Dear bread, I confess, I haven't been baking you much lately. Did you notice my absence? How very selfish of me to think that my participation in the bread stream matters to you!
Baking is an activity that can seem generous, because it is, but it is also very selfish. I like to bake. I like to have my hands in dough. I know who I am when I'm baking. I didn't start cooking with curiosity until my twenties so savory foods don't feel as intimate and familiar.
I noticed this as I was baking doughnuts, as I do once a year for Father's Day. My husband has a thing for doughnuts and I am generally terrified of frying, so each year I conquer this for my mate. He requested potato doughnuts, so I saved the mashed potatoes from Thursday’s supper, consulted Rachel Wyman's cookbook, Will Run for Doughnuts, and got busy Sunday morning.
I used Farmer Ground Flour whole wheat pastry flour, one of my favorite flours in the world. I combined the mashed potatoes, milk, egg and melted butter in the miniature Cuisinart food processor I got at a yard sale a million years ago. I use this tool many days a week, so I hope you will grab one if it crosses your path. Cuisinart motors really chug along, so don't be afraid of the used ones.
Rachel's recipe calls for all-purpose flour, and the cue she gave, to look for a soft sticky dough was good information. My latest tactic for using whole grain flours from small mills —in recipes written for standard flours —is spooning the flour into measuring cups. I used to try to weigh everything, but now I only weigh when I’m making bread. For everything else, I like approximating my measurements by volume instead. This allows me to physically see an amount that a recipe was written for, and I can use my expectations of what a dough should resemble to get the less common flour relatively aligned with the recipe.
This is probably sacrilege, but it is what I'm doing now and I really like how it works. What are your stoneground, whole grain strategies?
The doughnuts were a big hit and since I had that vat of frying oil on the stove, I made another batch the next morning. We had company and this friend observed that I had some ease with what I was doing, and must have been practicing. Oh no, I most certainly had not! Yet the dough came together quickly, because they were hitting the road fast.
Her comment made me realize that I was frying biscuits. I have developed a fairly good biscuit hand – which means having a sure, light touch. I don’t overwork the dough, but I’m not afraid of handling it. I don't have is a great frying hand, though, and got burnt with lots of splatters of hot fat. Grab her cookbook and read the great stories around the great recipes! If you’ve made food from it already, please let me know.
I also recommend this fabulous looking talk from MOFAD, the Museum of Food and Drink, Bread and the Contours of Capitalism, by Tunde Wey and Uzodinma Iweala. The event is virtual and free, but you must register.
I may miss this opportunity because my Felix is turning 19! And the day is given to him.
I love using whole grains in my pancake recipe, but I find the batter absorbs a lot more liquid and often thickens up as it rests.
I have often wanted to make donuts - my great-grandmother was famous for her nutmeg-scented old-fashioned cake donuts. But I fear the frying! I once set a saucepan with a small amount of bacon fat on fire and now I'm paranoid. Lol.