Daring Baker February 2012: Failed Sprouted Wheat Quick Bread...

The Daring Bakers’ February 2012 host was – Lis! Lisa stepped in last minute and challenged us to create a quick bread we could call our own. She supplied us with a base recipe and shared some recipes she loves from various websites and encouraged us to build upon them and create new flavor profiles.

Quick breads. I am well acquainted and quite friendly with these easy to mix, quick to bake members of the carbohydrate family, though by looking at this post you may wonder if I've ever baked one in my life. Lately, I have really re-examined my grain consumption, for no other reason than that I felt I was beginning to bake, eat, and repeat too often for my own good. I am curious by nature, and quick breads are easy game for someone like me who can't follow a recipe to save her soul. Usually it turns out well, but in this case, I was set up for a fail of near epic proportion.

failed pumpkin millet bread

Earlier in the month, a friend sent me a link to these pumpkin-millet muffins, and I thought I would (not only procrastinate until the last second as usual, but also) make a beautiful, Daring Baker worthy adaptation using no refined sweetener and only sprouted wheat. Does a sugar-free quick bread made entirely with sprouted wheat flour exist anywhere other than in my mind? I’m not sure. When Googling for answers, I found nothing that looked like what I was after. I did find several sources claiming that sprouted flour can be used 1:1 for regular flour, which after several sprouted flour baking sessions I now question wholeheartedly.

This month was filled with pangs of guilt over my return to sugar; I tried desperately not to bake solely for the sake of baking. I made muffins for others and for my son’s school snacks, but other than sourdoughs (and one batch of peanut butter kiss cookies for my Valentine), I did pretty well. That unfortunately meant that I also left my challenge quick bread until almost the last moment. I wouldn’t say it’s completely inedible, but it does give new meaning to the phrase “bread bowl”.

failed pumpkin millet bread

I am convinced that wheat gluten changes when the grain is sprouted. I don’t find a whole lot of concrete evidence to back up my assumption, but did read this interesting article written by Dr. Vicki Peterson. In it, she says that sprouted grains that contained gluten prior to sprouting still contain gluten after sprouting (this is an article written for gluten intolerant people), but also that grass of sprouted grains are considered gluten-free for the first 10 days of their life. I didn’t grow my sprouted wheat to the point of grass, but it is curious.

Sprouted flour seems to do well in things that are tender by nature, I’ve had great luck making it into crackers and waffles, even cookies benefit from the tender-sweet nature of sprouted wheat. This bread could have failed because I also used brown rice syrup instead of sugar, and a good amount of gluten-free millet. Adding insult to injury, I had even soaked and tried to sprout my millet, which I found out (3 days of waiting in) would not sprout because it was already hulled...

Half of the bread stayed in the pan when I tried to flip it out, and when I took a taste, it was nearer to savory than sweet. It reminded me exactly of a spoon bread, or cornbread stuffing, but lacked sufficient flavor to convince me I'd want to eat it on it's own. It was surprisingly moist, and texturally very interesting. I let it sit on the counter for several hours wondering what to do with it.

failed pumpkin millet bread

Meanwhile, I mixed up my favorite graham cracker recipe using 100% sprouted flour - just wondering if they would fare the same disastrous fate as my quick bread. The dough was very soft (I let it sit for a full day in the fridge before even attempting to roll it out) and delicate, and spread much more than conventional flour grahams do. They needed an extra 5 minutes or so in the oven, had to cool completely on the pans, and then finally crisped up enough to be considered crackers. But like most sprouted wheat things, the flavor was good enough to warrant all of the extra monkeying around. Sweet, earthy grahams of sprouted wheat are worth fiddling with - but keep in mind the dough does not at all act like ones made with conventional white or wheat flours.

sprouted wheat graham cracker
sprouted wheat graham crackers

After some time had passed, I decided that if I did not live in a household of picky eaters, my failed pumpkin millet bread would definitely be a good candidate for new life. I called a friend, and asked if she'd be game for some experimental stuffed peppers. She agreed, and I popped the whole "loaf" of depressingly soggy bread into the freezer until next week when I have more time to play. I plan to fry up ample amounts of onion and leek and add some sausage, and see if I can't love this accident if it's doctored up and called by another name. Perhaps I'll even like it well enough to tell you more about it - only time will tell.

As for sprouted wheat baking? I am thoroughly bewildered, but I'm not giving up. There must be an answer to my questions, and there is most likely a learning curve that I wasn't expecting. It's funny that one of our easier Daring Baker challenges turned out to be one of my only full-out fails, but it's ok. It's another good challenge of trying to make something out of nothing that lies ahead.

Not-So-Exciting (Yet So Exciting) Pumpkin Muffins

In the chicken yard of baked goods, muffins are probably at the bottom of my baking pecking order. Don't get me wrong, I love them - they just seem to be something more "utilitarian", something to satiate a hunger pang rather than something I'll go out of the way to bake just for the joy of baking. Because they tend to be more virtuous than cupcakes, some muffins beg to be slathered in jam or butter: a hope of becoming more than they are. Some are perfect candidates for the freezer, pucks of frozen nutrition, waiting for me to remember that I stashed them in there. They do come in handy when I remember I'm hungry as I'm running out the door, but I don't often crave them, pushing them aside for other sweet, compact grab-ables such as cookies.

Every once in a while, I make a muffin that I want to eat all 12 of, and then set out to make a second batch. When that happens, I make a note and then change my tune. "What was I thinking", I ask myself, "I love muffins"! I would all of a sudden travel the world over to be able to crawl humbly back to my kitchen and mix up a batch of hand-sized quick breads, and I wouldn't even wait for them to cool before popping them into my mouth.

I have two confessions, and one of them involves Martha Stewart. The first confession is that I'm cheap. I like to think I'm cheap with class, but not always is that the case. When standing overwhelmed at the baking aisle at the non-food-co-op-grocery prior to Thanksgiving, I evil-eyed the cans of pumpkin. I don't know why, but I could not bring myself to buy the 15 oz. cans, when the 29 oz. cans were cheaper per ounce. I solemnly cursed the manufacturers that they are always putting one ounce less in something just so that a purist baker somewhere will succumb to buying the 15 oz. cans instead of a 29 oz. can so that she won't be short. Seeing as I don't buy all that much canned food, my steaming was brief, but still. Do they think I don't notice? I do. I still buy the large cans to spite them, then store the leftovers in the fridge for a few days until I can figure out what to do with them... in the case of this post, making pumpkin muffins.

My second (and unrelated) confession is that I have no real opinion about Martha Stewart. She's smart, obviously driven, and has more well appointed houses than I'll ever have. She cooks, bakes, decorates, and reads and still has time to gild a lily. I like her books, love their layouts and photography, but often find fault in her recipes. I take her recommends with a grain of salt, and don't buy into every new adventure she concocts. When I grabbed SoNo Baking Company Cookbook from the new shelf at the library, admittedly it was for the gorgeous cover. When I opened it up and read the preface by Martha herself, I discovered that it's writer was at one time one of the minions of Martha's staff. I had the book sitting on the counter for 2 weeks before reading any further.

Just a few days ago, I finally cracked it back open and was rewarded handsomely with this recipe. Besides a tome of hugely interesting baked goods, I also found in it that I shouldn't judge Martha. She is what she is, and she does recognize great talent. John Barricelli writes this book well, and also clearly has amazing ideas about baking. When I couldn't actually decide what muffin to try first, I knew he had me. And after the first bite of soft, almost-as-good-as-a-cupcake pumpkin muffin, I knew that this indeed is a great book.

I hardly alterered John's recipe. I did reduce the sugar slightly (and I used raw instead) and omitted the raisins on request of the Boy-O. He eats them fine on their own, but doesn't like them "in things" all of a sudden. I added walnuts instead, and sprinkled some on the tops prior to baking. Because the muffin is so moist and cake-like, they stuck out like ants on a rock. No matter, they tasted great all toasted up. Next time, I'll probably leave them off though.

Pumpkin Muffins (adapted from John Barricelli, The SoNo Baking Company Cookbook)
  • 1 1/2 c. ap flour
  • 1 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. kosher salt
  • 1/2 t. cinnamon
  • 1/2 t. ground ginger (or 1/2 T. grated fresh ginger)
  • 1/4 t. ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 t. ground cloves
  • 1 c. sugar (1/2 cup is plenty!)
  • 1/2 c. coconut oil (or part coconut part olive oil)
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 15 oz. pumpkin puree (I just now noticed that the recipe called for half a can of pumpkin... I used a whole can equivalent, and I was more than happy with the results!)
  • 1/4 c. unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 c. raisins, optional (John suggests adding 1/2 c. nuts and/or chocolate chips as well)
  • 2 T. chia seeds, optional
Preheat oven to 375, with rack in middle position. Spray a standard 12 cup muffin tin, or butter generously.

In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, salt and spices together.

In a large bowl, whisk sugar, oil, eggs, pumpkin and applesauce together. Add the dry ingredients and fold until the mixture is well combined. Fold in raisins and chia seeds if using, and any other mix-ins.

Portion into muffin tin, about 1/4 c. per muffin (I use a disher). Bake for 20-25 minutes, until tester comes out clean.

Transfer pan to a rack to cool for 10 minutes. Then, using a knife as an aid, gently upturn the muffins onto their sides to cool completely in the pans.

Well, I guess the extra pumpkin I unknowingly added explains the incredibly soft and custard-like interiors... and why I got more than a dozen. I baked the remaining batter into bite-sized mini muffins, and Boy-O ate all 6 of them straight away, I ate the remaining 2. He was impatient for the bigger ones to cool, and couldn't wait to gobble up even more of them, so we know this is a good recipe.

Just as I was thinking I was "pumpkin-ed out", these beauties prove me wrong. I almost think that I could never be tired of pumpkin. Or muffins. Now that we're best friends again, the muffin and I have to have some more serious talks. If you have any varietals that I need to meet, please be sure to let me know. Meanwhile, it's almost cookieposter time... unless I decide to give Christmas Muffins this year. I doubt I'd hear any complaints if I use more of John Barricelli's recipes.

Vegan Monday: Pumpkin Coconut Bread

Just in time for Vegan Monday and Thanksgiving, I accidentally made this amazingly good quick bread. It was an accident because I didn't even know it was vegan.

Another of the things I have come to count on in my life, is that when I go to visit my Parents, there is usually a quick bread involved. It's ready when I come in, hungry with travel. It's ready when I need a little something sweet after dinner and before dessert. It's ready with the coffee when my early rising Mom quietly hits the kitchen long before I awake - she slices it in fat slices and cuts them in half, arranging them on a platter for quick grabbing when the rest of the household joins her in the kitchen.

There are numerous breads we enjoy, certainly banana bread and it's variations run a common thread throughout the year, taking care of any sad members that ripen too quickly on our counters. I was just thinking that it was about time to make Ina's Date Nut Spice Bread, a Fall favorite of mine, when I visited last weekend and found this tender pumpkin coconut bread waiting on the counter. My Mom found the recipe in her October co-op newsletter, and had it earmarked for awhile.

It's not a quick bread to me, if it doesn't have the hallmark cracked middle...

One reason my family may love quick breads is that so often, the recipes are written to make two loaves. When you don't know how many people will be dropping by, or if you wish to gift a loaf and eat one yourself, baking two loaves instead of just one is just plain economical. Hiding it in your freezer makes for an instant short notice treat, and giving one as a gift makes you just plain popular. This one was so good, I snapped a picture of the recipe with the iPhone, enhanced it in mobile Photoshop for easier reading, and planned my baking week around making it for Friday. I knew I had a taker for one of my two loaves, and wanted to wait for the end of the workweek, so it was fortunate that my Mom had baked two loaves. I had a half loaf gift to tide me over until I could bake it myself. It wasn't until I was actually mixing it up, that I noticed is was totally vegan.

Vegan baking can be tricky, since sometimes there isn't a whole lot of rise and the results can be too dense. Usually, a "healthy" tasting bread emerges, edible, but not fully enjoyed. This is not that bread. In fact, it is so moist and tender you would swear it was laden with butter. It probably helps that it is packed with sugar, but, c'mon... it's Thanksgiving! If you can pick one good time to indulge during the year, this is it. You could make half the recipe, but you may as well make two and give one to someone you love.

I think quick breads taste best at room temperature, but for longer storage, you can refrigerate it. If you slice them cold, the slices will be neater. The slices come back to room temperature fairly quickly, which is good for me since I do store it in the fridge. If I leave something like this sitting around on my counter, I tend to eat a bit every time I walk past it. I've got to "straighten those rows", you know.

Pumpkin Coconut Bread (originally called Coconut Pumpkin Nut Bread from the People's Food Co-Op newsletter)
makes 2 loaves, easily halved
  • 3 1/2 c. ap flour
  • 2 c. packed dark brown sugar
  • 2/3 c. white sugar
  • 1 15 oz. can pumpkin puree (scant 2 cups)
  • 1 c. vegetable oil
  • 2/3 c. coconut milk
  • 2 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 t. ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 t. ground cinnamon
  • 2/3 c. flaked coconut, I use unsweetened shredded Let's Do Organic!)
  • 1 c. toasted chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two loaf pans, I used a spray with flour.

Combine flour, sugars, pumpkin, oil, coconut milk, baking soda salt and spices. Mix well until blended. Fold in coconut and nuts. Spread gently into prepared pans.

Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, checking after an hour. Bake until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven, cover tightly with foil, and allow to steam for 10 minutes. Remove foil, remove from pans, and cool completely on a cooling rack.

If you are savvy (and I was not, but will remember to be next time...), you can make sure to cut the two pieces of foil large enough to wrap the finished breads in. I saved my steaming pieces for another use, but if you were short on foil, you could kill two birds with the one stone. I have never used this steaming technique before, but the bread is nice and moist, so I'm keeping it as a trick up my sleeve.

I like wrapping things in foil, and usually keep a roll of "heavy duty" on hand to use for the demands of opening and closing sometimes many times a day. I try to be neat about it, and usually use a wrapping that I learned from folding origami. There's something about a fresh shiny brick gracing my counter top, and it's even more exciting to know that something delicious is preserved from the elements beneath something as utilitarian as aluminum foil.

It also makes a good package for dropping off. So, weather you need a Thanksgiving morning treat or a little something to bring to a get-together, this is the bread for you. Vegan, or not, I promise you won't know the difference!

UPDATE 10/2011:

These also make great muffins, a whole batch makes 2 1/2 - 3 dozen, depending on how full you fill the tins. I have also made them easily with half the amount of sugar, and replaced the coconut milk with yogurt or milk in a pinch with fine results (though dairy milks will render them non-vegan).

Essence of Autumn: Pumpkin

It's Fall, finally. Although today was in the 60's, our misguided October of 2010 has determined to let the leaves linger mostly on the trees while we soak up the rapidly shortening days in relative comfort. Traditionally, our October is a cold and often mean month, saturated with rain and requiring me to lament over the lack of a coat I can never seem to buy. (Oh, I have a huge parka, comfort rated by L.L. Bean to like 50 below zero, but I have no "stylish, walking around in usually sweltering stores" coat.)

I often feel so fortunate that we have 4 seasons; I couldn't even tell you my favorite if you asked. The brink of each brings it's own unique set of loves and enjoyment - I doubt I'd be so excited to garden and mow the lawn if I never saw the barren and bleak snow covered yard for what, at the time, seems like an eternity.

Our circle of seasons reminds me of life on a more specialized scale. Lately, and more specifically, my experiments with fermentation seem to echo life and our seasons - first with spurts of growth and then the maintaining, next a slowness created by increasing chill and, finally, inevitable death if not cared for properly (and sometimes even if cared for properly). Seasonal living really is extraordinary, and worth appreciating as often as I think of it. And, while I don't crave it in the Spring and Summer, some things are just inherently Autumn and the Autumnal onset brings with it my cravings for pumpkin and the endless tweaking of the classic pie.

Pumpkin pie is probably one of my top loves. It is home. It requires a modicum of beforehand thought since it takes a long time to bake, and an even longer time to cool down before that first slice can be wedged out and properly plated with appropriate amounts of ether whipped heavy cream or ice cream. I hardly know a person who doesn't love it, and if you hate making a pie crust, filling a supermarket readymade cheat will also provide nearly as much gustatorial enjoyment as the olfactorial treat you get when the whole house smells of spiced pumpkin. (Never mind if I'm introducing new words to the English Language here, I just get excited about pumpkin!)

My first pies of this season were not actually pies, but rather miniature tarts that I stole from Heidi at 101 Cookbooks. Any time I read over a recipe and see that coconut milk has been substituted for something, I get pretty excited. I also took a nod from my Mother, and decreased the amount of said milk, since it produces a richer, more custardy version - and Heidi's addition of an extra egg or two also help with that. Heidi also includes a layer of hazelnuts - boosting that Autumnal feel of this dessert sevenfold. It's good. No, it's Love.

Of course, you can use whatever pie crust you like - I opted for Dorie Greenspan's Pate Sablee. I mixed it up in the food pro, and pressed it into the 4 inch tart tins. For each tin, I used 1/2 c. plus 2 T. of crumbly dough, and a single recipe of her pastry perfectly fills 5 shells.

Pumpkin Custard Tarts (adapted from 101 Cookbooks)
makes 5 4 inch tarts, or 1 9 inch pie
  • 2 c. hazelnuts
  • 1/2 c. dark brown sugar
  • 1 T. pumpkin pie spice (I slightly altered the 101 Cookbooks one, and listed it below)
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 T. cornstarch (or arrowroot)
  • 1 can (1 1/2 c.) pumpkin puree
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • half a can of coconut milk (about 6 oz. If doubling the amounts for two pies or 10 tarts, use a whole can (13+ oz.) of coconut milk)
Preheat oven to 350.

Puree 1 1/2 cups of the toasted hazelnuts in a food processor until they turn into a hazelnut paste, past the 'crumble' stage. I added a teaspoon or so of maple syrup to help it along. Set aside. Chop the remaining 1/2 cup of hazelnuts and set aside to use as garnish.

To make the pumpkin pie filling, whisk together the brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice blend, salt, and cornstarch (or arrowroot). Stir in the pumpkin puree, and vanilla, then stir in the eggs and coconut milk until just combined. Set aside.

Before filling the pie crust, crumble the hazelnut paste on top of the pie dough into the pie plate, quickly and gently press it into a thin layer across the bottom creating a layer of hazelnuts that will sit between the dough and the filling. Fill the pie crust with the filling. Fill the tins fairly full - (it will puff up a little as it bakes, then fall slightly as it cools, ) and bake for 35-40 minutes (up to 50 minutes or so for the pie). For the 4 inch tarts, I used a heaping 1/3 cup of filling in each... and then baked off any remaining pumpkin custard in ramekins. The center of the pie should just barely jiggle when you tap the pans, the edges should be set, and a thin knife inserted at the centers should come out cleanly.

Let the tarts cool fully before digging in. I like to think that it lets everything "marry" nicely. Of course you can eat them how you wish. Serve plain, or with barely sweetened whipped cream and a sprinkling of chopped hazelnuts, or with ice cream.

Pumpkin Pie Spice (adapted from Kathy FitzHenry, via 101 cookbooks)
  • 1 T. cassia (Saigon) cinnamon
  • heaping 1/2 t. allspice
  • 1/4 t. cloves
  • 1 1/2 t. ground ginger
Dorie's Pate Sablee: (Baking: From My Home to Yours)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup confectioner's sugar (powdered sugar)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 stick plus 1 tablespoon (9 tablespoons) very cold (or frozen) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 large egg yolk
Put the flour, confectioners' sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine.

Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is coarsely cut in--you should have some pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and some the size of peas.

Stir the yolk, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition. When the egg is in, process in long pulses--about 10 seconds each--until the dough, whisk will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds. You may need to add a tiny bit of ice water if the dough doesn't stay together when pinched.

(You can gather the dough up into a ball, and gently knead it out into a disk, then roll on a floured surface like a traditional pie dough. But, it also works to simply pat it out into the tart shell.)

I'm a glutton for Cassia cinnamon. I first tasted it's spicy, red hot related flavor at the Spice House, and ever since I have to stock both "True Cinnamon" and Saigon Cassia Cinnamon in my spice pantry. It is so addicting, a fully unique cinnamon experience. I made these tarts a couple of different times this week, and dusted some with extra cinnamon, as my Mom also does, for looks and for extra spicy cinnamon kick.

I'm sure these are just the first of the pies to take me through to the new year. I have a couple of pie pumpkins that need the roasting and puree treatment, something I generally leave to Libby's since I actually really like the flavor of canned pumpkin.

It's not too often that I like some prepared and out of a store-bought can, but canned pumpkin is one of those things, and as this FoodinJars post reminds us, it isn't advisable for home canning in any form anyway. So, go ahead and add a sauteed leek or onion, maybe some celery and a carrot, (chile flake of course) and in mere moments your can of store pumpkin can turn into a lovely soup. Pancakes and muffins too, all perfectly accepting of a can of pumpkin. I like the cheat once in a while, and with the brevity of Fall in full swing, I'll be sure to indulge frequently.