The Essentials

I’m sitting here Sunday morning, hunkering down as the second snowpocalypse begins outside. I was up early, warming up the house with baking bread. Specifically, I was attempting to make buns, being once again discouraged by the mile-long list of ingredients in the store-bought varieties.


These appear to do the trick (we’ll be testing them out later today as they sandwich a black bean burger with sautéed onions and mushrooms), and they were super easy to make. I modified an existing recipe to work with the ingredients I had on hand. The recipe is as follows.

Combine and heat to about 120 degrees :

  • 1/2 cup Fage
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 Tbsp butter

Mix together in a separate bowl:

  • 1 Tbsp active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp salt

Then, add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, including 1 egg. Mix thoroughly, then slowly combine about 2 to 2 1/2 cups white flour and knead until dough is smooth and elastic (I used my KitchenAid stand mixer for about 2 minutes). Take dough and pull apart into 10 to 12 pieces, which you then roll into a ball then place, slightly flattened, on a baking sheet (or, in my case, a silpat covering a baking sheet). Let rise for 30 to 40 minutes and bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 15 minutes (or until golden brown).

One of the biggest satisfactions of making food from scratch is the total control over the ingredients. I’m not sure why sandwich buns need high fructose corn syrup, or any of the other “enhancements.” These may not have the shelf life, but chances are they will be long gone before they expire.

Still on the topic of essentials, I’m happy to say my spinning wheel has been getting some use (not quite the 15-minutes a day I had hoped to accomplish in the new year), enough to finally finish some lovely 3-ply yarn.

Handspun Corriedale

This is spun from some handdyed Corriedale that Virginia picked up for me from cloudlover (at last year’s Shepherd’s Harvest festival). I navajo-plied the yarn, yielding approximately 370 yards from a little less than 5 ounces of roving. I believe a pair of socks are being planned with the yarn.

And, speaking of socks, Virginia has been working on several pair (as usual), one of the most recent are these:

Handknit Socks

Knit following one of Charlene Schurch’s four-stitch reticulated patterns in her book Sensational Knitted Socks. These are made with two colors of Jawoll “Aktion.”

Well, I’m off to make some lunch, and to draw in some energy for the piles of snow that will need to be shoveled over the course of the next 24 hours.

End of May Mittens, (End of) Earth Bread

Hot off Virginia’s needles are these fabulous mittens.

End of May Mittens

They are knit using Cascade 220. Pattern is by Mandy Powers, called “End of May.” They will fit right in with this Middle of January.

End of May Mittens

End of May Mittens

While the mittens were blocking I was playing in the kitchen, trying to start making a dent in the bulk, two pounds of yeast I had bought a few weeks back. The bread was inspired by a desire to eat less refined foods (including flour, sugar, etc…).

Earth Bread

It’s made with a whole wheat flour sponge, but crammed inside are all sorts of goodies, like wild rice, barley, molasses, flax seed meal, sunflower seeds and some caraway seeds. I call it (End of) Earth Bread (not to be confused with the Earth Bread recipes floating around out there that are laden with oil and sugar), and think it would by a necessary addition should there be an End of Earth. Virginia thinks I’ve been watching too many post-apocalyptic shows lately (she’s right about that). But, I have to say a few loaves of this and you’d be good to go.

Baking Recovery

It’s been so nice to finally have all of my energy back, and I feel like I might be making up for lost time. Not that I didn’t do any baking while I was recovering from the cancer treatment, I certainly had curtailed the activity.

Well, curtail no more. I’ve been playing with the master recipe from Artisan Breads in Five Minutes a Day (the recipe gives you about 5 one-pound loaves to make over the course of a week, so there’s lots to play with). This particular iteration may have to be part of our routine. It’s a cinnamon-raisin bread that toasts nicely and is perfect, really, any time of the day (I was going to say “breakfast,” but who’s kidding who).

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Basically I pulled off a pound (or grapefruit-sized hunk of dough) and, using a rolling pin, flattened it into a 9 x 12 inch area. After sprinkling generously with cinnamon and raisins, I rolled it back up into a log-like shape (tucking in the ends) and continued with the directions as is.

What I haven’t mentioned is that I acquired a baking stone, and that has pretty much changed my life. Why did I wait so long? The crust on this bread is thick, the custard resilient (but not too spongy), and, frankly, it’s amazing there is enough bread left to take a picture of.

Of course, bread is not the only baking that I’m doing. I’ve started experimenting with vegan cakes, and I’ve settled on a perfect batter that goes well with all manner of inclusions. Last week it was rhubarb. This week a combination of lemon, blueberries and poppy seeds.

Blueberry Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

Recipe for Blueberry Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1/3 cup (heaping) whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup (or less) of sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 teeny pinch of salt
  • 4 Tbsp poppy seeds

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl, then add:

  • Juice of half a lemon, combined with enough warm water to make 1 cup
  • Zest of that half a lemon
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar

Mix until batter is nearly combined, then add:

  • 1 cup blueberries (we’re cleaning out our freeze in preparation for this season’s fruit, so I thawed some blueberries for this cake)

Continue mixing until all ingredients have been incorporated (don’t over mix). Pour in to 9-inch round cake pan and bake at 350º for 30 minutes (or until toothpick inserted comes out clean).

Let cool and top with glaze made from the juice and zest of the other half of the lemon (basically add some powder sugar until the mixture is pourable, but not too thin – it’s really hard to screw this up, so I just toss a bit in at a time and whisk the mixture until it seems like a good consistency).

Blueberry Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

I’d better start getting out on my bike more regularly, because with all this baking in the house, and only two people to enjoy it…

Bounty, Bread and Bunnies

Organic strawberries were on sale this week. Although these are not local strawberries, it’s still good to take advantage of the bounty – particularly in preparation for when there will be none (I’m thinking of the cold wintery months that will inevitably be upon us).

Bounty of Strawberries

These early, store-bought strawberries are washed, cut up and frozen on cookie sheets for later storage in freezer bags. Doing the bulk of the saving now, will let us enjoy (a.k.a gorge on) the fresh local strawberries when they start showing up (including the ones from our yard), without having to save them for later.

Also new this weekend, is my adoption of a new bible. I’ve been hearing a lot about this book, so I’ve decided to acquire a copy for myself to follow. I familiarized myself with the master recipe today, and looks like the hype is warranted (and, I bet it’s good for the soul, too).

Bread (Before and After)

This, of course, is the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. For this initial trial run, I cut the salt back quite a bit (almost half of what was called for), but that’s the only change. I now have a bowl of dough in the fridge ready to be drawn from and baked during the coming week (which fits perfectly with my tendency during the summer to wake up early). I’m sure Virginia won’t mind the smell of baking bread in the wee hours of the morning.

And, some of you may have seen this photo when I uploaded it to Flickr the other day. Our yard, full of all things green, is also home to a couple of bunnies. Their own bounty has made them probably a little too comfortable with their surroundings.

Lounging Bunny

It cracks me up whenever I see them hanging out after they’ve grazed, lying on their fattened bellies. We’re starting to call our house “Bunny Acres.” They’ve also inspired a few felted creations, including this little felted friend with a carrot.

Felted Friend - Bunny with Carrot in Garden

Winter is Here

I supposed there’s nothing more appropriate to have happen on the official first day of winter than to snow a good 8 inches. I keep telling myself that this will be the year that I embrace the snow, the cold, the runny nose and aching ears. It doesn’t do any good to hold a grudge against mother nature (which is what I have done in the past once I start to dwell on the amount of months remaining before habitable weather returns).


But, no grudges this year. I will happily shovel ourselves out of the drifts, merrily don my warm, woolen knits, inhale the crisp clean air and… do everything I can to stay inside and in close proximity to the oven!

Loaves of Bread

There’s nothing quite like the smell of baking bread when just beyond the wall the outside world is being blanketed by snow and brought to a stand-still in the sub zero temperatures. I have a feeling there will be a lot baking going on this season. But, the start of winter also means longer days of sunlight are just around the corner. In fact, even tomorrow will be slightly lighter. Now, that is good news.

Happy solstice!