Chocolate Scones

chocolate scones

All confusion about the raw sugars (demerara, turbinado, muscovado, and sucanat) is resolved here, with the following detailed information and outstanding receipt.

In the mid-1990’s, I got this chocolate scone recipe from Cindy Mushet’s highly appraised Baking with the American Harvest.  I have adapted it by grinding my own flour, which is totally optional, as well as by adding some time-saving tips.  1

Ms. Mushet calls for sprinkling crystallized sugar, on top of the unbaked scones, after washing them with egg; I use demerara here.  This is a form of large granule sugar that gets its name from the location in Guyana, on the northern mainland of South America, where it originated centuries ago.  Today rather than Guyana, this form of cane sugar comes from a number of countries, such as Mexico and India; in the States it is produced in both Hawaii and Florida.

Demerara can be compared to turbinado, muscovado, and sucanat; these are all types of cane sugar, which are classified as raw, even though they do indeed require some processing.  Of these, the first three were originally known as “factory” brown sugars; all are produced during the initial processing of cane juice into unrefined sugar.  2

Most sugar cane grew in colonies or developing countries.  Sugar refining required expensive machinery to be produced; thus, its production came to be divided into two stages.  The initial stage of the crystallization of raw, unrefined sugar took place in factories near the plantations in these poor countries.  Industrial nations-the consumers-performed the expensive final stage, of refining this raw sugar product into white sugar.  3

The making of raw sugar requires two basic kinds of work: crushing the cane to collect the juice, then boiling off the juice’s water.  Originally the crushing called for hard physical labor, which in the Caribbean was accomplished by slaves, and the boiling called for large amounts of heat; thus, deforestation occurred there.  4

Three 19th century innovations helped make the production of raw sugar a more affordable luxury.  First, the application of steam power made this initial crushing process easier.  The next step, heating, was aided by the vacuum pan, which boils the syrup at a reduced pressure and therefore at a lower, gentler temperature.  Also, the multiple evaporator was added, which recycles the heat of one evaporation stage to heat the next.  5

From the Middle Ages until now, there was a clearing of many organic impurities; in the pre-industrial age, this was accomplished, at the beginning of the boiling stage, with the introduction of lime and a substance, such as egg white or animal blood.  These substances would coagulate and trap the coarse impurities.  Today, heat and lime only are generally used to coagulate and remove proteins and other impurities.  6

Then and now, with these boiling and clarification processes, dark brown syrup has resulted, to which seed crystals have then been introduced to bring about crystallization.  The final step, in making these factory sugars, has been the drawing off the molasses from the crystals, which originally occurred slowly-merely by the force of gravity.  For some time, refiners have used centrifuging-much like spinning lettuce-to quickly do this final step, producing raw sugar and the by-product of the first molasses.  7

Beginning in the 19th century until recently, this raw sugar has next been refined in refineries in industrial countries, where white sugar has been consumed.  Now it is produced in such developing countries as Mexico and India.

Today, the making of refined sugar starts with refined syrup being introduced, to wash the raw sugar.  Next, hot water dissolves it; then, a carbon absorbent clarifies and decolorizes it.  Evaporation and crystallization follow, with centrifuging being the final stage, producing white sugar, with the bi-product of cane syrups.  This last crystallization process is carefully controlled, giving individual sugar crystals a uniform size, with an astonishingly pure content of 99.85% sucrose-our white sugar.  8

As opposed to white sugar, “brown sugars” are sucrose crystals coated with a layer of dark syrup, from one stage or the other of sugar refining.  This provides them with a more complex flavor than white sugar.

There are several types of brown sugar.  The first type is factory brown sugars-produced during the initial processing of the cane juice into unrefined raw sugar, as defined above; the second is refinery brown sugars, or sugars produced at the refinery using this raw sugar as the starting material, not cane juice.  There are also what might be referred to as whole sugars, crystalline sugar still enveloped in the cooked cane juice from which it is formed (such as Indian jaggery or gur and Latin American piloncillo, papelon, or panela).

Factory brown sugars originally got their name, because of their production in factories near the plantations in cane-producing, tropical countries.  The first, demerara, then and now, has been a partially refined, large, somewhat sticky, yellow-gold grain, produced from the first crystallization stage of light cane juice into raw sugar.  It has a delicate, caramel-like, toffee flavor that augments certain baked goods (it is especially good for sprinkling on top of them).  9

The second, turbinado, has been raw sugar partly washed of its molasses coat during the centrifugation, resulting in large golden crystals that are not as sticky as those of demerara.  Though more refined than demerara, turbinado is less refined than what we now call brown sugar (refinery brown sugar), which is generally white sugar with molasses added back into it.  10

The artisanal muscovado, appearing to be very dark form of our refinery brown sugar, actually has been the product of the final crystallization from the dark mother liquor, or first molasses, in the making of raw sugar.  It was and is an unrefined cane sugar in which all the molasses is not removed, like it is with what we call our regular brown sugar.  11

This muscovado sugar, however, is more refined than demerara and turbinado, with a small-grained, wet, sticky texture that has a sweet impression at first that dissolves into a rich, floral, bittersweet note, leaving a slightly smoky aftertaste. Most of the muscavodo sugars, of which there is both light and dark, come from Mauritius, a republic made up of islands off the southeast coast of Africa.  12

On the other hand, sucanat, which stands for “sugar cane natural”, is the most unrefined of the raw cane sugars; it is merely evaporated cane juice, which has been handpaddled; this cools and dries the dark syrup, which is obtained by heating the extracted cane juice in a large vat.  It is a much finer grain than the demerara and turbinado crystals, and it is the healthiest of all the cane sugars, with an intense, dark, rich flavor, which is ideal in spicy baked goods.  13

With their minimal processing, all these raw sugars retain some minerals and vitamins, making them somewhat healthier than refined white sugar.  They, however, contain large amounts of sucrose, which is a composite molecule made up of one molecule each of glucose and fructose; thus, they should be eaten cautiously, as they may contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes, among other health issues.  14

How we treasure comfort foods, of which these scones are one of the best.  Our words, much like food, can comfort.  We are instructed to comfort those with the comfort which we have received; these opportunities delight our souls.

We are only equipped to do such, as we learn our lessons in life’s trials.  Slowing down in the midst of these storms allows for this equipping to best be established.

Webster’s describes establish, as to order, ordain, enact (a law, etc.) permanently.  Reading recipes isn’t required once our “muscles” have kinetically learned all the required movements, through multiple times of preparation.

Much like baking, establishing life’s lessons-and the laws they represent-is a process; we are perfected (matured) through practice, as we repeatedly go over the given steps, until the means for victory is indeed fixed in us.  By necessity, such progression requires patience, just like following a receipt, but once achieved we can share words of comfort with those in need around us.

I recently made a batch of these scones, with the following recipe, which I completed with clotted cream (I purchased a jar of imported Somerdale Devon Double Cream, from World Market).  Being unaware, my plans to take them to my regular prayer meeting, however, were thwarted, for it was the fourth of July, and prayer had been cancelled.  Quickly I decided to bless various neighbors with this treat, which brought great joy (and comfort) to all.  I also highly recommend my receipt for cocoa bread (see Cocoa Bread) to please your soul.

 

References:

  1. Cindy Mushet, Baking with the American Harvest, 5 volumes (Santa Monica, CA: Cindy Mushet, 1993-1996) Vol. 4, #1, p. 12.
  2. Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), p. 674.
  3. Ibid., p. 673.
  4. Ibid., p. 671.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid., pp. 670-672.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid., pp. 671, 672.
  9. Ibid., pp. 672, 674.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Ibid.
  12. https://www.care2.com/greenliving/what-is-demerara-sugar.html
  13. http://shop.wholesomesweet.com/Organic-Sucanat/p/WHSM-305000&c=Wholesome@GranulatedSugar
  14. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/demerara-sugar

prepped scones

Chocolate Scones  Yields: 8 scones.  Adapted from Cindy Mushet’s Baking with the American Harvest, Vol. 4, # 1, Spring, 1996.  Total prep time: 1 hour (only if grinding flour fresh, an additional 3/4 hr resting time is needed)/  active prep time: 40 min/  baking time: 20 min.

Note: best served with clotted cream, though butter and jam are also good; an imported Somerdale Devon Double Cream is available at World Market.

1 2/3 c unbleached white flour  (Bob’s Red Mill organic unbleached flour is ideal, or may grind 1 1/3 c organic soft winter wheat berries; this makes 2 c whole wheat pastry flour, with which 1/3 c flour must be removed after grinding-set this aside for flouring board.)

1/3 c cane sugar or coconut sugar  (Coconut sugar is healthier, with a lower glycemic index-for details see Zucchini Bread, 2017/07/24.)

1/3 c unsweetened cocoa powder  (Trader Joe’s carries a brand of high quality, reasonably priced.)

2 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp salt

1 stick (4 oz) cold unsalted butter

3/4 c heavy cream

To Finish

1 lg egg, lightly beaten

Demerara sugar, or crystallized sugar  (Demerara sugar is available inexpensively in bulk at our local Winco.)

  1. grinding fresh flour with Kitchen Aid attachment

    If grinding flour fresh, do so now; see photo.

  2.  Preheat oven to 425 F (if grinding your own flour, wait to preheat oven).  Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
  3. In a sealed storage bag, shake together: flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.
  4. cutting butter easily

    Easily cut cold butter into small pieces, by cutting stick in fourths length-wise; keeping cube in tact, rotate this stick and cut in fourths again; then, shave small pieces off end.  See photo below.

  5. Place butter in bowl with flour.  Using a pastry cutter, or two forks, blend until mixture is like a coarse corn meal, and flour is incorporated.  See photo below.
  6. Add cream and stir just until dough forms what Ms. Mushet calls “shaggy clumps”; flour will be barely incorporated.  See photo at bottom.
  7. mealy dough mixture

    Place this loosely formed mixture on a lightly floured board and knead several times, until dough is formed.  Do not over knead.  ONLY IF FRESHLY GROUND FLOUR IS BEING USED, place dough back in bowl, loosely cover with plastic wrap, and let sit for 45 minutes.   (Freshly ground flour is a coarser grind, which doesn’t absorb the moisture as readily as the store-bought white flour; thus, this resting time is required.)

  8. Pat out into a 7” round; cut into eighths.  Holding individual scones in hand, brush top and sides of each with egg wash and sprinkle top with crystallized sugar.  Place on parchment-covered pan (see photo at top of recipe).
  9. dough in “shaggy clumps”

    Bake for 16-18 minutes, or until edges are firm, but center is soft to the touch.  As you press on the edges, there will be a yielding, due to its high concentration of hot fat; scones, however, firm up as they cool.  Note: if using freshly ground flour, 18-20 minutes will be required for baking.

  10. Cool on wax paper at least 10 minutes before serving.  Ideally served with clotted cream, but butter and a good jam are also great.

Irish Soda Bread

Irish soda bread

Following is a family recipe for the best Irish soda bread and information on soft and hard flour, as well as details on what happens to gluten in the the kneading process.

There are two varieties of wheat flour: soft and hard.  This recipe uses the soft whole wheat pastry flour, with low-gluten content; cake flour, which is the other soft flour, is even lower in this mixture of plant proteins.  Hard, all-purpose, or bread flour is the other variety, which is high in gluten.

All wheat flour contains two proteins, gliadin and glutenin, which combined form the gluten.  When dough is initially mixed, these proteins are mangled and knotted together in a relatively unorderly fashion.  Kneading lines these up; bonds are developed between neighbors; thus, gluten chains form, creating the surrounding substance within which the dough can develop.  In this way strength and structure are established, which trap gases and allow the dough to rise; this process is critical in producing a good loaf of yeast bread.

Unlike yeast bread, such manipulative action is minimal in its soda counterpart, providing for little  gluten development; its soft flour, being comparatively low in these proteins, produces a quick bread with its own appeal, which is a fine, tender crumb.  Being fast to prepare, it must be eaten with haste as well, as it becomes stale swiftly.

Irish soda bread has simplicity and a basic composition; it is leavened with the rapid-acting chemical baking soda, and as it has been said, brief mixing minimizes its gluten development.  This luscious loaf may be enhanced by adding either raisins or currants (see Mor Monsen’s Kaker, 2017/11/27, for the history of currants).

It is an understatement to say that my mother Pat, who now resides in heaven, loved her Irish heritage while sojourning on earth: I grew up, during every March, with a month’s worth of corned beef and cabbage.  On St. Patrick’s Day itself, sometimes there were scrambled eggs colored with green food dye, or toilet bowl water tinted likewise, and always a mandatory wearing-of-the-green.  (She would have to dash in the bathroom to revive the toilet water following each use.)

Mom will always be remembered by all, for her passion for green; year-round she favored this color in her clothing, home decorations, and above all God’s splendid paintings in nature.

I am honoring her during her month, by sharing our family’s recipes for Irish Soda Bread and of course, corn beef and cabbage, which will be next week’s entry.  Irish soda bread is a quick bread, traditionally made without fat; it generally calls for soft flour-made from soft winter wheat berries-which is marketed as whole wheat pastry flour.

References:

Harold McGee, On Food and Cooking (New York: Scribner, 1984, 2004), pp. 521-523, 537-538, 549-550.

https://www.thespruce.com/the-science-of-kneading-dough-1328690

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wheat_flour

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kneading

http://www.sodabread.info/history/

bread with Kerrygold butter from Ireland

Irish Soda Bread Yields: 10-12 servings.  Total prep time: 45-55 min/  active prep time: 20 min/  baking time: 25-35 min.

3/4 cup milk  (Alternative milks will do, or may purchase buttermilk.)

8 squirts from plastic lemon ball, for souring milk

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour  (Bob’s Red Mill flour is high quality; may grind 1 1/3 cup organic soft winter wheat berries, to make 2 cups fresh flour.)

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

3 tbsp sugar  (Organic is best; available at Trader Joe’s, or more inexpensively, in a 10-lb package at Costco.)

4 tbsp butter, softened

1/2 cup raisins or currants  (Currants available in bulk at upscale grocers, such as the national chain New Season’s.)

Spray oil  (Pam coconut spray oil is ideal; our local Winco brand, however, is far cheaper.)

  1. cutting butter into flour until mealy

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

  2. If grinding fresh flour, begin to do so now with 1 1/3 c soft winter white wheat berries; wait to preheat oven with this option.
  3. Sour milk by placing it in a medium bowl, squeezing about 8 squirts from lemon ball over surface; set aside.
  4. In a large bowl blend flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar, with a fork.
  5. Cut 3 tbsp softened butter into flour mixture, until mixture is mealy and butter is well incorporated (see above photo).
  6. dough after kneading for 1 minute

    Stir in soured milk and raisins or currants.  Knead dough gently for 1 minute,  flouring counter and hands to keep dough from sticking.  See photo.  (Note: if grinding flour fresh, be sure to let dough sit in bowl, covered, for 45 minutes before kneading, to absorb excess moisture present in the coarser fresh-grind.)

  7. Form into a round loaf and place on a cookie sheet sprayed with oil.  With a sharp knife, cut an X on top of loaf about 1/2-inch deep.  Optional: dot with softened butter (see photo below).
  8. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until golden brown and there is a hollow sound when tapped on bottom; see top photo.  Cool on rack.
  9. loaf ready to be baked

    This is best served with imported Irish Kerrygold butter-this treat is available many places, but the best buy is at Costco, when in stock.

1970’s Atomic Muffins

atomic muffins

My heart has always longed for ideal eating habits, though I haven’t always possessed the capacity for their required discipline.  Natural foods first came into my life in the early seventies, in my eccentric college town of Missoula, Montana.  It was there a friend taught me this powerful atomic muffin recipe.

Then I was attempting to nurture my body with the best; I looked great on the outside-118 compact pounds clothed in the best of vestures-but my insides were another story, for I had the hidden disease of bulimia, which was with me for a total of 3 years; half way through this, I briefly became anorexic and was admitted to Calgary, Alberta’s Foothills hospital, weighing 88 pounds on my mother’s scale.  There a rising physician, who was just breaking into this then unknown field, cared for me.

Eating disorders were rare at that time, though now they are commonplace.  My heart breaks for those that suffer thus, for I know firsthand their devastating grip.

During the years that followed this hospitalization, I went from an extreme 88 to a gross 226 pounds, before I surrendered and God brought complete healing to me: I now have a beautiful, healthy physique, and I eat sanely, with an ability to make balanced choices, having an innate strength to neither over- or under-consume.

This privilege grew progressively.  As a direct answer to an earnest cry for help, it initiated with my courageous act to turn from the bulimic darkness, on a crisp November day in 1978.

Back then, my jaws would hurt from daily, nonstop eating and purging; it was during this fiery torment that I sought the help of a Catholic priest, whom by chance I had heard was successfully recovering from alcoholism; thus, I trusted the hope, visible in his mastery of obsession, to spill over into my life.

My plans were to purge one last time before my 1 PM appointment, but I awoke to late to do so; hence, the first ominous hurdle presented itself, with my intense temptation to skip the meeting.  Something bigger than I, however, got me there.

With this glimmer of determination, I arrived at this parish, unknown to me, in a small neighboring town, only to suffer the second attempt to stop my breakthrough: the priest answering my knock informed me that his superior, the recovering alcoholic, was unavailable.  My instinct was to flee, but I blindly accepted his proffered services instead.

This man, whether knowingly or unknowingly, told me my bulimia wasn’t sin, but rather something beyond my control; he suggested that I stop doing it; at the same time he administered grace, saying that IF upon occasion I failed, I was to ask the Father for forgiveness, and immediately return to my new eating.  All this miraculously seemed doable, for the seed of faith had been established.

I will never forget leaving this sanctuary and walking out into the parking lot, where the asphalt seemed to dance with the reflection of God’s light, from Montana’s perpetual Big Sky.  Indeed my soul was dancing along with this lively, beautiful pavement; my new birth had begun!

At about three weeks into this profound freedom, a stark overwhelming urge to purge an excessive meal assailed me, in which there was actual physical weakness, as I staggered going back and forth toward a public bathroom.  This moment became a crucial step in proving my liberty, for it was then I decisively turned from death to life: clarity came with the vivid memories, both of the sweet peace experienced during this abstinence, as well as the subsequent pleasures derived from foods that I was now able to actually taste; there was vital victory as I successfully turned, moving to the place where  life and my friends were waiting.

It got much easier after that.  Only once in all these 50 years did I give into this lie, for I slipped into this old habit for a week, when I was desperately trying to loose a few pounds, before leaving for Paris in 1985; a greater than I brought me back to my senses, and I stopped as suddenly as I had started.  While in Dijon, France, after an exceptionally large meal, I was tested, however, to see if I really meant business.  Only by grace did I stand, not purging my grotesque meal.  Never again have I returned to this inferno; honestly, I am no longer even faintly tempted.

In this same way, though with much less drama, all my food consumption has been refined: first I receive inspiration for better habits, whether it be the exclusion of a given matter, or the addition of something new; next, I weigh and balance the suggestion, getting clear in my heart what is best for me; then, I initiate the change, which often comes with challenges at first.

I find that we are generally tested, when establishing all new behavior; such testing, however, provides proof of the pudding, for it fixes newly-won-rights indelibly.  Now I thank God, not for the attacks themselves (which aren’t of him), but for the rich strength provided in overcoming them, through our partnering with his grace.

Bless our food, bodies, and hearts always!

grinding flour with an attachment for a Kitchen Aid mixer

Atomic Muffins  Yields: 2 dozen.  Total prep time: 3/4 hr/  active prep time: 30 min/  baking time: 15 min (if you have 2 muffin pans).

1 c raisins, soaked in boiling water for 15 minutes

1/2 c oil  (Grape seed or avocado oils are best for heating to high temperatures, without producing carcinogens.)

3/4 c sugar  (Coconut sugar is ideal-see Zucchini Bread, 2017/07/24, for information on this sugar.)

2 tbsp molasses

2 lg eggs  (Organic free-range eggs are healthiest.)

1 c whole wheat pastry flour  (May grind 2/3 c organic soft winter white wheat berries to make a cup of fresh-ground flour.)

1/4 c barley or spelt flour

1 tsp salt  (Real Salt, pink salt, is so important for premium health; available in nutrition center at local supermarket.)

1/2 c powdered milk

1/2 c nutritional yeast  (Available in bulk at many stores, such as our local Winco.)

3/4 c wheat germ

1/2 c old fashioned rolled oats  (Organic in bulk is only slightly more expensive and much more nutritious.)

1/2 c sesame seeds

1/2 c sunflower seeds

3/4 c pumpkin seeds

1/2 c nuts, chopped

1 1/2 c milk  (May use an alternative milk, such as almond or hazelnut.)

Coconut Spray Oil  (Pam is available at most supermarkets; our local Winco brand, however, is far cheaper.)

  1. easy mixing of dry ingredients in a sealed storage bag

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

  2. If grinding fresh flour, do so now (see photo at top of recipe).
  3. Cover raisins with boiling water; set aside for 15 minutes, for them to plump up.
  4. In a large bowl, blend oil, sugar, and molasses; add eggs; beat well.
  5. In a gallon-size sealed storage bag, shake together all dry ingredients, including seeds and nuts, until well mixed (see photo above).
  6. Alternately blend dry ingredients and milk into oil mixture, using just half of each at a time, until all is incorporated.  (Note: if using fresh-ground flour, preferably let batter rest in bowl for 20 minutes before baking, as it is a coarser grind and doesn’t absorb the moisture as quickly as store-bought flour; see photo below.)
  7. bowl of batter

    Spray muffin pans with oil; spoon batter into cups; bake for 14 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  (It is best to lean on the side of under baking, so muffins remain moist.)

  8. Remove from pan and cool on waxed paper.
  9. Keep muffins in refrigerator; the freezer, however, provides even better storage, if using them over an extended period.
  10. These are indeed atomic in nutrition!

The Best Zucchini Bread

zucchini loaves

It’s that time of year again for our proliferate zucchini.  Cucurbita pepo, a member of the cucumber/melon family, originated in Mexico; this was not only grown by Central and South Americans, but also by our own  Native Americans, long before the Europeans arrived.  Nonetheless, the version we know in the U.S. today is a variety of summer squash developed in Italy.

In actuality this is a fruit, not a vegetable, as it contains seeds.  While usually the male and female counterparts are present in one plant, these components in this fruit exist in separate plants.  In the biological world, the female produces ovules, the equivalent of eggs, while the male produces pollen, which is like sperm in the animal kingdom.  Birds and especially bees transfer this pollen from the individual male to the female zucchini plants, producing abundant fruit, providing both these individual organisms reside together in any given garden.

I have a proven recipe to make use of this fertile squash, in which I suggest utilizing the health-promoting ingredients grapeseed oil and coconut sugar.  Grapeseed oil, along with coconut and avocado oils, can be heated to high temperatures without producing carcinogens.  It is mild in flavor; thus, it is ideal for baking.

Comparing refined with coconut sugar, we see very little difference in their nutritional profiles on the surface; their caloric and carbohydrate content is very similar.  Such figures, however, don’t tell the hidden benefits of this healthier coconut sweetener which is barely processed; it is obtained by heating the sap of the coconut flower until most of the liquid is evaporated.

This alternative has a little more nutrition, as it contains small amounts of zinc, iron, calcium, and potassium, where the refined version holds empty calories.  More importantly, coconut sugar possesses a much lower glycemic index; this greatly reduces any tendency to spike the blood sugar, making it a possible substitute for those dealing with milder forms of blood sugar problems.  Always be sure to check with your healthcare specialist concerning your own personal diet!

I use this “healthy” substitute in both my zucchini and banana breads; see Banana Bread (2017/05/29).  My larder perpetually boast of one or the other of these, both of which I make with flour from freshly ground, organic, hard red spring wheat berries.  These specific berries contain a variety of nutrients including vitamin E, calcium, B vitamins, folate, and potassium.  One serving also provides 20% of the daily value of dietary fiber, 8% of needed iron, and the same amount of protein as found in an egg, or 6 grams.  Breads last for lengthy periods of time, when made with this fresh ground flour.

To easily bake these perfect zucchini loaves in the off-season months, I encourage you to freeze plenty of this grated “fruit/vegetable” in 1-cup packages, while the abundance lasts.

References:

https://www.thespruce.com/history-of-zucchini-1807689

http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/all-about-zucchini-zbcz1405

biologicalthinking.blogspot.com/2011/07/birds-do-it-bees-do-iteven-zucchinis-do-it.html

optional grinding of flour, with attachment for Kitchen Aid

Zucchini Bread  Yields: 2 loaves.  Total prep time: 1 1/2 hr/  active prep time: 30 min/  baking time: 1 hr.

3 c flour  (Fresh-ground provides the highest quality; use 2 c organic, hard red spring wheat berries to make 3 c freshly ground flour; see photo.)

3 lg eggs

2 1/4 c sugar  (Coconut sugar is best-always available at Trader’s and at times Costco, or an organic coconut sugar can be found inexpensively in bulk at our local Winco.)

1 c oil  (Grapeseed  or avocado oil is important here; these may be heated to high temperatures without damage.)

3 tsp vanilla extract  (Ask vacationers to bring a liter-bottle back from Mexico; this is of the highest quality and dirt cheap.)

1 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; an inexpensive fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco.)

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

4 tsp cinnamon  (Our local Fred Meyer’s has an excellent, organic Korintje cinnamon in bulk inexpensively.)

thawing individual frozen zucchini packages

2 c zucchini  (If using frozen zucchini, remove 1 tbsp of liquid from each thawed 1c package; be sure to thaw in a dish to catch juices; it is best to freeze these ahead, while zucchini is available; see photo.)

1 c nuts, optional

Spray oil  (Coconut spray oil is best; Pam is available in most supermarkets; our local Winco-brand, however, is far less expensive.)

Flour for dusting pans

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. If grinding fresh flour, do so now; see above photo.
  3. Beat eggs in a large bowl, add sugar, blend until creamy.  Beat in oil and vanilla well.
  4. Place flour in a large bowl; stir in salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon with a fork vigorously, or shake all well in a sealed gallon-size storage bag.
  5. Mix flour mixture into egg/sugar/oil; when adding flour, do not over beat, as this toughens the bread.
  6. Fold in zucchini and optional nuts.  Note: if using frozen zucchini, remove 1 tbsp of liquid from each 1 c package, which has been thawed in a bowl to preserve juices.
  7. Spray and lightly flour two 8 x 4 inch loaf pans (coconut spray oil is important for quality and flavor).  Pour batter into prepared pans.
  8. cooling zucchini loaves in pans for 15 minutes

    Bake for 60 minutes, or until the loaf responds when pressed with finger; may also test with a toothpick, which will come out clean when done.  Do not over-bake, as this will continue to cook some, while cooling for 15 minutes in the pan, set on a rack; see photo.

  9. This is magnificent, health-giving bread!

1970’s Whole Wheat Banana Bread

cooling bread in pan for 5 minutes

I became a vegetarian during college in the early 1970’s.  When I moved to Tokyo six years later, I gave up this proclaimed role, because of my need to be open to all foods proffered by my Japanese hosts.

While abstaining from meat and fish, I searched for healthy alternatives in an array of natural food cook books.  There I found treasured recipes which I still use today; one was this powerfully good, whole wheat banana bread.

Bananas have a long history.  Alexander the Great discovered them growing in the Indus Valley in 327 B.C.; they had been cultivated, however, in India since 2000 B.C.  1

Documentation dated in the 7th century shows that China was using them in abundance also.  Portuguese explorers reported this same fruit in western Africa in 1482, where it probably had been grown for a long time; these Europeans adopted its local name Musa sapientum, which was originally given this fruit by Alexander the Great.  In 1496, Spanish conquerors found an intense cultivation of bananas in Tenerife in the Canary Islands.  2

Nevertheless, the United States didn’t experience this tropical fruit until 1804, and then only in a limited way for the next 50 years; this delectable was imported infrequently, in such relatively small quantities as 300 stems, by sailing ships coming from the Caribbean or Central American ports.  3

In 1830, during this early inactive period, Capt. John Pearsall brought the first full cargo of bananas, 1500 stems, to New York.  This man later became a N.Y. commission agent, specializing in the import of this prized fruit.  In the mid-nineteenth century, he went bankrupt when his shipment of 3,000 stems arrived too ripe to sell; big money was tied up in each of these loads, for then a “finger” sold at the exorbitant price of 25 cents wholesale.  4   This was at a time when factory workers, consisting of women and children, were making between 25-50 cents per day.  5

More and more, cargoes from Honduras and Costa Rica were reaching New Orleans, New York, and Boston during the two decades before 1870, the year when large-scale banana traffic really began.  As the 70’s opened, the now more abundant bananas were sold, foil-wrapped, at a fair in Philadelphia for 10 cents a stem; it was the first time many of these fair goers had ever indulged in this delight.  6

By 1885, 10,000 stem cargoes were being shipped from Jamaica in 10 to 12 days. Next, just prior to the turn of the century, this exotic fruit spread to inland America by rail express.  7

Now, however, bananas are common and cheap; every American has experienced them, along with this familiar sweetbread.  This 45-year-old banana bread recipe is one of the best among thousands.  Here I have included grams, as someone recently requested that most accurate of measurements for my baking receipts; measuring in grams insures foolproof baking.   Nevertheless I can’t express how easy and certain this preparation is, even with cup measurements, for I could make it with my eyes closed.  Receive!

  1. James Trager, The Food Chronology (New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1995), pp. 18, 9.
  2. Ibid., pp. 41, 78, 18, 81.
  3. Ibid., p. 196.
  4. Ibid., pp. 217, 234.
  5. Stanley Lebergott, Chapter: Wage Trends, 1800-1900, The Conference on Research in Income and Wealth, The Trends in American Economy in the Nineteenth Century (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1960), pp. 449-500.
  6. James Trager, The Food Chronology (New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1995), pp. 283, 301.
  7. Ibid., pp. 320, 360.

wheat grinding attachment on a kitchen aid

Whole Wheat Banana Bread  Yields: 1 loaf.  Total prep time: 1 hr & 25 min/  active prep time: 25 min/  baking time: 1 hr.   This is adapted from Jean Hewitt’s The New York Times Natural Foods Cookbook (New York: Avon Books, 1971), p. 235.

1 c (136 grams) whole wheat pastry flour  (Bob’s Red Mill is high quality.)

1/2 c (64 grams) unbleached white flour  (May grind 1 c organic, hard red spring wheat berries to make total 1 1/2 c-204 grams-flour.)

1/4 c (60 grams) cream*, or milk, soured with juice from lemon ball

1/2 c (113 grams) butter, softened

3/4 c (165 grams) brown sugar, packed  (Organic brown sugar is preferable, which is available at Trader Joe’s, or may substitute a healthier 3/4 c-95 grams-coconut sugar.)

1 lg egg (51 grams)

1 tsp (7 grams) baking soda

3/4 tsp (4.26 grams) salt  (Real Salt is important for optimum health; available in health section of local supermarket.)

2 lg or 3 small ripe bananas, (375 grams), 1 1/4 c  (May ripen these overnight by gently, but firmly, squeezing the whole banana, until meat is mushy under the skin; let sit at least 8 hours.)

1 tsp (4.2 grams) vanilla

1/2 c (62 grams) nuts, optional

Spray oil  (Pam coconut spray is best for taste and quality; our local Winco brand, however, makes this preferred spray for less than half the expense.)

Flour for dusting sprayed pan

  1. If using fresh ground flour, begin grinding 1 c hard red spring wheat berries now (this berry makes a dense, nutritious bread, which is extremely high in protein-one serving has the protein of an egg or 7 grams).  See photo.
  2. Measure cream, which is preferable, or milk in a med/large bowl; squeeze several squirts of lemon juice from a ball over surface; let sit until soured, about 10 minutes.
  3. Beat butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy; mix in sugar thoroughly; add egg, beating well; set aside.
  4. In storage bag, with a seal, shake together flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
  5. When cream/milk is soured (cream will appear curdled more than milk), add bananas, and mash well with a fork.  Blend in vanilla, set aside.
  6. Alternately add flour and banana mixture to butter mixture.  When all is incorporated, mix in optional nuts.  Beat only until all is incorporated, as over beating toughens baked goods.
  7. Spray a 9 x 5, or 8 x 4, inch loaf pan, lightly dust with flour, pour batter in prepared pan.  (This bread will be denser when made in the smaller pan.)
  8. Bake for 55-60 minutes, or until bread responds, bounces back, when pressed with finger.  May also test with a toothpick; it is done when toothpick comes out clean, from the soft area in crust.  Do not over bake.
  9. Cool in pan for 10 minutes; then, remove and finish cooling on rack; see top photo.  Keeps well in refrigerator, wrapped in paper towel, and sealed in gallon-size storage bag.
  10. This is a staple in my home!

Scottish oat scones and more…

20160430_103137

One spring day in Montana’s Big Sky country changed my creative life forever.  An imaginative oil painting of mine was drying in the living room; my tiny, efficient kitchen brimmed with Spanish tapas; I was entertaining the arts and entertainment editor of the Billings Gazette, whom I knew from my acting world.  She was going to review my article on the historical buildings of this largest city in Montana, for my hopes were she would publish it. She spoke prophetically over me, as we indulged in our lavish repast:  “Leave these other artistic quests; seek your true strength of creating quaint, delectable foods; start catering!”

Thus, I launched my business in 1982, with all the passion of my former poetic attempts.  My first catering assignment was that June, when this editor published her article on one of my French dinners, thus giving the needed exposure to my new dream.  It was a marvelous meal of bouillabaisse (fine fish stew) with all the trimmings; a memorable evening that marked the beginning of my knowing the joy of my life’s calling.

This fire in my soul originated in southern Montana, but in a very short time my eager endeavors spread north, for I catered elegant historical feasts on trips to my home town, of East Glacier Park, and the surrounding area. Here groups would have me return each summer to present my “latest creation”.

One such group had me cater my delicacies to them yearly, for several decades.  How they blessed me: they treated me like fine gold as a guest in their home; they paid for luxurious, needed massages during my intense labors; there was a memorable night sleeping on their sailboat on Flathead Lake; and so much more…

An old-time friend invited me over for this scone recipe during one of these trips north; hence, I fell in love with this slightly sweet, nutty breakfast delight from Scotland.  I have been making these scones ever since, for they held me spell-bound on that morning in the early 1980’s.  I am convinced you’ll be sold on them, too.

Scottish Oat Scones  Yields: 12 servings.  Total prep time: 40 min/  active prep time: 20 min/  baking time: 20 min.

1 egg

2/3 c butter, melted and slightly cooled

1/3 c milk or cream

1/4 c sugar  (Coconut or cane sugar is best.)

1 1/2 c whole wheat pastry flour  (Optional: may grind 1 c organic soft, winter wheat berries to make a total of 11/2 c flour.)

1/2 c unbleached white flour  (I prefer Bob’s Red Mill.)

1 1/4 c old fashioned rolled oats  (Organic is best, available in bulk at most supermarkets.)

1 tbsp baking powder

1 tsp cream of tartar (Much cheaper when you buy this in the bulk food section; be sure to save empty spice jars for storage; date the jars and replace with fresh spices yearly.)

1/2 tsp salt  (Himalayan, pink, or Real Salt is critical for optimum health; an inexpensive fine grind Himalayan salt is available at Costco.)

1/2 c currants, raisins, or cranberries

Spray oil  (Coconut spray oil is best for flavor and quality.)

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Beat egg in a large bowl; mix in butter and milk.  Add sugar and beat well.
  3. Place all other dry ingredients except fruit in a sealed storage bag.  Shake well.  Add this to above liquid mixture, beating just until mixed thoroughly, as over-beating toughens pastries.
  4. Stir in fruit.  IF using freshly ground flour, let dough sit for 45 minutes, as this is a courser grind and absorbs the liquid more slowly than store bought flour.
  5. Shape dough to form a ball; pat out on a cookie sheet, sprayed with oil, to form an 8-inch circle. Mark 12 wedges in dough with a sharp knife. (Note: You may bake this on an ungreased stone, which will require a longer baking time.)
  6. Bake until golden brown in center of oven for about 12-17 minutes.  (Time will vary with cookie sheet vs. stone; stone will take up to 30 minutes.)  Center should be slightly moist; do not over bake.
  7. Remove from oven and cool on pan for 5 minutes; transfer to serving plate.  May serve warm, or at room temperature.  Enjoy!