our messy table

Category: Spelt Flour

morning glories

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Our son is recovering from a spell of influenza, an ear infection, and with our luck, probably a few other things. However, the little guy seems to be in the home stretch. His night-coughing has eased. He has regained the energy to do more than doze off at any given moment. And I am no expert. but you would think that the flu shot should count for something?

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Anywaay… I was scheduled to start my first week of work on Monday, the morning after my son started showing symptoms of being sick.

Time, this week, seemed to be on our side. Due to early-outs and late-starts and school cancellations, I was able to guiltlessly spend time at home with my sick baby. On the days school was not canceled, my sister, in her last week of Christmas vacation before returning to college, was able to play nanny in my house. It was wonderfully lucky. My husband and I were spared the misery of hulling an un-well child outside in the negative 60 degree wind-chill. And after work, I was able to come home to healing child in a mismatched outfit with watercolor running out of his nose.

Thanks, little sister.

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You would think with all the unanticipated time-off, I would have been a picture of productivity. I had a to-do list the length of my freezer mounted in plain sight along with additional preparations for school. And yet, there is something about a snow-day, something about unanticipated time off that depletes my sense of urgency. For instance, on Thursday (a full snow-day), after I put sick baby down for nap, I took a bath while nibbling bittersweet chocolate. I took a second bath the following morning (a late start and baby still asleep) while drinking two cups of very hot coffee and finishing a book. From where I now sit, the thought of this is shocking. This is something I can never bring myself to do on a Saturday… mind you… anticipated time-off. Halfway through these bath-taking processes I wondered, “…. Who am I ?!”

Now that my son is on the mend, and the winter weather is supposed to regulate, I am both excited for and leery of a promised routine.

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I mean, I really enjoyed those baths. There was even one night where my husband and I got lost in Netflix like we used to. It felt like summer in January… in negative 60 degree wind-chill…

I want to wish my Midwest readers well as we all re-enter the time of routine. I hope you all are warm and safe and healthy. And since the weekend is upon us, I though a recipe for a hearty breakfast cookie would be a great way to start.

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. . .

I picked up on this recipe after a friend served them to us while we stayed with them for a weekend. This friend also introduced me to Sarah’s blog, My New Roots, from where the recipe originated.  I put my own spin on things when I make these cookies, omitting the anise and grating in orange zest, sometimes adding a splash of vanilla, sometimes not. At first I was puzzled by the ingredient list. Why pureed beans and an egg? Can we swap the brown sugar for honey or maple syrup? How about gluten-free flour? I have tried all of these options, all yielding very different results. I would trust Sarah on the original. The listed recipe is a reliably good one. But feel free to tinker around.

Like Sarah, we affectionately call these breakfast cookies “Morning Glories”. They go very well with a cup of coffee or earl gray tea. If you are a toddler, yogurt-dunking is mandatory. Yogurt dunking, and also your new favorite fox cup filled to the brim with water.

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Morning Glories

Adapted from: My New Roots

Yield 1 to 1 ½ dozen breakfast cookies

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup whole grain flour (we use spelt)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. taking soda
  • 1 Tablespoon orange zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 15-oz. can white kidney beans, great northern beans or navy beans, rinsed and darined
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar*
  • 1 large egg**
  • 1/4 cup chopped dates
  • 2/3 cups sesame seeds

Preheat your oven to 350F degrees and place a rack in the top third. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Pulse the oats in a food processor (or blender) until they resemble a very rough flour. Transfer the oats to a large mixing bowl and whisk in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, orange zest and salt.

Pulse the beans and olive oil in the food processor until they are creamy. Add the sugar, egg, and vanilla extract and pulse until smooth. Add dates and pulse a few times until chopped and incorporated. Scrap down the sides of the bowl once or twice along the way.

Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir until the ingredients start to come together. Stir until everything just comes together.

Place the sesames seeds in a bowl. With a tablespoon, scoop out some dough about the size of a golf ball, then roll it into a rough log shape. (Yes, the dough at this point is very wet, but it becomes very easy to handle once coated in sesame seeds.)

Roll the log of dough into the sesame seeds, remembering to dip the ends too. Set each log on the prepared baking sheet and with the palm of your hand flatten the dough just a bit, into a bar shape. You want the bar to be the same thickness all the way through – do not make the ends flatter than the middle. Repeat with the remaining dough, leaving at least an inch or so between each bar – they’ll spread a bit, but not much. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the sesame seeds around the bottom start to get golden.

Store in an airtight container for a week, if they keep that long!

Notes:

*Swapping brown sugar for a natural sweetener, such as maple syrup or honey has yielded, for me, a very messy and wet batter I didn’t like working with. Give it a try if you want!

** I have swapped out the egg for a vegetarian binder such as pumpkin or apple sauce with success.

3 years

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It’s been 3 years and a handful of days since my husband and I have been married.

Since then, after packing up our first apartment and moving to the northern Midwest, we have lived in 2 different apartments, and soon to be 3 different rental homes. Since then, we have worked a combined number of 12 different jobs. We adopted a dog, a second rabbit (Lord knows why…) and became parents to our little boy.

We were chatting about this in the car the other night as we headed home from our anniversary date. We laughed a little. 5 moves. 12 jobs. Parenthood. That’s a lot of transition in 3 years. All good transitions. All moving forward. But still. A lot.

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Since we were dating, one thing (besides our pinkish couch) has moved and transitioned along with us.

Our pizza dough recipe.

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Sure. The toppings are a guaranteed change. You can throw anything from sardines to butternut squash on top and still call it a pizza, so long as there is a base. And that base, from our kitchens A to Z, has undergone much trial and error in search of a pizza dough we felt we could always count on.

We have kneaded in cheese and herbs galore, subbed the flour for cauliflower, trialed with no cornmeal vs lots of cornmeal, whole wheat flour, gluten free, polenta, the list goes on and on. And now, finally, the search is over.

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This is it folks. The laziest pizza dough you will ever work with. Just let the yeast do its thing with loosely stirred flour and water until the dough bubbles and foams. Then, wala! Your dough is ready to be stretched, topped and baked.

Our pizzas have definitely simplified since our earlier years together. So long as we can plan 12 hours in advance, we often throw together a simple margarita on week nights. The simplicity of the tomatoes, spinach, basil and mozzarella draw attention to the complex flavors the yeast develops in your dough. But feel free to get foodie-crazy on the dough if you want.

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Laziest Pizza Dough

Yield: 2-12 inch round pizzas or 1-9×13 inch pizza

1 1/2 cups spelt flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon active dry yeast
1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 ¼ cup water, plus additional Tablespoon or two if needed

In a very large bowl, mix all ingredients with a spoon. The dough will be craggy and rough; this is fine, but if it feels excessively so, add another spoonful or even two of water. Cover bowl with plastic and keep at room temperature for approximately 12-24 hours, or until the dough has more than doubled. This takes longer in a chilly room and less in a very warm one, but don’t fret too much over this, as the dough is generally forgiving of a loosened schedule.

About 30 minutes before dough is ready, prepare pizza stone and very lightly, thinly coat it with olive oil or a nonstick cooking spray then sprinkle it with cornmeal.  Heat oven to its highest temperature, usually between 500 and 550 degrees F. If you’re using a pizza stone, place it in the oven so that it heats too.

Flour your counter very well. Scrape dough out of bowl onto floured counter; in the time it has risen it should change from that craggy rough ball to something very loose, soft, sticky and stretchy. Flour the top of the dough, and divide dough in half (or more pieces, if you’re making smaller pizzas). Form them into ball-like shapes. Grab first round with floured hands and let the loose, soft dough stretch and fall away from your hands a few times before landing the dough on your prepared baking sheet/paddle. Use floured fingers to press and nudge dough into a roughly round or rectangular shape. Add desired fixings and bake pizza for 10 to 15 minutes, rotating if it’s baking unevenly, until the top is blistered and the crust is golden. Repeat with remaining dough.

soaking your grains

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I came across some earth-shattering news a while ago that I tried to block out. It altered the way I viewed one of my favorite hobbies… baking… and the nutritional content I was always so sure I was reaping from it. A friend sent me a link which brought me to other links and spiked my interest in the topic of whole grains and digestion. I mean, I never really considered that grain is a seed. And that means something when it comes to digestion.

Now, before I go on I will point out that the internet is an excellent place to sound like a expert on anything. I am not a dietitian or a doctor and am certainly not claiming to be an expert on this topic. The information below can be cited from this source. Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions is also a wealth of knowledge.  This dietitian writes about why soaking grains isn’t important. Read up!

. . .

Like in nature, seeds are meant to pass through the digestive process mostly undigested so that they can be planted elsewhere. To make it possible for seeds to pass through digestion, they contain anti-nutrients that make the seeds (and in my case, flour and oats) difficult to digest.

Seeds also need to be preserved until the time is right for actual sprouting. Phytates are enzymes that bind phytic acid to phosphorus and are found in the bran part of the whole grain. Phytates prevent the seeds from sprouting until it is ready.

When we eat foods containing phytates, the minerals we think we’re getting  aren’t bioavailable.

So how do we counteract the phytic acid in our grains?

Phytatse will go to work for you to break phytic acid apart and free the minerals in whole grains and legumes. They just require a few simple conditions to be activated:

• Moisture
• Slightly acidic environment
• Warmth
• Time

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In other words, all you need to is soak your grains and legumes to begin germination. It just takes some warm water, some vinegar, lemon juice, buttermilk or another acidic additive, and a 12-24 soaking period.

. . .

So, why exactly should you soak your grains?

Soaking the grains renders the enzyme inhibitors unnecessary since they exist to protect the seed and prevent early sprouting.  The inhibitors are neutralized so that the seed can sprout, making everything more accessible to our bodies.  Levels of phytates are also reduced in soaking because the acidic liquid helps to break the bonds they form with minerals. Properly soaked grains are easier to digest and allow your body to absorb more nutrients from the whole grain and other food sources.

This news was earth-shattering for me because I bake almost daily. Whether I am whipping up an impromptu batch of muffins from leftover oatmeal or making cupcakes for an afternoon activity, I bake with flours constantly. I eat oats in raw form almost every day. This information meant that regardless of my effort to swap in whole grain flours for the every trusty all-purpose white, my body wasn’t reaping the full benefits. This meant that baking would require a little more planning than I was used to… like 24 hours ahead more. Which meant if I wanted to make a batch of whole-grain pancakes, I couldn’t just whip them up that morning, I would have to soak the flour the day before.

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I was perturbed. But I decided that before gnashing my teeth and dismissing this information as crazy, I would give the soaking process a 2 week trial. I realized that I wouldn’t necessarily feel the the benefits of soaking my grains and legumes. But I wanted to know how much it would change my routine and perspective once I started soaking everything a day in advance. I started with something very simple. Soaking my oats.

I set out a small saucepan containing 1 cup or raw rolled oats and added 1 cup of warm (110 degrees F) and a Tablespoon of yogurt (for the acid). Oats are low in the enzyme phytase, needed to neutralize the phytates so your body can absorb all the nutritional benefits of a bowl of oatmeal. Therefore, you are supposed to add a Tablespoon or two (10%) of whole wheat flour to your soaking oatmeal.

I let them soak for 24 hours, then at 7 the following morning (breakfast time) I added another cup of water, cooked my oats and ate them with my son the same way we do every morning.

There couldn’t be a simpler way to add nutritional value to my every day. It just required a little planning ahead.

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I also experimented with soaking my flours for 12-24 hours before baking. I just had to plan my baking projects ahead of time.  It was kind of fun anticipating tomorrow’s morning pancakes. It felt more intentional that just whipping something up willy nilly.

I soaked my flours and baking soda/powder in the liquid ratio (usually milk, oil or melted butter) and the acidic additive (buttermilk or a little vinegar) over night on the kitchen counter. After 12-24 hours, I would mix in the remained ingredients and bake away.

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I also soaked my beans and other grains for a 12-24 hours before a meal. I simply drained them before cooking.

I am aware that I will not always be ambitious or organized enough to plan every baking/cooking endeavor 12 hours in advance. There will be plenty of impromptu cupcakes in the future. And I am not quite sure if this process would work with your standard chocolate chip cookie. But when I am feeling ambitious and organized, I will take advantage and carry out the simple process. If you give it a try, let me know how it goes. Here is a recipe to start you out with!

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Corncake Pancakes

Yield: about 9-10 4-inch panckaes

  • 1 1/4 cup whole milk (plus 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar)
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour or spelt flour
  • 1/2 cup corn flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt

In a medium bowl, whisk flours with baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add vinegar and honey to milk and pour over flour, then briskly whisk the ingredients together.

Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm room for a 12-24 hour period.

  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

Beat egg into melted butter then fold evenly into soaked batter.

Heat your skillet or saute pan to medium. Brush the pan with butter and ladle 1/4 cup batter at a time, 2 inches apart. When the pancakes have bubbles on top and are slightly dry around the edges, flip them over and cook them until golden brown underneath. If they seem to be cooking too quickly (dark on the outside, raw centers) turn your heat down to low for the next batch and inch it up as needed. Repeat with remaining batter, and serve immediately with a pat of salted butter and a healthy dose of maple syrup.

 

 

blondies

 

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I was first introduced to spelt flour almost a year ago while visiting friends up North. I was breast feeding my son at the time and he was throwing up… a lot. I mean, “pass the baby” at family events made for an intense wet t-shirt contest.

In an attempt to bring his puking down a notch, I cut dairy, processed wheat and sugar out of my diet for a 3 month cleans. So I was hesitant when my friend announced that the tall stack of steaming Norwegian pancakes served at breakfast was made from spelt flour.

He politely informed me that spelt is not only a whole grain, but it is also easier to digest than wheat. And though spelt flour is not a gluten-free flour, many people who are gluten-intolerant can digest spelt flour without the bad side-affects. I was elated and ate Norwegian pancakes gluttonously. And that was the beginning of a beautiful relationship (between me and spelt flour. But I like my friends, too).

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I was curious about spelt flour and started digging for more information when we got home. I found out that spelt is a very nutritious grain. For instance, spelt is high in fiber and manganese. This means that it helps your body maintain normal blood sugar levels, promotes optimal functions of your thyroid gland and keeps your bones strong. Spelt also helps your body utilize key nutrients.

With all these joyful perks in mind, I keep a stash of spelt flour the cupboard at all times for those dreary, “this calls for brownies!” days and those all-too-often, “heck… I want to make a pound cake” days. I have swapped out all-purpose wheat flour for spelt with pizza dough, biscuits, cookies, muffins and quick breads galore. It is an easy 1:1 swap, though I have found that spelt does absorb a little more liquid than all-purpose white flour. Sometimes I add a little extra milk, water or oil, depending on the recipe.

. . .

I was skimming the internet for snack-time inspiration the other day when I found these chocolate-coconut blondies. I was instantly smitten. The only little problem was large quantity of sugar (1 whole tightly-packed cup!) to flour ratio. I decided a bit of tinkering was in order.

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If you have never substituted maple syrup for brown sugar, consider this the day to do so. Though maple syrup is still a high-calorie sweetener, and you should by no means be guzzling it down like a silver bullet or start dunking your bananas in it like shrimp in butter (because I never do this…), maple syrup does have some nutritional value. Not to the extent of other natural sweeteners, like raw honey, for instance. But the perks are there:

Maple syrup, in fact, has high mineral content. It contains zinc and manganese which help ward-off illness. It also contains calcium and potassium. Maple syrup is loaded with plant-based compounds called polyphenols which work as powerful antioxidants. And like raw honey, maple syrup may help prevent inflammatory diseases like cancer, osteoporosis, and Alzheimer’s.

Lastly, swapping maple syrup for processed sugar in baked goods may leave you less likely to experience that gas and bloating we are all too well familiar with.

               . . .

Sometimes I refer to maple syrup as liquid gold because it is very delicious, and also very expensive. I wanted the blondies to be sweet but I didn’t want to pour a whole cup of maple syrup into them. So I comprised and took the sugar amounts down a notch and split them evenly. I was really pleased with the results.

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The brown sugar offered the blondies a tender, cakey crumb. The maple syrup yielded a crackly, sheeny surface and filled my kitchen with the aromas of the gods.

And the coconut. Its not the taste… it’s the texture! is what my husband shouts whenever I add my beloved unsweetened flaky coconut to baked goods. I keep hoping he will just give in and like it. The past 4 years have proven my hopes futile.

And it’s a shame. Because dry, flaky coconut, though high in fat, does contain some fiber. A better source of the nutritional value of coconut would be coconut meat, oil or milk. But he doesn’t have to know that.

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So, here you have it. Blondies in all their nutritional goodness: Spelt, maple syrup and coconut. Throw in some bittersweet chocolate for more antioxidants, and if you ask me, keep the butter just the way it is. I like to bathe in real butter every now and then.

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Chocolate-Coconut Blondies

Yields 12-16 blondies

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1/3 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/3 pure maple syrup
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup spelt flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • ½ cup chopped bittersweet chocolate

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan and line with parchment paper, leaving two flaps hanging over the edges of the pan. Butter and flour the parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the melted butter, brown sugar and maple syrup. Whisk in the egg and beat by hand until mixture is slightly pale, about 2 minutes. Whisk in the vanilla extract.

In another medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add all at once to the butter and sugar mixture and stir until just incorporated. Fold in the coconut, chocolate, and walnuts.

Spread batter into the prepared pan and smooth with a spatula. Scatter the remaining chocolate and walnuts across the top. Place in the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Blondies will be golden brown.

Remove pan from oven and allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before removing blondies from the pan. Slice into pieces lengthwise and crosswise, making them as large or small as you like.

Notes

*You could also throw in ½ cup or so of chopped walnuts or pecans.

*I would venture to add even less brown sugar next time I make these. They were plenty sweet. If you try this, let me know how it goes!

*My blondies were soft and a little crumby. I might add another egg the next time around.