Tuesday, January 27, 2015
In any case, it's a good day to bake some bread. Lately I've been pretty good about baking at least one or two loaves of this no knead bread every week. I've had success making more complicated artisan breads (like the one featured in Tartine), but for the moment, this easy no knead bread seems to fit our busy lifestyle.
A few years ago, I converted the New York Times recipe into weight measurements and tweaked it a bit. (You can find my original post here.) My version consists of a bit more water (sometimes I add even more than what's stated below) and some whole wheat flour. I like breads made from sticky doughs. More water means more hydration and the resulting bread is chewier and sponger in texture. I find that well-hydrated doughs also result in breads that are much easier to digest. In my opinion, this bread is well worth the little effort involved.
Basic No Knead Bread Recipe (adapted from The New York Times recipe)
380g bread flour
50g whole wheat flour (or an additional 50g bread flour)
360g water at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon of instant yeast (I use SAF)
1 1/4 teaspoon of salt
In a large bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients thoroughly with your hand, then add the water and continue mixing until a loose wet dough forms. Coat a second bowl with a bit of olive oil and transfer the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise slowly for at least 12 hours at room temperature. (The initial rest time is pretty forgiving so you can leave it for a couple hours longer if need be.)
At this point, with your hand, do 4 or 5 folds with the dough still in the bowl to shape it a bit. Then turn it onto a lightly floured surface. Flatten it just a bit and do a series folds (like you're folding an envelope) to tighten the dough's surface and form it into a ball. With the seam side down, cup the dough with both hands and lightly drag the ball towards you. Do a quarter turn and drag it again. With every turn and drag, the skin of the ball should tighten a bit. Do this several times until a tight skin forms all around the ball. (This part is important to ensure a nicely-risen loaf.)
Lay the ball seam-side up in a floured brotform, cover with a kitchen towel and allow it to rest for 2 hours. (Note: rice flour works great to prevent the dough from sticking to the brotform.)
When it's time to bake, preheat the oven and a cast iron combo cooker (or dutch oven) for 20 minutes at 450 degrees. Then carefully invert the dough onto the heated bottom pan (seam side down) and make a few slashes to the top. Cover the loaf with the top pan (or lid) and bake at 450 degrees for 30 minutes. Then uncover and bake the loaf for an additional 10 - 15 minutes or until it's golden brown.
Sunday, January 25, 2015
Friday, January 23, 2015
In this post, I'll be highlighting probably the biggest project of this fall - installing a garden path that runs along one side of our house. Eventually, this path will lead from the front lawn to our future backyard patio/outdoor living space. In this particular area, there used to be an ill-conceived low-lying deck, which was unceremoniously demolished shortly after we moved in. (You can read about it here.) After the rumble was carted away, what remained was a large patch of dirt, which then turned into a large patch of weeds and at times a large pile of brush destined for the burn pile. A year later, I decided that enough was enough and that something had to be done to make this area less of an eyesore. Over the span of two weekends, I went to work on installing a new garden walkway and two new flower bed. I won't bore you will the details, but here are a few photos of the project from beginning to end (or should I say, where it is now).
Saturday, January 17, 2015
In any case, Paige went on to say that during the course of doing some renovations on the house, they had found some letters, which had been tucked away in the eaves of the attic, and that these letters appear to date back to the original owners of our home. For a time, she considered giving them to the Scituate Historical Society, but now felt that it was appropriate to turn them over to us for safekeeping. I will admit that I was a bit shocked by this revelation and had to read these lines several times for it to sink in. I've always had an interest in American history (having majored in it at college) and in old homes, and to have a relic from the past, particularly of the people who once occupied our own home, seemed in many ways awesomely fortuitous and very special. To think that these letters remained undiscovered for over a hundred years, that they might offer us a small glimpse into the lives of the Newcomb family - it's beyond words to express how I excited I am about this.
We'd like to send the letters off to a professional to have them preserved in a shadowbox and maybe translated by someone accustomed to examining such things. Eventually, I'd like to display these artifacts in our study, as they remain part and parcel of this house. But for now, we've tucked away our treasures to some place dark, sealed and safe. I'd also like to pay a visit to the Scituate Historical Society to learn more about the Newcomb family and to see whether there might be other letters or documents out there.
Sunday, January 11, 2015
In any case, after breezing through a relatively mild December, January has predictably brought with it the sudden reminder of how frigid our New England winters can be. Temperatures fell to 0 degrees F this past week, which left me scrambling to protect some of our more vulnerable outdoor plants (like my oriental persimmon tree for instance). Any hopes that we would get through this winter unscathed is gone at this point. I can only hope that the next two months will be kind to us gardeners and our plants.
One thing I was able to do before the temperatures plunged last week was to dig up the bulk of my Jerusalem artichokes. This was my first time growing this edible tuber and the results were interesting to say the least.
In any case, I will undoubtedly be growing them again. However, I'll be moving the crop to an isolated raised bed to prevent any overly precocious tubers from escaping. I don't know of any other local gardeners who are growing Jerusalem artichokes, but I hope that some of you will give them a try. It's the lazy gardener's dream vegetable for sure. You just dig up the lot and leave behind 1 or 2 tubers for next year's crop. It couldn't get any simpler.