Thursday, November 3, 2011

Fall in Oregon...

Half a mile from my house is Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge, home to much wildlife and a great hiking experience.
Things growing on things which are growing on other things which get the idea.

Blue Herons and Egrets are common here.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

No-Knead bread

I've never had very good luck with loaves of bread.  While tasty, they always come out a little bit heavy, not moist enough, or both.  Bread also requires a lot of work which, as a modern person used to modern conveniences, I am not really willing to do.

So what I need is to not knead.  Enter the no-knead bread method brought to the table by author and bread-baker Jim Lahey, who revolutionized bread by creating a method so easy, and foolproof that you could literally have fresh home-baked bread in your house every single day.  Without a bread machine or doing more than 5 minutes of actual labor.

The secret is time.  The bread dough is mixed and then left overnight to basically "knead" itself.  Then the dough is baked in a dutch oven to control the moisture and create a moist bread that still has a crispy crust.  Why not try it yourself?  Here is the original 2006 New York Times Article with the basic recipe:  No-Knead Bread.

The recipe is really easy to tweak yourself, or grab a copy of Jim Lahey's book with more no-knead and some sweet bread and other interesting recipes:  My Bread.  There are also many recipes available on the internet, and many other books, too.  While a little primitive and simplistic, I think this method of bread-making will satisfy most people who are tired of flavorless and expensive store-bought bread but who also have no time or patience for cooking.  I'm not a bread-baker, but I do love this recipe.  It's great and leaves you enough time to find your next great cooking adventure.

So how does the bread turn out?  I'll let the pictures tell you themselves:

My first loaf, still in the pot.  I replaced some of the bread flour with 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour to make it a bit healthier.

As the bread cools and the crust shrinks, it makes a fun crackling noise that the book calls "singing".

Amazingly lofty, not heavy at all for home-baked bread!  We've already made sandwiches with handmade charcuterie purchased  from Elephant's delicatessen here in Portland. 

Loaf #2, baked with 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour plus amaranth, sesame seeds, oatmeal and other grains for bite and flavor.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween. Things on fire.

Last day of October today.  What does that mean?  A lot of things.  Its my Dad's birthday, for one.  It's also a holiday.  You may have heard of it...Halloween.

In the United States at least, Halloween means Jack-O-Lantern carving.  Cookies, roasted pumpkin seeds (from that Jack-O-Lantern), candy and costumes, Trick-or-treaters.

November is also the start of the cold part of the year, to me anyway.  November and December are really dark months, especially considering here in the Northwest it's cloudy most of the fall and winter months (though, oddly enough I am looking out my skylight at blue skies with puffs of clouds right now.  Don't be jealous, it won't last).  This stove came with the house.  What is it?

It's a wood pellet stove.  Not a wood-burning stove that uses logs, because I would have enjoyed that.  No, this stove gets filled with what is essentially feline pine.  It makes an annoying noise.  But it is warm and the cats LOVE it.  I'm not sure if it's because cats like the destructive power of fire.  Or warmth.  Or maybe the stove, which has four legs and makes a similar sound to a purring cat, seems like one of them.  They love to sit in front of it and watch the flames dance.  One night, we left it on very late, with the door to our room open. That night, Furball slept on top of me all night, purring loudly, just to tell me how happy he was that the stove was on.  Supposedly, however, it is very efficient, the pellets take up no space, and the stove is smokeless, which is good for your lungs.  I'll get used to the thing, I'm sure.

On another note, I've had a visitor lately:


This is my dear, sweet Priscilla.  Well not mine.  She belongs, according to her tag, to the Sailer residence at 8515 8th.  Her meow is really strange; she sounds like a creaky door.  At least once a day, usually in the morning or just after dark, she shows up to get treats and curl up on my porch furniture.  Yesterday she got a third of a can of cat tuna.  I'm sure this means she'll never leave.  Sometimes she finds her way inside, but Balloon and Furball chase her off.  I wonder what her family will think when she gets really fat from all the treats she's been eating here.

Next time:  The virtues of No-knead bread.  I'll leave you with this year's Jack-o-lantern.  I'm sure you recognize the fluffy shape.