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?

Eat Cake

[This article was originally published at In My Tiny Kitchen, Lisa’s musings from her home kitchen. We’re posting it again here.]

I have found a chocolate cake that I love. I have a simpler chocolate cake, an any day, make-on-a-whim chocolate cake that is really good, but this new one? It is very good. I found the recipe a few years ago on The Faux Martha, made the cake as written, in collaboration with my baker niece, Annie, for Spouse’s birthday. I collaborated with Ann because this cake uses an Italian Buttercream, a Salted Caramel Italian Buttercream. Planning a dinner party for 20 allowed me few extra neurons to devote to something I had never made before, something that sounded so-daunting. Annie, a caramel pro, produced a beautiful product with which we filled the cake before finishing with ganache. Despite the rave reviews and Annie’s reassurances to the contrary, that intimidating buttercream left the recipe to sit unceremoniously disheveled, piled in with all the Others on the shelf directly behind my office chair.

foodA few months ago, for reasons I can’t fully remember, the cake returned to my consciousness. Planning a baby shower for a dessert-loving co-worker, I knew I had to make this cake. This time I reduced the sugar a bit and used fresh-ground, whole grain einkorn flour. Einkorn, with its naturally lower gluten levels, produces an excellent pastry flour. Though any finished product might be a tad more dense, not sifting away the ground germ & bran keeps the protein levels high. Low gluten, high protein. Einkorn is crazy. I made a few iterations then my niece Betsey came over with her camera for Cake Day. Here’s what went down.

A basic butter cake using natural cocoa powder, but with half & half rather than just milk.

I wanted a 6-inch by 6-inch square finished cake, so used a 12-inch square for baking. One recipe yielded four 3/4-inch layers. I reduced baking time, watching the oven closely, to account for the increased surface area.

The buttercream will have its own post, but while the cake baked, I made the caramel, ensuring time for some cooling before adding it to the whipped butter. I did find that if the caramel had cooled a bit too much, the buttercream became Toffee Buttercream, also delicious.

The ganache frosting is enriched with egg yolk and a small amount of butter, cooled, then whipped for a matter of seconds to incorporate a bit of air. If it goes grainy, you can rewarm, recool, rewhip.

Finally, the layers were filled with buttercream, each pressing into the last. I chilled the cake, then finished with the ganache frosting.food-154

I’ll leave you to use the recipe linked at The Faux Martha. If you want to try Einkorn flour, I used it ounce for ounce as the recipe is written. Enjoy!food-6-2

All photos by Betsey Wilson