ginger

The flying time. (Bigger Batch Ginger Granola)

I can't really believe that I've turned into one of those once-a-month bloggers, but here it is, almost a whole 4 weeks since I wrote about anything.  Life is a maze of homemade breakfasts, lunches, and dinners; at the end of the day I have no idea how food appears in a finished form and is completely cleaned up after.  As I slink into bed, I'm fast asleep before I can make it 2 pages into a book.

For the past several years, the first day of school coincided with my birthday.  I am actually never full of birthday dread, but I kind of started feeling a sense of dread that first year I had to drop my oldest son (now 8) off for school.  I hated the idea of him leaving home, but also knew it was time.  After the first pre-K and kindergarten years, I actually started looking forward to the first day of school and more free time to myself.  The time to make laborious Daring Baker challenges.  The time to make whatever struck me as I drank my morning joe and caught up on the Internet.  The time to take myself out for coffee once in awhile and actually read in peace and quiet.

This year on my birthday, instead of extra free time, I became his teacher.  I sat with him at the kitchen table after his first homeschool lesson at my counter, one on how to make ice cream base (and other egg based custards)... because when I am intrepid of starting something, I start by doing something I know.  And you know what?  I realized that I know more than I think I do, and that he wants to learn as eagerly I always have and had always hoped he would.

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He learned that eggs are really amazing things, that they can thicken things like ice cream when heated.  He learned the meaning of the word tempering, and got to see that happen.  It felt nice to see him barefooted and excited for the impending ice cream later that day as he took the first steps into learning at home.  Later, we spent the morning in the field nearby discovering insects and admiring the weather.  Something happened that I wasn't expecting: I went from that person happy to have all the time in the world to myself to the one who actually enjoyed spending time with her kid again.  It is so easy to drop him off somewhere and not take an active part in his life other than to be occasionally annoyed when he doesn't listen or doesn't pick up his Legos after the millionth time I've stepped on one.  It is a true pleasure to consider all of my actions as they affect him (and his little brother), to improve on my patience, and turn my daily life into a learning experience for him.  It's only been a week, but so far it's the best week I can remember in a long time.

079 :: 09.03.14
Hybrid sourdough, made with starter and a pinch of commercial yeast...

Maybe this doesn't leave the free time to myself as I've had in the past.  I got behind on using milk kefir and popped my culture in the fridge for the week to rest.  My sourdough starter took on a perplexing ailment about a week and half ago and I patiently nursed it back, wondering all the while if I'd have to begin again from scratch.  I thought it had been infected by a wandering mold spore, or cross contaminated by the kefir.  It didn't look or act like itself until I decided to bake anyway using the insurance of a bit of commercial yeast.  The very next day, the starter looked better: active and bubbly, sweet smelling.  Like it just knew that I was going to get serious if it didn't behave.  Just like a real boy.

More than a week ago, I decided to make my new favorite granola - a gift to myself for my birthday.  Ever since I first had it, the Bojon Gourmet's Gingersnap Granola has been my absolute favorite indulgence.  I actually didn't make it for quite a long time because I can't stop eating it.  Some time ago, I saw America's Test Kitchen make an almond granola that had similar clumping power and I figured I could combine the two recipes and come out with a bigger batch of similarly addictive gingery granola.  It's been on my mental list of things to write about for a while now, and I guess this Saturday off inspires me to get it down before it is lost to time once again.

ginger granola.

Don't forget to line the sheet pan with parchment or you will not have attractive clumps after you chisel your way to the bottom of the pan.  I only forgot once, as you can imagine.  Ordinarily, I don't like to have sugar in granola, but this I consider dessert so the small amount doesn't bother me.  In fact, if you have some of this on fresh, homemade ice cream (maybe even this new buttermilk version that Alanna made?) it's about the best dessert ever. 

Ginger Granola (adapted from the Bojon Gourmet and America's Test Kitchen)
  • 5 c. rolled oats  
  • 4 t. ground ginger
  • ½ t. allspice
  • ¼ t. cloves
  • 1 c. almonds, chopped
  • 1/3 c. maple syrup
  • 1/3 c. packed (2 1/3 ounces) light brown sugar
  • 4 t. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 t. kosher salt
  • 1/2 c. olive oil
  • As much chopped crystallized ginger as you like
Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, toss the oats with the spices and chopped almonds.  In a 2-cup measure or equivalent, whisk maple syrup, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt until well blended, then whisk in oil. Pour the liquid mixture over the oats until thoroughly coated.

Transfer oat mixture to prepared baking sheet and spread across sheet into thin, even layer (this amount makes one standard 18x13 or 17x12 sheet pan). Using a makeshift tamper (I like to use the Scottish potato masher my parents gave me, but a meat mallet or even a heavy glass would also work), compress oat mixture until very compact by tapping it into place on the pan. Bake until lightly browned, 40 to 45 minutes, rotating pan once halfway through baking. Remove granola from oven and cool on wire rack to room temperature, about 1 hour. Break cooled granola into pieces of desired size. 

You can stir in chopped, crystallized ginger, or like me, store the broken chunks of granola separately and then add them when you are ready to eat it. (Granola can be stored in airtight container for up to 2 weeks they say, but I think it lasts longer – if you can keep your hands out of it.)

ginger granola.

It's maybe a little less decadent by using almonds instead of  pecans, but the more utilitarian nut makes it something I can make on a whim instead of only on occasion since I always have almonds in the pantry but not always pecans.

My kitchen life seems to be changing again for now.  Things get done in a more utilitarian way, with plenty of attention to detail (since there is no removing that from my being) but maybe with less flourish.  Most mornings I seem to prep my dinner before the breakfast dishes are even cleared which is a dramatic change for me.  I find myself thinking like my great-grandmother, Gram and no doubt my Mom did, planning the next meal (or even the next several) when the current one is still on my lips.  But that's what you do when you do it from scratch. I'm imagining when I have the time to write again, I'll probably have some helpful tips for quick scratch cooking 

Pear Ginger Ginger Jam.

This first week of school seems more productive and much different that I had expected.  I wandered around the house feeling lost and a little empty for a day or two, but then seemed easily able to buckle down to the important work of deep cleaning and mastering the art of high-hydration whole wheat sourdough.  I always forget just how deafening the quiet is when the kid isn't around.

Last week I had picked up a 3lb. bag of organic pears at the regular old store, beguiled by their $3.99 price tag to be sure, but also craving a gingery jam.  My across-the-street neighbor had made Marisa's pear jam not long ago and gave me a tiny sample.  I really liked it.  It had a nice consistency, and she had bumped up the vanilla bean even more - making it truly special.  The day before yesterday, my pears had miraculously softened (and I had wondered if they would, little green rocks that they were for nearly a week in a bowl on the counter).  Their pear-ness overwhelmed me.  I fooled even myself into thinking I had got them from a tree somewhere.

Pear Ginger Ginger Jam

Pears and I have a long relationship.  Growing up, my Mom canned whole peaches and pears every year in light syrup, and if I ever got to choose between the two, I'd always pick the pear.  I love the grit in the skin of a pear and that settles happily into it's flesh.  I love that it doesn't seem as sweet as a peach and keeps some toothsomeness even after canning.  I used to love, and still do love cutting a home-canned pear with a knife into thin slivers before eating.  And I love drinking the sweetened pear juice, cold from the fridge, that is left in the jar after all of the pears have been devoured.

When thinking about a pear jam, I knew I definitely wanted to keep the pear skins.  Not only does is make less work of things, it keeps some additional fiber.  Most of a pear's fiber and considerable amounts of Vitamin C are located in the skin - but more importantly, all the texture that makes a pear a pear is found there as well.

relaxing pear ginger jam.

crystalized ginger

I decided to go box-pectin free, and as I have come to do with most jams of this sort, I let the fruit macerate with the sugar for about 16 hours and I used raw sugar, which by the end of the relaxation had completely liquified.  Some of the pear edges turned brown, but I wasn't worried about a little oxidization since I knew the whole pot was going to cook down.  I let everything stand overnight together except the crystallized ginger, which I added just before the cooking down, and the vanilla, which I added just before packing into jars.  As with all jam, let your taste dominate the end result, and cook down until you are satisfied of the set.

Pear Ginger Ginger Jam (inspired by Marisa McClellan and Linda Ziedrich)
my yield was 6 half pints plus some run-over
  • 3 lbs. pears, ripe and giving to pressure, cored and chopped (skin on)
  • 2 oz. fresh ginger, grated (to taste, about 3-4 inches off a "hand")
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 5 c. sugar (I used raw sugar by weight - the weight of granulated - 958 g. or 33.8 oz.)
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
  • 3 oz. crystallized ginger, cut into small cubes
  • 1 T. vanilla extract (I used the last of some vanilla bean paste I scraped from the jar and enough extract to equal 1 T.)
Combine the pears, fresh grated ginger, lemon juice and zest, sugar and cinnamon stick in a large, heavy preserving pot.  Let sit, covered, for 8-16 hours, stirring as you think of it.

When ready to make the jam, ready jars, lids and water bath.  Add the crystallized ginger and bring the pot up to a boil.  Boil the jam down until the consistency is as you like (and the jam falls nicely from the spoon, or mounds in a chilled dish).

Remove the jam from the heat and add the vanilla.  Ladle the jam into hot jars (remove the cinnamon stick - I like to keep them in the run-over jam I have), put on the lids and rings and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Pear Ginger Ginger Jam

I refrained from adding more cinnamon than what was gleaned from a single stick of rough cinnamon stick during the resting and boiling.  So often, cinnamon dominates North American bakery and jam efforts.  I love cinnamon and feel it does have a place, but prefer it in the background of this gingery jam.  The jam was full of ginger flavor, but not spicy-hot from it which was my goal.  The lemon kept things in line from turning too sweet, and vanilla is always a good idea in just about anything I think.

Yesterday afternoon, another friend whose child is now is school all day came over and we tried it on simple, eggy, sourdough popovers.  I made a pot of tea, even though it grew warmer out than I had anticipated, and we sat for 45 minutes chatting the way I'd imagine women did 60 years ago. I appreciated every second of a spontaneous visit, while simultaneously keeping an eye on the clock to see when my son would be done with his school day.

sourdough popovers
These sourdough popovers were a King Arthur Flour recipe.  Super simple, and really excellent!

I am surprised again at how fast time flies.  And at how much I can accomplish in a day.  Laundry is once again caught up, the weather cooperates for line-drying in record time, and I found and eradicated dust I didn't know existed.  While those time-honored housekeeping things never truly end, I feel renewed in my purpose - strengthened by cooler temperatures and the need to bake, and the comfort of those who appreciate the bakery.  We're off to a good start this September!