Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Succumbing to Temptation

Winston Churchill once said, "Don't worry about avoiding temptation. As you grow older it will avoid you." Thus, youth must be maintaining a little bit of its eternity here at Casa de Gumby because I did indeed mow the lawn yesterday. It doesn't show that much because the moles have been successful in their mockery of my attempts to maintain a sense of lawn and order out here on the edge of the prairie. There are multiple bare spots caused by the death of the grass root systems after the subterranean meanderings of the varmints. At least I resisted putting down the fertilizer with the crabgrass preventer. I continue to feel a great deal of empathy with Carl in the movie "Caddy Shack". Even though I can't eradicate them, I can annoy them with bigger and bigger firecrackers dropped into their runs.
If you ever have too much time on your hands, go to YouTube and look up a clip on the "Rodentanator". Now that's a real piece of work.
Visitors of note at the bird feeder over the past few days are some wrens, sparrows, and a downy woodpecker.
Today's loaf, I'm current here for once, is nice little whole wheat number. I was trying to use up the WW flour that I found at the Middlebury, VT Co-op so I could put another flour in the container. My attempt and the loaf worked out. I used the WW in the starter build rather than using a combination of the flours I planned to use in the proper ratios. No that that was necessary but it's a habit I usually follow. The starter build seemed a little bit slow at first but I do have a hard working yeast colony in the "Madre" or "Master" starter so I charged ahead. As has become a standard practice of late, I soaked the WW for the loaf simultaneously with the starter build. For this loaf, I used a floured- rye and all purpose blend- towel to line my oblong banneton. It has a good crust, good, and good taste. I can repeat this formula successfully now.
I think that I'm going to indulge in some flatbreads for a week or two. They don't require bread flour, only all purpose, and I can slip some white whole wheat or whole wheat in and stay within style parameters. I can use up some more of my Active Dry Yeast or continue with a sourdough starter.
There may be pita bread in my near future.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Baking Last Week

It's time to catch up with the oven from last week. I lost the photo uploads from my first effort so I just deleted the whole ball of wax.
That's last Monday's loaf. I used the "Magic Bowl" trick on this one and it didn't quite work out. You use a large enough stainless steel bowl or even one of the parts of a turkey roasting pan and cover the freshly loaded loaf at the beginning of the bake. I made the mistake of not lowering the bowl straight down and when I let the opposite end down. the rim caught the edge of the dough. Just a minor mistake in judging size. However, the loaf did recover from the insult after I corrected my error. The baking temp started at 450F instead of my usual 475F. That lead to a thinner than usual crust which was too soft for Casa de Gumby.

The next loaf was from Friday. It's a 1-2-3 loaf that where I used a small amount, 7%, of spelt flour. The spelt is hard to taste over the whole wheat I used.  Spelt presents some small problems in that it doesn't need as much handling as a wheat flour. It also appears to ferment faster. Spelt is harder to find unless you're shopping at a well stocked natural foods store such as Whole Foods. The cost is also higher.
I still have enough of the spelt flour left that I can make an 800g loaf with spelt as 25% of the flour. I tried something like that last November but never recorded the formula.

We seem to be witnessing the last of the winter season that's reluctant to take its leave. I've seen some brief snow flurries the last two days when normally, the average high temperature is in the low 50s. The usual suspects from the avian world are feeding heavy. I'm fighting the urge to go out and mow the lawn. I know the mower starts, I fired it up just to see what happens. My neighbors didn't react and come out to mow their lawns but it's only a matter of time. If I could only get them to treat their lawns for dandelions.

That's Friday night's pizza. You really can make a whole wheat crust. I'm not sure that I want to go 100% whole wheat but I think it can be done if I use a large pre-soak and large starter combination as Peter Reinhart's "Whole Wheat Breads" describes as the epoxy method. That's a future endeavor for when I'm the only judge for the experiment around the house.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Catching Air

More signs of spring are arriving this weekend. We had a thunderstorm  Saturday that gave a little boost to the garlic "plantation" in the garden. There are about 80-90 sprouts of green that may eventually mature into edible bulbs by early to mid July. Neither deer nor moles seem to be interested in the stuff. The peonies are poking through in greater numbers and with some consistent warmth, they'll shoot up and start blooming in the second week of May. Our daffodils are about to run riot and hopefully, I'll figure out a foolproof method to mark their sites to dig some up this fall for replanting. I better come up with that idea fast because the first two bloomed today. The crocuses are madly blooming and burning out in glory after a few days. Tulips are slow this year but that may be because they need replanting also. Another sure sign is the goldfinches are molting and returning in bright yellow plumage. The number of trash bags by the road full of yard waste tells our neighbors that we're wreaking havoc in the flower beds. If they don't get their act together, we'll find even more tacky yard art to make their eyes hurt even worse. I found some solar powered yard lights with gnomes sitting on top of mushrooms at CostCo. Delightfully trashy and evidence of a bad attitude towards neighbors who maintain "dandelion ranches" every spring.
We love breads with nice big holes in them. Those nooks and crannies hold lots of butter or mustard. It's a sign of a high hydration loaf. This one was somewhere around 72%. My interest in using an old favorite flour, a white whole wheat from Norm's Flour, distracted me from pre-soaking but it still worked out well I think.
That bread was done Friday so there is another. In fact, I baked it tonight and it just cooled off. Nothing too fancy, another house loaf where I used the 1-2-3 ratio for a sourdough loaf.
Just for the fun of it, I've decided to tweak my starter again. I'm simply building up a small quantity and then using the same measurements to get my seed stock level. The factor that will tweak it the most should be the room temperature which is around 74-76F. Hopefully, I'll find that the lactobacillus bacteria have increased in number and brought about a little more sour power. Refreshing the build at 10 hour intervals should help build up a healthy colony of wild yeast spores. I liked where my starter was over the winter but even when I played with different flours, I thought that I would break down and tweak again. When summer really hits us and the room temps are around 80-82F, I may do it again as long as I can find a purpose for my discarded starter. I may try it out to repel the moles digging under the yard if I get too desperate.

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Monday, March 14, 2011

Don't try this at home

This is what happened when I read too many bits and pieces of bread books and decided to see what would happen. It was just a quick experiment in dough.
I decided that I would follow through on an idea from an earlier posting. I first made up a large pate fermentee for an overnight build

250g  AP flour
166g  water, 85F
1g      active dry yeast
1 g     kosher salt
After mixing it up, I moved downstairs into the basement where it ferment slowly at 62F in the assumption that a slow ferment would build up a better flavor. The next day, Thursday, I brought it upstairs along with some old starter to be thrown into the mix. I didn't want to be too intense, the Jayhawks were playing their first game in the Big 12 hoops tournament.
I moved along to building, or mixing, my final dough.

250g   AP flour
166     water 85F
60g     old starter 80% hydration
3g       active dry yeast
8g       kosher salt
10g     olive oil
rough sea salt for dusting the the outside of the loaf, optional

Using a pate fermentee wasn't an optimal choice. A poolish at 100% hydration would've been easier to mix in and a 60% biga probably would've been easier to cut into pieces to throw into the mixing bowl. As it happened, I just took the easiest route and dumped the pate into the bowl with the most of the other ingredients to beat up before the 20 minute autolyse. At the end of the 20 minutes, I added the salt and oil, mixed at low speed for 3 minutes, turned the dough over in the bowl, and then went to second speed for 3 more minutes. Then I turned the dough out on my floured work sheet, dividing the dough in half. Half would be my loaf to go with the evenings pasta- I was making a huge batch of all purpose red sauce- and the other half for Friday night pizza. The pizza dough was put into an oiled bowl and covered with plastic wrap before being placed in the refrigerator. The bread dough got a quick knead before going into another oiled bowl and covered.
I used the basement for a slow bulk fermentation to give me time for my red sauce. After a couple hours, I brought it upstairs for a stretch and fold. I waited another 45 minutes and did another S&F, then put it back in the bowl for about 30 minutes before I started the shaping.
The shaping is odd to say the least. I had seen a picture in C Hitz's book where he used extra dough to make an almost flat bread that was quartered for use as rolls. It looked good to me so I flattened out the dough to about 3/4", put it in a pie pan, and used my dough cutter to make the impressions. While I was pre-heating the oven to 460F, I let the dough proof while covered. The oven hit its mark after 20 minutes or so and I loaded the pan with a planned 13 minutes at 460F, turn the pan, and finish at 425F for another 13 minutes. I had an internal temp of 206F at the end so I pulled the pan and placed the misshapen loaf on a wire rack to cool.

That's what it looked like after slicing. You might be able to see the large hole that was located in the center of the loaf, not so much a baker's house but a baker's cave. We served this with some olive oil (yes, EVOO) and balsamic vinegar and some fresh cracked black pepper. Despite the appearance flaws, there wasn't anything wrong with the flavor in the least. the dough that was put aside for Friday's pizza didn't present any of the problems I thought might occur. It worked out well and there were no complaints, digestive or otherwise.
The next time I try using a large preferment, I'll go with a poolish to see if it is easier to mix in. Using some old starter in the ingredients wasn't a bad idea though I have no evidence that it added anything substantial to the bread. Both Hamelman's "Bread" and Hitz's "Baking Artisan Bread" have formulas for loaves with large preferments and neither author has had his reputation lessened by their inclusion in their books.
I should have listened to Mrs PG. Our first bloom of the year, a yellow crocus, appeared last Friday and I really should have taken a brag shot to post here. Saturday brought in the cooler weather and some snow slipped in last night so the bloom hasn't opened up again. Bummer. My garlic patch now has about 30 stems poking up but I returned them to hiding under the straw mulch for now. We can't depend on the weather and temperatures at this time of year. At least there are no threats of tornadoes or earthquakes so far. There's a new, larger feeder in the yard and the finches have adapted to it with no problem. In fact, they're quite territorial about it, chasing away any cardinals or juncos that demonstrate curiosity or hunger.
The queue for baking later this week includes a repeat my successful 100% soaker loaf so I can conclude or finalize that series in my head. I meant to do that last week but slipped in my procedure. I didn't write down what I was doing and ended up with too much water in the dough. I did add more flour but still ended up with a 75% or so hydration, about the same as you'd use for focaccia. My shaping wasn't up to the task so I ended up with a large, not quite flat loaf that still tastes pretty good.

That's more than 2 lbs of bread there. If brevity is the soul of wit, I'll leave you laughing here until the next post.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Fourth Out of Four

Posted by Picasa Here's the most recent loaf out of the oven. I used the 1-2-3 method to end up with a 71% hydration dough but also added a twist in that I soaked my WW and rye flours at 100% hydration while waiting for my starter to peak out. The soaker technique I used is successful in the crumb, flavor, and oven spring aspects of this bake. The crumb shot doesn't even come close to showing off the openness that extends through the whole loaf. It's an easy technique and I plan on using it for a while until I find a better one.
Here's a short ingredient list of my formula:

75g   whole wheat flour
25g   medium rye flour
100g cool water

30g   starter
60g   water, 85F
45g   AP flour
11g   WW flour
4g rye flour

300g  bread flour
167g  water, 85F
15g    unsalted butter (1 TBL)
10g    honey (1/2 TBL)
9g      kosher salt

The starter took about 10 hours to peak, tripling in size. I followed the assembly steps I've posted for previous loaves. I did do an overnight retarded proofing in the fridge for about 13-14 hours. The oven was preheated to 475F. I used my steaming bread pan with grill rocks and placed a wet towel on the hot rocks after loading the slashed loaf. I lowered the temp to 450F for the first 15 minutes of baking. At the 15 minute mark I pulled the steam pan, removed the parchment paper under the loaf, and turned the loaf around. For the next 17 minutes, I baked at 425F, then checked the internal temperature which was 206F, and shut down the oven. I left the oven door cracked open for a few minutes and then placed the loaf on a wire rack to cool. The whole loaf picture was taken a few minutes later as the loaf began to sing its crackling noise song.
My camera and camera technique don't show just how really good this loaf looked. I haven't captured the oven spring well at all.
My next baking project is to build up a dough to be split into a small loaf to go with some pasta tomorrow night and a pizza crust for Friday. I have some old starter (3 weeks now) that probably has lost vitality but not flavor. I plan on using some dry yeast to provide the "lift" for the loaf. The pizza dough will sit in the fridge for at least 24 hours so I may be finding some gluten deterioration by Friday night. I've not done this before with  an essentially yeasted dough but I may be seeing it all wrong and overcomplicating the effort in my mind.
Some Chipping Sparrows and their cousins, the American Tree Sparrows, are hanging out at the feeders this week. I've also identified some Pine Siskins, a few House Finches, and Purple Finches. They may have been out here all along but I didn't work that hard to figure out the differences between them and the usual finches that are year round inhabitants. There are also a large number of Cardinals every day. All the birds seem to be feeding heavily as the feeders empty quickly. The woodpeckers haven't been viewed lately but that doesn't mean they've disappeared. They seem to have a schedule all their own for feeding.
The weather has been less than cooperative this week so I haven't done more than just clean up work in the yard. The soil is saturated so digging anywhere would do more harm than good. Mrs PG and I are ready to add the tacky yard ornaments that we found at the Wichita Garden Show soon. They don't hinder the moles but they do make our neighbors scratch heads and roll their eyes.

Monday, March 07, 2011

A Promised Formula

This is the formula for my Green Light Deli Rye.I call it that because Mrs PG has given me the green light to bake this as often as I'd like. This was developed for Super Bowl Sunday this year.

I began with a two stage build of a rye starter. The goal was to bake a smaller loaf than usual and do a retarded proof without a brotform.

20g white flour starter
40g water at 85F
40g medium rye flour
Add the starter to the water and whisk. Add rye flour and mix until a thick batter, about 70-100 strokes. Cover and let sit at room temp for about 8 hours or until doubled. Degas the first stage and add
40g water at 80F
40g medium rye flour
Stir well, cover and let sit until doubled. Because of the late hour, I took the container downstairs and let it sit in a 62F room temp for about 8-9 hours. As an alternative, I could have added a pinch of salt, 1/32-1/16tsp of salt, to slow down the starter but the cool basement made more sense and didn't require guesswork.

Main Dough

300g bread flour
15g coarse whole wheat
180g water at 85F
8g salt
1 TBL caraway seeds
1/2 TBL honey
1 TBL butter
1-2 TBL corn meal for dusting parchment paper
After whisking my starter into the water, I added about 50g of the flour to the mixer bowl and used the dough hook to stir it for about 15 seconds. That's not a needed step but I like to think it disperses the starter mix better. Next, I added the rest of the flour, mixed to a shaggy mass and let the dough autolyse for about 30 minutes. The salt was added along with the honey and warmed butter,then mixed at low speed for 3 minutes to incorporate. Two minutes at second speed, turned the dough, added the caraway seeds and mixed at low to incorporate.
I turned out the dough and shaped into a ball, put it in an oiled bowl and covered for a 2.5 hour bulk fermentation with stretch and folds at 50 and 100 minutes. At 150 minutes, I turned out the dough and pre-shaped into a ball, leaving it covered for 10 minutes to relax the dough. I shaped into a batard, put the loaf on dusted parchment paper on a small cutting board, supported the edges of the paper with a rolled towel, placed it all in a large plastic bag, and placed it in the downstairs fridge with the opening tucked under to prevent drying out. Strictly amateur in method but it worked out well considering the proofing lasted about 20 hours.
Sunday rolled around and I took the loaf upstairs and let it warm up for about an hour. I'm not sure that did a lot but I felt better because I had time for my first cup of coffee. After an hour I preheated the oven to 475F with the baking stone in the middle. I slashed the loaf when the sensor beeped and loaded the loaf and gave a quick spritz of water to the oven. After another minute, I spritzed again. At the 15 minute mark, I pulled the parchment paper, turned the loaf around, and turned the oven down to 450F. At 30 minutes, I checked the internal temp of the loaf, found it was around 205F so I shut off the heat and propped the door open with an oven pad for 5 minutes.
I took the loaf out and let it cool on a rack. We heard the rice krispies noise of a cooling loaf for almost an hour. Some folks suggest that a loaf of rye shouldn't be cut for a day to let the flavors develop. I didn't wait more than 8 hours but was rewarded with a really tasty loaf that went well with spicy mustard and some superb kielbasa from Stoysich's in Omaha. It's a keeper.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

A Lucky Guess

Some days, the unintended gives you what you wanted in the first place. It all started harmlessly enough when I wanted to bake another riff on my usual house loaf. I built my starter on Sunday morning.

30g  75% white starter
53g  water
56g  AP flour
19g  whole wheat flour

About 2 PM, I came up with the idea that I would soak my WW and multi grain flours at the hydration level I would aim at in the final dough, 70%.

100g  WW flour, from Gleeson Farm, VT
25g    multi grain flour
88g    water

The soaker didn't look very wet and the color, a dusty dirt color, was hardly inspiring. I just let it sit there hoping that enzymes and time would do some unseen magic if I just ignored my misgivings. After supper, I started my mis en place.

300g  bread flour
209g  water at 90F
15g    unsalted butter
9g      kosher salt
4g      dried malt extract

I mixed the DME and flour together. From there, I added most of my water into the starter bowl and whisked to loosen the slurry. That went into my mixer bowl and I used the rest of the water to clear out the remaining starter slurry into the bowl. Then I added about 40-50g of the flour, a large spoonful, into the bowl. Using the dough hook, I stirred up the bowl for about 45 seconds. Maybe I'm wrong, but I do this with the intent that the yeast will be better distributed. It's never done any harm and since I don't add another piece to be cleaned, I keep doing this. The Breadcetera blog suggests doing this with the whisk attachment and that works as well but it's another piece to be cleaned.
At this point, I added the rest of my flour, cut up the soaker into chunks to go into the bowl, and stirred with the dough hook for about 35-40 seconds to get a shaggy mass. After scraping the hook, I covered the bowl and let it start the autolyse period which lasted 25 minutes. I then added the salt and cut the butter in, folded the dough over, and began 3 minutes at low speed to combine the ingredients. A quick turnover of the dough and I went to the second speed for three more minutes. At the end of the mixing, the soaker was well mixed into the the dough.The dough was turned out on to a lightly floured surface for a quick knead and shaped into a ball. I placed the dough into an oiled bowl for a 2.5 hour fermentation and covered my bowl.
I did two stretch and folds at 50 and 100 minutes then turned out the dough for a rough shaping into a ball. I simply covered my dough with the bowl for 10 minutes to let the dough relax. I then shaped my dough into a batard like shape for my oval banneton. I covered the banneton with some plastic wrap that had been sprayed with Pam and placed the banneton in a plastic bag that was folded over for a long night's retarded proofing in the refrigerator.
In the morning, I took the loaf out of the fridge to let it warm up a little, just enough to calm my apprehensions about putting a cold loaf in a 475F oven. After the oven warmed up to 475F, I placed the loaf on some parchment paper for loading the loaf onto my baking/pizza stone and slashed the loaf. I used an inverted cookie sheet for a peel. I'm not sure about that pattern but I'm not competing so no harm done.
I loaded the loaf, misted the oven, and after closing the oven, lowered the temp to 450F for the first 15 minutes. I misted the oven a couple of times during the first 5 minutes of the bake. At 15 minutes, I pulled out the parchment paper and turned the loaf around. I turned the oven down to 425F for 17 more minutes. At the end of that time, the internal temp was 205F so I shut off the heat and left the oven door cracked open for 5 minutes. I then took the loaf out to cool on a wire rack. It crackled as it cooled in that funny rice krispies voice.

I'm not sure that the open quality of the crumb is visible. I either need a new camera with better resolution capacity or learn how to better use what I already have in my camera bag. However, the crumb is open and there is gelatinization evident. It tastes pretty good too. If there's one thing I would change right off the bat, I'd use more water in the soaker, perhaps a hydration of 100% instead of 70%. I can't quibble with the outcome. More to be added after I return from Wichita.