I will never again be able to use the phrase “just us chickens” figuratively, because now I actually have chickens. Three to be precise: an Americauna named Betty White, a Lohmann Brown named Lucille, and a Plymouth Rock, my favorite, Quest Love. We rescued these ladies from Farmer Wayne who kept them alive in the back of his barn in a dark closet of squalor. Today they checked into their new coop in our backyard, a split-level with a patio, two straw-padded nesting boxes, and a roost in the loft. Each of them have already pushed out one egg a piece. Quest Love was the first to let ‘er rip—and it was a green egg! Betty White has proven herself to be a chicken escape artist, and rather light of foot, or, light of claw, and Lucille—she’s just a charmer, a most ravishing redhead. In preparation for the deluge of eggs threatening to tumble from the loins of our new fowl trio, I decided to make a couple of batches of sourdough English muffins in a hurry.
Rustic Whole-Wheat Pillows
Adapted from The Italian Baker
Alternatively, these might make nice pillows for a backyard chicken’s nesting box…
1/2 cup cracked hard wheat berries (100g)
½ cup wheat bran
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (100g)
1 cup sourdough starter
1 cup warm water
2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour (300 g)
1 tablespoon salt (15 g)
unbleached all-purpose flour, for kneading
Soak the wheat berries in cold water for 1 to 3 days.
Drain the wheat berries and process the berries and bran and flour in a food processor or blender just until coarsely chopped (not too fine, or the berries won’t be crunchy).
Stir the sourdough into the water.
Stir in the berry mixture.
Mix the whole wheat flour and salt and stir in, 2 cup at a time, into the sourdough mixture.
Stir until the dough is stiff and sticky.
Knead on a floured surface until firm, elastic, but still slightly tacky, 8 to 10 minutes.
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled (2 hrs). Punch the dough down and knead briefly on a lightly floured surface.
Shape into a long rectangle by flattening it with your forearm.
Cut into eight 5-inch squares.
Place on a lightly oiled baking sheet, cover with a towel, and let rise until well puffed and almost doubled (1 3/4 hr to 2 hrs) Preheat oven to 450°F.
Bake 10 min then reduce the heat to 350°F and bake for 15 more minutes.
Cool completely on racks.
Many egg recipes forthcoming–frittatas galore. I have not been this excited to wake up in the morning since Christmas 1990. Hoping the ladies keep up production on their new chichi diet of Layena Crumbles and oyster shells. As their branch manager, I have decided to keep a public tally of their output to incite a spirit of competition, and perhaps, per my mother’s suggestion, will hang a framed photograph of a dashing rooster on the wall next to the nesting box to get them ovulating. I think Foghorn Leghorn might do– perhaps Sam Eagle muppet for Betty White since she has a fetish for blue feathers.