Thursday, May 31, 2012

Sourdough Bread in Cast Iron Skillet

This is by far our favorite sourdough bread recipe and the easiest I have made to date.
And . . . once baked in the cast iron skillet, the crust is the traditional crispyness and the inside soft and the perfect texture for toast and sandwiches.

The night before you want to bake your bread, you will make the starter, which will provide you enough for two loaves.  You can either make new starter each time, or save back 1/4 cup to "feed" and continue to use for as long as you like.  I will describe this easy process at the end of the recipe.

The Sourdough Starter

3 cups very warm water
1 1/2 Tbsp. yeast
1 tsp. sugar

Mix these and let sit 5 min. til foamy

Add 3 cups flour (I use breadflour), stir vigorously, cover with towel or parchment paper and let sit in oven with the light on for 8-12 hours.


Sourdough Bread Recipe in Cast Iron Skillet

2 cups flour
1 1/2 c. starter
3/4 tsp. sea salt

  • Mix well and knead 10 min. and set in warm place to rise, approx. 1 hour or til doubled.
  • Punch down, knead lightly and shape into ball by working sides down and to the bottom and pinch together.

  • Set in an 8 or 9 inch cast iron skillet and set in oven with light on for approx. 1 hour til close to doubled.

  • Mist lightly with water on the top.
  • Leaving skillet in the oven, turn on to 400 degrees and allow to bake 45 min.  NOW, since ovens differ (mine has a convection bread setting so it may be way different for yours), start checking the bread in 40 min., but could take up to an hour.

  • Remove carefully since the skillet handle and all will be very, very hot.
  • Transfer to  cooling rack and let sit 20 min. before cutting.

  • Sourdough breads need to be very brown and sound hollow when thumped.
  • You can rub butter on the top when warm for a nice finish.
I hope you give this bread a try in your skillet - Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

From Chicks to Chickens

Almost two months old - My how they've grown!


Tilda, Amelia, Bluebell and Tunce -
The four little chick girls, who turned out to be three girls and one boy are growing "like weeds".

We had downsized from acreage to a cottage home on a creekside and were missing all the benefits of having chickens, so . . . off we went to the feed store for some new babies.  Not to be gender favored, but after having a rooster that crowed at 3 am and all day, we were hoping to be lucky enough to pick out four hens.  Oh well, we got one rooster.  We can only hope he's the quiet type.

So what are the benefits of having chickens?
  • Fresh eggs
  • Bug control in the yard
  • Entertainment to watch
  • easy care pets that love to consume kitchen scraps
  • the clucking announcing of a new egg
I just love the girls and since we spent time holding them while young chicks, they trust us and come running to say hi when we come out to the henhouse.  Of course the bread and vegie scraps help :)

Having had a dozen chickens before, this was a breeze to set up, but for those of you who are considering chickens, I will throw out a few general tips.  If you are truly new to the world of raising chickens, you may want to check out a book or puruse the internet for detailed information.  Just know that the venture is truly worth the efforts.
One thing to consider is that even if you are in an urban area, many cities allow a certain number of chickens in your yard - not always roosters because of the noise, but often the hens are accepted. 
The thing to remember is that each chicken needs at least four square feet of space to live comfortably.  Trying to squeeze too many chickens in one area can lead to pecking on each other and other health issues.  Also, if you get your chicks as youngins, you will need to set them up in a box or large pet cage with a heat lamp until they are getting in their feathers vs. the chick down and the nights are at least in the 40's.  The cage will need to be changed regularly as being chickens, they do eat, poop and sleep - in that order, and ALOT.

Once outside, the chickens will be thrilled to discover the world of bugs and greens! 
Having a henhouse, or in our case, a converted 16 sq ft dog kennel is optimal to ward off preditors at night and for them to have a safe haven in bad weather.

We obtained one bale of hay for bedding and have more than half left over to freshen up the house.

Being birds without hooked bills, the chickens will need grit to grind their food in their guts (parrots with hookbills hull their food and don't need grit).  As chicks it is also best to buy chick food that is medicated til they are 18 weeks to ward off nasty bacteria.  There is little else needed, besides plenty of fresh water to give them a great start.
At five months old, we should be seeing our first eggs.  Russ took a tall tupperware cabinet, turned it on it's side and rigged it up on the dog pen wall (chickens like them at least 3' off the ground) for their roosts.  With wood planks to walk up to the roosts, the girls are already finding their favorite spots to settle in to.
The bottom door will eventually be lifted closed for privacy and then the top doors we will be able open to pop in and lift out the eggs.

The breeds we chose for our little flock include -
2 Bard Rocks - Excellent layers and produce the popular brown eggs
1 Ameraucana - Good layers, extremely hardy with colored eggs
1 blue Andalusian - Russ loved her coloring, good layer and self reliant w/ white eggs
Tunce is the darker Bard Rock and she had a harder start, being unsettled and pecking on the other's feet constantly.  After spending a few nights with me rocking her in the chair and providing them all with a protein snack treat, she settled in after a few nights and has been my close buddy, coming to me in a sprint to say hi and get a nice petting.  Ah . . . I love these girls (and boy :)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Cast Iron Skillet Cooking

The choice to use my grandma's old cast iron skillet came when I mentioned to my hubby that we desperately needed new skillets.  We weren't exactly in the position to buy a new set, so I decided to consider the way my dear grandma used to cook . . . I am soooo hooked on these skillets!

After a bit of research on how to refurbish the large cast iron skillet I had, along with the medium and smaller one I picked up at thrift stores, I was up and cooking and haven't looked back since.  These cooking pans will outlive me and hopefully inspire the next generation to get cooking on these amazing skillets!

I remember giving these a try in my 20's and was disappointed in the nasty sticking food issue - now that I have seasoned my pans, they are a dream to cook with and my husband loves the omelets, vegies and even breads I cook.  And after the food is enjoyed, I clean 'em up, put 'em up and move on.  So easy, and the way the heat conducts in them makes for food that tastes amazing!

I will show you one quick recipe we love and go from there . . .

Cast Iron Zucchini Stir Recipe

I will admit that I'm not the best at measurements, so bear with me and I'll try to be somewhat specific - I will follow with specifics on how to refurbish and season your pan - you won't be sorry!
Start heating the skillet slowly - as taking a cold cast iron pan and setting to high heat isn't best.
While it's heating, cut up one green, one yellow zucchini, 1/3 onion and one roma tomato (or grab one from the freezer you have stored).
Add approx. 1-2 Tbsp olive oil to the pan and heat - add the onion and zucchini and saute til very translucent and browned.  The glass dish in the background are the zucchini ends for the "girls", our chickens.

Add some seasoning, such as the creole seasoning mix I love and listed below, and the tomato, and cook til well done.
Finally, throw in any cheese you might need to use up (I'm all about using up things needing to be cooked), whether cream cheese, goat cheese or cheddar cheese, and stir up.  You can probably turn off the heat at this point, as the cheese will melt fast . . . you are ready to serve!
We love this recipe and have it often - I so hope you enjoy it as well, hopefully in your cast iron skillet!

Creole Seasoning

2 Tbsp - chilli powder
2 Tbsp - paprika
2 tsp - grnd cumin
1 Tbsp - garlic powder
1 tsp - black pepper
1 tsp - cayenne pepper - or more if you like spice
1 tsp - crushed red pepper - "                         "
1 Tbsp - sea salt
1 Tbsp - oregano
Combine all, shake up and store in pint Mason jar

You can use this mix in so many recipes - fish, vegies, chicken . . . endless yummy options!

I will post next how to season and care for your cast iron skillets - you'll never look back.

Seasoning Your Cast Iron Skillet

Unless you have purchased a new, preseasoned pan from a company such as The Lodge, you will need to "season" it prior to cooking in order for it to have that wonderful, non-stick surface.

  • First, make certain the skillet is free of debris and rust (you can scrub well with steel wool). 
  • Then coat the entire surface; top, bottom, handle, etc . . . with the oil of your choice.
  • Place upside down on foil in the oven set to 350 degrees and leave it for one hour.
  • Once done, wipe down with a paper towel and store in a cupboard or even the oven.
You shouldn't have to reseason as long as you clean the pan soon after cooking and keep an eye on any rust that might show up.  Don't use metal when cooking or cleaning as this can promote scratching that will encourage rust.  Also, don't let them soak in water after cooking (not the best pan for those who tend to soak their pans overnight :)

Cleaning Your Cast Iron Skillet

Cleaning cast iron cookware is easy and once you get in the routine of cleaning soon after cooking and even eating, you'll enjoy them for many, many years.
  • First, make sure all food is scraped out by using a plastic scraper or stiff nylon brush.
  • Rinse with hot water, once again making sure all food is removed. (Never use cold water on a warm pan, as the temperature difference could cause the pan to warp or even crack).
  • Dry thoroughly - don't air dry as this can encourage rust if you haven't noticed any scratches.  One thing you don't want to do, is to use the pans for boiling water.
  • Wipe with a thin coat of oil on the bottom and sides.  And store!
  • I know it sounds odd to not use dishsoap, but you will have to reseason often and the above is the proven method for safe cooking and eating with cast iron cookware.

All you need for cast iron cooking!
Don't forget that the handle stays hot - use potholder or hotpad sleeve like I made above.

Quick Crochet Skillet Handle Sleeve

Chain 18
Half Double crochet in second chain from hook and across. Chain 2 and turn.
Continue with half double crochet across, ch2, until you have the desired length (approx 4 1/2")
Fold in half and slip stitch along the long side to form a sleeve - fasten off.

I will continue to add my favortie recipes and would love for you all to share your own tips and recipes in regards to cast iron cookware.

I hope you have a great day!