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Sourdough Light Rye Bread

Sourdough rye bread starter

Sourdough rye starter after working overnight.

This has got to be one of my favorite loaves – great for sandwiches and just begging to be toasted and topped with some buckwheat honey.

One of the great things about having a grain mill is that it provides you with a big range of flour options for baking – wheat, corn, rye, barley, oat, triticale, spelt, and more can be purchased cheap from farm stores in 50# bags and stored for the long haul either in the bag themselves or in 45 gallon drums to be ground as you need.  That makes producing “artisanal” loaves such as this light rye a breeze and a cheap one at that.

Oven ready sourdough rye

Sourdough rye bread ready for the oven

With a bit of tang from the sourdough and the full extraction rye flour cut with some white this loaf is an easy sell for most folks.

Even better, while it takes a bit more forethought the actual time required to work the loaf is minimal – especially if you have a stand mixer.

Click on the post title for the full recipe.

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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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Fresh Breakfast Sausage

Breakfast with fresh homemade sausage

Making great fresh breakfast sausage is easy and rewarding, and undoubtedly the best way to dip your toes into sausage making.  Here you only need to blend spices into the ground meat (I use pork) and form them into patties.  No curing, no casings, no fuss – just a great breakfast compliment.  You’ll also be able to tailor these to suit your taste, and enjoy significant quality improvement and cost savings to boot.

Click on title post to see the recipe.

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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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Baking with Deer Tallow

A number of solid fats can be used for baking including lard, butter and shortening as well as tallow.  The first three can all be handled in a fairly consistent manner – chill and then cut into the flour mix.

Pieces of tallow sliced off large block

Pieces of tallow sliced off large block

Tallow though doesn’t respond well to this treatment – it’s simply too hard to effectively break up in this way.

The good news is that by altering your handling strategy from the more conventional fats you can easily produce great baking with tallow.

As with the softer fats you’ll want to chill the tallow first.  Then instead of cutting it in the flour mix use a knife to shave the chunk of tallow into smaller pieces and then add these to the flour mix.  It’s that simple to make use of tallow rendered from either beef or deer in your home baking, and the results are excellent.

https://youtu.be/d2Tbc0oM3fg

 

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Quick ‘n Easy Whole Wheat Biscuits

Whole Wheat Biscuits hot out of the oven

Whole Wheat Biscuits hot out of the oven

There’s good reason why biscuits were an essential part of pioneer cooking fare – they are quick and easy to make, are incredibly versatile and especially when warm right from the oven – like most fresh baking – make any meal go from whatever to wow!  They were the perfect tool for the busy pioneer wife to pull together to make her meals special.  Not so surprisingly they fill that same role today just as well.  Between work and school and a myriad of other things that fill our modern lives the busyness while different is likely often just as much of an issue today as it was a hundred years ago – so any modern baker – male or female, hitched or not – should have a good basic biscuit recipe to turn to in times of need.   This happens to be a great and versatile one.

Click on post title for the full recipe.

 

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Canning Pumpkin

Pie pumpkins

Pie pumpkins

So Libby’s just announced that due to wet weather production of canned pumpkin this year would be half the previous year’s quantity.  I love pumpkin in recipes but this news doesn’t particularly distress me and hasn’t sent me on a panic buying binge – I can my own pumpkin.

I actually buy the sugar pumpkins for canning, but they are just as cheap as they have been in previous years at about a dollar each  – which nets more that a can worth of pumpkin – which on sale averages about $1.50 and considerably more on a day to day basis.

Cutting the rind from the pumpkin

Cutting the rind from the pumpkin

Now you may be wondering why bother canning at all, why not just let the pumpkin sit on the shelf since as a winter squash they should last.  Alas,  while some winter squash are great at avoiding rot for prolonged periods – my favorite being Seminole squash, which in addition to tasting great have to be some of the toughest vegetables out there – not only in terms of the fruit lasting but also the vines which are rock solid.  Unfortunately, they do require a rather long season for Eastern Ontario… if you are in a more temperate locale you definitely need to give them a try – but divergence aside – pie pumpkins seem to want to rot fairly soon after picking, which means to use them requires canning.  If I had a larger area I’d probably just dispense with rot prone pie pumpkins and grow winter squash that make meals and pumpkin baking every bit as good if not better than sugar pumpkins, but given my relative lack of space buying less shelf stable goods and preserving them is a sensible balance.

Jars of canned pumpkin

Jars of canned pumpkin

Fortunately preserving them is easy.  You’ll need to cut the pumpkin up, clean out the seeds interior guts, remove the outer skin and then cut the meat up into chunks about 3/4″ to 1″ square and then put it in a pot of water that you bring to a boil for 2 minutes.  Then you’ll hot pack and pressure can.  The full instructions can be found on the appropriate page at the National Center for Home Food Preservation website here.

The pressure canner needed to carry this out is an investment, but here’s another example of making that purchase earn it’s return.  I put back the equivalent of 30 cans of pumpkin saving roughly $30.  Now that may not seem like much but given the pressure cooker costs $400 that savings is enough to pay for around 7% of the total cost for an evening worth of invested time, that’s probably better than your stock portfolio did, and it will likely taste a whole lot better.

 

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English Muffin Rings – easy welding projects

Stainless steel strips cut with angle grinder

Stainless steel strips cut with angle grinder

English muffins are great and so easy to make.  While not necessary, if you want to have all of the English muffins come out the same size you need to use rings.

Now you can buy these.  I checked and there are a bunch on Amazon for $6 for 4 tin plated steel rings.  You’ll need three sets to take care of a batch of dough, bringing the total to about $20.  That’s not crazy,  but you can make them for close to free.

I had quite a bit of stainless steel pieces left over from making the wood fired pizza oven – the materials for that build of course coming from old BBQ’s.

Spot welding the rings

Spot welding the rings

Strips 1″ wide and 12″ long were marked out and cut out with an 1/8″ thick cutting disk on the angle grinder.

The strips were cleaned up with a file to smooth the edges and then cleaned with soapy water and stainless steel pot scrubbers.

These were hand formed into rounds with approximately 1/4″ overlap and then given two spot welds.  Now that worked very well for the thinner material 0.0200″ thick, but not the heavier material.

For the heavier segments, which were 0.0400″ thick the spot welder just wouldn’t cut it… which was a repeat of the performance I experienced when building the pizza oven.  For these I switched over to using the Henrob OA torch.

So for relatively little effort and very little expense I managed to save $20 and get some more metal working practice.

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Whole Wheat Apple Braid

If you make bread you quickly come to understand just how versatile a good standard dough, such as this whole wheat bread recipe, can be.

Whole Wheat Apple Braid

Whole Wheat Apple Braid

You can make bread of course, but we’ve also covered how you can turn it into standard buns, and fancy buns, cinnamon buns, bagels, pizza, and now fruit braids.

One of the reasons why this is such an attractive proposition in my mind is that I can produce a single batch of bread dough and split it to produce two very different products… usually something like buns and then something sweet, and fruit braids are a great option to keep in your baking pocket.

Apple Braid right out of the oven

Apple Braid right out of the oven

Really you roll out the dough divide it into thirds, and cut the outer two segments so that they can be braided over the fruit mounded in the center.

In my house the fruit filling often is apples and cinnamon with a bit of sugar in large part because I tend to harvest and process so many apples.

Give it a try when you next make a batch of bead dough.

 

 

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Whole Wheat Bagels Made Simple

I think one of the most common afflictions that touch our society is not obesity – though that is certainly a concern, but rather “over-complication-itis”.  OK, so maybe the medical community won’t be adding this affliction to their standard list of diagnoses but that doesn’t mean it isn’t prevalent, nor that it isn’t serious.   So, how would you diagnose someone suffering from “over-complication-itis” – well it’s simple…  or rather it is an individual who lacks the ability to see simplicity.  More precisely, an individual who lacks the ability to examine and break down processes that lead to final products into their simple components.

Brunch - fresh whole wheat bagels with smoked salmon accompanied by asparagus

Brunch – fresh whole wheat bagels with smoked salmon accompanied by asparagus

These bagels provide a case study.  Bagels are awesome, but I bet if you asked most folks who buy them – even those who purchase them from shops that make them right in front of the customer if they could make them – they’d balk at the suggestion.  The complexity exists only in their minds.

 

If you’ve been following these posts we’ve shown our favorite tried and true bread recipe,  we then showed how to take the same recipe and use the dough to make some awesome buns – by forming the dough and baking it in the oven, bagels just add one step to the buns – boiling the formed dough before baking.  That’s it.  Really, no need for a wood fired oven, no need for a food science degree or even to convert to Judaism.  Those things might help but if you make them personal prerequisites you might as well check yourself into an institution with “over-complication-itis” because you won’t be checking out all of the opportunities that exits out here in the real world.

For those of you that haven’t dialed 911, click on the headline for the simple recipe instructions.

Oh, and the solution for obesity – eat reasonable amounts of good food – like these fresh whole wheat bagels and engage in physical activity.