Terry asked me earlier this week to make some hamburger or slider buns for Sloppy Joes or grilled hamburgers since the weather is starting to warm up. My son had provided me a recipe he’d made a few weeks ago. I compared it to three or four recipes I found at the King Arthur Flour web site. The first one I leaned towards trying (and dividing in half) was the Hamburger or Hot Dog Bun recipe (and I do actually have the KAF hot dog bun pan). The second one I looked at was the Beautiful Burger Buns recipe, which required a quarter cup of sugar and no milk.
I chatted with Amanda at the King Arthur Flour live chat and asked if I could substitute honey for the sugar. She confirmed I could but I should halve the amount. So for the Beautiful Burger Buns recipe, I would use two tablespoons of local honey instead of a quarter cup of sugar. I also added milk to the water (a half cup of each).
Today I start my third week of sheltering at home and working from home. Also my first week in that scenario of on call rotation. Thankfully, the weekend was quiet, and the weather improved to the point where both Terry and I got out of the house and worked in the yard Sunday afternoon. I needed the exercise to counteract the back and neck pain I’ve been suffering from in my non-ergonomic home office.
Terry also accompanied me to pickup our second order from Dillons (local Kroger affiliate) and we decided to run the van through the car wash. For Terry, it’s been weeks since he has let the house. He’s at increased risk for the coronavirus and it would likely prove fatal for him. He self-isolates during flu season, and the coronavirus pandemic meant he’s had to extend an already months-long isolation. The sunshine and brief excursion did both of us good.
I work up Sunday knowing I needed to make a fresh loaf of the Oatmeal Sandwich bread to go with the sourdough stuffing, boneless chicken thighs and corn I’d made the day before as a ‘care package’ from my father and uncle. I’m still tweaking the recipe and Ron, my uncle, had expressed interest in trying the ‘original’ version which uses three tablespoons of molasses. I had just popped that loaf in the oven when he messaged me to state he and Dad were going on a road trip to Cottonwood Falls. I was a bit confused as I though they were going to meet us at Dillons when we picked up our order and I would transfer the care package to them. Since it was going to be a gorgeous perfect spring day in Kansas, my only warning was the Flint Hills ranchers would probably be burning their fields this time of year (they were) and a request for a sketch of the oldest still in use county courthouse in Kansas. Now I wish I’d let the bread rise just a tad longer since I didn’t need to have it finished by noon and cool by one o’clock.
On my sixth day of self-exile in my own home, and several sourdough loaves later, I wanted to try something different. My lazy self, before the world turned upside-down, would buy a loaf of Pepperidge Farm Oatmeal bread once or twice a month. Baking bread, especially sourdough, isn’t onerous (Thank you Lord for my bread machine!) but does require you set aside the time necessary to manage the process. It doesn’t require a lot of brain cycles, but in my previously ‘normal’ routine, starting bread after six o’clock at night meant being up past my bedtime before it was done and cool enough to bag. Weekends were usually spent running errands, volunteering, shopping, visiting friends and relatives or attending events. For the foreseeable future, my bread machine and I are going to be BFFs!
How I spent the first winter storm weekend of January 2020.
Until Friday, this January has had the weirdest warm weather I’ve ever experienced in northeastern Kansas. Usually, I’m bundling up because the temperatures outside are nudging into single digits or a raging snowstorm with a wicked north wind blows through to remind us of what our Canadian neighbors endure daily. I actually looked forward to a three-day cold snap with a soft blanketing of snow. My pantry was stocked and I could wait to shovel the driveway until Sunday afternoon (which I did). I avoided the ice forgotten under the snow from Friday’s all-day rain. I stayed snug in my home with my sourdough, my movies, my books, my dog and my hubby.
Just like last weekend, I set out my sourdough starter to feed, but this time I did it Friday morning, not Saturday morning, because my plan was to try the much longer process necessary for the Extra Tangy Sourdough bread recipe. I thought I’d take advantage of the low pressure system to boost my wild yeast production. And I wanted to try out my new covered ceramic baker I received on Friday, thanks to a free shipping promotion last week at King Arthur Flour.
The oven timer pinged before I finished writing my second phase post yesterday afternoon. I had hovered over the publish button many times, but kept finding things to fix and change. Once I heard the timer beep, I had to save a draft and retrieve the first loaf from the oven.
I’m happy but not completely satisfied with the first loaf results. I think I should have let it rise before shaping it. And I think I need a new lame. My slashes were not deep enough so the loaf did not expand as well as it could have with properly deep slashes. The loaf passed the taste test.
Welcome back! I’ve just popped the first sourdough loaf in the oven and in a few minutes my house, at least the main level, will smell amazing. And as my uncle commented on my fist post, he’s already salivating and soon I will be joining him. Nothing smells better than baking bread . But first, let’s back track about ninety minutes and catch up.
The Second Act ~ The Not-So-Meaty Middle
About an hour after I published my previous post, I pulled the dough out of the bread machine, gently kneaded it by folding the very sticky dough in upon itself from the four corners (of a ball, yeah, I know, doesn’t make much sense and is difficult to make a video while actually performing the action). I sprayed my glass stove-top with cooking spray and coated my my hands as well. I’ve learned from experience that the easiest way to handle high hydration doughs is to grease yourself and your surface to avoid getting stuck.
Today is the twelfth day of Christmas and it’s been eight days since my daughter gifted her sourdough starter to me when she returned to Seattle. I fed the starter late last weekend and set it out from the fridge yesterday morning to warm up to room temperature so I could feed it again in anticipation of baking sourdough bread today. Very early this morning, I checked the started to see how ripe (or vigorous) it appeared and it was quite bubbly. So instead of feeding it again (to enhance its vitality), I reviewed the Basic Sourdough Bread recipe at King Arthur Flour that I had decided to try today to see what to do to prep starter to use in an actual bread recipe.
The recipe required two cups of starter so I put eight ounces of water and eight ounces of all-purpose flour in my small mixing bowl (see first photo above). To this I took all but a half cup of the starter from the crock and stirred vigorously. I covered the small mixing bowl with my tea towel and then re-fed my starter as I would normally – half cup of water and a cup of all-purpose flour.
Yesterday, while Rachelle and I braved shopping at Costco, Lowe’s and Target, my son, daughter-in-law and grandson drove safely but surprisingly quickly up I-35 from North Texas to Northeastern Kansas. They made only one stop, for gasoline at the southernmost KTA (Kansas Turnpike Authority) rest area. This is an amazing fete considering my grandson isn’t yet eighteen months old (that happens on the 9th day of Christmas next year).
The consequence, however, of a baby who sleeps for about nine hours on a family road trip is predictable (see photo above). By early evening, Derek and Royna were dozing on our new sectional while Senna wanted to explore all the strange new environment of our home. Interestingly, he’s not overly interested in the Christmas tree or the presents tucked underneath. Rather, he found one of the Costco boxes to be endlessly entertaining as well as an impromptu piano lesson from Rachelle which introduced him to a new noise maker he could easily reach.
My daughter landed early and safely very late Tuesday evening but didn’t step off the plane until Wednesday morning (technically a couple of minutes past midnight). Despite arriving at least fifteen minutes ahead of schedule, no gate crew could be found once the plane taxied to Terminal C. I kept my self from dozing off in the cell phone parking lot by leaving the car turned off despite temperatures in the teens. Rachelle finally called me and I navigated the surprisingly congested orange cone maze of construction that is the remaining two terminals at KCI to retrieve her before she froze to death. An uneventful drive home through Platte City and Leavenworth found us back at home by 1:30 a.m. My alarm goes off at 5:18 am.
Unsurprisingly, I ignored my alarm and slept an extra hour. I had convinced myself that Wednesday was the department gift exchange so I absolutely had to drive to work. I realized mid-morning that the gift exchange was Thursday so I could have worked from home. However, it was a mixed blessing, my absentmindedness, as it gave me the opportunity to take a late lunch and shop for my daughter at Trader Joe’s on Ward Parkway, about 10-15 minutes south of where I work. She has a corn allergy and many products at Trader Joe’s are safe for her to eat. And I found that of the two Trader Joe’s stores in the KC metro area, the one on Ward Parkway was larger and much easier to access than the one I visited last Saturday in Overland Park.
I received a call from my son Thursday evening. This is a somewhat unusual occurrence as the last time I spoke to him was on the occasion of his 31st birthday back in early February. In our defense, we are both busy professionals working much more than your typical 40-hour work week, so we don’t have a lot of spare time for idle chit-chat.
We exchanged pleasantries and got caught up on the latest antics of their new pet Rottweiler, Ton Ton, when he popped the question. You know, the one you always expect when your offspring call you because they never call you unless they … wait for it … want something. But this time, my son surprised me. He wanted my Italian Herb bread recipe.
Seriously? This was too easy and too good to be true.