Saturday, April 29, 2017

Making bread with a stand mixer-and progress on the quilt

About ten years ago, a relative handed on to me a bread making machine that she no longer used. This seems to be the way with these machines -given the numbers I see being sold or given away.

I was just starting on my simple living journey, and was keen to give it a try. I made loaves using the bread making packets you buy from the supermarket, and experimented with the breadmaker. There were some failures as well as successes! After I was told that I needed to weigh all the ingredients -including the water- and use tepid water - things improved. The mixes used sachets of dried bakers' yeast, and the flour was often quite soft and  made a wet mix.

After about six months that bread making machine died, and I bought one. I had come to enjoy the control of making bread using all natural ingredients, without preservatives or sugar added. I started to buy bulk bread flour -local wherever possible -and use my own ingredients. Here is a home made foccacia_ so yummy with our own rosemary and salt on top.

We learned to slice bread -which is quite a skill! At one point we bought an electric knife, but I was convinced I would cut my fingers off so it has now been relegated to the dreaded "second drawer" in the kitchen!

The years went by, and the bread-making got better. I have now a number of recipes I make regularly: fruit bread, Russian Black bread, and a mixed grain loaf.

After a while I realised that I could take the dough out of the bread making machine before it cooked it, and finish it in my own loaf tin in my own oven We preferred the shape of this loaf, it didn't have the funny hole in it from the bread-making beater, and the crust was crustier.

I then learned about making sourdough, and after one catastrophe in creating a starter, I developed a sour dough starter and since then have been making sour dough bread at least once per week.

This week the story took a new turn: my bread making machine died! 

I had been expecting this for a while, so I had my plan ready. I had done some research and discovered that it was possible to get a stand mixer with the capacity in both motor power and bowl size to mix the sour dough. I had toyed with the more expensive KitchenAid, but careful reading of its capacity for dough made me turn to the Kenwood Chef XS model, with a 1200 W motor, which can make up to 2.4 kg of dough. My usual sourdough is half that, so I knew that I would not be overloading the motor. The nice thing is that the Kenwood was about 2/3 of the price of the others, and has a 5 year warranty.

The method is pretty easy. I add the ingredients according to my normal sourdough recipe:

  • 350mls warm water
  • 150 grams of sourdough starter, at 100% hydration. (when I have used this amount of sourdough starter, I replace it with 75 g flour and 75 g of warmish water). 
  • 50g olive oil
  • 600 g bread (strong) flour
  • Salt (about a teaspoon) 
Use low speed to mix, then 5 minutes on Speed 1 with the dough hook.

Transfer to an oiled bowl and leave for 2 hours.

Back in the machine for 5 more minutes, then into the  oiled or buttered tin for the second rise.  I have a large plastic box I put the dough in, and put it somewhere warm. Sometimes this is outside -in winter I chase the sun coming in the windows which face north. When it is outside I add my 'bread rock" to the top of the plastic box in case the wind comes up and blows it off.

On very cold days I have been known to stand the bread tin in warm water in the sink. Warmth is vital at this stage!

When the dough gets up about 2cm beyond the top of the loaf tin, I put the oven on to warm up to 230 C. When the oven is hot, I slash the top of the bread, and put it in for 15 minutes. Then turn the oven back to 180C for 25minutes. At this point the house smells wonderful -baking bread is fabulous!

I turn it out onto a rack and leave it until quite cool. This is important to getting good slices, and also the bread steams out of the oven. It will last longer if it is cold before you slice it up.

We usually put half the slices in the freezer.

Pumpkin bread ready for soup! 

Finally, a catch up on the quilt -it now has a funky pink inner border and an orange outer border!

Monday, April 24, 2017

All things bright

Here is the Yellow Quilt, also known as All Things Bright, which now has been assembled to this stage. My question is -is it finished, or will I add a border in some kind of solid? I tried to get a navy blue at the LQS today, but they didn't have one. I have black here and that would do quite well I think. Maybe 4 inches  or so. 

In other news, we have been working in the garden, sowing seeds and planting things. We were able to help a young gardener out. This person had advertised on a community Free-cyle type page that she was setting up a new garden and wanted cuttings. In the end she took quite a few of extras and doubles and cuttings we had around here. I think we passed on a large Lemon Grass, some Agapanthus, some bearded Iris, an Aloe Vera, some herbs and daisies and Frangipani.   The whole collection of pots and nursery items was getting out of hand, and it gave us a good feeling to pass them on. She was very excited to see our garden and what we are growing here!

One of the things that happens when you become interested in propagation, is that you can't help yourself in the presence of a likely volunteer plant, cutting or seed. There is thus always plenty to share around! 

Our neighbour provided me with a pot of lemon grass, and I am growing cuttings of Vietnamese Mint, one of which I will pass on to him! The secret, I have discovered, to both these plants is to keep them standing in a tray of water. I have Vietnamese Mint in a wicking pot, and it is doing very well.. 

I have Mizuna, Dill, Lettuce and hollyhock seedlings here at the moment. DH harvested some agapanthus seed, so he is experimenting. 

The Kangaroo Paw I grew from seed is now in the ground. It would be great to get some actual flowers in the spring. 

We celebrated DH's birthday (again) with not one but two concerts on the same day! The Fremantle Chamber Orchestra was my birthday gift, but we were contacted by a friend who had tickets they couldn't use for the WA Symphony Orchestra on the same day. Of course we were happy to take them off their hands.  It was a real feast of music. 

In between we strolled through the Stirling Gardens and had a lovely meal at the Perth Concert Hall. 

The view of Perth from the PCH balcony. The Council House has a light show on it at night - I caught it in the lime greeen phase of the show. 

Whilst I am writing this post, I must remind you to head on over to the page From My Kitchen, as I am adding recipes and ideas on a regular basis. This is largely so I don't forget the new things I have tried and made work, but you can find some new ideas too.

Finally, thanks to those who have left comments. I love to hear from you! 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Joy Joy Joy

DH had a birthday this week. This is the cake we made for him: with 6 candles and 4 candles! I made Norma Jean's whole orange cake recipe, but substituted two Meyer lemons for the orange. The lemons were from our tree. The recipe is entirely capable of making a transition to being a lemon cake: delicious! 

There has been a lot of joy around here, with DGD who is 4 and a half, visiting us from far away. 
We have had so much fun -she has visited bike parks, gone to the library, played in mud, searched for treasure, cooked all manner of things (including the cake above) and planted her own garden space within our garden.

We also planted garlic cloves together. It was VERY exciting when the shoots came up! 

We have played all kinds of hide and seek and treasure games. Here is a picture of one we played in the dark with a TORCH! 

And when we went to the beach, she had an enormous mango ice cream. This picture is where she pretended to be sad because we had bought her a tiny ice cream -after she had eaten most of it! LOL. 

As a result of all of this fun, not much quilting has taken place around here.
There is plenty of time for that when she goes home again. 

Tomorrow is Easter Day. I have been getting ready for it with a few themed decorations.

DD found these gorgeous bunnies in her op shop and brought them home to add to our collection of Peter Rabbit and bird themed Easter decorations. Much of what you see here has come from the Op Shop browsing DD and I do regularly.

Of course my icon display has changed. I have the Entry into Jerusalem on the right, and the foot washing on the left. The little monk reading a book, is a new addition -again, found in an op shop. I thought my 'mind blown" quilt made a good backdrop for these! 

Happy Easter! 

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Know your limits

This is a new concrete path which was laid by workers at our place today, out the back.

Yeah, I know -environmentally unfriendly concrete. 

The thing is, we have been using mulch to cover the dirt on the way to this outdoor clothes line for years and years.  In the picture above the clothes line is folded back against the fence, with its 'roof' of shade cloth showing.

It takes a lot of work to spread the mulch every six months. After the winter the path is full of weeds and during wet days we tread dirt everywhere. We don't have any lawn at all -haven't had for a long time. We don't have lawn because we would rather spend our time and money on flowers and fruit and vegetables, than on grass, which needs mowing and weeding and fertilizing.

This week we allowed ourselves to know the limit of our time and energy. The mulch path had done its job, but it was time to deal with this. As brick paving would have to be weeded regularly, and the path is not in the most visible part of the garden so looks are not a priority, we just got the (concreter) man in! They came with three guys and a huge truck!

The back garden is not large, and this path has made it feel even smaller! We now have clearly defined edges for the beds. On the left is a passionfruit trellis. On the right is a selection of citrus trees fronted by two wicking beds.

I hope to improve the look of this area now the path is laid. We can grow extra ground covers between the path and the wicking beds. We can tidy the place up, and keep on working towards a mature garden which can provide outlets for our creativity, our need for fresh air and exercise, and bring in fruits and flowers and other foods.

There was one much prettier addition to the garden -this time out the front in a shady area.

Our grand daughter visited, and helped us plant some shade loving plants in her own garden (complete with sign made by Pa). She took great pride in watering in the plants and spreading the mulch around. She also planted some garlic in a raised bed, and 'watered all the things!" . 
We learned about roots and different kinds of leaves. She was very excited to have her own garden, and was sure that one of the plants had grown taller overnight!

I am hoping that a local Freecycler will turn up this week and take some of our many pot plants off our hands. We have quite a lot since my brother gave us some from the garden at his own place. It is time to concentrate on some productive and pretty ones, and let duplicates of plants go to another garden. We have quite a few frangipani  which we have struck and established, for example, but have no room for now that we have had some success at last with pink and white ones. There are also the usual sort of volunteers and cuttings that any gardener can't resist, which would be great to pass on to another person who is starting out at a new place- daisies, lavenders, herbs.

So that is it for us this week, enjoying knowing our limits and enjoying passing on the love of gardening to others.
I hope your week has been good too.