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Apple Kuchen

Apple Kuchen

Base and apple chunks ready for topping

It’s an old saying that pretty much everyone loves motherhood and apple pie, and I’d include myself in that list – particularly since there have been two back to back crop failures for the blueberry crop around our camp up north – otherwise as a good northern canadian lad I’d be endorsing motherhood and blueberry pie but definitely not turning down apple pie.

More realistically, in our home apple pie usually takes a back seat to apple crisp – which is so easy to throw together and is truly a great desert.  But, Apple Kuchen also figures prominently among our favorite deserts because it’s a great desert in its own right and is almost as quick to prepare as apple crisp.

Whole grain apple kuchen

Partly devoured pan of whole barley base apple kuchen

For those who haven’t had it before it is an cake base topped with apples and a sugar and cinnamon topping.  Since home ground whole grain flours are the principal ones that get used in our kitchen the base is usually whole barley or whole wheat – both of which work great and give more substance and flavour compared to white flours.

So next time you are looking for a great desert give Apple Kuchen a try.

Click on the post title to expand and see the recipe.

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Sourdough Pumpernickel Bread

A stand mixer makes for easy kneading.

Pumpernickel bread is one of my favorite breads, rich and complex in flavour it’s a great accompaniment to sharp cheese, toasted and slathered with butter and a strong honey or as the foundation for a great sandwich.

This is my favorite recipe striking the right balance between whole grain content and hollow white – I usually use triticale flour but unless you have a grain mill (and you can have one at low cost by building one for yourself) you’ll likely find rye flour to be more common.

Sourdough pumpernickel loaves formed and ready to double in bulk.

The overnight sponge takes a bit more time, but the long hydration period is a perfect match for whole grain baking, and while you can substitute dry yeast for the sourdough, the latter offers an additional complexity that is a great compliment to the other flavours.

 

 

 

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King Arthur Flour Sourdough Starter Review

King Arthur Sourdough Starter in KA Crock

I’ve been using a variety of sourdough starters for a couple of decades, it offers both great flavour for your breads – that particular sour tang, while also giving you a more resilient method of leavening bread compared to commercial yeast.

Those starters – some of which were home made, starting from commercial yeast, from airborne cultures, from those on grapes or rye, and others which were purchased both dry and liquid or shared from others – varied in quality.   Compared to the King Arthur starter some were more sour but none matched the effectiveness at leavening bread.

Using sourdough is a great and low cost means to produce great beads at home, and the starter from King Arthur is probably the easiest way to boost your chances of success.

https://youtu.be/zSKxpjbwuGY

 

 

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Building a Grain Mill – Easy as Pie

Build a grain mill

Build a grain mill

As easy as pie – just a bit longer to realize the result.  Seriously. Really.  You just need the right tools (which are reasonably priced) and to gain some insight into how to pull everything together with smart techniques.

Not really much different than baking a pie – and there are lots of folks who are seriously intimidated by the thought of pulling together a great pie crust and that perfect filling.

But, that’s why cookbooks and cooking shows are so popular – they provide both guidance and the insight into the techniques needed to effectively convert the ingredients into the finished product.  Once you’ve done it once that initial hurdle of getting those techniques down is breached and going from making an apple pie to a peach torte is comparatively a breeze.  That’s no different with metal working – get a handle on how to pull one project off and you’ll be well on your way to having the skills and confidence to pull off much more complex projects.

In terms of how high that bar to entry is – with modern power tools it really isn’t much more difficult than baking that pie in a home oven.  Wire feed welders are not only easy to master but also low cost – as I write this Harbor Freight has their welders on for $110 for the smaller unit to $180 for the midsized one that I adore.  Their angle grinders start at $20 for a 4 1/2″ “heavy duty” one that will do for the work you have to carry out on the project to $45 for a versatile 7″ unit all the way to $65 for a top of the line 9″ unit – but those prices are all before you apply the 20% off coupons that always seem to be floating around.  Another $20 will get you the needed drill.

Homebuilt Grain Mill, Tortilla Press and the required tools

Homebuilt Grain Mill, Tortilla Press and the required tools

Add in the consumables and hand tools and even if you are starting your shop from scratch you’ll be able to buy the tools and the materials needed for the grain mill build and have money left over compared to buying a comparable mill with 6″ diameter burrs.

Now the economics of building your own tortilla press isn’t nearly as compelling – but if you’ve got the tools… well then building it is a breeze.

Of course, the prime advantage in my opinion isn’t the grain mill, or the tortilla press, ore even the nicely equipped shop – but the change in perspective that you’ll gain once you’ve seen how achievable these metal working projects are.  That shift will see you empower your independence, and that

is really cool – especially with a slice of pie.

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Whole Grain Waffles – Barley Flour

Waffles are decidedly the high class alternative to the pedestrian pancakes.  Sure,  they are slower to produce but they are a great treat for a breakfast or brunch.

Breakfast fixings, barley flour waffles, strawberries, bacon and maple syrup

Breakfast fixings, barley flour waffles, strawberries, bacon and maple syrup

While a variety of whole grain flours can be used to pull these healthy waffles together my favorite is unquestionably barley.  There’s a sweetness to barley that plays perfectly in this recipe – and by that I mean you’ll be hard pressed to make enough to satisfy the crowd at your table.

You may be hard pressed to find barley flour in your local grocery store – it will probably take a trip to a specialty retailer if you don’t have your own grain mill.  If that’s the case why not consider building a grain mill  – it isn’t much more complex than the baking you are already doing,  just in a different domain.

That said,  like all whole grain products it will fill you up and keep you going – you won’t be getting hunger pangs mid-morning after a hearty breakfast where these are featured.

So oil up your waffle iron, get it heated up and get ready to wow with these whole barley flour waffles.

Click on the post title for the full recipe.

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Barley flour super fudgey brownies

Super chocolaty brownies  made with whole barley flour

Super chocolaty brownies made with whole barley flour

These brownies are crazy awesome good.  Frankly they are soooo chocolaty that it masks most (but not all) of the sweet nuttiness that I love from the whole barley flour.  These are really really good, and so quick to prepare that you’ll be able to whip them up and have them in the oven in under five minutes – washing your bowl will take as long as the prep.

This recipe is also a great one to hand to new bakers (of all ages).  Unlike cookies which are fun but can be a bit time consuming these brownies are pretty close to instant gratification and there is really little chance of it being screwed up.

If you have younger bakers you might find the mixing a bit of a challenge with a wooden spoon.  Pick up some Danish Whisks and the kids will be able to do all of the mixing themselves.  Once you’ve got them in your kitchen drawer they will end up being your default mixing tool they are that good.

Give these a go.

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Grinding Cornmeal with the Homestead Grain Mill

Homemade Grain Mill

Homemade Grain Mill

One of the great advantages of having your own grain mill is being able to grind a huge assortment of grains – and grind them as fine or coarse as you want… You get to make the choices!

The homestead grain mill is great for grinding corn for cornmeal or corn flour – but not masa… it’s a dry mill and not intended for grinding nixtamatal.  If you are going to do that – and you should – pick up a masa mill – they are very cheap.

Freshly Ground Cornmeal (R) beside Whole Wheat Flour (L)

Freshly Ground Cornmeal (R) beside Whole Wheat Flour (L)

But back to grinding corn for cornmeal or corn flour.  Now compared to grinding small grains there is one tweak you need to do in order to have a reasonable production rate.  You need to start with a greater gap between the burrs to accommodate the larger grain size.  That’s it… really that simple.  So add some whole grain corn to your larder and start using it in your baking.

So if you don’t have a mill, why not consider building one – it’s going to be much easier than you probably are contemplating, and it will leave you with the skills to tackle loads of additional projects that will likewise yield independence dividends around your home and homestead.

 

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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…