Cast Iron Cooking; Making Bread

Those who follow me on Instagram or my Facebook page know that I’ve been working on my baking skills. I’m still working on my biscuit making technique and I’ve returned to bread making.

Typically I do my bread making while at the cabin. However, this spring break I decided to do some bread baking at home. And I had a significant breakthrough!

I made a beautiful loaf of bread with firm, and yet chewy crust. The interior of the loaf had a perfect texture. Dense enough to please me and yet lots of bubbles indicating that the yeast had done its gassy job.

This was my first loaf that I would call a 100% success. So the question is, what did I do differently this time?

Normally, I cook my bread in a cast iron skillet. About 20 minutes before I’m ready to bake, I put the cast iron pan in the oven as the oven is pre-heating to 450°. Once the oven is up to temperature, the pan is also sizzling hot. I take the pan out of the oven, plop the dough into the hot pan and then back into the oven for 30 minutes.

This time, under the advice of my Full Nomad friend Steff, I used a cast iron Dutch oven – with a lid! I did the same routine – pre-heated the oven, pre-heated the Dutch oven, plopped the dough into the Dutch oven – but then – I put a lid on the cast iron pot of dough before putting it back in the oven! Game changer!

After 30 minutes I took the lid off the Dutch oven and let the bread cook, uncovered for another 10 minutes.

The result – my first perfect (to me) loaf of bread.

However, I do need to back up a bit – how do I get to the point where I can plop the dough into the Dutch oven? Let’s look at that.

I actually start the day before I’m ready to bake. I thoroughly mix the dry ingredients together and then add the water. I stir in the water using a stiff rubber spatula (or as some call it, a rubber scraper) until the dough is a perfect ball of dough that isn’t sticky on the outside. If it is sticky, I add a dusting more flour and mix that into it.

And then I leave the ball of dough, in the stainless steel mixing bowl sitting on top of the fridge overnight. Or until I have time to bake it!

Every few hours I take the rubber spatula and stir the dough. I push it down and “knead” it to make the gluten in the dough work and stretch. In the morning, after sitting all night the dough is often puffed right up the top of the mixing bowl. My kids love that part of the process. I usually leave the dough to “work” for 24 hours.

About half an hour, or 20 minutes before baking time, I stir the dough one last time, fold it over on itself, and then roll it onto a piece of parchment paper.

When the oven is up temperature and the cast iron pan or Dutch oven is up to temperature, I lower the dough, on the parchment paper, into the Dutch oven.

As I said above, I let it cook with the lid on for 30 minutes. Then I took the lid off and let it cook for another 10 minutes. I had an absolutely lovely loaf of bread.

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups of flour (I use 2 cups unbleached white, and one cup whole wheat flour)
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon of yeast.
  • 1 3/4 cups of water.

That’s it!

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PlayDome at BC Place

Good, innocent fun! That’s the best way I can describe my family’s experience at the PlayDome event in BC Place.

All of the people working at Playdome were friendly and helpful. Many times the guys working the games encouraged my kids to try the games they were working – they’d say, “go ahead, it isn’t too busy so give it a try, just have some fun!”

The game operator’s attitudes at PlayDome were so different than many of the other carnivals that we’ve attended. They encouraged us to try their games – they often said, just try it, no charge, just have some fun!

Playdome

They even let me play. Although both times I played my kids beat me.

Playdome

Yep, that is my Scooby-Doo coming in last. Again.

And the rides! No, there aren’t the super-wild rides like you find at other bigger, outdoor carnivals – thankfully!

Playdome

But the rides that are at PlayDome were good fun for the kids – big and small. The fact that there wasn’t a wild old roller coaster ride made it so that I did not have to make up more and more bizarre excuses about why I couldn’t go on the ride. Just good, innocent fun!

And while there was a very positive and exciting vibe inside PlayDome it wasn’t so busy that we had to wait long to get on the rides.

The kids even convinced me, someone who is scared of even the tamest ride, to try them. And I had a great time.

Obviously we also had to eat – isn’t that what carnivals are all about?

My personal favourite food item – the must-have carnival food item – the mini donuts.

My kids? Cotton candy and sno cones. As an adult, I cannot fathom the appeal of cotton candy or sno-cones but there kids everywhere at PlayDome in BC Place eating both “food items”.

Playdome

 

Of course there are also the gourmet food choices; poutine, wriggle fries, hot dogs, and MORE. My one “complaint” is that it costs $4 for a bottle of water. Of course that is not unusual for events, but it sure pinches the family budget.

PlayDome in BC Place will be open from Wednesday, March 28th (yesterday) through to Monday, April 2nd and fair-lovers can enjoy all their favourite rides right inside BC Place. If you are going to PlayDome, purchase your tickets online, ahead of time to save a few dollars on the purchase.

Online Pre-Purchase Tickets:
*excluding GST. All fees included.  
$29.95 Dome Pass (valid for full day, all carnival rides)
$49.00 Ultimate Pass (6-days, all carnival rides)
$9.95   Guest Pass (required to enter as a spectator. Limited rides available)
**Children under 2 years old admitted free (for safety reasons, they are not permitted to ride).

Disclosure; the organizers of PlayDome provided my family with complementary Dome Passes. However, as always, editorial control and the opinions expressed on my blog are my own. 

 

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Traveling the Scenic 7

Typically, when we travel to the interior of BC we avoid the freeway (Hwy 1) and we choose to travel via the Lougheed Hwy – the Scenic 7.

It really is a beautiful drive and as I’ve aged, my driving habits have become much more like my Dad’s. He always talked about how a car or truck’s fuel economy got progressively worse the faster you traveled so the Scenic 7 is a natural for me – a slower paced drive.

On my most recent trip up the Scenic 7 I had an idea – give my iPhone to my kids and get them to take pictures of “whatever you think people would want to see”.

Unfortunately I forgot to tell them how to focus when taking pictures so most of the footage has what you might call a “soft focus”.

I hope you enjoyed this video. Next one we do will be the Fraser Canyon from Hope up to Lytton. And I’ll be sure to show them how to focus before filming!

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A Weekend of Eating

We traveled the Fraser Canyon this weekend just gone and of course we ate a few meals along the way.

We started with harvest mushroom soup at the Blue Moose Cafe. Excellent soup with a true mushroom taste.

We also got a sandwich each. I had the smoked turkey, Blonde Bear got the ham sandwich, and Brown Bear got the grilled cheese. Massive sandwiches. And awesomely delicious. Next time we’ll share two sandwiches instead of getting three.

At the cabin I oven roasted Brussels sprouts, a couple potato patties each, and some very heavily sauced ribs.

Breakfast was scrambled eggs, breakfast ham, and sliced baked potatoes. A few cherry tomatoes to keep us from getting scurvy.

Lunch at the cabin was a return of the Brussels sprouts and cherry tomatoes. I also whipped up some biscuits (not good) and a couple potato patties (one of the only foods Brown Bear will eat).

On the way home we stopped at 293 Wallace in Hope for a culinary adventure.

We started with a plate of foie gras – an item off the tasting menu that Chef Brent Gillis was preparing for another couple at a nearby table.

It was magnificent. Salty, buttery, fatty, melt-in-your-mouth bacon-pancetta goodness. The texture and mouth feel was almost as much of a pleasurable experience as the taste.

I had the soup and salad combo and upgraded my salad to the Blue cheese, candied pecans, and hazelnuts on a bed of romaine lettuce.

The soup was a perfect salmon chowder. Loads of salmon with just enough saltiness.

My daughters had a cheeseburger and fries – best fries ever. And the chicken strips and Caesar salad.

The chicken strips were a lightly too toasted for my liking but my daughters loved them.

For dessert, the three of us shared the lemon cheesecake with a blueberry compote. The kids LOVED it. I enjoyed it. Of course I grew up in a house where cheesecake is a perfected art form.

And that was it. A wonderful weekend of eating.

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My New Rad Power Bike

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Good Advice; Never Read the Comments

At her recent talk in Vancouver Michelle Obama said something like, “Never read the comments on social media.”

I recently engaged in a Twitter “conversation” around the issue of White Privilege. The conversation started after a disgruntled parent went to social media with her complaints about a Gold Trail School District campaign to raise awareness about systemic racism in our society.

Full disclosure, I do have connections to the Gold Trail School District; I was once a student in the district and many years after being a student there I was a teacher in the district.

This morning I read Patti Bacchus’ column in the Georgia Straight on the fiasco that developed around the well intentioned campaign. It is a good read.

However, this line from Patti’s column quite accurately summarizes the experience I endured after I spoke up in favour of acknowledging systemic racism:

“Reading the social-media comments on stories about racism is often akin to looking down the hole in an outhouse. It’s a dark and fetid experience, featuring an abundance of human waste, some so vile and infectious that it poses a serious threat to our collective public health.”

Yep. I looked down the outhouse hole and it is indeed and dark and fetid experience.

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R.I.P. Stephen Hawking

I pulled up two of my favourite quotes from the recently deceased Stephen Hawking, the first one;

The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.”

How wonderful is that?

And then there is this dandy,

I have noticed even people who claim everything is pre-destined, and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road.

Rest In Peace Stephen Hawking.

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A Day On Grouse Mountain

I summarized my afternoon on Grouse Mountain into just over four minutes of video. I included a pretty epic “technical failure” into the video. Enjoy.

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Red Light Cameras and Speeding

Yesterday I followed an interesting twitter “conversation” about the possibility of implementing red light cameras that not only catch people driving through red lights but also catch drivers who are speeding while driving through red lights.

One person commented that the process “wasn’t very transparent” because there wasn’t a publicly available list of which intersections the red light cameras will be implemented at.

Huh? We need a list of intersections where we shouldn’t go through the light at a high rate of speed, particularly when the light is red?

This actually reminds me of another story I saw on Twitter yesterday. The police in West Van put up one of those large portable signs telling drivers that 100m ahead the police were checking for drivers using their mobile phones.

Almost unbelievably, the police still caught a couple dozen people using their mobile phones while driving!

But back to the red light camera story – for the record, there actually is a list of the 140 intersections in Metro Vancouver that have significantly higher rates of collisions. Those are the locations that it is most likely a red light camera will be installed.

But really, shouldn’t the standard practice be that when you are approaching an intersection and the light turns yellow, you slow down and stop? Do we really need a public list of which intersections we should follow the law at?

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Thursday Thoughts

What you say is important.

What your listener hears you say is arguably more important.

Think about what you are saying and think about what your listener is hearing from you. They are not always the same thing. Is that okay with you?

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