Monday, January 10, 2011

Texas Pecan Yeast Bread

Texas Pecan Yeast Bread

This bread makes wonderful toast and sandwiches with a lot of variations. It's really delicious with a little homemade jam or honey on top. You can add a bit of cinnamon and nice big organic golden raisins to sweeten it up a bit. I just happened to hit the mother load on pecans this season and love them in bread. You'll enjoy this recipe because it's a pretty basic one that can be altered in many ways by combining different grains, seeds and even home milled legumes. I also use different organic oils as well, such as Sunflower, Sesame, Olive and Canola. The trick is to not add in all your flour at the beginning so you can adjust for the added in grains and such. The dough should always be sticky but not to the point of sticking to your fingers where it can't be kneaded well. Makes 2 loaves. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.


1 1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup dark brown sugar (can substitute with local raw honey or organic raw sugar)
1/3 cup unsalted butter (can substitute with an oil)
5 1/2 to 6 cups unbleached bread flour (can substitute one cup for fresh milled wheat, bran or legumes)
1 cup organic whole oats
1 cup finely crushed pecans
1 tsp. sea salt
4 tsp. active dry yeast
2 nice large eggs from the hen house or cage free


Take the water, brown sugar and butter and put in a small glass bowl for the microwave. Heat about a minute and stir, then heat one more minute. Leave it to stay warm in the microwave while you prepare the other ingredients. (Optional: if you want to add raisins let them heat in the microwave in this bowl. It helps them swell a bit and makes a little raisin juice that's yummy)

You will need the dough hook and mixing bowl for this part. First put in the one cup of oats. Next add 5 cups of flour (Remember, that you can substitute one of the 5 cups for another milled grain like wheat or legume) add salt and yeast. I use a hand wire whisk and whisk it all together, then place the bowl on the stand with the dough hook. (If your adding cinnamon or any other seeds or spices this is the place to do it.) Take your small bowl out of the microwave and test it to be sure it's not hotter than luke warm and the butter and sugar is stirred well and melted. Pour the wet mixture in with your dry ingredients. Mix about a minute with the dough hook on speed two and turn it back off. Add the two eggs and turn it back on the second speed. When the dough becomes well combined and begins to pull away from the hook, check it with your finger to see how sticky it is. I will usually add 1/4 more flour here and then test it again. If it still feels to sticky I will add one more 1/4 cup. Pour it out of the bowl and knead the dough for a minute or so to make sure everything is worked in well. Lightly oil another big bowl and put the dough in, turning the ball around in the bowl to lightly oil the whole thing. Cover with plastic wrap or a cotton towel and set it in a warm place to rise. Usually about an hour until it is double in bulk.

Next, pour the raised dough onto a lightly floured surface. Pat it out and divide the dough in half. Roll each half into a loaf and place in the slightly oiled loaf pans with the seam side down. Tuck under your ends a bit. I take a small bit of milk and brush the tops and pat on oats or seeds. Again, cover with plastic wrap or a towel in a warm place to allow to rise double in size. Bake for about 20 to 30 minutes on 400. You will know when the bread is done by tapping it on the bottom of the loaf. If it sounds a bit hallow it is complete. Cool on a wire rack.

This is another variation using Home Milled Brown Lentils and Golden Flax Seed

Happy Gardening!!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Echinacea (Purple coneflower)

Echinacea in my 2010 Summer Garden

This is an excellent time to discuss Echinacea (E.Purpurea) while there is still time to divide and transplant it in Southeast Texas. I actually divided mine in October this fall.

The temperatures were still a bit hot and humid, but I had plans for a new bed and couldn't make myself wait until November (the perfect month). They are so hardy here and took the move quit well.

I had to make sure that I mulched them well and watered them in real good so they could adapt to the new bed. We are having such a mild December this year and it's looking quite mild so far going into January.

It would be possible to divide many herbs and move them around now by simply digging up a clump and gently puling the roots apart into smaller clumps for transplanting.

The important thing to remember in our area is the weather can change at any moment. It would be wise to keep up with all the current weather reports. I wouldn't try this if a hard freeze was on the horizon.

Echinacea in a Texas semi dormant stage in January

I originally started my Purple Coneflower from seed about 5 years ago. I purchased it from Wildseed Farms located in Fredericksburg Texas. An excellent source for wildflowers, natives, grasses and herbs.

They sell organic grown seeds and non hybrids throughout the U.S. with well mapped advice for what grows best in your region.

Most of the newer cultivars of hybrids will not grow true to its kind from seed, so I would purchase live plants instead of seed for those. Many of them will also cross pollinate so if you intend to save pure seed I wouldn't mix different varieties together.

If your not worried about saving seed you will most likely end up with some very interesting flowers of all sorts. I soaked my seeds overnight in a little water before I planted them directly in the garden in mid November.

The winter months will cause a natural stratification process for the seeds as they go through the chilly temperatures that are needed for a good germination rate. A vast majority of wildflowers and natives will be planted in the late fall here.

I am a first hand witness that Echinacea really brings on the butterflies and honey bees. A beautiful site to behold in the mist of summer.

It is also an excellent companion plant to grow with Lavender, Yarrow, Coreopsis. and other native plants. They have similar growing requirements in that they love a well drained garden soil mix with equal parts of peat, sand and soil.

Organic natural composting gives them all the nutrients they require. Our soil PH ranges on the acid side of around 6.5, which is good for these types of plants. Echinacea has a thick, long tap-root which makes it a good choice where water conservation is needed, especially in Southeast Texas where droughts are common.

The tap-root is also what is used for medicinal purposes. It's history comes from our Native American Tribes. It was used for all kinds of ailments such as colds, coughs and sore throats.

 It was also used to treat all types of infections similar to what modern science would treat with penicillin today.

Even externally Echinacea is an antibacterial and antiseptic which can be used to treat wounds and skin infections. The Dakota Indians even used it to treat their horses.

A lot of recent research study of the plant has been done in Europe proving it to be a vital herb in treating many health problems. I have listed some of its uses below.

Echinacea is best known for its immune enhancing ability, but has proven very effective in many other areas as well.

  • Colds, coughs and flu and other upper respiratory conditions
  • Enlarged lymph glands, sore throat
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Other minor infections
  • May help combat herpes and candida
  • Wounds, skin regeneration and skin infections (external use)
  • Psoriasis, eczema and inflammatory skin conditions (external use)

Happy Gardening!