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Monday, January 30, 2012

The Saga of the New Pet with the Stinky Disposition Part 3 and the End of the Story

Photo by
Remember in the last segment
of the Saga, I talked about the
"little yeasties"?  Well, this
is what they become when they are
veeeery happy!
Good morning, All. 

I have heard from ya'll that leaving comments is a real pain because you have had to get a google account if you didn't have one, or go through some similar rigamorole.  The other day I was was playing with the blog layout and I think I have fixed the comment problem.  You should now be able to leave me a comment with out going to an account and signing in.  I would really love to hear from you!  And if there is still a problem leaving comments let me know (stdragonfly@yahoo.com) and I will see what I can do to fix it!

Well, sadly the Sourdough Saga will come to an end today, then we will get on to more subjects herbal.
If you have never tried baking your own bread, you really must give it a try someday.  Baking bread is such a satisfying hobby.  Besides the out come of your labors are quite delicious (well, most of the time!)  And to me it really does seem like the Sourdough bread recipe is the easiest and remember any yeast bread recipe just takes a little time.

We have studied the history of Sourdough and met some interesting characters involved with Sourdough.  We even touched on some Sourdough science and I have given you a recipe to start your own Starter.  So, now it is time to share some recipes.

The loaf on the left was baked in a
4 x 8 loaf pan and
the loaf on the right in a
1 quart casserole.
Sourdough Bread

The King Arthur Rustic Sourdough bread recipe has been successful every time I have baked it.  It produces 2 small loaves, just enough to be eaten up in a day or two.

King Arthur also has an extra-tangy sourdough bread recipe.  In the Extra Tangy recipe you do not add extra yeast but the rising times are very long.  And since I am not a very patient woman, well, put it this way, I need to get the bread baked, in the oven, and slathered with butter as quickly as possible!

1 Cup (81/2 ounces) "fed" sourdough starter
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) luke warm water
2 1/2 tsps. salt
1 Tbls. sugar
2 tsps. instant yeast
5 cups (21 1/4 ounces) All-purpose Flour

Combine all of the ingredients, kneading to form a smooth, soft dough, adding a bit of additional flour if needed.  Place dough in a greased bowl, cover and let rise until doubled, about 90 minutes.
When first placed in bowl to
rise for 90 minutes.
After 90 minutes,
Doubled in size!
Divide the dough in half and shape into two oval loaves.   Place on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet.  Cover and let rise til very puffy, about 60 minutes.  Slash the tops, and bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.  Remove from the oven, and cool on a rack. 

Yields:  2 loaves.
Sourdough Biscuits
Homemade Sourdough

This recipe is from the blog Sarah's Musings.  There is a trick to making good biscuits. DO NOT OVERWORK THE DOUGH! So, that being said, here are your ingredients....

2 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup lard, cold cut into chunks, or a mix of half lard and half cold/frozen butter
     Okay, we are making biscuits...so use lard...I am not sure biscuits were meant to be a health food.  And besides that, check into some of the new information on using lard and butter....oh, and remember, all things in moderation.  So, just eat one or two biscuits at a meal, preferable with some good local honey or StarDragonfly Herbals Elderberry Jelly!

1 Tbls. sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
2 tsps. baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 C. sourdough starter, freshly fed a few hours earlier
Up to 1 C. milk
melted butter

Now there is nothing hard about making biscuits!

Measure all your dry ingredients into a large bowl and mix with a whisk.  Add the lard and smush and squeeze with your finger tips.  Incorporate good (well) but do this step as quickly as possible so the lard stays cold.  Then make a "well or hole" in the middle of the bowl.  Add the wet ingredients.

Now gently mix all of it together.  The dough should be kinda crumbly but should hold together....then turn out on a floured board and gently knead it a couple times.  Then I pat it out on the board, say about 1/2 inch thick.  Cut into circles with cookie cutter, I use an old tomato sauce can.

Let biscuits rise in a warm spot for about 30 minutes. Brush the tops with melted butter if you desire.  I don't because I like the tops crispy.  Then bake at 375 for 30-35 minutes.

There are other things you can do with your sourdough starter.  Make pancakes, waffles, cookies, crackers and pizza dough,   And if you have spilled some of the stuff on your counter, you may have noticed it makes really good glue!

And to Barbara, who sent me a great photo of her Sourdough bread, my apologies.  I downloaded the photo to where I though it should be and of course, it has disappeared.

And so the Saga of the Pet with the Stinky Disposition comes to an end.  I really was afraid that the Sourdough Starter would become too much trouble with I started on this adventure.  But, hey, nothing else around here only gets fed once a week.  All the other critters get fed twice daily, except Cousin Sandra and I, we eat 3 x daily plus snacks.  Could be why my jeans are a little tight?

Achillea millefolium

Have you been noticing the frost?  I love the frost, it makes the world all sparkly!  I almost missed this great shot of the frost on the Yarrow because as soon as the Sun gets anywhere near the shimmering crystals they disappear!

“The end of THE END is the best place to begin THE END, because if you read THE END from the beginning of the beginning of THE END to the end of the end of THE END, you will arrive at the end.”
Lemony Snicket, The End
Sun shining through kitchen window.

Monday, January 23, 2012

January is Hot Tea Month! Sip a cuppa with me!

A woodland tea party
could possible attract some
magical friends!
Pour yourself a cup of hot tea and sit for a spell.  We are going to talk about  Camellia sinensis.  No, we are not going to gossip about some famous movie star or dish someone who lives down the street!  We are going to talk about Tea because January is Hot Tea month.

All "tea" comes from the same species of plant (Camellia sinensis).  Now there will be differences in the tea leaves because of different varieties of the plant, growing/harvest season, processing, part of the plant and origin.  And remember, Rooibos (redbush tea from Africa and herbals are not true tea, they are "tisanes".)
The western (has nothing to do with Texas!)  tea industry now recognizes 5 types of Tea.....
White Tea....
Minimally processed tea
 is an antioxidant-rich tea with a delicate flavor. The main white tea types are Silver Needle, White Peony, Darjeeling White and flavored white tea.
Fired Green Tea........
Chinese style (fired) green tea
Chinese-style green teas are often heated over a fire or coals, or they are fired in a convection oven. Long Jing ('Dragonwell') is the most popular type of fired green tea.
Steamed Green Tea.......
Japanese style green tea
Most Japanese-style green teas are steamed rather than fired.
Oolong Tea.....
Partially oxidized tea
Most oolong teas come from Taiwan and China. The main styles are Bao Zhong (a.k.a. 'Pouchong'), Semi-Balled, Oriental Beauty, Wuyi Oolong, Phoenix Oolong and flavored oolong.
Black Tea.....
Heavily or fully oxidized tea
Black teas are often classified by origin. 'Ceylon' is the former name of Sri Lanka, so many Sri Lankan black teas are simply called 'Ceylon teas.'
Pu-erh Tea...
Fermented Tea
Pu-erh tea is different from all other major tea types in that it is fermented.
Photo by
tea leaves drying...oxidation.
So you may be wondering, "What the heck is oxidized tea?  Oxidation in tea making essentially means letting the tea leaves be exposed without intervention to air, with varied periods of exposure being needed for different kinds of tea.

Tea leaves will begin to wilt and oxidize (a process caused by intracellular enzymes) as soon as they are picked. As their chlorophyll breaks down, they turn darker, and this accounts for the variation in tea types.

Oxidation can be stopped by artificially heating the tea leaves, which will deactivate those enzymes. Once oxidation has been stopped, the tea leaves are dried out.
Really, if you start studying about Tea the amount of information is mind boggling.  And have you ever gone to the grocery store with the intention of becoming a tea connoisseur and looked at all the teas on the shelf.  Yeah right, you have regular old black and regular old green....and some herbals, and if your grocery is larger than ours, well, you might have a few specialty teas.  Or if you are lucky enough to get to Winnsboro and stop in at Art & Espresso on Market street, Marilyn has a good sampling of tea, black, green, oolong, jasmine, chai, fruit and herbals.  So, next time you venture to the big city, (we go to the FRESH store in Tyler) then you can start to pick out some really good teas.  Where to start?  That really is a personal preference.  My favorites are the black teas....I love Earl Grey mixed with a smokey Lapsang Souchong.  But, Cousin Sandra does not like the taste of Lapsang Souchong but loves the mild fruity blends that you can achieve with White teas.
Let me give you a few places to go to start your tea education.....About.com has a mini email course about tea....coffeetea.about.com or check out Tea Time Magazine online....a little more frou-frou, but has gorgeous photos of china tea sets, lots of great recipes and good tea information.....www.teatimemagazine.com/

Yours truly as a
Tea Party Hostess!

Let's Have a Tea Party!
Don't you just love a tea party?  I do.  I always have and always will!  When I was just a wee lassie I would have tea parties with my little plastic horses.  I guess I wasn't into dolls but give me a plastic horse any day.  And I must have been a budding herbalist because I can remember brewing grasses, pine pollen and whatever was blooming for the horse tea.
I will put the water on to boil.....oh, and by the way, you can get as fussy as you want with the following procedures. But, I like to keep things simple.  We have filtered water which is best for tea making.  Doesn't add any strange tastes to the tea.
While the water is getting hot, let's "prime" the tea pot.  And having a tea pot is so much fun!  Actually, we have several nice pots, but my fave is just a simple green ceramic pot.  Anyway, priming the pot, means warm the pot with some warm water.  I usually add some of the water heating on the stove but you can always use warm tap water.
Now, the temperature of the water is where you can really get technical if you desire.....

Black tea: 4 to 5 minutes at 212°
Oolong tea: 4 to 7 minutes at 195° to 210°
Green or white tea: 2 to 5 minutes at 165° to 175°

Since I am not going to take the temperature of the water, this is my rule of thumb...
for black or oolong teas
bring the water to a boil, take off heat, let sit for a bit, then put in tea pot.
Steep about 5 minutes

green tea or white tea
bring the water to almost a boil, take off heat, let sit for a bit, then put in tea pot
steep about 2-3 minutes

herbal teas (which I like really strong flavored)
Bring the water to a rolling boil and then immediately add to pot.
steep at least 10-15 to whenever minutes

And PLEASE do not heat your water in the microwave.  I am not anti-microwave, but tea or herbal tea is where I draw the line!

Ladies taking afternoon tea.
 Mary Cassatt, artist
courtesy ofen.wikipedia.org

Now the tea is made, the table is set and we are ready for a relaxing afternoon of sipping and munching!

"Oh, dawling, what is this delightful tea you are serving this afternoon!?!" 

Well, dear, let me see.  This afternoon I am serving some wonderful herbal teas (tisanes).....

My favorites....two StarDragonfly Herbal blends....

Evening in the Garden....Roses (from my favorite rose bush), Chamomile and Lavender

Garden Calcium....Thai basil (from our gardens), Oat tops and Nettle

Or how about a blend of....say, Chamomile and Cinnamon or Lemon balm and lemon peels?

Then there are some very simple teas, some we have talked about in past posts.....

Ginger.....add a little organic lemon juice and some honey...very satisfying on a cold evening, especially if you have tummy ache.

Cinnamon tea...(steep a cinnamon stick in boiling water for 15 or more minutes) or make Ginger/Cinnamon tea.........1/2 c. thinly sliced fresh ginger
              6 c. water
              2 cinnamon sticks
              2 tbs. honey
This tea is actually my favorite winter time herbal tea.
Really, I could go on and on about tea, tisanes and any combination of tea and tisanes, but, we will cover these in future posts.
And it really wouldn't be a tea party without some delicious snack!  Here again, you can get as fancy as your little heart desires!  From sandwiches to fancy desserts, to actual meals, anything can be served at a tea party!  NO RULES!  Dontcha just love that!
Shortbread cookies!
Photo by
I like my tea with a piece of homemade short bread or a lemon scone.  Life is good!
Well, thank you so much for stopping by....wish I could have all our readers out to the farm for a tea party!  Hope all is well in your world!
Yours, Susan
If you are cold, tea will warm you.  If you are too heated, it will cool you.  If you are depressed, it will cheer you.  If you are excited, it will calm you.
Gladstone, 1865
Daffodils are starting to emerge!
Is Spring really coming soon?

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Saga of the New Pet with the Stinky Disposition Part 2

Excuse me,
Photo taken January 2011. 
I am back!  We lost use of the computer monitor, oh what, about 4 weeks ago!  Let me tell you, every time, (and I am not exagerratin', ask Cousin Sandra) Sandra leaves me alone here on the farm for any length of time some electronic device just up and quits.  This time, Cousin Sandra went to Austin to spend Christmas with family, it wasn't even 2 days and the computer monitor just died.  Aghh!  I had some great blogs planned and lots of research to do.  But, we are back and very excited about the New Year.

Well, let's continue with the Saga of Sourdough.  I do have to admit that I am quite smitten with my new pet.  The Sourdough starter only requires a once a week feeding and has produced quite a few loaves of delicious bread.  And since a lot of New Year's resolutions deal with weight loss or healthy living, it is good to know that Sourdough bread is vegan and fat-free, (unless, you slather it with butter when it is fresh from the oven!)   So far, I have made just the regular Sourdough bread, herb bread and a loaf of Cinnamon Bread.  The Cinnamon bread made the kitchen smell heavenly, was great toasted, then made a yummy bread pudding.  But was definitely not fat-free! 

Photo by

Okay, how about some history of Sourdough!?!   I guess around 1500 BC the Egyptians wrote down the first information on their leavened bread that became known as ummm, Egyptian Leavened Bread.  According to the site Food History there were many stories as to how they first discover the yeast starter, but you can probably imagine that some bread dough was left out and some of the wild yeast spores that are in the air at all times got mixed in the dough and those Egyptians noticed that the bread rose and was lighter than the usual flat breads.

Photo by
This is what I did when I read
that someone paid $600.00
for a genuine Alaskan sourdough

Folks, once again, I had this blog almost completely done and POOF! error message and half of the blog is gone!  Anyway, to make a long story short, through trial and error those Egyptians found that some of the sourdough cultures worked and tasted better than others.  They could keep this culture alive by saving from their baking a little raw dough and adding more flour to it, and it would produce the same flavor.  Sourdough Starter is created!  Yeah, now we can make yummy bread while we are exploring and taking over the rest of the world!

EUREKA!  Gold is discovered in California!  The Boudin family, master bakers from France headed on out to the San Francisco area to set up shop and become famous for using the unique sourdough starter that develops in the area.  According to Food History the miners flocked to this bakery every morning for this special tasting bread.  Okay, I can't help myself.  I doubt seriously that a bunch of crusty miners were flocking anywhere except to their claim to keep some other crusty old miner from claiming their claim. (?)  It's not like they would stop in at the local bakery to have their cup of cappuccino and a beignet and oh, by the way, may I have a loaf of that lovely fresh bread to take with me for lunch.

Feeding the Starter

Let's make some Sourdough Bread.  Since I make bread on Monday, the very first thing I do that morning is take the starter out of the frig.  Now it is time to refresh the starter....discard 1 c. starter, then add 1/2 cup warm water and 1 cup flour.  It will have to sit and create bubbles for 4 hours.  Bubbles, you wonder?

Yes," if you mix any ground up grain with a liquid such as water or milk and let it sit in the open air at room temp, wild yeasts in the air will settle in the mix, eat the natural sugars and convert them into lactic (and other) acids which give it a sour flavor.  They also give off alcohol and carbon dioxide.  The carbon dioxide is what will cause the bread to rise.  When worked into a bread dough, the bubbles get trapped into the structure of the bread, and that is the little holes that you see." 

So, now we have refreshed the starter and talked a little about sourdough history.  Let me tell you about the history of my starter.  Remember back before Christmas when this saga started I had just purchased a sourdough starter from King Arthur Flour Company.  According to them "it’s descended from a starter that’s been lovingly nurtured here in New England since the 1700s."  Whether this is correct or not, I didn't pay $600.00 for it!

You can make starter quite easily yourself if you don't care if your starter has a pedigree or not.  Here's how:

Probably the easiest way, is to contact me and get some of my starter and I will give you the care instructions.  And to the lady (Ramy?) who contacted me before Christmas wanting some starter, please get in touch again.....I will be happy to share...... stdragonfly@yahoo.com.

You will need:
2 cups all-purpose flour (white or whole wheat)
2 tsps granulated sugar (optional, but the little yeasties love it)
1 packet active-dry yeast (you could do it the old fashioned way and let it sit out for a week or so, but I didn't think you would want to do that!)
2 cups warm water (105 to 115 degrees F.)

The whole wheat flour will need longer rising times and use filtered water, the little yeasties really do not like chemical laden water, neither do I for that matter!

Mix all ingredients in a bowl that isn't metal or plastic and cover with a cloth and leave it sitting on the counter for 2-5 days.  Stir daily. The starter is ready when it develops a pleasant sour smell and is bubbly.  Pleasant sour smell?  I would suggest you leave it out a couple days until it is good and bubbly.  Pleasant sour smell?

Now, take out a cup of starter and discard, add 1 cup flour and 1/2 cup warm water.

Cover loosely........the easiest way, put starter in a big canning jar and punch a whole in the lid.  Give your starter a name and put it in the frig.  It is ready to use.

Photo by

We named our starter Grady.....

Grady Spears is a cowboy turned Chef.  What more could a girl want?  Tall, dark and handsome cowboy that cooks.  I wonder if anyone has ever thought of cloning this man?

I promise we will talk more about Grady (the cowboy) in future posts.

Enough for today, next time we will actually get the bread in the oven!  As the saga continues!  All here at StarDragonfly Herbals send you Peace, Love, and Many Good Blessings for you and yours!  Susan

While Red was whining for his blankie,
This is where Head of Ranch Security
was hanging out!

Now I lay me down to sleep.
The king size bed is soft and deep.
I sleep right in the center groove
My human being can hardly move!
I've trapped her legs, she's tucked in tight
And here is where I pass the night
No one disturbs me or dares intrude
Til morning comes and "I want food!"
I sneak up slowly to begin
my nibbles on my human's chin.
She wakes up quickly,
I have sharp teeth.
I'm a puppy, don't you see?
For the morning's here
and it's time to play
I always seem to get my way.
So thank you Lord for giving me
This human person that I see.
The one who hugs and holds me tight
And shares her bed with me at night!