Rainy day alternatives

I swear it seems longer than 40 days and 40 nights of rain. Well, chalk up another rainy weekend to the mix.

We were sorry to miss the market today, but our family needed us. There just wasn’t any way we could be there for them then harvest, clean and prep last evening for a morning market today. I guess sometimes ya just need a break.

But what to do? The list of garden chores is rather long and growing…but more rain pretty much delays the “must-dos” yet again. One can only do so much weeding before one gets discouraged by the endlessness of that task. So…what are some alternatives?

Being that we stayed in the burg for last night and today, I chose to tackle two tasks that are stress-free and rather enjoyable:

1) preparing for fall by starting some seeds

and

2) BAKING!

Ok, hopefully by now y’all understand that I/we love food. We love growing it, cooking it and eating it. I also rather enjoy baking it. I’ve been eyeing a recipe in our Cooks Illustrated – Cook’s Country magazine for weeks now…chocolate sugar cookies. I will cut to the chase. You will see no pictures of the process or of the results. Basically, my cookies were a fail for appearance (flat and spread out instead of round, cracked and plump), but they scored on taste. Too ugly to post but never too ugly to eat. I’ll have to work on these more to generate the result that looks like the recipe photo.

Bake take two – bread. I loooooooove homemade breads. Love them. And there is one book that I have that I cherish for bread recipes:

Best bread book

Best bread book!

And my favorite recipe in this book of consistently good bread recipes is:

Challah!

Challah!

The secret to good Challah is to definitely use honey rather than plain ole granulated sugar. Anyway, the process starts by mixing your yeast, honey, warm water, salt and a little flour to form the active base.

The yeast base

The yeast base

Then you stir in the remaining flour with a wooden spoon. Yes, I am sitting on the floor to do this as it requires a little oomph. I also am using my great grand-ma’s stainless bowl (YaYa Varlas) that she used for making bread back in her day. Not seen are the four-legged helpers (Wonder Dogs wondering if this was a bowl they got to lick) stalking me and my bowl.

Adding flour

Adding flour

Next is the critical part of bread making…the kneading. Must be soft and springy.

Kneading

Kneading

Please try to overlook my man-hands.

After the necessary kneading, the dough goes into a large bowl coated with cooking spray (toss in then turn over so both sides are coated), is covered with plastic wrap and a clean towel then allowed to let the yeast do its thing to make the dough rise and double in size.

Dough in a greased bowl

Dough in a greased bowl

Covered dough

Covered dough

Then…you go do something else. Like start seeds for fall planting. Here is what is going on in the basement:

Broccoli starts

Broccoli starts

Cabbage starts

Cabbage starts

An experiment with cauliflower

An experiment with cauliflower

So, a lot of brassicas are underway (broccolis, cabbages, brussels sprouts, kohlrabi) and some summer lettuce was planted today (since I can’t do it out in the fields at the moment).

Trying pelleted lettuce seeds

Trying pelleted lettuce seeds

I am already in love with the pelleted lettuce seeds! Well, worth the extra amount it costs. Can’t wait to see how the pelleted carrot seeds are. Anyway, some of the fall crops that we are planning to try are underway in the basement. It is a much friendlier environment than the field is at the moment. Ahem.

So, after some work in the basement. Wash up and take a peak under the towel. Ta-da:

Dough doubled and then some!

Dough doubled and then some!

The dough is ready! I like to do as the recipe suggests and make braids. Punch the dough to deflate it then turn it out onto a lightly floured surface (for all the flour I have used all-purpose). To form the braids, divide the dough into 3 equal (as best you can) portions. Pinch the ends to seal then work the strands to form a braid.

Dividing dough

Dividing dough

Forming braid

Forming braid

Once the braids are formed, place the loaf onto a greased (cooking spray) baking sheet. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest (will rise a little more). Brush with rich egg glaze (whole egg lightly mixed with half-n-half) and top with poppy seeds (my favorite because of the color and crunch) or sesame seeds.

Ready for egg glaze

Ready for egg glaze

Egg glaze

Egg glaze

Sesame and poppy seeds

Sesame and poppy seeds

The loaves are ready for baking. Pre-heat the oven to 350. Put the loaves on the lower racks of the oven. We are lucky to have a double oven, so all loaves got baked at once. They bake for around 40-45 minutes or until they turn golden brown. A secret I use to ensure moist bread yet a nice crust is to throw a couple of ice cubes in the oven (bottom) just before I close the oven door.

Adding ice

Adding ice

Try your best to endure the amazing smell that will be coming from your kitchen for the next 40 minutes or so….

Then….

Golden brown crust Golden brown

Ta da – golden brown crust and a heavenly aroma. Remove from the oven and allow the loaves to cool, if you can stand it.

IMG_0785Oh crap. Ignore the flat cookies in the first photo. Focus on that luscious Challah loaf! Once it cools, she will be moved to the wire rack. It will get cut while it is still warm….we are never able to wait for complete cooling. There is just something about hot bread out of the oven with melted butter that is just too good.

So pretty and guaranteed to be delicious. That recipe (actually the whole book) is a must for all bread bakers. Give it a try! You will agree. Now I must be off to make sure that all of the loaves are, cough, edible.

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