Friday, May 28, 2010

Whole Grain Sunflower Seed Bread

As part of my recent healthful living kick, I’ve been trying to eat less refined white flour. Luckily, my friends have clued me in about the magical substance known as “white wheat flour.”

I thought at first that it must be some sort of food industry hoax – like probiotic-added yoghurt, say, about which I remain deeply skeptical – until I read up on it and discovered that it really is genuine whole-wheat flour. White wheat flour is simply made from a less bitter varietal of wheat than the standard American version. Even though it’s wholly whole grain, it has a milder flavor and texture than what Americans are accustomed to expecting from whole wheat.

I picked up a bag of it at Trader Joe’s, and I am a total convert. I haven’t had the nerve to use it in place of all-purpose flour in cookies and delicate baked goods, but I think it’s just a matter of time. White whole wheat: the flour of the future!

Having just announced my love for white wheat, I should hasten to add that I really love the flavor of “regular” American whole wheat. However, I find that breads made exclusively from whole wheat flour are simply too dense and earthy. This is another bread I just sort of threw together to see if the use of mostly white wheat would eliminate this excessive graininess. And it does! This bread definitely smacks of wholesomness, but it lacks the sodden lump-like quality one too often obtains from 100% whole wheat loaves.

I love sunflower seeds in bread, and I had quite a few of them on hand, so I included them for more texture and protein. This loaf does have a very high sunflower seed/dough ratio – if you don’t want a very seedy bread, you might want to include only half a cup or so instead of the three-quarters cup I dumped in.

I tend to hack of slices of this and eat it with almond butter for lunch. Husband and I also had this for dinner one night as toasted slices with brie, avocado, tomato, and spring mix lettuce, and it was divine. Because it’s so easy and healthy, I think this is going to be my go-to everyday loaf.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Robert Browning

Robert Browning is probably best known, in popular culture terms, for his whirlwind romance of Elizabeth Barrett (later Browning). She was six years his elder and a bit of a recluse; her father wished for her never to marry, so they eloped. By all reports, it was a happy union, though their spoiled only child was feckless and disrespectful and Elizabeth, whose health was always fragile, did not live to a particularly ripe old age.

Elizabeth was the more noted poet during her lifetime, but Robert is now generally accepted as the more innovative and accomplished author. This is not to disrespect Elizabeth; she wrote some fine poems in her own right and will be the subject of a future post.

The following is among my favorite Browning poems. It’s long, but not quite as long (or is it?) as "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came," which appeals to my latent goth tendencies. “The Bishop Orders His Tomb at Saint Praxed’s Church,” on the other hand, is rather evocative of Renaissance Italy and the Catholic Church’s contradictory position therein. Of course, since it was written by a Victorian British poet, I can’t really trust it as an accurate depiction of church doings.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Pistachio Peanut Butter White Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Sometimes, my urge to experiment in the kitchen takes me to strange places. I’ve been on a bit of a healthy eating kick lately. I don’t know if it’s the warm weather and the more flesh-baring clothes that such weather demands or just a passing intellectual fad. It’s been difficult to reconcile my love of baking with my new desire, which may well prove fleeting, to consume more nutritious food.

I’m not a total killjoy; I think there’s room for the occasional decadent dessert in most diets. When I bake cookies, however, I tend to nosh on them for snacks in between meals instead of fresh fruit. And um, I feel kind of guilty about that. But I love cookies, and I’m not about to give them up altogether.

Basically, I decided that a nut butter-based cookie must, by virtue of all its good fats, be slightly healthier than your average cookie. I may be completely off base, but the power of self-delusion is a wonderful thing. I also had a mad hankering for pistachios. And this is where I start to sound a bit odd, shall we say, but I’ve always found pistachio and peanut to be complementary flavors …

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Don Paterson

Don Paterson is a Scottish poet. I find his output a bit uneven, but he is capable of scribing fine poems. His most appealing work is a book called The Eyes that consists of very loose, homage-esque (rather than literal and faithful) translations of Antonio Machado.

This is a simple, wistful poem from that volume that I have often read myself before going to bed.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Chocolate Whiskey Pots de Creme for Two

I am insanely enthusiastic about these crème brulee and crème brulee-like desserts for two. They’re so much simpler than cookies and pastry and so much easier to scale to a two-person household.

This is the first time I’d used my ramekins without also whipping out my crème brulee torch. It’s not that this wouldn’t be good with the crème brulee treatment – I seriously considered dusting each of my pots de crème with the requisite sugar shell – but they’re so rich, so decadent, so that I feared the sugar would just be overkill.

That said, if you decide to go ahead and make this a chocolate whiskey crème brulee, I won’t tell. It’ll be our little secret

I would recommend using light cream instead of half and half for improved texture. I had intended to use light cream but could only find half and half at the store. While the flavors were superlative – caramelized honey overlaid with a whiskey bite and all wrapped up in a chocolate velvet decadence – there was a very slight grainy texture to the pots de crème. Using cream would probably eliminate it. Even with half and half, though, there were no complaints about this dessert at my house.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Revani (Turkish yellow cake in simple syrup)

I realize I’ve been light on poetry lately. Something about the weather makes me feel un-literary and pro-food. Or perhaps I’m just trying to squeeze in some last-minute baking before the summer heat makes baking intolerable.

I think I forgot for a moment that I live in New England, where it’s almost always cold enough to bake. We get maybe one oppressive heat snap a year; otherwise, baking is always on the table, figuratively and literally. I have such a weakness for lame puns.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Chocolate Malt Cupcakes

So, cupcakes: I’m at a loss as to why I had a bee in my bonnet to whip up a batch. I don’t think I’d ever actually made cupcakes before, which is a touch odd when you consider my willingness to tackle layer cake on a semi-regular basis.

I lifted this recipe (making only minor changes) from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody. In the pros side, we have excellent chocolate and malt flavors and luscious, light-textured frosting. In the cons side, we have the fact that the frosting didn’t yield quite enough for all the cupcakes – which was my fault in a way for being generous in its application, perhaps, but I think of a cupcake as primarily a small frosting vehicle, so recipes should be written accordingly – and the fact that, while flavorful, the whipped cream-based frosting doesn’t bear up to extended time in the fridge as well as a traditional buttercream would have.

This was only a problem because this recipe makes 18-24 cupcakes (depending on how full you fill the tins). I was hoping for only a dozen and presumed that was the standard quantity for cupcake recipes. Live and learn, eh?