My Straw-Chef Hat

Wheat Field

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 gave him a blank look and “I don’t know.”

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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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