Introducing Curly Willow Farmstead!

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Our busy farmstead is located near Zeeland, Michigan, and happily populated by a family of nine children, their loving parents, a large (and growing) herd of dairy goats and cows, sheep, chickens, pigs, horses, ducks and more!

We are new to goat cheesemaking this year, but not new to goat, sheep or cow milk, as we’ve been milking and enjoying our animals’ milks for years now.

We’re also teaching the area’s visitors about the wonders of goats and their milk at Holland’s Dutch Village, and interest is always high.

Our turnkey cheesemaking system came from Birchbark Farm in Northwest Michigan, where for nearly a decade their herd of registered Oberhasli goats provided a dedicated co-op of artisan cheese fans with wonderful products. We aim to continue — and expand — this tradition.

Our beautiful goats, including five different breeds (Nubian, Saanen, American Alpine, Toggenburg and Oberhasli), are fed the best grains and hay available to create the foundation of our health-giving cheeses. The milk is only 24 hours from having been hay — the freshest you can get! They are milked twice daily by our older children, and you are welcome to come and visit in-season.

We also offer fresh lamb, goat and chicken meat, as well as chicken and duck eggs for those who want their protein straight from the local farmer. Please call us for pricing and availability, at 616-566-1117.

 

 

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Apricot or Damson Plum Sweet Bread

Perfect for breakfast, brunch or tea.

This recipe is my all-time favorite for a sweet and fruity bread. It goes way-way back in our family, and can be made with either apricots or damson (prune) plums. I finally have the quintessial bread base to use for it, taken from Zoe Francois’ Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day:

(Makes a double recipe, so halve it if you are only making one cookie-sheet of bread)

Brioche Dough Ingredients:

1 1/2 Cups lukewarm water

1 1/2 tsp granulated yeast ( 1 1/2 packets)

1 1/2 tbsp salt

8 eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 Cup honey

1 1/2 Cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, melted

7 1/2 Cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Extra butter to grease pan

Brioche Dough Directions:

Mix yeast, salt, eggs, honey and melted butter with water in a 5-quart bowl or lidded food container.

Mix in flour without kneading, using spoon, a 14-cup food processor or heavy-duty stand mixer with bread hook. Dough will be loose, but will firm up when chilled. Don’t try to work with it before chilling. ┬áCover (not airtight) and allow to rest at room temp for approx 2 hours, until dough rises and collapses (or flattens on top_.

Dough can be used as soon as it’s chilled after the initial rise. Refrigerate in lidded container and use over next five days. Beyond 5 days, freeze dough in 1-pound portions for up to 4 weeks. When using frozen dough, thaw in refrigerator for 24 hours before using, then allow usual rest and rise times.

Fruit Ingredients:

3 1/2 to 5 1/2 pounds ripe apricots, cut in half, or damson plums, cut in half and then quartered but not into separate pieces (note: you can use frozen fruit, but let it thaw for approx. 30 min before baking)

1/2 Cup brown sugar

Confectioner’s sugar for dusting after baking

Final Assembly:

Line cookie sheet pan with foil or butter well. Separate room-temperature dough in half, use one half of dough and store the remainder in fridge or freeze for future use (see above). Roll dough out on parchment paper or well-floured counter until about pizza-crust thickness (1/3 inch) and lift into pan, tucking edges into pan. Line up apricot or plum pieces very tightly across dough, trying to allow as little dough between pieces as possible — you really want to crowd the fruit. Fill entire pan, and then allow it to rise under a towel for 30 min while you preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. After the rise, put the pan into the oven for the first 15 min. Then pull out and quickly sprinkle the brown sugar over the fruit and put it back in the oven. Put foil or another pan under the cookie sheet to catch boiling juices, or you will have to clean the oven afterwards — it gets juicy! Cook for an additional 20 – 25 min until the bread is nicely brown and the fruit is soft and juicy.

Allow cooked bread to cool for at least 15 – 20 min before you dust the top generously with confectioner’s sugar. Dust again when fully cooled. Top with lightly sweetened whipped cream if desired. You can also serve it with sweetened fresh goat cheese if you like!

Fabulous!

Cheesemaking ephemera (aka trivial pursuits of the curdish kind)

For those of you interested in the historical perspective of cheesemaking, I have come across a YouTube segment showing how cheesemakers high in the Swiss Alps still make mountain cheese. It’s not the sanitary cheesemaking style of artisans in Europe and the US, and it would never pass any inspection, but it’s authentic to how cheese has been made for centuries, and interesting in its own right. For those who have eaten Swiss mountain cheeses, it doesn’t take away from the appeal or charm (except for those who don’t like Swiss “country music”):

On the other end of the spectrum, here’s 8 min of footage from a small cheesemaker in Switzerland who adheres to more modern techniques and more sanitary measures:

I never tire of watching cheesemakers and doing it myself:)