Recipes and How-to's for Farm Fresh Products
Anyone can make fresh butter even if you don't have access to natural Real milk. It's fun and educational for children as well. It takes less than 30-minutes and costs less than $4 if you buy a quart of cream from the local grocery store. Contrary to popular belief, real butter is far healthier than any of the fake stuff. Think about it as you read the list of chemicals contained in the fake stuff and tell me you really think it's healthier. What about health and Butter?
There are some different variations on butter making though the end process is the same. You can let the whole milk or cream sour or not, and you can skim the cream off the milk or not. In any case, only the cream makes the butter. If you shake whole milk until you have butter, you just have a lot more buttermilk than if you had skimmed the cream from it; the butter volume is the same so why waste the milk? Personally, I don't like sour cream butter which isn't near as common as it used to be; most people haven't even heard of it. As for skimming, I'm not going to waste the milk turning it to a larger volume of buttermilk when I can skim it and enjoy both. If you leave your milk or cream warm to long, it will sour. A couple of hours is all that's needed to get it to room temperature.
How to do it - If you don't have real natural milk you can buy Heavy Cream from any grocery store. Of course fresh natural milk is better but use what you have available. If you will use fresh natural milk, let the cream rise to the top and skim it off, this is heavy cream. What you are left with is X % or skim milk depending on how much cream you left. Put the heavy cream in a glass container like a common mason jar and let it warm to room temperature (an hour or so is long enough); don't leave it so long that it sours unless you like sour cream butter as some do. Don't fill the jar more than about ¾ full so there is plenty of room for the cream to slosh sufficiently.
After the cream is at or near room temperature, just take turns shaking the jar as vigorously as you can, but it is not necessary to get to wild with it. In about 15-minutes you will have two things in the jar; butter and buttermilk. First the heavy cream will thicken to delicious natural whipped cream which you could use in place of the fake whipped creams on the market. Then you will notice that it begins to seperate as tiny noduals appear. Just a few shakes later and you have your butter. Gently mash the butter in a bowl to get out the rest of the buttermilk and lightly salt it. There you have it!! Drink the buttermilk or use it to make homemade buttermilk pancakes or biscuits.
There is nothing like homemade, but it can be hard to find these days. Following is a good recipe for Buttermilk pancakes with some variations which you can use if you like.
I always mix my dry ingredients together first, then I add everything except the Buttermilk hand mixing only with a fork, then I add the Buttermilk to get the consistency that I want. If you run out of Buttermilk, you can finish with a little milk or water. Pancake mix should be slightly lumpy, and should sit for a few minutes as it will thicken significantly which you may have to thin. I never add sugar to my mix though you can.
- 2 cups flour, anything except self rising, all purpose works well.
- 1 Tsp salt; there is no advantage to "sea" salt or "kosher" salt, they're both selling gimmicks.
- 1 Tsp Baking Powder
- 1/2 Tsp Baking Soda, we use both to balance acidity.
- 1 Egg
- 2 1/4 cups fresh natural Buttermilk; not commercial buttermilk. Personally, I'd rather use real milk than fake commercial buttermilk.
- 3 Tblsp Butter or shortening, I like bacon or sausage grease instead.
- Sugar - Some people add sugar up to 2 tablespoons. For what reason I don't know. Afterall, it's pancakes and your likely to top it with something richly sweet.
- Vanilla - Or any other flavoring. If you're going to use it, it's worth using the real thing. I don't because I use natural bacon or sausage grease instead of butter or shortening as my flavoring.
Bread, Homemade Wheat or White
Once you've had homemade bread, it's hard to ever eat that cardboard tasting commercial bread again. If you consider the ingredient list of twenty or so items on commercial bread, it's no wonder the taste is so poor. Most of those ingredients are chemicals so you can leave the bread on your counter for a month and it won't go bad.
With homemade bread, there are only six ingredients, and none of them are chemical preservatives. The homemade bread has great taste, but it will only last about seven days on the counter. Homemade bread will last a week or so longer in the refrigerator, but it quickly loses it's freshness. We make our homemade bread every seven days so it is always fresh and we don't need to refrigerate it. We've been making bread for the last 7 years religiously. We don't eat commercial bread at all anymore, it just tastes so bad, even if you get the best brand available.
There are some tricks I've learned over time. Bread is one of those things where ingredients must be precise. When it comes to precise, weight is the only accurate method. The reason is for example, flour volume can vary greatly from one measuring cup to another for a variety of reasons including compaction and cup variations. Water will vary greatly in volume when measured cold vs hot. When weighed however, the volumes are always the same regardless of temperature or compaction.
Ingredients list following is weights for a single loaf of bread and a double loaf of bread. The flour can be any mix of white or whole wheat, but I find that about two thirds white flour makes the most pleasant whole wheat style bread. Best for bread flour is indeed best for bread. There are differences in flour, and all purpose should never be used when making bread as it has other added ingredients. I warm the water in the microwave then weigh it in as this aids in the activation of the yeast.
- Flour, 12 Oz
- Salt, 3/4 Teaspoon +/-
- Vital Wheat Gluten, 1 Tablespoon
- Water 6 Oz (weight)
- Honey 3 Oz (weight)
- Butter 3 Tablespoons
- Yeast 1 3/4 Teaspoon +/-
- Flour, 24 Oz
- Salt, 1 1/2 Teaspoons +/-
- Vital Wheat Gluten, 2 Tablespoons
- Water 12 Oz (weight)
- Honey 6 Oz (weight)
- Butter 3 Tablespoons
- Yeast 3 1/3 Teaspoon +/-
+/- means that a little give or take won't be significant. It doesn't mean that it is greatly negotiable.
Heat the water for two minutes in a microwave, and in the meantime, put the honey and butter in the mixing bowl. When the water is heated, correctly measure (by weight) and poor over the butter and honey. Let the water cool slightly so it is warm to touch on the side of the bowl (this will also soften the butter if it was cold). In the meantime, mix the dry ingredients in another bowl. Add the yeast to the warm water and wait for it to become active using available time to mix dry ingredients. The yeast will be activated in about a minute, at that time mix in the dry ingredients on a low mixer setting, then knead for at least four minutes until the dough becomes smooth. Put the dough in a lightly buttered bread pan (glass is best by far), and let it rise until about one inch above the edge of the pan. If it raises to long, the air bubbles will be to large. If it doesn't raise long enough, the bread will be dense. If the bread raises to long, it can be knocked down, rekneaded and raised again though this is not necessary when you get the raise correct.
I raise the bread in the oven and when it is right, I simply turn on the oven and start baking at 325 degrees F. There is no need to preheat the oven. Bake time will be approximately twenty-five minutes. It is benificial to rotate the pan 180 degrees in the oven after fifteen minutes baking. When the bread is lightly browned, remove from the oven and butter the top lightly. Cover with a towel and let cool until warm, then slice and wrap.
Problems with bread
Oven indicated temperatures are approximations and can vary greatly between ovens. Also, aluminum foil or catch pans placed at the bottom of ovens can change the baking dynamics of the oven significantly. For bread, it is best if there is nothing else in the oven, and the bread is placed as close to the center of the oven as possible. The bread pans should be rotated 180° after 15 minutes of baking. If you are baking more than one loaf, ensure that the pans are not touching one another so there is plenty of air circulation around the pans.
Low Bread, Bread didn't rise fully but is cooked properly - This can be a slightly complicated issue. First, was the bread dough to wet? It should not be sticky to the touch (pasty), if it is, that is the likely cause often indicated by a colapse in the center of the loaf. Otherwise, it may be caused by insufficient yeast, or rising temperature to cold or to hot.
Dough Bread - Doughy on the inside, normal on the outside. Another issue with a couple of possible causes. If the bread raised properly, then this is an oven temperature and/or time issue. If the bread was cooked evenly and lightly browned on the outside, then the oven temperature is to hot and the solution is to lower the temperature by 25°. If the bread is very light colored, then the problem is not enough time in the oven. Time in the oven should be very close to 25 minutes. Just a minute or two makes a lot of difference.
Over done on the bottom - But normal on the top. This can be caused by an over greased pan. Cooking in glass is much better than metal pans, and this can actually be visualized in a glass pan. I recommend lightly buttered pans, and I would not use cooking sprays as they contain ingredients which are the reason for which you are not buying commercial bread, so why use them to make your own fresh bread.