Jul
6

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Easy Whole Wheat Graham Crackers

Once you’ve had homemade Graham Crackers you’ll have a hard time ever buying a box of commercial ones.  Now,  graham flour is just a particular coarseness of whole wheat flour so you’ll find the fine whole wheat flour you can grind on your own mill a perfect match with this recipe.

You’ll find loads of recipes for graham crackers that date to your grandmother’s time – and the resources she had in her kitchen.  They take a few extra steps that you can bypass making the production of these graham crackers faster and easier.

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Rolling graham crackers between silicon baking sheets speeds production

The key here is using silicon baking sheets.  The old way of rolling out the dough called for mixing and then chilling the dough for a half hour.  This hardens the butter which makes it less sticky when rolled out between the two sheets of parchment paper.  But,  silicon baking sheets are so much better that if you are using them you can skip the chilling step completely.  Simply roll out the dough between two of the sheets and then peel of the upper sheet.  At this point you can score the dough to lay out the cracker shapes, slide it onto a baking sheet and put it in the oven.

This recipe is enough to make about two dozen full graham crackers with a bunch of not quite full sized squared for crushing for use in pie crusts, and can be fitted on two baking sheets.  I usually double this, but then I’m usually into mass production.  That double recipe takes about a total of four sheets, which can be accomplished in two goes.

Click on the post title for the full recipe.

 

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Grain mill power drive improvement

I do a lot of baking, which means lots of flour – and since I grind nearly all of the flour I use (I do use commercial flour to cut my whole grain flours when I bake for friends) the homebuilt homestead grain mill gets a lot of use.  Now,  I regularly run through a loaf worth of grain by hand… but more often I grind up quantities of flour using the simple power drive.

Grain mill power drive powering through a few pounds of whole wheat

Grain mill power drive powering through a few pounds of whole wheat

It is a simple drive, a 1/4hp archaic electric motor whose speed is reduced (and torque increased) with pulleys and an intermediary pulley set on pillowblocks.  All of this setup is mounted to a wood frame that allows me to clamp the grain mill to the base.

The drive was put together using what I had on hand and has worked very nicely.   But, the belt on the grain mill was originally one that was pulled off of my snowblower when it became too worn to serve in that capacity.  Snowblower belts are heavy duty, but it was frankly very worn, and worn unevenly.  Still….it worked as the final drive belt for the mill for about a year.

But, by last week it was pretty clear that the life was pretty much gone from the belt, so this weekend I decided to get a new replacement belt.

Whole wheat flour off the burrs

Whole wheat flour off the burrs

I had been putting the grain through to pastry flour fine in three passes in order to keep the belt from slipping.  I started to adopt the same strategy when I finished swapping in the new belt, but,  change a variable and you change the outcome right.  In this case two things became apparent.  The overall pace at which I could process the grain could be boosted with the new belt, and rather significantly, which wasn’t unexpected since the new belt would have a much greater contact area with the pulley sheaves therefore transferring more torque to the grain mill.  But, something else changed too.    The old belt had been unevenly worn which introduced a bit of shaking, the new belt didn’t do that so the feed rate for the grain though the mill was reduced… so instead of three passes it now makes sense to grind to pastry flour fine in just two passes.  That reduces the necessary adjustment, which while quick and easy is still an extra step, so all in all a nice bonus and one that I hadn’t really counted on…. now to get baking…

 

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Whole Wheat Apple Braid

If you make bread you quickly come to understand just how versatile a good standard dough, such as this whole wheat bread recipe, can be.

Whole Wheat Apple Braid

Whole Wheat Apple Braid

You can make bread of course, but we’ve also covered how you can turn it into standard buns, and fancy buns, cinnamon buns, bagels, pizza, and now fruit braids.

One of the reasons why this is such an attractive proposition in my mind is that I can produce a single batch of bread dough and split it to produce two very different products… usually something like buns and then something sweet, and fruit braids are a great option to keep in your baking pocket.

Apple Braid right out of the oven

Apple Braid right out of the oven

Really you roll out the dough divide it into thirds, and cut the outer two segments so that they can be braided over the fruit mounded in the center.

In my house the fruit filling often is apples and cinnamon with a bit of sugar in large part because I tend to harvest and process so many apples.

Give it a try when you next make a batch of bead dough.

 

 

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Simple Whole Wheat Pizza

Everybody loves a great pizza.  Making them at home can save you a ton of money.  I fill my freezer with mozzarella  when stores advertise it at a lost leader price – here it’s usually $4 for a half pound bar.  There’s always lots of pepperoni – home cured from the offcuts I accumulate from doing butcher work.  There’s even plenty of tomato sauce if fresh tomatoes aren’t available and our homemade sauce has run out.

Homemade whole wheat pizza slice

Homemade whole wheat pizza slice

While you can use a much simpler recipe for pizza dough especially if you are using high gluten durum flour, when I use full extraction whole wheat I often tend to default to my tried and true baler twine whole wheat bread dough – which allows me to make a full batch and split it for buns, cinnamon rolls or something similar for the next day if I only want a single pizza.

This dough gives a nice chewy crust.  Load it up with toppings and you’ll get the pizza you want at a fraction of the price of delivery or even store bought frozen product.

 

 

 

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Blueberry Barley Muffins

Whole Grain Blueberry Barley Muffins

Whole Grain Blueberry Barley Muffins

I grew up picking blueberries around our cottage in Northern Ontario… and not just picking a sour cream container worth to get enough to sprinkle on cereal in the morning but rather enough to fill freezers with blue bounty to last until the next season.

I still pick large amounts of blueberries,  I’ve become pretty practiced and can usually out pick the other members of my family  and now I have my kids along with me – learning to be comfortable in the bush, as well as gaining an understanding of the lasting reward that hard work can bring through a year of blueberries in baking.

These blueberry muffins call for whole barley flour – my preferred whole grain flour for sweet quick breads,  I find the taste sweeter than whole wheat flour.   Given I also like to diversify the grains in my diet this is also a good means of achieving that.  But, if you don’t have access to whole barley flour substitute whole wheat.

Enjoy these, and if you can get out picking take some time to sit in the bush, let your hands do the work while your mind gets to ponder over the issues of the day.


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Apple spice loaf – with whole grain flour

Apple see a lot of use in my home.  Our fall harvests from the neighborhood trees in a good year can be substantial.  The best of these are kept for fresh eating, seconds are peeled, sliced and dried or  frozen for pies, apple braids and the like, those that are a bit softer get transformed into apple sauce that we can, and finally the really bruised ones get turned into apple cider on the homestead press.

Apple Spice Loaf with Barley Flour

Apple Spice Loaf with Barley Flour

So we end up using a lot of apple sauce through the season, and this apple spice loaf is one of my favorite recipes. It’s a quick loaf – so it honestly doesn’t take more than five minutes to mix the ingredients, put it into a silicon loaf pan (which means I don’t even need to take the time to butter and flour the pan) making it a cinch to pull together.  In spite of being so easy – it is a lovely loaf the blend of apple and spices is lovely.  While the loaf is a great accompaniment for a nice cup of tea or coffee it most often serves as a bread substitute in our lunches, adding variety to our brown bags.  Made with whole grain flour – and I usually use whole barley flour for quick breads – it fills you up and keeps you satiated.

I think this is a pretty good example of better living today – you get a great rich filling and wholesome loaf, add diversity to your meals that sees you content to skip the cafeteria line for lunches and uses some of the bounty around us.  It is also a great example of how easily all this can be pulled together.  It honestly takes more time to wash the bowl than it does to prepare the batter and slide it into the oven.

Of course, you don’t need to use your own apple sauce or even flour you’ve produced at home to get a very nice product.  So take five minutes to make this apple spice loaf and add some great baking to your lunches.


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Rhubarb Custard Pie

My rhubarb patch

My rhubarb patch

Rhubarb is a great plant to have in your garden and deserts made from it serve as an awesome culinary awakening for deserts to be offered up fresh from the new season. It’s such an easy perennial crop to have that you should be growing it.

There are so many great options for deserts and preserves using rhubarb but this has to be my favorite.  In fact it’s what I made with today’s first harvest of rhubarb.  The sweet richness of the custard combines so wonderfully with the bite from the rhubarb it’s an absolute delight.

Rhubarb custard pie components ready for assembly

Rhubarb custard pie components ready for assembly

I used whole wheat pie shells, but you could use shells made with white flour or purchased if necessary (but really, if you can bake something like this, and certainly if you grow some of your own food you should consider building a grain mill for yourself – it’s well within your capacity)

Even better this recipe can be whipped together in only a minute or two.  Click on the post title for the full recipe.


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Philly Cheese Steak on Whole Wheat

Whole Wheat Bread in French Loaf Pan

Whole Wheat Bread in French Loaf Pan

Some ingredients make wonderful combinations – steak and cheese is just one such marriage that yields dividends for the taste buds, combine roasted sweet peppers and caramelized onions on a hearty whole wheat loaf and you have a meal that will see you cooking extra steak just so that your next meal can be this great combo.

Toasted Whole Wheat Cheese Steak

Toasted Whole Wheat Cheese Steak

My favorite bread to support a sandwich of this scale is my standard whole wheat baler twine bread – but made as dough and then laid out in a double french loaf pan.  These pans are great – making it easy to get a great loaf.

Let your steak cool to reabsorb the juices before you slice it.  I like to use the broiler to melt and brown the cheese, and of course make sure you’ve got loads of onions and sweet peppers.

 

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Peanut Butter Barley Cookies – Junior Baker Approved

Jumbo Peanut Butter and Barley cookies

Jumbo Peanut Butter and Barley cookies

Whole barley flour works wonderfully in a host of baked goods – in most cases I prefer it to whole wheat flour for cookies and sweet quick breads – and so does my junior baker.

You might have a bit of trouble finding whole barley flour unless you mill it yourself, but that is one of the advantages of having your own mill.

Barley flour peanut butter cookies ready for the oven

Barley flour peanut butter cookies ready for the oven

While I know that these could be scaled down to bite sized if you engage the junior baker the cookies are always going to be jumbo sized.  It’s not every cookie that will scale up nicely – but these do just fine, and you can adjust the baking time to suit the level of chewiness you desire – from wonderfully chewy to crisp.

Cookies are probably the greatest reason to get and use silicon baking sheets – they practically banish cookies with burnt bottoms, so don’t waste your ingredients or effort by forgoing its acquisition.

So, whether you have a junior baker or not these are great PB cookies so make yourself a batch.

 

 

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Whole Wheat Banana Bread

Once you’ve tasted banana bread made with the rich taste of fresh whole wheat flour you won’t want to go back to the comparatively bland taste of loaves made with white four.

Whole Wheat Banana Bread - ready for lunch

Whole Wheat Banana Bread – ready for lunch

As a quick bread this loaf is easy to pull together.  Unlike many other banana breads I’ve tried that are sweetened enough to be deserts this rich load has less added sugar and relies more on the sweetness in the bananas combining with the nuttiness of the whole wheat flour to form a hearty snack or lunch loaf just begging to be combined with a few slices of aged cheddar.

Combined with cheese a couple of slices of this are a hit for lunches – adding healthy variety.

Click on the post title for the full recipe.