The Most Marvellous Bread!

Bread 003Bread 004I have brought many loaves into the world over the years: German Rye, Swedish Rye, French Baguette, Challah, Sally Lunn, Farmhouse, Wheat, lots of different kinds. Now I have finally hit upon the most fabulous, I love it, oh boy bread ever.

The recipe is based loosely on Challah, with substitutions and additions.

Flint Springs Loaded Egg Bread

2/3 cup warm waterblog june 068

3 T sorghum molasses (I just drizzle some in)

3 T Butterblog june 052

A little salt

3 eggs

1C plain flour

1C whole wheat flour

1C multigrain flour

handful of nuts (I love walnuts)blog june 070

Note: the bread machine breaks up the nuts during processing. If kneading by hand, decide how big you want the nut bits.

handful of dried fruit (cranberries, blueberries, raisins, currants)

a little cranberry, cherry or such juice as needed for kneading

2-1/2 t yeast (I buy bulk yeast and keep it in the freezer)

3 T dough conditioner

3 T vital gluten (These last two ingredients help the whole wheat and multigrain behave)

blog june 062

This is a high riser! I let mine bake in the bread machine, but you could easily bake one big or two small loaves as you would any whole wheat recipe.

 

 

 

 

Amish Market, Anyone?

I have a sister that lives in a podunk little town in Pennsylvania. While Ma lived there, I drove or flew up on occasion. Seeing family is great, but the town is moribund. The big deal is the Wal-Mart, right. Except for me.

Cabin June 2015 073The Amish market there sprawls across a mini-mall sized lot. It has all manner of furniture on one side. The other side specializes in baking needs. I ALWAYS spend a gob of time and a wad of cash in there! Specialty flours, dried fruits, various sweeteners, a cornucopia of spices and more. I admit I go overboard and still have buckwheat flour from three years ago. You can see I have my (self-made) shelves loaded, and I use most all of it. I did get semolina flour to make pasta and haven’t even attempted it yet.

I have to go on a business trips to Wisconsin every year or so. Last year, my host hooked me up with the local Amish Store and I left with a big ball of butter among my usual haul of local cheeses. Yum and a half! They say there’s one south east of here. I drove all over the place and saw buggies but no store. I shall keep an eye out where ever I go because they are great!

Other than that, yes I did got to the cloth store though I have an Everest stack of sewing projects already. I got stuffDownload 090915 017 that was originally $20 -$25 a yard or item at 60% to 80% off PLUS a blanket 25% off my entire purchase!  My theory is when receiving a huge discount, get the pricey stuff. I would not splurge on the expensive fabrics otherwise, and some are very beautiful. I would rather save $10 than 10 cents!

Ma will have a new long sleeved, floor length fleece nightgown so when the one I made her last month is in the laundry, she’ll have a back-up. She also gets a blue paisley flouncy skirt of rayon, floor length do she can wear long johns under it. I can knock those out in an afternoon. For me I got a slate blue cotton-poly blend, very nice, that I’ll use a Vogue pattern with. I got a few yards of dark brown long fur because I downloaded those stuffed animal patterns from Pinterest a few days ago…I shall make a big dog with moveable legs. We’ll see what the cats think of that! No pictures yet, I’ll get some this weekend.

Speaking of pictures, hover over most pictures and the Pin It icon now shows up! Except this post, I have no idea why not. Try on some of the other recent posts, I think the work there.

Disingenuous Gift Ideas – Things I Like!

Last minute gift ideas for the reader, the writer, the baker, the brewer, and the sewist!

The easiest is the Reader. I sent my littlest sister’s family boxes of books so each could Science Booksperuse and pick. I know they are ecologically minded (as am I), so had no qualms about getting them at Thrift Books. I also get quite a few at Abe Books and Better World Books, but Thrift had a good sale at the time. Not sure of personal tastes, I got a wide variety – painless as they were inexpensive.

Now the Writer: How about a Lonely Planet Guide to a far-off place? Or a Russian-American dictionary? These are good idea-generators and might come in handy for details. Along a similarIndian Books line, try a picture book of the Pantanal or the Congo. Pictures open the mind and writers need the aeration. The Audubon Society made a dozen different nature identification books a few years ago; I have birds east, birds west, amphibians, insects, clouds, reptiles and more. I have the Cornell University plush birdies that sing authentic songs. A writer might need a reference, or could be inspired by an oriole call.

The Baker. For the bread baker, try a pound of yeast or Kentucky sorghum molasses. Does Cookie Cuttersthe baker load the bread? How about a pound or two of dried cherries or almonds? For the sweets baker, try Mexican vanilla or several bags of different chips, like chocolate chunks, toffee bits, cinnamon chips, the odd stuff. Gee, they might like the cherries and almonds too. Try one of those cookbooks made by a church, the kind with the plastic binding and tons of homey recipes. For a baker who has everything, give a Bulgarian Yule Pastries cookbook or one on home canning in Dutch. Odd cookie cutters are always good!

Any brewer or wine maker can use cool, sealable Cabin June 2015 085bottles. Get ’em out of their comfort zone and give a mead kit or a book and six pounds of clover honey. A specialty ale or stout kit or set of ingredients would probable cause a thrill. Could he use a five pound can of boysenberry puree? You could fill a box with a thousand (new) bottle caps – they will be used eventually with fond remembrance of you.

Oh the sewist! A few yards of a beautiful cloth Skirt maybewould spark imagination. How about a pickle jar (cleaned) filled with different colors of thread spools? Does she need a better or more cushioned chair? One cannot have too many scissors, and there are many different kinds of pinking shears now – they make scallops, waves, like that. For the budget-minded, fill a cloth sack or wooden box with all of the buttons you could find at the second hand store (Goodwill, Salvation Army, Tina’s Treasures). Perhaps the best gift would be raving about the wonderful thing she made you, and being honest about the fit so she can take care of it for you. That way she will see you wear it!

Christmas Card

 

 

 

 

 

The 4-Day Turkey Day Weekend!

Yippee for a double weekend! Stressed me raced to the cabin Wednesday evening as if chased by fanged devils! Oh, the solace and comfort of my log cabin, mid-ridge, the Stemmery QC 055Wild Branch running out front and the pileated woodpecker screaming my welcome back! I feel I’m a shell of a person until I reach the bounds of my woodland; then I find the part of my soul that lingers there.

I am thankful for my cabin and woodland. I’m thankful for Ma, 85 on the 27th, who is still able to get around and enjoy life. I’m frequently grateful to have paints and canvasses, musical instruments, a sewing machine and many projects, woodworking tools and the skill to use them, and for being able to write well enough to at least satisfy my own need to tell stories. I thank the Lord for all my blessings!

Let’s not forget baking and fermenting! My brother took Ma out for her birthday, so I got to fend for myself for the first time in a year or so. I played Mike Oldfield Tubular Bells 3 at high amplification (outrageously wonderful), made me a chocolate soufflé and savored a pretty good home-fermented Porter. All here in the cabin! Bliss!

Yesterday I dug in the closet and pulled out the snowman front mat, the large, plaid reindeer pair, the tabletop 2013 Vacation Ma SaluteSanta, a wad of little lights and the Salvation Army bell ringer and band figurines up here in town. At this time, they’re in a heap on the edge of the living room, except for the figurines that are prominently placed on the enormous fireplace’s brick mantle. You see Ma used to be a member of the Salvation Army in Charleston, South Carolina and it helps her recall halcyon years.

If you happen upon a Salvation Army ringer this season, toss ’em a quarter and say howdy, will you?

Ale-Repair Update, Cookies

After all that bluster last week about opening up bottles and attempting to carbonate that flat first batch of ale, I made no moves toward that task whatsoever last weekend. Why?

  •  Not enough time. The nerve of even writing that…I spend ample time staring into the ether, wondering about what I should Me puzzledreally be doing. It felt like I had a destination and purpose but had slid into a ditch on an icy day. (That happened last winter, had to shovel an hour to get enough traction to heave-ho.) As it got closer to supper time, I finally decided to make cookies. At least that would be welcomed by others and might even bring a few smiles.
  • The method was too iffy.  Lame excuse. If I under-carbonated it, I’m no worse than now. If it looks over carbonated, don’t bottle it yet, wait a day and see. If worst comes to worst, there’s nobody in the basement unless I go down there. An exploding dozen bottles would (probably) Cabin June 2015 095not send shrapnel as far as the litter boxes. Fermentation is not rocketry.
  • Live with your mistakes and learn.  Ah, the real reason. If I leave the house without my lunch, I deserve to go hungry or to subsist on microwave popcorn for the day. If I go out without a sweater on a cold day, I walk faster and warm up. If when loading groceries in the car I realize there’s no milk, too bad. No gravy, no cereal, no pudding in the coming week. The intent of this harsh discipline is to learn to do better. Generally, it works darned good as I do like to enjoy a real lunch, to be cozy warm and to stir up a good milk gravy for supper each week.

The problem with this disciplinary approach is that my nature is warring against my nurture. I have learned things that can be fixed with what I have on hand ought to be done. I like being experimental, to find out if something can be done well. Hence I was stuck in mental loops until cookie time.Oaty close

The snickerdoodles and oatmeal cookies with walnuts came out fabulous. Ma loves sweet stuff, so she got the snickerdoodles. I have the oaty gems right here at my side. Not all was lost!

Plus, there’s a nice long holiday weekend nigh. What I really want to do is make a nifty long overcoat with a wide, skirt-like bottom half. I have looked at the fake fur material online until the drool threatens to short out my keyboard…we’ll see. I do have a 20% off coupon and the fur is 50% off and the pattern is $1.99 and the lining is also 50% off. Today only. Like I could go by there tonight after work. This doesn’t look as if I’ll fool with ale, does it?

 

 

 

A Disappointment and a Funny

blog june 068I crowed about the bread conditioner and gluten and the healthy ingredients. I gave myself unwarranted confidence. Sunday I made a Sally Lunn with 2/3 whole wheat and a handful each of blueberries and walnuts, my standard. Instead of molasses, I used demara sugar. I’ve never had trouble with a Sally Lunn.

This loaf came out half the height I expected. A little better than that, but not lofty like the others Dogged if I know why. I did use half the conditioner as usual as I thought I was being to profligate with it. I may have cut back too much but thought it only affected texture.

Yes, yes, I know: Measure twice, bake once. The main thing might be not enough of the demara sugar; I usually put a calibrated slurp of sorghum molasses in but don’t have the feel for how much of the sugar. I’m ‘sticking’ with sorghum molasses for the foreseeable future.

Here’s the funny, the Dog Puzzle on the front porch!

Dog Puzzle 2

Resistance Was Futile So I Skipped It

Blog Flour 1

I’ve had great River Whole Wheat Bread Flour and a Great River mixed grains flour on my wish list at Amazon for the better part of a year. Just think, whole wheat bread flour! Only making one loaf a week, my brain said another 50 pounds of flour for the bugs to get into was not justified. More barrels like I use now would take up way too much space. Sensible, but no fun.

 Two things tipped the balance. I hit the bottom of the barrel when scooping my current whole wheat flour AND a good-sized, compact, stackable and sealable food grade storage container went on sale half price. All my qualms were taken care of! (Hush about my compulsion to buy 50 lbs flour to make one loaf a week.)

blog june 066So, here I am at the cabin with my two grand sacks of flour and I will not open them. Duh? I left the nifty storage containers in town, a nearly three hour round trip to go fetch. That will teach me not to be in such a blasted rush to pack up and head to the cabin on Friday evenings. As if a lesson like that would diminish the siren call of home come Friday. Next week to get started on it will be soon enough.

Wheat Bread Plus

blog june 048My current kick is to toss a handful of dried blueberries or dried cranberries or even dried cherries into my mostly whole wheat bread,

along with some walnuts, pecans or some other tree nut. True or not, this bread with sorghum for sweetening seems much healthier that what you buy most places. Besides, I’m crazy about the flavor with smoked ham and aged Swiss or sharp cheddar on it.

My progression of bread was first getting a 25 pound sack of Great River organic whole wheat flour via Amazon. From making whole wheat loaves before, I knew they did not rise as much and seemed blog june 062drier. I searched for and found a large economy sized can of gluten from Honeyville, just what the whole wheat needs to rise better. That same company sells a dough conditioner. Taking a chance, I got that delivered to my town doorstep in that same box. I packed them straight to the cabin, eager to try them out.

What an amazing difference! My whole wheat (1/3 white flour) rises stupendously well and is so soft and moist. I experimented with a whole wheat Sally Lunn and some others, but my favorite is Challah – Jewish egg bread – in a loaf. They were coming out wonderfully, however I felt something was still missing.

I added oats and chopped black walnuts for a while. Okay. I added honey and sesame seeds a while. Pretty good. Then I bought a couple packets of Ocean Spray Craisins that were marked for clearance. Wow! I repeated that, adding some whole English walnuts. Oh boy! Now I get dried fruit by the pound, also via Amazon.

Handful ‘o nuts and handful ‘o berries! Whole wheat nirvana!

In Defense of the Bread Machine

A few years ago, central Kentucky experienced an extended drought. Before it ended, my 160 foot well got really low. I scrimped on water, packing water from work for bathing and flushing to get me past the crisis. I must live in town during the week. My dear brother ran the water freely while I was away and killed the well.

Note, he denies this. I had the well drilled to the silver sand, the best according to the driller. I found sand in the shower, in the sinks and a 3/4 inch layer of sand in the tank of the commode when I arrived that Friday night to no water at all. When I drained the water heaters, silver sand poured out. I found the breaker for the well on although I had left it off the previous Monday morning. Need I continue?

I give this preamble to explain why for many months I packed water and scrubbed clothes in the cabin kitchen sink. Hand washing, wringing, rinsing and wringing jeans has a Zen all its own. I finally got the well put back in order and am using the automatic washer once more, happily.blog june 080

Kneading dough on a floury table is a time consuming chore if you depend on doing it blog june 068every week, regardless of how you feel. I equate the activity with wash, wring, rinse, wring blue jeans every week. Neither turns out as good as the mechanically-assisted version would have. I much preferring having mechanical help with both needed functions.

Have I not heard of Laundromats? I prefer to spend my free time at the cabin, not sitting for hours in a $10 a week weirdo hangout. I don’t buy bread either.

What Would You Do?

blog june 040I’m putting the electrodes to this old blog to attempt revivification – there’s a word for you. Here’s the premise: Creative folks like to do things their own way. Here, I’ll tell you how I tried to do something, how I attempted to solve a problem. Comment if you like or help if you can; I get stymied.

I only get to be home on the weekends, something about needing to work and my job is an hour and a half away. It made more sense, with calculations and references, to buy a cheap place up there to live in during the week. Fine, but that means I only get home late Fridays and need to leave early on Monday morning. Hence the need to maximize my chore time.

I write science fiction. To give me enough time for that, I need to be efficient. I also don’t make the big bucks, so whatever I do I need to be frugal about it. For example, I repurpose the plastic jugs fruit juice comes in to bottle my wine – it’s worked okay for years now. You might say I’d save more if I didn’t have any wine at all. My quality of life view includes both ales and wine. I’d have more time if I didn’t write, too. Don’t go there.

blog june 082There was a Hostess outlet on my way home from work in town for several years, so I bought the best 50 cent loaves they had. When Hostess went belly-up, I dug out my ancient bread machine and made some substandard items. Quality of life: What would I rather have? Buy pricey bread at the store every week or invest in my own means? I chose the latter and now make bread I love.Hovel 002

On the other hand, I lived in that house in town with no heat or cooling, no running water and no gas. The electricity in the 100+ years old place was scary and would not support even a small microwave. I cooked dinner for the week at the cabin and ate it at work, using the office microwave. Yes, the water in the toilet (I packed water from the cabin or work) would freeze every winter. I lived in austerity for eight years. When Ma needed to move in, I had the money saved to fix the place up. I had meant to do that anyway, eventually.

I have solved a ton of problems…whether in the best way or not may be disputed. Still, I’m not too proud to tell you folks about it anyway. Writing all of this out is therapeutic. And who knows, maybe I’ll get some good ideas back from my readers. That would nifty, by golly!