Jasper Raisin Toast

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.

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Good but not Great Pi

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.

Cherry Almond Pie
Cherry Almond Pie
Hot out of the wood cook stove.
Hot out of the wood cook stove.
Too much cake not enough cherry "goop".
Too much cake not enough cherry “goop”.
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Let the Baking Begin Again!

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.

Flour Mill
Flour Mill

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.

Flour Mill
Flour Mill
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You’re Not Supposed to Swear on Sunday

If you really want to get into it, you’re not supposed to swear at all but it seems worse on a Sunday. One Sunday however, I made an exception… It’s supposed to be a day of rest and that already went out the window. I had a barn to clean, a coop to clean, the house to clean, baking to do, this list went on. Little by little I was making some progress.

FlourMill1

I was into the “kitchen” portion of my list, the room was a disaster as I had chicken bricks mixed up, little boy lunch going, my husbands lunch going, bread to start and so on. I ran downstairs to get the flour mill going, because of course I had ran out of flour. Filled the hopper with grain, plugged it in and ran back up to the kitchen.

A short while later, this horrible smell started to waft through the house.

My first thought ” why does my coffee taste bad all of a sudden?”

I went down to check on my flour and then the explicits started to fly. My flour mill was radiating the stench that was filling my house and ruining my coffee. Not only that but it was smoking, not because it was grinding wheat super fast. Nope. It was not doing anything but smoking and stinking.

Why not add a little fuel to the fire…

After I unplugged the mill, I tried to remove the grain filled hopper, carefully. That went well. I had grain everywhere…

Oh what a beautiful day it was.

Now, that little mill is as old as the hills. It’s got a well seasoned mill stone and the rest is heavy cast iron. It worked so well and I loved it. I used it a lot. To replace it would cost at least $700. You know, pocket change. Ha! To have it fixed may not be worth it though either. Then the thought of replacing it, if I’m going to spend the money, I want something of the same “hundred year” quality, but with a bigger capacity. For how often I use this one, something a little bigger (twice the size) would be really nice.

(sigh)

I think I will be adding a mill to the “Save For” want list. Until then, I have some plans to make a hand mill, not that I want to use one of those frequently. It may be time to give making one of those a try.

That’s what I get for working on a Sunday…

FlourMill2

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Apron Strings and Rolling Pins

I am not a food blogger. I do post recipes that I make on occasion. I should be a food blogger, from what I have seen they can make some good money just by tweeking other peoples work and some fancy pictures. I am not a photographer either. I do have a passion for the kitchen and the résumé  to show I have a good idea of what I’m doing.

Wildflowerfarm.org

I grew up in the kitchen, helping mom with whatever was to be made for the day. I learned a lot watching her and grandma over the years. I served my time waiting tables; something I think everyone should have to do. It will give some perspective as to why things are not always as perfect as one would expect and just how greedy people can be. After graduation I went off to culinary school. Received my degree and started cooking in a couple small bars. From there I started in a bakery. At first it was my job to do the packaging, I then moved to cake decorator and soon after started a pastry chef apprenticeship. During this time I continued to further my education by taking pastry classes and attending conventions in Minneapolis, MN. When it was all said and done I earned my Journeyman Pastry Chef title (which means nothing in most smaller towns in Minnesota and North Dakota). I grew tired of the mandatory changes that were being imposed- the use of premade cakes and cookies, box mix cakes and bars, buckets of processed icing. I knew it was time to go. From there I started my own bakery, The Patisserie On Fourth, in downtown Bismarck, ND.

patisserie

At the age of 21 I was a business owner. It was a wonderful, humbling, trying and educational experience. We can get into that later if you’re really interested. I worked an average of 60 hours a week, baking, cleaning, accounting, the whole nine yards (even had a cot set up in the office over the Christmas season and for Downtown Street Fair)When the time felt right I decided to move on again. I sold the equipment and became a cook at The Toasted Frog of Bismarck, ND. It is great fine dining, martini bar and grill. During which I continued to bake and sell at the local farmers market. As time moves us, it was again time for me to move. The last move was back to northern Minnesota with my family, to our little farm where we are today. (and began working at the local telephone company, bet ya’ didn’t see that one coming. I didn’t either, but I’m thankful for the job.)

I continue to bake for the occasional wedding cake order and things of the sort. It’s a good way to “stay in shape”. Years ago I had dreamed of writing a cookbook and just never seemed to have the time or know where to start. At the bakery the recipes were made in too large of batches to try to put those into use. Finally on the farm I have been able to do some baking. Let’s be honest I’ve been doing more baking than any one household would ever find necessary. My husband has been a good support over the years and continues to be. I set my goal of the first cookbook done in one year.

ASRP Cover

It is finally finished! One year’s worth of baking like crazy all wrapped up into one nicely bound book (or ebook if you desire). It was a long process, I learned a few things and the finished product has turned out very nice. Over 70 recipes, a combination of breads, cakes, cookies, pies and more.

In writing a cookbook, one can not simply throw some recipes on a page and call it good. Each recipe must be tried multiple times, fixed when they don’t work and tried again. Then a picture should be taken because people like pictures these days. If you forget to take a picture and the cake gets eaten, the recipe must be made yet again. Unlike a lot of recipes found on-line, the recipes you set to print should be your own, not a copy and paste job, or copy and change a couple ingredients. I understand there are only so many ways to make something like Angel Food Cake, but for the majority it should be an original. If it’s not than should be made clear too. I did put a couple in my book that were versions of something old and something borrowed, I made sure to let you know which they were. (One was an amazing cookie recipe from http://Loneprairie.net. She also turned my sketch into the graphic design for the Patisserie’s logo years earlier.)

As for what I learned through this process, well here goes…

Measuring ALL the ingredients (including vanilla extract) can be hard to remember when the habit is “just add until it looks right”.

Remembering to use a timer is another challenge. I know it’s done when I can smell it or when it looks done. That is not an acceptable form of time for some people I guess.

Disposing of the multitude of  baked goods is a job all in itself. Thank God we have family, friends and coworkers that like to eat. (I still have a couple cakes and some cookies in the freezer if anyone is interested.)

I have a very hard time leaving recipes out (book two on the horizon) and not giving the endless variations. There are so many possibilities to one recipe I could very easily overwhelm the reader with them.

I am very thankful for a long napping little boy and that he was still up for taking 2 a day. (One for mama to bake, the other for mama to nap in the later months.)

If you don’t watch little boys closely while baking the kitchen can look like this… or worse.

Wildflowerfarm.org

I now wash plasticware before and after I use it. On the other hand, by age one he knew exactly what to do with a rolling pin. (and proceeded to roll cheerios into the rugs. Yay!)

I make a valiant effort to add cinnamon and vanilla to almost everything. Sometimes it stays, others… I don’t know what I was thinking.

The simple “drag and drop” software to put a book together is a whole new challenge. It also comes with reformatting everything as you go.

Self-publishing is not a very profitable way to go about book selling; after print cost, commissions and shipping, you can break just above even if your lucky. Hey, it could be a stepping stone to something bigger. I’m just thrilled to have written one of my own.

After all that I am so glad I accomplished such a feat and began book 2 while I was waiting to get this one back from printing to proof!

Versions available to date are: Softcover, Hardcover, ebook in ipad format and pfd. Click the picture above or the link below to get your copy!

 http://blur.by/1ufkNRq

Do check out http://Loneprairie.net. She really has some amazing talent to share and hire! The Lone Prairie Magazine is always a good read, her paintings are wonderful, and she does free-lance writing if your in need.

 

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