Baking Bread

Last month when I wasn’t busy sorting and purging through all my stuff, I had an opportunity to attend a class at Stoney Creek Farm on making healthy bread. There were ten or eleven of us at the class, everyone there for a different purpose.  Though I’ve been making bread for years, I’d never ground my own flour and was very curious to see how difficult it was and whether it made a big difference in how the bread tasted.  Some women were veteran bakers like me, but others had tried to make bread and only experienced failure and needed some hands on experience on how to do it. 

Our teacher, Judy Felts, shared so much great information! When I signed up for the class, I was thinking I wouldn’t learn that many new things, but I was wrong!  In addition to tips on making the best possible bread, she also gave tips on how and where to buy the freshest, organic ingredients.

Since I suffer from latephobia (fear of being late – it’s real!), I got there early and got to see Judy chopping fresh herbs for one of the breads we would be making.  She’d already mixed up a batch of dough and it was rising in a bowl nearby.  The smell of fresh basil, thyme, sage, and other spices filled the air, soon to be replaced by the heavenly aroma of freshly baked bread.  While we waited for everyone to gather, there was three varieties of bread and butters available to sample.

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Freshly baked loaves of bread

Judy weighed, kneaded, and shaped the dough into loaves, adorable cloverleaf dinner rolls, and oh man, cinnamon rolls.  People took turns handling the dough, getting practice and asking questions, learning how to create this miracle of life.  It wasn’t long before we were all talking and laughing, even though most of us had never met before that morning.  Food does that – it’s something we gather around, share, experience.   

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I remembered to take a picture before I ate the whole thing

Once all of that was in the oven baking, Judy ground some flour and mixed up another batch of dough.  Again, we all took turns learning what it felt like, the texture, the consistency, all the things that make the very best bread possible.  Then, the best part.  The tasting of warm bread, fresh from the oven.  First we each had a roll, and then, yes, then, the cinnamon rolls with their sweet orange glaze.  There’s no picture of that because even though I was really full at that point, I scarfed it down. 

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What was left after we’d all had a taste

It’s hard to say what I enjoyed more – the experience of being with others and creating something, learning new things, hanging out at the farm, or eating amazing food.  It was definitely something I’d like to experience more of all the way around. 

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Herb bread

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Our hostess, Leigh Funderburk and teacher Judy Felts

Happy Birthday, Grandma!

Today is my Grandma Mabel’s birthday.  Unfortunately, she’s no longer here on earth to celebrate it with all of us. Last year, I wrote about her in this blog post.  There are still so many things that remind me of her – picking blueberries, cooking a simple yet tasty meal, being around family, listening to kids and grandkids. 

There are so many things I wish I could share with her – the new farm, my grandkids, stuff I’ve written.  And there are questions I’d love to ask her – what made her fall in love with Grandpa, what was life like as a newlywed in 1934, what was it like to care for, a husband, six kids, a herd of dairy cows, chickens, assorted pets and crops without all of life’s modern conveniences?

My Grandma knew how to do things that it takes me hours of research on Google and Pinterest to figure out.  And she knew them from being with and watching other women, not from watching a YouTube video.  It makes me a little sad to think of everything that we’ve forgotten about how to live in our world, how to grow things and tend animals and put food by to last until the first crops in the spring.  It’s unfortunate that I didn’t realize how important those things were until it was too late to learn them from her.

Even so, it’s not too late to emulate the lessons she taught by example, how to work hard, how to laugh, how to listen, really listen, how to be humble. It didn’t matter how many exquisite angel food cakes she made for birthdays and other celebrations, every single time she said it probably wouldn’t be very good.  And let me tell you, it was way more than good!

Another gift from Grandma was her yeast rolls.  I have no idea how many times I’ve made this recipe, but every time it turns out great and people want to know how to make them.  The proper thing to do is divide the dough into equal parts and make half into rolls and half into cinnamon rolls.  If you’ve got time this coming weekend, I highly recommend making up a batch of each!

Grandma's Rolls

Grandmas Cinnamon Rolls

Dissolve 1 package of yeast in 1/4 cup of warm water.

Pour 1 cup of scalded milk (whole milk is best) over:

1/4 cup butter

1/4 cup sugar

1 tsp salt

Stir so that the butter melts. When lukewarm, add yeast mixture.  Add 2 cups of flour, add one egg, and beat.  Add 1 and 1/2 cups of flour and mix well.  Cover, let rise until double.  Pour onto floured surface.  Shape into rolls or cinnamon rolls and put into buttered pan.  Cover, let rise for 30 minutes.  Bake in a 350 degree oven – 20 minutes for rolls and 25 to 30 minutes for cinnamon rolls.

For cinnamon rolls, roll the dough into a rectangle and spread a liberal amount (I’ve never actually measured it) of butter on it.  Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon over butter (again, I’ve never measured it, but I’m pretty generous with both).  Roll up and cut into 2 inch thick slices and place in a buttered pan.  Bake as directed above. While still warm, mix powdered sugar, butter and milk together to desired consistency and frost the cinnamon rolls.

Stoney Creek Farm

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of meeting Leigh and Olin Funderburk at Stoney Creek Farm.  They are Business Impact Partners of Way FM and I heard about their farm while listening to the radio on my way to work. Since I’m always on the look out for new farms to patronize, I signed up to receive their weekly newsletter.  A few days later, I received an email that their U-Pick season was ending on July 23, 2016. 

Since temperatures were supposed to be in the upper nineties, I made sure I was at the farm in Franklin, Tennessee by eight am.  Leigh greeted me as I walked up and told me where the fruits, veggies, and herbs were located and even gave me a glove so I’d be protected from the prickly cucumbers and squash. There wasn’t a huge selection of cucumbers, zucchini, squash or blackberries, but tomatoes, wow, there were a lot of beautiful tomatoes! 

SCF Tomatoes

SCF Grape Tomatoes

After I picked all that I wanted, I spent some time chatting with Leigh and Olin, who are two of the most delightful people I’ve ever met.  They are great storytellers and Leigh’s a pretty good salesperson too – in addition to the berries, veggies, and basil I bought, I also bought some sourdough rolls, a book they’d written, and a temporary tattoo to help support the volunteers on the farm.  The rolls were amazing by the way – I ate several the first day!

The book, Dirt Rich: How To Experience More Joy And Less Stress Through Sustainable Farm Living, tells the story of how they came to own Stoney Creek Farm and what it means to farm sustainably.  Though I’ve only read the first three chapters so far, I’m enjoying their story and their perspective on how to farm successfully. 

Dirt Rich

There’s something about people who farm – there’s a look that comes over their face as they look across their property and the way they admit that it’s not an easy life, but it’s one they wouldn’t trade for anything.  It’s a pleasure to get to know them and feel the connection between what they grow and what I consume.  It seems to me that it’s a holy sort of thing, this connection, something that doesn’t happen when I buy food off the shelf in the grocery store.  

Even though the season is over, Leigh and Olin will continue to offer classes and other events at the farm.  They’ll still have tomatoes for a while so head over to pick some up before the season is done for good!