Posts Tagged ‘whole-grain bread’

Wednesday, January 9:

The temperature was above freezing today and the sun came out, so the men split three truckloads of wood this afternoon and replenished the woodshed.  The lane is a sheet of rotten ice over ruts of yellow mud running with snowmelt.  Although the thaw means fencing the cows off the pasture – again – it does at least reduce the size of the snow drifts piled up against the sides of the tunnels, high and low, making it easier to remove two or three sandbags, pull up the plastic covers and get a sieve full of carrots, or to squeeze through the keyhole doorway into the high tunnel where the spinach is and get enough leaves for a salad.

Forecast says the temperature will get up into the sixties on Saturday, but I hope not.  Let the ground freeze and stay frozen until the beginning of April, say I, so that the cows can be fed in the sliding manger out on the pasture without damage to the sod, not in the barn where nutrients will pile up and leach away where they can do no good.  In the big pasture at the monastery there is no such problem; low stock density and plenty of room mean we can give the steers enough space to graze without excessive wear and tear on the forage.  And the steers love it; although they accepted the two bales we threw out to them for a Christmas treat, they have no trouble pawing down through a foot of snow to the good, nutritious standing forage stockpiled in that pasture.

Would we had another hundred such acres.

We are gearing up for the beginning of our spring semester of Practical Farm Science by pulling out all our seed catalogues and laying out plans for the gardens in 2013.  More feed for the pigs is a high priority; we will see how much of the big gardens we can plant in late summer to mangels, beans, and turnips, and we want to order all of our seed at once to save on shipping.

Our spring workshops on fermented whole grain bread baking, seed starting, and maple sugaring promise to keep our weekends full over the next couple of months – see our Classes page for dates and details.

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Not followers of any school of food but our own — fresh and local — we nevertheless offer the following recipe to the fermented-foods people for a whole-meal loaf of exceptional quality which does not have the texture of particle board.

It is derived from a recipe we received from the Queen of Minnesota farm wives, Sandra Callens of Silofence Farm.  We have adapted it for use with levain, a stiff sourdough starter, but it can be used with granulated yeast alone by doubling the amount of that ingredient.  This recipe makes a loaf with a tender, resilent crumb, very suitable for sandwiches.  Note that the flour content is at least seventy-five percent whole meal; the potatoes are responsible for the fine crumb.

The amounts given here will make seven or eight two-pound (wt. before baking) loaves.

We hope you enjoy it.

The Sow’s Ear Whole-Meal / Potato Bread

The night before, refresh your starter, if you are using one.  (If you are asking, “what the heck’s a starter?, you don’t need one — go on to the next step.)

In the morning*, boil and mash enough potatoes to make three cups (we are told instant potato flakes can be used here, but we have never tried it).  Combine in a large bowl with six cups warm milk; if fresh whey is available, two cups of whey may be substituted for an equal amount of milk, as whey is an excellent dough conditioner.  Add to this one cup honey or other natural sweetener, six eggs, one-half cup melted butter, two teaspoons granulated yeast, one cup sourdough starter, if you are using it (if not, double the yeast), and sufficient freshly-ground whole wheat meal to make a stiff sponge.

You want to make a sponge that is stiff enough to stand a wooden spoon in for several seconds before it falls over, but not so stiff as to be dry.    It should mound up in the bowl and draw away from the sides when stirred.  All of your whole meal is added at this time in order that it should have time for the bran to absorb all the moisture it wants; if you were to skip this step, you would end up adding too much flour in the next step.  The sponge should be allowed to work for at least an hour; longer working is good so long as the sponge is stirred occaisionally to release carbon dioxide.  Our sponge sits for as long as three hours to overnight.

Now add two tablespoons of salt, and enough unbleached flour to make a workable dough.  Turn out on a table or countertop and knead, adding flour as necessary to make the dough elastic.  We usually knead our dough about fifteen minutes, all told.

Place dough in a floured bowl and cover with a damp towel.   After fifteen minutes or so, turn the dough out on the table and fold it in, one side at a time, north, south, east, west:  as though you were making an enchilada with no filling.  Invert and return to bowl.  Cover.  Wait another fifteen minutes and repeat.  (To be perfectly honest, this step may be hocus-pocus, since when we forget we still get a good loaf, but we do it when we remember.)

Now give the dough time for a good rising, until it rounds up nicely under its damp towel.

Turn risen dough onto a floured board and cut into two-pound pieces, rounding each and setting aside to rest for ten minutes, covered.

After the dough has rested, flatten each piece to about the size of a serving platter, dab with a wet hand, and fold in the sides to meet in the middle.  Dab again with a wet hand, and, starting with the edge nearest to you, roll the dough into a tight loaf, pinching the edge to seal, and place seam-side down in a greased loaf pan.

Allow to rise until it feels soft when poked lightly with a finger but does not hold the dent.

We bake in our brick and clay oven heated to about seven degrees cooler than the surface of the sun, and it bakes very fast; but when winter comes and no one wants to stand outside stoking in below-zero weather, we bake indoors at about three seventy-five for something less than an hour, and the results are still very good.  The loaves should sound hollow when tapped, but the only way we know of to be certain your bread is done is to cut into a loaf.

Then, of course, you should invite everyone in the house to come help you eat that loaf with plenty of farm butter and honey.

That’s how we make bread at the Sow’s Ear.

*if you prefer, make your sponge the night before and allow it to ferment overnight, making sure to mix it thin enough that the bubbles of carbon dioxide gas can escape from the sponge, so as to avoid killing the yeasts and ruining the dough.

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Saturday, October 8:

We finally got the supers off the hives on Thursday.  I say “finally” even though some people in our area will not take their supers off until the goldenrod is through blooming;  we have to move when we see an opportunity, else we may lose our chance.  So, we pulled the supers off on Thursday afternoon, discovering as we did so that somehow – how, we can’t guess – the queen in the colony on stand number five was above the queen excluder, not below it, where she belongs, and where she would have plenty of room for brood.  This is something that happens if you don’t get into your hives often enough; when you do, sometimes you find out things have gotten a little weird.  A queen in a super means a scattered brood pattern, since she has to move around a lot to find empty cells to lay in.  more work for her, more for the young bees in charge of nursery operations.  Hoping the colony has not been mortally weakened by this situation, we moved the super with the queen in it to a position under a hive box containing seven full frames of honey, and three of drawn comb.  We hope queen and court will move up into the empty comb, and winter will find them concentrated in the middle of a good store of honey.

We have spent the week trying to fit some school into the gaps between winding up things for winter, and to fit some final farming tasks into the gaps in our school work.  The split focus is something we always have to deal with, and don’t much like.  So, as  Wednesday was beautiful, we spread a ton of lime at the TOR’s, pulling our antideluvian spreader behind the F-250.  It is a little cheaper to spread our own lime there, but it will save us time and trouble to get the rest of it spread by the Co-op, in those parts of the property where their tractors can go.  In the home pastures, we have to spread it ourselves, because the Co-op equipment can’t even get down the lane.  We told you this is the most worthless acreage in eastern Ohio.

We are very hopeful that the lime we have spread will mean better vegetative growth for several years to come.

The lettuce and spinach in the raised beds has not germinated very well – there are a lot of empty spots.  Or maybe that blamed RI Red that comes up the hill to the yard is defying the garden wire we have spread over the raised beds and is picking out the seedlings through the wires.  If we catch her at it, she’s for the soup pot.  We waited until late July through mid-September to plant lettuce and spinach, as per instructions in The Winter Harvest Handbook, and now I am worried that the salad greens won’t grow well enough before the days are too short, and we won’t have winter salads.  Argh.  On the right side of the ledger, the July planting of beans has given us some thirty or so quarts of beans to put up, and lots to eat fresh.  As long as the warm weather holds, they should go on producing, though not so generously as the first picking.

There is always some freak thing to add to our already long list of jobs.  The ceiling fan on the porch was found to be running on high speed, and investigation revealed that the chain by which it turns off and on had been snapped off — inside the motor housing.  Inquiry drew from the little girls that they had been up on the table, yanked the chain with more beef than necessary, and thus broke it.  When asked what they were doing up on the table, they admitted with charming frankness that they had climbed up there in order to put Picky, the half-grown mouser, on the fan blades.  “We wanted to give him a ride,” they said.

And they love this kitten.

We wonder what kind of mothers they will make.

The same kitten nearly met his maker this morning.  One of us went out at six a.m. to light a fire in the bread oven, so that it would be hot enough by nine thirty for us to bake loaves.  S-5 had split wood for the fire the previous night, and being a thorough person, as well as a thoughtful one, had laid a fire in the oven all ready to be lit – all it needed was a match.  Bleary-eyed, the morning baker struck a match and drew an orange flame along the edge of the wad of newspaper stuffed in the tipi of kindling wood.  Orange flames licked orange fatwood, which caught immediately, crackling from the sap.  The oven glowed.

And then something caught the attention of the fire starter.  Orange flames, orange wood – wasn’t there something else orange in the oven, behind the firewood?  Had the responsible son put wood to the back of the oven?  Holy angels and saints — it was the orange kitten.

The cat didn’t even know his danger.  He never broke from the comfortable couchant position he had assumed.  Even after we squealed and grabbed a poker and raked all the fire out of the entrance to the oven, we had to reach in and grab the kitten bodily and pull it out – purring.

That cat is technically a tom, but there are a lot of times when he really reminds us of the girls.

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