Too Too Too Many Things To Do

I’m cranking away on my To Do List. I’ve got a bit of time, waiting for the garden to be watered so I figured I’d hop on and get you all up to date before I leave at noon today.

Bread,

wpid-20140521_163353.jpgI let them rise on the porch yesterday because it was deliciously warm outside!

wpid-20140521_210245.jpgmy first attempt at making hoagie and sandwich buns. the shaping leaves something to be desired…

I also made pitas and we’re taking what’s left of the vienna loaf up in the RV to the Wiz. So we’re good on bread. I have to get groceries today, which is going to be interesting.  The list of things to get is probably more processed food than I have eaten in years. Not exactly thrilled about that but I am going to try to sneak as much fruit, veg and nuts in as I can. Also, I am going to make cookies! From my brother’s secret recipe. That’s his youtube link. If you want a giggle, check out his music. It’s pretty good, he’s actually writing the music for my wedding. Nevermind his terrible singing. Oh sure, he can sight sing, which is damn impressive, but he has a bad voice. We both do. If you want to watch suicide rates jump, play me some Neil Young and get me drunk enough to sing along.

you don’t want to hear me sing this…

Regardless, the kid is a musical genius. Seriously, bring him to a party and sit him at a piano and LOLZ will abound.

So, wanna see what else I did this morning?

wpid-20140522_080711.jpgmy lazy seedlings

wpid-20140522_080822.jpgwhat survived of the tomatoes…

Since the seedlings were getting better, THANK YOU ILLINOIS FOR FINALLY GETTING YOURSELF UNDER CONTROL, YOU DRUNK, and we’re leaving, I just stuck them in the ground. We’ll see what they’ll do when we get back. I don’t have high hopes, but I didn’t want to just waste them.

wpid-20140522_083036.jpggood luck, my little fellows!

The eyesore berm is finally growing grass,

wpid-20140522_085115.jpgi can not haz eyesore?

The lilac is blooming! That was a major surprise!

wpid-20140522_083542.jpgim pretty from the back. NSFW

The calla lily is going crazy,

wpid-20140522_083510.jpgall the lilies bloomed and blossomed, jilted and they’re withering, i can’t stop them shivering, oh this world is a war. I was there for this video. I cried, not really, but shut up 😉 I am allowed to have a moment, right?

And my pussy willow is looking good!

wpid-20140522_083552.jpghere pussy, pussy, pussy, where can you be? This is safe for work, um, but, um, well it’s technically about a cat, but um, well, um, it’s from the 1930’s and um, well, just listen, ok? you won’t regret it.

And the hops are doing great! I see more beer brewing in out future!

wpid-20140522_083628.jpgI don’t have a weird song for this, surprisingly.

Speaking of beer, the wedding beer is on a second ferment!

wpid-20140522_085308.jpggot nothin’. well, you might like this but it’s a little more obvious. still 1930’s though.

It’s under a towel because light is not good for brewing beer. It’s pretty! And I did have a taste before we put it under wraps, it’s a fruity delicious beer!

Alright, everyone! I’m off to the Wiz! See you when I get back! 😀

Vienna Bread, Pitas, Trouble Makin’

well done, sir!

Just want to get this out of the way:

My goal from last Monday to this Monday was to not drive my Jeep. SUCCESS! It took a little maneuvering and extra trips, but I only used my bicycle! And I worked a full gazillion hours! Granted, I did carpool for a few trips, but I feel that it’s still a success! I was hoping to use this:

wpid-20140512_091538.jpgwscottling mentioned one of these in her blog…seriously, read that post, it was pretty interesting!!

but I managed okay with a backpack. I just have to make multiple trips. When I have to get dog food or something, I plan to make use of my granny cart! I got it from my uncle, who doesn’t remember where he got it and it’s just awesome. I intended to put streamers and a little horn on it because I have no shame, but I haven’t gotten around to that yet.

wpid-2014-05-12-16.14.03.png.pngthis is proof that i have no shame. my uncle made me do it! yes I had a few adult beverages and it was a ridiculous amount of fun and like years ago.

Today was my day off and I decided to make pitas and Vienna bread. Pitas, as I have noted before, are good any time and Vienna bread makes great sandwich bread. It’s an enriched loaf, which means it has more than just flour, yeast, water and salt. To start, I need a pate fermentee, which is really just a fancy way of saying pre-ferment.  Which is kind of like a flavor boost for bread. Since pitas do not require such fancy fixin’s I started them at the same time. Instead of making whole wheat, like I normally do, I made white pitas. Kind of lame, but not everyone loves whole wheat. And besides, I can make more whole wheat ones for me!

wpid-20140512_082220.jpgIT’S ALIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIVE!

wpid-20140512_083345.jpgpitas, at rest

wpid-20140512_084339.jpgpate fermentee, at rest

wpid-20140222_135645.jpggreyhound and cat, at rest

I am trying to speed up the process. TECHNICALLY, I should have put the pre-ferment in the fridge over night, but I didn’t have that kind of time. So my reasoning was to finish the pitas and then move on to the Vienna bread, giving it time to work it’s yeast magic…stuff…

wpid-20140512_102919.jpgshaped into balls, roll ’em out, stick ’em in the oven.

wpid-20140512_112448.jpgdelicious!!

So waiting on the Vienna bread, I made a grocery list:

wpid-20140512_091432.jpgi am a lefty. watch me use a can opener and weep.

Then I hopped on the bike to the store. I managed to get most of what I needed at the local place and was starting to ride back when I saw another place I hadn’t been to before. I was under the impression that they only sold grains and like real specific things, so I dropped in for a visit. I did need lentils and they’re sort of a grain, right? Well, it was early in the morning and whomever was working there did not seem to be thrilled to see a smelly, sweaty chick raging in on a bicycle screaming about lentils. But she did point me to the lentils and I would have stayed longer to check it out, but, um, she didn’t seem in the mood. Oh well, I’ll try again. I wouldn’t want to deal with me first thing in the morning either. It’s nothing but off color jokes.

NSFW

I got home and put my stuff away and then went out to buy a lining for the wedding dress! I went to a big box store (booooo!) but there isn’t any locally owned place. Too bad I guess, I brought the top part of the dress in a tote bag and off I went. I looked at about every single purple in the store and went with…

drumroll…

drumroll…

wpid-20140512_123213.jpgwell, it’s certainly purple. i got that right.

wpid-20140512_123231.jpgi like it!

There was a darker purple that I liked better, but it was too dark under the crochet. It looked navy. Oh well, I am please! Now I just have to figure out how to do it! Cost of the wedding dress so far is $72. Suck it, David’s Bridal! That might be a joke only weirdos in the Midwest get. I dunno, any of ya’ll got a ridiculously expensive chain outlet that sells over priced wedding dresses and bridesmaids dresses and are fairly useless? One of my friends is getting married in August and I am a bridesmaid and I DON’T EVEN WANT to tell you how much fun (none) going to David’s Bridal was. Anyway!

I got a ton of fabric so hopefully I am free to make mistakes, but I have a pretty concrete plan of “laying the crochet over the fabric and cutting or something like that.”

That’s my story. Sticking to it. On to Vienna bread!

wpid-20140512_153742.jpgGETTING BUSY UP IN HERRE!

As I mentioned, I prefer this in a bread pan to be used as sandwich bread, which means we have to shape it. Here’s how!

wpid-20140512_153933.jpglay the whole thing out and stretch it into a rectangle, sort of.

wpid-20140512_154030.jpgcut it in half and stretch it to be as long as the pan

wpid-20140512_154055.jpgroll it up, pinching it as you roll

wpid-20140512_154203.jpgstretch out the last bit and pinch the seam as well as you can.

wpid-20140512_154322.jpgturn it seam side down and roll it back and forth a bit so the seam calms down. It doesn’t have to be perfect, unless you’re serving the pope or something. that’s your business.

Set it in the pan and wait for it to rise!

Baked up and ready to eat:

wpid-20140512_172745.jpgwe almost ate the pan

50% Whole Wheat Pita Party!

So this morning I decided I needed to make yet another batch of pitas. Because clearly it is impossible to have too many home made pitas.

wpid-20140114_112103.jpgyou can’t just have 8

If you want to skip to the instructions and not read my wall of text, they are below in a simplified version.

Ever since my first batch of whole wheat bread (which, um, was interesting) I haven’t bought bread. I refuse. Making homemade bread, sandwich, pita, or just a regular baguette is incredibly simple and inexpensive once you get the swing of things. So why not give it a spin? I promise to provide you with way too many tips. If you want to get further into depth with bread making, I would start at The Fresh Loaf and I would also recommend you purchase Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread which will be damn well worth your while. I just purchased his book, Whole Grain Breads: New Techniques, Extraordinary Flavor and am working on making a mother starter for the recipes in it. I’ll keep you updated once my little starter is ready.

This particular recipe has been tweaked for whole wheat. It makes a pretty pocket and is tender. The whole wheat flour makes it a bit tangy and I feel more flavorful than white.

Some tips for baking bread for every day use:

  • Pick one day of the week to make your breads and figure out how much you need. If they require a starter, make sure to start it in the correct time slot. If you’re a beginner, worry about starters later and just make bread.
  • White bread is easier than whole wheat, so don’t change any white bread recipe until you have a feel for what you are doing.
  • If I am going to bake, I make a time slot of about 4 hours of open time. This doesn’t mean that I am staring at the bread for 4 hours, this is just the amount of time I feel I need to have blocked out.
  • While the dough is rising or proofing or resting or baking, feel free to do other tasks.

To store bread I follow the 2 Days Rule.

  • The bread, whatever kind I make, has two days to sit in the bread box (or on your counter under a towel) until I cut it up (for sandwiches) or break it down (for large baguettes) and then I put it in a plastic bag in the freezer. I reuse the freezer bags because I am crazy.
  • Pitas or rolls obviously just get shoved in the bag and into the freezer.
  • To reheat, sandwich slices for lunch on the go will thaw in about an hour and will taste just as good. For work, I will make my sandwich using the frozen slices and then just put it in the fridge. It will be ready by lunch. Same for pitas or rolls.
  • Also, sandwich slices can be toasted straight from the freezer and will be delicious.
  • To reheat baguettes, I put them in the oven at about 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes. Microwaves are not your friend.

So here we go. You will need some tools:

wpid-20140114_080006.jpg

  • One big bowl
  • One smaller bowl
  • One baby bowl
  • Measuring tools
  • Rolling pin (I have heard a wine bottle works, but for Heaven’s sake, get a rolling pin)
  • Spatulas
  • Towel
  • Dough cutter (Invest in one, makes clean up easy and is incredibly useful)

Ok, now that we have assembled our tools, let’s start getting the ingredients together. There’s an order and method to this madness.

Recipe:

1 1/2 C All Purpose flour

1 1/2 C Whole Wheat flour

1 1/2 C Warm Water

2 tsp Active Dry yeast*

1 1/2 tsp Salt

2 1/2 tbsp Olive Oil (plus some for lubricating the bowl)

*if you’re even remotely serious about baking bread, buy the bulk jar of yeast. The packets will not suffice. Keep it in the fridge, it lasts for a year

Ok, pretty simple, right? Let’s lay it all out:

wpid-20140114_080600.jpgWater and yeast go into the big bowl. Mix the two flours into the smaller bowl and the salt into the baby bowl. We won’t add salt until later, because this makes kneading easier. Let the yeast sit for a little while, until it smells, well, yeasty. Then add the olive oil. Then add about half the flour and mix well.

wpid-20140114_080756.jpgsomething like pancake mix

Add all but a handful of the rest of the flour. I prefer to start my doughs a little wetter because I feel that it is easier to add flour rather than add water.

wpid-20140114_080926.jpgtrust me, things are going to be sticky

Pour the remainder of the flour onto the counter into a pile. I like lightly flour the work area, and leave the majority of the flour in a line above where I will be kneading. This helps add the flour in gradually.

wpid-20140114_081010.jpgladies and gentlemen, that is what flour looks like. 

wpid-20140114_081111.jpgslap that batch of dough right in your work area. don’t forget, we haven’t added salt yet.

Scoop the dough out and onto your work area. Flour your hands and start gently moving around the dough in the flour until it is firm enough to dig in and knead. Feel free to add more flour to your work zone. When I knead, I press the dough into the larger pile of flour, turn and repeat. This way I am adding a little flour at a time. I also really enjoy kneading. Keep kneading and adding a little flour, for this batch I had to add about 1/4 cup more. The dough should be tacky, but not sticky. It should also smooth out and not be shaggy looking. I knead for at least 10 minutes, sometimes more. If your hands get tired, go take a 5 minute break. The dough is not going to grab it’s little dough knapsack and leave. I sometimes knead for about 5 minutes, clean out my bowls and tools and then come back to it.

wpid-20140114_084941.jpghuzzah, i made a ball

When the dough becomes smooth and tacky and has taken in most or all of the flour, you are ready to knead in the salt. This is sort of a personal preference for me. If you don’t feel like fiddling with salt at the end, add it to the flour in the beginning. I prefer to knead it in at the end because it seems to make kneading easier. I add the salt about a half teaspoon at a time, fold, add, fold, add, knead until it’s combined. You’ll feel it.

Onto the rise! If you haven’t already, clean out the bigger bowl, it doesn’t have to be sterile, but you need to get any of the dough and flour that was left behind out. Pour about another tablespoon of olive oil into the bowl. Roll the dough ball into the olive oil, rolling it around to cover the sides and then turn the ball over to coat the entire ball.

wpid-20140114_085739.jpgit’s shiny

Cover with a towel. The dough needs to double in size. Sometimes, this will take an hour. Sometimes this will take 2. Set a timer for an hour and then check it. If it’s ready, go ahead, if not set a timer for another 30 minutes, et cetera until it doubles in size.

wpid-20140114_103716.jpgyou have at least hour until we get here. go play. do clean up your area, however, first.

When it has doubled, turn your oven to 400 degrees. If you have a pizza stone or a baking stone, this would be ideal to get in there now. If not, use the back of a cookie sheet, upside down. Get her heating up. At least a good twenty minutes.

Flour your counter again and gently sort of roll the dough out of the bowl. It should come out nicely. This recipe makes 8 pitas. Cut the dough in half with your dough cutter, and then in half and then in half again. Eight pieces. Mine usually end up as triangles. Give this like 5 minutes to relax. Go clean up your tools.

wpid-20140114_104022.jpgthat’s the weirdest pizza i’ve ever seen

Then get these babies into balls. Don’t worry if they aren’t terribly pretty. If there are seams, pinch them together and roll between your hands.

wpid-20140114_104038.jpgput your hand into the “ok” position and push dough through with your thumb

wpid-20140114_104110.jpgis this a better picture? push those lumps into the gap between your thumb and index.

wpid-20140114_104150.jpgit will end up something like this. gappy like madonna’s teeth.

wpid-20140114_104205.jpgso pinch those seams together and then roll between your hands. don’t get caught up on getting it perfect, the rolling pin will help.

Lightly flour the balls as you make them. When you’re done, roll them out into pita shapes about 1/4 inch thick. If this isn’t going easily, let them rest for 10 minutes and try again.

wpid-20140114_105332.jpgThen lightly rub a little flour on the top and the bottom of the pitas so they don’t stick to the counter. Place them in order of being rolled out. The first one you roll should be the first one in the oven. After they are all rolled out, I give them about 5 minutes to rest. Or if it has taken you a while to get from Pita 1 to Pita 8, go ahead and get Pita 1 in the oven. I can get about 4 pitas on my baking stone (I got the biggest one I could find) but you don’t need to rush. Do one or two at a time. Open the oven with the hot stone or baking sheet and put one or two on it, not touching, and bake for 3 minutes, they should begin to puff up.

wpid-20140114_111253.jpgit took me a second to open the oven, pull out the rack and get my camera, so they fell a little bit, don’t worry, they’re supposed to

To get them out of the oven, I use a metal flipper and a wooden spoon. I get under the pita with the flipper and balance it with the wooden spoon. I then set them on a towel to cool.

wpid-20140114_110850.jpghot stuff coming through

Continue to bake until all the pitas are done. Allow them to cool for about 10 minutes and enjoy! 😀

Recipe For 50% Whole Wheat Pitas

1 1/2 C All Purpose flour

1 1/2 C Whole Wheat flour

1 1/2 C Warm Water

2 tsp Active Dry yeast

1 1/2 tsp Salt

2 1/2 tbsp Olive Oil (plus some for lubricating the bowl)

Activate yeast in warm water in a large bowl. Combine flours into a separate bowl. Add olive oil to water and add half of the flour. Mix well. Add most of the remaining flour and mix well. Knead dough on the counter with remaining flour for 10 minutes. Add more flour as needed. After dough becomes smooth and tacky, knead in salt for about 5 minutes. Oil a clean bowl and roll dough into bowl to coat with oil. Cover with a towel and let rise for 1-2 hours or until doubled in size. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove dough from bowl and cut into 8 pieces. Roll into balls and use a rolling pin to roll them until they are about 1/4 inch thick. Bake for3 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes.