Dream big or sit on the front porch…or… Dream big, grab your hoe and rolling pin and make things happen!
I love that the eggs in our kitchen came from our coop, the raspberries in my scones came from our berry patch, the honey from our hive, the wheat from our field and ground to flour in our kitchen and if I were ever not pregnant when it came time to start milking Lucy and Sweet Caroline there’s potential for fresh dairy products from the barn. That’s just the bakery side of the farm. To say that we are blessed is an amazing understatement, to say we are thankful is the same.
This season was another season of ups and rained on hay but it was good. For the first time I can say that the bread I just took out of the oven is 100% homegrown and homemade. It started last year with the plowing of new ground to prep for the wheat field. Then in the spring, planting. We made it through a pretty dry spring and a wet fall but were able to harvest enough wheat for baking.
I cleaned the grain by hand and sent it through the mill. It was then mixed with water and set on the counter to ferment. Sourdough starter was made. The starter was added to more flour, water, honey and salt. Dough was formed into loaves. I hauled a load of “kitchen wood” from the barn to the house and started a fire. Bread was made.
The most satisfying loaves of bread I have ever baked were shared for supper. There is many thanks to be given for this bread, to my husband Mike, my dad Matt, my mom Dianne and our neighbor Mark. There was tractor work, babysitting, encouragement and support.
I had planned (we can pause here for a good laugh) to trade my chef hat for a straw hat when we moved to the farm. I had for a while and now I wear both and I’m not sure how it has happened. Slow garden and waiting to harvest the wheat field I guess. I still am out early doing chores with Mike and I’ve started to spend more time in the kitchen again too.
Saturday I had planned to do a little baking; fill a few orders, prep for the next farmer’s market and some bread for home. I had the oven on and the mixer running by 6:30 in the morning. I was off to a good start mixing and rolling and baking. Mike was going to pick up a couple gallons of milk on his way home for me but I ran out long before he was going to be home. I called my dad and he brought up the milk from their house so I could keep going until Mike was home. Mom was up the night before with a new block of yeast, as I didn’t realized I was a low as I was when I was at the store.
The kids were in and out and lunch time came, they ate and Mike put them down for naps. I kept right on baking. I guess I lost track of time because all of a sudden everyone was crowding my space in the kitchen looking for something to snack on. I’d find them something and send them on their way. Finally Mike asked “What’s for supper?”
I made this toast for the first time last weekend. When I told Mike what it was his reaction was just what I expected.
“I know they called me Jasper Raisin Toast when I was little but I don’t think I actually like raisins in my toast.”
No surprise, most of my new recipes are met with this kind of excitement. It almost never goes to waste either. This was no exception. We prefer it toasted with extra butter and maybe a little bit of honey.
Since the last Pi day (3.14) my math skills have not improved, in fact they have probably gotten a little worse. I know my fractions well enough to convert my baking recipes and I can balance the checkbook. Any more than that and I need a calculator at the very least. I still only know pi is 3.14 and a whole never ending list of numbers to follow. Not once have I ever knowingly applied the numbers in any life situation, but I don’t pass up an opportunity to make pie either!
This year I tried a new recipe. It was ok, not what I had hoped, but edible. I made a cherry almond pie with a heavier frangipane and frozen cherries in the crust from the Croatian Turnip Green Tarte. My biggest complaint is it needed more cherries and less frangipane. I really like both, but I was really hoping for a heavier cherry presence in the pie. A little more cherry “goop”. Instead it was almost a cake-like filling in a pie crust. Good, edible, but not what I had hoped.
All was not a complete disappointment with the pie though. It was the first pie I baked in the “new” wood stove. We (Mike is very excited to use the stove too) kept a steady temperature of 375 degrees. The pie baked for a little over an hour before we let the fire go out and the pie cool with the oven. It came out with a perfect golden crust, the filling was cooked through. It could not have turned out any better especially considering it was the second thing we have baked in the oven so far and the first pie.
While the pie was baking we set the percolator on the stove and made the best pot of coffee. Piping hot and delicious! I don’t know what it is but percolators but they make the best coffee and when it’s over a campfire or wood fire cook stove it has an even better flavor.
Long before my flour mill died I had picked out a new one. It could do everything from cracked corn all the way down to cake flour. It had a hand crank with the option to add a motor. Made in the USA, cast iron beauty! My current mill was older than me and worked well. There was only one setting-flour but it made nice bread. There was no need to get a new one with the current one still working. It finally had it’s last day (story found here) and I no longer had a mill, nor the money to spend on a new one. My baking dropped off pretty quickly after that. Not that I couldn’t buy flour, I did buy some even when I had the mill, but there is something about taking the whole grains, grinding them and then turning them into something delightful.
This year for Christmas my husband decided I needed a new mill, not only a new mill but the one I picked out! I swear he works just as hard as I do to make my dreams come true! What a great guy! He ordered the mill and it arrived just in time for Christmas. The next surprise was he already had a motor for it; one of better quality than what could have been purchased as a mill package. He has a much better understanding of pulleys and belts than I do and was able to figure out what he needed to do to get the mill running at the correct RPMs. If the mill were to run too fast the flour would easily heat up and taste burnt or cause problems with the mill itself. Also flour dust is highly flammable to the point of possible explosion! Personally I prefer to avoid kitchen explosions whenever possible.
It wasn’t too long after and right there on my kitchen island was a flour mill ready for grain!
The plan was to put it in the basement until we remodel the kitchen (ten years from now). We are currently in the middle of a smaller remodel project that has left us with a couple file cabinets temporarily in the kitchen. I moved the mill to one of the file cabinets and decided that was to be its permanent home. My uncle suggested we could use a set of upper cabinets on legs as a base, topped with a countertop. That’s the new plan. One cupboard (maybe two) will be a grain bin and the other can hold specialty grains and flours.
I’ve been grinding flour like crazy and began baking on the weekends again. Grinding my own flour, even when I am buying the grains, is so much cheaper than buying it ground already; assuming you don’t figure in the cost of the mill. There is just nothing like baking with fresh ground flour. There is also nothing like the Little Boy wanting to make pancakes in the morning and seeing him stand in front of the mill waiting for his flour. If nothing else I will have taught my little man to feed himself and others. He’s getting to be quite the little baker!
I really like to use semolina for making pasta and am now searching that out as well as some other whole grains to grind and bake. The other day I thought for sure there were oats in the barn. I grabbed a bucket and headed out there planning to make a mill version of steel cut oats. I prefer the steel cut over the old fashioned. They take longer to cook but have more texture when done. A wonderful winter breakfast comfort food. I was wrong though, we were out of oats so there was no experimenting with that as of yet. Yes, for those wondering, I had planned to take a bucket of oats from the animal feed bin and turn them into my breakfast. They’ve been cleaned just the same as the wheat I you would grind.