Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The BEST Buttermilk Bread

 Yesterday, out of bread, Mom picked up a container of buttermilk at the supermarket so we could make our own favorite buttermilk bread. We've tried lots of breads in our automatic bread maker (our second, in fact; an older used machine that still works) but we've found none we like better - nor more foolproof - than this one.

 So yesterday afternoon I gathered the ingredients, measured them into the baking pan and set the machine to work. Just after 6 p.m. I pulled this out:

 There's not much to making a one pound loaf as shown:

3/4 cup + 2 tablespoon buttermilk
1 tablespoon margarine
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon Active Dry yeast

The recipe is posted on the Bread World website. Click here for the complete recipe and also an ingredient list for 1.5 pound and 2 pound loaves.
 A quick note: we've found with most breads made in our automatic bread machine to use slightly less yeast than called for. I actually use 3/4 teaspoon yeast in this recipe. This modification depends on your machine. If the top tends to deflate or fall while baking, I've found less yeast to be the answer.
 Also, the recipe as noted on Bread World calls for bread flour and bread machine yeast. I've found neither necessary, though I do agree bread flour is preferable.

Later: We baked another loaf yesterday (06/24/13) morning. What else to do with the buttermilk? I love how even the grain is in this loaf. Could it be prettier?

Monday, June 10, 2013


 When we first moved to Pinehaven, it was just a month later (February 1987) that we were burglarized. Since that time the house has undergone major improvements, many of them of the security type, and one of the first was a deadbolt lock on the back door.

 I'm not sure it would have been much help anyway as the burglars kicked the back door in, broke the frame right out of the wall. Still, a nice secure bolt offers some emotional support. For everything else there's a state-of-the-art security system and webcams scattered about the place.

 I remember Dad asking for a deadbolt with two keys, one for outside, one for inside. The thought behind that is if a pane of glass is broken, a burglar can reach inside and unlock the door rather conveniently. But, as I've said, we have plenty of other security in place.

 The old deadbolt - installed in 1987

 That includes me most of the time, armed and generally dangerous.

 I never liked having to get out a key to lock the deadbolt each night. So when our deadbolt died (it's been slowly failing these past few weeks ... the key could not be inserted the last time I tried) I bought one with a latch.

 I carefully told the man at the hardware store that the deadbolt would have to be an exact replacement. I had no tools to enlarge holes, no chisels to make things fit. I brought it home. It didn't fit.

 So I was left with a door with two holes. What to do? "Call a locksmith," was the suggestion of the hardware man when I returned the deadbolt. And so I called Cliff's Mobile Locksmith in New Lebanon (937-687-3212 or cell 937-304-8099). I couldn't have been happier with anyone.

 Cliff arrived just after 2 p.m. as promised. He's got a ready-smile on his face and a maturity that I like ("25 years in business"). It seems whenever we call for a plumber, it's a young kid that arrives. Not that kids don't have to learn, but I don't want them practicing on my pipes.
 Cliff went to work, enlarging the holes, making today's deadbolt assembly fit. It took more than an hour.
 So now Pinehaven's two residents will sleep behind a substantial lock and sleep a little sounder for it.
 But I'll still keep my gun loaded.

Saturday, June 8, 2013


 We pretty much know the history of Pinehaven, both the house and the property. After this area was settled in 1832, Samuel and William Fisher bought this particular parcel of land in the 1841-1842 range. It's under its eighth ownership with us.

 Though we can't say for sure when the house was built, William and Susanna Sholly took ownership of the land - still without any dwelling on it - on April 2, 1891. I figure it's likely that they began building at once. Thus we've always considered the house to be circa 1891.

 It has seemed odd to me over the years that we've found so few original artifacts from the original owners. To be sure, if I dig in the lawn, I'm apt to bring up an assortment of old nails, both burnt and unburnt coal, and many shards of porcelain tableware. In the house itself, we see few marks of the owners: a scuffed baseboard tells of footsteps here, a worn lock on a door smoothed by many hands, an old nail driven here.

 I've always wanted a metal detector, to search the grounds around the house. Surely a dropped coin is somewhere hereabouts?

 But now the story deepens. This morning, Bob came by and helped me remove a pussy willow which I planted in about 1994. It did not hold its unusual gray color beyond the first year, it spread so that mowing beneath it was a chore and I decided, almost as soon as I had planted it, that I didn't much like the location I had chosen.

 So Bob chain-sawed the tree while I dragged the branches into the driveway. When we were finished, because he had made the cut below ground level, there was a bit of a depression where the willow stood for so many years. I walked to the east side of the hen house and dug several bucketfuls of rich topsoil to bring the area level with the rest of the lawn.

As I poured the third bucket of dark soil into the depression, an old spoon dropped out. I picked it up and looked at it. Old indeed! I carried it to the garage, drew a bucket of water and washed it off. The silver-plate was missing in most spots and the end of the spoon was broken off.

Spoon - Top View

After I brought the spoon to my desk, I was able to read the maker's mark on the back: S.L & G.H.R. Co. That's Simeon L. and George H. Rogers. You've heard the name Rogers associated with silverware, right? The name is a trademark of Oneida.

Spoon - Bottom View

 The Internet doesn't say much about the old spoon but one reference notes 1881. I think it's reasonable that it was made in the late 19th century but that's about as far as I'll go. The spoon is in far too poor a shape to have any monetary value.

 But the value to me is it's obvious connection to the first owners of Pinehaven. Surely, given the time frame, this spoon belonged to the Sholly's. Since it is broken, it was probably thoughtlessly thrown into their field. Did someone pry something with it and hear it snap? Did they give it to child to dig with?

 So today I came across this bit of Pinehaven archaeology, a link to those original people who lived within these precious walls. What home-grown food was carried to their lips on this silver spoon? How unlikely that they would have thought of me, someone removed by well over a century, turning it up again.

 From their hands to mine, across a wide canyon of time!