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Monday, February 22, 2021

A Hit and Run Spiked 5W Sourdough Loaf

 As usual, my starter which sometimes goes by the nom de levain Nelson, is taking its duties with a wintertime casual attitude. In order to get my loaves finished in a reasonable amount of time, I resort to spiking the dough with a 1/4 tsp of either ADY or IDY. I just don't bake often enough to ever presume or pretend that I'm a purist kind of home baker. My most recent loaf was done with another venial sin, an oversized portion of starter. It could've been worse, ending up as food for the squirrels that have been enjoying the bounty of bird seed that I provide for our feathered friends.


The wrinkle in the latest two stage starter build was to add some wheat bran just because I wanted to do so. No harm done at all.


Stage one

15 g starter

30 g water

25 g KAF AP

5 g wheat bran

Stage two

50 g water

50 g KAF AP

Main Dough

I have a practice of starting with adding the starter, all of my water, and about 100 g of the flour, along with the dry yeast to mix and then soak for about 20-30 minutes. I think it might make mixing the rest of the ingredients somewhat easier. It's a no harm, no foul thing that I do.

30 g locally grown and milled whole wheat flour

30 g KAF WWW flour

40 g KAF bread flour

190 g water at 84F

170 g starter

In order to keep my work area clear of obstacles, I scale the remaining flour and blanket the first mix. I put my salt on top of that to prevent absent mindedness from ruining a good loaf. Dish washing ensues.

200 g KAF bread flour

8 g kosher salt

After the initial soak, I do a rough mix to incorporate the rest of my ingredients. After another twenty minutes of rest, a series of three or four stretch and folds at 25-30 minute intervals begin.  45-60 minute intervals are doable as well if you want. I just like to run errands or go to the gym during the remainder of the bulk ferment which in this case took another four hours.

Once the dough had doubled, shaping, a retarded proofing, and baking followed. While cooling, the finished loaf chattered away as fast as Brian Blade hits his cymbals during a drum solo. Mrs PG and I like this one a lot.

Even though the polar vortex that afflicted much of the central states came through here and put a big chill on us, we weathered through without power failures and only minor snowfalls. I did have to find the heavy thermal underwear and a pair of ugly boots meant for such times. I'm hoping that those wind chills hitting as low as -24F will have killed the oak leaf itch mites that torment me in the summertime.This week is different with the high today expected around 56F and tomorrow will be a day to grill outside when the thermometer hits 64F. 

Other than a few daffodils sending up their leafs, there aren't any other signs of Spring. Well, maybe the long lines at the car washes might be reason for optimism but mostly we're seeing bare trees and brown grasses. Lately, a Carolina wren or two, have been added to the list of feathered friends and usual suspects at the feeders. According to my  copy of "Birds of Kansas", they're a year round resident in this area. They're known to have quite a repertoire of songs so if they bring more family or friends with them, I won't mind at all.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

New Year, New Pan, Slightly Different Recipe

I'm not the easiest person to shop for at Christmas time so Mrs PG suggested I do some for myself.The simplest thing I considered was a new pan that could be the "Goldilocks" pan among my collection. Not too small and not too big either. The first time around I tried a recipe that totaled 390 g of flour which was too small. This loaf is 420 g total and just about right to develop. The flours used are all KAF- all purpose, artisan, and white whole wheat flour. The loaf turned out to have a good crumb that didn't tear when sliced despite the quantity of AP. 


60 g white whole wheat flour

40g AP flour

100 g water at 84F

1/4 tsp active dry yeast

Main Dough

160 g Artisan Flour

160 g AP Flour

194 g water at 84F

9 g kosher salt

1/2 tsp active dry yeast

The oven started out at 425F for the first 24 minutes and then 400F for 22 minutes after turning the pan around. Then I let the loaf rest for five minutes on a wire rack in the oven as it began cooling with the door cracked open. It's a good loaf for something I started without too much of a plan. 

I suspect that I'm becoming either a small time alarmist or a hoarder of baking supplies because it's easy to rationalize having more  than usual around the house. Costco has the KAF AP in 12# bags for less than $6 so these days I always have at least 20# of AP on hand. The KAF BF was like $2.59 for a 5# bag at Christmas so I got three. When I saw a 1# block of SAF Instant Dry Yeast for $3.59 where the small glass jars were almost $6, I had to grab what I thought had to be a mistaken price tag and a real deal. The next day at a different supermarket the same item was priced at $2.49 which made my purchase not quite as big a bargain as I thought. Compared to what we were seeing if we could find IDY back in April and May 2020, I can still laugh about it. It doesn't take that much room in the freezer. If 5# bags of rye flour started showing up on the shelves again at a reasonable price, I'd be all set to go to work on a brown ale rye bread.

My bird feeders are now under daily attack by grey squirrels. The feeders are supposed to be squirrel resistant but I know for sure they're not squirrel proof when one can be seen hanging up side down to get at the sunflower seeds. If they didn't sit on top of the shepherd's hook pole and stare in the window at me while they ate, I wouldn't be as annoyed. There are at least four that have found out about the feeders and they all run around like LSD and methamphetamine was a majority of their diet. This area has a 4" deficit in snowfall so far for the season and what little fell melted away quickly so leftover grains and seeds are still easily found by the area birds. I'd like to see if they would try to protect their feeders and territory should more return to my backyard.

Comments, humor, and questions are always welcome.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

An easy 5W sponge pan loaf

Like everyone will experience sooner or later, I sometimes forget or am too tired to get a new starter going late at night. Consequently, I change plans and go to a dry yeast loaf to make sure that there's fresh bread in the house. That happened again this week, resulting in a simple but satisfying pan loaf. The oddity involved was the use of some ADY that I've had since 2009 and has been quietly sitting in the freezer. I bought a 2# bag of Red Star Active Dry Yeast at Costco for less than $5, thinking that I could use it for at least a year and if it quit working for me, I'd still be money ahead compared to what I would pay for the three pack sachets at the grocery store. The contents went into an inexpensive Rubbermaid brand container that I found at Walmart and the remaining ADY is still on the job. A similar sized quantity of instant dry yeast could be used as well.

The aforementioned 5W in the sponge is a combination of some KAF White Whole Wheat flour and some home milled whole wheat flour that I bought at the local farmers market. I know, too cute by more than half. Rather than dividing the ADY to be used, I just used the entire amount in a simple sponge that got the ball rolling to a good loaf of bread. I also tucked the shaped loaf into the fridge rather than having to juggle baking with preparing supper. 


273 g water at 90F

42 g WW flour

42 g KAF WWW flour 

46 g KAF BF

1/2 tsp ADY

Pour water into a largish mixing bowl and add ADY for hydration. Stir after 5-10 minutes, add flour, mix, and cover. Let sit for at least one hour, up to three hours, at room temperature. If you're using IDY, hydrating that wouldn't hurt. Try it, you might like it.

Main Dough

260 g KAF BF

8 g kosher salt

You can approach these main dough ingredients in different ways. The first is to add the flour and salt to the sponge when you feel ready to mix and get to work. 

The second is to to blanket the sponge with the flour after you've mixed it, top the blanket with the salt so you don't forget, and then cover. After an hour, the blanket will show cracks indicating that the yeast is working. If you've got extra time or chores to do, you can either let the sponge continue to work its magic until you can't stand it anymore or a total of three hours and then start the mixing. You can also put the blanketed sponge in the fridge after sitting on the counter for at least an hour and postpone mixing for up to twelve hours. Don't forget to give your bowl some time to warm up on the counter before mixing. It's nice to have options, isn't it?

I let my sponge sit on the counter for about three hours before adding more flour and the salt. After mixing to the recommended shaggy mass, I covered the bowl and let it set for about twenty minutes. From there, I turned the mass out onto a lightly floured board, shaped the dough into a rough, rectangular shape, and did stretch and fold overs on the four sides. I covered the newly folded dough with my bowl and waited about twenty minutes before I repeated my stretch and folding. In all, I did three sequences that resulted in what I thought to be adequate strength. You might want to do a fourth. From there, the dough went into my oiled Cambro container for the rest of the fermentation.

I didn't let the dough double in size, choosing to start my shaping after it increased its volume by about 75%. After shaping the dough into a log shape, I put it into a 9" x 5" loaf pan, covered that with plastic wrap, and put it in the fridge. After supper, I retrieved the loaf and let it sit on the counter until the dough crowned about 5/8" above the rim. My slashing was far from perfect but nevertheless, I persisted, misting the top of the loaf with water, and put the pan into my preheated oven at 425F for 24 minutes. After turning the pan around, I lowered the oven to 400F and baked for another 22 minutes. I thought the color of the baked loaf looked good but I had to try something else. I took the loaf pan out of the oven, knocked the loaf out onto a wire rack, did the traditional thump test, which was good, and then put the racked loaf back into the now cooling oven for another five minutes with the door cracked open just a tad. After the five minutes were up, I pulled the now finished loaf out, admired its appearance, and let it cool. 

The crust was, shall we say, toothsome upon first slicing but nothing that would damage my ego or mouth. If you like a good crust, do the five minute drill after the bake finishes. If not, just pull the loaf and cool. The crumb turned out very well, being tender but not so soft as to be difficult to get a good slice and moist.

In all, it has been more work for me to type this with my hunt and peck style than the actual work put into the loaf, such as cleaning up after my own exuberance during the preparation.

The weather here has been treating me well. There has been some smoke in the sky from the West Coast fires but not so much as to be uncomfortable. We haven't had any rain for a while but considering the damage done to the Gulf Coast states by Hurricane Sally, I have a garden hose to water the remaining plants to help me cope. I haven't seen very many feathered friends at the bird feeders outside my window but I'm not surprised. Local farmers are starting to harvest their corn crops so the competition presented by my feeders is lacking. They'll be back.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Friday, September 11, 2020

Making Adjustments to my recipes

For several years, one of the constants in my bread baking was to use Dakota Maid bread flour. I found that in baking a sourdough loaf using the 1 part by weight 100% hydration starter, 2 parts by weight water, 3 parts by weight flour guidelines, I could get a dependable dough that resulted in a flavorful loaf, regardless if I used hard red or hard white whole wheat flour at a 15% quantity. I don't recall ever baking a straight bread flour loaf although it was possible.

I found the DM BF in Omaha at what are now named "Family Fair" supermarkets. Whenever Mrs PG and I went to visit her family, I would pick up 1 or 2 10# bags and haul them back. When the world changed back in March 2020, the supply line stopped because most of Mrs PGs family are in "at risk" groups of one fashion or another and we've stopped visiting Omaha until conditions improve. Fortunately, when the DM flour was gone, King Arthur bread flour was once again available on local supermarket shelves.


The KAF BF required some experimentation to find a recipe that brought consistent results to the dough. Presently, I'm simply using 10 grams less water which works but I think I may have to go to 15 grams less to get what I'm looking for. So, I had been using 110g starter, 220g water, 330 flour initially and the first adjustment was to use 210g of water with 205 g as my next target. It's not a big deal but when baking only one loaf a week, I can't claim to have a "Eureka!" moment after the first effort.

110 g 100% hydration starter

210 g water at 82F

30 g KAF white whole wheat

20 g hard red winter wheat flour

280 g KAF bread flour

8 g kosher salt

I'm also working on some adjustments for my pizza dough after getting a few clues from some good people in Steamboat Springs, CO.  I had been using a base recipe as follows,

300 g KAF AP flour

210 g water at 82F

6 g kosher salt

3/8-1/2 tsp IDY, divided

I did vary from that base by using 30 g of either semolina, whole wheat, white whole wheat, or whole rye flours with similar results for the handling qualities of the dough. There were more than a few pies where I used the "oil spot kneading" procedure I mentioned in an earlier post. 

The clues I carried back from Colorado go something like this,

75% bread flour

25% Typo 00 flour

64% water at 100F

5% sugar

3.6% salt

1.3% active dry yeast

The flour weights don't bother me but everything else is very different from what I'm used to seeing and reading. To me, and I could be wrong, the ingredients look like they're meant for a enriched dough New York City style crust if that makes sense. The 100F water and sugar appear to be intended for a single fermentation dough without an overnight stay in a cooler for a retarded fermentation. While my breads usually have only 2% salt by weight, the 3.6% salt by weight seems to be meant to add some extra flavor to the dough. The 1.3% ADY could be compensation for the salt's potential to slow down fermentation or it could just be that in making dough for a restaurant, measuring a large quantity or just ripping open a bag of yeast or two is adequate if your mixing up fifty and more pounds of dough. Time is money in the restaurant business.

The obvious procedure for me is to not introduce more than one change at a time and take notes. In order to bring these quantities down to what I would need for my usual 300 g of flour, I need to use 15 g of sugar, 11 g of salt, and 4 g of ADY. Changing the water from 210 g down to 195 g is where I'll start and after seeing the resulting dough,  its handling qualities, and end product flavor, I'll move on to adding the sugar which should result in a faster fermentation and a darker edge or cornicione. The salt and ADY quantities seem excessive but I'll wrap my head around those in a few weeks when I see what happens with changing the hydration and adding some sweetness to the dough.

My garden is almost done for the year. The tomato plants are slowing down and looking rather scraggly. The peppers aren't particularly prolific this year but I have enough for me. Mrs PG is no fan of peppers.The cucumber vines have been taken out already. I had too many to begin with and I think that their tangled mess cut back on production. Fortunately, the basil and rosemary are just fine and should be a blessing until the first frost. The average daytime temperatures have dropped enough that I'm out of excuses not to clean up the flower beds and seek out the little tree saplings that are hiding among the remaining flowers and weeds.

One more oddity to discuss here. I had been using a Lamson offset handle bread knife for a while. After a lot of use and sometimes abuse, it lost its edge and began tearing the loaves. I replaced it with a Mercer knife of the same style that I saw on Amazon and have found it useful, especially so since it only set me back $17. One of these days I'll go all out and buy an expensive model but for now, the bread doesn't know the difference and I'm not telling.. 

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Added Stuff, 24 OCT 2020: This week I baked another of my usual 85% BF/ 15% WWW loafs using the KAF BF and didn't make an adjustment in the water. I didn't do it deliberately, it was just a case of oversight on my part. By the time I caught on, it was too late and too much work with too little reward to adjust so I just let it go and hoped for the best possible outcome. By the time I was ready to shape, the dough was reasonably strong enough to shape without drama. The finished loaf did spread out a little bit but I wasn't looking at a pancake. I've done worse.

So what's my analysis? The obvious guess is that the flour and resultant dough handles differently in a lower room temperature situation. The difference in relative humidity could be in action in this situation. These aren't bad things, I just need to try baking the loaf again using the same procedures to see if the results are any different.


Saturday, July 25, 2020

Loafing through Summer

As usual, it's hot and humid here in Kansas in the summer. The one redeeming quality is that my sourdough starter is much more active due to warmer room temperatures, doubling in less than six hours. Bulk fermentation and proofing takes a lot more attention as well. Dry yeast loaves seem to sprint through their respective cycles as well. Maybe I do have a yeast friendly environment in my kitchen this summer. Good times for sure.

This picture is one of my standard house loaves, a 1-2-3 sourdough loaf using 15% WWW flour. During the winter and into early Spring, I had been spiking similar loaves with 1/8-1/4 tsp of IDY to move production along but this one didn't need it at all.

I baked a small boule using some KAF Artisan Flour. The flavor is very good but the pricing, $9.95 for three pounds and $121 for fifty pounds from Amazon, makes it one of those flours that aren't always going to be stocked in depth in my pantry. It handles well, if a bit sticky, at around 72% hydration.                                                                                                                                                                  
Pre ferment/Sponge:
90 g KAF Artisan Flour
194 g water at 80F
1/4 tsp IDY

Add flour and water and stir briefly. Add the yeast to the slurry, let it hydrate or soak for a minute or two and stir again.

180 g KAF AP
6 g salt
1/4 tsp IDY

Spoon remaining flour over the top of the slurry. On one side of the flour, add the salt and add the IDY on the other side. Cover the top of bowl and let it set at room temperature for 4-6 hours depending on room temp. When there are large cracks in the top of the flour, the original yeast has been active long enough to stir all the contents of the bowl into a shaggy mass, not leaving any dry flour. Cover the bowl and let it set for 20-45 minutes at room temperature. Lightly flour the counter and scrape the dough onto the counter. Flatten the dough into a square. The dough will be sticky. Pull each edge towards the center of the dough and fold over. Flip the dough over to the smooth side and cover with the bowl. Repeat the pulling of the dough and folding three to four times at 4-6 minute intervals, dusting the counter with flour as needed and not any more than that. The dough strength will increase with each folding. Place the dough back in the bowl or in an oiled container, cover, and bulk ferment until almost doubled in size.

Turn the dough out onto a floured counter, preshape, and cover. After resting 10 minutes, final shape and place the dough in a banneton or on a couche. Proof the loaf for about 60 minutes, slash the top, mist the slashed loaf with some water, and load onto a baking stone in an oven preheated to 450F. I usually cover my loaves with an aluminum foil roasting pan deep enough to allow for loaf expansion and use parchment paper as well. After closing the oven door, lower the temperature to 425F for 22 minutes. Remove the roasting pan and parchment paper. Turn the loaf 180 degrees and close the oven, baking another 20 minutes at 425F.

After removing the loaf from the oven, test for doneness with a thump on the bottom or a thermometer and then cool on a wire rack for at least two hours. That's the quick and dirty instructions that should get most people to the finish line. They're not original or at least I don't claim that.

If you have ADY, you can always just start your preferment by mixing the artisan flour and water, adding the same quantity of ADY to the slurry, letting it hydrate for up to ten minutes, then mixing in, and covering. When the preferment shows evidence of vigorous bubbling from yeast action, add the second 1/4 tsp of ADY, let it hydrate, add the remaining flour and salt and mix to a shaggy mass. At this shaggy mass point, follow the same steps as the IDY version. Using ADY may take a bit more time but not a significant amount.

Gardening hasn't been really rewarding. A successful garden, IMHO, is one where I can share generous amounts with family and friends I did harvest my garlic, a French strain named Music, another named Carpathian, and then there were my mongrels. The mongrels are from the largest bulbs harvested from year to year to year. I'm fortunate that I've got enough garlic to select for planting for next year, enough to share with family and friends, and more than enough for Mrs PG and I to eat. Cucumbers have been a mixed bag in that the vines are long and have huge leafs but actual production is meh, adequate for the Mrs and I. On the tomato front, my grape tomato plant is as vigorous as in previous years but the beefsteak types are already being victimized by blight and occasional raids by deer. The tomatoes do taste excellent just the same.

There haven't been very many birds at my feeders lately which I suspect is due in part to substituting feed from a Lowe's store instead of the Costco feed. They appear to know what they like.

As always, comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Oil Spot Kneading

It has been a while since I last posted but I haven't stopped baking. I tried my hand at using instant dry yeast more than a few times and also concluded that my starter works best when the house interior temperature is in the 76-80F range. Otherwise, I spike the dough with 1/8 or 1/4 tsp of IDY so I don't end up baking my sourdough loaves at 11 PM to have a loaf for breakfast.

While I tried to work out the recipe and methodology of using 00 flour for flat breads, I got sidetracked into working with a method that I saw in Peter Reinhart's newer book on baking pizza. It was something that I had also seen in some video featuring another baker, Paul Hollywood, so I definitely can't claim to have reinvented the baking wheel so to speak. I also borrowed the idea of a blanket for the sponge from Rose Levy Berenbaum. But it's easy and convenient for days when I need to get some chores done in the morning or go to the gym and work off some those bread calories as a kind of penance. The resultant dough can be used for foccacia, pizza crusts, or even a boule that definitely has some relation to a horiatiko psomi loaf. It's a versatile dough for bakers who aren't chained to classic ingredients or methodology.

Here's what I do for a focaccia or pizza crust. First, I figure out what kind of flour combination I want to use and start a speed sponge/ blanket sponge combination.

210 g warmish water- about 85-90F
30 g white whole wheat flour
70 g AP flour
1/4 tsp IDY

After scaling out my water and placing it in a bowl large enough for mixing, I hydrate the IDY for about 5 or 6 minutes. Hydrating IDY isn't necessary but it doesn't hurt either. Meanwhile I scale my flour which is usually about 1/3 of the total flour weight, always including any flour that could benefit from a soak, such as WWW or a semolina. You can always stir the two flours together to get a more even distribution but in the long run, it won't make a big difference. Add the mixture to the water and stir it up.

200 g AP flour
1/8-1/4 tsp IDY, depending on interior room temperature

Mix the flour and the IDY together and then spoon all over the speed sponge, covering the entire surface with an even coat or blanket if you will.

6 g kosher salt

Scale the salt and then spread evenly over the flour blanket. Cover your bowl and just let it rest while the IDY goes to work on the sponge portion. Some of the IDY in the blanket will become hydrated and start working but it hasn't been a big thing in my experience. You can start this portion of the recipe the night before and place the covered bowl in the fridge after an hour or so on the counter. Take it out before your morning coffee, let it warm up and follow the the rest of the recipe.

The rule of thumb I use is to wait until there are some cracks in the appearance of the flour blanket before I mix. This could be three to five hours depending on the room temperature and if it seems to be too long, you can always go ahead and mix because the yeast won't be sleeping. Once all the flour is mixed in and you have the familiar shaggy mass, you can either cover the bowl for a short while, 20-30 minutes, while you eat lunch and clean up after yourself, or you can begin the process.

Using olive oil or your favorite oil, put about 1/2-1 tsp on a flat surface and smear it around. Transfer the dough to the middle of your smear, get some oil on your fingers, and flatten the dough into a rough rectangle. Use one of your hands to stretch the dough out and then fold back, one side at a time. When you're done, cover the dough with your mixing bowl and wait 3-4 minutes before you repeat the stretching and covering. I find that two or three stretches are usually adequate and then I shape the dough into a ball.The dough goes back into the mixing bowl and as soon as you've covered the bowl, leave it alone until it has doubled. Then one can go about making the flat bread, pizza crust, or even a loaf of bread as suits your desires. The 300g total flour weight will fill a jelly roll pan for a foccacia or Grandma style pizza, make a 12-14 inch pizza crust depending on your skills, or a boule.

Last year wasn't my best year for gardening. We had a wet, cool period from the beginning of April until the middle of May, a two week Spring, and then we went into Summer. While I had enough for Mrs PG and I, I didn't have much to give away. I did get some new garlic seed stock from Filaree Farms and worked on that section of my garden to make sure it had as healthy a start as possible. I'm about to start some dormant grass seeding on my lawn to help cover up the spots that moles have created by their runs.I want to believe that more healthy grass will mean fewer weeds so I'm giving it a try.

Some of our usual visitors to the bird feeders and our yard haven't appeared during this winter. Flocks of starlings have appeared in early December in previous years to clear out the seed pods on the pear tree but not this winter. They would stay around for a few days, eating the pods, dominating the bird feeders, and suet cage then go away, only occasionally returning on snow days. This year the red squirrels have been feasting without interference on the trees. Very few woodpeckers have been around and no flickers whatsoever. The rest of the usual suspects including finches, titmouse, sparrows, and cardinals are here every day for their free lunch.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Pan Loaf with WWW Poolish

This started from some scatterbrained musings while waiting to go back to sleep early one morning. I knew that I should have begun a starter the evening before but didn't and like many others I had to get a plan B loaf going.

I started out by scaling the water for my poolish and adding the IDY, something I've done before. The summertime indoor temperature in Casa de PG is usually about 78F so I knew that wouldn't take long to develop. The WWW was used because I was at the end of the bag and had a recently purchased bag from Hodgson Mill, waiting for use in the fridge downstairs. After only five hours I could see that the poolish had grown, there gas bubbles visible but the top wasn't full of bubbles as I usually see when using AP flour. Nevertheless, I persisted.

So I added the poolish to my big ol' Pyrex mixing bowl, added the rest of the water, let the next bit of IDY hydrate in that, and mixed in the main dough flour combination. After letting the dough rest for twenty minutes, I finally added the salt, mixed the dough by hand to make sure everything was well acquainted, and waited to see if the dough would be off to the races.

Yes indeed, the dough was active. After two hours and a couple of stretch and folds, it was ready for shaping. I shaped the dough, put it in the pan, and promptly put that covered dough in my upstairs fridge for an overnight stay. Some twelve or so hours later when I pulled the pan out of the fridge, it had already crowned to about 3/4 inches above the rim. I let the dough rest on the counter for about an hour, then baked, and left it on a wire rack to cool while I went to the gym in hopes that I could burn some calories before I got into the loaf.

That didn't work out as planned because I had forgotten to account for Mrs PG finding the now finished loaf irresistible. That's why I don't have a complete loaf in the picture. However, the bread does taste good and is a bit on the soft side, probably due to the fact that I added some AP flour for the main dough.All it takes to deal with that is a seriously sharp slicing knife and a good eye to make sure the slices are thick enough. Using the WWW in the poolish once again works because unless someone watches the preparation, they won't notice the slight difference in the color of the crumb. Hydrating the IDY in both stages worked as well because I found that I could use a minimal amount of yeast and need a minimal amount of hands on time as long as I kept one eye on the dough.

55 g white whole wheat flour
55 g water at 95F
1/8 tsp instant dry yeast

Main Dough
200 g bread flour
130 g unbleached all purpose flour
220 g water at 95F
9 g kosher salt
1/2 tsp instant dry yeast

Like many other residents here on the Middle Coast, I'm find myself oftentimes  in a conflict between what I should be doing outside and what can be done. The unusual amount of rainfall has made the usual time frames useless. The Johnson County KS extension agent recently used one of his columns in the KC Star newspaper to remind gardeners to consider adding extra fertilizer for their heavy feeding plants because their initial and subsequent feedings were probably washed away or too diluted to contribute. The rainfall may also lead to problems with blights or fungal diseases as well.

My garden finally kicked the lettuce into production levels almost overnight and I know we won't be able to finish it all before the plantings begin to bolt.  Usually I can brag about ripe tomatoes by the 4th of July celebration but this doesn't look like it will be one of those years. I guess my sweet pepper plant, which has a few fruit worth picking, will have to do. The garlic looks like it has another week until I can start digging it up.

Outside my window here, our bird feeder has a new visitor in the form of a catbird. It's a rather dull looking bird in that its feathers are mostly shades of brown. It doesn't seem to sing at all but it does have a voice that seems to cry out like a distressed or bored cat, hence the name.

During the rest of this summer, I'll occasionally be working a focaccia recipe using KAF "00" flour mixed in with some AP. I tried it out this past week in a batch big enough to divide into two nine inch cake pans and I think what it needs is some chopped rosemary for a topping. I'll just have to discipline or tease the rosemary plant in my garden into cooperation for that.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.                                                                                   

Monday, May 13, 2019

Quick Oats Hybrid Bread

This particular loaf was one of many from an indulgent project that has gone on for the last four months or so. My starter was on the slow side during the winter due to only being used every six or seven days and the average indoors temperature being around 68F. So I had to use two or three steps to build it up for a loaf, leaving some for the next loaf  and the rest of the discard to use in my Saturday night pizzas. Despite that process, experience taught me that I needed to add some instant dry yeast to give it a little help on its way to the oven. Every loaf got between 1/4 and 1/2 tsp of IDY depending on personal whim or time of day I wanted to bake with 1/4 tsp being the most commonly used for my usually relaxed production schedules.


110 g starter at 100% hydration

281 g DM Bread Flour
49 g WM White Whole Wheat Flour
33 g quick oats
253 g water at 80F
8 g kosher salt
1/4 tsp Instant Dry Yeast

I found that this particular loaf was suitable for using either a retarded proofing or just being proofed at room temperature.The quick oats needed an equivalent weight of water added to amount I'd usually use in a 1-2-3 loaf, about 220 g. While the oats were usually not seen at the end of the bake, as if they had disappeared, they did contribute to a more moist crumb in the finished product. The loaves lasted six days or so before being eaten up with little to no diminishing of the quality.

Winter seemed to last well into March so I didn't start my garden and the weeding of my flower beds until early April after Mrs PG and I returned from visiting my parents in Massachusetts. Most of the garlic successfully wintered over. I tried to start some loose leaf lettuce with some seed tape but it just doesn't seem to work for me. I did have either the foresight or worry that it might not so I added some freshly bought lettuce seed that is already fighting for survival from frequent rains and not enough sunny days. I have three tomato plants and three pepper plants in the ground already but the soil may not be warm enough for growth. My oddity plant this year is a lavender, either French or Spanish. Tags at gardening stores aren't always in the right spot. However, since it's an herb it has a home for the next five months or so. I noticed what are locally known as "sweat" bees already hanging around the flowers.

The peony plants have started to bloom. The blooming plants are the old fashioned pink peonies that have a rose scent. I don't expect a surplus of blooms this year but the stems are noticeably longer than in recent years. Some of the plants have stems that reach mid chest on me and I stand an inch over six foot tall. They should be quite a sight this year.

The juncos stayed around through mid March or so and now some of the migratory birds are stopping by the feeders on their way north. I haven't identified most of those strangers but Baltimore Orioles and Carolina Wrens have occasionally stopped by and the usual year round suspects distract my attention to outside my window.

While the media have moved on from covering flooding of the Missouri River and its tributaries, there is still a lot of flooding and damage starting just north of us around St Joseph, MO. Approximately 84 miles of Interstate Highway 29 between St Joe and Omaha, NE has already been washed out or damaged so badly that they have to be completely rebuilt. Estimated completion is anywhere between late June and October.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Chasing a Better Pain de Campagne

Careful monitoring, rather than a more or less casual approach, of the bulk ferment reaching the doubling of volume has proved to be a sound reason to eliminate a fault in my process. That also means that it's time to go back to study shaping methods and proofing. Practice, practice, practice....

The first loaf was a 1-2-3 loaf where 16% of the the total flour was a blend of white whole wheat and rye. The second loaf  has a 20% blend and had five grams of wheat bran in the starter just for fun. The second loaf definitely has the better flavor.

The starter was built in two stages with Wheat Montana Natural White AP, adding the bran in the first stage to soften the rough edges. I wanted to see if it would make any difference in the speed of the growth due to the additional wild yeast spoors. I couldn't tell that the bran improved the growth speed but that won't stop me from trying again and with more bran. My hydration level on this loaf was just a bit higher this time to adjust to the changing seasonal  "thirstiness" of the flour.

                                                                       120 g at 100% hydration

                                                                       Main Dough

                                                                        264 g Dakota Maid Bread Flour
                                                                        44 g WM Prairie Gold White Whole    
                                                                        Wheat Flour
                                                                        22 g Rye Flour
                                                                        220 g water at 85F
                                                                        8 g kosher salt

The local area here on the Middle Coast had its first snowfall on 15 October and there is a rumor of more to come in the forecast for this week. The hackberry and oak trees in the front yard are shedding and I can't keep up. It doesn't help that a maple tree in the neighboring yard is contributing as well. At best, I have an excuse to bring out the electric leaf blower to save myself from raking.

It's almost time for my annual garlic planting ritual. There's enough area in the garden that has been cleaned out but just out of habit I'll clean some more weeds out and get a bale of straw for mulching the garlic planting. I'm not superstitious enough to think that the very woolly caterpillar I saw has any significant meaning but after three winters in a row where there haven't been any significant snow events, I can't see anything wrong with being prepared.

Besides that, I've seen some juncos, AKA snowbirds, around my feeders. They're probably the scouting team of males that precede larger groups.Getting another "squirrel proof" feeder isn't a bad idea either. The usual suspects of the bird world have returned after scavenging in the recently harvested fields in our area.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Summer's End Loaf

It has been a  while since I found something to post about. I've been baking all along, trying different approaches to figure out how to get past loaves that didn't seem to want spring up and others that flattened out. I tried using more bread flour, lower hydration, retarded ferment, spiking with IDY, and lately, a shorter bulk fermentation combined with a closer track of the proofing.

This loaf was an escape from overthinking procedure. It's a lower hydration, half white whole wheat, half all purpose pan loaf. The recipe is based on "Mama's Bread" from the book "Breaking Bread" by Martin Philip. The quantities are for single loaf, derived by simply halving the quantities suggested by Mr Philip. I just changed a bit here and a bit there to allow for what I had on hand and a procedure that would give me time to run a few errands or go to the gym.

258 g Wheat Montana Natural White AP flour
258 g Wheat Montana Prairie Gold White Whole Wheat flour
330 g water at 82F
10.5 g salt
7/8 tsp Instant Dry Yeast, divided
26 g unsalted butter, melted
1 TBS or 15 ml honey

Yield: One 9x5 inch pan loaf

1. Add water to the mixing bowl, add 1/8 tsp IDY to water, rehydrate yeast for three minutes, and stir water briefly. Add WWW flour to the bowl, mix well, and cover the bowl. Let the bowl sit for at least 90 minutes, much more if your room is cool.

2. In another bowl add the AP flour, salt, and remaining yeast, stirring with a spoon or whisk to distribute the salt and yeast. When bubbles form on top of the mixture in the first bowl, add the melted butter and honey, stir briefly, and then add flour mix. Mix your ingredients by hand or with a dough whisk to incorporate all your ingredients. Since this is a low hydration formula, the dough will be on the dry side. Use any extra water sparingly. I suggest using a spray bottle for additional water. Cover the mixing bowl and let it rest for about twenty minutes. Fold the dough in the bowl and cover.

3. Fold the dough again after another 25 and 50 minutes. Let the dough rest until doubled, about an hour. Preshape the dough for use in a 9"x5" pan. Cover and rest for about ten minutes while you prepare your pan and clean up your work space and dishes. Place your dough, seam side down, in the pan and press the dough lightly to fill the bottom of the pan.

4. Cover your pan lightly and let the dough rise until it crowns 1-1 1/2" above the rim of the pan. Toward the end of the proof, preheat your oven to 400F.  Remove the pan cover and place the loaf on a middle level rack in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes, rotate the pan and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, looking for a golden crust, internal temperature around 205F. Cool on a wire rack for at least two hours.

Springtime weather out here was relatively cool, followed by a week or so of warmth, and then we launched into a dry summer. The garden wasn't as productive as usual, a common complaint among other gardeners in the area. We're now in a pleasantly cool and wet spell, too late to save the garden but in time to put some green back in the lawns in the form of crabgrass. As the saying goes among the fans of the KC Royals baseball team, wait until next year.