We live on a remarkable planet that sustains all sorts of fascinating, beautiful and unique species. Just think about it: lions, butterflies, elephants, panda bears, eagles, giraffes…. It would be hard to imagine the fields and forests of the world without these creatures; it is harder still to imagine a kitchen cupboard without… PANTRY PESTS! Nearly everyone has had them at one time or another. It happened to me today. I was humming away in the kitchen, getting ready to bake a wonderful round of crusty herb, walnut and garlic bread. All my ingredients and equipment were assembled and ready to go. Into the bowl, I measured the yeast, I measured the herbs, I measured the flour with all these hideous little dark specks in it. Then came the screech, from a B horror film. It wasn’t coming from the bowl; it was coming from me. I recoiled and hit my back on the sink, then slowly approached the bowl, furtively peeking at the scattered pile of flour inside. It was them, all right. I hadn’t had them in years. I’d felt so lucky for so long. I’d been smug and forgetful. This was one sack of flour I hadn’t transferred to a tightly-sealed container immediately after purchase. Some of the beetles were already dead, but others weren’t; they were still skittering about, having a nice feast for themselves.
I moved quickly after that. I threw out all the flour, then double-checked the cupboards for other boxes and bags of grain I may have let slip. There went the rice and the pasta, which I had just finished organizing the other day, right into the garbage. I took no chances, because chances are, if you have bugs in one unprotected package of starch, you likely have them in more. Pantry pests have a Manifest Destiny of their own. But be still your panicked heart. You can push back their borders with a few simple tricks:
- Immediately wipe up any alluring appetizers like flashes of flour or other accidental food spills with an environmentally-friendly detergent.
- As soon as you bring your flour home, open the package and do a quick scan of the contents. If you see any infestation, return the package to the store for a refund rather than a replacement, and go buy your flour elsewhere if it was a recent purchase. It’s likely the bugs are eating well on other nearby items on the same grocery shelves.
- If all looks clear, dump the entire contents into a large metal strainer, holding the strainer above a large bowl to catch the flour as it sifts through. Any critter sightings? Good. Let’s assume, no. Transfer the flour to a tightly-sealed large container, and cut a small square from the package with the date and lot codes and tuck it into the container. Unless you have a good memory, you may want to also stick a label on the container to identify its contents. If you are an enthusiastic baker, you will have several different flours for a variety of recipes.
Herb, Walnut and Garlic Bread - Adapted from The Herb Companion Cooks
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 Tablespoons Rapid-Rise Dried Yeast
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
2 Tablespoons dried parsley
2 Teaspoons dried basil
2 Teaspoons dried tarragon
(You can also use double the measure of fresh herbs, finely chopped.)
1 large clove garlic, minced or pressed
1 Teaspoon salt
1 cup warm water (105 - 115 Degrees F) and additional, as needed
1 cup warm milk (105 - 115 Degrees F)
3/4 cup broken walnuts
In a very large bowl, well combine all dried ingredients. Heat water and milk with garlic to correct temperature, using cooking thermometer for accuracy. (It is important the liquid be warm enough to activate the yeast, but not too hot to kill it.)
Beat water and milk into dry ingredients until well blended and dough is sticky and soft. If dough is too dry, incrementally add 1/8 cups of warm water, beating well until dough is proper consistency. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in warm spot for 30 - 40 minutes or until dough has doubled in size.
Remove plastic wrap from bowl. Sprinkle walnuts evenly over top of risen dough, then punch down and beat until walnuts are well mixed. Transfer dough to greased 1 1/2 quart casserole or 9-inch springform pan. Cover as before and return to warm spot until dough rises level to the top of the baking vessel.
Pre-heat oven to 375 Degrees F.
Remove and discard plastic wrap covering risen dough. Place vessel with the dough in oven and bake for 30 -40 minutes or until a thin knife or skewer tested in center of bread comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Remove bread from vessel and allow to cool on rack. Serves 8 -10. --
This post is for Weekend Herb Blogging # 95 for Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen, the creator of the Weekend Herb Blogging event.