if it would work the same with pre-ground spelt (can't imagine why not), I use some metric and some volume measurements,  etc, etc. As I suspect my readership numbers in the tens, I cannot imagine it will make much difference.

A note to the curious, according to Anderson's book, most grains are 120g to the cup. This is true for wheat, barley, rye, emmer farro, and spelt, as well as many legumes. The major exception is einkorn, which is only 100g to the cup. Therefore, I used 360 g of spelt instead of the 300 g of einkorn in the original, because Anderson said that the volume should be 3 cups. This worked just fine.

3 c. (360 g) whole spelt flour
1 TBSP baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 TBSP cane sugar
6 TBSP cold butter, cut into cubes
1/2 c. plain kefir, runny yogurt or buttermilk
1 large egg

For the filling and topping
3 TBSP butter, melted
1/4 c. (approx) cane sugar
2 TBSP ground cinnamon

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F if using a convection oven. If using a regular oven, 425 degrees will be better. Line a baking sheet or half sheet pan with Silpat or baking parchment
  2. Grind the weighed spelt berries directly into the bowl of a food processor with the blade in
  3. Add the baking powder, salt and sugar and pulse to combine
  4. Add the cold butter pieces and pulse 6-10 times or until the butter is the size of small peas in the flour. You can also cut in the butter manually but I'm too lazy for that
  5. Measure the kefir into a liquid measuring cup, then crack the egg right in. Lightly whisk the egg and kefir together
  6. Make a bit of a channel in the middle of the dry ingredients in the food processor and pour in the liquid mixture. (If I don't make a channel, I find that the liquid all goes to the center of the bowl and there ends up being unincorporated liquid at the end)
  7. Pulse a few times until combined and the dough starts to come together. It'll be a bit crumbly, but not too bad
  8. Pour out the dough onto a clean counter (or one lined with waxed paper or parchment--you can get the paper to stick to the counter a bit if you mist it with water first)
  9. Knead a few times to combine
  10. Using your fingers or a rolling pin, get the dough into somewhat of a rectangle, about 8x12 inches
  11. Paint most of the melted butter on top of the dough (the kids love this part) and then sprinkle on most of the cinnamon-sugar mixture evenly all over the rectangle
  12. Doing the best you can (I like to use my offset spatula to help and the rolling part is the reason i like using waxed paper or parchment instead of bare counter) and starting with the long edge nearest you, roll the dough into a log, gently pressing together as needed
  13. Paint the rest of the melted butter on the top and sides of the log and sprinkle on the remaining cinnamon-sugar
  14. Cut the log into 8 roughly-equal pieces and space them out evenly on the baking tray. You leave them in the same orientation--don't lay them down as you would a cinnamon roll
  15. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until they are crisp on the top (it's hard to judge by color because the cinnamon is dark)
  16. Let cool slightly, then serve. If you have leftovers, they'll taste much better if you reheat them