Small Pleasures – Beeswax and Wooden Spoons

Twice a year I like to season my wooden spoons and cutting boards. Some of my wooden spoons were starting to look like they needed some TLC so I pulled out my wooden stuff and got to work seasoning them.

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There is something calming about this chore (plus, it leaves your hands super soft). First, you pull out all the wooden implements you have that are in need of a re-boot. For me this includes wooden spoons, cutting boards, wood-handled knives, and a wooden bowls I scored last Christmas from a second-hand shop. Then you get to spend some time lovingly caring for those hardworking kitchen utensils that work so hard for you every day.

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Second, apply the beeswax salve on dry and clean articles (recipe below) and let stand overnight.

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Third, the next day take a piece of cloth (I use an old terry nursing blanket) and buff the wax salve into the wood, creating a nice waterproof (and slightly darker) sheen to the wood. This compound is 100% food-safe and leaves the wood soft and smelling slightly like beeswax.

 

Recipe for Spoon Oil (wood butter)

16 oz. mineral oil

1/4 pound of beeswax (113.4 grams)

  1. Bring a large saucepan filled with water to a gentle boil.
  2. Place your beeswax inside a 2 quart glass measuring cup or a 1 quart glass jar; set the glass into the gently boiling water.
  3. Place the container of mineral oil inside another medium saucepan filled with water and heat to low. The mineral oil just needs to be warmed to mix with the beeswax; no need for a rolling boil.
  4. Once all the wax has melted, turn off the stove and carefully add the warmed mineral oil to the beeswax;stirring with a spoon to combine.
  5. Using a towel around the handle of the measuring cup, carefully pour the liquid into each jar fit with the canning funnel;filling them almost to the top.
  6. Finish filling all jars and wait for to cool and firm up before using.

Store in a light tight container and in relatively cool spot.

I am planning on making a fresh batch of the spoon oil this Christmas for gifts. The recipe is super easy and lasts a good while. You can pour the mixture into any glass jars, just make sure the jar doesn’t have a small opening so you can easily reach the spoon oil.

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Happy buffing!

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No-Knead Bread and Settling In

One of the first things I like to do once I move into a new place is make bread. This simple act makes me feel as if I am getting settled.

Making homemade bread goes way back to my childhood. Out of necessity, my mom baked our bread. Fresh out of the oven, smeared with butter (or more likely margarine) it was scrumptious. The day after, in my school lunch the bread felt like it pointed out to everyone that we were poor. But, as I have grown up, I have come to enjoy the act of making my own bread. In many ways, although the recipe is different from my mom’s, making bread connects me to the past – to all my kinfolk who baked their own bread due to economics or the sheer reality of the inaccessibility of store-bought bread.

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I know that no-knead bread went through a craze a few years ago, but I swear by it and resort to this recipe because of the ease of making it and the wonderful bread it makes. I like to experiment with different flours and often will add sunflower and flax seeds into my dough (I will add these when I am putting the dry ingredients together). The first loaf I made in my new place was 2 cups white flour (a mixture of flours I had brought with me from Kingston) and 1 cup whole wheat flour. Now, I can’t even think about paying $4.00 + for a loaf of bread, since I can make my own for much less.

No-Knead Bread Recipe (recipe adapted from Mark Bitman’s article in the New York Times which was adapted from Jim Lahey at Sullivan Street Bakery)

Time: About 1 1/2 hours, plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising. Yield: One 1 1/2 pound loaf.

3 cups all-purpose flour or bread flour (with more for dusting)

1/4 teaspoon instant yeast

1 1/4 teaspoon salt

*optional sunflower and flax seeds (amount roughly amounts to 1/2 or 3/4 cup in total)

Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed

  1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast, and salt. Add 1 + 5/8 cups of luke warm water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature. [If there is a cooler draft, I will often put my dough into the oven to minimize the fluctuation of temperatures. Just make sure you don’t forget it is there and tell others who may live with you that it is there.]
  2.  Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. [At this point I typically fold it over a few more times. And, depending on the consistency of the dough, I might even add a significant amount of flour and knead it – oops, no longer no-knead bread at this point.] Shape into a ball and cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest for about 15 minutes.
  3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to the work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. [Here I go off of Bitman’s recipe – see above link for original instructions] Sprinkle enough flour to coat the bottom of the bowl, return dough to bowl and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
  4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. [Again I go off of Bitman’s instructions here] Before the oven has reached the desired temperature, sprinkle cornmeal or wheat bran on the bottom of the lidded pot you will use to make the bread. Add the dough, I usually punch it down a bit prior to adding it to the pot. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. To tell if the loaf is done a good trick is to tap the bottom of the loaf and it should sound hollow. Cool on rack.