Atta flour

I made some pasta the night before last.

I keep noticing these things that my local FoodMaxx sells. For example, in the Indian section they have some spices; the first thing I noticed is that they have whole cardamom, green and black. Green is the usual one. Not only can I now get whole cardamom but their prices are so low. Next I noticed that they have whole mustard seed; enough to last me forever, but the price is so low it feels like it’s practically free. Then I noticed that they have cumin seed. Again, I was sort of put off by how much; it fills up a quart jar. But again, the price was so amazing that I figured that I’ll put it in a jar and keep it in the freezer and it’ll keep for a long time. And whole seeds last longer than ground ones.

Then I noticed that they have flour; at first I thought it was just wheat and chickpea flour, but then I noticed that they also have millet flour, of which I’d already bought some from the health food store. Then I noticed that the wheat flour says that it’s durum flour; the light bulb went off and I was thinking that durum flour is ordinarily hard to get and good for various things. So the next time I went I looked at it and not only is it durum flour but it’s whole wheat durum; that really got me excited (I don’t like using white flour unless it’s absolutely necessary). It’s marketed to be used for chapati, and it’s also used for roti, naan, and puri. There are 3 different brands; 1 of them is a mixture of whole wheat and white, one is just whole wheat, and the third I don’t remember what its composition was, and it was also the most expensive ($13) so I didn’t pay much attention to it. The whole wheat only one was the least expensive, $8, so I got it. So $8 for a 20 pound bag of whole wheat durum flour. If you buy King Arthur flour it’s $4 for a 5 pound bag; Pillsbury or Gold Medal is around $3.50 for a 5 pound bag.

So now I’ve got enough whole wheat durum flour to last me for a long time.

When I got home I pulled out some cookbooks and started looking at pasta recipes and sure enough, durum is what’s wanted for pasta. I followed one recipe but the pasta was much too dry and I had to add a lot more water, although that’s consistent with using whole wheat flour; it definitely needs more water. But the dough kept tearing while I was kneading it. I let it rest for an hour and kneaded it some more and it was still tearing, although not as much. I kneaded in some more water but then it started getting tacky. I remembered that an old James Beard pasta cookbook called for oil in the pasta dough so I kneaded in about a tablespoon of that. The additional water and finally the oil fixed the tearing. By the time I finished it was too late to cook it, and it was an experiment anyhow, so I wrapped it and put it in the fridge. Tried some the next day and it was great. I should have started with the James Beard recipe; it uses about half the flour and I’d have started with the oil in it. Since it’s whole wheat and needs more water I’m going to start by adding an egg yolk in addition to however many eggs it calls for. The Mark Bittman pasta recipe calls for 2 eggs and 3 egg yolks and there’s one in the James Beard book called French noodles which calls for 3 eggs and 6 egg yolks. James Beard also wisely stresses that it’s important to let the dough rest for at least 30 minutes and preferably overnight in the fridge.

My pasta machine’s cutters are dodgy; they cut on every other one so the pasta ends up being twice as wide as it should be with a groove down the center where it didn’t cut. For the second batch I decided to just use the pasta machine to roll the dough and then to cut it by hand, which I liked doing. I also learned a great trick from a cooking magazine for sprinkling flour; use a salt shaker for a nice even sprinkle. I bought one of those stainless steel ones that are the size of a coffee mug with a handle on the side; it was something like $1.50 at TJ Max. After sprinkling the flour on the rolled dough I use a soft pastry brush to spread it around. You can sprinkle a lot of flour on the flattened dough before you roll it into its jelly roll shape just before you cut it; it keeps the dough from sticking together and it rinses off when you cook it.

It was great when I cooked it. It was definitely whole wheat, not the tender delicate (and, to me, insipid) noodles you get from white flour, but I always prefer whole wheat. I put some clarified butter and olive oil on it and some garlic salt and freshly ground pepper. The second time I grated some Romano cheese on it. Both were very tasty.

I’m looking forward to trying James Beard’s recipe; I remember when I used it many years ago that it made a nice dough. I’ll also have to try adding 1/4 cup of some of the other flours; millet, rice, teff, barley, whatever.

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Leavening versus fermenting (removed)

(A dumb post that I’ve removed.)


Maida Heatter’s pumpkin gingerbread

Here is the pumpkin gingerbread recipe from Maida Heatter’s New book of great desserts.

The changes I’ve always made are to use whole wheat flour instead of the all-purpose flour, substitute walnuts for the pecans, and to dust the loaf pan with flour instead of bread crumbs. Instead of a metal cake tester you can use a flat wooden toothpick for testing doneness. I wrote a note on the page saying that the bread’s flavor improves after storing in the fridge for a day, tightly wrapped (in aluminum foil, then in a plastic bag).

2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
2 teaspoons powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
4 ounces (1 stick) butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs, large
1/3 cup strong black coffee (or 1 rounded teaspoon instant in 1/3 cup water)
1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
2 cups pecans, broken into large pieces

Adjust a rack to the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. You will need a loaf pan that has a 7 cup capacity; that may be 9x5x3 inches (which has an 8 cup capacity), 9x5x2 3/4 inches, or it may be longer and narrower. Butter the pan, dust it all over with fine dry bread crumbs, and tap over a piece of paper to shake out excess crumbs. Set aside.

Sift together the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, and mustard and set aside.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer cream the butter. Add the sugar and beat to mix. Add the eggs and beat to mix. On low speed add half of the dry ingredients, scraping the bowl with a spatula. Beat only until barely incorporated. Mix in the coffee. Add the remaining dry ingredients and beat only until incorporated. Add the pumpkin and, scraping the bowl when necessary, beat only until incorporated. Remove the bowl from the mixer.

Stir in the pecans.

Turn into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Then with the back of a spoon form a trench down the middle, about 1/2 to 1 inch deep. The trench will prevent the middle from rising too high, although it will rise some anyhow, and will form a crack down the length of the cake (it is supposed to), and will be as pretty as a picture.

Bake for 1 hour and 10 to 15 minutes until the top feels slightly firm to the touch and a cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Cool the cake in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes.

Cover the pan with a rack, turn over the pan and rack, remove the pan, cover the cake with another rack, and very carefully (do not squash the cake) turn over again (or gently turn it over with your hands), leaving the cake right side up to cool.


Pumpkin bread idea

Now that Halloween and Thanksgiving are coming up I’m jonesing for some pumpkin spice bread. My favorite is an outstanding recipe, the Pumpkin Gingerbread in Maida Heatter’s New book of great deserts. It’s out of print but you can get it used. My plan is to “merge” it with the Butter Bran Bread from Bernard Clayton’s The complete book of breads. I’m thinking that I’ll start with his recipe, for the most part, not use the 1/3 cup or so of cornmeal his calls for, use 1 cup of pumpkin, and then enough milk to make a reasonable batter. Something like this:

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
2 cups wheat bran
1 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon dry powdered mustard
unknown milk
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup walnut pieces

Mixing will be the usual Maida Heatter drill. Sift together the dry ingredients and mix and set aside. Cream the butter, add the sugar and cream some more, add the eggs and mix well. Mix in half of the dry ingredients mixing only until just incorporated, then mix in the milk, then mix in the remaining dry ingredients mixing only until just incorporated. Add the pumpkin and mix only until just incorporated. Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir in the nuts. Spoon into a greased loaf pan and bake in a 375 oven for 45 minutes.

I won’t be able to follow Maida Heatter’s careful mixing instructions since I don’t know how much milk it will need but hopefully “incorrect mixing” won’t matter too much. I’m also thinking of using barley flour instead of wheat flour.

My penciled in notes say that it tastes better after it’s spent a day well wrapped, in the fridge.

I’ll report back when I make it, successfully.

This also got me thinking that I could try using some pumpkin puree in my rusks recipes. A half cup of it, then however much water is needed to make a proper dough.


Rusks; barley flour, pressure cooked

Since I haven’t tried barley flour pressure cooked I decided to give that a try.

1 cup barley flour
1 cup wheat bran
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons nonfat dry milk
3 tablespoons instant potato
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup (approximately) water

The water quantity is an approximation. I add the water slowly, 1 tablespoon at a time. When the dough starts sticking together in clumps I let it mix longer before I add each additional tablespoon. Towards the end the dough will clump together and stick to the mixer’s paddle. In the beginning the mixer is on low; once the dough starts clumping together I put the spatter shield on the bowl and turn up the mixer’s speed. At this point, after each tablespoon of water it needs to mix for a minute or more before I add another tablespoon. As soon as it starts sticking to the bowl I stopped adding water and turned the mixer’s speed up to high. I also felt the dough with my fingers to make sure it wasn’t too stiff or too wet.

Then I put it in a greased plastic bowl with a snap on lid, but before putting its lid on it I press some plastic food wrap down onto the dough. Even with plastic on it the top darkens. I let it rest for at least an hour before I transfer it to the loaf pan and cook it.

I let the dough rest for at least 2 hours.

The reason I let the dough rest is that I read that whole grain flours don’t absorb fluids as quickly as white wheat flour does. And that the bran needs extra time to soak up its fluids. Additionally, there is enzyme activity going on that adds complexity to the flavor of the bread, but that probably requires a longer rest (for example, a day).

After its rest I put it in the mini loaf pan, buttered, tightly covered with aluminum foil, and cook it at high pressure for 25 minutes, then let the pressure go down naturally.

I set up my pressure cooker by putting the pressure cooker’s trivet in it then I put the folding steaming basket on top of it (with its center handle removed). I want the loaf pan up away from the water and I put in several cups of water.

I chill the cooked loaf overnight in the fridge. I prepare it for the fridge by wrapping it in 3 layers of paper towel and then put it in a plastic bag which I wrap around it. The paper towels pick up any moisture that comes out of the loaf; without the paper towels the moisture collects on the plastic bag and gets back on the loaf and makes its outside sticky and gummy.

Next I slice the bread at the 2 setting. I couldn’t help myself and kept eating the odd bits that weren’t well sliced. Barley flour bread is very tasty; rich and buttery, which is why I used butter instead of oil in this recipe, to accentuate the barley flour’s flavor.

The slices are drying at 115 degrees; I set the timer for 10 hours.

After drying and several hours of resting and relaxing … quite nice. Wonderful taste; nice and rich and buttery. The texture is good as well. My only complaint is that it was hard to slice them well with the slicer; the top or bottom is thinner than the other side.


Rusks; teff flour, pressure cooked, sriracha swabbed

I’ve changed my mind about the rusks that I swabbed with sriracha sauce. A day later and they’re still nicely spicy hot but their flavor is otherwise dull and boring. The texture is still good; crunchy without being tough.

Maybe I could add some cumin or ajwain seeds to make them more tasty. I do like the burn though.


Rusks; teff flour, pressure cooked

I was going to make some rusks using brown rice flour but while looking for it in the freezer I came across the jar of teff flour so I used that instead since I haven’t tried teff flour yet.

While it was mixing, at first it had an interesting smell, but as the flour got wetter the smell went away.

1 cup teff flour
1 cup wheat bran
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons nonfat dry milk
3 tablespoons instant potato
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup (approximately) water

The water quantity is an approximation. I add the water slowly, 1 tablespoon at a time. When the dough starts sticking together in clumps I let it mix longer before I add each additional tablespoon. Towards the end the dough will clump together and stick to the mixer’s paddle. In the beginning the mixer is on low; once the dough starts clumping together I put the spatter shield on the bowl and turn up the mixer’s speed. At this point, after each tablespoon of water it needs to mix for a minute or more before I add another tablespoon. Instead of adding enough water so that it starts sticking to the bowl I stopped as soon as it was a stiff dough sticking to the mixer’s paddle. I was thinking that it might be better to use a dryer dough since it’s going to be pressure cooked and steamed.

Next I put it in a greased plastic bowl with a snap on lid, but before putting its lid on it I press some plastic food wrap down onto the dough. Even with plastic on it the top darkens. I let it rest for at least an hour before I transfer it to the loaf pan and cook it.

I let the dough rest for at least 2 hours.

The reason I let the dough rest is that I read that whole grain flours don’t absorb fluids as quickly as white wheat flour does. And the bran needs extra time to soak up its fluids. Additionally, there is enzyme activity going on that adds complexity to the flavor of the bread, but that probably requires a longer rest (for example, a day).

After its rest I put it in the little loaf pan, covered it with aluminum foil, and cooked it at high pressure for 25 minutes, then let the pressure go down naturally.

I set up my pressure cooker by putting the pressure cooker’s trivet in it then put the folding steaming basket on top of it (with its center handle removed). I want the loaf pan up away from the water and I’ll put in several cups of water.

I chilled the cooked loaf overnight in the fridge.

Next I sliced the bread at the 2 setting.

I think I should have added a tablespoon or more of water when I was making the dough; the slices are just on the edge of being too dry. None of the slices fell apart while handling them but I could see some small cracks in the middle of them.

About a third of the slices I swabbed with sriracha sauce that I thinned with a little water.

The slices are drying at 115 degrees; I set the timer for 6 hours.

Later, after drying and cooling: Very nice. The taste is nice as is the texture. They hold up with dipping; I made some dip with plain Greek yogurt to which I added some finely chopped fermented serrano chilis and some basil.

The ones that I brushed on the sriracha sauce also came out well; they’re nicely hot and spicy.

I’m not sure if I should have added a wee bit more water when making the dough since they do have a nice texture; they’re not too tough and not too crumbly.