Sunday, May 1, 2011

Adventures in Baking

You're not going to believe this... I've had my Nutrimill Grain Mill for THREE weeks now without posting anything about it.
After all those months of saving, it's even more fabulous than I expected. You just drop the whole grains in the top, turn the dial, and lovely soft flour drifts into the bowl. It's about as loud as a vacuum cleaner, but you only have to listen to it for a couple of minutes at a time.

I've ground hard red winter wheat berries for bread...

and popcorn for fresh cornmeal (which makes the most incredible cornbread imaginable)...

I've ground brown rice and even garbanzo beans...

Yes, that garbanzo bean is on my floor. I was weighing out the dried beans on my kitchen scale and somehow bumped the bowl. Garbanzo beans went flying all over the kitchen and even into the dining room.

Allyson came in and helped me pick up all those beans, which I hoped to salvage since I'd just mopped the floor that day. I rinsed them in very hot water and set them in a sieve on the counter top, covered with a clean plate to keep away the flies that are already invading our kitchen--no more, I hope, since Bill just hung one of those old-fashioned screen doors that slams itself every time you open it. I had scarcely finished grinding the rest of my rather expensive beans when Bill "tidied" up by setting the sieve in the sink and proceeded to pour soapy water over the beans. Sigh... You know how I hate wasting food!

Rising to New Heights
There was lots more food to be wasted that evening. I combined my freshly ground rice flour, garbanzo flour, xanthan gum, and corn starch and whipped up some of Gentle's gluten-free bread. Here it was before it went in the oven:

It was rising way too quickly, and my oven takes a good 15-20 minutes to heat up. By the time I put it in, it was already over the top of the pan and still rising... and rising. Here's how it looked when I took it out:

I kept taking it out, testing the temperature, and putting it back in. After an hour and a half, it still hadn't reached 190 degrees, and the probe kept coming out gummy. I finally gave up. I let it cool and then tried to slice it. Here's what it looked like after it fell:

Full of Hot Air
Turns out, it was completely hollow inside! All the batter had fallen into a gooey mess on the bottom inch of the pan:

I guess I'll wait a couple more weeks and then give it one more try. I think the main problem was that my pan was too small. Bill later bought me an actual 9 X 5 loaf pan for my birthday, and my old pan could fit right inside it. There had been so much dough that I put some of it into a mini loaf pan, and that loaf came out almost as delicious as Gentle's. I gave two tiny slices to Allyson and polished off the rest of the loaf myself.

A Little Toaster Mishap
When there was just one slice left, I had an uncontrollable craving for gluten-free toast. I gingerly dropped the tiny slice into the toaster slot. When it popped up, naturally it fell through the grate and got stuck in the crumb tray. I unplugged the toaster and turned it upside down, shaking it violently. No luck. So I inserted a knife down the side and gradually worked piece by crumbly piece back through the metal cage and into my mouth. (Yes, I ate that toast! And it was yummy.)

But it left a residue on the heating element, and when I turned the toaster back on to see if I'd wrecked the coils, it made two tiny fires! I waved the smoke away and prayed the smoke alarm wouldn't go off and wake Allyson. It took a few days, but finally the toaster stopped smoking, and it's no crappier than it was to begin with. 

After wasting a whole evening on my gluten-free experiment, I was feeling pretty downcast. Luckily, the new pan came through for me; my next loaf, made from freshly ground wheat, turned out gorgeous. It looked like it had come from a bakery, and tasted even better. I also made some dinner rolls which we served at Easter, and those were pretty darn tasty.

And I made these hamburger buns on Thursday:

This was my fourth attempt at hamburger buns--at last, sweet success! Previously my buns had looked more like hockey pucks, though they tasted pretty decent.

All in all, I've been extremely pleased with my grain mill. We're savoring the taste of the fresh flour, and reaping the health benefits of all that wholesome wheat germ and bran. And since I can now buy my grain in bulk (25 to 50 pound bags!), the mill should pay for itself in no time. I aspire to bake all my family's bread as soon as I find the perfect, easy recipe or get a better bread machine. Currently I'm kneading the dough in my Kitchen-Aid mixer and shaping it by hand.

I wish you could all come and eat bread with me!


Gentle said...

Are those rolls Gluten Free?? I am still looking for a GF bun recipe...that looks and tastes good:)

I am excited that your grain mill is taking you on an adventure...a healthy and rewarding adventure!

Victor S E Moubarak said...

Those bread rolls look really tasty.

I'm glad to hear that on both sides of the pond that separates us, people do the same things ... putting a knife or fork into the toaster. Only, I don't always remember to unplug it first !!!

God bless.

Sarah said...

Gentle - No, I'm afraid those rolls are NOT gluten free. I'll be keeping my eye out for a good GF recipe.

Victor - Ha! Whenever I think about putting a knife in the toaster, I hear my mother shrieking, "Unplug it first!" I wish you could eat some bread with me.

Gentle said...

This is funny! Just last year my mother-in-law and husband bothed freaked out when I put a knife into the plugged in toaster. I honestly didn't realize...duh?!? They really couldn't believe their eyes:)

Sarah said...

Gentle, I'm glad you're still with us! Unplug that toaster, girl!

jenny said...

Wow, you are certainly ambitious. Can you give me just a little bit of your kitchen ambition?!

Sarah said...

Jenny - If you ever get started on all this baking stuff, you'll be hooked! The only problem is it really cuts into your leisure time. Not a problem if baking IS leisure time, which I guess it is for me. But I probably neglect more important things. Like my family!


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