Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Pineapple Ginger Blonde Shandy

Do you know what a shandy is?

No, not a shanty. A shandy.

A shandy is a beer cocktail, often made with a fizzy soda or a juice of some sort. It's lighter in alcohol, since it's generally only half beer, and it offers a whole lot of different flavor options.

The nice folks at Guinness challenged me to make a shandy with their Guinness Blonde beer, so I figured I'd give it a whirl. I wanted something that was a little sweet, but not to much. Maybe a little spice. Maybe not orange juice, because that's a pretty common ingredient.

I wanted something refreshing rather than heavy, but not so lightweight that it was watery. Something that would work over ice or not. Something easy to make by the glass.

They sent me (along with some Guinness Blonde) a pretty pitcher and some glasses. But I didn't really want to make a whole pitcher of shandy. I mean, it's just me here. I'm not that thirsty.

One glass at a time was my goal, because I didn't want to lose the fizz.

So I started fiddling around. What could I make?

In the end, I decided that pineapple juice concentrate would add nice flavor. Since I didn't dilute it to drinking consistency, the pineapple held its own against the other ingredients.

Then I wanted something fizzy and chose ginger beer. The non-alcoholic stuff. It has a stronger ginger bite than you'll find in ginger ale. But hey, if you can't find ginger beer, then ginger ale would work, too.

See, I'm making it easy.

Pineapple Ginger Blonde Shandy

Generous spoon of pineapple juice concentrate (about 2 tablespoons)
1/2 bottle Guinness Blonde
1/2 can ginger beer

Put the pineapple juice concentrate into a glass and add the beer and ginger ale. Eyeball it - it's not that critical. Stir and serve. With a straw, if you like.

On a hot day, I'd suggest starting this with a glass full of ice, which means you'll probably be using 1/3 or even 1/4 of the bottle of beer and the can of ginger beer.

See, it's a nice light cocktail. Did I mention refreshing? Yes, I think I did.

Cheers!

Thanks to the nice folks at Guinness for sponsoring this post and providing products as well.

Yum

Monday, July 25, 2016

Whole Wheat Sesame-Topped Loaf - with Freshly Milled Flour #Mockmill

I bake a lot. I've been wanting a grain mill for a while, to play around with. But I wasn't sure if I'd like it enough to justify buying one.

So when I got a chance to get a Mockmill to work with, I said "yes" in a heartbeat.

And, if you want one, I've got a deal for you. Scroll to the bottom of the post for details!

The mill is named after its inventor, Wolfgang Mock (the site is in German; Google translate does a fairly good job at translating), and it had pretty good reviews on bread sites that I trust, so I figured it was a good deal. Mockmill for me, bread for my readers.

Well, okay, the bread is for me, too. But the recipe is for my readers. Right?

The only thing left to do was buy some grains to mill. I picked up a couple of hard wheat varieties to start with - a hard spring wheat and a hard winter wheat. I'm going to try some soft wheat, too, and then I'll mess around with other grains.

The mill can grind grain very finely to make flour, or it can grind coarsely, for cracked grains or for things like cornmeal, where you want a coarse texture. Or any coarseness in between. You set the coarseness with a dial, so there's a complete range.

The photo shows the whole wheat flour on the right, topped with some store-bought bread flour.

The mill attaches to the hub of a KitchenAid mixer, so you do need a mixer to use the mill. But since it doesn't have its own motor, it's pretty small and lightweight and easier to store than a stand-alone mill.

Speaking of motors, I checked the heat on my KitchenAid's motor while I was grinding, and it didn't seem to be straining at all. I've made breads that stressed it more. So that's a really good thing.

The first time I used the mill, I had a bit of an "oops" moment. The mill jiggled quite a bit while it was grinding, and that grinding loosened the screw that keeps attachments attached to the mixer and then the mill did a nice spin around. Everything was fine except for some spilled grain, but I suggest that you don't go too far away from it while it's running.

I brought the Mockmill to a friend's house and it barely wobbled, so obviously it's a mixer issue and not a Mockmill issue, but the first time or two you use the mill, it's probably best to stay nearby and tighten the screw if it seems to be coming loose. Just to be safe.

Here it is, attached to my friend's mixer:



At my friend's house, we made pasta using half all-all purpose flour, and half freshly-ground whole wheat. It was really good with an eggplant bolognese. Here's the pasta:



Meanwhile, back to the mill ...

As far as cleaning the mill, you really don't need to do much - just brush out the parts you can get to, or if you're going to be putting it away for a while after grinding things like whole wheat that can go rancid, just run some white rice through it to clean it. You can also take the mill apart for a more thorough cleaning of the grinding stones, but that shouldn't be necessary very often - if you use it often. The mill comes with complete instructions on how to take it apart and put it back together, if you need to.

Way back when I first started researching about different flours, I found out that most flours that you buy are either aged or bleached. The natural aging process changes some chemical properties in the flour and strengthens the gluten bonds. Bleaching does the same thing, but in less time, which means the mills don't have to store the flour before they sell it.

Bakerpedia explained it well: "When flour is aged for several months, oxidation restructures the proteins within the flour while starch remains rather consistent. Here, the influence of gluten becomes more pronounced, forming stronger bonds which lead to a more elastic dough. Oxidation also naturally bleaches the flour, creating a lighter colored flour. Aging flour can be costly, which is why chemical methods of ‘aging’ are typical of large scale flour producers."

Aging time for flour also depends a bit on when the wheat was harvested. Grain that's newly harvested would need to be aged longer after grinding than grain that's older.

I also read (somewhere ... can't recall where) that you're best off baking with either aged flour or with freshly-milled flour. Flour that's somewhere in the middle of the process is least desirable. So, I figure it made sense to grind and then make bread right away because I'm not going to be storing flour for long periods of time before using it.

Here's a curious thing. After baking bazillions of loaves of bread, I know how much water I should need for how much flour. It varies a bit by season and brand of flour, but I know what results I should get. And I know that in general whole wheat flour needs more water than refined flour.

But the freshly-milled whole wheat flour didn't need any more flour than if I made this same recipe with white flour. Perhaps it's because the whole grains I bought had more moisture in them than milled flour would have had. I haven't experimented with enough types of whole wheat berries yet to know. But if you're using freshly milled grain, be prepared to make adjustments, if you need to.

Speaking of milling more grains, expect to see more recipes here using freshly milled grains. I've been really happy with the ones I've made so far, and I think it'll be a whole lot of fun working with other grains.

How much do I like this thing? Well, I just ordered some hard red wheat and some soft white wheat to try. I've used almost all of the first bag of the hard white wheat flour that I bought, so obviously I'm having some fun with it. If it was winter, I'd probably have used even more, but mid-summer it's kind of warm to be baking bread. Even so, I'm working on it!

If you happen to make this recipe with store-bought whole wheat flour, plan on using more water. I'm sure you'll need it.

Whole Wheat Sesame-Topped Loaf

9 ounces hard spring wheat berries, milled to a fine flour
4 1/2 ounce (1 cup) bread flour
1 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (one packet) Red Star* Active Dry Yeast
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Egg wash (optional - for a shiny crust and so the sesame seeds adhere)
Toasted sesame seeds, as needed (optional)

After milling the flour (the Mockmill sends it directly into the stand mixer bowl, which is useful) add all of the other ingredients to the bowl.

Mix on slow speed using the dough hook until all the ingredients are mixed. It's fine if the butter is still in large lumps - the stand mixer will obliterate it during kneading.

Increase the speed to medium (I used 4 on my Artisan mixer) and knead for 10 minutes.

Cover the bowl and set aside until the dough has at least doubled - about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, spray a 9x5 loaf pan with baking spray for added insurance that the bread will leave the pan. This isn't required, but it's good insurance. I've had some breads stick to the bottom of some pans, and it never makes me happy.

When you see that the bread has risen, heat the oven to 350 degrees. This will give the oven enough time to heat fully before you put the bread in the oven.

Remove the dough from the bowl and form it into a log-like shape that will fit in the bread pan, with the seam side down in the pan.

Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap (you don't want to impede the rise) and set aside until the dough rises about an inch over the top of the pan - about 30 minutes, or about half of the first rising time. Remove the Brush the top of the loaf with the egg wash, if you're using it, and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Slash the top of the loaf and bake at 350 degrees until the top is nicely browned and the loaf is fully baked, about 50 minutes. You can test the doneness with a thermometer poked into the bread, It should reach at least 205 degrees.

Remove the loaf from the pan and let it cool completely on a rack before slicing or storing.

*If you use another brand of yeast, you might need to soften it in the water before mixing. Red Star is a brand that I know for sure can be mixed directly into the dough.

Want a MOCKMILL?

If you're interested in buying your own Mockmill, they're running a special deal through the bloggers who are working on this promotion. If you order with the coupon code COOKISTRY, you'll get:

One Mockmill
One cookbook (Flour Power)
2# bag of rye
2# bag of oat groats
2# bag of red fife (a type of wheat)
2# bag of spelt

There is also a gluten-free option that includes maize, buckwheat, and teff instead of the oats, fife, and spelt.

The price of all this is $179 (after your discount), which is a super deal since the Mockmill itself sells for $229. Heck, it would be a good deal if it was JUST the Mockmill.

You ONLY get this deal if you click on this link that leads to the two special promotional packages. The price for the package will say that it's $259 until you go to checkout and use the promotion code cookistry to get $80 off. Yes, today I'm worth $80 to you.

This discount is only good through August 31, 2016, so if you're thinking about a grain mill, now's the time.

Trivia


I mentioned that Wolfgang Mock invented the Mockmill, but didn't say why. First, he tried whole grain bread that a friend made, and liked the flavor better than white flour. Second, he felt it was a much healthier choice. So, he started milling his own grains, but got tired of hand-cranking. He tried some electric mills, but didn't like them. So he decided to design his own, with an eye at making it easy to use and attractive.

Friends asked him to build mills for him, and it became a hobby that turned into a business in the 70's. Yup, he's been making these things for a long, long time. Mostly in Germany, but now he's working on selling them to consumers in the US.

His goal is to make home-milling as popular as, well, stand mixers, I guess.

This is a sponsored post for Mockmill; I received a mill at no cost and revenue share for mills purchased using my code.
Yum

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Hummus and Perqs

Did the word "perqs" confuse you?

How about "perks"?

Same thing. Perks is a friendlier spelling of perqs which is short for perquisite, which I think is an interesting word. It rhymes with requisite, but it's not something that's required. It's (according to Google's definition) "a thing regarded as a special right or privilege enjoyed as a result of one's position."

I also like the short version, perq, because it has a q that isn't followed by a u. So that makes it unique. I also like it because absolutely no one uses perq any more, and I'm quirky like that.

One of the perqs of being a blogger is getting free stuff. This is in addition to the work of being a blogger, which sometimes includes being paid to write stuff. The pay is not a perq, since it's earned. The free stuff thrown in, though, is very perqy.

Another perq is getting invited to events. Recently, the folks at Sprouts (a local grocery store chain, if they're not in your area) invited a bunch of bloggers to an event at Hope Foods, a local maker of hummus. And now guacamole. But mostly hummus.

(Note: Of course people who provide the perqs ((I love that spelling!)) hope that it will result in bloggers writing about their products. They're not being charitable; they're savvy marketers. But there's no contract. No one is obligated to write. So ... it's up to the blogger to decide whether something is of interest to their readers or whether it's worth a post on social media, or whether it's just another meh that goes in the pile of stuff that's donated to charity. I only write about stuff that amuses me and/or that I think my readers will be interested in.)

So, at the event we bloggers mingled, chatted, and sampled. Hope has a chocolate hummus that I'm still trying to wrap my head around. When I think of it as hummus, my brain says, no, hummus is tan colored and has lemon and garlic or herbs and spices and you eat it with pita chips or vegetables. But it's not chocolate.

But when I don't think of it as hummus, it reminds me of brownie batter. It has that sort of texture ... not smooth like Nutella. It tastes good. I licked the spoon. And then I wondered what I could do with it.

I could eat it with a Ritz cracker or graham cracker. But something about that chocolate hummus makes me want to cook with it. It has potential to be the secret ingredient in something.

I'm just not sure what, yet.

Another interesting sample was their guacamole. Let's be honest here. I don't buy guacamole, I buy avocados. That are never ripe enough, so I have to let them sit a while. It's always this balancing act between when I buy them and when I want to eat them, and I don't always win. Sigh.

I've tried a few store-bought guacamoles, and some are just plain horrible. They don't even resemble guacamole. They're weird and slimy and even if the flavor is acceptable the texture is all all alllll wrong.

But the Hope guacamole was pretty close to home made. Not exactly how I make mine, because we all have our special recipes. But the texture was right, and that's really important. The secret is how they sterilize all their foods. Instead of heat-processing, which changes the texture and flavor of foods (I mean, seriously, you're cooking it!) they use a cold water method that subjects the packaged food to super-high pressure so that the nasties are killed without cooking the food. Cooked guacamole is no bueno. Pressurized guacamole tastes like guacamole.

I'm not going to stop buying avocados, because they have so many uses beyond guac. And I'll still make my own guacamole. But if I'm ever in a guacamole emergency where I don't have a ripe avocado nearby, I'd be more than happy to pick up a container of the Hope guacamole. Or to keep one in the fridge for potential guacamole emergencies, since it lasts quite a while before it's opened.

We also took a tour of the facility, where we saw the mixing, packaging, and preserving process and learned a little about the company. They make everything they can on-site, including their own sriracha. They get dried chickpeas (grown in the US) and they cook them on-site. They don't use a co-packer to do any of their work. They started out making hummus by hand and selling it at the local farmer's market, and they want to stick as close to those roots as possible, even though they now have a factory instead of a blender in someone's kitchen. It's a young company, and they're all very hands-on and enthusiastic.

So anyway, besides mingling and tasting and taking a tour of the facility, we were also given two different guacamole bases for us to make our own hummus flavors.

I wasn't all that fond of the sweet base as-is, but I added almond butter, cherry preserves, ginger, lemon, a hint of cinnamon, and some red pepper flakes. And, hey! It was pretty good! Still a tad on the sweet side, but the ginger and red pepper added heat and the almond butter mellowed it out, so it wasn't all sweet. I might actually get on this sweet hummus bandwagon.

The savory one got lime, sesame seeds, roasted red peppers, and chili powder. Maybe something else. Oh! Garlic. I didn't write it down, I just added a bit here and there and mixed it all up. The roasted red peppers could have used a blender to break them up, but I was happy with the combo. And then we put our hummuseseses (hummi? Hummipotamuses?) into cute little jars that they had labeled just for us. Awwwwww. And we stole the spatulas. Yup, right into the goodie bags they went.

Okay, fine. They said we could take them.

It was an interesting couple hours, I saw some local bloggers I haven't seen in a while, and met some new friends. And I came home with a bag full of hummus, guacamole, and other goodies supplied by Hope Foods and Sprouts, who sponsored the event.

I don't know how far Hope Hummus is being distributed yet, but if you see it in your area and you're a hummus fan, give it a try. They have lot of creative flavors, and they're working on creating more. And be sure to check out the guacamole!

As for the chocolate hummus... look for that to appear here in a recipe. As soon as I figure out what the heck I'm going to do with it.

Thanks to Hope Foods and Sprouts for sponsoring a fun event! And stuff! I got stuff! 
Yum