Third Time Charms

I have found a way to manage the turnips: if I combine them with the wild turkey gumbo that my friend made, the turnips add vegetation to the gumbo but the flavor is no longer overwhelming. Nevertheless, eating them more than two days in a row is a bad idea.

When I worked at the bakery, the owner used to say that it took three tries to get a formula right, and I find that he’s correct. The first time, I’m usually following a recipe of some kind, or at least basing what I’m doing on a formula, and it often is edible at the very least. The second time, I might be tweaking it in some way–changing a few of the ingredients; possibly playing with quantities, proportion, or finishing method (e.g., temperature of the oven; how thin it’s rolled out; the quantity of filling in a crust; how much of the fat I can swap out with flax or pumpkin). The third time, I combine what I’ve learned from the first two efforts and try to settle on a final version. If there needs to be a fourth time, I try to refine whatever I was doing in the third effort that didn’t work the way I’d hoped.

At the bakery, the goal was to settle on a production method that was reproducible and not too finicky, which is important if your goal is, in fact, consistent production. If you have customers coming in for a croissant, those customers want that croissant to be consistent from one day to the next, one week to the next. They want today’s miche to taste like last month’s miche. To manage that, you have to settle on formulae and then use those formulae. Even then, of course, there are variations–I was always a little amazed how some days the dough was really perfect–beautiful lamination, just the right feel, etc.–and other days were more of a struggle. It’s all relative, of course; once I got the hang of it, the range was pretty narrow, all things considered, but the more you do something, the more you notice small variations. (Thus, Filoman, who is an extraordinary baker, could always tell when the flour changed, i.e., when the batch we were using was the first of the new crop.) And, of course, there are always mistakes–something gets left out, say. That happened less frequently (especially if I remembered to taste the raw dough before putting it in the bins–it’s a good way to realize you forgot the salt or the sugar, for example), but it still happened.

At home, the criteria are a little different. Take these crackers: the first time, my sesame seeds were old-smelling, so I used the KAF Harvest Grains instead of the sesame seeds, and I put a little sea salt on top. The second time, I had new sesame seeds, so I left out the Harvest Grains. I think I added some semolina flour, too, though not much; less than 20% of the total flour, most likely. I didn’t put salt on top. I also didn’t like those crackers nearly as much. The third time I made them, I used the Harvest Grains again, and I put a mixture of sea salt and praline pumpkin seeds on top (a KAF product). Those were quite good, especially the sweet/salt mix, but there wasn’t quite enough of the sweet. Today’s batch incorporates some of the praline pumpkin seeds in the mix, as well as some ground barley flakes in place of a little of the flour. (That’s primarily to add a little fiber; I only replaced about 12% of the flour with the ground flakes.) I used a combo of sesame seeds and Harvest Grains. I’m also going to use the sea salt and praline mix on top, and I expect these to be the best yet.

Except.

KAF has the praline pumpkin seed mix on sale (I bought five bags of it), which leads me to believe that they’re going to eliminate it from their product line, just like they eliminated the Bak-O-Mega ground flaxseed flour, which I loved and of which I only have a little left. (Some of that goes in the crackers, too, in lieu of the ground flaxseeds called for by the recipe; that substitution seems pretty minor to me, as ground seeds or flax meal will likely work just fine.) Which means, if I’m right, I’ll eventually need to figure out how to replace the praline pumpkin seeds in the cracker dough. That’s a problem for another day, though.

Today’s other two tasks are a trip to the grocery store–I realize that I have been sadly lacking in green vegetables of any kind, and I am positively craving spinach and broccoli, and I do not want to wait until I get some spinach in the farm share on Thursday–and making some chocolate cookies. I’ve been trying to make some efforts to fit into my clothes again, but I still need my sweets. I’ll probably start with this recipe, but I know that I want to use whole wheat flour (and possibly a little barley flour) instead of all-purpose; add some flax meal to it, possibly in place of some of the butter; and possibly change up the sugar. For example, if I use malted barley syrup instead of sugar, it might get that nice roasty taste of a good porter or stout. I might also add some dried cherries or dried cranberries (have to see what’s in the cupboard).

Are you rolling your eyes at me yet? Because I am, a little. Here’s a perfectly good recipe–based on other things I’ve made from the website, it’s probably an excellent recipe, and it probably produces very good chocolate cookies. So why can’t I just USE that recipe? I ask myself that question a lot, and I even have an excuse answer. For one thing, I want to use whole grains whenever I can. For another, I want to add flax and fiber whenever I can–the whole grains help with the latter, and a little flax is easy to add to a recipe that has an intense flavor of some kind. I’ve been experimenting with malted barley sugar, just because, and I like the chocolate-cherry combo, in general. Each of the little tweaks swaps in something that ups the nutritional aspects of the cookies (except the barley sugar, which is more of a flavor experiment) and provides the treat I want but with a little less . . . damage, I guess, to my overall health goals. It’s still a cookie, at the end, but it’s less of a fat-and-sugar bomb and, I hope, more of a sweet-tooth-satisfying-but-not-crazy-caloric treat. We’ll see; it could fail. But it could also be awesome.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Mary
    Jun 30, 2013 @ 22:24:03

    I don’t like crackers or cookies enough to try to make either. Too much tedious work, timing…..watching……

    Reply

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