Sunday Baking: Buckwheat Chiffon with Walnut, Cinnamon, and Walnut Praline

Time to revisit the buckwheat chiffon!

Last time, I put fine ground chocolate in, which was good, but not amazing. This time I’m adding fine chopped walnuts and ground walnut praline icing. Which means I had to make walnut praline!

Here’s the cake cooling upside down:

It came out way denser (more sponge like). Not sure why.

And here’s the praline:

I think I scorched the walnuts. Oh well!

I pulverised some of it and mixed it with a glaze. (Most recipes are for a cooked buttercream. I didn’t have the time or energy.)

I also baked off the remaining 5min dough into cute lil rolls!


Sunday Baking: Chocolate Buckwheat Chiffon and Pepita Spice Caramels

Buckwheat chiffon v. 3 had 100% buckwheat flour, olive oil, and finely chopped dark chocolate. (This is sometimes known as a “confetti chiffon”)

It has great structure, though may be a bit less floofly than normal. This could be due to the chocolate itself or because I had to fold it a bit more to incorporate the chocolate. It tasted great. I could catch a bit of the olive oil but the buckwheat is lost for me. This would be terrific if the goal were a gluten free chocolately cake. I’m looking for something where the buckwheat stands out a bit, so I’ll be trying again.

My mom’s birthday is this month and Zoe left for the US last week. So I made some birthday caramels. I’ve been wanting to try these spiced, pumpkin seed caramels for a while. The caramel recipe itself is pretty standard though with an interesting mix of sugars. They came out beautiful with a good bit, though a little sticky when unwrapping (or cutting). Definitely aim at the higher end of the final cooking.

Zoe did a beautiful job of wrapping them, per usual.

My current 5min bread is the mostly wheat with white dough that overflows my container. I didn’t touch it all week so I really wanted to bake off a bunch. The baguetting/sub rolls worked out ok but 1) are a bit of a PITA to shape and 2) tend to have a high crush to crumb ratio. So I thought I’d try round rolls.

I definitely need to make them rather smaller! But they came out nice.

They are tasty!

Insect Farming

I’ve eaten insects, deliberately. During the Brood X rising of 2004, I grabbed some and toasted them. They were fine! For a while, I would order different insect combos for my mom’s birthday (including a baked tarantula—”remove fangs before eating”!).

Insects are an interesting future food (though, of course, many cultures already eat them). High protein, often generally nutrient rich, and low resource to grow, they seem like a good choice for agriculture.

Back in 1991 we had a wormy in our apartment and we’ve had another since around 2014 in our new house. Of course, the goal there is compost, not the worms as foodstuff.

Food insects are fricking expensive, even bought online. Given the small scale of production this isn’t too surprising. Most, I imagine, are intended for pets (we used to buy crickets and superworms for our hedgehogs) so large scale wasn’t needed.

BUT! Just as with wormries, you can grow mealworms for food in your own home! I’ve seen two kits: The open source, TinyFarm system and the patent protected Livin Farms hive. The TinyFarm one is definitely low budget (even the kit only costs $154 and if you did it all yourself from found or bought pvc, it’d probably be a lot less). The big downside is that the farming process requires more effort. It’s also something more for the shed than the kitchen counter.

The Livin Farm hive is a lot pricier at $699 but it maintains correct temperature and does harvest monitoring and sorting (I’m not 100% clear how that works, but it involves LED indicators and buttons! Technology! Ok, the harvesting works by vibration and sieves. Fine.).

Zoe is not on board. Not yet anyway. She was not happy with the wormy the first time around but loves our current one. So, maybe. Someday.

$700 for a mealworm farm is pretty damn yuppie though.


Burns Night and John Barleycorn

I’ve no particular brief for Burns, but as it is Burns night (and poetry should be read), I poked around and found his version of John Barleycorn:

There was three kings into the east,
Three kings both great and high,
And they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn should die.

They took a plough and plough’d him down,
Put clods upon his head,
And they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn was dead.

But the cheerful Spring came kindly on,
And show’rs began to fall;
John Barleycorn got up again,
And sore surpris’d them all.

Sorry, Robbie, it’s not a patch on the Traffic version:

In penance, I might try this (rather nice looking) vegetarian haggis recipe (or just get some ready made).


Sunday Baking: A Tale of Two Loaves

I like to bake and I bake a lot. I mostly do sweet things but I have made bread, crackers, and Gougères, but mostly only on an occasion. This year I hope to get more into a routine. A goal: not to want to purchase bread or crackers unless there’s a specific reason (e.g. there’s a flat bread from a nearby Iranian bakery that I would buy any day of my life; also German rye is a staple that I just don’t even want to try to make).

Bread is a bit of a PITA because it has multiple phases and you thus have to plan for it. I’m more impulsive with my baking. So, I’m really interested in recipes that either have short end-to-end times or are robust to indifference and neglect.

I’ve had great success with no-knead recipes (except you really do need to plan…8-12 hours lead time minimum up to 24). However you can extend the time by chilling the dough after a bit. This allows for very long, slow rises which produce a more complex and interesting flavor. A book popped up on Scribd, Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day, which systematized this so you basically mix up dough every two weeks and make loaves whenever you feel like it in “5 minutes” (the “master recipe” is available on their website). It requires a bit of set up but I’ve finally gotten around to getting a container suitable for the dough. Time to try it out.

I’ve also been dorking with super short flour to finish recipes. One used your microwave as a proofing box (which was ok but a bit involved) but I tried one for French bread with a bit of kneading, a 20 minute rise and a 20 minute bake which was…alright.

Today, I’m doing a head to head bake off.

One big difference is the 5 minute/day bread is whole wheat while the 1 hour French bread is white. I’ve done it with some whole wheat mixed in, but I really wanted to compare base recipes. The 5 min one also asks you to put a cup of water into the oven to give an initial steaming so I did it for both loaves.

The 5min has some vital wheat gluten to help it out but since its mostly whole wheat that seems fair. I also put some seeds on it, but they were a bit annoying in the oven so I omitted them from the French bread.

The big bit is that after you shape a 5 min loaf you need to rest it for 90(!) minutes! 5 or so minutes of effort but 2hr time to complete, in addition to the prep. The French bread really does take an hour from flour and water.


First things first: They both worked pretty easily. I used the given baking times and had no trouble. I didn’t use a baking stone though I did take each loaf off the lined cookie sheet and finish off on the wire rack.

I baked them one right after the other, using the baking time for the 5 min loaf roughly as the rise time for the French bread. Here’s the loaves all cooled on the spiffy PA cutting board Zoe’s uncle Claude made for us (which I love love love).

They came out really pretty! Now the French bread loaf is way bigger, but that’s just what it is. I may have torn off a slightly smaller hunk than the master recipe called for (1 pound), but the final loaf is .82 pounds so it wasn’t so far off. I didn’t measure the oven spring, but it was dramatic for the French loaf. They both thump well.

I let them both cool fully, though usually I’m burning my fingers and mangling the loaf to get at hot bread with butter which is one of the best things ever. But the 5 min folks want you to let it cool, so I did for this round. Let’s check out the crumb!

Both are quite good the 5min has a much more open crumb (i.e., bigger holes). This is almost certainly due to the long processing time allowing the gluten to fully unravel and align, plus the added gluten.

With regard to flavor, well, the French bread is just at a huge disadvantage…all white and fast rise. But it’s not bad by any means and has a nice springy texture that makes it a good platform for spreads. I think adding flavoring (e.g., onion powder like the recipe suggests) could be smart.

The 5 min bread is just delicious and has the softest crumb of any wheat bread I’ve ever made.

Both breads have reasonable crusts though the 5 min on has a bit more crisp. The steam didn’t do much, so I’ll have to try the dutch oven method at some point.

Both when well with labneh and some olive paste (which I could have dialed down).


Both are actually pretty good. Each recipe is easy and results in an at least decent loaf. If you have a stand mixer, the French bread one is pretty trivial to do even while doing other cooking. You could start everything at 6 and be eating by 7. That’s no small thing! You could probably make rolls with this pretty easily.

I’ll have to push on adding whole wheat flour and maybe gluten and maybe letting my mixer run longer on the kneading. I could mix seeds easily into the dough which would be nice and help with the flavor.

I’ll be making the 5 min bread over the next two weeks as I’ve got a mess of it in the fridge. There will be no complaints.

2018 Holiday Baking Tally

Time to reflect how much holiday baking/sweet making I did and shared. I have two signature items: burnt caramel fruitcake and salted vanilla caramels. That I bake fruitcake is a surprise to me after loathing it most of my life, but this Dan Lepard recipe is truly extraordinary. The caramel plus prunes and nuts form an excellent flavour foundation and, really, what follows is all accent (I like putting some dried kiwi). Each batch makes two loaves and I did two batches.

Our canonical Xmas gift is a box of salted caramels:

I usually have one straight side collapsible mold in each country but I strategically brought my UK mold so we could speed up processing. Good thing I did! For some reason I decided to pack the boxes extra full so we were only getting three boxes out of a batch of 64 one inch caramels. Zoe was a wrapping machine, which helped a lot. I did for get my good candy thermometer (with the temp alarum) but the normal one was fine. I need to find tune the temperature a bit. This recipe has a narrow range between skimpy and hard.

I used new salt. Instead of table salt I had this flaky sea salt which I think makes it really easy to over salt. No complaints yet.

I, of course, did some pizzelle (not as many as usual). Two new items were giant salted, olive oil, walnut, chocolate chip cookies and snowflake mince pies. Both were hits. The olive oil and walnuts interact in a really nice way.

Things missing this year: panattone (boo!), bruti, and tamarind ginger cookies, plus exotic caramels. I’d love to get back to making plum pate de fruit.

These got starved in favour of making cookies for the music video. Coming soon! By, next year, maybe! Sneak peeks: