07 October 2010

Back to Basics

First off, I was just skimming through and noticed that the majority of my photos are out of focus. Sorry, guys, I'll pay more attention!

So me and my baking buddy Ames went to a class on baking with freshly ground flours. It was informative and I will definitely be looking into this further. I found the free class through another blog, Life's Daily Bread. A couple run the site and the classes; their adult daughter joined in, too. They also serve as a source for equipment and ingredients. They really are a nice couple, but I have to admit I felt like I stepped into Stepford once everyone else arrived. If anyone has experienced Franklin, TN you know exactly what I'm talking about.
What intrigued me was milling whole grains. I have never done it before, and as far as I can remember I have never known someone who did. It's something I have always been interested in, as I see it as a way to get back to the land, get back to simpler (ie better) ways. However, it seemed too daunting, like how I see canning. Both of those in addition to sourdough are on my divide and conquer list. The biggest thing I took from the class was Bob's story of the drastic improvement of his health since switching. He shares on the site:
“After three months of eating bread made with this freshly milled grain, my cholesterol dropped 30 points. It also helped me jumpstart my weight-loss and now that I am eating a healthier diet including 2-3 servings/day of our homemade bread, I have lost 40 lbs. I feel better than I have in years and look forward to sharing this with our family and friends.”
That my friends, is a good enough reason for everyone to look into this!
I was pleasantly surprised that the products--a wheat bread, some kind of taco pie casserole thing, morning glory muffins, apple spice cake, and blueberry bread--were not heavy and as dense as a brick but had a great texture and what I would consider umami . The electric mill was as loud as a plane and almost as expensive, so I'm looking out for an old-fashioned manual model.

06 October 2010

Last week was a lot of fun. We hold at least two themed dinners a week at the cafeteria. Here we have Root Beer Cake for root beer float night, a vegan Pumpkin Cake and Carrot Cake both for World Vegetarian Day.

The root beer cake was way too sweet for me, but it was a big hit with those who love to overdose on sugar. I modified this recipe a little bit, using only the cake, and I made a thick buttercream which I thinned with root beer.
The pumpkin cake came from Sinfully Vegan's P is for Pumpkin Cake!. I cannot believe how great this turned out. It is super moist and not gummy like some vegan items can be. You could easily add in nuts or raisins, top with a streusel, and use it for a coffee cake or muffins. The best part is that you don't have to buy super expensive ingredients you cannot pronounce.
Carrot cake is something I am never done with. However, I am satisfied with this version, as is everyone down at TSU. The football team even got into it. My recipe is from Better Homes and Gardens; I just swap in crushed pineapple for the oil. It keeps it super moist. I actually think my BHG cookbook is outdated; I can't find the correct recipe, so here ya go! I make this one by hand, so if you use a mixer, whisk on low or use a paddle. The batter is rather thin, so use your best judgment.
1. Whisk together 2 cups sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, 4 large eggs, 3 cups finely shredded carrots, and 3/4 cup crushed pineapple.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk or sift together 2 cups AP flour, 2 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp cinnamon (or more if you like!), and 1/2 tsp baking soda.
3. Whisk and fold dries into wets until smooth. Bake 350 for about 25 minutes. Use the spring back test. This batch will make one layered 9" cake. Feel free to add coconut, nuts, dried fruits. I've seen it all but like to keep it simple. I frost with a cream cheese buttercream and press chopped and toasted pecans onto the sides.

I also made popcorn balls for Popcorn Night. It was my first time, and I thought they turned out great. They were not a big hit at the cafe, but I consider it a personal success. If I get another chance, I'll do a Poppycock/Cracker Jack/Fiddle Faddle type of mix. Caramel can be very intimidating. Thanks to my time with Provence Breads and Cafe, I feel comfortable with making my own. Plus, it's just sugar and water. You won't be losing a lot if you burn it. To jazz these up, I drizzled dark and white chocolate ganache, but you could also dip in one of these or a smooth caramel or peanut sauce and roll it in sprinkles, nuts, candy bits, etc. Any of those could go in with the popcorn in addition to dried fruit, chocolate chunks, cookie chunks, etc.