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, 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

Ingredients:

  • 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.

Enjoy!

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 8: ham and cheese roll!

For the next while, as I remove part of the dough from one batch to use in the next batch, I will be taking out slightly larger pieces of dough, to make larger batches of bread with it, next time.

Our flour canister is tall and narrow, so I’ve made a point of flattening the dough baby a bit before burying it in the flour. When I opened the canister last night, I found the dough baby had grown enough to emerge from the flour like a mushroom!

I think today’s dough baby will the the last one I can fit into the canister! I’ll have to start burying them directly in the flour bag. They get so big! Which is encouraging, since that shows how lively the yeast is, so it’s a good problem to have. 😀

The dough baby was light, with a slightly crunchy dry shell, and a thick bubbly interior. The larger size made it a bit harder to tear apart to put in the little crock to soak overnight, so the pieces were a bit on the large size. That did not seem to make a difference to how it looked in the morning.

I soaked it in 2 cups of warm water overnight then, because I wanted to increase the amount of dough I was making, I cheated a bit and let maybe a tablespoon of commercial yeast proof in another cup of warm water. Right now, I’m getting enough to make the equivalent of 4 small loaves, and I eventually want to be making the equivalent of 4 large loaves. I don’t plan to get to my Babcia’s level of a dozen loaves at a time! 😀 Making enough for 6 or 8 loaves, maybe, but not a dozen!

Once again, I used a mix of all purpose and Durum wheat flour, and let it rise only once before shaping. When I am no longer using commercial yeast, I’ll add an extra rising again. I also split it to do one half plain, and one half fancy. For the first half, I made it into 4 knotted buns and used a cast iron pan to bake them in again, which is working out very well.

The second half got divided again, to make a pair of rolled loaves.

Each piece was rolled out, then small pieces of leftover ham were scattered evenly, followed by generous amounts of shredded sharp cheddar, mozzarella and Monterey Jack cheese.

Before rolling them up, I did dampen the edges with water, but I did not try to seal the dough.

Once rolled up, the ends were tucked under, and they were left to rise.

The knotted buns were baked first, and turned out quite adorable.

The ham and cheese rolls, as expected, did leak out the bottom seam!

That’s okay. It just got crispy on the bottom of the pan, for some extra deliciousness. 🙂

I would not recommend doing this without using parchment paper. 😀

A huge bubble formed under the top, as the cheese melted and the layers collapsed below. That did make it a bit hard to cut through! 😀

The ends that were tucked under were a lot more substantial. I the slices where the large bubble formed, the top crust was almost like a fancy chip! 😀

We had them for supper with tomato soup. It was a very nice combination! 😀 The crispy cheese bits made for a lovely little treat, too.

I’d call this experiment a success! 🙂

The Re-Farmer

Babcia’s Bread Experiment, part 7: having fun

After yesterday morning’s cat disaster, the girls were kind enough to drop their own projects and take over cleaning up.

While I was doing my rounds outside, the furry little monsters created another mess. One of the jade plant posts I’d managed to shield from their digging got knocked to the floor. *sigh* I was able to repot the plant. Not sure if it will survive. Once again, the girls took over the clean up so I could take care of other things. At least I wasn’t bread baking today!

The one down side of using my grandmother’s method to bake bread is, once I take the dough ball out of the flour and start it soaking overnight, it must be used the next day. There’s no way to postpone it if other things happen!

By the time we were doing cleaning up and putting things away, I started the bread baking much later than planned.

I did, however, cheat a bit. I wanted to mix up more dough, so I could take off more to set aside, for larger batches in the future. As it was, the overnight soak was not looking as active as I would have liked, so I did end up adding some yeast and a touch of sugar, and let that bubble up some more.

Then, since I have it, I used half all purpose flour, half durum wheat flour.

This is after it had about an hour to rise.

I notice a definite difference in the dough, when using the durum wheat flour. The dough feels smoother and more elastic. It was very noticeable when making the pasta, but even at half-and-half, for the bread, it is much nicer to knead.

My grandmother would have used whatever flour they had, so mixing it up like this is probably not all that different from how she did it.

After removing a portion to set aside for the next batch, I split the dough in half. The first half was left plain, though I did have some fun with it, anyhow.

I split the dough into 4 pieces (because there’s 4 of us), and made knots.

The resulting bread was a bit denser and chewier with the durum wheat flour in it. We all like our bread on the toothsome side, so we quite enjoyed it.

For the other half, I was going to do a cheese roll, but my daughter suggested rolling and folding it. With the extra gluten in the durum wheat flour, it could actually handle that, so I have it a try! This time, I made two loaves.

After rolling the dough out flat and as thin as I could, I used some of the herb butter my husband had made. I don’t know what all he included in there, other than a LOT of dill (the container slipped…), some caraway seeds, and a touch of lemon juice.

Then I added some shredded cheese. It’s a mix of sharp cheddar, mozzarella and Havarti.

Then I folded it in on itself.

It then got rolled out slightly and folded again, before final shaping. I had to use a touch of water to get the edges to stick closed.

Once in the pan, I flattened them out a bit more with my hands, before leaving them to rise.

Of course, some of the cheese did make its way through the dough as it baked, but my goodness, it looked and smelled wonderful!

It was quite flaky on the outside. On the inside, the dough absorbed much of the butter, leaving cheesy little pockets all over!

It was quite enjoyable! I don’t know that I would go so far as to do the folding method again (though it would be awesome to do that again with some sliced green onions, to make a version of green onion cakes!), but I definitely do it as a cheese roll in the future.

Until then, I am not going to have some with my lunch!

The Re-Farmer

Babcia’s Bread Experiment, part 6: restarting

Okay, so after accidentally killing off our ball of old dough “yeast”, I had to start over. Since I have no idea how my grandmother got her first ball of old dough, this is all a guessing game, anyhow!

This time, I went with another old technique: the sponge.

It’s just 2 cups warm water, 2 cups flour and 2 Tbsp of yeast, mixed together. This is the sort of thing one might put into the fridge overnight, to bake in the morning. Instead, I put it in the oven that was warmed up to its lowest setting, then turned off.

After about an hour or more, the resulting sponge was all soft and fluffy!

I added another half cup of warm water, which also made it easier to transfer it to my big mixing bowl, then added the salt and flour, as usual.

Once I’d kneaded in as much flour as I wanted (I have to catch myself and not add too much!), the dough was set aside to rise in a floured bowl. Once again, it went into a warm oven to rise.

But not before I took out a dough baby! My mother described my grandmother as taking dough out for the next batch after the second rising, when she was shaping the loaves. Since I’m using actual yeast in this, I did only one rising before shaping the loaves. I flattened the ball out this time, to see how that changes things as it sits buried in the flour.

As for the rising dough, it ended up taking about 2 hours, even with using commercial yeast!

This would have been a 2 loaf recipe, but I decided to play around a bit.

I made 4 plain mini loaves, first.

Yes, there are only 3 in the picture. My husband already ate one. 😀

After taking the picture, I ate one, too!

The other half was used to make surprise buns. During our city shop, I’d found a gouda-like cheese (I can’t remember what it was actually called) with truffle in it. There was still some left, so I cut it into small slices and wrapped them inside the dough.

I did try and seal the dough well, but as you can see in the photo, the cheese still made its way out, and started bubbling in the middle!

I can hardly wait to try it out!

With our new dough baby, I will have to make a point of using it every few days again. Since I didn’t start out with an “instant sourdough” yeast, it will take longer to develop that sour flavour. At least, that’s my assumption.

I will also keep taking the dough baby out for the next batch at the start, as the dough it being setting aside to rise. That way, I can do things later on, like knead baking soda in again, or knead in things like herbs or shredded cheese or anything else that catches my fancy.

I just have to not kill the old dough again! 😀

The Re-Farmer

Babcia’s Bread Experiment, part 3b: first rising

When setting the old dough to reconstitute and ferment overnight, I had some concerns about temperature. The crock was sitting on our dining table, and that room gets pretty chilly. I did warm up the rice bag we have been using to warm our fermenting hard apple cider (which is probably ready to be bottled, but we haven’t gotten around to it yet) and set it under the crock, to help keep it at least a little bit warm.

While investigating some cat noises in the wee hours of the morning, I checked it and found it was looking pretty much the same as when I’d left it. So I warmed the oven up a bit, then put the crock in, shut the oven off and left the light on.

This is how it looked about 3 hours later.

Warming it up, did the trick! I’ll have to keep that in mind, as we continue experimenting.

I warmed the oven up a bit again, then put the crock back for another 3 hours or so, before I was able to start making the dough.

That’s looking nice and puffy!

I find it interesting that the pieces are still distinctly separate. When I stirred it, before adding it to some flour and salt in a bowl, I found the pieces separated and stretched, before starting to mix together. The water under the old dough pieces was pretty much clear until I mixed it, too.

I added this to a bowl with 3 cups of flour and 2 tsp of Kosher salt and mixed it together. I kneaded another 4 – 4 1/2 cups of flour in before turning it onto my table and kneading it for another 5 – 10 minutes.

Normally, I would oil the bowl the dough will be rising in, but my grandmother would not have done that, so I used flour, instead.

With this batch, I’ve got the same amount of water as the first batch the old dough came from, but I’m using less flour. That first batch was too dense. With only a little more than 4 cups of flour in here, after I remove some dough for the next batch, I think I’ll just make one large round loaf this time, instead of two.

Next time, I think I’ll up the water and flour quantities a little bit, and make a bigger batch. I don’t think I’ll adjust the amount of salt, though. Not unless I end up doubling the recipe or something.

The dough is now covered and set aside for its first rising. I’ll give it at least an hour, probably two, before punching it down and leaving it for a second rising.

I will post again, later today, with the final results! 🙂

The Re-Farmer

Babcia’s Bread Experiment, part 3: reconstituted, and more of the story

Tonight, the plan was to continue with my attempt to recreate bread, as much as possible, in the way my mother remembers my grandmother baking.

I spent some time doing research on the method, but there is nothing out there that quite matches what my mother describes. I gave her a call today with more questions, and got more of the story. 🙂

This video was the closest I could find to what my mother described, but it left me with a lot more questions.

Obviously, my babcia didn’t put the piece of dough into a jar and stick it in the refrigerator. They didn’t have refrigeration. The dough in the video is almost a batter. Also, did my babcia use rye flour? Since she baked only once a week, she had to have been making a LOT of bread. How much did she bake, and how much of the dough did she set aside for that much baking?

My mother had difficulty understanding some of my questions – and she’s at a loss as to why I am even bothering with all this! Using commercial yeast is just so much easier. 😀

So it took a while, but this is what I was able to find out.

My babcia’s weekly baking was for about a dozen round loaves. This was all one big batch. Her dough bowl must have been huge! She worked up the dough, using the old dough that was reconstituted overnight for leavening, then left it to rise. She then punched the dough down and left it to rise again. After the second rising, she would punch it down again, then knead and shape her loaves, laying them out on a flour covered surface. The shaped loaves would be left to rise one more time before baking in their masonry oven.

It would have been when she was forming the loaves that dough was taken out for the next batch, and all the scrapings from the wooden dough bowl and leftover bits of flour, would be incorporated into the ball. My mother says the ball of dough was about the size of a loaf of pumpernickel bread that she sometimes buys at the local grocery. That would make it about 3 – 4 cups of dough, before proofing, though I do take into account that, given her age at the time, her memory of the size might be distorted by her own small size.

Still, it’s enough information to assure me that my egg sized lump of dough is probably about the right size for a 2 loaf recipe.

I also learned that my babcia did use rye flour, as well as the wheat flour and corn flour my mother had already mentioned. Basically, whatever they had on hand. Or whatever was left, after either the Russians or the Nazi’s came through and took everything again.

It was a rather precarious existence for them!

I also confirmed that my grandmother’s dough was NOT a wet, almost batter like dough, like the one in the video above. My mother described it as being more like the sort of bread she used to bake all the time, when I was a kid. Considering that I helped her with bread baking for many years, that gives me a very good idea of what I will be looking for.

Armed with more information from my mother, I started on reconstituting our bread dough “egg” in preparation for baking with it, tomorrow.

Here is how it looked, when I dug it out of the flour.

It was most definitely larger than when it first went in! Not extremely so, but enough to really notice.

It also felt a lot lighter than when it was first put in. I was very interested in seeing how it looked on the inside!

Ooooo!!! That looks amazing!

The outer shell was almost flaky in texture, and was clearly doing a great job of allowing the yeasts to continue to ferment without contamination.

It actually rather reminded me of the sourdough in this video, minus the fire.

It’s interesting to note that, historically, people did conserve their sourdough starters while traveling by putting it into their bag of flour and allowing it to dry out. What I am making now will certainly result in a sour dough, eventually, though it is not at all the same as maintaining a sourdough starter.

Since I will be making another 2 loaf recipe, I decided to reconstitute the dough ball in the full 2 cups of water that will go into the recipe. I could probably have used half that amount, without any issues, but I figured, why not sue the full amount? I wouldn’t use the full amount of water if I were, say, making a dozen loaves, like my grandmother did, but for a small batch of bread, it should be fine.

I used water that had been boiled, first, as a precaution with using our well water. Once the water had cooled down enough, I put it in a small crock style canister that I have, then added the broken up pieces of old dough.

After that, it just got a quick stir, to make sure all the pieces were thoroughly immersed.

I don’t expect this to overflow as the yeast develops but, just in case, I placed the covered container on the lid of a large mixing bowl.

Now, it just sits for the night. 🙂

I am very interested in seeing what this looks like in the morning!

The Re-Farmer