Finding Flour: Where & Why

Bread has been vital to human survival for more than 10,000 years. Flour combined with water makes a dough for cooking over a fire or baked in an oven. These simple ingredients have sustained people for a long time. That is to say, flour may subconsciously signal life. Now finding flour has become a national obsession.

Since the pandemic began, people seem to have latched onto the idea that having enough flour is essential. Even for people who never baked at home before, so it’s not particularly logical. But nevertheless, many have latched on so tightly to this idea, that there have been flour shortages in stores for months. People are baking like crazy.

In the age of COVID-19, in many ways we are literally in survival mode and behaving on instinct. There is something primal about flour. Maybe in our subconscious, we as a species know that if we have flour we can survive. Also kneading dough is soothing — like a meditation.

Over the last week especially, as police brutally killed Black people, it felt like an attack on my spirit. I’ve gasped for air and felt pain in my neck. It’s times like this that I need to find ways to stay calm. That familiar combination of flour and water brings me back to myself.

I’ve baked cinnamon bread, scones, cookies and cake. I had a decent amount of flour at home to begin with, but then started to run low and didn’t see all-purpose flour on store shelves for weeks, so I bought cake flour to tide me over.

Because I wasn’t sure how long this flour shortage would last, I decided that sourcing locally and online would be the best option and also help support local business. Thankfully I’m now well-stocked with flour.

Below is a list of New England area mills with freshly milled flour, cornmeal and more ready to ship directly to you!

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One Mighty Mill (Lynn, MA)

Ground Up Grain (Hadley, MA)

Maine Grains (Skowhegan, ME)

Gray’s Grist Mill (Westport, MA)

Plimoth Grist Mill (Plymouth, MA)

Kenyon’s Grist Mill (West Kingston, RI)

The Dinner Club Is Back!

Back in 2010, a small group of my friends started a dinner club. I’m so glad that I was already blogging at that point, so I can look back at the history of our gatherings.

Below is a quick summary for me, but also so our current group can look back at what we did before. If you’re interested in putting together your own dinner club, this post might be a guideline for you as well. For the last iteration of the dinner club, we picked a celebrity chef and cooked their recipes.

It’s also interesting to see what we planned for each dinner versus what actually happened. Which you can see if you click on the links and read the posts.

November 9, 2010 – Paula Deen

December 28, 2010 – Rachel Ray

March 22, 2011 – Ina Garten aka Barefoot Contessa

February 9, 2011 – Wolfgang Puck

May 19, 2011 – Ming Tsai

June 25, 2011 – Marcus Samuelsson

August 31, 2011 – Jamie Oliver

March 1, 2012 – Bobby Flay

March 17, 2012 – Emeril Lagasse

May 3, 2012 – B. Smith

November 2, 2013 – Dinner Club 2.0

The dates are the dates of the blog posts, not the actual days of the dinners. But they give an idea of the frequency of the dinners. Looking back, I can see how life got in the way. But we still had a great time and all of us who were part of the original group look back fondly at those gatherings. Such fun times!

I’m so happy that we’ve resumed the dinners to start the new decade. The first dinner was in January. Unfortunately I was really sick, so I missed it.

The second dinner was this past Saturday, on leap day. Since it was Black History Month, we picked soul food as a theme. The food was so good and I’m still enjoying the leftovers!

For dessert, I made banana pudding. It was my first time making it and I really enjoyed the process. It was delicious too!

My aunt, who passed away a few years ago, was the one in our family who always made banana pudding and introduced me to the dessert. I thought a lot about her as I was making it. My mom was the one who suggested that I make it and I’m so glad that she did.

For our next dinner club, we decided to pay tribute to B. Smith, who just passed away, by cooking her recipes. Looking back at the old dinner club posts, I saw that she was also our last celebrity chef. We’ve come full circle.

At dinner this Saturday, one of the new members mentioned that she had heard that one of the reasons that we started the club was because regular gatherings make people happier. I had forgotten, but said it sounded like something that I said.

In the Wolfgang Puck dinner post, I found that I had written about gatherings and happiness. Author Dan Buettner had said that being part of a once a month club where you must show up in person, has the same happiness impact as doubling your income. Life experiences and social interaction increase happiness.

I wrote about it back then and believe it even more years later. Here’s hoping that the gatherings continue!

Recipe: Caramelized Apple Dutch Baby

Carmelized Apple Dutch Baby on a plate.

Happy New Year! We’re living in the future! Well, actually the present. But that number — 2020. It seems like the future. Like when we were going from 1999 to 2000. It’s really just one day apart, but mentally it feels like a big jump. Going from one century to the next and one decade to the next. Also, now we’re really deep into the 21st century. It feels big.

So I decided to begin this first morning of the year and decade by doing something that I’ve been planning to do for quite some time. I made a Dutch baby for breakfast. These German pancakes were the darling of the food blogger world for many years. As I was reading yesterday, the main character in the novel just happened to make one. That sealed it for me.

A Dutch baby is similar to a popover, which I have made before. The dramatic thing about both is that they puff up without using any leavening. When I made popovers, they puffed up.

The Dutch baby did not puff. I have to admit that I was disappointed. Now I realize that the instructions in the recipe that I used didn’t stress using a blender or electric hand mixer to combine the ingredients. That vigorous mixing would have added more air prompting the puff. I forgot about this until looking at my popover recipe. Next time I’ll remember.

Also, just to let you know about the coloring. I keep a mixture of white flour combined with other healthier flours (ingredients) for better nutrition. The current combination is coffee flour and flaxseed meal. So the brown color of the Dutch baby might not be the same if you use plain white flour.

I’ve adapted this recipe from one on the blog Simply Scratch. Let me know if you try it and Happy New Year! 🎉

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Single Serving Caramelized Apple Dutch Baby

INGREDIENTS:

Caramelized Apples:

  • 1 apple cut up
  • 1 T butter
  • 2 T brown sugar

Dutch Baby:

  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 T sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • pinch salt
  • 1 T butter (for the skillet)

INSTRUCTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Put the butter in a small skillet on medium heat and coat the sides. Add the apples and brown sugar. Stir and cook the apples for about 10 minutes. They will become tender and caramelized.

While the apples are cooking, combine the ingredients for the Dutch baby in a blender or use an electric mixer in a small bowl. Stirring with a whisk or a spoon is fine, but unless you whisk for longer than I did, it won’t be enough to get a lot of air into the mixture so that it will puff up in the oven.

Put the butter in a medium cast iron skillet on medium heat and coat the sides. When the butter sizzles, pour the batter into the pan and place in oven for 15 minutes.

Remove from the pan with a spatula and place on a large plate. Pour the apples on the Dutch baby. Sprinkle cinnamon and powdered sugar over the top. Enjoy!

Holiday Dessert Roundup: Mincemeat Pie

Mince pie cut in half with background blur.
Photo Credit: By Jonathan Farber on Unsplash

From my last few posts, it’s clear that I love holiday sweets. Gingerbread is a holiday staple and eggnog might be my favorite holiday treat. But there’s another one that I haven’t written about — mincemeat pie.

First, let me clarify. Most mincemeat pies do NOT have meat in them. They are made with dried fruits and spices. While we call them mincemeat in New England, apparently in most other places, they’re called mince.

Personally, I’ve never made a mincemeat pie. One of my mom’s sisters, is the pie maker for our holiday meals and we are often blessed with one of her mincemeat pies. After a brief Twitter exchange with someone, I realized that not all families are so blessed! We had one for Thanksgiving and I’m hopeful for Christmas too! Served warm with vanilla ice cream, it’s a carousel of delicious flavors and textures.

I started wondering if enjoying mincemeat pies is more of a regional thing. The pie does have its roots in England. Growing up in New England may have skewed my views. Although for a period of time, Connecticut banned mincemeat pies. Those Puritans were no joke.

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Mincemeat pie is a holiday treat that has been enjoyed by many for a very long time, according to a recent article on Haiwatha World.

Mincemeat pie finds its roots in the 11th century — the Crusades, to be more precise. Returning crusaders brought back valuable spices — cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg — from the Holy Land, and these three spices were used to season a special “Christmas pie,” to represent the three gifts of the Magi to the infant Jesus Christ. Christmas pies were small, and could be eaten in a few bites. These pies were made in an oblong shape to resemble a cradle, and space was left for a Christ child figure to be placed on top. (The figure was removed before eating.) It was considered to be lucky to eat one Christmas pie for each of the twelve days of Christmas, between December 25 and Epiphany, January 6. The mincemeat filling of these pies was indeed almost entirely meat, but cooked with rum and spices, which acted as a preservative, as well as giving it its distinctive flavor.

With my increasing interest in all things mincemeat pie, I decided to do some additional research on the latest news and have assembled a roundup for your (and my) holiday reading pleasure. Enjoy!

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– Here’s a recipe for a boozy Baileys mince pie.

– Selfridges was selling a mini mince pie advent calendar.

Mince pie filled cookies are a thing!

– A mince pie sandwich is also a thing.

– Is mince pie flavored popcorn going too far?!

– Caffè Nero is offering mince pies in the UK for the Christmas season, but not in the US.  Not even in New England.

– Here’s a recipe for mincemeat crumble cake.

– The Helen M. Kelly Memorial Mince Pie has been in this family’s fridge since 1988.

Mince pie bao buns are for sale on Amazon Fresh UK.

– Parenthood won the best Thanksgiving TV dinner and the mincemeat pie had a lot to do with it.

– Grocery story Lidl has mince pie ice cream!

– A Dublin restaurant took the meat part of mincemeat too literally for Professor Darryl Jones.

– An American website had a similar meat problem with its mincemeat pie recipe.

– Try Queen Elizabeth’s royal recipe for mince pie. No meat included!

– If you’re ready to go absolutely medieval, try this mincemeat pie recipe that includes pork shoulder roast and bacon.

– And guess who has never tried mincemeat pie? I apologize in advance.

Holiday Recipe: Gingerbread

Gingerbread in pan fresh from the oven.

If you know me in person and see me around the holidays, you’ve probably had my homemade gingerbread.

This past week, a recent work project ended. I baked a couple of loaves and brought it in to thank the firm for the warm welcome.

This morning, I baked another loaf to bring for Thanksgiving dinner later today. Gingerbread has been my signature holiday dessert for over 20 years. At this point, it’s part of my identity. I bake gingerbread.

I first found the recipe in a magazine that my maternal grandmother gave me. It’s called Mother’s Gingerbread and is from the book  Cleora’s Kitchen. Over the years, I’ve adapted it. So it is somewhat different from the original.

It’s one of my favorite things to eat and most other people love it too. So I often give it as a gift. It’s easy to make and maybe you might like to bake it too. Here’s the recipe below.

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Gingerbread (makes 1 loaf)

INGREDIENTS:
1/2 cup butter (softened)
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup molasses
2 eggs
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
2 cups flour
1 cup hot/boiling water

INSTRUCTIONS:
Place parchment paper in loaf pan or grease pan with butter, then shake flour in pan until the pan is covered with flour. Dump out excess flour. Set oven to 350 degrees.

In large bowl, combine butter and sugar. Stir in molasses and eggs. Stir in cinnamon and ginger. Stir in baking powder and baking soda. Stir in flour. Stir in water. This should be a very liquid mixture.

Pour mixture into loaf pan. Depending upon your oven, and maybe the pan that you use, bake for 60 – 75 minutes. When the gingerbread is almost done, you should smell it. The scent is amazing! Sometimes I’ll bake it at night, so I can fall asleep to the wonderful aroma in the house.

Use a toothpick or fork, etc., to test it before removing from the oven. It should come out clean. If there is some liquid on it, then put back in the oven.

When it’s finally done, let cool for a few minutes. I usually wrap it in foil and store it in the fridge if I am keeping it. It’s great served warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

It can be frozen as well. Usually I make gingerbread to give away or bring someplace else, so I don’t refrigerate it. Just keep in foil and bring with you or package it well in order to mail. It will remain fresh and moist even in the mail for  2- 3 days. So choose your postage accordingly!

Happy Thanksgiving and all the best to you for this holiday season!