Winter in Florida means citrus…jacked up citrus. It’s the season for heavy with juice, dimple skinned, brilliantly colored oranges, lemons, limes and kumquats all begging to be juiced, baked or eaten out of hand. I had a hankering for a crunchy dunking cookie and this is the end result. I debated whether to drizzle a little icing or dark chocolate over the tops, both go so well with orange, but I opted for neither and went for a more European, unadorned cookie. And healthful. No white flour allowed today. In working with the recipe I used pecans in some batches and walnuts in others. Both are excellent but only if toasted prior to baking otherwise the nuts are bland and lost in the biscotti. It’s a simple recipe and easy.
As I’ve written in other posts, I strongly, strongly suggest using parchment paper to line your baking sheet. It can be found at the grocery store but the paper is in a roll like tin foil or wax paper which makes it tricky to work with. The ends of the paper curl imitating the roll in the box. Flat sheets are found in many food warehouses and are much, much cheaper. Leave them to cool completely before storing them and the cookies will remain crisp. Dunk in a cup of coffee, hot tea or a glass of milk for a satisfying treat.
100% Whole Wheat, Orange, Nut and Olive Oil Biscotti
Bread has always been the ultimate temptation for me. Whether swathed with melting butter, creamy peanut butter, toasted with cheese or redolent with garlic and tossed in a salad, I cannot resist. Growing up with a mother who barely cooked we were always hungry. But bread, albeit it “brown bread” as it was called back then, was our reliable safety. And we loved our bread. For breakfast Mama prepared soft-boiled eggs with a slice of brown bread on the side and split in half, to dip into the sunny, runny yolks. With a pinch of salt and pepper this was our version of heaven. My little brother, Tommy, bless his heart, was always hungry. Skinny as a rail, he’d wake up in the middle of the night from hunger pains in his stomach. That boy would crawl on his stomach across the house, grab seven or eight slices of bread from the refrigerator and crawl back to his bed undetected by Mama. He said those late night trips to the kitchen were what kept him alive. I knew when I was hungry I could always find the fixins’ for a lettuce and butter sandwich. Actually it was margarine as we never had real butter. The “brown bread” was Roman Meal brand and the lettuce was iceberg but the combination made for a cool, crunchy and satisfying snack that, as a child, held me in good stead. As I grew up I learned of the further glories of bread. At a grade school friend’s house I first tasted real butter on toast. Whoa! I’ll never forget THAT experience. Third or fourth grade brought Susie next door as a new neighbor. That, Gentle Reader, was the exacta of culinary discoveries. We had been playing outside, probably our version of Man From Uncle, we were hot and hungry. Susie casually turned to me and asked if I wanted a toasted English muffin. I had never had a muffin, never mind an English muffin, but I thought if she wanted one I’d have one, too. I mean, how bad could they be? Well. She toasted one for each of us, buttered them, then slathered some bright, glossy, ruby-colored stuff on each round. “What’s THAT?” I asked. Susie looked at me incredulously. Neither one of us said anything for a few seconds. She quietly answered with the slightest hint of disdain for me, “It’s strawberry jam. Haven’t you ever had that before?” I had read in one of my many books that strawberries were sweet and tasted good. Feeling fearless and, let me remind you, hungry, I took a bite. The warm muffin with the melted butter in all the little nooks and crannies was like nothing I had ever had, all salty and creamy. How could something be crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside all at the same time? But the jam…oh, the jam! I was swept away by the feel in my mouth, sweet and clean, at the same time tart. I imagined that was what perfume should taste like if you drank it. I just about swooned over this ordinary snack and I’m pretty much certain Susie lost a little respect for me judging from the “you loser” look she gave me. I’ve got to say, though, it was worth it. Today bread is still my Achilles heal. Garlic rolls, pizza, croutons, I love it all. But as I’ve gotten older and my waistline has expanded I’ve had to cut back drastically on my bread intake and, now that there is always food in my house, I’m super picky when it comes to the quality and nutritional value. Since figuring out this recipe we no longer buy bread, quite a savings for us as we were paying upwards of $10.00 at Whole Foods and Fresh Market for a high fiber organic loaf. I now bake bread at least once a week, sometimes twice, and have a thin, toasted slice every morning as part of my breakfast. Whether I have an egg white omelette prepared by my husband and delivered to our bed or avocado toast with tomato slices and red pepper flakes, breakfast keeps me energized until 2:00 in the afternoon. Not only is this bread a nutritional powerhouse but it’s life-changing for your insides, if you catch my drift. It calls for only one rising so you’re not chained to the kitchen for what seems to be a lifetime. I urge you to try it. Really. A weekend day when the weather begs you to stay indoors is the golden opportunity. And won’t you just be the happy camper when, say, some morning, you’re running more than a few minutes late and you grab a slice of this gorgeous, whole grain bread, baked by your capable hands, topped with a generous slather of peanut or almond butter to munch on while you drive into work? Aren’t you the cleverkins!
This bread is dark and heavy as many European breads are. It can be made by hand, which turns out to be a great upper body workout, or with a stand-up mixer, which makes the kneading process supremely easy. I’ve done both and I have to say I lean towards the stand-up mixer. The dough requires only one rising (yay!) and the recipe is forgiving enough that you can substitute the sunflower and flax seeds for any seeds you like. I use Bob’s Red Mill 8 Grain Hot Cereal and 5 Grain Hot Cereal as well as Quaker Multigrain hot cereals interchangeably depending on what’s in my cabinet. This recipe doubles beautifully however, as it calls for a large amount of flour, check first prior to doubling to make sure your mixing bowl is big enough to hold and mix the dough. I have a standard KitchenAid mixer, which I hate and everyday I pray it dies, and it barely holds one recipe. If you’d like really tall loaves shape three loaves instead of four. It’s great with breakfast, toasted plain or with butter, jam and almond or peanut butter. Because of its denseness it doesn’t hold up well as sandwich bread but since I’ve sworn off sandwiches that’s okay by me. Well-wrapped it freezes beautifully. I bake this bread for my family, my father and my girl, Andrea, so we only have two loaves at the most in my house. Therefore, I can’t tell you how long it keeps in the freezer but tightly wrapped it should be fine for at least two weeks.
4 cups water, divided
1 cup multigrain hot cereal
1/2 cup canola, vegetable or olive oil
1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons molasses
1 tablespoon yeast
1 tablespoon salt
3/4 cup flax seeds
1 cup sunflower seeds
9 cups whole wheat flour, preferably organic
Spray 3 or 4 1.5 quarts loaf pans with non stick cooking spray and set aside.
In a small bowl, pour one cup boiling water over hot cereal and set aside for 30 minutes.
When hot cereal has cooled, heat remaining 3 cups of water to 120°-130° and pour into standup mixer bowl fitted with the paddle attachment.
To the mixer bowl add 2 cups flour, cooled cereal, oil, honey, molasses, yeast, salt, flax seeds and sunflower seeds.
Mix until incorporated.
Slowly add remaining flour adding just one cup at a time to avoid the flour from flying all over.
When flour has mixed in, change the attachment from paddle to dough hook and knead dough for 5 minutes.
Depending on the number of loaves you wish to bake, divide dough into 3 or 4 equal parts and place in prepared pans making certain the dough covers the bottom and all corners of the pans.
Cover pans with a clean dish towel or loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise in pans for 1 1/2 hours or until double in size.
Bake at 350° for 50 minutes or bottom, sides and tops are golden brown.
Cool pans on racks for 10 minutes.
Remove bread from pans and return to racks until completely cool.
Do not slice or store bread until completely cooled.
Girls like pretty. Boys want flavor. When the two meet it is a glorious blending, a union, an alliance of shared contentedness. In our house there are three boys and one girl. Jimmy, James and Pericles, the dog, represent the males of the house. I am the solitary female. As a result most of the cooking I do pleases and teases their taste buds but I enjoy a good-looking dish. Though I have to add they appreciate a gorgeous plate and I, in turn, have pretty high standards when it comes to tastiness. James’ high school and college years brought many an overnight houseguest which thrilled me to no end. I fussed over those boys taking special orders for cafe con leche, biscuit and gravy and this breakfast, the cake-like whole wheat buttermilk pancakes with masses of fresh blueberries jumbled in. Those darling boys would come home sometimes at 3:00 and 4:00 in the morning usually stopping to cool off in the pool before coming in. They’d get a running start from the driveway, propel themselves through the air and execute flawless cannon balls. Although we pretty much always woke up from those distinctive “thumps” of a 185 pound boy hitting the water, I savored every single moment. I’d snuggle deep into the covers of our bed delighted knowing they were happy and safely back home. I knew those days were numbered and, sure enough, all those boys have graduated and moved on to their new professional lives and careers. This is one of those breakfasts that we all took great pleasure in sharing. The nutty flavor of the whole wheat plays off the tang of the buttermilk and the berries give that pleasing “pop” of color and flavor while cutting through the richness of each mouthful. This recipe calls for a large amount of berries because I feel EVERY bite should be loaded with them. These pancakes cook up tall, light and fluffy belying the fact that they are 100% whole wheat. I ALWAYS use a large teflon coated griddle or pan otherwise I find the whole process turns into a disaster. For the first few pancakes I give the griddle a very light spray of non-stick spray and after that the butter in the batter is sufficient. But definitely use a non-stick pan. And remember, buttermilk is your friend. It’s lower in fat and calories because the fat from the buttermilk has already been removed in order to make butter. Buttermilk is what’s left after it’s been churned and made into butter. A fermented product, it’s loaded with good bacteria vital for a well-functioning digestive system. Low-fat buttermilk is carried in most grocery stores, is fabulous for cooking and baking and keeps forever in your refrigerator. If you’re ever at a market or farmstand and they offer fresh buttermilk SNAP IT UP. Mass produced buttermilk pales in comparison, fresh is tart and cool, rich and smooth. I’ve been making these pancakes for years and quite some time ago changed the recipe a bit to fit our needs. I remember making these for James when he was in Pre-K. He would pick them up whole as though they were slices of toast. I add a trace more sugar to the batter than traditional pancakes thus making syrup optional, almost unnecessary. Really, they’re almost like cake. Okay. They’re cake. Whole wheat cakes from a pan. So good. So satisfying. And you”ll be the most loved mom on the planet for a good half hour!
In a large bowl mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a separate bowl mix buttermilk, butter, eggs and vanilla extract. When well combined add blueberries. Mix well.
Bring non-stick griddle or skillet up to medium heat.
Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and pour the blueberry buttermilk into it. Mix well.
Use an ice cream scoop or measuring cup to ladle out batter for small pancakes. I use 2 serving spoons, one to scoop and the other to scrape the batter off the bowl of the spoon. I find small pancakes are easier to flip.
When you see a few bubbles rising in the pancakes turn them over with the thinnest spatula you have. For a 3″ or 4″ pancake it’s a few minutes. Depends on the size of the cake and the heat of the stove top. I also go by the cooking smell. If it starts smelling a little too toasty in the kitchen I drop what I’m doing and flip those bad boys over.
After turning, cook for 1 minute, transfer to serving platter and continue cooking pancakes until batter is gone.
If serving pancakes with syrup use good Vermont maple and warm it up first.
Of course everyone loves flatbread, that little triangle of flavor, a pretty tidbit to savor while sipping on that weekend glass of champagne. Well, how about homemade flatbread for dinner? Now stay with me. Don’t run away scared at the idea of making dough. The last two weeks I’ve had major computer problems. I had to get a new computer and people, let me tell you I loved my desktop. If I can go from an enormous, gorgeous screen to a tiny 13″ laptop you can pull on your big-girl panties and rustle up a little dough. It’s easy, forgiving and a great way to relax and unwind. So pour yourself a nice glass of wine and let’s talk. Here are some things you’ll appreciate about making your own dough. The most obvious is you know exactly what’s going in AND what’s not. Have you ever looked closely at the list of ingredients in a loaf of bread at your grocery store’s bakery? What’s fumeric acid? Do we really need sodium stearoyl lactylate? Or azodicarbonamide coating? I think not. And don’t kid yourself into thinking anything is baked there. It’s all brought in baked and frozen then warmed up in their ovens to look and smell good. Even the frostings for their cakes are trucked in. The frosting comes packaged in big, plastic buckets. With a laundry list of chemicals, preservatives and artificial colors that you don’t even think about when you pick up little Taylor’s “Elsa” birthday cake from the movie “Frozen”. How do I know all this? Well, I did a little poking around on the computer and Chiquita in the bakery told me the rest. No lie. I’m hoping that homemade is looking a tad more attractive to you now. Many of us don’t have the need anymore to order birthday cakes at the grocery store; I’m just advocating awareness regarding what you’re eating and what you’re giving your precious family. Shall we move on to taste?
There is nothing…NOTHING that can hold a candle to the flavor of “made at home”. You know exactly what went into your baked good and how much. Plus, many bread recipes, this one included, can be played with. Different flours, the addition of herbs and spices plus the variety of toppings make planning dinner a breeze and, if I may say so, a pleasure. Let me point out as well that YOU dictate the thickness of the flatbread so if you enjoy thin and crispy you can have it. Thick and chewy is right at your fingertips…literally! With meat or without it is your choice. Here are some combinations we enjoy.
Fresh mushrooms, sliced and sautéed in olive oil, spinach, cooked, drained and chopped, roasted garlic, fresh marjoram and mint leaves and Gruyère cheese.
Caramelized shallots, roasted peppers, crumbled Feta cheese, orange zest, fresh thyme leaves and a drizzle of olive oil.
Fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, Italian sausage (turkey or pork), hot chile peppers.
Ground lamb, a little tomato, some sautéed eggplant and onions, toasted pine nuts, raisins and a pinch of cinnamon.
With a choice of seafood, meat, vegetables and cheeses the combinations are endless. Keep in mind that the flatbreads can be baked with nothing on them but a faint spritz of olive oil and maybe a little sea salt and freshly ground pepper. From there they can be cut into triangles and used to dip into hummous, eggplant dip or, my favorite, the salty, creamy taramosalata. Store the cooled flatbreads in a zip top bag with the air squeezed out. In the following days you can crisp them back up again by placing them in a 300° oven for a few minutes. If they’re not eaten in a day or two keep them either in the refrigerator or freezer as they don’t contain any preservatives so their shelf life on a counter is pretty short. Here’s the recipe for your basic flatbread. Feel free to play with it. After you’ve tried it out or now if you feel like it, mix up your flours. I don’t recommend using all whole wheat because the bread will come out kind of hard and incredibly heavy. The more whole grain flour used, the more toothsome the final product will be. Therefore, if soft and fluffy is what you’re after then stick with the all-purpose. My family and I prefer a crisper, nuttier bread so I typically use 3 cups all-purpose mixed with 2 cups white whole wheat. When you’re ready to bake them off have your family or friends top their own flatbreads from the topping bar you so generously put together for them. So have fun with it. And have another glass of wine!
5 cups all-purpose flour plus more to spread or your combination of flours totaling 5 cups
1 tablespoon salt
olive oil to oil resting bowl and later to spread
Combine yeast, sugar and warm water in a large mixing bowl or stand-up mixer bowl. Gently mix and set aside for 10 minutes or until foamy.
Add yoghurt to yeast mixture and mix to break up yoghurt. If using a stand-up mixer use the paddle to mix.
In a separate bowl mix flour and salt together. Add to the yeast/yoghurt mixture and continue mixing with the paddle if using the stand-up mixer. If mixing by hand, it will be very wet and sticky but the more you mix the drier the dough will become.
If making by hand continue kneading vigorously until smooth. If using a stand-up mixer, change from paddle to dough hook and continue kneading for 5 minutes until smooth.
Lightly coat a large bowl with a bit of olive oil, place dough in bowl and turn dough over so both top and bottom are lightly covered with olive oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot to rise for 1 1/2 hours of until at least double in size.
After dough has risen, punch down and divide into 10-12 equal pieces. Using your hands, and you can oil them if dough is still a little sticky, roll into smooth balls and set aside, covered, for 20 minutes to rest.
Lightly cover work surface with some flour and roll out dough to desired shape and thickness. Place on baking sheets covered with parchment paper.
Add toppings, or if baking plain flatbreads, drizzle with a bit of good olive oil and a quick scattering of sea salt.
Bake for 10-15 minutes or until barely golden around the edges. Keep an eye on them if your baking sheets are dark. They cook WAY faster.