Thursday, December 27, 2007

Recipe: Italian Rosemary Raisin Bread (Pane di Ramerino)

Italian Rosemary Raisin Bread
Pane di Ramerino — Italian Rosemary Raisin Bread

For more years than I like to think about, we've been slowly but surely working on a large metal building here on the farm that will one day house our wholesale artisan bread bakery and us. (2011 Update: The bakery is on possibly permanent hold, but we've finally moved in!)

Since progress lately has been more along the lines of slowly rather than surely, we finally broke down and admitted to ourselves that this project was never going to be completed unless we hired some outside help. Besides, The Shack is literally falling down around us.

For the past five weeks our new contractor and his helper have been hard at work by 7:30 nearly every weekday morning. Great headway is being made, and we're both extremely excited. It looks like 2008 really will be The Year We Move Out Of The Shack. It's like a checkbook-draining dream come true.


Home Sweet Soon-to-Be Home

The builders weren't planning to start until the end of this month, but a spot opened up in their schedule and anybody who's ever had construction done or watched the movie "The Money Pit" knows that you never, ever turn away a contractor who is willing to show up and work.

Because of our schedule, however, this has necessitated my becoming more involved with the project at this point than was originally planned.

Suddenly I've been busy making command decisions about phone jacks and bathroom lighting while frantically trying to figure out whether we might someday want to put in a bigger refrigerator or a second seven-foot-wide deck oven.

I also get to go pick stuff up.

I now know what it feels like to spend five and a half hours shopping alone at Lowe's Home Improvement Center. The other day, arriving mostly clueless and clutching a very long list, I systematically worked my way through what felt like 3,000 miles of aisles, pouncing on every one of those PRESS THIS BUTTON IF YOU NEED HELP thingies I could find.

But since the store was practically empty of customers - everybody else was apparently out shopping for holiday presents rather than junction box covers and 33 feet of 10-3 wire for the dryer - there was only a skeleton crew on the floor. The third time this one guy rounded a corner and saw me standing by the help button he actually blurted out, "Not you again!" At least he was smiling when he said it.

After I'd sweet talked another guy into helping me pick through an enormous pile of 2x4s in search of 32 really pretty ones (did you know you can use a garden hoe to pull the far stacks of boards within reach?), and yet another one into helping me secure said 2x4s (along with the several dozen other boards I'd picked out myself) in the bed of the truck, I headed out into the dark and foggy rain for the 90 mile drive back to the farm, smiling at the half-price rosemary topiary I'd treated myself to as a reward for making it out of the store alive.

It's important to learn new things, and I'm proud that I can now carry on a semi-intelligent conversation about RACO boxes, ring shanks, and SEU cable. I understand the difference between full round head and clipped head nails, and I've fallen head over heels for 1x4s, which from now on I will refer to as 'girl boards.' I also know more than I ever thought possible about breaker boxes and pulling amps.

This is all very thrilling of course, but I'd much rather be baking than taking Wiring 101, especially as I watch our bread bakery finally becoming a reality. It's a proven fact that all workers are 50% more productive when they've been well fed (no, really), and our two builders informed me early on that they love baked goods of any sort.

When I'm not stuffing them with molasses ginger spice snaps, Mexican monkey cake, or my whole wheat chocolate chip and raisin cookies—which they both declared were the best cookies they'd ever eaten—I've been experimenting with new bread recipes, including this one.


It's almost too pretty to eat.

Italian Rosemary Raisin Bread
(Pane di Ramerino)

Makes 2 small loaves - Adapted slightly from
Bread

This is the second recipe I've made from a wonderful European book called
Bread: Artisan Breads from Baguettes and Bagels to Focaccia and Brioche by authors and cooking instructors Eric Treuille and Ursula Ferrigno (he's French, she's Italian). If you learn best by looking at pictures, then this is definitely the book for you because it's packed with gorgeous, full-color photos.

And while it's perfect for beginners, I think many experienced bakers would also enjoy it. I've already discovered all sorts of handy tips and useful nuggets of information. The carrot herb rolls I created last month using the carrot bread recipe were a big hit, and there are several other breads I'm planning to make. At
around $15, this book is also a bargain.

Pane di ramerino has been baked daily throughout Tuscany since the early 16th century. As you can see, this is a beautiful bread, and it would not only be perfect to serve to guests but would also make a lovely gift. Thankfully the recipe makes two small loaves so you can spread the yeasty joy and still have some left for yourself.

I never would have thought to combine raisins and rosemary in bread, but the result is delicious. The flavor of the rosemary is subtle, so double the amount if you want to taste it more.

This is a rich, easy-to-work-with dough made with milk, olive oil (which adds another layer of flavor) and eggs. The texture of the crumb is reminiscent of a cinnamon roll. This bread freezes beautifully and can even be sliced while still frozen. (I use a large serrated knife.)



It also makes amazing toast, which I've been eating slathered with apricot jam and thinly sliced sharp cheddar cheese. This may sound like an odd combination, but it reminds me of the cheese and chutney sandwiches I was introduced to by an English pal when I was a kid.

The authors claim pane di ramerino is a superlative breakfast bread and "quite simply the best accompaniment to fresh goat cheese." My friend Amanda, who writes about glorious Mediterranean food at Figs Olives Wine, suggested using this bread to make her cool weather bruschetta with ricotta salata and thyme. Mmmmmm. I'm thinking it would also make marvelous French toast - perhaps for brunch on New Year's Day.

I've never had good luck using those little packets of yeast, and they're pricey. Instead I buy instant yeast in inexpensive 1-pound packages and store it in a jar in the freezer, where it will keep for at least a year.

3¾ cups organic bread flour (1 lb, 2¾ oz - 533 g) plus a little more while kneading
2 teaspoons instant yeast**
1/2 cup warm milk
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1½ packed cups (4½ oz - 127 g) raisins
4 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 large eggs, beaten
1½ teaspoons salt


1. Mix the flour and yeast in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center and add the milk, rosemary, raisins, olive oil, and eggs. Mix to form a soft, sticky dough, adding extra flour, 1 Tablespoon at a time, if the dough is too moist.

2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead 6 minutes. Cover the dough and let it rest for 20 minutes.

3. Knead in the 1½ teaspoons salt, and continue kneading until the dough is silky, springy, and elastic, about 5 to 8 minutes.

4. Put the dough in a plastic lidded container (or in a large bowl covered with a damp tea towel) and let it rise until doubled in size, about 1½ to 2 hours.


Shaped loaves ready for proofing

5. Divide the dough into two pieces. Shape each into a round loaf and place on a well floured couche or work counter. If you don't have a baking stone (they make the best pizza and bread!), bake your focaccia on a heavy duty baking sheet. I've been using the heck out of some of my commercial rimmed baking sheets for 20 years for everything from baking scones to roasting Brussels sprouts.

Lightly dust tops of loaves with flour and cover with a damp tea towel.

6. Put the baking stone in the cold oven and heat to 400 degrees (never put a cold stone in a hot oven). Proof loaves until doubled in size, about 1 hour. (Note: the book says that the loaves will spread and look slightly flat after rising, but will rise up dramatically during the initial stages of baking. Mine didn't flatten out, but my dough was on the dense side.)

7. Cut a slash, 1/2 inch deep, across the top of the loaf, then another in the opposite direction to make an "X."

8. Bake in the preheated oven (directly on the baking stone if you're using one) until golden brown and hollow sounding when tapped underneath, about 30 minutes with a baking stone and 45 minutes without. Cool on a wire rack.

Still hungry? You'll find links to all my sweet and savory Less Fuss, More Flavor recipes in the Farmgirl Fare Recipe Index.

**A NOTE ON YEAST: I prefer to use instant yeast when baking bread because you can add it straight in with the dry ingredients. If you're using active dry yeast instead of instant yeast, you'll need to proof it first.

For this recipe, place the 1/2 cup of warm milk in a small bowl and sprinkle the yeast over it. Let stand for 5 minutes, then stir to dissolve. Add this yeast mixture to the flour along with the rosemary, raisins, olive oil, and eggs.

Instant yeast is stronger than active dry yeast, so some bakers recommend using up to 25% more active dry yeast than the amount of instant yeast called for in a recipe (that would be 2½ teaspoons for this recipe). Others substitute active yeast for instant yeast 1 to 1. This may take your dough a little longer to rise, but that will only result in even better tasting bread.

Alternately, if a recipe calls for active dry yeast and you want to substitute instant yeast, you may want to use a little less. The original version of this recipe actually called for 2 teaspoons of active dry yeast and I simply used 2 teaspoons of instant yeast instead.

© FarmgirlFare.com, the yeasty foodie farm blog where Farmgirl Susan shares stories & photos of her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Farm Photo 12/25/07: Today's Holiday Performance Schedule


Who needs TV when you have Lucky Buddy Bear?

There will be breakdancing by the barn at 1:00 and 3:00, along with a special bedtime performance at 5:00 which will be followed immediately by molasses tuck-in treats for all.

Have a Merry & Amusing Christmas!

A year of Farm Photos ago:
12/24/06: There Are So Many Ways To Show Someone You Love Them
12/25/06: Wishing You Life's Simple Joys This Christmas

And two years ago:
12/24/05: It's Over 100 Years Old But Should Work Just Fine
12/24/05: Christmas Eve Greetings From The Farm
12/25/05: Merry Christmas To You

© FarmgirlFare.com

Monday, December 24, 2007

Recipe Revisited: Cranberry Christmas Scones


These Cranberry Christmas Scones Are Tasty Any Time Of Year

Sometimes I forget about recipes. I hadn't made these yummy little scones in months, but when a reader sent me a note recently telling me she'd made them six times in the past two weeks and was about to mix up two more batches, I couldn't stop thinking about them. The idea of maybe getting a nice updated photo of this tried and true recipe was all the excuse I needed to head into the kitchen.

Since there are many scone recipes that call for lots more butter than mine do, I decided I would experiment and see what happened if I tossed in several extra tablespoons of butter. I rationalized this research by telling myself that the scones wouldn't actually be any richer than usual; the butter I usually slathered on top was simply going into the dough. And they would even be easier to eat.

Unfortunately sometimes I also forget to add all the ingredients when I'm following a recipe. Many years ago, not long after I'd first started baking yeast breads, I was shaping some French bread dough into rounds for a dinner party and realized that when I was mixing up the dough I'd forgotten to add the salt. Since there was no way to get the salt into the dough at that point, I sprinkled it over the tops of the loaves. Then I went out and foolishly admitted this to the dinner guests. They laughed in my face, but I didn't feel too bad because they ended up devouring every bit of that warm and crusty, saltless bread.

It wasn't until I'd pulled this batch of scones out of the oven that I realized I'd somehow forgotten to add the sugar. Thinking back to that French bread, I spritzed the tops with water and proceeded to sprinkle so much sugar on them it looked like we'd had a light snow in the kitchen.

The scones were perfectly edible, but that 1/4 cup of sugar in the dough really does make a difference. (In fact, another 1/4 cup probably wouldn't hurt.) And adding the extra butter turned out to be totally unnecessary. The scones weren't any flakier, and the bottoms actually ended up a little greasy.

If you're looking for an easy and delicious way to impress your guests and brighten up your holiday breakfast, brunch, or afternoon tea, I invite you to give these cranberry Christmas scones a try. You'll find the original recipe here. As long as you remember to keep the sugar inside and the extra butter on top, I think you'll really enjoy them.

© Copyright 2007 FarmgirlFare.com, the award-winning blog where Farmgirl Susan shares stories & photos of her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Farm Photo 12/19/07:
How The Mighty Have Fallen


I Could Spend Hours Taking Pictures Of Leaves

And you could spend hours perusing the dozens of wonderful prizes (some of which still have a 1 in 2 chance of winning!) offered up by food bloggers around the world for this year's Menu For Hope. Each $10 donation buys a virtual raffle ticket toward any of the prizes, which include a phone call from me and--better yet--a signature cookie recipe created especially for you or someone you love by my best baking pal, Beth. How cool would that be?

Over 86% of all donations go directly to an innovative school lunch program in Lesotho, Africa that helps both hungry children and local farmers. You'll find lots more information about Menu For Hope (which ends Sunday!) here.

© Copyright 2007 FarmgirlFare.com.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Farm Photo 12/17/07:
It's Never Too Cold For A Tummy Rub


Or is that an upside down happy dance?

Welcome new visitors!
Click here for a brief introduction to this site.

We won! Farmgirl Fare has been named Best Rural Food Blog in the Well Fed Network's 2007 Food Blog Awards. Many thanks to all of you who voted for us, and to the judges for their hard work. A big congratulations to the 13 other winners, and to the other finalists in the rural category - Nami-Nami (Estonia), Garlic Breath (France), and Lucullian Delights (Italy) are three of my favorite food blogs.

And now I have to go break it to the sheep that there isn't any actual food associated with winning a Food Blog Award. (It's hard to think about anything else when you're walking around with four stomachs.)

© Copyright 2007 FarmgirlFare.com, the award-winning blog where Farmgirl Susan shares stories & photos of her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Farm Photo 12/16/07: Winter, Take One


So We Had A Little Snowstorm Blow In

A year of Farm Photos ago:
12/12/06: Where Does The Time Go?
12/13/06: Breakfast In The Front Field Back In Late October
12/14/06: Summer In The Barn, Autumn On The Ridge
12/16/06:
It's All In The Light

Two years ago:
12/11/05: Ever Cut Firewood In The Snow? I Have!
12/11/05: Weekend Dog & Donkey Blogging
12/12/05: Frolicking On The Farm
12/13/05: Yo! So I'm Not Good Enough To Donate?
12/15/05: The Weathered Look Is Very In Around Here
12/16/05: Where Did She Go?

And out of the kitchen came:
Chocolate Biscotti For Beginners & Baking With A Faraway Buddy

© Copyright 2007 FarmgirlFare.com, the award-winning blog where Farmgirl Susan shares stories & photos of her crazy country life on 240 remote acres.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Farm Photo 12/15/07: Farm Art


Still Life With Barbed Wire & Buck Brush

Have you ordered from the Menu For Hope yet?
Just a reminder that our annual food blogger fundraiser is going on now. Your $10 donation will support an innovative
school lunch program in Lesotho, Africa and buy you a raffle ticket toward one of dozens of amazing prizes. Read more about Menu For Hope (including the prize I'm offering this year) here. Wondering how your money is spent? Over 86% of donations go directly to the children and farmers in Lesotho.

© Copyright 2007 FarmgirlFare.com.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Farm Photo 12/14/07: Good Next Door Neighbors


They Aren't Nosy & Are Obviously Into Food

Have you voted for your favorite food blogs yet?
Voting for the 2007 Food Blog Awards ends tonight at 11:59pm EST. There are 14 categories to vote in, and Farmgirl Fare is up for Best Food Blog - Rural!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Farm Photo 12/13/07: Slow Traffic Ahead


As Seen Through My Windshield

When a discount chain builds a megastore out here, they put in new stoplights and create special turn lanes. When an Amish community moved to the area last spring, yellow traffic signs popped up along the highway sporting pictures of horse-drawn buggies and asking us to Share The Road. I gladly do.

As for taking this picture, don't worry--there were no other cars around and I'd slowed down to one horsepower speed.

© Copyright 2007 FarmgirlFare.com, the award-winning blog where Farmgirl Susan shares stories & photos of her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Farm Photo 12/11/07: It's A Small World


Moss Capped Peaks On A Wooden Landscape

Welcome new visitors!
Click here for a brief introduction to this site.

Food Blog Awards Reminder:
Have you voted for the 2007 Food Blog Awards yet? Hint, hint: Farmgirl Fare is up for Best Food Blog - Rural. There are 13 other categories to vote for, too. The polls close Friday, December 14th at 11:59pm EST.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Farm Photo 12/10/07: Flying Donkeys


Having Fun On The Run

Welcome new visitors!
Click here for a brief introduction to this site.

There's nothing like watching a bunch of happy donkeys sailing across a field. That's Dolores' son Dinky in the lead (don't worry, it's only a nickname), followed by Dolores, then Daphne, and of course that's Dan bringing up the rear. What I love most about this photo (which was taken in early October) is that it captured Dinky totally airborne. (Update: the name Dinky kinda stuck.)

A year of Farm Photos ago:
12/2/06: Snowstorms & Snowfall
12/3/06: A Place To Bark
12/4/06: Yo! I Said Show Business, Not Snow Business
12/5/06: Hayfield Same Scene, New View

12/6/06: Cary Is Seven Months Old Today!

12/7/06: Kids These Days (Cary Goes Grunge)

12/8/06: Everything's Pretty Much Still Frozen

12/9/06: Molasses Ginger Spice Snaps Photo Shoot-The Whole Picture

12/10/06: Lucky Buddy Bear Takes A Break In The Hay


And out of the kitchen came:
Molasses Ginger Spice Snaps

Use It Or Lose It Lentil & Escarole Soup


© Copyright 2007 FarmgirlFare.com, the soaring foodie farm blog where Farmgirl Susan shares stories & photos of her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres.

2007 Food Blog Awards - It's Time To Vote!


Listen Up, Please!
(Dolores & Daphne Are All Ears)

The judges have made their decisions, and the
finalists for the 2007 Food Blog Awards have been announced. Now it's time for you to vote.

I'm thrilled that Farmgirl Fare is in the running for
Best Food Blog - Rural. If we do happen to be your favorite rural food blog, I hope you'll pop over to the Well Fed Network and vote for us--but not before checking out the delightful (and stiff!) competition of course. If you aren't familiar with Nami-Nami, Garlic Breath, and Lucullian Delights, you're in for a real treat.

There are
thirteen other categories to vote in, too, and all sorts of yummy food blogs to discover. The polls are open and will accept votes up until Friday, December 14th, 11:59 pm EST. So spread the word, have fun, and thank you for your vote!

© Copyright 2007 FarmgirlFare.com.

Menu For Hope 4: Would You Like A
Phone Call From A Foodie Farmgirl?

Once again it's time for Menu For Hope, the annual fundraiser created by food blogger Pim Techamuanvivit to raise money for a worthwhile, food-related cause. Last year we raised a whopping $63,925 for the UN World Food Programme, the world’s largest food aid agency, which works with over 1,000 other organizations in over 80 countries. In addition to providing food, the World Food Program helps hungry people become self-reliant so they escape hunger for good.

This year we'll be working with the WFP again, and the donated funds from Menu For Hope will be specifically earmarked for a school lunch program in Lesotho, Africa. Instead of shipping surplus corn across the ocean, the WFP is buying directly from local subsistent farmers who practice conservation farming methods in Lesotho to feed the children there--and help keep them in school so that they learn the skills to feed themselves in the future.

How does Menu For Hope work? Food bloggers from all over the world join the campaign by offering a delectable array of prizes for the Menu for Hope raffle--you can read about all the prizes here. Once again there are some truly amazing donations. See below for how to buy your virtual raffle tickets.

So what am I donating this year? Well, I wanted to offer something totally unique, and because I get asked so many questions about my life on the farm, I came up with:

A Phone Call From A Foodie Farmgirl!
(Prize Code UC11)


Wanna Talk?

Thinking about moving to the country? Have questions about living on a farm? Wondering if you're crazy enough to trade your civilized existence for days spent wearing overalls, carrying a pitchfork, and hanging out down at the feed store? Well here's a chance to have your questions answered.

On the day of your choice, I'll call you and we'll chat for half an hour about whatever you like: country life, organic gardening, cooking and food, bread baking, raising sheep, putting up hay, starting a bakery, starting a blog, living 140 miles from the nearest mall and 30 miles from cell phone reception, the best place to buy rubber boots, how to process and vacuum seal a deer. . .

If you're a regular Farmgirl Fare reader, maybe you'd just like to hear more about
Cary, Whitey The Chicken, or Donkey Doodle Dandy and his two new girlfriends. (I actually wanted to donate a phone call from Dan because I know it would sell a lot more raffle tickets, but he said no way. Maybe I can convince him to bray near the phone while we're talking. You truly have to hear him to believe the sounds he is capable of making.)

I'll don't know if I'll be able to answer all of your questions, but I can definitely guarantee there will be laughing involved. Unless of course you want to be really serious. Wait, strike that. I'm not capable of talking on the phone without laughing hysterically at some point. In any case, I'm looking forward to talking with you!

Note: This prize is limited to phone numbers within the U.S., but if you're in another country and are interested, I'd be happy to do a live chat online with you via gmail. I realize it's not the same thing as a phone call, but I figured I'd toss the option out there just in case. We can chat for longer than a half hour, and I do type very fast!

The prize code for the Phone Call From A Foodie Farmgirl is UC11.

Because I hope you'll also consider making a much needed donation to one of my favorite pet charities, I'm going to entice you by holding my own separate mini raffle for a second foodie farmgirl phone call. Your tax-deductible donations will go directly to A Place To Bark. . .And Meow, the non-profit animal rescue run by the truly incredible Bernie Berlin. (This year alone she saved 500 abused and abandoned dogs and cats from certain death.) I talked to Bernie about my raffle idea the other day and she's really excited about it, as am I. I'll post more details in the next few days.

In the meantime, why not go order a little something from the Menu For Hope? Here's what to do:

1. Choose a prize or prizes of your choice from our Menu for Hope at Chez Pim. Prizes from the Central U.S. region are also highlighted at Kalyn's Kitchen.

2. Go to the donation site at First Giving and make a donation.

3. Please specify which prize you'd like in the 'Personal Message' section in the donation form. You must write in how many tickets per prize, and use the prize code. (Each $10 you donate will buy one virtual raffle ticket toward any prize. For example, a donation of $50 can be 2 tickets for EU01 and 3 tickets for EU02. Please write 2xEU01, 3xEU02.)

4. If your company matches your charity donation, please check the box and fill in the information so we can claim the corporate match.

5. Please check the box to allow us to see your email address so that we can contact you if you win.Your email address will not be shared with anyone. Check back on Chez Pim on Wednesday, January 9th for the results of the raffles.

Thank you all and good luck!

Copyright © 2007 FarmgirlFare.com, the award-winning blog where Farmgirl Susan shares stories & photos of her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Recipe: Lazy Susan's 100% Whole Grain White Whole Wheat Scones With Currants & Oats


Happiness Is A Pile Of Warm Scones

Note: Looking for something with a little more seasonal spirit? Check out my recipe for Cranberry Christmas Scones, which are tasty any time of year. And a basket of warm Savory Cheese & Scallion Scones would be right at home on nearly any holiday dinner table. Split in half, toasted, and spread with cream cheese, they also make a great snack for hungry houseguests.

Does the world really need another scone recipe? In a word, yes. Of course this declaration is coming from a certified sconehead with a serious problem. The question I should really be asking is if I need another scone recipe, and the answer to that is a most definite no.

You see, my problem is not that I’m addicted to scones themselves, though I will admit to loving them very, very much. What I’m really addicted to are scone recipes. Despite the fact that until recently I’d been making the same three scone recipes for years, I can't stop collecting them.

The first thing I search for in a cookbook or on a food website are scone recipes. I have an entire file folder devoted to them, and when I discovered how easy it is to save things online to del.icio.us, I felt as if I’d died and gone to recipe hoarder’s heaven.

I’ve clipped scone recipes that call for buttermilk or heavy cream—which I never buy—and ingredients I hate. I’ve held on to recipes for pumpkin scones and butterscotch chip scones for years even though I think they both sound weird. There’s a recipe from Gourmet magazine for ginger scones that I’ve had squirreled away since 1993 and still haven’t tried, and another from a 2004 issue for little cheese scones that I will never make because they probably contain more calories than a piece of pie.

I keep recipes for scones that use the drop method or cookie cutter method even though I strongly believe that these are not the proper way to make true scones. I also feel that if a scone recipe does not contain eggs then it is technically a biscuit recipe, and yet I cannot pass even those up.

One scone recipe in my collection is scribbled on a 3 x 5 index card because I shamelessly copied it out of a cookbook while standing in a bookstore. I know this was a terrible thing to do, but I couldn’t help myself.

Last week at the supermarket I greedily snatched up a recipe card for raspberry and white chocolate scones, knowing full well that there isn’t a chance in hell I’ll ever make them. I finally managed to talk myself into putting the recipe back, but then I circled around and picked it up again. At least I realize I have a problem.

So far I’ve resisted cutting out the recipe for asparagus scones I found in a magazine the other day by sternly reminding myself that 1) it calls for leftover asparagus and the words leftover and asparagus simply do not go together in my world and 2) I can’t see myself ever taking any of my small and precious homegrown asparagus bounty and hiding it inside a biscuit. But I doubt I’ll be able to hold out much longer.

So when I finally had an urge to expand my scone horizons last spring, what did I do? I turned my back on my vast collection of recipes and ended up creating a whole new one of course. And while I hope you’ll let me know if you try this recipe, what I’d really like is your favorite scone recipe. I’ll probably never make it, but you know I’d love to have it.


Good Looking, Good Tasting, And Even Good For You

Lazy Susan’s Whole Wheat Scones With Currants & Oats

These scones were developed out of sheer laziness. Too lazy to try a whole new recipe, I simply tossed some oats into my tried and true currant scone recipe. The results were delicious, but the next time I went to buy oats they only had the thick kind (which I’d never used for anything), and I was too lazy to go to another store. It turns out they add a delightfully nutty texture.

About the same time, I went from never having heavy cream around to having a constant supply because I found a nearby source of milk that goes from Jersey cow to glass jar to my refrigerator. Each gallon of milk has several inches of thick cream floating on the top. (Yes, I am one of the luckiest girls in the world—this stuff is amazing). Too lazy to whip it, despite the fact that whipped cream is one of my very favorite foods, I figured it would be less work if I replaced the milk and butter in my scone recipe with cream.

Ready to prove how quickly a batch of cream scones could be oven ready, I jotted down the time and started grabbing ingredients. Totally out of all-purpose flour but too lazy to hike across the farmyard to the new building where I had a 50-pound bag, I used white whole wheat flour instead. This resulted in healthier, hearty scones that weren't little whole wheat bricks.

I overcooked the first batch because I had no idea what color they were supposed to be. Too lazy to make more, I ate them anyway. And despite my firm belief that a room temperature scone pales in comparison to one that has been nicely reheated so that the outside regains its lovely crunch, I was too lazy to reheat them--or even pull out some butter or jam.

As I gobbled up scone after room temperature scone, I wondered if they were indeed scrumptious, or if I was simply so exhausted from lambing season that anything handy tasted good. When I found myself munching down a five-day-old specimen I’d forgotten in the pantry, I decided the recipe was a keeper.

White whole wheat flour is 100% whole grain, but it's made from a different variety of wheat that it isn’t as dark and heavy as regular whole wheat flour. It is not, however, a perfect substitute for all-purpose flour, and your baked goods will come out differently when using it. White whole wheat flour varies by brand, too. I’ve had good luck with King Arthur brand (on the bag they call it "a lighter, milder, 100% whole wheat flour"), though I’m still trying to locate a local source for their organic version.

If you don’t have any white whole wheat flour and are too lazy to go out and buy some, this recipe works just fine with regular all-purpose flour. You could also replace the currants with raisins or dried cranberries or whatever other fruit you have on hand. As always, I urge you to seek out local and organic ingredients whenever possible.

Using a digital kitchen scale to weigh your ingredients makes baking a breeze. I love my 11-pound Oxo Good Grips Scale and often use it several times a day. When measuring tiny amounts, however, stick to teaspoons, grams, or milliliters for accuracy.

I highly recommend investing in a couple of heavy duty commercial baking sheets like these. At less than $14 each, they're one of the best kitchen deals around. I've been using some of mine for 20 years for everything from baking rolls to roasting brussels sprouts, not to mention perfectly baking thousands of cookies. I line them with sheets of unbleached parchment paper, which is wonderful stuff. I can usually reuse each piece several times before discarding it.

3 cups (15 oz - 425 g) white whole wheat flour (you might need a little more)
1 cup (4-3/8 oz - 124 g) thick oats (regular old-fashioned oats will work, too)
1/3 cup (2-1/4oz - 63g) granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons (1-1/8 oz - 34g) baking powder (make sure it’s fresh!)
1 teaspoon (6 g) salt
3/4 cup (4-1/8 oz - 116 g) dried currants
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
1 cup (8 fluid oz - 250 ml) heavy cream (you might need a little more)

Optional Egg Glaze:
Beat well with a fork:
1 egg & 2 Tablespoons milk or cream

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Combine the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Mix in the currants. In a small bowl, beat the eggs and vanilla into the cream with a fork, then gently fold the cream mixture into the dry ingredients, mixing lightly just until blended. Add up to 1/4 cup additional flour if the dough is too sticky.

On a floured surface, divide dough in half and gently pat each half into a circle about 6 inches in diameter (about 1 inch thick). With a sharp knife (I use a large serrated knife dipped in flour), cut each circle into 6 wedges and place on a heavy duty baking sheet lined with unbleached parchment paper.

Brush the tops and sides of scones with egg glaze if desired and bake for about 25 minutes, or until dark golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature, with or without butter and jam. Store in an airtight container or freeze.

To reheat a frozen scone, I wrap it in foil and pop it in my beloved toaster oven at 320 degrees on the convection setting for about 10 minutes. Uncover it during the last few minutes if you like the top nice and crunchy.

© 2007 Farmgirl Fare, the sconehead foodie farm blog where Farmgirl Susan shares stories & photos of her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Farm Photo 12/6/07: Cary Baby

Finally, A Cary Update


That's My Girl

Don't know who Cary is? Click here to read her story.

"Are you ever going to breed Cary?" Joe asked me a few months ago.

"Of course!"

"Your baby?"

"Of course! I just didn't want her getting pregnant last fall when she was still so young and small. Besides," I said, "How else will I get a Cary baby?"

Cary, who turns 19 months old today, is doing just great. And as you can see, she still looks much the same as she always has.


Scratching An Itch

She did lose that tuft of baby wool on her head during the summer. You can see the last little bit of it in this photo from July 16th (which is one of my favorites).

What you can't see is that there is a lot more of Cary than there used to be. She's got that narrow, unwooly head, and then everything just widens out. If you look down at her from above, she's shaped like a large fluffy teardrop. When she runs, her ears and belly bounce separately from the rest of her body. It's very cute.

She hasn't quite realized that she isn't as small as she used to be, though. Cary had pretty much melded into the flock this summer, not really paying attention to me or drawing attention to herself. But then one day she saw me carrying a bucket of feed down to the barn and all of her memories of being The Privileged Animal apparently came rushing back. And how do sheep get to what they want? They PUSH. As she shoved her way through the barely open barn gate and then tried to squeeze her way (along with me) through the partially open Treat Room door, my only thought was, "Geez, that girl's gotten big!"

Once inside, she turned around and around in circles, knocking things over and frantically looking for food while I tried to push her out the door, laughing hysterically because the whole scene was so hilarious. I still let her into the barn with me sometimes while I'm filling up buckets of treats, but I had Joe install a little latch on the Treat Room door. I now lock myself in there while Cary and The Nanny Bear wait outside.

Cary knows she doesn't have to suck up to me, either. Once in a while she'll allow her face to be scratched, but if I try for a hug when there's obviously no chance of a treat along with it, she takes off. Meanwhile I'll have six or seven other sheep surrounding me, all clamoring for pets and hugs.

Then out of the blue she'll surprise me. She still likes to be the first one through the barnyard gate each morning, but one day, instead of heading right off down the driveway, she stood next to me as the rest of the flock filed past us. I scratched her head and talked to her for a little while, and then we walked out together to join the group.


Hanging Back With Mom

The sheep keep to a fairly regular grazing route each day, and at this time of year they're usually at the far end of the hayfield by mid-morning. One day back in late October I was standing at the edge of the hayfield fence taking photos when they started filing by. I heard Cary's still recognizable (though much deeper) bleat and looked over to see her running toward me at top speed just like she used to. I was so surprised. She stopped just on the other side of the fence and proceeded to quietly munch grass while the rest of the flock kept heading out into the field. After a minute or two she looked up, saw that everyone was several hundred feet away, and ran off toward them.

Cary may not show it very often, but we both know she's still my little girl.

Because of losing several baby lambs to a still unknown predator during lambing season 2006, last spring, much to their dismay, all of the sheep were locked in the barn each night for several months because it was the only way we could guarantee the babies would be safe. When the big boys, who had been kept in a separate pen during lambing, were put back with the flock, I let them sleep outside in the adjacent barnyard if they wanted to. While Bear and I herded everyone else into the barn in the evenings, at least six or seven of the boys would start settling themselves under a large oak tree.

After a few nights of watching this, Cary decided to join them. She'd sit right down with the boys and give me a defiant stare. Make me. Since she wasn't a mother, there really was no reason for her to spend nights locked in the barn, and so I gave up the fight and let her sleep out under the stars with the boys.

Next year things will be different, though. Studly Do-Right Jefferson (who is about twice the size he was last year) went to work at his one and only job on October 13th, and less than 24 hours later he'd. . . nailed my baby. So if all goes well, around March 13th we'll have a Cary baby. I do hope it's a girl.

Want so see more? You'll find lots more Cary stories and photos here.

© Copyright 2007 FarmgirlFare.com, the award-winning blog where Farmgirl Susan shares stories & photos of her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Farm Photo 12/5/07: Spy Sheep


Who Looks Like She's Still Half Asleep

Want to see more?
You'll find lots of lamb photos
here, all sorts of sheep photos here, and pictures of black sheep (which I love so much and which fade to brown in the sun) here.

Welcome new visitors!
Click here for a brief introduction to this site.

Copyright © 2007 FarmgirlFare.com, the award-winning blog where Farmgirl Susan shares stories & photos of her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Farm Photo 12/4/07:
Just Another Day At The Office


Actually It's More Like An Office-Slash-Gym

There's nothing that takes the chill off like the warmth from wood heat--except maybe watching a hunky farmguy whack a giant tree into pieces. This photo was taken early on Thanksgiving Day while we were out working up an appetite in the freezing cold. I was very thankful that it was Wear Your Chaps To Work Day.

Copyright © 2007 FarmgirlFare.com, the award-winning blog where Farmgirl Susan shares stories & photos of her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres.

Monday, December 03, 2007

They're Baaaaack!


These Loaf Pans Are The Best

Just a quick note for those of you who read my recent post, "Easy & Delicious $6 Holiday Gift Idea: Homemade Beer Bread Mix In A Beautiful Baking Pan," and didn't have a chance to order any of the sale-priced Chicago Metallic 1-pound loaf pans before they ran out of them at Amazon. They're now back in stock for $5.75 (regularly $11.00), are eligible for free shipping, and are also included in the 4-for-3 promotion currently going on. But I'd order soon, as they keep selling out at this special low price.

In addition, now through December 15th, if you spend $25 or more in the Amazon.com Home & Garden Store (which is where the loaf pans are), you'll receive a free one-year subscription to Bon Appetit, Gourmet or Domino magazine for yourself or someone else. That could be another holiday gift effortlessly checked off your list. Click
here for more details.

I love these pans, and I know you and your Beer Bread Kit recipients will, too. Happy baking!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Farm Photo 12/2/07: A Little Donkey Secret


How Donkeys Hug

What's better than a girlfriend for Donkey Doodle Dandy? Why two girlfriends of course!

So, um, there's something I've been meaning to tell you. Three somethings actually. Of course they come with a really amusing story, but since it's been, oh, eight months and I still haven't gotten around to writing it down, I figured I'd better just go ahead and let the donkeys out of the bag. Which means I can start sharing some of these wonderful photos that have been piling up.


The Whole Herd Back On October 24th

Hopefully someday I'll have a chance to tell you all about how they came to live here. In the meantime, please say hello to Dolores, Daphne, and Dolores' son who was born on July 2nd and is nicknamed Dinky. (No, Dan isn't a daddy--yet.)

I know, I know, I can't believe I didn't tell you about our new donkeys ages ago. I can tell you that they're all doing great. The girls are an absolute kick, and Dinky, who will be going to live with a friend next month, has been very busy looking cute and learning everything he'll need to know in order to be a grown up, sheep-guarding donkey.

As for Dan? He's looking small but walking tall.

Copyright © 2007 FarmgirlFare.com, the award-winning blog where Farmgirl Susan shares stories & photos of her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres.

It's Time For The 2007 Food Blog Awards!



Has it been a year already? I was thrilled when Farmgirl Fare was voted Best Food Blog-Rural in 2006. Thanks again to all of you who voted for us. And now it's time for another round of awards! Nominations for the 2007 Food Blog Awards, which are hosted by the Well Fed Network, are now being accepted. Here's how it works:

There are 14 award categories this year. Between now and 11:59 pm EST on Wednesday, December 5th, everyone is invited to nominate their favorite food blogs in one or more categories. On Monday December 10th, the Top 5 nominations in each category will be announced. These spots are decided by
the judging panel, based upon the nominations received the week before only.

Once the top 5 sites are announced for each category, the voting begins. Voting will be open from Monday, December 10th until 11:59 pm EST on Friday, December 14th. You'll have five full days to vote for your favorite sites, determining the winners. The winners will be announced on Monday, December 17th. The complete rules can be found here.

Thanks to J.P. at The Chef From Hell and Susan at Food Blogga for already nominating Farmgirl Fare in the Best Food Blog-Rural category. And many thanks, too, to all of you who have so kindly chosen Farmgirl Fare to receive the various awards that have been making their way around the blogosphere lately (Nice Matters Award, You Make Me Smile Award, etc). I've been keeping a list (I know it's around here somewhere), and one of these days I'll hopefully have a chance to publicly thank each of you individually.

Now, go forth and nominate your favorite food blogs if they haven't yet been nominated. And if you have your own blog, please help spread the word about the Food Blog Awards!