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Cooking Day [Jun. 30th, 2009|09:14 am]
[Current Mood |awake]

With the promise that it may not reach 100F today,  and the realization that there's only one slice of homemade bread left, today has been declared Bread Day and Cereal Day.  (There's also only a half cup of my cereal mix left in the jar.)   Many other chores await, but Bread Will Happen.

Cereal Day is the easier to accomplish...the big soup pots come out and I start mixing the four base cereals, seeds, and nuts, then put the mix into the cereal jars (old one-gallon storage jars) and whatever's left in big plastic bags.  After years of being a one-plain-cereal eater, last year in New Zealand I finally gave in to the lure of mixed cereals and realized I could make my own.  Luckily our local supermarket chain has come out with a store brand of the four basic components. 

Bread Day will go better this week, as I found the cookbook with my other bread recipes (it had migrated over to Richard's computer desk, not entirely sure why.)  The last time I made bread, I could make only the kind  I know by heart.  Today?  Hmmm.   The different bread doughs behave differently in the presence of variable humidity.  But I have some pine nuts in the refrigerator that have been there long enough...so I think it's back to the brown bread with stuff added in.

One of the things I like about bread is its forgiving nature when it comes to cooks' errors.   If you keep the yeast happy and remember the salt (even very late in the game) the bread will smell and taste wonderful.  (My mother once left the salt out by accident...that bread ended up as part of turkey stuffing, where extra salt could be added.)   Keeping the yeast happy is really pretty easy--don't kill it with heat and don't starve it.   Some bread cookbooks (and cooking shows) make bread sound scarier than it is, with warnings about "too much flour" and "kneading too much" --which, when you're a novice, are no help, because you don't yet have a feel for the dough. 

I find yeast bread easier than quick-breads or cakes using other "rising" ingredients, for instance....those depend on very accurate measurements and if your baking powder (for those that use baking powder)  isn't new enough (which you can't tell by looking)  the thing won't rise.  Or, if you make a mistake (the memory of  the gingerbread tree that was supposed to be the dessert for a family dinner at Christmas--in which, having doubled the recipe, I manage to halve the baking powder and baking soda, lives on as a warning... the stuff was flat, hard as a paving stone, and inedible--even the birds wouldn't eat it until it had been softened by rain.  We had nailed it to a tree.)   For instance, to change my usual white bread recipe to a holiday recipe (richer, sweeter) you almost double the amount of sugar and increase the shortening by 50%.  Once you've learned how to feel the dough, you can tinker with amounts to counter changes in the weather (more flour on warm, humid days; less on cold, dry days. )  And if you're off a little, the bread is a little less perfect. 

I should also pull a roast out of the freezer and start it thawing. 

So why am I sitting here typing away about what I'm going to do, instead of when I've done it?  It's one of those commitment things.  Having told the world I'm going to mix the cereal and bake the bread and get that roast out...I'm more likely to do it.

Farewell, adieu, vaya con Dios, I'm outta here.


[User Picture]From: lisa_bouchard
2009-06-30 02:46 pm (UTC)
Today is bread and muffins day here as well. Fortunately for us, the weather is 61 and foggy. This is not a normal summer - not even for New England.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2009-06-30 03:45 pm (UTC)
We've run 10 degrees F. above average temps all through June. We're already six inches behind in rainfall for this year alone--cumulatively, we're getting close--if we haven't surpassed--30 inches below normal counting last year and this year. And the drought started four or five months back into 2007.

"Normal" is changing.
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[User Picture]From: fair_witness
2009-06-30 03:24 pm (UTC)
I hope you're getting some of this rain we're currently enjoying.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2009-06-30 03:43 pm (UTC)
Not yet. I have hopes, though. Richard said there was a little sprinkle as he came in from checking the wildlife water, but it was a "Texas one-inch rain" (for non-Texans, that means the drops are one inch apart. A Texas six inch rain means they're six inches apart...)

Glad for anyone who's getting some, but would sure like some here.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2009-06-30 03:59 pm (UTC)
Cereal mixing's done. I make enough for a month at a time, so it means a lot of mixing (and chopping of nuts, and today I ran out of walnuts--eeep!)

Nobody's asked for my recipe, which is fine, but here it is anyway (mwah-hah-hah-hah...)

Equal amounts of Cheerios (tm) or another toasted oat cereal of the same shape (HEB makes their own brand of same), raisin bran, Wheat Chex (or another similar cereal: HEB makes their own brand), and rolled oats (not the quick-cooking, the regular rolled oats.) To that add a much smaller amount (but equal of these ingredients) of raw, unsalted pumpkin seeds, raw, unsalted sunflower seeds, and chopped (by me--the "pieces" are less expensive) walnuts.

My present amounts are a big box of the HEB toasted oat cereal, a big sack of the HEB raisin bran, two boxes of Wheat Chex or equivalent HEB brand. That's approximately four quarts of each base cereal (I don't worry about it not being exact--it's close enough.) Then 4 cups each of the pumpkin seed, sunflower seed, and chopped nuts (or less, if you don't like that much. I use half that sometimes, and anything in between, just to vary the flavor balance.) This fills four gallon glass storage jars, plus a little (I have smaller glass storage jars, too.)

There are dozens (or more) recipes for making your own cereal mix and I claim no special virtue for mine, other than I like it.

Now for the bread.
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[User Picture]From: allaboutm_e
2009-06-30 04:54 pm (UTC)
You're a braver woman than I. I try to avoid all thing involving heated ovens at this time of year as much as possible...
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[User Picture]From: litch
2009-06-30 05:10 pm (UTC)


I've been making granola lately, love the stuff but never thought about making it myself till I went broke.

After a couple of mistakes (burned oat brittle is not so appetizing) I've finally got the hang of it and I'm really enjoying it.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2009-06-30 05:18 pm (UTC)

Re: granola

I've never made actual granola, and I've never been completely sure what's involved...want to share your experiences?

My homemade cereal's impetus was a combination of things--it got harder and harder to find plain bran flakes, and all the raisin brans are, by themselves, too sweet. Then there was the example of a hotel cereal mix in NZ, which a) was clearly a mix of single-type cereals and b) tasted good and c) had little bowls of additional stuff you could add (which I tried.) And then when I got home, the similar mixes for sale were outrageously expensive in small boxes. The penny dropped: I started trying out various combinations of inexpensive cereals I could get in big boxes or bags, and the seeds and nuts I'd been putting in my bread, to increase the fiber content.

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[User Picture]From: litch
2009-06-30 06:00 pm (UTC)

Re: granola

granola in its simplest form consists of rolled (old fashioned) oats, honey and vegetable oil, mixed together and then baked.

I've been playing around with different proportions and find that 3c oats, 0.5c honey, and 0.25c oil is a good place to start. A lot of my experimentations has been various honey adjuncts and & replacements like molasses, brown sugar, & maple syrup (i.e. stuff in my cupboard).

Mix together and than spread fairly thinly (~0.25 in) across a parchment lined half sheet pan and bake in a low 325°ish oven for 15-20 minutes. It's important to check and stir every 5 minutes or so, it likes to burn around the edges.

So far my favorite recipe is 1/3 cup special:
3 & 1/3 c oats
2/3 c wheat bran (adds nutrients and helps things stick together)
1/3 c safflower oil (I'd use a nut oil if I had any)
1/3 c honey
1/3 c molasses (more nutrients)
1/3 c turbinado sugar
3 pinches of salt

Nuts can be added during cooking, but dried fruit should be added after cooking. I can't afford either at the moment, but if my pecan produces this year (and it's still my pecan) I'm planning to use some of them.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2009-06-30 06:18 pm (UTC)

Re: granola

Sounds good, though it has more sugar (in one form or another) than I want to have right now. Better than some of the "granola" bars I've seen in stores--I did get one, for emergency food on a long trip, and it did not inspire me toward granola for several years. I think it must've been half artificial flavoring.

I hope your pecan is still your pecan and bears well.
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From: 6_penny
2009-06-30 10:22 pm (UTC)

Re: granola

I hardly put any sweetener into my granola. Which how varies according to my mood. The base is the rolled oats, olive oil and (maybe) a dab of honey, then some oat bran goes in chopped nuts -last time I found that I was out of almonds and punted with whatever I had in the cupboard. Pepitas and/or sunflower seeds can go in, some people use coconut. A scoop of cinnamon and maybe some vanilla and into the oven, stirring every ten minutes or so until it is tanned. Let cool and add dried fruit. Recently I've been indulging in dried Montmorency Cherries.
The hard bit is not scarfing it up in vast amounts after smelling it as it bakes.
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[User Picture]From: jerusha
2009-06-30 09:46 pm (UTC)

Re: granola

I've never actually made it myself, but here's the transcript of Alton Brown's episode on Granola and Power Bars. (Today seems to be my day for posting links to the Good Eats Fan Page.) I think his recipe is less sweet than litch's. And he gives nutritional information for the bars he makes in that show. (This is the full episode transcript; the straight recipes are available through the Food Network website.)
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2009-07-01 01:11 am (UTC)
Couldn't find a roast; remember now that I cooked most of those last winter (what we had of winter) and was saving steaks to put on the grill, except we have a burn ban and I don't want to risk starting a fire anyway.

So steaks. For sometime or other.

Meanwhile, the cereal's all done for another month and the bread...oh, the bread. Well...around here, Cook's Portion is the heel off a loaf whlie it's just *barely* cuttable, with butter. Oooooh, bread. And then Richard got a fat slice, and then I got a slice, and then he got another slice.

There were a few interesting bits about the making of said bread. I discovered (after starting) that I had only one tablespoon of yeast in the jar of yeast. I needed two. Looked in the drawer where I keep yeast packets. 1 packet of RapidRise with an expiration date in, um, 2005. 1 packet of non-RapidRise with an expiration date of 2002. With some trepidation, I put all the yeast in the proof bowl together, with extra sugar and a pinch of flour and hoped for the best. They were slow starting, but the 3 packets finally consented to produce enough oomph for the 3 loaves of bread.

I now have some nice *fresh* packets of yeast.
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From: 6_penny
2009-07-01 01:23 pm (UTC)
With bread, I usually follow Elizabeth David's advice in her wonderful bread book to use a teaspoonful instead of the whole packet, and start with a small sponge to build up the critical mass. The flavor is more interesting with the smaller amount.
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[User Picture]From: e_moon60
2009-07-01 01:44 pm (UTC)
How do you save the rest of the packet? I'd think it would be easier to use a jar of yeast if you only want to take a teaspoon at a time.

Every baker has his/her own ideas, which is why we have so many good bread books and so many recipes. And bread, being a very basic and forgiving food that has survived millions of cooks over the millenia since the first dough was slapped down on a hot rock, rewards the baker in just about any one of them.

I made all our bread for years, baking twice a week. I was never good with a sourdough starter (apparently, my ability to kill any houseplant transferred to starters, too. They come into my house and turn up their toes.)
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