In the company of chickens, we have lived the last two months in a constant state of awe and pride.
I have an ever-so-slight personality disorder with obsessive features which exacts upon me the onus and delight of data collection. I can say with certainty the last two months have been productive in the egg department. 72 eggs in May and 77 in June.
To reward their efforts, we built them a more suitable coop. With the torrential rainfall this past June, the flat wood roof was not holding its own against the flood waters. The chickens, who already live with a high baseline of domestic dysfunction, were getting pissy.
Quest Love, who has beefy breast bones and an elegant strut, is authoritarian and sadistic. She will poop on a fresh serving of pellets and peck at the ears of the other two to ensure she gets the first serving.
Lucille, the redhead, is a hardworking egg-laying champion. She is the most human-friendly and allows me to pet her on occasion. Shh, but she’s my favorite. Quest Love and Lucille have a little cool kid-clique going on. They pal around the yard together, at the obvious exclusion of Betty.
Betty White is schizotypal, to say the least. She is entirely oblivious that she is the odd woman out. Quest and Lucille will be all but wing-in-wing on a stroll around the yard for worms, and, wait, where’s Betty? Burrowed into the compost heap in the back corner with her face stuck eight inches into fly-swarmed fruit poop. Or wait, where’s Betty? Literally inside a bush, for hours. What’s Betty squawking at? Lucille is laying an egg and Betty has her rear-end hovered over the side of the occupied nest, trying to dump an egg over Lucille’s shoulder. Rude behavior. Complete social oblivion. But fabulous green eggs.
Their poop is making my plants so very happy. We have got a lot of peppers bursting from blooms out in the garden. Any extra that I don’t use in dinner and salads will certainly find their way into this bread.
Sweet Pepper Bread or Pane ai Peperoni
Adapted from The Italian Baker
1 large sweet red pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup sourdough starter
1¼ cups warm water
3¾ cups un-bleached all purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
Broil the pepper 2 inches from the heat until the skin on the exposed side is blackened and puffed. Turn the pepper and continue to broil until the pepper is blackened all over. While it is still warm, cut the pepper in half and scrape out the seeds. Cut into wide strips and pull off the blackened skin. Roughly chop the pepper and sauté in the oil over low heat for 4 to 5 minutes, but don’t let it brown.
Stir the sourdough into the water in a large mixing bowl; let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
Stir in the pepper with the oil.
Mix the flour and the salt and stir 1 cup at a time into the sourdough mixture.
When the dough has roughly come together, knead on a lightly floured surface until soft and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes.
Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
Punch the dough down on a floured surface and knead it briefly. Cut the dough in half. Shape each half into a long, round log, and then curve one end so that it looks like a J. Place the loaves on an oiled baking sheet or a peel sprinkled with cornmeal flour, cover with a towel, and let it rise until doubled, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Heat the oven to 450 F. If you are using a baking stone, turn the oven on 30 minutes before baking and sprinkle the stone with cornmeal just before sliding the loaf onto it. Place the loaves in the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 400 F. Bake 35 minutes, spraying 3 times with water in the first 10 minutes. Cool completely on a rack.