Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Carrot Bread and Olive Spelt Bread

I want to start this post by thanking everyone who sent wishes to me and my family after the passing of Mom O, such support always lifts the spirits. Things are beginning to return to normal, if they were ever normal anyway! The garden is beginning to shape up, the bees are buzzing and spring is in the air.

This time for our bread baking challenge we made Carrot Bread and Olive Spelt Bread. I have to say I really liked both of these breads. Check out what the other bakers did with the recipes and our esteemed leader Michelle at her blog Big Black Dog.

First the carrot bread; it was great, and just sweet enough but with great yeasted bread quality. It was very good with cream cheese, and toasted with butter, forget about it! I took all the dough from the ½ recipe and used it to make one big loaf. It seems that most of the ½ recipes don’t make enough dough to fill the pan twice, but using it all made a nice loaf. I had enough to share and I did! Everyone loved it and I certainly will make it again.

I had a few stumbles with the Olive Spelt bread. Focaccia was calling to me, so I oiled up my sheet pan and spread out the very wet and sticky dough, let it rise, dimpled, sprinkled with kosher salt and baked. The smell was amazing; it looked amazing, but was absolutely glued to the pan. It took me about 3 days to chisel it out. I thought that I had put enough olive oil on the pan and the dough to keep it from sticking. Wrong! Not to be deterred, I whipped up another batch of dough and this time just shaped it as usual and put it on parchment paper on my pizza peel. It spread out quite a bit. Once again it smelled fantastic and came off the stone looking great. I let it cool and sliced it and it was delicious! I love olives. Next time I’m going to add some garlic to the dough, shape it as a baguette and make bruschetta. Fresh tomatoes, onions, basil, olive oil, more garlic, piled on top, wait I have to wipe the drool off the keyboard!

Now, I have a confession to make. I miss kneading. The rhythmic motion of turning the dough over and over, feeling it come alive in your hands, smelling it, seeing the blisters start to form on the surface. So, I made my favorite challah dough and did a six strand braid. Ah, desire calmed.

The weather today is gorgeous, so enough time sitting here at the keyboard. Garden work is calling, the bees are calling, so until our next bread adventure together, happy baking.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Avocado-Guacamole and Pesto Pine Nut Breads

My Avocado Guacamole bread for this assignment was a big hit. The tomato and avocado made the bread very moist and tasty. I was afraid that the dough would be very sticky, but it was very easy to work with. When I made the 1/2 recipe I still used the whole garlic clove, because, really, can you have too much garlic? I thought the bread was really good with a smear of cream cheese.

The pesto pine nut bread was also one of my favorites, but then again, garlic, basil, well you get the picture. After reading Michelle's blog about making a baguette, that's what I decided to do also. Very nice. Thanks Michelle! I made the dough with walnuts, because they were on hand and I think they were a great substitution for the pine nuts. Yummy, Yummy bruschetta.

Unfortunately MJOL's mother passed last Thursday and we've been a little preoccupied around here. Mom "O", as she like to be called, was a formitable woman, and a typical Irish Catholic matriarch. Her strength was only outshined by her grace. She was commited to her family, church and neighborhood and will be sorely missed. Luckily her passion for those commitments and our city was passed on to her five children. We all take strength knowing that we now have a very special angel guiding our paths.

As I often do in times like this, I turn to baking. It calms my soul and gives me peace. I made 2 loaves of braided bread to share with our family, made with honey from our hives. Mom O was so very proud of the community garden and insisted that we give her 2 bears of honey, one to eat and one to save. That saved honey bear was sent with her on her final journey yesterday.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh sí

I'm looking forward to our next baking adventure.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Gardening and Beekeeping

So our next 8 raised garden beds are being installed next week in the community garden. That makes a total of 24. Last year we had 16. I am taking on a bed this year and am going to try the square foot gardening thing. The beds are 4 feet by 8 feet so they are the perfect size. I'm planting petunias, marigolds, okra, peppers, eggplant, basil, rosemary, tomatoes and cucumbers. My seeds were all delivered wednesday, and obsessive compulsive as I am, I already have my planting guide all figured out. Starting my pentunias indoors today!

We started our weekly work parties for the garden last week also. We need to prepare the hoop house for the gardners to use for starting seeds. The raspberry beds need to be cleaned out and we hope to add 3 more bushes. We hope to put up 2 more bat houses, work on our bulb bed, and compost bins. We are partnering with a local school and the 7th and 8th graders are going to have classroom instruction in the garden twice a week. We are really excited because these are urban kids who really haven't had a chance to see how the plants, the earth, the bees etc interact. We are also partnering with a local Eagle Scout troop and they are going to identify native plants, create a meditaion area, install some walking paths and create a bird sanctuary for us.

This weekend the temperatures are supposed to be close to 60 so it's time to start beehive inspections. I afraid that we may have lost another hive over the winter. It seems that everyone I've talked to has lost at least half of their hives over this winter.

We would like to go up to 5 hives this year, so we may have to start either 3 or 4 more depending on what I find on inspections tomorrow. Starting a hive is an interesting process. We order a mated queen and 3 lbs of bees (about 10,000) for each hive that we want to start. The queen and bees are installed in the hive and then you hope that your beekeeping skills are up to par. Once the hive is established and healthy (An established healthy hive has about 50,000 bees)it can last for years, with periodic queen replacement and maintenance. Bee society is amazing and will always keep you humble.

Last year we got about 60lbs of honey from our hives. Our first harvest in June was entered in the Kentucky State Fair and won 1st place in our catagory (light amber). Very exciting stuff. We should be so lucky this year!