12 Grains of Christmas

Download my free booklet with the recipes from Amy Halloran website


Each cookie was made with a single grain. It was such a fun exploration.
Whole grains make delicious cookies and I adapt from these recipes often for different Holidays and year around treats. Happy whole grain baking!

Pâte Sablée with Dehydrated Rhubarb Powder

I love pâte sablée for fruit tarts and custards. I also use for “tarte au flan.”   It is a rich shortcrust that is cookie like and can be baked ahead and filled with anything we can think of.  I used lightly sifted wheat pastry flour here. It works great with whole grains. For smaller tarts and tartelettes I do not blind bake with weights. I often poke and freeze the dough in the thins before baking. It bakes fast and I keep an eye on them. If they start to puff, I poke them with a fork a few times. I know I take chances. 

When the baked shells come out of the oven, for a quick dessert, fill them with some chocolate chips or pieces that will melt as the pastry cools. If you like the chocolate set, put the tarts in the freezer for a few minutes. kids help with the toppings. First round fresh whipped cream and cherries, the reason this whole thing got started.The leftover dough we made  s’mores. We baked the crust on muffin thins, a layer of chocolate and topped with homemade marshmallow, a recipe from my dear friend Phyllis and then the fun part controlled burn.

This recipe makes 16 cup cake size or 8 4 x .75 inches tarts. I used the food processor method:

Pulse 250g (2 cups) pastry flour , 125g (1/2 cup plus 2 tsp) sugar, pinch of salt with 125g (1 stick plus 1/2 tbsp) butter to fine crumbs. Add one whisked egg through the tube with the processor running until the dough comes together. If needed add a few teaspoons of water to bring together. I sometimes flavor the crust with almond flour and lemon or lime zest. Today I used 2 tablespoons of dried rhubarb that I made by pulsing the dehygrated fruit to powder in my coffee grinder.

Chill the dough or freeze until firm if you are short on time. I use a tortilla press for my rounds. Grease the molds and then just press them into the thins. Bake 400F for 15-17 minutes until golden for the 4x 7.5 inches and 12 minutes for the cupcake size ones. Enjoy!

Celeste Creamy Cornmeal Cake

Celeste Creamy Cornmeal Cake

This is one of my mom’s signature Friday night bakes for the weekend growing up in Brazil. I usually make half of the recipe because I will eat the whole thing in a few hours. It is like magic. How is it possible all the ingredients go into the blender and then after baking we have all these amazing layers?! 

Some recipes call for addition of wheat flour or tapioca starch, but in our family version it is only cornmeal so it is naturally GF.

Add to the blender cup and blend for 3 minutes:
(If your blender is small hold back some of the milk and add that in the end)
4 eggs
4 cups of milk
3 cups sugar (yes you can cut back if you need to)
1 1/2 cups cornmeal or corn flour (I used Maine Grains cornmeal)
1/2 cup of cured grated farm cheese (Parmesan will work)
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
After the blending, add 1 tablespoon baking powder pulse a few times and add the liquid (it’s is a liquidy dough to a greased and flour (use cornmeal) 9×13 inches baking dish.

Bake 350F for 45-55 minutes or till golden. I usually make half the recipe and bake on a 9×9 inch pan. 

Election Cake

This year I am baking an Election Cake, long distance, with Martha Baier , Sarah Black and Amy Halloran , inspired by Old World Levain Bakery recipe and story I first heard to on NPR in 2016. I have made elections cakes for every election since inspired by their recipe and the cake the history

I was specially moved by how women who could not vote found a way to participate in the process. I love this open recipe that invite us to use ingredients from each of our regions and use what we have in our homes. I also love that it is sourdough cake! We always took our children to vote with us, but with the pandemic we voted by mail. I started thinking about how we don’t have to go too far for democracy and civic lessons and actions. It can start in our own tables, with our families, breaking bread and eating election cake. And yes vote!

For my version of the cake, I used Maine Grains spelt flour. I soaked dried blueberries, dried foraged apple and dehydrated plums from our friend’s tree in local beer. I went with maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves and sourdough starter!

Ellie’s Sourdough Empanadas

October 16 is Community Bake Day and I wanted to share a recipe we could make together. We love hand pies and we have several recipes here on storycooking as well as on my Instagram account @elliemarkovitch

We also love fermented flour. This Sourdough Empanadas are light and you can let it ferment several hours or mix and bake, using the sourdough starter as an ingredient to flavor the dough.

Mix: 2 tbsp sourdough starter I used one that was pass pick but fed or from the fridge with work as well. If you don’t have, you can use 1 tsp of dry yeast )

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup oil

2 cups flour (I used Maine Grains 86% sifted wheat )

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt

Knead the dough and let it ferment in the counter for 6-8 hrs.

Roll out circles, with them with vegetable, add boiled eggs and beans for extra protein, fold in half, crimp them with a fork fold and press the edges together to close.

Bake 400F on a greased pan for 20 minutes. It makes 15 hand pies. Enjoy hot, take with you for the weekend adventures or freeze them for the lunch box. 

Curtido Spelt Salad

One way to improvise with whole grains is to think of the comfort of sandwiches. A sandwich is a predictable thing, two pieces of bread holding together the satisfying main dish – but since that so-called main dish is often meat and for a variety of reasons people are avoiding meat, let’s reconsider the approach. 

I’ve had to do this in my own family because my daughter is avoiding meat and our meals are vegetable forward. To rebuild our dinners I am making salads that have whole grains and lots of vegetables, as well as some thing to stand in for what we expect to be the star of a dish, the protein. In this salad, Spelt is the bread of the sandwich and jackfruit is the pulled pork.

By reconfiguring standards, I have a new pattern from which to creatively satisfy my family and rework the puzzle of feeding the people I love. Curtido is a Salvadoran slaw often added to sandwiches and it is a wonderful combo with the sweetness of Spelt.

Curtido Spelt Salad

1 cup of Maine Grains Spelt berries, cooked*

1 cup of green cabbage, finely sliced

1 cup of purple cabbage, finely sliced

½ cup of carrots, shredded

½ cup of onions, finely sliced

1 jalapeño, sliced and seeded if desired

2-3 oregano leaves from two small branches or 1 tsp dried

1 cup of jackfruit in brine, drained or used cooked pulled pork.

¼ cup of apple cider vinegar

Pinch of cumin

Salt and pepper to taste

  1. *Simmer Spelt Berries for 1 hour in a sauce pan with two parts water on the stove top – or until the grains are tender and chewy but not mushy
  2. OR
  3. *Soak Spelt Berries overnight, drain
  4. Add grains to a slow cooker, cover with water and cook for 3 hours on high. Rinse in cold water
  5. To assemble salad: mix all ingredients in a large bowl – including rinsed and drained berries – and add 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper to taste
  6. Let marinate a few hours to a whole day – serve cold or at room temp

Amy Halloran contributed to this recipe.

Cornmeal Oat Digestive

Cornmeal Oat Digestive

When I take cornmeal from my pantry to make cakes or cookies, I hear my mom’s voice in my head: “Don’t forget to add fennel to help with the digestion.” When my children were babies, she taught me to make fennel seed tea “chá de erva-doce” and give them a few teaspoons at time if they had colic, so we always have it in our pantry. It is a flavor I crave and love. It is a staple on corn baked goods I grew up eating in Brazil. You may leave the fennel out or substitute for spices that you like. My youngest daughter loves to temper chocolate so we finished some of the cookies with dark chocolate drizzles.

This recipe makes about 2 dozen.


1 cup Maine Grains Organic Rolled Oats
3/4 cups Maine Grains Organic Cornmeal
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tst salt
A bunch of bronze fennel or 1/2 tsp fennel seeds, optional
1 tbs citrus zest
2 tbsp butter, soft at room temp
1 egg
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts

  1. Put the oats in a food processor or blender and pulse to make flour adding the bronze fennel or fennel seeds to incorporate
  2. Mix the oat flour, cornmeal, baking soda and salt together in a bowl and set aside 
  3. In a large bowl, by hand or with a mixer, cream the butter and sugar
  4. Add the egg and beat well
  5. Add maple syrup and zest till well combined
  6. Add the flour mixture slowly, mixing after each addition
  7. Fold in the walnuts
  8. Scoop 1 tbsp of dough or use a cookie scoop – onto a baking sheet lined with parchment(or greased sheet) – leave 2″ between each cookie
  9. Wet a spatula with water and flatten each cookie to about 1/4″ thick for a crisp cookie or to 1/2″ for a softer cookie, all about 2″ wide
  10. Bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minuets or till golden brown.
  11. When cool chocolate can be drizzled over the top as shown or left without.


I can’t tell which one I like best, Tapioca or Cuscuz de Milho (Corn Couscous is a gluten-free Brazilian dish from the Northeastern region made with coconut flakes).

They were both staples in my house growing up in Goiania, Brazil. I make them for my family often.  When family comes to visit and ask what I would like from Brazil, my answer used to be tapioca and cuscuz flakes, but now Tapioca starch has become a go to gluten free flour and we can find it in most stores. I am not able to find the coconut flakes here in Maine but after playing with different corn products like hominy; fine, medium, white and yellow coarse cornmeal; and grits; I settled on yellow grits. 

Soaking and steaming corn grits is a method that brings me very close to the taste and texture of cuscuz and I am able to use local grits we love.

For 4 servings of cereal, soak 1.5 cups of cornmeal in 3 cups of water overnight or for 24 hours in the fridge. If you forget there it will be ok longer.

When ready to cook, strain the soaked grits, sprinkle with some salt and a tablespoon of Tapioca starch (optional — the  starch makes the couscous more compact)

There a several ways to steam the yellow corn grits if you do not have a ” cuscuzeira” ( Couscous pot)

Bellow is a video of  cuscuz cooked in deep plate wrapped with a clean cloth. The couscous mixture must be facing downwards while it simmers.

Another way is to use a steam basket (photo above) or a metal colander/basket lined with fabric over a pot of water. (See photo bellow). Stem for 30 minutes or until cooked. It varies on the grains and grain age, so check once in a while. I have cooked in less time inside my pressure cooker. If you use a pressure cooker, check manufacture instructions, your pressure cooker may come with a steam basket. I got my basket in the picture above used for a dollar at a second hand store and I just insert in my pot.  My mom told me she got us a  Couscous pot she will bring next time she visits. How fun!

Another variation is to stir fresh or frozen corn to the soaked grits and cook as above.

We enjoy as part of a savory breakfast for dinner. With lots of butter or an egg on top!


Rescued Corn

I have the sweetest of memories of the most beautiful and delicious ways one can eat corn in the world of corn eating. So I think. And probably millions of people will say the same, since corn is the world’s third-largest food crop.

My grandparents lived in the country side and my parents gave us the wonderful gift of taking my bother and I there as often as they could. Sometimes the corn was young, sometimes the corn was tall and we would run up and down the fields and grandfather would come out with some ears of corn in his hand and cook in the open fire. Sometimes there were lots of corn in baskets and other times corn being grated for cakes, fritters, custards. There was a small house by the side of the road in the way to my grandparent’s place where we would stop the car and buy a liter of dried corn and the woman helping us would pull some cords and turn the switch on. She would feed a sniping stone the grains and flour would come out in the other side. That gold powder was used for cakes, cookies, porridge, and worked great to thick a broth and be a meal too.

This is not that corn. This imperfect produce, is as beautiful in my eyes. This corn was on its way to trash, rescued by a friend, who gave to me.  Food rescue is important to me and my family. It does make a difference in how we eat, how we fill our plates. It teaches us different ways to preserve and eat since the produce may have a shorter window before it needs to be used. Above all, I can keep writing my family history by creatively using corn in my kitchen. There are some family corn recipes here on storycooking.com. In my list still… sweet corn ice cream!

Rescued Corn Fritters

5 cups of corn and 1 cup of chard stems chopped

1/2 cup of scallions, white and greens chopped

1 cup of eggs (4 depending on the size of the eggs you are using)

1/2 cup of cheese, I used a Mexican blend

1 cup of flour

Mix, pan fry until golden. We served with tahini sauce my daughter made and sprinkled with tajini. Tomato salad on the side.

Fermented Watermelon Rind Salsa

After cutting a watermelon for breakfast I am left with the rind and a dilemma. Do I have time to process this or do I compost? I keep looking at the green skin and thinking of its cousin, the cucumber. Would I ever toss all that cucumber? NO! So I take a few bites of the rind for good measure, still thinking, because I know it is edible and quite tasty and it takes me to memories of watermelon rind sweets I grew up eating in Brazil called “Doce de Casca de Melancia.”

A couple more of those firm and crisp bites and I decided I had time to use at least a few cups of the ring and I would compost the rest. “Because it is summer and I don’t have time!” I reasoned again. I could probably have thought the same if it was winter. But as I started cutting the ring, as it often happens, I am gaining time. It is a wonderful feeling. I am opening a window into my schedule that was not there! (And I am even making time to write this post now.) I kept going, until I had about 4 quarts of loose pack ingredients. All the produce together weighted about 5.5 to 6 pounds. So I went for the approximation Sandor Katz  ( Wild Fermentation ) uses to ferment sauerkraut — 3 TBSP of sea salt for 5 pounds of chopped cabbage.  Another approximation I have used, about  2 -3 tsp of sea salt for each quart of produce.  This recipe is more to inspire us to use what we have. It gives flexibility if you have extra tomatoes or extra onions. It had enough liquid to keep the vegetables under the brine, but if you do not, you can add a bit of water or whey. And now we have almost one gallon of salsa for the summer!

Fermented Watermelon Rind Salsa

Almost all the rind of one medium watermelon.

6 tomatoes, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

2 jalapeño peppers, chopped, without the seeds ( leave seeds in if you would like extra hot)

6 garlic cloves, minced

1 bunch of parsley , chopped including stems

1 hipping TBSP dried oregano

1 hipping TBSP dried ground cumin

1/2 cup lemon juice

3 TBSP sea salt

Mix everything and place in a jar. Vegetables and fruit should be under the brine while it ferments. Cover with a lid. Leave on the counter for approximately 2-3 days and taste to desired flavor. Burp the jar daily to release built-up carbon dioxide.

Transfer to the fridge to store. Bom Apetite!

After tasting I feel like I will add some cayenne pepper!