Quick Update!

Hi!

Okay, I have to go to work in a bit, but I did get a chance to read some of your posts which were, as usual, awesome! I didn’t get all the way down the line, but hopefully I will have some more time tonight. I just wanted to give you a preview of what’s going on.

Illinois still hates me, it hailed. HAILED. Like giant ice chunks from the sky. Our garden looks like it’s going to be okay, but SERIOUSLY, Illinois, go home. You’re drunk. Take a pill and go to bed.

wpid-20140521_082119.jpgwe love you!

Also, I’ve got a monster load of bread to make tonight, I am pulling out my “cold” ingredients now so they are at room temperature when I get home. This is a huge tip to get a better rise out of your bread! Warm up your ingredients! Your bread will rise much better! Seriously, humor me and try it on your next loaf.

wpid-20140521_081903.jpgit’s not like these items are going to turn into a giant mold pile in 7 hours.

Also, little secret between you and I and the fence post. I am using kefir in my bread rather than buttermilk. I don’t feel like buying buttermilk and I have a load of kefir I have to use up. Don’t tell anyone that I am experimenting on them! I highly doubt the bread flavor will change much, so sometimes I just do and keep my mouth shut!

I should be back this evening! We’ve got to abandon the cat and dog at the future in-laws, plant my lazy seedlings that just loved this whole freezing/windy/cloudy spring-winter we’ve had in lovely Illinois and start packing for the vacation! Bare with me guys! It’s been a crazy week!

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The Beer Yeast Poolish

If you recall, the wedding beer was quite lively and gaseous.

wpid-20140324_081203.jpgGURGLE GURGLE GURGLE *RASPBERRY*

Loud enough that it startled me several times. In the picture above, you can see a measuring cup with some blow off yeast in it. Well, waste not want not!

I decided to try and make bread out of it.

wpid-20140326_205624.jpgrather unpleasant looking, i’d say

I hunted around the internet for any advice and mostly saw “don’t” and “it makes dense bread”. Well, screw you, INTERNET, you can’t tell me what to do!

I decided to start off with a poolish. If the yeast was lively, it would grow.

wpid-20140326_205921.jpgagain, unpleasant looking

Sure enough, within a few hours we had:

wpid-20140327_101445.jpgIT’S ALIIIIIIVVVVVVVVEEEEE!!

Perplexed with what step to take next, I put the poolish in the fridge for two days while I thought about it.

wpid-20140327_135145.jpgPoolish Day Two: imma gonna eat ur refrigerator…

A dense loaf, like sourdough, was what what the INTERNETZ told me to expect. So I decided to do an italian bread with sugar and to use milk instead of water. Unfortunately, I had to go to work so my lovely fiance was charged with shaping, final proof and baking. I left him with sage tips, such as, “if it turns into a taquilla, call a priest.”

wpid-20140329_093606.jpgi swear, i am not a taquilla! what is wrong with you?

I came home to…

Drumroll…

No, seriously, drumroll…

wpid-20140329_174849.jpgpretty sure that’s bread…

Not too bad for a first time shaping!  I’ve done worse! Seriously. Well done! Now what about the taste? If you recall, the wedding beer has raspberries in it and the yeast did have a slight raspberry smell. So we cut that bad boy open:

wpid-20140331_181809.jpgnot dense. ok, well i (bmary) am dense, but the bread isn’t

The flavor was slightly sweet and very good. It was not dense at all. I think the reason for this was that the yeast used was very fresh and the INTERNETZ was mostly discussing spent yeast, like from the bottom of the a beer after it brews. That I could see being considerably less lively. Regardless, this made very good bread! If you wanted to use spent yeast from a home brew, I would suggest feeding it much like a mother starter until it was fully awake and bubbly.

Screw saving a piece of wedding cake, we’ll save a beer thank you.

I WENT OUTSIDE AND FOUND GREEN STUFF. AND SNOW. AND MADE A SUET HOLDER. BADLY.

Hello Everyone!

It’s been forever! Sorry about that, I have been trying to keep up with you all, but seriously, last week was tough. Long shifts, extra days, drinking excessively, wedding planning, the works!

I recently found a small family-owned grocery store* that is a hair farther away than THE BIG FLOPPY BOX STORE I normally go to. The prices are a hair higher too, but I am trying to “put my money where my mouth is” a little more and the store is absolutely awesome! They have a delightful produce section, a bunch of frozen fruit (more variety and cheaper!), a bakery (eh, I probably make better bread!) an olive bar and a ton of just fun, interesting stuff. It’s actually fun to go there! Which is nice, because I hate shopping. But this place is more…welcoming? Homey? Comfortable? No giant lights and coupons being thrown at me?** I don’t know how to say it. I’ve decided to eat more raw lately, so that means stocking up on nuts, fruits and vegetables and they have a wonderful selection! I did get a salmon filet, as my fiance is out with the boys bowling tonight, so it’s Tuesday Tub, Wine and Fish. Not necessarily in that order.

*if you click the link, read their web address. ROTFLMAO.

**I HATE excessive coupons, because if you’re product isn’t at a fair price point and you won’t stand behind it, go away. I get it, if it’s a new product or a sale, but constant coupons make me not want to shop at stores. Besides, they are mostly for crap I don’t want anyway.

More on putting my money where my mouth is, King Arthur Flour sent me a catalog, which is apparently dangerous! I literally want everything! I did splurge a while ago and buy 50# of flour from their website, so I am assuming that is why they were so kind to send me one. I’ve decided, since the mom and pop place does not sell King Arthur, to buy exclusively from their website. This may seem a little silly, but I am trying hard to avoid THE BIG FLOPPY BOX STORE. They seem to have their heart in the right place and they are employee owned.

I did start a new tunic top, I made it quite a bit smaller than the other one because frankly, I am freaking short. And I do not have the, uh, bust to fill it out as written.

wpid-20140302_145038.jpgthe last one had what i fondly refer to as “armpit pockets”*** because the bust was too big. it happens so often i have a name for it.

***when i can freely see where the bottom of the sleeve hole is hanging uselessly away from my body and looks like a giant pocket

wpid-20140302_155403.jpgi am super proud of this pretty straight top stitching.

I am working hard to make straighter stitches. I have found the best way is to line up (ok, this is a DUH for anyone who has sewn, but indulge me!) the fabric with the throat plate lines and watch those lines, not the needle, not the foot, not the fabric, not the dog. Slow and steady, eyes on the throat plate. I also added plants to my sewing area:

wpid-20140302_143450.jpgwith plants! duh! and a festive mug! I love festive mugs about as much as plants.

wpid-20140304_151422.jpgstring of pearls, weird yellow spotted plant and rhipsalis cassutha

The string of pearls has had better days. I put it in a TERRIBLE spot when I first got it and didn’t realize until it was really not doing well that it wasn’t getting enough sun. He’s better, but he’s not the happiest of campers. I’ve got a house full of complainers. The aloe vera APPARENTLY is also dissatisfied with too much sun. She started turning brown, like they do when they are sun burnt. Either that or she’s got too much water, which I SINCERELY doubt, because I haven’t watered her in months. I think it’s because of the change in the angle of the sun during the day. So I just backed her off the bay window a bit. Ugh, bunch of complainers. I’m not sure if the plants will stay there when the tree that is currently bare outside grows leaves, but we’ll see. Frankly, I can’t wait to stick the hardier, less complainer ones out on the three seasons porch. They love it.

Ok, so anyway, what was I originally supposed to yell about? Oh yeah, my badly made suet holder. So I can’t find the metal one (SQUIRRELS!!!! JERKS!!!) so I rigged up one out of crochet and put it closer to the window. The squirrels don’t come that close, well except Bertha, who is actually kind of tame. She’s okay, because she amuses me with her begging and paw waving when I am out feeding the birds. We also have Humphrey and Henry, our resident chipmunks who I haven’t seen yet. They’ll be around.

wpid-20140304_141338.jpgi have way too much sage green yarn.

wpid-20140304_142358.jpgjust wow. get people on the phone. it’s fancy!

I literally made this while standing at the counter mumbling curses at squirrels.

LET’S GO OUTSIDE!

wpid-20140304_142651.jpgpoop. i found poop.

wpid-20140304_142620.jpg2 of our neighborhood murder of crows. they’ve only stopped by the feeder to poke at the suet once or twice.

wpid-20140304_142825.jpgour sad garden. p.s. my seedlings are all complainers too. i had to move them to get them warmer and NOW they’re like oh, i guess i’ll live and stuff. a house full of teenagers or something, i swear.

wpid-20140304_142955.jpgWHAT THE HELL IS THAT???????? WHY IS THE GROUND TURNING GREEN?????

OMG MAYBE WINTER IS GOING TO END EVENTUALLY!!!

Let’s celebrate with some Roy Orbison. I like him more than Elvis. I mean, I like Elvis, duh, but man, Roy is pretty awesome. Try not to chair dance. I dare you. I turn this up so loud, it’s stupid.

Results from Francine a l’Ancienne!

Finally Francine got to work for me!

wpid-20140218_095833.jpgi’m awake!

If you recall yesterday morning we were here:

wpid-20140217_072927.jpg

WIP

So I was pretty thrilled that we got Francine a l’Ancienne to wake up. Next time, I will probably feed her and leave her out overnight before I mix up another batch.

wpid-20140218_100040.jpghappy mess

wpid-20140218_100443.jpgnot my prettiest work, but this dough is wet.

wpid-20140218_100739.jpgit’s okay, i’ll eat the ugly pieces.

wpid-20140218_110444.jpgbaked up, my new gigantic cooling rack.

wpid-20140218_111102.jpgholy moly!

Well, I definitely scored on the crumb! I gave it a taste test and unfortunately, we do need some improvements. Too much whole wheat made the bread a little more bitter than I would like. It will be great with soup or to scoop up sauces in, but it could be better. I had planned on using more bread flour in my ratio (I think I ended up with 70% whole wheat and 30% bread flour) but the dough firmed up before I got to the ratio I was planning on, which was six cups of flour, not four and a half or so. So lesson learned for next time, however I don’t think there’s going to be a problem getting this bread eaten!

While Francine was baking I went out and fed the wild birds and scooped a poop zone aka turdundra for the greyhound. I don’t know about you, but I would not like to poop up to my elbows in snow. I took a few snaps so you could see how snowy it is here!

wpid-20140218_102455.jpgdoesn’t do it justice

wpid-20140218_102642.jpgsad flamingo

wpid-20140218_102600.jpgi almost had to borrow some huskies to get over to the tree

wpid-20140218_102631.jpglast years hops

It needs to warm up here before I go crazy!!!

100% Whole Wheat Bread Made From A Mother Starter (plus a few crochet pics)

wpid-20140127_123134.jpgWhoo hoo!

Finally got a chance to use my mother starter yesterday! I prepped the night before with a soaker and fed the starter and made the loaf pictured above. Then I decided, why not make it again, only with friends?

wpid-20140126_190001.jpgcompelling…needs wine…

wpid-20140127_082255.jpgmixing the soaker, the starter and some other ingredients…

So I called some friends to come over and drink a bottle or two of wine…which might be why I didn’t manage to get pictures of the loaves I made them instead of my poor burned loaf…but hey! It was delicious and fun!

wpid-20140127_082503.jpgproof that you can handle wet dough while inebriated…

wpid-20140127_103029.jpgi tried to make it pretty…this was before I was drunk, I made two loaves yesterday and that is why i needed a bottle of wine.

wpid-20140127_123134.jpgit’s…brown…? my hangover and i are hilarious today.

I am really glad I made that first loaf before they came over because as you can see, it is a bit burned. Honestly, I can’t put a finger on it, but a lot of times when I bake, I have to bake the bread for half the time called for. I mean, obviously it’s my oven, but it doesn’t seem to run hot. I don’t know, I just try to remember to keep a better eye on it. Their loaves cooked up in 20 minutes flat and were beautiful. The bread is delicious and moist otherwise. A nice crumb, I’d put up a picture of the inside, but, um, there isn’t much left. We are really good at eating bread.

Also, I’ve been looking at a lot of crochet blogs lately and had some definite afghan envy. I do crochet, when I am not drunkenly making bread. So real quick here are some of my afghans:

wpid-20131120_085037.jpga single crochet with a spike stitch stash buster WIP

wpid-20131114_115442.jpgthey greyhound approves

wpid-20131023_180927.jpgyet another greyhound approved blanket, this one was my first ever, so it’s a…something. that something is not square. it was supposed to be a ripple. i did make a queen sized ripple that is actually the correct shape, but it’s in the basement and i am too lazy (hungover?) to bother to take new pictures apparently.

wpid-20131113_120559.jpgmy reversible blanket, double crochet squares, one is a regular square motif, the other is, well just three rows of color. i made them the same size and then i single crochet the squares together and then slip stitched the whole thing together. whew!

The Mother Starter

Good morning everyone!

My mother starter is finally ready for use! Hurray!

wpid-20140125_083543.jpgpet yeast

wpid-20140125_083533.jpgfrom above

Finally! I was worried in the beginning because my starter took a very long time to get lively. Over a week of babying and watching and feeding but finally, we have a healthy group of wild yeast to bake with! I created the starter with instructions from Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads.

Mother starter, from baby starter to momma:

wpid-20140110_163210.jpgnot dreadfully exciting yet

wpid-20140122_173217.jpgstarting to rise up a bit, after I mix:

wpid-20140122_173306.jpgdeflating down. smells delicious and tangy!

After about a week of all that, rising, mixing, feeding, rising, mixing, feeding, I was ready to make an actual mother starter. Here she is when I first mixed her up:

wpid-20140124_081738.jpghappy little yeastie beasties?

wpid-20140125_083533.jpgvery happy little yeastie beasties!

I’m going to make the basic whole wheat loaf on Monday, so I will of course update you all then. Today, I am going wedding dress shopping with my friend who is getting married (I am going to make my wedding dress, so no temptation there, but maybe inspiration!) then off to an old school no cell phones allowed dinner party. Can’t wait! Busy Saturday!

Have a fabulous weekend, everyone! I look forward to seeing what you’ve all been up to! 😀

Ciabatta Poolish

Considering tomorrow that I will have ample time to bake, I decided I will make ciabatta bread. Ciabatta was the first serious bread I made. By serious, I mean technically difficult and requiring more effort than combine, knead, proof, bake. It’s a very wet dough and produces bread that is delicious, chewy and full of holes. Fantastic for sandwiches or dipping in olive oil or eating directly out of the oven with a guilty look on your face.

I first made it in my tiny apartment kitchen and I believe the whole process took (aside from the poolish) 4 or 5 hours. It was insane and delightful. I struggled to get it right and in the end, although the bread was absolutely wonderful, I felt it wasn’t quite there. I went back to my sandwich breads and tried other recipes.

I have been hesitant to try it again, remembering the way I had to mother hen the dough. It’s sticky, it’s wet, it’s hard to handle. Also, I have made other breads that are easier and produce just as tasty results. But, I’ve got a window of free time tomorrow and I have loads more experience. I will not post the recipe, as it is not mine and it would not be very becoming of me. So you’ll have to be satisfied with pictures.

Day 1:

The Poolish

wpid-20140116_081036.jpgafter it has been first mixed, if i recall correctly, it stays this delightfully sticky

It has to ferment for about 4 or five hours at room temperature and then it goes into the refrigerator. A poolish is a pre-ferment to get more flavor and texture from the final product. It gives the recipe a kick in the pants before it’s even made. As they usually take about 5 to 10 minutes to put together and then live in the fridge, I would never dream of skipping them. It’s all about planning ahead.

And while we wait, some important bread baking tips:

  • Always make one ugly loaf that you have to eat immediately so no one can see it.
  • I won’t judge you if you eat the bread before it’s cooled sufficiently

wpid-20140116_090706.jpgone hour in, i can’t help it, i have to peek

  • If no one sees you eat an entire baguette, it doesn’t count. Besides, to the victor the spoils?
  • Right????
  • RIGHT???????
  • If you’re gluten free, I am really, really sorry.

Anyway, here’s where we are at after four hours.

wpid-20140116_111615.jpgWOW IT IS SO DIFFERENT THAN THE LAST PICTURE, IS THAT A YEAST CELL WAVING A WHITE FLAG AT ME HOLY COW I MUST CALL THE GOVERNOR GET ME A PHONE PLEASE AND THANK YOU

It smells yeasty and wonderful! Can’t wait to bake it up tomorrow!