Spelt Flour Churros with Dark Chocolate Chile Sauce

May 2015

Join me on this wandering train of thought…

I know about as much about Cinco de Mayo as I do about St. Patrick’s Day, i.e.: I celebrate both thematically, and not very historically, through food. Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican holiday. Churros, though probably of Portuguese origin, are common throughout Central and South America. Inspired by my love of chocolate and Mexican spice levels, my Spelt Flour Churro recipe includes a spicy, Dark Chocolate Chile Sauce, which leads me to the history of one South American chocolate hero and one South American chocolate heretic.

In reality, I’m talking about one, polarizing man.

Spelt Churros with Chile Chocolate Sauce // www.WithTheGrains.com

Half a century ago, Ecuador was world famous for its cocoa, and the cocoa farmers were kings, but like all gambles with nature, no throne is ever safe from nature’s fury. A fungus called Witch’s Broom sucked the life from the cocoa trees and threatened world’s chocolate cravings. However, a short man, fondly and diminutively called Homerito, i.e.: little Homer, was intent on solving the crisis. Homero Castro was a plant scientist set on creating a new cocoa tree, one that would be highly productive and immune to Witch’s Broom. His enviable chocolate quest took him to Africa, the Caribbean and the Amazon, to collect different kinds of cocoa plants and crossbreed them (a modern-day Customs nightmare).

For twelve years, the entire life of a tween, he diligently crossed variety after variety, until finally, he believed he had succeeded. He arrived at a cocoa tree that was immune to the very fungus that threatened happiness itself. Castro named the new plant after himself and the city where he lived – Coleccion Castro Naranjal– CCN. He added the number 51 because of how many attempts it took to get it right- CCN-51. Cocoa farmers responded quickly and planted it by the acre. Chocolate tycoons arrived from all over the globe, and the cocoa crisis seemed to be averted except for one glaring detail: the taste!

Spelt Churros with Chile Chocolate Sauce // www.WithTheGrains.com

Gary Guittard, owner of the company behind my recommendation for dark chocolate baking, likened the taste to “rusty nails.” These are not the fine palate notes or terroir adjectives you want from a cocoa bean description. The cocoa tycoons panned the product, the farmers were once again in dire straits, and Homero died tragically in a car accident, thinking his life’s ode was an utter failure.

However, the resourceful farmers determined a way to ferment the harvested beans, by sunning them in burlap sacks. The process eliminated the “rusty nails” quality, and CCN-51 was back in business! At this point in the historical tale, Homerito seems like an indisputable hero, but chocolate puritans scoff at the fermented CCN-51’s bland flavor. Gone are the nuances of these heritage cocoa beans, but as the chocolate industry discovered, the masses didn’t notice. We all want to think our tongue is God’s gift to rich flavors, but in reality, most of us never knew there was a switch.

Spelt Churros with Chile Chocolate Sauce // www.WithTheGrains.com

As a chocolate lover, I mourn for the rips and tears in the ecosystem that put the sacred cocoa trees in danger and threatened the traditional farmers’ livelihood. However, as a chocolate lover who wants to keep eating chocolate, I see Homero as a hero. Like a true artist or tragic hero, he died without knowing the mark he left, so let’s all eat a spicy churro in honor of such culinary and botanical passion. Here’s to Homerito!


¡Buen Provecho!

p.s: I first learned of this chocolate history through this great episode of Planet Money on NPR and this pertinent article.

Spelt Churros with Dark Chocolate Chile Dipping Sauce

About This Recipe: Made with wholesome spelt flour and fried in a non-gmo safflower oil, these churros are far healthier than their street food inspiration, but they’re equally crowd pleasing. The dark chocolate chile sauce starts with a homemade cinnamon simple syrup. If you want to skip this step, substitute pure maple syrup, agave or honey. I used a dried Morita chile, which I found at a local Mexican grocer. They had several varieties available, so follow your senses and see what smell  and spice level inspires you. If you have extra chocolate sauce, it makes a great cake or ice cream topping.



Donut o’ the Month: Whole-Wheat Lemon, Lavender & Blackberry Glazed Cake Donut

April 2015

April showers bring May flowers…and floral donuts too!


I recently had to drive through a neighborhood I visit all too infrequently. The drive reminded me just how beautiful that neighborhood is, especially in spring. Each house seemed to be framed by a blossoming bush or tree. The bold house colors of the historical row homes and their antique details really seemed to sing. I drove at an elderly pace, taking in the views of white petals, bright pinks, a lot or two transformed into communal gardens, trees swaying on the blistery day… all of these views reminded me of how deep my hibernation had been.


Like the awakening annuals, the busy bees and the returning birds, I am ready for this change of season, for exploring new flowering fields and even the blooms breaking through concrete too. Despite the wanderlust whirling inside me that yearns for the exotic, far-off corners, I’m making a conscious effort to be more adventurous, more playful and to take the time to explore what’s close to home.


A flowering breakfast donut is a great reminder of all those goals! Here’s to April and its promises of spring in full bloom!


Bon Appétit!

Blackberry, Lemon & Lavender Cake Donuts with Lemon Lavender Glaze
yield: about 12-15 donuts, depending on the size of your cutter

About this Recipe: Be sure to source an organic lavender bud for this recipe. I found mine at a Farm-to-Table conference, but I’m sure there are farmers or smaller stores that sell them as well. Avoid lavender that isn’t labeled food-grade, as it probably was sprayed with pesticides. I used a food processor to grind the lavender with the flour to make sure it was equally dispersed and to achieve a more palatable texture. You can substitute your favorite berry for the blackberries. Be sure to use an organic, non-gmo oil to keep these donuts as guiltless as possible. They’re best when fresh and still warm. 



Donut o’ the Month for @Jojotastic: Irish Coffee Custard Donuts

March 2015

For those of you who value the sanctity of St. Patrick’s Day, i.e. the American St. Patrick’s Day of reappropriated Jameson, Guinness and general shenanigans, I have a donut for you! This donut will either nurse you to health if you partook in weekend revelries, or it will kick off your merriment if you hold the 17th to be the true day of commemoration. This is a “hair of the dog” donut, (though in an appealing, palatable way, I assure you). How did “dog hairs” come to cure hangovers?

Gluten Free Irish Coffee Custard Donut by With The Grains

In 1898, Ebenezer Cobham Brewer wrote in the Dictionary of Phrase and Fable: “In Scotland, it is a popular belief that a few hairs of the dog that bit you applied to the wound will prevent evil consequences. Applied to drinks, it means, if overnight you have indulged too freely, take a glass of the same wine within 24 hours to soothe the nerves. ‘If this dog do you bite, soon as out of your bed, take a hair of the tail the next day.'” To put this sentiment in Latin terms, similia similibus curantur (like cures like). To put this in St. Patrick’s Day terms, come 9 am, you may need to drink an Irish Coffee.

Gluten Free Irish Coffee Custard Donut by With The Grains

While we are reveling in booze and history, the Irish Coffee has a tiny tale of its own worth sharing. The original Irish coffee was invented and named by Joe Sheridan, a head chef in Foynes, County Limerick. Foynes’ port was the precursor to Shannon International Airport in the west of Ireland. The coffee was conceived after a group of American passengers disembarked from a Pan Am flying boat on a miserable winter evening in the 1940s. Sheridan added whiskey to the coffee to warm the passengers.

Gluten Free Irish Coffee Custard Donut by With The Grains

After the passengers asked if they were being served Brazilian coffee, Sheridan told them it was “Irish coffee.” You can almost hear his authoritative accent cutting through the fog and mist while forcibly handing piping hot coffees to the weak Americans. He should have been a hero and a legend, but instead, we imbibe brunch after brunch without paying proper homage to this whiskey hero. Shame on us.

Gluten-Free Brown Rice Donut with Irish Coffee Custard by With The Grains

Inspired by the hair-of-the-dog qualities of an Irish Coffee, this powdered sugar donut hides a Jameson-laced, coffee custard, and it’s not for the faint of heart. The Jameson is added after the custard has cooked, so the alcohol content remains. Steer clear of kids, coworkers and bosses, and slip away on St. Patrick’s Day morning. Enjoy this boozy breakfast with a (spiked) coffee and cure what ails you (or brace yourself for what will ail you).


Happy March & Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

p.s: I originally created this recipe for my friend Joanna’s blog Jojotastic, so be sure to head her way for some great content! Also, the featured Maidenhair Fern & Moss are available at Roxanne’s Dried Flowers.

Gluten Free Brown Rice Donuts with Irish Coffee Custard Filling

About This Recipe: The choice of organic brown rice flour means this donut is gluten-free and high in protein, iron, fiber and vitamin B. This recipe creates a very wet, sticky dough. It may look too deflated, but resist the urge to add more flour. Your donuts will puff up when fried. The cup of whiskey in the custard yields a very boozy flavor. Adjust according to your whiskey preferences. Make the custard first to allow enough cooling time.



Donut o’ the Month for @Jojotastic: Roasted Beet & Rosewater

February 2015

Fun fact about me: I’m pretty weird.

Some have politely called me “different” or “unique,” but when it comes to dancing around the kitchen like a crazy person, “weird” is probably the most appropriate word. Luckily, I have the Urban Farmer to add lyrics to my songs and moves to my dancing. You say “enabler,” I say “cohort.”

Roasted Beet Donuts by With The Grains 01

When frying donuts, there are timed increments (submerge, wait, flip, wait, remove, repeat). With so many donuts to fry, these increments collectively form a significant period of standing around and waiting. I might fill this period of time with dancing or making up songs about my dog, which I sometimes let slip in public. When it comes to making roasted beet donuts, I may dance and sing this song, pun very much intended!

Roasted Beet Donuts by With The Grains 04

This installment of my kitchen dancing antics and my Donut o’ the Month series for Jojotastic was inspired by lingering Valentine’s sentiments. This holiday, filled with its fair share of clichés, makes me think of rosy hues, roses by the dozen, and red hearts filled with assorted mystery chocolates. Since last month’s donut featured chocolate, I focused on pink tones and roses. Not one for dyes, I channeled the hues and pun power of the beet, which made a most lovely and surprising bright pink crumb au naturel.

Roasted Beet Donuts by With The Grains 02

As for the Valentine’s Day rose cliché, I’ve tiptoed in the realm of rosewater treats, and I thought a rosewater element thematically appropriate. Tastefully, I was a bit skeptical, but the faint floral note is addictively delicious! One bite, and you too will be singing and dancing in your kitchen. We got the beet, we got the beet, go eat the beet….yeaaaah!

Roasted Beet Donuts by With The Grains 03

Roasted Red Beet Donuts with Rosewater Glaze (Gluten Free)

About This Recipe: Since the name of this blog is With The Grains, grains being plural, one of my recent goals is to explore a wider variety of flours. For this recipe, I chose Bob’s Red Mill’s Organic Brown Rice Flour, which makes this bright pink donut one for the gluten-free friends. However, all donut lovers will be happy to know, the crumb was still light and fluffy, so there’s no texture or taste sacrifices. Plus, the brown rice flour packs a lot of nutritional benefits, as do the beets!

Brown rice flour is high in protein, iron, fiber and vitamin B. It’s rich in manganese, which helps in the proper development of bones and cartilage. One serving of brown rice flour supplies more than 20 percent of the recommended amount of magnesium, phosphorus and copper, as well as 11 percent of potassium and more than 100 percent of manganese.

All that from a donut!


Go eat the beet!



Donut o’ the Month for Jojotastic: Chocolate Glazed Whole Wheat Donut

January 2015

The alarm sounds, and it’s a terrible, dreaded screech. It’s early and dark, and the days until summer vacation seem too endless to count. Spelling words and fraction rules whirl in my brain. Showered, dressed, and permed hair beginning to poof in that special 80s/90s way, I take my designated seat at the head of the table. I’m in elementary school, and this is my routine, but everything in my young world halts when mom brings me a donut for breakfast! Chocolate iced without any filling. This is my FAVORITE donut, and everyone in my family knows it. My sisters work at the local grocery store, and they spoil me with this donut all too often, especially around my birthday time.


Since January is my birthday month (yes, I said month. I’m one of those birthday gluttons), I had to make my childhood favorite for my Donut o’ the Month series on the blog, Jojotastic. However, I had to make my favorite donut in a more wholesome way.

With The Grains // Donut o' the Month- Chocolate Glazed Whole Wheat Donut

When I reflect on just how many donuts I ate as a child, I cringe a little at the thought of all the refined sugars, unpronounceable preservatives and unhealthy ingredients. Made from whole wheat pastry flour and fried in organic, non-gmo Safflower oil, this donut recipe offered me a trip down memory lane with much more peace of mind. My recipe calls for quite a bit of yeast, which does hit your palate with each bite, but the flavor hits in a way I like, especially since the yeast yields a fluffy crumb. I hope you break your morning routine with this delicious donut and take a trip down memory lane as well.


Bon Appetit!



Donut o’ the Month: Powdered Whole Wheat Gingerbread

December 2014

Though my ideal temperature is that of a desert, there is a big part of me that likes winter. I don’t admit this too frequently, mostly because I would be making that declaration through chattering teeth and purple lips, but it’s true. The major stipulation is this: I like winter when I am just sort of cozily watching snow fall from my third-floor window view.

Donut o' the Month: Powdered Whole Wheat Gingerbread // www.WithTheGrains.com

I like winter when the only reason to face the brutal winds is to run around the park like a crazy person with my dog (a big perk of having a dog!). I like winter when I’m buried deep under blankets, a candle is flickering and I’m burning my way through a Netflix series. Not wanting to leave home in the winter is a huge motivator for home cooking and baking.

Donut o' the Month: Powdered Whole Wheat Gingerbread // www.WithTheGrains.com

The more delicious foods and drinks I am able to prepare at home, the less I need to 1) leave home 2) spend extra money and 3) eat less wholesome ingredients. Thanks to Joanna’s love of donuts, I was inspired to develop this donut-o-the-month series. So content am I with these homemade versions, I no longer need to brave the cold and the lines for the Pittsburgh brunch place that serves the beignets I used to crave. I am one step closer to a complete hermitage this winter, so three cheers for Jojotastic!

Donut o' the Month: Powdered Whole Wheat Gingerbread // www.WithTheGrains.com

December’s donut was inspired by fluffy snow, gingerbread men and hikes in the park with my four-legged snow lover. I hope these donuts enable you to stay some place warm, sip something hot and dive into the series of your choice.