Archive for March 2018

Baby Belle


Baby Belle was born in December. She’s Glory Bee’s fourth calf. I’m milking Glory Bee these days, which means Baby Belle goes to lockup in the evening-time. Here she is in her little pen–with hay, water, and a handful of sweet feed to keep her sweet, ready for mommy to get off work in the morning.

We had trouble deciding on a name for her. Her daddy was Beau the Hereford bull. I told Morgan we were having trouble coming up with a name and that her daddy was Beau. She said, “Beau is handsome in French, so her name should be Belle–which is beautiful in French.” And so she’s Belle! Which always makes me think of those Mini Babybel cheese commercials, so I call her Baby Belle. Which is also apropos since her mommy’s job is making milk, some of which is turned into cheese. She’s, like, Glory Bee’s lil cheese. Ha.

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Easy Puff Pastry


Like puff pastry–except easy!

It’s easy because we’re going to use self-rising flour (or your favorite baking mix). The salt is already in the self-rising flour, along with baking powder, which gives a slightly different result than if you started with all-purpose flour. Flaky layers, with a bit of rise. The texture with self-rising flour will be a more biscuit-like puff pastry. What is puff pastry? We often buy this at the store in paper-thin sheets, made from paper-thin layers of dough rolled with butter. When it’s rolled out, all those paper-thin layers rise as the liquid in the water and butter evaporates. All that butter rolled between the layers makes it flaky and crispy.

If you can make biscuits, you can make puff pastry–and if you can make croissants, you’re a shoe-in because puff pastry is like a cross between croissant technique and biscuits. You can use this dough for the flakiest biscuits ever, or use it to make turnovers or all kinds of little appetizer-type treats wrapped with fillings, as a “cup” base with fillings (for tarts or mini tarts)–and so on! Because this is easy puff pastry, we’re not going to make paper thin layers (which dry out quickly and can be difficult to deal with) but layers that are more like 1/4 inch thick. Once you’re ready to cut out the dough to bake, you can make it as thick or thin as you like, depending on your end purpose for the dough.

Here’s how you do it. Double or triple as needed.

Easy Puff Pastry:

2 cups self-rising flour
1 cup water (approximately)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

Place self-rising flour in a medium mixing bowl. Add water gradually, stirring until you have a pliable dough that isn’t too dry and crumbly, but not too wet either. The amount of water you’ll need will vary depending on the humidity in your kitchen, so add it slowly, stirring gently with a spoon. If you need a little less than a cup, or a little more than a cup, that’s okay, just do it slow. Once you have a pliable dough, lay it out on a floured surface and roll out into a rectangle. Don’t worry about the size or being a perfect rectangle–just roll it about 1/4 inch thick and you’ll be fine.

Spread the butter evenly as possible over the whole top surface of the dough. You can do this a few different ways–freeze the butter and grate it over the dough, or soften it by pounding it (what a hassle) or just warm the butter a bit to make it soft enough to spread easily. This last one is my preference. As with croissant dough when doing this same technique, cold butter is the standard, but you’re going to chill this dough here in a minute and I find that 1) it makes no difference to the end result if you’ve taken the easy path here, and 2) it’s EASIER. And we’re making easy puff pastry, so. Now you’re going to do the letter fold and roll it out again and again. And again.

The letter fold means folding in thirds. Fold one third over toward the center. (Don’t be confused by the lack of butter on the surface in this photo. I forgot to take letter-folding pictures until later.)

Then fold another third over toward the center, over top the first.

Letter fold!

Put it in an envelope and mail it to me and I’ll give you a grade. Ha.

Roll out the dough again, flouring your surface and the surface of the dough as needed if it’s sticking. (Use all-purpose flour for your rolling flour, not self-rising.) Letter fold. Do it again. And again. Now you’ve rolled it out four times, counting the first time when you spread the butter. I think. If you lose count, it’s not that important! Just do it a bunch.

Now you want to chill the dough. I wrap it in a plastic bag and stash it in the fridge. You can make puff pastry ahead by getting to this step and leaving it in the fridge overnight. If you need it sooner, leave it in the fridge for at least an hour.

When you take the dough out of the fridge, now you’ve got cold butter in the layers. (You want cold butter because warm melty butter will run out of your puff pastry too fast when it gets in the oven.)

Roll out and letter fold three more times. Or four if you’re feeling ambitious. Place the dough back in the fridge for at least another 30 minutes before your final roll and cutting/shaping so you’re working with cold dough going into the oven. (Again, this is a point where you could stash it in the fridge overnight if you want.)

See all the layers in there?

That’s the magic–so many, many, many layers.

When you’re ready to bake, take the dough back out of the fridge and roll as thin or thick as you like, depending on what you’re making, and cut/shape as desired. Bake at 425-degrees–in the 5 to 10 minute range, again depending on what you’re making and the sizes you’ve cut out.

Here, I’ve cut the dough in triangles. These can be used to make the flaky, delicious little mini sandwiches.

These are cut out with a small biscuit cutter.

Have a perverse liking for canned biscuits because of the million flaky thin layers? These are like homemade canned biscuits.

This is a simple breakfast treat or appetizer–the dough is rolled a little more thinly and wrapped around ham.

Your options are limitless for shapes and fillings, savory appetizers or sweet treats!

Note: To make a more traditional puff pastry, use all-purpose flour instead of self-rising and add a 1 teaspoon salt per 2 cups flour; roll thinner layers.

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The Slanted Little House

"It was a cold wintry day when I brought my children to live in rural West Virginia. The farmhouse was one hundred years old, there was already snow on the ground, and the heat was sparse-—as was the insulation. The floors weren’t even, either. My then-twelve-year-old son walked in the door and said, “You’ve brought us to this slanted little house to die." Keep reading our story....

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