My how time flies. It feels like I just finished making the Cheesy Waffle BLT for last month’s #TwelveLoaves challenge and here we are again! If you’re not familiar with Twelve Loaves but love to bake bread, come join us. We offer a theme the first Monday of each month…you join in and bake something during the month and add your creation to the links at the bottom of this post. This month we’ve gone a little nutty…make a yest or quick bread; maybe pizza or waffles or rolls (you get my drift, right?) using seeds, nuts or grains or all three even and link up to us. Meet other bakers and get fabulous ideas for your next ‘nutty’ adventure!
This month I was inspired by a recipe from the book ‘Grain Mains‘ by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough. I’ve been fortunate to have been provided a couple of books from this duo and I’ve never been disappointed. Mark was a constant source of advice and inspiration when I did a goat challenge last year with Rachel from La FujiMama that we called Goaterie; the guys have a great book called ‘Goat‘ and well, you need to try it sometime. Mark my words (no pun intended Mark), we’ll all be noshing on goat one day!
I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that for most of my experience, grains have often been consumed because we might consider them a healthy addition to our diet but that doesn’t mean we’ve always been excited about them. Mark and Bruce have taken grains from the notion of ‘good for you’ side dishes and incorporated them into ‘mains’ in our diet. I was excited they had a bread I could make for this month’s Twelve Loaves challenge and even more excited when it was one that also used dates…I love them! I can’t wait to try some more of their recipes; first up for me will be the Syrian Sliha; a combination of wheat berries, nuts, coconut and pomegranate arils I can almost taste now for breakfast. So many things to try, so little time.
My cohorts with Twelve Loaves, Lora with Cake Duchess and Jamie from Lifes A Feast decided that this month of harvest would be perfect for Nuts, Grains and Seeds and without planning to; seems each of us has made something using one of those components. Check out Jamie’s site for a fabulous Lemon Pecan Almond Quick Bread and Lora’s for a gorgeous Challah with Poppy Seeds; you won’t be disappointed, I promise!
I have to admit…I just glanced at the ingredients and thought I was good to go; so getting ready to actually bake and noticing the inclusion of Garam Masala was a surprise. To be honest, I had a moment when I considered just eliminating that one ingredient but the components were all a bit to flavorful and I decided instead to make my own. Easy too…funny how something so exotic is actually composed of spices most of us have on hand. I used this recipe but only made a third and it was perfect; a bit left over for later.
The recipe for Garam Masala instructs you to use a clean, dry coffee grinder to grind the spices but I had just received a product to review by Miallegro that I wanted to try. The MiTutto consists of a stick blender with multiple blades, a whisk and a small blending bowl. I had one similar to this but it’s usefulness was suspect. It would fling stuff around in there but it was never really trustworthy for doing the job I needed. You can see how this worked right? Totally different experience..yes, I was happy! Stay tuned; I’ll be doing a post soon using this tool for more and I’ll have one to giveaway too!
Now that the spice issue was managed it was on to dates. The guys urge using Medjool dates, not those pre-packaged little dried out flavorless chunks. OK, you can see my prejudice…but I’ll tell you chopping dates is not a task I love. I do think I have found a way to manage it better than years past though. The packaged dates were a key to my success as it’s evident they use sugar to keep the little pieces from sticking together. After I measure out the sugar for a recipe with dates, I sprinkle it as I need to on the dates as I chop them and it really does help to keep them separated and not sticking to each other; leaving them in relatively large pieces is a given and they’re good in this bread.
The first order of actual cooking is the quinoa. Quinoa is something of a ‘grain du jour’ – almost unheard of until the last couple of years, it seems to have taken on almost mythical proportions of grandeur. It may have been over touted but the truth is that the nutrient composition is very good compared with common cereals. Quinoa grains contain essential amino acids like lysine and good quantities of calcium, phosphorus, and iron. I’ll say this…it’s a tiny little buggar to have such a hard shell! The first time you prepare it you might be inclined to think it done before it is but it needs to ‘bloom’ to be consider cooked. The cooked product will result in about 4 times the volume of the uncooked grain and if you look you’ll see they have sprouted little ‘halos’ – yep, they’re done.
With the quinoa cooked and the dates chopped the rest is easy. Well, unless you live in Denver apparently. It is a constant struggle to get baked goods to behave properly. Less leavening? Sometimes. The issue here is dough rising; not about getting it to rise…despite the fact that a depression is usually the end result. With less air pressure at higher altitudes, baked goods will rise faster; too fast to actually be set by the heat which results in them deflating as fast as they rose. I’ve long done a combination of less leavening and a bit higher heat and I was recently advised by a well known celebrity chef from Denver that he just increases baking temps by 25 degrees and does nothing else. I’ve tried that with some success but always have to cover what I’m baking or baked goods get too browned for my taste.
So…what happened here? I decided to do the 25 degree heat increase that was advised since this was a very moist cake. But this was a tricky one. The cake was SO moist that even with the temperature increase, it was not ready to come out of the oven early, as is typical. The increased heat combined with the standard baking period ended up creating something of a crust on the bottom. Lo and behold when it was time to turn it out of the pan…a good size chunk remained in the pan. GRRR. Sorry Mark and Bruce, but I wasn’t crazy about the end result either. Some of that quinoa in the outer crust became hard little pellets again and I considered it ruined. I gave it a minor reprieve; decided to wrap it up and let sit overnight to see if the moisture migh and see if I could rescue it in the morning.
Best decision ever. This is a super moist cake with the addition of the cooked quinoa and the dates and the time spent wrapped up overnight gave both the outer crust and the quinoa a chance to absorb enough moisture that it changed everything. EVERYTHING!
Now, I wouldn’t suggest that you trek up 5200′ and experience what I did. I’m sure that for others this recipe will be perfect; I trust Mark and Bruce enough to know that…but I thought I should share my real experience. After all, I’m not a recipe developer; my plans don’t include making something over and over to get it perfect at altitude. I’m simply a home cook who has learned to make do when I have to in our thin air and I’m hoping you appreciate my ability to punt! 🙂
We would love to have you join our #TwelveLoaves group; it’s easy!
- Make sure that your Bread this month is inspired by this month’s theme of nuts, grains or seed; this is obligatory if you would like your link to be included!
- Have your #TwelveLoaves bread that you baked during October, 2012 posted on your blog by October 31, 2012.
- When you post your #TwelveLoaves bread on your blog, make sure that you mention the #TwelveLoaves challenge in your post and include links to the leaders: Cake Duchess, Creative Culinary, and Lifes A Feast.
- Make sure you include a link to the bread that you bake this month using the link tool at the bottom of this post.
- Not mandatory but feel free to promote the Twelve Loaves group by proudly displaying the Twelve Loaves badge in your Twelve Loaves post as well as in your sidebar!
Mark and Bruce and their publisher have offered a copy of their book ‘Grain Mains‘ to one of my readers. Here’s how you can enter: THIS CONTEST IS CLOSED AND A WINNER HAS BEEN CHOSEN.
- Simply leave a comment; we would love to know how grains play a part in your daily meal planning!
- Only open to residents of the US.
- Must be 18 years of age to enter.
- Contest will end on Friday, October 5, 2012 at midnight. I will select a winner via random.org; they will be notified via email and will have 48 hours to contact me with shipping information or another winner will be chosen.
Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of the book ‘Grain Mains’ for review however all commentary is my own.