basic sandwich bread, and an oops

We had both a chemistry and a physics lesson in the kitchen the other night. Chemistry in the form of water, flour, and yeast (so maybe it’s a biology lesson?) transforming into bread. Physics in the form of what happens when heat and cold and glass meet. For those of you might not remember high school physics, heat, cold, and glass result in explosions.

When I make bread, I often place a pan on the lower rack, let it warm as the oven preheats, and fill it with water. The steam helps the bread get a final rise in the oven and gives it a crisper crust. I generally use a metal pan, but just happened to grab a glass pan this time around. Now, in my defense, let me say this: I did not pour cold water into the hot pan. The water was boiling and there was still enough of a temperature difference to shatter, completely, the glass pan. The photo was taken after the bread finished baking (no sense wasting a hot oven) and so doesn’t quite do justice to just how much glass there was, since, as the oven door was opened and closed, most of the shards fell into the drawer under the oven. Or under the oven. Or between the oven and the dishwasher. Or across the entire kitchen floor.

The bread turned out fine, though. We don’t do much baking in the summer, but now that we actually want our house to heat up, I’m more than willing to have the oven provide a little warmth. This is a pretty basic sandwich bread, good for toast or with soup. I tend to get impatient and don’t let my bread rise long enough, so my loaves are always a bit denser than store bought, but still good.

Basic Sandwich Bread
Makes 2 loaves
Adapted from King Arthur Flour

  • 2 cups warm water
  • 2 tbsp sugar or honey
  • 1 packet yeast (instant or active dry; about 2 1/4 tsp)
  • 2 tbsp soft butter or vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat or whole wheat flour (or use all bread or all-purpose flour)
  • 4 cups bread or all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp salt

Mix the water, sugar/honey, and yeast and let stand til bubbly, about 10 minutes. Add in the butter, salt, and a few cups of flour. Mix, then add the rest of the flour. Mix till a shaggy dough forms. Let rest a few minutes, then knead til the dough becomes smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes in a stand mixer, 10-15 minutes by hand.

Place in a lightly greased bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours, depending on kitchen temperature.  Divide the dough in two and form each into a flat square or rectangle, just wide enough to fit into a loaf pan. Roll the squares of dough as you would a jelly roll or a ho-ho, pinch the seam together, and place seam side down in loaf pans. Cover with a towel and let rise until the dough crowns about an inch above the pan (or less, if you’re like me).

If you’re daring, place a metal pan on the lower oven rack and preheat the oven to 350°. Place the loaves in the oven, pour 2 cups boiling water into the metal pan, and bake the loaves for 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool a few minutes in the pans, then cool loaves on a wire rack.


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2010 pantry

Here’s a basic summary of what we were able to put up this year. The photos are a little off: we’ve been using things, so the shelves are already a little more empty than they were at their peak.

What we canned:

  • 8 quarts peaches
  • 10 quarts, 8 pints applesauce
  • 3 pints apple butter
  • 16 half-pints rhubarb-berry jam (we gave a lot away)
  • 5 half-pints roasted red pepper spread
  • 4 half-pints balsamic red pepper jelly
  • 8 half-pints bruschetta
  • 5 pints salsa
  • 12 pints dilled beans
  • 5 pints coriander pickled peppers
  • 5 pints spicy pickled peppers
  • 8 pints roasted red peppers (we lost one to the floor – what a mess!)
  • 15 pints tomato sauce
  • 12 quarts, 20 pints crushed tomatoes


What we froze:

  • 15 chickens (most whole, some broken down)
  • lots of pork (but we don’t really count that, since all we did was pay for it)
  • 2 gallons apple slices
  • 15 quarts green beans
  • 2 gallons cherry tomatoes
  • 1 gallon, 6 quarts sweet corn
  • 2 gallons rhubarb
  • 2 gallons chopped peppers
  • 1 gallon broccoli
  • 1 gallon, 1 quart kale bombs

What we stored:

  • 2 bins potatoes
  • 15 spaghetti squash (though I don’t think these actually hold very well, so they’ll probably go to the hens pretty soon if we don’t use them)
  • 8 butternut squash
  • too many sugar pumpkins
  • 100ish pounds onions

We’re moving through some stuff pretty steadily (tomatoes, onions), and some other stuff hardly at all (rhubarb). We’ll take stock over the winter and adjust the seeds we buy to better fit how we actually eat.

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learning curve

The eggs are coming fast and steady now. We’re getting 5-6 a day, and I’m thinking there’s still 2 hens yet to start laying. I think they’re all still learning to some degree, though, as evidenced by the varied sizes of eggs we find. (The ones to the sides of the carton are close to store-bought “large” eggs.) We’ve also found a few eggs that have only a soft membrane around them, which are pretty gross, and some that look like an egg had been cracked right into the laying box, with no signs of any shells. I think their bodies are still just figuring out how to produce and eject an oversized, hard, protein-bomb every day. We’d like to invite anyone in the area who wants some of these protein bombs to let us know. There’s plenty, and the mini ones make the cutest little fried eggs you’ve ever seen.


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We rake our leaves not really to clean up the yard, but to make compost. Our yard’s leaf litter should provide a few loads, or some good mulch material. We used a leaf blower on reverse to suck up and mulch our leaves, which helps everything break down much more quickly.

We were lent a great book on composting, Mike McGrath’s Book of Compost. I think it could be very generally summarized in three points:

  1. Keep it aerobic.
  2. Keep it moistened.
  3. Keep the carbon to nitrogen/brown to green ratio (30:1) ration in check.

Making sure you have enough carbon is probably the hardest part. We’re lucky because we have all our chicken bedding. Most animal bedding, according to McGrath, turns out to be an ideal mix of carbon and nitrogen, so it composts pretty much on its own. Actually, I stirred the coop’s bedding the other day, and the stuff near the water trough was already cooking. Dead leaves are another perfect compost material, and don’t need any nitrogen or carbon manipulation either.

One of the “treasures” left on our farm was a white plastic box/shell thing. We drilled holes in the sides and bottom, stuck some pallets in as dividers, and called it a compost bin. It’s handy, since we can turn the compost from one bin into another. The chickens like to check it out too. We’ve had a wheelbarrow full of finished compost already, and used it to mulch the garlic we planted.


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autumn chores

We had a beautiful weekend, perfect for getting some fall chores done. We put up our final load of hay, raked leaves for the compost, and gathered a little wood for our supplemental wood heater.

Mark figured out how to get the wood burner working, with no singed eyebrows and just a single, spraying blowout of the water line that leads into the furnace. The burner heats water, which feeds into lines that circulate around the furnace’s air intake, pre-heating the air, (hopefully) reducing the amount of gas we have to burn. We’re still in the process of moving it all into the wood shed, and we’re guessing it’ll last at least for the year. If nothing else, at least we got a workout hauling it all.

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happy halloween!

Mark and I had our inaugural jack-o-lantern contest this year. He won handily, though neither of us would do well in any real carving contest. Oh well. The chickens will get my disaster and all our carving gook and seeds. Mark’s will get the place of honor on our front porch, where our lack of candles and neighbors will make his just about as widely viewed as mine.

Mark re-created our house in pumpkin. (That’s a headlamp acting as candle for the photo.) I attempted to scrape out some ghosts, but gave up after I took an eye out of two in a row. I’ll make a better showing next year.

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planting garlic

We planted our garlic for next year. We bought about a pound and a half of seed bulbs from Seed Savers, which turned out to be about 100 cloves, each of which is planted by itself and will become a whole new bulb. Garlic is another of my favorite things to grow because, like potatoes, it’s got a wonderful element of surprise, and a real need for patience. These will spend the winter in the dirt, covered by a layer of mulch, will begin sprouting next spring, and will be ready to harvest some time in July. The cold weather they sit through is actually what causes them to produce all the cloves that make up the bulb. As long as the ground doesn’t freeze so hard that it heaves and rips their root system, which mulching helps prevent, they should be good to go.

Planting’s a relatively simple process: break the bulbs apart, and drop a single clove–with paper still on and tip up–in a hole about 2 inches deep. The ground was quite hard the day we planted, though it’s rained since then, so it was a bit of chore digging the holes. Other than that, the hardest part of planting was visualizing next year’s garden and where we want the garlic to fit into that.


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