In Praise of Disorder

...poultry, and front yard vegetable gardening, to mention just a few. Ideally you have a balance between order and disorder–neither gunfire nor the prying eyes of city inspectors. Where I’m staying in Houston, with its flocks of loose chickens, packs of feral dogs, and broken down bungalows seems just about right. Our neighborhood in Los Angeles is seeming less ideal with the news from Mrs. Homegrown Evolution, that we’ve earned...

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Damned Figs!

“In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once.”-Matthew 21:18-19 We find it hard to cut down a mature tree, especially a fruit tree. But after living with a substandard fig tree for ten years we finally understood t...

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Allium ursinum

thrives in moist, acidic soil–forest conditions, in other words. In short, not appropriate for our climate in Los Angeles, but folks in the northwest might consider planting some. Like all members of the Allium species it’s toxic to dogs, but we’ve never had a problem with our dog eating onions (he prefers raiding our avocado tree and tomato bushes for illicit snacks). Special thanks to Steve Rowell of the Center for Land Use I...

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How to Keep Skunks Out of the Yard

Skunks love to dig up our vegetables in search of grubs. Our late Doberman used to enjoy late night backyard skunk hunting expeditions which never ended well for him. For years I’ve used bird netting to keep them out of my vegetable beds. The problem with bird netting is that it’s a pain to work with–it catches on things, tangles up, and occasionally traps a bird. I hate the stuff. It took me 16 years to realize that I could ex...

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2013 in Review Part I

...needs and weaknesses. After many hours at the YMCA I’ve got PT syndrome under control but I’ve still got a lot of work to do. Thankfully, I’m back to running and fencing. February In February in Los Angeles it should rain. It didn’t. The year was the driest on record: 3.6 inches, making it a desert not the Mediterranean climate it should be. It seems to be a dry winter again this year and I’m worried. March A texti...

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Does Sourdough Offer Hope for the Gluten Intolerant?

Lactobacillus sanfranciscensis. In the last 20 years bakers around the world have revived the art of baking with a sourdough culture. At first this revival was related to flavor, but increasingly bakers are turning to sourdough cultures in the interest of health. It’s possible that the unique qualities of sourdough cultures may offer hope to those who think they are gluten intolerant or have an allergy to wheat.  A very short history of br...

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Recipe for the World’s Best Whole Wheat Pancake

...a grain revolution. Here’s the secret: Use heirloom grains. Mill your own flour. Ferment for a long time with a sourdough starter. The heirloom grain I used is Sonora wheat, probably the oldest wheat in the Americas. It’s a soft, winter wheat traditionally used for tortillas. Recipe (based on Nancy Silverton’s pancakes) 210 grams starter 2 tablespoons maple syrup 3 tablespoons safflower or corn oil 2 eggs 1/2 teaspoon sea sa...

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Stern Sprouted Wheat Vegan Cookie or Health Bar Type Things

...oking in the summer! There are four ingredients: sprouted wheat, raw almonds, dried fruit and a pinch of salt. There’s simply no room for sin. Sprouted Wheat Bars Makes a small batch, a good size for evaluation. Double it if you feel bold Pictures below! Ingredients: Sprouted Wheat Berries*: 225 g/2 cups  (I’m sure this can be subbed for other sprouted grains, but I haven’t tried, and yes, I’ve put sprouting instructions...

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Dave Miller on Baking with 100% Whole Wheat

hat I discover. In the meantime, here’s what I learned:Miller summarized bread baking as a yin and yang balance between elasticity and extensibility. Our job as bakers, Miller suggests, is to understand what gives bread its form and to shape and bake dough at the best possible moment. Much of the weekend was spent analyzing what can go wrong and how to fix it–the causes of over-proofing, under-proofing, bad color etc. If you’re...

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Can Whole Wheat Solve the Wheat Allergy Problem?

I’m still recovering from the factoid barrage that is a baking class with Craig Ponsford. It felt like my brain had been tossed into the spiral mixer along with the hazelnut bread, danishes, English muffins, chocolate croissants, challah and pretzels doughs he showed us how to make in one action packed day. In between mixing and shaping Ponsford told us his theories about the wheat allergies that everyone seems to have. What’s set...

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