Walnut Amasake Bittersweet Chocolate Muffins


Baking with microbes

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.


Ingredients

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

Half baked at 15 minutes. Looking good.

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)


Procedure

  • Preheat oven to 350F.
  • Have bottom shelf ready for one or two muffin tins.
  • Prepare the tins with grease or just paper linings.
  • Mix flour, coconut palm sugar, baking powder, roasted chopped walnuts, bittersweet chocolate chips/chunks together
  • Whisk your eggs, walnut oil, maple syrup, vanilla, amasake, and shio-koji together well. Add to just incorporate with the dry ingredients.
  • Add add ins if you have reserved them to maintain the color or spacing of the add ins in your batter. *Check your chocolate to ensure it is non-dairy if vegan baking
  • Spoon about 4 ounces into each of 8 prepared muffin cups.
  • If using a smaller muffin tea or mini-muffin pans remember the rule – never more than 2/3 full.
  • Bake at 350F for 30 minutes in a pre-heated oven.
  • Don’t open the oven door until 20 minutes have elapsed.
  • Internal temperature should be 205 F, or a clean toothpick.
  • Remove muffins from oven and let rest 30 minutes away from heat.
  • Place on wire rack for further cooling after removing from the pan.


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Struffoli

Struffoli is a traditional Italian holiday sweet that has many names and different regional variations. My grandmother used to make a very simple, tasty, and crispy version by rolling out tiny balls of dough that were fried in light olive oil until golden brown. Then they were covered with honey and colored sprinkles.

My version is fermented like Chinese noodles were thousands of years ago, made with garbanzo bean flour, and topped with lactofermented sour cheeries steeped in honey cooked to the soft ball stage with a traditional Japanese umeboshi (apricot) liquor. I made these recently and my family would not touch them.

They are very tasty, gluten free, and when made with a pasta maker and a sharp knife very easy. They don’t have the same crisp crunch or taste of her dozen eggs, five pounds of flour recipe, but only a fool would try to replicate the different treasures made by their grandmother.

  • 2 1/2 cups (300 grams) chickpea flour
  • 1/4 cup (48 grams) milk kefir
  • 1 tsp shio-koji (or salt)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 TB vanilla

Ferment in refrigerator for 48 hours, then add:

  • 1 TB baking powder
  • 1/4 cup Haiga rice bran or rice flour
  • 3 TB refined coconut oil
  • 1 tsp Xanthan gum, guar gum, agar or tapioca starch

Refrigerate another 24 hours. Either roll out thickly, or put through the thickest setting of a pasta machine. You could also make thick spaghetti or thick flat pasta and cut the strands into little pieces about a quarter inch thick. Refrigerate to harden.

Fry until golden in two batches of 350F light olive oil. Drain. Let them cool as with all gluten free items before tasting or transporting. Coat with pre-made honey Choya (plum liquor) sauce.

  • 1/2 cup (78 grams) sour dried cherries
  • 1/2 cup (118 grams) honey
  • 1/2 cup (92 grams) water
  • 1/4 cup of Choya that has been boiled down to a quarter of it’s volume.

When the syrup reaches the soft ball stage – it will look very much thicker – and is foaming remove from heat and pour on warm dough and mix. Caution this is very hot sugar! Mold into a ring or mound. Toasted blanched almond slices can be added.

Nixtamalized, Sprouted, Popped, and Maillarded Corn Jiang

First we sprouted some of our favorite popcorn. Not that popcorn makes great edible sprouts, but it starts the process of making the corn more digestible, tasty, and nutritious. The smell and flavor of corn pops! It makes the miso taste like an ear of buttered, grilled corn. With benefits.

Miso Ingredients are listed below. We have taken our miso making steps and walked you through the process. With pictures and videos. Crusty grits, nixtamilizing sprouted popped corn, and mixing it all up are explained in the videos. Making corn stock, and how to weight the miso down, cover it, and let it ferment are explained in previous posts.

  • 450 grams/3 to 4 cups crusty baked grits (any kind)
  • 1770 grams/2 cups dried organic popcorn that has been sprouted, popped, and nixtamalized
  • 2400 grams/14 to 16 cups koji rice made with Aspergillus oryzae
  • 250 grams/1 cup coarse sea salt
  • 250 ml/1 cup warm brown corn stock
  • seed miso (optional, up to a cup)

Sprouted corn and popped sprouted corn after being cooked in corn stock with calcium hydroxide (nixtamalized)

Sprouting popcorn is pretty easy to do. But you can actually buy sprouted popcorn from online vendors such as Shiloh Farms, Thrive Market, or at a health food store. Our local supermarket actually carries it as well.

Sprouted corn and popped sprouted corn after being cooked in corn stock with calcium hydroxide (nixtamalized)

Baking nixtamalized grits until until crusty.

Mix the baked grits, salt, popped and cooked corn together. Mix well.

Mix the Miso

If you plan to do it for the longer 3 to 6 month period add up to 1/10th of the weight of the other ingredients (about a cup) of unpasteurized seed miso. We prefer using mellow white miso. Use a soy free miso if you are trying to avoid soy.

Pack it in.

When packing the miso in keep massaging it, mashing up and corn kernels to prevent having to grind it up later. Weight your miso down after packing the well massaged and supple mix into your container.

This is a pretty quick miso. You can ferment it at 85F for 30 days, then at 72 F for 15 days. Check it after the first week just to be sure everything is okay. Otherwise you could ferment it at 72F for 3 to 6 months.

When you feel it is done, remove some and grind it up. You can even chop it up on a cutting board old school style, or grind it in a mortar or a Japanese suribachi. Remember that you don’t have to grind up all your miso at once. Re-cover it and let it continue to ferment after taking out what you need.

Mixed Kojis and the Dregs

At one of our monthly forums we had lots of already cooked, organic Carolina Gold rice leftover. We also had lots of soybean pulp, or okara, leftover from making tofu.

Okara has a large amount of protein that like other beans and grains and seeds makes a tasty miso. Remember protein equals amino acids equals umami so throwing away protein is just crazy.

Ground millet koji and less ground rice koji

Those are the times you are glad you have 2 or 3 kilos of koji hanging out in your refrigerator, or in a cool cupboard or larder. You can, however, cut this recipe down to just a quarter of the called for ingredients, and even substitute whatever type of koji you have for the millet koji.

Those are also the times you are glad you have a scale to weigh out your ingredients, because with leftovers it’s really unlikely you just happen to have exactly the right amounts of any ingredient. If, for example, you need 2564 grams of ground koji, and you have some millet koji and some rice koji and some corn koji in different amounts what happens if that comes to 4356 grams of koji?

LIke shio koji, miso is typically made using a ratio of ingredients. Again, salt drives the proportion of the other ingredients in your miso. You really have to weigh your salt carefully. Because the amount of salt you use determines how long you should ferment your miso.

Even if you vary the amount of koji you use because you want it to be sweeter or be ready quicker, salt will determine whether that is achievable regardless pf what you use to make your miso.

Work it to a paste.

Koji may be the driving force behind your ferments, but salt makes sure the road is clear, steers the car, and, and determines which microbial passengers get in or out of the car during the journey.

Determine beforehand where you are going so that you how much salt you need to get there. There are maps and calculations involved. Here is what you need for this miso.

We’ll go over the calculations afterwards. Because miso don’t play when it comes to back seat drivers, and arguing about directions once you start the journey. Sure, you can probably make course corrections as you go along, but these detours typically require both more energy and time. That will cost you.

Mixing in the okara (72F) and the now pretty mashed up rice and kojis and salt

Again, we only use organic non-GMO beans for anything we make with soy. So unless you have a soy allergy, fermenting the soybeans with grains creates a very nutritious miso with very little or none of the potentially indigestible things that most beans have.

Ingredients (in grams)

  • 1796 grams cooked rice
  • 768 grams soy okara
  • 1044 grams ground rice koji
  • 1000 grams ground millet koji
  • 296 grams coarse salt
  • 75 grams seed miso
  • 235 grams water

Okay so typically a miso that has roughly equal weights of koji and the miso base – in this case the rice and the okara – will be a 12 month miso. In other words it will take that long to ferment before it really pops. But, the salt still determines just how fast and to where this miso is going.

LIke making legislation, at first.

You would usually aim for between 10% to 12% for such a creation. But because we already ground up the koji, and we added the seed miso to make sure our miso had the right microbial influences during its youth and stayed sweet at heart we decided to make it a 6% salt miso.

We added up the weights of the cooked rice, the soy okara, the ground rice and ground millet kojis (the koji can be all unground white or brown rice or barley koji if you have that on hand), the seed miso and the water. Then we calculated a specific percentage of salt we needed to make that: 300 grams.

Play with your miso balls

Because we added both water and seed miso to this, we calculated the salt amount with those ingredients in the formula. We usually don’t do that. Instead we usually just weigh the beans or grains after cooking and mix. If you have cooked them properly, you usually will not need either liquid or even seed miso.

Balls waiting to be smashed into the container a few at a time to remove air. They will yield to the collective.

We reviewed our miso making list and made sure all our bowls and container were clean and salted down – again, we really dislike using alcohol for this because we feel it better for the development of the taste of the miso, but use really strong tasteless vodka or something that is at least 80 proof to rinse things with if you like – and our space and faces were clean and smiling.

We also used gloves, and make sure we didn’t pour anything directly down a drain or anywhere else without a strainer.

Grind some coarse salt over the top. Just a sprinkle is needed. Definitely not more than a few tablespoons though, unless you think it’s going to be at or above 85F for a long time.

We mixed our salt and ground kojis together with the water and seed koji with a clean spoon – whole unground koji would have been massaged with the salt – then mixed in the okara then the rice.

Use protection. Every time. Every time.

Then we massaged the miso mercilessly until it felt turgid like a really thick balloon filled with liquid, incapable of crumbling and willing to yield just a little when pressed down.

Cleverly weighed down by using another very clean food safe bucket that can be filled with whatever it takes to get to 2500 grams. This way if the miso starts to creep up the side or exude tamari too quickly – that would be less than a month in this case – the weight can easily be reduced by removing some of the weights from the bucket.

Because we had already created our two labels for our miso – for the side of the container and the hoodie or whatever covering you use, and we already had 2500 grams of weight ready because we always try to weigh it down with at least half the weight of the finished miso – did we mention you really should be using a scale for this? – it took about 30 minutes from start to finish.

So the next post we’ll show you how to use shio koji in your misos, pickles, salads, salsas and condiments and more.

A little Maillard reaction – brown like a duck
Repacked for another three months. It already tastes like a young miso on its way to developing into a miso of character and strength with countless possibilities.

Second, Mark the Steps

This now three year old miso now has been moved to a storage container, and really doesn’t need to be weighted down at all. You should always cover your misos though.

Making miso is like planning out the steps (choreography) for a performance. The steps don’t have to be elaborate. You just have to make sure that all the participants are ready and capable of doing them – and that some show hog like the ever present bacteria Bacillus subtilis doesn’t take over the proceedings.

Salt usually keeps things under control and moving along, but just to be sure you have to carefully control the amount of humidity and water that is involved in this microbial rave, and just how tightly you pack everything in. Tight enough so interactions between molecules can’t be avoided, but loose enough so that they can actually take place.

Miso is pretty much an anerobic (airless) fermentation, but you do want to allow some way for the gases built up to escape and not get trapped in the miso itself. In the old days the clay pots or wooden barrels allowed just enough gas (carbon dioxide) to escape.

If miso is a longer production lasting a year or more you will need a lot more salt than if you are making a miso that could be ready in days, weeks or months. The bacteria and yeasts we just described above may like oxygen, but they can’t tolerate salt. They are halophobes.

Mellow Miso ( Shinshu or Yellow Miso)

Lactobacillus, however, can tolerate salt and also can get by with a small amount of oxygen – if any. They are halophiles. You want them to develop in your miso to prevent the nastier tasting microbes from taking over.

In order to keep everything under control you need to plan all this out when you decide what type of miso you are making, how it’s going to be weighted down and how much weight is needed, and how the air flow and temperature is going to be controlled inside and outside of the miso.

No insects, pets, other critters nor just any microbe hanging out should be allowed to sneak into the show. Choreograph the process. Unless you know what steps to take, and there is a written plan to follow, fixing a miso that has stepped out of bounds can be very time consuming and sometimes not possible.

That said, making miso is easy. You can even start a batch and finish it up over a few days. In fact, some miso makers make a big batch of starter miso they then mix with new ingredients several weeks after they start. Some people take many days to actually complete the process doing it in little batches. It can be easy if you keep things to a readily manageable size.

Although there might be more ways to make pickles throughout Asia than there are ways to make miso or it’s relatives, there are quite a few ways to do it. Here is how we start out, modifying this plan if we change the outcome we want.

At this point we don’t even need to look at this list. We have our scales at hand and make our labels and lists ahead of time. The first time we made miso in the 1970’s we really wish someone had provided us with something like this though. An extensive discussion of these points will be linked to this list if you want more details. A photo guide with the first few recipes will be posted as well.

Let’s Start

  • Soak beans and grains
  • Have your koji ready
  • Have a list of things you will need for the process
  • Check that all ingredients are at hand
  • Check that your tools are cleaned and ready to go.
  • Make sure your work area is clean.
  • Make sure the place the miso will be stored is ready.
  • Check that your weights fit in your container.
  • Weigh all the ingredients and make notes
  • Cook beans or grains
  • Cool down drained beans and liquid
  • Weigh everything again
  • Prepare koji if dried
  • Check temperature of cooked. beans or grains
  • Weigh your koji and beans/grains
  • Calculate the amount of salt needed again
  • Add seed koji and salt to koji and mix very well
  • Mash up your beans or grains very well
  • Dry out beans or grains if too wet then cool down
  • Mix half of the cooked beans or grains into the koji
  • Let sit about an hour.
  • Add the rest of the beans or grains.
  • Mix very well.
  • Roll some into balls to test consistency
  • Let sit covered or pack into container
  • Place a sheet of wrap or parchment on top of your miso
  • Place weights on top of miso.
  • Wrap miso securely.
  • Label the covering and side of your miso.
  • Log miso into calendar or phone.
  • Check miso at day 2 and day 7.
  • Carefully remove covering from miso
  • Carefully remove weights and coverings from miso using gloves.
  • Replace weights and repack.
  • Check miso during fermentation process.
  • Carefully remove covering from miso.
  • Carefully remove weights and coverings from miso using gloves.
  • Scrape back any top layer and taste miso.
  • Grind or sieve miso.
  • Move miso to clean container.
  • Refrigerate or store miso.

We’ll give you the recipes for a few misos following these steps. After that we’ll show you how we decide how to make an untraditional style misos using these steps, including how to calculate the amount of salt, koji and beans, grains or whatever you need to make miso or one of it’s relatives in the next post, with the extended description of these steps.

Kojifiles

Two types of home made mirin, both double fermented.

Today’s presentation and kick off of KojiFest 2019 was off the charts.  Yoshiko san’s 9 year old miso was deep. The hatcho miso tasted like chocolate and bourbon and dark maple syrup if it was made from soybean trees (no, soybeans don’t grow on trees). Stunning.

Maki san was evangelizing.

I didn’t get a tenth into my presentation but people seemed interested in hearing about which koji  enzymes created which organoleptic (smell, taste, color, etc.) properties in koji-centric ferments like miso, shoyu, mirin and sake so I let it rip.

Didn’t have time to present recipes or discuss entire topics. Last PhD thesis I write for an hour presentation.

The apexart space and the staff were exceptional. I’m moving in next week. I wish. I’m just moving.

The next four KojiFest 2019 events have been scheduled for April 13th ( about koji-centric ferments from places you’d like to be during Spring Break), May 4 (our KojiFest 2019 Del Mayo), and June 8 all Saturdays, all in New York City.

For those that were unable to attend today’s fest here’s a recipe for one of my all time favorite salads using mirin in the dressing. Everyone seemed to like the mirin I made – incredibly easy to do for those that are patient – but you could use Mitoku brand Organic Mikawa Mirin and add a touch of a small amount of brown rice vinegar and achieve the same result. 

Did I mention we still need volunteers? And people interested in presenting their koji-centric creations?

Apexart.org event with culturegroup.net

Check out this other apexart.org event on March 2, 1 to 3 PM on Bokashi Fermentation https://www.eventbrite.com/e/bokashi-fermentation-workshop-tickets-56137788637

“Managing organic waste is a major challenge for businesses and residents of NYC. As our city strives for zero waste by 2030, we need to consider innovative solutions for managing waste. Bokashi fermentation is an ancient, simple, fun and highly effective technique to manage organic waste. Using waste organic material like sawdust and dried coffee grounds, and a sealable 5 gallon bucket, any household can make an inoculant that will prevent food waste from rotting. The end product is a valuable soil amendment for garden soil, just by burying it in the ground.”

Koji cured Chicken salad with Sour Dill Pickles and lacto-fermented vegetables, mirin vinaigrette 

Separately ferment 1 jumbo peeled beet (save peelings to dry to color food) or 392 grams julienned beets in 3 tsp (12 grams) grams salt. Mix two cups of julienned carrots and onions (482 grams) with 18 grams or 4 TSP coarse salt. Let ferment for at least a week at room temp in tightly rolled air release bags, or under brine as you would with any vegetable. After fermenting you will have 308 grams beets, 374 grams onions and carrots, and ¼ cup juice from the latter set aside. Take 1200 grams of chicken cured in koji for 7 days in the refrigerator fridge and cook at low heat until just slightly browned. Save juices to mix with carrot/onion juice. After cooling, julienne chicken.  Mix ¼ cup mirin, 1 TSP celery seed and up to 1 TSP freshly ground toasted black pepper with the reserved juices. Add 3 TSP fresh tarragon or 2 TSP dried and mix well. Add a cup of crisp apple sticks if desired. Serve right after adding the beets at room temperature. 

Koji cured chicken with lactofermented beets, carrots,
onions and cucumbers, mirin vinaigrette.

Ken Fornataro

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