Sunday, May 31, 2015

Rhubarb and Apricots and a Rustic Tart

I still had one batch of rhubarb left yet from when my friend Tetiana gave me that huge bag. I have made all kinds of rhubarb things, and all have been really good. Growing up, the only way I ever had rhubarb was in Rhubarb Pineapple Pie. We had a huge stand of rhubarb in the back yard, but I cannot recall ever having eaten it in anything but this pie. And now that I mention this Rhubarb Pineapple Pie, I urge you to try it, because it is fantastic!
Back to the point. I had some of that rhubarb, already cut up, in a bag, so I absolutely had to do something with it. We still had some of the Rhubarb Raspberry Cheesecake Bars in the fridge until just two days ago, so I surely did not need another dessert around. Yesterday, finally, came the day to do something. I had been planning for more than a week, and while wandering the produce section in the local grocery, I saw apricots. In general, I have nothing strictly against apricots. I am not completely wild about them, but I will eat them. But, because I am not crazy for them, other fruits always get in the way. Still, the idea stayed in my mind, and I was thinking about making something like a pie, or tart, or rustic tart / galette. This may have been the second time in my entire life that I bought apricots. I have had some apricots in past that were quite tiny, maybe ping-pong ball sized, at most. The ones at the grocery yesterday were quite large in comparison, more like a very small peach.
Apricot Rhubarb Rustic Tart
My Apricot Rhubarb Rustic Tart, with pretty sparkling sugar on the crust

Before anything else though, I had to cook the rhubarb. I don't think it had many more days of useful life, so it was imperative. I figured I would cook it into a compote and that way it could last another day or two, if I did not get around to making this proposed tart right away. As it happens I did make the tart, after all, but this compote would be wonderful over pancakes, or ice cream, or cheesecake, or anything that might be enhanced with a delicious compote. And this one was really delicious, I can tell you! I used 1 tablespoon of orange juice concentrate and ¼ cup of water in here, but substituting 5 tablespoons (¼ cup + 1 tablespoon) of orange juice would be fine. I got a little exotic with the flavors, adding both Gran Marnier liqueur and orange flower water. Either or both of these can be omitted and instead just use some vanilla extract and/or almond extract.

Rhubarb Compote

Rhubarb Compote

Makes about 3 cups

3½ cups rhubarb, cut in small chunks
1 tablespoon orange juice concentrate
¼ cup water
2 tablespoons Gran Marnier liqueur, optional
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch (or tapioca starch)
½ teaspoon orange flower water, optional

In a medium saucepan combine the first 6 ingredients and stir together. In a small bow, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch (this will help the cornstarch not to clump when adding to the moist ingredients). Stir the sugar mixture into the pan ingredients and set over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring often. Once the mixture comes to a boil, continue to cook and stir for at least 5 or up to 8 minutes. Once cooked through it will be thickened and semi-transparent. Allow this mixture to cool completely before using.

Once I got the apricots, having selected ones that were very ripe, I went straight to washing and cutting. I wanted to use entire halves in this tart, so once cut in half from stem end, down through the natural crease to the bottom and then removing the pits, I tossed the fruit with some sugar and more Gran Marnier to marinate a bit while I prepared the crust

I have made a pastry with some cornmeal added for my Taco Pizzas, and the crust is delicious with just that tiny bit of crunch the cornmeal gives. I knew that this crust would also be good for a tart, but had not tried it out yet. The recipe for my Taco Pizza makes a very large crust, to fit a 15-inch pizza pan. I knew I would not need a crust that large for my rustic tart, so I clipped back the ingredients a bit. I had absolutely no intention to add sugar to the crust, but somehow, the sugar was out, and open, and I misread something and ended up adding sugar. Sheesh. I leave it up to you to choose whether to use sugar in the crust or not. It is not necessary, but it sure is good!

Prepping Dough for the pan
Prepping Dough for the pan

Tart Crust with Cornmeal

Makes one 10-inch rustic tart

1¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup fine cornmeal
1 tablespoon sugar, optional
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
5 to 7 tablespoons ice water

In a large bowl, whisk together the first 5 ingredients. With a large holed grater (such as a box grater on largest holes), grate the cold butter into the flour mixture and toss to coat the butter. (Alternatively, cut the butter into tiny chunks and add in.) Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or just use fingers to quickly rub together until the mixture makes pea-sized crumbs. Add in about 5 tablespoons of the ice water and toss quickly with a fork, until it starts to come together. If the mixture will not come together into one mass, use an additional 1 or 2 tablespoons of the water until it will come together in one mass. Do not overwork the dough. Flour a surface and roll out the dough to about 1/8-inch thickness. Cut it into approximately 14 or 15 inch diameter. There will be leftovers, unfortunately.
Sparkling Sugar
Sparkling Sugar

Place a sheet of parchment onto a rimmed baking sheet. Roll the pastry onto the rolling pin, then unroll it centered on the parchment lined baking sheet.
When assembling this tart, I wanted the crust to look really pretty once baked, so I brushed the crust with cream and sprinkled on some "sparkling sugar", This is a coarser type of sugar used to make baked goods look pretty and appetizing, as the sugar does not melt while baking. It is not completely necessary, and on the outside of a pie crust, regular sugar will also work, but this fits with the more rustic look I was going for. I have some white sparkling sugar from the King Arthur Flour site, but it is available from many venues. Wilton and India Tree have 8-ounce jars for a price, and Bob's Red Mill has a much larger bag of sparkling sugar for a much more reasonable price. The decision is in how much you might realistically use, though it does not go bad.

Rhubarb Compote for the base
        Rhubarb Compote                |        Compote on the prepared crust           |        compote spread to 10-inches

Apricot Rhubarb Rustic Tart

Makes one 10-inch tart

- Rhubarb Compote, recipe above
- Tart Crust with Cornmeal, recipe above
1 pound fresh apricots, halved, pitted
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon Gran Marnier, optional
½ cup sliced almonds
1 - 2 tablespoons cream or milk
1 - 2 tablespoons sparkling
sugar, or regular sugar

Have the rhubarb compote already made and cooled. Have the pie crust rolled and set on the parchment lined, rimmed baking sheet. Set the apricot halves in a bowl and sprinkle them with the 3 tablespoons of sugar and the Gran Marnier, if using. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Pour the prepared compote in the center of the crust. Spread it to about 9 inches, as shown in the series of photos above. The tart will be 10-inches in diameter, but the compote will spread once the apricots are in place. Set the reserved apricot halves onto the compote, cut sides upwards, as shown in the first photo below. Drizzle some of the remaining sugar mixture over the apricots, but if there is too much juice, it will tend to leak out during baking. Sprinkle the sliced almonds over all the fruit. Now, begin to flip up the edges of the crust, to only partially cover the fruit. Pleat the dough as needed to make an artfully free-formed look, as in photo 2 below. Using a pastry brush, brush the milk or cream all over the outside of the crust. Sprinkle the milk coated crust with the sparkling sugar.

Finalizing the Galette
Apricots and almonds in place          |       edges of pastry flipped up    |    pastry brushed with milk; sugar in place
Bake the tart for about 50 to 55 minutes, or until the crust is nicely golden and the fruit is bubbling merrily. Allow the tart to cool completely before slicing.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Lamb Chops with Herb Marinade a Fiesta in the Mouth

Okay, we love lamb. Where we are living right now it is difficult to come by and terribly expensive, to boot. So last summer at the Farmers' Market when I saw a big whiteboard sign with "ASK ME ABOUT LAMB", I was excited and hopeful.

With good reason! A local woman was trying to drum up business selling the lambs they raise. They have them butchered and ready for you, included in the price. I was way happy and signed up for a lamb, ASAP! Ever since, we have been enjoying this wonderful lamb in so many ways. We have had curries, roasts, chops, burgers and much more. A couple of nights ago I got inspired, I guess, because outside of curry, I think the lamb chops I made were some of the tastiest lamb I have made, hands down. Our taste buds were doing a happy dance!

Grilled Lamb Chops with Herbed Marinade & Sauce
Grilled Lamb Chops with Herbed Marinade and Sauce

The concept was very simple: herbs and other things green for a marinade. Looking in the fridge I found a little mint, a little thyme and rosemary and parsley. Next I looked to see what other things green might give the piquant flavors I was imagining and added green peppercorns in brine, capers and some lime zest. Garlic, of course - that almost goes without saying.

Grilled Lamb Chops with Herbed Marinade & Sauce
Grilled Lamb Chops with Herbed Marinade & Sauce
As I was assembling ingredients to make this, I got thinking about how sometimes I have seen on The Chew they will make a marinade for a meat and then set aside part of the marinade to drizzle over the food once cooked.I decided right in the middle of mixing the marinade that this is what I would do, to give even more flavor. Once the meat was grilled, a little more olive oil added to the remaining marinade made a most excellent sauce (sort of a green sauce, if you will) for the meat. I had worried that I didn't have long to marinate the meat; only about 15 minutes. I will say that even without the extra marinade used as sauce, the meat was truly wonderful. The sauce just made the whole flavor profile stand up and make itself known. 

It is so nice to use a mortar and pestle to smash the garlic, salt and some of the soft ingredients. If you do not have a mortar and pestle, either just mince the garlic, peppercorns, capers and zest very finely and mix them together - or - to really meld the whole batch, use the back of a spoon to press it all together with the salt will help build the juiciness of the ingredients.

A Fiesta in the Mouth
A Fiesta in the Mouth!

Lamb Chops with Herb Marinade & Sauce

Makes 2 servings

4 lamb chops

2 - 4 fresh cloves garlic
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon green peppercorns in brine
1 teaspoon capers
2 teaspoons lime or lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh mint, finely minced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme, finely minced
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, finely minced
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely minced
1 tablespoon olive oil

extra 1 - 2 tablespoons olive oil, for the sauce

Marinade and Sauce for Serving
Marinade and Sauce for Serving
Preferably in a mortar, set the garlic and salt and pound them together until it is a paste consistency. Add in the green peppercorns, capers and lime zest and pound some more, until these ingredients are also a paste. Add in the minced herbs and pound. Add the 1st tablespoon of olive oil and press the whole together. Divide half this mixture into another container. Use one half to coat the lamb chops on both sides. Allow them at least 15 minutes to marinate. Heat a grill on high, and grill the chops approximately 4 minutes per side with the lid open, for medium.

Add 1 or 2 tablespoons more olive oil to the reserved marinade and stir. Once the chops are grilled, drizzle this mixture over them to serve.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Part 2 of Essaying Russian Black Bread

Whole Rye Berries
Whole Rye Berries: note the sage green color common in rye
Yesterday I blogged about my adventures in finding out what exactly is either Russian Black Rye Bread or Borodinsky Bread. There terms are not synonymous. Russian Black Rye Bread can be made in Borodinsky style if one chooses, but it is not Borodinsky by its nature. True "Borodinski" bread guidelines were set down in a standardized manner. The bread must conform to these guidelines to be called "Borodinsky".

So far I covered in some detail the concept of malt, malting grains, what that means, how to make it and the differences between diastatic and non-diastatic malt. Though it is time consuming in that it spans three days to create, there is really almost nothing being done by oneself during that time. Hours to soak the grain, hours to sprout the grain and hours to dry the sprouted grains. Wait, wait and wait some more. The plus side is that once the grain has sprouted and dried, and you have an idea of whether to use it as diastatic or non-diastatic, the resulting grain can be kept frozen indefinitely, until needed.

Rye Grain Sprouted and Malted
Going into the making of the bread, while malted rye is one of the standards in the making of Borodinski, so is molasses. I am not terribly partial to molasses and did not use any in my recipe, though I might try using it in my next batch of this bread. Honey is sometimes substituted. Another standard in making this bread is making a "mash"; mixing boiling water into some of the rye flour and allowing it to set and cool, either just until cooled, or even overnight. In my case, I chose to set it overnight, alongside the starter batter.

The Starter

very active starter
very active "reactivated" starter
It is very helpful to have an active starter batter going previously. I have a starter culture that has been alive for a year now. It stays in the back of the fridge if not needed, and is refreshed a day or so in advance of needing it for a recipe. In the parlance, it is being reactivated and awakened. It goes dormant in the fridge. If you are a purist about these things, you can create an all-rye starter by simply refreshing some of an existing starter with rye flour a few separate times until it is mainly rye. I did not do this, but refreshed my starter (to get it active again) with white bread flour. My reasoning is that when using rye or whole wheat, it is far more difficult to get a good rise from the bread, so white bread flour might give it a little more oomph. My wild yeast starter  was made last year following the method set out in The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart. If you are interested in seeing the progress in my starter last year when I created it, the first post including the starter progress is >>> here, and the follow-up post is >>> here.

Sourdough starters can be made using dry yeast and allowing the mixture to ferment. If you do not (yet) own The Bread Baker's Apprentice, the King Arthur Flour site has a step-by-step process for making a starter from wild yeasts >>> here. The Red Star Yeast site has a recipe for a starter that begins with (preferably their brand) dry yeast >>> here. It will take at least 5 days to get an active starter going by whichever method, and it is best if it is refreshed at least once prior to using it to make the current bread starter (as for the starter for Borodinski, or any other sourdough bread). 

Preparation for Russian Black Rye Bread

Days prior, I made the malted rye, in the manner outlined in my blog yesterday. It was made and then dried over the course of 3 days. On day 3, I opted to make the starter and the "mash" side by side and let them set overnight before making the bread. On Day 4, early in the morning, I combined the starter and mash with more dark rye flour, some coarse whole wheat flour and water for the "pre-ferment" or "sponge", until doubled. Once doubled, the remaining flour and other ingredients were added to make the final dough. This dough was allowed to rise until doubled, then turned into a greased loaf pan and smoothed over. This was allowed to rise again and then baked.
Borodinsky Style Bread
Borodinsky Style Bread


This is always the tricky subject for me; baking. So many bread makers bake at extremely high temperatures, and for amounts of time that I am so totally not comfortable with. I like a nice crust on my bread. That said, I do not like a blackened crust. More often than not, I just use my instant read Thermapen and, depending on the kind of bread being baked, take it out once it has reached 180 to 205 degrees. This temperature is often reached in half the time allotted in my revered Bread Baker's Apprentice cookbook!

Fresh from the oven, Borodinsky Style Rye Bread
Imagine my surprise and dismay when reading recipes for Borodinsky bread where the baking time is 1½ hours! I do realize this bread is very, very dense. I realize it can require a longer baking time to get a dense bread completely baked through. I managed to keep this bread in the oven for a total of 65 minutes, so I believe I did pretty well. It registered 195 degrees at that point, so I assumed it was done. I might - just "might" - leave it in the oven for a trifle longer next time. I will say that though the bread was obviously done, it could probably have stood a little more time with no ill effect, and no blackening.

All in all, without using any precise formula, but only my instincts based on years of bread making, this is my version, to date, of a Borodinsky STYLE bread. I make no claim to authenticity, though I followed most of the standards and strictures.

Borodinsky Style Rye Bread

Makes one small loaf
Takes 2 days, not including the previously active starter or malting process

2 tablespoons (32 grams) pre-activated starter (see above)
3 tablespoons (47 grams) water
½ scant cup (47 grams) whole or dark rye flour

1 cup (96 grams) dark rye flour
3 tablespoons red malt flour (see above, or yesterday's blog)
1 tablespoon (5 grams) whole coriander seed, crushed (amount optional)
1½ cups boiling water
Rye Starter all bubbly
Rye Starter all bubbly, morning after

The evening before, first make the rye starter: In a medium sized plastic or glass bowl, with a wooden or plastic spoon, stir together the pre-activated starter with the water and stir to loosen. Add in the rye flour and stir until mostly combined. Cover the bowl with a lid or with plastic wrap and set in a warm place overnight. I used my oven with the light on, which keeps a constant 82 - 85 degree temperature.

Next, for the mash: In another bowl, stir together the dark rye flour, the red malt powder and the crushed coriander. Pour in the boiling water and stir well to combine. Cover with a lid or plastic wrap and set in the same warm place overnight.

All the (now bubbling) Rye Starter
All the Mash
½ cup (125 grams) water
1 cup (96 grams) dark rye flour

Early the morning after setting the starter and mash to ferment, in a large glass or plastic bowl, combine the now-active rye starter with the mash and stir well. Add in the water and the dark rye flour and stir together well with a wooden or plastic/silicone spoon or spatula. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap of a lid and set back in the warm place to ferment. This could take as little as 3 hours or up to five, depending on ambient temperatures. Once well activated, and doubled in bulk, turn the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer.

1½ cups (150 grams) dark rye flour
¾ cup (105 grams) bread flour
¼ teaspoon (1 gram) instant yeast, for added insurance ;-)
1 teaspoon (6 grams) salt
2 tablespoons (45 grams) honey
2 teaspoons (4 grams) whole coriander seed, crushed, optional

Progress with the dough and rising
finished dough              |      dough in bucket to rise      |        dough doubled in size      |      dough in pan to rise
With the Pre-Ferment in the bowl of a stand mixer, add in the remaining ingredients and set the dough hook in place. Starting on lowest setting, knead to get the ingredients melded. Raise the speed to normal for kneading and do not exceed 10 total minutes of kneading. Rye tends to stickiness anyway; too much kneading will lend gumminess. It is easiest to knead this dough in a heavy duty stand mixer. It can be kneaded by hand, but its stickiness makes it difficult. Spray a bowl or a dough rising tub and scrape the dough into this bowl. Spray the top lightly and then cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Set in a warm place to rise until doubled. This can take 1 - 2 hours, depending on ambient temperatures. by this time the yeasts should be active enough to achieve rise more quickly.

Grease a smaller loaf pan (4 1/2 x 8-inches or so). It is best not to disturb the dough more than necessary. I scraped the dough directly into the pan, then with wet hands, smoothed the top. Spray the top lightly with cooking spray, cover with plastic wrap and again set it to rise. When the dough rises above the top of the pan, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Once heated, bake the bread for 50 to 60 minutes. Raise the temperature to 400 degrees and bake 10 minutes more. Internal temperature should be somewhere between 195 and 205 degrees F. Turn the loaf out to cool on a rack. Once cooled, it should be wrapped in foil and then a towel and left for 24 hours before cutting.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Essaying Russian Black Bread

This blog may be an essay as well as the steps I took in essaying this bread.

Let me first say, I have been making bread for over 40 years, though mostly my Mom's and Grandma's recipe for the first 20 or so years. In the last year+ I have really ventured out into the world of fermented starters and making many breads from The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart. Aside from that, I have created many recipes for my own breads, with great results. My methods are more by "feel" and less of the scientific "baker's formula" (which I just cannot seem to understand), but the breads have come out well and delicious. This is by way of background and my familiarity with making breads and starters. 

Making this Russian "Black" (Rye) Bread was, well, maybe even time consuming is not enough of a descriptor. The process was lengthy at best. I figured I was up for it. Making starters can be time consuming. Rye has less gluten than wheat, so rye breads tend to rise less and be more dense, unless wheat flour is added in a quantity at least half or preferably more than half of the amount of rye flour used. Still, I had made the recipe for 100% Sourdough Rye Bread, twice (from The Bread Baker's Apprentice), so I was pretty sure I could do this. I had also, some years back, ordered a sprouted rye bread ($10. for a tiny loaf), and while it was heavy and very dense, I do enjoy heavy, dense breads, and I enjoy the flavor of natural rye. 
My Russian Black Bread

The end result of making this bread was that it came out much like that $10. loaf: very heavy, very dense, very chewy, and very good. If you like that kind of bread, you will enjoy this one. I do enjoy it, and I am currently enjoying this loaf I made. Cut in very, very thin slices, it is delightful. My husband has zero interest in this kind of bread.

The Cons

Somehow, though, while I expected heavy and dense, I did not expect anything quite this heavy and dense from this particular recipe. In all my reading (and I literally spent over 6 hours reading online), every "authentic" Russian bread, whether Borodinsky or not, was baked in loaf pans. Somehow, I do not believe that Russian bakers would use a loaf pan for this kind of peasant bread when baked in a wood fired oven. I was disappointed on various counts. I'd gathered ideas from a lot of recipes online, and then took these ideas and made my own compilation of what I wanted to do. I was totally heartened each step of the way: the starters grew beautifully, the dough grew beautifully, the formed loaf grew according to expectations. But the bread came out of the oven without even the height it went into the oven with.

What is Russian Black Bread or Borodinsky Bread?
My Russian Rye vs No-Knead Bread

Firstly, "Black" is a misnomer, if you are expecting a black, dark loaf. This bread is made with rye flour, and while dense and heavy and made with 100% rye flour I milled here at home, it is a darker brown bread (compared to white bread - see my photo here at right to compare), but certainly not dark like a pumpernickel. I will admit, a large portion of the time spent researching was in reading the blog and the pages and pages of commentary on The Fresh Loaf. I did read on many other sites, just more briefly. 

Russian Black Bread is made with mostly whole grain rye flour, though there is far more leeway in flour vs wheat ratio and more leeway altogether in the ingredient additions (I've seen things like coffee and chocolate added for color). Borodinsky Bread is a recipe that has had its ingredients set down and defined. To be "true" Borodinsky, it  must have these certain ingredients, without deviations. Here, according to Wikipedia:

". . . a mixture of no less than 80% by weight of a whole grain rye flour with - 15% of a second grade wheat flour and 5% of rye or, rarely, barley malt, leavened by a separately prepared starter culture made like choux pastry, by diluting the flour by a near-boiling (95 - 96 degree C) water, and adding the yeast after cooling the mix to 65 - 67 degrees C, but then mostly inoculated by the previous batches of dough instead of the dry yeast. It is then sweetened and colored with beet sugar molasses, and then flavored with salt and spices, of which coriander seed is required and caraway is optional, but still quite popular."

Ingredients and Stumbling Blocks

The first snag I ran into with trying this recipe is the Rye Malt. Barley Malt is acceptable, but regardless, I still did not have it and on further research found it is available where beer making supplies are sold. I looked online, only to find that shipping for a pound of Red Rye Malt, at about $1.79/pound, was about $15.00 UPS, with no other shipping options available. I found this purely ridiculous. I went back to do more research. 

Again I ended up at The Fresh Loaf (see that article here), with the most information on making one's own red rye malt. To begin with, I had heard the term malt before. I know that some "bread-dough-enhancers" contain "barley malt." I had only the most vague idea of what this meant. I had heard the term "diastatic" and the term "non-diastatic" with no concept of what these were. I also found that a small amount of barley malt powder is added to commercial brands of white flour sold in the US as a matter of course. I never thought to look at the ingredients on a bag of flour. All I expected to see was "wheat"! Who knew?

Organic Rye Berries, many with natural sage green color
As it turns out, Barley or Rye "malt" is nothing more than sprouted rye or barley berries (the whole grain, non-irradiated, preferably organic) that have then been dried and ground to powder. The real difference is in the drying process.

Diastatic Malt

Diastatic Malt is the whole grain berry, sprouted until the sprout is the length of the seed/berry itself, and then dried at a temperature no higher than 55 degrees C, or 130 degrees F. Safest temperatures are 40 degrees C or 104 degrees F. The reason for these very low drying temperatures is to preserve the live enzyme created in the seed when it sprouts. This live enzyme, diastase, releases sugars from the flour/starch and helps with yeast growth and promotes a more golden crust, good rise and "oven spring."

Non-Diastatic Malt

The beginning process for non-diastatic malt is the same: sprout whole grains, and dry them. The difference between these is that the drying process takes place at a much higher temperature (most sites quoted starting at around 160 degrees F and slowly increasing to around 325 F as the highest temperature), thereby killing the live enzyme diastase, and making it "non"-diastatic. The drying process makes the rye berries turn a brick red, and the powder, once ground also has a reddish hue. Non-diastatic malt powder is used as a source of sugar in itself. Adding too much will reduce the rise of the dough and affect the taste. A little will help with lovely browning of crust and add a little flavor. It is often added to the water bath for bagels for this reason.

This malt is often made into a syrup. Barley Malt Syrup is available in most health-food stores and some groceries. 

Do not confuse barley or rye malt with malted milk powder! Though some non-diastatic barley malt powder is usually an ingredient in malted milk powder, malted milk powder is not a substitute in this recipe. 

To Sprout Grains

To make sprouted grains (barley, rye or wheat), start with whatever amount you want of non-irradiated, preferably organic grain. I used ½ cup, leaving me with plenty to have on hand for further attempts at this recipe. The timing may differ. For example, it may take more, or less time for the berries to sprout or to dry. The actual sprout, once it appears, should grow to about the length of the grain. Use my timing as a guideline only.

DAY 1: 
  • 4:00 PM: Placed rye berries in a measuring cup and covered with water to 1½ cups.
  • 10:00 PM: Drain the berries. Place a damp paper towel into a wide, flat colander. Put the drained berries onto the damp towel. Cover with another damp (not wet) paper towel. Set in the oven with the light on, at the farthest corner from the light (my oven maintains about 82 to 84 degrees F) to promote a warm, moist atmosphere.
DAY 2:
  • 6 AM: Spritzed the berries with water. Spritzed the top paper towel to re-dampen.
  • 6 PM: The berries have sprouted.
  • 6 PM:Placed the sprouted rye berries onto a dehydrator sheet on low temperature (75 - 80 degrees) for about 14 to 16 hours.
DAY 3:
  • 10 AM: The dried berries are ready to be ground for diastatic rye malt.

To make Non-Diastatic Red Rye Malt:

Use whatever portion of the diastatic malted berries you wish to make into non-diastatic malt and set them onto a baking sheet. Place in a 325 oven and bake until they become brick red in color, about 35 to 45 minutes. Grind into flour, as needed.

Coriander Seeds

I love the flavor of coriander seed. It has a light, almost citrusy flavor and is wonderful in Indian foods, but is also a great addition to things like apple pie or biscuits and scones, among many other things. As coriander is the first go-to choice for seeds added to this bread, I was intrigued. I went the heavy handed route, because I like the flavor, and used 1 tablespoon of the seeds, crushed, in the "mash" part of the recipe (where boiling water is mixed into some of the whole rye flour and allowed to set), as well as 2 teaspoons more in the bread dough itself. For all of 5 teaspoons of crushed coriander seeds in one small loaf - I cannot taste coriander at all. Rather disappointing.
Coriander Seeds at zoom: actual size similar to a whole black peppercorn

This blog is becoming long, and will  be continued tomorrow. This is the groundwork for knowing what is involved in making a Russian Black Bread or Borodinsky Bread. While these terms are not interchangeable (Russian Black Bread can be made Borodinsky style, though it can also have a lot of other ingredients not allowed in a true Borodinsky), there can be crossover. I cannot call my bread Borodinsky, but I will go so far as to say it is an effort at a Russian Black Bread. More work is needed.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Rhubarb in Cheesecake Bars Naturally Gluten Free

Continuing with the rhubarb theme, and the need to use a large amount of rhubarb that was given to me already cut up, the latest endeavor was Rhubarb Raspberry Cheesecake Bars. To up the interest, I used a swirl pattern in the cheesecake. Only one word for these bars: YUM!
Rhubarb Raspberry Cheesecake Bars, with whipped cream and fresh raspberry. Chiffonade of mint for color.

Gluten Free Recipe

For this recipe, I wanted to go gluten free. Not because I need to have a gluten free dessert, but only because there are people who do need things gluten free. There are so many wonderful foods, including desserts, that are naturally gluten free. While my kitchen is not a gluten free zone, and wheat, rye and barley are used almost daily, if you are on a gluten free regimen, you will already have a gluten free kitchen, or the means to make this without contamination. 
Rhubarb Raspberry Cheesecake Bars

When I was visiting with my sister in November, she made an offhand comment about anything gluten free tasting just awful. I tried to speak with her on this, to say that there are many things that are gluten free by their very nature, but she would hear none of it. This recipe is gluten free just because the ingredients needed are gluten free. It uses a little cornstarch as a thickening agent in the sauce and also in the cheesecake as I feel it gives a silkier texture. So with that in mind, I hope this recipe will tempt everyone, and not just the Gluten Intolerant. 

Most bars or cheesecakes have crust made with cookie crumbs or graham cracker crumbs or other wheat based crumb mixture. For most of my cheesecakes, I have used an almond or other nut based mixture, and this is what was used in this case. The recipe for the almond crust tastes excellent  and it holds up just as well as the cookie crumbs types. If you have a nut allergy, then this particular crust is not for you. For my purposes, this worked spectacularly. This recipe can be used for a cheesecake baked in a spring-form pan also, and the crust will extend up the sides of the pan to about 1 or 1½ inches. If it is used in a 9 x 13-inch pan as I did here, it is pressed only onto the bottom of the pan.

Almond Crust

Makes enough for a 9-inch round spring-form pan or a 9 x 13-inch baking dish

1⅓ cups whole, raw almonds
3 tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon almond extract
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

Preheat oven to375 degrees. Place the almonds and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and process to very small bits. Add the extract and the butter and continue to process until very fine. Press this mixture into the pan of choice. If using a round pan, press the mixture partway up the sides. In a 9 x 13-inch baking dish, press evenly into the bottom. Bake the crust for about 15 minutes, until set and slightly golden. If the mixture pushes up during baking, press it back into place with a glass or other flat object as soon as it comes from the oven. Set aside to cool.

Lining the pan with nut crust
Crust crumbs pressed into parchment-lined pan         |  crust is baked, and then pressed back into shape                 
Using this crust in a 9 x 13-inch pan for this recipe, I chose to line the pan with parchment, so the dessert could be lifted out cleanly. In a spring-form pan, obviously the rim is detachable, so this is not necessary. If you are leaving the dessert in the pan and cutting it there, the parchment liner is unnecessary. 

When planning the cheesecake filling for this dessert, I wanted a pink swirly pattern, so I first created the rhubarb and raspberry sauce. I made the crust and this sauce both the evening before, so they both had adequate time to cool. This cheesecake could easily be made in a round, spring-form pan if desired. Baking time may be different, and it would be best to use a water bath to ensure the filling does not get over baked. It was easy to watch in this low baking dish. In a deeper pan, it is more important to keep an eye on the filling as it bakes.
Rhubarb Raspberry Cheesecake Bars
Rhubarb Raspberry Cheesecake Bars

The cheesecake part of the mixture is pretty straightforward. Cream cheese and sour cream, eggs, sugar, a little cornstarch and flavorings are the basis. Making the rhubarb raspberry sauce takes no time at all. Five minutes to cook, and then it is just a decision of how to puree. I have an old food mill, and this kept most of the raspberry seeds out of the mixture. Pressing through a sieve would take a little more time, but work equally well, if not better. If desired, simply puree in a blender. With a Vita-Mix blender, it would puree the seeds completely. However this is done, the mixture must be cooled down before proceeding with the recipe. If desired, a drop or two of red food color can be added to make the color more vibrant in the final product. I did not add food coloring; what is seen in the photos is the natural fruit color.

Rhubarb Raspberry Cheesecake Bars

Rhubarb Raspberry Cheesecake Bars
Rhubarb Raspberry Cheesecake Bars

Makes one 9 x 13-inch pan

Almond Crust above (or crumb crust of choice)

2 cups fresh rhubarb, cut in small chunks
1 cup fresh raspberries, lightly crushed
½ cup granulated sugar
pinch salt
1 tablespoon cornstarch

3 (8-ounce) blocks cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup sour cream
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons vanilla
½ teaspoon salt
4 eggs

Prepare the crust and allow to cool completely.

In a medium saucepan, mix together the Rhubarb Raspberry Sauce ingredients and bring them to a boil. Cook, stirring for 5 minutes, until the fruit has broken down and the sauce is thickened. Pass the mixture through a food mill, sieve, blender or food processor (depending on how fine you prefer the cheesecake filling to come out). Cool the mixture and chill completely.

Sauce ingredients in pan              |          sugar stirred in creates juices          |          sauce is cooked and pureed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the room temperature cream cheese (very important it be at room temperature or the cream cheese will stay lumpy) in the bowl of a mixer and beat until smooth and creamy. Add the sour cream and sugar and beat at low speed to combine. Add in the cornstarch, vanilla and salt; mix well. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing gently after each addition, until well incorporated. It is important to not over-whip the cheese mixture as this tends to cause the cheesecake to puff up while baking and then crack. Mix gently, so as not to incorporate too much air.

Divide out about ⅓ of the cheesecake mixture. To this ⅓, add all the Rhubarb Raspberry Sauce and whisk well to combine. Drop about ½ of the pink mixture onto the crust Do not spread. Drop on about ½ of the white cheesecake mixture, without spreading. Repeat this process once more with the pink mixture and then the white mixture. Once all the cheesecake batters are in the pan, use a table knife to gently swirl figure-8 patterns through the mixture. Do not over mix.

How to make the marbled look
dropping dabs of cheesecake mixtures in pan       |            all in the pan                 |           swirled in figure-8 pattern             

ALTERNATELY: Combine the fruit sauce with all of the cheesecake and stir well, making a pale pink cheesecake.

Tap the pan 2 or 3 times sharply on the counter to release any air bubbles. Bake the cheesecake bars for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees, then lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees for 20 minutes more. The cheesecake may be a little jiggly in the center, but set at the edges.

Allow the cheesecake to cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for at least 3 or 4 hours, or overnight before serving. To make clean cuts, use a knife that has been run under hot water and wiped dry after each cut.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Excess Rhubarb Results in Jam

Rhubarb & Blood Orange Jam
Rhubarb & Blood Orange Jam
My friend Tetiana gave me a large bag of rhubarb the other day. Unfortunately it was all nicely diced. Meaning, it has to be used, and relatively quickly before it all goes bad! Whole stalks would have been ideal, giving me time to work with it. A few days ago I made a test run of Raspberry Bars. This was ideally to have been Rhubarb Raspberry Bars, but Tetiana had not brought the rhubarb yet, and even the grocery still had none in stock. Once I had all that rhubarb to work with, what to do with it became a pressing matter. 

The first thing I did was to make a jam, or maybe marmalade? Anyway, I had seen some blood oranges at the grocery, and while not inexpensive, I had never worked with them before and I thought the added red of the oranges would enhance the rhubarb's pale pinkish color (when cooked). Tossing around ideas, I used 4 of the blood oranges to 6 cups of rhubarb. I used the peels from 2 1/2 of the oranges for both flavor and texture. The oranges, called "Sanguinellas" on their little stickers, were a deep purple inside. The mixture in the pan all together was really pretty, with the pink and green of the rhubarb, the deep purple of the oranges and the bright orange of their peels.
"Sanguinella" Blood Oranges          |          colorful ingredients in the pot          |          with sugar added in            
I haven't made much jam that is cooked the long way for many years. Mostly I use Sure Jell Packets and have done with it. In this case I had no real idea about how much Sure Jell to use, so I just went the long route and cooked until done. 

Two Drip Set point of jam
Two Drip Set point of jam


The thing about this is knowing precisely when the jam is "done". Theoretically, this is when the boiling mixture coalesces into two thick drops when holding a spoon up on its side, as demonstrated in this picture I made at right. This is called "sheeting", as when the jam falls in a near-solid "sheet" from the spoon. The reality is not always so clear cut as this. In cooking my Rhubarb & Blood Orange Jam, it stayed looking far runnier than this. Once I decided that it absolutely "had" to be done, it was already cooked for longer than needed. The jam is delicious, and I am happy with flavors. It is, however, a bit too thick and harder to spread than it could be. I would still recommend this recipe. It is worthwhile, and doesn't really take all that long.
Bubble Pattern and Two Drip Set point of jam
How the bubbles look when done     |   the thin "sheeting" of my jam               

Bubble Pattern

Another thing to watch for when cooking jam is the bubble pattern. We all know what it looks like when a mixture boils, with the thinness of the liquid and flimsy bubbles. As a sweet mixture cooks down, the bubble pattern becomes more dense, the bubbles finer and more closely spaced. In these photos here at right, observe the pattern of teensy bubbles, interspersed with some larger ones breaking surface. 

Canning and Jars

When making jam, jelly, preserves, conserves, the most important thing is the jars and canning process. When I was growing up in the 1950s, my Mom made jams and jellies every summer. Generally, she used hot paraffin wax to "seal" the jars. None of us ever got sick from her canning methods, so I have to assume it worked well. She did also can foods in Mason or Ball jars, with the typical ring and lid mechanism. For jams and jellies, she poured the boiling jam mixture into the sterilized jars, topped with a sterilized lid and ring to seal it and waited for that familiar loud "pop", indicating the jars had sealed. For other fruit or vegetable canning, she did use a boiling water bath. Again, we never became ill from her canning, so we all assumed this was fine.

These days, no matter what one is preserving, the boiling water bath or pressure canning is de rigeur. This consists of setting the jars of preserves or other food into a large kettle tall enough to completely submerge the jars. The jars are set onto or into a rack to keep them upright and separated, so water can flow freely around the jars. Keeping the jars at the prescribed temperature in the boiling water is the important part, and the timing starts at the point where the pot is at a rolling boil. For most jams and jellies, a safe timing of this water bath is as follows:
  • 10 minutes at up to 1,000 feet above sea level
  • 15 minutes if between 1,000 and 6,000 feet above sea level
  • 20 minutes at higher than 6,000 feet above sea level

And then there are Weck Jars

Rhubarb & Blood Orange Jam with only some jars sealed
Behind, sealed Weck jars, clamps still on with the gasket tab pointed downwards
Weck is a German brand of particularly lovely jars. They come at a price. The plus side is the loveliness of the canned goods and the reusable lids and rubber gaskets. The cons with these jars, I found, is getting them to seal properly. I had bought a box of the Weck mini tulip jars, to ease myself into using them. At the very least, they make a lovely presentation. The jars come with 2 clamps apiece to hold the lids in place during the water processing. In theory, the lids seal, and the little tab on the rubber gasket points downwards, indicating a proper seal. Once the jars have been processed, the clamps are removed, to use for other canning, and the tab is tugged gently to insure there is a good seal. If the tug on the tab lifts the lid off the jar, obviously there is not a good seal and the food must be refrigerated and used. 

I read online that other people were having difficulties with Weck jars and getting a good seal. The ratio of jars that did not seal properly was quite high, in comparison with the regular Ball jar lid and ring mechanism. Someone suggested that if the clamp was not clamped all the way down to the jar, this allowed better expansion and contraction of the contents while processing. Once removed from the water bath, the clamp is pressed down all the way and left to cool. 
Rhubarb & Blood Orange Jam

Rhubarb & Blood Orange Jam

I tried and tried to see a way of only partially pressing down those clamps, and let me say, I don't know if it is just the small size of my jars, or something I am completely missing in translation. "Not all the way down" for me, resulted in the clamp setting right on the rubber gasket. There is no possible way it can set on that gasket and not lift the lid off. Being submerged in a water bath would have resulted in all my jam leaking out into the kettle of water. Oh well. Out of 6 Weck jars, four of them sealed properly and two did not. Not the best odds. The one little Ball jelly jar sealed perfectly. I guess I will stick with Ball jars for my canning and use the Weck for pretty presentations.

Rhubarb & Blood Orange Jam
Rhubarb & Blood Orange Jam
Rhubarb & Blood Orange Jam

Makes about 5½ cups

6 cups chopped fresh rhubarb
2 cups blood orange (or other orange) fruit
½ cup orange rind, julienne cut
6 cups sugar
½ cup orange juice or combo of juice and water

Find the widest large pot possible for cooking jam. This helps with surface evaporation, making the jelling process go more quickly. Place the rhubarb in the pot. Using a potato peeler, pare off a thin layer of rind from well-scrubbed oranges. Peel all the rind in strips about 3/4-inch wide at a time, down the length of the orange. Once all the rind is off, without the white pith underneath, slice the strips across into very thin julienne slices. Do this with as many oranges as needed to make the half-cup of julienned rind. Add this to the pot with the rhubarb.

I found the orange peels very easy to pull off, much like tangerines. Once the skins are removed, coarsely chop the fruit and add 2 cups of the fruit to the pan. Add in the sugar and the orange juice (or water, or a mix of the two), and stir well. Set the pan onto medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Once the mixture is boiling, maintain the heat at medium or just slightly less, keeping a good boil. Stirring need not be constant; stir only occasionally to make sure the mixture is not sticking.

Cook the jam for about half an hour, or until it sheets from a spoon, as shown in the pictures above. If using a lower temperature, or if using a narrower pot, this process may take up to an hour. While the jam is cooking, place all the jars, lids and rings into a boiling water bath for at least 10 minutes. When the jam is done, using tongs, carefully remove one jar from the boiling water. Fill the jar with the hot jam to about ½ inch from the top. Have a clean, damp cloth ready and wipe down the rim of the jar before setting a lid in place and tightening down a ring to seal. Repeat with all the mixture. When all jars are sealed, make sure the canning pot has water deep enough to accommodate completely submerging the jars in the boiling water. Set jars onto a rack in the pot. Bring the water to a full boil and cover with a lid. Time the water bath for 10 minutes, or follow the table above for your altitude. Once finished processing, use tongs or canning tongs to remove the hot jars from the bath. Set them on a damp towel to cool.

My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.