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Author Archive

Erg races!

9.Nov.2014 by Caitlin Patterson

The GRP rowers are down south, in Princeton, NJ, for the fall “East Coast Speed Order.”  Yesterday they raced 6 km on the rowing erg, and today a 4+ km race on the water.  Look for results here. It looks to me like there are a lot of Craftsbury names at or near the top of the results, headlined by the Graves brothers in first (John) and second (Peter), Elizabeth Sonshine in third, Hugh McAdam in first, and Phil Grisdela in third in their respective on-the-water races from today! Nice work everyone! However I will have to leave a more detailed analysis and commentary to someone who was at the races and/or knows the sport…

Not to be left out of the racing and erging fun for the weekend, most of the GRP skiers had a classic rollerski time trial Saturday morning, preparing for the start of the ski season at the end of this month.  There was even a dusting of snow on the sides of the road, and a bit of ice on the surface of the road, to heighten our feeling of fast-approaching winter! Then, since it just so happens to be the weekend of the SkiErg World Sprints, many of us raced 1000m on the Concept2 SkiErg on Saturday afternoon before our strength workout.  1000m is extremely hard, but actually I found it fun, because it’s over quickly too!  A little over 3 minutes for the fastest guys, and slightly under 4 minutes for the fastest women – it’s not so bad, though the likelihood of gigantic blow-ups is also pretty high!  It’s cool to have a standardized way to compare, for people from around the world to be able to race each other without being in the same physical location.

Everyone can enter the race, just find a SkiErg and race to your fastest time by the end of today, and post it on the Concept2 online logbook by tomorrow (www.concept2.com).

Current standings for the World Sprints can be found here, with more entries to be added throughout today and tomorrow.

Caitlin and Liz pulling their 1ks

Caitlin and Liz pulling their 1k Sprints in the new gym at Craftsbury

All levels of involvement: warming up, spectating, and testing

All levels of involvement: warming up, spectating, and testing

Andrew testing, supported by the cheering squad

Andrew testing, supported by the cheering squad

Ethan pulling FAST splits, with the rest of the team cheering him on

Ethan pulling FAST splits, with the rest of the team and Pepa cheering him on

Concept2 co-founder Dick Dreissigacker checks out the splits, while Ethan tries to recover from his 3:00.6 1k! That's within 1.5 seconds of the current world record!

Concept2 co-founder Dick Dreissigacker checks out the splits, while Ethan tries to recover from his 3:00.6 1k! That’s within 1.5 seconds of the current world record!

Reflections on a Sourdough Summer

30.Oct.2014 by Caitlin Patterson

Food is an important part of any athlete’s daily routine, and a part that we often overlook sharing much about. There are certainly some pictures we’ve posted of particularly notable edibles on this blog, but in general I don’t believe food has gotten quite its fair share, compared to how much of our daily thoughts and life it occupies.  That’s not to really imply that any of the athletes at Craftsbury take the food for granted – we are extremely lucky to be able to eat at the spectacular Craftsbury dining hall for most of the year. This post, I have to warn you, is going to be all about food, and the process of making one particular kind of it – bread!

While I’ve always considered sourdough bread to be among my favorites – along with crusty European baguettes and German pretzel rolls – I’d never made sourdough myself until this summer. On frequent enough occasions in the last few years, I would make oatmeal whole-wheat sandwich bread, baguettes, and various other types by hand, and I have done some experimentation and made complicated-sounding breads just for the sake of trying something new.  I’m not a bread machine person, or a person who tends to avoid making things that sound complex.  But sourdough… I always stopped before venturing into sourdough… Because even though most of the instructions say “it’s really pretty easy” to create a sourdough starter, and other such reassurances, those statements are usually followed by what seem like long lists of instructions consisting of a different step every day for 4-6 days and then a lot more attention to the sourdough after that.

Note: Before you get too far into this, beware – I am passionate about baking and bread, and cooking explorations in general, and when I’m enthusiastic about something in this way it leads to long descriptions.  Scroll ahead to the pictures or skip to a different blog on our site if you’re impatient, otherwise, carry on reading!

This summer, I suppose you could say that I needed a cooking or baking outlet, preferably one that did not result in a profusion of sugary dessert-snacks to feed my team/housemates and myself. I unquestionably love sweet things (yes, thank you for pointing out Pete H, I have a sweet tooth!), but I’ve gone through a time of giving more thought to nutrition and food choices this year, which leads me to gravitate away from excessive sugars if possible.  Bread was the perfect choice, because the GRP skiers consume a considerable amount of bread for breakfasts and snacks, and bread is a healthy baking result derived from a process that can include creativity and embellishment.  So it was an ideal summer to venture into sourdough bread baking.

Beautiful toasted loaves of cranberry-walnut sourdough!

Beautiful toasted loaves of cranberry-walnut sourdough!


What exactly is sourdough, you might ask?

Well, from the standpoint of the basic grocery-store consumer, sourdough bread is typically a crusty, white bread with a particularly tangy taste.

From the standpoint of the baker, or someone who wants to know what makes this type of bread distinctive, it gets a bit more complex. Sourdough bread is baked from a dough that is made with a sourdough starter. It doesn’t have to be a white bread, sourdough breads cover the spectrum from whole wheat to rye to white to a variety of other grains or mixes.  A sourdough starter is a way of cultivating natural yeast – rather than using store-bought yeast from a jar or packet, the natural yeast contained within the starter leavens the bread, causing it to rise and develop air pockets. This natural or wild yeast can’t be called on at any minute though – while it is in the air around us, it has to be properly cultivated and encouraged in order to be concentrated enough for use in bread.  A starter is typically made from just flour and water, although as I understand it, starters can sometimes contain fruit juice in the early stages. It takes a little while to establish a good population of yeast, but then once the starter is “active” it can be maintained indefinitely for future use, and shared with friends too.

Nice and active starter, see all those big air pockets? From the yeasties!

Nice and active starter, see all those big air pockets? From the yeasties!

A very active starter, and a gamble on container-size, can lead to a mess

A very active starter, and a gamble on container-size, can lead to a mess

Stirring down the starter - a big batch since I'm getting ready to bake something

Stirring down the starter – a big batch since I’m getting ready to bake something

 


Caitlin’s sourdough starter process:

In mid-May of 2014, when I returned to Craftsbury to start the new training year, I knew I would be at the house where I live in Craftsbury with few interruptions until the fall, and it would be a perfect time to start the process of a sourdough starter. On the recommendation of my teammate Emily, who had made sourdough this winter, I looked on the King Arthur Flour website (one of my favorite recipe sources) for guidance about starting sourdough.  Here’s the link to their page about starting sourdough: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/blog/2012/04/05/creating-your-own-sourdough-starter-the-path-to-great-bread/

As the experts at King Arthur attest to, creating a sourdough starter is as much art as science – there are many variations and suggestions out there, but there is room for flexibility within a framework of conditions that will enable the growth of the sourdough yeast and bacteria. I started with 1 cup of rye flour and 1/2 a cup of cool water from the tap. After 24 hours, half of the original was discarded, and I added a new 1 cup of King Arthur “Special” bread flour and 1/2 cup of water to what remained, and mixed everything together.  The 3rd day started the twice a day feedings – to add new flour and water is considered “feeding” the starter.  Every 12 hours, I’d check on the starter, which was in our kitchen on a shelf, discard half of it and feed it with a new 1 cup of flour and 1/2 cup of water (always “special” bread flour from here out). This is not a process to undertake if you’re particularly short on time, flour, or capacity to remember to do something every 12 hours – luckily I had plenty of everything, with a busy training schedule which fortunately causes me to return to the house frequently.

The starter is supposed to be highly active and ready for baking within about a week.  Mine was only slightly active – swelling a little between feedings, with a few bubbles – after about 1.5 or 2 weeks, and I started to get kind of nervous, afraid I might have to start over. At that point I chatted with Emily again, who recommended putting it in a warmer spot to see if that helped the activity level – for a truly active starter, you should expect that it will double in volume from one feeding to the next. I found a spot out of the way, on top of our freezer, and started leaving the container there.  Vermont in early summer is moderately warm but not at all hot, and it turned out that was exactly the missing piece – heat! With the starter on the warm freezer top, it became much more active and was soon doubling. Time to bake!

 

A dash of honey

A dash of honey to sweeten the dough

All shapes and sizes, and fillings - several of these have cheese, others cranberries, others are plain

All shapes and sizes, and fillings – several of these have cheese, others cranberries, others are plain

Sometimes several batches at once

Sometimes several batches at once

Cranberry walnut loaves rising

Cranberry walnut loaves rising

Thin crispy crust and nice crumb

Thin crispy crust and nice crumb


To make a true sourdough bread, you need an active starter, flour, water, salt, and nothing else (other than time)! It’s also possible to make a bread with store-bought yeast supplemented with sourdough starter to give it flavor.  And, there are a number of other bread-related items that can be made with sourdough starter, much of it as a way to use the otherwise-discarded starter (what you would throw out when the starter is fed).  So I’ve dabbled in many variations, and quite a few shapes too. Below are suggestions based on what I’ve done, and links to the recipes for trying it yourself:

Sourdough bread: in baguette or loaf form, all white flour or 1/6-1/4 whole wheat. It can be “flavored” – mixed with shredded cheddar cheese, mixed with blue cheese and cranberries, with walnuts and cranberries, swirled/wrapped with cheese inside, swirled with apples and cinnamon sugar, and more. See this recipe: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/extra-tangy-sourdough-bread-recipe (I’ve never used the optional sour-salt – if your sourdough is active it should have plenty of sour flavor as is.) Try out the recipe just plain a few times to get acquainted with it, with only white bread flour because it behaves more predictably, and then make additions as desired! Be warned, this bread does basically take two days – it’s not bad, but does require some serious planning ahead to time all the stages to fit within the other constraints of your day.

Sourdough-yeast hybrid: Try it also with rolled oats and whole wheat flour, cinnamon-cranberry swirl bread, cheese swirl bread, etc.  Recipe: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/rustic-sourdough-bread-recipe  (when using rolled oats, I added 1/2 cup of oats per recipe, and 1/2-1 cup of whole wheat flour, each of those in place of the white flour called for. However I also adjust the moisture by adding more flour or water as I knead the bread, since I know approximately what I’m aiming for after having repeated this process a fair number of times.)

With extra starter: sourdough popovers, sourdough waffles or pancakes, both of which are fantastic and quite easy.  Recipes: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/classic-sourdough-waffles-or-pancakes-recipe

http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/sourdough-popovers-recipe

In general just check out all of King Arthur Flour’s sourdough recipes here: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/sourdough/view-all

Oh, and if you’re not quite into all the sourdough complexity, but are inspired to make bread anyway, try this excellent sandwich bread, of course from King Arthur again! This was one of my go-to breads before sourdoughs: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/vermont-whole-wheat-oatmeal-honey-bread-recipe


Ready to roll - cranberry cinnamon bread, spread the dough and filling like this, then roll it into a log and put it in the bread pan to rise!

Ready to roll – cranberry cinnamon swirl bread, spread the dough and filling like this, then roll it into a log and put it in the bread pan to rise!

The swirl bread after baking...

The swirl bread after baking…

Cranberry-cinnamon swirl

Cranberry-cinnamon swirl snack

Waffles!

Waffles!

Summer breakfast, on the relaxed days when we can linger instead of rushing out the door to train

Summer breakfast, on the relaxed days when we can linger instead of rushing out the door to train immediately

I used to think popovers were something to be afraid of, in case they came out flat, but these turn out perfectly every time!

I used to think popovers were something to be afraid of, in case they came out flat, but these turn out perfectly every time!

Throughout the summer I’ve been quite pleased with the flavor and texture of my sourdough breads, and my housemates surely enjoy them too, as the bread has seemed to disappear about as quickly as I can make it.  Particularly if it’s full of melted shreds of Cabot cheddar cheese! I actually really like the opportunity to experiment on flavors and additions, which is facilitated by how quickly each batch gets consumed.  And, a side benefit of making all these batches of bread… hand-kneading… when I was younger my mom always tried to convince me that I should knead more bread to make my arms stronger. They’re stronger this year, which happens to be a good thing for ski racing! Whether from kneading or from an improved strength training program, who knows, maybe some of both!

When I left for fall training camps these past few months, I put my sourdough in a jar with a lid, gave it one last feeding, then popped it straight into the refrigerator. It actually keeps for a while, and just needs to be taken out and fed a few times before it’s nicely active again – I took out the jar 4 days ago, having just returned from Park City (see Liz’s previous post for tales of our training activities there) and it’s definitely active and ready for bread-making by now.  In fact last night I made sourdough popovers to go with dinner, and don’t tell my housemates, or else there could be a stampede, but there may be fresh bread this evening.

Thanks for reading!!

~Caitlin

Austria, at first glance

8.Sep.2014 by Caitlin Patterson

The skiers arrived in Austria this afternoon, Monday September 8th, after leaving Craftsbury on the morning of the 7th.  While we’re undoubtedly jet-lagged, sunshine and astoundingly beautiful scenery helped keep our spirits high throughout the day and helped us fight the temptation to nap.  Everyone headed out for a jog at some point during the afternoon, and here are a few photos from the first glance at the town and area.  More to come soon – tomorrow morning we head to the Dachstein glacier for our first on-snow session of the season!

Ramsau below and looking down the valley

Ramsau below and looking down the valley

Overlooking the town of Ramsau

Overlooking the town of Ramsau

Kate Miller and Liz Guiney

Kate Miller and Liz Guiney

Past a snowmaking pond

Past a snowmaking pond

A quick run through town brought us to this church, but there is much more to explore in the coming days

A quick run through town brought us to this church, but there is much more to explore in the coming days

Waxing skis in the most idyllic setting, tomorrow it's glacier time!

Waxing skis in the most idyllic setting, tomorrow it’s glacier time!

Chickies

2.Jul.2014 by Caitlin Patterson

This is the second year we’ve had chickens at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center, raised by the GRP for their eggs.  Most athletes are known for eating rather large quantities of eggs, an easy and tasty source of protein, but not everyone is as intimately involved in the egg-making process as we are here.  For quite a few people, especially in rural VT like we are, raising chickens isn’t particularly unusual; however I know that not everyone is lucky enough to have the facilities to raise chickens, and to know so conclusively where their eggs come from.

New this year, the chickens are in residence in a field at Elinor’s, the skier house.  I can’t say I saw much of the chickens last year, when they lived near one of the rower houses, but I’m getting well acquainted with this year’s chickens as one of their caretakers. It’s fun, I like chickens! They’re pretty silly, sometimes annoying, often voraciously hungry and thirsty, but friendly and talk(sqawk)ative.  And softly feathery – I’ve been trying to help them acclimate to people, which will make them easier to be around and handle, so I pet them every day! Don’t worry, you can laugh, my teammates have been laughing and giving me a hard time about petting the chickens too…

Posing with a chicken post-workout.  Thanks to Andrew for the photo, and for coercing me into posing for it.

Posing with a chicken, post-workout. Thanks to Andrew for the photo, and for coercing me into posing for it.

Alex Howe, who’s had significant experience with animals and crops at his family’s farm, and a few other of the athletes got the chicken coop all set up last year.  That was the hard part of the process – the feeding, watering, and daily egg collecting is pretty straightforward.  The coop is right next to the ski trails and the main route between our house and the Center, so I can check on them as I run or bike past for workouts and commutes to the Center.  As long as I keep them well supplied with water and food, the chickens are pretty content and the number of eggs keeps going up.  Right now we’re getting 42-48 eggs a day, which should go up to closer to 65 soon, equal to the number of chickens.

The chickens are always eager to see me walking up to their coop, and they gather inside the solar-powered electric fence expectantly.  One of my favorite parts of the process right now is walking up to the chicken coop at twilight to shut them inside for the night – the fireflies are out in great numbers, adding their sparkle to the fields, and the chickens are softly clucking and settling down for the night.

 

Looking back towards Elinor's from the coop

Looking back towards Elinor’s from the coop

Gathered at the water dish

Chickens excited at fresh water and an empty bucket, with the solar electric fence in the background

Waiting inside the fence

Waiting inside the fence

I bring the chickens fresh water a few times a day, especially if it's hot like the current heat wave

I bring the chickens fresh water a few times a day, especially if it’s hot like the current heat wave

Entrance to the coop

Entrance to the coop

Inside the coop, with food buckets

Inside the coop, with food buckets

Egg boxes

Egg boxes

Eggs!

Eggs!

The day's collection

The day’s collection

Chicken feed + water + happy chickens + VT grassy pasture + attentive caretaker  = tasty eggs!

Chicken feed + water + happy chickens + VT grassy pasture + attentive caretaker = tasty eggs!

Once the eggs are in the kitchen, more fun begins, as we turn them into breakfasts, or snacks.  I have pictures of a few egg-creations, but not nearly all of them, because it’s often hard to remember to take pictures before something is devoured, by myself or others.  We eat lunch and dinner at the Outdoor Center dining hall, but breakfast at Elinor’s is a good opportunity to cook whatever we’d like. Recent favorites include: fried eggs on toast with jam and melted cheddar cheese (several of my skier teammates eat this often, and it’s great! I hadn’t tried the combo until a few weeks ago and it’s now solidly in my repertoire of breakfast options – highly recommended!), scrambled eggs, waffles, egg-banana pancakes and more.  A few nights ago we had an evening gathering and invited the rowers to our house, and I made deviled eggs for a snack.

Eggs, ready for consumption

Eggs, ready for consumption

Big eggs and little eggs, choose your portion

Big eggs and little eggs, choose your portion

Have you ever heard of egg-banana pancakes? I discovered them this spring and now I make them about once a week.  1 mashed banana, 2-3 eggs, dash of vanilla, dash of cinnamon -- yum!

Have you ever heard of egg-banana pancakes? I discovered them this spring and now I make them about once a week. 1 mashed banana, 2-3 eggs, dash of vanilla, dash of cinnamon yields a crepe-like not-too-sweet pancake ideal for topping with berries or peanut butter, and syrup.

Egg and banana pancake operation in progress, with blueberries, peaches, yogurt and VT maple syrup of course!

Egg and banana pancake operation in progress, with blueberries, peaches, yogurt and VT maple syrup of course!

Deviled eggs, garnished with paprika and chives.

Deviled eggs, garnished with paprika and chives.

Fueled by all of these nutritious eggs, and the rest of the fabulous food at the COC dining hall, we skiers are deep into summer training, with lots of running, rollerskiing, strength, etc.

One token training photo - track speeds a few weeks ago with the girls' team.  Left to right, Ida, Liz, Caitlin, Kaitlynn. More training photos coming soon, hopefully...

One token training photo – track speeds a few weeks ago with the girls’ team.  Left to right, Ida, Liz, Caitlin, Kaitlynn. More training photos coming soon, hopefully…