The Great Bread Experiment

For Christmas, Santa brought me a grain mill to grind my own flour.  It became a necessity when I accidentally purchased a 50 lb bag of wheat instead of a 50 lb bag of flour.  Oops!!!

Since I received the grain mill, I’ve been trying to figure out how to bake with freshly ground wheat.  Yes folks, there is a difference.

My first goal was to successfully bake a loaf of bread.  I use my bread machine to do all the mixing, kneading and rising then remove it from the machine and place the dough in a bread pan for the last rise before baking.  Now I could certainly do it all by hand, but let’s face facts . . . . . it is a lot less time-consuming to put all the ingredients into the bread machine and let it do the bulk of the work.  That gives me more time for other things, like writing blog posts.

My first attempt was utter failure.  Okay, not failure because I learned that too much liquid and not enough flour means you won’t get a loaf of bread.  My second attempt was too much flour and not enough liquid.  By the third loaf I managed to bake something edible, but I still needed a better balance of water to flour so I increased the amount of flour.  It was a little too much flour, although still edible.

A couple of days ago, I made another loaf of bread and I’m getting closer.  It had a nice texture, especially for toasting and it was quite tasty.

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In the future, I need to leave the measuring cups in the drawer and experiment with the scale.  Freshly ground flour is much lighter than the store-bought stuff and I need to find that perfect combination of water to flour.  I think a scale is the best way to accomplish that goal.  At least I hope so.

 

Wheat Flour

Because I bake so much from scratch, I use quite a bit of flour.  One day I decided it was time to get a big ol’ bag of flour to reduce the number of times I was running out to buy more.  I ordered a 50 lb bag of organic wheat flour and when it arrived I picked it up and began wondering where I would store all the flour.  As I carried the bag into the kitchen, I suddenly realized it was making noise and that was when I looked more carefully at the bag.  I hadn’t ordered flour.  I had ordered a 50 lb bag of wheat.

Without a mill, what was I going to do with 50 lbs of wheat?

Santa had the answer!

For Christmas, he gave me a Wondermill!!!!!!

With my mill set up and my 50 lb bag of wheat, I was ready to grind some wheat into flour.

The Wondermill, is easy to operate and is very fast.  Within seconds, I had several cups of flour ready and waiting.  So I got out the bread machine, put all the ingredients in, set it up and hit start.

I know it seems strange that I’m breaking out my bread machine to make bread from my freshly ground wheat that I was able to grind using a machine that plugs into a wall.  I never claimed to be an old-fashioned homesteader in the making.  I’m more a 21st century homesteader in the making 🙂

2:20 later, I was ready to pull the dough out of the bread machine.

Now please let me clarify.  My bread machine can mix and bake, but I don’t like the shape of the bread that comes out of the machine.  So I pull out the dough, form it into a loaf and put it in my loaf pan to do the last rise before baking.

My excitement was building as I opened the lid and then the excitement can crashing down.  The dough was more the consistency of a thick batter, which easily poured into the loaf pan.  There was no shaping involved.  Just a thick glob of dough that filled the loaf pan.

Still, I was determined to see if it would rise again, so I covered it and let it sit on the stove.

Unfortunately, it didn’t rise like it should, but I still put it in the oven to bake.

Even in the oven, it didn’t rise.

I took it out of the loaf pan, put it on a rack to cool, covered it with a towel and went to bed.

This morning I sliced off a piece and put it in the toaster.  A little butter and it was quite tasty.

My research tells me that freshly ground wheat absorbs liquids differently from wheat that was ground and allowed to sit on a shelf for a couple of months.  But I’m not going to allow that little detail from attempting to make a loaf of bread, from freshly ground wheat.  More research and more attempts will eventually provide my family a properly risen loaf of tasty bread.

 

Dandelions, the Super Food

Dandelions!!!

It seems that many will do whatever it takes to rid their yard of those little yellow flowering weeds. For a matter-of-fact, we were once in that same camp. Then we moved over to the “I don’t care” camp and just mowed right over them when we cut the grass.  I have now moved into a new dandelion camp.

For years, I’ve heard of people making dandelion wine, but since I don’t drink wine,  I had no desire to give it a try. I had also heard of using dandelion greens in cooking, but again, I never had a desire to give them a try. Recently, I came across an article touting the benefits of dandelions and I was amazed!!!  This little weed that many try to kill has awesome health and healing benefits.  For example, it can prevent or cure liver diseases, such as hepatitis or jaundice. It will act as a tonic and gentle diuretic to purify blood, cleanse the system, dissolve kidney stones, and improve gastrointestinal health. Having trouble with your weight? Eat dandelions for weight reduction. Dandelions can also be used to cleanse your skin and eliminate acne. Constipation or diarrhea? Dandelions can help both problems by improving bowel function. This little yellow flowering weed can improve blood pressure, prevent or cure anemia and has the ability to lower your serum cholesterol by as much as half. Eat some dandelion to reduce acid indigestion and/or the buildup of gas. This super weed can even prevent or cure various forms of cancer, diabetes and has no negative side effects.

All these years I’ve tried to kill dandelions when in fact, I should have been protecting them, picking them, and feeding them to my family.

With my new-found knowledge, the girls and I headed outside to pick dandelions.  We picked only the flowers to make Dandelion Blossom Bread.

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2 c flour

2 t baking powder

1/2 t salt

1 c dandelion blossoms, all green sepals and leaves removed

1/4 c oil

4 T honey

1 egg

1 1/2 c milk

Combine dry ingredients in large bowl, including petals making sure to separate clumps of petals. In separate bowl mix together milk, honey, oil beaten egg. Add liquid to dry mix. Batter should be fairly wet and lumpy. Pour into buttered bread tin or muffin tin. Bake 400F. For muffins 20-25 min, bread for bread up to twice as long. Test for doneness

I did add a little glaze to the bread, for some added sweetness, but it really didn’t need the glaze.  The bread tastes of honey and my 4-yr-old loves it.  My 6-yr-old ate several bites, then decided she was done.  She isn’t a big fan of honey though and her little sister was more than happy to finish her piece 🙂  Hubby chose not to partake.  Next time I think I’ll cut back on the honey a bit, but overall, I thought it was a delightful bread.

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Without a doubt, I will be including dandelions as part of our diet.  With all the wonderful health benefits, how can I not.

A Homestead Kind of Day

Winter Storm Nika moved through last night and early this morning leaving us about 6 – 7 inches of snow. This required another snow shoveling work-out and after my work-out I decided it was a good day to enhance some of my homesteading skills.

Since I was down to just enough laundry soap for maybe two more loads of laundry, making laundry soap was my first order of business. I’m now set for the next few months with 6 jars ready to go to work.

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My next challenge was making some body butter.  Now I say this is a challenge because my past attempts haven’t turned out the way I had hoped, but I just can’t give up so I tried again.

First I measured out 1/2 c each of Shea Butter, Cocoa Butter and Coconut Oil.  I put them in the top of a double broiler and melted them down to a liquid form.  I put it aside to let it cool and once the pan was cool, I put it in the fridge for about 15 minutes to cool off a bit more.

After it began to thicken along the edges, I stirred in 1/2 c extra-virgin olive oil, 1 t Vitamin E oil, and several drops of lavender and orange bitter essential oils.  (Sorry, but I didn’t count the number of drops.  I went strictly by scent and quit when it smelled good.)

I mixed in the oils and put the pan back into the fridge until everything began to thicken (about 20 – 30 minutes).

Now it was time to mix.

The moment of truth . . . . . . . .

And success!!!!!

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Creamy!
Buttery!
And it smells scrumptious!!!

It seems the problem with my previous attempts was not allowing the oils to cool off and thicken.  Which didn’t give me the consistency I desired.  I’m so glad I didn’t give up.  Of course now I’m anxious to try some new blends, so stay tuned for Debbie’s delightful body butter combos.

And I must point out that I love my canning jars.  They have an amazing multitude of uses.

My last homestead adventure for the day is something I’ve been doing for many, many, many years.  It was something the girls have been asking to do for several weeks, so we got out everything we needed and created these.

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The girls got snowflake cookie cutters in their Kiwi Crates at Christmas and have been wanting to use them and use them we did.

Overall, nice day on the ranch . . . I mean farm . . .  I mean a nice day at home.

First Time Pop Tarts

Visiting our son Ryan, can be a bit challenging. The town he lives in is a college town and finding places to take him that he can handle are somewhat limited. For those who haven’t been reading my blog long, Ryan is our adult son who has autism. He is at the lower end of the spectrum, non-verbal, with a related seizure disorder. Our visits are a change in his routine and while he typically does well (thanks to staff reading social stories to him prior to our visits), we still have to make sure that we’re doing things his sensory system can handle.

When the weather is nice and warm, our visits typically include a trip to the park. It usually works well for both him and our girls. In the winter, a visit to the park just isn’t feasible, so last year my husband suggested that we include an over-night stay at a local hotel to our visits. This allows us to have a nice long visit with him, in a nice quiet environment. Okay, it can only be so quiet with my crew, so I should say in a less stimulating environment.

I really am getting to the Pop Tarts part of this post.

We typically stay at the same hotel for our visits, but there was no room at the inn for our last visit so we had to go to a hotel we had not stayed at before and won’t be staying at again. While we were getting ready to leave, my husband went to check out the free breakfast. The choices were really bad, except for the Pop Tarts he brought back for the girls. Not that Pop Tarts are necessarily a great choice, especially when you’re trying to avoid high fructose corn syrup, but at least our hungry girls would have a little something until we could check out and get them breakfast. It was also the first time they had ever had a Pop Tart and believe it or not, they liked them.

Pop Tarts are something that I just don’t buy.  Not that I haven’t bought them, because I have.  Several years ago I was buying them on a regular basis, but I hadn’t bought any since Lili came home, so it’s been at least 5 years since they’ve been in our house.  Let’s face facts, Pop Tarts are tasty and convenient, but we just don’t want those ingredients in our bodies on a regular basis.  But did I mention Pop Tarts are tasty, so having them from time to time would be nice, as long as they are being made in my kitchen with my ingredients.  Today, that happened.  The girls and I made our own Pop Tarts.   They didn’t necessary look pretty, but they sure were yummy!!!!

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We made cinnamon sugar, strawberry and blackberry Pop Tarts and as you can see, we made them in various shapes and sizes.

Like most things you try the first time, it was a learning experience.  We learned to not over-fill and to make sure that the sides are well crimped.  Otherwise you’ll end up with them coming apart and filling oozing out the sides.  Of course my 5-year-old told me, “That’s why they call them Pop Tarts.”  LOL!!!!  In our case, they were certainly popping.

The crusts were nice and flaky, but the one thing that would make these even better is filling them with jam or preserves made from fruit in our garden.  Until then, we will definitely continue to make our own Pop Tarts because they really are so much tastier than much better than those pretty ones that come in a box.

Here is the recipe I used:

Pop Tarts Weeks’ Style

1-1/2 c sifted flour
1/2 t salt
1/4 c shortening or 1/4 cup unsalted butter
6 T cold water

Combine flour and salt in bowl. Add shortening or butter and blend with fork, or pastry cutter until fairly coarse.

Add water, 1 T at a time.  Gently mix dough after each addition until dough forms a soft ball. (If you prefer, you can prepare the dough in a food processor. Use the pulse button just until it starts to pull away from the sides. Be very careful not to overwork the dough.)

Place dough on a lightly floured surface and roll into a square/rectangle. Cut out long strips about 2 inches wide, and 3 inches long. Repeat till you run out of dough.

Glaze:

1 c powder sugar
1/4 c Milk

Place powdered sugar in bowl. Pour milk slowly and stir.    You want the consistency to be like thick syrup.

Assemble: Take one pie crust rectangle, fill with a teaspoon of jam. Cover with another piece of pie crust. Crimp all four edges. Repeat until you run out of pie crust. Bake at 450F for about 7-8 minutes or until lightly brown.

Allow to cool slightly then drizzle with glaze.  Add sprinkles or sparkling sugar for added decoration.  Then enjoy!!!

Filling for Cinnamon Sugar:

5 T packed dark brown sugar
5 t granulated sugar
1 T all-purpose flour
3/4 t ground cinnamon
1 T Butter, melted

Mix all ingredients until well combined then divide evenly among the pie crust pieces.  Place another pie crust piece on top and crimp sides.

For the glaze, add 1/2 t cinnamon to the glaze recipe above.