Posts Tagged With: Bread

My Year of Bread

At the turn of the calendar page into 2021, I reflected back on one aspect of the past year that was a positive for me: learning to bake bread. As it happens I was gifted a book considered one of the bibles of breadmaking for Christmas 2019: Flour Water Salt Yeast by Ken Forkish. Thus began my journey deep into the world of baking bread – from basic white to poolish, bigah and sourdough to pizza, hamburger buns, Italian loaves and holiday breads.

My success in baking some beautiful loaves of bread was quickly dashed by the pandemic-induced baking craze that made flour and yeast suddenly in short supply. Fortunately, I was just stocking up my pantry and had bought a 25lb bag of King Arthur flour, a large jar of yeast and smaller bags of whole wheat and bread flour just before the shelves went bare. But it turned out to be kind of cool being part of a “movement” of home bakers. At least it was easy to find recipes, tips and pitfalls on the internet and to learn from others.

How has this new hobby in retirement progressed? Well, I do frequent the baking aisle of the grocery store now, the kitchen has a semi-permanent dusting of flour, my list of essentials grows gadget by baking pan and I now own 5 cast iron dutch ovens. I also frustrate Jackie at times when she needs some counter space while I am mid-loaf in the baking process.  But she also has been a big help as “official taster” and with sewing my own design (patent pending?) bread pillow.  I gave a few to my baking crew of friends and family.

This hobby also means I get to share some of my loaves with friends and family, who seem rather eager to have me drop by these days. “Did you bring bread?”  The grandsons love PopPop’s bread!  Just before we all had to stop gathering indoors we hosted a “make your own pizza” party and we learned about pizza dough, peels and pizza stones (sometimes sloppy but always delicious).

Along the way I have baked some really good sourdough, some soft and delicious white breads, pumpkin sourdoughs, chocolate cherry loaves, crusty Italian loaves and crackly pizza doughs. – with just a few “oops” loaves. I made and fed my sourdough starter, though I refuse to name it, and passed some along to friends and family (who may or may not be thrilled about it).  I also struggled with what to do with the “toss” — that part of the starter that you remove after feeding to leave you with only about 100g.  I simply couldn’t toss it out, so I discovered things like sourdough waffles and sourdough biscuits.  My starter remains in the fridge until the day before we bake, and any excess usually becomes a delicious stack of waffles.  Yes, I know I added a few extra calories to our diet — but who can resist fresh baked bread?

Discussing my baking wish list with Jason this fall he told me that he had a well-used Kitchen Aid mixer that he would gladly pass along.  Wow, really?  So another appliance lives in the kitchen “area” now.  I added accessories like a mixing blade, wisk, pouring spout and a dough hook – so I am ready to rock!  Did I tell you about the flour fail/splash event when I first tried mixing the dry ingredients?  Ha! good thing I didn’t have the video for that mess of flour.

I now have a growing group of us who are each baking and sharing pictures and recipes, tips and flops . . . just some good fun in our new era of socially distanced learning and fellowship. So that naturally led to “hey Doug, can you show me how to . . .?” and my video response. Heck, everyone is posting pics and videos of baking these days, so why not?

Listed below is the playlist of my bread baking videos – rather proud of them but I’d like to get better at the process. Yes, Kodi barks in the background sometimes, lights reflect off the counter and some of the shots are a little tight to the action, but believe me, the bread tastes great! Enjoy, and maybe try your hand at a new hobby. At least this has a useful purpose and we get to eat something (as opposed to my glass totem hobby).

ADVENTURES IN BREADMAKING WITH DOUG

Let me know your thoughts.

I am going to try new recipes as I find them and will video what I can (heck, I only have two hands here, and they are usually sticky with flour).

More to come.

Categories: Bread and Baking | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

Finding Our Groove This Spring

I don’t think I need to tell you that 2020 is one heck of an unusual year.  When we last shared our adventures with you it was mid March and we were in the midst of the country’s shutdown due to COVID-19.  We had just returned home from a week in Florida and two days in FDR State Park in Georgia.  

Plans changed for an upcoming family wedding (just immediate family with a fall celebration instead) and our big plans for an Alaska cruise with friends and family got cancelled.  Staying at home was the required and healthy thing to do, so the motorhome got a good cleaning, but but didn’t leave the driveway.  That also meant more crochet projects for Jackie, more glass sculptures for me and a new project of converting old VHS tapes to digital home movies.  Yeah, that’ll keep ya busy!

 

Plus, I had this new talent for homemade bread and pizza.  The problem with that was that everyone was baking at home and, well, you know the rest: flour and yeast shortages.  Fortunately, I was already deep into home baking mode, so I had the equipment and supplies on hand to keep rolling along.  And if you ever try sourdough baking, you know the stress of feeding and using excess sourdough.  It just keeps on growing!  So I have tried sourdough waffles, pancakes, biscuits, bagels, pizza dough, beer bread … with darn good success.  

     

      

   

In the Backyard

Our birdhouse was home to a Tufted titmouse family this year and I managed to catch one of the youngsters hop out of the box.  And we watched our usual herd of deer wander through the backyard, two does particularly heavy, and knew we were in for another birth or two.  Since they have been very protective in the past, involving incidents with our dogs, we kept a wary eye and finally saw the morning that a new youngster was born next door, wobbly legs and all.

 

Finally, some travel

It has been hard to book campsites, both for this year and next, given that so many are either closed due to coronavirus or still under repair, such as St. Andrews in Florida.  We tried to book Grayton Beach again for next spring with Judy and Craig (or any Florida campground), with no luck.  And we are pretty good at this, too.  So here we sit at home, like most of the country.

But, brother-in-law John is still working on his cabin in North Carolina (this is a no-hurry, one man, bucket list project) and was at the point of needing another helper, so we cautiously made plans to leave home and stay with him for a week.  Jackie thought it would be a good idea to try and book a night on the return trip in one of the Georgia State Parks, Moccasin Creek St. Park, so we made that reservation from the road.  Ok then, it felt good to be underway to somewhere.

Getting to Rutherfordton, more or less, in rural North Carolina was no problem and we set ourselves up in his backyard.  Nice grassy spot that let us connect water and electricity.  The weather was nice, so we ate outside and even tried out our new propane firepit (thanks to the idea from Judy and Craig).  We saw wild turkey in the farm fields and heard coyotes at night (and let me tell you, they were creepy yelps), but missed seeing the red fox that lives nearby.  John’s friend Elvie brought over some homemade pork egg rolls and sweet and sour sauce one night that made for a delicious treat.  Life was good and we were out of the house (and yes, we were wearing masks and washing hands as needed).

 

About that groove …

Over at the cabin, John explained what we were to get started on:  tongue and groove pine siding that he was using for his interior walls and the porch ceiling.  OK, no biggie, right?  Besides, John had already gotten some of it started.  We set up some boards for Jackie to stain – 12 and 16 footers for the porch, and John and I finished up the upper part of the stairway wall.  Not too bad, just way up on ladders and such.

 

But when it came to the overhead porch ceilings, it was a lot trickier.  Not all the boards wanted to slip into the grooves easily, so there was a bit of thumping, banging, cursing, and reaching – especially on the 16 footers.  Ping, ping, ping and we got some nails in.  Pushing, tapping, wedging and we got more boards in.  Ok, load up Jackie’s staining table again and stop for the day.  Next day, repeat.  Oh, and the jigsaw just kept seizing up at critical moments, so some creative means were used for some of the cuts needed for outlet boxes.  Maybe the sixth or seventh “jam” brought about a “@#$%&!” moment and the saw went flying out the door into the driveway.  Better order another one.

 

Rain was predicted and John wanted to pick up his hearth stone, a rather large slab of sandstone up in Marion before it got too bad, so we rode out to the quarry and they loaded up the stone.  Back at the cabin we hefted it out of the truck bed and inside to the hearth.  Not too shabby, but pretty darn heavy. 

From that day on (three days?) it rained pretty hard.  Didn’t slow our work on the “wonderful” tongue and groove, but there was some pretty good flooding going on.  We did our best to finish our project list, but didn’t quite get the porch ceiling done.

   

One last challenge

The night before we were to pull up and head out I had a nightmare that woke me up good.  I kept imagining our stabilizing jacks would sink into the ground and we wouldn’t be able to retract the slides (sides of the RV) because we were tilted.  I was also imagining that the soggy wet ground would make us slip on the grass and we would bog down in the mud instead of backing out of John’s yard.  So I jumped out of bed and pulled in the living room slide, waking up the dog, cat and Jackie, who all thought I was nuts.

As it happens, we were able to back out of our spot in the yard and onto John’s gravel driveway with no problem, BUT while making the K-turn to swing around … my nightmare came true.  Stuck in the mud.  Just barely got wood under the rear hydraulic jacks to lift us up and slip a board under one wheel, and John tried to pull with his pickup truck, but the board snapped and we sunk in deeper – no luck.  

 

We called a wrecker and Jack did a great job with a winch to pull us to safety (after nearly bogging down himself), and we then backed all the way out the driveway.  Not a fun way to start the day.  I was in no mood to spend the night at another campground, especially one with “creek” in the name, so we cancelled our reservation and just headed back home, leaving a trail of mud clods behind us.

And while we were gone?

Once back home we spilled out of the motorhome and unpacked.  Everything looked fine.  I pulled the memory card out of our backyard trail camera and was stunned to find a perfect video of our latest addition to the herd.  Our second fawn was caught on camera the day he/she was born and was caught looking adorable.  The youtube clip is precious and I am amazed that the youngster and mom hung out right in front of the camera.  Maybe they knew?  

Fawn’s First Day Video

So, even though we are pretty much staying home (although Georgia is trying to reopen), we have found some new adventures.  They might not be the cruises and family gatherings and celebrations we had planned – like everyone else – they still provide a sense of wonder – even the tongue and groove (I wonder why those boards won’t go together? thump, thump, curse).

The Adventure continues … (will we still be camping in Florida this fall?  Stay tuned)

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: