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Sprouted Wheat Berries in Excalibur 5-Tray Dehydrator

Some months back now, my friend Audra spread the word that she was ordering bulk grains and other dry goods from her favorite organic suppler. Her hope was to spread the word about this very good way to get high quality food and to get the total weight of the order high enough to qualify for discounted shipping.

I took her up on the call and ordered 25 pounds of hard winter wheat berries. My goal was to improve my bread baking habit with the addition of sprouted and freshly ground flour. Of course, when I committed to 25 pounds of wheat berries, I’d never sprouted or ground my own flour before. But I had enthusiasm, a vast array of cookbooks, and all the internet at my disposal. What could go wrong?

The truthful answer is that actually, there’s not a whole lot that can go wrong, but as is the case with many new things, I did have a few missteps. The first time I tried to sprout a batch of wheat berries, I left them in the soaking water too long and they developed a funky smell, akin to stinky feet.

And I’ve also learned that I really need to get a few of these non-stick sheets to prevent the wheat berries from falling off the dehydrator trays as they dry and shrink a little. Both are relatively low prices to pay in pursuit of greater knowledge and understanding!

I’ve been using my new, fancy 5-tray Excalibur to dehydrate the berries once they’ve been soaked and sprouted and that part couldn’t be easier. I love that I can set both the time and temperature so precisely. I run it at 112F to preserve the enzymatic activity of the wheat (a useful thing if you’re working with a sourdough starter), so appreciate how easy it is to dial in that exact temperature.

Now, you might be wondering why I’d take the time to soak, sprout, and dehydrate my wheat before grinding it into flour. The primary reason is that it helps make it easier to digest. Secondarily, I find that it grinds more readily (which is good, since I’m using the KitchenAid Grain Mill, and the unsprouted grain made the motor work really hard).

If you find yourself intrigued by the idea of homemade sprouted wheat flour, here’s how you do it.

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Sprouted Almonds in an Excalibur 5-Tray Dehydrator

Dehydration has long been one of the tools in my food preservation toolbox. I like to dehydrate herbs and ramp leaves, make tasty marinated and dried tomatoes, and put up some of my precious Meyer lemons by drying slices for future rehydration.

Recently, my dehydration game improved by several notches. The folks at Excalibur sent me one of their 5-tray dehydrators. It’s a huge step up from the stackable models I’ve used for so long. I’m totally delighted by it and have spent the last few weeks drying all the things.

It’s got five large trays that slide in and out (meaning no more working around a central column!) and that add up to a total of eight square feet in drying space. It has a digital control panel that allows me to set both the precise temperature (between 95◦F to 165◦F) and the duration of the drying session. And it’s relatively quiet (as far as dehydrators go, at least).

Truly, the only issue I have with it is that it’s kind of a beast in terms of its footprint. I don’t mind that, but it does mean that I’ve had to start running it in my living room, because it doesn’t fit comfortably in my kitchen. However, it’s a trade-off I’m very happy to make.

One of the first things I made with my fancy new Excalibur was a batch of sprouted almonds. I first tasted such a thing six years ago when I was staying with my sister in Texas and we were waiting for her first baby to be born. We were doing laundry at her friend’s house and while we waiting, she headed for their pantry and brought out a jar of almonds.

Different from almonds I’d eaten, these were crunchy and hollow on the inside. Raina explained that they were sprouted (and were wickedly expensive at their local co-op). I hurried to put the jar away before we ate all of them and filed the idea away to try and make them myself someday.

Fast forward six years and they’re a regular homemade favorite. They’re not hard to make (and truly, can be done even if you don’t have an dehydrator. But they’re better and easier this way because you can set them up and forget them for most of a day) and are so very delicious. You start by combining one tablespoon of salt with four cups of warm water and letting the salt dissolve.

Then you add two cups of raw almonds and let them soak overnight (don’t let them soak more than about 12 hours. After that, they start to ferment and get a little sour). The next day, you drain the almonds and arrange them on a dehydrator tray. Then you set it to 150◦F and let them do for 12-24 hours, until the almonds are completely dry. Once they’re dry, you funnel them into a jar and snack away.

Now, soaking and dehydrating almonds does also have the added benefit of making the almonds more nutritious and easily digested. But my primary motivation is the fact that it makes them so delicious.

Next week, I’m going to show you guys how I soak, sprout, dehydrate, and grind wheatberries into flour! But for now, I’d love to hear about your dehydrating experiences! Do you have one? What’s your favorite thing to make in it?

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New Year, New Breakfast with OXO

My father is a master breakfast maker. When he was very young, he did some time as short-order cook at IHOP and learned things like the difference between basted eggs and those cooked over easy. He became comfortable with poached eggs (and passed his worry-free poaching skills along to me). And he became a master pancake maker (evidence here).

Having spend a lifetime training at his elbow, I value breakfast time and take at least a few moments each day to make myself a morning meal (often, I post pictures of such creations to Instagram!).

Recently, my breakfast game got a serious upgrade thanks the to folks at OXO. They sent their Microwave Bacon Crisper, a snazzy Microwave Omelet Maker, an Adjustable Temperature Kettle, and a Pour-Over Coffee Maker with Water Tank. I’ve been making easy omelets, boiling water in no time, and making perfect cups of coffee.

The kettle was the biggest upgrade to my morning routine that they sent. It’s not my first variable temperature kettle, but it’s the most intuitive and easy to use that I’ve had. It’s also incredibly speedy. I feel like I switch it on, turn my back for a moment, and just a minute later, it’s ready. I also didn’t realize how much I’d enjoy having a glass kettle. I so enjoy watching the swirl of bubbles as the water reaches a boil.

I really love the omelet maker for its ease and speed. Grease the silicone pan (I use a dab of butter that I scoot around with my fingers), lay out your omelet ingredients, add the egg and microwave for a few minutes (timing depends on the amount of egg in the pan and the age/power of your microwave). Tuck a piece of cheese inside, fold over, and wait a few seconds. Done.

I’m also in love with the pour over coffee maker. I’m the only coffee drinker in my household, so I’ve always used a pour over system of some kind. But as an impatient person, I would just dump the water in and then end up drinking a mediocre cup. This brewer slows me down, removes the guess work, and prevents lousy coffee.

Finally, the bacon crisper. I must confess, this is the only piece of gear that didn’t rock my world. I’d never cooked bacon in the microwave before and the finished results left something to be desired. I can see using this tool to quickly crisp some bacon for a sandwich, but if it’s playing a starring role in the meal, I feel like the stovetop would serve better.

If you’re curious about the products I’ve mentioned,  Microwave Bacon Crisper, Microwave Omelet Maker, Adjustable Temperature Kettle, and Pour-Over Coffee Maker with Water Tank, head over to the OXO site to check them out!

Disclosure: OXO sent me the products you see pictured here for review and photography purposes. No additional compensation was provided. All opinions are entirely my own. 

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Babka for Now, Sticky Buns for Later + OXO Glass Bakeware

Use this sweet, yeasted dough to make a batch of apricot walnut babka for now, and a batch of sticky buns that can be par-baked and popped into the freezer for another day. It’s perfect do-ahead baking for the upcoming holiday.

Back in November, I got an email from OXO looking for bloggers to participate in a campaign designed to feature their sturdy glass bakeware. The idea was to create something that could be made ahead, frozen, and then either baked off or reheated later. Their glassware is particularly good for these fridge or freezer to oven situations, because it’s made from sturdy resistant borosilicate glass.

They sent out a Glass 9″ Pie Plate, a Glass 1.6 Qt Loaf Baking Dish, one SteeL Pie Server, a nifty Double Pastry Wheel, and 1″ Pastry Brush. I spent a little time pondering what I might make that would fit the assignment, make good use of these tools, and would also allow for a liberal application of jam.

What I came up with was a single dough that allowed me to both have a relatively immediate treat, as well as one to freeze and finish baking on another day. I’m calling this concept babka for now, sticky buns for later. Because who wouldn’t want that?

I started by searching out recipes for a sweet, yeast-risen dough. After a bit of internet searching and book scanning, I found what I was looking for in Tammy Donroe Inman’s fabulous book Wintersweet (it’s a favorite of mine for holiday baking).

I made Tammy’s dough the day before I wanted to bake. After its first rise, I punched it down, tucked it into a glass storage container, and popped it into the fridge (a handy trick any time you need to make yeasted doughs work for your schedule). The next day, I divided it up into two balls and began to turn one into babka. I opted for a filling of apricot jam and toasted walnuts.

Once the dough was rolled out into a large rectangle (about 18 x 12 inches), I brushed it with melted butter, spread out a half pint of apricot jam, and sprinkled the whole things with those toasted and chopped walnuts.

As far as I can tell, the thing that makes a babka a babka is that it’s a slightly sweet, buttery, yeasted dought that’s filled, rolled, sliced and twisted. And so that’s what I did. Starting with the short side, I carefully rolled until I had a fat tube of filled dough. Then, taking a sharp knife, I cut the roll down the middle, taking care to leave the top inch (or so) intact.

After slicing the dough, I took a deep, steadying breath, firmly grasped the two ends and twisted them outward in opposite directions. There was some filling loss, but not enough to be particularly worrisome.

Once sliced and twisted, it was simply a matter of nestling the dough in the loaf pan and letting it rise in a warm place before baking.

While the babka took its time rising, I turned my attention to that second ball of dough. Much like the babka, it needed to be rolled out into a generous rectangle. I brushed the dough with melted butter. However, instead of applying jam, I dusted the dough with cinnamon and sugar (using OXO’s tea ball to ensure even distribution) and used the rest of the walnuts.

I rolled up the dough (starting with the long side, rather than the short one) and sliced it into rounds. I set them into the pie plate and let them rise (at this point, the babka was ready for the oven, since I actually ate dinner in between working with the two sets of dough).

When the babka was done (it should be around 200 degrees F inside when finished. If the exposed jam seems to be getting too done, perch a sheet of foil on top of the pan) and the sticky buns had risen, I popped that pan into the oven. However, instead of cooking them to completion like the babka, I only baked them for 12 minutes. This is just long enough to get a little color and set their shape. Once they are cool, pop the pan into a big ziptop bag and nestle it into the freezer.

The night before you want to eat your sticky buns (perhaps when the babka is all gone?), pull the pan out of the freezer and make room for it in the fridge so that they can defrost slowly. The next morning, heat the oven to 350 degrees and slide in your pan of sticky buns. They’ll only need a quick 15 minutes in the oven and they’ll be ready to eat.

Brush the finished sticky buns with a little melted butter to help them stay soft, and then drizzle them with a little glaze made from powdered sugar, milk, vanilla extract, and a dusting of cinnamon.

As we head into the frenzy of this week, wouldn’t it be nice to have a loaf of babka on the counter and a pan of sticky buns ready to go in the freezer?

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Jams from Three Springs Fruit Farm

Three Springs Fruit Farm November 7, 2016

Right around this time last year, I told you guys about a collaboration I was doing with Ben Wenk from Three Springs Fruit Farm. We were combining his fruit with my recipes in order to create a line of jams and fruit butters that were a little different from the others you find at the farmers market.

We’ve continued to expand our collaboration over the last year and we’re currently up to six different products. They are:

Today only, you can get 15% off your order from Three Springs Fruit Farm by using the code CANVOLUTION. And if you don’t see this until November 29, take heart! You can still get a discount. Use the code FoodInJars now through December 31, 2016 to get 10% off your order.

PS – In other discount news, our friends at Orchard Road are offering 50% off your online order through Tuesday, November 29. Use the code JARS50 for the deal.

 

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Black Friday Deals from FIJ Partners and Friends

assorted mason jar accessories 1 - Food in Jars

Good deals abound today and so I thought I’d round up some of the specials and sales that some of the Food in Jars friends and partners are offering for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. Happy shopping!

Cuppow: Use the code BLACKFRIDAY to get free shipping and 25% off all everyday reusable products. Good through Monday, 11/28/16.

Mason Jar Lifestyle: Use the code BF30 to get 30% off all orders. Buy on Saturday, 11/16 and they’ll donate $1 from every order to Americares. Good through Monday, 11/28/16.

Masontops: Use the code SAVE25 to get 25% off all orders. Free shipping on orders of $25 or more. Good through Monday, 11/28/16.

EcoJarz: Use the code FBFRIDAY2016 to get 40% off your order. Spend more than $40 and get a free silicone band gripper. Good through Monday, 11/28/16.

reCAP Mason Jars: Deals abound! The best buy is their 10 pack of regular mouth POUR lids. They’re currently 35% off!

New West Knifeworks: Knives and knife sets are discounted. Reduced prices good through Monday, 11/28/16.

Earlywood: Use the code EARLYFRIDAY15 for 15% off your order. Free shipping on orders over $100. Good through Friday, 11/25/16.

Mason-re: Use the code THANKS to get 20% off your order. Good through Monday, 11/28/16.

Kefirko: Use the code 20KEFIRKO to get 20% off kefir brewing jars. Good through Thursday, 12/15/16.

SipSnap: All products are 15% off site-wide. No code required. Good through Monday, 11/28/16.

Rough Linen: The makers of my favorite pinafore-style apron are offering free shipping on all orders. Good through Friday, 12/23/16.

Beanilla: Use the code BLACK15 for 15% off all orders. Good through Friday, 11/25/16.

And one last deal. Over at Amazon, the 6 quart Instant Pot is on sale for $68.95. This is the one I have and I’m a huge fan. If you’ve been on the fence about getting one, I highly recommend it.

 

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