Category Archives: Acorns

The Other Brown Flour (Part 2): Baking with Acorn Flour

Dang, y’all.  My last post was from January 7th – over ten months ago…  Since you’ve all been nervously anticipating this entry for so long, I’m sure your expectations have been growing with each passing day.

“He must be crafting a masterpiece of a blog post since he’s taking so long!  It’s going to be amazing!”

Let’s go ahead and dispel any of those thoughts now.  It’s going to be mediocre.

Before moving on, let me tell you why I haven’t posted in a long time:  I wrote two more novels!  One, The Dirt Walkers, is the sequel to my first book, The Surface’s End.  The other, Victor Boone Will Save Us, hasn’t been released yet – I’m sending it to Literary Agents to see if I can get any bites.  If not, I’ll self-publish early 2017.  I also wrote and recorded a bunch of songs, have gone to a bunch of Comic Cons to sell my books, acted in some short film projects, and probably some other stuff I can’t think of right now.

But let’s be honest – you’re not here to hear about my normal goings-on.

Off-Grid related, I got two more beehives (lost one), sixteen speckled sussex chicks (lost seven), and two dogs (still have both of them).  Also did some experiments in solar panels, aquaponics, a mini-foundry, and using a indoor grow light.  Hopefully I’ll post about those things soon, especially now that it’s finally getting colder and we’ll all spend a little more time inside.

What You Came Here For

I’ll just act like I needed to let my acorn flour “age,” over the last ten months.

In case you don’t remember where I left off, I made two tiny batches of acorn flour, one processed with the skin on the nut meat, and one without.  After looking at them for a long time and realizing just how small of an amount I had, I decided to combine them.  I mean, seriously – there was no possible way I was going to be able to do a taste test to tell the difference between which had skins and which didn’t.  Besides, the biggest test was to simply see if this acorn flour thing was any good at all.  That said, I put them together, ground them again in my designated coffee grinder, and ended up with a whopping 3/4 cup.

acorn-flour

Jealous?

I was pretty sad that’s all I came away with, especially because I had grand plans of using numerous recipes to finding the one.  Instead, I split it three ways, leaving me with three bowls of 1/4 cup each.  That way, I could possibly try three tiny recipes to test it out.

I scoured the interwebs, and unfortunately almost everything I found called for acorn flour AND wheat flour – usually more wheat than acorn.  That felt stupid.  The whole point of this experiment is to see if man can live on acorn bread alone (which, I already know isn’t true), not simply add a little acorn flour to an existing recipe for flavor.

I finally found another brave blogger who apparently had the same concerns I did.  As I looked at the first recipe for short bread on her page, I noticed no wheat flour.  Success!  I was just about to start gathering ingredients, but decided to read down the page a bit.

Good thing I did, because apparently her first recipe ended in disaster.  Not like the-kitchen-exploded disaster, but in the sense that the resulting short bread was so bad that she almost gave up on acorn flour in general.  Three cheers for my elementary school teachers who always taught me to read ahead.

Luckily, the second recipe – this time for chocolate chip cookies – ended much happier.  And so I pressed on.

I wanted to compare acorn flour to wheat flour directly, so I decided to try two batches that were exactly the same except for the two different flours.  The recipe (at the bottom of this post) called for an exorbitant amount of acorn flour – 1 cup!

Since I would only be working with 1/2 cup of flour in total (1/4 acorn & 1/4 wheat, separately), I followed the recipe with half-amounts until I needed the flour itself.  Since it called for an egg, I literally whisked an egg, poured it into a some fancy Pampered Chef measurement tool, then poured half into my concoction.  I threw the other half away, because I didn’t know when I’d ever need half an egg again.  After cleaning the fancy measurement tool, I used it again to get half of my overall batter (a fourth of the total) into two separate bowls.

cookie-batter

Don’t be fooled by the picture – that’s a close up of a half of a half of the recipe.  The whisk is actually tiny – it came from a hot chocolate mix we got from a friend.  I use it a lot for individual omelets because it’s so small.  Our big whisk basically requires a five-gallon mixing bowl.

Then, enter the two flours plus 1/4 teaspoon baking soda.

cookie-batter-acorn

The baking soda is the white stuff, in case you couldn’t tell the difference.

cookie-batter-wheat

Don’t blame my photography skills – the wheat flour is actually out-of-focus by nature.

A little bit of chocolate chips later (forgot to take a picture), the results were on a cookie sheet, ready to bake in my laboratory.

cookie-sheet

I made sure and wrote down that the acorn cookies were on the left, because I was sure to mix them up after they were done, am-I-right?  Also, I’ll be waiting for my advertisement check from Calphalon®, since they’re featured as much as the cookies.

Beside a drastic difference in color, the wheat cookies stuck together much better.  The acorn cookies were basically scooped and poured onto the cookie sheet, and spread out evenly without my permission.

Because we have a convection oven, I almost never wait the full amount of time that recipes call for, so ten minutes later…

cookies-done

Consistency wise, the acorn cookies continued to even out as they baked, whereas the wheat cookies rose an kept their awkward shapes.  I should’ve spread the wheat cookie batter out a bit, because they were cakier, resembling more of a short bread – but I’m no baker.  Or – I guess I am?

But how’d they taste?

Great!  The acorn flour brings a mild nutty flavor to them, and my wife actually asked if there was more chocolate in them than in the wheat ones.  (I think that’s partially because your eyes play tricks on you, considering the only time I’ve eaten similar-looking cookies they’ve been completely chocolate.)

Don’t take my word for it – I had three other people besides myself eat them, and two of them said they actually preferred the acorn cookies to the wheat ones.  The other didn’t say they didn’t prefer them – they just had their mouth full.

Overall, I consider it a huge success.  I still have a half a cup of acorn flour waiting for more recipes, but I’m already inspired to gather some more acorns and try the whole thing again.  After all, it’s been a year, and I’ve forgotten just how much of a hassle the whole thing was…

Chocolate Chip Acorn Flour Cookies Recipe
Originally from Making Our Sustainable Life

  • 6 tbls of soft butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup acorn flour
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Cream butter, sugar, salt, cinnamon and vanilla together. Add egg and mix until the batter is lump free. Add  flour and baking soda and mix just until the flour is completely moistened. Add chocolate chips.

Drop 2 inch balls onto cookie sheets with plenty of room for the cookies to spread out.  Bake in a preheated 350º oven for 12-15 minutes.

The Other Brown Flour (Part 1): How To Make Acorn Flour

This post is a looong time coming.  So long that I’m trying to piece together my pictures to remember what happened.

Last fall (2014), I gathered some acorns and pretty much just wasted a bunch of time.  All of them turned out to be garbage, with worms laughing in my face.  But, I’m stubborn, so I wasn’t going to give up that easily.

Last Christmas, my brother gave me a book about eating things in the wild, and wouldn’t you know it; there was a whole section on acorns!  I had a renewed sense of hope in acorns now that I had a mentor on paper.

Apparently, the first time I tried it I went about everything wrong.  All of my instincts led to the acorns that were definitely bad.

  1. I went out entirely too early, which means I was only gathering the rejects rather than waiting for the fully matured ones.  (The tree releases an acorn if it knows that it’s no good, rather than waste energy on a dead seed)
  2. I was mainly picking up acorns that still had the tops attached, but it turns out that’s actually a sign that they’re bad.  (When an acorn matures it loses the top)
  3. I was grabbing them willy-nilly, rather than checking for the super obvious hole in the shell (which means a worm has already eaten the nut meat and skipped town)

So, this time around, armed with new knowledge and a slight confidence, I filled my pockets once again.  The results were much better.

acorns-green

Many of the acorns I gathered at first were green.  I don’t really know what that means, but I expect that they were slightly under “ripe.”  Some that I let sit for a few days darkened up, but most of them I just cut into fairly quickly.  Unlike before, when I had what I thought to be a 10% “success” rate, the first acorn that I cut into this time around was perfection.

acorns-perfect

acorns-harvest

Now, I ran into plenty of non-perfect acorns in this batch, mind you.  But what I thought were my keepers before were ones that I threw away pretty quickly this time.  If it had a small trail of brown that I could cut out, I’d keep it.  Otherwise, it would be a lot quicker to just go outside and find some more acorns rather than trying to butcher the save-able “meat.”

acorns-shelled

I shelled a bunch, and then came the fun part.  In the book, my new mentor said that “some people insist that you must remove the skin from the nut meat.”  But he didn’t follow it up with, “but it’s ok if you don’t” or similar, so I figured I’d better do it then, if some people insist.

That.  Took.  For.  Ever.

acorns-skinning

Left side is skinned, right side is shirts.

Early into this part of the process, I was no longer having fun.  I think that small amount of acorns took me about two hours to skin.  It’s not like a peanut, where you can just twist or squeeze the skin and it falls off – these little jerks have wrinkles and folds where the skin would be clamped into.  The mentor said it would be easy, and said I could just dip them in some water if I had any trouble.  I started thinking my mentor was full of crap.  I also seriously started wondering if it was worth it to skin all of them, or if I should just take my chances with the skins.

acorns-ground

After the horrible part was over, I tossed them into a coffee grinder (my wife made me buy one so that I wasn’t using the same one as her for some reason).  It quickly ground the nut meat into “flour.”  I had to take some time scooping everything out of the grinder, because the oils in the acorns were keeping some clumped at the bottom.

Unfortunately for me, acorns contain a large amount of tannins, which is used to tan animal hides.  It also makes the acorn very bitter, and you can get sick if you ingest too much of it.  The process of removing it is fairly simple, though (again) tedious.

acorns-leech1

There are two ways to get the tannins out of the acorns, according to my mentor: Hot and Cold Leeching.  For Hot Leeching, you just boil the acorns in water for a while, then drain.  I think you can even leave them whole if that’s the case.  However – apparently that process removes a lot of nutrients from the flour – and who needs those empty calories?

For Cold Leeching, you just soak it in water then drain it until it stops tasting bitter, usually 6 to 20 times.  I’m no expert on this part, and I really didn’t want bitter acorns on my first go ’round (especially since I’d already invested so much time into it), so I let them sit for days, and did the whole process eight times.

acorns-leech2

I think the above is was just the first time.  Surprisingly, the color of the water changed drastically each time.  Not to say it was getting darker or lighter – it just changed back and forth, so I don’t know what to say about it.

acorns-tannins

After I decided each leeching session was done, I would strain it through cheese cloth and do the whole thing again.  After it wasn’t soaked, but still moist, it caked together just like wheat flour.

acorns-leech3

After using the cheesecloth a handful of times, I noticed I was losing a lot of flour in the layers of the cloth.  That sucked a lot, considering how much work I had already put into what was going to amount to very little acorn flour.  And not only that, when I tossed the cheesecloth to the side, waiting to be used again, it still had junk in the folds.  It ended up getting really nasty and moldy, so threw it away.

acorns-mold

For the next several batches I used coffee filters, which took forever to drain.  I mean, I’d let it sit for hours and it would still be letting just a single drip through.  With the cheesecloth, I would be able to squeeze the water out to speed up the process – but if I did that with the coffee filters, I would bust a hole and everything would fall out, which meant I would have to start the draining process all over.

acorns-spill

I had an accident

I was still losing a lot of flour with each drain, too…

acorns-filter

Anyhow, after all that – which took a couple of weeks, by the way – I spread my findings on a plate to let it dry out.

acorns-patty

And after that, I did another batch with skins on them, so I could find out if I would be one of those crazy people who insists that they be removed.  After they completely dried out, they turned pretty dang dark.  And the saddest part was that there’s maybe a 1/4 cup that made it through each process…

acorns-done

I haven’t actually made anything with the flour yet, so unfortunately this is where I leave you.  Will I cook something that cures ebola?  Will I find that I’ve actually made gold?  You’ll have to wait until next time…