October 30, 2013

Bread... the final results

      Before I move on from baking the five minute bread I wanted to take a moment to put down my overall thoughts. Now that it's becoming routine the way I make this bread I want to describe how it works day-to-day.
      I make up one bucket of bread by mixing flour, water, salt and yeast. That's it. It takes about ten or fifteen minutes, including washing up, getting out and putting away ingredients. Three days later I made another batch in another container. That's it for making the dough. Seriously.
      Every day at about 4 P.M. I flour my hands and bread board and take out about 1/4 of the dough and shape it quickly into a loaf. Two minutes. No kneading or rolling, just shape gently.
      At  about 5:15 I preheat my oven and slash the bread. At 5:30ish I put the bread in the oven and it takes about 20 minutes to bake. I have a beautiful loaf of fresh bread for dinner. That's it. No kneading, no flour everywhere, no hours of waiting for dough to rise.
      If you don't get home from work until later you can cut down the time you let the dough rest before baking to about 30 minutes. It's that easy and I would think rather foolproof.

      Good luck with your own experiments, and as always all comments here or in my email are very welcome. Thanks again for following my journey and enjoy your dinner!

Nanette



October 29, 2013

Taking a Moment for Bread

      While working on my next book, which I hope to have out in late winter of 2014, I am taking a break for bread. The next book is about a woman in the great Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889. I  love to use the homemaking skills I have learned over my lifetime to give my heroines special skills. In Stavewood, Rebecca sure loves to knit. The women in the rest of the saga have their own skills. In Sweet New England, Taffy Jamison has her quilting to ease her mind. In Ill Repute, Alice makes a lovely bonnet and has other skills as well, but she is unusual. In the book I am writing now, Corrine is a pie maker.
      Since I become so immersed in my books, if I write about food I'm just dying to bake when I walk away from the keyboard. The experiment of the Five-Minute Artisan bread is perfect!

      It has been two days with no fresh bread in the oven and I've missed it terribly. After a rather tasty split pea and ham in the crockpot and no fresh bread I am good and ready for another loaf. The buckets I ordered arrived and they are perfect! They fit into the refrigerator well, and although I thought they were a bit big I was plainly wrong. This picture was taken before the dough had completely risen to nearly the top. The attractive piece of painter's tape on the lid is my addition, it has a date on it. I knew that the yeast I had used in the first batch was a bit outdated but this fresh yeast is really busy! Now I wonder if the big bowl I had used originally would have been big enough.


      
      My plan is to start a second batch in the other tub tomorrow and have ripened bread dough available almost all the time. It's a good time for this experiment, I think, because if I have too much bread a nice loaf of artisan bread would be perfect to bring to those upcoming holiday gatherings or for hungry grandsons.
      If you look up on the empty tub you can see the dough mixer I got as well. I thought I was being frivolous ordering it with the tubs. Nope. It mixed the dough up so easily I was amazed. Tonight: pasta with a nice sauce and fresh bread!

Thanks for visiting! Please feel free to post your own bread adventures!

October Observations

      Fall has certainly arrived and the weather seems to be hanging in a lovely balance. My rosebushes continue to bloom, as are other flowers in the yard. I find the mix between the pinks of spring and summer and the earthy tones of autumn often make me thoughtful.
      I have brought in nearly all of my summer things now. The lawn chairs are tucked away in the garage and the pumps from all the fountains have been gathered. When I put them away I was already making a promise to myself that spring would arrive next year and my pretty things would all be there waiting to be pulled out into the sunlight.
       
 
      I feel more thoughtful than ever this year, it seems. It's no mystery why. This fall I will reach the landmark of being sixty years old. I have always had thoughts about growing old and the passing of time. Partly, I think, because my grandmother made it seem wonderful. I love the east coast and its weather because it so clearly marks the years. I miss things about my childhood home in southern California, the weather, or lack thereof, is not one of them. I like to know that I cannot stop the sand running through the hourglass, and I am reminded by the changing seasons.
      Now, part of me is embracing being older. It's easy I suppose because my life is good, far better than it was in my childhood. I have battled for that and protect it fiercely. I've earned it and I treasure it. I've cultivated a good marriage, worked hard to make a comfortable home and struggled to learn the skills and tolerances I needed to get those and many other things. I'm still at it.
      On the other hand, however, it makes knowing that one day it will fade away even harder. So, I have tried to learn from others. I see my friends that are also growing older, or are far ahead of me in the emptying of the hourglass, and I see which ones are happy. Some are living the fullest lives they can, and some are letting it all slip away, or worse are embittered by growing older. I think that life is a gift. Each grain of sand is given to be used wisely and can easily be taken away. I have consciously decided that I will not lie down whenever my sands run out and say I did not live, that I let any of it slip away. No matter what responsibilities life brings I have always made sure that when all needs are met I wrung every bit of joy I could out of what time was left in each day.
      The story of two bios come clearly to mind. One story is of actress Carolyn Jones. Most people likely know her as Morticia Addams from the original Addams Family TV series. It was a role she came to hate. She loathed people remembering her as a comedy actress. She wanted to be known as a serious actress and spent her last years bitter with regrets. She passed away at 53. The other actress is Barbara Eden. Eden so greatly embraced and appreciated her role as Jeannie in the show I Dream of Jeannie that at 82 she still gets into her Jeannie costume with a broad smile on her face. She has always held that her dreams of being a famous actress were completely fulfilled. She has great appreciation. They are two women with two minds. I'm saying right now, even at sixty I won't get into a Jeannie costume, but I want that spirit all the rest of my days.
 
      My young cat, Secret has found something at the window completely fascinating. I suspect it's another squirrel preparing for winter. We named her that because she never revealed her real name. Any pet I've ever had seemed to lend themselves quickly to an appropriate thing to be called. Miss Secret never has. She is a feral rescue with the scars of a hard kittenhood. Since she would not give up her name, then Secret it is.
       

Thank you for reading. Please feel free to comment any time!

October 28, 2013

One good man

      I am often asked by my readers, "Do you know that man you wrote about in your book?". I write historical romance so of course the heroes in my books are always tasty. I try for that nice, romantic ideal women look for in a man. First those elusive things, like someone who always listens or takes note of what you enjoy. And of course that they are respectful, attentive and always appreciative lovers. (One of the reasons I like to keep my love scenes more love than scene.) But, I also like my heroes to be men, real men. Real men can be forgetful and distracted and enjoy doing things women don't always appreciate and understand. They get dirty, in sexy ways of course, and their approach to everything in life is more physical. Liberation is fine but men and women are undeniably different and I love writing about a time when romance was not free love. About a time when sex was less open and seasoned with a bit of naughtiness.
      Today I am not writing about bare tanned shoulders and well-to-do landowners. Today I am going to write about my man. The man I really do know. Like a woman, a man can have a million facets, and so does mine. He is intelligent, creative, and imaginative and he possesses the best sense of humor of any person I know. For me he's just about perfect. Is he the man in the books? No, he is not. When I told him that a reader asked if she might meet him one time after talking in length about how delicious Timothy Elgerson was in my book Stavewood, my husband's response was, "No good will come of this." I think he's wonderful, he thinks he is who he is.
      We have been married since 1980, and would have been longer, I think, had we met earlier. Even when he drives me crazy, and yes, he does, he is my best friend and a wonderful partner. When I am asked if there is a secret to a long marriage those are the things I think are most important. You cannot last for years if you cannot be best friends to one another. Best friends are partners and so are good mates. They never talk with malice about one another behind each other's back. Never! They handle life as a team and balance each other out when one or the other falters. Like real friends. A real friend listens when you're going nuts and then tells you when you begin to wallow and helps you back onto your feet. They never pretend to support you, they do. Of course an aspect in that ideal partnership is that there is enough faith that when your mate tells you that you're wallowing you have enough respect for them and yourself to listen and stand up for yourself.

      Gibran said about marriage:

                                         "And stand together, yet not too near together
                                         For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
                                         And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each
                                         other's shadow."
        I always thought that covered it well. So today I am sharing a few pictures of my dear Patrick. He's the real man that fires my imagination and helps me define what makes a great hero, as well as an equally appreciative heroine.  
    
    Circa 1970 - Just my type!
  

I know I am crazy about a sharp dressed man!


My man is now a grandfather. He's good it at. After all he was a wonderful father.


When the picture was grey, but we were not.


I love a man who can dance!


And who loves music!


And it of course it's wonderful when you find one another again and again over time.


Thank you for joining my little journey...




October 25, 2013

Why it's Five Minute Bread (Part Four)

It's is the last day of trying different methods of baking the five minute bread with batch one. Tonight I made the bread in loaf pans. Again the bread came out amazing, even more delicious and I broke down and ordered the 6 qt. tubs from Amazon. I will be keeping dough in my refrigerator from now on.

Here's pictures of the loaves before I give my overview:





 
     My overall opinion of the Five Minute Artisan Bread is that the five minutes not only refers to the time it takes to make bread from this dough but that five minutes is about how long it lasts. This bread is wonderful! It is easy to make. Mix together the ingredients of flour, water, salt and yeast with a spoon and put the mixture in the refrigerator. About an hour or so before you want bread pull out a glob, shape it a bit and let it sit around for about 40 minutes. Bake it for about 20 minutes and then try not to eat only bread for dinner every night. The book that tells you how to do it all and has the recipe for this and other types of breads is worth every penny. I will be making up another batch tomorrow, but I'm going to take a break so that the dough can 'ripen' a bit. The bread was much better the second and third day. When I get the buckets I will stagger batches so I always have dough and it has sat for a day or two.
     Thanks to everyone who emailed me with questions and kind feedback. It's great to hear from folks!
     Thanks for sharing my bread baking experience!

Breaking from Bread to Knit

While my next bread is rising I thought I'd share some of my holiday knitting. Thanks to Elizabeth Zimmerman's lovely gull stitch baby sweater I am working with a lace pattern that is easy enough to pay attention to other things and still look fancy when done. It would also be a great first lace project. Here's some of the scarves:


The pattern:

      Cast on 56 stitches. I am using a size six straight bamboo. Any size 6 or so needle should do fine. Knit 7 rows in garter stitch. Continue to knit 7 stitches on both sides with the following gull stitch pattern in between:

Row 1: K1, K2 tog, yo, K1, yo, ssk, K1.
Row 2 and every wrong side row: K7, purl all other stitches, K7.
Row 3: K2 tog, yo, K3, yo, ssk.

Work until desired length (I used three balls of DK weight yarn - Capra from Knit Picks is pretty).
Knit 7 rows in garter stitch and cast off.

Here are some closer pictures of the pattern. Yell if you have any questions. I'll be posting later on tonight's bread experience.






October 24, 2013

5 Minute Bread (Part 3) or Hot Damn that bread is good!

I am now in day three of the artisan bread experiment and I could not be happier. Tonight I made the bread in my old French bread pan. I made it thin, like Baguettes. I took it out of the bowl in the refrigerator and cut it into two balls and stretched them gently to fit the pan.



Tonight instead of corn meal, since the book says it will impact the taste, I used parchment paper.


     I let the dough rest for about 45 minutes and baked it for 15 minutes. The taste of the bread was much more sour. The crust was soft and chewy (I rubbed it with a light coat of butter right out of the oven.)
     I have to say that I have made my own bread off and on for years using all kinds of methods and I have NEVER made a tastier loaf of bread than tonight. It is clear that the days spent in the refrigerator impacted the flavor. With one batch that I mixed originally, tomorrow will be the last of the pre-made dough and I wish I had made more. The huge bowl I used was full and I am seriously considering getting the buckets that are recommended on Amazon so that I can keep two batches of dough going. Not only will I bake bread almost every night now, but I would like to leave the dough for at least three days before I use it. The book cover says that this method revolutionizes home baking and I have to say that it is not an exaggeration.
     Anyone who knows me knows I can cook but not great, and I am not compelled to live in the kitchen like a really good cook would be. But I like good food without a lot of labor and so far these recipes are all they claim to be. The book has sweet bread recipes and those for rolls, pretzels (look out grandsons!) and fancy breads. I'll keep posting on this.

      Thanks for visiting!

October 23, 2013

Yes! Five Minute Bread! (Part Two)

      It's day two of the five minute bread experiment and today I'm very happy... and filled with bread. I did not try anything fancy with the dough yet. Knitting has taught me to get down the basics well and then get fancy. After spending the night in the refrigerator the dough was much yeastier and thus the bread was really tasty tonight. At about 4:30 I pulled another grapefruit sized ball off from the main dough and set it again to rise on the bread board on the cornmeal. At about 5:40 I put it in the oven, again on the cast iron skillet. I did not put the bowl of water in the oven when I pre-heated it in order to control the crust. I cooked it a bit less tonight, about fifteen minutes and pulled it out as soon as the bread sounded hollow when tapped with a wooden spoon. This time the center slash kind of popped opened, although I cut the slashes less deeply tonight.

 
      The cookbook had nothing that I found (I haven't read it all yet) that said how to make the crust softer and less crunchy, but I found hints online. One hint was to eliminate the steaming water in the oven, another was to rub the loaf with a tiny bit of butter as soon as the bread came out of the oven, which I did. The third hint suggested covering the bread with a towel while it cooled. I realized I had something better! A few years ago my knitting group all made biscuit blankets for our Thanksgiving rolls. It's a tiny knit blanket with a gathering string. This little loaf fit inside perfectly. I put my bread stone in the oven for a minute, put it in the bottom of the biscuit blanket and wrapped up the bread for about fifteen minutes until dinner.


 
The bread was perfect! Five minutes, seriously. No kneading. The crust was soft and chewy, just what I was after. I pulled a ball of dough out of the bowl and tucked it into a loaf. Other than putting it in and pulling it out of the oven I did practically nothing. Love it! Now I'm on to the next attempt. I have a French bread pan that's just dying for a pair of loaves in it.
Thanks again for visiting!
 
Here's the link to the biscuit basket in case you want to whip one up! (I know I'm way out of control!)

http://www.iliveonafarm.com/knittingpatterns.html

October 22, 2013

Five minute bread?


 
 
     I got a copy of the new artisan bread book today and I'm giving it a go. I love baking bread and with just my husband and myself, I have more time to bake, but it seems I never do. The old-fashioned way requires regular kneading throughout the day. So far this method (day one) is already more efficient. I do own a bread machine. I had a sweetie that baked great bread and I used it constantly. My squirrels were so fat in the yard they waddled. The bread was acceptable but the machine died. I got another machine and hated it. The bread came out like a brick and the racket the machine made far overpowered the lovely scent of freshly baking bread. I gave it away and tried my daughter's machine but it is no better. I am willing and eager to try this method.
     I have not bought all the tubs and mixing devices that Amazon recommended with the book. I might down the road but not until the bread proves itself.
     I am using bread machine yeast. It is what I had on hand but it has recently expired. I don't think it will kill anyone, and the dough is rising, but I did toss the jar. The flour is King Arthur (love it). I did not use my big monster mixer, though I might in the future. I stirred the ingredients with a wooden spoon and my hands a bit (no kneading) and put it in a huge bowl for a couple of hours, then two more hours in the refrigerator.
     The book says the dough is best when it's been around a bit. The rest of the dough mix can wait for another day. This baking method has you keeping pre-made dough in the fridge. You grab a ball about the size of a grapefruit as you need it. No baking every day for bread that night.


     Next I took out some dough as the recipe said and made it into a nice ball. It is now rising on a good dusting of corn meal. This all obviously took more than five minutes. It did however not take long at all to mix up the dough and shape the loaf, maybe fifteen including cleaning up the flour. Once the dough is made I'm sure you can get bread into the oven really quickly (not including rising time).



After about a half-hour I dusted the loaf with flour and slashed it with the great bread knife I have.

 
     Next it went into a pre-heated oven. In the oven I also put a stainless bowl of water to keep the air moist on the rack below the bread. I am baking the bread on a heated cast-iron skillet. I used the cutting board like a pizza board and, because of the corn meal, the loaf slid off pretty easily onto the hot skillet in the oven.
 
 
Forty minutes later the bread is done!
 
 
 
     Of course I had to try it hot out of the oven. It's really very good! The crust is very crisp and crunchy, the bread inside very moist and tasty and with my good knife it sliced easily and cleanly. I will read more of the book to see if there are instructions on controlling the crust. I'd like to be able to make it with a softer crust, although this is great. The bread is not very 'yeasty' or sour, as expected. I will bake another loaf in a few days to see how much the mixture has changed flavor. I'm very pleased! Watch for a posting about future loaves and other types of bread using this same method.
 
 
 
Thanks for reading! 


Here is a link to the book (This is not a paid endorsement) :

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1250018285/ref=oh_details_o04_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Romance, romance everywhere

     As anyone who reads my books knows, my imagination is very vivid. I have also always been fortunate to also have plenty of ambition. More than one person has told me that I must have forty-eight hours in my day.
     There are disadvantages to this, like all things. I find it hard to relax. I almost never turn on a television on my own and if I do sit down in front of TV I can't just sit there. I am rarely with idle hands. As a result my home is filled with projects, collections and bits of romance. It is where I live, dream and create. The following are some of the things I love. The pictures at the end of this posting are inspired by my grandson, Thomas. He is three and one day he decided he should count all the hearts in Grandma's house. The number surprised me. We got to 32 which was as high as Thomas could count.
__________________________

Bathroom curtains with strings of beads.


 
A dress mannequin that is ever changing.

 
Dining room pretties.

 
The tea pot came to me in the hospital filled with flowers and love.

 
A rescued piano, tuned and ready to play every day.

 
A cake under glass that is always perfect.

 
Breakfast room blues.


 
Ribbons and lace and iron art.

 
Toys on the mantel.


Applique quilt.

 
Wreaths in windows.


 
My handmade "Grandmother" clock.

 
Hand quilted.

 
Whole cloth done by hand.

 
I found this hook and put it to work.

 
_______________________________________
 
A few of the hearts at Grandma's house...






 
And wooden cherries from a gift topping.


 
Thanks for visiting!