#grindyourown

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Last year, during a beautiful moment of cosmically-aligned kismet, a group of ladies and I were able to host a few gatherings at my house in St. Louis,  dubbed the Kitchen Speakeasy. I know, I know, It’s a pretty hipster name – but I really did capture the nature of this culinary market. These markets consisted of a few very old friends, some recent acquaintances, and brand new friends (which were, by the way, all women) and we sold things from jams and jellies to house-cured bacon to the most heavenly granola.

It was a few months of blissful, lady charged, culinary goodness. People wandered in, sampled goodies, and left with a bag of the finest South City kitchens had to offer. We felt fueled by each other, spending much of the day swapping kitchen war stories or tips on how to make yogurt or how to get that perfect color of hot sauce. Not to mention the feeling of pretty much selling out of product at every market. This band of fiery culinaristas could not be STOPPED.

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Our homemade goodness would stick it to the man! It would change the world! It would bring about revolution!! Our Wild Cultured Yogurt and butcher paper wrapped English Bacon would cause people to rethink the grocery store, rethink their buying power, rethink their food life.

Our small batch Lime Honey Mint Butter and Fresh Wheatberries had brought us to the food promised land, a place where Balsamic Strawberries or Vermouth Mustard could illicit smiles and blissful moments. A place where our Bourbon and Strawberry Jam could be appreciated. Our hard work could be seen, shared, sold, and traded. A place where we could live forever!

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hot sass

orange wiz

But, alas, even after all the dramatic thinking – it did end. Not for any reason really, just sorta fizzled out. We all had shit to do. But the Kitchen Speakeasy is actually not the point of this blog post. It was just a stage set for one of the many things I learned from these smart ladies: you can totally grind your own wheat.

Now, I’m not saying “If you go buy a big bulky expensive grinder, and some fancy ingredients – you can grind you own wheat.” I mean to say, if you have a coffee grinder and some wheat berries – You Can Grind Your Own Wheat. This all started when I got a big bag of organic wheatberries from Amanda at Moonlight Farm.

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I was ever so grateful to have another grain in my pantry, but I have to admit I get a little sick of wheatberry salad. The wheatberries just never get soft enough and that pop and crunch of a boiled wheatberry is only to be enjoyed every once in a while. I might, being the truth-sayer that I tend towards, have said this to Amanda. Luckily she found no offense in my rude remark and instead simply said, “Just grind them into flour.”

What?! WHAT!?!

Like the holy grail!? Fresh milled flour!?! In my kitchen!?! IMG_2079

Yes. As easy as that. Take the wheatberries, put them in a coffee grinder, and go. FRESH MILLED FLOUR.

 

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The flour is pretty much perfect. I have used it from yeast breads to quick breads to crackers and it adds a beautiful fresh and sweet flavor, not to mention a great texture. Why does it matter, you ask?! Fresh milled, who cares!!

Well, my dearies, here is a little info about fresh ground whole wheat flour from the owner of Moonlight Farm herself, Amanda:

Before we get to specifics, let me just say that fresh-ground flour was a bit of a revelation for me. I have always hated whole wheat pastry…to the point of causing a severe case of pastry-rage at times. Pastry should be buttery, flakey, cakey, moist, chewy, and several other desirable things…but wheaty and bran-y it should neverevereverever be. I hated that *tang* that whole wheat flour seemed to impart to my beloved baked goods.

But, then, I married a wheat farmer and discovered what freshly ground flour truly tastes like. I had no idea that the whole wheat flour on the shelves at the store was all at least slightly rancid (not in a dangerous way, mind you…). I didn’t know the oils in the wheat itself had such a short shelf life! Using fresh-ground flour in your recipes will, indeed, give them a bit more heft (and health) – but it does not have to take away or impede that sweetness we expect from our baked goods. The oils are fresh and mild, the wheat is nutty and delicious. It’s a win-win.

Her advice on grinding:

We currently use a Kitchenaid stainless steel coffee grinder (saving up for a countertop grain mill has taken us a bit longer than anticipated…but…for small amounts at a time, it’ll do). We bought our model at Target and it has been our favorite so far – the best part being the removable stainless grinder cup. Much easier to get all the good stuff out and much easier to clean.

Every coffee grinder has a max amount of time it should be used (if it doesn’t have an automatic shut-off), so please pay attention to the manufacturer’s instructions. If your grinder starts to get seriously heated, stop and give it a 20 to 30 minute rest. Once again, for small amounts, this shouldn’t be a problem.

We fill the grinder about 2/3 up to the max fill line and grind away. We usually do two or three 10-12 second grinds per fill. Once you have the amount you need, you can do one of two things – go happily about making your recipe, or, sift out a bit of bran and re-grind for finer flour. You can just use a fine-mesh sieve and sift the flour, pushing and rolling the flour around a bit. Just sifting can give you a finer/less bran-y flour, so you may not even need to re-grind. Now you have fresh flour. Store it in an airtight container in the fridge to keep fresh. If it’s used within a week, you will still be able to enjoy that fresh-ground taste!

She also shared a great recipe with us, for her most delicious Honey Whole Wheat Shortbread!

This shortbread is THE most versatile shortbread. Ever. There is nothing this little buttery golden round cannot do. Need breakfast? Eat it plain, butter it, or jam it. Need bread for soup? Totally works. Craving a melty savory snack? Throw on some roasted ham and your cheese of choice and broil and happy days are here again.

1/2 c FRESH GROUND whole wheat flour

1/2 c unbleached white flour

2/3 c (5.5 oz) unsalted butter, room temperature

1/3 c honey (local honey is perfect, but this is an excellent time to experiment with different varieties, as the flavor really shines here)

1/2 tsp kosher salt

 

*Parchment line and butter an 8 inch round cake pan or spring-form

*Pre-heat oven to 325 F

*Mix flours and salt in a small bowl until well combined.

*Cream butter and honey in a mixer or by hand until light and fluffy.

*Add flour to butter to create an even mixture. This doesn’t take long at all, so don’t overdo the mixing.

*Using a silicone spatula, plop and spread dough evenly in your pan.

*Prick dough all over with a fork. (if your fork is sticking/pulling the dough too much – dip it in some flour between pokes)

*Bake for about 25-30 minutes.

You’re looking for a nice slightly puffed golden brown and a heavenly honeybutter smell. It will still seem a bit soft and cakey, but it will get denser as it cools. Invert on a plate or board after it’s cooled for about 10-12 minutes. You may find you want a softer or more crumbly consistency – just bake for a shorter or longer amount of time until you find your perfect texture. Cut into wedges and enjoy. Tightly wrapped, this will keep on your counter for 2-3 days, in the fridge for a week, and in the freezer for 2-3 months.

So there you are. One more way to make your kitchen a culinary wonderland. Enjoy and keep cooking!!!

 

 

 

 

 

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Holy Granoly.

Most of my life I’ve been like, “What’s the big deal about granola!?” Even when we made it at Local Harvest, I thought “this is good, but….I don’t get it.”

Until recently when I couldn’t afford $4 boxes of cereal (and frankly didn’t want to eat that sugar laden, preservative filled, GMO’d stuff) and needed another option. Once I made my own granola, I was blown away by how delicious it was. Maybe because I made it myself, or maybe because I took care in choosing the ingredients – but whatever it was, I hadn’t eaten granola so satisfying before.

Since I started making granola in my own kitchen, I can’t stop eating the stuff. And I can change the flavor as much as I like and I control the ingredients completely. After about five months of eating it, I’m not sick of it yet.

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Granola is simple. Generally it is just oats (old fashioned rolled oats – not instant or steel cut) and nuts, covered in a mixture of sweet (sugar, molasses, honey) and fat (oil, butter) then baked for a short time. I recently made three different granolas, to show you the range of fats and sugars you can use – as well as the different things you can throw in, from nuts to dried fruit. These recipes yield a very small amount of granola, I usually make about 3 or 4 times this much and it lasts for at least a month in an airtight container.

The basics of granola making are: heat sugar and oil mixture (with other flavors if you desire), stir into oats and nuts, spread on cookie sheet(s) and bake at 250 – 300 degrees for about an hour, mixing and rotating often. Once it has cooled, mix in dried fruits, chocolate, or anything else you want to use raw.

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Honey Butter Granola

This is a light granola with a subtle flavor, the honey gives it just a slight sweetness.

1/2 c honey

4 Tbl butter

1/2 tsp vanilla

pinch of salt

2 c oats

1/2 c pecans (raw and chopped)

1/4 c sunflower seeds (I used roasted, but you can use raw)

1. Place honey, butter, vanilla, and salt in a small pot – heat until butter is melted and everything is combined.

2. Place oats, pecans, and sunflower seeds into a bowl – stir in honey butter mixture.

3. Once well mixed, spread onto cookie sheets in a thin layer and place into a 250 degree oven.

4. Turn pans stir granola every 20 minutes for an hour. The granola will still seem soft, but once it dries it will harden into perfectly crunchy granola.

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Molasses Hazelnut Granola

This is a darker granola, with a richer flavor. I love using unsulphured molasses for it’s complicated flavor and it nutrients. Reminds me of gingerbread a little bit. 

1/4 c brown sugar

2 Tbl unsulphured blackstrap molasses

2 Tbl grapeseed oil

1/2 tsp cinnamon

pinch of salt

2 c oats

1/2 c hazelnuts (chopped)

1/4 c flax seeds

 

1. Place brown sugar, molasses, oil, cinnamon, and salt in a small pot – heat until everything is combined.

2. Place oats, hazelnuts, and flax seeds into a bowl – stir in sugar oil mixture.

3. Once well mixed, spread onto cookie sheets in a thin layer and place into a 300 degree oven.

4. Turn pans stir granola every 20 minutes for an hour. The granola will still seem soft, but once it dries it will harden into perfectly crunchy granola.

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Super Seed Granola

This is called Super Seed, not only because I used a couple different kinds of seeds, but I also used a Garden of Life product called Super Seed to add flavor and fiber to this granola. This granola uses coconut oil and agave, giving it an interesting flavor.

*Note: you can replace the 1/4 c brown sugar with 1/4 c agave.

1/4 c brown sugar

2 Tbl coconut oil

2 Tbl agave

pinch of salt

2 c oats

1/4 c Super Seed

1/4 c sesame seeds

2 Tbl pinenuts

1/4 c pepitas

1. Place brown sugar, agave, coconut oil, and salt in a small pot – heat until everything is combined.

2. Place oats, Super Seed,sesame seeds, pine nuts, and pepitas into a bowl – stir in agave oil mixture.

3. Once well mixed, spread onto cookie sheets in a thin layer and place into a 250 degree oven.

4. Turn pans stir granola every 20 minutes for an hour. The granola will still seem soft, but once it dries it will harden into perfectly crunchy granola.

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Go crazy! Try anything! Let me know how it works out.

And if you don’t want to make your own, Sarah Kate makes amazing granola for sale various times of the year – I suggest getting yourself a bag (she evens ships it).

Scones, one of the best quick breads

I love scones, because they are basically a biscuit that you can fill with any amount of fun things – sweet or savory!

The last few times I made scones I tried all different kinds of combinations:

Cheddar and Cashew

Sunflower Seed, Dried Cherry, Mexican Chocolate

Flax Seed, Pecan, Dried Cranberry

 

This is my simple scones recipe:

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I often write recipes to myself as just a list of ingredients (ask any one of my former employees and they will surely roll their eyes about it), so it’s not surprising that there are no directions. In baking, I like to make sure I have measurements for the ingredients, as I am not a good enough baker (yet) to guess on the amounts of leaveners, etc. The technique on scones is a basic biscuit technique – simply: mix dry ingredients, cut in butter, add liquid and other flavorings/additions (like nuts, berries, or cheese).

A few words of wisdom from my years of baking at work and at home:

*Make sure your baking powder and baking soda are no more than one year old. Everything in your kitchen runs out of life eventually (even dried beans can become inedibly dry after a few years) and these items are not an exception. If you are in doubt, just get new ones – it’s not that much of an investment to ensure successful baking.

*Use unsalted butter. Always. Salt is a preservative, meaning salted butter is more likely to be a lot older. Plus you want to be able to control the salt content in your cooking.

*Don’t get overwrought about “room temperature butter,” just let it sit out for like 10 minutes – that’s it. It just has to be slightly pliable.

*Don’t overwork your dough – unless you are making bread or pasta, you don’t need to knead a dough. Stir it until it is wet and everything seems evenly distributed.

*Last, but certainly not least, don’t get stressed out. Food is like a reflection of your mood, if you are stressed about making something it will most likely turn out tough/undercooked/wrong because you nervously stir it/open the oven too much/skip a step. Relax, enjoy the feel/smell/taste of it all.

 

Simple Scones

makes 12 small scones

 

3 c flour

1/3 c sugar

2.5 tsp baking powder

.5 tsp baking soda

3/4 c butter, room temp

1 c buttermilk, milk, cream, or yogurt

 

1. Preheat oven to 400degrees.

2. Mix dry ingredients in bowl, add butter pieces. Cut butter with a pastry cutter or using hands until you get a gravely texture.

3. Add liquid and any other flavorings (nuts, dried fruit, cheese, etc) and stir until combined.

4. Separate dough into thirds, and turn each third on a floured surface until a cohesive ball – form into a 4″ puck and chill for about 30 minutes.

5. Remove from refrigerator and cut into fourths. Bake on a baking sheet for 15-25 minutes, until slightly browned.

note: You can keep the puck in the freezer for up to three months. Just pull it out and let it thaw on the counter for an hour or two, cut into fourths and bake as usual.

 

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Dry Ingredients

 

Cold Butter

Cold Butter

 

Room Temp Butter

Room Temp Butter

 

Add Butter to Dry Ingredients

Add Butter to Dry Ingredients

 

Cutting Butter By Hand - squeeze butter between thumb and forefinger and drop back into the flour mixture. Repeat.

Cutting Butter By Hand – squeeze butter between thumb and forefinger and drop back into the flour mixture. Repeat.

 

Halfway Through the Cutting Process - the butter is still big and looks flakey

Halfway Through the Cutting Process – the butter is still big and looks flakey

 

Done Cutting the Butter - the mixture resembles small gravel

Done Cutting the Butter – the mixture resembles small gravel

 

Add Liquid Ingredients

Add Liquid Ingredients

 

Four Inch Puck - chill before cutting

Four Inch Puck – chill before cutting

 

Cut in Fours and Put Into the Oven

Cut in Fours and Put Into the Oven

 

Golden Brown Scones

Golden Brown Scones