Archive | geekiness RSS feed for this section

adventures in sprouted wheat- part 1

17 Jan

Jim has this thing that he says when I have an idea that he thinks is a bit over-the-top, but he’s trying to be neutral.

“Krissy, that’s hardcore.”

Sometimes it sounds like encouragement, sometimes it sounds like he thinks I’ve lost it. So when I started telling him that I wanted to try baking with sprouted wheat and that I was going to make the sprouted wheat flour myself, I could tell that he thought I was crazy. “Krissy,” he said, with his head cocked to the side like he couldn’t figure out who I was, “that’s hardcore.”

So what if I’m a little crazy overly ambitious? It keeps things interesting? I can’t really grow and harvest my own wheat from the ground up, but I figure this gets me a little closer to the source. Sure, I could order sprouted wheat flour online, but where’s the fun in that?

I started with some soft white wheat berries from Bob’s Red Mill.

I soaked them over night then put them in my sprouter to give them the time to do their thing. It took about 2.5 days. This is not a project to embark on when seeking instant gratification.

Once it was sprouted then I had to dry the berries again before grinding them. That was a cinch thanks to one of my great new Christmas presents this year, my Excalibur 3900 dehydrator. A couple of hours in there and we went from moist sprouts to:

Grind-ready in my handy-dandy friend Edgar the Vita-Mix.

Bam! 30-45 seconds later my flour was fragrant, ground and ready to go.

Now the question is, what should I use my first batch on? I’ve got about 2 cups worth of flour. What do you think?

a cake of a different feather…

17 Dec

Look at this beautiful cake. So pretty. So elegant. What a perfect dinner.

Now, before you think I’m on a path straight to Type 2 diabetes, let me assure you that we have not digressed to eating cake for dinner (as tempting as it may often be). Several weeks ago, I was intrigued and humored by Mo’s “Meat” Cake. I’d wanted to run what that idea for Thanksgiving dinner, but with moving and what not, it wasn’t going to happen.

Until last weekend.

They say there is a first time for everything and I think that using my offset spatula and frosting tips on garlic mashed potatoes definitely fall into that category. I used my lentil and grain meatloaf recipe and made a double batch, which I baked in two 8 inch cake rounds. The center is filled with sweet potatoes, topped and frosted with garlic mashed potatoes and some cranberries and served with mushroom gravy. Strange but delicious, just the way I like it. 🙂

how do you cocoa?

2 Dec

Well, slowly but surely we’re getting settled into our new space (hence my absence from the end of MoFo. FAIL). My new kitchen is HUGE, with tons of counter space and natural light, two things I have been sorely lacking for years, so I’m very excited to start churning out holiday goodies in this lovely new space. Of course, my best kitchen helper is right by my side, per the usual.

All I can think of is holiday baking, it makes my heart swoon. What is better than the smell of fresh baked goods, wafting from a warm oven and the eager anticipation of what is to come? I say to heck with the presents and other traditions of Giftmas, gimme the cookies/brownies/pie/cake!

Which brings me to an important issue, near and dear to my heart. Cocoa.

There are two main types of cocoa powder for baking: regular and Dutch-processed. In the picture above, the lighter cocoa on top is standard baking cocoa, while the darker, redder powder on the bottom is Dutch-processed. When I mention Dutch-processed to folks, I am often met with a blank stare, so I thought a little cocoa lesson might be in order.

Dutch-processed cocoa is cocoa that has been alkalized to reduce the acidity of the cocoa. In doing this, the natural slight bitterness (apparent standard in baking cocoa) is reduced, making for a richer chocolate flavor. I personally LOVE Dutch-processed cocoa and use it almost exclusively in my baking because of that flavor. Before discovering Dutch-pressed cocoa, I always used to add melted chocolate to almost every recipe that called for solely cocoa and no other kind of chocolate, because I felt continually let down by the lack of chocolate flavor. With the Dutch-pressed cocoa, my chocolate hound taste buds are far more satisfied (although a generous sprinkle of chocolate chips never hurt anyone). There is a depth of flavor that’s priceless in the finished product.

Technically using Dutch-processed cocoa, being more acid neutral, could require more chemical leavener to compensate (another pinch of baking powder), but I haven’t really noticed any difference swapping between them and leaving the recipe as is.

Dutch-processed cocoa can be harder to find in some areas, but it’s worth looking for. Like anything, the price can fluctuate dramatically (I’ve seen packages range from $3-$20) so check around for the best deal.

*Post amended to state the obvious- please buy fair trade when you can! Yes, it costs more, but you are helping to pay living wages for people who are working for legitimate farms where they are not slaves, but actual employees. The chocolate, coffee and diamond (and tea and bananas and more!) industries are very dark and dirty businesses to be in. Vote with your dollars!

Chocolate chip pistachio cookies and pumpkin cinnamon rolls are in my near future. What holiday baking treats do you see in your baking crystal ball?

less space, more stuff!

22 Nov

I like to think that I have a very well-equipped kitchen. From utensils and gadgets to pans and hardware, I have a lot of really solid tools for my trade. Some might say I have too many kitchen toys… The things is, as you all know, finding places to put all this stuff. Storage! That is the one thing you can never have too much of.*

Thankfully, technology is my friend and helps me find more ways to save time and space in the kitchen!

Okay, but seriously. I used to own this:

a 4-quart crock pot, without that nasty stock photo meat in it

and this:

an 8-cup rice cooker

and this:

a 6-quart stove top pressure cooker

Whew! Large and in charge, all three of these items took up a ton of space. A few months ago, Jim and I were looking at getting a newer, nicer rice cooker and stumbled across this beast:

Fagor 3-in-1 6 quart multi-cooker

I immediate busted out my phone and did what I always do when I’m considering an unknown purchase- look at reviews on Amazon. It was looking pretty promising and the price was totally right, so we decided to take the plunge and get it. It has since taken the place of all three of the above, which I was liberating by releasing into the wild (of other people’s kitchens).

After several months of using it, here is my assessment:

Pros:
-Replaces 3 large kitchen appliances.
-Pressure cooking done on the counter top now, rather than taking up the stove!
-Rice/quinoa is cooked under pressure and cooks in just 6 minutes once the unit reaches pressure (so total time is about 10 minutes). I only need to run it for 2 cycles for wild rice! Nice.
-Rice texture is fluffy and great plus no more browning on the bottom of the pot when left on “warm”.
-Much quieter when pressure cooking than the stove top model.
-Beans are tender.
-Slow cooks perfectly.

Cons:

-Because there is only one way to release the pressure (valve), can’t employ the “quick release” method we were used to on the stove top. It’s not really a con, but has taken some getting used to in our bean preparation times based on our old habits. We haven’t ruined a batch yet, though, and we’re getting a better feel for it each time.
-The only option for slow cooking is the low setting, no high setting. This works fine for us because I never use the high setting, but could be a drawback for someone else.

So, you can see the pros outweigh the cons significantly. I’ve been incredibly happy with this purchase and keep recommending it to people, so I figured I should blog about it! The cost of a really good rice cooker alone is usually close to double the cost of the this unit. And, for the record, I am writing this review on my own accord. Cool companies never offer me swag. Alas, I buy my own gadgets. 🙂

What kitchen appliance or tool do you most love?

*This is a totally unrelated side note but whatever, I love tangents. I know there are a lot of grammarians and English majors who read this blog. As I was proofreading this entry, I noticed the above sentence, which I ended with a preposition. “Eeek!” I could collectively hear you saying. “You should never end a sentence with a preposition!” Little known fact, I used to be a Linguistics major in college, so here’s a story about the history of English and that silly rule.

Centuries ago, when more and more books and pamphlets were being put to print, grammarians were concerned about the degradation of the English language (when aren’t they concerned?). They decided it was time to put more rules and parameters around English. Latin was revered as the true, “educated” language to which we should aspire to emulate. It was natural to them that they decided in order to speak proper English, they would apply rules of Latin to it. In Latin, there is a rule which says you cannot end a sentence with a preposition because you literally cannot. Your sentence would not make sense because within the structure of Latin because it would not be reflecting back onto a noun, it would just hang there and be nonsense.

Now, being that we aren’t speaking Latin and that you can understand most English sentences with the preposition falling at the end of the sentence, it’s not actually necessary. Sure, sometimes a restructure of a sentence makes it sound better, but sometimes it sounds worse. As I always say, do what feels right to your ear. And if you’re interested in reading more about this misguided rule, click here or here.

hagrid’s (not horrible) rock cakes

2 Nov

The following is a lesson that Harry Potter might have learned at Hogwarts. If they studied baking. And had baking related sex ed.

When a scone and a cookie love each other, sometimes they decide to have the seckts. In doing so, they create offspring: the rock cake.

Rock cakes are not common treats in the US, but are an old school tea time snack in the UK. They are made similarly to a scone, with a tinge more sweetness, and dropped into smaller rounds, making little, misshapen “rocks”, perfect for nibbling on during afternoon tea, after a typically terrible Potions lesson with Snape whilst commiserating with Hagrid. Unlike Hagrid’s truly rock-like cakes, these moist little treats are easy and delicious.

Chock full of yummy add-ins, these chocolaty rocks are worth donning your Invisibility Cape and dodging Filch (or in my house, the minions of Mrs. Norris) to sneak as a late night snack.

Hagrid’s (Not Horrible) Rock Cakes

1 1/2 cups flour
2 tbsp. baking cocoa, sifted
1 1/2 teas. baking powder
1/4 teas. salt
1/3 cup cold margarine
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup plus 3 tbsp. of milk of choice
1/8 teas. vinegar
1/4 teas. vanilla
1/3 cup chocolate chips
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup dried fruit (cherries, cranberries)

Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Combine well. Add the cold margarine, in chunks, and blend in until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. In a small bowl combine the milk, vinegar and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until just combined. Gently add in the chocolate chips, nuts and dried fruit.

Scoop dough into tablespoon sized balls onto prepared cookie sheet. Bake for 12-14 minutes, until cakes have risen and are set on the outside. Let cool on cooling rack for 10 minutes before transferring from baking sheet.

Makes 18 rock cakes

it’s the great pumpkin… harry potter!

26 Oct

I have discovered a new-to-me baking blog, and I’m having a bit of a love affair with it. Joy the Baker is charming and funny, very creative and dabbles in vegan baking from time to time.

As a whole, I rarely use other people’s recipes for baking, but while cruising on her site last weekend, I decided to make her vegan pumpkin bread. And can you believe, I didn’t put walnuts in! Me, avoiding quick bread debris! It wasn’t for lack of trying, alas I was out of walnuts. Plus, I decided to make muffins and add a streusel topping with pumpkin seeds, which trumps walnuts any day. The only other modifications I made was lowering the sugar a bit (to 2 cups sweetener, total) and lowered the oil to 2/3 cup, substituting hemp milk for the other 1/3. The muffins I normally make are lower fat and sugar than these, and they tend to taste like it, too. 😉 Not that it’s a bad thing, I love my muffins, but these were decadent, borderline-cupcake muffins and quite lovely in their own right.

Josie acted as my muffin packaging supervisor. Jumbo muffins, FTW!

This time of year, my love of pumpkin runs wild. I want to bake everything with it, just seeing its brilliant orange color when I open the can (yes, I’m too lazy to make my own pumpkin puree) makes me giddy. With all of my pumpkin baking lately, I had a lone bit sitting in the fridge, waiting to be used… but in what?

I hadn’t planned to make Pumpkin Pasties as part of my Harry Potter food adventure, as it’s already been done, but alas, I read The Sorcerer’s Stone on Sunday and was inspired by Harry’s first trip to Hogwarts.

In addition, I received a frog chocolate mold for Christmas last year, so last night I hopped aboard the Hogwarts Express and got to it!

But wait, what’s a pasty? While not entirely uncommon in the States, this treat is definitely not a household name. Before wardrobe malfunctions, microwaves and Jim Gaffigan, there were pasties, the British/UK ancestor to the Hot Pocket. I say that in jest, of course, because pasties are delicious and Hot Pockets are not only not vegan, but can also cause some unpleasant side effects. Pasties can be sweet or savory and are basically handheld meals or dessert, encased in a flaky pastry crust. They are usually a half circle, but I made mine smaller and circular because I thought it would look cute. For Jim’s sake, I added a bit of glaze, as well.

*Note the chocolate frog in the background! Filled with peanut butter, of course!

1/2 recipe pie crust
3 tbsp. dark sugar
1/2 teas. cornstarch
1/2 teas. cinnamon
1/4 teas. pumpkin pie spice
3/4 cup pumpkin
1/2 recipe pie crust

Preheat oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

In a small bowl, combine the sugar and cornstarch. Add the spices and mix then add the pumpkin and combine until well incorporated. Roll out the pie crust and cut into 12 rounds, using a biscuit cutter or the mouth of a drinking glass. Scoop the pumpkin filling into the center of 6 of the rounds (I used a cookie scoop and it worked perfectly). Then top with the top crust and seal edges, using water if needed. Cut a tiny hole to vent and bake for 13-15 minutes, or until edges are golden.

Let pasties cool and eat plain or if you or a loved one has a glaze addiction, whip up a little with some maple extract, if you have it, and top each pasty.

dark magic… and chocolate

22 Oct

Okay, HP fans! Here is another Harry Potter themed treat that Potterheads and Potterhaters alike will love to eat.

Before I get going, I wanted to draw some attention to this awesome vegan Harry Potter blog: Dumbledore’s Vegan Army. Fun stuff!

So, first, I wanted to work with that Trader Joe’s peanut flour again, in a more conventional setting. Since posting those gluten-free cookies, I have been getting a lot of blog traffic from people who are looking for things to use it in. I’m guessing that for most of those people, vegan, gluten-free cookies aren’t exactly what they’re looking for. 🙂

Second… I wanted to make Horcrux Cakes, another brilliant title suggested by Alec, my littlest brother. For those of you who don’t know what a horcrux is, it’s a regular object that has a fragment of a witch or wizard’s soul in it, in effect giving them immortality, so long as the object exists. The more horcruxes you have, the better chance you have of existing for all eternity. But being that Voldemort is the last person we’d want living forever, I had to ask myself, what or who would I want to live forever?

Chocolate. Duh.

Hence, my banana/peanut butter/chocolate Horcrux Cakes. Fluffy, moist little cakes encasing a creamy chocolate, black magic soul. Tom Riddle approved.

Horcrux Cakes

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup peanut flour (can use all-purpose flour)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teas. baking powder
1/2 teas baking soda
1/8 teas. salt
1/2 cup + 3 tbsp. mashed banana
3 tbsp. peanut butter
1/4 cup oil
2/3 cup milk of choice
1/4 cup chopped chocolate

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease ad flour a standard muffin tin.

In a small bowl, combine the flour(s), sugar, baking powder and soda and salt. In a large bowl, combine 1/2 cup of the banana, peanut butter and oil. Whisk the wet ingredients until well mixed then add the milk and whisk to combine.

In a small bowl, combine the remaining 3 tbsp of banana and the chopped chocolate and combine. Set aside.

Add the dry ingredients to the banana/pb mixture in two batches, until just combined. Scoop a heaping tablespoon of the batter into the bottom of each cup and put a small scoop of the banana/chocolate mixture in the center of each cup.

Top each cup with the remaining batter, being mindful to seal in the center. Bake for 12-14 minutes, until the tops are lightly golden (toothpick test won’t work, obviously). Let cakes cool on rack for 15 minutes before loosening and removing from the tins.

Top cooled cakes with peanut butter icing or melted chocolate (or both!). To make PB icing, combine 1 tbsp. peanut butter, 1 teas. milk and 1/2 cup powdered sugar and blend until smooth. Scoop into the corner of a sandwich bag, twist and snip of a tinny bit of the corner to pipe onto cakes. Do the same with melted chocolate, if you want.

Makes 12 Horcrux Cakes