Saturday, June 25, 2016

A Similar Table Bread

 Summer arrived and has taken up residence in our patch of ground here on the Middle Coast with cruel and oppressive heat. That means changing conditions for my yeast in that even with the A/C on, the usual room temperature is somewhere between 78 and 80F. Fortunately, that's on the upper end of ideal temperatures for yeast, both dry yeast and sourdough. Adding to the new conditions for the yeast, I switched from using KAF AP to using Hudson Cream AP. The HC AP is milled here in Kansas, out west of Wichita. It's at least one full percentage point lower in protein than the KAF AP which makes it handle differently. BTW, it works just fine when used in feeding my sourdough starters.

62 g HC AP
62 g water at room temperature, around 80F
1/8 tsp instant dry yeast

Main Dough
208 g Dakota Maid bread flour
60 g Dakota Maid whole wheat flour
169 g water at 80F
7 g kosher salt
1/2 tsp instant dry yeast
olive oil for greasing fermentation bowl or container

Add flours and IDY into the mixing bowl, stir well to mix.Use the main dough water to help transfer the poolish to the mixing bowl. Mix to a shaggy mass, cover, and let rest for about 20 minutes.

Add salt and fold in. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface, knead for about two minutes, place into an oiled container for bulk fermentation and cover. Do three stretch and folds at 20-25 minutes depending on room temperature, cover, and then rest until dough volume has doubled.

I had been presoaking the WW or WWW in my dough with the main dough water but in this case, I skipped the extra step. The resultant dough after the first mix was a bit dry but as it changed over to a tacky consistently later on during the bulk ferment. I suspect that the longer bulk fermentation at 70% hydration worked out in my favor here.

When the dough has doubled in volume, turn it out onto a floured surface, preshape, cover, and rest for 10-15 minutes. Shape and place in a prepared banneton or couche for proofing. In my case, I left the banneton at room temperature for about 30 minutes and then placed it in the refrigerator, which allowed me to bake the loaf in the evening when the house had cooled down. Preheat the oven and a baking stone at 450F for at least 30 minutes. When the dough has finished proofing, turn the loaf out onto either a peel or onto parchment paper on whatever pan or cookie sheet you use. Slash, mist the top with water, and load the oven. Bake at 450F for 15 minutes, remove the parchment paper if you're using it, turn the loaf around, and bake at 425F for 19-20 minutes.Turn off the heat, leave the oven door cracked open with an oven pad for five minutes. The room temperature made that foolish for me to do so I just kept the finished loaf in the oven for a couple of minutes and placed it on a wire cooling rack.

The end result was a good loaf; moist, tender, with a bit of acidity in the flavor.

The heat has yet to relent out here. The lawn has deep cracks in the soil and the garden needs watering at least every three days. So far, I've picked one cucumber and there are a few grape tomatoes that are now ripe. There aren't any peppers worth picking yet but they're coming along slowly. It's time to start digging up the garlic now, which I should do before the forecast thunderstorms rolling in tomorrow night.  I dug up one bulb out of curiosity that was fair in size but can't predict what size bulbs will come out of the ground tomorrow. I'm keeping my hopes up for a ripe tomato, the grape tomatoes don't count, by July 4th. So far, it looks like I'll have a San Marzano tomato to establish the bragging rights on that day.

Rumor has it that the hummingbirds are in the area but I have yet to see any.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Friday, June 03, 2016

Table Breads with Poolish Variations

The set of mixing bowls you see are actually older than I am. They've been given to me by my mother who found their weight made them difficult to use anymore. These post WW2 products from Pyrex  are still in great shape with only a small number of scratches incurred over some 69 years of use feeding our family and guests. My Mom also gave me a KA mixer which will be of use when mixing Christmas cookies and larger dough batches.

While I haven't given up on sourdough breads, I just haven't done anything different enough to post here. I have been playing with dry yeast breads lately with the intent of refining reliable formulas from past efforts. I started with a small loaf that included 15% fine durum wheat flour usually used in making pasta. The loaf was also the recipient of  some 40 g of  discard from the initial build stage of a starter.

85 g KAF AP
15 g fine durum wheat flour
100 g water at 88F
1/4 tsp IDY

Main Dough
175 g bread flour
85 g water at 88F
50 g discarded 100% starter
6 g kosher salt
olive oil for greasing fermentation container and for my hands during initial kneading.

I usually let the initial shaggy mass of dough rest for 20 minutes or so before adding the salt. I then put some olive oil on my hands and "air knead" by picking up the mass, roughly folding it to make it easier to pinch the dough with my thumbs, going up or down, while letting the dough hang. The dough takes on a kind of strip form after that, making it easy to fold and place back in the bulk fermentation bowl.

This bread did taste good for only my second time reworking the formula. I suspect I could use more starter if I wanted to but I probably should reduce final hydration from around 70% to 68%.
This second loaf is the basis for the second formula I've been working with lately. It's a 20% WW/80% bread flour project. It's smaller than my usual sourdough loaves and besides its taste, it also has the attraction being ready to eat in about the same time it takes to build up a vigorous starter. Upon slicing the loaf, I found that I need to allter my procedure. You see, I added all the WW flour to the poolish mix, a perfectly acceptable move.

When I use whole wheat flour and mix by hand, I get some streaks or swirls of a darker color in the crumb. This problem, if one chooses to see it as such, can be resolved by using a mixer if you have one. It's an appearance thing with no bearing on the flavor. I just baked a loaf with white whole wheat in the same quantities and procedures and it worked out fine, with no visible swirls in the appearance..

60 g stone ground whole wheat flour
40 g KAF AP flour
100 g water at 88 F
1/4 tsp instant dry yeast

Main Dough
200 g bread flour
108 g water at 88 F
6 g kosher salt
1/2  tsp IDY

The Spring 2016 season has been as unpredictable as those of past years. While peonies were weren't as plentiful and impressive as last year, the day lily plants are already quite bushy and getting ready to bloom. The garlic scapes have already been cut and the bottom leaves on the stalks are beginning to dry up. I may be digging garlic in a few weeks. The first tomatoes have shown up and today I saw the first baby sweet Italian pepper. I've tried three different lettuce plantings but they've all been failures, perhaps due to being washed away by the abundant rainfall over the last six weeks or so. I was fortunate enough to find a bale of straw to use as mulch in the garden. Wheat straw has become a limited commodity in this area since farmers have switched to planting corn to take advantage of the subsidies available.

Along with the usual suspects, I've been seeing some rose breasted grosbeaks and orioles, summertime birds for this area, at the bird feeders just outside my window.

Here is a list of countries of the visitors that have lately found their way to my obscure corner of the internet: Argentina, Colombia,Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, Indonesia, Macedonia, Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, South Africa, and the UAE.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Friday, March 25, 2016

A Late Winter Bulgur Loaf

 I like the sweet flavor that bulgur brings to a loaf. That gave me the idea to add it in as I was rummaging through the refrigerator, looking for ingredients that I hadn't used recently. It also adds a little bit of detail, maybe texture is the word I'm looking for, to the outside of the loaf. Since I had the luxury of time to make this loaf, I also used retarded proofing in the fridge and a longer than usual finish to that proofing on the counter before I loaded the loaf into the oven. I expected that the loaf would spread out due to the hydration but I had no complaints when the bake was done.

140 g at 100% hydration

42 g bulgur
36 g water

Main Dough
228 g bread flour
72 g white whole wheat
205 g water at 85F
All of starter
All of soaker
7 g kosher salt

Spring time has really started to roll in, semingly a few weeks early. Considering that the average last frost date in this area is 15 April, everyone is quite amazed. The trees are budding out and a few have a leaf or two to show for their efforts. The grass in the yard grew enough that I actually mowed the lawn this past week. I've dug up and turned over a couple small sections of my garden but the soil is still wet from the December rains and quite cold. I haven't seen any new varieties of birds at feeders, just the usual suspects with an increase in gold finches. There are quite a few hawks around town right now. They're often seen perching lower than normal in my observations, on power lines or on the arms of street light poles.

Some casual, drive by visitors to my obscure corner of the internet over the past few weeks have come from Austria, Israel, Lebanon, and Peru.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Monday, February 22, 2016

More Big Levain loaves

It's been about four years since I worked on loaves with a larger starter. This time around may have been a simple improvisation on my familiar 25% WWW flour sourdough when I found myself with more starter than needed and with plenty already stashed in the refrigerator. Since the average room temperature is still around 70F here at Casa de PG, I figured that manipulating the numbers away from the standard 3-2-1 formula would be the most difficult aspect. I was wrong, it was restraining myself from eating too much of my own work. These breads have turned out very well.

My idea was that if I used more than my standard quantity of 100% hydration starter, then all I needed to do would be to subtract the extra flour and water quantities from the ingredients in the main dough. While the bulk fermentation time was about the same length, there was an improved handling quality to the dough. which made shaping easier. Proofing time decreased by about 25% for the first loaf, from 4 1/2 hours down to 3 1/2 hours. I used retarded proofing for the second loaf so I can't say that I've discovered anything yet. I need to do more work using this variation in method before I pat myself on the back.

Starter, first loaf
160 g at 100% hydration, fed with KAF AP

Main Dough
250 g bread flour
90 g home milled white whole wheat flour
220 g water at 85F
8 g kosher salt

Starter, second loaf
160 g at 100% hydration, fed with KAF AP

Main Dough
250 g bread four
90 g home milled white whole wheat flour
220 g water at 85F
15 g wheat germ
8 g kosher salt

The first signs of the daffodils from the oldest plantings are now emerging. The bulbs that I planted late last fall haven't shown up yet. Usually the peonies arrive for work at about the same time as the daffodils but this winter's weather may be throwing them off their schedule. The garlic is still under its blanket of straw but I may go out there later in the week when the temperatures go back up and lift the straw to see what's going on.

Recent visitors to my obscure corner of the internet have come from Algeria, Oman, and Singapore.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Cellar Bread Variation

Times have been slow around the oven due to my efforts at clearing out the freezer of odds and ends that I put away, out of sight and out of mind until lately. This week has marked an increase in projects and the gas bill starting with these two efforts.

The first picture is of my initial attempt at making scones. I used the Cream Scone recipe from the KAF Baker's Companion. Let me say that the process turned out messier than I expected but nothing that didn't respond to soap and water and some elbow grease. Being positive, I can say it was a learning experience.

I followed the recipe as well as I could for a first timer, even to the point of weighing ingredients when I had that information. The end result is a essentially a tasty buttermilk biscuit. You can add some kind of dried fruits pieces or nuts, which I forgot to do. The KAF Baker's Companion has several other scone recipes, one of which includes chocolate chips, so I think I'll dabble in scones for a while as a side venture since the dough can be frozen for baking at a later date.

Winter's arrival has meant the average temperature in our cellar sits around 60-62F, almost ideal temperatures for a slow bulk ferment or proofing and coaxing a little bit more flavor out of the dough. For this loaf, the dough had three stretch folds over two hours then almost seven hours in the 60F cellar, at which time it had more than doubled in size.

Since I was fooling around with time and temperature for this loaf, I changed my percentage of starter by an admittedly small amount that actually worked out. The crumb isn't wildly open but on the other hand, I threw in some wheat germ along with the white whole wheat flour so I'm happy for now and can take this recipe for the wintertime a little bit further in the next six weeks or so.

140 g, at 100% hydration, fed with KAF AP

Main Dough
290 g bread flour
60 g white whole wheat flour
20 g wheat germ
230 g water at 85F
7 g kosher salt
I've got admit that this winter hasn't turned out to be as bad as I expected. I have had to shovel the driveway a few times but that was more indicative of the paucity of snowfall rather than any ambition on my part. I have my little snow blower in the garage but so far it has only gathered dust.

We're getting to the time of year where freezing rain becomes more likely than snow and that is a most unpleasant prospect to consider. In order to combat that dread, lawn and garden shows look very attractive and they should start up in a couple more weeks. I don't need more seeds but I will be looking for the yard toys that that spin and make noise. They annoy the neighbors more than they do any critters or vermin that may cross the yard but their bright colors do bring a smile to my face. They'll have to do until the daffodils start to show up and the dandelions rise up to risk my wrath with a tools of destruction and possible injury.

Lately, this obscure corner of the internet has gotten a lot of visits from Asia. Among the countries represented are S Korea, the Philippines, Singapore, Pakistan, and Viet Nam.Whether accidental or deliberate, I'm always happy to see where my visitors come from.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Friday, January 01, 2016

Sourdough Bloomers and another Bran Crust Sourdough

"The Bread and Bread Machine Bible" by Ingram and Shapter was one of my first bread baking books. By no means is it the best ever, but it's usefulness is evidenced the spin off books that use portions to create different titles. One of the breads included is an English loaf called Poppy Seeded Bloomer. According to the book, the loaf is an English answer to a batard. The recipe didn't attract me but the slashing pattern caught my eye and I finally gave it try.

While the original recipe called for a lean dough of about 64% hydration and an extended bulk fermentation due to using a small amount of yeast, my loaves are sourdough with about 70% hydration.

I have been proofing larger loaves in my banneton but these are smaller by 30 g of flour so the banneton was lined with a towel. While none of these loaves are picture perfect, the slashing pattern worked out well in that the loaves didn't widen out. That was a small accomplishment to be sure but since it worked, I don't regret it.

This last loaf is another 1-2-3 sourdough pain de campagne, boosted with a Tbs of honey due to slower yeast action in my somewhat cool, winter environment, 68-70F, in the kitchen. The bran was added to the outside of the loaf by rolling the shaped, somewhat sticky dough onto some bran. Just to be sure I got the desired result, I also dusted the banneton liner with bran.

Outside, the first measurable snowfall we've had is slowly melting as the temperatures flirt with rising above freezing temperatures. I'm located just a few miles from the Missouri River but there are no flooding concerns here, unlike downriver in the St Louis area. The ground is saturated due to rainfall and snow melt so occasionally I'll be surprised by the sound of the sump running. Fortunately for us and the US Postal Service, the 2016 seed catalogs are arriving daily to start us daydreaming about Springtime and getting our hands in the dirt again.

The usual suspects are visiting my bird feeders with occasional visits from starlings, who will eat everything, and flickers. While the sparrows still don't exhibit good table manners at the feeders, the juncos, who are primarily ground feeders, are once again the beneficiaries.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Mediterranean Style Table Bread

The oven in my stove went out, requiring the replacement of the circuit board that controls the the starting mechanism for the oven. Since its repair, I've baked some very familiar breads for the most part to get a feel for any changes that might have occurred.

This particular loaf, a sort of horiatiko psomi or Greek table bread, has been the best of the bunch. It could be just as easily described as an Italian bread with the addition of some dry milk in the mix or by substituting some milk for the water. Any way would be good just as long as you put out some extra virgin olive oil sprinkled with balsamic vinegar for dipping.
100 g starter at 100% hydration

Main Dough
240 g bread flour
45 g extra fine semolina flour
15 g white whole wheat flour
195 g water at 85F
1/2 Tbs or 7.5 ml olive oil
7 g kosher salt

We got our first hard freeze yesterday morning, more than four weeks later than usual. The sure sign of winter's approach, the arrival of a junco or snowbird, happened yesterday as well. I happy to say that I did put in a round sixty cloves of garlic for next year but I'll have to hurry to get the daffodil bulbs in before the ground freezes up.

Besides the juncos, the rest of the usual characters have returned to the bird seed buffet outside my window. That includes the goldfinches which have lost their coloring for the moment. The crows and hawks have moved back into town as well. Deer season has started in limited areas so travel at dawn and dusk will require more attention for a while as hunters move through the fields and woods.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Ten Hour Mock Italian Loaf Variation

Rather than posting about breads that I've baked and posted at least once or
twice, I've been on a kind bloggers vacation waiting for some kind innovation or inspiration. Our recent trip to New England to visit my parents, the OPG and my Sainted Mother, revived the curiosity, especially after tasting a couple of breads from the Crust Bakery in Worcester, MA. They have a different kind of baguette, produced with an incredible, envy inducing, tangy flavor and using flour that might be European in style since it's not a snow white crumb. Whether I'm right or wrong about the details for that baguette, it's worth stopping by to try their breads.

My ten hour mock Italian loaf is something that I improvised to serve with a pasta dinner for Mrs PG and I.

I started with a sponge using all the water, one third of the flour, and 1/2 tsp of instant dry yeast. The sponge took about four hours in a 70F room temperature environment.

Sponge:800 AM
210 g water at 85F
70 g bread flour
30 g white whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp instant dry yeast

Once the sponge was bubbling, I mixed in the remaining bread flour, salt, and olive oil. I kneaded the dough for about three or four minutes and started the bulk fermentation. Three stretch and folds at 1/2 half hour intervals worked out so I just let the dough rest for another hour as it doubled up in size.

230 PM
I preshaped the dough and let it rest for 10 minutes, seam side down while I located my couche and dusted it with wheat bran. Then I shaped the dough into a kind of ficelle, misted it water and rolled the clean side in some bran. The dough was placed seam side up in the couche for its proof while I went about preparing my industrial red sauce for the evening meal's pasta.

330 PM
Preheated the oven and baking stone at 425F for 30 minutes.

I placed the dough on parchment paper before loading, slashed, and misted the slashes. Into the oven for 15 minutes, then removing the parchment paper and turning the loaf around. Eighteen minutes more in the oven before turning off the heat, cracking the door open for a few minutes, then cooling the finished loaf on a wire rack at or about 440 PM.

The loaf was cooled and ready for its glamour shots. It had a moist, soft crumb, thanks to the olive oil, and a sweet, almost nutty flavor.

The next picture is a crumb shot of one my 20% WWW sourdough loaves. The oatmeal coated exterior isn't much to brag about but what is interesting, for myself only, is the open crumb. I used a one step build  for the starter with the seed coming from my stored over the vacation stock. Don't expect this at home kids, it probably won't happen for me again until the next blue moon.

The leaves on our trees are started to fall but they're nowhere near as colorful as what we saw in New England. Many of them have been mulched by the mower and more will join them over the next few weeks. I still have some tomatoes on the rather scraggly looking grape tomato plant so our salads aren't quite void of homegrown goodies. The sage and rosemary plantings are still around and capable of contributions. The rest of the plants are being cleaned up to make way for another year of garlic festivities in a couple weeks. Only an occasional chickadee finds the bird feeders outside my window and very few birds are heard in the neighborhood right now.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Monday, August 24, 2015

An Improvised Bulgur Loaf

I was just exercising my prerogative to improvise a formula the other day when I baked this loaf. I had a batch of 70% hydration starter reaching its peak in mid morning and I needed to bake something for the pasta supper that I had planned for Mrs PG and I. The dough lost much of its initial stickiness during the bulk fermentation. While I suspect that some of the moisture was soaked up by the bulgur, I don't have a firm evidence for that but as long as it worked, I wasn't complaining.

Not quite a ficelle and not quite a batard but it possessed the sweetness derived from the bulgur and some tenderness from the olive oil. The bread is better for dipping into olive oil or sopping up leftover sauce than as a sandwich bread, not that there's anything wrong with that. It's worth baking again.

Proofing the loaf was done in a couche. For baking this smaller than usual loaf, I used 425F for the initial 14 minutes and continued with it for another 18 minutes to finish.

40 g bulgur
40 g water

130 g at 70% hydration

Main Dough
200 g bread flour
24 g white whole wheat
147 g water at 80F
All of starter
                                                                    All of soaker
                                                                    1/2 Tbs olive oil
                                                                    6 g kosher salt
                                                                    1/8 tsp Active dry yeast

This second loaf will soon be finished , justifying the dough that's presently undergoing its bulk fermentation. I revisited an old recipe for this one, adding a little honey and some 9 grain cereal from Montana Milling.

The garden continues to be a disappointment in the production level this summer. I've gotten to the point where I'm planning on taking out what's left of the San Marzano tomato plant and the Park's Whopper beefsteak tomato plant is living on borrowed time right now. The grape tomato plant is long and scraggly looking, having spread over quite a bit of square footage but it is the reliable source of fresh tomatoes so it has a reprieve for now.  On the other hand, I have more basil than I need for cooking or pesto. Lets not discuss the chile peppers today.

Hummingbirds have started to return to my yard as the weather has cooled off in an unusual but very welcome manner.We have our windows open for the breeze which means we hear the birds and traffic noises. That's still much better than the repetitious hum of the A/C. I like having A/C but I prefer the open windows.

Visitors from Bangladesh and Ireland have recently found their way to my obscure corner of the internet.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Resurrected Starter Sourdough

I was rummaging through the freezer, looking for stuff that could be put out with the trash when I ran across a bag containing some dried sourdough starter. This was some really old starter, about six years old, my first and only attempt at drying some starter as a Plan B effort. It had its roots in a sample of "Overland Trail" starter from Stan at New York Bakers. It certainly was the right sample to set aside.

I took five grams of this dried starter and let it soak in thirty grams of bottled spring water. After thirty minutes, I broke up as much of the remaining bits as I could and added thirty grams of DM Bread Flour. The room temperature was around 80F so it didn't take long to show signs of life. I added some more flour and water to adjust it to 75% hydration and the starter continued to roll. In about twelve hours, I had a surprisingly active sample that looked ready for a life (albeit a short life) in dough.

If I were truly hard core, I'd have waited through another stage of building up the starter but I couldn't resist the temptation to start the flour flying.

Let me interject a note about how I've changed my starting procedure. In my large mixing bowl, I add my starter, water, and my flavor flour, the whole wheat flour in this case. After mixing those ingredients to a loose, soup like consistency, I let them rest a few minutes with the idea that the WW flour will be quickly soaked and then I go about my business as usual. It seems to work well enough in that my dough is usually quite sticky at the time of autolyze and remains sticky through the stretch and fold stages.

The end result was a good loaf with a very "clean" flavor and moist crumb. There's another fifteen or so grams of this dried starter left in the freezer so I think it's time to find an excuse to build a bigger than necessary batch  and dry some more for storage over the next five years.

108 g at 75% hydration

Main Dough
288 g DM Bread Flour
72 g home milled whole wheat flour
240 g water at 80F
8 g kosher salt.
olive oil for greasing the bulk fermentation container

Outside, the garden is in fair to middling condition and I don't expect to see much production of tomatoes by the end of the month. The persistent rains have ceased and the ground is hardening. I just got a bale of straw for a mulch over the bare spots to help keep the moisture in the soil. Even the peppers are reluctant to produce which means I may not be able to freeze enough to get through the winter. Store bought peppers just aren't the same as something from my garden.

The usual bird suspects- cardinals, chickadees, finches, nuthatches, sparrows, and woodpeckers, are still around but I haven't seen hummingbirds in the yard for at least six weeks. We still have the plants that they're attracted to but they must be dining somewhere else.

Visitors from Egypt and Sri Lanka have found their way to my obscure corner of the internet in the past two weeks.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.