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Tomato, Tomato, Bruschetta

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This has been a pretty good year for tomatoes in my garden even though facing the nemesis of the Houston heat and humidity. Most varieties tend to fade as the heat sets in.

Successes – Juliet, a smallish bunching type off indeterminate tomato. Like a small Roma shaped tomato, thick skinned, meaty and pretty sweet. Patio tomato– in a pot on the patio – duh, a determinate type. Very productive but slowing down with the heat. Brandywine, an indeterminate and tough to grow in the Houston heat as the blossoms don’t set well. I used buzz pollination, electric toothbrush vibrating the blossoms, and had my best harvest ever. Cherokee Purple, also an indeterminate type, what a great surprise! They have made the best BLT’s ever!

Failures – Celebrity, indeterminate type, usually great in Houston……fungus of some sort. Pulled it out after 10-15 maters but not before the fungus hit the adjacent Sweet Million cherry tomato. The failures may have more to do with my lazy practices…..the tomatoes were all in last year’s tomato bed….poor practice!

Bruschetta- my tomatoes, my basil and my homemade sourdough. I didn’t make baguettes but pleased with the results just the same. I used a mix of tomatoes to make about 3 cups of peeled, chopped and drained tomatoes. Added several thinly sliced garlic cloves along with ribbon sliced basil. Sea salt and some black pepper, extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar to taste. Let it chill for a few hours.

The sourdough loaf was quartered and the pieces were manageable.

Next, my sourdough, thinly sliced and toasted on one side in the broiler. Then the toasted side was rubbed thoroughly with a large garlic clove cut in half. The roasted bread seems to grate off the yummy garlic. I used every bit of the garlic halves. The olive oil drizzle was left off until served and then added by the slice as it was consumed.

Love my sourdough bread. I am using a slow proofing schedule that really enhances the flavor.

TTFN

Bishop

Sourdough For Janet

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I had posted on Facebook some tidbits about how I was keeping myself busy during our COVID-19 social isolation time. Baking bread is one of my loves and one of my downfall……you know what I mean. A number of my friends commented, including the younger sister of one of my best high school buddies. Her name is Janet and she loves to cook. She asked for details on my sourdough adventures, I promised Janet that I would share with her how I have been making my sourdough bread. I am not a purist by any means, because in addition to my sourdough starter, I do use a little yeast in the process.

The starter, and this is really the critical part, takes time and patience to get it the way you want. The link below will take you to the King Arthur page for the instructions on making the starter. I use King Arthur Bread flour when I make my sourdough, it is a little more expensive but it is worth it. Now, if you don’t have your starter you won’t be making bread this week. Follow the process and again, be patient.

https://www.kingarthurflour.com/blog/2012/04/05/creating-your-own-sourdough-starter-the-path-to-great-bread

Ok, it is a week later and you are ready to make the bread. I weigh my ingredients and find that I have more repeatable results when I do.

Ingredients;

227 grams of ripe well fed starter. That’s about 1 cup

340 grams of warm water, About 1.5 cups

1 or 2 teaspoons of yeast – 1 if starter is real healthy and 2 if not

2.5 Teaspoons of salt….I use Kosher salt – Kosher is additive free

602 grams of bread flour – about 5 cups

I use my bread machine on the dough cycle. I add the ingredients in the order listed above, right or wrong, it works for me. Watch the dough while it is being mixed. The dough should just be a little sticky but not clinging to the sides. Rarely do I have to add water, usually a few pinches of flour…..a little goes a long way. You will learn as you go.

At the end of the dough cycle turn the dough out onto a very minimally floured surface. I fold 4 corners, pulling and stretching them out, then folding into the center. I may do this every 30 minutes or so 3 or 4 times. You can also do it once, place in a greased bowl, seam side down and refrigerate overnight. It adds to the flavor. Then stretch and fold a couple of times before proceeding. Video of my hands doing the folding somewhere below.

If using a mixer with a dough hook, mix it to form a smooth dough, albeit just barely sticky, place in a greased bowl, cover and let rise. Then follow the steps outlined above to pull, fold the dough and shape it.

I almost always make a boule, french for ball. After the third or fourth folding I flip the boule over seam side down and shape it. I work it, pulling and working a little at a time under the boule, working around and around to create tension across the top of the boule. I place it seam side up into a lightly floured proofing basket/brotform. Let it rise for an hour or so. Good shaping illustration in the link below.

https://www.weekendbakery.com/posts/video-shaping-a-boule/

In the mean time place a lidded dutch oven into the oven and preheat to 425 F, 218 C…..make that 220 C. Make sure the oven has come up to a stable temperature. Now it is time to bake your bread. I lay a piece of parchment paper across the risen bread, gently turn it over while working it loose from the basket. Carefully now, open the oven, remove the lid, place the boule into the bottom( leave the parchment paper underneath if you like….I always do) of the dutch oven, add a couple of deep slashes across the top to allow it to expand. Replace the lid and close it all up. After 25 minutes, remove the top to allow the bread to brown up a little more.

Bake for another 20 to 25 minutes then check the bread. If you thump it, it should sound hollow. I will also insert a digital thermometer into the middle of the loaf to ensure it is above 200 F, 93-94 C. Turn out onto a cooling rack and then challenge yourself to be patient.

Now lets back up a little, while making your starter you will be tossing out some yummy stuff. Not every time, but fairly often I will make sourdough pancakes with the excess. See recipe below.

Pancakes – Ingredients:

  • 2 cups fresh sourdough starter
  • 1 egg
  • 3 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. oil
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2-4 Tbsp. milk, coconut milk, or water – just get the consistency right.
  • Butter or coconut oil for frying

They are really tasty!

Enjoy!!!!!

TTFN

Bishop

February Going, Going, Almost Gone.

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2020 is a leap year and we only have 3 days remaining in February. I have sugar snap peas up 2-3 inches, one round of carrots planted, two varieties of beets planted (February is considered a marginal time to plant), potatoes planted and strawberries are ripening. I have some Romaine lettuce seeds in trays in the house to germinate as well as some lettuce cutoffs that are growing leaves. My Meyer Lemon tree is loaded with blooms and it should be a good year.

In the bee world things are looking good. It was a mild winter and 15 of my 16 hives have survived but March can still be a tough month. Five hives were overflowing with bees so I added supers last weekend. Probably four more hives are needing supers very soon. I have 4 new swarm traps baited and set and 4 of my older swarm boxes out. Seven more swarm traps awaiting paint and locations to hang them.

An open air colony that seems to be surviving our mild winter pretty well.

I am putting together a plan to rescue this open air colony but ……. it poses a few logistical issues, 15-18 feet high and 10-12 feet away from the trunk. I promise to document the adventure. In the mean time I will hang a swarm trap to entice them, not likely, but worth a try. The rescue…. may require ladders and a long reach chain saw.

One of the new swarm traps on the oak tree in my yard.

A bit of boredom set in today so I thought I would attempt an Instapot sourdough bread recipe. Ideally I needed one with a yogurt setting, mine doesn’t, so I improvised.

After 25 minutes with the top in place.
This is after 8 minutes with the top off. Good texture and close to a real sourdough flavor.

TTFN

Bishop

End of the Week

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It has been a busy week. The bees have occupied some of my time, weeds too much of my time, lovely carrots so sweet when roasted, removing the fading sugar snap peas…..replaced with English Cukes & Straight 8 cucumbers, two loaves of sourdough bread just pulled from the oven moments ago…….fortunately we are  not web-camming as the drool drips from the corners of my mouth, trimming back banana plants to maximize production, making strawberry jam, yard cleaning/kitchen table office cleaning……sister-in-law arriving this evening…..I am already tired and ready for my nap.

The bees, the queen and brood going back into the original top-bar hive over the weekend seems to have gone very well. The companion Langstroth hive is filling with honey!!!!!! Yee Haw! I am also helping the property owner get his garden up and going, feeding his chickens, harvesting eggs and mowing his grass. The things a beekeeper will do to for the host!

The split in Splendora on the “Cowboy” hive failed…..I feel guilty, as it was my mismanagement that lead to the failure. The only saving grace is another lesson learned to add to my prior mistakes. The remaining hive out there is doing well but may have earned a re-queening this coming fall. They are a bit defensive…..yes another one popped me in the face….on the nose.

Strawberry Jam. My “Goo” friend John’s daughter gives me the ultimate compliment for my strawberry jam – when she runs out of mine she falls back to “Smuckers”, she says mine is sooooo much better than store bought…..According to Brittany. I am a fan of the low sugar recipe from Sure-Jell light. Seems to let the taste of the berries shine through. I use Sure- Jell light for all my berry jams!

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The jam, cooked, ready to skim the foam prior to canning. The foam does not go to waste, my wife uses it on her egg-white/oatmeal frittatas.

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Six half pint jars and 3 – 45 ml jars for fun and gifts.

I have to share more about my carrots. As I have mentioned before, my soil has lots of clay but the adding of compost for four years has improved the soil, somewhat. I plant varieties that are shorter, stockier and tolerate the heavy soil better. Well, either a seed mix up or a rogue carrot in my patch. This guy was pretty hefty!

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Frame of reference – I have to order XXL beekeeper gloves and would love to find some XXXL gloves.

Just had to add a bee picture.

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There she is….tucking some pollen away. The symmetry is almost mind-blowing! I just marvel at what nature can accomplish.

Now, butter, knife, warm bread and some strawberry jam. Next slice, butter, knife, warm bread and honey.  Next slice, butter, knife and warm bread! Why can’t I lose any weight??????

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Proofed for 28 hours…..the sourdough flavor is outstanding!

TTFN

Bishop

 

 

Lula’s Hot Applesauce Cookies

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This cookie won first prize two years running at the Kern County Fair….. I baked them both years but my sister Denise won the ribbon the first year…..  she entered too many categories and I helped her out. Not sure if she ever acknowledged the fact nor thanked me.

Two part recipe; 

Dry stuff

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon 
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp allspice 
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts(optional)
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • Add to hot mix below once it reaches boiling

Hot mix

  • 2 cups applesauce
  • 1 stick of margarine or butter
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Heat to boiling and then add 1 tsp baking soda

Add dry stuff from above

Bake at 350 for 15 – 20 minutes. They are best after day 2. 

TTFN

Bishop

“Aunt Toni’s Excellent Banana Bread” – Revisited

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I want to update this post….A little over a year ago I posted the post(redundant but I don’t care), below along with the recipe. I had an abundance of bananas this year so I wound up freezing several dozen. They work great in smoothies but during this time of year I get a hankering for “Aunt Toni’s Excellent Banana Bread”. See story below…the recipe is not my sister Toni’s! LOL

The difference with this loaf is that I used the Manzano bananas rather than the thick and creamy Burro bananas. The flavor may be a bit more sweet/tart due to the influence of the Manzano flavors.

The bread – Note on the recipe…..test by inserting a knife until it comes out clean….this loaf took about 85 minutes.

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Kathy hollered from the kitchen, “Can I cut a piece?” “No”, I replied. “But I like it warm”, she whined. I repeated, “No”. She doesn’t listen very well! She also told me that I need to chop the walnuts into smaller pieces! – “Yes Dear

The previous post……

“What do you do when 8 or 10 of your homegrown bananas ripen all at once? everyone knows that it is Banana Bread time. My wife dug out the recipe for “Aunt Toni’s Excellent Banana Bread” for me to use…..problem is, it is not my sister Toni’s recipe, it is our sister Denise’s recipe….how did it get named for Toni…..That is a bit of a story.

July 19th, 2012 was my sister Denise’s 60th birthday. Toni….the other sister, requested that friends and family send Denise birthday wishes along with a favorite recipe….Denise is an awesome cook so the recipes would  be well received. The flyer and recipe that Toni sent out explains the “misnamed” recipe.

Toni’s recipe sent to Denise read;

” This is a recipe of a food gift that Denise and I have made for years to give to family and friends. A few years ago Denise’s son Sean asked me for my banana bread recipe and he has continued the tradition.  Recently he was telling Denise about my “Excellent Banana Bread Recipe”. She wanted to set the record straight –  the recipe came from her. We had a good laugh, because the recipe named had changed to “Aunt Toni’s Excellent Banana Bread”.

“Aunt Toni’s Excellent Banana Bread”

3-4 ripe bananas

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1 1/2 cup flour

1/4 cup melted butter

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1/2 cup  chopped nuts – optional

Mash bananas and add sugar. Stir in the other ingredients. Pour into a greased loaf pan. Bake one hour in a preheated oven at 325 F. Cool on  a rack then cover with plastic wrap…….if it survives that long! Makes one large loaf or two small loaves.

Ripe  bananas ready to mash. In the center, the seed area of the endocarp, the flesh has a bit of a golden color.

Ripe bananas ready to mash. In the center, the seed area of the endocarp, the flesh has a bit of a golden color.

Mixing with the sugar after mashing. The golden center flesh is still  visible.

Mixing with the sugar after mashing. The golden center flesh is still visible.

Ready to pour into the greased loaf pan.

Ready to pour into the greased loaf pan.

Final product....this variety of banana is very creamy  -it still is evident in the finished bread....Yum

Final product….this variety of banana is very creamy -it still is evident in the finished bread….Yum

After I made the bread I contacted both sisters so we could laugh again…”

TTFN

Bishop

Homemade Bread -Rainy Day

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Texas is getting wet – Today, Tomorrow and most likely a day beyond. Galveston is flooding with over 9 inches of rain and more coming. Eighty miles north in Kingwood we are wet but not flooding. Dark and dreary day and I was feeling a little blue and a little lazy.

I have found a simple French bread recipe that is so easy and so good. Being lazy I let the bread machine do most of the work. I goes so well with soup…..I have a really flavorful turkey noodle soup made with smoked and deep fried turkey from last week.

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Yum…great crust and texture. So good when warn and “real” butter. Banneton basket used on this loaf.

Today’s version was done using a rectangular brotoform or Banneton Proofing basket. I had no clue what they were until a year or so ago when I was trying to perfect a sourdough bread recipe. I gave up on that endeavor! This French bread recipe is just foolproof.

Recipe

  • 1 1/8 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp oil or butter – I have used butter, olive oil and coconut oil…all work well
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar –  I have used my raw local with equally good results
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1 pkg of machine bread yeast.
  • Place into the machine tub in the order listed.

Put the machine on the dough cycle. Monitor early in the cycle….I sometimes need to add a teaspoon of water to ensure proper dough consistency. Remove from the machine when complete and shape the loaf. Cover and let rise in a warn place for 60-90 minutes. Add 3-4 diagonal slashes across the loaf to allow steam to escape. I like the looks of the loaf with an egg white wash so it is your choice. Preheated oven to 425 F for 20 minutes and then another 8-10 minutes at 350. Toss a 1/2 cup of water into the oven right off the bat to develop steam for a nice crust.  Listen for the hollow sound when you thump it to see if it is done.

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Same as the loaf shown above but not brushed with the egg white mixture.

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Loaf formed by stretching dough into a rectangle and then rolling it up into a loaf. Pinch the seam together and turn ends under and pinch closed. Bake with the seam down.Oddly shaped but my subsequent loaves have been less misshapen.

Garden notes;

Peas are reaching skyward, beets are still popping up and lo and behold….Swiss Chard has emerged. I have a bunch of soaked seeds needing a home! Oh yes, my dwarf Meyer Lemon tree is pretty well loaded up.

The honey harvest inventory  for 2016 is pretty well consumed. I may have 15-18 pounds of honey in various sizes available. Kingwood locals…..put your orders in!

 

TTFN

Bishop

Winter Gardening Alternative

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My garden here in Houston has been pretty much saturated by the constant repetition of wet winter storms over the past several weeks. Last week had the additional challenge of a “hard” freeze. I happened to be out of town so my wife and youngest son covered the sensitive shrubs and trees. Thanks Hun!

I laughed a little when my wife said it was very cold! Why? I spent last week in North Dakota! According to the locals it wasn’t too bad. Several mornings up north it was only -18F and it never hit double digits on the plus side! For this Houston boy that is cold!

I went out to “wade” through the garden and found a few sections with standing water. The strawberries and sugar snap peas are doing well! I fed the bees- filled the feeder and ducked back inside. Inside I decided to learn more about my sourdough bread making.

The gardening alternative;

I made two loaves but went with the slower process of creating a sponge and letting it sit overnight. The sit and rise process for the loaves was another 3 plus hours. The results? Mixed! I cooked each loaf separately. The first loaf was pretty dark! Oops, the recipe called for 425, I read 475! That explains it! The second loaf looks great. Taste? More like sourdough. When I go with the quicker method and use yeast, the sourdough flavor just doesn’t come through as well.

The second loaf.

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The first loaf still made some great French Toast!

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On a grumpy note. My wife’s “pet” squirrels are eating my strawberries before they are fully ripened! Something bad needs to happen to those tree rats! My wife would prefer that our cats chase them out but I may need to employ alternate means.

TTFN
Bishop

Winter Chill

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We have had a good stretch of what we call cold here in Houston. Lows in the mid 30’s F. The bees are staying warm in the hive and only venture out when the sun warms the hive. The damn weeds don’t seem mind the weather and even if I don’t want to, I know I have to keep the attack up!

Mornings are spent enjoying my coffee, watching the flames in the fireplace and experimenting with sourdough bread making. Today, at least from appearance sake, I have a success. Some of my less aesthetic looking loaves have tasted great! The sourdough aroma is awesome!

I use my bread machine for the heavy lifting. It seems to work well most of the time. The only variable is the dough consistency. I am learning to better gauge the liquids needed. The base recipe is close to the right volumes but if it errs, it is a bit dry! I have learned to resist the temptation of adding too much. I have learned to add just teaspoons of water and do it slowly!

Recipe
1/3 cup warm water
1 1/4 cup sourdough starter
3 cups of all purpose flour – sub a cup of whole wheat if you choose
1 tbsp sugar or honey
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp oil – I use butter cut into small chunks
2 tsp dry active yeast

Put machine on dough cycle. When complete dump out onto a greased smooth surface and stretch it out. I watched a few videos on how to fold and shape the dough – that is up to you. I made a nice elongated loaf. Let rise for an hour or so, score the loaf and bake 35 minutes or more at 400 degrees F until done. Thump it and if it sounds hollow you are there. I also put a pan of water in the oven for steam.

Before;

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After;

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The garden still calls to me! Lots and lots of strawberry blossoms and berries are developing. The 100 new strawberry plants are looking great, sending out new leaves and looking very healthy. Carrots are fattening up, beets are building roots and the snap peas are blossoming!

TTFN
Bishop

Rainy Day Garden Blog

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We had a rainy and stormy night last night. The thunder was the booming and it was the rolling type followed by the sound of heavy rain drumming rain on the roof. The last 24 hours brought 2.76 inches of rain in my neighborhood and as much as 3.64 a few miles away. As I write the sound of rain beating down of the roof is accelerating again…. Gotta love it!

Too wet to have coffee with the bees but I am enjoying my coffee. I am kinda sorta having coffee with my oldest daughter and her husband – they are out in Camarillo California to be precise, but with me in spirit. They sent the family a gift pack the past several Christmas’s from Harry & David, well known for their pears, but this pack had a 12 ounce package of coffee beans. The Northwest blend flavored – Hazlenut, Praline and Cinnamon. So, Melissa and Tayna….here’s to you! I am also snacking on my homemade sourdough bread, 30 minutes out of the oven…..still warm enough to melt the butter under a layer of my Serrano pepper and peach preserve.

Fresh and warm sourdough - Yum - I love making bread but even more so...... eating it!

Fresh and warm sourdough – Yum – I love making bread but even more so…… eating it!

I did check on the bees and the garden yesterday and they are busy buzzing away and gathering pollen. The strawberries are kicking out blossoms like crazy and I noticed a handful of blossoms on the sugar snap peas. I suspect I will be picking some snap peas well before New Years Eve. The carrot seeds sprinkled a few weeks ago are coming up nicely and should be ready to thin in another few weeks….I say should….seems like I have good intentions and always wind up with crowded carrots!

I will be picking my lemons this week and I need to decide how to reward my self, hmmmm – Lemon Curd is high on the list and may also be compatible with making Limoncello. How about both! Claire from “Promenade Plantings” gave the best advice for using lemon curd – open jar, insert spoon, pull out a heaping spoonful and insert into your mouth and let your taste buds celebrate….She said something like that

  • 1.5 Liters of Everclear – available in Texas
  • 14 Lemons
  • 1.5 Liters of water
  • 2.333333333333333333 pounds of sugar

Peel lemons taking care to not use the white portion of the peel…..just the yellow.

Place peels and Everclear in glass jars, seal tightly and place in a dark cool place for two weeks.

Mix sugar and water – heat and stir until dissolved. Let sit for an hour or so.

Drain lemon peels from the jars and mix with sugar water. Make a calculation a head of time in order to have on hand enough bottles to accommodate the new volumes.

Be patient and allow the bottled Linoncello to sit for a full month in a dark and cool place.

Store in the freezer and enjoy shots….I am looking forward to the fruits of my labors.

TTFN

Bishop.

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