Saturday, April 25, 2009

More on Bread

After my last post, Geoffrey asked about why his homemade bread tasted like cardboard once it cooled off, or wasn't just fresh anymore.  I did answer him, but thought I'd share on the blog my procedures and recipes that I've worked out for baking.

For my white flour, I always buy Robin Hood Best for Bread flour.  I have found that it's worthwhile to buy premium white flour.  The best bread flour I've ever used came in a 100 lb. bag that I bought through a baker.  Now why is a bakery able to buy better flour than is available in the supermarket?

I keep the flour in the freezer, because I've found that flour ages at room temperature and finally becomes rancid.  You can go to all the trouble of baking homemade bread and buns, and they just will not taste very good.  I usually buy the 10 kg. (22 lb.) bag of flour, and store it in a Tupperware container made for that purpose.  That amount of flour just fits that container.

From the flour in the freezer I take about 3 lbs at a time and store it in the fridge.  Then I grind about 3 lbs of whole wheat flour at a time in this great little home mill:
I buy hard Red Saskatchewan organic wheat
from a local supplier.

Here's my recipe for bread:
12 ounces of very warm water
  3 tablespoons Canola oil
  1 large egg
  4 cups of flour (mixture of white and
      whole wheat)
     freshly ground flax  (about 3 TBS)
  2 tablespoons of sugar
  1  teaspoon salt
  1  tablespoon wheat gluten per cup of whole wheat flour
  2  teaspoons of Fleischmann's Quick Rise Instant Yeast.  (I buy the yeast by the pound, i.e. the Bakery Format, and keep it in the fridge after opening.)

This all goes into the bread maker in the order listed, and is prepared with the dough cycle.  This takes 45 minutes.

When it is finished, I remove the dough, roll it out on a Tupperware pie sheet, and use an empty tin can to cut it into rounds.  I usually make about 4 large buns, for use with hamburgs, and about 11 slightly smaller ones to eat with cheese for supper.  Let them rise for about 40 minutes, and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 18 minutes.  I bake them on cookie sheets and always use parchment paper 
rather than oiling the pans.  Here's today's batch of buns:

Alternatively, I divide the dough into two, and actually weigh them to get them as even as possible, shape them into loaves, oil them and put them into glass bread pans lined with parchment paper.  These are raised in a warm place for about 45 minutes, and baked in a 350 oven for 30 minutes.  I get two one and a quarter pound loaves out of this.

Next time I'll give a delicious recipe for Cardamom buns that are similar to the Hot Cross buns you can buy around Easter time.

P.S.  Did you know that eggs age as much in one day unrefrigerated as they do in SEVEN days in the fridge?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Fresh Bread, Homemade jam

Is there anything more delicious than fresh, homemade bread, warm from the oven?  Maybe fresh, homemade bread warm from the oven with a little butter and some homemade jam!  Here's this afternoon's batch.

I recently made a batch of raspberry jam the 
old fashioned way:  Mix together equal 
amounts of crushed fruit and sugar.  Bring to a boil in a very large pot.  Add a 
lump of butter to keep it from forming too much foam.  Boil briskly for about 20 minutes.

In the meantime, set clean jars in the sink,
fill them with boiling water.  Place enough
canning lids in a pan and cover them with
very hot water.

Stir the jam often with a wooden spoon
to keep it from sticking to the edge
of the pot.

After 20 minutes, pour a little of the
hot jam onto a saucer and put into
the fridge for about 2 minutes.
Take it out and see if it has begun
to jell.  If it runs too fast, boil it
another five minutes and try

If it seems to run rather slowly, take the
pot to the sink, place a hot, drained 
jar on a towel beside it.  Ladle in the
jam to within a half inch of the top.
Put a warm lid on the jar and screw
the ring on tightly. 

Place the filled jars on a pad of
two towels to protect the counter
top.  Place them about 3 to 4 inches
apart to help with the cooling.  Sit
back and listen for the lids to 
snap shut. 

Enjoy your jam with homemade bread,
on ice cream, as a topping with yogurt,
pancakes, waffles, cheesecake, etc.
This jam will not be as stiff as commercial jam, but will have oodles more flavour!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

F.O.'s in Quilting

In my last post I mentioned the fun of beginning a new quilting project.  Today I want to look back at this last quilting season (October to April) and reflect on some of the projects that I finished.

At the start of our quilting group meetings I felt pushed to complete some unfinished projects, so I worked determinedly at them and managed to finish up several.  The first one finished was a lounge or patio dress that I designed myself.  I drew up a sketch of what I wanted to started working toward it.  Along the way some things worked and were used
 as I planned.  Other parts looked awful when I sewed them as planned, so they were discarded and a new plan was substituted.  When the dress was finished I was quite pleased with it.

I made a square table topper for our younger son and his family, but when it was put on their table, it became obvious that it should be oblong, not square.  So I took it home again and made a new one in the oblong arrangement.  That was sent off in time for Christmas, along with handknit leg warmers for the two granddaughters.

Last summer I had asked our older son if he would like another quilt, and he said Yes.  So I started sewing madly, trying to finish a single bed-sized quilt in about 6 weeks.  I chose to do an all scrap, controlled placement 6 x 6 block design.  About half way into the project I had another talk with him, and found out that he didn't mean a bed-sized quilt, but another wall hanging.  So I set aside the quilt I was working on and promised him I'd try to produce an original design wall hanging.  After we returned from our holiday which included visits with both sons, I set to work to finish both of those projects.  The wall hanging, which I had originally titled "Green Dreams" was sent to him in the mail. 

The bed size quilt is still at home here, waiting to find a new owner.  I have an idea it may go to son #2's nephew, who needs some encouragement just now.  I'm thinking of calling it "Zig-Zag RazzMaTazz," just for something upbeat.

Then I actually finished up a chenille jacket I was making for myself.  I had become discouraged about this project, because it was turning out way, way too big.  But then I
figured out a way to take the sides in, and, though it will never be a favorite because it still feels too bulky, it is now wear

I just love the "buttons" I found for it.  They
 are actually pendants from Michaels.  I love
 the way they echo the stitching in the jacket.  

My next project was a Country Creations kit that I started in a class in Edmonton that Lorraine Stangness taught.  It's called "Log Cabin in the Round." 

And last of all I finished the main part of a scrap quilt for our bed.  Elaine Adair had posted pictures of the quilt twice on her blog "Elaine Adair Pieces."  She wrote that it was just pinwheels and four x fours.  I thought it was so attractive, so I charted it up and started working on it just before Christmas.  I didn't finish it until the last day of quilting group.  Now it needs a border, and then the sides and bottom that hang down. I do think it's really attractive, but found the pinwheels extremely hard to do well.  I don't think I'll ever go back to that pattern.

All in all, it's been a good year of quilting, and I'm happy with what was accomplished.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A New Quilting Project

Well, at last we're going to talk about some quilting.  Tomorrow is the last meeting of the quilting group I attend here.  Our leader is a woman who farms, i.e. she farms, her husband is a builder.  So she will be wanting to get out on the fields soon.  The ratty snow we had yesterday is gone, and our current temperature is +6 C, so the farmers will be anxious to start their spring work.

Last week on Tuesday this group went for a "quilt shop hop."  Seven of us left town about 8:30 in the morning and went to Cotton and Candy, a quilt shop in Strathmore. This shop used to be in Standard, a really, really small rural town, and moved about a year ago to the large and growing center of Strathmore.  I was so impressed with how much nicer their shop is in their new location.  So much more room!  So much more material!  So enjoyable to see.

Then we visited Country Creations, south of Strathmore.  Lorraine Stangness lives in the country and has a quilt shop in her basement.  Lorraine is a wonderful quilt designer and teacher.  I've used several of her patterns and bought quite a few of her kits.  I've also taken a few classes from her, including machine quilting.  She had some "how to" demonstrations prepared, and did an excellent job of showing the techniques to the group of us.  I bought her "Spring is in the Air" kit for a wall hanging.  Look it up at her web address:  The jacket I'm wearing in my blog picture is one of her patterns, and here's a blouse I made from one of her patterns:

From there we went to Calgary and had luncheon at Millstone's.  Noisy and busy, but the food was excellent.

And in Calgary we visited two more quilt shops, whose names I have forgotten.  But I did find a pattern for a new quilt for our bed.  About three years ago I bought 44 fat quarters of Moda fabric, "Aunt Purdy's Parlor" at the Heritage Park Quilt Show.  I later realized that was not enough fabric to make a floor to floor quilt for a queen sized bed, so two years ago I bought another bunch of 44 fat quarters from Moda, also designed by Kansas Troubles, this one called "Bound to the Prairie".  So that fabric has been waiting in my cupboard for the right pattern to come along.  Here's a picture of the first block out of thirty-six.  This will be my sewing over the summer months.  

It's always such a treat to start a new quilting project.  I'm really looking forward to sewing on this gorgeous material this summer.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Difference a Day Makes

Here's what the garden looked like this noon, after a windy night and a morning of horizontal snow flying by:
And this actually shows a fair bit of melting.  When we got up in the morning it was all white.  You really have to pity the school children of Alberta: this week is their Spring Break.  Tomorrow's forecast is for more of the same, but improving after that.   The newsperson in Calgary last night said, "Well, it wouldn't be Alberta without spring snowstorms!"  Truth is that, statistically, we get the majority of our winter's snow in March and April.

I keep a garden journal in a spiral notebook, with a date on each sheet.  Here's the record for April 14: '04, -3/+5, Snow, 2" to 3"; '05, -1, Dusting of snow overnight.  Light snow in morning; '06, Nice Weather; '07, +13; '08, -4/+10 Mostly overcast; '09, -2/+3 wind all night, snow-covered in the morning.  Horizontal snow until 2 p.m. then melting.  (I should explain that the temperatures shown are in Celsius, in which 0 is the same as +32 Farenheit, +10 is +50, and +20 is +70.)

Monday, April 13, 2009

First Planting and a doggie adventure

D.H. and I had decided last week to begin planting the cold weather crops this Monday, so I got out there around 10 a.m. today.  There was a heavy, cold wind, but this was the day!  I got out the rake and the weed puller and went to work.  
There were only two dandelions in the bed I chose, and Jim had spread old manure lightly and evenly last fall, so there was very little preparation to do.  I made a light mark in the soil and started planting spinach seed.  Finished three and a half rows of spinach and then put in one row of Prizehead lettuce and one row of Buttercrunch lettuce.  These were in bed #4 (out of 11).  I keep track of what goes into which bed each year to insure rotation, especially of potatoes, peas and corn.  You can see where the rows are marked with a small stone.  The half row is the second from the beginning--because the beds are angled, I insert a half row so the others can run perpendicular to the long sides of the beds.

Then I went to bed #8 and planted 32 snap peas along the chicken wire fence at the south end of the bed.  In two weeks I'll plant a row along the fence at the north end of the bed.  We love the fresh, raw sugar snap peas.  They're also very good just lightly blanched and used in salads or stir fries.

This is a picture of the beds on the south side of the garden.  To the left, the north, there are another six beds.  Two of those have strawberries, still covered with vegetable matter, and one bed holds some perennials and tulips.

On Saturday I put out food for Honey, our little mixed spaniel mutt, around four in the afternoon.  She usually gets fed about that time, but didn't seem to be around right then.  She knows where to find her food dish in the garage, so I wasn't concerned.  Sunday morning when we left for church I noticed that her food hadn't been touched, and I hadn't seen her around at all.  And then when we returned after church and dinner with friends, the food was still untouched.  I asked Jim if he had seen her that day, but he hadn't.

About 4:30 we got a phone call that some people out walking had found her stuck in a culvert just south of our property.  We know she does wriggle through culverts. This time she had gotten into a culvert under a driveway that was plugged with ice on one end, and apparently didn't know how to back out.  By the time we arrived, they had broken the ice plug and freed her, and she was anxious to come home.  She was soaking wet, and very cold, but apparently unharmed otherwise.  And she was sure ready for her dinner!
Today she's taking it easy, finding a sunny spot out of the wind to recuperate.  We hope she's smart enough to learn from this experience, but she's not the brightest kid on the block.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Nine Swans!

This morning I beheld a wondrous sight: nine swans flying in a line headed northeast, warmly lit by the early morning sun.  A sight to treasure all day!  Too bad my camera was not right at hand.  It will have to remain a mental snapshot, for my enjoyment alone.

On another note: one of my readers let me know that she was unable to post a comment, so I have fixed that problem, and now anyone may post comments.  Let us know what you're thinking.