We all know what toasters do. We’ve been eating toast since our mommas cut it diagonally to make butterfly shapes on our plates. Grain mills are new to many people. How do you choose the right electric grain mill when you aren’t even sure what you’re doing with bread baking yet? Well, I’ve been baking and teaching for a long time, and I have a few opinions!
Crystallized Honey–it’s good stuff, a spoonful of that is better than candy! Although a spoonful of “set honey” (or crystallized honey) melts easily enough in a cup of hot tea, having your honey back in liquid form is better for baking and other purposes.
Crepe mit Nutella.
If you are planning a trip to Europe, that’s really the only language lesson you need, right there. Just use it on any street vendor.
Pantry Paratus knows bread; it is probably what we do best! In fact, if you sign up for our newsletter, you get a half-hour bread baking tutorial video in your inbox (in about 24 hours). If you are new to baking or to baking with home-milled flour, that video is a great place to start! Below, we share some of our favorite Pantry Paratus recipes, but below that you will find some other excellent wheat bread and gluten-free bread recipes.
An Easy Recipe for work-ahead convenience
It is handheld comfort food. It’s a frozen convenience meal that everyone actually asks you to serve. Plan an 1 ½-2 hour session to make these ahead, and you can have as many as 4-5 separate dinners in the freezer! That’s a great return on investment for your time, and it’s peace of mind—because having something stashed away for that later-than-expected dinner means you are less likely to eat something you will regret.
You will need a Large Dumpling, Empanada Press. This thing is great for sweet & savory recipes. Who wants one more gadget? How about a better question, can you live without one?
Years ago an older Russian woman was convinced she would teach me how to make a piroshki (not too unlike the shape and size of a calzone, really). I frustrated her, she yelled in a language I did not understand, and my hands were smacked several times. In full disclosure, Wilson chuckled to himself because he had to put up with her every day since she was his teacher and he could understand all of her admonishments. I cried. I, a grown woman, cried over my piroshkies and was rather traumatized by the whole three-hour event. In fact, I was so traumatized by it that as I was crying, I fumbled with my keys and managed to lock my house & car keys IN my car & had to call the locksmith. True story. So for me, the answer is YES! Just get the press, already! Really, anything stuffed inside of a bread pocket is delicious, kid-friendly, travel-friendly, freezer-friendly, & convenient.
Your end result will be more visually appealing with the large dumpling (or empanada) press. The bigger problem for me when I’ve made them without the press is that if I tore my dough or did not seal the edges well, the contents would spill out. That makes pan cleanup a real chore, and ruined the prospect of eating them on-the-go (which is the best part of these—they are just as good cold, so take them camping or pack them for lunch).
I make two separate batches at a time. If I double this recipe, I will get 20 calzones for the freezer & a pizza crust for tonight’s dinner.
Use your favorite pizza toppings as the stuffing!
4 cups warm water
4 tsp. instant yeast
8 1/2 cups home-milled flour, an extra cup for dusting
4 tsp. sea salt
Pizza sauce (a double recipe takes 1 whole jar)
Toppings of choice
4 tbs. olive oil
1) Mix yeast into the warm water and let proof for 10 minutes.
2) Add flour and salt, barely mixing it until the dough is just sticky.
3) Cover and allow to rise for approximately 1 hour in a warm place.
4) After the dough has risen, separate into 8 equal halves, these should be balls that fit nicely into the palm of your hand.
5) Roll each ball into a flat circle and add flour liberally to keep from tearing the dough. Make the circle wide enough that it will stretch to the teeth of the dumpling press.
6) After you place the dough circle onto the dumpling press, add approximately 3 tablespoons of topping (do not overflow it, it might rip a hole into your calzone).
7) To close the calzone, fold both sides up simulatenously, balancing the center part of the dumpling press flat onto the table. This prevents it being pushed out the back of the maker. If you find this is happening, carefully push the calzone back through the opening to prevent ripping.
8) If there is too much dough on the edge, rip it off.
9) Brush olive oil liberally onto the top of the dough.
10) Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes on a greased and floured sheet.
All pictures are property of Pantry Paratus. Please feel free to pin or share them, but keep the original attribution. Thank you.
Chocolate Truffle Recipe
Only 4 nourishing ingredients for this no-bake delicacy
I have never been so keenly aware to the superfluous –and harmful–ingredients used in some of my favorite indulgences. Now that we have identified food allergies within our family, we cannot “cheat” on our whole foods (real, nourishing, traditional food) diet. Oh, and did I ever cheat.
I created this recipe to reinvent one of my favorite indulgences–the classic truffle. This truffle has the look, the melting sensation in your mouth, the spark of a perfectly balanced topping, and the deep rich chocolate aftertaste that instinctively required you to close your eyes and savor.
Here is the catch: this nourishing truffle recipe should make a full dozen. You cannot eat every other one for me to keep my promise on that. See my remnants:
Nourishing Chocolate Truffle Recipe
- 1 cup peanuts or other raw nut
- 1/3 cup raw honey
- ½ cup Frontier Organic Hot Cocoa (extra for topping)
- 1/8 tsp sea salt
- 1 Tbs Chia seeds—optional (they help thicken the dough for you, though)
- Toppings of choice
1. Soak the nuts for approximately ½ hour (overnight is really best for your health, but not necessary for the recipe).
2. Put the nuts and honey into your food processor until a smooth paste. Add Frontier Organic Hot Cocoa powder and salt; combine until a thick, sticky paste.
3. Place the batter into the freezer for 20-30 minutes (just put the whole food processor bowl in there).
5. Place truffles onto baking paper in a pan, and store in refrigerator.
Looking for something more gourmet? Check out this downloadable!
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Please feel free to pin or share any of the pictures, but please keep proper attribution. They are property of Pantry Paratus.
Baking Powder, Part 2
What is Baking Powder? How do we get it and what does it really do?
Leaven comes from the Latin word Levare to raise (M-W, 2012) and all that makes great sense, but how did Eben Horsford help? Horsford was a chemist and he knew that carbonates release carbon dioxide when they come in contact with an acid, any acid: sour milk, vinegar or even hydrochloric acid (which is not recommended). Horsford was out to find a yeast replacement that was more stable acid that could be shipped with the baking soda (sodium bicarbonate).
After years of experimenting with hundreds of acid sources in Cambridge and Germany, Horsford found that by saturating animal bones from nearby slaughterhouses in sulfuric acid, he could manufacture a crude form of monocalcium phosphate that could be dried into a powder and mixed with sodium bicarbonate to create a dry chemical leavening that fizzed when wet (Ettlinger, 2007).
“After 1854, his main preoccupation was to discover a substitute for yeast in baking bread. At the same time, Horsford entered into a business partnership with George Wilson, a former textile manufacturer, to establish the Rumford Chemical Works” (American Chemical Society, 2007). Eventually, Monocalcium Phosphate was the acid of choice and is still used to this day, although manufactured differently—just check out the Frontier’s ingredient list on this baking powder.
The story of the Rumford® is interesting:
The 1885 discovery of a sodium acid phosphate that gave off gas in response to heat, not water, led to its inclusion in the mix for a “secondary action”—the action that gave us the term “double acting.” Now, when Horsford mixed it with sodium bicarbonate, he had the first phosphate-based, stable, reliable, affordable baking powder, which he packaged as Rumford®, in honor of the great count, whose beribboned, ponytailed cameo still graces the label on cans today. . . . Rumford [sic] has the oldest consumer product label found in grocery stores, dating back to the 1860’s (Ettlinger, 2007).
Wow, that is quite a history for something you probably never gave much thought to as it was added to your buttermilk biscuits.
What is the difference between baking soda and baking powder? “Baking powder is baking soda with the acids already mixed in. That’s why baking soda is generally used in recipes that include acidic ingredients, whereas baking powder is used in recipes that contain no acidic ingredients” (Joachim & Schloss, 2008). Baking soda is baking powder minus the acids—but it turns out that the acids make all of the difference. Depending on the type of acid mixed in, the chemical leavener can be “tuned” to produce the second rising effect a certain temperature. Likewise, recipes that call for baking soda are likely doing so to counteract an acidic ingredient in the mixture (see chart below).
How do we get this great stuff of baker’s convenience? Rocks. Yep, it is mined from the earth. Starting off deep under Green River, Wyoming, Sodium Bicarbonate starts off as being extracted as a raw mineral called “trona” and it will produce sodium carbonate (later one more carbon atom is added to make bicarbonate). As for the Monocalcium part one needs lime, a lot of it in the food grade form—it also is mined. Lastly comes the Phosphate of Monocalcium Phosphate and it too is mined out West by mining companies such as Monsanto around Soda Springs, Idaho. The refining process is something of a wonder, and although you can find low concentrations of Phosphoric acid in a Coca-Cola® or high concentrations in naval jelly (rust stripper), phosphorus acid in its pure form will catch on fire if it contacts with oxygen—extreme care must be taken to transport it. Frontier’s Brand (which we sell in bulk) adds non-GMO cornstarch to prevent caking and you have something that we eat that (chemically) lies between glass and tracer bullets.
Steve Ettlinger in his fascinating book, Twinkie, Deconstructed takes you to all the places where those items are mined from the earth and then onto the southside of Chicago to a company like Innophos where they are all reacted and assembled to produce baking powder. What is interesting is that the applications for any one of those chemicals may be anything from Roundup®, to anti-acid tablets, to meth, to concrete, to paint or even paper—but the application that we are investigating is the stuff that makes a low-protein flour rise so well into birthday cake.
The next time you pull out that mason jar of baking powder from the cupboard, think of the history behind such an unassuming ingredient. While you are at it, make a Baking Certificate from Clabber Girl® (parent company to Rumford®) for any little helper in the kitchen there to do any on-the-spot taste testing.
Pro Deo et Patria
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- “leaven.” Merriam-Webster.com. 2012. http://www.merriam-webster.com (17 Dec 2012).
- Ettlinger, S. (2007). Twinkie, deconstructed, my journey to discover how the ingredients found in processed foods are grown, mined (yes, mined), and manipulated into what a. (First printing,March 2007 ed., Vol. 1, p. 137). London: Hudson st Pr.
- American Chemical Society. (2007). Eben horsford. Retrieved from http://acswebcontent.acs.org/landmarks/bakingpowder/horsford.html
- Ettlinger, S. (2007). Twinkie, deconstructed, my journey to discover how the ingredients found in processed foods are grown, mined (yes, mined), and manipulated into what a. (First printing,March 2007 ed., Vol. 1, p. 138-9). London: Hudson st Pr.
- Joachim, D., & Schloss, A. (2008). The science of good food. (p. 122). Toronto: Robert Rose.
- Biscotti by Nathalie Dulex: http://www.rgbstock.com/photo/msDa65C/Biscotti
- Rumford® Baking Powder from Clabber Girl®: http://www.clabbergirl.com/consumer/products/rumford/
- Baking Soda Chart by Pantry Paratus
- Glass blocks from John De Boer: http://www.rgbstock.com/photo/mfebimS/Glass+blocks
- Bullets from Kriss Szkurlatowski: http://www.rgbstock.com/photo/mhXWLlO/Incendiary+bullets+for+rifle+1
- MSDS sheet for naval jelly: http://www.henkelcamsds.com/pdf/553472_235119_Loctite_Naval_Jelly_Rust_Dissolver.pdf
- FMC’s baking soda info: http://www.fmcchemicals.com/Products/SodiumBicarbonate.aspx
- Monsanto’s Phosphorus info: http://www.monsanto.com/soda-springs/Pages/more-about-phosphorus.aspx
- Innophos info: http://www.innophos.com/
Nothing in this blog constitutes medical advice. You should consult your own physician before making any dietary changes. Statements in this blog may or may not be congruent with current USDA or FDA guidance.
Troubleshooting Flat Cookies, & a Foolproof Whole Foods Recipe
(All while using home milled flour)
Home milled flour has a learning curve. I am often asked about cookies, even from expert bread bakers. We often think of “whipping up a batch of cookies” as something so simple, something we have done our entire lives. Why would someone who can produce a perfect loaf of artisan sourdough question how to make cookies? Because when you venture into the world of milling your own flour—or into whole foods– you find that the rules change. What you could do on “autopilot” now must be deliberately re-thought: Crisco®, nope, not using that artery-clogging stuff. White sugar? Ooof, not with our diabetic family history! Home milled flour? It is so much heavier than the dead bleached stuff from the grocery store.
Many people say that the cookies flatten. If that is what you have, here are a few suggestions:
1) Use a regular cookie sheet, not a baking stone. If you insist on the stone, place it in the oven to pre-heat along with the oven, then pull it out to put the cookies on it. The stones just take too long to come to heat and the cookie will flatten in the meantime. Keep in mind that the bottoms of cookies will burn easily on the stone for the opposite problem, too: those stones keep cooking long after they are removed from the oven. So be sure to remove the cookies immediately from the stone and you might need to adjust baking times.
Homemade chocolate chip cookies with home milled flour
2) Check your oil-to-flour ratio. Does your cookie dough feel thick or more wet than normal? Too much oil/butter/lard will flatten your cookie every time.
3) Use lard! Lard and tallow are my secret ingredient for a fluffy, perfectly-browned cookie. These were how cookies were invented, remember. The Fake Stuff (shortening) came later and we have a whole generation (maybe 2?) that haven’t an idea on how to cook the real way. When I first swore off the fake stuff, I tried oil and butter and every combination, with inconsistent results. If you must use something other than lard or tallow (vegetarian?) I would suggest coconut oil. I will not guarantee perfectly consistent
Delicious chocolate chip cookies from home milled flour
results with the recipe below, though. Play with it and let us know what you find.
FLOUR: I prefer to mill oat groats for cookies. I find that the cookie is lighter in color and texture than with wheat, although spelt flour and soft white wheat work well too, and sometimes I mix oat, spelt, or soft white. Oat flour will make this cookie indistinguishable from the cookies you remember from childhood.
The Perfect Whole Foods Cookie
Put your favorite nut or chip in these. I often do chocolate chips because it is what my family prefers. These pictures have both chocolate chips and Macadamia nuts. Consider this a “basic” cookie recipe and do what you want with it!
Preheat oven 375° Makes over 3 dozen medium-sized cookies
- ½ cup beef tallow (or lard)
- ½ cup grass fed butter
- ½ cup honey
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 cup Sucanat
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 2 ½ cups Oat flour (or spelt, or up to half soft white wheat)
- 2 cups chocolate chips (optional)
- 1 ½ cup nuts of your choice (optional)
- Using mixer, blend butter, tallow, honey, vanilla, and eggs in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- In another bowl, mix the dry ingredients: Sucanat, baking soda, flour. Combine bowls.
- Fold in chips and nuts.
- Drop the dough onto a lightly buttered cookie sheet, and bake for 8-9 minutes (or until slightly brown around edges). Remove from sheet to cool.
Techniques & Tools
Homemade Ravioli is the world’s best make ahead meal…the flavor compares to nothing you can buy in the store, and unexpected dinner guests can have a gourmet meal in 10 minutes flat (with the help of the freezer, of course). I have made ravioli multiple times but I did them the “old fashioned way” that meant I was cutting and stuffing the squares by hand. Delicious though they may be, the presentation was lacking. They always looked rough (especially since my kiddos like to help). I’m really excited about the simplest tool that transformed my end result! Some people prefer to do it the hand-shaping way with a ravioli wheel, so we have one in stock if that’s your preference; but today I’m going to show you my favorite cheat for homemade ravioli–the ravioli press.
Start with a basic pasta recipe. If you do not normally put eggs in your pasta, I do recommend them now, because you will be manipulating the dough and the egg serves to hold the dough together very well. I also recommend using your pasta machine to roll the pasta out into sheets; it’s way too difficult to get them thin enough by hand (and takes longer, too).
For your filling, consider anything that suits your fancy…such as cheeses, sausage, spinach, pesto, pumpkin, the list goes on. The pictures below were taken with the following recipe:
½ cup ricotta cheese, 3 cheese Italian, Cheddar Cheese, and sausage. Mix in 2 eggs and salt & pepper to taste.
So here is how to get ravioli to look like this:
(1) Place one strip of dough over the frame of the ravioli maker.
(2) Press the dough into the frame with the indented tray.
(3)Fill the pouches with the filling as desired (don’t overstuff!), and place a second strip of the pasta dough over it. Press the strips together with your fingers.
Tip: A few drops of water or egg white run in between the strips will help create a good seal.
(4) Seal by running a rolling pin over the top of the dough-covered frame, gently at first and then increase pressure until the zig-zag edges of the frame are visible through the pasta.
(5) Remove ravioli from the frame by tapping them onto the counter.
(6)Trim out squares using a ravioli wheel or knife. Remove excess dough and re-roll. Repeat the procedure until the dough and filling are used.
(7) Place ravioli on a heavily floured cookie sheet and let dry for 1 hour. Turn over and let dry for another hour. Put ravioli in the freezer and thaw before cooking…
OR…go ahead and cook the ravioli for 8 minutes or until tender. Remember that the cooking time will vary depending upon your dough’s thickness.
Tip: If making a pumpkin ravioli filling, serve with a sage butter sauce! Yum!
Looking for the right tools?
Pictures courtesy of Norpro, with the exception of the flour-dusted table–that’s my delicious mess.
Yeast in Bread—Baking a Doorstop
The Role of Yeast in Bread Making
Yeast is a living organism. Most of the items we put in our refrigerator or freezer are already dead and we are just trying to slow down the decaying process. Yeast is alive (or at least it should be), and so we are going to look at the important the role of yeast in bread.
If you have ever produced a hard brick bearing the name “homemade bread” you know the heartache of wasted time, energy, and ingredients. There could be other reasons for bread that could break glass but the most common is impotent yeast. To have favorable results for bread baking, the yeast used in bread must be viable—so how can you tell if the yeast is good?
Three Steps to Proofing Your Yeast
1. Proper Storage
Your first step is to check the expiration date. If this is not easily visible, find the date of manufacture. Unopened packages of yeast are good for two full years from the date of manufacture. Store the unopened package in a cool, dark, and dry place. The best way to purchase your yeast is in a vacuum-sealed bag, the kind that looks similar to a brick of coffee. This is because air, sunlight, and moisture are the mortal enemies of yeast. So once you’ve opened your brick of yeast, you will need to place the remaining yeast in an airtight, resealable container. Then freeze or refrigerate. You will get a few months more out of it if you choose to freeze it. You can then remove it and use it immediately from your freezer, although I recommend allowing it to warm to room temperature first. Remember, yeast will not be active without first being warm.
2. Yeast Must Be Warm
Next, I urge you to “proof” your yeast, though many modern bloggers and recipes will say that it’s an unnecessary or outdated step. Proofing is too easy to justify skipping this step, and it is not worth the 10 minutes it saved if something happens to be wrong with your yeast—thus yielding a brick. If you are a sale shopper or buy yeast from the grocery store shelf, you could be taking a chance. People do not bake like they used to and the yeast on that shelf has been there longer than you might imagine. Expiration dates are not the whole story, and the function of the yeast in bread will be diminished if the yeast is not viable.
Here is my time tested, fail safe method for testing yeast: pour the warm water that is called for in your recipe into your baking bowl. Make sure that your water is very warm, but not too hot. I test mine on my wrist (like a baby’s bottle) but if you are not sure what temperature to go for, pull out the thermometer the first few times. It ought to be between 110-115˚F. If the water is too hot it will kill off the yeast and if it is too cold the yeast will not activate.
3. Feeding Your Yeast
Lastly, pour in the amount of yeast called for in your recipe. Yeast feeds on sugars, so feed your yeast to proof it. I follow the yeast with my oil and honey. I do the oil first because I won’t waste honey in my measuring cup—the oil will ensure all of the honey pours out nicely. Let this sit for at least 10 minutes (although longer is fine). You will see foam action and bubbling with active yeast. If you do not see that bubbling action, stop now and try different yeast. Don’t waste all of those ingredients on something that will only produce a doorstop.
Otherwise, continue on with the other steps in your recipe as written. These three steps will confirm the viability of your yeast. The role of yeast in bread making is an important one, without it we will only yield door stops.
Here is an alternative method: A friend tells me that even though she bakes with honey for her sweetener, she adds just a tablespoon of sugar to the water and yeast to help stimulate it but does not do it my way because the oil may inhibit the yeast. My bread does get a good rise and I am happy with my method however, I experimented with it her way and did see a major difference during the proofing process! The end result is largely similar, so overall I did not see that much of an impact. You might want to try the experiment.
If phytic acid is a concern for you, add a few cups of your flour (not so much to make dough yet) and let your mixture proof for awhile longer—this soaking period will reduce the phytic acid in your bread.
There is so much to learn in successfully baking a loaf of bread, I hope that you have learned more about what the yeast in bread does for your end result. Truth is that there are thousands of recipes for bread (I have my own favorite), but learning why yeast in bread is so important makes the beginner’s path to nice bread shorter. Leave a comment, tell us about your bread baking learning curve!
If you are new to bread baking altogether, you can get an exclusive offer to receive a free how-to video from us on bread baking by signing up for our email list (you will find that at the bottom of our homepage). Rest assured, we do not load up your inbox with spam.