Thanksgiving–The Bread

Bread_24Nov11_DSCF0903I made one of my best and worst breads for Thanksgiving.  A sweet(ish) buttermilk bread, it sounded like a good fit for what was on the Thanksgiving menu.  The dough was a bit stiff, but rose well and was very light after it relaxed a bit.  Cooking was simple.  I formed non-uniform balls and placed them in two buttered spring form cake pans and a large buttered roasting pan. The breads were brushed with an egg wash, dusted with oat bran, and cooked in a 400 degree oven until done (internal temp of 185). 

So, what was bad?  They were very, very tough and dry when cool.  They were basically inedible unless you were starving.  I put some gravy on mine during dinner, and it was still not a pleasant experience.

What was good?  Toasted, these things were wonderful.  Not the best toasting bread I have made, but in the top two or three at least.  Put a bit of butter on them, or toast and soak in some of my home made canned chili, and they are superb.  The crust is nice and crunchy when toasted, and the crumb is wonderfully light.  There is a slight buttery taste also, which is probably due to using high quality cultured Bulgarian buttermilk, as there is no other fat in the bread.

I will make these again, but will definitely mess with the ingredients a bit to produce a different crumb.

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The recipe:

6 1/2 or so cups unbleached flour
1/2 tablespoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoons yeast
2 cups buttermilk – I used a very thick cultured Bulgarian buttermilk
1 tablespoon honey

Proof yeast in 1/4 cup want water and a table spoon of flour.

Mix everything and knead until it passes windowpane test.  Rise once, gently form into balls and place in buttered pan, let rise again.  Brush with egg wash and sprinkle some stuff on them.  Bake at 400 degrees until done, which should be about 30 minutes, or an internal temp of about 185.  180 F may be sufficient for this bread, and I may stop there next time.  I may also bake at a lower temperature next time also. 

If you have not measured the internal temper, you use an instant read thermometer. Please do not use a thermometer you leave in the bread – it will not work  and will ruin the part of the bread it is stuck in.  Using the internal temperature takes the guess work out of the “does the thump should hollow” doneness test, which I have failed at a time or two.

Cake and ice cream:

Eggless-Milkless-Butterless Cake and Butter Pecan Ice Cream – recipes will never be posted, but here is a picture of the two together along with a rustic formed Pecan Pie:

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Good cooking day overall.

Thanksgiving–The Turkey

Thanksgiving_24Nov11_DSCF0941Thanksgiving was a very busy time this year.  Preparations began on the 23rd, with cleaning and a bit of cooking.  Menu for this year was smoked turkey, bread, corn bread, mashed potatoes with turkey gravy (from the smoked turkey!), corn, roast vegetables, green bean casserole, pecan pie, eggless-milkless-butterless cake, and home made butter pecan ice cream.  Too much food, but that is normal.

The 22.5 pound natural turkey was brined for 18 hours in a salt, water, maple syrup, lemon, and pepper brine.  I took the turkey out of the brine at 3:00 AM and preheated the smoker for a 5:00 AM start time.  I did rub a bit of olive oil on the turkey and dusted with a spice mixture.  Turkey went in, power went out.  The 12 hour smoke plan was extended by an hour, and the bird was ready with an internal temperature at 165 F at 6:00 PM, and hour late, but thankfully done.  As usually with my smoked turkeys, even the breast meat was very moist and tender.  It takes a long time to do a smoked bird, but if you like moist and tender poultry, you need to brine and smoke.

The progression of the turkey:

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Next post – the Bread

Snow Chickens

Chickens_23Nov11_DSCF0895Had an unusual snow in mid-November. Chickens have survived well, and even with no heat of any kind, are producing eggs (and of course, fertilizer) at a nice pace.  The five chickens have gone from 2 – 3 eggs per day, to 3 – 4 eggs per day.  On Thanksgiving day, they managed to lay five eggs, one for each chicken.  Whether or not that had anything to do with the fact that there was a relative (i.e., a big turkey) smoking away in the smoker is unknown, but I am happy that they have all figured out their purpose in life. 

The picture to the right is of the eggs.  It is difficult to capture the true colors of the eggs, but the dark egg is from the Black Copper Marans, and is the color of chocolate.  Very dark and eggs_24Nov11_DSCF0931large.  The eggs are arranged from lightest to darkest, and every one is a different color and shade.

I have been feeding the chickens quite a bit more scraps, especially spent beer grains from brewing.  I did not realize that I have been feeding them coffee grounds and chocolate from my Breakfast Stout, but they really like it, and it does no harm to the chickens.  I have also been mixing Minute Rice that was left over from a previous brew also.

A picture of the coop and pen as it is snowing on the 23rd of November, 2011:

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Interestingly, if I place a picture at the end of a post without adding at paragraph of text, the picture migrates into the next post.  I suppose I could a few <p>’s in the source, but that is not as interesting as typing worthless text.  Sort of reminds me of a few of my latest assignments. 

Two more lines and it is aligned.

Hopefully anyway.

Breakfast Stout

Beer_20November2011_DSCF0878Look! Its my new brew spoon. I really am in need of a mash paddle, but the spoon will have to do for now.

Decided to make a Breakfast Stout this weekend.  Different from my other stouts, this one had 4 ounces of coffee, which I have used in stouts previously, and 4 ounces of chocolate, which I have never used in a beer.  All went well with the exception of transferring to the fermenter.  The chocolate and the coffee managed to plug my racking cane multiple times, so I just ended up pouring everything into the fermenter. The chocolate seemed to bind with the hops and other crud in the bottom of the boil kettle, and was difficult to transfer with out clogging the cane.  I did use a strainer to eliminate as much of the coffee grounds and chocolate as possible, but some of it transferred.  Should not be a problem at all.

I finally bought a stir plate, and went with the one offered by stirstarters.com.  I also purchased a 2L flask and stir bar.  One issue I has having is that the stir bar was being thrown at higher RPM.  I emailed the company and received a quick response that led to a call from Dan from Stirstarters.  His suggestion seems to solve the problem, so all is well.

The stir plate seems well made, and is really quiet.  I did a starter for my Breakfast Stout, and is was nice  being able  to use half as much DME as is needed with using a gallon jug to make a starter.  Less time also.  Anyway, it is really nice to buy from a company that has great customer service, and I would definitely recommend a stir plate from stirstarters.com.

Pictures!

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On to the recipe:

Recipe:

Boil Size: 7 gallons
Batch Size: 5.5 gallons
IBU’s: 58.4 (IBU’s are incorrect – will correct soon)
Mash temp: 153
Boil Time: 90 minutes

Grain:

72.1% – 13 lbs. 3.2 oz. Brewers Malt (2 row) 
8.2 % – 1 lbs 8 oz. Flaked Oats
5.5 % – 1 lbs Chocolate Malt (Simpson)
4.1 % – 12 oz. Roasted Barley (500 SRM) 
4.0%  – 11.7 oz. Milk Sugar (Lactose)
3.1 % – 9 oz. Black Barley (500 SRM)
3.1 % – 9 oz. Crystal Malt – 120L

Hops:

1.00 oz. Nugget – (pellet – 12.2 IBU’s) – 90 Minutes
1.00 oz. Styrian Goldings – (pellet – 3.5 IBU’s) – 30 Minutes
1.00 oz. Styrian Goldings – (pellet – 3.5 IBU’s) – 2 Minutes

Other:

2 oz. Sumatran Coffee – Ground – Flameout 
2 oz. Kona Coffee – Ground – Flameout 
2 oz.  Unsweetened Chocolate – Flameout
2 oz.  Valrhona* Cocoa Powder – Flameout

Yeast

1 pkg – Wyeast Labs #1056 – American Ale – 1600 mL Starter

*Valrhona Cocoa Powder is one of the best cocoa powders I have used for baking.  Available at ChefShop.com

One negative is that my efficiency was only 68%.  I am usually in the 75% range. I also ended up with about .30 gallons more liquid in the fermenter than I wanted. But, I think that the brew can handle it fine, and will lower the ABV to something more pleasant.  Cooled and placed in fermenter.  Pitched yeast at 65 degrees.  As always, plan a 30 day primary.

In other news – now getting 4 eggs a day from my 5 chickens.  And, I bought a new laptop – finally!  Oh, and RSH9103MME starts tomorrow…….

Photo of the ?

The dark egg is from my Black Copper Marans.  Hard to tell in the picture, but it is a chocolate brown.

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Smoked Chicken

Smoker_13November2011_DSCF0135Smoked two chickens today in preparation (i.e., practice) for Thanksgiving.  Basically, I wanted to make sure that the smoker worked properly, as I will be smoking a 20+ pound turkey for Thanksgiving and my oven is already spoken for.  I wanted to test the smoker, as a few weeks ago the wind blew the shed where the smoker is over, and I was not sure if the smoker or the controller was damaged.  The only problem was that the puck advance button was jammed.  I took the smoker unit apart and cleaned it, but the button still sticks when it is inserted in the smoker unit.  So, it is hanging out of its slot, and it works fine like that. 

The chicken turned out great, as usual.  It was moist, tender, and juicy, with just a light smoke flavor.  Smoke was for 4 hours, with another hour cooking at 210 degrees. 

I did a 3 hour brine of salt, brown sugar, a few bay leafs, and water, with a wet rub consisting of good Italian dressing which contained no sugar or artificial ingredients, olive oil, and minced garlic.  This was to good that I may use the rub recipe on my turkey.   

After the Thanksgiving turkey is smoked, I may smoke a pork butt and a beef roast and then vacuum pack them.  I did this a few months ago with a pork butt, and the meat was great for dinner, especially in tacos. 

Pictures of the chickens in the smoker, resting, and cut:

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Cookies, Bread, and School

Room_23Oct11_DSCF0098This is what my office looks like after the submission of a particularly stressful assignment.  RSH 9102E was not really that difficult, but is was somewhat stressful in that it is important at this level that what I write is accurate and at a PhD writing level.  So far, so good, but next is RSH 9103MME – Mixed Methods Research.  The only positive is that is is possible to recycle what I did, to a point, in 9101E and 9102E.  However, I am changing my research topic as I further refine what I plan to do.  It is fun though, especially every time I receive my grades…..

Cooked some cookies and bread this weekend.  The cookies are the standard raisin-oatmeal cookies off the back of the Quaker Oatmeal box.  I simply added some baking powder to make them a bit better.  The bread is a potato bread that I wanted to try.  It was an excellent bread, for sandwiches, toast, and dipping in olive oil.  I used some of my garden potatoes which actually taste like potatoes.

Usually, I leave my bread dough a bit sticky.  For this recipe I actually followed what was written and weighted all of my ingredients.  This left a dryer dough that was very hard for my Kitchen Aid mixer (which can do 14 cups of flour) to handle.  It actually overheated and shut itself off, so I finished the dough by hand.

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Chicken Coop and Pen Lights

Chicken_31Oct11_DSCF0118Winter is coming, and that means the chickens will only be getting 5 or 6 hours of light, so I decided it was time to install some lights in the coop and in the pent. I do not want to add any heat in the coop, so I installed a small reflector with a 15 watt bulb.  Additionally, there is a 3 watt night-light in the nesting area of the pen.  I did the night light to encourage them to lay eggs when they needed to.  With the light-light, they can see their way to the nesting boxes.  The coop light is a 100 watt light, and I may up that to 150 a bit later.  But right now that is enough.  

I did add a time for the coop and pen lights, but not the night-light.  The lights run from 6:30 AM to 10:00 PM, which gives them almost 14 hours of light.  I will not do earlier than 6:30 because I do not get up to let them out of their coop to eat and drink until 6:30. 

The pen (night-light) and pen at night:

Chicken_31Oct11_DSCF0112     Chicken_31Oct11_DSCF0110