Monday, May 18, 2015

An Experimental AP Loaf

My baking over the last five weeks  or so has been on the pedestrian side with some experimentation that hasn't been really productive until this weekend. The experiments in using Great River AP flour have been somewhat disappointing in that I haven't figured out how to deal with its enormous thirst for water. I tried to work on a couple loaves with about 74% hydration and ended up with a door stop twice in a row. I'm guessing 76-78% is my next stop with that flour.

I also decided to buy a gallon of spring water at the supermarket for feeding my starters. Having read the local water department's analysis reports on their water I noticed they were using a chemical that won't dissipate into the air as chlorine will. Even though I was using  Brita filtered water, I thought that a dollar and change for tax would prove or disprove the suspicions I harbored about the local water. It did help when starting the elaboration or first stage of my starter. The second stage and bulk ferment of my dough wasn't affected as much, probably because I was dealing with larger numbers of yeast spores that hadn't been refrigerated.

So I went down to Walmart last week in order to buy some KAF AP to use in baking and to feed my starter. Since many books have their recipes developed with KAF AP in mind, I wanted to try that out again and see if I had learned enough to make it work out for me. After getting the flour, I decided to reduce the amount of overall flour by 30g for a slightly smaller batch of dough. My earliest experiments with KAF AP had sticky dough after the bulk fermentation which meant I couldn't take any detail for granted. I also threw in another variable, admittedly bad procedure, which was to overnight the starter build in the fridge. Anyways, that did result in a flavor with more tang for the finished loaf.

When the loaf was finally done and sliced, it did work out. The dough didn't collapse while I was slashing. The end color of the crust wasn't bad and the crumb, as noted, had a nice, mild sour flavor and tender texture. Not a perfect loaf by any stretch but one with potential as long as I keep working on the procedure. Practice, practice, practice!

110g at 100% hydration, fed with 75% KAF AP,
25% white whole wheat flour

Main Dough 
264g KAF AP
66g WWW flour
220g water at 85F
All of starter
7g kosher salt

Baked at 450F for 15 minutes, then turned around and baked at 425F for 18 minutes.

We haven't experienced the severe weather locally that has afflicted much of the Middle Coast. There has been a lot of rain that resulted in vigorous growth by the lawn. The peonies which grew to almost 4 1/2 feet tall, have bloomed prolifically and drooped to the ground as the rains passed through. The garlic is quite tall and the stalks are fat and bright green. The rest of the garden seems a little slow but that will change as the soil warms up. I've identified a new visitor to the bird feeders outside my window as a gray catbird. The bird was almost drab looking due to its, you guessed it, gray plumage but its song is quite similar to that of a cat. Hummingbirds haven't arrived yet.

Over the last four weeks or so, my obscure corner of the internet has gotten a large number of visits from the Ukraine.  I have no explanation for that other than either there are people who enjoy my excruciating and meandering scribbles or they have too much time on their hands. If these visits aren't just some computer driven hits and are real people, I'd like to hear from you and perhaps get some of your recipes.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Light Rye with Caraway

As I gain momentum to do the yard work around Casa PG, my starter seems to be doing the same for a similar reason, warmer weather. I admit to using a bit of IDY in my loaves that include bulgur, one of which is baking while I hunt and peck upon the keyboard, but for the most part my anxiety about my starter is diminishing.

This first loaf is a sample of the sourdough with bulgur loafs. They still have a taste that appeals to Mrs PG and I. They're also good for day to day use with some peanut butter or in a turkey and Swiss cheese sandwich.

My most recent foray into the wonderful world of rye breads worked out well in terms of texture and taste. The crumb was soft and the caraway seeds, which I found at a Penzey's store, were just bright enough to stand up to bratwurst and some hot horseradish. This wasn't a loaf for a smear of peanut butter in the morning, it's meant for sandwiches and stews. Be sure to use an overnight retarded proofing.

150 g at 100% hydration, fed with
75% AP/25% whole rye

Main Dough
288 g bread flour
72 g whole rye flour
230 g water at 85F
12 g or 1/2 Tbs honey
9 g kosher salt
9 g caraway seeds

The leafs are starting to fill in on more trees. Tomorrow, 15 April, is our area's average lost frost date with no forecast for frost in the next ten days. Our daffodils are quickly fading away but our tulips are emerging as the color in the flower beds. All but one of my peony plantings have stems reaching twenty inches or more and I haven't been outside since yesterday so that planting may have caught up.

The juncos appear to have left the yard for their migration northward and have been replaced by more  regular visiting red winged blackbirds. It's still too early for the return of the hummingbirds in our area.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

A Maple-Bran Sourdough and Some No Knead Experimentation

I haven't been borrowing any recipes lately, just working on some of the now usual freestyle loaves that I think will work out or are the fortunate but not originally intended results of a "learning experience". This first loaf got going from having an opened bottle of some amber maple syrup in the refrigerator and some wheat bran crowding the downstairs beer fridge. There's some rye chops in that fridge that need to be part of an experiment as well.

In order to improve the dispersion of the goodness of the maple syrup, I put it in the main dough water and sent it through the microwave as I heated the water up to 85F. The bran soaker was 100% this time around. Because I mixed by hand, it didn't get spread evenly. A 1/4 tsp of IDY was added because I thought the bran might cut down on the oven spring by cutting gluten strands but I'm not sure that was ever going to be a problem after using a soaker.  In any case, the result speaks for itself and the bread is good.

120 g at 100% hydration

44 g wheat bran
44 g water

Main Dough
306 g bread flour
54 g hard red whole wheat flour
230 g water at 85F
25 g medium amber maple syrup
8 g kosher salt
1/4 tsp instant dry yeast

The second loaf was an experimental loaf as well. I wanted to take another try at the no knead method. Due to my deviations from the usual process, I ended up with something that didn't  quite live up to my expectations. First of all, I used some Wheat Montana Natural White AP which has a higher protein content than most APs. Then I lowered the hydration down to 70% rather than the normal 75%. Finally, I could have used a longer proof since I probably used too little yeast for the method.

It didn't turn out to be a disaster though. There was a soft, sweet interior crumb that's pleasing. I found that shaping the dough while it was still cold was quite easy. I don't know for certain that it will be as easy with 75% hydration and a lower protein AP but if it doesn't look like it will stay shaped enough for a batard, it can always be used for a flat bread.

270 g WM Natural White flour
30 g semolina flour
6 g wheat germ
212 g water at 85F
6 g kosher salt
3/4 tsp IDY

It certainly is Spring outside my window here on the Middle Coast. The Chanticleer pear tree is blooming, the peonies are starting to sprout up with vigor, and a variety of daffodils are spreading an enormous volume of cheers for Springtime. The garden's soil is much too wet and cold to be worked but I may take a shot at clearing a small patch for some leaf lettuce. I certainly have enough packets in seed collection that I can chance losing a small row to frost. The flower beds need some weeding and a careful eye for anything that might look like it's a tree seed that sprouted. Mrs PGs Rose of Sharon bushes spread a lot of seeds every year and every year I find something to complain about them. There are some eighteen bags of brown mulch for the flower beds that need to be spread in the next couple of days before I go back to Walmart for more.

As long as I'm going to pick up the mulch, I might as well pick up that 10# bag of KAF AP flour while I'm there.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Stubby Freestyle Loaf

This smallish loaf is something that I just wrote down on paper and then went to work because I needed something that would go with some pasta and my industrial red sauce.

My first idea was to use the "blanket sponge" from R L Berenbaum's "The Bread Bible". It was getting late in the evening and I've had some successful loaves using that method. Then I decided to borrow another idea and add some wheat germ to the sponge. Taking advantage of the 60F temperature in the cellar let me slow down the second stage while I slept and then the bulk ferment stage so I could spend time at the gym.

First stage

88 g Dakota Maid bread flour
19 g semolina
9 g wheat germ
1/2 tsp IDY
210 g water at 80F

After adding the water to the mixing bowl, sprinkle the IDY over the top of the water and let rest for two or three minutes. Stir the water. Add the flours and wheat germ and stir into a loose slurry.

Second stage

193 g DM bread flour
1/4 tsp IDY

In a small bowl, mix the bread flour and IDY and then gently spoon over the top of the sponge slurry to cover. Keep the bowl as level as possible until ready to mix.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and rest for at least four hours at room temperature. More time will be needed if the bowl is in a cool area. The bowl can placed in the fridge if need be but will need some room temp time to raise the internal temperature before the next stage begins.

Third stage

6 g kosher salt
1 tsp olive oil

Spread the salt over the flour and stir briefly with a spoon or dough whisk. Add the olive oil and resume mixing. Rest the dough for twenty minutes and air knead or turn the dough. repeat the air kneading or turning three times if needed at twenty minute intervals. Place in an oiled bowl or container and bulk ferment until doubled.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and begin shaping. I used a stubby batard but the choice is the baker's. I proofed on a couche at room temperature for about 1.5 hrs before preheating the oven and baking stone to 450F.

When the dough was ready, I placed it on some parchment paper and slashed it before loading it into the oven for fifteen minutes at 450F. I then turned the loaf around, removed the parchment paper, lowered the temperature to 425F, and baked for another eighteen minutes. I cracked the oven door open, left an oven pad on the door to keep it cracked open as the oven cooled for five minutes, then transferred the finished loaf to a wire cooling rack for two hours.

The resulting loaf had a nice crust and a sweet, tender, almost fluffy crumb. It's a very kid friendly loaf of bread.

Spring has sprung outside with slightly warmer than seasonal temperatures. There are some daffodils about to bloom next to the driveway and my peonies are starting to emerge from the ground. One of our flower beds was overgrown with day lilies so I've thinned that out knowing that the now empty spaces will be filled up by Mrs PG as soon as I'm out of sight.

I finally lifted the wheat straw off my garlic patch and found that 65 out of the 72 cloves I planted have survived. There's no explanation for the losses other than I may have been day dreaming when planting the garlic but with a total of 65, I'll have more than enough to eat and give away.

There are a lot of birds around the yard and they're providing a better soundtrack than an iPod when I'm working outside.The cheery little juncos are thinning out in numbers as the weather warms up and the days grow longer. We have a lot of cardinals every day and now and then, goldfinches swarm to the feeder outside my window. Red shafted and golden shafted flickers drop by for brief visits to the suet feeder. This morning, a red winged blackbird stood its ground at the suet feeder against a starling and then chased it off before finishing its snack.

The TV weather forecasters are now including the allergen and mold spore counts in their segments. The local trees are starting to bud out confirming our suspicion that we need to know where the bennadryl or Allegra is kept for calming down itchy noses. The grass hasn't kicked into gear but with the forecast of thunderstorms and warm weather next week, I suspect that I'll have that subject to start mumbling about under my breath in the near future.

Visitors from Finland and Indonesia have recently found this obscure corner of the internet.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Irresistable Belly Bread

 I wasn't getting any worthwhile results when I tried my hand at some yeast loaves from the KAF files during the past couple of weeks. First, I tried the all whole wheat loaf which left me unimpressed because of the overbearing flavor from using a lot of vegetable oil, in my case, canola oil. The second was the hearth grains bread which once again had a dense texture and too much presence from the oil in the recipe. Maybe I'm just a person whose palate prefers lean breads. I know those two breads have their followers on the KAF recipe pages.

This first bread that really turned out well recently is a return to a sourdough Pane Campesino. I worked it with the 1-2-3 or 3-2-1 formula as a foundation and added a wheat bran soaker. Good times, good bread.

30 g wheat bran
30 g water
Soak for at least four hours. Add a tiny bit of salt if soaking overnight.

120 g at 100% hydration. Fed with organic AP

Main Dough
288 g bread flour
72 g white whole wheat
240 g water at 85F
All of starter
All of soaker
9 g kosher salt
 Put this recipe under the classification of flavorful breads that can stand up to strong flavors such as chili or Polish sausage with garlic and a healthy dose of horseradish.

 This is the loaf that proved to be irresistible to Mrs PG. Usually, I get to play amateur photographer before slicing but this loaf must have been speaking to her because she put the knife to the loaf without bothering to ask me if I was going to photograph the work. It's not quite an Italian style bread nor is it a French style bread despite using a poolish. A slow proofing in our 60F cool cellar also helped in building flavor. This hybrid has its belly from what I suspect was either less than stellar slashing or shaping. But it does work well with lasagna and could work well with chicken soup too.

65 g organic AP
65 g water at 85F
1/4 tsp IDY

Main Dough
178 g bread flour
27 g white whole flour
All of poolish
39 g water at 85F
80 g 1% milk at 85F
6 g kosher salt
This third loaf is rapidly disappearing from the counter at present. It's a sourdough with with a bulgur soaker added. I added a 1/4 tsp of IDY to the main dough to help it along due to the coolish room temperatures here.The smell of baking bread was very sweet, almost intoxicating when this loaf was in the oven.

40 g bulgur
33 g water at room temperature

120 g at 100% hydration.

Main Dough
288 g bread flour
 72 g white whole wheat flour
240 g water at 85F
All of starter
All of soaker
9 g kosher salt
1/4 tsp Instant Dry Yeast

Some of our avian friends have returned lately to visit the buffet at the feeders in the yard. A female red shafted Northern Flicker has taken a liking to our offerings in the suet feeder. These birds are usually ground feeders, dining on ants and other insects but no one has informed this specimen. We're fine with her dining habits since once she roosts, she chows down for quite a while and is a lot of fun to observe. I've sighted a red winged blackbird at my feeder on a snow day this past week so I'll be looking for more this weekend when the frozen precipitation makes a return visit.

Denmark, Gabon, Portugal, Singapore, and South Africa are the origins of recent visitors to my obscure corner of the internet.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Friday, February 06, 2015

Borrowing Ideas From Della Fattoria

I recently finished reading "Della Fattoria Breads" by Kathleen Weber  but I haven't baked any of the recipes that I wrote down in my notebook. I did decide to try some of the techniques that I found in the book. The first bread is 25% WWW sourdough made in the 3-2-1 fashion.  Ms Weber's recipes usually require a mixer so I hauled mine upstairs for this one loaf.

The borrowed technique that I used here was to use the paddle attachment for the first mixing. I just added the starter to the mixing bowl, rinsed the starter container with the main dough water and broke up the starter with a spatula. You could also use the whip attachment but a spatula is easier to wash. After adding most of the flour, I turned the mixer on at low speed just long enough to get everything mixed, about 30 seconds. then I added the remainder of the flour and mixed for 20-30 seconds longer. After a covered 20 minute autolyse, I misted the dough, added the salt, and mixed at low speed for six minutes using the dough hook. The dough came out a little bit sticky but responded to a few stretch and folds.

The cooler room temperatures meant slower bulk fermentation so schedule times weren't normal. Cooler temperatures in the cellar, 60F, enabled me to really play with the time and get some chores done around the house. Proofing in the cellar isn't as exact as the commercial proofers that have computer controlled temperature but when you have the opportunity to use that kind of asset, it does pay off by increasing the complexity of the flavor. There is something good in the cold weather of winter.

This second loaf is 33% stone ground whole wheat sourdough, made by hand this time around. Not pretty in the least and best described as sturdy, the technique that I borrowed from Ms Weber was to use a 50/50 blend of flour and wheat bran to flour the interior of the brotform. That may not be news to some folks but I hadn't heard of doing that before. I was more than happy to use brown rice flour. The blend works well and if your dough is in the least bit sticky, the bran adds some surface texture but doesn't add any bran bitterness. It gives a good rustic appearance.

This last loaf is something that I made to go with Wednesday's ravioli supper. It used an overnight poolish and a little bit of bulgur to add some sweetness. I think it was little bit under proofed but as one of those first time tried freestyle recipes, it was a successful bread. Beside3s having the crust that Mrs PG and I like, the crumb was soft and sweet. I think it could do well with a couple more points of hydration.

30 g fresh milled white whole wheat flour
40 g organic AP flour
70 g water at 80F
1/4 tsp IDY

30 g bulgur
21 g water at room temp

Main Dough
210 g bread flour
110 g water at 80F
6 g kosher salt
1/2 tsp IDY

Bake for 15 minutes, in a preheated oven on baking stone, at 450F. Turn loaf around and bake for 15 minutes at 425F. Turn off heat, crack door open with a pad or wooden spoon, and rest for five minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.

The temperatures outside have been quite up and down, varying between colder than seasonal to unseasonably warm. Today's high temperature is expected to be around 54F and tomorrow may reach into the low 60s.I haven't seen any signs of the daffodils starting to poke their first leaves up as of yet and I haven't uncovered the patch of garden where I planted the garlic back in November. Looking at the long range forecast, next weekend seems to be the time to start peeking under the straw mulch and the leafs, in search of the first signs of spring.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Friday, January 16, 2015

A Josey Baker Hearth Bread

 These first two pictures are of a loaf that I made from pizza dough a few weeks ago. I started out building up and renewing the strength of my starter and had some discard left over. That turned into the idea of baking a sourdough pizza. Well, I had so much starter that I made enough dough for a 14" crust and still had 350 g or so of dough left. So I decided that I would make a small boule and try proofing the dough with the seam side down. The boule didn't develop a spectacular series of splits on the crust but it doesn't look too bad and I know the gimmick works.

 The purpose behind this second loaf was to try baking the loaf at 465F on my Emile Henry baking stone rather than 450F as was my practice with my older baking stone. I think it worked out well since the crumb was still moist and tender but not so moist that I thought I might have under baked the loaf. The crumb wasn't too bad considering I added a 40g soaker of bulgur with 75% hydration
This rather rough, miche looking loaf was my first attempt at "Josey Baker Bread" Hearth Bread. I've read the book and while I'm not enthusiastic about it, there is much that is good in it. Mr Baker jumps right into using preferments, discusses hydration, the importance of scaling, and stays relatively consistent in the procedures to used. The consistency is important when you consider that the book is oriented in taking a first timer through yeast breads to sourdoughs and some treats and sweets to round out their skills.

Most of the recipes have a hydration in the 72-75% range, something that may be found perplexing by a new baker. Mr Baker does bring up the use of cast iron kettles and Le Creuset style dutch ovens for these doughs but I have to wonder if a new baker would buy either when first attempting such slack dough.

As I mentioned the book is geared for beginners. The text is written in a kind of conversational tone, with Mr Baker as the teacher delivering his monologues and wisdom. My problem with that style choice is that text is delivered in a kind of pseudo hipster/ California surf dude voicing which I found annoying. I didn't see the need for the editor to indulge in such an irritating gimmick. On the other hand, Mr Baker is the successful businessman and baker that has a book in print while I occupy an obscure corner of the internet. I suggest that if you're interested in the book, you should first borrow a copy from your local library system or scan through it at your favorite book store. You may be excited by the recipes and/or be enchanted by the how the book is voiced.

I followed Mr Baker's recipe for this loaf very closely, with my only deviation being that I baked at 460F rather than his suggested 475F. I don't have the fancy dutch oven but I do have a large stainless steel bowl that I used to cover the dough during the first 20 minutes of baking. The methods used in this particular are kind of a ABin5 meets Jim Lahey combination and I'm not sure how I'd change things if I were to try this recipe again. All I've come up with so far is to proof and bake the loaf in a 9" cake pan. But, there are recipes from the "Della Fattoria Breads" book that I'd like to try next so don't wait for the repeat in the next few weeks.

120 g cool (60F) water
105 g whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp instant dry yeast
Using a large bowl, mix the preferment and cover. Depending on room temperature, it will take about 12-16 hours until it's doubled in size with bubbles on top.

Main Dough
375 g bread flour
240 g water at 80F
12 g salt, Mr Baker prefers a fine grind grey sea salt
1. Mix the remaining ingredients with the preferment using your hands until the flour has been absorbed with the mass. This may take two to three minutes. Adjust with water if too dry and with flour if too wet
By my estimates, this dough should be at or about 75% hydration which means it probably won't be very dry at the end of mixing. The salt content comes in at 2.2% of flour weight which is little bit higher than many recipes but not a dangerous or toxic level.
2. Once dough has been mixed, cover the bowl and rest the contents for 3-4 hours at room temperature. Then place in your refrigerator for at least three hours and as much as one week.
3. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and shape. Rest seam side down for a few minutes while you prepare your banneton or brotfom.
4. Place dough in your banneton or brotform, seam side up. Cover your banneton with oiled plastic wrap or a damp, not wet, smooth towel. Rest at room temperature for 4-6 hours until the dough passes the poke test. Retarded proofing in your refrigerator is an alternative can be done for 6-24 hours.
5. Once your dough is proofed, preheat your oven and baking stone or your dutch oven for 30 minutes at 475F.
6. Turn your shaped loaf out onto your peel, slash, load onto baking stone, and cover with your stainless steel bowl or roasting pan lid. If using dutch oven, carefully load your dough into the dutch oven, slash, and cover.
7. Bake at 475F for 20 minutes and remove the really hot bowl or the lid of the dutch oven.Bake for another 15 minutes or until loaf is brown.
If using a dutch oven, make sure the lid knob is ovenproof to 500F as a matter of safety. You can obtain a replacement knob for this purpose at Amazon or through other supply stores.
8.The loaf is finished when the crumb reaches 205F and has been measured as such with an instant read thermometer. For a crunchy crust, turn the loaf out of the dutch oven and place back into your cooling oven for five minutes with the door cracked open with a hot pad or wooden spoon.
9. Cool on a wire rack, with good circulation around it, for at least 3 hours before eating.

The weather here on the western bank of the Missouri River has switched from damn cold to a January heat wave. We're going to enjoy temperatures in the 50s for a few more days which may become an excuse for people to take the covers off their long neglected barbecue grills. There's no snow cover on the ground whatsoever so the usual standing room only rule at the bird feeders hasn't come into full effect yet.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Friday, January 02, 2015

Baking the New Years' Day Morning Away

 One of my Christmas gifts was an Emile Henry baking stone. Instead of being the usual tan colored composite stone that quickly acquires a black smudge embedded into the area most used during backing, this stone has a glazed surface that is said to be dishwasher proof and one can cut directly on the stone. I'm not interested in using the stone as a cutting board but it does clean up quickly with a little soap and a hot water rinse. It also has handles molded into the ends of the stone. They're handy when moving the stone but cut into the useful baking surface.

I've finally figured out that the glaze means it requires a different plan for baking bread. My old stone seemed to draw more moisture out of the baking dough because the material is porous. That porosity is why you should never use soap on that or similar stones. The EH stones still transfers its heat to help with the oven spring and caramelize the bottom of the loaf but my early results from baking on this stone have all had much more moisture in the crumb. This moisture isn't a bad thing. I think that I will have to change the initial oven temperature from 450F to 460F or even 475F and use a longer bake after the turnaround, perhaps 25 minutes rather than just 20 at 425F.

The first two loaves are breads that I baked for a Christmas gathering at my MIL's apartment on Christmas day. The loaf on the right is a light rye (20% rye flour) with caraway seeds and the other is not quite a pain au levain since I used a retarded proofing before baking.
The next loaf was the first one into the oven this morning. It's a sourdough with a multi grain soaker that both Mrs PG and I think was quite successful.The crumb on this one was also quite moist but not in the least gummy due to under cooking the loaf. The crust was firm and left some shattering crumbs on the cutting board when I sliced the loaf.

145 g at 100% hydration

40 g nine grain cereal
34 g water

Main Dough
288 g bread flour
72 g home milled whole wheat flour
All of starter
All of soaker
9 g kosher salt.

The last loaf is just an experiment that I baked with some left over pizza dough. My idea was to proof the loaf with the seam side down to see if I could get a spectacular split on the top of the loaf during baking, It's not particularly dramatic but the concept works. I think the dough needs to be more highly hydrated to get "the look".

Outside my window, climbing through the pear tree, is a red squirrel that is truly determined to feed on the remaining sterile seed pods.  It is truly a daring little rodent, traipsing down branches of questionable strength to munch away. I've seen it hang upside down by its rear paws to find another gnosh. Occasionally a grey squirrel, which is uncommon for this neighborhood, will show up but the red squirrel and his kin are aggressive towards that interloper and drive it away.

Goldfinches, nuthatches, titmice, and purple finches have returned to our feeders over the past few days. I expect larger numbers of birds to show up as the weather worsens starting tonight. The forecast calls for a light glaze of ice tonight followed by four inches or so of snow tomorrow evening. Then the bottom of the thermometers will be tested as the really cold weather returns starting Sunday morning. Don't expect to see me wearing shorts when I'm on the way to the gym.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

City Limits Sourdough with Bran and Honey

 Been there, seen that, and got the coffee mug. BTW, it's a really good mug, with a nice heft and capable of holding about a pint of my favorite caffeinated beverage.

Mrs PG and I took a road trip to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to spend Thanksgiving with my family. While we were in New England, we took the time to visit one of my favorite places to spend money, the King Arthur Flour retail store in Norwich, VT. If you've ever heard that the store is a mad house from just before Thanksgiving through the Christmas holiday, rest assured that the word is true. If you need some sustenance either before braving the crowds or to recuperate from that experience, I suggest that you stop at the Norwich Inn or their in house pub, the Jasper Murdock Ale House. Try the Montreal smoked corned beef reuben sandwich and a pint of their porter.

We also took the time to find the A&J King Bakery in Salem, MA. Set your GPS to find the bakery because its on a narrow one way street in the downtown of Salem. Mr and Ms King have a nice, smallish shop where they sell their baked goods, coffee, and other foods for either their small dining area or take out. The real action goes on in their bakery adjacent to the retail area. I admit that I wanted to ask for a quick view or tour of their production area and perhaps plead for some of their levain but it was Tuesday before Thanksgiving so I dismissed that idea and settled for one of their brownies.

I haven't posted any recipes for a while because I hadn't baked anything interesting or unique for a while. We didn't suffer from a carbohydrate shortage though and I plugged away, baking for the house, and scratching my head in the hope for some inspiration. I'm not bragging that this loaf is a breakthrough thing but it exceeded my expectations.

First of all, I used Central Milling AP flour, about 10.7% protein, rather than my usual Dakota Maid Bread Flour, 12.0% protein, so I was in the dark as to how much water I needed for my loaf. The next thing was I wanted to use a soaker for some bran because I was concerned about the bran slashing the gluten strands. Then there was the bulk fermentation that lasted about seven hours before the dough got close to doubling. The dough was still on the slack, sticky side when I shaped so I just threw it in the fridge for an overnight proof. I figured that I had nothing to lose.

The shaped loaf sat at room temperature for three hours before my guesswork said it was time to light the oven. I was pleased when the dough didn't start doing a decline into pancake land when I went to slash. After the bake, this rather rough looking loaf with an interesting crumb came out of the oven. It tastes great and there's no bitterness from the bran.

150g at about 100% hydration, fed with 55 grams organic AP, 5 g wheat bran, 60 g water, 30 g starter

44 g water at room temperature
22 g wheat bran
Soaked for six hours before mixing.

Main Dough

288 g organic AP
72 g home milled hard red wheat
230 g water at 85F
120 g starter
All of soaker
8 g kosher salt
1 Tbsp organic honey- Thanks to Thad and Tam!

As the weather here on the Middle Coast continued to get colder and more bleak, I expected to see more birds at my feeders. The usual year round resident suspects became more frequent visitors and lately. The juncos have come to town and taken up residence. Despite having bought some of the food that they have always devoured with great enthusiasm in the past, the birds haven't been outside the window for my constant amusement and diversion from the keyboard. I got an explanation yesterday morning when, in a blur of colorful feathers, a Cooper's hawk perched on top of the wrought iron support for the feeders. This was only the second time I've seen a hawk outside my window so it's still kind of a big deal for me. The Cooper's Hawk does visit feeders but only to prey on unaware or unsuspecting birds so the hawk may have been here before when I haven't been at the keyboard and it may be back in the future. I look forward to future visits.

Lately, visitors to my obscure corner of the internet have included addresses from Cypress and Macau.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

City Limits Sourdough with Experimental Starter

Nothing of interest has been coming out of the oven in the last ten days or so until I finished this loaf. After reading a TFL post by Dabrownman about the use of wheat bran from his home mill in his starters, I figured I could do something similar. I found some organic bran in the bulk food bins at the Hy-Vee supermarket across the river and the project started in motion.

I've used bran in my breads before and the stuff is notoriously thirsty. It's also where the wild yeast spores are at, as well as some valuable food for the yeast. The starter began at an estimated 150% and then I added 5 g of bran on the premise that it absorbs from 3 to 4 times its weight in water. The main dough water weight was just something I took a guess at since this was going to be another one of my "freestyle" loaves done out of curiosity.

The starter did seem to build a little bit faster considering the seed stock had been sleeping in the beer/flour fridge. I took it as either a good beginning or simply good luck that it was ready in ten hours.The dough was mixed by hand following the procedures I mentioned in the previous post, A New Semi Semolina Loaf. This time I had the opportunity to do an overnight retarded fermentation and it was a good thing.

The finished loaf is a nice bit of work with a good crumb that is moist, tender, and definitely tasty.

75 g water at 85F
50 g organic AP flour
30 g starter seed
5 g organic wheat bran

Main Dough
270 g bread flour
90 g home milled hard red wheat flour
225 g water at 90F
All of starter
7 g kosher salt

The killing frost arrived last Saturday and eliminated most of the insects outside. That's no loss to me. I've yet to really clean up the yard but did follow through on planting all my garlic for next year. I found bulbs that had four large cloves and some with five large cloves for planting so I've foolishly presumed that they are two different varieties. Maybe they are and maybe they aren't, either way, nobody is going to get hurt here. Approximately 68 cloves were planted and are now blanketed with a topcoat of wheat straw. As usual, I plan to try to give away at least half of what I harvest.

Despite the feeders being kept stocked with bird food, there haven't been a lot of birds around for the past few weeks. I'm presuming that its because the local farms have harvested the corn, milo, and soybeans recently so there may not be enough food pressure on the birds to seek out feeders. Particularly absent are the cardinals that have been so ubiquitous until lately that we expected to enjoy their company every day. An extended cold spell is predicted for next week so things may change.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.