Saturday, December 19, 2009

Three down, One to go

As of this morning, three out of our four hens are now up and running egg-wise, with my husband's chick (who he officially named "Godzilla", but whom the girls have more suitably re-named, "Rose") being the latest to join the mommy club.

Our last holdout hennie that has yet to lay is the incredibly high-maintenance, "Strawberry", who possesses, among other lovely attributes, a propensity for roosting in the rafters of the coop (rather than in the security of the hen house) every single night of her life. We naturally then, have to climb up and scoop a very startled/sleepy/combative chicken off of the roof and shoehorn her into the hen house - thus potentially saving her from freezing or predator raids - every single night of her life. It is rather fitting that she is such a stubborn, diva of a bird, considering that she is officially the pet of my youngest daughter, Scarlet, who is herself known for her hard-headedness. Just ask anyone who has ever met her. Brats of a feather, I guess...

At any rate, yee-haw! - three eggs per day! There is increasing reason for me to believe that I'll someday actually use all of those egg cartons that I've been stockpiling since we first bought the chicks. Man, the things that pass for exciting and newsworthy around here these days...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Amish Bread, Variation #745

If you know me, then you probably know that as much as I love to cook, I generally fear & dislike baking. It's all of the delicate chemistry involved. You aren't supposed to substitute or improvise when making a bread or dough, the leavening & gluten are too persnickity to be monkeyed with by a haphazard cook. Especially one with a cruddy, barely-functioning oven, such as mine.

That must be why, then, that my adventures with Amish bread have me so excited and verbose today. I've somehow managed to produce another successful batch of two dozen baby loaves (a doubled recipe) with a new assortment of hastily improvised and substitued ingredients. Here is today's re-revised recipe, and a link, once again to the original.

Amish Bread o' the day-
(This is the ingredient list, not including the starter.)

wet ingredients
1/2 c. oil
1/2 c. pumpkin puree (homemade, thank you very much!)
1 c. milk
1/4 c. maple syrup
1/4 c. fireweed honey
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

dry ingredients
2 c. unbleached flour
1/2 c. sugar (I prefer turbinado)
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder (I use the aluminum-free stuff from Bob's Red Mill)
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice mix
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/6 c. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup nuts (optional) - I've added chocolate chips instead on a few occasions.

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Mix and pour into well buttered bread pans. Bake at 325 degrees for about and hour, or until a toothpick comes out clean. - I also cover the pan loosely with aluminum foil about 3/4 of the way through the baking process to keep the top crust from over-browning while giving the loaf a chance to finish cooking throughout.

Additional notes - I actually preheat the oven to 350, and turn down to 325 just after the bread goes in. I just read about this little trick in The Bread Bible and it seems to me that the bread rose a little better with the extra boost of heat early in the baking process. After the bread was out of the oven, de-panned and cooled, I brushed the tops of the loaves with just a little maple syrup and sprinkled coarse, turbinado sugar on top.

And seriously, folks, if you need a bread starter, drop me a line.