My last post was a month ago! Oops. Winter got a hold of me and I'm just now beginning to thaw out.
It hasn't all been icicles and bitterness. Much of the past month has been spent the same way the two previous to it were: baking breads using locally milled whole grain flours and a whole lot of reading. Kamut, spelt, whole wheats, rye, amaranth, corn, porridges, sourdoughs, croissants, English muffins, sourdoughs, flat breads, bricks, and even my most perfect loaf to date. All this baking has thickened my waistline but expanded my bread powers. I'm looking forward to working off the dough and spreading the good word on whole grains with the sun on my shoulders throughout the coming seasons.
We can all use a little inspiration and a reminder that sun will once again bring the bountiful harvests to our gardens, markets, tables, and souls. Spring is just starting, but the next three months after which strawberry season arrives will be here before we know it.
Expanding Your Pantry
To make crème fraiche, warm 1 liter of heavy cream (35%) to 77-86°F then inoculate with 1/8 tsp of a mesophilic dairy culture or 1/4 cup of crème fraiche or 1/4 cup buttermilk, stirring gently to combine. Cover the cream loosely with a lid and place in a water bath holding the temperature for 24 hrs (77-86°F is a warm room temperature). Once the cream has cultured, place it in the fridge where it will keep up to 3 weeks. This process is exactly like making yogurt except in this case we are using cream with a much higher fat content and we are using a different culture to ferment it. Using cultured buttermilk will make a sour cream, but it won't be as thick or tart.
To make the cultured butter, place 3 cups of crème fraiche in a large mixing bowl, reserving the remaining 1 cup of cream for garnishing the dessert. Using a whisk attachment or hand mixer, whip the cream on med-high until it begins to form small globs in a white, opaque liquid, about 10-15 minutes. At first the cream will thicken and aerate but as you continue to whip it the fat globules will begin to stick together and it won't be smooth and creamy - it will look and feel slightly lumpy. As the lumps stick together, turn the mixer down to low or you risk splashing the liquid everywhere. Once most of the lumps come together, turn off the machine and strain out the lumps, reserving the liquid for another use. Use your hands to knead the butter together in a bowl with cold water, pressing and squeezing to eliminate any liquid mixed in with the fat. You have just made cultured butter!
If you wanted to use the butter for spreading on bread, knead in 2 tsp of kosher salt to the butter after you have squeezed out all the liquid. Store cultured butter in the refrigerator. Oh yes, that liquid you reserved from making the cultured butter? That's now cultured buttermilk. Great for crackers, pancakes, muffins, smoothies, and biscuits.
Bee Pollen - Food of the Gods?
Bee pollen is bee food.
Foraging bees bring pollen back to the hive, where they pass it off to other worker bees, who pack the pollen into cells with their heads. During the packing, the pollen is mixed with nectar, enzymes, fungi, and bacterial organisms. Bee pollen is the primary source of protein for the hive. Pollen balls are harvested as food for humans and is sometimes referred to as ambrosia - food of the Greek gods.
Like royal jelly and honey, the exact chemical composition of bee pollen depends on the plants the worker bees gathering the pollen from, and can vary from hour to hour, day to day, week to week, colony to colony, even in the same apiary, with no two samples of bee pollen exactly identical. Pollen is touted to be a very nutritious food, containing essential amino acids, vitamin, and minerals. With the health claims that surround eating pollen, it has been reported that exposure may trigger allergic or anaphylactic reactions in sensitive people. If you're allergic to bees or have severe pollen allergies, do your homework before deciding to eat some. Feel free to eliminate the pollen from the recipe below.
All that being said, bee pollen has a really unique taste and texture. It has a slight earthy aroma with hints of sweet, honey. The little granules, ranging in colours from purple to yellow, add a crunchy texture if used as a garnish on cakes or cookies but can also be stirred into hot tea or breakfast smoothies. The price tag for the pollen is quite hefty - as it should bee. Luckily, a little bit goes a long way.
You can find bee pollen in health food stores or possibly at a local apiary. Keep refrigerated.
Kamut is the official brand name of an ancient type of wheat called khorasan. The wheat and name is actually trademarked, which is why it is capitalized followed by the registered trademark symbol (except not on this blog because the fonts and symbols are limited).
The wheat is special in that it contains fewer chromosomes, more proteins, and more minerals compared to modern wheat varieties. The grains have an amber hue and add a smooth, sweet, nutty flavour to foods baked with it.
In the recipe below you will note the batter is left to sit overnight to allow the flours to absorb moisture. Whenever you are working with whole grain flours (which contain the bran, germ, and endosperm), soaking the flours will assist them in becoming fully hydrated. The bran often makes this difficult to do but the bran contains most of the nutrients so we want to keep it in the flour. Why is being hydrated important? Because it allows the full flavours of the grains to come through, helps make the nutrients available to our bodies in digestion, and ensures an evenly textured product.
Kamut flour is available in some grocery and most health food stores.
The recipe below uses a few special ingredients that you may not have on hand. Substitutions will work but know the flavour will be slightly different. If you do not have (or do not want to make) cultured butter, unsalted butter will work just as well. Use regular sour cream or unsweetened whipped cream for the garnish. If you don't have access to local frozen strawberries, raspberries, peaches, blueberries, or rhubarb (spring!) are great subs. Bee pollen? If you can't find it (check the fridge section at any health food store) or have allergies, skip it. It is possible to make the cake with regular unbleached white flour but it will lack the nuttiness only found in whole grains. Stone ground whole wheat flour would be a good sub although it may add a slight bitter taste.
Kamut - Lemon Pound Cake with Strawberries & Creme Fraiche - Recipe
Recipe adapted from Culture: the word on cheese
Eating. Drinking. Sharing.