Posts Tagged farro

Best bread yet

My latest bread-baking attempt has to be my best bread yet, a dark, tasty, chewy loaf with a large hint of je ne sais quois (it’s the cocoa and the nutmeg). I adapted my wheatberry bread from early September to use farro, a high-protein ancient grain that I’ve used before for a filling breakfast cereal. And I cut the water, yeast, honey and fat to streamline the recipe a bit.

The new bread works equally well with sandwiches (cheese, avocado and horseradish today) as it did yesterday with peanut butter and the very last of my home made quince jelly.

Amazingly, seriously yummy.

Farro bread

2 cups farro
3 cups warm water
3 tsp dried yeast
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup honey
3 cups white bread flour
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup oatmeal

Cook the farro until tender (I gave it about 20 minutes in a pressure cooker) and drain, reserving the water to use in the bread. Measure out 4 cups of cooked berries. Chop them roughly in a food processor (maybe a little less roughly than I chopped — see tooth story below).

Top up the water that’s left from from cooking the farro to get 3 cups of liquid. Mix in the yeast, oil, honey and beat in 2 cups of the flour, along with the cocoa, nutmeg and salt, and allow it to sit for 10 minutes or so until it starts to bubble. Add the rest of the flour and then the farro and the oatmeal and knead until it comes together into one smooth, glossy ball.

Allow to rise until doubled in size.

Punch down, divide into two bread tins and rise again.

Bake for 15 minutes at 425 and then for about 30 at 375, until the loaves sound hollow when you take them out of the tin and tap them. I think I could have baked mine a little longer.

But let me offer a word of warning. The farro inside the bread is soft, chewy and delicious, but the grains on the outside are crisp enough that I cracked a well-filled tooth. and will probably need a horribly costly crown. (Edit: Dentist fixed tooth. No crown needed.)

Make this bread, and enjoy it. But eat it carefully.

No picture. It looks a bit like the wheatberry bread.

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Oatmeal with a twist

I like a wholegrain breakfast ahead of the work day, or (even better) as a line-the-stomach venture before a bike ride or a ski trip. I do hot breakfasts in the winter, and cold ones in the summer, when I just throw oats together with buttermilk and fruit and pretend it’s low-cal muesli without the nuts.

For winter warmth, steel cut oats were my big discovery a few years back, especially after I realized that all you need to do is boil them up with water, cover the pan and let the porridge sit overnight to thicken up. The next day you spoon a portion into a bowl and nuke it warm.

Then I flirted with farro, which is higher in protein and more nutritious than oats. I like it a lot, and kept going for a couple of months of breakfasts.  But even after I tried whirring the pre-soaked grain around in the food processor for a few seconds to speed up the cooking time, farro takes forever to cook, and I meandered back to the steel cut oats. Depending on my mood, and on what I have in the house, I add a sliced up banana, a handful of raisins or cranberries, along with a splash of buttermilk, and I’m ready for the day.

But the oatmeal I tried at a Tucson cafe this week might just have transformed my life. Instead of using water or milk to cook their steel cut oats, Liv Cafe at the north of the city, cooks oats in apple cider, for a sweet-but-not-sweet start to the day.

I don’t know what proportions Liv uses for its oatmeal, but here is what I did.

Steel cut oats with apple cider
1 cup steel cut oats
2 cups water
2 cups apple cider (not the alcoholic kind, if there are any Brits reading this)
generous pinch of salt

Bring the oats and liquid to a boil and then switch off the heat, stir the porridge and cover overnight. Store in the fridge, and reheat a portion as you want it.

Serve with fruit, yogurt, milk, cream, nuts, spices. The choice is yours.

Ever so easy, and oh, so good.

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Quite the quince

I admit I’m somewhat addicted to the concept of quinces, even if they are bastards to peel and the jams and jellies don’t always live up to their promise. It reminds me of childhood – we had a quince tree in the back yard which offered pretty pink flowers in spring and rock hard yellow fruit in fall. But they are hard to find over here, and the season is so short that I buy them when I see them, and work out what to do afterward.

This year’s I managed to snag a series of quinces from four different shopping ventures, but of course I had no clue what to cook. I made quince chutney a couple of  years ago, so wanted to try something sweet this year. Quince jelly was the event of the moment, although it was amber rather than deep, deep red, possibly because I didn’t boil the quinces for the length of time suggested in one of several internet recipes. It’s sweet rather than quince-like too. Almost too subtle.

Next up was poached quinces, and I admit it took me three attempts to get this one right. My first recipe said to pressure-cook the quinces for 30 minutes, which turned the yellow-beige fruit into a glorious shade of garnet red. But it also removed even the faintest hint of bite, which wasn’t really what was ordered. The taste was good — I threw in a generous couple of tablespoons of grated ginger for bite and the last couple of inches of a bottle of white wine. Texture sort of blah. Nothing like the pale pink chunky, grainy things my mother used to make.

From there I moved on to try a notch harder to recreate her sweet-sour taste,  although I used the pressure cook method (for 20 minutes). I added a cup of white vinegar to the poaching liquid and threw in five-spice for flavor and (too little) chilli powder for heat. But I should have upped the sugar to offset the vinegar, and used (milder) cider vinegar rather than white vinegar. It’s pleasant, and it’s working with the farro too, but it isn’t quite so nice.

Third attempt was the charm, simmered on the stove for about two hours until soft but not soggy. What it lacks in dark pinkness, it makes up for with taste.

Poached quince with vanilla and cider vinegar
6 quinces, peeled (with a potato peeler), cored and sliced into wedges
1 vanilla bean, split down the middle to remove the seeds
1 cup cider vinegar

Use a sharp knife and plenty of patience to chop the quince, and weigh the chopped up fruit to work out how much sugar to use. I had just over a kilo of fruit, so I used 150 grams of sugar. (Counting in metric makes it far easier to work out the percentages)

Add vinegar and sugar to a saucepan, and heat gently until the sugar dissolves. Then add the quince, the vanilla (seeds and pod) and  water to almost cover.

Bring up to a simmer and simmer until the fruit is soft. The longer you cook it the pinker it gets, but also the mushier.

It’s glorious, served with farro, my breakfast of the moment.

As for the farro, I flirted with it earlier this year, and then forgot about it. But I’ve cooked up four batches so far this fall, two with varying amounts of coconut milk, one with three parts water to one of milk and one of milk and water in equal parts, and (mixed with the quince). It’s a wonderful start to the day.

Breakfast farro
1 cup farro (a wheat like grain that’s supposed to be high in protein)
4 cups liquid (all water, or water and coconut milk, or water and milk)
A little salt

If I remember I soak this overnight (or longer) before I start cooking it, and then I boil this up 2 or three times, allowing it to simmer for a few minutes before switching off the stove and putting a lid on the pan to keep the heat in. It’s cooked once the moisture is mostly absorbed and the grains have cracked — you can’t really overcook this one. Store in the fridge in a closed container and use as needed. A cup of cooked-up farro seems to do 5-6 portions of breakfast, depending on how hungry I feel when I wake up.

I’m serving this one with a generous portion of poached quinces, or stewed fruit (or maybe jam), microwaved for a minute or two to heat it up. The addition of a splash of milk, cream or buttermilk is optional but rather nice. Bananas go well with it too.

Enjoy the fact that you won’t be hungry until almost lunchtime.

Edit: to speed up the cooking time, you can presoak the grain and then whiz them up in the food processor for a few seconds to crack them a little, before you start the boiling/cooling process. They still take a while to cook, but they become a little bit more like porridge and a little bit less like grain. It’s all a question of taste.

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Fun with farro

I’m not sure which particular bucket I’ve been burying my head under for the last few years, but I for one had never heard of farro, the high-protein it grain of 2008 or so (or so the Internet tells me).

But a rider on a bike trip I just came back on swore by it as the breakfast fuel to die for, and given that steel cut oats revolutionized my life when I discovered then a few years back, I thought it had to be worth a try.

I admit it doesn’t look like much — it’s a whole grain that was available at Rube’s Rice in Toronto’s St Lawrence Market – and the cooking process was every bit as long as the Internet recipes said it would be.

But I think I could get hooked on this one, if I can find the time to cook it ahead of time and microwave it back to life in the mornings.

Here’s what I did, in a combination of recipes and invention, because, as anyone who reads this blog knows, following recipes is not my strong point.

Breakfast farro with oats

1/2 cup farro
2 cups water
1 can coconut milk
a handful of dried bananas
a handful of quick cook oatmeal

I brought the water/farro mix up to the boil, switched the pot off and left it, covered, to sit on the stove overnight. That’s the way I cook steel-cut oats and it’s the perfect lazy way to make that work. It doesn’t work quite like that for farro, and by morning the grains were no longer tooth-cracking hard. But they were still a long way from being cooked. So I threw in a can of coconut milk and some very old dried bananas (one of the recipes I was looking at the previous day talked of coconut/banana/faro combination as being an especially good one) and simmered the whole mix gently for another 20 minutes or so.

That seemed to do the trick for the farro, but the mix was somewhat sloppy, and I didn’t really want to throw the excess liquid away, as another of the internet recipes suggested. What about oats to thicken things up?

Add oats, simmer for another five minutes, and there you have it. Four portions of breakfast, one for immediate consumption and three for later (I offered a taste to the spouse, and he rejected the idea). I think it would work with any dried fruit, or with fresh fruit too. You could add milk, or buttermilk, or yogurt too. And the coconut milk is optional too. You could just use water, or maybe even milk. Not sure about the milk. A lot of boiling for that one.

Easy. Honest. And tastes really nice.

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