Storm Status, and Easter baking

Well, it’s certainly snowing and blowing enthusiastically, out there!

That hasn’t stopped the birds from enjoying the suet feeder.

The driveway is so white right now, it’s messing with the camera’s ability to “see” it, making for some interesting rings of colours on there.

I took this screencap of the weather app on my desktop, just minutes ago. According to this, the worst is still yet to come. It is still conflicting with what’s showing on the weather radar.

Well, it will be what it will be. My main concern is with the high winds, of course. When this is over, we’ll have to do a walk-about to see if any more dead trees have come down, or what branches have fallen.

From the looks of the weather radar, the most severe conditions are hitting the US, as the system sweeps across the Eastern states. I hope those of you living in those states are keeping safe!

While it’s snowing and blowing, we got some bread baking done.

A two-loaf recipe was divided into four small loaves. The prettiest one will be for our Easter basket.

Since I was baking bread anyhow, I made a batch of oatmeal bread, also divided into four small loaves instead of two regular loaves. That way, we get a loaf each. 😀

I’m looking forward to having one of them with a big bowl of chili, once it cools down enough. 🙂

The Re-Farmer

Must… resist! (Updated)

Aw, man, it’s all I can do not to go all Cookie Monster on the muffins I just finished baking!

I ended up making a dozen each of three kinds.

The cornmeal muffins were a basic recipe, though I added a bit of sour cream to the milk, for extra flavour.

Oatmeal muffins with a streusel topping, from the simplest recipe I found online.

Spinach and cheese muffins! I spotted a recipe online, but it used frozen spinach, which we don’t have. So I just used a basic muffin recipe, adding some of our dried spinach to the liquid mixture to reconstitute for a while, and added shredded cheese to the dry ingredients. We had some small pieces of Havarti and Old cheddar left over, so I finished off both.

The girls made supper while these were cooling, so I’m being good and waiting until after I have a meal before having any muffins.

But it is soooo tempting to have “dessert” first! 😀

The Re-Farmer

Update: Taste test is done!

Spinach and cheese: I think I didn’t have enough flour or over mixed these. They were almost like a quiche in texture! Still very tasty.

Oatmeal with struedel topping: not as sweet as I expected! Nice, but of the three, these were my least favorite.

Corn meal: these were awesome. The touch of sour cream gave a surprisingly big flavour boost. Corn meal muffins are my favorite, so no surprise I liked these best!

Spice Cake for St. Nicholas Day

December 6 is St. Nicholas Day, and one of the Polish customs is to make spice cookies or cake on this day.

I didn’t feel like fussing with cookies, so I went hunting for a spice cake recipe with ingredients I already had.

More or less.

The recipe I settled on is here; Piernik – Polish Spice Cake.

The link should open in a new tab, so you won’t lose your place here. 🙂 Also, the photo at the link is completely different from what the recipe results in!

Of course, I had to do some modifications, so here, I will talk about what I changed.

In the ingredients:

It called for 1 cup of dark honey. I didn’t have dark honey. In fact, I didn’t even have a cup of liquid honey. What I had was some of my cousin’s creamed honey. I have no doubt using it will change a few things, from the colour to the moisture to the flavour, but I don’t expect them to be a big deal, and considering how my cousin makes his creamed honey, with a hint of maple syrup, I expect tasty results.

The next change was the 8oz, or 2 sticks, of unsalted butter.

I honestly don’t get the “sticks” of butter thing. I mean, yeah, I do see them in the stores, but my goodness, it costs more to buy butter in sticks than in pounds.

One stick equals a quarter pound of butter, or half a cup, so the recipe is calling for a cup of unsalted butter.

I don’t have unsalted butter. Just salted butter.

Usually, when I see a recipe that calls for unsalted butter, and I use salted butter, I would reduce the amount of salt elsewhere in the recipe.

This recipe doesn’t call for salt at all.

I’m not concerned. A touch of salt can wake up sweet things, and for the amount of salt in the batter, with no other salt in the recipe, we’re not going to have a salty cake or anything.

We were pretty much out of ground cloves, so for the 1 tsp in the recipe, about 3/4 of it was from whole cloves I ground in a coffee grinder.

The recipe also called for dark brown sugar. We have just plain brown sugar, or “golden” sugar.

The instructions mentioned beating mixtures at low speed, so it assumed an electric mixer would be used, but I didn’t want to fuss with it and did it by hand.

The instructions said to pour the batter into prepared loaf pans and bake at 350F for 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out pretty much clean. All ovens are different, so I set the timer to 50 minutes, then checked it with a steel chopstick. Because of course, I don’t have toothpicks.

It came out with batter stuck to it, so I added 10 minutes, then tested again.

Then I added another 10 minutes and tested again.

Then I added another 5 minutes and tested again!

Finally, the chopstick came out clean!

I don’t know why this took so much longer to bake than the recipe stated. Going from 45-50 minutes to 75 minutes can’t be completely put to differences in ovens. Whatever the reason, if you try this recipe, make sure to do the toothpick test (or chopstick, as the case may be) to ensure it’s done!

Doesn’t that look pretty? And the smell while baking was wonderful.

After letting it cool, I just had to taste test it for this post. 😀

As far as texture goes, it’s more “banana bread” than “cake”. It has a slightly crisp crust outside, with a lightly dense, spongey inside. The combination did make it a bit harder to cut! 😀

While sweet, is it nowhere near as sweet as I expected it to be! Not with so much sugar and honey in it. Using the salted butter was fine; there was no noticeable salty taste. I also don’t really notice a coffee taste, either, even though there was quite a bit of strong coffee in there. All the flavours blended together quite nicely, and no one flavour stands out more than the others. I found spreading a little bit of butter on my slice brought out the flavours, more.

It’s also drier than I would expect either a cake or most quick breads to be, though it is definitely moist.

From what I’ve read in other recipes, they can become moister with time.

I don’t expect these to last long enough for us to find out. 😀

The Re-Farmer

A good day to be baking!

It was a lovely morning, as I did my rounds, with nothing at all to suggest we were going to be hit by a storm, later today!

As is now usual, I had a whole crowd of kitties waiting outside the door for breakfast. 😀

I counted 19, but it’s possible I missed one of the ‘icouses. They were milling about so much! I did get to pet a few furry butts, including several of the kittens that normally would have run off already, plus our newcomer.

Creamsicle Baby was battling it out with Agnoos for special attention. 😀

Butterscotch followed me while I was doing my rounds. She really likes that I now go to the corner of the property to check if the new sign has been vandalized yet, and switch out the memory card on the camera. She has taken advantage of the set up and uses the various posts to climb up and jump onto me, making it very hard to switch out the memory card!

While going through the yard, I spotted a few summer yard tools we missed putting things away, and brought a couple of our snow shovels closer to the sun room door. They are normally kept by the main entry, but we are avoiding using that door until we can get the door and frame replace; something we’d hoped to get done before this winter, but the budget for it just didn’t happen. I wasn’t even able to get the estimate done; I was going to call the same company that did the windows here, before we moved in, but I can’t find them! I do hope they haven’t gone out of business, like so many others have done in the past year and a half. 😦

When I was ready to come inside, I found this handsome fella waiting for me.

He even let me pet him and scritch his ears!

I think this one is Chadicous, but I’m not sure.

I love that pink little nose!

The general store the post office is in closes at noon on Wednesdays, so I headed out shortly after they opened. I wanted to get the battery we needed for the cat’s house smoke detector that I forgot to pick up yesterday. While there, I picked up another bag of flour, just in case.

I had a few general things planned for baking today. One of them was muffins, but I hadn’t settled on any recipes. After doing some searching, I found a couple of savory recipes I wanted to try.

The whole day of baking was about timing! The first thing I did was cook a package of bacon in the oven, until dry and crumbly, for one of the muffin recipes. Once that was cool and crumbled, I started a double batch of bread. I didn’t use our dough baby, because I forgot to set it to soak overnight. Instead, I used our basic bread recipe, which gets modified with whatever we have on hand. This time, it included oatmeal and chia seeds, with molasses for the sweetener.

While that was sitting for its first rise, I had time to make a double batch of apple bacon muffins.

Half of them were for the freezer, and half to have on hand. This recipe as a surprising amount of cinnamon in it, which accounts for the darker colour.

There is an entire package of bacon and two Granny Smiths in that double batch! The recipe sounded amazing, but it didn’t live up to expectations. Don’t get me wrong; they were quite tasty. However, I really expected to at least taste all that bacon! The predominant flavour was the apple. I’d definitely make them again, even if they didn’t life up to their hype. 😉

When the muffins where done and cooling, the girls quickly took over the kitchen to make lunch for everyone. That gave me a chance to take a break – and see that the snow had finally arrived!

It has just changed from rain to snow when I took this photo. They’re hard to see, but there is at least one chickadee going for the sunflowers as they disappeared under the snow!

By the time we finished lunch, the bread was ready to be shaped into loaves and left for a second rising, which gave me time to make another double batch of muffins.

This time, they were cheddar cheese muffins. They were supposed to be smoked cheddar, but what we had on hand was sharp cheddar. The recipe included cornmeal and cayenne pepper. For a double batch, it would have been 1/2 to 1 tsp of cayenne, but there was no way I could use that much. I enjoy the flavour of spice, but have no tolerance for the heat. Still, I did add some. These turned out very nice. Better than the apple bacon, I’d say. Another keeper. Especially for the next time we get smoked cheddar. 🙂

Once these were done, the bread loaves were ready to go into the oven. While they were baking, I started another double batch of bread. This one had oatmeal in it, too, (more specifically, rolled oats, softened in boiling water for a few minutes) and some hemp hearts I had left.

Also, I’m glad I got that extra bag of flour. We had just started a new bag, and I’ve already gone through half of it!

These are the oatmeal, molasses and chia seed loaves. I’m rather pleased with how they turned out! I’m a terrible one for using too much flour, and taking them out of the oven too soon, but I’ve gotten better. 😉

Then, while the second batch of bread was rising, I made a batch of double chocolate cookies. Double as in, it has two kinds of chocolate (cocoa and chocolate chips), not a double recipe. A single recipe was enough to fill four baking trays. For so many, I had to get a daughter to tend the oven, as they baked very quickly, while I had to start shaping the bread for their second rising. This time, I made them into large buns instead of loaves. The timing turned out perfect. By the time the last cookies were coming out of the oven, the buns had risen enough to go into the oven.

I didn’t bother taking photos of the second batch of bread, nor the cookies. The cookie batter was the kind you drop onto an ungreased pan by spoonfuls, then they spread flat while in the oven. I ended up having to increase the cooking time, and they also turned out to be very fragile. Which is okay. Broken cookies taste just as good as not broken one! They just don’t look pretty. 😉 As for the buns, even with the oatmeal and hemp hearts, they just look like white bread. 😀 Those were the ones we started on tonight. While two of the loaves of the first batch went to the freezer, along with half the muffins, I decided not to bother freezing any of the buns. Those are going to disappear very quickly!

In the middle of all this baking, I got a call from my mother. She was wanting to know if we had snow, too. By this time, it was coming down pretty heavily. She sounded so excited, and started going on about what a good thing it was we got her shopping done when we did. I agreed, mentioning that unfortunately, we didn’t get all the things we wanted to get done finished. She was completely oblivious. Instead, she started saying that, as long as the septic was covered, it was fine. She had seen the insulated tarp we had ready to cover it, the day she came out here, so she started giving me instructions on making sure it was weighted down so it wouldn’t blow away. I told her it was pegged to the ground. Apparently, she didn’t know that tarps have grommets on them, than can be used to fasten them down. She kept on going, telling me about how important it was to cover the septic tank. I ended up asking her, how long have we been living here? She thought three years. I said four, and we’ve been covering the septic every year we’ve been here. I know my mother thinks I’m stupid, but you’d think she would have noticed that the winterizing has been getting done, every year.

What I find strange, though, it that she was also talking about covering the well. In fact, she was talking about the septic tank and the well interchangeably, and then saying that if the well freezes, we’d have no water, and how terrible that would be. This was something she brought up last year. She insisted that the well cap had been covered with straw, every year, just like the septic tank. Which has never been done. Not only was it never covered with straw, but I know that even the accumulated snow was removed, likely with the Bobcat our vandal stole, as evidenced by the chips in the concrete, and one of the handles on the cover being broken right off, while the remaining one has been bent flat. Hidden by snow, it’s been hit and run over. Plus, the well cap is at least 12 feet down. It’s never been a problem in the almost 50 years since it’s been dug. She also had nothing to do with any of this sort of maintenance, so I don’t know where she is coming from on this.

It was a short phone call. I mentioned I was in the middle of baking, and she happily let me go. She just wanted to talk to me about the snow. It felt so weird. She’d been so nasty to me when she was here two days ago, and she has no awareness at all about it. I’d talked to my brother last night. My mother had just called him. I had filled my siblings in on how things went when she came out here, so he was in the loop. When my mother started talking about coming to see the sign, she was going on and on about how great it looked, how great everything looked here at the farm, and what a great visit it was. To which he said, no it wasn’t! He spent time time trying to encourage her to be kind and build people up instead of always tearing them down, to which she replied, “I’m not going to lie.” Apparently, the opposite of being cruel is to lie? She had said something about not saying that everything looked beautiful. Which isn’t what anyone is expecting and has nothing to do with simply treating people nicely. I’m grateful my brother stuck up for me, but we are both left rather perplexed by her inability to understand what it means to treat people kindly.

We may not have caught up completely, yesterday, but we did get the essentials necessary for winter, at least. This is our first real snowfall of the year, and while we will continue to be relatively mild, this is a snowfall that will stay. It is still coming down, and now the forecast says the snow will continue to fall through to Saturday, too. Our temperatures remain above freezing, so sleet is a major concern on the highways right now. We’re expected to get 10-15 cm of snow today (4-6 inches), with another 10-15 cm tomorrow, though the weather alerts say that our area might actually get more, due to the lake effect. It’s past 9pm as I write this, and we haven’t reached anywhere near the predicted levels, so who knows what will actually happen.

The forecasts do still say that today’s storm will become tomorrow’s blizzard. I was just looking at our weather history, and the record high for today was 13C/55F, in 2016, while our record low was -20C/4F, in 1991 – but our average high is 0C/32F and average low is -7C/19F, so the temperatures we’re having right now are not at all unusual. It just feels like it! Funny how that works.

Either way, it turned out to be the perfect day to stay inside and do a whole bunch of baking!

The Re-Farmer

Babcia’s Bread Experiment: awake!

Thanks to my wonderful daughter taking over for me, yesterday, we had a couple of fresh loaves of bread to try this morning.

I’d started by having the dough baby soak overnight, then added flour to make a sponge. After several hours, this is what the sponge looked like.

My daughter set aside half of this, then used the remaining sponge to make our basic bread. Instead of using loaf pans, she made two big, flat loaves on a baking tray. Here is what I used for breakfast, this morning! 🙂

The bread had a very mild sourdough flavour. For all the months the dough baby sat in the flour, it did not get any stronger in flavour. It was mild enough that I could put them with slices of brie under the broiler, and the flavour of the bread did not overpower the flavour of the cheese. The bread had a very nice texture to it, too.

As for the sponge that had been set aside; my daughter had used the flour from the dough baby’s canister in the bread, but there was still some left. I kneaded some into the sponge to make a stiffer dough, then refilled the canister half way with fresh flour, added the bough baby, then topped it with more flour. The canister is semi-transparent, so when I checked on it an hour or so later, I could see the dough baby had risen enough to work its way through the flour, so I gave the canister enough of a shake to cover it up again. With our temperatures slowly cooling (though I saw a 30C day in the forecast!!), we’ll be using this more often, which should further develop the flavour.

As someone who has never managed to keep a sourdough going for more than a couple of years, I really appreciate how low maintenance the old dough method is. If we can’t going to bake as often, it’ll just stay in its flour bed and dry up. It doesn’t need to be constantly used, fed, stirred, or kept warm. I think this will work out really well for us!

The Re-Farmer

Babcia’s Bread Experiment: a re-awakening

With how hot it’s been all summer, we’ve done no baking at all. It was simply too hot in the house to do baking and heat it up even more! Only recently did my daughter finally start baking some bread again.

Which means that our dough baby has been sitting in its flour, unused, for several months. That’s one beauty of using this type of dough starter; it doesn’t need to be regularly used and fed, the way a wet sourdough starter needs to be, and will just go dormant.

Last night, I woke it up! 😀

It really doesn’t look any different, once it was dug out of the flour.

The flour it was in, however, did look a bit different.

The dough baby has its own canister of flour, which had started to form a sort of shell around the dough. When I opened it, I could really get that sourdough smell, and it was as much in the flour as from the dough baby. I will be using this flour when doing the bread baking, as it is probably infused with yeast, too.

As dry as it was, the dough baby had lots of air pockets in it, making it easy to crumble apart.

I stirred in 2 cups of very warm water, then set it in a warm oven overnight, lightly covered. After a few hours, I checked it and decided to go ahead and cheat by sprinkling a bit of traditional yeast (not the fast acting type) and a bit of sugar into it as well, then swirling it about.

This is how it looked in the morning, after being stirred again.

That orange bowl really messed with the colour!

Anyhow, it was lightly bubbly by morning. After stirring it down, I added some of the flour from the dough baby canister.

I tried to get some natural light on there, so you can see the proper colour!

I broke up the flour as much as I could, but I’m not too worried about the lumps at this point. I added maybe a cup and a half of flour to get it to the consistency of a thick batter. It then went back into the warm oven for the sponge to develop.

It will take a long time for the sponge to develop without adding more commercial yeast, so bread baking with it is going to be an all day process, today! It’ll be checked regularly, but for this sponge stage, I figure it will take a few hours before I continue with the bread baking. 🙂

The Re-Farmer

Babcia’s Bread Experiment, part 10: No Knead bread

A while back, we tried a recipe for overnight bread, which you can read about here, and find a link to the original recipe we used.

I then tried an “over day” version, using the dough baby from my Babcia’s bread experiment. It was fantastically successful!

We’ve made it again, as a pretty basic no-knead bread and, once again, it turned out awesome!

If you are new to this blog and don’t know the background to this, you can read the story behind my experiment to try and recreate the bread my grandmother made in pre-WWII Poland, as my mother remembers it. Or you can check out all the posts about it at this link. All links will open in new tabs, so you don’t lose your place here!

Here is how we made No-knead bread, using the old dough method.

The first step is to dig the dough baby out of the flour it sleeps in.

My Babcia did bread baking once a week, and when the old dough sits that long, it tends to be dry enough to break apart into pieces before reconstituting it. This time, the dough baby had not been sleeping in its bed of flour for that long, and it was still quite… doughy! 😀

So I just pulled it apart a bit and placed it in the bottom of a very large bowl.

I don’t know how much that is. Maybe about 2 cups, including the flour stuck to it? The dough baby rises and collapses while stored in the flour, and I made no effort to measure the quantity.

I also pre-measured 2 Tbsp each of course salt and sugar, and 1 Tbsp of yeast.

The yeast would be optional. The dough would need more time to rise without it, which would give more of a sourdough flavour.

Four cups of very warm water was added to the dough baby. Since it wasn’t dry enough to break into pieces, I spent some time stirring it and breaking it up in the water.

Then, the sugar and yeast was added and mixed in, the bowl loosely covered, and it was left for about 10 minutes.

I like to use traditional active dry yeast, rather than quick or instant dry yeast, but that’s just me. The traditional yeast needs more time to proof in the liquid compared to the quick yeast, and the instant yeast wouldn’t need to be added at all at this point, but would be mixed in with the flour.

If I were not using yeast, I would leave the water, dough baby and sugar mixture in a warm place for much longer, checking regularly to see how active it was.

Here is how it looked after 10 minutes. I stirred it again to break up the dough baby a bit more.

Then it was time to add some flour.

I started by adding 3 cups of flour. It’s easier to mix in that amount compared to starting with just one cup.

I decided to use Durum wheat flour at this point, just because I have it. Use whatever flour, or mix of flours, you like best!

After the first 3 cups was thoroughly beaten in, I added another cup of flour and the salt.

More flour was beaten in, about a cup at a time at first, then a half up at a time.

How much flour to use is something I’ve never been precise about. I know there are bread bakers that weigh and measure precise amounts, but in my experience, that just doesn’t work. The amount of flour needed can depend on things like how fresh the flour itself is, to how much humidity there is in the air.

With 4 cups of water, I would have expected to work in at least 8 cups of flour for this recipe (with my usual kneaded bread, I typically used 5 or 6 cups of flour to 2 1/2 cups liquid).

We are very, very dry right now.

Today, I worked in 7 1/2 cups of flour, and probably could have done with a bit less.

By this point, I was working the flour in with my hand rather than trying to stir it with a spoon. If you have an electric mixer with a dough hook, go ahead and use it!

Before setting it aside to rise, right in the same bowl, I sprinkled some flour over the top and sides, in case it rose high enough to touch the bottom of the bowl’s lid.

Lightly cover the bowl, then set it in a warm place for about an hour. With our chilly our kitchen is in the winter, I heated our oven to its lowest setting (145F on “warm”), then shut it off before I started mixing the flour into the dough. The covered bowl is left in the warm oven, with the light on, to rise. Anywhere that is warm and draft free will do.

Here it is, after an hour. It just barely touched the bottom of the lid! 😀

The dough it then pushed down and worked a bit to incorporate the flour that had been dredged on top.

Next is a very, very important step.

A piece of the dough needs to be removed and set aside for the next batch of bread!

I dumped some flour on a container and plopped about a cup of dough onto it.

Once the new dough baby was set aside, the rest of the dough was dumped onto a 9×13 inch baking sheet that was lined with parchment paper. The last time I made this, I used a parchment paper lined lasagna pan, but I could also have split it into two parchment paper lined loaf pans.

If I didn’t have parchment paper, I would have well oiled the pan, first.

Speaking of oil…

After spreading the dough out to fill the bottom of the pan, I stabbed at the dough with my fingers to create “dimples”, then topped it with oil, course salt and dried parsley flakes.

I happened to still have some fake truffle oil that I used, but an olive or avocado oil would work just was well.

The pan was then set aside for the dough to rise again. Since this batch is so flat and thin, I started preheating the oven for 450F right away. Had I used loaf pans or the lasagna pan again, I would have let it rise longer before preheating the oven. If I had used no yeast at all, it would be left in a warm place until doubled in size.

While the shaped loaf was waiting to go in the oven, there is this to deal with…

The bottom of the bowl still has quite a bit of dough stuck to it!

We can’t let that go to waste!

Into the bowl went the new dough baby, and the flour it had been resting on.

While working the flour dregs into the dough baby, scrape as much of the dough stuck to the sides and incorporate it into the dough baby.

You probably won’t get all of it off the sides, which is okay.

The dough baby is now ready for a nap. I have a canister of flour that I bury it in, but it can also be buried right in a bag of flour, as long as you’re not planning to use the flour for anything else in between bread baking!

After the dough baby has been buried, it will rise quite a bit before collapsing in on itself, breaking through the surface of the flour. Remember to check on the dough baby later on, to make sure it is still covered in flour.

Once the oven is ready, place the pan of bread into oven and bake. If you wish, place a container with about a cup of water on the rack under the bread pan, to add some steam to the oven as it bakes.

For a very flat loaf like what I made today, it took about 25 minutes. A deeper loaf, or a pair of loaf pans will likely need 30-40 minutes. Bake it until it looks like this.

With the oil added to the surface, it will have a deep, golden colour when it’s ready.

When baked, remove from the oven and left to cool for a few minutes. Once it is safe to do so, remove the bread from the pan and onto a cooling rack (parchment paper makes that job a LOT easier!).

I really like the big, flat slab of bread, but it is a bit hard to cut a slice off! 😀

Here is how it looks on the inside.

The crumb is light and fluffy, yet still wonderfully chewy. The star of the show, however, is that golden, flavorful top crust! It’s just a lovely and delicious combination of textures and flavours.

The only problem with this bread is how difficult it is, not to just scarf it all down right away! 😀

Here is the recipe.

Old Dough No Knead Bread


  • old dough set aside from previous bread baking
  • 4 cups warm water
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp traditional active dry yeast (optional, or use 2 Tbsp if you don’t have old dough)
  • 2 Tbsp course salt
  • about 7 or 8 cups of flour
  • small amount of good quality oil (olive oil, avocado oil, etc.)
  • small amount of dried parsley and course salt

Break up the old dough into a large bowl. Pour water over the old dough and stir. Add the sugar and yeast and leave to proof for about 10 minutes. If you do not have old dough, use the larger amount of yeast and proof it in the sugar water. If using only the old dough and no added yeast, leave the bowl in a warm place until the mixture is bubbly.

After the yeast and old dough has proofed, add 3 cups of flour and mix thoroughly until it forms a very smooth batter. (An electric mixer can be used at this stage.)

Add the salt and 1 cup of flour, mixing thoroughly.

Add more flour a little at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition, until it reaches a thick but sticky consistency. Use your hands to mix in the last of the flour. (If you have an electric mixer with dough hook attachments, switch to the dough hooks at this point.)

Leaving the dough in the bowl, dust the top of the dough with flour and cover loosely. Place in a warm spot to rise until doubled in size.

Prepare baking pans by lining with parchment paper or oiling thoroughly.

When the dough has risen, punch it down again, folding it into itself to incorporate the flour dusted on top.

Dust some flour on a small plate or bowl. Remove about a cup of dough for the next batch of bread, setting it aside on the floured container until later.

Pour the remaining dough into the prepared baking pan(s). Using your hands, press the dough to fill the pan to the edges and corners, then stab into the surface with your fingers to create dimples in the dough.

Carefully sprinkle oil across the surface of the dough, then use your hand to spread it evenly across the surface.

Sprinkle the oiled surface with course salt and dried parsley.

Set aside in a warm place to rise.

While the bread is rising, return the dough set aside earlier to the mixing bowl, along with any flour in the plate or bowl. Use the flour and the dough ball to scrape off any remaining dough stuck to the surface of the bowl, working the dough ball until smooth. Shape the dough into a ball, then bury it in a container of flour, for use in the next batch of bread.

When the pan of rising bread is almost doubled in size, preheat the oven to 450F.

Place the bread in the centre rack of the preheated oven; if desired, place about a cup of water in an oven proof container on the lower rack to create steam.

Bake until the bread is a deep, golden colour – about 25 minutes when using a 9″x13″ baking sheet, about 30-35 minutes if using loaf pans, or a cake or lasagna pan. The finished loaf should sound hollow when the bottom is tapped.

Set aside to cool in the pan for a few minutes, then transfer the bread to a rack to finish cooling.


The Re-Farmer

Count ’em, plus a preview

There are eight cats in this picture.

Can you spot them all? 😀

These guys sure do make my mornings!

I also have a preview to share.

I experimented with the no-knead, overnight dough recipe I’d made before, using the old dough bread baby from my Babcia’s bread experiment.

I didn’t take any process photos this time, since I was winging it. The “overnight” dough became an “over day” dough, for starters! 😀

Instead of making a pair of loaves, I made one giant loaf in a parchment paper lined lasagna pan.

As I was spreading the dough out as evenly as I could, I found myself thinking it was looking a bit like a focaccia. Too bad we’re out of olive oil.

Then I remembered… we still have some fake truffle oil (the only kind we can find, or afford!) left.

I ended up drizzling the top with the fake truffle oil, spreading the oil around evenly, then stabbing the dough with my fingers to make lots of little holes, which also helped even the dough out in the pan more, before sprinkling on some coarse salt and dried parsley.

Of course, it wasn’t real a focaccia recipe, and it rose quite a bit. This is how it turned out.

This turned out to be, hands down, the best bread I have ever baked! Definitely a winner!!

I think the next time I try this, I’ll use a baking sheet instead of the lasagna pan, to make a thinner bread. Mostly, because I think it’ll be easier to slice than this was, but it’ll also give a larger surface for the oil and salt crust. The texture and flavour it gave was amazing!

Next time, I will definitely take process shots and share the details here!

The Re-Farmer

Trying out an overnight bread recipe

One of the things we enjoy doing is baking bread and experimenting with bread recipes.

Unfortunately, none of us are particularly able bodied. In what way may be different for each of us, but it’s not unusual for none of us to be up to kneading dough at the same time. I would happily use a bread machine, but not only do we not have enough outlets for another kitchen appliance, but even the ones we do have trip the power bar if we use more than one at the same time (before we started using the power bar, it would trip the breaker, and we’d have to climb up a small ladder, onto a shelf, to reach the breaker box and flip it back on).

Last night, I decided to try a plain, basic, overnight bread recipe that would not require kneading. After a bit of searching, I found this one.

Of course, I didn’t follow it exactly, but I stayed close. 😉

One of the things I changed was to add a bit of sugar to the yeast and water mixture, just to feed the yeast.

I did not transfer it to another bowl, drizzle it with oil, then put it in the fridge. The bowl I used has a lid, so I left it in the same bowl and skipped the oil and plastic wrap. We also did not have room for such a large bowl in the fridge. I suppose I could have put it in the old kitchen, which is easily as cold as a fridge, but out dining room is pretty chilly, too, and I was feeling lazy. So I left it on the dining table overnight.

The only other difference is that I used half a cup less flour than the recipe called for. It’s really dry here in the winter, and that has a very noticeable affect on how much flour we use, vs what recipes call for, this time of year. I worked that last half cup of flour in by hand, and could feel that adding more would leave me with a regular, stiffer bread dough, so I left it be.

Here is how it looked in the morning.

What bubbly heaven! It actually looks like you could pour it!

Looks, however, can be deceiving.

While it was certainly a soft and sticky dough, it did pull away from the sides very easily as I stirred it down and worked it a little bit.

Now, my plan had been to use this to make hamburger buns.

Ha! Silly me!

Not the right dough for that! I supposed I could have done it, but I was prepping this to rise before heading out to do my morning rounds, so I just didn’t have time to be fuzzy.

Instead, I made a couple of very lopsided loaves on a pan I’d prepared for buns. 😀

I then left it to rise in a warm oven, then headed out to do my morning rounds and take care of critters.

I gave the loaves about an hour to rise before preheating the oven to 450F.

This is how they looked, while the oven was preheating.

I need to sharpen my knives. 😀

Here they are, after baking for 20 minutes. They were so pale, I was concerned they might not have had enough time, but when I pulled them apart, I could see they were just fine.

The resulting bread had a lovely, spongy crumb. The texture is soft and chewy, and it had a bit of a sourdough tang!

It was definitely a hit!

I think the next time I make bread using old dough the way my Babcia did, I will try it as a variation of this overnight bread. I would just have to adjust the quantities to make sure I have extra to remove for the next batch.

Once again, if you feel like giving it a try, this is the recipe I worked from.

I definitely recommend it!

The Re-Farmer

Babcia’s Bread Experiment, part 9: a few changes

Yesterday, I made another batch of bread using the old dough stored in flour as a starter. I did change things up a little bit, though.

One of the things about trying to recreate how my grandmother did this is, I’m relying on my mother’s childhood memories. There would definitely be things my mother never noticed, never saw, or simply doesn’t remember. In reality, my grandmother would have made do with what she had, so while their bread would certainly have been as basic as flour, salt and water, if she had had other ingredients, she would have used them. I know they would have made their own butter and rendered their own lard. They may even have pressed their own seed oil (my mother does remember processing hemp, so they likely had hemp oil, too). They likely had honey or some type of sugar, if only rarely. It’s hard to say, though, since my mother doesn’t remember very much of that, and none of my research so far has turned up more historical detail. There just isn’t a lot out there to describe how people in poor, backwater villages ate because, frankly, most of the people recording such things either didn’t know about them, or were indifferent to how ordinary people lived.

I do think that there is room to experiment a bit and still be pretty true to how Babcia would have done things, even if they were only on special occasions or when she happened to have access to ingredients.

With yesterday’s baking, one of the things I changed up was how long the old dough was left to soak in warm water. My mother says it was left overnight. My grandmother had a large lump of old dough, for her weekly baking of a dozen or so loaves, but I’m not working with such quantities. The amount I’d set aside from the last batch was the largest I’d done yet, and it was getting too big for my canister of flour. In fact, I didn’t get any pictures of it when I took it out, because there was just too much flour all over, it was bigger than the plate I’d brought to hold it, and I just broke it up into my crock right away.

When the old dough was left to sit in a warm oven overnight, it seemed to me that this was too long. It was no longer actively bubbling by morning. So this time, I decided to just let it sit for a few hours. I also added a small amount of sugar (about a tablespoon to 2 cups of water that had been boiled, then allowed to cool down to the right temperature) to feed the yeast. Last time, I supplemented with a bit of commercial yeast, but not this time.

This is how it looked, after about three hours sitting in a warm oven.

Just look at how bubbly that is!

I did add a bit more sugar (another tablespoon or so) to the dough as I mixed it, too. No added yeast. This was a slightly larger batch than before, too. Previous batches used about 3 cups of water in total, to 4 or 5 cups of flour, but this time I used about 7 cups of flour to 4 cups of water. Then, after cutting away a piece of dough for next time, I tried something else.

I kneaded in a cup of thick cut rolled oats. This is something my grandmother would have had, at least sometimes, so I have little doubt that she would have included it, when it was available.

Normally, I would have added the oats at the very beginning, leaving it to soak in boiling water until it was cool enough that the yeast or sourdough started could be added. I wasn’t sure how that would affect the dough set aside for next time, though, so I left it until later.

I knew the flakes would still soften while the dough was rising, and it would add some texture, too. Kneading it in was a challenge, though! I deliberately left the dough stickier than I usually would have, just to make working in the rolled oats easier, and it was still trying to fly all over the place! LOL

Unfortunately, I completely forgot to take pictures after this!

The dough itself just did not want to rise! Yes, it was in a warm oven, but I’m using a plastic bowl (metal can react with sourdough, affecting the flavour, and this is pretty much a kind of sourdough), so I didn’t want to make the oven much warmer. It did rise some, and again as I formed the loaves, but even the smaller loaves didn’t rise as well. I really should be leaving it to rise for far longer, but it’s just to dang cold.

It does rise more while baking, of course, so that helps. The bread was still dense, but it did still have plenty of air bubbles in it. The rolled oats did soften up, as expected, while still adding a bit of nice texture and a subtle flavour.

Speaking of subtle flavours, there is most definitely a light sourdough taste developing.

I made a total of 8 small loaves out of this batch; 4 round loaves (basically just big buns!) baked in a cast iron pan, and 4 long loaves baked on a pizza stone. At 400F, the round loaves needed about 40-45 minutes to bake, while the long ones needed about 30-35 minutes. I have no idea how long my grandmother would have baked hers, since she had a masonry stove, and I don’t know what method she used to determine when the temperature was right.

As for the bread it self, it was quite tasty. I like the addition of the rolled oats. This morning, I cut one of the little long loaves into slices, pan toasted one side in butter, then topped each with a slice of mozzarella, for breakfast. It was very nice! It probably would have been nicer to broil the cheese, but I didn’t feel like fussing with the oven. 😀

Next time, I’ll have to remember to take pictures through the whole process. 😀

The Re-Farmer