on the menu: birdseed bran muffins

On July 19, 2015 by theseventhsphinx

I enjoy cooking from flour, local chef Joanne Chang‘s first cookbook. It’s full of the kind of dessert-esque breakfast/brunch items I always want. This week I tried the addictive bran muffins (link to recipe), which won me over with the ‘birdseed’ topping.

flour bakery birdseed bran muffins

I made a few adjustments to work with what I had on hand, sour cream instead of crème fraîche, cream instead of milk, a little coconut flour and coconut oil just because, some mashed banana, some cinnamon, extra raisins. I also added white and black sesame seeds (to the prescribed flax seeds, millet, and sunflower seeds) to make things ultra-birdseedy. I also halved the recipe. With all these changes, the texture still came out nicely – to weather such haphazardness is a mark of a solid recipe.

One thing I would say is that the quantities are sometimes high. I think I routinely halve these recipes, and in this case I still made about 12 muffins, which is the yield given…so something is not quite adding up. But I don’t care, as long as the muffins are good.

flour bakery birdseed bran muffins

These are dense, not too sweet muffins, which seem not outright unhealthy, as is the case with certain muffins, and which improve with grilling or strawberry-rhubarb jam or both.

flour bakery birdseed bran muffins

Happy baking!

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sourdough bagels

On September 28, 2014 by theseventhsphinx

My sister recently shared her sourdough starter with me and I’ve been thinking of baking projects to use up the portion that gets discarded whenever I feed it. I’ve been meaning to get into baking bread and other yeast-based comestibles for a while now, and so pleased with the results so far. The first project was a multi-grain boule* baked in a Dutch oven, and the second: bagels.

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I used a hybrid of this recipe from CHOW and one from Lauren Groveman, featured on an episode of Baking with Julia. I hadn’t realized how straightforward making one’s own bagels is. It’s not easy, exactly, as it takes a fair amount of time, but I had no trouble getting the dough to the proper consistency (which I have not at all found to be the case with breads in general). And these were so, so good. Worlds better than standard grocery store bagels and, freshly baked, basically better than any but those from specialty bakeries making them fresh each morning. Soft, chewy, not at all dry, tasting really properly of bagel (this thanks to the malt syrup, which recommend taking the trouble to get). Good if not better without toasting.

A fair number of steps, but, provided ample flour to prevent sticking at various points, not hard. I especially liked Groveman’s shaping technique, which involved pinching the dough into a neat ball and poking a hole through the center rather than shaping a rope into a circle, better structural integrity this way.

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You make the hole disproportionately large when initially shaping to allow for shrinkage. I hadn’t thought about this, and am pleased with this bit of data. That said, I made mine rather too large.

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They don’t look so promising for many stages of the process.

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Seed & semolina base, egg wash, coating of choice, baking stone, ice water below for steam.

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Semolina, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, caraway seeds.

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Trying to learn to make more and more of these foods I would normally buy pre-made. Satisfying. The making of breads I find especially meditative and comforting.

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