"I jes' bominate its promises, -
Little hints o' sunshine and
Green around the timber-land -
A few blossoms, and a few
Chip-birds, and a sprout er two, -
Drap asleep, and it turns in
Fore daylight and snows ag'in!"
We don't have snow, but abruptly we're again wrapping in the afghan during evening book reading, and even Youngest Mystery was seen wearing socks all day long. (Somedays I think he's a Barefoot Wanderer trainee…)
Baking is one of the best ways I know to make the house feel warm and cozy on a day like today, so tonight's post is a winter recipe.
Nothing fills the belly like homemade grape nut cereal on a cold morning, or any morning for that matter. I've adapted this recipe from one my mother-in-law used every winter. I had never tasted "store bought" Grape Nuts, Post variety until after I'd fallen in love with the ones Grandma dried on a big screen atop of her coal stove in the kitchen and by then it was too late to develop a taste for gritty cardboard. So while winter gives its last blast, here's a recipe to warm your kitchen and your soul. And, just for fun, if you want to learn something about the history of Post Grape Nuts, (no grapes, no nuts!) you can read more here.
Combine in a large mixing bowl:
2 cups buttermilk (I use 2 cups milk + 1 T. vinegar, let it "set" until somewhat thickened)
½ cup molasses
½ cup brown sugar
1½ teaspoon soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon maple flavoring
3 ½ to 4 ½ cups whole wheat flour, enough to make stiff batter.
Stir together until well blended; the batter will be stiff.
Pour/scrape into a 9x13 well greased cake pan and bake at 350 degrees F until a toothpick comes out clean. The recipe says 30-40 minutes, but I think it was more like 50 - 60 minutes. It wouldn't take as long if you divided the batter into two 9x13 pans and the outcome would be fine. You just want the batter to be baked into a cake-like form.
Cool cake; cutting it into pieces will speed this process. It is also delicious to enjoy just like this – someone at our house loved the thought of eating "breakfast cake". See, there's a piece missing! Grape nut cake and milk. Mmm, mmm.
Finally, the grape nuts need to be dried. I don't have the handy coal stove Grandma used; she owned a special screened tray that she lined with a dish towel and parked on the stove for the day. Grape nuts rested in crusty mountains, drying in a few hours on chilly afternoons. (Other days the tray was piled with apple slices - aka snitz - that generally decreased in size and quantity as the day passed!) I dried the grape nuts in my oven set at the lowest setting, 170 degrees F, and it took about two days of off and on drying to get the desired consistency. It helps to leave the door open occasionally to release the moisture and speed the drying process. (This is also a lovely kitchen warming feature!!) When the process is finished, the grape nuts should "rattle" in the pan and not stick together.
When serving , it helps to pour milk on the grape nuts 10 to 15 minutes before you are planning to eat so that they are soaked and softened. A sprinkle of brown sugar is nice but not necessary! Store in an airtight container and enjoy a wholesome, hearty breakfast!
Bring it on, Winter. We're prepared. We've got grape nuts.