We have a really happy Nagami Kumquat Tree that lives in a big pot on our patio. It provides beautiful tiny fruit every year in early summer. Bill recently harvested the abundant fruit. Kumquats are considered a super-fruit, filled with anti-oxidants. I thought I’d try making jam for the first time ever. I found the most wonderful recipe. I revised it and have included it below. I cut back on sugar by two-thirds. We are so glad I did because the jam is so flavorful. We are going to make another batch!
The Nagami Kumquat Tree is simple to grow because it’s drought-tolerant, and pest and disease resistant. Instead of the pulp, the sweetest part of the fruit is actually the peel. That is why I decided to keep the chopped peel in my jam. Having a candy thermometer made it so easy.
Recipe for Kumquat Jam:
Ingredients: 3 cups of chopped, deseeded kumquats (save the seeds; see why below) + 6 cups of water + 3 cups of sugar (try to use less white/less processed sugar)
Chop up kumquats, collecting seeds in a small bowl. You will be placing the seeds into a small food safe mesh or cheesecloth bag. I used a large unbleached teabag that one can use for steeping loose tea in a pot. The seeds work such magic! They contain pectic, which allows the jam to set naturally. Place the chopped kumquats and water in a heavy pot on the kitchen counter. Let the seeds hang into the kumquats and water and place the lid on to keep the top of the bag of seeds from submerging. I soaked the seeds in the pot for about 20 hours. You want to soak for at least 8 hours, but longer is more effective.
Remove the bag after soaking and squeeze all liquid into pot. Slowly bring kumquats and water to a boil, then stir and reduce heat to simmer for about 20 minutes.
Then stir in sugar, bringing contents of pot to a rolling boil for 30 to 45 minutes. You need to boil the mixture until it reaches the setting point (220F or 105C on your candy thermometer).
Rinse your glass jars with boiling water and ladle jam into jars. We planned to eat the jam within a couple of weeks, so we let the jam cool and then covered with little dishes and placed in refrigerator. This jam is good on toast, yogurt, or between two layer of a cake with cream.
We discovered this most satisfying dish in the Treasurer’s House Café in York, England. We’ve recently learned that the recipe was the creation of English Girl Guides (the Girl Scouts of England) who came up with the recipe during World War II rationing. They might not have used butter in their pastry, as butter was rationed to just half a stick per person every four weeks. Cheese was rationed at 2-8 oz per person every four weeks. When we eat homity pie in our Los Angeles kitchen, it immediately takes us back to the cozy basement café at the Treasurer’s House, which sits in the shadows of York Minster. My ancestors, Francis and Sarah Elwess, who were farmers, emigrated from Yorkshire to the United States in 1857.
Homity Pie Recipe
Place a whole-wheat pastry (see recipe below) in the bottom of a pastry pan
Boil a little less than a pound (4-5 medium size) of unpeeled baby red potatoes (or you can substitute or combine with peeled sweet potatoes). After cooked, drain, and let them cool.
In a frying pan or iron skillet, gently heat up olive oil and a spoon of good salted butter until golden brown, and then… Add: one large or two small onions, chopped up; 4-5 garlic gloves minced. When they have lightly browned, add a spoon of onion marmalade (we have found Stonewall Kitchen makes a delicious one in a jar).
In the meantime:
Slice very thin or shred some good white cheddar cheese. Chop up ¼ cup of fresh parsley.
Now cut up potatoes in small chunks.
Layer Potatoes, Onion Mixture, and Parsley in pastry shell. Place some slices of cheese on top.
Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes, then lower temperature to 350 degrees and bake for 30 minutes longer, until pastry and cheese are golden brown.
Let cool a bit and then serve in slices. It is also delicious served cold in lunchboxes.
Whole –wheat pastry:
1 ½ cups whole wheat pastry flour (a few spoons of ground flaxseed adds delicious flavor & texture)
Pinch of salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, slightly softened
4 tablespoons or so of cold water
Use food processor or pastry blender to cut butter into flour until mixture resembles coarse meal or very tiny peas. Sprinkle water over the flour and mix lightly with a fork, using only enough water to allow you to gently form pastry into a ball. You can wrap the ball in parchment or baggy and store in the refrigerator while you prepare the other ingredients. Or you may store for a few days until you are ready to assemble your pie. You will then roll out the pastry onto a floured surface (we like to roll pastry out on parchment paper). Then place in a tart pan to await the delicious filling.
From Pamela: Natalie came to the rescue of low spirits. For teatime, she baked a Dutch Baby Oven Pancake (plain and sliced apple is common, this one is with ricotta cheese). It helped our spirits.
From Natalie: This is how to make a simple Dutch Baby Oven Pancake. Iron skillet works magnificently. I melted a little less than a stick of butter in a large cast-iron skillet in the oven while it preheated to 425 degrees. In another bowl, I whisked together four room-temperature eggs, one cup of whole wheat pastry flour, one cup of organic whole milk (cream top vs. homogenized), and a half-cup of brown sugar. Then, I poured the batter into the melted butter (this time I spooned ricotta cheese into the middle but it is not necessary) and I popped it in the oven for 23 minutes. The pancake will puff up in glorious fashion and then the puff will suddenly unpuff into a delightfully delicious, easy to cut teatime or breakfast or dessert treat. Yummy with jam or applesauce or maple syrup.
I have finally figured out my sourdough baking regimen. Dare I say, perfected it? I think not (note the title of this post), but I am happy enough with my routine that I’d like to share it with any aspiring sourdough bakers seeking inspiration, encouragement, or reassurance.
As I explained in Part 1 of this post, my household acquired a new member at the outset of the pandemic: Stan the sourdough starter. Stan’s appearance in our lives was prompted by the concern that we would not be able to obtain bread while in COVID-19 lockdown; we take bread very seriously in our house. So we ordered a dehydrated sourdough starter from Cultures for Health. After a week of daily feedings (flour and water) the starter was activated and ready to be used. (As an alternative to ordering a dehydrated starter, you can adopt some of a friend’s or begin a starter from scratch.)
A Couple Notes
Before we go any further, I must make two important points regarding (1) sourdough “discard” and (2) kitchen tools.
(1) DISCARD: Every time you feed your starter, it grows exponentially. Not only are you adding flour and water; once fed, the starter produces gas leading it to double in volume. So, the only way to keep your starter a manageable size is to “discard” some of it before each feeding. There are a few ways to “discard”: you can compost the excess starter, put it in the garbage, or (my favorite!) use it in baked goods. More on this later.
(2) TOOLS: I am an old-fashioned baker. Generally speaking, I’m happy with the simplest of kitchen tools: bowl, spoon, knife, measuring spoons and cups, etc. However, when it comes to sourdough baking, there are two gadgets I could not do without: a food scale and instant-read thermometer. These are affordable ($30 total) essentials you will come to love!
Once Stan the starter was active—happily bubbling within a few hours of feedings—I put 60 grams in a small glass container and tucked it away in the fridge. One evening (DAY 1), after about a week, I pull him out, transfer him into a larger jar, and feed him. The feeding formula is: equal quantities by weight starter, flour, water. I keep 60g starter, so that means stirring in 60g flour and 60g water. Stan then spends the night on the counter.
In the morning(DAY 2), I divide Stan three ways (this is when the food scale is so helpful!). I remove 38g to get a levain going (see below); this eventually will join a mixture of flour, water, and salt to become two delicious loaves of bread. Of the remaining starter, 60g goes back in the fridge for the following week. This leaves me with about 80g “discard,” which I feed (equal parts water and flour) so I can use it later to make a batch of scones. What I love so much about this routine is that I don’t waste any starter!
RECIPES:Bread & Scones
BREAD: I use Maurizio Leo’s Beginner’s Sourdough Bread, from his website The Perfect Loaf. (Yes, I know it’s ironic I source my recipe from a website called “The Perfect Loaf” given that—as explained in Part 1 of this post—I’m using sourdough baking to embrace imperfection. But what would life be without irony?) The recipe below is Maurizio’s, paraphrased and very lightly edited; all I have done is simplify it for readers who, like myself, prefer to keep things short and sweet in the kitchen.
Make your levain: Mix together in a jar 37g sourdough starter, 37g whole wheat flour, 37g bread flour, 74g water. Store somewhere warm for 5–6 hours. The levain is the agent responsible for making your bread dough rise.
4 hours later: With your hands, mix together in a large bowl 748g bread flour, 159g whole wheat flour, 641g warm water. Cover the bowl and store next to your levain for 1 hour.
NOTE: Sourdough is MESSY. Flour and water congeal into a glue-like substance that is truly a pain to clean up. I find it helpful to keep a basin of cold water at the ready. Yes, cold water; warm water causes gluten to develop and just makes things stickier. After the above mixing step, your hands will be covered in dough. Rinse them off in the basin. Also toss all utensils into the cold water so the dough residue doesn’t dry out (making clean-up all the more impossible).
1 hour later: Add to the flour and water mixture levain, 18g sea salt, ~50g warm water. Only add enough water to mix everything together with your hands.
Bulk fermentation for 4 hours: Perform 3 sets of stretch and folds during bulk fermentation, spaced out by 30 mins. “Wet your hands with a little water to prevent sticking and then lift up one side (North) of the dough with two hands. Stretch the dough up high enough just so that you can fold it completely over to the other side of the dough in the bowl. Rotate the bowl 180° and do the other side (South). Finish the other two sides (East and West) to complete the set. Let the dough rest 30 minutes, covered, between sets. After that third set of stretch and folds, let the dough rest for the remainder of bulk fermentation.”
SCONES: At this point, while the dough is fermenting, it’s time to bake scones! I follow this recipe from Bake from Scratch. (The 1 cup sourdough starter called for is exactly how much you set aside in the morning.) It’s quick and easy; you’ll be pulling a tray of freshly baked scones out of the oven within the hour. A delightful prospect, no?
After bulk fermentation: Lightly flour a work surface and dump out the dough (it should have risen 20–50% during bulk fermentation). Cut the dough in half. “[T]urn each half of dough on the counter while lightly pulling the dough towards you. This gently turning and pulling motion will develop tension on the top of the dough forming a round circle.” Let the dough rest for 25 mins. Then, shape each circle into a boule (round loaf) according to the video below.
After shaping, place boule seam-side-up into a towel-lined kitchen bowl lightly dusted with flour. Cover the bowls, rest on the counter for 20 minutes, then put into the refrigerator for 16 hours.
The next afternoon (DAY 3), after the loaves have been in the fridge for 16 hours: Preheat your oven to 450°F, with a Dutch oven (e.g. Le Creuset) inside. Remove one loaf from the fridge and flip it onto a cutting board. Score with a knife.
Remove your Dutch oven (careful, it’s hot!) and sprinkle with some cornmeal; this will prevent the bottom of your loaf from burning. Place your loaf inside the Dutch oven, and bake covered for 20 minutes. Then bake uncovered for 30 minutes. Bread is done when your thermometer reads over 208°F. Repeat with second loaf. Let each cool for at least 1 hour before cutting!
Bon appétit! Time to slather a thick slice of your homemade sourdough with butter and devour no less than half the loaf in one sitting. Ready to give it a try? I have attempted to make this post thorough but not overwhelming. As such, I’ve left out a few details. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to get in touch in the comments or via email (TwoInTheWorld@hotmail.com). I will do my best to assist!
Shortly after the pandemic began, my household acquired a new member: Stan the sourdough starter. Stan’s appearance in our lives was prompted by the concern that we would not be able to obtain bread while in COVID-19 lockdown; we take bread very seriously in our house. So we ordered a dehydrated starter, and after a week of daily feedings (flour and water), Stan was happily bubbling away. It was time to bake bread.
But the process of turning flour, water, and salt into a beautiful golden-brown loaf is a deceptively complex process. If you look up “sourdough” in the dictionary, the definition should read “capricious.” I have struggled with the pernicious demon known as perfectionism for years. At this point, I can keep my perfectionist tendencies in check most of the time—writing essays remains a glaring exception—but sourdough baking threatened to cause a flare-up. Nonetheless, I screwed up my courage, donned my apron, and decided I would not let Stan cow me into inaction.
After baking my first couple loaves, I decided the only way I could forge onward was to eschew perfection. Many an imperfect—but still delicious—sourdough loaf has followed. They’ve been a little flatter, a little denser, a little smaller than I would have liked. But that’s okay. This process of embracing imperfection has reminded me of a column I wrote for my college newspaper as a sophomore, back in 2016. In the coming days, I will write another post sharing my sourdough recipe/regimen; but first, some philosophical reflection to get any prospective bakers reading this in the right frame of mind….
“I must admit it: I am a perfectionist.
That doesn’t mean I’m perfect (far from it), but it does mean that I spend hours hunched over my desk, poring over draft after scribbled draft of every essay, confirming that each comma is in the right place, that ‘posit’ is the better word than ‘claim,’ that my ideas fit together logically and smoothly like gears in an intricate machine.
I know I’m not alone when I say that high school groomed me to think of perfection as the pathway to success. A’s paved the way to college, a good job, and implicitly, to fulfillment. Therefore, every misplaced comma, every ‘claim’ instead of ‘posit,’ and every squeaky idea was a potential obstacle between me and my future happiness.
More and more, though, I’m coming to realize not only that perfection is unattainable (duh, you might think), but also that perfectionism is not necessarily a means to success. In fact, we should regard the concept of success itself with a healthy dose of skepticism.
After all, what does it mean to be successful? This is, of course, an enormously broad question with which many of us will grapple for the rest of our lives. I have no intention of suggesting a concrete definition; rather, I’m proposing that we have all been culturally ingrained with such an intense fear of failure that we cling to success by any means necessary, even when doing so is no longer fulfilling.
The United States is by no means unique in this regard, but the fact is that our national consciousness is built upon entrepreneurship, individualism, and achieving one’s dreams. I could point to any number of examples as evidence of our collective aversion to failure, but I find critics’ reception of two films, both released about a year ago [in 2015], particularly illuminating.
Spotlight, directed by Tom McCarthy, recounts The Boston Globe’s investigation of child abuse in the Catholic Church. It received the Academy Award for best picture and was lauded by critics, including Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post. Hornaday claimed, ‘It’s not a stretch to suggest that Spotlight is the finest newspaper movie of its era, joining Citizen Kane and All the President’s Men in the pantheon of classics of the genre.’
Truth, on the other hand, which traces the fall of Mary Mapes (Cate Blanchett) and Dan Rathers (Robert Redford) from CBS following a flawed investigation of George W. Bush’s time in the Air National Guard, was received with disappointment, and even disdain. Directed by James Vanderbilt, the film was not universally criticized—Stephen Holden of The New York Times called it ‘a gripping, beautifully executed journalistic thriller’—but overall, reactions to the film were unenthusiastic. The Atlantic’s review was titled ‘Truth: A Terrible, Terrible Movie About Journalism.’
Why such different receptions of two well-made, intelligent, suspenseful (I thought) films? The answer is no doubt multi-layered, but I think success has much to do with it. Scott concludes his review of Spotlight by writing, ‘Everything in this movie works, which is only fitting, since its vision of heroism involves showing up in the morning and … doing the job.’
Spotlight is about ‘heroism,’ about success. But in Truth, the most qualified and well-meaning individuals fail. They make mistakes. And we as a culture find that profoundly disturbing.
Now, I’m not claiming that the mistakes made by Mapes’ team were insignificant. They used documents of questionable authenticity in their rush to arrive at ‘truth.’ Indeed, in this case a more perfectionist attitude would have served them well. But I do think that the contrasting receptions of these two films reflect our cultural aversion to failure, whether it be others’ failure or our own.
So I urge you to get in the habit of asking yourself what success means. Is a successful paper one that gets an A—the ‘perfect’ paper—or one that pushes you to think differently? Is the ‘top’ position a successful one if you’re not happy? Is fear of failure preventing you from pursuing a dream?”
It may seem odd to juxtapose sourdough baking with two 2015 journalistic thrillers… But I hope these thoughts on (im)perfection might inspire some of you to take the plunge and give sourdough baking a try. Your first loaf may not be perfect—you might even consider it a failure—but that’s okay! Stay tuned for my sourdough recipe, to be posted here in the coming days.
It turns out after knowing my husband Bill for 35 years, I (along with Natalie) have only recently learned that he is an amazing pancake chef. We wake up thinking about his pancakes. One night last weekend, I told him I was in the mood for his pancakes and guess what? Yes!! We ate pancakes at 10 pm, after watching a good movie. Any left-over pancakes are delicious to have with afternoon tea/coffee or for dessert with a smear of jam. Pancakes can be left out on a plate for one day on the counter, unless it is a hot summer day. Pancakes made with yogurt instead of buttermilk, olive oil instead of butter, topped with maple syrup and with a side of excellent applesauce, are uplifting for both tastebuds and spirits. Recipe below:
up to 1 1/2 cup of plain whole milk yogurt
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 cup wholewheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon natural sugar cane sugar
pinch of salt
Stir dry ingredients in bowl. Mix wet ingredients in a separate bowl, then add to dry ingredients. Bill drops a small dollop of olive oil on our iron skillet, then wipes the dollop to lightly oil the skillet. Bring the skillet up to a medium-low heat. You know it’s ready when you flick some drops of cold water onto the skillet and they burble and dance around. Take a soup spoon of batter and plop onto skillet. It will melt into proper shape. Wait for bubbles to appear on top side, and then check bottom for lightly browned color. Flip. Wait a minute or two, then jiggle the top of the pancake with edge of spatula. If top doesn’t wiggle side to side separate from bottom, the pancake is ready. Caution: Monitor the bottom layer for over-browning, rotating and sometimes flipping pancakes an extra time or two to make sure pancakes are perfect.
I love reading. I read every day. I actually don’t feel good if a day goes by without at least a little reading.
I cook every day. Some people think I love cooking. But I don’t think I really love cooking. I think I love eating. I cook good food so that I can eat it. What I love about cooking is that I can choose ingredients I love to eat. So I read books about food and cooking.
Some years ago, I cut out and kept an article titled “Breeding the Nutrition Out of Our Food” and I stuck it into one of my cookbooks. I have read it a number of times since. The article was written by Jo Robinson, the author of “Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health.”
I learned from Jo Robinson how “we’ve reduced the nutrients and increased the sugar and starch content of hundreds of fruits and vegetables.” Corn is the best example of this. Here is a story about corn that is both fascinating and shocking:
White kerneled corn “was born” in 1836, the creation of Noyes Darling whose goal was to create a sweet, all white variety without “the disadvantage of being yellow.” He succeeded.
But the story becomes strange and more than a little disturbing. Supersweet corn was born in a cloud of radiation. Beginning in the 1920’s, geneticists exposed corn seeds to radiation to learn more about the normal arrangement of plant genes. The corn seeds were exposed to X-rays, toxic compounds, cobalt radiation, and then, in the 1940’s, to blasts of atomic radiation. Then the seeds were stored in a seed bank for use in research. In 1959, John Laughnan, a geneticist who was studying some of the no-longer-radioactive seeds, decided to pop a few into his mouth. He couldn’t believe how sweet they were. Lab tests confirmed they were 10 times sweeter than ordinary sweet corn. The radiation had turned the corn into a sugar factory.
Mr. Laughnan realized people would love extra-sweet corn and he spent years developing commercial varieties of this corn. In 1961, he began selling his first hybrids. And within one generation, the new extra-sugary varieties were selling more than the older varieties. Today, most of the corn in our grocery stores is extra-sweet. The sweetest ones contain 40 percent sugar. The disadvantage of white corn is that it lacks nutrients. If you want more nutrients in your corn: choose corn with deep yellow kernels. It has 60 times more beta-carotene, which turns into Vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A helps vision and the immune system. When baking, try blue, red or purple cornmeal.
While you are at it: Eat some scallions, aka green onions, which Jo Robinson calls “jewels of nutrition.” The green part is more nutritious than the white part, so use the whole plant. I’ve discovered I LOVE green onions cooked with mushrooms. I slice up an entire bunch of green onions and cook them with mushrooms in a generous amount of olive oil and a dollop of lightly salted butter. Sourdough toast or brown rice is a wonderful accompaniment.