Starting Seeds In Toilet Paper Roll “Pots”, And The Improved Lighting Rig

-A.J.

Over the winter I came across a blog post that recommended using emptied toilet paper rolls as mini pots for starting seeds. It looked neat, clean, and easy, and it seemed like a great way to use up a free resource. The author simply cut the tubes in half, placed the smooth (uncut) side down in a baking dish, and filled the tubes to 1″ from the top with damp soil. Seeds were placed on the soil and buried to the appropriate depth.

I could have been neater about it — here’s what I wound up with when I planted peas:

170215 rolls

When I added a little water many of the rolls immediately  began to unravel. Right now I think they have enough integrity that when the seeds sprout I’ll still be able to plant the plugs without too much drama. As it is, added water needs to go on the bottom of the dish, otherwise all the soil would wash out of the tubes.

I also did some tweaking on the lighting rig. It’s now smaller, at about 20″ x 8″:

170215 seed rig

The lights are now nearly touching each other, and the light is much more concentrated. The lights themselves are around 1-1/2″ above the soil. It’s very bright, if only in a small space of 16″ x 8″. That’s enough room for direct light on about 15 paper roll tubes. The dish could probably hold 25 tubes or so. It seems like a good compromise that doesn’t totally dominate the counter top.

The first time I tried the lighting rig (version 1.0) most of the plants wound up leggy, partly because the lights were a ways apart, and (I think) partly because I needed to leave the lights on for more hours than I did. This time I’m targeting ~16 hours a day. 16-18 hours seems to be the consensus on the interweb. We’ll see. Assuming this works we’ll start beans and Brussel Sprouts the same way in a couple of months.

Recommended Game — STOP THIEF!

-A.J.

Title:  STOP THIEF!

170206 Stop Thief

Game Type:  Deduction/reasoning.

Number of Players:   2-4

Complexity of Rules:  Low

Time to Play:   30 minutes. Usually less

The Concept:   [From the inside of the box:]

ELECTRONIC COPS AND ROBBERS. Featuring the ELECTRONIC CRIME SCANNER.

A crime is being committed…but where?

In the jewelry store? The bank? Where will the thief strike next? You and your opponents are licensed private detectives. The thief you’re after is computer controlled and completely invisible. But you can hear him! With your ELECTRONIC CRIME SCANNER you can eavesdrop on the thief whenever he moves on the board. You can hear him in the act of committing a crime. You hear him, too, as he opens a door, crosses a floor, breaks a window, runs on the street and escapes on the subway. Each sound you hear is a clue that will help you track him down. You’ll need all your skills of deduction and logic to follow the thief and corner him. Then you can call the police. With luck, the police will arrest the thief and cart him off to jail. Sometimes, though, he escapes from them. At other times, he’s just not where you think he is! If you can catch this thief, you’ll earn a large reward. If he gives you the slip, he’ll rob again…and again…and again…

Why I Like It:  First of all — Wayback Machine! Our copy still has the original 1980 price sticker from the department store attached.

170206 Stop Thief2

There are numbered squares on the game board. When it’s your turn you press the “C” (Clue) button on the controller and the Thief moves from square to square. Each movement is represented by a distinctive noise, such as a window breaking or a door opening. By process of elimination you attempt to figure out the Thief’s current location and send the cops to arrest him. We’ve always played it without the Sleuth Cards since they make the game too easy. (“Tips” given by the cards tell you exactly where the Thief is, and what’s the fun in that?) Without the Sleuth Cards it can really be a challenge to find the Thief.

I loved this game at the time and I still love it. It’s also nice that we really took care of it when we young and never stored a battery in the controller. Almost everything is near-immaculate.

Great fun!

BoardGameGeek page here.

GNOIF: GNOIF Gets Lucky

-A.J.

GNOIF #26 recap — GNOIF:  GNOIF Gets Lucky (Wealth/Luck/Asian Themes (Chinese New Year))

Games That Got Played:  Code Names (Deep Under Cover), The Dragon & Flagon, Hanabi, Incan Gold, King of Tokyo, Lost Cities Board Game, Seven Dragons, Ticket to Ride Asia, Ticket to Ride Europe.

Games That Didn’t Get Played:  Avalon – Resistance, Five Tribes, Get Dr. Lucky, Mottainai, Tiny Epic Kingdoms.

The crowd showed up early and stayed late. Altogether it was more than ten hours of gaming. We played a bunch of looong games with a few short games as spacers in between.

An early evening game was The Dragon & Flagon. Think D&D bar fight. People were throwing mugs, chairs, and lightning at each other. Generally silly and definitely fun.

I really enjoy King Of Tokyo. To requote from the GNOIF #24 Recap:  “I enjoy it quite a bit. Players play as big, stompy, city-wrecking monsters, and the object is to dominate Tokyo and beat up everyone else — think Gozilla vs Mothra vs Kong. It’s fast and violent, and there’s an element of “chicken” to it. Good fun.”

It’s also possible to “upgrade” your monster. I went with Poison Quills, which in the right circumstance allows for more damage dealing. My opponent on my left purchased an “Extra Head”, which she used to roll an extra die and deal out terrible carnage. She won.

Later in the evening the gaming broke into two groups — one group focused on Ticket to Ride and the other on Code Names. That’s the nice thing about offering a range of game lengths and complexities — there was something for everyone.

Thanks to those who played!

 

New Seeds For 2017

-A.J.

Last year’s post was titled “Too Many Seeds, Probably“. While we did manage to use up some of the inventory, not everything was consumed. Still, I wanted to try some new things. The list:

SP783/L Escalade Spinach Organic – Escalade
HR1114/L Garlic Chives-Nira Organic – Nira Garlic Chives Organic 1/2 gram
ON557/S Guardsman Onion – Guardsman Onion Seeds
OV580/S Joi Choi Pac Choi – Joi Choi Pac Choi Seeds
BN039/S Maxibel Bean – Maxibel Bean Seeds
BN062/L Midori Giant Bean Organic – Midori Giant Bean Seeds Organic

The left column is the Territorial Seed catalog number. The thinking behind the “new stuff” –

Escalade Spinach Organic:  We used up the last of the spinach packets, so it was time for more.

Garlic Chives-Nira Organic:  Rick Bayless loves garlic chives, and it sounds like something we’ll love too. As an added bonus, slugs don’t mess with alliums. We should be able to seed them about “wherever” and have success. (Rick grills them. He then dices the garlic chives and adds them to many different dishes.)

Guardsman Onion:  Replenishing the scallion supply. We planted the last of these seeds in the fall.

Joi Choi Pac Choi:  A Chinese Cabbage variety that’s supposed to grow faster and be more bolt resistant than regular Bok Choi. We’ll see. Because it’s a Brassica the cabbage moths and aphids will come after them. We’ll likely grow the Joi Choi with Brussels Sprouts, cover all of it with tulle, and dose with Neem Oil (wikipedia link). In theory that should work to keep the bug population down. In theory.

Maxibel Bean:  A french/filet bean. Think Haricot Vert. The slugs may like these too much to be worthwhile. I figure we can try them in a few locations and see what shakes out. No trellising required. So long as the slugs don’t decimate the plants we should get something. Super fresh Haricot Verts have the potential to be awesome.

Territorial Seed Company picture.

Territorial Seed Company picture.

Midori Giant Bean:  An extra-early maturing Edamame. I love Edamame. No trellising(!)

————–

I see now that everything that’s really “new” is either indestructible or potential slug/pest bait. So it goes. We’ll know how effective Neem Oil is by the end of the season.

 

A Crackly “Bar Pie”, Sorta

-A.J.

I recently came across The Pizza Show (Vice Network, part of their MUNCHIES series). It’s a fun and informative show, and it’s less.. guarded than the programming on some of the other networks — it’s more relaxed and it seems less scripted and far less premeditated. Recommended.

The show featured a “bar pie” at one point. A “bar pie” has a thin, crackly crust and is traditionally square cut. (As opposed to the triangular slices seen on most pizzas.)

Which inspired this:

170111 bar pie

There’s no red sauce, so I’m hesitant to call it a pizza — it’s really more of a flatbread thing. It came out nice and crispy/crackly. The toppings are spicy salami, pesto, and feta.

As I’ve “discovered” over the years, it’s important not to work the dough too much when the target is a crispy or crackly end result. Working the dough encourages gluten development, which is the arch-enemy of crispy. (Digression:  Perhaps not surprisingly there’s a Queensryche-meets-death-metal band called Arch Enemy. Meh. Nothing new to see here, other than the female lead singer doing death shouts. I’m guessing that’s the “hook”. (YouTube link))

The recipe:

  1.  Combine 300g AP flour, 180g water (60% of the flour weight), 6g kosher salt (2%), 12g olive oil (4%), and 1 tsp yeast in the mixer.
  2.  Mix for 6 minutes.
  3.  Stretch and fold the dough (once from each direction).
  4.  Lightly oil the mixing bowl. Rub the dough ball around in the oil in the bowl. Cover and let rise 90 minutes.
  5.  Preheat the oven to 500F for at least 30 minutes prior to baking.
  6.  Roll the dough out to about 1/4″ thick. The diameter will be around 12″. Transfer to a baking sheet and let rest 10 minutes.
  7.  Dock everywhere except the edges of the flatbread pizza with a fork. Brush the edges with olive oil. Top with the salami.
  8.  Bake for 8 minutes. Top with the feta.
  9.  Bake for 5 minutes. Remove the pizza from the oven and let rest a minute or two.
  10.  Dollop pesto over the top of the pizza.
  11.  Eat.

—————

For posterity —  The first pass at Hamelman’s Pain Rustique. It could have gone better in a number of ways. The fatal issue was that it was vaguely underbaked.

And all of the other problems were caused by some variety of user error:

170111 Pain Rustique

 

Recommended Game — 7 Wonders Duel

-A.J.

Title:  Seven Wonders Duel7-wonders-duel

Game Type:  Card Drafting/ Civilization Building

Number of Players:   2

Complexity of Rules:  Medium-Low. Easy to learn if you’ve already familiar with 7 Wonders.

Time to Play:   30 minutes according to the box. I think we’ve been running vaguely longer.

The Concept:   Players take turns drafting cards from the available (topmost) cards in the stack. (See picture, the cards on the bottom and far right are “available”. If the card at the bottom were to be drafted then the next two cards would be flipped over and become “available”.)

The cards themselves represent either economic advancement, a stronger military, scientific advancement, or Victory Points (or a combination of those things.) Like the original game you can also “burn” a drafted card for gold or to Build A Wonder. The strategic part is picking the right combination of cards that allow you to acquire the “best” civilization, represented by having the most Victory Points at the conclusion of the game. Alternately you could buy a big stompy military and beat your opponent into submission, or advance far enough in science that you win outright.

Why I Like It:  It’s a fairly deep two player game with many possible ways to attempt to win. There’s some real strategy in card drafting to optimize your potential outcomes while damaging the other player’s as much as possible.

My one concern is that as we gain experience – we may find that trying to win with science is a high-risk idea. You really need to commit to science, and if the cards don’t fall right then you’re screwed. Basically any other approach is “safer”.

Overall though, it’s a very fun game.

—————-

BoardGameGeek page here.

The CheapSeatEats 7 Wonders recommendation page here. (I had/have concerns about the “science strategy” on that one too.)

Epi de Blé at the Annual Lasagna Party

-A.J.

Epi Bread makes an appearance at the Iron Chef Leftover Annual Lasagna Party (cell phone pic):

161224-epi-bread

I feel like everything came together pretty well this time around. The color was better than usual due to the addition of egg wash — two eggs were beaten then strained and brushed onto the doughs before the doughs were cut into the Epi shape. The egg wash created more contrast between the light and dark parts.

Each individual Epi was around 15″ long. The finished weight of all of the breads put together was around five pounds.

As far as the actual “mechanics”:

Each “batch” was three breads at 150 grams of flour each.

This time around I used a refrigerated “Poolish” (preferment) that I started on the 22nd — two days before the event. I went with a refrigerated Poolish because on the 22nd we weren’t sure we were going to be able to make it to the event, and I could bake the dough on the 25th if we missed out on lasagna.

To make one batch of Poolish combine 150 grams of bread flour, 150 grams of refrigerated water, and a pinch of instant yeast. Mix on low speed for 8 minutes. Cover. It can be refrigerated for up to three days with no real loss in quality.

(I did all three batches together (900 grams total), then divided it out into three – 300 gram units on baking day.)

On baking day combine in the mixer one batch of Poolish with 300 grams of bread flour, 120 grams water, 9 grams of salt, 1/3 stick unsalted butter (36 grams), and 1 teaspoon of instant yeast. Mix for eight minutes. Hand knead a little if the dough looks rough. Let rest, covered for 20 minutes.

Divide into three pieces and roll each piece into a baguette shape that will fit lengthwise into a Silpat-lined sheet tray. Cover and let rise two hours.

Brush each baguette with (beaten and strained) egg wash. Using scissors, cut the breads and lay the cut segments off to the sides for the finished Epi shape.

Bake at 460F for 22 minutes. Carefully remove to a cooling rack. (I used tongs to slide the Silpat out of the sheet tray, then slipped the Epis off of the Silpat.)

The addition of butter to the recipe made the finished product a little richer and dinner-roll like. The Epi shape made it easy to cut or break off pieces, and increased the total amount of “browned goodness” surface area. I’d like to think those decisions helped the breads fit in with the rest of the meal. Nobody complained.

[Total recipe in Baker’s Percentage is 60% hydration, 8% butter, 2% salt, yeast.   Or:  450g bread flour, 270g water, 36g butter, 9g salt, yeast.]

 

Flat Bread “Pizza”

-A.J.

I’ve been experimenting more with the pizza stone lately, trying to get more comfortable with it. (Most recently, these hearth breads.) It’s definitely a better cold weather activity, when the kitchen and house can use the heat from the oven.

For reference, the pictured flatbread is about 12″ across.

161216-flat-bread-pizza

One “trick” that I noticed making this Flat Bread “Pizza” is that if I lightly dust the counter with flour before rolling out the dough then that little bit of flour seems to help keep the dough from sticking to the pizza peel when it comes time to slide the dough into the oven — the dusting of flour removes some of the tackiness from the bottom of the dough. As an added benefit, the pizza peel then requires less corn meal for slipperiness, so I’m less likely to set off the smoke detector with burning corn meal. Win-win!

Not exactly a “Eureka” moment, but I’ll gladly take any new nuances like that one.

During the initial bake this flatbread had only a bit of oil and a couple of thinly sliced shallots as toppings. By the five minute mark it had poofed to between 3″ and 5″ high in places, so I stabbed it with a knife a few times and beat back the bubbles. The herbed goat cheese was added at the ten minute mark and the flatbread was allowed to cook for another five minutes. (15 minutes all total.)

The crust came out nice and crunchy — in places the crust was separated from the top by big bubbles. I was very happy with the texture overall.

—————————-

300g bread flour, 190g room-temperature water (63% hydration), 7g salt, 1 TBP “Italian Seasoning”, 1 tsp instant yeast, 1/4 tsp diastatic malt.

Mix on low speed for 8 minutes. Let rise one hour. Stretch and fold the dough. Let rise one hour.

Preheat oven and stone to 500F, 30 minutes prior to baking. Roll out the dough to ~12″ across. Bake for 10 minutes, top with cheese and bake for another five minutes.

 

I think the stretch and fold definitely encourages the “poofiness”.

 

GNOIF: GNOIF’s Day Of Infamy

-A.J.

GNOIF #25 recap — GNOIF:  GNOIF’s Day Of Infamy (War/Water themes. (Pearl Harbor))

Games That Got Played:  Amerigo, Avalon – Resistance, Hanabi, Star Realms.

Games That Didn’t Get Played:  Bang!, Batt’l Kha’os, Castle Panic, Pirate Fluxx, Forbidden Island, Nuclear War, Pirate’s Cove, Small World, Tiny Epic Kingdoms, Ultimate Werewolf.

Not many games got played, because GNOIF was taking place at the same time as:

sounders-win

Or:

sounders-win4

Or:

sounders-win2

Or:

sounders-win3

 

I could do this all day!

 

Hearth Breads

-A.J.

161130-done-closeup

I’ve been meaning to try out the combination of banneton + baking stone when making a “hearth” bread. Hamelman recommends a 73% hydration dough for his Ciabatta, but I knew if I went that high the odds of “disaster” would be pretty high too. I settled on a more moderate 65% hydration for this first pass, something along the lines of a French Bread, though it’s really a “65% hydration boule” (ball).

The recipe involves light mixing followed by three folds at one hour intervals, then a two hour rise in a banneton.

The first picture was taken right after the light mixing:

161130-fold0

Notice how the dough is somewhat shaggy. It’s fairly sticky too. Over the next few hours it’s going to shape up.

Here it is after fold number one:

161130-fold1

The “folding process” involves taking one edge of the dough, stretching it out, then folding it back on the mass. Then the stretch is done to the opposite side — repeat until all four sides have been stretched and folded back onto the mass. If you look closely you can see the last fold sitting on top with a slight seam running left to right.

Here it is after fold number two:

161130-fold2

Not much evidence of the seams this time. The dough has gained a lot of structure, and it’s not nearly as sticky as it was — now it’s just sort of tacky.

An hour later was the third fold, and the dough placed placed into a well-floured banneton:

161130-banneton

I should mention because it isn’t pictured:  During every rise the bowl/banneton was covered with plastic wrap.

The dough was allowed to rise for two hours. An hour prior to baking the stone was placed in the oven and the oven was preheated to 460F.

The dough ready to be flipped onto the pizza peel:

161130-risen

And out of the oven (I baked one at a time):

161130-done

The appearance is due to the floured rings of the banneton, combined with slashing the dough prior to baking. It looks involved, but it’s really pretty simple.

Overall the structure was a little tighter than I would have preferred — the “right” answer to that is probably more steam and higher hydration. The first dough stuck to the pizza peel, which was the “disaster” I was trying to avoid, and it’s why I used a moderate hydration in the first place. (And it degassed the dough somewhat, which is not what I wanted.) I used ample flour for the second dough and that one released fine.

There’s definitely a “wow” factor with this approach. I’m sure I’ll do it at least once again during the holidays.

—–

The recipe is based around Hamelman’s “Ciabatta with Poolish” (Bread:  A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes)

The day before — make the Poolish  (120g bread flour, 120g water, a few grains of yeast. I added 2% salt to the Poolish, which is not classically correct — I wanted the Poolish to not go totally crazy and overproof.)

Baking day:

  1.  Combine the Poolish with 280g bread flour, 140g water, 1/2 tsp yeast (up to 1 tsp might work better next time), 6g kosher salt. Total recipe is 400g bread flour, 260g water (65%), yeast, 8g salt (2%)
  2.  Mix for 3 minutes on low speed, then 3 minutes on 2nd speed.
  3.  Fold the dough, move to a lightly oiled bowl cover with plastic wrap and let rise 1 hour.
  4.  Fold the dough. Cover and let rise another hour.
  5.  Fold the dough. Cover and let rise a third hour.
  6.  Fold the dough, place into a well-floured banneton or bowl. Cover and let rise two hours until doubled. With one hour to go preheat the oven and stone to 460F.
  7.  Gently dump the dough onto a pizza peel. Slash the dough.
  8.  [Late Edit:  SeattleAuthor brought it to my attention that I left out a step in the directions — Steam The Oven.]  Bake for 40 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack and let cool.

Again, it looks like a lot of steps, but it’s really pretty easy. Just set the timer and forget it for a while.