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Archive for the ‘Portland’ Category

Whole wheat bread

When I lived in Maine I baked bread almost every weekend.  I started because it was such a long drive to a good bakery and I kept it up because there is really not much that makes me happier than the smell of baking bread or the taste of a fresh loaf.

Now that I live in Portland where there are amazing bakeries on just about every corner (well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but not much) I find I don’t get around to baking as often as I used to.  Last weekend, though, the urge came upon me and I pulled out one of my favorite baking books:  The Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book.

The book opens automatically to the recipe I have made most often — a simple whole wheat and buttermilk recipe that has never failed me and that can be used to make beautiful loaves that are perfect for everyday toast or sandwiches or rolls elegant enough for company.

Whole Wheat Buttermilk Bread

(adapted from the Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book)

2 teaspoons active dry yeast

½ cup warm water

¾ cup very hot water

¼ cup honey

1 ¼ cups cold buttermilk

4 ½ cups whole wheat flour (all purpose or bread flour is fine)

1 cup white flour (all purpose or bread flour is fine here too)

2 teaspoons fine sea salt

2 – 4 tablespoons butter, cut in to small pieces

1 large egg

1 tablespoon half & half

Dissolve yeast in warm water and set aside until foamy.

Mix hot water, honey and buttermilk in a small bowl or measuring cup; the final mixture should be lukewarm.  Set aside.

Mix flours and salt and place in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Using the dough hook and mixing at medium speed, slowly add yeast/water mixture and buttermilk mixture to the flour.

After all of the liquid has been incorporated, stop the mixer and let the dough sit, covered with a towel, for about 20 minutes.  This will ensure that the flour absorbs all of the liquid.

Restart the mixer and knead on low to medium speed for about 15 minutes.  The dough should be sticky, but should pull away from the sides of the bowl.  If it does not, add more flour, a tablespoon at a time (mixing well after each addition) until it does.  You want this to be a soft dough, so be careful not to add too much additional flour.  Add the butter in small pieces as you near the end of the kneading time.

Shape the dough into a rough ball and place it in an oiled or buttered bowl.  Cover and let rise for about 90 minutes or until you can poke it with a damp finger and the hole doesn’t fill in again.  Gently turn the dough and let rise again, this time for about 45 minutes.

Shape the dough into two loaves and place in oiled/buttered loaf pans.  Cover and let rise a third time.

This dough should rise quite a lot in the pan, so feel free to let it go for at least 45 minutes, if not more.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Whisk egg and half & half together and pass mixture through a small sieve until smooth.  Brush loaves with egg mixture and place in the middle of the preheated oven.

(If you want to make rolls, this recipe will make 9 large or 15 small ones.  Shape the dough into balls after the second rise and let rise again as above.  Brush with egg and half & half mixture.  Bake the rolls at 400 degrees for 15 -20 minutes.)

Bake loaves for 55 minutes or until they sound hollow when tapped.

Cool completely on a rack before slicing and eating.

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Finally, after what feels like weeks (months?) of rain, spring seems to be making a slow return.  Yesterday was a lovely day, a few clouds, an amazing downpour complete with thunder in the afternoon, but mostly a day sunny enough, and warm enough, for a trip to see what is blooming at the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden on the SE side of Portland.

Before getting far enough to see more than a hint of the profusion of color to come, we were greeted by a pair of mallards, resting close to the path and completely unafraid (probably because of the many children who feed them cracked corn, sold at the entrance).

There were a lot of other birds (I recognized a cormorant and many red winged blackbirds) but I’ll have to visit with S to get a more complete list.

The first flowers we really noticed were not rhododendrons, but instead subtle and intriguing hellebores.

Then, around another corner, it was clear that the rhododendrons really were “the thing,” and they were truly amazing.

Varied in color (we stopped once in front of a wall of blooms in at least 4 distinct shades of lavender), shape and size, the blooms, on bushes and even full-sized trees, were truly glorious.

Striking,

subtle,

complex,

and just plain lovely, they were everywhere we looked.

Some of the flowers aren’t blooming yet,

and there are clearly many  irises still to come

so a trip to the Rhododendron Garden is definitely something to try to fit into your busy schedule over the next few weeks.

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I know.  It’s February 20th.  But in spite of what the calendar would have you believe, today everything in Portland is screaming SPRING!

The warm sun and bright sky (and the fact that we have been staying at a downtown hotel all week during some home renovations) drew us out for a walk after breakfast this morning.  I’ve wanted to show S the Eastbank Esplanade walk along the Willamette River for months now so we headed down to the river and across the Hawthorne Bridge.

It’s always cooler on the east side of the river and much nosier, too, as you make your way alongside and under the freeway.  Even the incessant roar of traffic couldn’t keep us from enjoying the sights along the way — from the natural

to the industrial.

I’m not sure if it’s good for the bridge, but all the rust on the Steel Bridge is remarkably photogenic.  This shot reminds me of a map.

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I am not the kind of person who makes New Year’s resolutions; instead I hope I can live up to my ideals every day without making a formal commitment to them.

One commitment I have been able to stick to since coming to Portland is to patronize local businesses whenever possible.  I will admit to an occasional stop at a national retailer (Whole Foods comes to mind) or a traditional mall, but most of my shopping is done at locally owned groceries (New Seasons and the Portland Farmers Market get most of my food dollars), bookstores (Powell’s and Annie Bloom’s Books are my two current local favorites) and knitting stores (Knit Purl, Northwest Wools and Twisted are a few of the places I like here).

In addition to these places, I have really enjoyed exploring the many eclectic Portland shops that feature local products or handmade goods.  One store that I have fallen in love with is The Meadow on North Mississippi Avenue.

This tiny (really tiny) shop features all kinds of wonderful treats for eaters and cooks.  The first thing you might notice when you arrive (if you can focus on any one thing) are the floor to ceiling shelves packed with salts (and a few select other spices).

Once inside you will find a similar set of shelves stocked with chocolate from around the world,

a table crowded with local flowers ready to be arranged in one of the perfect vases displayed behind the counter, a small but carefully chosen collection of wines and a selection of local and imported bitters, perfect for augmenting that fancy cocktail or flavoring your San Pellegrino.

If you are in the mood for something more permanent, maybe a salt or pepper mill will fill the bill.

Places like this make shopping locally easy and fun.

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It rained hard on Thanksgiving here in Portland.  In fact, it was a decidedly un-Portland-like rain that drummed on the skylights and on the deck all day long.

That made it all the more wonderful to wake up the next morning to blue skies and sun.  The weather was so remarkable that we quickly scrapped our plans to visit the Portland Art Museum (we’ll do that another day) and decided to head to the Columbia River Gorge (“the gorge” to people from around here) instead.

Our first stop, and oddly, the only one where I took any pictures, was the Vista House at Crown Point.

Even though the sun had been shining in Portland (really!) the skies above the gorge were grey.  Of course, it was still beautiful.

The rest of the day was equally lovely, with stops at Bridal Veil and Multnomah Falls on the way to Hood River.  Our Maine visitors were delighted to have been able to see a part of Oregon they had not seen before and we were happy to be with them as they saw it.

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Finally fall

I have been waiting for the Japanese maple tree outside our front door to turn.  Now that it has I am finally confident that fall has arrived.

The really striking thing about this tree, though, is not the bright yellow color of the leaves, but the brilliant green of the trunk and branches.

The green stands out even more now that the leaves have turned.

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Fall photos

When we first moved here last year people warned us about the winter weather.

jenkinsautosign

They were right, it rains a lot in Portland in the late fall and winter.  At the time, a lot of rain and consecutive overcast days didn’t seem like a bad trade for months of winter, bitter cold and many feet of snow.  After a full year I still feel that way.

Grey skies and the diffuse light they bring are also great for taking interesting pictures.

wetgloves

Wet pavements are too.

leafpattern

leafpattern2

leafpattern3

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