Saturday, June 27, 2009


It is not necessary that you forget to give your yoghurt its hot water bottle in order to make waffles, but such was the inspiration for these. Without its hot water bottle, as warm as it is in my bathroom, my yoghurt will not form properly. That's what happened last week. Instead of yoghurt I ended up with two quarts of gently soured milk. I couldn't just throw it away. Well, I did throw some of it away, but I saved one quart of it and stuck it in the door of the fridge, certain I would think of something to do with it. The something I thought of was waffles.


to serve 4-6

  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sour milk, buttermilk, yoghurt, kefir, or or or
  • 3 eggs separated
  • 2 Tbs. butter
  • 2-4 Tbs. maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 Tbs. yoghurt or whey
  • Combine the flour and your chosen fermented dairy product, cover, and leave in a warm place for 12-24 hours. Soak the oats overnight in 1/2 cup of the water, warmed, and the tablespoon of yoghurt or whey. The next morning, don't throw away the flour mixture and opt for cereal instead if a brown-black sludge has developed on the top. Stir it in, instead, watch it disappear, and forget it ever existed. (I have it on good authority that this sometimes happens with sourdough starters and it is perfectly harmless, if a little unappetizing.)
  • Melt the butter, add it to the flour mixture, then cook the oats with the remaining 1/2 cup of water in the same pot.
  • To the sour milk-flour-butter mixture add the yolks, syrup (more or less, depending on the sweetness of your tooth), vanilla, and salt. Once the oats are cooked, allow them to cool slightly, then add them to the batter.
  • Whip the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff. Fold them into the batter.
  • Cook in a waffle iron and serve waffles as they come out, or keep them warm in the oven so everyone can eat together.
If you like crispy waffles, these are not for you. If you, as I,prefer soft, slightly chewy, almost sourdoughy waffles, they most certainly are. And the best thing about having waffles for breakfast is having them again at tea time, so be sure to save the leftovers.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

My New Grain Mill & Digestive Biscuits

While I was leafing through Farmhouse Cookery the other day, I noticed several recipes calling for oatmeal of varying coarseness. I was a bit mystified. All of a sudden I had no idea what oatmeal was. Maybe I could just crush up some rolled oats? I really didn't know, but was seriously considering attempting digestive biscuits made with rolled oats given a spin in my Cuisinart when I came across a recipe call for porridge oats. Now I was doubly confused, but two things came to mind:
all the oat groats that had ever passed through my check out line and the KitchenAid grain mill attachment a friend had been given for her last birthday or Christmas or something. At this point I was determined to make digestive biscuits and flummery and most probably oatcakes and to grind my own meal for all of them. I immediately texted S. about her mill. I had borrowed her KitchenAid ice cream maker a couple weeks before, so figured she'd be willing to let me use her grain mill.
Three or four texts later I had bought the never-before-used mill for 40 bucks. Lucky me! I wouldn't have the mill for five days or so, but the anticipation was killing me so I bought a sack of groats anyway. At long last (a day late) I got my grain mill attachment. I actually sat down and read the instructions before attempting to grind my oats and was dismayed to learn that it didn't particularly like whole oat groats. It wanted them hulled first. I didn't have hulled oats. I didn't have access to hulled oats, but I wasn't going to be put off so easily.
My compromise to the mill was to put the groats through on the very coarsest setting and then run the resulting meal through on finer settings until I had what I thought resembled "medium oatmeal" having no point of reference other than all the McVitties I have ever eaten. The mill co-operated and if the digestive biscuits that came out of the oven are any indication, I seem to have judged the coarseness pretty well. The grind could have been a fraction finer, but I quite liked the extra roughage. (The user manual also suggests using rolled oats, which might be easier to grind more finely. I'll try that next time and let you know.)

Digestive Biscuits

makes about one dozen

  • 4 oz. medium oatmeal
  • 4 oz. wholemeal flour
  • 2 oz. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 3 oz. butter
  • 1 small egg, beaten
  • Mix together the oatmeal, flour, sugar, salt, and soda. Rub in the butter with the fingertips, then add the egg and mix well.
  • Place the dough on a working surface sprinkled with oatmeal. Roll out to 1/8-1/4 inch thick, and cut into 3-inch rounds. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 375°F for 10-15 minutes.
  • Replace the wholemeal flour with plain flour if you prefer biscuits with less roughage. (I can't recommend this, personally, but if you must...)
The benefits of grinding one's own grains are many. There is, of course, the pure satisfaction of making something from scratchier than scratch. There's the assurance that nothing has been added to your flour--or taken away. There's knowing your flour isn't rancid. But, perhaps most importantly, there is the flavor. A nuttier digestive you have not had. Not the cardboard McV, whose saving grace is its dubious chocolate coating, but a nutty, buttery, flaky biscuit excellent plain, but worthy of being coated in the finest chocolate or of sandwiching a velvety ganache, and simply crying out to be dipped in a dead milky cup of tea. So raise your mugs to the oat groat, Farmhouse Cookery, and the grain mill that could.

Thursday, June 4, 2009


I know a woman who grew up on a blueberry and strawberry farm in Maine. She no longer has a taste for either blueberries or strawberries. Nor does she like lobster. For the rest of us it was very exciting on Saturday to see, among the varied shades of young, spring greens, the brilliant red of the season's first strawberries.
I intend to make piles of strawberry jam this year, but the first berries of the season should really be enjoyed as unadorned as possible. There's a gelato stand at the market this year and mom suggested we have a cup. We both chose the Tahitian vanilla and found a sunny spot to sit in while we ate. The gelato was incredible. And then I remembered the pint of strawberries in my shopping bag. I pulled out a berry, scooped up a bite of gelato with it, and bit into it. Now, that's the way to eat the first strawberry of the season.
I ate a couple more berries with my gelato, but saved the majority of them for strawberry shortcake. I have become a devotee of Claudia Fleming's biscuit recipe. It includes hard-boiled egg yolks and heavy cream and is perfect on cobblers and equally divine with strawberries and cream.


Claudia Fleming (mostly)

  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 1/2 Tbs. sugar
  • 1 Tbs. plus 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 hard-boiled egg yolds
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 6 Tbs. cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 tsp. citrus zest (if you like)
  • heavy cream, plus more for brushing on top
  • In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, egg yolks, and salt. Pulse to combine. Add the butter and zest (if using) and pulse until the flour resembles coarse meal. Add the cream and pulse until the dough comes together. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and pat it together, incorporating any stray crumbs. Knead the dough a couple times so everything comes nicely together.
  • Pat into a circle about 6 inches in diameter and 3/4 to 1-inch thick. Using a fluted biscuit cutter (my preference) or anything else you have to hand (a water glass, a baked bean tin, last Christmas's mitten cookie cutter, andonandon), cut out biscuits. You should get about six (depending, of course, on how big or small you make them.) Place biscuits on a parchment-lined baking sheet and chill for 20 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 400°F. Brush tops of biscuits lightly with heavy cream and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake until risen and golden brown, 10-12 minutes. Turn baking sheet around halfway through to ensure even cooking. Cool on racks several minutes before assembling shortcakes.
To prepare the strawberries just wash them, remove their stems, and quarter them. Toss them with a dusting of sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice and let them macerate while the biscuits are cooking (longer if using woody, shipped-in berries, but you wouldn't).
If you're using this biscuit recipe for a cobbler, reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and bake about 40 minutes, or until fruit is bubbling and biscuits are golden.
And just a quick note on cream: Granted, I am lucky to be able to buy the best Jersey cream ever directly from the farm. You merely look at it and it whips. You eat a spoonful straight from the jar and hear choruses. You leave it on the counter overnight to find perfect crème fraîche in the morning. But anyway, what I wanted to say is that I have found myself lately averse to the sweetening of whipped cream. It doesn't need it and whatever you're going to put it on is usually sweet enough already. I will admit to adding equal amounts of vanilla extract and brandy (Grand Marnier recently, since I have some left from making truffles), about a teaspoon each per pint of cream. But in the end it's up to you. And this was supposed to be about the strawberries.