Using a Bread Maker to Start Challah Bread

Our bread maker is an old Toastmaster that we have had a long time, and it has been through A LOT. It’s a little bit beat up with a lid that doesn’t fit on quite right, from when it fell off the kitchen counter a few times. Fortunately, it still works… mostly. We are kind of in the market for a new bread maker, but in the meantime, I use our old faithful Toastmaster. I might be a little bit sad when it has to go.

Bread makers don’t seem to like me very much, so I don’t use them very often. The bread I make in them always falls! So lately, I’ve been using our bread maker just to start doughs for me. It’s been great for starting cinnamon roll dough and challah bread dough!

I don’t think the recipe I use is really authentic. I made challah rolls for Easter lunch and that dough had honey in it. (By the way, those rolls were amazing. I was practically dropping a few on the floor by accident, just so I could eat them.) This one does not. The recipe is just from the manual that came with our Toastmaster. Somehow, that manual has survived up until now, though its cover is falling off and it’s getting a little tattered on the edges.

Challah Bread Dough

  • Servings: 1 large loaf
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs, room temperature, plus enough water at 80 degrees F/27 degrees C to equal 1½ cups
  • 1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 4½ cups bread flour
  • 2 tsp active dry yeast

Glaze:

  • 2 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1 Tbsp water

Topping:

  • 1½ Tbsp poppy seeds, optional

Directions

Place eggs, water, vegetable oil, sugar, and salt in the bread pan. Then, place bread flour into the bread pan and spread it out to the edges of the pan. Make a little well in the middle of the flour and pour the yeast into it.

Use the dough cycle on your bread maker.

When dough cycle is finished, place the bread dough on a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into thirds, making three 13-inch-long ropes with tapered edges. Pinch ropes together at one end and braid together. Pinch together at the other end and secure braid.

Transfer braided dough to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper; cover and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Combine glaze ingredients and brush onto braid. Sprinkle with poppy seeds and bake at 350 degrees F/177 degrees C for 25 minutes, or until done.

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I can’t describe how much I love this bread… This recipe makes a HUGE loaf. It’s enough to feed my family and then some. After making the bread topped with poppy seeds once, I usually leave them off now. I make sure to do the egg glaze though. It just gives the bread a really beautiful color.

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Sometimes I succeed at making a pretty braid, and sometimes I don’t. I’ve also overproofed the dough. It doesn’t seem to matter though. My family eats this bread up no matter what it looks like.

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Challah loaf with poppy seeds as a topping

My kids will request this bread. If we have it around, they ask for me to use it for grilled cheese.

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This is a second loaf I made that I sprinkled flake salt on.

So if you have a large family who loves homemade bread, this is a really simple one to do! It looks pretty and it tastes great and leftovers will get eaten up as soon as possible!

-Lynn

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Strawberry Limeade Cake with White Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

I have mentioned before that cake, specifically layer cakes, is not my forte. Just because it is not my forte though does not mean that I should not make one once in a while.

For our Easter lunch a few weeks ago, I wanted to make a cake. At first, it was just going to be a lime bundt cake. I had some homemade strawberry jam though in the fridge that I needed to use for something, so then I came up with the bright idea of a lime layer cake with strawberry jam and white chocolate frosting in the middle.

I had been itching to make a lime cake recipe I found on the internet for quite a while, so I was glad to finally have the chance to make it!

Find the recipe for key lime cake here: Key Lime Cake From Scratch

The above link also includes the recipe for a white chocolate buttercream frosting.

Find the recipe for homemade strawberry jam here: Small Batch Strawberry Vanilla Jam

I didn’t get to take any pictures of the actual process of making this cake, but I can talk a little bit about some of my mistakes (which always seem to be many when I am baking a cake!).

Mistake number one: I didn’t use enough lime zest! I think I used the 6 key limes as stated in the recipe, but I don’t think I ended up with enough lime zest.  I probably also should have used a little bit more lime juice. The cake itself definitely needed more oomph to it.

Mistake number two: Sprinkling day-old lime zest on the frosted cake. The lime zest lost its bright green color overnight. I don’t think I need to say what it looked like after sitting in the fridge overnight. I really should have used fresh zest on the cake.

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Mistake number three: I thought the cake layers were flat enough after baking and that I didn’t need to level them. I was wrong. I really should have sliced off  just a little bit. Because the top of the bottom layer wasn’t flat, the strawberry jam in the middle of the cake kept trying to slide out and down the side of the cake.

Mistake number four: Not doing a crumb coat when frosting. I was in a hurry. I guess I really shouldn’t make cakes when I am in a hurry. Or maybe I should just stick to bundt cakes!

Mistake number five: Using white chocolate buttercream frosting. Because the cake needed more lime flavor and thus wasn’t tart enough, the whole cake was too sweet and just didn’t have enough variances in flavor for me. A cream cheese frosting might have worked better in this case.

Mistake number six: Inferior chocolate candy eggs for the decoration. Those candy eggs in the picture were quite literally only for decoration. I bought them in bulk from a nearby grocery store and they just didn’t taste very good! Even Josh didn’t like them and that is saying something right there!

There weren’t any complaints from the kids about the cake itself, and none from Josh, so that is a good thing. I have to admit though; I think the key lime-mint bundt cake I posted about more than a month ago is still my favorite cake I’ve made so far.

Maybe I will try this recipe again when I am making a cake only for my family. And when I can taste more than one slice!

-Lynn

White Chocolate Chip Cranberry-Orange Scones

The past three weeks have been a lot busier than I expected them to be! I posted about the macarons I tried to make for the refreshments after my son’s concert on April 8th. Those all ended up being eaten up by my family. Instead, I made chocolate chip cookies, Mary Berry’s lemon drizzle traybake, and sugar cookie custard fruit mini-tarts for the refreshments, all with the help of my mother-in-law. I really could not have made all of those desserts without her help.

And then, just to make things more crazy for myself, we had an early Easter lunch at our house on April 15th. So most of the week before that, I spent prepping the house and the food for Saturday. I’m glad I didn’t have to make all the food for Easter lunch! I did make a strawberry limeade cake with white chocolate buttercream frosting for one of our Easter desserts; I’m not sure if it tasted good or not because I only got one slice! I will try to post about that bake soon.

This past week was spring break for my kids from homeschooling. We drove to a nearby resort and it was so much fun! I had the chance to play with my kids, which is something I don’t always get to do. It was actually pretty nice to take a break from baking. But now, I am ready to get back to baking again.

In February, I made white chocolate chip cranberry-orange scones for the ladies’ tea room at our church’s Leadership Conference and never wrote down the recipe, so today, I decided to make it again. This time, I kept track of all my ingredients. If you would like to go straight to the recipe, scroll all the way down.

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I was making smaller scones (but not quite mini-size) so I chopped my white chocolate chips and using a pair of scissors, I snipped my dried cranberries into smaller pieces. I also soaked my dried cranberries in a little bit of water and an 1/8 tsp of orange extract before mixing them into the dough, just to make sure they weren’t too dry after baking in the scones. I never fully mix my dough in the bowl because I am afraid of overmixing.

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I dumped the dough out onto a floured surface and worked the rest of the flour into the dough using my hands.

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It doesn’t take too long for the dough to come together like this. Maybe 5 to 10 minutes.

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I doubled my usual scone recipe and patted the dough out into a rectangle that was around 16 inches by 9 inches. I wanted it to be 24 inches by 6 inches, but I didn’t want to pat the dough out too thin. The 16 x 9 rectangle was probably easier to work with anyway.

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I used a bench cutter and a ruler to divide the rectangle as evenly as possible. My cuts along the longer side were 2 inches apart, while the shorter side had 3 inch cuts. As shown above, there were 41 scones. I did end up with some scones that were larger than others or were an odd shape.

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When will I learn not to bake two cookie sheets at once? This was my second bake of the day and I was ready to be done, but I should have been more patient and baked only one sheet at a time. Because of my impatience, most of the scones in this batch ended up almost burned on the bottom. They weren’t so burned we couldn’t eat them though, so I was glad of that.

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I did like the golden brown color on top of the overbaked scones though! Maybe next time, I will use the convection feature on my oven when I bake these.

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I made my usual powdered sugar glaze to drizzle over the scones and added about an 1/8 tsp of orange extract to the glaze just to give it more orange flavor.

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I was afraid that the orange flavor would be too subtle, but my oldest son said he was able to taste the orange. Twelve of these scones (the nicest ones I could pick out that weren’t burnt) went to our church bookstore, but the rest stayed with us for breakfast. They were gone by this morning, and I have to confess that I was the one who probably ate most of them because they tasted so good!

White Chocolate Chip Cranberry-Orange Scones

  • Servings: 21 to 42 depending on how you cut the dough
  • Print

Halve the recipe if you do not need 42 scones.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tablespoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 6 Tablespoons sugar
  • 10 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cold
  • 2 cups heavy cream (note: if desired, add the juice of the orange used for zest to a measuring cup then add the heavy cream to the measuring cup until you have 2 cups total of liquid)
  • 1 cup dried cranberries, soaked in water or orange juice, snipped into smaller pieces
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips, chopped
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 1/4 tsp orange extract
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Icing:

  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 3-5 tsp heavy cream
  • 3-5 tsp water
  • 1/8 tsp orange extract

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Mix together dry ingredients in a large bowl; flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and orange zest. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter to coat pieces with flour. The mixture should look like coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center of the bowl and pour in the heavy cream, orange extract, and vanilla extract. Fold everything together just to incorporate as much of the flour as possible; do not overwork. Fold the cranberries (make sure to drain off any extra liquid from the cranberries) and chopped white chocolate into the dough.

Dump the dough out of the bowl onto a floured surface. Knead the dough lightly until it comes together and there are no more streaks of flour in the dough.

Pat the dough out into a 16 in. x 9 in. rectangle. Using a bench cutter, make cuts along the longer side at every 2 inches, and along the shorter side at every 3 inches.  You will end up with around 42 scones.

Use the bench cutter to transfer each scone to cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Brush the top of each scone with heavy cream and bake the scones one sheet at a time on the center rack of the oven for 12 – 15 minutes (15-20 minutes if making the larger scones), until golden brown.

Let scones cool on a wire rack before drizzling glaze over them.

To make the icing, mix together 3/4 cup powdered sugar, 3 tsp of heavy cream, and orange extract. Add 1 tsp of water at a time and mix until the icing is your desired consistency.

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Wednesday in the Garden: 04/19/2017

Today I have a few garden pictures. The plants are growing well since the weather has been warm with a lot of sun. 

The strawberry plants haven’t died and are actually producing fruit. I think I picked this berry a day or two early because it was a bit sour. 

The almonds are big and fuzzy right now. As they mature they will shrink and turn brown. 

I think it will be time to eat this broccoli soon. 

Our pomegranate tree has so many flowers. I can’t wait for fall when we will have ripe pomegranates. 


We had more rain this year then any year in over a decade. Due to that we many flowers and green plants still. I tried to take some pictures while working this week. 

We have recently bought a new larger fish tank. We got guppies among other fish. One of our guppies had babies a few days ago. They are tiny and like to hide under a chunk of driftwood so they are not eaten.  I tried to get pictures but it was difficult because they move often and quickly. 

Can you see the baby fish? It is orange. 


-Joshua

Dual Macaron Fail

In mid-January, Josh bought me a new oven, and I LOVE it. A few weeks ago though, I tried to bake macarons in it for the first time, and they didn’t turn out! Needless to say, I was very disappointed and set out to figure out what I was doing wrong.

Originally, my posts about these two macarons were going to be recipe posts, but since the macarons did not turn out right, well, you will get some pictures of failed macarons instead!

Josh has been wanting me to make lavender macarons for a while, and I even bought lavender flavoring a long time ago in preparation for this. I was too scared to use a full teaspoon of flavoring so I reduced my lavender flavoring to 1/2 teaspoon.

I bought my lavender flavoring from Beanilla.com. You can find it here.

I also tried out two macaron mats from Williams-Sonoma. These saved me a lot of time, but I’m not quite sure if they are going to work for me. I will mention later what I think I need to do, but it will require more experimentation.

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I did add food coloring to make the macaron shells purple, but as usual, the color “fades” out after baking.

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My first mistake with the lavender macarons: I think I overmixed the batter. Usually, I can tell when I need to stop, but this time I mixed a lot longer than I usually do.  I didn’t end up with any hats this time after piping them out, but the texture was all wrong after the macarons baked.

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My second mistake: Baking on the wrong rack.  I baked my first batch on the top rack of my oven. Oops! That was a bad idea and I ended up with a small triangle of macarons that looked okay, but the macarons on the outer edges looked like mini-volcanoes!

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My second tray of macarons turned out looking better, but they almost seemed overbaked after the recipe bake time of 12 minutes total. So that would be mistake number three. Their feet also weren’t quite level. On this second tray, I changed my oven setting to convection (we splurged and paid $100 extra for true convection, which means there is a heating element by the fan) and baked the tray on the middle rack.

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I had been wanting to make Italian meringue buttercream for a macaron filling for a while, so even though these macarons didn’t turn out right, I went ahead and made the Italian meringue buttercream anyway.

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Sadly, my son Matthias is not a fan of marshmallow, and this is basically a homemade marshmallow cream. So he didn’t really like these macarons.

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It was a surprise to me that these “volcano” macarons tasted better than the traditionally-shaped macarons. In fact, these were all eaten up first. I think my kids saw these as a novelty. They had fun eating them!

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These macarons almost looked pretty (and you can tell that the purple faded out of the shell), but they were a tad too crispy for me, even with a day or two in the fridge after being filled. The flavor was fine though, which was a relief. I didn’t want the lavender flavor to be overpowering. One picture I forgot to take was of the inside of the macaron. Even though it looks pink outside, it was purple inside!  If I have another chance to experiment with these, I will definitely need to add more food coloring and reduce my bake time by 2 minutes.

My second attempt was actually a few days after I made the lavender macarons. I wanted to make double chocolate macarons for the refreshment reception after my son Corran’s band concert, but after a frustrating afternoon of lopsided macaron shells, I had to give up and make chocolate chip cookies instead, along with a lemon drizzle traybake from one of Mary Berry’s books… which will hopefully be a post soon!

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This time, I mixed the batter until I felt it was enough (and did the V-test with my spatula) and ended up with my little hats again. I think I need to practice until I get no hats. But in the meantime, little hats are good because it means I didn’t overmix the batter.

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These are the only macaron shells I got that had level feet. These were baked on parchment paper in a quarter sheet pan. I wrote earlier that I need to experiment more with my new macaron mats.  All of my lopsided macarons were baked on those two mats, so I am wondering if I need to put the mats on a rimmed sheet pan like this one from Williams-Sonoma, instead of on a large cookie sheet.

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Lopsided macaron shells that were baked on the new macaron mats on a large cookie sheet

I also reduced my bake time by 1 minute each rotation. So I baked these macarons at 325 degrees F using the convection setting, on the middle rack, for 5 minutes. Then, I would rotate the pan and bake for another 5 minutes.

This method produced macarons with a texture closer to what I was expecting. Once I gave up on making them for the reception, I decided to let my family have these lopsided ones. I filled them with a chocolate glaze (from a batch of eclairs I made last week… yet another thing I need to practice: choux pastry!) and also the Italian meringue buttercream that I used for the lavender macarons.

The chocolate-filled ones were more popular than the buttercream-filled ones, so I will have to remember that for next time!

We just finished eating the macarons today, so that means I can start prepping for another go at them soon. I’m not sure when that will be, but hopefully before the end of the month!

Thanks for reading!

Lynn

 

 

 

Wednesday in the Garden: 04/12/2017

Today there will not be as many pictures as last week. While working in the garden, I had my two oldest come to cull their plants. I wanted them to cut out the extra plants that came up with some scissors. I guess I gave my nine year old bad instructions or he miss understood. His beet seeds produced a few plants per seed. I wanted him to trim each spot where the beets came up to only one plant. He thought I meant every square that he had planted. So he cut most of his beets and many of his carrots down. After I discovered what happened some crying happened, and I now felt like the worst dad in the world. I helped him replant where needed, and now I have to hope his plants still do well before the summer heat kicks in.

So here are the pictures I did get to take.

Our lemon tree is doing well so far this year.  I think Lynn is going to need to do a bunch of baking with lemons in the near future.

The Pomegranate tree continues to put out flowers.  I think we will have many fruits from this tree this year.

I am experimenting with strawberries in one of my raised beds.  There is some fruit on them, but I am mostly hoping they survive the summer.  I want to get runners off the plants and have a raised bed full of strawberries.

This celery plant took a long time to sprout.  I had planted it in the fall, but it took months to finally start to grow.  I like the color of the stalks because they are such a vibrant dark green.  The celery from the store is always so much more pale then this. I wonder if that is because they are a different type of celery or just that the store bought is picked to early.

They pansies that we planted have started to grow.  I never grew these plants from seed before, so I am interested to see how they look as they grow.

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Our square foot garden raised beds are starting to look really good.  This is such a good way to grow a garden in the urban/suburban setting.

 

Hopefully, next week I won’t have my son kill his garden so there will be more pictures. I hope all of you that read this are having success with your gardens, and that you enjoy many tasty fruits and vegetables.

-Joshua

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Mahogany Plywood Dining Table with I-beam legs

Who builds their own dining table?  Only a crazy person!  Even worse is somebody that builds a table that weighs at least 400 pounds.

About two years ago our dining table started to look really worn out.  The table top had a thin veneer that was starting to disappear in patches. The seats were made of PVC faux leather, and large pieces of the material were breaking off leaving only the thin cloth backing left.

We started to look for a new dining table, but were not happy with the choices available.  Either we would have to buy something that would fall apart just like our old table, or we spend at least $3000 on something made out of solid materials.  So, I of course got the crazy idea to build my own table.

I started searching the internet for table ideas.  Somehow, I got the really crazy idea to use i-beams as the base for the table and bench I wanted to build.  Lynn isn’t able to visualize things in her head so I attempted to design the table using Sketchup.

I was able to buy the i-beams that I wanted at a local metal shop.  They cut the beams down to size for me, which is good because there is no way I could have done that myself.  The beams I bought had been sitting outside so they were covered in surface rust.  IMG_0961

Using my grinder, I removed most of that rust.  The metal underneath didn’t look new, but had a sort of aged patina look which is what I wanted.  To darken up the metal I cleaned it all with mineral spirits.  Then I sprayed with with a clear semi gloss enamel for protection.

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Knowing that this would end up being a very heavy table I had to come up with a way to attach the parts.  I decided to drill holes in the i-beams and the angle iron that the table top would rest on.  The i-beams and angle iron are then bolted together.  I used large bolts so the table and bench are strong enough to hold a lot of weight.

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As you can see from the dates in the pictures, I was able to get the legs completed over a year ago.  That is the point I ran into some difficulties.  I bought reclaimed wood to build the table top, but the wood wasn’t level and was more difficult to work with then I had thought it would be.  I was able to get the bench top put together, but was never able to make the tabletop work.  Periodically, I would try different ideas, but none of them worked out.

Eventually, I ran out of ideas for making the reclaimed wood work.  I was about ready to give up on making my own table, and Lynn was starting to talk about buying a new table.  Then inspiration struck me.  Why not use plywood to make the table and bench top?  I did a google search to see if someone else had done something like that before, and I found something I liked at a blog called Vintage Revivals.  They had created tabletops for a restaurant by stacking plywood.  They used 2 pieces of plywood and a strip of wood on the bottom edges to give the appearance of 3 pieces.  Ultimately, I decided on 3 pieces of plywood to make the tabletop higher and thicker since it matched the height of the reclaimed wood I originally planned to use.

Taking Vintage Revivals idea, I started looking into plywood.  Lynn and I finally decided on using African Mahogany plywood for the top and bottom piece with maple for the middle.  The total price for the wood and the urethane I used was about $450.  The store I bought the wood at cut it to size for me.  Each sheet of plywood was 4ft by 8ft.  My tabletop is 3ft by 7ft, and the bench is 15in by 7ft.  The bench needed one sheet of plywood and left just a small piece of scrap leftover.  From the table I have some scrap pieces that are 1ft by 8ft and some smaller pieces.  I will be able to use those to make a small shelf in our kitchen, and possibly a mantle for our fireplace.

I attached the pieces of plywood together with some heavy duty glue and finishing nails.  Once the plywood was attached together I used a sander to make sure all the edges lined up and were smooth.

Finally, I finished the table with polyurethane.  When I bought the wood I asked for suggestions on products for finishing the table.  One of the suggestions was a product from General Finishes called Enduro-var.  I was told it would amber the wood giving it a bit of an aged appearance.  There were other products suggested too, but I liked the idea of giving the wood the aged appearance.  I thought that would go well with the somewhat rusty looking i-beams.

Bringing the table into the house to assemble it was easier then expected.  The tabletop was the hardest part because Lynn and our oldest son had to work together to carry one of the sides.

 

There are a few minor things I wish looked better on the table. For instance, I was trying to move the unfinished tabletop by myself and put a small gouge on the top of the table.  The polyurethane did a good job of blending the gouge in so that it isn’t a major eyesore, mostly it just bugs me because I know it is there.

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Overall, I am really pleased with this table.  As built it cost under $1000. There is the cost of the reclaimed wood that I didn’t use, but I think I will be able to come up with a good use for that someday. I do think you have to be pretty crazy to build something like this because it is heavy and that makes it difficult to work with.  However, should you choose to do it you will end up with a solid table that should lasts for a long time.

-Joshua

 

 

 

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