I have always been an avid gardener and was thrilled that this summer I would be in one place long enough to take care of one. Located in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Teller County Colorado, my home this summer is perched on a windy ridge at 9,000 feet. I thought the greatest obstacles I would have to overcome were high winds and lack of moisture in the air. These, however, I believed I could combat readily by bringing inside my plants during particularly vicious windstorms and watering daily. So, I naively went about planting a container garden on my back deck consisting of two tomatoes, a bell pepper, some sweet potatoes, salad greens, and various fresh herbs. And then I waited for my bountiful harvest.
Archive for the Recipes Category
Backpacking and camping trips require creativity to create meals that are both delicious and satisfying, but also quick and convenient. Often, however, the quality of bread or baked goods on these trips is compromised for durability and ease of packing. This usually means that poor quality tortillas and crackers are standard fare when out in the backcountry. Last week I was backpacking and climbing in the Sangre de Cristo mountain range of southeastern Colorado. When planning for the trip I made it an imperative to bring good quality bread along with me that was both nourishing and would stay fresh for the entire week that I was out. I also wanted to bake something that was appropriately ‘summer’-ish.
As a vegetarian, I am always looking for that perfect veggie burger. Preferably, it has a crisp crust with a moist center, is loaded with beans and vegetables, is slightly spicy, and should be good enough to eat plain. The other day I made some delicious sweet potato-black bean burgers. While I certainly could have eaten these straight up, I was hankering for a good bun to accompany them. Unfortunately, good buns are few and far between these days. The supermarket yielded no good choices. Most of the options there were plain, white, pasty, and loaded with high fructose corn syrup. But, rather than being discouraged, I was challenged and intrigued to make my own buns for my own burgers.
I’ve learned that it is very dry at this altitude. My hands are constantly chapped, the cuticles catching on everything I touch and pulling painfully. I guzzle down water, glass after glass. I apply chapstick in copious amounts. But, in addition, I’ve also discovered this with my last loaf of bread. I stuck the loaf in the oven, poured probably a half-cup of water into a pan at the bottom of the oven, and then let the yeast do their magic. I came back after 15 minutes, expecting to see a blossomed loaf, the result of the fervent activity of the yeast before their hot and steamy death, but instead saw a pitifully flat-looking loaf that had already developed a stiff crust. I had thrown this recipe together as a whimsical experiment, so I figured that this recipe was just a failure and this loaf wasn’t going to be an all-star. I went off to do other things for the remainder of the bake time and when I came back I found a loaf with a protruding, lobate anomaly. It looked almost like a stuck-out tongue, the loaf mocking me for some oversight or misstep.
After a long hiatus, I return. Finishing up the school year, attending graduations of siblings, and getting ready for my summer job consumed much of my time. But now I am settled down and returning to my usual patterns, but in a very different place. I’ve left the east coast for the high mountains of Colorado and will be here all summer. So this entry is dedicated to my new surroundings and how they will influence my baking. All of my bread this summer will be baked at close to 9,000 feet elevation and in a fairly arid, montane climate. After some reading, here is what I have found.
Buckwheat flour is perhaps my favorite flour to use in baking, even though I do not use it very much. In appearance it is of a soft gray or ashy hue and very fine grained. It smells richly of nuts, earth, and smoke. I always inhale deeply before I bake with it, delighted with the exotic possibilities that it holds. Buckwheat flour is not used in bread baking very often perhaps because it contains no gluten. It therefore must be combined with a strong wheat flour to ensure integrity and structure of the final loaf.
Rye breads come in many different shapes, flavors, and consistencies. Sweet rye bread are often similar to the Swedish limpa. Swedish limpa uses a combination of rye and wheat flours and is yeasted, enriched, sweetened with molasses or brown sugar, and spiced with fennel seeds, anise, and orange zest. The following recipe is my first attempt at a sweet, rye bread, but it is not limpa. Rather, it is a unique recipe that I have only found this single variation on. It is made with 100% rye flour, incorporates sourdough and no commercial yeast, uses a thick batter rather than a dough, involves a long, slow rise, and is baked for a couple of hours. With that said, this bread is dense, moist, and perfect for breakfast with a bit of butter, plain yogurt, or ricotta to compliment the simultaneous sour and sweet flavor. Although a little wary about this unconventional recipe at the beginning, I was pleasantly surprised by the final loaf and will be sure to make this one again.
Slices for breakfast