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Quick Apple Fritters – whole grain (or not)

Homemade Apple Fritters frying

What was it Homer Simpson used to say…. MMMMMMMMMMMMMM Donuts.  For me that is more likely to be MMMMMMMMMMM Apple Fritters,  so it’s probably not surprising that I’ve played with dozens of recipes over the years  – most yeast versions.  But this quick one is the one I keep coming back to – it’s fantastic AND as a quick donut it’s a snap to produce.  While I usually make them using fresh whole ground flour they work just as nicely with white flour.

The other nice thing is this recipe is that it scales wonderfully – from 1x to about 5x which is about the maximum I can manage to make with my deep fryer before it makes sense to do up another batch of batter – but given that takes all of five minutes it’s really no hardship.  So get out your apples, heat up the oil and get ready to enjoy.

Click on the post title to expand for the whole recipe.


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Homeground flour – to sift or not to sift

Sifted home ground flour on right, coarse bran on the left

Grinding your own flour is a great way to get fresh healthy flour for your baking at dirt cheap prices.  Now the question is to sift or not to sift.

That is, do you remove some of the coarser fractions – generally the bran – or do you keep it 100% extraction.

Now, generally I just keep it whole – but if doing finer baking or doing baking for those less accustomed to full extraction it is easy to come up with a product that is closer to white simply by sifting the ground flour through a kitchen strainer. The fine flour components pass through and the coarser bran is retained.

Effectively it goes from 100% extraction to about 80% extraction.  It is fast, easy and gives a great product that is more generally accepted.

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Stanley Adventure Crock – Lid Latch Fix

Replacement Adventure Crock Latch

There’s a reason our grandparents had skills – they needed to be able to do things for themselves because they couldn’t afford to pay someone to do or make it for them.  Now we live right now in a pretty easy money environment, but because fewer folks can do it can mean more advantages for those who cultivate can do skill sets.

Take my recent trip to Cabella’s to pick up some outdoor gear.  I popped into their “Bargain Cave” and there were a couple of Stanley Adventure Crocks at the back.  Now these are three quart/ litre insulated crocks and look perfect for bringing something hot to a potluck or outing.  List price $75 plus 13% tax.  (In the states it looks like they go for $45).  But these ones, well they were marked down to a third of the price because the latches to hold the lids in place were broken.  Without the latches these were pretty much useless.

Final layers of the adventure crock latch being printed in PETG

Now clearly given the apparent prevalence of broken latches Stanley needs to address the design.  But I knew I could take advantage of the deeply discounted price and make my own replacement latches very quickly at home.

Now the replacement job would have been a bit of a pain to machine in metal – I have all the tools but still… But the project was perfectly suited to designing a beefier replacement in Sketchup and 3D printing it in PETG.  The replacement latch works great – and I have even used failure testing as an excuse to watch TV while working the latch repeatedly.  No problems!

3D printing is a great capability to add to your home, and if you don’t already have machine tools it is a great entry point into homescale manufacturing.  If you do have a machine shop I’m sure you’ll find that there are lots of tasks that a 3D printer can accomplish more easily than you could with conventional fabrication techniques.

For those of you with a an adventure crock with a broken latch here is the link to the STL file on thingverse   http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2235374

 

 

 

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Blueberry Corn Cake

With a sister in law and friends who are celiac I tend to keep my eyes open for recipes that are both gluten free and great and easy (the latter meaning in part no crazy exotic gums and pastes and binders);  That combination is fairly rare – certainly more rare than when one is not constrained to exclude gluten.

Blueberry Corn Cake – A great desert

There are winners though, and this is one of the nicest ones around – so much so that it graces our meals even when the table is filled with wheat eaters.  Frankly the latter simply allows me to do the grinding of the cornmeal on the homemade grain mill from the couple of big sacks of feed corn we always have on hand.  The mill does a great job and fresh meal can’t be beat, but since the mill often processes gluten containing grains I keep a bag of commercial meal for those occasions.

This corn cake makes a desert – moist (even if some lasts a couple of days), rich, flavorful and just the right amount of sweet to cap off a nice meal or accompany tea or coffee.


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Sourdough Pumpernickel Bread

A stand mixer makes for easy kneading.

Pumpernickel bread is one of my favorite breads, rich and complex in flavour it’s a great accompaniment to sharp cheese, toasted and slathered with butter and a strong honey or as the foundation for a great sandwich.

This is my favorite recipe striking the right balance between whole grain content and hollow white – I usually use triticale flour but unless you have a grain mill (and you can have one at low cost by building one for yourself) you’ll likely find rye flour to be more common.

Sourdough pumpernickel loaves formed and ready to double in bulk.

The overnight sponge takes a bit more time, but the long hydration period is a perfect match for whole grain baking, and while you can substitute dry yeast for the sourdough, the latter offers an additional complexity that is a great compliment to the other flavours.

 

 

 


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Low Hoop Houses in Snow

This year I decided to put the plastic up on the hoop houses late in the fall – partly to provide winter cover to extend the season and secondarily to get things going faster in the spring then would inevitably happen if I needed to dig the plastic out and fix it into place.

The question though…. would it stand up to the snow load?  Well, we’ve had some good snow (a couple of feet) and some good cold spells… and the hoops have bent a bit but nothing much – and that’s without ever brushing off the snow.

Well, today I went and knocked the frozen snow layers off – last week we had a mild spell and even a bit of drizzle.  The snow came off quickly and the hoops and plastic look great!

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DIY Countertop Brewing System

I started brewing beer using kits back before I could purchase beer in the store and got pretty good at it.  I graduated beyond that to brew in a bag setups but about a year and a half ago decided that I wanted to go with a brewing system and my fancy fell to the brew in a conical systems… After a lot of cutting, geometry, and welding… well I still have leaks… obviously my stainless welding on thin sheet leaves a “bit” to be desired.

Nesting stock pots

Nesting stock pots

I was still working to get the holes patched when I saw some stainless steel stock pots on sale at one of our local grocery stores.  Now the cool thing was that the same lid fit all three sizes of pots (12, 16 and 20 quart) and the pots shared the same taper.  That meant the 16 quart pot would nest tightly inside the 20 quart one while leaving a gap at the base – perfect for a heating element.  So the 16 quart pot would make a perfect malt basket within the larger brewpot. For Canadians it was the Superstore where I picked up the pots so all of the Loblaws should have the same ones – no doubt they will be available stateside as well.

With the pots as the basis of the unit I decided that I wanted to be able to put together a functioning weldless automated brew system in a weekend.  Did I succeed, well nearly… I found that the silicon gaskets that came with the weldless fittings wasn’t quite up to snuff – so I ended up using them in conjunction with food grade silicon sealant which needed a few days to set.  But to do it again… well it would take a full day of work and then after waiting a week just to be on the safeside you’d be brewing next weekend. Oh, and apart from using an air powered nibbler with my compressor to create the hole for the element it didn’t take any fancy tools.

How’s the capacity… well I can brew just over 2.5 gallons which allows me to either do half batches or when I do a double run a full 5 gallons.  How does that net out in terms of time?  Well a double batch is roughly a whole day… but seeing as how things are pretty automated the time commitment from the brewer ends up being about one hour total.

Now how are we set in terms of cost… well, excluding the brew pump you’re looking at about $100.

Here’s what you’ll need in terms of components…

  1. STC 2000 temperature controller – available with either a 12 volt DC or 120 volt AC output – I used the latter because I had it but if you are buying one choose the former so that you can operate the relay without an adapter.  Price is about $10
  2.  Relay –
  3. (3) Electrical cords – just pulled some three prong (grounded) ones from my project materials pile
  4. GFI Outlet
  5. 120v 15 amp stainless steel water heating element
  6. Stainless Steel Nut for the water heating element
  7. (1) 1/2″ stainless steel bolt (X”long) and nut
  8. (1) 1/2″ weldless fitting
  9. (2) 1/2″ stainless steel ball valve
  10. (4) 1/2″ stainless steel hose barb
  11. ( X ft) Braided Silicon food grade tube for suction side into pump
  12. (X ft) Silicon food grade tube (pressure side return from pump)
  13. (1) 1/2″ stainless steel pipe cap
  14. (1) tube food grade silicon sealant
  15. (1) roll of teflon tape
  16. Conduit parts for the power boxes and end of the heating element.
  17. Project / electrical boxes for the electrical components

Tools

  1. Corded hand drill
  2. Step drill bits (up to 3/4″ diameter)
  3. Sheet metal nibbler and compressor if necessary
  4. Adjustable wrenches (including two large enough to handle the nuts on the heating element
  5. Screwdrivers, wire cutters, etc.

Installing the heating element

Electric Element and Nut

Your element and the associated nut will look something like this…

 

 

 

 

Marked out ID marked out on pot

 

Use the nut to trace out the inside dimensions of the hole you’ll need on the bottom of the bigger pot – you’ll see about how high up in the next picture.

 

 

 

Drill a pilot hole roughly at the center of the circle you’ve drawn.  Ideally center punch to make starting the drill easier.  Then switch to a step drill to enlarge the hole so that the nibbler can fit into the hole.

 

Step bit on Element hole
Use the nibbler to expand the hole to roughly the correct diameter

 

 

 

Element hole expanded with air nibbler

  

You can either file or use an air die grinder with a grinding stone to finish up the hole to dimension.  Trial fit until the element threads through the hole you’ve just created.

 

 

Air die grinder finishing up the hole

Element installed in the pot – nut on the inside

Here we are with the element and gasket threaded into the pot for test fitting.  When you do the final fit you’ll want to apply food grade silicon sealant on both sides of the fitting

 

 

 

 

Installing weldless fitting – pot outlet

Marking out diameter for weldless fitting hole

You’ll need to go through the same procedure to install the weldless fitting that you used for the element.

 

 

 

 

 

View inside the lower pot – element and exit port installed

 

Here’s the view of the inside pot with the element and the drain installed.

 

 

 

 

In the next installment I’ll cover the steps necessary to wire up (and cover up) the element leads and the rest of the fittings on the boil pot, as well as the steps needed to modify the inner pot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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King Arthur Flour Sourdough Starter Review

King Arthur Sourdough Starter in KA Crock

I’ve been using a variety of sourdough starters for a couple of decades, it offers both great flavour for your breads – that particular sour tang, while also giving you a more resilient method of leavening bread compared to commercial yeast.

Those starters – some of which were home made, starting from commercial yeast, from airborne cultures, from those on grapes or rye, and others which were purchased both dry and liquid or shared from others – varied in quality.   Compared to the King Arthur starter some were more sour but none matched the effectiveness at leavening bread.

Using sourdough is a great and low cost means to produce great beads at home, and the starter from King Arthur is probably the easiest way to boost your chances of success.

https://youtu.be/zSKxpjbwuGY

 

 

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Simple Hop Basket for Brewing

I love the diversity and control that all grain homebrewing gives me, and the fact that it moves me a bit further towards producer on the producer – consumer continuum.  Part of producer component comes from growing much of the hops that I use in my brewing on lines up the side of my two story house.

Construction of the hop ball from two stainless steel strainers.

Now in brewing there are a number of options on how to handle your hops – some of which are pretty pricey.  One method I’ve found to be quick, cheap and effective is using all stainless steel strainers from the dollar store.  I use two strainers and some stainless steel wire from the hardware store to effectively build a big hop ball (like a tea ball only bigger).  The far side of the handle part of the strainers is permanently wired together while the short section of wire keeping the handles together is removed to fill and empty the ball.

Fast, simple, cheap and useful – a pretty sound project endorsement.

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Homemade Butter Toffee

Homemade butter toffee

Butter toffee has to be one of the best candies out there – growing up I had a mild addiction to Macintosh toffee – if I had the choice between a candy bar and one of the Mack tartan box I’d jump at the hard and chewy later option every time. Corporate consolidation saw the Canadian version I had in my childhood disappear a while ago, and while a modern version came back out after a few years it just doesn’t measure up in my view.  Fortunately homemade butter toffee has to be one of the easiest candies to produce in your own kitchen.  Simple ingredients, quick to produce and no pulling required.

So if you’ve missed that original tartan candy or never experienced it – give this recipe a try.