Monday, February 25, 2008

A Brief Hint of Spring

I love winter, snow, and the brisk clean air of a good winter day. It seems to be an unusual trait among the people I spend time with. But, after February comes around I find myself longing for Spring to arrive. I start getting itchy feet and the need to dig in the Earth and plant my garden.

Saturday was a gorgeous day and the first hint of the Spring blush. The sun was warm, the snow sparkling like thousands of diamonds dusted the ground. The birds were boisterous and I'm pretty sure I heard the peep, peep of hungry baby Sparrows coming from the roof where they nest year after year. The earliest of our migrant birds, the Common Grackle and the Starling, even made an appearance at the bird feeder.

But, it was only a brief glimpse of Spring. Today was windy and even though the Sun was warm, the air itself was cold. The clouds moved in this afternoon and the weather is promising several centimetres of snow by tomorrow evening. But, the inner Pagan who fears that Spring will never return has seen the signs that mean that Mother Nature has not forsaken us. Spring is on its way and with it green grass and fresh vegetables.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Feb 24, 2008

I always try to have something instructional, entertaining, or interesting in my weekly post but not this week. It has been a low week for me both emotionally and physically. I struggle to get out of bed; struggle to get my work done; and struggle to relax in the evenings. My mind seems to be wandering all over the place recently.

I have been working on my carvings this week but not very enthusiastically. I do have two small carvings done that I hope to turn into Christmas Tree ornaments for my In-Laws. I have also worked, albeit very slowly, on another window brace. The work looks ok but I just don't seem to have my heart in it this week.

I tried to do some baking this week but created small hockey pucks instead. I'm afraid I have killed my sourdough starter, but I'm not sure how. I've moved it into the wood stove room where it is warmer. Hopefully it will turn out that is was simply cold, not dead, and I'll be back to making decent biscuits before the week is up.

PeterC and I have agreed to plant some lettuce, spinach, and cat grass under the greenhouse lights. We're both getting tired of store bought greens going bad the first night home from the grocery store, or worse yet having little or no flavour. The greenhouse greens are an experiment and if it works we will have fresh greens two or three months earlier than normal. I am looking forward to that.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Care and Feeding of Sourdough Starter

Since starting the adventure of Sourdough I have come up with several tips for taking care of and enjoying sourdough starter. Some of these tips are anecdotal in nature but there is some evidence that they are true. Most of these tips; however, are based on my own experiences.

  1. Use a Glass Container with a loose fitting or cheese cloth cover to house your starter. A quart jar with cheese cloth held in place with a ring works well.
  2. Never use metal utensils to mix or measure the sourdough starter. Sourdough starter is acidic and the acid will react with metal. The handle of a wooden spoon works great.

  3. Feed your Starter once a week if kept at a cool temperature (17ºC or there abouts). If kept in the refrigerator you can feed it less often. I've never let mine go unfed for longer than 2 weeks but I've been told it can survive a month in the refrigerator. You know you starter is still alive if, when you feed it, the top of the starter looks bubbly or frothy. Those bubbles are what make your bread rise.

  4. The warmer you keep the starter the faster it will reproduce and will therefore need to be fed more often. When I have a lot of baking to do I mix 1 cp starter with 2 cps flour and 2 cps water and place the container in the room with the wood stove, the day before I plan to bake.

  5. Replace whatever you remove with fresh flour and water. If your recipe calls for 1 cp starter then replace with 1/2 cp flour and 1/2 cp warm water (between 22º and 30ºC).

  6. If you refrigerate the starter pull it out at least one day in advance of your baking. Now would be a good time to feed the starter too.

  7. Feed your starter the best quality flour you can. My best results have been with organic whole wheat but the Upper Canada Village Super Fine (unbleached sifted) or ENT (whole wheat) works well too.

  8. After a day or two you will see liquid forming on top of the starter. This is normal and should be stirred back in before neasuring out. It will have a strong alcohol smell. The liquid may be very dark. This is normal and depends on the kind of flour used to feed it.

Now for the recipes we like:

These recipes have been copied directly from the Recipe'zaar website. A search for Sourdough Bread and Sourdough Biscuits will bring up lots of recipes but I haven't tried any but these two.

Sourdough Angel Biscuits Recipe #35992

Light as a feather! Prep time does not include rising time.

by Donna M.

10-12 biscuits

55 min 30 min prep

1

cup sourdough starter (active and bubbly)

1

teaspoon sugar

1

teaspoon dry yeast

2

tablespoons lukewarm water

4

tablespoons shortening

1/2

teaspoon salt

1

teaspoon baking powder

1 1/4-1 1/2

cups all-purpose flour

1/4

cup melted butter or margarine

  1. Measure sourdough starter into mixing bowl.

  2. Add sugar.

  3. Dissolve yeast in warm water.

  4. Add to starter.

  5. Cut shortening into mixture of salt, baking powder, and flour until it resembles coarse cornmeal.

  6. Add to starter mixture, stirring well with a fork.

  7. Turn out onto lightly floured surface and knead gently, adding more flour if necessary.

  8. Roll dough out to about 1/2 inch thickness and cut with biscuit cutter.

  9. Dip in melted butter and place in a greased cake pan with edges touching.

  10. Cover with a cloth or plastic and set in a warm place to rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

  11. Bake at 400º F for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.

Grandma's Sourdough Biscuits Recipe #18995

My grandma makes these every time we go over for dinner. I got my starter from her, so I too make these every couple weeks when I need to use up some starter. They are really fast and easy, and taste delicious right out of the oven. by pollen

8 biscuits

22 min 10 min prep

1

cup flour

1/4

teaspoon salt

1/2

teaspoon baking soda

2

teaspoons baking powder

1/3

cup margarine or butter, cold

1

cup sourdough starter

  1. Sift together flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda.

  2. Cut in the margarine or butter.

  3. Mix in sourdough starter.

  4. Turn out dough onto lightly floured board.

  5. Knead a few times, until all of the flour is mixed in.

  6. Pat/roll dough to 3/4" and cut out biscuits; place them on an ungreased baking sheet.

  7. Let rest for 5 or 10 minutes fore putting into the oven.

  8. Bake at 425º F for 12-15 minutes, until slightly brown.


I hope these tips help anyone who is just starting out with sourdough starter. I also hope you find it as rewarding, and yummy, as I do. Have fun.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

2008 Garden: All the Seeds have Arrived

The last of the seeds we ordered finally arrived from Terra Edibles. I did make a little mistake when I ordered. I let PeterC have the final say in what varieties we purchased and let him place the online order. Not only did he order every variety that I marked as interesting, he added three different melons and several string beans to the list.

I now have enough seeds to plant our garden ten times over, but that makes the planning a little more important and fun. I have to sort out which ones I want to grow this year and plan a location based on the plants preferred climate and their growing habits. Pole beans require a lot more preparation than bush beans. Melons require a lot more space than anything else we grow in the garden.

We've removed a few more trees along the west side of the property so we should have a little more sun through the afternoon and thinner shade in late afternoon. While it gives us more options for our standard seed selection it will definitely have an effect on the more exotic varieties we purchased this year. In the end I may have to plant some of the full sun, high heat varieties in the flower boxes and place them on the road side of the hedge.

Visions of beans and melons are already dancing in my head. I can't wait to see how our garden grows this year. My mind is already planning canning sessions for this fall even though the snow is still firmly sticking to the ground. I need to slow down and worry about the garden first, growing next, and canning only after the harvest begins.