A good resolution to start the new year, is to inspect the ingredients in your kitchen for freshness!
Another year is on the horizon. I had thought surely, by now, I’d have no need of resolutions, but…
When I was younger, I followed recipes faithfully. Yet too often, results, though probably good enough, didn’t quite rise to expectations. I was never very sure why. I remember thinking that the difference might be the beautiful Waterford bowls in which Mother served her soup. Other times I suspected folks of modifying a recipe slightly, holding back a secret ingredient.
Long experience, however, and science class have taught me to respect variables.
We can easily see that the quality of fruits and vegetables, meat and fish, will definitely affect our outcomes. But those neatly alphabetized jars of dried herbs and ground spices? Surely not!
In my early days, I stocked the spice cabinet with everything I could find. Little heard of this and that. I would be at the ready! Of course, I didn’t realize that herbs and spices, all bright and glowy, were at their peak and losing spunk by the day. And there’s the matter of varying qualities as well. Perfectionists grow and preserve their own herbs and grind their own spices. (If you do nothing else, rasp your own nutmeg. It’s truly as different from pre-ground as freshly grated Parmesan is from pre-grated or even – the horror! – boxed)!
Of course, we know about the vast difference between maple syrup and maple-flavored goop But eggs? The fresher the better! Does this make a difference in recipes? Actually, yes.
And milk. And cream. Oh yes. And the quality of butter? Unsalted. Cultured. Check that date!
We’re on a roll here!
Oils! A spectacular variation in types and tastes and purposes and best before dates. That learning curve is a wild and crazy ride!
Yeast! Yeast is a reliable friend, but if taken for granted, it will disappoint. Store in an airtight container, preferably in your freezer and keep an eye on that best before date!
And then there’s flour. I have suspected flour for awhile now. Baker’s, I’m told, even take the temperature of their flour to compensate if it is below the ideal 8o degrees. And the stuff ages! It’s time to discard that flour you’ve had since you got married and always intended to turn into something astonishing before you thought gluten free might be the answer to all your dreams.
And white flour isn’t just white flour. Never mind the variations of whole wheat, barley, rye, spelt... There is bleached and unbleached, cake, pastry, bread, all-purpose, and the trendy Italian 00, reputedly the best for making pizza. This is starting to sound a bit like a college course might be required!
At this point, I didn’t know much, but I knew that I didn’t know much and that was a firm step in the right direction. It was time to visit a new player in the flour game in town – Homestead Organics. I didn’t have high hopes because I was giddily headed toward Italian 00 flour just then, but in the spirit of science, I knew I had to give them a whirl. There was a strapping young man there who spoke to me in a new language. He patiently listened to me go on about gluten and protein levels, and then told me that they use the “falling number” of flour. I had never heard of such a thing. So I bought a bag of all-purpose, went home, stirred up a batch of dough for the purpose of comparison, made a cup of tea and googled all I could google about falling flour, although they obviously know what they’re doing because that flour made up a batch of the finest dough I’ve ever cobbled together! Oh the pizzas and baguettes! I’m telling you!
These folks are local, they’re friendly, and they may well provide an essential piece of my lifelong quest of how to make a recipe not only as good as the original, but the very best it can be.
At New Year’s (not that evening but within days) I resolve to check for the freshness and quality of herbs and spices, yeast and flour, as the year rolls over, discarding those stalwart ingredients which have passed their prime. I also resolve to become more judicious and discriminating when deciding on the quantity and source of purchases.
Moving forward! It’s a brand new year!
If you have some fresh milk, and eggs, and butter and flour, I suggest you make a double batch of these crepes. A stack in your freezer is an excellent insurance policy. Separate crepes for freezing with waxed paper to easily portion when needed. Makes a handy quick breakfast if you are a bit bleary-eyed and have guests, or an emergency dessert, quickly reheated and flapped around a spoon of ice cream, dashed with an artsy drizzle of chocolate sauce!
1 cup all-purpose flour – preferably that remarkable all purpose from Homestead Organics
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter, melted
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and the eggs. Gradually add in the milk and water, stirring to combine. Add the salt and butter; beat until smooth.
Heat a lightly buttered griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto a medium heated griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each crepe. Tilt the pan with a circular motion so that the batter coats the surface evenly. You’ll get a feel for it. Thin is your goal. Cook the crepe for about 2 minutes, until the bottom is light brown. Loosen with a spatula, turn and cook the other side. Serve hot or cool to stack and freeze.
Happy New Year! May your recipes be delightful and your ingredients at their peak!