Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easy Bread Wreath for your Easter Sunday

KQED TV has this fantastic food blog from which I stole the following yummy bread recipe.  It's decorative and easy to make, and the whole bread-honey-butter thing sounds very Eastery to me.

Here's KQED's photo:

I made mine gluten-free (for Mom) so replaced the whole wheat flour with buckwheat flour, and the all-purpose flour with brown rice flour, plus 2 1/2 tsp on Xanthan gum, essential in gluten-free baking.  Anyway, because of the buckwheat, mine turned out much darker in color, like this:

Buckwheat flour has kind of a strong flavor, and it takes a little getting used to, so I wasn't sure I would love it.  But, bread is bread, really; I never met a loaf I didn't love.  And, while the recipe calls for making a melted butter-honey dip, I just slathered the butter on and drizzled the honey right from the jar - freaking delicious!  Buckwheat and honey were made for each other.  Happy Easter, Everyone!

Honey-Wheat Bread Wreath with Honey Butter
This beautiful bread wreath makes for an impressive touch to any table, and is much easier than it looks. It also happens to be delicious and wholesome, full of good things like buttermilk, honey, and butter. (Adapted from A Taste of Home’s Whole Wheat Honey Rolls and Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day’s Holiday Wreath Bread.)
Prep Time: 25 minutes + 1 hour 30 minutes rising time
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 20 minutes
Yield: 8-10 servings
2 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast
2 cups warm buttermilk (110° to 115°)
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup honey
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour + about 1/2 cup for kneading
  1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm buttermilk. Add the butter, honey, whole wheat flour, salt and baking soda. Beat until smooth. Stir in all-purpose flour to form a soft dough (if it is looking too soft to knead, add more flour).
  2. Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
  3. Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and stretch the dough into a ring. Place the ring on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Let rest for about 30 minutes while you preheat the oven to 450°.
  4. Right before baking, sprinkle the dough with flour. Using kitchen scissors, snip the wreath at a sharp angle, almost to the bottom of the ring to form points. The points should still be connected to the ring since you’re not cutting clean through. Now lay the points out so that they are fanned out a bit.
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to a wire rack to cool.
For the Honey Butter:
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup honey
fleur de sel or sea salt
Mix the butter and honey until smooth. Place in a ramekin or serving bowl and sprinkle with fleur de sel. Watch people swoon as they slather it on their warm bread and inhale.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Up, Up, Up!

In my ongoing effort to cram as many edible plants into my garden as possible, this year I’m building 6-foot high trellises for everybody to climb up.  I built the first one this week from PVC pipe:  two 6-ft (½” diameter) pieces (yes, I cut them myself with a hacksaw) joined by a 3-ft piece.  They stand up by virtue of two 18” wooden dowls hammered into the ground and the string is trellis netting that I bought at the garden store.  Total cost is somewhere around $3.42 or so, and it took me a total of 10 minutes to construct and erect.  I have plans to build two more in my spare time.

Meanwhile, who do you think is eating my snap peas?  The leaves have little bites taken out of them!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Square Feet

It’s that time already – spring is almost here so I’ve spent the past couple of weekends pulling out all the yuck that accumulated in my raised beds (yes, that explains all the scars on my hands) and started making a plan. 

Someone turned me on to Kitchen Gardeners International,, on whose website you can make a digital map of your garden and “plant” whichever veggies you choose.  You enter your zip code and the website gives geography-based recommendations for sowing, planting and harvesting various yummies.

This year I’m practicing “square-foot gardening,” a concept of which I only recently became aware.  The idea is to divide your garden beds into sections of one square foot each and cram as many plants as is reasonable into each section.  I was surprised to find out that you can plant 16 carrot seeds, or 4 collard green seedlings, or 8 sugar snap peas, or one tomato plant, in one square foot.  The idea is to make the most efficient use of your space while leaving no room for weeds and to rotate your crops and practice compatible planting techniques in order to confuse pests enough that they move to your next door neighbor’s backyard.  In my tiny backyard (25’ x 13’ total), these techniques give me hope.

Here’s my map.  So far, I’ve only planted peas and collards. The plants that are outside of the beds are there because I haven’t decided exactly where they’re going to go yet. 

Here’s the schedule:

Blue shows the time for sowing seeds.
Green is for planting seedlings outside.
Orange is harvest time.

 And, here's what it looks like, so far, in real life: