Friday, February 6, 2015

Decades, Sprouted Wheat.

In two weeks, I'll have been married for a decade.  A decade.  That frame of time seems both long and short as I look back over it.  Time in general has started to feel completely relative in nature: in perpetual fast forward as I look at my boys growing bodies day by day, in slow motion as I watch things in the kitchen sprout and grow, in stubborn reverse as I look back over the things that might have been or could have been if events hadn't played out the way they did.  

A decade, almost all of it full of slow food and homemaking as a profession.  I don't know many who do their taxes and put "homemaker" down in the box - every year I think of that.  The term, also in print on my boys' birth certificates, seems antiquated and humbling and yet it is the thing I am most proud of.  I never dreamed I'd even have children let alone have the autonomy to watch them closely every day, hold onto the minutes, the hours, the years and try (at times) to remember to not wish them away.  I never knew how happy tending a home full time would make me, and I worry that if I ever had to be doing something else full time it would kill me.  I watch over my home, the center of which is (of course) this kitchen, and there is nothing else I'd rather be doing.

Another relationship began 5 years ago, the one involving wild yeast.  That relationship parallels the ones with my husband and children in perplexingly similar ways.  Living, breathing, growing, changing, I can't neglect it and I can't ever predict it.  Just when I think things are going horribly, out pops a tremendous and amazing reminder that slow and steady wins the race.  That glorious things can come from strange circumstance.

sprouted wheat, Ball jar.

In the new batch of cookbooks rented, I've been enjoying Peter Reinhart's Bread Revolution.  It focuses on sprouted wheat breads both with conventional yeast and wild yeast and also a host of quick bread and baked good recipes using sprouted grain flours.  When I had first sprouted my own wheat a few years back, I couldn't get over the flavor of it - but I did notice the difference in how it baked.  Reinhart of course is able to explain this better than I ever could, and leave it to him to come up with a whole book full of recipes highlighting how to use it in the very best way.

Sprouted sourdough almost seems redundant.  After all the process of culturing regular flour with the wild yeast innoculant renders the whole loaf already easier to digest, a true whole and fermented food.  Before reading about it, I never thought the result would be that much better but boy was I wrong!  The flavor is incredible; it's wheaty, earthy, and almost sweet.  It makes the best toast I've ever eaten.

sprouted wheat berries
sprouted wheat flour

The dough seems harder to work with, it's stickier (Reinhart advises oiling your hands, but I just used water and folded the dough in the bowl I mixed in rather than putting it on the counter each time) and more "relaxed" in feel than dough made with regular flour.  I didn't pay good attention to the time when I began and had to get up in the night to form my dough into a loaf - and then rather than set more nighttime alarms, I decided to cold proof it in the fridge until morning.  All of my variables and I was sure the bread wouldn't be anything to speak of, but like sourdough always does it surprised me with it's wonderfulness.

009 :: 02.04.15
Click the photo to read the baking notes.

Isn't that always the way?  The bread always changes the rules just when you think you know it all.  And there is always, always something more to learn.  I made this loaf alongside a whiter one, plain sourdough as I'm used to making.  The boys all wanted this one before the other and it really was that unique.  When toasted, it became brittle and almost graham like.  There is just the heel left, and I'm saving it for breakfast tomorrow with more marmalade.  I will eat it slowly and plot my next sprouted baking experience.

sprouted toast.
I still can't decide if I should make another batch of the kumquat & blood orange marmalade...

I seem to save the heels of bread to toast and eat myself, like I save up all the small moments in my day to day family life that one day I'll likely use to comfort and warm myself.  In another decade, my oldest boy will likely be out of the house and the growing baby boy will be almost a teenager.  I will be greyer and telling more tales of bread, hopefully still learning more and more about it. 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Kumquat & Blood Orange Marmalade.

I've had marmalade on the brain.  It kind of started with the several jars of it still left on the shelves from last year around this time.  It was a good and bitter marmalade, but very soft set - runny even - and I was not grabbing it for my toast as I thought I would.  The thing about old jars on the shelf is that they translate as food clutter to me, and I feel true guilt about it.  Fortunately, a conversation with Deena some time ago led me to remember that her friend used up old marmalade in granola so that's what I did.  I strained out the citrusy bits and subbed it for the honey or maple syrup.  It's good granola: a not stop-dead-in-your-tracks good, but more of a serviceable good.  And it's nice and crunchy too.  It will not be a bother to eat.

marmalade granola

It seems with less time to do actual experiments in the kitchen, I have more time to daydream about what I would do if I did have the time.  I think about what ingredients I'd like to work with and which flavors I'd combine, and then when the time presents itself I'm more than ready to make the most of it.  I'd been thinking about combining kumquats and blood oranges for weeks now, since I first saw the two of them popping up on my grocery trips.  I wanted to add chiles too because we all know that I'm a complete sucker for sweet and spicy things.  Late last week I finally got my kumquats and blood oranges, and on Friday night after the boys were all in bed I got to begin my 2015 marmalade.

blood oranges.

This marmalade may exist in some form somewhere else, but if it does, I don't know about it because I did absolutely no research on it.  I combined techniques I've read about and done in the past with the wisdom of Linda Ziedrich's ratios, and am beyond pleased with the result.  This marmalade is a good balance of sweet and tart and doesn't really read as bitter the way some marmalades do.  As a bonus, it's also a gorgeous color.

kumquat blood orange marmalade

I started tasting a variety of dried chiles after I tasted the sugared blood orange juice/kumquat and orange peel mixture.  My original thought was to use guajillos (my favorite) or mulato chiles but I didn't want to overpower the pretty unique citrus flavor going on.  Then I turned to my new favorite chile flake the Urfa Biber and decided it was just a little too strong.  I settled on New Aleppo, which has a spicy, almost strawberry flavor to it.  I'm calling it New Aleppo after reading this article on how the Aleppo now available from northern Syria is unfortunately impossible to get.  It's a horribly sad thing, for more reasons that just the loss of a spice. 


kumquats & blood oranges

kumquat blood orange marmalade 
(2)

Begin the day before you'd like to can and use organic citrus if possible.

Kumquat & Blood Orange Marmalade
makes about 2 1/2 pints
  • 1 lb. blood oranges
  • 10-12 oz. kumquats
  • 5 cups filtered water, divided
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 t. Aleppo pepper (optional but encouraged)
Wash all the citrus well.  Peel the blood oranges with a potato peeler, leaving behind the white pith. Slice the peel into the thinnest shreds you can and place them in a large preserving pot.  Quarter the remaining oranges, pith and all, and pop them into a smaller pot with  2 cups of water.  Bring them to a boil, lower to a simmer and cover them with a lid.  Cook for 30-45 minutes until they are fully soft and can be easily mashed with a masher.  Let them cool slightly.  Meanwhile:
Slice the kumquats as thin as possible into rounds.  Nick out any seeds and save them on the side.  Add the kumquat slices to the orange shreds in the preserving pot, tie up the seeds in a small piece of cheesecloth, and add 3 cups water.  Bring the pot up to a boil over medium high heat, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.  Remove from the heat, cover, and let sit overnight at room temperature.

When cool enough to handle, pour the mashed blood orange into a jelly bag (or similar) and allow to drain for awhile.  (If you get impatient as I do, squeeze the bag to glean as much juice as possible in a shorter amount of time.  Generally, this isn't something canners recommend since it can cause cloudy preserves - but I'd always rather have the quantity that the clarity!)  Transfer the juice to a jar and refrigerate until you are ready to continue.

Ready jars, lids, rings, and a boiling water bath.  Add the blood orange juice, sugar, and Aleppo pepper to the preserving pot (you should have 4 - 4 1/2 cups of total liquid), stirring well over low heat to dissolve the sugar.  Then bring the mixture up to a boil over medium high heat.  Stir regularly at first and constantly towards the end.  Heat to 220 degrees or to desired set on a cold spoon or plate.  Take the pot off the heat and let it stand 5 minutes before ladling into jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes, then remove the canning pot from the heat and let the jars stand in the water for 5 minutes before transferring to a towel-lined countertop.

blood orange juice
I was surprised at how colorful it the blood orange juice remained.  At the bottom you can see the sediment that comes from squeezing the jelly bag, I figured it was good pectin and I suspect I was right.

When researching my book, I consulted with the Master Preserver at the extension office in Madison about sterilizing jars.  I never used to sterilize jars in boiling water before canning sweet preserves, and she advised me that this is not the proper thing to do - or at least proper for sweet (non-vinegar) things that are processed 10 minutes or less.  Ever since then, I dutifully put my clean jars in my water bath as the water is coming up to a boil and I let them simmer away until filling them.  I still always wonder just how many people do this, but I always then suppose it's not really adding that much work to a small batch of preserves.

I might have to make time for another small batch of this marmalade since it was so good I ate almost half of a little 4 oz. jar at breakfast time today.  But maybe I'll just appreciate the small batch I have and not over preserve.  I do seem to be eating less and less sweet preserves, and not because I don't whole-heartedly love them.  Maybe something else will spark my interest in the next few weeks of winter and I can daydream my way into another good combination.  I had better save some room on the shelf for that.