23 July 2015

Baking with Einkorn Flour + Homemade Pizza

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If you've been reading here for a while then you'll know that I like to experiment in baking with different flours. That sometimes results in things like amaranth cookies, rye pie crusts, kamut cake, or semolina cakes, and also a myriad of failures with teff. Recently, I spied some einkorn flour online and did a bit of research about it and decided to experiment a bit with it. So of course I ordered about 10 pounds!

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Einkorn berries, and the resulting flour, are essentially a wild wheat. That is, they are a cousin to the same grain your regular all purpose flour is made with, so they're not gluten free or anything, but they have not been cultivated and developed for years like a lot of modern commercial wheat and are supposedly more dense in protein and nutrients. I'm not an expert, but you can read some more here and here. Frankly, for all I know einkorn could be some marketing hoax, but since we make pretty much all of our own baked goods in house, I'm very conscious of just how much flour we consume and I'm always looking for more ways to get variety in our diet.

Einkorn is easier to work with than some exotic flours since it is not unsimilar to regular flour. The key difference is that einkorn is a much softer flour, so it needs less liquid. The texture is a little like cake flour. One of the advantages to this is that you can combine einkorn flour with stronger flours, like dark rye or whole wheat without the resulting dough being heavy or coarse. In the above photo, you can see the Ottolenghi kranz cakes (aka chocolate babka) where I made the dough with half rye/half einkorn mix, which came out wonderfully.

Another thing I really like is making pizza with part einkorn flour. In my quest to find appealing foods during pregnancy, I thought this was a great opportunity to work on my homemade pizza technique. My resulting pizza is based off a recipe from theKitchn, tweaked to work with a part einkorn flour mixture and increased in volume. As homemade pizza goes, we think it's pretty awesome. Some toppings we've enjoyed include roasted kale and mozzarella, salami and red pepper, homemade pesto, and fig and blue cheese. Have any of you tried einkorn flour yet? Let me know!

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Homemade Pizza
Makes 2 large or 3 medium pizzas. I use parchment paper to transfer my pizzas to the oven. This makes it very easy, but keep in mind that the paper does start to brown/burn around the edges while your pizza is baking. It won't affect the pizza or flavor, but it just looks a little disconcerting. When the pizza is done, it slides right off the parchment and you can just discard it.

1 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast (such as SAF)
1 1/2 cups einkorn flour, plus more for kneading and rolling
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (or all purpose flour)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup warm water, plus more as needed
toppings of choice
parchment paper

1. Place the yeast in a large bowl. Add the salt and the flours and stir with a rubber spatula to combine. Make a well in center of the flour, add in the water, and then gently mix the mixture by stirring with the rubber spatula. If the mixture is dry, add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time, it should not need more than 4 tablespoons additional liquid. (It probably won't be too wet, but if it is, you can add additional einkorn flour.) Once the mixture has come together, turn it onto a surface lightly floured with einkorn flour and knead the mixture until it forms a smooth dough ball. Lightly coat the ball with olive oil, place it back in the bowl, and cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled, about 70-90 minutes.
2. Preheat oven as high as it will go. Place a pizza stone in the oven if using. Prep toppings.
3. Press down the dough and divide it into 2 or 3 pieces, depending on how many pizzas you want. On the same lightly floured surface, press out your dough into a disk and then lay the dough on a piece of parchment paper. Repeat with remaining dough. Top dough with desired toppings.
4. Slide a baking sheet under the parchment paper, transport it to the oven, then slide the pizza on parchment paper onto the pizza stone. Bake pizza for 8-11 minutes, until crust is lightly browned and cheese is bubbling. Remove pizza, slide pizza onto cutting board, discard parchment. Repeat with remaining pizzas.

16 July 2015

Lime Cordial + News!

Whew, it really is the dog days of summer around here, if you're allowed to say that when it isn't even August yet. It's hot and muggy out and it seems like everyone is just sitting around waiting for the last few hours of Ramadan to end. Oh wait, didn't I say last time that I something to share today? I hinted at the fact that I'd been hit with more of my fair share of the Egyptian stomach revenge these past few months, which is certainly true, but I've also been growing this tiny person inside me, who seems to have a lot of opinions about food, most of which seem to be negative.

(And, yes, if you found that paragraph at all ambiguous, we are expecting a baby the first week of December! One of you commenters even guessed it last time, you spoil sports.) I could not be more thrilled, but I've also been faced, for the first time in my life, with a complete and total disinterest in food. It was surprising to me how little food, nevermind even walking into the kitchen, became unappealing to me. Just finding something palatable became a challenge, and there were a few weeks where I had a repeated "sad pregnancy dinner" of peanut butter toast and a sliced apple.


To make matters worse, just when I rounded the end of the first trimester, I was hit by a bad virus followed by an Egyptian stomach bug. I am extraordinarily lucky that my mother-in-law is an OB and so even though I was sick and half way around the world from home I was always in good hands. For a while there my concern become just eating anything, so a lot of juices, smoothies, and milkshakes were on the menu. I'm still working on perfecting my avocado, yogurt and honey smoothie, stay tuned.

Luckily, as I round the corner into my fifth month (!!!!) I'm feeling great and even back to making dinner again. I can't tell you how good that feels. For the first time this week a few people in our building even noticed my belly, prompting quite a few "Allah ynowar" and "from the waters of the Nile" blessings and jokes.


I have so much to say about pregnancy, especially as someone who's been a dancer/pilates/yoga person for their entire life, and even more to say about maternity and workplace issues around pregnancy and all of that. I did want to add that I also WALKED ACROSS ENGLAND in my eighth week of pregnancy, a fact that I will probably be telling people for the rest of my life with great pride. It was actually great fun, if exhausting, and I was lucky to have two great moms by my side.

When I was still in my first trimester and trying to find more exciting ways to stay hydrated I remembered the lemon cordial that we used to make in the summer in Damascus to drink mixed with tonic water. I can still see the glass bottle of cordial and the Arabic Schweppes logo sitting out on the porch now. I made it instead with Egyptian desert limes, which are like American key limes. It's wonderfully tart-sweet and refreshing when it's hot out. Just this week a made another batch with lemon and ginger, in an effort to tamp down some occasional persistent nausea.

Before I go, while I'm no pregnancy expert, I thought I'd share a few things that have been helpful to me. This yoga video is just right, gentle enough for your most tiring days, or paired with other weight exercises on other days. Preferably while wearing the most comfortable top ever. I had lists from several friends from their baby registries, but this one from Cup of Jo is great. Also advice for dads, and a sommelier on pregnancy (even if you aren't drinking, her tips about taste bud changes were interesting).


Lime Cordial
This recipe makes enough to last a long time, or enough for one giant summer cocktail party.

2 cups sugar
2 cups freshly squeezed lime juice
1 cup water

1. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer. Simmer for 15-20 minutes until thickened slightly. Pour into clean jars and store in the fridge.
2. Serve a splash of cordial in a glass of sparkling water or tonic water, or use for cocktails. I imagine it would make an excellent variation on gin and tonic.

Variation: For lemon ginger cordial, use lemon juice plus a 2-inch knob of ginger, peeled and chopped. Strain out the ginger before bottling.

05 July 2015

Seedlicious Bread

Hi there! I can't believe it's been so long since we've seen each other! What have you been up to? How is your summer going? We have SO MUCH to talk about.

The life of an expat is full of entrances and exits. People coming and going, moving on to work assignments in other countries, fleeing the heat of whatever tropical or desert location we've been assigned to to go back home to the cool winds of England or Colorado for the summer. But I'm still here, plugging away, enjoying the Ramadan lights and crazy nights of Cairo.

This blog though, has been an empty space for a while, and I'm going to dive more deeply into the reason for that in my next post. Suffice it to say, I've been going through a few stomach issues lately that have taken the wind completely out of my cooking sails. I've also done quite a bit of traveling that has kept me out of the kitchen: to England and Scotland, to spend a week walking Hadrian's Wall with some friends, to Vienna for wine tasting and the great Egon Schiele tour, and to watch my husband celebrity spot cellists (like these guys) on the street. And finally we had a whirlwind tour to the States to see some dear friends get married in their backyard and spend a few days in our house in Chicago doing fun things like going to the dentist and doing some home repairs.

As usual, our suitcase on our return flight from America looked like a bizarre hodgepodge that I'm sure TSA got a good laugh out of. We had: a small kilim carpet that I thought would look better in the Cairo apartment, a metal file (for my husband's cello endpin), a few bottles of wine, bags of millet and flax seed, Angostura bitters, and some strange odds and ends I wanted for the apartment here like a small metal coat rack and a framed picture. Also, a whole lotta bubble wrap.

The millet and flax were mainly because I wanted to make an imitation of a bread they sell at Whole Foods called seedlicious bread (actually it's called seeduction, but I always get it mixed up and call it seedlicious). Cairo bread is mainly centered around the local bran-coated flatbread (aish) and a few other flatbreads and spongy sandwich breads. Darker breads are very difficult to find (just like in Algiers) and I'm already in the habit of making my own. (For any Cairenes, the Bread Basket, a German bakery in Ma'adi, does make good laugen rolls and a dark bread called dinkel that I like, they will also deliver to other parts of the city.)

So, I looked up a recipe for imitation seedlicious bread, ignored about half of the directions, and voila. It's a pretty easy bread to make, and since I make my own granola regularly, I always have a bunch of seeds and grains on hand anyway. My goal is to back to regular posting from here on out, so let's talk soon, okay?!

Seedlicious Bread
This is one of the better uses of millet that I know of, an otherwise dull grain in my opinion. I liked the combination of whole wheat and rye, but you could play around with other flours or use all of one or the other if you prefer.

1 1/4 cups warm water
2 tablespoons molasses (I used date molasses because it's easiest to get here)
2 tablespoons honey
1 package active dry yeast or 1 tablespoon instant yeast (like SAF)
1 cup whole all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup dark rye flour, plus more for sprinkling
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1 tablespoon flax seeds
2 tablespoons millet
vegetable oil

1. Place the warm water, molasses, and honey in the bowl and sprinkle over the yeast. Wait a few minutes for the yeast to bloom. Meanwhile, combine the three flours and the salt in a bowl and mix to combine. Add the flour mixture to the water and stir with a wooden spoon to combine. The dough should be a little more damp than a normal bread dough, but if it looks like it is too damp to knead, then sprinkle in some more flour. Add all the seeds and millet to the bowl, and begin to knead the bread dough in the bowl. Knead until the  seeds are well worked into the dough and the dough becomes smoother, adding flour as needed, about 5 minutes. Form the dough into a round, coat the round with vegetable oil to prevent sticking. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let rise for about 1 hour. It will not fully double in volume, but it should grow by about 2/3rds.
2. Preheat oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or grease a loaf pan. Press down the dough, transfer it to the baking sheet or pan, gently patting it into shape. Again cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let the bread rise until nearly doubled, about another 40 minutes. Bake the bread until darkened on the outside and it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, 40-45 minutes. Cool on a rack. Makes good toast.