Archive for September, 2012


Success!

My sourdough starter had been going crazy this week – growing to the top of the jar on a daily basis, really crying out “bake with me”. So I set out to try sourdough again and see if I could succeed with the previous undercooked loaf from last weekend (see previous post). I am very pleased to report that I did and the results were worth the wait! With absolutely no commercial yeast, I was able to create two sourdoughs – one half white/half wholemeal and the other a pumpkin & linseed loaf (as an experiment). Both rose (after a very patient wait for almost a full day), and the taste is just fantastic!

Well the sun is out, so I’m now heading out into the garden. But trust me, right now – you wish you were here eating this bread.

From disaster last week, to success this week!
Half white/half wholemeal

Pumpkin & linseed loaf

I’m hoping the answer is no, however my freezer may now disagree with me…

Gearing up for the spring overhaul, it was time to remove the last of the winter crops to make room for new spring seedlings. After I removed a few spent broccoli, I was amazed to find how mulch celery I had growing! I remember planting the seedlings out, but they seemed to do such a good job of hiding among the other veggies as they grew that I hadn’t realised how much celery I really had.

After debating with myself about how much I celery I could eat in a week (even for the most healthy eaters, realistically there’s definitely a celery limit) – the only solution was to freeze it.

I did this last year too and I found for me it’s the best way to keep celery. Cut into the size I would normally use for cooking – it’s so easy to just grab a bag out of the freezer ready to add to a meal.

To do this I blanch the cut up pieces for a minute and a half before placing it in ice water to stop the cooking process. I then bag it and voilà! Celery ready to use whenever I need. It sounds easy – but due to the amount of celery I had this process seemed to take hours! Worth it though, as I won’t need to buy celery for many months.

Although it’s not from my front yard, really one of my main aims is to try to be as self sufficient as I can – so over the past year I’ve been making my own bread. I had a bread maker prior to this, however I was never happy with the results (overcooked/undercooked & generally inconsistent). I took a bread making class with a friend last year – loved it & never looked back! I’ve found I get a lot more reliable results from making bread by hand, and I also find the kneading process quite fun (and a tad therapeutic!) Not only does the house smell great while the bread is baking but I also know exactly what is in, and more importantly, what is not in my bread.

After the class my friend and I both tried to make sourdough – and I have to admit I was pretty envious of the loaves she ended up with compared to my many, many bricks… The standard loaves seemed to work fine but I just couldn’t get the hang of sourdough and eventually I threw out my starter (leaven). I’m not quite sure what drove me to try again – but this week I thought I’d give sourdough another go. I started making the leaven last weekend and have been pretty good at feeding it every day (I may have been a tad neglectful last time). By this weekend it was looking pretty healthy.

My sourdough starter (leaven) showing signs of activity

Given all my previous failures I wasn’t sure which recipe to try, so I decide to try three different recipes & see what worked. I picked two white sourdoughs (which I ended up making as half white/half wholemeal) and a half white/half rye all from different recipes. I’d forgotten how long sourdough takes compared to standard bread – each requiring around 6 hours of proving time in total, but worth it in the end. Along the way I had my doubts that any were going to work, hoping for at least one – but all three rose!

Unfortunately when I cut them open this morning one white was undercooked, however the other white and rye worked really well. I’m so pleased I gave it another go and proved to myself that I can make bread from simple beginnings of flour and water. I might experiment around again in the next few weeks and see what else I can create. Spending all morning eating bread trying to work out which loaf came in at number one – probably the best part of the whole experiment…

Rye

White/wholemeal sourdough

Spring flowers

I haven’t managed to find as much time as I would have liked to get out into the garden lately (despite desperately waiting for spring to arrive), however even without my help the garden is creating its own little beautiful display of spring flowers. I have to chuckle to myself as the bulbs come up – it feels like it’s been so long since I planted them and already I’ve forgotten where I planted them. This leads to “oh yeah, I remember putting that there” type moments… a little more often than is probably normal for my age…

The first year I tried bulbs, I planted 2 tulips and a daffodil in a row picturing how lovely they all would look together once they flowered. To my bitter disappointment, each flower picked a different week in spring to flower and all were eaten by aphids and snails within 2 days. So I never had my nice display of bulbs I was hoping for. Angrily I remember saying to my Mum that “I’m never planting bulbs again!”… She just laughed and said “yes you will.” My Mum will also love it when I tell the world – she was right.

Gradually I think I’ve become a bit more savvy with bulbs – I tend to grab specials as I’ve found even if planted a bit late the majority will still flower.  I also now go for more robust types of bulbs that tend to flower for longer. Often mistaken for poppies by my neighbours, the ranunculi I’ve planted tend to give lots of bright flowers for weeks and weeks. They seem to have so much power for such little bulbs! Rather than standard tulips I’ve been trying to grab more unusual ones late in season when they’re on sale (e.g. this year I found parrot tulips for $1 each) – and almost all have flowered. Other highlights include the weeping cherry that’s starting to flower, the broad bean flowers (which most people wouldn’t count in their spring flowers but I particularly like them), the ever faithful nasturtiums as well as the blueberries which continue to flower. So the spring overhaul is yet to come – but for now, hope you enjoy what I’ve had the pleasure of looking at over the last couple of weeks.

My twin tulip

Parrot tulip

Nasturtium

Ranunculus

Ranunculus

Broad bean flowers

Cherry blossom in flower

I’m not the only one enjoying the spring flowers & sunshine…