Thursday, December 8, 2011

Wonderful cookbook!

I had never noticed the common ground covered by cooking and citizenship until I leafed through This is What Democracy Cooks Like, the new cookbook from WORT, a listener-sponsored community radio station at 89.9 FM in Madison. Yes, I'm blogging about it partly because I submitted a guerrilla cookie recipe from this blog, to which the editors gave two full pages and a fitting quote from Michael Ruhlman. But even if they hadn’t accepted my submission, I’d consider this a fabulous cookbook.

Recall your most rewarding cooking experience and I’ll bet it involved community. From raw materials brought to you by a multitude of farmers, butchers, truck drivers, and grocers, you created an end product that included friends and family sitting around a dinner table sharing flavors and aromas, being nourished by the same sustenance. Or consider that feeling of accomplishment when you share a good recipe. Makes the world a better place, it does.

Citizenship feels the same way. We build on foundations prepared by others, using whatever knowledge and skills we can bring to the task. The end product is a community that sustains ourselves and others.

In January 2011, the folks at WORT decided to create a fundraising cookbook. The cookbook committee had met only once when Governor Scott Walker began his assault on democracy. The cookbook editor wrote that "the project then went on the back burner as we played our parts in the struggle--marching, chanting, reporting, occupying, singing, tweeting, blogging, documenting, and disseminating information. When we finally got back on track...the title had changed to reflect the events of this year and the tenor of the cookbook had changed as well.

This Is What Democracy Cooks Like rises to the level of art in the success with which it captures the communitarian spirit in both cooking and in citizenship. You can cook with this book; read it for amusement; enjoy its graphics; and keep it as a souvenir of the historical moment when democracy started to come back to life in Wisconsin and, I hope, the United States.

The recipes, of course, reflect the community. Ethnic variety, a bit heavy on German and Scandinavian heritages (Schwarzbrot fur das Brot Maschine, page 35.) More than the typical proportion of vegetarian recipes (Clean-out-the-Refrigerator Vegetable Bake, page 205), but still enough sausage, beef, and bacon (Uncle Porky’s Chops, page 190.) Lots of whole grains and veggies, and nothing that needs a fancy pan you don’t have in your kitchen.

Contributors were asked to write a paragraph or two about each recipe. Here are a few:
My sister’s ex-boyfriend cooked this for my family when he visited from his home nation of Austria. Because I did not see them lasting, I asked him for the recipe right away. Turns out I was right and our family now has a delicious staple pasta dish. (Red, White, and Blue Pasta, page 161)
I have a mixing bowl and a muffin pan from my great grandma, who was a fabulous baker. Whenever I move into a new house, I christen the kitchen by making her recipe with her mixing bowl and pan. (Banana Muffins, page 41)
I developed this recipe using canned pumpkin, applesauce, onions, and Canadian bacon from the food pantry. I had to buy only a few things to make this wonderful soup. (Food Pantry Pumpkin Soup with Ham, page 108)
This lasagna won a small lasagna cook-off in 2008 on the near east side of Madison. It is, therefore, famous. (Spinach Lasagna, page 154)
I made up this pie out at the Creamery CafĂ© in Paoli. We had a bottle of brandy needing to be used. It’s become popular among our regulars. (Chocolate Brandy Pie, page 289)
In addition to the recipes and interesting culinary sidebars, the cookbook includes some straight history of the 2011 Wisconsin Uprising. “A Seat at the Table” tells the story of the uprising in four pages, and throughout the book are several dozen well-captioned photos of the best protest signs, the crowds inside and outside the Capitol, and other scenes, including the infamous Faux News palm trees.

It was put together with obvious care—the graphic design is outstanding and the marginal notes well-researched and amusing. The spiral binding keeps it laying perfectly flat and staying open to the right page; the sturdy paper will hold up to splashes and an occasional wet finger.

Have I made the sale? Order it; you’ll love it.

Monday, April 25, 2011

What we know so far

I'm feeling the need for a round-up of what we've learned through the experiments and from what people have said they remember.

Flour: Definitely whole wheat. Possibility of other kinds of flour, but John tried a 'five whole grain flour,' and did not like the taste. Definitely no rice or soy flour. Not spelt flour, which was not commercially available until around 2006.
Eggs: Definitely; and definitely in greater amounts than in the typical cookie.
Sweetening: Some molasses, but probably not in syrup form; more likely some kind of less-refined sugar. Iris and Claire both remember that Ted Odell changed the sweetener during the time he baked the cookie. Iris remembers brown sugar in the original ingredients list, with honey added later. Claire clearly remembers when Odell substituted barley malt syrup for some other sweetener in the early 1980s.
Milk: Definitely. Could have been either liquid or powder. Whey has not yet been ruled in or out.
Oil: No good conclusions so far; could have been any kind of vegetable oil or butter. Maybe flax seed oil. Canola oil wasn't developed until 1978.
Leavening (baking soda or powder): No.

Spices: Nothing in any significant amount. Maybe a little cinnamon. Definitely not nutmeg.
Raisins: Donna is adamant that there were no raisins; but when chopped up, they seem so right to the rest of us, for both taste and moisture. I agree with Donna, though, at least on the visual: even chopped up, the raisins just look wrong to me.
Nuts: Definitely. Walnuts, ground or finely chopped. Not almonds or peanuts.
Sesame seeds: Almost certainly.
Sunflower seeds: Probably.
Wheat germ: Probably.
Cracked wheat or bulghur: Probably.
Flax seeds: Deb commented with her specific memory that there was flax seed something. Oil? Meal? Whole seeds?
Oatmeal: Probably, but could have been barley. Barley flakes look like oatmeal, and I like what they did to the taste.
Brewer's Yeast: Not enough to affect the taste; I doubt it.
Millet: The grains look so right, but are just too hard. No.
Figs: The seeds look right, but the flavor is wrong. No.
Soy: No. Not oil, flour, or granules.
Corn meal: Definitely not.
Peanut butter: Definitely not.

Additional memories or suggestions? I cannot figure out how to make the comment box always visible, so click on the words that say how many comments have been made so far, below, to make a comment box appear.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Recipe 78: Barley instead of oats; mistreating the product

Barley   Sometime around last Thanksgiving, the local grocery chain stopped selling my favorite bread (La Brea Bakery’s Harvest Grain loaf), which made me study that ingredient list and ponder whether I could make the bread myself. It had a lot of barley (flour, flakes, and cracked), which started me wondering whether barley might help the taste of the evolving guerrilla recipe. So I substituted barley flakes for the rolled oats to see how it would taste.  I'm eagerly recommending this recipe. See what you think.

Recipe 78
2 tablespoons wheat germ
¼ cup chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
½ cup bulghur
½ cup raisins
4 medium or 3 large eggs
½ cup sunflower oil
¾ cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons whole-wheat flour
¼ cup milk
¾ cup barley flakes 

Turn the oven on to 350 degrees. Place the wheat germ on a cookie sheet and lightly toast it in the preheating oven just until it starts to turn color; then do the same with the walnuts and sesame seeds. Watch carefully—they turn rapidly from toasty brown to burnt, especially the wheat germ.

Set the toasted sesame seeds aside. Put the toasted walnuts and wheat germ in a food processor with the bulghur and the raisins, and process until the mixture is finely grained. Stir in the sesame seeds and set aside.

Beat the eggs, oil, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt together. Mix in the flour and then the milk. Stir in the raisin/grain/seed mixture and the barley flakes.  The dough should be fairly wet. Let the dough sit for at least 30 minutes to allow the grains to soak up some moisture.

Drop by heaping tablespoonsful onto a parchment-covered cookie sheet and bake for 11-12 minutes until the edges begin to brown. Cool on racks.
I flipped one cookie over to show the browned edge.
Closer, but still not quite.

Bulghur  Iris suggested using cracked wheat or bulghur. I think bulghur added just the right chewiness, so I used it in Recipe 78. The cookies I made from Iris's recipe over on the Lindy’s Toast blog,  are these: 
The cookies on the left are before I added extra milk.
Extra milk in the cookies on the right made them flatten out a bit.
She observed, and I agree, that maybe millet is too crunchy, so I left that out. Finally, for no reason other than to reduce the number of ingredients, I also decided to use dark brown sugar instead of both turbinado sugar and molasses.

Were the cookies’ toasty edges and the stickiness Odell’s mistakes? 
Everyone feels the need to give the cookie a crispy edge and a slight stickiness that would make the cookies cling together if stacked in a plastic bag. The assumption was that we could do that by adjusting the ingredients.

Well, consider this: Odell was an untrained baker, right?

And what are two common mistakes of amateur bakers?

First: they don’t let the baking sheets cool off before starting another batch. This causes the edges to melt and cook faster than the rest of the cookie. Voila, crispy edges. I tried that with this batch and didn't quite get the toasty edges we remember, but it’s closer. 

Second, amateur bakers don’t let the cookies cool entirely before wrapping them up---and they stick together. I did not let these cookies finish cooling before I stacked them in a plastic bag. When they cooled entirely and I took them back out of the bag, they stuck together exactly as the original guerrillas did!

I'm going to deliver cookies to taste-testers and ask them to comment here. Let's see what they think.

Meantime, any other comments or recipes are welcome--just click on the words below that tell how many comments have been made, and a comment box should appear below any comments that have already been made.