On Sunday, I baked the bread ground from the wheat berries from the previous week, described in the last post.  While I am a perfectionist (regarding taste and aesthetic and artistic appearance) with my bread experiments, everyone is always pleased with the results.  The recipe is basic and a modification of a standard Southern Italian Pugliese country peasant loaf.  The recipe that I use will undergo a slight modification so I will only post the recipe that I will use in the future rather than the one I used.  In fact, this will also end up as the modified Spelt recipe that I experimented with weeks ago and have experimented with for the last few years.

On Thursday, I created the build, the mixture of already growing rye sourdough starter and wheat flour.  I use sourdough starter rather than commercial yeast because it is more natural, healthier, ancient, and challenging.  For this recipe, I use a 20% mixture where 20% of the flour equals 100 grams and 20 % of the water is 60 grams.  This is for a total loaf size of 500 grams flour bread loaf. Two rough tablespoons of starter are enough and may be more than is needed but it is my standard and it works fine.  For reference, I use the metric system grams rather than the English pounds and ounces because the metric system is much easier to multiply and divide.  Additionally, weighing ingredients is much more accurate than the volume measurements of measuring cups.  So now you know.  It takes anywhere from 4-6 to 12 hours and sometimes more (depending upon altitude and weather) for the build to grow where it is ready to add to begin making dough and bread.

Once the build and I are ready to make bread (and I will retard the build in the refrigerator up to three days until I am ready to make dough), I will pull out the bowls and spatulas needed to begin.  400 grams of wheat or other flour, as you decide, are needed for this build.  240 grams of filtered water are needed. The water is divided as follows:  100 grams for the 400 grams of flour, 100 grams for the build to break it up, 40 grams are needed to dissolve 10 grams of Himalayan or other variety of real salt. Additionally, I add 15 grams of olive oil to soften the loaf and a tablespoon of Italian seasoning and a tablespoon of red pepper flakes.  .   I will mix all of the dry ingredients together (flour and spices) and then add the liquid ingredients and thoroughly (but not roughly) mix until they hold together.  Then I cover and let set to form gluten for thirty minutes.

Then I remove the dough from the bowl with a plastic scraper and knead with bare hands rubbed with dough or olive oil (or use the scraper as my mood and dough malleability dictates).  I will knead for about five minutes and then I will cover the dough and let it rest for another thirty minutes.  If needed, I will knead again but generally no.  Here begins the first rise.  Depending upon weather, I will let it rise for 2 to two and a half hours with dough folds occurring approximately every hour or less (I am still experimenting here.).  After the first rise, I degas the dough and let rise for another hour.  At thirty minutes I start the oven at 425-450 degrees F. I am now using a Dutch oven with a cast iron lid so the dough does not spread.  There is no need to preheat the dough so the second rise can happen in the Dutch oven (Sprinkle corn grits or meal along the bottom of the Dutch oven to prevent sticking.).  Once the oven is ready and dough is ready, score your dough to allow for rise (The scoring has been a little challenging lately).  Bake for 45 minutes.  Take the lid off after 30 minutes, more or less to allow for browning. At 45 minutes, bread should be ready to remove and cool.  The bread should be about 210 degrees F internally.  Check if you are unsure, but allow for the bread to cool since it is still doing what it does and still baking as it cools.  That’s it.  Once it cools sufficiently, remove, slice, and grab some olive oil and share with friends.  That was my Sunday.  Paul loved the bread by the way, when I delivered it Monday morning.

On Monday, it was cold enough that it was necessary to protect plantlings and not take all of them outside to the sun so some were placed inside the half hoop house.  The Brassica Family (cabbage, broccoli are winter cool weather favoring plants so these were placed outside, and Swiss Chard (warm weather favoring plants) were placed inside the half hoop house for warmth.  The ground was finally dry enough to begin working on the house site removing earth outside and inside (Paul) the cement frame outlines so that the earth outside and inside sets below the cement frame.  This prevents the rain and water from collecting into the cement and absorbing into the house structure, this weakening the house unnecessarily.  The dug up red-clay earth was placed on pile for use later.  However, any earth with pine needles and leaves in excess that would ruin and weaken the desired contact with earth in the earth bags was placed in a pile for use elsewhere.  The large pebbles on floor of what will become the root cellar inside of the house frame will be used as a capillary break to prevent water from wicking up into the house.

Late the previous week, I brought over some medicinal herbs to Paul and Terra, specifically boneset, turmeric, elder flower, peppermint, cayenne, yarrow, and ginger. During the digging for the house, a discussion began with Terra regarding safe and unsafe herbs for pregnant and nursing mothers. Yarrow is apparently not very safe for babies. This just reiterates my conviction to learn as much as I possibly can as soon as I can regarding herbalism so that I can offer much more informed advice when it is needed.

At the end of the day Paul showed me two of the hens that had been separated from the hen houses and devoted to hatching eggs a few weeks ago.  The chickens had been separated from the other hens to avoid egg collection confusion and to allow the hens time to devote to egg hatching, mothering, and concentration.  For one hen, seven of ten eggs hatched but only two hatched from the other hen’s batch.  While seven is a good average, two is obviously not.  As Paul explained, there are several possible reasons for this failure and there is no way to determine the exact cause at the moment.  Generally, both hens are consistently successful egg layers.

On Wednesday, Paul explained that the Brassicas are cool weather favoring plants and so cannot handle warmer weather unless one desires them to go to seed to reproduce later.  In that case, the food crop that is grown would taste less than desirable.  The warm-weather favoring plants, previously moved on Monday, are nightshade tomatoes and eggplant and they would obviously not go to seed under those circumstances.  On Wednesday there was no house building since it was too stiffly cold.  Work continued on chickens’ Great Wall on opposite side of barn and “Play House” (i.e. tool shed) where the fence was carried past four corners (not in a square) to the land near the trailer and out along the land that carries the electrical power to surrounding residents. There was just enough time to plant the posts.  There is still a line of wire fence that needs to b finished on the opposite side but I suspect that the trees that need to be felled first will be felled before that fence is laid out.  The side I worked on Wednesday still needs a fence before the chickens can roam “free”.

Friday began with a late start given that I was at a much touted and anticipated Participatory Action Research workshop with classmates, a favorite professor, and Dr. M. Brinton Lykes.  Friday is usually devoted to egg washing and today was no different.  Even as washing occurs twice weekly now, there were still many eggs to wash.  My egg-washing skills are increasing apparently since I managed to thoroughly wash over twelve dozen eggs, one by one in less than two hours.  Since it rained and drizzled most of the day there was not a lot to be done but the potted plants were not paced outside to avoid flooding and the washing away of the plantlings.  Before I left, Paul showed me and explained the process of transplanting seedlings due to growth with no place else to grow (Even if the root system could grow around the pot a few dozen times more.).  Transplanting the plant with fertilizer also helped an already expended potting soil (due to heavy use of manure and wood chips that sat possibly too long and demand as much as they do).  The fertilizer, as little as it was sprinkled in two places in the larger pots, should help the plants to shoot up in the coming weeks.