Monthly Archives: November 2014

More Snow

Well, finally, we got more snow–just in time for Thanksgiving!

Oddly, one of the things you hear up here when there is a lack of snow is concern. Alaska needs snow. Its insulating properties keep pipes from freezing and plants’s roots from dying.

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Because of the low, low, low temperatures here, we need snow, unlike much of the United States. Oddly, our weather seems reversed of the rest of the U.S., whereas they are getting dumped on, we haven’t had but one snowfall until yesterday.

Snow, although a necessary evil, does make for pretty pictures and holiday cheer. So while in March, I’ll be long ready for the snow to be gone, right now, I’ll try to enjoy it.

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Homemade Yogurt

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I like yogurt. But not any kind of yogurt. I love rich, thick, creamy Greek yogurt–the more expensive, the better. For the last couple of years, I’ve made my own yogurt, and it can turn out great–or fail absolutely.

This past week, I made some of the best yogurt ever.

In theory, yogurt is quite simple to make. Take 1/2 gallon of milk, and heat to 180*F, then allow to cool to 105-115*F, then add 1/2 cup of plain yogurt and mix well. Put in a water bath at a temperature of 115*F until it thickens, about 8 hours. Now, to thicken, sweeten, and flavor the yogurt, things get a bit more complicated–but not by much.

Combine with the cold milk 1/2 cup nonfat milk powder (thickener), 1/2 packet of unflavored gelatin (thickener), 2 tbsp vanilla extract (flavor), and 2 tbsp maple syrup (sweetener & flavor).

That’s one of the most basic recipes, and I add both gelatin and nonfat milk powder because I like thick yogurt. If I don’t add the gelatin, I use cheesecloth to strain the yogurt and reach a Greek-like consistency, but then my yield is less.

This time, I had some half and half that was about to expire. So I made yogurt out of it.

I’d never used half and half for yogurt making before (and have never used cream, although I’m sure that would be an absolute delicacy). For the sake of my health, I don’t plan on repeating this half and half experiment, but it had been awhile since I’d used gelatin in my yogurt, and I’d forgotten how nicely it sets up with it. So I need to keep gelatin on hand again, and buy it in “bulk,” not those little boxes of tiny packets.

Also, since I now have a proofing box, I can use it to make yogurt (supposedly), so I need to experiment with that. Obviously, the heat is the most important thing in incubating the yogurt cultures, which should stay around 115*F. But I’ve only made yogurt with a water bath before, never dry heat. So it’ll be interesting to see if it makes a difference or if the results are the same.

Regardless, the yogurt making was a success. I love it when things work out according to my desires…

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05 November 2014, 4:10 p.m.

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05 November 2014, 4:10 p.m.

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05 November 2014, 4:10 p.m.

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05 November 2014, 4:10 p.m.

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05 November 2014, 4:10 p.m.

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05 November 2014, 4:10 p.m.

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05 November 2014, 4:10 p.m.

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05 November 2014, 4:10 p.m.

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05 November 2014, 4:10 p.m.

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05 November 2014, 4:10 p.m.

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05 November 2014, 4:10 p.m.

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Denali Keeping watch over Fairbanks

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05 November 2014, 4:10 p.m.

Bagels and Mixing Woes

Well I have been continuing my journey through The Bread Baker’s Apprentice cookbook, and yesterday began to make the third recipe in the book: Bagels.

Beautiful Bagels!

Beautiful Bagels!

Now, I’ve not specifically made bagel dough before (I have made bagels out of a regular dough though). And I had a few….challenges. Bagel dough is apparently one of the stiffest doughs out there (I did not know this prior to reading it in this book).

a) my son was fussy and awake during the mixing portion of this process

b) the dough was so stiff, that I fear I might have burned out my beloved, professional series Kitchen Aid mixer *sniff*

c) as a result, I had to finish kneading by hand, and my dough might have been a bit under mixed, as it had a tendency to tear as I kneaded it and shaped it into balls

d) I had an unintended additional resting period for my dough because of smoke emerging from my mixer… and I was getting frustrated, so I took my son and we played with the dog instead

e) then, to top it off, my oven this morning decided not to preheat properly for the final two bagels to bake.

However, despite all the above challenges, I was able to finish shaping the bagels yesterday afternoon, and boiled and baked them this morning.

This recipe called for boiling the bagels for 1-2 minutes each side in a water bath with a tablespoon of baking soda added.

This recipe called for boiling the bagels for 1-2 minutes each side in a water bath with a tablespoon of baking soda added.

To my surprise, the bagels actually turned out well. Very well. I may or may not have eaten four of them yesterday. I will neither confirm nor deny that.

And I may or may not have eaten two of them today.

But overall, it’s been a fun experiment to go through this bread baking book. So far, everything has turned out well, especially after getting new yeast!

Great plain or with classic cream cheese.

Great plain or with classic cream cheese.

Greek Celebration Bread

Oh, it’s been a busy few weeks.

As the baby becomes more proficient at crawling, he becomes more exploratory and harder to entertain with toys. Sitting down and playing with him on the floor is more an activity of crawling around after him, attempting to keep him from pulling a lamp over on himself, or removing the dog’s toy from his mouth, or removing him from the fireplace hearth. Life with a toddler.

Whoa, did I just say “toddler?” Seems like he’s not that old yet, but…almost eight months. I guess he could qualify.

Regardless, he’s kept me pretty busy. And I’ve been baking. Finally.

My challenge to bake my way through The Bread Baker’s Apprentice book is under way. I’ve completed two recipes now, and this second one turned out very well, I must say. After realizing my yeast was not lively enough to do the job, a new jar has done a fantastic job on my second recipe out of the book: Greek Celebration Bread.

It rose spectacularly, and the tension during my shaping of the loaf made it rise tall and proud. It’s one of the biggest boules I’ve ever made, I must say. My only regret is not slicing the top a bit deeper. It would have made the loaf really pop as it finished rising in the oven and looked much better. Oh well.

My sourdough starter, on the other hand, still refuses to double between feedings. I’ve resorted to feeding every 12 hours as I should, but it’s far from doubled. It gets to perhaps 150% of its beginning size, and no more. I’ll just keep at it, I guess, until I get tired of it and decide our relationship is over.

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Anchorage, October 2014

 

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When we were in Anchorage the other month for our son’s club foot check-up appointment, I took these pictures from our hotel room. It was a remarkably clear day, and we could actually see Denali from the window (but it’s pretty small).

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Sleeping Lady

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Captain Cook hotel with the mountains behind it.

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Denali! (Zoomed in and just visible!)