Recipes, Side dishes

Sourdough Rolls

Just in time for Thanksgiving, a no-muss, no-fuss sourdough roll recipe!  I’ve posted sourdough biscuit or roll recipes previously, and I liked them, but this one is my own, and I like it best, because of the no-muss, no-fuss part.  What I mean by that is there’s no prep to do for the night before, and no rising time before baking, which makes it much easier to coordinate for Thanksgiving dinner.

The previous sourdough biscuit recipes I used came from a friend who gave me some of her husband’s family’s heirloom sourdough starter.  This was back in the ‘80s.  I kept that starter alive for many, many years, but when my mom passed away, I went through a period of depression and inactivity, and I let the starter die in the fridge.  I didn’t mean to, it just happened.  Sadly, the rest of my friend’s family also let the starter die, so it is gone from this world.  And that’s a shame, because it was a good one.

I tried starting new batches of sourdough starter using baker’s yeast, but they were less than successful long-term.  They just couldn’t survive the periods of inactivity in the fridge the way that strong, old heirloom starter did.  However, some years ago, I learned that sourdough could be started with just flour and water.  That was how the old-timers did it, and that was surely the origin of the heirloom starter I let die.  So I finally got around to trying that method, starting with 3 tablespoons of flour and 3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon of water.  You just mix that up in a glass bowl or jar, cover loosely, and set it in a warm place to let the yeasts in the flour start feeding.  Every day, twice a day, you feed the starter the same amount of flour and water, stir, and watch for bubbles.  On the third or fourth day, you have to start feeding a little more flour and increasing the water.  A quarter cup of flour to a quarter cup of water, still twice a day.  It really couldn’t be easier.

On about the fifth to the seventh day, you have to discard half of the starter to keep it to a manageable size that won’t consume massive amounts of flour. It takes a while for the starter to develop enough yeasts to leaven a loaf of bread, and in the meantime, feeding the starter will create prodigious amounts of discard, as in several cups a week.  Some people throw it away, but I am using rather expensive flour, and I didn’t want to waste it. (I am using Guisto’s Organic Bread Flour that I bought at our local health foods store.)  When the starter is a few weeks old, you can start feeding it ½ cup of flour and water once a day.  And when it is over a month old, you can stash it in the fridge for a week or so, with a tight lid, and only take it out the day before baking to feed and reactivate.

Because my starter is young and producing lots of discard, I’ve been testing recipes and have found some I liked and some I didn’t.  I tried a sourdough cookie that was very similar to Snickerdoodles.  Joel and Kaedynce really liked those. I’ve also been making a lot of sourdough pancakes, and I adapted my sourdough pancake recipe for waffles. I made sourdough pizza crust that turned out great, and I even made extra and froze it for later.  (If anyone is interested, let me know in a comment and I’ll provide those recipes and links in a separate post.)

When I tried my old sourdough biscuit recipe with my new starter, I had not exactly a total failure, but what I ended up with was not something I’d serve at Thanksgiving. My sourdough biscuits are a tradition at Thanksgiving, so I wanted to get the recipe right.  And goodness knows, I had plenty of discard to experiment with!

It took two more batches of biscuits to get the adjusted recipe right, but wow!  When I got it, I was really happy.  My starter isn’t very sour yet because it is still young, only six weeks old, but I’ve been assured that typical sourdough flavor will come in time.  For now, these rolls are perfect to continue the Thanksgiving tradition, and I figured out a short cut to save prep time the night before.  This recipe uses fresh discard, that is, sourdough starter that has been fed within 12 hours.  I’m calling them rolls, because they tasted more like a yeast dinner roll than a sourdough biscuit.  (Again, that’s because my starter is young.  If yours is mature, you’re going to get more of that classic sourdough flavor.)

Sourdough Rolls

(makes one dozen rolls)

2 cups sourdough starter/discard

1 cup dry powdered milk (see notes)

2 cups flour (I used organic pastry flour—see notes)

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons sugar (see notes)

1 teaspoon salt

Additional ¼ – ½ cup flour for kneading

2 tablespoons butter, melted in 9×12” pan (see notes)

 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix starter and powdered milk together in a large bowl until smooth.  Mix baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt into 2 cups of flour in separate bowl.  Stir flour mixture into wet ingredients until flour is moistened.  Dough will be wet.

Sprinkle ¼ cup of flour onto board.  Turn out soft dough onto board and knead until smooth, adding more flour as necessary (up to ½ cup total) to keep dough from sticking to board.  When dough is stiff enough to cut, pat down to about ¾ inch thickness and shape rolls as desired. (I use a biscuit cutter or a small glass, dipped in flour after each cut.)  Dip one side of the roll into melted butter in pan and turn over so butter-coated top is up.  Bake rolls for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.  The rolls will rise during baking.

Notes:

Why powdered milk?  Sourdough starter is wet and runny.  It’s half flour, half water. Rolls and biscuits need milk, but sourdough discard recipes typically don’t need more liquid.  My old sourdough pancake recipe used powdered milk, so I thought why not try it in the rolls?  It worked beautifully. I can only find non-fat powdered milk, and I get it in bulk at Winco, so it is inexpensive.

I used organic pastry flour for my rolls.  All-purpose flour will work fine—I used it for years in sourdough biscuits.  I would not use bread flour for the rolls because there’s no long rising and working periods to develop the gluten.

I used organic cane sugar. If you object to sugar, don’t use it, but sugar gives the rolls that old-timey, yeast bread flavor that I love.  There’s no reason you couldn’t use honey or any other sweetener of your choice, adjusting as necessary for your taste.  If you use honey or any liquid sweetener, add it to the sourdough starter and powdered milk before adding the flour mixture.

As for baking the rolls in butter, you can substitute any oil you like to use for baking, but you will lose flavor.  These rolls contain no other fat (unless you use powdered milk that contains fat), and the butter helps them brown on top and bottom and gives them delicious flavor.  Melt the butter in the pan and then allow the pan to cool down before you put the rolls in.  You don’t want the bottom of the rolls to start cooking right away in a hot pan.  You want them to rise before they start to brown.

One last note.  The baking powder and baking soda react with the acids in the sourdough starter to make these rolls rise as they bake.  My old recipe (also using baking powder and baking soda) called for allowing the biscuits to rise for 30 minutes before baking, but I found that with my young starter, I had better results baking as soon as the rolls were in the pan.  They rose higher and were lighter with better texture.

I only have one picture of my recent batch of rolls in the pan, and it is a bit blurry.  I took it in a hurry on my phone because I was getting ready to leave on a trip.  It’s not the best picture, but trust me, the rolls tasted so much better than this picture might indicate.  There’s one missing from the pan because it was snitched as soon as they came out of the oven for a taste test!  Mmmmm.

 

 

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Leftovers

Pumpkin Plops for Pups

This post is about grandkids and grandpups.  I am always on the lookout for simple but fun things to do in the kitchen with my granddaughter, Kaedynce, and grandson, Bryce. I also love my grandpups.  I have three of those, Chloe (a.k.a. Boss Bitch), who belongs to Kaedynce; Buddy, Bryce’s birthday dog, and Mac Daddy, whom my daughter, Amy, and son-in-law, Solo, rescued.  Chloe is a beagle who has no idea how small she actually is, and she is the boss of any group she joins.  I love her spunkiness and sometimes wish I were more like her!  Buddy is a Yellow Lab, only 9 months old, and he’s the size of a small elephant with the loving disposition of a Lab. Bryce wants to train him to be a search-and-rescue dog.  Mac Daddy is a Yorkie/Silky mix.  He’s absolutely the cutest dog I’ve ever seen and also one of the sweetest.

(I’m not playing favorites here.  I asked for pictures of all three dogs, and this is the only one I got before post time.  But isn’t Mac Daddy the cutest little guy?)

Recently, a Facebook friend of mine, Debra, dehydrated some cooked sweet potatoes as a treat for her dogs. She used a jerky gun to extrude the sweet potatoes into a square shape.  I got to thinking, why not make something like that for the grandpups with the grandkids?  I don’t have a jerky gun, but with some advice from Debra and the dehydrating group, I came up with Pumpkin Plops for Pups.  Of course, the only thing original about this is the title.

I used to make Thanksgiving pies from homegrown Halloween jack o’lanterns until I learned that field pumpkins are not nearly as sweet or flavorful as pie pumpkins.  I started growing pie pumpkins for Thanksgiving pies, and just a few field pumpkins for carving.  But the waste of the field pumpkins after Halloween always bothered me.  Oh, yes, they were composted, of course, but still.  Last year, I had chickens, so I didn’t feel as guilty, and this year, I planned to give our two jack o’lanterns to the chickens again.  But then I saw Debra’s post about her dog treats, and the light bulb blinked on.

It really couldn’t be any easier. I had two jack o’lanterns that Dennis carved during the family carving party.  (During which Buddy, by the way, ate quite a bit of raw pumpkin.)  I named our jack o’lanterns Drunken Jack and Happy Jack.

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I cut the faces off the jacks (the cut sides tend to mold quickly, although these weren’t bad), and gave them to the chickens.  They also got all of Happy Jack, because I didn’t need him. It made a funny picture.

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I cubed up the rest of Drunken Jack and filled my 6 quart soup pot.  I put a little water in the bottom of the pot to keep the pumpkin from scorching and got it boiling, then turned it down to a simmer.  I stirred the pot occasionally, bringing the more cooked cubes up to the top and turning the more raw cubes on top down to the bottom.  It only took about 45 minutes to get the peel on the large cubes soft enough to puree.

I didn’t peel the pumpkin for two reasons.  One, that’s a lot of work my hands can’t take, and I didn’t want to put too much pain, time, or effort into an experiment I wasn’t sure would work.  Two, I thought the peel would provide more body to the plops and fiber to the pups.

When the flesh and peel were soft, I scooped the pumpkin out of the pot and into a colander set over a large bowl.  I wanted to drain as much water out of the pumpkin as I could before dehydrating, and I wanted the pumpkin to cool down before I pureed it.

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Once the pumpkin was cool, I put it in the food processor in batches.  It took a while to get the peel broken down enough for my purposes, but eventually, I could only see small specks of bright orange.

The grandkids arrived after school, and the plopping commenced.  Early on, I’d thought we might be able to use frosting piping bags to create little poop-shaped plops (in which case this post would have been titled “Pumpkin Poop for Pups”).  But as soon as I scooped the pureed pumpkin out of the food processor bowl to fill the piping bags, I could tell it wasn’t going to hold a shape.  It was still too watery. But that was okay.  I thought the kids would have fun with the piping bags, and they did.

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We each had our own fruit leather tray.  Bryce gave creating a log-shaped poop plop for Buddy a good try!  Kaedynce was more dainty with her plops, but she was attempting to create a medium-sized plop for Chloe.  I made little plops for little Mac Daddy.  When our trays were full, they went into the dehydrator at 115 degrees.  Bryce, little logician that he is, read the guidelines on the control panel of the dehydrator and told me that vegetables should be set at  135 degrees.  Kaedynce, older and wiser in the ways of the kitchen, replied that pumpkin was not a vegetable, but a fruit. “Doesn’t matter,” Bryce said.  “Vegetables and fruit should dry at 135 degrees.” There might have been a squabble, but Nana intervened.  “My friend, Debra, recommended 115 degrees, so that’s what we’re going to do!”

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(If you want to try this but don’t have a food dehydrator, you can do it in the oven.  Set your oven to the lowest setting. The pumpkin plops can be placed on parchment- or waxed paper-covered cookie sheets.  When the oven and cookie sheets are warm, turn the oven off, turn on the oven light, and leave the oven door closed for 18-24 hours before checking. If the plops are still wet, heat the oven up again, and repeat above procedure until plops are leathery.)

The plops were very watery, so I was very surprised to see that they were dried to the leathery stage after about 18 hours.  I was also surprised to see how much they shrank!  They were so small, Buddy could have eaten them all in one gulp!

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I decided to try another batch with the leftover cooked pumpkin from Drunken Jack.  I’d intended to give the leftovers to the chickens, but the bowl was still sitting on the counter the morning after the initial test run.  I buzzed the pumpkin cubes in the Ninja blender this time, and it was faster and made a smoother, thicker puree.  Then, instead of using a piping bag, I used a tablespoon to create big plops, smoothing down the tops with the back of the spoon to a relatively even thickness.  I knew these would take longer to dry, but I thought maybe after shrinkage they would be substantial enough for big Buddy. They still only took about 18 hour at 115 degrees.

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As always when dehydrating food, it’s a good idea to put the dried food into a glass bowl, cover it with a tea towel, and let it sit on the counter for 24 hours to let the moisture left in the food equalize.  Then if it’s dry enough, you can store it in a plastic bag or glass jar.

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Pumpkin Plops for Pups was a success, in terms of a fun activity for me and the kids, and in terms of creating wholesome little treats for the grandpups.  The kids and I intend to make dog biscuits one of these days, if we can just find a bone-shaped cookie cutter.

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Fermenting, Uncategorized

Kombucha for Chickens

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Some of you will think I’m crazy.  But I’ve tested my theory several times, and each time I’ve found it to be true.  When I give my chickens a little kombucha several times a week, their eggs are almost completely clean. When the kombucha is withheld for several days, the eggs get poopy.

First off, some folks might not know what kombucha is.  Kombucha is fermented tea.  It’s fermented with some particular strains of bacteria.  You can make kombucha at home using raw, unflavored kombucha purchased in a health food store or obtained from someone who makes her own kombucha.  If you are interested in doing that, here’s the link I used to start my kombucha and SCOBY.  (The SCOBY is what grows in the kombucha.  The kombucha is the fermented tea that you drink.)  Kombucha is probiotic, very good for your gut.  And presumably, for a chicken’s gut.  Did you know they actually make probiotics for chickens? Yeah, that’s a thing. Some people buy probiotics for their chickens.  Some people feed them yogurt regularly.  I feed mine a little kombucha several times a week. And they love it.

I make my kombucha with green or white tea, mostly.  I have not ever given my chickens any kombucha made with black tea, because I want to keep the caffeine levels as low as possible.  Kombucha generally contains about a third of the caffeine in the tea it’s made from. Green or white tea contains less caffeine than black tea, thus the kombucha made from green or white tea contains less caffeine too.

Now, I’ve done a little research, and caffeine is apparently toxic to chickens (as it is to dogs). You’re not supposed to give them chocolate, tea bags, or coffee beans (I don’t know why anybody would, but nevertheless, you shouldn’t.)  However, many people do allow their chickens access to freshly brewed coffee grounds dumped in the compost pile, and these folks report no ill effects from the chickens eating the coffee grounds.  From what I understand from my reading, minute amounts of caffeine in things like spent coffee grounds doesn’t seem to hurt them.  I think small amounts of kombucha is probably the same. (You’re also not supposed to let chickens eat apple seeds, but mine ate windfall apples in the orchard all last fall. And when they eat an apple, they don’t leave anything but the stem.) So I think we can use an ounce of common sense here along with the kombucha.

I don’t give my four chickens a lot of kombucha at any one time, and I give it to them mixed with some scratch grains.  I put the scratch, about 1/3 cup or so, in an old pan, and pour on about a tablespoon of kombucha, or enough to just moisten the scratch.  I swirl and toss that around to coat all the scratch in the kombucha, and I let it sit for a minute to absorb the kombucha while I’m getting out their laying pellets.  I feed those separately.  They get the scratch/kombucha supplement about every other day.

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How was it that I began giving kombucha to my chickens in the first place?  In the summer of 2015, I was trying fermented feed for the chickens, for the probiotic effect, and I was using kombucha as a starter, mixing it in with their pellets and scratch and letting it ferment for 3 or 4 days before I gave it to them.  But with colder fall temps, fermenting the feed in the unheated pumphouse wasn’t working.  And it was another task when I really didn’t need another task. Then I thought, why bother with all that?  I have lots of kombucha, and it is easy to make more if I need it.  I could just keep a jar of it with their feed to mix with their scratch.

I did a little reading, noticing that many people reported giving their excess kombucha SCOBYs to their chickens, and I’ve done that too.  The chickens eat them like worms. No one reported any problems, and the SCOBYs retain quite a bit of kombucha in their layers. So I figured, why not?

I started noticing, a week or so after I began the kombucha regimen, that the eggs were clean.  Not just cleaner, but clean.  Rarely did I even get a little streak or smear of poop on an egg.  The majority of my eggs were pristine, like they’d been washed.  The change was noticeable, because they were pretty poopy before.  So I had nice, clean eggs all fall and into the winter.

In late winter, I came down with a bad case of influenza.  The old-fashioned stuff.  I was sick, really sick, for over a month.  During that time, Dennis took over feeding the chickens, and I hadn’t told him about the kombucha.  Didn’t even think about it until I was well enough to scramble myself an egg.  And then I noticed that the eggs were poopy again.

I told Dennis about the kombucha/scratch combo, and he started doing it.  Within a couple of days, the eggs were clean again.  No fooling.

Since then, we’ve had chicken minders for a week or so, at least three times, while we were gone on vacation.  I never tell them about the kombucha or ask them to do it because I don’t want the chickens getting too much kombucha. You never know how well people are actually listening when you tell them how to do something. Each time when we’ve returned, the eggs are poopy.  And each time, after a few days back on the booch, the eggs are clean again when I gather them.

The last time we left, the neighbor boy who was minding the chickens put a half-pan of dry scratch in the run for the hens so they had 24/7 access to it, something I never do, but it proved one thing to me.  It’s definitely the kombucha, not the scratch, that’s keeping those eggs clean.  I’d had a slight, niggling doubt about that, but this time was the clincher. I had poopy eggs for two days after we got back, until those chickens got some kombucha back in their systems.

In the first picture below, you can see that the eggs are very clean.  I don’t wash my eggs until I use them, if I need to wash them.  (If you have backyard chickens, you know why, but for those who don’t:  the reason you don’t wash eggs until you want to use them is that when the chicken lays the egg, it comes out with a protective coating that seals the shell and prolongs the life of the egg inside.  Store-bought eggs are washed, and they have shorter shelf lives than unwashed backyard eggs.) In the second photo, I’ve tried to take a close-up of the only egg in this carton (gathered over about a week’s time) that has any sign of poop on it.  It’s just a faint dark smear (not the reddish speckles–that is just pigment in the shell), and might not even be poop.  It could just be a smear of dirt from a chicken foot.  This is typical for my eggs when the chickens are getting kombucha at least three times a week.

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Kombucha for chickens makes cleaner eggs.  I don’t know why.  I could speculate, but I don’t know enough about the anatomy or digestive system of a chicken.  I just know it works.

 

 

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