Saturday, January 19, 2008

land of bread and honey

Christmas Eve we did a grab bag gift exchange (with a fun little game that involved stealing gifts etc). Mark's dad, Everett, and Marlene brought jars of honey made in Rochester, Minnesota, as their grab bag gifts. Mark ended up with one (yay! way to go, Mark!!). This honey is sooooo good - and as a bonus, it qualifies as locally grown food. Later Marlene told me to check out their website, Johnston Honey, because they have their beautiful gardens featured on the site. I've been checking them out, and they are indeed beautiful. So I thought I should share them with my blogger friends - especially because so many of you, like me, are looking at snow and/or cold instead of lovely flowers right now. I couldn't see that they have a slideshow feature, so the site is kind of cumbersome to use, but well worth the time. Let me know what you think.

Today (and for the next few days) we are hovering right around zero for highs, so I made homemade vegetable soup and crusty rolls for tonight's dinner. The rolls look really good, and I may have to sneak one before dinner time! But I wanted to show you the breadboard Mark made me. I read (was it in Artisan Bread??) that the best way to store cut crusty bread was with the cut side down on a breadboard. One night last week we had to go out for awhile, and I couldn't leave the bread on the pullout breadboard because Mr Kobie would have helped himself to it while we were gone. So I told Mark I needed a small breadboard that I could set back on the counter. Two days later I had this lovely board. He used maple and walnut to make it, and it is beautiful. He's taking over the garage with his woodshop, but I'm thinking it might not be a bad thing! :)
Hope you all are surviving this cold weather (or enjoying the warm temps if that's your reality!!). I'm hoping to get back into the blogging stuff soon.

Friday, January 11, 2008

restocking what melted

We've been enjoying some warm temps which means melting snow. But tonight it's being replenished. The dogs came in covered in big fat flakes. Kobie was nice enough to pose for me. By the time I got the camera it was melting fast, but he was such a good sport, let's let him think he was still covered in white.

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: How-To

Another interview with Zoe and Jeff making the bread.

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Here's a video that shows the authors of the 5 minute a day bread making it. Simple!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

grumpy old men, a loaf of bread, and ziti

This was a corner of our lake last weekend. We've been enjoying some nice temps - and everyone is out taking advantage of it. We regularly see ice fishermen, snowmobilers, and cross-country skiers. The great lazy dogs love having all of this activity to bark at - I think they're saying, "Come open the gate - we'll play with you!"

This was my third loaf of bread. I used parchment paper on the peel and stone, and I think it came out perfect. No burnt cornmeal, nice crust, and the taste is out of this world. My dough has been sitting in the fridge now for a week - and this loaf I definitely noticed a slight sourdough taste. Very nice.

Tonight I made baked ziti with roasted tomatoes from my garden (via the freezer!) and mozzarella. It was divine. For whatever reason, I've been in a cooking and baking mood lately - it can't last, but nice for right now!

Monday, January 7, 2008

a walk at the Arb

Thanks for all of your comments about the bread I'm experimenting with. I didn't bake any over the weekend or today, but will let you know how the next loaf comes out. We've been enjoying some really nice weather (for winter in Minnesota!!), so today I went to the Arb for a walk. I walk there year round - it's good for my soul. Here are a few of the beautiful things I saw.

These are some of the holiday/winter containers they display. A lot of them are made by area garden centers and designers. In the visitor center they had several trees displayed over the holidays - they were all decorated with natural materials - dried hydrangea, seed heads, pinecones, ornaments made from bark, etc. They were very fun to see - lots of great ideas to try and remember to use next year here at home!

These two photos are from the Japanese garden area. In nicer weather, the area in the bottom photo has a pond and waterfall - and koi swimming around. Very pretty and peaceful.

The tree stump you see next to the treehouse was a huge old oak tree. It and a former treehouse were damaged in a big storm a few years ago. They rebuilt the treehouse and retained the stump, kind of as a tribute to the wonderful tree that was there. I used to sit in the treehouse on nice spring days and read a book or write in my journal. It was fun. Maybe sometime I'll be taking my grandson to play in it!!

Look how pretty these red dogwoods are against the white snow.

Is there anything more grand in the northern winter landscape than beautiful, big evergreens?

I thought this stand of ornamental grass was pretty too - you can see the seeds.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

I found the bread recipe that I'm experimenting with published on a local TV website. So, here is what they published. The book starts with this basic dough recipe and also has tons of other doughs that follow the same basic principles. The book is "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day" by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. Their website is

Master Recipe Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: the Discovery that Revolutionizes Home Baking (Thomas Dunne Books / St. Martin?s Press, Nov 2007)

The full recipe as it appears in the book provides more detail, but most home bakers will be able to get a start on five-minute a day homemade bread with this short version of the recipe.

Preparation time: 15 minutes to prepare enough dough for four loaves, to be baked over four days. Each daily loaf will average 5 minutes of active preparation time.Makes four 1-pound loaves

3 cups lukewarm water (about 100ยบ F)
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher or other coarse salt
6 1/2 cups all-purpose white flour (no need to sift)
Cornmeal for the pizza peel.

In a 5-quart bowl, mix the yeast, water and salt. Add all the flour, then use a wooden spoon to mix until all ingredients are uniformly moist. It is not necessary to knead or continue mixing once the ingredients are uniformly moist. This will produce a loose and very wet dough.
2.Cover with a lid (not airtight). Allow the mixture to rise at room temperature until it begins to collapse, about 2 hours, but no more than 5 hours.
3. After rising, the dough can be baked immediately, or covered (non completely airtight) and refrigerated up to 14 days. The dough will be easier to work with after at least 3 hours refrigeration.
4. On baking day, prepare a pizza peel by sprinkling it liberally with cornmeal to prevent the bread from sticking when you transfer it to the oven. Uncover the dough and sprinkle the surface with flour. Pull up and cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit-size) piece of dough (serrated knives are best). Store the remaining dough in the bowl and refrigerate for baking at another time.
5. Hold the mass of dough in your hands and add a little more flour as needed so it won't stick. Create a smooth ball of dough by gently pulling the sides down around to the bottom, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go. While shaping, most of the dusting flour will fall off. The bottom of the loaf may appear to be a collection of bunched ends, but it will flatten out during resting and baking. Shaping the loaf this way should take no more than 1 minute.
6.Place the dough on the pizza peel. Allow the loaf to rest for about 40 minutes. It does not need to be covered. The bread may not rise much during this time.
7. Twenty minutes before baking, place a pizza stone on the center rack of the oven. If you don't have a baking stone, use another baking sheet. Remove any upper racks. Place a broiler pan on a rack below the pizza stone or on the floor of the oven. Preheat oven to 450 F.
8. When the dough has rested for 40 minutes, dust the top liberally with flour, then use a serrated knife to slash a 1/4-inch-deep cross or tic-tac-toe pattern into the top.
9.Slide the loaf off the peel and onto the baking stone. Quickly but carefully pour 1 cup of hot water into the broiler tray and close the oven door.
10.Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is nicely browned and firm to the touch. Allow the bread to cool completely, preferably on a wire cooling rack.

(I do the original mix with a Kitchen Aid mixer)
What I like about this recipe over the No-Knead recipe is that you make enough for 4-8 loaves at one time - let it rise about 2 hrs - stick it in the refrigerator - and then make the bread by the loaf over the next 14 days. Each day that you make a loaf, you take less than a minute to shape the loaf and let it rise for up to 40 minutes - and bake for about 30 minutes. My experience with the No Knead was that our house is too cool in the winter, and it took over 30 hours to rise - and I had to do that for each loaf.

I still have some kinks to work out before I'm completely sold on this - but so far, I'm thinking it might be a winner.

If you're interested in the No Knead bread, Kitt has an excellent step-by-step post at

sunrises and bread

Thank you so much for all of your kind and encouraging comments about our new family member. When April rolls around, you'll be hearing every detail, I'm sure! I foresee many trips to Seattle in my future this next year - I can't wait to welcome this sweet baby boy into our family in person.

This was part of our sunrise yesterday - it was stunning. The sky was maybe even prettier later - but the wind was blowing like 100 mph at the time - and after I took this photo I was frozen!! It did turn out to be a fairly nice day - and today looks even better. When I finish posting this, I'm heading down to the Arb for a walk.

I have been trying to catch up on my blog reading - I have to read every single post I've missed, so if I haven't left you a comment yet, never fear - I'll be there! Mark even loaned me his laptop so I could sit by the fireplace or look out over the lake while I'm catching up. What a sweetie! You all have been busy - it's so fun to see all of your holiday decorations and celebrations - thanks for sharing with me!

I'm baking bread - a couple people who live here in Minneapolis have put out a new cookbook - Bread in 5 Minutes a Day - or something like that. It's similar to the No-Knead bread - but really much quicker. This was my first loaf - I was supposed to shape a 1 lb glob of very wet dough - they said about the size of a grapefruit. I only pulled the size of a peach. Oops. However, even though it wasn't a great loaf, we enjoyed it - the flavor was very good. I made French onion soup from scratch - and it was lovely with the bread and shredded Swiss cheese.

This morning I pulled the right amount of dough, but it stuck to the peel when I tried to put it on the baking stone - so it's very misshapen. And then I was blogging when it should have come out of the oven, so a little - well, BLACK on the bottom. I'm pretty sure I'll find a way to eat most of the loaf anyway! lol My big question to you bread bakers out there: I'm supposed to generously sprinkle corn meal on the baking stone - but it burns - so my house smells like burnt cornmeal instead of fresh baked bread. The bread isn't burned (if I pull it out at the right time!), but I was kind of hoping more for the smell of baked bread! What am I doing wrong?? I'm open to suggestions. In the meantime, I'm going to keep experimenting - and reading - and I'll keep you posted.

holiday reading

Looks like I've actually put away quite a few books since I last posted a list. The first was "Into the Wild" by Jon Krakauer. I read "Into Thin Air" several years ago and had mixed feelings about it when I was done. I felt the same with this book. It was interesting - but...

I have the movie on my Netflix list - it will be available in February - and maybe reading the book will give me a better appreciation of the movie - or vice versa. I think maybe it's that his writing is very intense, and I feel totally drained when I'm done.

"The View from Mount Joy" by Lorna Landvik was good. Landvik is from the Twin Cities, so I have a built-in interest in her books. I don't think she's the best author I read - but I usually enjoy reading her. This was like that - yeah, read it - but don't expect it to be the highlight of the year for you. (Wow - makes you wonder why I'm doing this post, doesn't it????)

Now, William Kent Krueger, I'm totally into. I have the next two Cork O'Connor books sitting on my little table - I can't wait to get at them. He tells a really good tale - and I totally love all of the Native American info he includes.

This is the third Baldacci book I've read - and I'm a fan. This was a really good one. Mark has read two of them and likes them also.

This is the second in a trilogy by Louise Penny - "A Fatal Grace" - I love her books!!! I love the people in her stories - I love the little town she sets her stories in - READ THESE!!! I just received an email notice from our library that her third book is on order - they're only getting 7 copies, but I am number 3 on the list - yay!! I can't wait.

This is the first book I've read by Jodi Picoult - but now she's on my radar. "My Sister's Keeper" was a great book - parts were very hard to read - parts were so uplifting. It's a story of a family whose second child develops a rare form of leukemia - and basically they choose to have a "designer baby" to help her. I can't imagine the choices families have to make when they're faced with this - but this book deals with it beautifully.