Almost everything we bake, brew cook or ferment contains one or more microbes. Bacteria, yeasts, fungus and other fermented products that already contain microbes (like miso, milk kefir, and vinegar) work exceptionally well in and with baked goods.
Even if you set aside the yeasts common in bread baking, we almost always use shio-koji instead of salt, milk kefir or amasake instead of milk, and often lacto-fermented fruits,vegetables and even grains in baking.
Muffins and tea breads are basically are usually the same batter baked in different size baking pans. Obviously a bigger pan means a longer baking time, maybe 45 minutes as opposed to 30 minutes at 350F for the 8 big muffins that this recipe makes.
Our rules of muffin making as well as tea breads are simple.
The batter should be just barely mixed
The batter should be on the wetter side
Never fill a pan more than two thirds full
Add 1 tsp baking soda with the dry ingredients
Mix ins like nuts go with dry ingredients
Fruits and/or flavored essences or sauces go with wet stuff
Don’t mix in wet fruits or ferments until the end if color maters
Let muffin batter rest and puff up before spooning into cups
The recipe for these muffins pretty much follow the standard muffin ratio that every baker has memorized. Butter by weight equals sugar by weight. That combined weight is the weight of the flour. It’s also the weight in whatever measurement system you are using in liquid. In most cases add-ins like nuts or berries should never exceed in volume the sugar or flour volume.
Because we add a fermented or microbe inclusive ingredient to our baked goods – typically of a lower, acidic pH – we always add baking soda with the powder. Sourdough leavened muffins follow a different procedure based on bakers ratios that we’ll explain in another post.
8 ounces or 1 1/2 cups or 236 grams all purpose flour or other
4 ounces or 1/2 cup coconut palm sugar or other
2 tsp baking powder
4.3 ounces or 1 cup or 124 grams roasted chopped walnuts
3.1 ounces or 1/2 cup or 90 grams bittersweet chocolate chips/chunks
1.2 ounces or 2 TB or 32 grams shio-koji (or 1 tsp salt)
8 ounces or 3/4 cup or 230 grams rice amasake (or nut or dairy milk)
1 TB vanilla (or chocolate extract or mirin or soy sauce)
4.5 ounces or 2 extra large or 126 grams eggs (or two vegan eggs)
5 ounces or 1/2 cup or 156 grams dark maple syrup
4 ounces or 1/2 cup or 112 grams roasted walnut oil (or butter/oil)
Preheat oven to 350F.
Have bottom shelf ready for one or two muffin tins.
Prepare the tins with grease or just paper linings.
We are having our last #KojiFest2019 event and the first #Zymes2020 event at Fifth Hammer Brewing in Long Island City on December 16th, 2019. You must pre-register for the event.
In the meantime, we will be publishing this 16 part series about how to make koji and extract it’s enzymes, and how to use what the koji is made on – a substrate – directly in brewing or baking or miso or sauce making.
You can also use koji in it’s extracted form as well as a whole substrate such as koji grown on rice to make pickles, sake, shoyu koji, amasake and more.
Please like this post if you do. Feel free to comment or suggest or offer correct. Thanks!
Enzymes serve two roles. They break down things such as tiny bits of food that you eat into smaller things. Or they combine smaller things like the amino acids from proteins into bigger things. Enzymes make possible every vital function of living things. Sometimes enzymes already exist in living things like your gut.
But most times they are used process things into food or drinks. Without the enzymes in malted barley, for example, it’s unlikely that either bread nor bread would exist as they do today.
Enzymes from koji have been used in European and American food manufacturing for at least 100 years now. We will get into what they have sometimes been combined with (other microbes, yeasts, techniques).
They are very safe to use, but you must be careful when handling them. Anything that can tear through grains or the muscles of animals should not be handled carelessly (see below).
“Curiously enough this tiny and important hustler has scarcely attracted attention in the Occident, and this fact made me determine to work for it’s introduction to industrial use in the United States”
This quote is from a paper printed in 1914 in The Journal of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry (Vol.6, No.10). The author is Jokichi Takamine. He’s talking about koji (A.oryzae).
One of the things he was trying to do was to address the concerns of brewers and maltster – the people that make sprouted grain malt for beer – about the cost of the ingredients to create diastatic enzymes. The price of barley could vary. considerably from season to season. He had earlier filed a patent in the US to do so, “in a process not hitherto practiced”. He succeeded.
On February 23, 1894, a patent was filed in the US : “The object of this invention is to prepare and manufacture diastatic enzyme, or soluble ferment in a concentrated form which possesses the power of transforming starch into’ sugar for use in various industries, by a process not hitherto practiced, and in a very economical and practical manner.
My invention is based upon the utilization of the property possessed by certain fungi during their growth on proper media of producing diastatic enzyme.“
Typically, barley was malted. Malting creates diastatic enzymes. But Takamine thought of using something that was pretty much being thrown away, yet which could produce way more diastatic power and be less perishable.
Despite some violent outbursts suspected to have come from the maltsters at the time afraid of losing both money and their businesses, the brewing and food manufacturing industries in in the US ultimately adopted the use of enzymes, sometimes malt from barley or other grains for beer, but overwhelmingly from fungal enzymes from Aspergillus in baking, food processing and medicine.
Today both brewing supply houses and enzyme companies sell specific enzymes from many fungus, molds, even bacteria but different types of Aspergillus (koji) are used extensively throughout the world.
Takamine’s substance became an amazingly useful drug used to help people digest food. Enzymes are a very big deal. You can make your own as described below, but be aware that a small microbrewing operation can very quickly become larger than the brewing or refrigeration or heating capacity of your space.
How to Make Takadiastase
5 gallon container
2 1/4 pounds (1024 grams) wheat bran
3 gallons lukewarm water (9000 grams)
1/2 cup (138 grams) coarse 100% NaCl salt
Aspergillus oryzae spores (1 gram pure spores)
Taka-Diastase is made with Aspergillus oryzae, the hardest working fungus in the world. It is made on wheat bran. We milled off the bran from winter wheat berries – they have tasty bran, but other types of wheat brans work well – but you can buy it in sizes from one to 50 pounds.
We suggest you start off with 2 and 1/4 pounds (1024 grams) of wheat bran. Remember that wheat bran is unlike wheat berries or even flour. It is typically very light when dry and flies everywhere.
This is especially important when you are about to harvest (or dekoji) your finished Taka-Diastase. Unlike, say, rice koji, you have to consider how to reduce the temperature without fans after a certain point.
As the temperature decreases and it dries out, fans will blow it everywhere. I recommend either using wood that can absorb a lot of water – when you reduce the heat of something the water will either evaporate in the air or soak into whatever it is on.
We often use lots of cloths when making bean or rice koji. Whatever you chose, be prepared to have lots of cloth changes or at least one other wooden to container to transfer the koji into as it dries.
Unless you are going to use it almost as soon as it is finished – we sometimes have a salt brine ready to throw prepared koji into while still warm – you have to dry it out. Otherwise, it will continue to grow.
And a moist pile of amino acids are a feast for all the wild microbes that hang out in the air.
Did any of this seem complicated or overwhelming? Most people don’t ever make their own koji. You can easily buy it. In 35 pound boxes rice koji can be quite reasonably priced.
But if you only want to make a pound or two of koji, it’s cheaper making it yourself. You can also buy the powdered enzymes. But here are basic guidelines to make any type of koji. (Part ii, next post.)
How to Make Koji
Prepare the substrate – with wheat bean that means rinsing well and soaking up to 24 hours with salt. If this were rice, you might have to mill it down then let it rest so the grains didn’t break, but this is bran. Sometimes we use lactic acid or vinegar when making beans, but always salt for wheat bran. We use 1/2 cup (138 grams) of coarse sea salt that we thoroughly mix into the soaking bran. We stir the bran frequently from the bottom while soaking, as you would do every day if you were making a soy sauce or amino sauce or even a quick miso. Bran expands differently than grains or beans. It will try to hang out at the top. Keep pushing it down while stirring.
Regulate moisture content – anything that you are making koji on, especially dried starch as in rice or other grains, needs to contain enough water (moisture content) so that when steamed it will gelatinize. After soaking you could weigh your bran or whatever. For wheat bran we want a 35% higher weight. Rice? Nowhere near that. 20% is enough. The amount of time you soak is extremely important. With beans you absolutely have to soak and sometimes even change soaking water several times to rid them of their water soluble anti-nutritional factors (phytates, etc.) for 12 or preferably 24 hours. Polished rice for a few hours at most. You want your substrate to absorb water to start the process of changing it’s structure.
Dry your substrate. In this case wheat bran. How? We use cloths. Use whatever you like. You could use a dehydrator. We use cloths. Careful of all the bran that will stick to them. And always have strainers on hand when rinsing anything to prevent clogged drains. Again, don’t ever just pour soaking water, unstrained, down a drain. You will regret it.
Steam. The reason you soaked, then dried your substrate was to get water into the center so that your starch would be gelatinized. When that happens during steaming the structure does change. It allows the fungus to have a feast on the substrate. Steam your wheat bran for an hour or two. Make sure it gets steamed evenly. With anything we steam we use steaming liners that we roll things around in to ensure even cooking. You want the steam to penetrate the center and get trapped there as it cools down. That’s why boiling can be problematic. Beans are a different deal. Make sure your steaming water does not run out and burn your pot.
Dry after steaming. Fungus loves water. Especially surface water. It’s a free lunch. They won’t bother to work for the starches and proteins inside your substrate because why would then when they don’t have to? Put them to work. If you want the enzymes to break down sugars (saccharification) or proteins (proteolysis) you want them to work hard. Otherwise, you’re just wasting substrate while making a weak product.
Dry further. Some people will use fans or even a warm oven to dry off their steamed substrate. With wheat bran, again with the cloths. Careful of how you deal with the stuff that gets stuck on the cloths. Again, use strainers. If you intend to wash the cloths afterwards, soak them in a big tub of water that you strain after lifting the cloths out of like you would get the sand off of lettuce leaves or greens. If they are still wet you could first use fans then throw the drier bran into the oven to get the heat back up but then it’s getting a little more complicated. Especially if you don’t have an oven.
Choose spores. The golden rule of koji making is 1000:1. That is for every kilo of substrate (wheat, rice, corn, soybeans or grits, potatoes, etc.) you need a gram of koji spores. Sometime you mix different types of spores. The more spores you use the faster it will create a mycelial mat. The more expensive it will be as well. If you have two gallons of cooked, dried off substrate, a half teaspoon of pure spores is fine. Use more if you like and are impatient. Spores mixed with something else rewire at least a teaspoon per two gallons. Follow the instructions on pre-mixed spores.
Prepare Spores. Some people like to mix their spores with a filler or extender. It can be corn starch, or ground rice or cassava flour or something popularly toasted to kill of heat intolerant microbes. For Taka-Diastase we usually use a large amount of filler. Bran typically holds water on it’s surface, more so than rice or beans when not overcooked. We will use lots of ground up toasted wheat bran or even some wheat we had milled to adjust the water content and allow us to evenly distribute the spores.
Add filler or not. You’ll be changing the cloths or wood pretty often anyway with brans – corn and rice bran koji is made the same way as wheat bran koji – but you really want to get as much water off before hand as possible. Adding a filler allows you to distribute spores more evenly in water substances. With rice or drier beans it’s up to you.
Apply Spores. For rice koji, we just dump the spores directly into a bundle of rice when the temperature is around 98F temperature and shake and roll. If your substrate is dry, you don’t need to go into any ritual spore shaking process. You want to disperse the spores as best you can into your substrate. It’s harder if there is too much water. Sometime you have no choice, but that’s advanced koji making. If the substrate is in a nice setting, you can let the entire thing rest a half hour before bundling up.
Prepare your temperature for Proteins like beans. If you got caught up on the prepare your setting part it’s because you didn’t prepare it ahead of time. Koji doesn’t not appreciate rudeness. Nobody mistreats baby and gets away with it. Koji can grow from between 80F and 105F. Aim for 90F, and if you hang out at 85F or 95F you’ll be okay. An 85F temp will grow more protein degrading enzymes like proteases for beans, fish, meat and nut based things.
Prepare your temperature for Starches like rice or brans. Rice for shio koji or amasake or sake or things that you really care more about creating glucoamylase or amylase or other enzymes to break down starch into simpler sugars like it hotter. 95F is fine. 100F is also fine is you are ready to get the heat down when it starts to take off, usually around 18 hours. At that point all most people will be trying to do is to get the heat below 95F unless they are not using a very precisely controllable heat source. That kojimata territory that involves machines and air vents and fans and sophisticated control techniques that most home koji makers should not have to concern themselves with. Keep it small.
Humidity Control. Unless you are making your koji in a rapidly changing environment where it could get really dry quickly, bundling your koji well during it’s first 12 hours is enough. If your substrate is properly dried and most of the water is in the center you don’t have to worry about evaporation or dryness. Home koji makers just bundle their koji up well. We use kitchen safe plastic or thick water resistant cloth to keep the moisture in and protect from drying.
Wetness Check. After the first twelve hours and your first redistribution of the koji – you will have to change the cloths for wheat bran or beans or if the koji looks at all wet – unbundle and let a little more air get at your koji. It loves oxygen. Not cold air though. And not wet air. You should notice something going on. It should not look or feel wet. Cover with a very slightly moist towel if you are concerned about drying out. (Part 2 in next post, but before we go:)
The Awesome Power of Koji
There is actually a large body of evidence on why bread and pastry bakers, farmers, and koji growers must be very careful about both inhaling aspergillus spores, as well as getting it on their skin. We will talk about that as well during the year long series, just remember to always wears gloves and masks when dealing with enzymes.
It makes sense that something with the power to break down meat, fish, or very hard grains would be something to treat with caution. Sometimes things that are obvious to someone working in a professional, including the pharmaceutical industry and food manufacturing industries where Aspergillus and enzymes are used extensively, are not well known or made public.
Please be careful when handling enzymes created by anything, either from a sprouted grain or a fungus. Here are is a very small sample of some of the things that can happen when inhaling spores or enzymes from Aspergillus oryzae. As in the koji we are describing how to make.
Valdivieso, R & Subiza, Jose & Hinojosa, Mariel & Carlos, E & Subiza, E. (1994). Baker’s asthma caused by alpha amylase. Annals of allergy. 73. 337-42. Abstract: Two bakers with bronchial asthma and two with rhinoconjunctivitis are described. Prick and RAST tests were positive with wheat flour in all of them, but the challenge test (nasal or bronchial) with wheat flour extract was positive only in one asthmatic baker. The prick test, RAST, and nasal or bronchial challenge done with alpha amylase extract (a glycolytic enzyme obtained from Aspergillus oryzae and used as a flour additive) were positive in all four patients. Our results support previous data indicating that alpha amylase used in bakeries is an important antigen that could cause respiratory allergy in bakers. It can function as sole causative allergen or in addition with other allergens used in the baking industry.
Sharma BB, Singh S, Singh V. Hypersensitivity pneumonitis: the dug-well lung. Allergy Asthma Proc 2013;34:e59–64.
Gerfaud-Valentin M, Reboux G, Traclet J, et al. Occupational hypersensitivity pneumonitis in a baker: a new cause. Chest 2014;145:856–8.
RSVPs for this event are this Saturday. You must go to the Eventbrite link to register. There are limited spaces left for this event.
Tuesday, June 25, 2019– Release of Ferment.Works new book. culturesgroup’s Ken Fornataro discusses and gives recipes for a country style sake called doboroku, vinegar, and a quick amasake. He also discusses the sake industry in the US.
Best-selling fermentation authors Kirsten and Christopher Shockey explore a whole new realm of probiotic superfoods with Miso, Tempeh, Natto & Other Tasty Ferments.
“Their ferments feature creative combinations such as ancient grains tempeh, hazelnut “cocoa nib” tempeh, millet koji, sea island red pea miso, and heirloom cranberry bean miso. Once the ferments are mastered, there are more than 50 additional recipes for using them in condiments, dishes, and desserts – including natto polenta, Thai marinated tempeh, and chocolate miso babka. ”
Got any upcoming events, let us know!
Wednesday, June 19, 2019 6:00 to 9:30– Food Karma has hosted many featured events during New York Cider Week, and this year we’re back by popular demand to ring in the summer with hard cider! Start the season off right at CiderFeast NYC, a food and drink event with outdoor space, sunset views, live music, and of course plenty of cider! This all-inclusive event will feature cider tastings from 15 brands, food samples, and more!
It will also double as a book launch for Andy Brennan’s new book Uncultivated: Wild Apples, Real Cider, and the Complicated Art of Making a Living. CiderFeast NYC
This miso is a very special miso for us. We use it not only with fresh seafood, especially shellfish and grilled vegetables, but also for several dishes we grew up on. These include gachas with rabbit or fresh bacon, polenta cakes fried in thick green olive oil and cloves of garlic, and Argentina style harina tostada in the morning with toasted almonds and fresh figs.
A little sumac and mashed garbanzo beans makes a great falafel type fritter with chopped pickles and hot sauces and creamy tahini, as well as a type of pancake that we used to eat in the Summer with grilled peppers and basil. We didn’t use corn miso back then, but this miso now gives us a reason to look forward to Summer when we tear through corn fields like raccons, knowing exactly when the corn milk is ready.
We make lots of corn based things with koji. Corn miso, corn amasake, corn doboroku, corn sauces like soy sauce, and corn shio-koji because we love corn. We consider it a local treasure in the tri-state area of New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. It grows pretty much anywhere in the United States.
Actually, you can’t get better corn or soybeans or a whole lot of other grains and beans than those grown in the USA. Even the rice grown in the USA is spectacular. Check out our growing resources list.
When you can buy organic pre-made masa harina (corn treated with lime) it makes things very easy. But you don’t even have to nixtamalize corn to use it. Koji and other microbes are all too happy to chomp down on corn to make it digestible for humans.
We can grow koji on corn cobs – listen up food wasters – and cornmeal itself. We didn’t come up with the later idea. It’s been down for hundreds of years throughout certain areas of Asia. We just think we may have elevated the practice to a higher level. Corn koji was in the past considered inferior. It’s not at all.
First, let’s make this very simple and incredibly versatile miso. We’ll post some more corn miso recipes in the next day or two.
Corn Rose Miso
Corn Rose Miso is one of the easiest misos you can make. You can use regular rice koji instead of jasmine rice koji. You can even use corn water or fresh corn put in a blender instead of amasake.
Note that we make only one quart of this miso at a time. This smells so good you’ll want to eat it while you are making it. You can use lavender or another flower essence if you prefer, or leave it out all together.
1.5 cups/425 grams amasake or water
2 cups/322 grams jasmine rice koji or other rice koji
2 cups/234 grams organic masa harina
2 TB/35 grams fine sea salt
1 tsp rose water
Heat amasake or water to 110 to 135F but not above. When you are sure the temp is below 135F add the rice koji (ground into a powder if you like) and the organic masa harina. If you want a sweeter, faster miso add another cup/100 grams of ground rice koji and a little warm salted water.
Mix everything together well as if you were making dough. The miso should not be crumbly. You should be able to roll it out into balls that aren’t hard. Add a TB of warm water and a pich of salt several times if necesary to loosen the miso up, but remember that removing liquid from a miso can be nearly impossible.
Cover it very well and let it sit for a while and come back and add more water then instead of forcing it. You will need these types of adjustment skills for the more complicated corn misos and other misos we’ll walk you through. The detailed miso steps descriptions will be posted by then as well.
Sprinkle rose essence over miso and pack into a well cleaned wide mouth jar a little at a time to prevent air pockets. The jar must be very clean. Rinse out with a little water and sprinkle with salt if you aren’t sure. Make sure the jar doesn’t have any cracks in the rim or you cut get badly cut.
Place a small weight inside the quart jar and cover with parchment or a thick plastic bag cut into pieces. Screw on top. Check at a week. It should be done in 30 days, but you could check it and taste it at two weeks if you like – especially if you added more koji.
Don’t ferment over 72F. If you do, check it every few days and chill if it starts to sour or smell off. But you should avoid that from happening. Refrigerate when it’s ready. You should see a little pooling of a yellow brown liquid called tamari on top. Mix it in. Or lick it off when no one is looking.
You’ll learn how to prepare things to use with these things – like a hundred zucchini you can’t deal with.
The point of all these items is to show you what to have on hand, and what to do with it.
KojiFest2019 presented by people that have mastered the art of living and eating tasty food with too little time in the day. Got kids? Work, like even two jobs ?
Need to spend less time and money cooking and more time enjoying food?
Makiko Ishida (Maki) is a koji enthusiast, and a busy parent that knows how to budget time without sacrificing nutrition or taste for her family. A native Tokyoite who was born into a katsuobushi (fermented bonito) trading family. Maki-san has a unique sense of how to blend traditional Japanese food with everyday American fare.
Maki especially loves to share easy and fast Japanese home-cooking ideas using koji-fermented staples such as miso, soy sauce, mirin, shio-koji, and sake that anyone can apply into his or her own kitchen.
Professional Chefs often approach cooking with a stone soup approach. Sometimes they have access to fresh ingredients that a forager, farmer or artisan just harvested or made, other times they have to deal with what they ordered or shopped for versus what is in the house.
It’s really a bigger version of what we all go through at home when tired or busy or exhausted. That doesn’t mean you can’t use something in your pantry, refrigerator or from your local store and make something filling and very tasty like already when you get home or realy quick to prepare kasha. The stone in this case is koji,or shio-koji, or miso,or sake lees or a fermented or pickled condiment you already bought or made.
Chef Ken Fornataro will show you how to make food with a stone. No rabbit or fox will get this meal though! It’s all really about mise-en-place, a fancy way to say if you have miso, koji, shio-koji, soy sauce, mirin and other ingredients ready to go (or even just the miso) a quick trip to the farmers market, your local salad bar, the super market or a dig into your CSA box or your pantry or refrigerator and you can easily do it. Even for picky kids – we know all about the young stubborn ones – and people that are eating a vegan diet.
We’ll also show you how to get ready for the arrival of fresh foods from your local farmer or garden or grocer’s shelves. A #vegan focused event that could be translated into any type of food you chose to eat, but everything we prepare and sample will be plant based.
Koji is the most commonly used word to describe Aspergillus oryzae, a malted mushroom type of microbe that is an enzymatic powerhouse. You might not know how to cook, or even want to, but you still want to eat well without spending an enormous amount of time in the kitchen. Koji can be used with almost any food or even drink you currently eat, from whatever type of cuisine you choose. You can make koji out of just about anything that has carbohydrates in it that will get broken down into different types of enzymes to transform or season your food for you. Quickly.
You’ll see demonstrations of how to make miso (味噌), shio-koji (塩糀), gohan takikomi (rice cooked with miso and whatever you fancy), misodama (味噌玉) and a long lasting, refrigerated kimchi base and how to prepare things to use with it – like a hundred zucchini you can’t deal with. All so when we offer the following tastings you’ll say that’s easy and fast! Especially since you can substitute ingredients that you have using the mise-en-place items.
Based on these items we’ll have – if accessing the ingredients makes sense and preferably uses ugly vegetables, the following, all vegan, mostly gluten free items:
Menu (based on availability):
Menu: • Fried Jalapeño and Garlic Salsa • Szechuan Sauerkraut with pastrami flavored smoked hamma natto • Shiitake Kombu Dashi Dama • Edamame Crispy Beans (glazed with an amasake shio-koji plum mirin) • Jasmine Amasake (sweet, thick, koji based rice) • Miso Mayo (mayo with special seasonings and miso) • Cucumber Misozuke (Cukes aged in a black pepper miso) • Spicy carrot, garlic ginger, tomatillo, onion Kimchi • Coriander Seed, Fennel and Lime Rind pickles • Toasted Almond KIsses (savory, nutty and sweet) • Garlic Misozuke (Fresh garlic fermented in miso) • Baker’s Dozen – Freshly baked breads and Genmai Cha Tea (roasted rice, chilled tea, spices) if 40 people register by May 15.
Fee/Payment: Suggested Fee is $35 for the 3 hour demo and tasting. Bring cash and pay there if you like. Bring whatever you can, but please join the group and register for the event! Hope to see you there! email@example.com with questions! https://www.meetup.com/culturesgroup/
culturesgroup is about food and drink making, preservation, fermentation, science, and cultural history. We focus on traditional and novel techniques in cooking, fermenting, brewing and preserving techniques using koji, yeasts, and the tasty bacteria that make pickles. We stress sustainably resourced foods, food safety, digestibility, and maximizing the nutritional profiles of foods.