If you’re here for the knitting, you might want to skip this. I got a little nerdy about baking this week.
What Exactly is Spelt?
I ask because until I started baking from the King Arthur Whole Grain Baking Book (WGBB), I hadn’t really heard of Spelt. Barley and Rye, yes. Spelt, no. According to Wikipedia, Spelt (also known as Dinkel Wheat or Hulled Wheat) is a form of wheat that has been cultivated since 5000 BC. I was able to get a large bag of Sprouted Spelt Flour from Whole Foods (they only have the small bags of Bob’s Red Mill Spelt at my local grocery store). I needed Spelt for the new recipe I tried this week — Chocolate Crinkle Cookies.
…And What is Dutch Process Cocoa?
The recipe recommends a Dutch Process cocoa. I had no idea what that meant, so I looked it up on the internet (what on earth did we do before the internet?) There was a nice article about it on Sally’s Baking Adventure:
Dutch-process cocoa powder starts with cocoa beans that have been washed in alkaline solution of potassium carbonate. This wash neutralizes their acidity. So, dutch-process cocoa powder is neutral.
Interesting. A second option is natural cocoa powder, which is more bitter and acidic. Dutch Process powder is often used in recipes with baking powder and natural cocoa is often used with baking soda. Apparently, the cocoa we normally see in US supermarket aisles is natural cocoa (Hersheys and Ghirardelli are two examples). When a recipe doesn’t specify the type of cocoa (as in old cook books), they usually mean natural cocoa. There is also a raw cocoa powder option. So I learned a lot of new information with this recipe.
I used Trader Joe’s Cocoa Powder (it’s what was in the cupboard). My husband wasn’t sure if it was Dutch Process or not, and after doing a bit of research on the internet, I still can’t tell (some sources say yes, others say it’s natural cocoa). As it turns out, since the recipe called for baking soda, it’s okay if I used natural cocoa, so it probably doesn’t matter.
Chocolate Crinkles (p.328)
I followed this recipe exactly as written except for possibly using natural cocoa. Seriously, until this recipe I didn’t even know there was more than one kind of cocoa, so I guess I learned something new this week. Like the chewy chocolate chip cookies, this is a refrigerate overnight recipe, and for the first time, I actually knew that before making it. There is a helpful symbol next to every recipe title that requires processing overnight. I’m finally paying attention to that.
I’ve made chocolate crinkles before, and this recipe was slightly different (aside from using the whole grain). First, it called for cocoa and semi-sweet chocolate chips. The crinkles I made had no chocolate chips. Second, it called for 1/3 cup of brewed, cooled coffee. That sounded kid-unfriendly to me, but as the WGBB explains, the coffee enhances the flavor of chocolate without adding its own flavor. They recommend adding substituting coffee for any liquid in a chocolate based recipe, or adding a bit of espresso powder in with your chocolate. When we tasted the raw batter, you could tell there was coffee in it, but after a night in the fridge, the taste was no longer obvious, and the finished cookie just tasted like chocolate. So chalk up another new thing I learned this week.
I got to try out my new cookie scoops and bowl scraper with this recipe. Early in January, I browsed few articles about good baking gadgets and decided I would buy a set of cookie scoops and a bowl scraper. I’ve used the bowl scraper a few times and really like it, but this was my first chance to use the cookie scoop. I used the medium scoop for this recipe and it worked great. It’s so much faster than a spoon! If you bake a lot of cookies and don’t have one of these, I highly recommend it.
Despite the fact that these cookies have whole grains, they are not healthy in any way. They have a lot of sugar and powdered sugar, not to mention the chocolate chips. But they sure are delicious. They were a huge hit with the family. I personally find them too sweet to enjoy, so I don’t think I will eat many. About one bite is enough for me. But the hubs and kids really like them, so I’ll definitely be making them again.
Other Baking Updates
In other (related) news, I started a sourdough levain (also known as a starter) this week. The WGBB suggested feeding it with traditional whole wheat, but I accidentally fed it Spelt today (oops, all those bags kinda look the same). I plan to go back to the whole wheat tomorrow, so I hope it comes out okay.
I’ve never started a sourdough before. I am surprised at how fussy the process is. I have to let my tap water stand in a pitcher all night to make sure the chlorine gasses off. My water doesn’t taste like chlorine, but apparently it could be in there and it can interfere with the growth of the levain. So I figured better safe than sorry. I’ve fed it once a day for the last two days and tomorrow I start feeding it twice a day. I should be ready to bake bread on the fifth day! I could already see a little bubbling today. It’s like a gross science experiment but I’m totally into it. I can’t wait to see how the bread comes out.
I also baked the Morning Glory Muffins again this week. I can’t keep them in the house. I did a batch last week where I forgot the dried cranberries (our substitute for raisins), and they still tasted great. I’m here to report that processing the carrots and apples in the food processor was a MILLION times easier than grating them by hand and made no discernible difference in the texture of the muffin, so I am totally a convert to using that method now!