Chewy Ginger Molasses Cookies with Rye Flour

These chewy ginger molasses cookies feel like a warm bite of the season, a way to savor the best of this time of year. The spices are so fragrant, they transform the baking process into a grounding exercise. In the spirit of savoring the season with each bite, I paused to reflect on my fall thus far, to appreciate the many moments I want to remember when life feels like it's moving too quickly.

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Self-Filled Mint Brownie Bars / Mint Chocolate & Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies

Most nights I harbor a little guilt for our dinnertime tv habit. I was raised at the dinner table. We conversed. We listened. We passed plates. Now, we pass judgment on the Underwoods while trying to understand Doug Stamper’s self-loathing.

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Yet, as I balanced my dinner plate in one hand and pressed the projector power button with the other, a feeling of gratitude defeated the guilt. It was a time-pausing feeling, similar to déjà vu, but unlike déjà vu, this feeling of “been here before” was very identifiable.

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Night after night, one of us carries out the plates or the wine glasses, and the other hits the power button. As I turned on the projector, our guilty habit filled me with comfort. This was our routine, our normal, our guilty habit (well, I may be alone in the guilt factor). Powering the projector made me realize just how intertwined we had become, how comforting normal can be. Some might cast self judgment and bemoan, “oh god, we’re getting so old,” but if age is what snaps us into the little moments worth appreciating, then let’s be old souls with a few routines!

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Or, better yet, let’s have the chocolate snap us into the moment! Chocolate and cheesecake swirls take me back to elementary school, when my mom would ask me what I wanted to bring to school for my birthday. Year after year, my answer was the same- self-filled cupcakes!

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Those swirls were my tradition, so when it came time to share an extra birthday treat back in January, the choice of what to make was an easy one!

Here’s to the comforts of repeated routines and recipes!

Self-Filled Mint Brownie Bars / Mint Chocolate Cream Cheese Swirl Brownies

About this Recipe: I grew up calling the cupcake equivalent of this a “self-filled cupcake,” but the bar form adds a more grown-up feel and really showcases the swirls. Pure mint extract adds that coveted thin mint flavor, and sprouted spelt flour makes these a whole grain indulgence! They taste just like childhood only better for you!

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Peach Blueberry Crumble Tart with Fruit Sweetened Whipped Cream

Peach Blueberry Crumble Tart // www.WithTheGrains.com

There are nights when the pending evening pushes bursts of fire just beyond the city and its sky-carving lines. On these nights, the steeples, the songs and even the speed bumps are complicit in the sky’s vanity. Sentences digress and escape, knowing they’re not needed. The radio participates, playing something slower, a more mesmerizing tune, and words find their role in melody and song.

Peach Blueberry Crumble Tart // www.WithTheGrains.com

Where chaos and ruptured infrastructure reigned by day, a shadow creeps in, vignetting the mundane frustrations and focusing the eye on the exquisite, the heavenly, the celestial painting the tortured artist will erase and recreate. Our praise and appreciation will never be enough, never satiate the infinite ego above. The meter slows, and at best, we mere mortals below ty to soak it in. Like a bite meant to be eaten immediately, the camera would never do the moment justice, and the intensity of the flavor would be lost in the attempt to preserve.

Peach Blueberry Crumble Tart // www.WithTheGrains.com

These fiery skies seem to pull and absorb summer’s last bursts- the tomatoes’ sweetness, the wispy blades of bright green grass, the heat swirling on the horizon, the cooling blue waters, the bronze of bare shoulders and the freedom of exposed toes. Combined, they will form the matted earth tones that will blanket us and prepare us for the quiet winter months.

Peach Blueberry Crumble Tart // www.WithTheGrains.com

Before the blanket is fully drawn, pay one more ode to the summer, to the peaches whose color feeds the sunset’s fiery palette, and then we shall be ready, to fully bask in the warmth of the earthen tones. This crumble tart was a celebration of the nectar flows. It was the very first time the Urban Farmer’s honey and my baking combined their sweet powers – a last summer embrace like a vibrant golden hour on the cusp of a new season!

Single-Grain

Bon Appétit!
-Quelcy

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Sprouted Spelt Zucchini Beet Cake with Vodka Mint Glaze

A cake can be a meditation, each slice a chance to savor the here-and-now. If made with care, each bite passes without judgment, eyes close, stresses escape, and gravity feels lifted for but a moment. Just as you acknowledge the light in others through meditation, a cake is a testament to many hands and contributors. After all, as Carl Sagan said, “If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.”

Sprouted Spelt Zucchini Beet Cake with Vodka Mint Glaze // www.WithTheGrains.com

This cake was a man who spoke very little English, his reserve offset by his immense talent. He peeled limes into fire-breathing dragons, twisted fish into floral arrangements and carved beets into beautiful roses. He obsessed over granules of rice and valued the spacing between sushi. I watched his mastery in awe. In urban terms, game recognize game, but in the world of creatives, my neuroses is humbled by your neuroses, and I applaud your details! Less catchy, but it’s equally an ovation!

Sprouted Spelt Zucchini Beet Cake with Vodka Mint Glaze // www.WithTheGrains.com

This cake was the Urban Farmer, his mother and his grandfather before him. They taught the him to gently respect nature, believe in nature, fight for nature, and in the end, reap her rewards. Her zucchinis continued to appear under his tutelage, as if by magic, under broad leaves that could transport the imaginative mind to island vacations. Her beets merited gallery time, with mesmerizing patterns of burgundies and whites circling like aging trees. And her mint…! Her mint runneth over!

Sprouted Spelt Zucchini Beet Cake with Vodka Mint Glaze // www.WithTheGrains.com

This cake was a gathering. It was a celebration of the new guard of hands that work the land and restore value to the foods we eat. It was a celebration of edible weeds and fresh pickings. This cake was a campfire, warming the prematurely cool evening. It was laughter. It was sparks in the night sky. It was time savored.

Sprouted Spelt Zucchini Beet Cake with Vodka Mint Glaze // www.WithTheGrains.com

These are the benefits of the “slow foods” as they are called – the foods with integrity and time amongst the ingredient lists. These foods are not “cheat foods” or “guilty pleasures.” This cake is a testament to the season and the many hands contributing along the way. Perhaps you will become part of this cake’s story too?

Single-Grain

Bon Appétit!
-Quelcy

Sprouted Spelt Zucchini Beet Cake with Vodka Mint Glaze

About This Recipe: This bundt cake begins with my new favorite flour- One Degree Organic Foods’ Sprouted Spelt Flour. Through their website, you can read about the farmer who grows it. This combination of local zucchini and beets adds moisture and subtle sweetness. The glaze uses a Mint Vodka Simple Syrup instead of water or milk. I used Boyd & Blair Vodka instead of water when making the simple syrup to take advantage of the vodka’s rich, vanilla notes.

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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!

Single-Grain

¡Buen Provecho!
-Quelcy

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.

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