Wednesday, April 30, 2014

DIY--Artisan Bread

 My sister-in-law introduced us to this heavenly recipe. She is a fabulous cook, but has never delved into bread-making. She had the same fear of yeast so many others have! She hadn't played with it enough to get comfortable with how it works to make a great loaf of bread. Well, if you fear yeast recipes, try this one! It is no fuss, and nearly no work. It's a great way to start out making yeast breads. The texture is crunchy and chewy. The bread is dense and salty. I. LOVE. THIS. BREAD.
Check out our family's recipe blog here for more delicious food.

Be sure and read through the directions a couple times before you get started. It is easy, but I found the wording is a little tricky the first time I made this. And check out my notes at the end for some easy changes I made.

Artisan Free Form Loaf--Makes 2 loaves

 3 C lukewarm water
1 1/2 T yeast
1 1/2 T kosher or other coarse salt
6 1/2 cups unsifted, unbleached, all purpose white flour, measured with the scoop-and-sweep method
Cornmeal for pizza peel

1. Warm the water slightly: It should feel just a little warmer than body temp, 100 degrees.

2. Add yeast and salt to water in 5-quart bowl or, preferably in a resealable, lidded (not airtight) plastic food container. Don't worry about getting it all to dissolve.

3. Mix in flour-kneading is unnecessary. Add all of flour at once, gently scooping up flour, then sweeping the top level with knife; don't press down into flour as you scoop or you'll have too much flour! Mix in standing mixer with dough hook attachment until mixture is uniform. Don't knead! No dry patches! This will yield a dough that is uniformly moist, wet, and loose enough to conform to the shape of the container.

4. Allow to rise. Cover with lid but do not put on air tight. 2 hours. Fully refrigerate dough-3 hours or overnight.

5. The gluten cloak: Don't knead, just cloak and shape a loaf 30-60 seconds. First, prepare a pizza peel by sprinkling it liberally with cornmeal to prevent your loaf from sticking to it when you slide it into the oven. Sprinkle the surface of your refrigerated dough with flour. Pull up and cut off a 1 pound (grapefruit size) piece of dough, using a serrated knife. Hold the mass of dough in your hands and add a little more flour as needed so it doesn't stick to your hands. Gently stretch the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter turn as you go. Most of the dusting flour will fall off; it's not intended to be incorporated into the dough. The bottom doesn't need to look pretty but the correctly shaped loaf will be smooth and cohesive on top. This should only take 30-60 seconds.

6. Rest the loaf and let rise on pizza peel. 40 minutes-don't cover.

7. Preheat oven and pizza stone on middle rack at 450. Place a broiler tray for holding water on any other shelf that won't interfere with the rising bread.

8. Dust and slash. Dust top of loaf with flour and cut with serrated knife in cross pattern about 1/4 inch deep. Or tick-tack-toe looks nice too.

9. Baking with steam. After preheat, slide loaf onto pizza stone. Quickly but carefully pour 1 cup hot water from tap into the broiler tray and close oven to trap steam. Bake for about 30 minutes or until crust is nicely browned and firm to the touch. Let cool on wire rack. You can store remaining dough in refrigerator for 14 days. Leave in plastic container with lid on but not airtight. 

I have had people ask "what is a pizza peel?" It's the thing you put pizza on to put it in and out of the oven! If you don't have one, never fear, you can still make this recipe! I don't own one and I make it all the time. I use a flimsy, plastic cutting board covered in cornmeal. I just put the dough on the edge while it rises. Then I sprinkle more cornmeal on the hot baking stone before I slide my dough on. It isn't quite as convenient, but it works! I don't have room in my kitchen to store a pizza peel.

Monday, April 28, 2014

DIY Milk: Goat or Cow

We have a little homestead. It's not a major one, but we have a goal to be as self-reliant as we can. So, 2 1/2 years ago we got goats. We felt like they would fit in better on our small property than a cow. They are delightful animals. They are sweet, smart, friendly and SO easy to milk. They are large dairy goats, but I can still manhandle them even with my small stature. I grew up on a farm and have been around all farm animals. I have never cared for cows. They are big and unpredictable. On more than one occasion I have had my life flash before my eyes as one came at me, sure I would be barreled over by the beast!

We have had a bad run with goats, lately. Had to put one of ours down a few weeks ago. I can't believe I actually typed those words, as I have forbidden my family to talk about it. My heart is still broken. I pretend she has gone to a new farm and she is happily living there.

I have mentioned cows before, and my husband didn't think it was a good idea, but now with the goat thing coming to a close, he has reconsidered. I have been nervous about it, because of the aforementioned aversion to the bovine species, but I am willing to give it a go. I am sharing a post from my favorite homesteader blog, The Elliott Homestead. This is HILARIOUS!  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, and feel free to weigh in on the debate, COWS OR GOATS!?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Super cool FriXion pen for quilting and sewing

A while back, a good friend and fellow quilter/sewer gave me a little gift, and I am totally in L. O .V. E. with it!

Enter, the Pilot FriXion pen! I don't think this handy little gadget was made originally for quilting, but it has become a must have for many of us. Here is why:

It also has a really cool eraser end that removes ink by friction, but who needs that when HEAT does it for you!

(here is a fun little side note: you and your kids can make secret spy notes to each other and use heat *hair dryer* and cold *ice pack* to make them appear and disappear! i did this for an april fools day trick for my kids.  it wasn't a prank, but they loved getting a love note from me!)

You can find these little gems on Amazon, or at office supply stores, also carries them. Get one, try it out and let me know if you love it as much as I do!

(PS--I'm not getting anything for showing you this pen. I just thought it was cool and want you to be as happy as I am when I am sewing!)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Springtime Treat--Marshmallow Nests

My Mom used to make these tasty treats with us when we were kids. I enjoyed making them, and eating them! They are very easy to make:

Marshmallow Nests with eggs

1/2 bag marshmallows
2 T butter
Melt these together, then add:
1 tsp vanilla
 (you can play with the ratios to get them just right. Mine were a little heavy on the marshmallow this time, but I didn't really mind!)

Mix in:

1 big bag of Chinese noodles. When mixed, take the warm mixture and shape it into a little nest. Immediately, add your eggs to the nest. If you don't they won't stick, and will just fall out. That is no fun! For the eggs, you can use jelly beans, robin egg candies, or my personal favorite, Cadbury Mini Eggs!!! These are a pretty sticky, so have a bowl of water to dip your fingers in while you are shaping nests. Spray waxed paper with some Pam before you put them on, so they will come off easier.