Sunday, January 27, 2019

Carbo Warbo January......

It's winter, time for soup and what goes with soup? Bread!  I quit buying bread sometime around October.  The bread I love and my body seems to love is about $4-$6 a loaf depending where I buy it.   And this wasn't so much about the cost as it was about taste, freshness, carbon footprint.  The loaf got shipped in from California frozen, but it was sprouted and whole grain and easy for me to digest.

Since October I dropped down the sourdough rabbit hole and this post is not about sourdough and I do not ever see myself needing to go down that rabbit hole again, fill it in and plant a flower on that hole! Who has time and if I ever want anything in my life that kneady (pun intended) I will get another dog or a bird or hamster.  Sheesh! 

I've fooled around with bread making for the last 40 years on and off.  I think I finally came up with a system that is sustainable for my lifestyle.  Yup, there are a whole lot buzz words for you!  But this is working for me and maybe you too!  Best part; not a lot of rules! 

My life in bread; The Tassajara Bread Book by Ed Brown bought in 1970!  Then there were family recipes, library shelves of bread baking books, Martha Stewart, Breads of the World and my final book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg M.D. and Zoe Francois. 

So this is my version of all the wheat fields I waded through, countless bricks I fed my family declaring this was good for them,  just shut up and eat it.  After all this time, this is the system and recipe that floated to the top.

1. Buy yeast; buy a lot of yeast!  I take myself to GFS and buy the big bag of yeast, because it's cheap, $2.89 for a 1 pound bag or 32 Tablespoons.  You need 1 Tablespoon for every 3 loaves of bread. That is 96 loaves of bread.  Store it in the freezer and it will keep for years.  I have used 5 year old yeast with no problems. 

2. Buy flour.  I buy good flour usually organic because I am done eating RoundUp (a carcinogenic weed killer that your neighbor is probably spraying by the gallon).  I can only get flour by the 5 pound bag and I just bought a bag of Bob's Organic for $3.99.  There are 16 cups in a 5 pound bag of flour. 
You get about 9 - 10 loaves out of a bag of flour. 

2. Make enough dough for 3-4 loaves.  If your gonna make a mess go big!  I used to make a mess every other day to make bread; what a waste of time and energy!  Monday morning I make enough dough for a week and half of bread in this house. 

Here is the original recipe from the book:

3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast or 2 packets
1 1/2 tablespoons Kosher salt
1/2 cup rye 
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
5 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Here is my recipe: 

5 cups of water cold
1 tablespoon granulated yeast
1 tablespoon Kosher salt 
2 cups of unbleached flour (sometimes it's bread flour, sometimes all purpose)
1 cup of sprouted wheat flour
at least 1/2 cup rye flour
1 cup of bran soaked for 20 minutes.  (soak your bran or it turns into little knives cutting through the gluten.  Oat bran or wheat bran) 
leftover oatmeal, faro, quinoa, sprouted grains (chopped in the food processor or blender), seeds, nuts, whatever; anything but leftover rice. 

I really do wing the flour part, it's what I have on hand.  

Here is what it should look like.  (and you do not need a fancy mixer; for years and years I used a big bread bowl and a wooden spoon)   If you have a mixer I put it on the low speed with the bread hook while I dig my bread pan out, empty the oven of cast iron and cookie sheets, wash up the breakfast dishes and it's done ...... so maybe 5-10 minutes.   If it's a little loose after a couple minutes I add a half cup of flour until it comes away from the sides of the bowl.  I have also let it go on the wet side and that makes great bread too (not as dense either) 

After it's done mixing I dump the dough in my bread container.  If I am out of bread I pinch off a piece the size of a cantaloupe and get it ready for a second rise.  The rest goes in the fridge.  You will need to punch it down once or twice once it's in the fridge as it will continue to rise until cooled off. 

Once it's cooled down it stays pretty contained.  Cold dough is a lot easier to work with than fresh dough.  Thursday morning I'm usually down to a crust of bread so it's time to whack off a chunk of dough from the mother lode in the fridge.  Sprinkle about a tablespoon of flour on the counter, form into a loaf and set to rise.  This will take less than 5 minutes, including cleanup.   I set the loaf to rise on a piece of parchment in a random bowl or colander. 

Score the top, otherwise it forms a skin and your will get a super dense loaf of bread.  Then you will need to say to your loving supportive family; Shut up and eat it, it's good for you!  The yeast needs an escape hatch.  Release the krack'n!!   At this point I go to the studio or garden or anywhere for 4-6 hours.  It's cold dough and it will take time to warm up and get that yeast excited again.  
The only thing you don't want it to do is collapse on itself.  If that happens, punch it down and start again.  It won't take as long for the yeast to work because it's finally warmed up and pretty excited, so maybe just an hour or two. 
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.  and put a dutch oven in the cold oven while you preheat the oven.   I am using a 3.25 qt dutch oven, that is very cute. 

When the oven is hot and the dutch oven is hot.  Take the lid off the hot dutch oven, pick up your dough by the edges of the parchment paper and plop it down in the hot dutch oven. 

Slam the cover on the dutch and pop it back in the oven.  Set the timer for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes take the lid off and reset the timer for another 30 minutes.   At the end of the last 30 minutes .......
Ta Daaaaa . 
Wait an hour to cut into the loaf of bread! 

This bread runs me under $1 a loaf.  

Speaking of carbs ..... how about pasta?  
3 eggs, 3 cups of flour, 1 tablespoon Kosher salt and poof! 

Tip: don't hang your noodles over the back of chair if you have a big dog...... 
Tasted and approved by Kirby. 

The spaghetti sauce is from last summers roasted tomatoes.  
Meatless meatballs and homemade pasta; dinner is served! 

And back to fermenting water Kefir.  A wonderful person shared her water kefir grains with me and I cannot be more thankful for the kindness of strangers.  And she has big adopted dog and gardens too! 

And all these carbs........ well back to the bike! 

Happy baking everybody!! 

Sunday, January 20, 2019

January..... hunker down and make stuff!

  All this for a 5 minute Kirby pit stop, it's January.  Windchill today -14.  Feels like the frozen tundra out there and it's only Ohio!  
So let's start with the good news!  There is always good news sometimes you just need to go deep to find it out; especially in January when CNN is on way too much, the garden is frozen and there is a government shut down going on a month now.  STOP PAYING CONGRESS and turn off the heat in the Capital Building and the White House!!  If that doesn't work shut the damn water off and bring in the port-a potties. This is not hard!  

Ok back to January folly here on this little half acre.  I joined the Food in Jars challenge this year.  If your interested check out the blog:

Normally this time of the year the canning supplies are put away and there isn't much to put up in the way of abundance.  Who knew ......... CITRUS!  So I signed up for the challenge during a wintery day while the dust settled on the second floor and I slowly conquered the flu.  Yes, I think I have enough energy to sit on stool at the sink and segment grapefruits and oranges.  WooHoo, the local grocery store was having a BOGO on citrus!  Let the good times roll!  2 bags of Texas pink grapefruits, 1 bag of Cara Cara oranges and 1 bag of blood oranges (for color).

This took way longer than I ever imagined but the results were amazingly delish!  Most participating in the challenge made marmalades and I now see why (much easier!) but I am not a marmalade fan; find marmalades quite gaggy, it's a texture thing.   The segmenting took so long I had time to bake a loaf of bread too. 

My Dad used to tell me I thought too much.  Who tells a kid to stop thinking but I was told this quite often growing up and have been a complete disappointment to my family as I have never been able to stop thinking.  After the citrus challenge I am starting to understand why my Dad said this to me
When one is segmenting 4 bags of citrus one has time to ponder how one will eat this stuff.  As I stuffed the last little segments into the jars I discovered I had 2 cups of mixed citrus juice leftover.  I could not bring myself to toss it.  As I lowered the 7 jars into the canner I pondered; what to do?  Oh curd, I can make citrus curd! 

Cracking and separating 8 eggs, I stirred the yolks into juice heating over the water bath from the canning jars; for 20 minutes.  Twenty minutes to ponder what to do with all the whites.  As I filled 3 jars with curd my brain spit out Angel Food Cake!  I don't even like Angel Food cake!  and don't even ask about the blueberries...... 

The end of day one: 
7 jars of citrus, 3 jars of curd, one loaf of bread and one angel food cake.

Sunday morning I looked in the fridge and saw the 2 cups of very light syrup leftover from the citrus.  I never needed it as I had so much juice!  Pears were on sale so I bought 6 pounds.  The canning stuff was still out so no problem and way easier to can pears than citrus!  Dilemma; not enough syrup for 7 jars of pears.  No problem I had 2 cups of rhubarb ginger cordial leftover from New Years celebrations so that got added to the very light syrup. 

But wait, what goes with pears?  Gingerbread!  I had some funky bananas on the counter so I made Banana Gingerbread with walnuts.  I also had a half cup of heavy whipping cream leftover from the holidays soooooo.....  Somebody save me!! 

and maybe a photo shoot for my dishes..... oh ya the studio..... remember the studio?

But then we had to go for a walk, we went to the beach because we were being whipped into a weather frenzy about some storm coming.  Best excuse ever to not go to the studio..... storm coming get outside while you can!!  This works every time! 

By Wednesday I had finally cleaned the studio and looked at my clay.  And why am I having such a hard time getting back in the studio this year?  Maybe because I did my taxes and contemplated getting a job somewhere but then realized I am pretty unemployable ....... (because maybe I think too much) so I finally made a few pots and I love making pots.  Not too many pots as we are talking baby steps here!  

But then there really was a storm..... I am always shocked when it really happens.  
One of us loves this stuff!! 

The hoop house is finally insulated!! 

7:15 am and it's home and the wood stove is going 
and we have food in jars and I am finally making a few pots. 

And as for this stupid shut down..... I am baking a big old batch of cookies and taking them down to our Coast Guard station!  They are there working and not getting paid.  Not that cookies are going to make one bit of difference but I have written letters and I just feel compelled to do something because I am paying attention and it's January and somehow we gotta get through this mess.  

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Oh goody another year in paradise...........

Since my last post I was sucked into the blackhole of Christmas fun and blown out the other side with a box of Kleenex and month supply of Sudafed.  I have been writing deep thoughts down about the holidays since 2006 and my needle is just stuck.  I don't know what it is but I start out every year saying this year is going to be the year I get it, I will get Christmas!  I will wake up January 2nd and say; "Wow, I get it!"  I'm not there....... I have analyzed it, tried not to analyze it, ignored it, carried on, stiff upper lipped it and slapped a holly berry tiara on my head but honey January 2nd hits and I'm in the blackhole.  Here is this years recap of another lovely holiday season.

Every holiday season starts with flipping the house.  I even said out loud sometime around September:  Let's not do a major project before Christmas this year.  Then by mid October we realized the kids were coming home and the Lane Bryant Lumberjack was bringing "THE BOYFRIEND" aka "#thisonesakeeper" and they would be sleeping in a tent if a few things didn't get done.

This year we thought we would get a handle on things and ordered carpet for the upstairs bedrooms (3) and hall, the old carpet was 30 years old and had too many tales to tell.  Like who ironed her hair on the berber carpet and left the iron on... who puked in the closet in 1999 and oh so many dogs. Anyway order submitted on November 2nd.  Note to self; carpet that has a pattern and comes from Canada during a Trump presidency is a bad decision.  Nothing gets across across the border without papers and a pat down.  I found it ironic that when the carpet finally got here on Dec. 14th, a lovely man; Jose' and his able bodied assistant Juan matched patterns and laid carpet like super heros!  They rocked and ya know what?  They loved what they do, they laughed, talked about their families, upcoming jobs, petted Kirby and did a super fantastic job laying a carpet with a pattern that had to be matched on 180 year old crooked floors.  Unlike the idiot in the White House who seems to have trouble connecting brain cells and doesn't seem to be having a very good time.

Soooo on December 3rd I unpacked the show stuff from the van into the studio, wrote the last blog and started tearing up carpet and painting the upstairs.  Butch had started thankfully but he doesn't do trim or cut in.  And then he said out loud; I'm really bad at this and I hate it.  So I banished him from the room as I really do like painting and the whole transformation of what happens when the first plaster patch goes up.  I had made attempts to clean out the upstairs last year but it was just a drop in the bucket.  Every closet, every shelf, every drawer was taken apart, moved, donated or dragged to the curb.  It was great!  I would pull up to Goodwill and a lovely man would come out and call Kirby by name then stand and pet him while I shuttled furniture and bags of stuff into the holding room.  Everyday for a week I would pull in, he would see the van coming and he would just smile.... Kirby too!  We might need a trip just to say high and drop off a few cookies.  Everything else was moved downstairs and in a small house that means every room looks Michael Cohen's apartment after the fall from grace.

And poor Kirby needed a helmet! 

Old linoleum faux pine flooring...... so attractive! 

The van with Jose' and Juan arrived at 10 am the next morning.  Kirby and I retreated to the studio to work on a kiln and put the remains of Winterfair away.  Relays and new wires.  A break from painting but just another day in hell for this dyslexic potter.  check, double check, check again.  Put it back together, flip the power switch, put the cone packs in and everything looked great! (argh the bottom cone pack still will not drop 5 or 6 so back to the multimeter)  High five  Kirby and walk in the house to see how Jose' and Juan were doing.  Butch was in his office working from home.  

Wow!  What a difference new paint and carpet can make!  It was so bright I couldn't go to sleep that night!  The old room had forest green and red walls...... not anymore! 

There were still pictures and curtains to hang and beds to dress but there were beds to sleep on and carpet to walk on.  And holy crap we have to buy a mattress!  We took a night and jumped on so many mattresses I couldn't get up at the last stop.  Just turn the lights out and leave me here I begged.  We finally found one and it was delivered at 7 am the morning before the kids arrived. Cutting it close for sure! 
 And we cannot forget it's caulking season!  I am getting better although not faster, it still takes me an entire day to caulk a tub and napalm a bathroom and I hate it.  I do it twice a year and if I could find someone to do it I would but alas I have never once seen anyone listed under skilled trades as a tub caulker. 

While waiting for coats of paint to dry and caulk to set;  I baked! 
Nutrolls, Nisua and cookies..... lots of cookies! 
Cookie list this year:  Russian tea cakes, pecan carmel bars, molasses crinkles, pecan tassies and shortbreads.  

and pay off for tub caulking and kiln wiring.....

and I gifted myself a new coffee pot........ because the old one..... well it was an antique Mr Coffee with no bells or whistles and I do love a good cup of coffee in the morning. 

Rachael and Travis arrived from earthquake ridden Anchorage just in time for Sunday dinner on the 16th!  I can't even remember what I made for dinner but it was great and let the festivities begin!  They both had to work from cyberspace for three days so I got other stuff done....... not decorating! 
We had a great weather window hit so I took to the yard and built a cold frame and flipped the compost pile. 
also planted 80 bulbs of garlic finally, transplanted the gooseberries to the inside garden due to deer pruning! And moved two hydrangeas. 

put the hoop house up for red russian kale, chard, toscano kale and beets.

so happy this got built!  Seeds were planted on the solstice but now realize I need a heating mat for next year. 

and put the bay laurel in bondage due to antler sharpening.

and it was really really good to be dirty in December :) 

Rachael had asked me to demo pressure canning soup or something while she was home so she could return to the frozen tundra with skills.  We made a batch of white bean, kale, chicken and sausage soup and a batch of chickpeas.   

It was Wednesday the 20th and the Winter Solstice grew closer.  We went to the Cleveland Museum of Art and caught the Georgia O'Keefe exhibit.  Ok two paintings and a lot of clothes and one picture of the clay studio at Ghost Ranch.  My review of the Georgia O'Keefe show; Meeh.  But dinner at the museum was great and I got to see the the Asian Ceramics exhibit, winning! 

 Abby was flying in at midnight on the 21st too, bring on the light!  The Solstice has been celebrated in this house for more than 30 years.  It has always been a time to close out the Christmas crazy, light a fire, put on a pot of soup and take a breath to reflect.  Write the things we wanted to leave behind on piece of paper and send it up in the smoke allowing new hopes and dreams to enter on the light of a new cycle.  I love this time of the year, this grounding, this quiet entry into the new cycle of light.  But this year I was alerted to a party in the house and friends would be filling the house and there were foods to prepare and a trip to the Westside Market was in order where cheeses, meats, fruits and vegetables were bought and carted home.  The pots and pans were brought out and there was much kitchen frenzy afoot.  So much for a pot of soup and a crust of bread.  The consuming began and in Miller fashion the food and libations flowed and by midnight someone was blowing chunks.  Even when I used to fire walk every Solstice I never once blew chunks.  But alas I have these things called children who have their own traditions and it's a small house and next year it might be my turn to blow chunks, it's a tradition. 

As promised Abby arrived by midnight and I crashed somewhere upstairs in a bed.  The next morning we had tickets to see the Moscow Ballet perform at the Civic Theater.  We dressed as well as could be expected, we really do clean up pretty well but it was a tight fit in the backseat! 

 We extracted ourselves from the car and had excellent roomy seats for the Ballet!  After the show we walked Cleveland Public Square to see the lights and then dinner on the East bank of the Flats.  A very nice night to be sure!  Thanks for dinner Rachael ❣️ 

On Sunday the family made it down to Muny lot for tail-gating and Browns mania!  I value self preservation and choose not to attend! 

Forget that self preservation remark as I had a bit more Christmas shopping to do and went to......... THE MALL.  Just kill me!  It was December 23rd and this is when the world started spinning and the blackhole comes into view and it just isn't going to get any better.  I catch it and I cannot stop it. 
And then the Browns won and we wrapped presents and ate again and went to see Aquaman for 2 hours and 26 minutes....... nobody needs to see Aquaman for 2 hours and 26 minutes but it was Monday and tickets were $5 and we got the stadium seats and popcorn with free refills and we were happy!

And then it was Christmas ...... and we ate and my kitchen was too small for three hungarian girls and one stove.  So I grilled a salmon on the Barby, Abby cooked a duck and Rachael made pork shoulder..... yup we covered it all; Earth, Sky and Water!  Even Aquaman could have found something to eat at this table! 
The day after Christmas, things were picked up, packed up and the rental car with Rachael and Travis headed out the driveway and back to Anchorage.  Abby was here until the 29th and we did ALL the Cleveland things because Abby lives in a tiny little town with almost no museums or stores so off we went to the Cleveland Aquarium, the Cleveland Natural History Museum, the Cleveland Science museum, the IMax theater.  Then we thrift shopped for a day, then we clothes shopped for day and then on the 30th Abby flew back to the little town of Gunnison with an extra bag and wearing the tiara and award for the Queen of Markdowns! 
We returned to the house and I whipped into cleaning mode yet again as we have a neighborhood progressive New Years tottle every year.  This year we had 5 houses and each house serves 2-3 appetizers and a drink.  
As I scraped duck fat off the stove and Kirby licked the dish towel I felt the cracks in my veneer starting to grow.  The morning of the 31st Butch got up and went to work as he had everyday except Christmas and said; I'll be home early.  I think I looked at him and said; Look at this place (Kirby looked up with the dish towel in his mouth) and don't forget I need to get a few things slammed on a plate for tonight.  I had cleaned the studio twice as it had become the dumping ground for the holiday massacre.  I was ready to slit my wrists with a twinkle light and bleed out in red and green on the kitchen floor as the elf on the shelf glowered down from his perch. 
 I was fried.  
Stuffed mushrooms and baby reubens managed to make it onto a platter along with dilly beans and relishes from the shelves in the basement.  New Years day I rolled out of bed and announced I was sick and boy was I.  
It is now Jan. 8th and my first full day of not going through a box of Kleenex and eating Sudafeds.  It will be my first night of sleeping in a bed and not a chair.  

Tomorrow I will go shovel out the last of the Christmas wrap in the studio, wedge clay, load a really good audio book on my iPad, take my ever faithful dog for a walk and make a few mugs.  
Another holiday........ maybe next year I can go stand in a river somewhere and not tell anyone where I went........  
While cleaning out the closet I embraced my tent and sleeping bag a little too hard..... I have nothing on the books until March so I could sneak away for a couple days with Kirby.... stay tuned.   I will not be attending any museums or gallery openings or exhibits for quite awhile.  I have no need to shop for anything ever but I do need to make a few more trips to the Goodwill and one more trip with a pile of books to the donation box at the library.  Happy New Year!  
Oh and my taxes are done!