From time to time you’ll see the fast food chains advertise a special promotion featuring pretzel buns. They are great with hamburgers but where they shine in particular in my opinion with bbq chicken breast.
Pretzel buns formed ready to boil
Now, you’ll seldom if ever see pretzel buns in the grocery – they just don’t keep very well. The good news though is that they are really easy to make at home – and you can’t get fresher than that!
If you’ve make bagels at home – and you should – making pretzel buns is pretty much the same process.
The key for that great and characteristic crust is to boil the raised buns in a basic water solution before baking – an easy way to go is with baking soda – but I use wood ash (lye) because the wood fired pizza oven I have keeps me in loads of wood ash, and I need it around anyway for making massa for homemade tortillas.
So, easy, simple, quick – and since they are best consumed within a day or so after baking are ideally suited to making in your own kitchen. Of course, I’m making these with home ground whole wheat flour, but if you don’t yet have your own mill commercial flour will do.
This has got to be one of my favorite loaves – great for sandwiches and just begging to be toasted and topped with some buckwheat honey.
One of the great things about having a grain mill is that it provides you with a big range of flour options for baking – wheat, corn, rye, barley, oat, triticale, spelt, and more can be purchased cheap from farm stores in 50# bags and stored for the long haul either in the bag themselves or in 45 gallon drums to be ground as you need. That makes producing “artisanal” loaves such as this light rye a breeze and a cheap one at that.
Sourdough rye bread ready for the oven
With a bit of tang from the sourdough and the full extraction rye flour cut with some white this loaf is an easy sell for most folks.
Even better, while it takes a bit more forethought the actual time required to work the loaf is minimal – especially if you have a stand mixer.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Growing up I always loved when my mother would have chocolate éclairs bursting with fresh whipped cream for desert. They seemed so decadent – or rather they were and still are, but now as a baker, having baked éclairs I wonder why they weren’t more commonly on the desert plate since they are really very easy to make (and that’s not overselling it).
For those that think whole grain translates into blah, well this is a great recipe to demonstrate that finely ground whole grain flour can and will wow.
There’s good reason why biscuits were an essential part of pioneer cooking fare – they are quick and easy to make, are incredibly versatile and especially when warm right from the oven – like most fresh baking – make any meal go from whatever to wow! They were the perfect tool for the busy pioneer wife to pull together to make her meals special. Not so surprisingly they fill that same role today just as well. Between work and school and a myriad of other things that fill our modern lives the busyness while different is likely often just as much of an issue today as it was a hundred years ago – so any modern baker – male or female, hitched or not – should have a good basic biscuit recipe to turn to in times of need. This happens to be a great and versatile one.
I like cast iron cookware. The large cast iron frying pan that I use so much it usually just sits on the stove rather than getting tucked into one of the cupboards dates back to my grandmother and was produced in a foundry not far from here that is long gone. Unless it gets thrown out it will be just as useful for one of my grandkids – now that’s longevity. But a large part of why we see cast iron cookware stay around is because it isn’t just durable but functional. That same large frypan is so well seasoned I have no problem baking thin crepes and can tell when the crepe is ready to flip by picking up the pan and tilting it – the crepe is ready when it starts sliding on the bottom of the pan. You aren’t going to get a surface that slippery with stainless, and I doubt those fancy surface coatings like Teflon will be durable enough to last a decade let alone my lifetime.
Texsport Waffle Iron
So it’s into that matrix that the Texsport Waffle Iron enters into the mix. Unlike the Teflon coated electric waffle irons this one will last generations. Now is it good enough that your grandkids will list it among the things they want from your estate? Yes – if you get it right.
The first part of getting the use of this waffle iron right is making sure it stays well seasoned. A little oil goes a long way to building and maintaining that surface. Unlike cast iron frypans and griddles the projections on a waffle iron make it very unforgiving if not properly seasoned – there is no cheating possible.
Whole grain waffles with barley flour
The other part of getting it right is making sure that you don’t treat this unit as if it is solidly held together. Both sides of the iron come apart and the ring that hold the iron is free too. When you flip the iron from one side to the other you need to hold the ring steady – I just use the dishtowel that usually hangs on my oven door since the ring does get hot. You also need to hold onto the upper half of the iron when you open it up to put in the batter or to remove the waffle – don’t get lulled into thinking that you can lean it back and have it stay in place – it won’t.
In terms of what cooktops it works with – it works with induction tops, with resistance tops and I’ve even used it on propane camp stoves.
Would I recommend it? Absolutely for less than $50 it’s a great buy, even if it only lasts five generations that’s still only $10 per generation – so pick one up and fancy up your breakfasts while acquiring a future heirloom. Check this out for a great whole grain waffle recipe.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.