Sunday, January 15, 2017

Understanding Flour Choices This Winter

With baking season in full swing among us in the colder climates and the ever increasing threat of celiac disease, understanding our choices of flour is a great way to shake things up in the kitchen. Without rambling on, let's take a peak of choices you may not have thought of, beginning with the standby:

All purpose flour is blended using both hard and soft wheat. You may have also noticed it comes in bleached or unbleached. Simply put, bleached means that it has had edible bleaching agents introduced to make it white, while unbleached(although it is still bleached)has been whitened naturally. Between 8-11% protein(gluten), all-purpose flour is the most easily attainable and widespread utilized flours.


Almond flour, which is gluten-free, has just a touch of almond flavor and should take up no more than a third of the entire amount of flour in any recipe, when combined with other flours. It is great with pies, pastries and sweet breads. It comes in a variety of colors as well, from white to dark brown. You can also make your own flour by using skinless, blanched almonds. IN a food processor, pulse 1 cup to make 1 cup flour. But only use 2 cups at the most at a time. You don't want to run your processor any longer than needed or you will end up with almond butter.


Amaranth flour has low gluten and is used in the same ratio as almond flour. It has even more protein than wheat flour. Did you know that amaranth seeds were responsible for almost all energy needed by the pre-Spanish conquest Aztecs?


Barley flour, which is also low-gluten and is simply made by grinding barley, contains 4x the fiber of all-purpose purpose flour, so use it as a substitute for up to a quarter of your total content of white flour the next time you make bread. This flour is a tremendous asset to your favorite pancake recipe as well.


Bread flour has more structural strength than all-purpose because of its' higher levels of protein, making it superb for.....well, yeast breads.


Buckwheat flour is gluten-free and has a nutty flavor. It has long been a staple in old Yankee kitchens, especially in pancakes.


Cake flour is much finer than all-purpose and has a high starch content. Lower in protein, you wouldn't think it gives structural substance but because it is chlorinated, it is great for recipes that need to hold their height such as sweet breads and muffins. If you don't hve cake flour but want to try it before you buy it, simply blend 1 cup all purpose flour with 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch.



Chickpea flour is aka gram and garbanzo flour. Super low in protein, it is simply made by grinding chickpeas and is traditional in Mid-East cooking. You can substitute the total flour content of a recipe by half with chickpea flour without damaging the end result in the way of texture. This type of flour is essential in Indian cooking and is available two ways, using roasted gram beans or raw. I highly suggest looking for roasted because it has much less of a bitter flavor. Did I mention that it is gluten-free?


Corn flour is also gluten free and comes in white or yellow, so that the North and South don't start fighting again. It is most welcome in recipes that need help in the binding department, such as crab cakes and croquettes.


Millet flour has a slight sweet flavor and should be used no more than a quarter of the entire flour content of any given recipe. And talk about the health benefits of millet...take a minute and look it up! But also be warned that new studies have shown that too much millet in your diet has adverse effects on your thyroid.


Oat flour is just that, oats that have been ground to a flour. I make this all the time at home because, let's face it, who doesn't have rolled oats laying around? Simply pulse it in a blender or food processor for a minute and there you go. A great partial substitution to all breads.


Pumpernickel flour is also low gluten and made from a combination of rye flour and whole rye berries that have been pulverized. It IS available in its pure form however. If you like old world charm and taste, you have it all in this flour.


Quinoa flour is gluten-free, a great 1:1 mix with all-purpose flour in recipes, but tends to be expensive.


Rice flour can be found in varying colors because it is made from varying rice grains. From white to wild, you can make this at home s well. And as for oat flour, I dare say every single one of you have rice at home that has been sitting up in the cupboard for ages. Take it, pulse it and use it. It's Just That Simple!


Rye flour comes in so many colors it is hard to get any information in one small paragraph. I use white rye in a recipe or two here and there, but this flour can be used by those of you who suffer diabetes because it is low in gluten.


Semolina flour is expensive. That is why most of the time when you see semolina, it is already used in pasta. It has the highest protein of all flours.


Sorghum flour is gluten-free and a superb substitution for whole wheat in bread recipes. This nutritional powerhouse provides 50% or your fiber needed for a day in just 1 cup. It is one of the few that is processed using 100% whole grain kernel and is considered one of the top 5 cereal crops grown today. Sorghum blends are also available and widely popular.


Soy flour is gluten-free and can be found in varying levels of fat. Remember that the more fat content of the soy flour you buy, the higher the chance that you will have to keep it refrigerated between uses. Choose wisely when using in any sweet recipe and never use more than a quarter of the entire flour content of any recipe.


Spelt flour is low in gluten and very popular lately because of its nutriyional content, fat soluble protein and sweet flavor.


Tapioca flour is gluten free and known as tapioca starch. It is one of the very few flours that actually improves the texture in baked goods when sticking with a gluten-free recipe. It is a superior thickening agent in puddings, fruit pies and desserts.


Teff flour is also gluten free, higher in protein than wheat and is abundant in calcium and iron. Very high in fiber, it is thought to help regulate blood sugar levels, making it a winner with people suffering from diabetes. Athletes are now discovering the "energy properties' of adding teff to their diets.



Whole-wheat flour is low in gluten and also called graham flour. This flour is so-so among all flours and not extraordinary by itself. A good partial substitution for all-purpose flours, however, because it cuts down on the gluten levels of other flours.


Monday, January 2, 2017

The Progression.....

My grandfather, the first Yankee Chef
.....of three generations of Yankee Chefs(Yup, I can hear it now. The Yankees are going to have a head fit about me using the word YANKEE as a stand-alone word, hahahaha)

(Although I owe much of my worthiness to my stepmother, Anne, and I can't even begin to thank her for all she went through while I was growing up, this post simply alludes to the three Yankee Chefs)  

I have been blessed with a lineage of a true Yankee(there I go again), the love of the violin, the never-ending desire to learn, the incessant need to read and the DNA of a cook.

My father, the second Yankee Chef, never considered himself a chef, nor did his father(my grandfather Samuel)before him. He never wanted anyone to call him such because he considered himself no better than the "next fellar" on the line with him. I have people calling me chef when I walk in through the door of my neighborhood store, and the first thing that comes out of my mouth is "JIM! Call me JIM!". 


Dad at Howard Johnsons

It was that sort of personality, and subsequent work ethic, that both separated all three generations of Yankee chefs from those who think of themselves as above their peers. But at the same time, endeared ourselves in the circle of those who were prep cooks, dishwashers, fry cooks and the like.

All three of us went through the toil of learning our craft from the ground floor up, rather than jumping into the cooking schools that, for the most part, churn out students that demand a 6-figure income immediately upon graduating without knowing what the pleats on a chefs hat is.

Samuel Bailey(the first Yankee chef)was born in 1902 and chose, as his first career, the violin. He attended the Boston Conservatory of Music and graduated in 1922. During his stint at the school, he picked up the dish rag and washed dishes, learned the craft of cooking in the Boston area and, as time progressed without the income of teaching, he toiled away at various restaurants in Massachusetts and Maine.

In Bangor, Maine, he cooked at well-known places such as the Bangor House and the old Adams House. He also cooked as lesser known establishments whose names are lost to history.

In the 1940s, he was in Lincoln, Maine with his only son, Jack(my father)and opened up Sam's Clam Shell, on the lake downtown. Through the generosity of his brother 'Woody', he bought his deep fryer and was not only known for his breaded and batter-fried clams, but also for his hot dogs that he plunked down in the hot grease, only to emerge blackened and split. I don't know how long he keep the shack running, but it was only for a couple years.

He is then found in Bangor with his sweetheart Doris Street. She, too, was a cook and one of the most no-nonsense, stubborn and cantankerous woman I ever knew. How my grandfather and her ever cooked side-by-side together will never be understood. For there are still stories abounding about how she used to get so mad at Sam that she would chase him around the kitchen with a cleaver!

We loved her dearly. For it was this type of woman you want in your corner when the times got tough.

The love of music, his violin and the determination of hard work was genetically passed to his son, Jack, when Sam died in 1967.


Jack(Dad)began his cooking career while in the Navy from 1956 to 1960. He always told me it was the best job he ever had and it was, by far, the most enviest of all jobs aboard a destroyer.

Upon his honorable discharge, he and his father opened up the Bangor Exchange Restaurant, at Pickering Square until 1963.

The cover of Dads journal of expenses for the Bangor Exchange


When it closed down, he started cooking at Howard Johnson's Restaurant in Bangor, working his way up to chef. It was here that I fondly remember taking our weekly car ride with my brothers and sister for that anticipated ice cream cone. Times were simple and that truly was a treat at the time.
Other restaurants Jack cooked at were the Bangor House, Quality Bakery, Checkmate, Brass Rail, Peter's, Perry's, Judy's, Treadwell's as well as a few others I will refrain from adding so that you don't all asleep. During this time, my father entered the Northern Conservatory of Music and excelled until they decided to shut the doors on the students. What a shame graduation would elude him but I was gifted with his music books from the school, as well as Sam's books from Boston.

In 1976, his and my mother loaded us kids and moved lock, stock and barrel to Canaan, Maine. This little corner of the "boonies" was the site of his very first restaurant that Dad could call his own. It was called Dickey's. From there, Mom and Dad opened Oak Pond Restaurant in the same town, ran the Eaton Mountain kitchen and then back to Dickey's, this time renaming it the Canaan Country Kitchen.


Dad worked side by side with one of the best chefs in Maine, in the way of Florence Stearns, of Skowhegan. She owned the Candlelighter, which was an upscale restaurant in the heart of the city. But because of personal events, my father and I ended up together, with the rest of the family living with my mother.

Together we moved back to Bangor during my senior year of high school and each found a job cooking at Peter's.


Boy, I thought life was tough when my father wanted me to dishwash and learn cooking at the age of 14 at Treadwells!


While we both worked at the same restaurant in '79/'80, I worked the 3-11 shift, which meant directly after school, I needed to be in the kitchen. And this was full time.

How I balanced making a living, having a social life with my best friend Rob, becoming a magician and escape artist, boxing AND making sure my homework was done I will never know! I often tell my children about this in order that they may THINK before the next time they speak about how rough it is to balance their time with the ps4 and homework, LOL.


It was still just me and Dad and I think the best way to describe my motivation was my endearment to my Dad, my devotion to him, my adoration.....

He was my world and there was no better man in my eyes than him. Sure, we all had our faults, our pitfalls and our weaknesses. Hell, I was the slave to the bottle for many years, but not in the sense of it ruining or controlling my life, but the omission of any asset that I could have easily acquired had it not been for spending my money on beer.

My fathers' struggle was the opposite though. After over 10 years with a new liver, my mentor passed in 2001. He passed on the same hard working attributes that his father gave to him, to me.

I also was the benefactor of the same violin my grandfather used, and the same one my Dad played throughout his life. And yes, I have been a violinist since the age of 6 believe it or not.

I held just as many jobs in the restaurant industry as my grandfather and father. I jumped from one kitchen to another, never to stay in once place very long. It wasn't because I couldn't handle it because I was NEVER fired from any job I held. I think it was my missing youth re-emerging and wanting to experience everything I missed out on while young. Women, fun, adventure and the like.

Killarney's, Judy's, Perry's, Checkmate, the Chuck Wagon, Donnely's, Governor's, Coachhouse as well as various restaurants around the country during my "ambitious" days shaped me into a cook/chef that can stand up to any television chef as well as any line cook anywhere.
Could this be the FOURTH Yankee Chef?

At the time, I just wanted a paycheck to cover my social life, not realizing that I was learning more and more as time progressed. Even though I didn't have a "pot to piss in", I was inadvertently expanding my knowledge of the craft.

My life has not even entered into its' final chapter. Although I have brought myself up by the straps of my boots, I continue to love what was handed to me, and am grateful that the two Yankee Chefs before me has transformed a simple and humble boy into a man that can challenge absolutely any line cook anywhere, and I mean from the greasy spoon diner to those on television that cannot go on with their lives unless they are referred to as CHEF.

Step back and ask yourself, "Are you really better than the cook that works incessantly just to get by?"

I was that guy and will raise my fathers spatula to anyone who believes otherwise!



                                It's Just That Simple!