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Nothing smells like home-baked bread on a cold winter afternoon–or any time, now that I think about it!  Thank goodness making bread at home is easy and even quick, if you just leave the dough on its own as it rises (and why wouldn’t you?).  Today we’re going to make a remarkably soft but also hearty, healthy whole-wheat and oatmeal bread that makes great breakfast toast, super sandwiches, and even tasty croutons.  You can add walnuts or seeds for a bread fit for the Woodstock generation, or try using herbs or garlic to turn it into rustic supper rolls, as I did with a little of the dough the last time I made this bread.  You can even make fresh, hot homemade glazed doughnuts for breakfast and still have enough dough left for a good-sized loaf of the bread in the afternoon.

Bread is really easy , as long as you remember three keys for making good yeast bread.  The first key to baking any yeast bread is to remember that yeast is a living organism.  It’s going to be happiest (and help your bread rise best) if you start with fresh (live) yeast and wake it up in a nice warm (not hot) bath.  The second thing you need to know is that yeast likes to eat, but it doesn’t like to binge; keep your yeast feed slow.  The third key is remembering that wheat gluten is your friend when it comes to yeast bread.  Wheat gluten is the substance that helps build structure to work with all the gas produced by your happy yeast.  Put together happy yeast and wheat gluten, and you’ll have great homemade yeast bread.

Ingredients

Remember to use organic when you can!

  • 1 tablespoon yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 cup warm water (comfortable for your skin)
  • 1 cup old-fashioned (not quick cooking) rolled oats (a.k.a. oatmeal before steel-cut Irish oats and Scottish oats invaded the US)
  • 1 1/4 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax seeds (optional:  if you don’t have flax seeds, try using another tablespoon of butter)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2-3 tablespoons honey
  • 4 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
  • 1/4 cup whole-grain oat flour (or just add another 1/4 cup whole-wheat flour if you don’t have oat; I keep both in my pantry, and the oat flour helps provide softness)
  • 1/4-1/3 cup wheat gluten (Gluten has gotten a really bad rap in recent years, but it’s a must if you want to make whole-grain bread and still get the flexibility that contributes to sustaining the rise.  Gluten, by the way, also raises the protein content of the bread, so if you’re not sensitive to it, use it!)
  • 1/2 cup more warm water (same as before–like a nice hot bath but not so warm that it hurts you or the yeast)

Begin by dissolving the yeast and sugar in the 1/4 cup warm water in a large bowl (preferably 4-quart, although a 2.5 quart will work in a pinch).  You’re proofing the yeast.  If it’s good, in a few minutes you should have woken up your yeast, and they should have started making a foamy mess in your bowl.  That’s what we want to see!

Meanwhile, pour the 1 1/4 cup boiling water over the oatmeal.  I use a 2-cup heat-safe pyrex measuring cup for the oatmeal, and then I can just add everything else except the flour.

Next scald the milk by bringing it to the edge of a boil, until tiny bubbles appear around the edges of the pot.  Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the butter, salt, and honey until they dissolve.  Add them to the oatmeal.

As soon as the oatmeal mixture reaches that good bath-water temperature, add the oatmeal to the yeast mixture in your really big bowl, add the flax seed, and start working in your flour, baking powder, and wheat gluten, alternating so that they all three get thoroughly mixed.  Knead the flour in until you think you can’t add more, then do the easy thing and add the last 1/2 cup warm water–yep, bathwater temperature again.  Knead a few minutes more, until all of the flour is incorporated.  Then cover the bowl and set it in a warm place to start rising.  Thanks to the extra water, it will keep developing the gluten on its own, without too much kneading from you.

For the next twenty-four hours or so, let the dough rise.  When you notice that it’s doubles, form your hand into a fist and slam it into the middle of the dough.  Punch it down.  Give it a few good kneads.  Re-cover it and walk away again.

When you’re ready to bake, you’ll need at least two hours with the dough.  Start by punching down and kneading the dough one last time.  Then put it in a warm (not hot), buttered bread loaf pan, 9×5.  (You can use an 8×4 if you’ve taken a bit out for other purposes–see below.)  Let it rise for an hour in a warm (not hot) place for an hour.  Start pre-heating your oven to 375 degrees F.  The dough is ready for the oven when an indentation you make with your finger still bounces back but just barely.  Put the dough in the oven and bake for 40 minutes.  The bread is done when you knock on the bottom and it sounds hollow.  Cool in the pan a few minutes and then cool on a rack.

The Bonus:  Rolls or Doughnuts!

Now, I happen to know that this dough makes an ample loaf, so ample in fact that you can pull out a bit of dough for something else and have enough left.  Let’s say that you start this bread Sunday afternoon.  How about if you take out dough about the size of two or three chicken eggs that very night?  Turn that into three dinner rolls, let rise for about an hour in a warm spot, and then bake them for dinner, about 20-30 minutes at 375 degrees F.

Or you can do what we did this morning, having started the dough yesterday.  Make doughnuts! Take out a scant 1/2 cup dough.  Add 1/2 a chicken egg (or one bantam egg), beaten with a sprinkle of sugar (no more than 1/2 teaspoon) and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.  Knead it together until the egg is well incorporated.  You’ll have a very soft dough.  Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of flour on a bread board and then pull out three or four balls of dough.  First form rounds, and either cut out the middle or use the handle of a wooden spoon to poke through a hole and enlarge it.  Use flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking.  Let the doughnuts rise for a half hour.  Heat oil of two or three inches to 350 to 375 degrees F in a Dutch oven or other heavy pot.  Drop doughnuts in one at a time and fry until almost done on one side, and then flip to the other side.  Remove, drain, and drizzle with glaze.  Glaze:  three tablespoons of powdered sugar, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, and enough milk, by the drop, to make your glaze.  Take it slow with the milk and stir with every addition; you can easily go from not enough to too much.

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First, let me give big thanks to everyone who contributed memories and traditions to my 2010 hearth broom holiday giveaway entry.  I never expected to get such long, moving stories!  I order to select the winner, I printed off every contributor’s name, cut apart the names, folded them into identical pieces, and let Mr. Homesteader pull out a name from this vintage Santa mug.

Who is it?  Who is it?

Eleanor of Nourishing Words has won the hearth broom from the Ozark Folk Center. Eleanor, please email me at Ozarkhomesteader AT yahoo D O T com or, if you’d prefer, the email address that I use to log in to your wonderful blog.  Send me your address, and I can ship your broom on Wednesday.

As for giving away anything that can be associated with household cleaning, here’s my advice to fellow bloggers:  folks aren’t nearly as interested in brooms as cast iron Dutch ovens!   Many, many people read about the broom giveaway, but few entered.  Yes, I’m smiling, but it’s a sad smile.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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Whisk Broom

Today in the Ozarks the skies are dark, pouring an icy rain that makes me wish we had a fireplace.  If I had a fireplace, I’d have an even harder time carrying through with my holiday giveaway.  Earlier this fall, I wrote about my summer visit to the Ozark Folk Center, near my home in Arkansas.  I purchased two beautiful handmade brooms.  One is a standing broom for my own home.  The broom works so well and glides so easily that I genuinely do more of my share of sweeping than I did before I got this household treasure.  I also bought a gift for one of you, my dear readers, a whisk broom made in the same historic style as my standing broom.

As with the standing broom, every detail on this whisk or hearth broom is natural.  The broom measures a foot long and 8 inches wide at the base.  It retails for $25.  This broom also works as well as the standing broom, whether you decide to use it to sweep your hearth or whether it becomes your whisk broom to tidy up the end of a sweeping session.  Of course, it can also just be a decorative feature that might fit your country holiday or year-round decor, hanging next to your fireplace or in your kitchen.

If you are interested in winning this hearth broom, please post here with a special holiday memory or tradition, even if it’s just a sentence. It doesn’t have to be long or eloquent; just share a little.  If you’d like two entries, please post about this giveaway on your own blog or tweet it, and then indicate here in a separate comment that you’ve shared it.  Entries close Sunday, December 5, at noon Central Standard Time.  I’ll announce the winner, selected randomly, by Dec. 6 at noon, so that I can get your address and get your gift in the mail to you in time for holiday decorating.  Regardless of which winter holidays you celebrate, I wish you a happy, healthy season!

Legal stuff:  I am not a spammer and will keep your information private.  Readers from outside the US are welcome to post and enter, but you are responsible for any customs charges.

Entries are officially closed.  I’ll post the winner by noon on Monday.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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Happy Thanksgiving

Tonight I write from an in-law’s home, and it would be easy to dwell on how I want to be home making my own dinner, instead of being on the road eight hours today and destined for eight hours more on Friday.  The truth is, we can almost always find things for which to be thankful.  For me, I know I need to acknowledge more each day the things for which I can be thankful.  Fellow  blogger of Nourishing Words recently convinced me that I need to start a gratitude journal.  Instead of trying to name everything for which I’m  thankful today, I’ll just say I’m thankful that I have nice in-laws!  I’m also so thankful for all of my blog readers and how all of you share your recipes and ideas for living here.  You’ve made my life richer in so many ways.  Will you share one or two thing for which you’re thankful?

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A few weeks ago I had a chance to meet part of my Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.  I don’t want to offend the vegetarians, but this picture very well may include that bird.  I snapped a shot of these birds at Falling Sky Farm, now of Chime, Arkansas.  Mr. Homesteader was so impressed with the operations that for a week afterwards, no one could say chicken without him launching into an explanation of Falling Sky Farm’s operations and attributes.  The things that make Falling Sky Farm stand out include the freshness of the graze, the complete lack of odor, and the cleanliness.  Falling Sky Farm, naturally producing healthier food, stands in stark contrast to the factory farms that resulted in the recall of billions of eggs.

All of the animals at Falling Sky Farm graze on pasture.  What is most remarkable is that they get moved to fresh pasture either once or twice a day, depending on the animal.  Look at how rich this light grazing technique leaves the pasture, even after Arkansas’s extraordinarily hot summer and drought.

Frequent moving of the animals lets the manure composts easily on its own, in place, never leaving a strong smell like you find on factory farms.  The lack of concentrated manure also means that flies aren’t attracted in large numbers. With this system, animals never rest in their own waste, reducing disease.  Here you can see the chicken “tractors” in the distance and the rectangles indicating where they were in the past few days.

overlooking the chicken "tractors"

Pasture raising also eliminates bad bacteria from animals’ guts; the bacteria just don’t grow on pasture feed.  Finally, pasture raising increases the good Omega-3 fatty acids, helping you balance out the cholesterol that can come with eating animal products.  This hen promises she’ll produce better eggs!

Happy Laying Hen

As Congress debates a new food safety law, the Senate concluded that small farms with less than $500k in annual business that direct market within 275 miles of the farm should be exempt from tighter regulation unless they’re found guilty of distributing tainted food.  I think the amendment exempting small farms makes sense both for supporting local, diverse food sources and for saving tax payers’ money.  Well-run small farms are naturally healthier.

Have recent food recalls changed the food that you buy and how you shop and eat?

(edited Nov. 19, after the Senate included the exemption.)

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Lately I’ve been disappointed with my broomstick.  It just doesn’t glide like it used to, and I’m not even tempted to pick it up, much less accelerate it.  Therefore, when I had a chance to visit a superior broom maker at the Ozark Folk Center near Mountain View, Arkansas, this summer, I leapt at the chance.

Our day at the Ozark Folk Center began with a master carver who conjures the tiniest sculpture portraits you’ve ever seen, on toothpicks!

At the Ozark Folk Center you’ll find a chandler who makes wonderful beeswax candles, perfect for setting a magical mood without contaminating the atmosphere with petroleum products.

You’ll also find potters and weavers, complete with goats and sheep to help them weave.

The scents from the herb shop were enchanting.

Near the herb shop we found what we were seeking:  the broom maker. 

Everywhere we looked were brooms:  standard floor brooms, kids’ brooms, whisk brooms, and turkey wing brooms (do you see the red one hanging on the wall?).  All of the brooms are made of natural, sustainable materials.

Mr. Homesteader, despite knowing that he is the one most likely to pick up a broom around our house, asked if I could take a few for a test drive.

I only needed to try one.  I knew it was the right one.

It glided, it swept, it made me feel like flying.  I brought it home.

Check out the broom straw on this beauty.  I understand that the standard straw-colored broom straw is best, but the red broom straw adds such perfect color.

And I actually like to use it, so I do!

This broom also come with a remarkable 19-year warranty.  Why 19 years?  Because, as the broom maker told us, he has to retire some day.  That’s a phenomenal deal on a broom, making my new broom not just an effective and lovely choice but also a frugal one.

Oops–I just looked at the clock!  Time flies, and so must I!

Do you like my new broom?  I got the hearth (whisk broom) version for one of you!  I’ll be doing my second blog giveaway in late November or so, so be sure to check back then for your chance to enter.  The hearth broom will be ideal for holiday decorations or to keep your fireplace hearth nice and clean.  I planned this giveaway this summer, but now I have even more reason for doing it.  Wendy at A Wee Bit of Cooking just had a giveaway that my dear female cat, pictured above, helped me win.  See here for my silly cat’s antics that won me a new cookbook!

What’s your favorite household cleaning tool?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader, including photographs.

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Dear readers, I’m always so surprised that anyone visits my little blog, and I want to thank you with my first giveaway.  I’ve known from day one that I want to share some of my favorite things with you, whether that’s recipes or products.  This spring I was privileged enough to win two beautiful pottery bowls from Polly of Polly’s Path.  It’s time for me to pay it forward.

Like this one only new!

My first giveaway is a 2-quart cast-iron camping Dutch oven from Lodge.  (Yes, I picked it up when I visited the outlet this summer.)  You don’t have to camp to use a Dutch oven like this one.  (Yours will be new!)  You can still use it in your oven, in your backyard, or even on the stove top, depending on the type of burners you have.  If you’re not sure how to use a Dutch oven with coals, check out all of these great ideas from a recent Dutch oven cook-off. (You can even roast a whole chicken in a larger Dutch oven outside.)  The Dutch oven I’m giving away is great for a family meal.  It’s ideal for two chicken thighs and two chicken drumsticks with a smattering of veggies.  It’ll roast a whole chicken breast, as long as its not too big.  The Dutch oven works as a casserole for side dishes and desserts.  It’s perfect for your next camping trip or everyday cooking outside or inside.  And if you take care of it, you can pass it on for generations to come.

You’ll also get a lid lifter–as shown here–that is made by Lodge to work with its Dutch ovens.  Yes, yours will be new too.

How do you win these gifts? Tell me here in the comments section that you’re interested, and let me and other readers know how you’d like to use the Dutch oven–inside, outside, on your annual canoe trip, as a gift, as a door stop. You’ll automatically get an entry that way.  You can get a second entry by blogging about this giveaway on your own blog.  Be sure to post a second time here with a link to your blog entry.  That way, all of the readers at Ozark Homesteader will get to learn about your blog too, and I can use the posts in the drawing.  Tweets get you credit too, as long as the tweets show up on WordPress’s tweet counter and you post here.  🙂

Here’s the fine print:  Entries close at midnight central time on Sunday, September 26, 2010; late entries will not be counted.  Entries are limited to US and Canadian addresses.  Entries will be selected at random.  I’ll post the winner by Sunday, October 3, 2010, if not sooner.  And, no, there’s no catch.

Chances to enter the giveaway are now closed.  You can read about the winner here.

If you missed this one, though, check back as the holiday season approaches.  The Homestead’s next giveaway may help you decorate for the holidays and will help you care for your hearth through the winter.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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