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.