Monday, January 23, 2012

Weekend Recap

Just a quick recap of the weekend:
Got my seeds from Territorial on Friday! I ordered leeks, several different kinds of onions, french radishes, cucumbers, pole beans, and broccoli. I'll be starting some of these in the greenhouse soon and some will be going directly into the raised beds. I also got some PVC clips that I'm hoping will work better than the Velcro for the raised bed grow houses. To complete the order, I bought a salad spinner (finally). I've been wanting one for a while, but was always surprised at how expensive they were. This one wasn't too bad and is collapsible- a bonus when you have a small house.

On Saturday, it was back to Cara's house for more soap making! It's been about six weeks since we did our first two batches and we wanted to try some other recipes. We made more lavender soap as well as oatmeal/ eucalyptus and rosemary/ honey castile soap. Here's Cara pouring the Lavender batch into the mold.

And here is the castile soap cooking away. Castile is olive-oil based and ends up a nice, organic brown color when cooled into bars.

Now that the bars we made six weeks ago are cured, I got some pretty hand-made paper from Cost Plus and wrapped them in neat little packages, ready to give away as gifts.

Sunday I made more butter and remembered to take some pictures of the process this time.
First, I start off with regular heavy whipping cream...

After about 10 minutes, the hard peaks start to break down and start to turn yellow in color.

It then starts to turn grainy...

...and finally separates in to butter and buttermilk.

You let the butter drain, then massage it together while squeezing out as much buttermilk as you can.

Then, add whatever seasonings you want. This time, I added dill and lemon zest for an extra kick.

Ta Da!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

I've Done It!

I finally made a half-way decent sourdough loaf! One that kind of looks like the loaves I see in the grocery store! And I owe all the credit to my new Romertopf! I got it for my 30th Birthday and it worked perfectly! You soak the clay pot in warm water for 10-15 minutes...

Then let the loaves rise in a warm oven...

Brush the loaves with cold water, score, and bake! Here is the loaf that I made in a conventional sandwich loaf pan:

And here is the Romertopf loaf! Golden with a glossy, chewy crust. Yum. The steam from the Romertopf creates a cooking environment much like that of a professional steam-injected bakery oven. I had resigned myself to the fact that without a professional oven, I'd never get results that even came close to a professional loaf, but I was WRONG!! Thankfully...
Now, I just have to improve my crumb and make the loaf less dense in texture. I will continue my mission to make a truly great Sourdough loaf!

Another first for me this week was BUTTER! As in I made my own. It's so ridiculously easy, I can't think why more people don't do it. Literally, the recipe goes like this:
Buy heavy whipping cream. Pour cream into electric mixer. Whip the cream until it turns into butter. Drain buttermilk. Enjoy.
Now, I won't say that making your own butter is cheaper than buying it, but I will say that it's a heck of a lot of fun and it tastes great! Not to mention that the satisfaction of making your own is enough to offset the cost of the cream. It's totally worth it. Matt and I decided to make compound butter with herbs from the garden.
Here's the buttermilk. It's not sour like the cultured stuff in the grocery store. It's actually very mild and is less sweet than even 2%. Perfectly acceptable to drink with cookies. Or save it and make buttermilk biscuits. Or pancakes. Or custard. Get the picture? It's good stuff.

Here is the amount of butter made from three pints of heavy whipping cream- approx. one pound!

After I massaged most of the buttermilk out of it, we mixed in about two teaspoons of sea salt as well as rosemary, sage, and thyme from the garden.

Here's the compound butter on wax paper ready to be rolled.
Ta Da! All finished. These rolls will last at least 6 months in the freezer and up to a month in the fridge (if you don't eat it all first). It's great on bread, steaks, fish, chicken, the list goes on and on. You can also make sweet compound butter with pecans and brown sugar that's great on biscuits or scones.

The whole process took about 20 minutes from start to finish. What freedom! I'll never have to buy butter again!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Very Quiet New Year

Compared to the weeks before it, the New Year weekend was very quiet. Thank Goodness. After a trip to LA, then to Beavercreek, I was ready for some at-home R&R. Matt and I spent a restful, yet productive three days at home. I did some end of the year garden pruning and trimming while Matt cleaned out the chicken coop. I took down the tree (which always makes me kind of sad) and carefully packed away my ornaments. We finished the first season of Heros which Matt got from his grandmother and I read Cleaved, given to me by Val.
I also managed to finish knitting Matt's socks which I had started at Jan's house over Christmas. Mom sent me some Fireworks (since his favorite color is black), which I knitted double to make some very thick, sturdy socks.

These are the second pair I've ever made. Ever. I'm afraid one of Matt's legs will be an inch warmer than the other. Sigh...

I was really sweating it by the time I started to decrease for the second toe. There was about three hours there where I was convinced I didn't have enough yarn, yet I continued. This was how much I had left from the two balls:

I was blessed by the yarn gods.
After that project was finished, I moved to the kitchen for another. Val sent me four silicon tart pans for my birthday, which totally got me craving mincemeat tarts. I had meant to make some to take to Jan's for Christmas, but the Lemon Meringue pie used up all my kitchen stamina that day. So, last night I made a double batch of dough and used up all the odds and ends of jam in the fridge as well as most of the jar of mincemeat I'd bought.
Rolling out the dough and fitting them into the pans:

These are plum and strawberry tarts made with my own jam.

Here are the finished tarts! 33 in all and delicious!

Next time, I plan to roll the dough even thinner, since they took much longer to cook fully than the recipe said. Also, the strawberry jam was too wet- it made the dough underneath soggy. I've already promised an encore perfomance for Mom when she comes up next week.
Hello 2012!