Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Gentler Ginger Cake Roll

Fresh ginger carries a cornucopia of flavor compounds good in both savory and sweet recipes. In this dessert, the candied ginger was previously cooked, changing the spicy, hot and pungent flavor to a gentler sweet version.

The recipe is based on one in Clean Eating Magazine.

Ginger Cake Roll

(Serves 10)

Prepare a 10 X 15 inch baking sheet by misting with olive oil spray, covering with parchment paper and misting the top of the paper with the spray. 

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl.
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
In bowl of electric mixer, combine eggs with brown sugar and molasses. Beat on medium speed 6 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl after 3 minutes.
4 eggs
3 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoon black strap molasses
Add oil and yogurt. Beat for 1 minute.
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup nonfat plain yogurt
Add dry ingredients and mix on low speed just until combined.
Pour batter onto prepared pan. Smooth batter to edges of pan. 

Bake at 360F. for 15 minutes. Remove from oven. Place a pastry towel over the cake and top with cooling rack. Invert cake onto rack and remove pan and parchment. Roll warm cake with towel into a spiral. Set seam side down on rack to cool.
In bowl of electric mixer, beat sugar, cheese, buttery spread and ginger. 
3 tablespoon powdered sugar
8 ounce part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup buttery spread
Remove towel from cake. Spread with ricotta cheese mix and roll. Place filled cake seam side down onto pan and refrigerate until ready to eat.
To serve, sprinkle with confectioners sugar. 
The name Ginger originated in India and means "horned root". It was the first of Asian spices to reach Europe. In the Middle Ages, the ladies gave knights gingerbread before going into battle. The Greeks used it for stomach complaints. Ginger was grown in Africa in the 1200s and by 1600, it was cultivated in Jamaica. My ginger was grown right here in West Virginia.



Monday, December 14, 2020

Bread Making in 2020: Soakers and Bigas


My journey with flours began in the seventies when I first married and had two months before starting my first job. The Fleischmann's Yeast Bake It Easy Booklet was my guide with good results. While many of the recipes were made with white flour, some were made with whole wheat and rye flours and some with cornmeal. In the twenty first century my flour mix was 50-50 with 1/2 white and 1/2 whole wheat flours.  When the cafe I managed was recognized by the Whole Grains Council in 2007, most of our desserts and breads were made with that 50-50 mix. In the past 5 years I've experimented with many whole grain flours, both gluten containing and gluten free and with the purchase of my countertop flour meal became a dedicated follower of Sue Becker

Intrigued with the renewal of sourdough breads, I have an active 18 month old starter and use the discard weekly in a recipe. My best sourdough achievements are quick breads-pancakes, cornbread and dumplings. After many failures, I was challenged to learn new techniques for making whole grain breads. These are among some I'm testing guided by Peter Reinhart's 2007 Book on Whole Grain Breads.

Delayed fermentation utilizes pre-doughs which initiates enzyme activity to release sugars from complex starch molecules before inducing yeast fermentation. The recipes follow a two day process, making the pre-dough on the first day and adding the yeast and other ingredients in the final dough on the second day. 

Pre-fermented doughs include wild yeast starters and commercial yeast doughs called bigas. A biga includes flour, liquid and a small mount of yeast. Here is an example:

227 grams unbleached flour
1 gram instant yeast
142 grams water (room temperature)
Mix together to form a ball. Knead for 2 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes, then knead for 1 minute. Transfer to a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8 hours-3 days. Remove from refrigerator 2 hours before making final dough.
Another example of pre-fermented doughs include hydrated grains with salt but no yeast. These are called soakers. Here is an example:

57 grams whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
170 grams water
57 grams oats
47 grams cornmeal
43 grams whole rye flour
7 grams flaxmeal
7 grams oat bran
Mix all ingredients for 1 minute. Cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature for 12-24 hours.
Delayed fermentation significantly decreases the kneading time. The long overnight rest allows the gluten and flavor to develop. 

Final Dough  

57 grams whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
7 grams instant yeast
Portion tablespoon portions of pre-fermented doughs into bowl of electric mixer. Combine flour, salt and yeast and place in mixer. With paddle attachment in place, mix on slow speed for 1 minute. Replace attachment with dough hook and mix on medium speed for 2-3 minutes. Remove to a board lightly covered with whole wheat flour. Knead by hand for 3 minutes. Rest for 5 minutes. Knead for 1 minute. Transfer dough to a clean bowl greased with olive oil spray. Cover and allow to rise until 1 1/2 times original size.
Form desired loaf shape. Allow to rise 1 1/2 times original size.  
Preheat oven to 400 F. Lower temperature to 350 F when placing bread in oven. Bake 20 minutes. Rotate bread 180 degrees. Bake 20 minutes or until internal temperature of bread reaches 200 F.  

The health benefits of whole grains are clear. Whole grains contain disease fighting vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Whole grains even contain some vitamins (B and E), iron, magnesium and fiber not found in fruits and vegetables. Like vegetables, whole grains each contain unique nutrient profiles. Including different whole grains can increase nutrient variety and decrease insensitivity. Consumer purchases often include whole wheat, brown rice, corn, oat purchases. Many consumers include quinoa in the repertoire (among the most expensive purchases per weight). Buckwheat, teff, amaranth, colored rice, barley, sorghum and millet and ancient varieties of wheat (Kamut, spelt and farro) are delicious grains worth exploring with some grown locally, others on grocery shelves and in local co-ops and most through online outlets.  








Monday, December 7, 2020

Bread Making in 2020: Pre-cooking Flour

Armed with 45 years of bread making, 15 years of whole grain legwork and an 18 month old wild yeast starter-you'd think I'd mastered the techniques of whole grain baking. My quest continues. My year has been full of failures. Thanks to the contributors in the Wild Sourdough for Science Facebook Group and the Oldways and Whole Grain Council educators, I've grasped a technique that works. 

Pre-cooking the flour to a temperature that gelatinizes the flour makes the bread softer and improves the shelf life. In the Tangzhong (Asian) Method, flour and water is cooked to 150 F. to make a sticky paste that breaks down small sugar chains out of the complex starch molecules while keeping flavorful enzymes intact. In Europe, Potato Water and Potatoes are used to tenderize breads in a similar manner. The Mash Technique combines flour and 165 F water to partially gelatinize the beta-amylase starch enzymes while keeping the alpha-amylase enzymes intact. This creates flavor and softens the texture.

Thanks to the guidance on The Perfect Loaf, here's my adaptation of the Sourdough Sandwich recipe.

Whole Grain Sourdough Sandwich Bread

(1 loaf-17 Slices)

Levain (Prepare the night before)
50 grams whole wheat flour
50 grams water
12 grams ripe sourdough starter (mine is whole rye)
Mix and ripen at room temperature overnight.
Pre-cooked Flour (Day two)
36 grams whole wheat flour
145 grams skim milk
Whisk together flour and milk in a saucepan over medium low heat. Whisk continuously until the mixture thickens and becomes a paste (5-8 minutes). Remove from heat and spread on a plate to cool for 1 hour.
Final Dough 
In bowl of mixer with dough hook in place, combine pre-cooked flour, additional flour, water, levain, honey, oil and salt. 
Pre-cooked flour
183 grams all-purpose flour
183 grams whole wheat flour 
3l grams olive oil
18 grams honey
190 grams water
8 grams salt
Mix on low speed for 2 minutes. Increase speed to medium and mix 8 minutes more until dough clumps around dough hook. Transfer to a covered bowl. Allow to rise 4 1/2 hours, stretching and folding 3 sets during the first rise. (Each set involves 4 stretches and folds).
Scrape dough onto a clean work surface. Form a round and allow to relax uncovered for 30 minutes.
Spray baking pan with olive oil. Shape dough and transfer seam side down into the pan. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Proof for about 2 hours until dough has risen about the top of the pan.
Bake at 385 F for 15 minutes, then cover with foil to bake for another 20 minutes. 


Sunday, November 22, 2020

Cookbook Review: The Plant-Based Slow Cooker


 Veteran chef and cookbook author Robin Robertson' latest publication features many wholesome and economical food choices. The book has 14 chapters and 225 recipes, most made with whole foods and spices found in many cupboards. There is a nice selection of whole grain, bean and lentil recipes and many seasonal vegetable choices. There are selections for dinner, breakfast and snacks. There are recipes for desserts and condiments.

I like that the cook arrived in autumn, when my basement was stocked with pumpkin and winter squash.

Butternut squash butter (like apple butter) was perfect wrapped in a sourdough pancake.

The Spiced Pumpkin Cake was super easy and pretty in a spring-form pan that fit inside my cooker.

Overnight Pumpkin Breakfast Quinoa smelled like pumpkin pie with generous servings for several breakfasts.

Bread "Stuffing" and Country Green Beans would be a nice addition to Thanksgiving, and free the oven and stove for the rest of the meal.


While the Ribolitta and Paella were tasty,

My favorite recipe was the Country Gravy, a marinara sauce that is now my favorite!

Marinara Sauce

(8 servings)

Saute onion, garlic and peppers in olive oil 5 minutes.
2 tablespoon olive oil
1/3 cup onion, diced
2 garlic glove, minced
3 mini sweet red peppers, diced
Stir in tomato paste and seasonings. Saute for 1 minute.
1-6 ounce can tomato paste
2 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Pour sauteed vegetables into slow cooker.
Add tomatoes, wine, sugar, salt and pepper.
2 (14 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup wine
1 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Cook on low 6-8 hours.   

There are no pictures in the cookbook yet the method is easy to follow. The recipes are labelled for allergens. 

Thank you Quarto Group for the complimentary review copy.  The above post and pictures are my own.  I received no other compensation for this review, other than the pleasure of an enjoyable read and eating experience! 


Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Pasta Creations: Ravioli


The crowning jewel of my pasta creations may just be these ravioli. Pillows of dough are made with farro flour and eggs, kneaded, rested and rolled into sheets.  To fill, I place one sheet of pasta dough over a ravioli plate.

Press the forming plate to form a pocket.

Fill pockets

Place second sheet of dough over the filling.

Cut into rounds.

Refrigerate or freeze until ready to cook.


I make the filling earlier in the day and refrigerate.

Spinach and Ricotta Filling

(8-10 Servings)

Remove stems from spinach. Chop fine in a food processor. Steam and drain onto a clean cloth.
4 ounce fresh spinach

Saute onions and pepper in olive oil. Drain these with the spinach on a clean cloth. Cover vegetables and squeeze cloth until much of the moisture is removed.
2 teaspoon olive oil
2 mini red peppers, chopped fine
1/2 medium onion, chopped fine

Beat egg, then mix with cheeses, pepper and drained vegetables.
1 egg
1 cup part skim ricotta cheese
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 tablespoon finely grated Parmigiana cheese
Drained vegetables 

Refrigerate until ready to fill ravioli. Freeze the rest to make lasagna on a later date.
I then take all of the scraps of dough and combine to roll and cut into other pasta forms, lasagna, noodles, spaghetti and more. I dehydrate the pasta in a 150 F oven, cool and freeze to make 6 more meals. Nothing goes to waste. 


Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Creating the Healthiest of Food Service Environments


In 2014, the HSC Cafeteria of WVU Medicine was chosen by the Food Service Director Magazine to represent the "Healthy 15". These 15 operations, chosen across all market segments, were designated to be "at the forefront of creating a healthy food service environment."

Our mission was to entice customers to choose healthy foods through customer service, the environment and the menu. Attentive and friendly service, attractive and sanitary environment and made from scratch recipes made from whole foods evolved over a 20 year span. 

A content, productive staff was a must; equipment upgrades, sanitation and marketing routine; an evolving menu developed with over time to include the latest in science based recommendations.   


Nutrition labels were posted at point of service for all items.  The labels also included the ingredients.On-line menus were linked to the nutrition labels for each item.

A good portion of the food was sourced locally, with whole grain salads, sides, breads and desserts offered as the norm.

The daily lunch feature, comprised of a nutrient dense foods with 500 calorie and less than 600 milligrams of sodium was matched with a 400 calorie, 20 grams of high quality protein breakfast.


Turkey (for hot and cold items) and roast beef was baked on site with unseasoned raw meats to control the sodium.

Most of the desserts contained less than 12 grams of added sugar per portion.

Healthy and wellness items were the norm on the menu, not featured at specific stations but throughout the operation.

The "Healthy Cafe" community service extended to the local farmers market. The Health Fair exhibits contained the signature recipes with colorful photos of the foods made in the cafe.

This recipe for our Flax Muffins was published in The Amazing Flax Cookbook in 2004:

Flax Muffins 

(Makes 18)

Mix flours, flax, oat bran, brown sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup ground flaxseed
3/4 cup oat bran
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Stir in carrots, pineapple and raisins.
1 1/2 cup shredded carrots
1 cup pineapple tidbits, drained
1/2 cup raisins
Combine eggs, milk, lemon juice, applesauce and vanilla in a separate container.
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon egg
2 tablespoon unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup skim milk
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Add liquids to dry ingredients, stir until moist (batter will be lumpy).
Coat muffin tin with non-stick spray. Pour batter in tins.
Bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes.
I retired in 2015. The Healthy Cafe was closed in the later part of the decade in a public-private partnership agreement which promised an upgraded dining room. The partnership failed.