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Monday, December 28, 2015

Homemade Bread, yummmm

Thanks to my wonderful son, I received this for Christmas:

Since I had the weekend off, I naturally decided to make some bread!  I spent about an hour reading the book and felt I was well prepared to try my hand at making Ciabatta bread.  Bread-making is a lot like soap-making; it requires patience.  The end product is not produced within minutes, or even hours.

In this case I began by  making a poolish starter (pictured), a wet sponge-like dough that ferments for at least a day.
Using a starter for bread-making creates better flavor and texture. A biga is anther type of starter; it is not as wet as the poolish.

The next day, I made the bread dough and added the poolish to the dough.  This dough needed a couple more hours to rise then I created a cloche with a large white dishtowel and allowed the dough to rise again for at least an hour.

Baking the bread was quite the experience.  I purchased this Emile Henry Rectangular Baking Stone, Black
I heated the stone, a cast iron pan, and the oven to 500 degrees and placed the dough on the stone.  Immediately after doing this I added hot water to the cast iron pan which created a steam in the oven.  Apparently, professional baking ovens have a push button that will send steam into the oven!  

I closed the oven door and every 30 seconds I would open the door and spray water against the back and sides of the oven to create more steam.  This was repeated 3 times, then I lowered the oven temperature to  450 degrees and the bread was allowed to bake for 20 minutes.

The finished product was not bad for a first time but room for improvement.  The bread crust was crisp, not too tough, and the flavor was very good! Needless to say, I'll be baking more bread very soon!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Beeswax Candles

A year or so ago, a friend at work gave me a giant block of beeswax for my soap making.  I haven't used beeswax in soap before and still haven't, although I am going to try it soon.  Regardless, the amount of beeswax he gave me was WAY more than I'd use in soap so I figured I'd make candles with it.  How hard could that be, really?  You just melt the wax put a wick in and let it dry....

Well, it was a MESS, and a slight disaster.  The candles never really burned well; they'd create this pit as they burned then burn themselves out.  All in all, it was a failure.

Not to be deterred I decided to give it another go and remelt the wax.  This time I did a little research and discovered I used too flimsy of a wick.  Beeswax is slow burning and therefore you need a sturdier wick.

I purchased these CandleScience 50 Piece Natural Candle Wick, Medium
with a wick clip on the bottom from Amazon.  I set my containers on a paper towel, cut a hole in a piece of masking tape that I taped to the top, and slipped the wick though the tape.  This secured the wick as I poured the wax into the container.

I also learned, as I was researching my previous failure, that beeswax burns really hot and can sometimes crack the container it's in.  Blending the wax with a 'cooler' oil helps keep the temperature down.  Because of this I added one cup of coconut oil to a pound of wax as it was melting.

*Helpful Hint*  Do not melt the wax in any container you plan to keep.  You will NOT be able to clean the container.  I find it's easier to use an old coffee can, or in this case metal cookie can, as a double boiler,

Before I poured the wax into the containers, I added a little grapefruit fragrance oil for a nice natural scent that would complement the scent of the beeswax. 

With just these couple of changes, I'm happy to report, my candles now burn steadily, without pits, and smell fresh, not overpowering.