Thursday, May 22, 2008

Help with Whole Grains

My last whole grain bread attempt was a bomb. Make that a brick. Not a total dud: flavor adequate, suffiently edible when toasted to serve as a platform for PB or hummus... but far from my best effort. Hubby thought it was fine, but then he is way, way, way out on the woo-woo end of the food spectrum, and admits that he likes "dense" bread.

Well, dense is okay, I don't mind dense. But if dropping the loaf on your foot would mean hobbling around on crutches for a month I think maybe the recipe (or, more likely) technique, could be improved upon. I do know what the problem was: I used too much of a new 9-grain cereal, and too much water, which resulted in a quantity that was a bit much for the Kitchenaid to handle, so I tried to knead the sticky mess by hand, and ended up adding too much flour just to get the goop into some kind of shape to put into a pan.

Oh well. Smaller loaves will rule from now on. I love home-made bread, don't mind kneading by hand, but hate, hate, hate having to clean up the mess it makes on the counter. Stand mixer with dough hook is the way to go, if you ask me.

In spite of my strong "figure it out for myself by trial and error" streak, I do from time to time wake up and realize I need help. So I googled "whole grain bread tip" and after a few minutes surfing and a few more browsing found exactly what I need:

1) "Whole Grain Baking" from the fine folks at the King Arthur flour company and

2) "Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads" (he's the author of the very fine "The Bread Baker's Apprentice, which would be perfect if only it addressed how to make all those lovely loaves with whole grains: thanks, Peter, for taking care of that!)

A second quick online search of the Hawaii State Library catalog revealed that the first title was sitting right there on the shelf at the Hilo Public Library (one of my very favorite places!), so I hopped in the car and added a stop at the library to my errands.

So far all I've had time to do is browse through it, and I want to bake EVERYTHING. Which will take far longer than the three week loan period -- it's a FAT book -- even if I renew as often as allowed.

So I did the only sensible thing and hopped back to Amazon and ordered a copy of my own. Plus the Reinhart book. Plus "Whole Grains Every Day Every Way" by Lorna Sass. I have a vegan cookbook by Lorna that's full of wonderful recipes (I'm not vegan, but enjoy vegan dishes/meals from time to time), so I'm very interested to see what she does in the grains department.

How Amazon can stay in business offering me free shipping on these books (Whole Grain Baking weighs about five pounds, and the others are probably not much smaller) I don't know. It means a few more days of breathless anticipation, but I've got plenty of stuff on my to-do list to keep me occupied until the books arrive. Until then, I'll be eating what's left of the brick.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Things I bought at Costco

Haven't cooked much of interest lately, although a surplus of squishy bananas has led to several return appearances by banana cake... and juding by the fruit bowl, I'll be baking another one by the end of the week. One recent effort got a cream cheese frosting, which was okay... and then the last one didn't get frosted at all, which was fine, too (banana cake doesn't really need it)... but there's something about that dark chocolate and banana combo that's convinced me to go back to a bittersweet ganache frosting next time.

Yesterday I made some more whole grain bread (still tweaking that recipe: think I went a step too far this time by adding leftover sweet potatoes... generally a good idea with bread, but perhaps one ingredient too many for multi-grain), and figured I'd whip up some maple cornbread while the oven was on. Tossed in some dried cranberries and the end of a bag of pecans with a "best by" date of Feb. '08. Seemed like a good idea to use them up. Very tasty!

Went to Waikoloa (other side of the island) for a "beach and Costco" weekend at the end of April, something we do several times a year. So nice to get away from the computers and lounge on the sand for a couple of days, plus of course the thrill of loading up the car with bulk bargains. Even nicer with a fat rebate check to spend... not that it comes close to covering the bill. When you only get to Costco a couple of times a year you spend a lot! Things I bought include: TP; frozen shrimp; 4 or 5 books; 4 jars of organic peanut butter; fish oil & a gigundo bottle of Vitamin C capsules; chevre; office paper; package tape; a few bottles of vino; Amy's pizzas; swim trunks for hubbie; tampons (what a deal!); frozen organic blueberries & a bag of mixed berries (essential ingredient for post-workout smoothies around here); a six-month supply of trash bags for the kitchen garbage can... etc.

Part of the fun of these weekend getaways is balancing our budget-friendly Costco visits with an indulgent lunch. My favorite spot is the Tommy Bahama Cafe at the Shops at the Mauna Lani resort, where I always get the shrimp BLT... "ono!" (yummy) as we say in Hawaii. The fact that everything's a few dollars more than it needs to be just makes me feel even more like a millionaire on a golf vacation. The pina colada cake is heavenly, but we had banana cake waiting for us back at the condo, so we skipped it (this time).

Hubbie enjoys an "Arnold Palmer" (iced tea + lemonade) with his lunch, although why Arnie gets the credit for that combo I don't know. I decided to go with iced tea and cranberry juice, which is just as yummy, and consulted with our wait-person, Tyler, as to whether or not that was named for anyone. We thought not. Tyler gets the credit for serving it up as an "Eleanor Roosevelt," so if you enjoy iced tea mixed with cranberry juice (go ahead, give it a try!) let's see if we can get the name to catch on.

Our other recent restaurant meal was at Cafe Pesto here in Hilo... our favorite local place. I've fallen into a rut there, too, with the Volcano Mist salad and crab cakes. For dessert we had the Lilikoi Cheesecake. Pretty good -- the macadamia nut crust, in fact, was excellent, as was the lilikoi sauce (tangy!) -- but "New York style" cheesecake is not my favorite version. I like it smoother and lighter. This brought to mind a lime cheesecake with chocolate crust I made about 15 years ago for some celebration or other. Hmmm, I think it might be time to try again. Hubby and I don't eat much cheesecake - ono, but seriously way too rich to make a habit of it. Fortunately, a quick Google search turned up confirmation that cheesecake freezes beautifully, so I figure I can make a smallish one and freeze individual slices for later consumption... spread out all those butterfat calories over time. I don't think I'll get to it this weekend, having just indulged a few days ago. Plus that bowl full of increasingly squishy bananas that need dessertifying. That gives me more time to poke around on line and look for cheesecake recipes... and think about what flavor to make. I'll keep ya posted...