Group Members: Marta Kondratiuk, Jake Oberg, Luisa Cichowski, Dylan Fox-Arnold.
This report will be using the 24-hour clock system for timekeeping.
Introduction and Goals
Our group was tasked with preparing globi: balls of dough and cheese covered in honey and rolled in poppy seeds. No one in our group has ever cooked globi before but it reminded me a little of oliebollen — Dutch donut holes that I have made with my friends before. In its vague familiarity, the recipe appeared to be relatively uncomplicated so we set out to make several batches of the dish, switching up some key ingredients and noting the differences. In De Agricultura, Cato is very insistent on the use of farro in his bread recipes, and we did our best to figure out why and in what quantity this particular ingredient was important. Furthermore, we did one recipe for fun rather than for the larger purpose of the lab: we switched the kind of cheese we were using as well as the preparation approaches.
1: Farro Base
The following is the comprehensive timeline of the globi batch that had farro in its base but no flour. For a more detailed report, read below.
|13:23||We begin to grind farro by hand.|
|13:40||Farro is properly ground.|
|13:41||We begin to mix the ingredients together by hand.|
|13:43||The ingredients are properly blended.|
|13:45||The globi are formed.|
|13:46||The pan is placed on the fire.|
|13:47||The oil is sizzling and is ready for cooking. Globi are placed onto the pan.|
|13:49||The pan is off the fire for a 1-minute break from the heat.|
|13:53||The pan is off the fire.|
|Feta||226.8 g (0.5 lb)|
|Farro||79.38 g (2.8 oz)|
Since another group was using our communal mortar and pestle, we chose to grind the farro by hand. It started relatively simple. One of the group members assigned to the task described the texture of farro as “very squishy” and “easy to mash.” Soon we found that, although the grains were malleable, there were enough of them to make the grinding a seemingly unending and meticulous process. Even with all hands on deck, we only completed our minuscule amount of farro in 17 minutes. The process was significantly sped up by two strategies: kneeling instead of sitting down to provide more downward pressure onto the paste and using our knuckles rather than our fingers as they are the harder part of our hand. The feta, on the other hand, gave easily in only 3 minutes.
When it came to mixing the two, the strategy that we adopted immediately and used every time we had to utilize farro was to break the paste that we ground into smaller pieces so it could combine easily with the cheese. The process of blending the two ingredients was surprisingly quick at 2 minutes. It took us another 2 minutes to form the dough into balls of about 5 cm in diameter.
We placed the pan onto the fire and put a generous amount of oil in. We eyeballed the amount based on the size of the globi; it rose at about 1 cm from the bottom of the pan. Once the oil was sizzling, we placed the globi onto the pan. Only a minute later, the bottoms of the globi sparkled with a golden hue and we immediately tried to turn them over. Either it was too early or the texture of the dough was too crumbly but the globi promptly fell apart. They still cooked but not in the shape that we were hoping for. Moreover, some pieces were charred and some were barely golden. I do not believe that we can blame all of it on the farro texture; I simply think we were not good at making globi yet. Despite their imperfect shape, even the most burned of the pieces tasted delicious, and smelled even better, especially after a drizzle of honey and a sprinkle of poppy seeds on each one.
Marta: “How would you guys describe the taste of globi that we just had?”
Jake: “Like, very fatty but good.”
Dylan: “Like when you’re cooking a grilled cheese and, like, a little bit of the cheese drips down and gets a little crispy. It’s like that.”Recorded via Voice Memos during the lab.
All in all, cooking our first batch took exactly 30 minutes, 6 of which were over the fire with a 1-minute break in the middle. We already knew that, once we got more proficient at this process, this would feel like an easy and delicious snack to whip out at a dinner party or for a midday pick-me-up.
2: Flour Base
The following is the comprehensive timeline of the globi batch that had flour in its base but no farro. For a more detailed report, read below.
|14:08||We begin to mix the ingredients together by hand.|
|14:11||The ingredients are properly blended.|
|14:12||The globi are formed. The pan is placed on the fire.|
|14:14||The oil is sizzling and is ready for cooking. Globi are placed onto the pan.|
|14:21||The pan is off the fire.|
|Feta||226.8 g (0.5 lb)|
|Flour||123.8 g (4.37 oz)|
Since we did not need to manually grind the flour, the preparation went much more swiftly. However, since feta has a crumbly consistency and flour is dry, the two ingredients were simply not sticking together; the dough could assume a shape but not hold it. We ended up adding a dash of water to saturate the mixture. In 3 minutes from start time, the texture was perfect so we began to form globi.
Our newest objective was to learn from our first misshapen experiment and not repeat any of our previous mistakes. We went with slightly larger balls this time, about 8 cm in diameter, hoping that this would save them from breaking apart. This also allowed us to place them further from one another to avoid accidental collisions. Instead of reaching to turn them as soon as the bottoms turned golden, we waited for a more brown color; we were holding our breath for a little over a minute before we turned our first one. Thankfully, it held shape. So did the others, as we gently rolled them around in the oil.
After 7 minutes of cooking, we took the pan off the fire, reveling in our creation. To be honest, the globi were not perfectly circular but at least they were not falling apart. Everyone agreed that this batch was much more delicious but perhaps that is because everything cooked properly this time around. The softness of the feta was perfectly complemented by the crispy outside of the globe.
The whole process only took 13 minutes merely because we did not have to manually smash the farro into a paste.
3: Farro/Flour Base
The following is the comprehensive timeline of the globi batch that had both farro and flour in its base. For a more detailed report, read below.
|14:34||We begin to grind farro via mortar and pestle.|
|14:38||Farro is properly ground.|
|14:39||We begin to mix the ingredients together by hand.|
|14:42||The ingredients are properly blended. The globi are formed.|
|14:43||The pan is placed on the fire.|
|14:47||Globi are placed onto the pan.|
|14:54||The pan is off the fire.|
|Feta||226.8 g (0.5 lb)|
|Farro||42.52 g (1.5 oz)|
|Flour||36.85 g (1.3 oz)|
Fortunately, this time we got to use the mortar and pestle to grind our farro which only took 4 minutes — an incredibly fast turnaround in comparison to the 17 minutes that it required by hand. In addition, the paste itself turned out much more smooth and malleable.
Although blending the ingredients took a little more counterintuitive work this time, as all textures felt so different and the flour needed a dash of water again to become workable, the final mixture was very easy to make globi out of and did not crumble in the slightest.
This time, the pan had even more oil rising about 1.5 cm from the bottom. Furthermore, we waited even longer to start flipping our globi this time — almost two whole minutes — in hopes of finally reaching the circular shape described in De Agricultura and it certainly paid off. With a perfect golden brown color, a spherical frame, and a delightful taste this third batch was our best work of the whole day. The whole process took 20 minutes, with 7 of them over the fire.
With this, our group concluded that it is the flour that makes the globi stick so well so Cato’s insistence on farro remains a mystery.
4: Ricotta Filling (Bonus!)
The following is the comprehensive timeline of the globi batch that had ricotta instead of feta, with both farro and flour in its base. For a more detailed report, read below.
|15:12||We begin to grind farro via mortar and pestle.|
|15:16||Farro is properly ground. We begin to mix the ingredients together by hand.|
|15:20||The ingredients are properly blended.|
|15:25||The globi are formed. The pan is placed on the fire.|
|15:28||Globi are placed onto the pan.|
|15:38||The pan is off the fire.|
|Ricotta||226.8 g (8 oz)|
|Farro||48.19 g (1.7 oz)|
|Flour||56.7 g (2 oz)|
This recipe is irrelevant to Cato but is delectable nonetheless. We simply replaced the feta with ricotta for a softer and sweeter flavor. We aimed to repeat the successful dough we created last time by mixing the farro and the flour.
We speedily ground the farro with the mortar and pestle and attempted to mix it into the ricotta without the flour. Ricotta turned out to be too wet to make even the simplest shape so we added flour to dry the mixture a bit. The globi we ended up making were about 3 cm in diameter, so we could give bite-sized pieces to our classmates without having to cut the shapes. At this point, we believed in our culinary abilities enough to do that. Then, since this part of the lab was mostly for our enjoyment, we decided to roll the prepared globi in flour to give each one an equal crisp.
We further upped the modern interpretation of the recipe by making the oil rise approximately 2.5 cm from the bottom of the pan, creating a deep-fry-adjacent situation. They came off the pan looking exactly the way we imagined them to. In the spirit of experimentation, we put the honey on the tray rather than onto the globi which, in my opinion, created a more balanced coat that boosted the flavor without dictating it.
It was a relatively longer process, taking 26 minutes, 10 minutes on the fire, but it makes sense with how meticulous we were at this stage. Still, the previous batch remained victorious in comparison.
We had so much fun during the lab. To us, globi tastes like a snack rather than a full dish but perhaps culinary conventions were different in the times when Cato wrote De Agricultura. Although his intentions behind placing such a strong emphasis on farro remain unclear, we learned many things about ancient cooking techniques and flavor palettes on this day.