Sunday, September 30, 2012

Pepper Mill vs. Coffee Grinder?

It's a very rainy and quite chilly day today here in Maine.  I'm afraid my aim and shoot camera is way too fast to show all the downpour outside but trust me it's pouring.  I have a Nikon D80 but I would have to  go find it and I'm just too lazy so these photos will have to do.  

 View out one of my windows in my family room.

View out a slider to one of my decks.

I was cleaning up my kitchen last night, refilling my pepper grinders and I got to thinking about something others might find useful.....pepper mills vs. coffee grinders.  Below is a hand crank coffee grinder I've had for 37 years but I've used it for grinding pepper - never coffee!

 Because it's a coffee grinder, not intended to leave peppercorns in the top, of course there is no cover.  To fix this problem of no lid I tear off some foil, shape it to fit (after it is filled with peppercorns of course) and cover over the well to keep the dust  out.  Now why would I go to that trouble.....very simply put, when I bought it I intended to use it for grinding pepper and it was a lot less money than some of the fancy pepper mills on the market.  Seems things haven't changed much in all these years!  I keep the above mill by my stove, couple of turns and I have all the fresh ground pepper I need.  Having this mill by the stove also eliminates me having to constantly be refilling a regular pepper mill that is always running out.  I love this mill and it has been used constantly, is heavy duty - after all is was intended to grind coffee beans - and if it broke I would run out - nah, I'd probably order one off Amazon and replace it pronto!

Here are a couple of inexpensive coffee mills I looked up on and as I mentioned above, they are way less money than the numerous other top brand pepper mills.  One of these even has adjustments for the type of grind you want - what could be better or easier than that?

Yes, I do own several of the other pepper mills and here is just one set I keep on my breakfast table - salt and pepper both.  As you can see, I keep them in a small terra-cotta pot that used to hold vinegar and oil.  This pot keeps all that nasty stuff from getting all over my lazy susan.
 Hope your world is sunshiny where you are today....enjoy!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Bread Baking - Day 2

As promised, the continuation of the final stage of baking of the "No Knead Breads."
I never bother to clean out my cast iron pans because it's just flour in the bottom and I don't use these pans for anything but making bread.
Dust or brush out with a good dry brush.

Add about a tablespoon of oil and wipe out with a dry paper towel.  You don't want a lot of oil in the pan, just enough so the wet dough doesn't stick.

I bake two loaves at a time because I have a Viking oven that is nice and wide.  Position your lids slightly askew, if using the Lodge pans, so you can grab onto the side handles on the top and lift off when you are ready to toss bread into hot pan.

All four loaves that I dumped out of their rising bins on to this floured vinyl mat.  Use lots of flour on your counter and hands and form loaves into nice balls, cover with a light towel and let rise.  No kneading required.  Just shape them into the nice round shape making sure there's enough flour under them so they don't stick.
I have an over sized scoop/scraper which is made for lifting pie crusts that I use to lift the dough and transport the dough to the pans.

30 minutes and this is what you turn out of the pans!

Here are the finished baked loaves of bread.  The one loaf on the left is the 1/2 whole wheat and 1/2 regular white flour plus pecans, dates and cinnamon sugar.  I had some burning on the bottom and I think this might have been due to the sugar in the mixture.  I might recommend dropping the temperature in the oven to maybe 425 if you are going to be doing only a loaf that has any sugar in it.  I might also extend the baking time for another 10 minutes to compensate for the lower temp.

One of the white flour loaves - nice and no burning.

 Cut this loaf open for lunch.  Beautiful texture and oh so yummy with mayo, roast beef and tomato!

Whole Wheat and White

This is a look at the inside of the nut, half and half flours and dates.  The texture is good and the flavor was terrific even if a bit burned on the bottom.  For recipes refer back to my last posting.

Give this great bread a try.  The only down side to making bread this way is it gets eaten way too fast!

And, yes, I have doubled a batch and baked it all at one time in a super large 13 qt. Le Creuset dutch oven with a s/s lid top and it came out great - super bread and super sized!    Any questions, drop me a note.  Enjoy!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Bread Baking Day!

Bread baking started early this morning with grinding the wheat berries.  I keep several large 5 gallon bins that hold approx. 25 lbs of wheat berries.   I have a Marathon Uni-mill that I bought new about 34 years ago - amazing how time flies - and I have been making bread with this beauty all these years without a blip!

My wheat mill sits inside a cabinet on a roll out shelf/drawer.  See the door to the left that covers the mill up when not in use. 
I was up early so I could get all the bread baked and to get them packaged up for the next few months.  I ground enough wheat berries to produce 26 cups of flour which makes 8 loaves of bread.   Sorry I didn't start taking photos of the ground flour but I was not planning on putting up this post today....ho hum, but then I got a call from a friend for my recipe on my "No Knead Bread" which is listed below so I figured why not post all the recipes and photos at the same time.

You will need the largest Kitchen Aid mixer or a 12 quart Viking or Cuisinart mixer to make four loaves of bread at one time without having the machine struggle, burn out or stall!  You also could cut this recipe in half and use a smaller mixer and it should work fine.
Seven loaves of whole wheat bread and the other loaf is across the room on the kitchen table being munched on by my husband!

A lot of people complain that 100% whole wheat flour will not produce a nice high loaf so these photos dispute that fact.  Here is the recipe and what helps the loaves to get nice and big.

No Fail Whole Wheat Bread
Makes 4 loaves

3 T. yeast
5-1/2 cups warm water
13 cups whole wheat flour
2/3 cups honey
2/3 cups cooking oil (I use olive or canola)
2 T. salt

1.  Sprinkle yeast in 1 cup warm water and leave to proof while you continue with step #2.
2.  Combine in bowl 4-1/2 c. warm water, 2/3 c. oil, 2/3 c. honey and 2 T. salt.  Add 7 cups w/w flour.  Beat at low speed until thoroughly mixed.  Increase speed to 2 or 3 on your mixer for 2-3 minutes.  Stop mixer and....
3.  Insert dough hook.  Add yeast mixture and 3 cups flour and knead until blended, then add 3 more cups flour slowly until mixed.  Let machine knead at #2 speed 6-7 minutes.

Place entire dough amount in large lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, set in warm location and let rise until double in size.   I have a Cuisinart toaster oven that I can set at 120 degrees.  I place a towel on top of the oven and then I place my s/s bowl on top, set the timer for about an hour and I start checking the rise of the dough towards the end of that hour.  It usually takes about an hour to get the dough doubled.  Remove dough from the large bowl and turn out on a lightly floured surface.  Oil your hands well which will make it a lot easier to get the dough out of the bowl.  Punch dough down,  divide into four loaves, roll and shape into loaves and place in 4 oiled loaf pans.  Let dough rise again until they are peaking well above the top of the pans.  Preheat oven and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.
*Letting bread rise twice makes for a bigger and much lighter loaf.

This is the basic recipe but after you made this once or several times, you can then start to experiment with the ingredients.  I have made this using half rye flour, white flour and a host of added sweet or spicy additions.  You are only limited by your imagination.

Now on to the recipe for

"No Knead Bread"

 I use 6 quart plastic containers with lids (you can buy these on to mix everything in and to let the dough rise.

This container is the mix for a cinnamon/nut loaf

 This bucket is 1/2 whole wheat flour and 1/2 white flour plus add cinnamon sugar,
 chopped pecans
 1/4 cup chopped dates
 add water and mix lightly with a wooden spoon

I have four loaves sitting in my plastic containers.  I mixed up one loaf each of the following:
1 fennel, all white flour plus Kalamata olives
1 plain white loaf
1 cinnamon/nuts with 1/2 whole wheat
1 pecan, date and white flour

If you decide to use Kalamata olives and they have seeds then use a nice wide knife to give the olive a nice whack.

Seeds almost pop out of the olive.  Then chop roughly and add to the flour mixture.

 Basic Recipe for "No Knead Bread"

3 cups flour
1 3/4 cups warm water
1/4-1/2 tsp. yeast
1 1/4 tsp. salt

Mix all ingredients except the water with a wire whisk.  Add water and pull together with one hand or use a wooden spoon.  You just want the flour to be slightly moist but not overly wet.  Place some place to rise.  I have found that whole wheat flour sucks up a lot more water so you will probably have to add another 1/4 to 1/2 water to those mixtures.

Bake at 500 degrees for 30 minutes.

Dough will need a minimum of 12 hours to rise and will hold up to 19 hours outside of refrigeration.  If you make it in the morning and don't want to bake it that night then just place in the refrigerator until the next morning.  Turn dough out onto a flour dusted board and divide into two loaves.  Let rise on a cookie sheet or something that the dough won't stick to.  I've tried towels but sometimes that can be tricky getting it off the towel - sort of depends on how damp the dough is.  Let dough rise about double.  Preheat your oven to approx. 500 degrees.  Insert two cast iron pans with lids into your oven to preheat so they will get super hot!  This can take 15 minutes or longer to get your pans hot enough.  Keep in mind that the oven is VERY HOT AND SO ARE THESE PANS.  You probably should have long mitts, some place to sit the lids down on where you won't damage something.  Pull the shelf out of the oven before you try to remove the lids so you don't run a risk of burning yourself on the sides of the oven.  I drop the loaves into the pans (sometimes they will flip upside down but don't worry about that, they will be fine) and I put the lids back on as quickly as I can manage these two  loaves and pans.  HOT HOT HOT pans and oven so be very careful and think through this process before you start.  

  This is what I use - 5 qt. Lodge cast iron.

Since these loaves are in the process of rising I won't bake these until tomorrow morning but here they are sitting on my back splash working away!

I will post the finished baked loaves tomorrow!

That's it for today, have w/w loaves to package up for freezing.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Fog in the Valley

Fall is coming on fast, trees are losing some of their leaves, some are starting slowly to change colors, flowers are gone and gardens are almost finished.

We live on a hill.  Some mornings we look out our windows and see what looks like water - it's just fog.  Other times at sunset we see images that look like a colorful lake - still heavy fog, but quite different looking.  What's below you ask?  A valley with homes, farms and businesses.

Time for the field to be bush hogged.  Below is the man who cuts the tall grasses and any little trees that have grown up during the summer months.  This is an every summer ritual otherwise our field would turn into a forest in a few years!   The deer will love poking through these cut grasses over the next couple of weeks - good munchies!  The fox will show up to chase down the displaced mice - chomp!
Life in the process of recycling.  We will be able to see the deer more easily now as they walk through and the turkeys will definitely not be able to hide in the grasses.

One lonely apple tree in our field left over from an orchard that existed long before we bought the property.

 The field is approximately 7 acres of grasses, wild flowers and small pine trees.  My DH cuts trails with our John Deere tractor through this field every summer where we walk our dogs without going into the woods.  Our 14 year old Springer will walk in the woods but we worry about something happening to him and then trying to get him back home.  Andi is a big Springer at 75 pounds and I sure wouldn't want to carry him!

Before long this whole view will turn white with snow!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Life in Maine

Ever wonder what people do that live in Maine?  Well, other than a slower and more peaceful existence we do all the same things everyone else in the country does.  Just get on with life!

My husband (DH) and I are residents from "away" having lived in Penobscot County, ME for 20 years now.  We will never be considered "Mainers" no matter how long we live here though!  I've heard a saying that even if you lived until you were 100 and been in Maine for 99 of those years they will say about you at your funeral "she almost made it but not quite!"  That's okay because we love the state, the beauty and the peace.  We have been retired now for more than 10 years and live on 52 acres - that's a little different than other folks living in the more populated parts of the country for sure.  Most of our acreage is forest but we do have a house sitting on 12 cleared acres with views towards Bangor, ME and Mt. Katadin.

Mt. Katadin, ME

Bangor, ME

We grow a large garden every summer that I put up by canning, dehydrating or freezing.  My DH loves to work with wood so he spends winters in his workshop madly creating an array of items from my "wish list" after a summer full of garden work.  I spend my time painting, rug hooking, knitting, cooking and on occasion doing a little weaving and oh I almost forgot - that dreadful house cleaning.  We have two lovely English Springer Spaniels - 3 year old Bizy Bea and 14 year old Andi which we adore.

  Bizy Bea


I will post activities from our daily lives when I think there is something that might be interesting and/or useful.  So check back in from time to time or sign up for my postings and stay in touch with "Life in Maine - What Life Should Be."

My first post is about BASIL!

Since gardens are fading fast, nights are getting colder, autumn is in the air and winter is coming it's now time to bring in as fast as possible what remains.  Here is my tip for storing basil for use throughout the winter.

I pull the basil up with roots and all, stick it in a large container/bucket of water where it will keep for several days.  I pick all the good leaves into a large s/s bowl.  I dump the whole bowl in a large sink full of icy cold water from our well and rinse.  I repeat this process at least 2 times or more if the leaves are really dirty.  I spin  batches of the leaves in a salad spinner and add to the same s/s bowl lined with a big towel.  Repeat the process until all leaves are washed and in the bowl.  Let them rest for a half hour or so and then load into a jumbo zip lock bag.  Stuff the bag good and tight.  Roll like a sausage to press all the air out,  zip closed..  Place in the freezer.  It's that simple and you can use this basil throughout the winter in almost everything you love basil in.  It's a little wimpy if you want to put in a salad but otherwise it works for almost everything where you want that special basil taste!  Enjoy!

That's it for today -come back soon!