Recipe: Scottish Oat Cakes

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Scottish Oat Cakes with Smoked Salmon and Crème Fraîche

Weird Food Rule that Jenn lives by #1: Try to eat foods that humans have been eating for the past 200 years, at least, and try as best you can to eat “traditional” foods from your ancestral region of the world.

Weird Food Rules that Jenn lives by #2: Do this 80% of the time you eat.

Hey, it works for other animals, so why shouldn’t it work for us? We are animals after all. My small dogs do better eating dog food with animal products that they could easily catch in the wild – like fowl and poultry and their eggs (and as close to their natural state as possible). But, not so good on beef or venison. I know we can’t all be wild foragers, but it is good to keep this principle in mind when we choose our mainstay foods. I know I think I feel better when I do this as much as I can,  but I trust my dogs, because they don’t have the placebo effect.

Well it is no surprise to those of you who read my blog regularly that I am a huge fan of Mediterranean cuisine. I grew up in a primarily Southern Italian American family, eating lots of olive oil, garlic and tomato sauce. I love wine, olives, pita bread, hummus and cheese. In fact, quick meals are often comprised of many of these things. Antipasti, tapas and small plate eating is my favorite way to make a meal. These are all super healthy foods, that are a mainstay of my diet and will continue to be, because they are so darn good and good for you and well, super tasty. However, all my life, I have also had a strange love for other foods, from more colder climates. Things like salmon, brunost, wild game (especially those with antlers), lingonberries, blackberries, blueberries, seaweed, wild mushrooms, beets, turnips and sauerkraut. I find myself really CRAVING these foods. As well as other foods that can be found in both parts of the world like cheese, yogurt and other cultured dairy products.

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Preparing Dough for Oat Cakes

So it was interesting for me when I got the results of my DNA test to find out that I have 100% Northern European ancestry, with heavy British/Western Isles connections on all sides, and quite a lot of recent Scottish influx. So in my quest to fulfill more of my Weird Food Rule #1 combined with my quest to find a good cracker recipe, I decided to try making Scottish oat cakes. People of the Western and Northern Isles in Europe have been eating oats and porridge for quite a long time. Oatmeal is good for us, and so I thought this would be a good recipe to experiment with.

It really and truly is a great recipe. It covers all my requirements – significantly more oats than flour, no white flour, holds up well with a pre-soak of the oats and flour – and works really well with buttermilk as the pre-soaking agent.

Buttermilk is an amazing liquid, and extremely easy to make. It is what raw milk becomes when it sours, like yogurt sours (DISCLAIMER: DO NOT try this with pasteurized milk, it ROTS, as opposed to sours, due to the lack of beneficial bacteria and is not safe to drink). Buttermilk is a actually a probiotic food. Even those who are lactose intolerant can generally consume it, since the healthy bacteria makes it easier to digest. I have been making cultured buttermilk (by using store bought milk and a powdered culture) regularly for the past several months. Buttermilk uses are many: pancakes, biscuits, bread, cakes, muffins, and of course these oat cakes. It makes all of these baked goodies nice and tender and airy. I have even drunk buttermilk straight from the glass, on occasion in lieu of kefir and it works well in smoothies, too.

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Scottish Oat Cakes with Cheddar Cheese and Brunost

These oatcakes are a great vehicle to serve with cheese – I like brunost, Roberto like cheddar. Also good with homemade crème fraîche and smoked salmon, even salami. Or you could try butter and jam or raw honey for a sweet treat! :)

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Brunello Aperitivo

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Brunello di Montalcino is a very special wine variety made in the Tuscany region of Italy. It is known the world over as being a very good wine. Our friends Erin and Chris, who lived for a year in Florence, had a bottle that they wanted to share with us. They had fond memories of a night in Florence that they spent with friends savoring a bottle of this wine, and wanted to spend another evening like that with us! So of course we were game and very excited to taste wine from a very different bracket than what we are used to.

Since they were bringing such a nice bottle, I offered to find some tasty morsels to go along with the wine, so we could have a proper Aperitivo – or the Italian version of Happy Hour! If you would like to learn more about Aperitivo, please check out Ms. Adventures in Italy. Sarah has a great passion for Aperitivo and has great tips on how you can have your own – or where to go for the best ones in her hometown of Milano!

I knew this was a special wine, so I enlisted the help of a professional to come up with food ideas to compliment it. With the help of my buddy, Vince DiPiazza (no known relation – though I am sure there is one somehow, not many of us DiPiazza’s in the world) from D’Italia – an online specialty store of food products from Italy, we came up with a menu of aperitivi, or small plates:

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Variety of cheeses of different flavor profiles served with Rosemary Grissini and Garbanzo Crackers

Parmigiano-Reggiano is Italy’s most famous cheese, known as Parmesan in the English language. We know it well as a cheese for grating on top of pasta. However, if you eat it in cubes, it is a whole other experience. The cheese is made from raw cow’s milk, it is then put into a brine bath for 20-25 days to absorb salt, and then aged for 12 months. My favorite part (and Erin’s too) are the little crunchies you get in a good Parmigiano – the crunchies are bits of crystallized salt.

Morbier is a raw cow’s milk cheese from France. It is a Gruyère-like cheese with a vein of ash running through its middle. The two layers of the cheese originally came from two milkings, one in the morning and one in the evening, over it with a protective thin layer of tasteless ash, both to prevent it from both drying out and to keep away the flies. The next day, they would add the leftover curd from the morning milking and production. The result was a two-layered cheese.

Goat Fromage Blanc is from a batch of the pasteurized goat milk cheese that I made recently. I added some basil and a little dried dill – as well as a few sun-dried tomatoes (Vince said they pair well with Brunello) stirred in.

Cabot Seriously Sharp Cheddar is one of our favorite cheeses, and we decided to add it at the last minute. It never tastes the same from one batch to the next. It is the cheese variety that Cabot used to sell to hunters and truckers…on their way out of town. Chris said it tasted like ham to him, which as a vegetarian, was a weird experience. This cheese is amazing paired with a sweet bread and butter style pickle.

Miscellaneous Treats

Sautéed Mushrooms
Hummus
Assorted Nuts
Assorted Olives
Pickles

Dessert

French Truffles
Chocolate covered mint cremes

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The Tasting :

When Erin and Chris arrived we opened the bottle to give it about 20 minutes to breathe. We decided to do the tasting in two stages, the first without food, and then one with food. We each had a piece of paper and a pen. We spent about 5-10 minutes sniffing and tasting the wine, and individually writing our impressions of both the nose and the taste without sharing.

NOSE:

Erin: cheese – brie, sweet chocolate, metal
Chris: robust, dank – wet wood or earth, finishes smoky
Roberto: cherries
Jenn: woody, tannins, blackberry/cherry

TASTE:

Erin: milk chocolate, cheddar, old smoke – like what your clothes smell like after a BBQ or fire
Chris: pungent, truffles, finishes with citrus (mild burn, fruity end) and something like ginger, but not quite ginger
Roberto: old fermenting cherries, blueberry and ends with citrus
Jenn: black pepper, herbal/smoky, cherry

After we shared our observations, we found it interesting that both the guys had noticed a citrus end, while the ladies had both noticed a smoky taste. Is it coincidence, or do males and females taste wine differently?

Once we headed over to the food, and had a second glass with food, we all agreed that the wine tasted much sweeter, and it was at that point that Erin and I noticed a bit of a citrus taste.

It was a really fun night. I can’t say that I have ever really enjoyed wine in this way, and I think it is a really great way to spend the evening with friends. We decided we had so much fun, that we definitely need to do it again, with different wines and food pairings.

Goat Fromage Blanc with Garbanzo Crackers

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Well I have been up to a little kitchen experimentation, lately. First I wanted to tackle another batch of Fromage Blanc made with goat milk. The last time I made it , after draining it for 12 hours, I gave the cheese cloth a bit of a heavy handed squeeze which resulted in a dry and crumbly sort of cheese. I liked it. It was good for stirring in eggs and other dishes. However this time I was hoping to yield a softer more spreadable cheese. Basically I followed the same procedure as last time , except that I used pasteurized goat milk, instead of raw, let the cheese drain for about 15 hours (instead of 12) and did not squeeze the bag. It came out perfectly! Wonderful and creamy and perfect to spread on crackers…except there were no crackers!

That was an easy fix. I have been wanting to play with some of the recipes from Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day: 100 New Recipes Featuring Whole Grains, Fruits, Vegetables, and Gluten-Free Ingredients. Jeff and Zoe, along with Monica from their publishing company, St. Martin’s Press, are generously hosting 2 months of giveaways of this book on Foodieblogroll.com! I was lucky enough to receive a copy of the book from Monica and really wanted to get baking. I was particularly interested in the gluten-free breads. So I was delighted to find a gluten free version of the Olive Oil bread, I use so often from their first book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking. The gluten free recipe called for soy flour, and I have a soy sensitivity and I didn’t have rice flour on hand either. So I decided to make a modified version, using what I had available – since I really wanted to enjoy some cheese & crackers.

These crackers are not gluten free, but what I call transitional crackers. Although you could make them gluten free by using rice flour in place of the WW flour. I used kefir and raw apple cider vinegar to soak local whole wheat Vermont flour – from a farm we visited in Vermont this fall and then used garbanzo bean flour to cut down on some of the grains in this cracker. The garbanzo bean flour had a very strong smell and so I really wasn’t sure how it would turn out if I used exclusively garbanzo flour. I used over half of the dough to make crackers, and then used the other part to make a small loaf of bread. The bread was not great, but the crackers were wonderful! The bean flavor in the flour really complimented the nice crispy crackers. Here is my recipe inspired by both Gluten- Free Olive Oil Bread and Gluten-Free Cheddar and Sesame Crackers from Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day.

Seedy Garbanzo Crackers (NOT Gluten-free)

INGREDIENTS:

1 ½ TBS yeast

1 TBS sea salt

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tsp raw apple cider vinegar

2 large organic eggs

½ cup of homemade kefir

2 cups filtered water

3 cups whole wheat flour

3 cups garbanzo bean flour

½ cup corn starch

Cracker toppings: seeds: white or black sesame, fennel, flax, etc, salt, za’atar spice or any other spices or dried herbs you like.

METHOD:

1) Whisk together flours, cornstarch, yeast and salt, and put in a large lidded bowl.

2) Combine all the liquid ingredients and gradually mix with the dry ingredients using a spoon, or 14 cup food processor.

3) Cover (not airtight) and allow the dough to rest at room temperature for at least2 hours, but better for those with grain intolerance, to let it rest for 12 hours and up to 24 hours.

4) The dough can be used immediately after its initial rise or you can refrigerate in the lidded container and use it over the next 7 days. The flavor will be better if you wait for at least 24 hours of refrigeration.

On Baking Day:

1) Thirty minutes before baking time preheat the oven to 400 F.

2) Cut off an orange sized piece of dough, place dough on a piece of parchment paper or a silicone mat. Then cover with more parchment paper or plastic wrap. Use a rolling pin and roll until you have a 1/16th inch rectangle. Peel off the top layer or wrap or paper, and place the dough on top of the paper or mat onto baking sheet.

3) Using a pizza cutter gently score the dough into the shape you want the crackers (be careful not to cut the silicone mat, if that is what you are using).

4) Just before baking, using a pastry brush, paint the dough with water and sprinkle the top with black and toasted sesame seeds, salt and za’atar spice.

5) Bake for 15 minutes, or until crackers are golden brown. Allow them to cool before eating.

6) Serve with fromage blanc!

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