Tag Archives: Bluebird Grain Farms

Oh, the places you’ll go.

Horseback tasting tour with Cherry Wood Barn

Every once in a while, like when I’m watching the sun rise over Horse Heaven Hills in front of a fire and a mug of chai on a Thursday morning, it hits me, in what my friend Megan calls a Blinding Flash of the Obvious: my job rocks. In the past 36 hours, with Lara, the photographer for Dishing Up Washington, I drove 4 hours to Washington’s Methow Valley to tour Bluebird Grain Farms, weighing the risks of a wet harvest with owners Brooke and Sam Lucy. I had a smooth, fresh-squeezed juice at Glover Street Market, in Twisp, made with apples, pears, and ginger, followed by an honest, warming chicken curry that shook the rain out of my bones. We shuffled fresh cinnamon twisps, braided discs of puffy dough scattered with honey, hazelnuts, and cinnamon, to the benches outside the Cinnamon Twisp bakery, where they posed like pin-ups, proud of every one of their curves. That was the morning.

Nectarines at Tiny's Organic

Next, we meandered two hours southish, Gabrielle Hamilton‘s voice flowing out of the speakers. She told us about her odd, challenging childhood, and about the first time she beheaded a chicken, and about the time when she was preparing for an end-of-summer celebratory dinner at a summer camp for kids, when the counselors, in an altered state late one night, drowned 30 lobsters in fresh water. We listened until we pulled into Tiny’s Organic in East Wenatchee. There, we padded through the wet grass under apples with names like Hawaii and Honeycrunch and Golden Russet, listening to Greg McPherson, the farm’s owner, tell us about all his new apple varieties. He taught us that the blushing side of the apple is always the sweetest, where the sun hits it, and that sometimes the best place for chickens is an old RV.

RV chicken coop at Tiny's Organic

I sent photos of three different-colored tractors to G, back in Seattle, which apparently thrilled him. Then we drove, another 2 hours southeastish, to Prosser, one of the state’s best winemaking regions. We checked into Desert Wind Winery‘s southwestern-style inn, and tasted through their wine line-up over dinner at Mojave, the winery’s restaurant. There were chorizo-stuffed, proscuitto-wrapped prawns, and a salad dressing made from merlot seed oil and late harvest wine vinegar, and people, I could eat every single bite.

Barrels awaiting wine at Desert Wind Winery

Lara and I spent the next hour combing through the photo’s she’s taken thus far. There are photos of curious milking goats, and hungry piglets, and cows stampeding, shrouded in dust. There are my recipes, brought to life in Lara’s studio, and visual recordings of the people whose lives have made this state’s foodways so rich. I can’t wait for you to see it.

Today was work, too. First we hit Cherry Wood Bed, Breakfast, and Barn, to sniff out a great herb baked egg recipe. We had coffee next to the teepees before a trail ride through the vineyards and orchards of Zillah, Washington, to a tasting at Cultura Wine. Then we did a wine tasting at Gilbert Cellars, in Yakima, and, on the way home, in Ellensburg, took a spin through Rodeo City Bar-B-Q‘s menu, marveling that a restaurant could blanket its booths in a rodeo-themed fabric that seemed, somehow, completely right.

Then, finally, almost five hundred miles later, we came home. And tomorrow, a little baffled and whirlwinded, I’ll write.

I love this.

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Have your cake, and eat it too.

Whole Wheat Chocolate Rasp Cake 2

Here is my secret: I am having an affair with the United States Postal Service.

At least, that’s what it feels like. It’s very exciting. Every day around 2:30 p.m., I get a little jumpy, just waiting. Listening – for my dog, announcing the mail’s arrival – and pondering what might come through our front door that day. I feel a little guilty, knowing how much some people hate getting mail. I adore mail. Some days it’s just a box of contacts, or an oversized offer to Help China Become Christian, complete with one chopstick, to remind me that China is Different!. (Whose bright idea was it to just send one?)

But sometimes – the best times – there’s food in the mail. I delurk as soon as the door slams closed to snatch the box, and wonder if the way I wait counts as stalking.

Last week it was a bag of apples, picked from an orchard on Cape Cod, swaddled in mailing products, and storked to my door before the leaves had had a chance to dry out. There’s a tatin in their future. I can smell it.

whole grain cake flour

A couple days ago, something thrilling: whole grain cake flour, from a friend who knows I’m in the middle of a baking thing. She didn’t even know about Saturday’s failed muffins, or how much they disappointed me. (They puffed up, and up, and up, and into each other, and over the sides of the pan and onto the floor of the oven, then sunk into sad little mounds that refused to come out of the pans in one piece.) I’d just about written off my baking streak, until that flour came.

The thing is, I’m normally not all that excited about putting “whole wheat” and “cake” in the same sentence. Whole wheat cakes are tricky. They’re not like whole wheat cookies or muffins, which, in my opinion, do quite a decent job masquerading as their more traditional relatives. I mean, what all-purpose flour devotee would really turn down a whole wheat chocolate chip cookie, if it was oozing with still-melty Scharffen Berger? The disguise works. It’s quite possible to bake a really delicious cookie that has at least minor nutritional advantages.

Cakes, though. Cakes are different. Who jumps at a piece of healthy cake? I’ve had success enriching cakes – health-i-fying them, if you will – with whole wheat pastry flour, and to a certain extent, with white whole wheat flour, but I’d never had good luck using all whole wheat. Replace more than half of the flour in a featherweight lemon cake with basic whole wheat flour, and you’ve got one very lucky dog.

(By the by, cake flour is used for cakes because it is one of the “lightest” flours. It has less protein than all-purpose flour and bread flour, which means the final baked product isn’t as tough – but I bet you knew all that already.)

Anyway. I certainly hadn’t ever seen cake flour made with the wheat’s entire kernel – bran, germ, everything. (And did I mention it’s from Washington?)

Bluebird‘s cake flour didn’t look any different from others I’ve used – light and fluffy, just no swan on the package. I got to thinking about what sort of cake I wanted to dig into, and that big Trader Joe’s chocolate bar marched up onto the counter, blathering on about how I should make a cake I’d normally think of as heavy, since I had the advantage of a flour much lighter than the all-purpose stuff I normally use. So in went the chocolate, and the raspberries I froze last Friday. (So much for saving them for winter.)

Whole Wheat Chocolate Rasp Cake close 2

If I hadn’t made it myself, I wouldn’t have known this was anything but an easy stand-by, the kind of chocolate cake you whip up when company’s coming, and you want everyone to lick their plates, but you don’t have the energy for, say, tarte Tatin. I certainly wouldn’t have suspected all those B vitamins, either, but I guess sometimes you do get to have your cake and eat it, too.

And oh, yes, I’ve been eating it, even though there’s “whole wheat” in the name. Even my second piece of cake was worth sitting down for, so yesterday afternoon, I pulled up a chair.

(I can see the mailbox from here.)

Whole Wheat Chocolate Rasp Cake at table

Whole Wheat Chocolate Raspberry Cake (PDF)

Here’s a cake with a muffin’s serendipity – as in Oh, look! Another raspberry! – but the rich satisfaction of chocolate cake. Serve with whipped cream or deep chocolate ice cream.

In Seattle, you can find Bluebird Grain Farms’ products at PCC and Eat Local on Queen Anne. If you can’t find whole grain cake four, use regular cake flour.

TIME: 30 minutes active time
MAKES: One 9” square cake

Butter and flour, for the pan
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1 3” section vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (70% cacao), finely chopped
1 1/2 cups whole grain cake flour, or regular cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
1 cup lowfat buttermilk
2 large eggs
2 cups frozen raspberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9” square pan and set aside.

Place the butter in a small saucepan. Using a small, sharp knife, scrape the vanilla bean’s seeds into the butter. Add the bean itself, and melt the butter over low heat, stirring. Remove the vanilla beans, add the chocolate, remove from heat, and stir until smooth. Set aside.

Whisk the cake flour, baking powder, salt, and cocoa powder together in a small bowl and set side.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the sugar, buttermilk, and eggs together until will blended. Add the butter/chocolate mixture, and stir until blended. Using a soft spatula, fold the flour/cocoa mixture in, mixing just until incorporated. Stir in about 3/4 of the raspberries, then spread the batter in an even layer into the prepared pan.

Whole Wheat Chocolate Rasp Cake batter

Scatter the remaining raspberries on top, and bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until the cake tests clean with a toothpick, or is puffed and only just beginning to crack. (Do not overbake.) Let cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then serve warm.

Whole Wheat Chocolate Rasp Cake close 1

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