Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Peepers are here!

Thought I heard them late last night...they're definitely here in force tonight!

Geez...daytime highs pushing 80 all this week!  Haven't had the woodstove burning since maybe Saturday morning?  Fired up the propane grill to make this beauty this morning:

Saturday, March 17, 2012


My first attempt was...ugly.

 My second attempt though:
Had a frozen dough ball (the other half of the mix from the first attempt), which I put on the counter Friday then in the fridge overnight when I didn't get to baking it Friday.

Threw some wheat bran down on the stone, the dough spread very nicely by hand (much nicer then fresh). Spaghetti sauce, Parmesano-Reggano, Mozzarela, Pepperoni, and Sweet Sausage.

I lit the grill, set it to medium, put on the stone w/ pizza, took 25 minutes:   

Guessing about $3 worth of ingredients there...compared to the cost of pizza I'll make back the cost of the stone in about 10 pizzas.

I'll need to make up some dough balls to freeze so I have a ready-made supply!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

My first real bread!

Bought a cast iron Dutch Oven last weekend. Though it came factory seasoned, it's spent the last week on my woodstove as I'd periodically apply more peanut oil to season it more thoroughly.

Found this recipe/video, which while they made it in a Dutch Oven in a regular oven, I figured I'd try on my woodstove:

The recipe written down:

3 Cups flour
1/4 tsp Yeast
1-1/4 tsp Salt

Mix the dries together.

Mix in 1-1/4 cup water.

Let sit 12 hours.

Bake 30 minutes covered, 15 minutes uncovered.

My dough came out OK. Seemed a bit on the dry side; still had some flour that didn't get wetted. I may have been off on my guesstimate of 1/4 tsp yeast, too. But since I haven't used yeast at least since 8th grade Home Ec (and probably not even then)...figured it wasn't too bad for a first try :)

Got up at 7am and loaded the stove smaller "cook wood" I knew would get it hot, fast. Tended to my yogurt, did other morning stuff, and by 8:30 the dough had been rising for 12 hours and the Dutch Oven was hot:

First 30 minutes is lid on, the bread needs the steam from itself. Then 15 minutes cover-less:

The bottom burned, but the rest came out really good. One of the folks on Facebook said it was missing a glass of milk and some honey...gonna have to try that next time because that would've gone so well with the fresh bread for breakfast!

I think next time I'll take it off the woodstove at the 30 minute mark and leave to bake in the Dutch Oven on a pad. Or if I can find a trivet (wonder how long it would take Pam to notice one missing from her kitchen decorations...), once the Dutch Oven is hot, right before I throw in the dough put the trivet under it on the woodstove.

I'm figuring it used 60 cents of flour (3 cups of King Arthur bread flour @ $3.79/5#, about 4 cups to the pound), and maybe 5 cents of yeast and flour.

Crock Pot Yogurt

Was reading The Feast Nearby on my Kindle and the author had a recipe for making yogurt in the oven.  Hmmm, never thought of that before.

Bit more research I found "crock pot yogurt" which seemed even easier to make.  I have a little 1 Quart crock pot Karen gave me for Christmas (?) years ago that would be perfect for it.

First thing you do is heat the milk to 185º, which takes a couple hours.  This kills the existing bacteria, pasteurizing it.  You don't want to go much higher then 185º so watch the temperature!  Stir it once in a while when you check on it.  I used the aluminum foil to keep the candy thermometer standing upright.

For milk, I used a combination of raw milk from Baldwin Brook Farm in Canterbury and since I knew the the bottle only had a couple cups left I had picked up a half gallon of pasteurized, homogenized milk from Mountain Dairy in Mansfield (which sells through local convenience stores).  What you don't want is "ultra pasteurized" milk which has been heated to temps that break down the natural sugars.

Once it reaches 185º, take it out of the heater part of the crock pot and let it cool to 115º.  The yogurt bacteria are killed at 115º so it can't be warmer then that for this next step!

Once sufficiently cooled, I whisked in half a cup of Chobani yogurt as a starter.  Any yogurt with live cultures should do (and you can either use a bit of this batch for next week's batch, or freeze some for future starter use in the next few months!)

The bacteria (I guess "live culture" is the marketing term :) ) do best warmer then room temperature.  So put a lid on the crockpot, wrap it in a bath towel, and (optionally) pop it into a turned off oven for 8 to 12 hours to work their magic.

The next morning I have the whey (remember Little Miss Muffet eating her curds and whey?) on top.  I probably should've just poured it off, I instead made a mess squeezing it through a cheese cloth!  Oy.

It produced a little less then a quart of finished yogurt.  The plain yogurt is a bit more liquid then store-bought -- where they add other ingredients to stiffen the texture.  And it's very un-sweetened compared to flavored yogurts.  But add in some fresh fruit and granola and it's scrumcious.

I remember Papu trying to get me to eat something very similar to this -- I can't remember if he called it homemade yogurt or something else; I know he got a starter culture from one of his friends and then would keep it going during the summer. Since I used relatively expensive milk (raw and half-gallon convenience store) I worked my cost out to $3.15 for a quart.  Still cheaper then buying 6 ounce cups for a buck each, maybe about the price of a quart size of plain yogurt.