It Was A Very Good Year

2018 has been and gone but The Tiny Kitchen had a great time! A year full of new connections with students, colleagues, venues and food. Here are some of my favorites:

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The Bread Lab

The first time I heard The Bread Lab’s Dr. Steve Jones speak was in 2014 near Coupeville with a gathering of bakers for Whidbey Island Bread. I had to fight back tears when he spoke of the wheat-growing history on Whidbey Island alone, not to mention all of western Washington and Oregon. Dr. Jones takes his job as a public servant seriously. He has a program now funded in perpetuity, free of uncertainty from University ups & downs, but sweeps floors, makes lunch all while working alongside celebrity bakers and big name philanthropists.

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Dr. Steve Jones leading a tour after prepping our lunch

Dr. Jones IS The Bread Lab, Washington State University Extension’s plant breeding program, with the focus on grains: wheat, barley, buckwheat and other small grains. The official mission of The Bread Lab reads:

Our Mission: The programs of the Bread Lab work to breed and develop publicly available varieties of grains and other crops that will benefit farmers, processors, and end-users while enhancing access to affordable and nutritious food for all members of our communities.

Dr. Jones, senior scientific assistant Steve Lyon, managing director Kim Binczewski, doctoral thesis students, test bakers and chefs work with farmers, millers and malters to grow the best grains in Walla Walla, Winthrop, the Skagit Valley (sorry the alliteration ends there) and all over the Northwest Region for disease resistance, production levels, flavor and baking performance. They are working to re-establish the west side of the Cascades as a viable grain-growing region, giving potato, bulb and other farmers something to grow in that off-season field resulting in a money-making crop, rather than simply fodder or compost.

As you walk the hall from lab, past milling room, kitchen and King Arthur Baking School classroom, the wall is lined with WSU plant-breeding firsts, photos, plaques and grain samples. Skagit 1109 is one of the most exciting to me.

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Skagit 1109

This wheat isn’t a single seed, but more like a collection of seeds, never hybridized. This grain will adapt to wherever it is grown, giving a different end product, one unique to that region. 1109 grown by either Dan Barber in New York or Dave Hedlin in the Skagit Valley won’t give up the same flour, but one that truly tastes of terroir. Even year to year within the same region growing conditions can result in a different end product. 2017 1109 grown in the Willamette Valley was a flour with 9-10% protein. 2018 resulted in a much stronger flour, with protein levels at 11-13% (remember 15% is really high). What I find most fascinating about this grain is that it was never evaluated, never intended for use as a typical white flour. Most other wheat grain is grown for its use as white flour first, with whole grain attributes second if considered at all. Skagit 1109 is kind of like magic.

Just through the storage room at the end of the hall, there is another room, smaller but wall to wall, most of the floor space taken as well, with seeds. Small jars to 40 pound bags, seeds with names, usually of the breeder, sometimes the given varietal name, all in storage. History in jars. Life in jars.

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The seed room

There has been much written about The Bread Lab and I’ll leave a few links. Dr. Jones is passionate about his purpose, and as with any visionary, infectious. Whether attending a class with the Bread Bakers Guild of America, attending the Grain Gathering, reading another article in praise of The Bread Lab, or simply baking with Skagit 1109, Yecora Rojo, Club Pastry Flour or another flour supported by The Lab, I’m inspired to do better, be better, bake better, to serve others the way Dr. Jones does. How lucky we are to have this place in our backyard.

Bread is Broken

The Man Who Could Make Everyones Bread Taste Better

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Seeds
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A different kind of Disneyland

My Kind of Road Trip

We got away from The Tiny for a couple of days early September. Driving south to Portland is an easy few-hour trip that pays countless dividends. Goals: gas masks, hipster coffee, estate-grown olive oil, hotel-swimming pools, and regionally milled flour. We added some Willamette Valley wines, Ken’s Artisan Bakery, Community Plate, Providore Fine Foods, Powell’s, a couple of free museum entries and outlet mall shopping for my ever-growing son, sales tax-free. Doesn’t that sound great??

The olive trees at Red Ridge Farm were inspiring. Red Ridge produces olive oil, half estate-grown olives, half from California. IMG_5318They have a limited edition, available-onsite-only, 100% estate-grown oil that, yes, I brought home. The oils were pretty peppery but begging to be added as a finish to creamy pastas, buttery lettuces and for Yecora Rojo bread dipping. After years of local & regional food goals, I can now boast of olive oil in the pantry-cheers!

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Oregon Olives

Picking up flour and whole grains from Camas Country Mill in Eugene was my main focus of the trip. A stop at the mill was followed by a stop at the bakery: homey, sweet and every bit real food. Getting to chat with head baker Ryan and owner Tom was icing on this locally milled cake! Having Camas Country Mill in Oregon and it’s cousin, IMG_5327

Cairnspring Mills in Burlington Washington are revolutionary. Regional mills used to dot the map across the US, now long since replaced by international corporate ADMs and ConAgras, processing grain from across the globe. These 2 small, independent grain mills both west of the Cascades are supporting smaller farms growing area specific grains, all supported by WSU’s The Bread Lab. Increasing numbers of bakers are working to include these local grains in their products. Grain Ambassador and Grand Central Bakery head baker, Mel Darbyshire is an outspoken champion, leader and teacher for bakers everywhere. She and others from coast to coast are leading the way to rebuild local grain economies.

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Ryan/Camas Country Bakery and Mel/Grand Central Bakery at The Bread Lab. (Bread Baker’s Guild of America: In-House Milling & Baking class)

Ken’s Artisan Bakery was what I hoped it would be. I picked up Tara Jenson’s new book, A Baker’s Year at Powell’s and encourage you all to do the same. Coava Coffee was super minimalist cool.

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Really good coffee.

We went there because of Comedians in Cars Drinking Coffee. And while the first army surplus store didn’t provide, Junior was able to make a purchase at the second stop-phew! For us, a few days plus a billion stops makes a short trip feel long, mentally & emotionally refreshing. It didn’t hurt that the sun was shining and the skies were blue. Happy travels everyone!

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Waiting for our lunch order at the Red Hills Market

Grow Your Own

Western Washington appears to be drying out; at least this week! With the break from rain, I am prepping garden beds-turning soil, adding compost, devising guards against marauding gangs of chickens. I’m deciding what will be planted where AND I’m starting the warmer weather seeds.

While I only have a 1/4-acre lot, and that with only a few areas unshaded enough for growing food, I can grow a lot in raised beds dotted around the property. I even take advantage of the easement along our unsidewalked roadway. I have permanent plantings of raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, rhubarb and nettle; as well as thyme, rosemary, chives, parsley and sorrel. Around these I grow lettuces, radish, cucumbers, pumpkins (Jr. insists!), green beans, tomatoes, zucchini, tomatillos, carrots and beets. Sometimes I have Sugar Snap or English peas.

I always start my squashes, both summer & winter, and my green & dried beans indoors to get a head start on harvest yum. Often I’ll start the first round of the beautiful Fortex, a French filet bean, indoors then do a stagger planting when the soil warms outside. The most indulgent crop I grow are the dried beans. I found a few pole varieties and with any limited horizontal space, going vertical is always best. Last year I grew 2 kinds: Borlotto Gaston, a speckled egg PNW version of Borlotto Lamon from Italy, and Annie Jackson, a lovely white & burgundy bean of Russian origin.

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Home grown

What makes this feel indulgent is that for a raised bed of plants, I get about 1 quart of dried beans at harvest. That’s maybe 2 meals. Time, effort, seed cost, water cost for 2 meals. Not much of an actual accounting ROI, but the emotional return: keeping alive heirloom varieties, growing such basic food, a plant-based protein myself, supporting a fantastic seed company, preparing a special meal using my limited crop, these add up to immeasurable returns for my psyche and my soul.

I always encourage students to at least have herb plants on hand. Stepping outside to snip some rosemary or thyme, bringing those cuttings back into the kitchen can make a world of difference in taste, but can also lift your mood. Any time we can connect physically to where our food comes from instantly makes our food real, even if that just includes a tiny sprig of something delicious.

April Into June

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Rhubarb!

Spring has been cool so far. The grass still grows, the limbs still leaf, everything is turning more and more green, but it’s chilly! For some indoor activity, check out the classes page for current offerings into June. We’ve added a few more knife skills classes for adults, and a couple of weekend offerings for kids.

Cheers!

 

Einkorn

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Anyone who knows me and who needs to get my attention could just call out “einkorn!” and I’d be looking in their direction! This grain and its flour thrill me.

Einkorn is known to be one of the oldest cultivated grains, most likely originating in the Fertile Crescent.  It had fallen into obscurity, so when rediscovered in the early 1990s it was still in its original, pure state. As it had been left alone for several thousand years, einkorn has never been hybridized. Farmers & crop scientists breed crops via natural selection to develop specific characteristics.  This group has bred modern-day wheat to be short (easier for combine harvesting), to have enormous endosperms (where white flour comes from), and to resist problems that arise with vast monocrop plantings (think easy smorgasbord for pests & disease). Since this ancient grain is still in its ancient, simpler form, many people find it easier to digest. Einkorn is still a member of the wheat family so cannot be digested by anyone suffering from Celiac Disease.

The name einkorn is the German title for either the wild Triticum boeoticum or the domesticated Triticum monococcum, and means One Seed. In Italy einkorn is known as Farro Piccolo. Einkorn can flourish in areas where other wheats do not and until recently was primarily found in the mountainous regions of Morocco, France, Turkey and parts of the former Soviet Union. Hard to process, this little wonder grain hasn’t had commercial success except through smaller farms and mills, those dedicated to connecting einkorn with humans once again.

My favorite whole grain preparation is that of Farroto, einkorn’s version of risotto. This dish can be structured for any season: with spring peas or summer tomatoes or the ever-present Winter squashes. You will see einkorn’s primary differences as flour. Traditionally, millers & bakers classify wheat flour by the amount of protein present. This protein equals the level of gluten. Gluten in a dough provides the ability for that dough to stretch like elastic, and to stay put after rising (as in bread dough) during baking. Einkorn has a high level of protein, and while that gluten can stretch, it doesn’t have the strength to keep raised bread products standing tall and proud throughout baking. There are work arounds. I’ll write about those another time.

I primarily use einkorn for pasta and pastry. The most readily available einkorn is produced by Jovial Foods. Stores in my area carry it but it can also be purchased online. They sell whole grain einkorn flour and an all-purpose version. Jovial mills their all-purpose flour as whole grain, then sifts off a portion of the germ/bran after milling. With a fine enough sieve, you could perform this task yourself but it’s tedious and messy. My favorite whole grain einkorn flour comes from Bluebird Grain Farms in northeastern Washington. They’ve named the grain they grow and mill Einka.

In baking, using einkorn or einka take a bit of tweaking. This flour doesn’t need as much liquid and it takes longer for the flour the absorb that liquid. If I’m converting a recipe to einkorn, I usually reduce the liquid by 25%. If the liquid only comes from eggs, I may need to add a bit more flour depending on the recipe. It is also more difficult for einkorn to absorb fat so I reduce that by 25% as well. Doughs made from einkorn benefit from at least a 30 minute rest before forming/baking. This is common practice for any pie pastry or pasta but that is usually for the gluten in the dough to relax after mixing. Rest time for einkorn is for liquid absorption.

Another einkorn dough difference is that the more you work the dough, the stickier it will become. I learned to cream/mix everything really well before adding the flour. Flour should be mixed just until the dough starts to come together. It can be advantageous to finish any mixing by hand. I will have upcoming posts specifically for pie & pasta but today it’s all about my now favorite chocolate chip cookie.

EINKORN CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES makes about 2 dozen

Prep time: 10 minutes   Chill time: 30 minutes     Bake time: 8-10 minutes

8 tablespoons (113g) butter

2 ¼ cups (254g) einkorn flour, whole grain or all-purpose

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt (add another ½ teaspoon salt if using unsalted butter)

1/4 cup (50g) sugar

3/4 cup (150g) brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 egg plus 1 egg yolk

1 cup chocolate chips (or 8 oz good chocolate cut into 1/2-inch chunks)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt the butter in a small pan. Transfer to the bowl of a stand mixer and let cool until butter is 80 degrees or less. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt until thoroughly combined. Set aside. When the butter is cooled, add the sugars, vanilla, egg & yolk and mix at medium speed for 2 minutes. Add the flour mixture and mix on low until it JUST starts to combine, then add the chocolate chips, mix only for a few seconds. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 30-60 minutes. Use a cookie scoop to transfer dough to prepared baking sheets. Bake for 9-10 minutes, or until bottoms begin to brown, rotating pans for even heating. Remove from oven and pull parchment paper onto a cooling rack.

A Year

My students and I made quite a bit of food in 2017! Between classes at 21 Acres, PCC and here at The Tiny, students & I rolled pounds of pasta, scooped scores of squash, formed crackers and cookies, hand pies and sushi; we’ve made Tagines & cheesecakes, donuts & soups. We’ve cracked countless eggs, cried over onions, and shared many laughs.

The highlights for me were seeing what my young students created during our Independence Kitchen classes: I provided ingredients and guidelines and they made what they wanted.  Of the end results, some were delicious, some were curious, and some really didn’t work at all. I loved being able to make pizza in the wood-fired oven on the 21 Acres farm with the Cultivating Cooks 301 crew. The perfect summer sunshine, the farm-to-table, the table-on the farm, and the very fun group of  people combined with delicious fired-in-seconds pizza was something I was lucky to participate in. Making pasta with a group of co-workers was a blast, as was last-minute substituting for a European New Year’s Eve Feast class. Working with sourdough and a small group of  breadmakers in a 2-day workshop gave many teachable moments, like how quickly a room can cool down, putting the brakes on fermentation! I loved introducing kids & their grownups to Pommes Dauphinois, open-faced fruit tarts, and pumpkin cheesecake. There are things tried that I won’t repeat; the standout: attempting pie dough with 8-16 year olds, on a 90+ degree day, in a work space without air conditioning.  As one student put it, “My dough is like frosting!” Yeah, that’s not good.

Working with both kids & adults lets me see people as people. Humans young & old have confidence or hesitancy to try new tasks. People are outgoing or shy, talkative or not. Often, kids are the most open, most hilarious, most insightful people I meet. I love meeting them all.

For all of you who have taken classes this year: thank you! I look forward to 2018, to new classes, new faces, new groups, but to you returning friends as well. Wishing you all the best!

Summer

Long days full of light, gardens full of color, being outdoors more than in, I love summer! Our Independence Kitchen classes produced unique and tasty foods from young cooks. Ingredients were provided, along with guidance, but the students had to work in teams to produce salads, entrees, and desserts. IMG_3428

At 21 Acres, our Cultivating Cooks 301 students produced beautiful pizzas that we were lucky enough to bake in the wood-fired oven on the farm. A not-too-hot evening, spent entirely outdoors with a great group of people. Top that with in-season, local & delicious ingredients and I felt the luckiest of all I know!

Our PNW August temperatures have soared into the 80s, 90s, even pushing 100F! Too hot for me, for the garden, and I think, bakers everywhere! I have the garden dotted with patio umbrellas and shade fabric, hoping the rhubarb will bounce back for another Spring, and the pole beans will continue to produce their beautiful foot-long french filets. The raspberries have finished but what a season they provided! We will soon have tomatoes and zucchini and carrots too.

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I hope this summer finds you well. Now then, enough computer time-I need to get back outside! Cheers!

Many Hands

One of the downsides of teaching cooking or baking classes is that we all get super busy and forget to take pictures! Our two soup workshops were a big success, with a couple of students heading straight home to recreate the minestrone and/or breadsticks for their families. Yay! IMG_0577Working in groups takes much of the daunting away from the Unsure and gives the Very Sure another opportunity for patience and sharing. (It also means fewer dishes to wash!) Creating something like grilled cheese let those confident kids steam ahead, a welcome release. IMG_0579All in all, the food’s been tasty, the measuring’s been accurate, and the camaraderie pleasant. This week we begin our 4-week series on Most Things Cake. The seemingly insurmountable task for me has been deciding what cake and why. So much deliciousness to choose from! Cheers!

Beginnings

New. New is good. New is necessary. Trying new things, extending comfort zones, stretching usual limits, all move us, inch by inch, toward learning and growth. The Tiny Kitchen is new. It is here for me and you, a place to learn, grow, connect, about food, its issues, tastes, and techniques of preparation. What shall we cook today?