10 Years of Bread Baking

Back in 2010 when my wife and I decided to bake all our own bread for a year, neither of us knew we would continue the practice. It has now been 10 years since we’ve bought a loaf of bread, other than when we are traveling. Back then my wife was on a roll (no pun intended) baking bread from the no-knead recipes in Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day books. One of our favorite things she made was crunchy grissini breadsticks using the dough. These are great with soup or a salad, and for dipping into things like hummus or other dips.

Grissini Breadsticks

In addition to breads, we also baked our own buns and rolls that year. Homemade buns are so good, we’ve been making them ever since! My version of the King Arthur Flour recipe for Moomie’s Famous Burger Buns is something I bake quite often, and it is my go-to recipe for buns. I like them with a seed topping that includes black and white sesame seeds plus poppy seeds. Lately I’ve been using my USA Pan Mini Cake and Hamburger Bun pans to get perfectly round buns every time.

Moomies Burger Buns

Moomies Burger Buns

My other go-to recipe for buns is my Dark Rye Potato Rolls and Buns. I adapted this recipe from the King Arthur Flour Potato-Onion Rye Rolls. I skipped the onions and tweaked the other ingredients for my version, and I bake these buns all the time and put them in the freezer for later use. The dark color comes from a bit of cocoa powder added to the dough, as well as a bit of molasses. Once again, the USA Pans Hamburger Bun pan makes for a great shaped bun, and I find them easier to slice as well.

Dark Rye Potato Buns

These days I am the chief bread baker, and the last few years I’ve gotten into using naturally leavened sourdough breads. I am especially fond of no-knead recipes, and the No Knead Sourdough Bread recipe at Breadtopia is one of my favorites. I scale it up by 50% to fit their Batard Clay Baker, which makes for a bread with a tasty crust and a moist interior.

sourdough bread in the clay baker

no-knead sourdough bread

But I still make a lot of breads using commercial yeast too. My Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread is sturdy but still has a soft crumb and is great for all kinds of sandwiches. I baked a loaf of this a couple of days ago, and it was my first bake of 2020.

Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

And my Rye and Whole Wheat Sandwich Loaf is a very similar bread that combines whole grain rye and wheat flours with molasses and a bit of caraway seed. It’s my favorite for a meatless reuben sandwich we make quite often using our homemade sauerkraut.

Rye and Whole Wheat Sandwich Loaf

Rye and Whole Wheat Sandwich Loaf

Dinner rolls also wind up on the menu here a lot, and my Multi-Grain Seeded Dinner Rolls recipe is an original recipe I developed several years ago. It’s a hit whenever I take it to a carry in dinner, and has a mix of millet, sunflower and sesame seeds both inside and out along with whole wheat flour and oats.

Multi-Grain Seeded Dinner Rolls

Multi-Grain Seeded Dinner Rolls

We also make several different flat breads including pita bread and pizza crusts. Lately I’ve been making corn tortillas. I make these using a tortilla press and cook them on an electric griddle. With only three ingredients – masa harina, salt and water, they have a wonderful flavor and make a good base for soft fish tacos or enchiladas.

corn tortillas

corn tortillas

I hope you have enjoyed this recap of a some of the favorite breads we have baked here in the last 10 years. I have no plans to start buying bread anytime soon, so I predict more baking adventures in the years to come. You can see most of my bread recipes on my recipe pages. I’ll be back soon with more happenings from Happy Acres.

Posted in Baking | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

2020 All-America Selections Winners

The lineup of 2020 AAS Winners has been announced, and in the edibles category it includes six national winners and four regional winners. For those who might not be familiar with it, All-America Selections (AAS) is an independent, non-profit organization that tests new varieties of flowers and edibles in trial grounds all over the U.S. and Canada. I grow quite a few AAS Winners in my garden every year, and I always look forward to trying the new winners here at Happy Acres. There are seven tomatoes, one melon, one cucumber and one pumpkin that made the Winners list for 2020..

Early Resilience is a Roma type tomato that has good Blossom End Rot resistance. BER is a common problem with many gardeners, and some varieties seem to be more susceptible than others. Early Resilience grows on bushy, high-yielding determinate plants and compared favorably with Plum Regal in trials. Judges also noted the fruits had good color and canning qualities. I look forward to growing it here in 2020. BER isn’t a big problem for me, but I am always looking for new and improved processing tomatoes.

Early Resilience tomato

Another tomato winning for 2020 is Galahad. It has 3 inch, 12 ounce fruits that grow on compact, determinate plants. Galahad has good Late Blight resistance, and compared favorably with Defiant and Mountain Merit, both of which I grew here this year. It promises to be a sweet tasting addition to the field of blight resistance slicing tomatoes, and I look forward trying it here. Thankfully blights have not yet been an issue in my garden, but I believe it’s only a matter of time before they migrate here and I want to be prepared.

Galahad tomato

Tomato Crokini is a small red cherry type tomato that also has good Late Blight resistance. Crokini’s round fruits are small and firm with a crunchy texture, with 10-12 fruits per cluster. The indeterminate vines need to be staked or caged. Judges liked the taste and texture of Crokini as compared to Sweet Million.

Tomato Crokini

Green Light cucumber has 3 to 4 inch cucumbers that begin maturing just 37 days after plantings. The fruits are crisp, sweet, seedless and spineless and the each plant yields up to 40 cucumbers. The vines are suitable for training on stakes or poles, and can be grown in containers.

Green Light cucumber

Mambo watermelon makes 9 inch round melons with a dark green rind and deep red flesh. The melons weigh up to 11 pounds each, and grow on vigorous vines that typically produce 3 or 4 fruits each. The fruits have a small seed cavity with very few seeds, which gives them the appearance of a seedless melon but with the flavor profile of a seeded melon. Mambo also produced well under cool and cloudy conditions, making it suitable for Northern gardens.

Mambo watermelon

Blue Prince Pumpkin is a C. maxima type winter squash that makes 7 to 9 pound flattened blue-gray pumpkins that are decorative as well as edible. The 12 inch diameter fruits have non-stringy deep orange flesh that is sweet and savory when baked. Blue Prince compared favorably to Jarradale in trials, and judges noted its earliness to fruit and flower along with its consistent shape. The vines are trailing and vigorous, and fruits are ready around 110 days after sowing.

Blue Prince pumpkin

The Celano tomato is a National Winner for 2020, with red grape tomatoes that grow on bushy semi-determinate plants that grow to 40 inches in height. The strong vines are best grown with some support like a tomato cage.

Celano tomato

Other Winners in the edibles category include the Apple Yellow tomato , the Buffalosun tomato and the Chef’s Choice Bicolor tomato. For a full list of both present and past winners, visit All-America Selections Winners. Their website also has information on where to Buy AAS Winners.

I hope you have enjoyed this review of a few of the 2020 AAS vegetables winners. For more information about AAS Winners check out:

  1. Growing the 2016 AAS Winners
  2. The 2018 All-America Selections Winners
  3. 2019 All-America Selections Winners
  4. My Favorite AAS Veggies

All photos are courtesy of All-America Selections.

Posted in Gardening | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

2019 Sweet Potato Review

The annual sweet potato harvest is always a much anticipated event here at Happy Acres. They are one of our staple crops for storage, and usually do quite well here for me. In 2018 The 51 plants I planted produced 118 pounds of sweet potatoes for an average of 2.31 pounds per plant. That proved to be way too many sweet potatoes for us to eat, and I wound up giving lots and lots of them away.  So I cut back on how many I planted this year. Today I want to share my review of the ones I grew in 2019.

Centennial sweet potato & 2019 harvest

This year the average yields were better than last year and we should be well supplied for ourselves and have plenty for sharing with friends. The 35 plants I planted in 2019 produced 91 pounds of sweet potatoes for an average of  2.6 pounds per plant. Though it’s less than the total yield from 2018, it’s a lot of sweet potatoes any way you look at it! So I plan to cut back again in 2020 and plant a few less.

Beauregard sweet potato

Beauregard sweet potato

The most productive sweet potato this year is one of my long-time favorites, the orange fleshed Beauregard. It averaged 3.5 pounds per plant, making nice sized roots. Beauregard has a sweet moist flesh, and is the type of sweet potato you are likely to buy in a grocery store here in the U.S. It can make large roots even in areas with shorter growing seasons, and in our area can make huge roots in some years. It is a wonderful sweet potato for all around use in the kitchen, and it’s the one I used to make Rosemary Roasted Sweet Potatoes for our Thanksgiving dinner.

roasted Beauregard sweet potatoes with rosemary

The second most productive variety this year was Bonita, which was the best yielding last year. Bonita has a pinkish tan skin and moist white flesh, and is one of my favorites for baking whole. It yielded 3.3 pounds per plant this year, less than last year’s 3.8 pounds/plant but still a good yield.

baked Bonita sweet potato

Third best is one I haven’t grown in a number of years called Centennial. It always did well for me in my old garden in Kentucky, and it averaged 3.2 pounds per plant this year. I have to say I’m not impressed with the taste though, and I can’t say it’s an improvement over Beauregard. I doubt I will grow it here next year.

Centennial sweet potato

Other sweet potatoes I grew this year include the purple skinned and purple fleshed Purple variety. It averaged 2.4 pounds per plant, not as prolific as in years past but still a good showing. The dry flesh isn’t as sweet as some of the other varieties, which makes it useful for savory dishes like salads, hash and curries.

Purple sweet potato

Rio Zape Bean and Sweet Potato Salad

Rio Zape Bean and Sweet Potato Salad

Two more varieties I grew this year are Murasaki and Korean Purple, which both have reddish purple skin and white flesh. The Murasaki has a sweet, nutty flavor and a somewhat dry texture compared to Beauregard. The flesh of Korean Purple is drier still, and makes a good choice for hash, chips or oven fries where you want the sweet potatoes to get crisp.

Korean Purple sweet potatoes

I’m still working on plans for the garden next year, but I am thinking 25 plants should be enough for our needs. So far Beauregard, Purple, Bonita, Murasaki and Korean Purple are on the grow list, and 5 plants of each should give us enough to keep us well supplied. I had a hard time kepping up with all the garden work this year, so I’m trying to cut back the overall garden by at least 40% next year so I have time for other things.

For more information about growing sweet potatoes try these sources:

Growing Sweet Potatoes in Missouri

Sweet Potato -University of Illinois

The Sweet Potato – Purdue University

Sweet Potato Growing Guide – Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

Grow Sweet Potatoes – Even In The North (Mother Earth News)

Posted in Gardening | Tagged | 2 Comments

Harvest Monday November 25, 2019

It’s time for Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related. This will be a quick post for me as harvests are pretty slim at the moment. However I dug some horseradish roots which provided a small but pungent addition to some of our recent meals. The bed is a couple of years old now, and I am finally getting decent roots. They don’t look like much, and if you haven’t grown horseradish you might not even recognize them. But peel away the outer skin and you have a pure white root that is hot and fragrant when grated. I mix it with a little vinegar after grating and put in the refrigerator where it will keep for several months.

horseradish root

We also got our first taste of the collard kraut last week. I packed whole leaves in a two gallon crock then covered with a 3% brine solution and let it ferment for two weeks. The leaves are not really that tender, so I chopped them up and cooked them much like I would the raw greens. They softened up nicely after cooking, and while I enjoyed the strong flavored kraut, my wife decided they weren’t an improvement over the fresh greens. I will experiment more with them in the weeks to come.

collard kraut

And last night I made bean enchiladas for dinner and used fermented collard leaves instead of tortillas for the wrapper. They had a great flavor, and I think my next experiment will be to use a cabbage roll type stuffing for the collards. I have a half gallon jar of them so I should have plenty to play with.

collard kraut enchiladas

In the sweets department, my wife baked a pumpkin pie for a carry-in dinner and used our neck pumpkin puree for the filling. She plans to make another one for our Thanksgiving dinner, and I am looking forward to it since I only got to look at this one!

pumpkin pie

I’ve decided it makes sense to take a break from the Harvest Monday posts until February. Harvests are few and far between this time of year, and I am enjoying a bit of downtime from gardening, as are many other gardeners in the Northern Hemisphere. I’ll be back with Harvest Monday on February 3rd. I will post about other garden news as it happens though!

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to share, add your name and blog link to Mr Linky below. And be sure and check out what everyone is harvesting!

Posted in Harvest Monday | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Harvest Monday November 18, 2019

It’s time for Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related. It was a light harvest week here. I cut a couple of heads of Point One cabbage Monday before the rain turned to snow. They weren’t the biggest, but still big enough to eat. I cooked one up as a side dish, sauteed with a bit of garlic added.

Point One cabbage

Then an arctic blast of cold air came, bringing ice and snow along with record cold temperatures. The lows got down to 6°F on Tuesday and Wednesday morning, and both the garden and greenhouse were quite thoroughly frozen. Given the forecast I did have the space heater going inside the greenhouse to help out a bit. Everything in there survived the cold just fine.

first snow on the new greenhouse

And the winter greens planted outside are pretty hardy too, and I was able to make a cutting of kale after the thaw came later in the week. This is mostly White Russian with a little Wild Garden Mix in there also.

hardy kale

I took some of the collard green I harvested earlier and used them to make a pot of soup in the slow cooker. The collards were the main ingredient, along with aromatic vegetables and a few waxy potatoes I got from the grocery. This was inspired by Vivian Howard’s Healthy Soup in her book Deep Run Roots. The slow cooked collards turned out incredibly soft and tender. This may be my new favorite thing! This would also work with kale or any other sturdy greens, but at the moment we still have quite a bit of collards and it was a tasty way to use them. I used homemade chicken broth for this batch with a little chicken for protein but I think any broth would work. Lentils or beans would also make a nice addition for a vegetarian version.

collard soup

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to share, add your name and blog link to Mr Linky below. And be sure and check out what everyone is harvesting!

Posted in Harvest Monday | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments