Bran crackers update

I haven’t been writing up my results lately because I’ve been doing experimenting and retrenching.

For one thing, for ease of slicing I’ve decided/realized that I need to use more water.

For another, I’ve always been sort of suspicious that this atta flour I’m using has an off flavor. The grocery store has 3 different brands, all 20 pound bags, priced from $8 to $13. Being the pinch penny that I am I bought the $8 bag. Even though I have lots of it left I decided to try getting the middle $11 bag to see how it works. So far I’m thinking that I like this one better, but I’ve changed other variables so I really can’t say for sure. I need to bake two loaves of bread with just flour, salt, and water and compare their flavors, not that I’m likely to do that.

And because I have this new flour my latest experiments have been with only atta flour; no rye flour. I need to simplify; it’s too easy for me to complicate things.

One batch I made (recipe to appear later) with just bran, atta flour, salt, and water came out nicely. Then I did a batch with about 1/4 cup of instant potato flakes. That made it easier to slice but the dried slices were a bit too tough so I should redo that one with about half of the instant potato.

I’m currently trying a batch made with sweet potato. I bought a sweet potato, diced it, put it in a metal bowl and cooked it for 7 minutes in the pressure cooker bain marie, then pureed it, then used half of that which was about half a cup. The 7 minutes may have been too long; I’ll try 5 minutes next time. Those slices are currently drying.

Standard procedure for making the rusks.


Real fiber versus faux fiber

Nice: Food companies are adding fiber to almost everything, for better or worse.
This confirms something that I’ve always suspected.

Rye crackers with more bran

I halved the atta flour quantity and increased the bran by the same ammount (I have to fudge the numbers slightly because my scale only does 2 grams at a time; no odd amounts displayed). The dough was very crumbly; I’m not hopeful.

84 grams wheat bran
30 grams atta flour
62 grams dark rye flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
192 grams water

Still not getting my hopes up; after its 2 hour rest the dough was definitely crumbly.

As an experiment to hold in more of the moisture and possibly help bind it together I sealed the top of the loaf pan with aluminum foil before putting it in the oven to bake. Since I’m not using any leavening the bread never rises so no worries about it pushing up against the aluminum foil.

It’s baked and cooling down. The top of the loaf looked less dried out than the ones that don’t have foil over them.

After chilling overnight in the fridge I sliced them. They sliced nicely. The aluminum foil trick definitely helps keep the final bread moist and makes it easier to slice. I’ll have to remember to do that henceforth.

The slices are in the food dehydrator drying.

I just tried one of the crackers after several hours of drying; they’re not fully dried yet but it looks like they’re not going to be too crumbly, which surprises me considering how crumbly the dough was. Perhaps baking the loaf covered with aluminum foil is the trick. I should try redoing the sorghum flour recipe with it to see if it helps. I should also see how far I can push the wheat bran percentage; I could halve the rye flour quantity to 30 grams and increase the wheat bran by another 30 grams.

After fully drying: well I’m pleasantly surprised; they came out well. They’re not crumbly and the flavor is quite reasonable. Not especially bitter. They’re also not tough so I could also slice them more thickly and give them more substance.

It seems as if the other flours somehow enable the bitterness of the bran to come through more strongly. I’m also suspecting that the atta flour I bought may be the culprit; the grocery store had 3 different brands and being the skinflint that I am, I bought the least expensive (read, cheapest) one.

Standard procedure for making the rusks.

Sorghum and atta flour crackers

These are looking good so far; I just sliced them and put them in the food dehydrator. I baked this one at the same time I baked the corn flour and millet flour loaves but had to wait until their slices were dry because I don’t have enough trays to do 6 mini loaves sliced.

Here’s the recipe; same as the others with 50% atta flour and 50% sorghum flour:

54 grams wheat bran
62 grams atta flour
62 grams sorghum flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
170 grams water

After drying: the flavor is definitely unremarkable.

The texture turned out to not be so good; they’re a bit crumbly and won’t hold up for scooping dip.

It would seem that the main advantage for sorghum flour is that it has a low glycemic index.

Standard procedure for making the rusks.

Back to crackers

I’ve sort of fallen off the wagon with my cracker making. I think it was because I had taken a wrong turn with cooking the bread in the pressure cooker. It made crackers that were too tough. And any added spices or flavorings mostly got killed off by the pressure cooker. So I decided to go back to baking in the oven.

Just before I switched to the pressure cooker I realized that I don’t want to add any leavening to the recipe; a brick is what’s needed. But I’d been experimenting with a recipe that had lots of added ingredients; potato, oil, and milk. So I decided to start from scratch, bake a recipe with just flour, water, and salt to see how that worked in the oven. Of course I couldn’t just do it with plain flour so I used half atta flour and half dark rye flour. The first batch was as follows:

1 cup wheat bran
1/2 cup atta flour
1/2 cup dark rye flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup water

After mixing I put it in a small plastic bowl with a lid and let it rest for 2 hours. Then I baked it in a mini loaf pan for 1 hour in a 350 degree oven. I did the usual of letting the bread cool after it was baked, then wrapped it in a paper towel (to absorb any moisture that might otherwise collect on the inside of the plastic bag), then put it in a plastic bag and let it get fully cold in the fridge. Then I sliced it about 4 mm thick and dried it in the food dehydrator set at 105 degrees.

The crackers were fine.

Next I decided to get a bit more rigorous and use weights instead of volume measurements and add some potato.

54 grams wheat bran
62 grams atta flour
62 grams dark rye flour
22 grams dried potato flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
240 grams water

The potato makes the crackers a bit tougher. But the flavor isn’t any different.

I also did one with egg, no potato; the total fluid was about 240 grams. These were no different than the first plain batch.

Next up was corn flour:

54 grams wheat bran
62 grams atta flour
62 grams corn flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
225 grams water

And millet flour:

54 grams wheat bran
62 grams atta flour
62 grams millet flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
180 grams water

Notice that I used less water. It turned out that the corn flour dough had too much water; after it had rested for 2 hours there was some water puddled at the bottom of its container. For determining the water needed I was eyeballing and feeling the dough; I should have been feeling it more than eyeballing it since its visual appearance is deceptive.

These two are sliced and drying in the food dehydrator.

The millet flour loaf was quite crumbly and difficult to slice without the slices falling apart. I tasted some of the crumbs and bits before it was dried and it was noticeably bitter. I think I’ll try another batch with it and the potato, and maybe also an egg if the potato doesn’t help. Or perhaps use a cup of pumpkin puree.

I need to go back to the original wheat and rye recipe and try it with milk. The milk might make it more crumbly.

I’m thinking of doing something off the wall and baking the loaf for 30 or 45 minutes, then cook it in the pressure cooker for just a few minutes, at the lower pressure setting. I’m wondering if that will help make the bread denser (and easier to slice) without making the crackers too hard and not dull the flavors.

After drying: The 50% corn flour crackers are definitely crunchy with lots of snap. But the flavor is completely unremarkable. Looks like corn flour can be useful for adding crunch to the crackers.

The 50% millet flour crackers have a bit of a bitter taste. I’d say that the millet flour is a dud.

Next up is 50% sorghum flour.

Standard procedure for making the rusks.

Rye flour for a deep fried batter

I was going to try using sorghum flour for deep fried fritters but in front of it on the shelf was the dark rye flour so I thought I’d give it a try. The usual recipe; 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup water, 1 egg, 3 tablespoons dry milk, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt. The batter was a bit too thick, and I anticipated it thickening up while I was using it, so I added 2 or 3 tablespoons of water to it after it was first mixed.

The flavor and texture were nice. The grassy rye flavor didn’t reveal itself until a few seconds after chewing a piece. The texture was nice; nicely bread like.

The flavor was nothing special so I decided to try adding some spices to it to see how they affected its flavor. I added 1/2 teaspoon ground dried New Mexico chili and 1/4 teaspoon ground dried California chili and 1/4 teaspoon cumin. I couldn’t taste the chili at all. The cumin flavor was just a hint, which was very nice.

Then I made another batch with the same chili and cumin spices added and used it for dipping some onion rings. The batter was a bit too thick; I still need to figure out the right consistency for it for dipping. The flavor was fine although the onion flavor, while not strong, overpowered the cumin and I couldn’t taste it at all. The finished rings were too heavily breaded but they tasted good.

Deep fried batters

I bought a Presto deep fat fryer. I can no longer remember my initial reason for wanting one; donuts probably since I’ve been reading lots of bread cookbooks.

After I ordered it and while I was waiting for it to arrive I started thinking about different things that I could deep fry. Potatoes (french fries) obviously, and batter dipped onion rings. In the batter dipped category there are also corn dogs and cheese dogs (a hot dog size piece of cheese that’s been batter dipped and deep fried). Cheese dogs are sinfully good; what’s not to like about hot gooey melted cheese enrobed in deep fried corn bread?

Something I had many years ago was batter dipped and deep fried mushrooms. I was looking at the mushrooms at the grocery store and they’re so big now that I’m thinking that you’d probably need to cut them in half or in fourths. Nearby is this great Asian grocery store, Ranch 99, and they have a nice variety of fresh mushrooms. And a great selection of dried mushrooms as well. I was thinking of using dried shiitake mushrooms but instead of rehydrating them with water, rehydrate them with chicken stock, or water that’s had dried garlic rehydrated in it, or water that’s had garlic or onion boiled in it.

Then there are ideas like adding some stuff to the batter mix, for example, ground dried chilies; I have some ground dried California chili, New Mexico chili, and pasilla ancho. Add some ground cumin as well to that. Into that dip some cheese stuffed jalapenos and deep fry them. Or, instead of just cheese, cook some chorizo and drain it, then mix it with the cheese. For the batter, perhaps the masa harina would work.

One of the first things I made was corn fritters. Instead of using corn meal I used corn flour; I’d bought a bag of corn flour from my local FoodMaxx; they have a Middle Eastern/Indian section with some interesting stuff, including millet flour, which I also bought. The corn flour absorbed a lot of water; the batter recipe I was using was 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup milk, 1 egg, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon baking powder. I ended up adding at least 1/4 cup more water. It also called for 1 can of corn but I used a half a can. They came out well but afterwards I realized that I should have made them without the canned corn, just plain deep fried corn flour batter, so that I could better evaluate how the corn flour works.

But before I tested a batch of plain corn flour batter I decided to try the millet flour. It was just the opposite of the corn flour with respect to fluid absorption. 1/2 cup of water was too much. (I’m using powdered milk instead of real milk since I don’t drink milk and it would end up going sour by the time I used it all.) I ended up adding 5 tablespoons of millet flour to bring the batter back to something that was more workable. For fritters you want something that falls off the mixer’s paddle when you raise it, but it shouldn’t fall too quickly and shouldn’t just immediately drip off. The deep fried millet flour batter I rather liked. It’s very dense, and it has an interesting earthy and nutty flavor. More earthy than nutty I’d say. I set the deep fryer at 375 and cooked them for 2 to 3 minutes.

I’d also bought several large cans of pumpkin puree; it’s holiday season so there are big stacks of it at the grocery store. I was thinking of trying it in breads, similar to how you’d use potatoes in a bread recipe. So the next batch was 1 cup millet flour, 3/4 cup pumpkin puree, 1 egg, 3 tablespoons dry milk powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon baking powder. They were very nice. Not as dense as the ones made with milk or water, which I realized really were quite dense after making the pumpkin puree ones. The pumpkin also nicely mutes the earthy millet flour flavor. And of course it gave them a nice orange color. I set the deep fryer at 375 and cooked them for 2 to 3 minutes.

Next was a batch with the corn flour and pumpkin puree; since it was so thirsty I used 1 cup corn flour, 1 cup pumpkin puree, 1 egg, 3 tablespoons dry milk, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon baking powder. Curiously, one cup of pumpkin puree was enough liquid; I was expecting to need to add more water but it was fine. Again, a nice orange color. I set the deep fryer at 375 and cooked one for 2 minutes. The first 2 minutes test one was still raw in the center so the rest I cooked for at least 3 minutes. The corn flour is ok but I really like the earthy flavor of the millet flour.

This has been fun. I have several other flours I’m going to try; sorghum, teff, barley, masa harina, and brown rice. There may be some others in the back of the freezer that I’ve forgotten. I still want to make some onion rings but I’m having too much fun playing with the different flours and pumpkin puree.