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:

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

Visiting Bethel Woods Center for the Arts (the Woodstock Festival site)

The original Woodstock Festival ads were for a different location and lineup than what became the actual festival.  We know that the festival site ended up being near Bethel and White Lake, NY.  Not all of the bands listed in the original ad had actually agreed to do the festival.  Some declined because of schedule conflicts and various other reasons.

Woodstock ad - first site

This was one of the bands who didn’t agree to do the festival.  Forty-one years later though, they did agree to do a concert at Bethel Woods, and that’s when I decided to check the place out for myself.

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On my arrival at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, there was no resemblance to the original setting we’re used to seeing in pictures and video.  The entrance did not have a 1960s vibe, and it wasn’t artsy.  It resembled a 1990s gated community.  

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There’s a museum inside.

On stepping into the museum, visitors were greeted with a video of Country Joe and the Fish singing, “And it’s 1, 2, 3, what are we fighting for?…”  Museum goers then spontaneously started singing along, “Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn….”

The ‘artifacts’ in the museum are relics of the fun, glamorous image of hippies.

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There is a nice, serious nod to Phil Ochs.

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Then, as I was zooming in for a close up of this festival magazine ad, a security guard charged at me yelling, “No pictures!  Photography is not allowed in here!”  Seriously?  Do they think a Doors album cover, or a photo of the Haight-Ashbury street sign, or a Woodstock magazine ad are rare and proprietary artifacts?   Sheesh.  Too many rules, man.

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Annoyed, I made my way to the museum store and soothed myself with the purchase of a thin, overpriced t-shirt.

Woodstock shirt RSR

Moving on from the museum to the outside.  They’ve constructed an outdoor amphitheater where concerts take place now.  It’s way on the other end of the property from the original stage.

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Before long, soundcheck was underway.

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Then a good crowd started arriving.  

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The concert began. 

Run-Sew-Read 2019

Then, just like 41 years earlier, the skies opened and it began pouring rain.  To my amazement, everyone on the lawn stayed seated and just put up umbrellas.  The rain was coming down in sheets and buckets, but the audience just sat there listening to the music, and the show went on as if nothing were wrong.  Pretty cool.

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Back to the ‘garden’.

The morning after the concert, before heading to the airport, I circled back to the festival site to quietly take in the setting on a lovely Sunday morning.

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This is looking at the original stage location from the Hurd Road side:

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This is looking up the road with access to the original stage being that gravely patch on the right.  I parked there, got out and climbed over the fence.  

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I stood at ‘center stage’.  This is a stitched together pano of the view from ‘center stage’: 

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It really is a garden on that spot.  (Someone should tell the group who now wants to excavate the stage location and ‘install’ a garden.)

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Then it was time to get on the road.  The 2-hour drive back to the Lehigh Valley (Allentown/Bethlehem) Airport was scenic.

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This was the town of Eldred, NY, where I stopped for ice cream at the general store.

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I crossed the beautiful Delaware River, and was back in Pennsylvania.  

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A little more driving and then a few hours on a plane and I was back in Kansas.

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).

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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

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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.

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The famous bridge.

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All of those lovely water lilies.

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

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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.

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Download a free Mary Quant-inspired dress pattern and tutorial; courtesy of the Victoria & Albert Museum

The fantastic Victoria and Albert Museum in London is hosting a Mary Quant exhibit this year. With it they’re putting on workshops and special events.  If like me, you can’t get to London this year, there’s this!  The museum has commissioned a dress pattern to be designed in the style of Mary Quant.  It’s now available here, with written and video instructions and tutorial:

https://www.vam.ac.uk/articles/sew-your-own-mary-quant-style-minidress

From the V&A pattern webpage:

This easy-to-use sewing pattern has been designed exclusively for us by Alice & Co Patterns. The design includes two neckline options, two pocket options, three collar finishes, and two sleeve finishes – all inspired by Mary Quant’s iconic designs. It’s a classic A-line mini which sits just above the knee – you can shorten it if you want to show a bit more thigh, or lengthen to turn it into a more 70s style maxi-dress.


Of course I’m going to make one!

The pattern designer was Alice and Co Patterns.  They have a nice collection of other patterns and inspiring projects, too.  https://aliceandcopatterns.com

 

A tote for cornhole game bean bags

So, you’ve made a cool set of bean bags for your Cornhole game.  Now, how to transport them.  Grocery sack?  Old box?  Better, here’s a diy bean bag tote that will make you look like a pro.

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Finished tote dimensions are approximately 12″ x 6″ x 6″

Start with these pieces of sturdy fabric:

  • Bag 19″ x 11″ (cut 2)
  • Handles 15″ x 4″ (cut 2)
  • Center divider 7″ x 12″ (cut 1)

General Construction Steps:

  • Fold each handle strip the long way, right sides together, and sew lengthwise with a 1/4″ seam, to make a tube.  Turn right side out and press flat.
  • Fold center divider in half right sides together, to make a 7″ (h) x 6″ (w ) piece.  Sew two of the open sides with a 1/4″ seam.  Turn right side out, press and sew the open end shut.
  • Sew one of the side seams on the bag.  Reinforce with an extra row of stitching.  (I used French seams.) Hem the top edge.
  • Then finish and attach the handles; centered on each side.
  • Center the divider on one side of the bag and stitch it in place along one edge of the divider.

Your piece will now look something like this.  This view is the ‘inside’ of the bag laid out flat:

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A closer view of the measurements:

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  • Sew the other side seam and the bottom seam of the bag.  Reinforce both seams with an extra line of stitching or your preferred reinforcing method.

Your bag will now look something like this, turned inside out

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  • Measure and mark for mitering the bag corners.  The miter seam should be 5 1/2″ long (2 1/4″ from the center line.)

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The stitching line marked:

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  • The miter is stitched and then reinforced with a second row of stitching.

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  • Turn the bag right side out, and tack the mitered corner in place.

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  • Then repeat the steps for mitering the other corner.
  • And now finally, pin the other side of the center divider in place down the center of the other side of the bag.

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Stitch the divider in place.  (It will be awkward, sewing from inside the bag, but thankfully it’s just the one short seam.)  IMG_20190601_203851646a

The bag is finished!  IMG_20190601_204455660a

Options for personalizing your bean bag tote are endless.  Here’s a colorful bag made from a placemat and some scraps.

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Here’s one I made out of the bag the corn came in.  Who could resist using a ‘whole corn’ bag to make a ‘corn hole’ bag.  I know, *groan*!

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Making Cornhole Game Bean Bags

Yay, the season of outdoor get-togethers and yard games is upon us!  (Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, and more.)  For my family, it started with Mother’s Day, when all of us sibs converged on Mom’s house for the weekend.  One of my jobs was to bring bean bags for the Cornhole game.  My brother made nice wood Cornhole boards, and I made a new set of bean bags.

Cornhole is a totally awesome game for tailgaters, festival goers, and family get-togethers.  It is a bean bag toss where you try to toss the bag through the hole in a board 20+ feet away.

The boards can be purchased or custom made.  Boards can have really lovely designs.  Here is a monogrammed set available on Amazon.

Cornhole boards on Amazon

The popularity of the game is evident from the range of products available on Amazon.

The bags can be purchased or easily homemade.

Bean bag specs:

  • A set of Cornhole bags is eight (8) bags–4 in one color, and 4 in a different, contrasting color.
  • The bean bags are square, made of cotton duck, or similar heavy duty fabric, and filled with feed corn or a synthetic material that resembles corn in weight and consistency.
  • Each finished bag should be 6 inches x 6 inches, and weigh 16 ounces when filled.

The internet has numerous tutorials on making Cornhole bean bags.   Do a search on Google and YouTube, and you’ll find some excellent instructions.

So, this post is less a tutorial, and more a compilation of tips I’ve picked up from making the bags.

Constructing the bags:

Start with 7″-7.5″ fabric squares.  You’ll need 16 squares for 8 bean bags.  Err on the side of cutting the squares larger, not smaller:

Squares pattern 2

Stack two squares, right-sides together and sew all sides with a 1/2 inch seam allowance, leaving a minimum 3-inch opening on one side, for adding the corn.

[Stitching lines and opening:]

Squares pattern with stitching lines 3

Reinforce the seams!  Reinforce by adding a second row of stitching in the seam allowance.  Then zig-zag or overlock the edges for even more reinforcement.

Squares pattern with stitching lines reinforced 3

[Alternatively, reinforce by sewing the edges with French Seams.  Tutorial here. ]

Then turn the bags right side out and get ready to fill them.

Filling the bags…

  • Whole corn for the filler can be purchased at a farm store or feed store.  The price is usually less than $10 for a 40-50 lb bag of corn.  I buy it at this regional store. https://www.atwoods.com/atwoods-whole-corn-40-lbs.html
  • Freeze the corn for 24-48 hours, to kill any little bugs and things that might be waiting to come out.
  • Before weighing, sift the corn through a colander to eliminate as much of the corn dust and other ‘stuff’ as you can.  Then measure out 15 – 15.5 ounces of corn for each bag.  The other .5 oz or so will come from the weight of the fabric.
  • With a funnel, load the measured corn into the bag.

A funnel made from a plastic gallon container works well because it has a big enough opening for the corn to pass through.  A standard kitchen funnel doesn’t have a big enough opening.

Funnel

To close off the bag, push the corn down in the bag as far as it will go, and then secure it there with pins or a long needle.  For this, I prefer to use a long ‘doll needle’.  The 5″ needle is easy to insert, and the one long needle holds everything in place.  (Actually, a doll needle comes in handy for so many things, that I recommend keeping one in the sewing kit.)

Doll Needle

Run-Sew-Read 2019

The picture below shows how the doll needle holds the corn back from the stitching area, to give you room to maneuver the open end of the bag under the presser foot.

Sewing the bag shut

That little bit of extra room in the top of the bag is important not just for room to sew, but also for the finished bag.  Bags stuffed too tight with corn can potentially burst on impact.

Remember to reinforce the closure with a second row of stitching, and maybe even a third row.

Run-Sew-Read 2019

Get creative with the bags!  Try patterns and fabric paints.

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Then, you are ready to play!

The bags (and extra corn) should be stored in a rodent-proof container.

Additional tips on bags and peace brought to you by John Lennon of Bag.

Bagism a

DIY Mini Rolling Pin (and making dog treats easy)

It was a drag, rolling out dough to fit my baking sheets.  The sheets are ‘jelly roll’ style, which means they are rimmed with a raised edge.  A regular rolling pin is too big to fit within the pan.  My option was to treat it like pastry dough; i.e., roll the dough out on the counter and measure it to fit the sheet, then carefully lift the dough and place it in the sheet; or press the dough into the sheet with my fingers and then roll it with whatever cylindrical gadget I could find to fit the pan.

Some of the gadgets I’ve tried; none of which worked out very well:

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Myrtle-the-pup loves homemade dog treats, and I enjoy making them.  So this issue of rolling out the dough was becoming an all-too-frequent annoyance.

The solution:  I bought a 1.25-inch diameter wood dowel from the craft aisle of the store.  It was $1.50.  They are sold in 3-foot lengths.  At home, with a little saw, I measured and cut a piece to the width of my baking sheet.  Then washed the new little ‘rolling pin’ and coated it with mineral oil.

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Now, a batch of dough goes from this…

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to this…

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to this with ease!

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For Myrtle’s treats, I score the dough before baking, to be broken into little squares later.  A pizza cutter works great for this.

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Don’t make the scoring tedious.  The pieces don’t have to be uniform in size or shape.

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(Yes, I have a dog bone-shaped cookie cutter.  But using it is a slow, tedious process.  I do use it for special gifts for Myrtle’s dog friends and cousins, but that’s all.)

After baking, the treats come out of the oven looking like this.

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After cooling, it only takes a minute or two to break them all up.

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I store the treats in an old Parmesan shaker, for easy dispensing.

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The dog treat recipe I used for this batch is the Apple-Carrot Treats from this page:

https://www.mybakingaddiction.com/homemade-dog-treats/  (The recipe is adapted from this one:  http://fortheloveofpooch.blogspot.com/ ).

The taste-tester approves.

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