Yeast shelf life…I stand corrected

No matter how long I’ve kept a jar of yeast, it has never gone bad. Until now. Just two months ago, I wrote about DIY bread mixes; and wrote that ‘yeast keeps well past its sell-by date’. Turns out, that very yeast was going bad as I was writing the post. The bread made and pictured in that post turned out fine. But in the weeks that followed, one of those mixes turned out like the one pictured on the left below. I tried another loaf from the same set of mixes; got the same result. So I tried one more loaf, but added 1/2 teaspoon of yeast from a new jar, and got the result on the right.

The old yeast still has not reached the sell-by date on the jar, and has been stored continuously in the frig, but for some unknown reason it went bad anyway. These things happen, I guess. I stand by my advice to buy and keep a jar of yeast on hand. I’ve baked bread since I was a little girl, and this is the first time I’ve ever had yeast go bad.

The short loaves didn’t go to waste. They sliced and tasted fine, but a bit more dense than a regular loaf.



More desert island music

We are into the final three rounds of the Slice The Life 2020 Album Draft. Round 8 has just begun. For the latest ‘desert island album’ picks, click here.

For the latest Run-Sew-Read pick, click here, and enjoy the sample below.

Grind your own wheat flour

After years of ‘window shopping’ for a grain mill, I finally have my very own, and am grinding my own whole wheat flour, since last December.

THE GRAIN MILL

This is the grain mill model I purchased. It grinds up to 700g of berries per batch. 700g is about 4 cups of wheat berries, which makes 5-6 cups of flour.

Link to the product page (or click on the picture above): https://amzn.to/31whDgC

The bottom section of the grain mill is the powerful motor, and the upper compartment holds the grain and the blade. The appliance is heavier than it looks. On the back of the appliance there’s a handy red handle to use in pouring the flour out.

THE WHEAT

Where to buy:

Wheat berries can be purchased by the pound here, at a local feed & seed store. I most recently paid 75 cents/pound. Wheat berries can also be purchased at some natural food stores, or ordered online. Here are a couple of options on Amazon:

How to prepare the wheat:

I inquired with our local extension office about clean and safe preparation and use of wheat berries purchased from a feed & seed store. Their instructions were:

  • Use hard wheat; not the soft variety;
  • The wheat should be dry. Don’t wash it, because that will soften it, which will make it unsuitable for grinding.
  • Freeze the wheat berries for a couple of days, to kill the things that take up residence in growing wheat. (There’s a great discussion about those little ‘things’ here. In other words, don’t be grossed out about what’s in wheat; just follow the steps from the extension office.)
  • Sift the wheat berries with a wire mesh strainer, to remove dust and the things that got killed in the freezing process.
  • Eat only cooked or baked foods made with the wheat; nothing raw. (Translation: This is one of the reasons you’re not supposed to eat raw cookie dough. Sorry kids; this bums me out too.)
  • The standard food handling rule applies: Wash your hands before and after handling the wheat berries.

THE GRINDING PROCESS

Measure the wheat berries, sift, and then pour the berries into the mill.

Grind for about 5 minutes. The grinding compartment and wheat get very hot, so I run the mill for one minute at a time; letting it cool for a few minutes between each minute of grinding.

Here is what the flour looks like after 1 minute of grinding and again after 5 minutes. The two pictures might not look all that different, but they feel different to the touch. After 1 minute, the texture is a little bit grainy, like a very fine sand. After 5 minutes it is a soft powder.

STORAGE AND SHELF LIFE

Wheat berries have a years-long shelf life. You can buy and store wheat berries in bulk, without fear of them going bad. I’ve stored them for years in a dark cabinet in an airtight container. I noticed no change in taste, smell or texture.

After grinding, the whole wheat flour should be stored in the frig and used within about 3 months. I grind my berries on an as-needed basis, and keep a cup or less of the flour on hand in the frig. King Arthur Flour recommends storing whole wheat flour in the freezer. https://shop.kingarthurbaking.com/items/king-arthur-premium-100-whole-wheat-flour-5-lb

Is it necessary to use a mill to make flour? Probably yes. I’ve tried grinding wheat berries in an electric coffee grinder. It produced tiny granules the consistency of fine sand, but did not make flour. The granules didn’t go to waste though. They were a super tasty addition to my oatmeal.

I’ve tried grinding wheat with a food processor, and no, it simply didn’t work.

BAKING WITH WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR

Whole wheat flour creates a more dense, flatter, heavier product. If you don’t want that, use a combination of wheat flour and all-purpose white flour. My general ratios:

  • In cookies, I use a ratio of 1 part whole wheat to 3 parts all-purpose flour. (1/4 c. w/w : 3/4 c. a/p)
  • In breads, I use a ratio of 1 part whole wheat to 2 parts all-purpose flour. (1/3 c. w/w : 2/3 c. a/p)

In my recent post about DIY make-ahead bread machine mixes I used 1/3 whole wheat flour from my mill. See that darker colored flour in the bottom of the jars? That’s the w/w flour. That combination gives some of the benefits of whole wheat, but not the flat, heavy loaf. It retains the lighter, fluffier texture from the white all-purpose flour.




HOW ABOUT SOME MUSIC?

The Slice The Life 2020 Album Draft continues. For the latest ‘desert island album’ picks, click here.

Latest Run-Sew-Read picks are:

For Round 3, I sort of shook things up with a bluegrass-gospel pick:

For Round 4, I went back to rock and roll:

Six more rounds to go!

DIY Bread Machine Mix in Re-Useful Jars (and some desert island music)

These bread mixes use six basic ingredients and cost only pennies per loaf. Having a mix ready to go makes the bread-making process super efficient and low-effort. A one-loaf mix fits perfectly in an 8oz instant coffee jar.

The tiny Tupperware cups hold the yeast, sugar and salt.
(I use instant coffee in my mochas, so I end up with about three empty jars per year. If you don’t use instant coffee, try empty 30 oz mayo jars. )

The mix ingredients are: Flour, sugar, yeast, salt, margarine and powdered milk (not pictured).

I like to make up four to six mixes at a time.

Here are the finished mixes lined up in the back of my frig.

Download the bread mix recipe here:


Preparedness tip:

When the pandemic was declared, the store shelves were immediately emptied of bread; and yeast, flour and other baking staples. Thereafter, they were unavailable or in short supply. As a regular bread maker, I had a supply of yeast and flour on hand, plus some DIY bread mixes made up; and a couple of freshly-made loaves in the freezer. Never expecting a pandemic or grocery shortage, I’d considered that modest stockpile to merely be a convenience. But it ended up getting me through the the shortage.

In addition to the bread mixes, I try to keep an extra unopened 4 oz jar of yeast in the frig, and a spare bag (or 2) of flour in the freezer, plus however much is in my flour canister. Flour came back to the store shelves fairly quickly, but four months into the shortage, I was down to less than half a jar of yeast. This month, jars of yeast finally came back to the store shelves. Even if you don’t do a lot of baking, don’t be afraid to buy yeast by the jar, and don’t worry if you can’t use it up before the sell-by date. In my experience, it keeps well past its sell-by date.

Slicing made easy.

Do you dislike slicing a bread machine loaf as much as I do? The loaf shape is awful for slicing. To make the process happier: Cut the loaf into quarters, and then slice and use one quarter at a time. The other three quarters go in the freezer. When I need one from the freezer, it thaws in just a few minutes, or 30 seconds in the microwave.

My bread machine is this one, which has been discontinued, but there are still some models in the Amazon warehouse. I’ve never been picky about what features are on my bread machine. I’d probably be happy with any machine at any price.



Desert Island Music!

(It’s the Slicethelife 2020 Album Draft!)

Which ten music albums would you want with you when stranded on a desert island? Ten bloggers (me included), are participating in a 10-round desert island ‘album draft’. Round 2 is currently underway. All of the album draft bloggers except me are ‘proper’ music bloggers; and some are musicians as well.

The link below will take you to a listing of the draft picks so far. Check in now and from time to time over the next eight weeks, to see what albums have been drafted and why they were selected. Feel free to drop us a comment about the picks.

2020 Album Draft

A selection from the Run-Sew-Read picks so far:

Mask making continues, and gets more creative.

As masks have finally become plentiful, with enough supply to meet demand, my one-person mask making sweatshop is still operating, but I’ve slowed down production in order to indulge in more creativity. I’m using the same patterns as I was here and here, but have continued to experiment and add ‘improvements’ and improvisations.

I’m enjoying the process, and am grateful that I can do this one thing to help people navigate the pandemic. I’m inspired by all of the creative masks I see. Our community is under a mandatory mask order right now, and what I love most about it (besides the way it makes people keep each other safer) is looking at everyone’s masks. I love the vast array of prints and designs. Instead of people-watching, I’m now a mask-watcher.

My neighbor gave me a mask she made! I had given her a mask very early on. Then a few days after that, she came over asking where I got my pattern. Of course I printed her a copy to keep and use. Then one day she came over with this mask for me! She had worked her own details into it; filter pocket and good nose wire included. I love wearing it as much as I love my own. So, I say go exchange masks with fellow mask makers!

Another neighbor informed me that her mask was stolen from her car. So you’ve been warned, that the coolest masks have street value. Protect your valuables.

How long will we be making and wearing masks? I don’t know, but I just pulled fall and holiday woven cottons from my fabric storage, thinking I might as well get started on masks for the upcoming seasons.



And for some mask-making nourishment…

One big chocolate chip cookie…
For the sheet cookie, I added an extra cup of flour; spread the dough on a 1/4 -size sheet, and baked 2 minutes longer than specified for drop cookies.

It’s from this totally awesome recipe book.

Which apparently is still in print, which is a good thing.

Lockdown foods–the mocha cinnamon pudding edition

It was February 2011 when I tore this recipe from my Runners World magazine.

Nine years later, I finally decided to make it and see if it tastes as good as it looks. Answer: Yes it does.

For nine years, it kept falling out of my recipe book, and got stepped on, stained, torn; and almost tossed in the garbage numerous times. But then I’d look at the ingredients and again decide to hold onto it, since it looks easy and tasty, and not unhealthy.

Enter the coronavirus lockdown. I finally made the pudding. It uses normal ingredients. I didn’t need to make a trip to the store.

Ingredients List:

  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. corn starch
  • 2 tsp. instant coffee or espresso powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 c. lowfat chocolate milk
  • 2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Substitutions:

  • For the bittersweet chocolate squares, use 2 Tbsp. cacao or cocoa powder + 2 Tbsp. shortening.
  • For the chocolate milk, use 2 tsp. cacao or cocoa powder + 4 tsp. sugar + 2 c. skim white milk.

The pudding was indeed fast and easy to make.

It is very tasty. The coffee, chocolate and cinnamon flavors are all quite prominent. I think I’ve made it four times now; or maybe five.

The recipe makes four coffee cup-sized servings.

Here’s the online version of the recipe. It’s easier to read than my nine-year-old poorly-preserved cutout.

https://www.runnersworld.com/nutrition-weight-loss/a20805554/mocha-cinnamon-pudding-recipe/



More things to savor. David Gilmour (of Pink Floyd) has released a brand new song. It has a Leonard Cohen influence. I’ve already lost count of how many times I’ve played it. Amazon download/purchase link.

David’s song is part of a book project by his wife, Polly Samson. It is about the island of Hydra, and Leonard Cohen’s time spent there. She recorded the audio book, and David is on that too. UK buyers can get the audio book now, I believe. We in the US have to wait until September. Sigh. The hardcover and paperback can be ordered in the US, but I want the audio book.

https://amzn.to/38vIg8z

Lockdown foods–the waffling edition

Waffled Leftover Mac & Cheese

The Skillet section of Lifehacker.com has a regular ‘waffling’ feature, where different foods are put in the waffle iron. The waffled mac & cheese got my attention. My first attempt turned out like this.  Some of the edges get crispy. It can almost be a hand-held snack, but I recommend eating it over a plate, as some of the noodles will probably come loose.

Mac & Cheese

The instructionshttps://skillet.lifehacker.com/you-should-waffle-leftover-mac-and-cheese-1842567738

The recipe: I tried waffling two different mac and cheese recipes; both from allrecipes.com.  One was this stovetop recipe, and the other was this baked version.  The Lifehacker article recommends baked mac & cheese for waffling.  However, for flavor I preferred the stovetop version. 

Then for something different, I tried this recipe that adds pesto and dried tomatoes. It was also tasty and waffled well. https://www.foodiecrush.com/stovetop-pesto-macaroni-and-cheese-with-corn-and-sun-dried-tomatoes/ The pictures below are of this recipe.

The waffling process was simple:  Put a scoop of cold mac & cheese on the preheated waffle iron; smash the lid closed and let the sizzling begin.  Three (3) minutes in the waffler produced the best result for me. On removal, the mac and cheese doesn’t stick to the waffle iron, but I did have to gently coax it out; same as with a regular waffle.



There’s been another top notch lockdown music release! This one’s for Moody Blues fans.

The Instant Pot Wine recipe really works.

If you have an Instant Pot, you can start this wine now, and it will be ready to drink in 2-4 weeks, aka when stay-at-home rules are starting to be relaxed and we’re allowed to share a drink with a few good friends on an outdoor patio. 

Recipe and tutorial here:  https://foodnservice.com/instant-pot-wine/    Huge high-five and thank-you to this food blogger!

There are only three ingredients: grape juice, sugar, and this Lalvin Bourgovin RC 212 wine yeast.

IMG_20200425_183316268awSugar awLalvin Bourgovin RC 212 Wine Yeast, 5 grams - 5-Pack

If your stay-at-home order gets extended, that’s fine.  Stay in and stay safe.  I mean it.  The wine will taste that much better after the wait.

Back when I first saw the Instant Pot wine tutorial going around, I made a batch and pronounced it ‘not undrinkable’.  So I then made a double-batch (aka a gallon), and added the following to the process:

  • Gave it a full month to ferment;
  • Strained the wine three times through coffee filters; and
  • Discarded the sediment in the bottom of the bottle.

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The resulting wine was absolutely drinkable.  In fact it was so drinkable that I’ve got another batch brewing for when our stay-at-home order is lifted.

Instant Pot Wine

I’m looking forward to gathering with a handful of friends, and although we’ll still be wearing masks and standing apart in a well-ventilated space, we can reach our glasses out and click them together.

IMG_20200426_202304512aw RSR

While you’re staying home, consider making this Southwest flavored bread.

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This savory yeast bread is something to make when you are going to be home all day.  Seriously, it takes awhile.  In the 1990s, it was a winner of the Pillsbury Bake-Off challenge.  I clipped the recipe from a magazine back then, and am still making it to this day.

The bread has quite a variety of ingredients, and requires several steps in addition to the full yeast bread making process.  It’s totally worth it.

This bread, is the reason I …

  • Roast, skin, and chop fresh Poblano peppers from the little grocery store around the corner.
  • Grow a tomato plant each summer, and harvest, chop and dehydrate the tomatoes;
  • Keep two bricks of Monterrey Jack cheese and two cans of black beans on hand.  The recipe only calls for one of each, but I want extra on hand.
  • Keep frozen 1/2-cup portions of plain yogurt on hand.

(You can buy sun-dried tomatoes and canned chopped green chili peppers, which is actually what the recipe calls for.)

Here is a store-bought fresh Poblano (next to my pitiful attempt at home-grown), and after roasting for 15 minutes in the air fryer.

Home-grown, dehydrated chopped tomatoes

Jarred tomatoes

Now, about making the bread.

Here is the list of ingredients:

½ cup sun-dried tomato, without oil, chopped
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained
½ cup nonfat plain yogurt
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
1 garlic clove, minced, or 1 teaspoon garlic powder

5 ½ to 6 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2 packages fast-acting dry yeast
1 cup water
½ cup canola oil or other vegetable oil
1 egg
1 (4 ½ -ounce) can chopped green chili, drained, or 2 T. finely chopped jalapeño pepper

2 cups (8 oz.) Monterey Jack cheese, cut into ½ -inch cubes

The Southwest flavor steps in pictures:

Measure the spices and add to the food processor with the beans (drained) and yogurt.IMG_20200416_072655469aIMG_20200416_073325350a

Process until well-blendedIMG_20200416_090508329a

Stir in the chopped pepper and dried tomato.

[Add the bean/spice, tomato and pepper mixture to your yeast sponge, then stir in the rest of the flour, knead, and set the dough up for its first rise.]

After the first rise, punch the dough down and shape into loaves.  With a knife, slice into the dough loaves, and push the cheese cubes into the cuts. 

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Pinch the dough shut around the cheese.IMG_20200416_113004676a

Let rise until double in size.  If some of the cheese becomes exposed, it’s okay.  (If you do want to pinch it back into the dough, be very gentle about it so as not to deflate that part of the loaf. ) 

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Bake 30-40 minutes, depending on loaf size.

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After cooling, here is the first slice (on my gorgeous cutting board made by my brother).IMG_20200416_134244144a

Here shown in better light is another batch, made in three smaller loaf pans.

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I serve the bread warm with butter.

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You can find the recipe online here.  http://www.dvo.com/recipe_pages/bake-off/Southwestern_Pockets_of_Cheese_Bread.php

Or download my PDF version here: SOUTHWESTERN POCKETS OF CHEESE BREAD

Yes! Another train trip to Texas.

Almost a year ago, I took the Amtrak Heartland Flyer to Fort Worth, to see a concert.  Now I’ve done it again, for another dose of culture, including the band ‘Yes’ and much more!  This should definitely become a habit.

This trip was to see the ‘Royal Affair’ tour, consisting of Asia, Steve Howe’s Yes, John Lodge of the Moody Blues, and Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy with guest vocalist Arthur Brown.

The show opened with something ‘Crazy’ I never expected to experience live:

One thing that did draw me to the show was Carl Palmer.  Fifty years ago, he was the amazing drummer for the amazing Emerson Lake & Palmer.  Today he is possibly even better.  He did sets with his own band, and as a member of Asia.

Carl Palmer drums RSR

Curiously, there was a little megaphone on stage.

Buggles megaphone RSR

Before long, I knew why:  One of the Asia members was in the Buggles.  So I’ve now sung along to ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’…with Carl Palmer on drums!

Other special moments were hearing the John Lodge 10,000 Light Years band perform ‘Legend of a Mind’ (Timothy Leary’s Dead); a song from John’s early years with the Moody Blues at their most psychedelic.

Then Steve Howe’s ‘Yes’ did a full set of Yes songs.  Steve’s guitar playing was another main highlight.  The entire concert was over four hours long.  Definitely a full evening.

The next morning, it was back to Fort Worth for an afternoon of museums via Bike Share.  It was Sunday morning, so I had extra time to kill before the museums opened.  I did some exploring around downtown, first with a bike ride around downtown, and then via the free Molly-the-Trolley loop.  All of my modes of transportation were available from the Fort Worth Intramodal Transportation Center (Fort Worth ITC).

Fort Worth ITC RSR

When the museums opened, I headed to the Cowgirl Hall of Fame and Museum via bike.  It was already a hot day, but with a slight breeze, thankfully.

Bridge bike RSR

Trinity Park RSRCowgirl HOF selfie RSR

The museum district has these great murals on the buildings.

Ft Worth murals RSR

After that, it was time for an unplanned treat.  Just down the street from the Cowgirl museum, the Kimbell Art Museum has a special Monet exhibit!  It runs through September 15, 2019.  I saw dozens of original Monets!  It was fascinating, comparing the painted scenes at a distance, and then up close where the brush strokes and colors seemed almost random.

Monet 1 RSRMonet 2 RSRMonet 3 RSR

The famous bridge.

Monet 4 RSRMonet 5 RSRMonet 6 RSR

All of those lovely water lilies.

Monet water lillies RSR

Monet water lillies --close RSR

From the museums it was a bike ride back to the Fort Worth ITC station, and time to board my Amtrak train for home.

Train approaching RSRTrain boarding RSR

It was another gorgeous, scenic ride; on time, with a dinner of buffalo chicken and wine, and no bad weather.  I was home by midnight.

River view RSRRiver and peak RSR

IMG_20190721_175227499_HDRa RSR