22 March 2017

Rye bread with buttermilk starter - UPDATED

I made this rye and spelt loaf yesterday. Hanno said it's as good as the one from the German baker.  Woohoo!

Hello dear readers.

I'm back into my bread routine although I'm not baking bread every day, which is what I used to do. Now we eat our main meal at lunchtime and we don't need bread for sandwiches. This is a dense bread if you make it with rye and spelt - very much like traditional rye bread. It will be lighter if you add white or wholemeal flour instead of the spelt. Hanno likes a slice or two of good bread in the late afternoon which he eats with cheese, ham or smoked salmon. I had a slice of this last night with cheese and chilli jam. It was delicious.

It's important to use clean hands and clean utensils for this recipe.  If you don't, you may introduce yeast or bacteria you don't want in the dough. You'll need clean bowls, measuring spoons and jugs and it's a good extra precaution to sterilise the jar you make the starter in. By using only the cleanest equipment, you'll end up with a very good dough that will bake well.

I used a buttermilk starter dough to make this loaf and that was made by mixing one cup of rye flour with ¾ cup of buttermilk in a jar that can hold about 3 cups. Make sure you mix it well with a spoon because the starter needs oxygen. I left the open jar on the kitchen bench all day, at night I put it in the fridge. That slows down the fermentation and allows flavour to develop.  Give it a good stir each morning when you take it out of the fridge. It's ready to use when you can see it's fermenting and bubbly. It takes between two to three days here but it will depend on the temperature in your kitchen.  Please don't worry if the starter takes three or four days because the longer it takes the better the flavour will be. If, after three days, you see no activity, smell the starter and if it smells okay just add ¼ teaspoon dry yeast to the mix and stir. You should see fermentation start a few hours later.

1 cup spelt flour - you can use white or wholemeal if you don't have spelt
2 cups rye flour
water - enough to make the dough come together**
2 teaspoons salt - I use pink rock salt - optional*
1 tablespoon molasses or brown sugar - optional*
1 teaspoon caraway seeds - optional*
all the starter

*All the optional ingredients add a lot of flavour to the dough, use or omit depending on your taste and health requirements. I always use all of them.

Add your ingredients to a bread machine, adding about 50mls of water. Add the starter and start the machine on the dough setting.  Check the dough after about a minute and add more water, bit by bit, until the dough comes together in a sticky ball.

When the cycle is finished, place the dough on a floured board, knead for a minute or two to make sure the consistency is right. It needs to be a firm dough because it won't be baked in a bread tin. Set the dough aside in a greased bowl or a banneton covered with a clean tea towel and allow it to rise.  If you use rye and spelt it won't rise much, if you use white or wholemeal, which contain more gluten, it will rise but not as much as your normal white loaf. I baked my loaf after 60 minutes but this will depend on the temperature in your kitchen.  Don't rush it by leaving it in a warm place, take your time and allow the flavours to develop - this is slow bread. Rye is always a sticky dough, so if it sticks to your hands, you're doing it right.

Preheat your oven to 220C/430F and prepare a baking tray with baking paper.  When the dough has risen, plop the dough onto the baking tray and put it in the oven.  After 10 minutes, turn the temperature down to 190C/375F and bake for about another 20 minutes.  The loaf is ready when it smells like bread and there is a hollow sound when you tap the bottom of the loaf.

If you're looking for a healthy loaf with flavour and fibre, this is for you. I hope you try it. I'd love to hear how you go with it, so let me know.

I've changed this last paragraph because I used the wrong link.  Here is a recipe for soft rolls like a brioche roll. I'll write about the other link soon.  Happy baking everyone!  👩‍🍳🥖👨‍🍳

** this post was updated because I left out the water component.

20 March 2017

24 hours here

My daily life is so familiar to me and it makes so much sense that I think it must be normal for everyone to live as we do. It's only when I go out, or read about how others live that I know that living like this is far from what is normal now. I'm not saying our way of life is better because I see many people living lives of productivity and purpose. It is the best way for us though and that's all I need to know. I believe the workings of anyone's life are determined primarily by mindset, the stage of life you're at, by personal circumstances and responsibilities. My life used to be harder but we're in a different season now, we have different priorities and, most importantly, we have a different mindset. Now that we have worked enough to buy a house and what we need to fill it, we use hard work, creativity, thrift, organisation, management, responsibility and a sense of purpose to maintain and conserve what we've worked for.

The shade structure came down, salvias and old herbs removed and the first new plants went in.

Gone are the days when I went out and worked for a living. Now I'm happy to stay here and work to maintain the life we have built. This was yesterday:

3.30am - 10am: 
I was up and dressed, checked the weather radar, emails and comments. 
Read a few pages of The Guardian and some Mary Oliver poems. 
Talked to Gracie, rubbed her tummy and organised some yarn and knitting needles. 
Fed Gracie outside and let the chickens out.  Looked around the garden, took some cuttings from my blue salvia and potted them up.
Jamie arrived at 6.45. I talked to him, cooked breakfast and tidied the kitchen.
Made the bed.
Sat on the back verandah, listened to Macca on the radio and talked to Hanno about the new garden.
Hanno started planting out the parsley seedlings from the bush house as well as thyme, basil and oregano bought at the local co-op yesterday. These are the first of our new season plantings.
Organised the spices and nuts that I bought at the co-op on Friday.
Made a rye bread starter that I'll probably use tomorrow.
Made a banana cake.
When the cake was baked, we had morning tea.

Very moist banana cake with flaked almond topping.
Rye starter sitting on the kitchen bench collecting airborne yeasts.
From the co-op - black mustard seeds, Madras curry powder, flaked almonds and celery seeds.

Before noon:
Watched the rain fall from the back verandah.
Blanched cabbage leaves for the cabbage rolls we were having for lunch. Left them to drain and cool.
Made pork filling for cabbage rolls.
Started writing this blog post.
Helped Jamie with his spelling - he was working through the Spelling Eggs program on the computer.
Made and cooked lunch.

Cleaned the kitchen.
Iced a piece of banana cake for Jamie to take home for school lunches.
Packed a serving of cabbage rolls, herb and onion mashed potato and gravy for Sunny to have for her dinner at home.
Spoke to a friend on the phone.
Knitted in front of the TV watching recorded programs. I usually watched recorded TV because I can fast forward and ignore the advertising.
Jamie went home.
Checked laundry supplies to see if anything is running low.

Checked if there was anything needed in the laundry. This stick is a spurtle I bought from an antique shop a few years ago in Glen Innes, a country town which hosts a popular Scottish Festival. It's probably stirred a lot of porridge over the years, but here it's always been my soaking stick.

Made tea and toast and watched the TV news.
End of day.  Went to sleep around 7pm, was up again at 10ish, messaged with a friend on the computer while I read the papers.
Added recipes to my Paprika app. Looked at some webcams. Back to bed just after midnight.

Up at 4am.
Today I'll clean both bathrooms but this morning will be devoted to ironing which I allowed to build up over the past few hot weeks. I hope to get through it all and put it away today. Lunch is leftovers, I hope to knit and prune plants this afternoon.
And now I'll publish this post so you know I'm still here, still working, still smiling and still feeling grateful for all we have.

I hope you have a wonderful week ahead.  💝

18 March 2017

Weekend reading

I have had a truly wonderful week. There is more separation between me and the internet and I'm hatching plans for the vegetable garden and projects in my home.  It's a very good place to be in. I have the time and inclination to fluff up my nest and it feels like the right thing for us, especially at the beginning of autumn.  Now that I'm spending less time online, I have fewer links to share for my weekend reads. Consequently, I won't be doing weekend reading every week in the coming months, it will be when I have enough links to share. That might be once a month or once a fortnight. I'll just play it by ear. I know this will disappoint some readers but I'm going through a period of transition and change is always a part of that.  The only constant is that my blog will continue.  I enjoy it so much and it is my window into the world and to you, even though that window is shrinking somewhat. 

I hope you enjoy your weekend and, like me, appreciate the changing of the seasons. Thanks for your visits, I'll see you again next week, friends.  ☘️

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A woman who retired at 28 with $2 million in the bank explains how she saved 70% of her income
Just one cookbook - Japanese home cooking

16 March 2017

Gracie news and photos

So many readers have been asking for more Gracie news and photos. She's seven months old now and she's healthy, active and very mischievous, which seems to be a trait most Scotties have in common.  I think she may have quiet a few crocodile genes because she can eat anything at any time. We've had to stop giving her anything plastic because she chews it up and eats little pieces of plastic. Hanno bought her two frisbees and she demolished one in the first 10 minutes she had it. So that was the last bit of play plastic she'll be given.  Now she has balls, her blankie a couple of old shoes and those rubbery chew toys you can hide food in.

Generally she's a joy to be around and she's very much a people dog. She likes sitting next to either Hanno or me and she'll follow us around as we work, but she's completely happy to sleep by herself in her little bed in the lounge room when we go to bed.
We had her coat stripped back for summer and I think we'll do that every year. She was clipped in November and now her coat, skirt and fluffy legs (her furnishings) are showing signs of growing back to keep her warm in winter.
We had her spayed 5 weeks ago when she was 6 months old. After the operation, she was tired, floppy and off her food for 24 hours, and she didn't lay in her normal frogger mode for about 10 days, but now she's back to normal.
We're still working on her diet. She didn't like the cooked food I made for her when she was a little puppy and she's on a combination of raw chicken wings, tuna and Black Hawke biscuits. Just this week I started giving her the homemade food that I froze and now she likes it. I'll make her some again when it gets a bit colder and she wants something warm.  When I get it sorted out, I'll write a post about what she's eating.

It was a big step for us to go from Airedale Terriers to Scotties but we're so happy we have Gracie. She's a real scallywag and she's keeping us on our toes but maybe that's what we need at the moment. If you're thinking of buying a small dog, Scottish Terriers are hard to find but they are well worth the effort.  They're a great family dog, they love kids and they're very protective of their family. ❤️

13 March 2017

A pictorial ramble through my jars

Over the years I have learned to love jars. I'm not just talking about the pristine goodness of a new box of Fowlers or Mason jars arriving in the mail but also recycled jars of all shapes and sizes. I love bottles too. I'm probably preaching to the choir here because I think many of us have discovered how thrifty, practical and convenient recycled jars and bottles can be in our simple kitchens and laundries.  But instead of writing about the benefits of recycling and building up a treasure trove of jars and bottles, why don't i just show you some photos from past years, as well as some new photos, showing what I'm doing with these glass containers that just keep on giving.

These wide-mouth, red check jars are my favourite recycled jar. They last for years of repeated boiling and vinegar liquids, they're easy to wash and they hold a convenient amount - 1 cup, 250mls.
 I store my dry pantry supplies in jars of all sizes. 

And of course, there is all the lemon butter, pickled vegetables, jams and sauces I've made over the years. Some are stored in purchased jars, most are in recycled jars.  As long as the lid and seal are undamaged, they're good to use again.

Don't forget the fresh juices and cordials. Every year we squeeze lemons, oranges and passionfruit from our garden and store a lot of it in the freezer in plastic bottles.  Below is some raspberry cordial I made last year. That went into glass bottles and was stored in the cupboard.

I make a lot of yoghurt and sour cream and that is stored in jars and kept in the fridge.  Above is sour cream, below, yoghurt.

The whey left over from various dairy foods is also stored in a jar and kept in the fridge until I use it in my baking.  
 Chicken stock is stored in litre jars.
Two unusual uses for jars - saving seeds at the end of the growing year. Some seeds are stored in sealed envelopes in the fridge, these seeds were used within a few weeks of being saved so they spent that time in a jar.   Below is sun-infused calendula oil I use to make soap.  It's in an old coffee jar.

Here are my work horse jars. This one above is my liquid soap, my first and only batch. During part of the days-long process of making it, it was stored in this huge jar.
 Many of us use jars to store our sour dough starters. 
 Or fill up jars and bottles with homemade laundry liquid and give it away to friends and neighbours.

They're handy when you need a small container for craft items.
And finally, ginger beer plant fermenting in the kitchen. 

And where do I store all these jars? Well, have a look below. The first two photos are my current stockpile of jars. One is in the main stockpile cupboard, the other in a cupboard above the stove.

 I have egg cartons, Fowlers jars and recycled water bottles out in the garden shed.
Above, this was my old cupboard where my dishwasher now is and below another stash in a kitchen cupboard.

And finally, this shows that even when you're travelling around the country, you can still recycle and bring home treasure.  These are four little jam jars we had on our breakfast trays when we stayed in flash hotels on book tours, with one fruit juice bottle.  The little jars hold 50mls and have been really useful storing spice, ointment and creams.

I'm sure you have your preference just as I have mine. I can't go past a wide mouthed jar with a pop top metal lid. I have two coffee jars with a round glass lid, the rest are all pop tops. They serve me well for preserving jams and sauces as well as storage jars in the pantry and craft room. I'm sure there are people out there as crazy about recycling jars and bottles as I am. What do you use yours for and where do you store them?

10 March 2017

Weekend reading

There has been a lot of knitting and baking going on here this week. That is always relaxing work and something I look forward to every day.  Now the weather is starting to soften a little, I've been thinking more about this year's vegetable garden. I'm tending tomato, parsley and sweet pea seedlings in the bush house and when it gets closer to our planting time, we'll buy more seedings to plant out. We used to always plant in mid-March but with the weather as it's been these past couple of years, the planting have been delayed until the weather cools a little. We'll see how we go this year.

I hope you're well and enjoying the time you spend with your family, friends and work. Thanks for your visits this week. I hope to see you again soon. Have a great weekend. xx

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