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Recipe: black bread

Source: Flickr

Black Bread
1 envelope dry yeast
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/4 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees F)
1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 tablespoon margarine
1 1/4 cups water
1/4 cup dark molasses
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup All-Bran cereal
2 to 2 3/4 cups unbleached flour
1 1/2 cups rye flour

Sprinkle yeast and sugar over 1/4 cup warm water. Stir to dissolve. Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.

Melt chocolate and margarine with 1 1/4 cups water in a large bowl set over gently simmering water. Stir until smooth. Remove from over water. Blend in molasses, vinegar and salt. Mix in cereal. Let cool.

Grease a large bowl. Blend yeast into cereal mixture. Gradually stir in 2 cups unbleached flour and rye flour. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes, kneading in up to 3/4 cup more unbleached flour if needed to form a workable dough. Add dough to prepared bowl, turning to coat entire surface. Cover and let rise in warm area until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.

Grease two loaf pans. Punch dough down. Turn out onto lightly floured surface and let rest 3 minutes. Knead 3 minutes. Divide dough in half. Roll each into an 8 x 7-inch rectangle. Starting with long side, roll dough up into a cylinder. Tuck ends under and pinch seam to seal. Place seam side down in prepared pans. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake until loaves sound hollow when tapped on the bottom, about 45 minutes.

Remove bread from pans. Let cool completely on a rack before serving.

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Recipe: Moravian Sugar Cake

Moravian Sugar Cake
An original Moravian recipe that is very special.

1 package dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 cup unseasoned mashed potatoes
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup water in which potatoes were cooked
2 eggs, well beaten
5 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 cup butter
Brown sugar
Cinnamon and pecan pieces (optional)

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Mix mashed potatoes, sugar, the 1/4 cup butter, shortening and salt. When lukewarm, add potato water and yeast mixture. Set first mixture aside and let rise in warm place until spongy. Beat in eggs and flour to make a soft dough. Let rise until double in bulk.

Punch down and divide dough in half. Spread dough evenly into 2 greased 13 x 9-inch pans or 4 (9-inch) cake pans. Let rise until double in bulk.

Make holes with fingers in rows down dough. Fill with dots of butter (about 1 cup) and brown sugar. Be generous. Dust with cinnamon and pecan pieces if desired. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and bake for 20 to 30 minutes. Remove cakes from pans and cool on racks. Serve cakes, cut into squares, either warm or cold. Cakes may be frozen after baking.

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Compost Smells: This and Other Composting Myths

Compost Smells: This and Other Composting Myths

Turkish bread.
Source: Flickr

Composting is a natural and simple process and yet it has been complicated by machines, fallacies, misinformation, myths, and misunderstandings that came out due to erroneous publications and aggressive commercial marketing approaches. Some of these misinformed facts have been passed around so many times that the general perception has become truth. An example would be the seemingly accepted fact that all compost smells. But before we go into that, let’s discuss some other composting myths first.

Myth: Composting requires a lot of work

Truth: Composting is a natural process which involves basically the elements of nature doing the job for you. All you need is to gather all the materials, lay it on, and let nature do her job. Composting is a low maintenance activity as well. You only need to turn the compost file every once in a while to keep the air flowing to quicken the decomposition process and that’s it. You practically sit and wait for the the compost to finish.

Myth: Composting is limited to farms and wide open spaces
Truth: On the contrary, people living in urban areas who have no luxury for space can create their own composting bin from a trash can. How much space would that take up? Also, there is another technique which you can use, the so-called vermicomposting which involves the use of red worms in a contained bin where you feed them table scraps.

Myth: Composting needs precise measurements

Truth: Even though composting ideally would be best achieved with the right combination of greens and browns elements, having the exact measurements is not that necessary. Estimates work just fine. And those neatly piled up layers of composting piles you see in commercials, books, pamphlets and brochures of composting products, those are all for show. You don’t need to copy those, composting works the same way as you pile them up haphazardly.

Myth: You need specially formulated chemicals as starters or activators

Truth: Well, despite the claims of commercially available products that applying them to the compost pile will speed up the process of decomposition, buying them is not really necessary. It is often the practice to just throw in some finished compost into the newly formed compost pile and that itself will serve as the activator to get things started. There’s no need to buy those expensive stuff.

Myth: Adding yeast will boost the compost’s performance

Truth: This is not true at all. What you’re doing is just wasting your money by adding yeast to the compost pile. Yeast does not do anything to the compost pile and neither does it affect the performance quality of the compost.

Myth: Animals are attracted to composting piles

Truth: Yes, this to some degree is true. Composting piles do attract the occasional cat, dog or raccoon. Small critters will likely go for open compost piles and for piles that have kitchen scraps like meat, fat, dairy products, bones and pet manure to the pile.

Myth: Compost smells

Truth: Compost should not smell. If you find bad smelling compost, then the maker did a poor job picking the materials for the compost pile.

Other composting myths exist and it would be best to do your research first before accepting them as truth.

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Recipe: locustreet bakery chocolate-peanut butter bread

Pizza Demo at Coit Road Market
Source: Flickr

Locustreet Bakery Chocolate-Peanut Butter Bread

Sparked with semisweet chocolate chips, it is a break-the-rules treat for breakfast or a strong argument for fall picnics.

1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 3/4 cups warm water
1/2 cup active Sourdough Starter
5 scant cups unbleached all-purpose flour or bread flour
1/2 cup powdered milk
2 teaspoons sea salt or plain salt
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1 tablespoon cornmeal

Proof yeast in 1/4 cup water. Add sourdough starter and remaining water, and beat until well blended.

Combine flour, powdered milk, salt, cocoa powder, and chocolate chips in separate bowl. Blend thoroughly into yeast mixture, about 2 minutes with an electric mixer or 4 minutes by hand. If using mixer, knead with dough hook about 4 minutes, then finish by hand until taut, about 20 seconds. If blending by hand, knead 8 to 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Place in large bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until tripled, about 3 hours.

Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface, and knead briefly (if making 2 loaves, divide dough in half). Flatten dough out, then spread peanut butter in center. Roll dough up into oval shape, pinching seams. Pick off chocolate chips on outside. Place on baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal, and let rise again, covered, in warm place until almost doubled in size, about 30 to 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Sprinkle dough with flour, and slash loaf before baking. Bake until bottom of loaf sounds hollow when tapped, about 60 minutes for large loaf and 35 to 40 minutes for 2 loaves. Let cool on rack at least 2 hours before slicing.

Sourdough Starter
1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon cool water
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Proof yeast in warm water. Add remaining water and flour, and mix well in a large container – it may triple in size. Cover. Let rise 6 to 24 hours at room temperature.

Makes nearly 2 cups.

Unused portion can be refrigerated in airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

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Obese Mice More Likely To Die Of Influenza Infection

Obese Mice More Likely To Die Of Influenza Infection

Source: Flickr

A study suggested that obese people may be more likely to die of influenza infection.
In the study, 35 mice were fed a high-fat, high sugar diet for five months making them 37 percent heavier than 35 mice fed a regular diet high in carbohydrates.
The obese mice had a body fat percentage of 31 percent in comparison to 21 percent in the regular mice.
After influenza infection at five months, the obese mice had significantly less capability of coping with influenza infection. As a result, 40 percent of the obese mice died while only 4 percent regular mice died of influenza infection. It’s believed that obesity impairs the immune response that is needed for controlling influenza infection.
Although the study was conducted on mice, “Numerous marked alterations seen in the mice’s immune response suggest that the growing obese population is at increased risk for immune dysfunction during influenza infection, which may lead in humans, as it did in the mice, to increased mortality,” Dr. Melinda A. Beck, the principal investigator, was quoted as saying in a news release by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The study was conducted by Dr. Meinda A Beck and Alexia Smith from UNC School of Medicine. The results were presented on April 2 at an American Society of Nutritional Sciences scientific meeting in San Diego.