Monday, September 29, 2014

(Selfless) Fresh Apple & Seed Bread


Never has there been a more selfless loaf of apple bread in the whole of our family history.

In August Craig and I took to the Whole30 diet somewhat briefly, somewhat halfheartedly in hopes of resetting and perhaps discovering any food sensitivities we might have in the process. I expected to confirm my suspicions that sugar makes me feel terrible. (It does.) I wondered if I would find all that milk and butter I see dancing around Luella's head every time I look at her completely out of the question. (I did not. Our future milk cow remains Very Useful.) I however did not worry about grain. And yet. Here I am a month later newly identified as Grain Sensitive, Self Diagnosed. I feel crazy and still test my grain intolerance every few days, and every few days I watch the shape of my abdomen contort into that of someone 20 pounds heavier. I think, I must be making this up! Craig assures me I am not as I stand in front of the mirror for the hundredth time questioning the shifting dimensions of my body.

So here I am, in the land of apple breads and fall pies, trudging my way through the process of relearning how to feed myself and my family. And while I do find the prospect of a future without a decent sandwich in it hugely disappointing, I can't say enough for the newly added vitality to my life. I'm wary of going so far as to say I'm gluten free; it is a hysteria I'm not yet ready to align myself with. But I can say this: I have a severe physical reaction to grains, gluten specifically, and for now, I'm healthier without it. And so my apple loaf, from me to you. Because everyone that can enjoy it, should enjoy it. Even my rotten grain-able family. Hot from the oven, slathered in fresh, local butter.

Fresh Apple & Seed Bread
adapted from My Bread by Jim Lahey

2 cups + 2 tablespoons bread flour
2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dry active yeast
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 3/4 cups local apples
1 cup + 1 tablespoon local apple cider
wheat bran for dusting
thin apple slice (cut horizontally from the middle of an apple), seeds removed
additional flour for dusting, rice flour is ideal although any flour will work

Whisk together dry ingredients in a large bowl. Stir in apples.

With a wooden spoon, stir in apple cider. Dough should be sticky, similar to a biscuit dough. If it remains dry, add more apple cider 1 teaspoon at a time.

Cover bowl with a large towel and tuck bread away somewhere warm, ideally around 70 degrees, for the next 12-18 hours. The warmer your rising spot, the shorter the rise; the cooler your rising spot, the longer the rise. I personally prefer a cooler rising spot with a longer rise. The rise is complete when long strands of batter stick to the side of the bowl when you pull the dough away.

Generously dust countertop with flour and turn dough out of bowl with scraper. Begin pulling outside edges of dough to center, creating overlaps with each new section, until all edges have been pulled and tucked into the center.

Dust a large tea towel with a layer of flour, followed by a layer of when bran. Place bread SEAM SIDE DOWN on wheat bran/flour/tea towel. Wrap bread with tea towel and allow to rise for an additional hour, or so. Second rise is complete when dough doesn't bounce back after being poked with a finger.

Half an hour into second rise, preheat oven to 475 degrees* with rack in lower third position, and place a covered, heavy pot inside. All to preheat for at least half an hour.

When second rise is complete, unwrap dough and remove VERY HOT pot from oven. Carefully place dough into pot SEAM SIDE UP and press thin apple slice into the center. Cover pot and return to oven for 45 minutes. Remove lid and cooke uncovered for 5 minutes, or until crust is a deep brown.

When bread is done, carefully remove pot form oven and transfer bread to a cooling rack. Allow to rest/cool for at least 1 hour.

*I bake this bread at 465 but the method from the book suggests 475. Make your own call based on your experience with your oven.

Friday, September 26, 2014


Shorter days are here. We're sleeping lateish without a 4:30 a.m. sun to rouse us; the baby who's not so much a baby at all anymore goes to bed without having to wonder why anyone would be tucked in with a sun outside their window. Despite a hard frost last week, one that unceremoniously had me say goodbye to zinnias and basil and all those warm weathered things, there remain some survivors. Some still (always?) green tomatoes, mint, lavender, oregano, thyme, kale, chard, and a few willful flowers are all that's left. The garden still calls; we can't yet shutter her for the season. But there are windows for cobbled together cold frames and greenhouses in the barn, some seed garlic on the counter, and a few nights ago we officially welcomed the chilly season with a pot roast of our homegrown potatoes and pastured rabbit.

Pull the dried beans off the vine. (Forgive me- we overzealously pulled the green ones as well.) Bless the poor rooster whose tail feathers fell in sync with the burning maple leaves. Offer everyone you see a kitten; the cats' numbers are growing, HELP. Put another kettle on, have another cup of tea. Talk cover crops and Next Year and piano moving so we can finally get that wood stove in the living room which reminds me.. Wood. We really need some. Freeze the squash, can the pumpkin, ripen what you can.

Leaning into fall, with a single toe still in summer.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Boiled Eggs: A How To

 The apples are hanging heavy on the tree. Luella's pregnant, maybe Ophelia, too, and the chickens are hiding their eggs. Have been since some fox took off with three way back when. We joked today with a visitor that every morning is just like Easter! as we hunt high and low for gold. And as if the rimshot to our joke, right at that moment a hen erupted with just-laid-egg pride from inside the grill.

 I can't remember a colder September in all my life. Which is a completely foolish thing to come out of my mouth, what with all the Tennessee and Alabama Septembers I keep under my belt. For all I know, this chilly weather that I can't seem to shake off my fingers, that puts woodsmoke in the air, well, it could be Just So Very Appropriate. But let's not go down the It's So Cold rabbit hole, as it is only September after all and really I should rein that in until at least January; instead let us talk boiled eggs.

 I take a tremendous amount of pride not only in the quality of the eggs our hens produce, but also in the boiled eggs I put on our table. It's an art, really. And despite what all the How Tos on Perfect Egg Boiling would have you think, it can't be boiled down (ha) to a single, exact method. It is impossible to relish in the glory of a perfectly boiled egg until you have determined your ideal yolk in the spectrum of Yolk Doneness. I like my yolks just barely set and spreadable like butter, which puts me somewhere right under the 8 minute mark. Craig on the other hand would like his a touch more set, around 9 minutes. And Gus, well, he could happily drink the yolk or gobble up a firm, golden orb so long as there is salt!

 Do me a favor, do yourself a favor, and throw your mama's over-boiled eggs to the pigs. Put on a pot of water to boil and wash those prized pastured eggs sitting in the egg bowl. Once you find your ideal yolk, I'm certain you'll find there is nothing better than a salty, just boiled egg, particularly on these cooler fall days. Happy boiling!

Directions below! 

from left to right: 6 minutes :: 7 minutes :: 8 minutes :: 9 minutes :: 10 minutes

Put an appropriately sized pot of water on to boil. Cover your water for a quicker boil and wash your eggs if you haven't already done so.

Reduce the heat on your water, bringing it from a boil to a simmer. Using a slotted spoon, or a fork if silverware times are tight, begin to slowly lower your eggs into the boiling water one at a time. Once all eggs are safely in the pot, return the heat to high and set a timer based on your yolk preferences.

When the timer sounds, remove eggs from hot water and immediately put them under running cold water. As soon as the eggs can be handled, within a minute or so, begin to gently crack their shell against the sink or the pot. You are not peeling the eggs at this point. Cracking the shell while the cold water runs over the eggs is a huge help when it comes to smooth peeling process. 

Once all the shells are cracked you can peel and eat, or save for later. Either way, you're welcome. Because these are going to be the best damned boiled eggs you've ever had.

This is the second installment of Great Eggspectations, a series dedicated to eggs and how to eat them.