Monday, November 6, 2017

Do you bake bread?

I used to be a rare bread baker.  That changed this summer when I started to do the farmers market.  All of a sudden I was making bread twice a week.  When I started selling at the market I didn't have much for produce yet so baked goods were my way to have enough things to offer for sale.  There were other bakers at the market and other breads for sale.  I wanted to find my niche in the baked goods area, offering something different from the others so I made white bread as buns and small loaves and French baguettes.  Both were familiar breads.  I wrote about the baguettes here.
my baskets of breads at the market

My older daughter also has an interest in bread baking.  When she made known that interest she began to amass a collection of tools that she would need.  I helped with that. She has a beautiful cookbook on bread making that details what they recommend for baking fabulous artisan breads. A trip to the restaurant supply store for the bench scraper and cambro box for proofing that were on her Christmas wish list last year and a few treasures found while thrifting since have been my contribution.

She gave me my baguette pan for Christmas a couple of years ago and I have a couple of thrift store treasures that have found their way to my kitchen gear stash.  I am, after all, a gadget girl.  And I am also a cookbook girl.  During the market season my mom bought me a bread cookbook and my daughter sent me my own copy of the cookbook that was her inspiration.  Both are a treasure trove of information and recipes that I am excited to try.
the cookbook from my mom
cookbook from my daughter

After a couple of shoppers at the market asked about gluten free offerings I decided to try my hand a gluten free breads.  We do not have any family members that are gluten intolerant so it was not something that I had ever done but it was a need that none of the other market vendors were attempting to fill.  Gluten free baking has its own learning curve and its own specialty ingredients.  I love a baking challenge.  I have had some successes and some repeat customers.  I have one that I will be baking for even now that the market is done.  And that will be fun.

Each market day I would make baguettes and buns and little loaves and sometimes I would try something new.  A couple of times I used my Pullman pan or pain de mie.  It is a rectangular pan with straight sides and a cover.  The bread raises in the pan and the cover keeps the loaf from having an arched top.  The loaf makes squared off slices, kind of like the shape of commercial breads available at the store.  The pans come in two sizes and mine is the smaller one.  The bread is perfect sliced thinly for appetizer toasts or fancy tea sandwiches.
Pain de mie
I also tried my hand at focaccia.  I thought it was good but best fresh from the oven. Probably better to make and eat than make and sell the next day.

Another thrift store find just recently was a baking cloche.

It prompted me to get out the new cookbook and try my hand at an artisan bread.  There is a lot to learn and I started with a prefermented bread. A prefermented bread requires the making of a starter so it is not something that is done spontaneously.  I started my starter, called biga, on Saturday and baked my bread on Sunday.   I have extra biga in my fridge so I will probably be baking bread again over the next couple of days.  The bread that I made is a white bread, using only all purpose flour, but it has a slightly different taste and a little darker color.  It tastes great both fresh and toasted.  I baked a baguette from a baguette recipe using the biga.  Instead of baking on a stone I tried my baguette pan.  It turned out nice.  I also tried two artisan breads.  One recipe but one-half baked under the cover of the cloche and one-half baked in the cloche bottom without the cover.  The recipe was for one loaf but it was a fairly large recipe and my cloche is supposed to hold dough made from three cups of flour and mine was more than that. Both breads were good but the covered bread and the baguette had a chewier crust.  The baguette had a pan of water for steam in the oven and the cloche created steam from the moisture in the dough.  The unsteamed version had a softer crust.

All in all it has been great fun.  I will be sharing the recipes soon but in the meantime I will be sharing this post with Susan at BNOTP here.


Thursday, November 2, 2017

A few recent thrift store finds

I think I may have written in the past about how my sister and I got addicted to thrifting.  The story, in a nutshell, is that we started searching out treasures for my daughter who was contemplating starting a dish and decor rental service.  I don't know that I had ever been to a Goodwill prior to that time.  Now we have a whole group of stores in several towns that we shop often or sporadically.
My sister and I  have different things that we collect so we are rarely in competition.   I like white dishes of any vintage.  She loves silver platters.  I like sets of vintage china.  She collects small plates and bases and glues them together to make cupcake stands.  Kitchen gadgets are a thing that we both like.  I have not ever bought an article of clothing at Goodwill.  To be honest, there are parts of the store that I have not really even wandered through.  But I can spend an hour in the dishes and the home goods.  And the fabric/linens.  And a quick walk thru the pictures for interesting frames.
We believe that the reason that we find great stuff is that we shop regularly.  The great stuff rarely stays on the shelf for long and if you happen to be in the store when it happens to be on the shelf, that is when the magic happens.  Our closest Goodwill is in a slightly larger nearby town.  I think it is rare that a week goes by that we don't stop in.  I don't think that we have ever left empty handed.  Our Goodwill store generally has pretty good prices.  But we rarely pay full price.  If you donate, they give you  a coupon for 25% off your purchase. And on Wednesdays seniors get 25% off.  And one day a week a particular color of sticker is 75% off.  And sometimes we happen to be in the store when there is a special sale, like yesterday when everything was 30% off. 

Last week I found this.

The pattern is American by Fostoria. My mom was given this pattern.  It was passed down to her from her mom or her grandmother.  I don't remember her receiving it but I remember her having this pattern while I was still at home.  Her grandmother died about the time that she was a newlywed or within the first year or two of her marriage.  She has several sizes of glasses, a wine, a champagne coupe and a cordial as well as a water glass and serving pieces.  Over the years her collection has slowly expanded as we have added a few pieces here and there when we happened upon them at an antique store.  Since we have been hitting the thrift stores the pace has quickened.  We seem to find a piece or two quite regularly.  The pattern seems to have lost some of its value.  I remember paying $50 for a bud vase years ago in an antique store and now many of the pieces are less than $20  at and $5-10 and usually less at Goodwill.

This pitcher was priced at $2.99 but we purchased it with a senior discount.  Just so you know, Goodwill's senior discount starts at a very young 55 years and my sister and I barely qualify.  Replacements has the same one priced at $70. And then, just yesterday they had one more at the very same price so we bought that one too.  Now she can have a pitcher of ice water at each end of her Thanksgiving or Christmas table.  Mom generally has her pieces displayed in a beautiful antique china cabinet and rarely uses them.  They are not a delicate handblown crystal but a sturdy one so this year my sister and I decided that we will help set the table and drag out many of her pieces.  I will try to remember to get some pictures.
I have written previously about my plans to convert my chicken coop into a bar.  My kids are game players and I am hoping that the bar will be a great three season place for board games and cards.  In anticipation of that project I have been picking up barware when I see it.  I am a little embarrassed to admit that I have quite a bit.  This is my latest find.  It is a hammered metal cocktail shaker and six glasses.

I have been researching them and have found some that are very similar with a different handle on the cover or a slightly different pour spout but none that match exactly, at least not so far.  It is always possible that at some point the lid was swapped with another..  The ones that I have read about online are usually described as being silverplate and in an art deco style.  These were priced each piece  separately with the glasses at $1.99 and the shaker at $6.99 all before the senior discount. I love the patina.  

I haven't done a whole table in quite a long time but still going to join the fun at Between Naps on the Porch for Tablescape Thursday here.


Friday, October 27, 2017

The farmers market season is ended.

Thursday was to be our second to the last farmers market with the last being on Saturday but our weather has taken a turn towards winter so our Thursday market ended early and the Saturday market cancelled.  It was cold and windy with snow predicted.  The snow seems to have gone around us and after a cold weekend it should be a bit warmer next week  The garden crops have been killed by frost but there is still lots of clean up left to do.  A part of today was spent collecting the hoses and taking down sprinklers. I use a lot of hoses.  A couple of days ago Dad and I blew out the water line that goes thru the grove to the big garden. It is a two person job, one on each side of the grove with a lot of yelling back and forth.  We never seem to remember until to late that we could call each other on our cells instead of hollering. 

I dug up the herbs that I wanted to try and overwinter and moved them to the greenhouse.   I would like to make one more trip over the lawn with the mower.  After that the next big project is to clean out the barn.  We practice a type of deep litter method in our barn.  We cover the soiled straw bedding with fresh all winter and then in the summer (or more realistically the fall) the old bedding gets mucked out and we start over.  What often happens is that instead of doing it during the summer when the barn is not really used much, it gets put off until the last minute.  It is time to get it done.  I have a date with a pitchfork and a wheelbarrow.  The herd will be glad to get back into their barn. They are locked out and they do have other shelter available but they stand there by the door looking at me as if to say 'When can we go back in?'

Once the barn is cleaned and the outside work finished I am hoping to get some serious blogging time in.  I have recipes to share and stories to tell.  See you soon.


Monday, October 9, 2017

Freeze warning issued

The weather has been kind of dreary lately, cloudy, cool, some rain, even some jacket weather.  But yesterday was a glorious fall day, sunny and short sleeves.  I spent a good part of it outside doing some mowing and some fall clean up chores.  Today isn't expected to be as nice but I will be outside most of today as well as a freeze warning has been issued for tonight and I need to harvest what I can just in case.  The rest of the ten day forecast appears to look like it will stay above freezing but tonight's predicted 31 degrees could be the end of my tomatoes.
I have been doing some work in the greenhouse.  I hope to begin seeding the greens this week so I am cleaning and organizing and sanitizing equipment.  Last year, I had purchased a pot of strawberry plants and I overwintered them successfully so this year I am hoping to expand that and try it on a larger scale.  This past spring my daughter bought some strawberry plants in little pots and we planted several together into four hanging baskets and they were outside this summer.  Some of them developed runners so I have separated them and put them in hanging baskets.  I also have a raised bed of strawberry plants that were given to me when a friend's patch was dismantled and those are also getting runners and some of them are trying to get a foothold outside of their wooden walls so I am hoping to get those relocated to pots for the greenhouse as well and today might be my last opportunity. 
It is canning season and my excess produce is making its way to jars.  I have been doing tomato recipes and some jelly.  As I move through the canning process I have been dreaming about an outside canning kitchen.  Earlier this summer I bought a vintage sink to use outdoors. 
My plan is this winter to get it mounted on a stand and plumbed for water from the hose with another hose to drain away the water and I will use that sink to wash produce.  I am also looking at outdoor cooking and propane camp stoves and flat top grills as there never seems to be enough burners for all of those big pots in my tiny farm kitchen. 

I am hoping to have a farmers market update post soon.  In addition to baked goods and produce sales I have been trying my hand at soap making and gluten free baking.  Lots of stuff to post about. 
Happy fall!

Joining Met Monday at Between Naps on the Porch

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

My kitchen smells amazing

Tomorrow will be all about baking for the Thursday farmer's market but yesterday and today I have been canning.
six heads of roasted garlic

Right now I am making roasted garlic pasta sauce.  It starts by roasting six heads of garlic and 4 green peppers and I have to say that roasted garlic has my kitchen smelling pretty amazing.  It will be a couple of hours before the sauce is ready for the canner and then another hour or so before the jars are cooling on the counter. I am trying t new recipe and will be sharing the recipe if it is successful over at the farmstand cookbook (link on the right sidebar).  It incorporates many garden treasures.  The garlic I purchased but the tomatoes, green peppers and herbs are all grown on the farm.  

Earlier this week I was making Bloody Mary mix, dandelion jelly and pepper jelly.  

I had a few more dandelions so an opportunity arose to make another couple of batches of dandelion jelly.  That recipe has been previously shared and can be found here.

The Bloody Mary mix also uses tomatoes from the garden along with bell peppers and jalapeno peppers.  It will be fun garnished with the pickled asparagus that was made earlier this spring.  I am making two versions, one with Worcestershire and a vegetarian one without.  

I make a pepper jelly with green bell peppers and jalapeno peppers.  My kids also make pepper jelly although their choices of hot peppers is a lot more adventurous than mine.  This year I tried a recipe for a zucchini pepper jam to sell at the market.  The zucchinis are a substitute for the bell peppers and the flavor is similar but it is a great way to use a spare zucchini.  I used farm grown zucchini and jalapenos.  You can't get more local than that.

 Earlier when my plums were ready I made a single batch of roasted plum blackberry jam.  I only had enough plums for five small jars but it was the first batch of plums from our young trees.  

I have grapes in the fridge to be processed and the elderberries are ripe and this year I will be making jelly with them.

 I will update this post with links for the other recipes as they are posted. 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Garden harvest

This afternoon and evening i braved the mosquitos to harvest the ripe peppers and tomatoes and zucchinis.
My wagon filled with produce.
Green bell peppers and mini bells.
three types of summer squash and pink and black cherry tomatoes
These are Brandywine tomatoes
Paste tomatoes
All in all this time I picked 9 zucchini, 4.5 pounds of bell peppers, and over 75 pounds of various varieties of tomatoes.  The tomatoes have had a rough time and it shows with some scarring of the skin.  We had drought, monsoons and now cold.  They will work well for canning even if they aren't going to win a beauty contest.  I have started to can, making pepper jelly and zucchini pepper jelly and Bloody Mary mix so far.  Today there were a few dandelions in the yard so I collected some for another batch of dandelion jelly.     

Sunday, August 20, 2017

what a couple of weeks it has been since my last post.

The weather

It has been dry on the farm.  Watering was taking a fair amount of my time.  The grass was brown.  Well, not for the near future.  This week we have had more than 10 inches of rain.  We started with 4.5 inches last Sunday and then, two days later, the next Tuesday had another 6 inches.  So now the time that I was spending watering I am now spending monitoring the sump pumps and watching the no longer dormant grass grow.  It could be so much worse. My growing spaces are all on high enough ground to not have had any standing water issues or drowned out plantings.  The couple of low spots, near the driveway, south of the greenhouse and on the pasture, were ponds for awhile but they are now receded.  I have a little bit of wet floors in the basement but no damage.  I had a near miss with the well pump and so now I am more frequent in my checks.  My sticky switch is back and I hope that like the last time it gets to be unsticky.  In the meantime I am turning off the breaker when tapping on it with a stick doesn't do the trick. 

The farmers market

I have been having a great time at the farmers market.  It is a lot of work but fun.  We market twice a week on Thursday afternoons and Saturday mornings.  I have brought my gear and set up my stuff each time since my first time.  Next Saturday I will be skipping and I know that I will be wondering if it is busy or slow and if the regulars will notice that I am not there.  I usually take baked goods and when I have them, some garden produce.  This week I sewed a couple of market bags to offer for sale and I will be finishing up more of them and one or more  harvest aprons to sell as well.

A couple of customers early on asked about gluten free options and no one at our market was doing any gluten free baking.  I have been experimenting with some new recipes and trying to bring something gluten free each week.  Lots of time I bring it all home at the end of the market.  This week the near miss with the well impacted the amount of time that I had for baking and I skipped the gluten free I had planned and of course that was the time that there were customers that might have bought it.  Shucks.

Each market day I take yeast breads and quick breads and scones and sometimes biscotti.  I have been trying to have some type of food item using zucchini, the first thing that was ready so far in my otherwise late garden.  I am just starting to get a very few red tomatoes but I have been taking some of my parents' surplus.  It is nice of them to share.

I have had great help and advice from my kids on this new endeavor.  They are my best cheerleaders.  The behind the scenes help has been great but the most visible contribution has been on facebook.  Mom's Hobby Farm has a until lately mostly unused facebook page that they have been posting to. 

The plums

I may have shared in the past the saga of my plums.  For several years now I have had as a goal to each year add some new perennial fruit to the farm.  Several years ago Nathan and Michelle gave me four fruit trees in May.  It was either mothers day or my birthday but probably a joint gift.  There were two plums and two pears.  The pears are not yet fruiting.  Last year one of the plums had its first fruit forming when overnight it disappeared.  There wasn't a lot of baby fruits on the tree but it was stripped clean overnight.  A bit of online research suggested squirrels might be the culprit and this year I brushed onto the trunk some vaseline mixed with hot sauce, a suggested remedy.  Either the hot sauce worked or the squirrels have lost interest but I actually got a small harvest of edible fruit.  The fully ripe plums were juicy with this heavenly aroma, red skins and gold flesh on the inside.  There was not enough to make a batch of plum only jam but there was enough to mix with blackberries from the store for a roasted plum blackberry preserve and that is what I did today.  5 jars of deep red/black goodness,.  I am considering taking them to the market but with only five jars I will probably hoard them for special breakfasts with my bunch.  Maybe next year I will have to plant blackberry canes.