Sunday, October 26, 2008

No-knead whole-grain bread results

Here's the result of one of the no-knead bread recipes. I let it rise the first time for about 6 hours instead of four, and I left it overnight in the pan in the oven with the light on (covered in plastic wrap) instead for just one hour. But it's tasty, if you like a chewy dense bread with a thin crispy crust and a slightly sour taste (probably a result of leaving it overnight). I also used soy flour instead of rye flour.

I used whole wheat flour that was grown and milled in Ontario (I got it in the marketplace at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto). This is a rare thing! Wheat grown in Canada is generally sent to the US or elsewhere for processing, then sent back to Canada. This lets producers say it's a Canadian product.

Next time (probably this morning!) I will give it another try and bake it in slightly smaller loaf pan (a vintage glass Pyrex). The loaf looks nice from this angle, but it's less than 2 inches high. I haven't put any of my home-made jam or jelly on it yet. I have a feeling I'll be making my own butter soon...

Sunday, October 19, 2008

No-knead whole-grain bread recipes

I found a couple of recipes I'm going to try for making whole-grain bread. (And if you don't have one of Mark Bittman's cookbooks on your shelf you ought to get one.) These recipes were published in the Toronto Star on Saturday, October 18/08. Very few bread recipes can handle only whole-grain flours; usually they call for at least two-thirds all-purpose flour. Bitmann provides two variations; he says "If the proportions of liquid, solid and yeast stay the same, the timing and results will be consistent."

Here's a picture of a couple of quiches I made from Bitmann's Basic Quiche recipe, using home-grown asparagus and store-bought tomatoes and pie shells. These quiches really freeze well, by the way. One of these days I'll learn to make a flaky pastry...

And I think I used one of Bittman's recipes for this lovely cornbread (or maybe not).
I've only made bread using my hands, kneading a large recipe (four loaves) for up to ten minutes before proofing (letting rise) the first time. The last time I tried to start the batter using an old Sunbeam mixer, it (the mixer, not the batter) started to smoke a little... It wasn't one of those giant KitchenAid things that I covet, but I know I'd seldom use it to make such a purchase worthwhile.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Kids' breakfast fundraiser - $900 x 2!!

I mentioned that my department was raising money for a kids' breakfast program here in Toronto. I won't go into detail about how kids who eat breakfast have tremendous learning advantages over those who don't---or can't. Anyway, our raffle raised $900 CA, which the company will match (but only up to $1000...I guess that's pretty generous). And that was just our first draw, which we pulled off in just over a week. Our purchasing manager figures he will be able to get some excellent loot from his vendors and other contacts for the Christmas draw.

Eat Breakfast = Weight loss: Before I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes I had put on a few pounds---from 130 at age 30 to 145 at age 40. That was a result of skipping breakfast and eating way too much for lunch and dinner since I was a teenager. I started the diabetic regimen (NOT "regime" as so many websites like to put it) with a plan from a diabetes nurse/educator. Without actually eating fewer calories I started to lose weight -- about 2 lbs a week, because I ate a balanced breakfast (cereal, fruit, dairy, protein), so was less hungry for lunch and dinner. I had to call my nurse after about a month because I felt I was losing too much weight and needed more food. I ended up getting almost all my clothes taken in. When I was diagnosed I had been doing a 90-minute martial arts class 2-3 times a week for over a year and playing badminton once a week for 3 hours; also a 3-hour yoga class on Sundays; also walking quite a bit.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The best tree on the street

Pretty nice.

Carbon footprint FAIL

I like a leaky house. That is to say I don't mind some drafts from improperly sealed windows and doors. I did spend an evening caulking around the living room and dining room floors because there was actual COLD AIR that I could feel on my ankles, and I installed backer rod outside on my south-facing but unsunny part of the house as a draft sealer as well. It works pretty well.

My complaint is about my carbon footprint, according to various websites I've plugged my numbers into.

Yes, I drive an older car---about once a week for less than 30 km (that's about 19 miles in US gallons) each trip. I've filled the gas tank twice THIS YEAR. My car also passed its biennial (every two years in US gallons) emissions test, with almost no emissions registered on the test equipment. Every four months I drive to the dentist for a cleaning, which since I'm diabetic is essential---and yes, I floss! It's a 35 km round trip that takes about 40 minutes by car and over three hours by public transit, usually in a diesel-smoke-belching bus. I drive to the beer and liquor stores to turn in my empties and get full ones, about 3.5 km round trip (which I often do by public transit). And once or twice a year I drive to my mom's, a 1250 km round trip.

I also have an older house (ca. 1925) with an older furnace. However, I got my electricals updated (from 60 to 100W) when I moved in, and shortly after replaced the water pipes with copper. In 2007 I got "water remediation" done, which meant replacing the big pipe from the street to the property line by the city for free, and from the property line into the house for somewhat more, and included a water meter. This means that my water bills are no longer calculated by the number of faucets in the house and I'm billed on actual usage. My first bill was minus $150. My next bill was minus $94. I expect my next water bill to be about $14.00.

October 31 update: My latest water bill was minus $42.32. I'm sure some day I'll be billed for water, but the next bill will have a $10 rebate because I chose the smallest garbage bin.

I ordered the smallest recycling and garbage bins. I got a downspout disconnected and use the waterbarrel. The only non-CFLs in the house are in the kitchen. Using a laptop and multiple power bars I use about $6 of electricity a month (<300kW in two months). I have low-flow faucets, shower, and a high-efficiency toilet (HET; 4.6 liters for the full flush and half that for the half-flush).

I guess I do need 4.3 planets to support my lifestyle. What less can I do?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Equipment for making jam and jelly

It's easy to make fruit jam and jelly using minimal equipment, especially if you choose to make small batches of "freezer" jam, which I've never done. But if you want to make a dozen or so of 250ml jars that can sit safely unopened on the shelf for a year or more, you should invest in some proper canning equipment.

1. Water-bath canning pot. This is a really big enamelled pot with lid and wire rack. You use it both to sterilize the jars in boiling water and to heat-process the filled jars (applies to pickles and jams/jellies and other preserves). It takes a long time to heat with the volume of water used. You can't just place filled jars in the bottom of a big pot without a wire rack.

But---you need to keep the jars very hot until they are filled. So once the water boils you plop the empty jars in the water, then time the sterilization process from when the water returns to a boil (10 minutes boiling to sterilize; don't do it in the dishwasher or the oven). Reduce heat to simmer. Remove the hot jars just as the fruit is ready, return the hot water to boil, then fill and seal the jars. Then you carefully use your handy-dandy patent jar-lifter and return them to the boiling water in the canner. Wait until the water returns to boiling and then time off five minutes (this is at sea level; for other elevations and other recipes the timing is different). Last few batches I didn't try to process more than 5 jars at a time.

2. Funnel. These are wide-mouthed plastic or metal funnels that you put in the jar before you ladle in the boiling-hot preserves. If you're careful you have little need of wiping the jar rim before you put the snap-lid on. But just in case, use a damp paper towel to wipe the rims before you place the snap-lids on.

3. Hotdog tongs. This is the best tool for slipping the jars into the water-bath canner to sterilize them, and for removing them before filling ("keep jars hot in canner until ready to fill"). Ow.

4. Magnetic lifter for snap-lids (ALWAYS use new snap-lids; you can re-use sealing rings). I have one of these but couldn't find it for this season's canning. I just use my fingers for snatching the hot lids to place on the filled jars. Ow. Ow. Ow.

Note: Do not boil the snap lids for too long! Temperature for sterilizing the snap-lids is just below boiling.

5. Some Bernardin(R) recipes ask you to slip a plastic wand around the contents of the filled jar to remove air bubbles, but I have never had to do this with jam or jelly. I have one, but I've never used it. It's probably hiding with the magnetic lifter.

6. Tray, table, or platter to put the jars on that is close to the cooking area. I have a crash cart (an actual stainless steel hospital crash cart) that I wheel over to the stove when I start to ladle the fruit into the jars. The jars sit on a Teflon cooking surface that I pad with a dish towel.

You can find lots of recipes and information by googling canning web sites.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Turning on the furnace

This is my gravity furnace. It came with the house. Actually, it was installed when the house was built in the early 1920s. It was made by the Guelph Stove Company. It still works pretty well nearly 90 years after it was put together. It was converted from oil to gas in the 1950s.

Gravity furnaces work because hot air rises. The ducts are huge and the air vents and cold air returns are pretty big too. There's no blower or fan; the flames heat these big ceramic plates, which heat the air in the big chamber. The best thing is it's quiet --- you can only tell the furnace has been on when the valve ratchets off.

I turned it on for the first time last night, since it was about 5C (that's about 40F). Here are the steps: 1) turn the thermostat up to 25C, 2) turn valve A (for the pilot), 3) prop open the burner door, 4) undo the access plate to the pilot, 5) light the pilot by getting down on my back on the dirty basement floor and holding a candle flame up to the gas jet area, 6) turn valve B (that supplies the on-off valve/thermostat thing, I think), 7) turn the electric switch on, and 8) turn the thermostat to where I want it (17C).

It was over 20C in the house this morning, which is just too hot for me these days, so I turned it down to 15C. The real house temp according to my Lee Valley thermometer is about 18-19. But this spring I installed it outside in the front window so I know how to dress in the morning. Now I need a new thermometer for inside the house.

Tips for making fruit preserves: Every time you take a step in making the jam or jelly, re-read the instructions in their entirety. Then read them again. That's how I fuxed up the grape jelly that didn't jell. I did everything right except I heated the grape juice before I stirred in the pectin crystals. Reprocessing worked very well, though, except I started with 9 jars of juice, added 1/2 cup of sugar, 1 1/2 cups of water, and ended up with 8 jars of perfect jelly. Go figure.