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.


  1. The two cookies I had from Batch 78 were very good. In fact, they tasted better to me than original guerrilla cookies did. Better because they were moister, had more immediate flavor, and so on. Of course, the guerrilla cookies that I had were cookies that were for sale commercially; thus, by the time I got them, they most likely had lost some of the flavor they had when they were fresh. Also, my memory is that the original guerrilla cookies always tasted as if they had a small amount of carrot shavings. That "carrot" taste was missing in the two Batch 78 cookies that I just ate. But, as I said, they were very good. There is what I think is a Japanese saying that the student repays his teacher by surpassing him. So, don't be afraid to bake cookies that turn out to be even better, even tastier, than the original guerrilla cookies. After all, now that Paul Soglin is again mayor of Madison, do we need guerrilla cookies in order to return to the 60s and 70s?

  2. Thanks, Peter. Yes, I liked that recipe a lot, too. I think the barley flakes bumped up the taste a bit, when compared with the recipes that have only oatmeal.

    My own thoughts were that it was a little too moist--just a bit. I also forgot to put in flax seeds, despite Deb's very specific memory (shared in earlier comments) that she definitely remembers flax seed something-or-other on the ingredients list.

  3. I thought the taste was a quite reasonable facsimile to what I remember, or think I remember, as the taste of guerrlla cookies. The texture on the other hand, was more health food like than I remember, more crumbly and cakey, not chewy enough and with the stickiness and surface sheen I recall. The original was good partly it did not seem much like health food. Also, I don't recall the seeds. For my taste the seeds give them a gritty quality I don't care for, but that's just me. I don't know if any of this is helpful--truthfully I'm unsure if my sense memories have much of a basis in reality. Peter's idea of carrot shavings might be promising. I think I recall something like that, but maybe its the power of suggestion.

  4. I notice that a cookie baking website had this to offer:
    "If you want chewy cookies, add melted butter. Butter is 20 percent water. Melting helps water in butter mix with flour to form gluten.
    More gluten will make for a chewier cookie, just as it will make for a chewier bread. Keep in mind that you’re introducing extra liquid with a substitution like this one, and the cookies may be thinner than you’d like unless you add more dry ingredients or less liquid.

    2) If you want thin, candy-like cookies, add more sugar. Sugar becomes fluid in the oven and helps cookies spread.
    A little extra sugar will also help you get a crisp edge on a cookie. Caramelized sugar does not always survive well in the open air. Too much sugar and your cookies will be thin and chewy, not crisp, although they should still taste great. An airtight container will help preserve their fresh-from-the oven texture.

    If you want cakey cookies, add more eggs. Yolks make cookies rich, and whites cause cookies to puff and dry out. "

    so I think this adds to the evidence for butter and brown sugar....-Iris

  5. I'm looking forward to trying this recipe. I've been missing guerrilla cookies for years. Thanks!

  6. Welcome, Digging! I should note (I've been meaning to for a while) that the amounts in these test recipes are very small. You might want to double the recipes.

    I've been using such small amounts so that I could make more trials with the same amount of ingredients, and so that my kitchen wouldn't be buried in hundreds of cookies if I want to try four variations in one day. When I was working at my hardest on this, we had some very fat birds and squirrels in our yard as it was.

  7. Hello, so here is what I know about Ted Odell and the Quercus Alba (White Oak in Latin) Bakery. I graduated from the University in December of 1977. My roommates and girlfriend still had another semester to go so of course I stayed in Madison for that spring semester. But I needed a job. I was going to law school in the fall and could only look for short time jobs. I saw a flyer at Memorial Union and replied. I went to the bakery where Ted interviewed me. After the interview, he contacted my references and hired me. The pay was five dollars an hour plus $.10 for every package of cookies that I packed. It worked out to about seven dollars an hour, great pay back then.

    My job was to bake and package the cookies. Ted always had the batter made and ready to go at eight o’clock in the morning. And he did not talk about it, so I cannot help with your quest for the recipe. But I can fill you in on the mechanics of the operation. I would scoop the batter out of a, by my estimate, 20 gallon metal pail. The batter would go into a hopper. I would run a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper underneath the hopper and drops six rows of either three or four cookies, cannot remember anymore. Once I had 10 sheets completed, those 10 sheets would go into two convection ovens. While they were cooking, I would do 20 more sheets. When the first 10 sheets were done, I would put in the next 10 sheets, etc. My goal was to build up 20 sheets in reserve and start to package the cooled cookies. Yes, sometimes they were too warm and would break. Ted let me take them home, so I was popular for at least one semester.

    Ted had two different recipes. One had honey, one did not. The honey recipe did not taste as good to me, or to the public in general. But, when the summer came around Ted would only make the honey cookies because the demand was much less and he wanted the time to do other things. His comments reflect what I saw of his personality while I worked for him. He certainly did not strike me as materialistic, and his choice of ingredients were probably driven by quality and simplicity rather than margin.

    I worked in the bakery Monday through Thursday, 8 AM to noon, Fridays off (how great was this job?). While we worked, the University’s NPR(?) Radio station was on. I can remember listening to “Chapter a Day” every day on the radio. Ted was smart, and friendly enough, but kept his distance. As I recall he graduated from Harvard. I still have a picture of the two of us, with me wearing my apron and hat. I wish I had paid more attention!

    Good luck with your quest. Perhaps there are other employees out there who have a better memory of the ingredients. Tom Brandt,

  8. Well, neat! Finally, a first-hand account! And it's fun to learn I was right about the cookies sometimes being packaged while still warm. It's also helpful to get confirmation about the parchment paper.

    Despite what you think, you might be able to help with ingredients: I'm puzzling about the need to use the food processor to get some ingredients (walnuts, oatmeal or barley flakes) into pieces small enough to get the texture we want. Did Odell mix the batter in the same place you baked the cookies? If so, do you remember whether he had some sort of grinder or food processor there?

  9. see you on the 28 uw dinner karen m