Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Never-Ending Snow

We can't seem to get a break from the snow here in the Northeast.  As much as people like the idea of snow and how it looks in the landscape, I assure you that it can be rather tiresome after a few days of it.  The month of February has been especially snowy and brutally cold for a lot of us in this part of the country.  With single digit temperatures and blustery days, it's been an effort just to get out the front door!  

In years past I've shown you photographs of what our home looks like with the first snowfall or a subsequent one, so I am a bit late in providing those for you.  I'm not sure if it was the cold or what, but I hadn't been in the mood to take pictures of the outdoors until a few days ago.

Friends of mine on the west coast can boast of warm temperatures, sunny skies and outdoor activities that they're enjoying right now, but I say to them, empathize with our 'being done with winter' sentiments here on the east coast, even if it is just for one moment.  OK, enough of my grievance with the cold and the snow, and let's get to the photos!

A snow-covered bench is surrounded by complete silence as I make my way outdoors.

It is rather beautiful to walk through the landscape when nothing is stirring and the last snowflake has fallen on the ground.  As I make my way out of the mudroom/office area and onto the back porch, I check to see how thick the snow is on the steps.  A good gauge for me is the teak bench which sits next to the well right across from the kitchen window.

Thick boots (my Wellies are just right), a heavy wool coat, a hat, a scarf and a pair of gloves is absolutely necessary right now.  You can't walk out the front door when it's in the single digits without any type of protection.

I never get tired of the view in front of the house.  A meandering driveway, an old Pennsylvania stone barn and perhaps some deer in the nearby woods if we're lucky.  Can you just make out the steps leading up to the driveway?  It's pretty bad when you can't even see them.

The front porch is the first thing to clear off before shoveling the walkway.  Just past that small hill is a fox den and the home of our resident groundhog, Henry.  I was telling a reader that we're counting the days until he emerges from his little den.  We'll see!

What driveway?  Yes, it's there, but it's completely covered in powdery snow.  

The stone barn abuts the sloping hill which leads up to the large meadow.  As soon as the temperatures go up a bit, one will undoubtedly hear the dripping sounds of melting snow coming off the rooftop and front porch.

Those small tracks were probably made by one of the foxes or by some deer.  It's funny to see them using the trails that we use.

The three bay facade of the stone barn is very simple and unassuming.  A two bay hay loft is what's found on the second floor and the uppermost floor is a storage area which has odds and ends.

This set of stairs leading up to the field is barely visible, but thankfully on this particular day they were not icy.  

Built in 1830 of local stone, this type of Pennsylvania stone barn is known as a bank barn.  Bank barns were built against a sloping hill to take advantage of the landscape.  If you're interested in seeing what it looks like on the inside, click here.

The edge of the meadow clearly shows a bleak landscape, but take my word for it, in a matter of weeks after we've thawed from winter's grip, everything will transform into a verdant panorama.

I was hoping to catch a glimpse of some deer, but alas, they were not in the area.

The tall evergreens look beautiful with their snow-covered boughs.

The Barn.

As I make my way back home in this photograph I can't help but wonder when we'll see the little snowdrops that honor us with their presence in the early spring.  I'm thinking of how I want to arrange them on my table and in my kitchen.  Their beguiling scent is unlike any other.  

In the meantime, I hope all of you are keeping warm wherever you may live. Don't worry, spring is right around the corner along with better temperatures, sunny days and the cheerful appearance of the wildlife.  Are you ready for spring?  I know I am!



Monday, February 23, 2015

A Pictorial Overview of 2013

This picture video from 2013 that was made for me by Google, is one I've never shared here on the blog.  It's nice for me to go back and review an entire year of posts, but it's even better when a short video condenses my posts through photographs.  I know it's a little late, but I hope you enjoy it anyhow.

Good Things by David 2013 Video
(Please sign onto your Google account in order to view this.)

I'll be posting very soon what my home currently looks like with all of the snow we've been getting here in the Northeast.  In the meantime, stay warm!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Swedish Limpa Bread

Baking bread while it's cold out is a good way to warm up one's home.  Over the past few months I've been baking Swedish Limpa Bread on a regular basis because it seems to have a little bit of everything.  There is a hint of sweetness that is just right with every bite, and yet, it's perfectly savory to have with eggs for breakfast because of the rye flour.  The recipe I turn to, which I'm quite spoiled by, is from Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads. If you don't own this book you really should add it to your cookbook library, because there is a lot to learn from Bernard's recipes, tips and anecdotes.

Have you ever had limpa?  If so, then you understand that enjoying a slice of it slathered with butter or some marmalade is one of life's little pleasures.  I love having this toasted bread with my tea or with a cup of coffee if I can help it. Don't tell anyone, but I've also had it with some nutella spread and it is amazing!  Keep reading.

As I said, I've been baking Limpa this Fall and Winter, so there is a fresh loaf at all times in the freezer just waiting to be toasted and reheated.  Thankfully I've managed to find the exact recipe online for all of you to try, if you aren't familiar with it, and let me just say, you've been warned!  Once you master the recipe once you will try it again and again, perhaps adding something or subtracting something to suit your tastes.  There aren't too many ingredients and with only two rises, you can have loaves warm and ready for dinner in no time.  The one thing I recommend you not omit is the freshly grated orange zest, for it is essential to the bread's flavor.

Swedish Limpa Ingredients
I always find it best to set out my measured ingredients before I begin the recipe.  Some may find this fussy, but I find it to be an absolute must if you want success when baking.  As you can see, the flours are separated (per the recipe), the raisins are a mix of golden and regular Thompson, the molasses and sugar are ready to be added and the orange zest is fragrant and fresh.  The caraway, cumin and fennel seeds are sitting in my Mason & Cash mortar and pestle from England, waiting to be pounded.  The recipe doesn't call for this, but I like to crush the seeds as I'm doing the initial kneading so that I release the essence of the seeds.

Flours: the bread flour of choice in my kitchen is from King Arthur.  I've experimented with different rye flours and have come to love Arrowhead Mills Rye Flour and Hodgson Mill Rye Flour.  The choice is yours.

click on the link above

Ever since I bought myself that giant KitchenAid 7qt. mixer, I have loved how quickly the ingredients come together.  I've done this recipe by hand and believe me when I tell you that if you have a stand mixer in the kitchen, use it for this.  Rye breads are heavy to knead by hand and you will indeed have to employ a lot of elbow grease should you choose to do it the old-fashioned way.

Give yourself a good amount of counter space to do the final kneading by hand.  That giant board on my dough counter is used for this purpose, because it sits a few inches lower than a standard counter. I love working here by the sunny window.

Find a good bowl to allow the dough to rise in a warm, draft-free place.  This stoneware bowl from Martha by Mail is perfect.  

The generous recipe makes two loaves.  Once they've cooled down, slice the breads as thin or thick as you feel like and enjoy them.    

Tip:  since the breads don't contain any preservatives, they will only keep for one day.  What I do is slice them completely and seal the loaves in zip-top freezer bags after they have cooled, removing every bit of air.  They then get placed in another zip- top bag to prevent any freezer burn.  Whenever I feel like having some, I remove as many slices as we're going to consume and toast them.  I've kept this bread for up to a month in the freezer and have never had any problems with it.

Limpa and nutella heaven!  If I'm not having it with this chocolate chestnut spread, then I reach for some good butter and/or marmalade.  With a cup of coffee or with a cup of tea, Limpa is bound to become a favorite at your house.  Make some this week!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day

However you're spending your day and whether you're enjoying chocolates or cookies, I want to wish you and your loved ones a sweet Valentine's Day.