Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Countdown Begins for the County Fair

The Leavenworth County Fair begins on 9 August and any loaves I enter in competition will have to be there before 9AM. The entry fee is a meager $0.25. The categories open to me for bread entries are: white bread, whole wheat bread, rye bread, multi-grain bread, raisin bread, sourdough bread, and French bread. I haven't done any serious work on raisin or white breads so those categories are eliminated. Here in LV County, French bread is thought of as the middle of the road and very bland long loaf, white crumb, garlic bread type of loaf. I did win second prize in French bread last year with a pain de Campagne or farmhouse loaf but the thought that there may have been only two entries has crossed my mind more than once.

The pictures for today are what I consider the "house bread". In the past, I called it a "Yankee Farmhouse Loaf" for a bakesale for the Cushing Hospital Volunteers Group. Since I use a sourdough starter, I could enter this as a "Yankee Farmhouse Sourdough". There are no published judging guidelines as far as I know, so technically, this fits in the sourdough class. However, the local 4-H judges, all good Kansas people, may be looking for something closer to the San Francisco style sourdough loaf. One of those earned me a first prize last year. First prize money is a grand $1.50 and second is a not so princely $1.25 which should tell you that I'm not in the competition for money, just the fun of the competition. That doesn't mean I'm not going to try to win.

While I'm still undecided about my entry in the sourdough class, I'm definitely in favor of the flavor of this loaf. Let me give you a brief rundown on the formula.

30 g seed starter
56 g water
20 g rye flour
60 g KAF AP

115 g white whole wheat
79 g water

50 g rye flour
235 g Dakota Maid bread flour
all of soaker
all of starter
185 g water at 85F
9 g kosher salt
15 ml or 1 Tbs sunflower oil
15 ml or 1 Tbs maple syrup

The starter had a long 10 hour build at a warm 82F room temperature. That was cutting it real close. The retarded fermentation lasted about 16 hours and by that time, it was above the rim of the banneton. I took it out of the fridge when I started the preheat for the oven. Baking was at 450F for 10 minutes, 5 minutes at 425F and turn the loaf around, another 5 minutes at 425F, and finished with 17 minutes at 400F. Crumb, crust, and flavor are all excellent.

The other loaves that I'm STILL considering are my Greenlight Rye, Molasses Wheat, and a white sourdough style loaf from the Jewish community in pre-WW2 Thessalonika, Greece named Horiadaki. Even those are subject to change. I'm glad that I'm not a professional bread baker because my indecisiveness would cost money.

The heat wave goes on outside without relief until Wednesday and I'm not betting the ranch on that. I haven't mowed in a couple weeks and it hardly shows. The garden is limping along but there are still enough tomatoes and peppers to keep me supplied, cucumbers not so much. It's just about time to start making and freezing pesto. Basil pesto is outstanding in either a pasta dish or a pizza. We're doing a roasted chicken in apple sauce for tomorrow night's dinner and the left over chicken will be chunked for use in those pesto meals.

The river remains high, much of the flooded areas remain under water, and the damages done will only be seen once the water recedes. The Gavin Point Dam is scheduled to lower its release rate but only by 10%. Normal release rate may only come when its time to prepare for the migratory birds in November.

We're still getting birds at the feeders. On days when the temperature exceeds 95F, they aren't around at all, I don't even hear them until after 6-7PM. I suspect they go into the deeper wooded areas just to the west of our house. We're seeing more strangely feathered female cardinals as well as male cardinals, a few chickadees, doves, house finches, an occasional chippy or two, and a female downy woodpecker. Those are just the birds we see while sitting at this desk and looking out the window. We put out the food and their antics remind us there 's a world beyond the borders of our monitor.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

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Sunday, July 24, 2011

More work on the Pioneer Bread

When I finally got to working on my most recent loaf, I dismissed the ideas I had the previous night and tried to stick with my latest recipe for Sourdough Pioneer Bread. There was deviation once again when I substituted two Tbs of butter for the sunflower oil in the recipe. Expecting the water in the unsalted butter to affect the hydration, I added another 10 g of bread flour. It turns out that at the loaf size I worked with, the adjustments needn't have been made.

The aroma from the baking loaf was really attention grabbing. It must have been the butter. I think the exterior crust color was fine. I did try baking at a lower-375F temp after the initial 10 minutes.

The interior crumb isn't bad but not particularly open. I shouldn't be too surprised about that given the types of flour that are included. It's still in good flavor after a few days so I can live with that and keep the formula in the recipe book. After all, what's only 17kB on a modern hard drive anyways. It may still be an entry for the County Fair if I can get a copy of the judging guidelines. Last year, I just showed up with two loaves and entered them on time. I'm hoping for better preparation this time around. The entry submission date is 9
August 2011.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The garlic is in

The garlic crop of 2011 is finally in. It took only 2 weeks to dry this year, probably due the miserably hot weather that is presently being inflicted on us. My sweet peppers, Giant Marconi strain, are at last ready to be picked, chopped, and frozen for future use with a pizza or sauteed with some onions and garlic for sausages on some dreary winter day. The garden needs watering every other day because there's only the proverbial snowball's chance in Hell of rain in the near future.

I'm thinking about building a starter tonight for tomorrow's loaf. It's kind of a PITA to bake in this weather because the room temperature is already 80F with the AC on. I've considered a different baking procedure for this weather. The idea is to start at my usual 450F for the first 10 minutes but to lower the temperature to 375F for about 25-30 minutes and check the internal temp with my thermometer. There's no guarantee that this method won't overheat the house. There's also a good probability that a thicker crust will result. Since I still have my teeth, that shouldn't be too much of a problem.

What to bake, what to bake? I think I'm going back to revisit my Sourdough Pioneer Bread. The starter it is then; 85% KAF AP and 15% rye, my RPG V.3.0 standby at 80% hydration for breads of all seasons and no particular reason.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Sourdough Molasses Wheat

Yesterday, I baked a sourdough version of my Molasses Wheat bread. The poolish was replaced by a whole wheat starter at 100% hydration and I had to change the the length of the bulk fermentation. Because I needed a loaf for house use, I didn't do a retarded proof. the loaf simply proofed at room temperature, 80F, for about 1.5 hours before baking.
The crumb remains tender but I'm not getting the flavor I expect from a sourdough loaf. That's nit picking, for certain, but the overnight proof at a cool temperature seems to be an important part in deriving more flavor without extra work or exotic ingredients. The ingredients appear to be sound in choice but the procedure for a sourdough loaf deserves some tweaking.
With two weeks to go before the County Fair, the decisions need to be finalized.
Outside, we're experiencing a nasty heat spell with ongoing misery of heat indexes over 100F daily and humidity that stifles breathing. My tomatoes have ripened and they are a great distraction from the heat. They're a culinary reward for the work involved and the weather tolerated.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Molasses Wheat Bread

Admittedly, the name doesn't quite roll off the tongue and invoke pleasant childhood memories as say, honey wheat bread. But every cookbook seems to have a honey wheat bread in it so I decided to swim against the mainstream while I worked on this bread. I took a little bit from Mr Hamelman's "Bread" and a lot from recipes on TFL.

This is the third recipe I've worked on using my abundant supply of active dry yeast. Ironically, I also set out to see how little yeast I could use on a loaf and get away with it. This loaf needed all of 3/8 tsp, that's teaspoon, for a complete rise and proof.

The bread tastes great. It has a nice soft crumb and speaking from experience, it's a great sandwich loaf. The recipe is added below and fairly complete, competition ready for the County Fair.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Molasses Wheat Bread

85 g whole wheat flour
85 g water at 85F
1/8 tsp active dry yeast

125 g whole wheat flour
125 g water
< 1/16 tsp, a small pinch, kosher salt

250 g bread flour
95 g water at 85F
15 g, 1 Tbs, unsalted butter, rubbed into the bread flour
15 ml, 1 Tbs, unsulphured medium molasses
8 g kosher salt
1/4 tsp active dry yeast
170 g poolish
250 g soaker

  1. Sprinkle ADY over top of water for poolish and let hydrate until bloom. If you are using IDY, add the yeast to the flour and mix in the water without hydrating the yeast. Add WW flour and stir well. Cover and sit at room temperature for 6-10 hours until doubled in size and bubbles are forming on the surface.
  2. Assemble soaker in a small bowl by dissolving salt in water and mixing in flour thoroughly. Cover and let sit at room temperature while poolish develops.
  3. When your poolish is ready, add the molasses to the water in a separate bowl and dissolve thoroughly. The water may need to be warmed up in a microwave to assist in this. When the water/molasses liquid is at or below 95F, sprinkle the ADY over the top of the liquid and let the yeast hydrate for at least 10 minutes. This step is intentional.
  4. Cut the soaker into small chunks and add to your mixer bowl. Add the poolish to the mixer bowl. Add the molasses/water/yeast slurry to the bowl. Briefly mix the ingredients with a spatula or dough hook. Add the bread flour to the bowl and mix to a shaggy mass, about 45-60 seconds. Cover and let autolyse 20-30 minutes.
  5. Add salt and mix at first speed for 3 minutes. Adjust water or flour 1 Tbs at a time if needed. Mix at second speed for 4 minutes. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 30 seconds. Shape into a ball, place in an oiled bowl, and cover.
  6. Bulk ferment for 2 hours. Stretch and fold at 40 and 80 minutes. At 120 minutes, turn out onto lightly floured surface and preshape into a ball. Cover and let the gluten relax for 10 minutes.
  7. Shape into a boule or batard and place into a floured banneton or on a couche. Cover and proof at room temperature for 60-90 minutes depending on air temperature. A covered, retarded proof can be done in a refrigerator.
  8. Preheat your oven, with a baking stone on the middle shelf, to 450F. When the loaf is proofed, place on a corn meal dusted peel or on parchment paper. Spray the top of the loaf with water and slash.
  9. Load the loaf into the oven and bake at 450F for 10 minutes. Lower the temperature to 425F for the next 5 minutes. Remove the parchment paper if you're using it and turn the loaf around. Continue baking at 425F for 5 minutes. Lower the temperature to 400F and bake for at least 15 minutes or the internal temperature reaches 202F.
  10. Remove the loaf and place on a wire rack to cool for at least 3 hours.


These chiles are examples of what's hot in the garden. The ones on the left are chile de arbol. They're rated at 25,000 scoville units, or simply, really, really hot. I wouldn't advise eating one out of hand unless you're very familiar with the idea of being a glutton for self inflicted punishment. They aren't used as a flavoring chile. Their addition to a salsa or dish is heat, lots of it, like wetting the tip of your index finger and sticking it very deep into an electrical outlet.

Those aren't the garden variety of jalapenos on the right. It's the Goliath Jalapeno strain and they run about 6500-7500 scoville units. They have a bright green flavor that immediately penetrates to the sinus cavities. Excellent stuff for folks who have stuffy noses from allergies.

Both of the chiles freeze well in a zip lock bag. The chile de arbol are out producing the jalapenos by a long stretch. Once I have about 150-200 of them in the freezer, I'll probably uproot the plant because most people don't care for that kind of heat. There's room enough for around 100, maybe 150, jalapenos in the freezer.

Here's my recipe for the pico de gallo that I made Wednesday with both chiles and some garlic that i just harvested. It fixes my sinuses in rapid order.

2 chile de arbol
2 jalapeno
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp Mexican oregano
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4-1/3 C chopped onions
1 14.5 can fire roasted and diced tomatoes
About 1 lb. of fresh diced tomatoes, San Marzano are particularly good for this, or other canned, diced tomatoes will also work.

Destem and rough chop two chile de arbol and one jalapeno, place in blender or food processor. Place the garlic in the blender.

Destem and fine chop the second jalapeno and place it in a bowl. Add onions, kosher salt, and Mexican oregano in the bowl.

Open the can of diced tomatoes and drain as much of the juice as possible into the blender. Add about two Tbs of of the tomatoes to the blender, cover well, and pulse briefly. When you remove the blender cover, you will smell a potent chile aroma that is almost painful. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Add about half the remaining diced tomatoes to the blender and pulse again. Repeat with the remaining diced tomatoes. Overuse of the blender will result in a mushy, almost liquid mess. Pulse just enough to break the tomatoes down but not to pulverize them. Pour into bowl with onions. Stir well and refrigerate for at least one hour. This is great with chips, tacos, burritos, and in a slow cooker with a roast for pulled beef.

When I'm fortunate enough to have fresh tomatoes, in a couple days or so, I dice them and fine chop all my chiles. Everything goes into the bowl and gets stirred up, covered up, and chilled for at least one hour.

Have some understanding for people who don't like seasoned foods by bringing along a jar of mild Pace picante sauce to the party.

Tape a piece of paper to the bowl that says hot or shows some chile peppers or flames.

BTW, a box of tissues would be appropriate as well.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.
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Monday, July 11, 2011

Sourdough Pioneer Bread

Adapting my earlier yeast risen formula to a sourdough formula was much easier than expected. After working out the math involved to confirm that my quantities were reasonably accurate, I launched into what I thought would be my final step in developing a reliable formula as a keeper. Well, as good as this attempt turned out, a big thumbs up from Mrs PG, I'm not quite satisfied.

Instead of using a yeast preferment, I replaced that with a sourdough starter of the same weight and hydration. With an air conditioned indoor temp of 80F, the starter build hit the mark in only 6 hours.
As per usual, I didn't keep my ingredients very consistent. I switched back to using Dakota Maid bread flour and Arnold's white whole wheat. The next time I work with this formula, I'll use unsalted butter rather than sunflower oil. I like sunflower oil in other breads because it has no strong flavor and has a high smoke point so the smoke detector doesn't get twitchy. Butter will smoke at a lower temperature and throw off the hydration by a small degree. I'm also considering using only 1 Tbs of butter rather than 2 Tbs. The original formula from the KS Wheat Commission uses 2 Tbs of brown sugar in the recipe. Once again I used maple syrup because I have some. When the syrup is gone, I'll get a zipper bag of brown sugar. Lately, the humidity here is high and I'm sure it would not be friendly to brown sugar.

Despite my complaints, the bread tastes great. The sourdough starter adds more mouth feel to this bread. That's not to say it's dense or gritty but more of the satisfaction derived from eating a good bread. The use of three types of flour and corn meal create a nice palette of flavor that goes well with sandwiches. This may end up as one of my submissions in the Leavenworth County Fair next month. I have the formula on an Open Office .odf document that can be emailed to anyone who needs or wants a copy. Just email me or leave a request through a comment or my account at the The Fresh Loaf.

There's an unidentified bird that has been dropping by the feeder lately. I haven't found it pictured in the Birds of Kansas identification guide and since I'm not an enthusiastic birder, I'm not surprised I've not seen one before. The bird is about the size of the local woodpeckers. It has a white chest, gray body, black wings and tail, a black head, and a black beak as long as any woodpecker I've seen around here. The library seems to be a logical place to go to find more pictures to ID this bird.

The weather outside is typically Kansas brutal hot. At 10 PM, the outdoor temp was still 90F. The high was about 98F at the airport-MCI, but that is more than 15 miles away. The lawns are starting to show cracks, the garden needs watering, and only the weeds are thriving. Just above the state lines in Nebraska and Iowa, there are regular rainfalls that prolong the flooding of the Missouri River. We checked out the river on Saturday and it's really high. The only thing saving the area from more damage has been the breaching of private levees. The levees built by the Army Corp of Engineers have been for the most part sturdy. The levee protecting Ft Leavenworth's air field was breached and won't be repaired for quite a while.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.
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Friday, July 08, 2011

Fun with Spelt

When the Anadama loaf was coming to an end, I decided to dig up some spelt flour that was sitting in the downstairs fridge. My intent was just to use some of it in a simple lean sourdough loaf.

There was nothing fancy about this loaf unless you count soaking the whole wheat flour as an esoteric measure. The starter was built up using the same flour percentages as the dough- 70% BF, 20% Golden Buffalo WW, 10% spelt. I added 6g of light dry malt extract to the dough flour instead using maple syrup or honey. From there, I went through the usual procedures for a 1-2-3 loaf.

The crust could've been darker but at the point I pulled the loaf, the internal temp was already 203F. I waited 3 hours before slicing the loaf and I should've waited another hour. However, it was lunch time. The crust had softened a little but I accept the trade off between that and cranking up the oven when the air conditioning is running. It still tastes good and there was the shiny gelatinization obvious in the alveolars. It's not perfect but it's a formula that works.

July 8 is almost over and still no ripe tomatoes. I like to brag about having ripe tomatoes by or just before July 4. All the garlic has been dug up and set to drying. The artichoke garlic was puny this year so it's time to peruse the catalog of Filaree Farms to build up that variety for next year's harvest. The porcelain garlic did well and is in such numbers as to save for seed garlic and eating as well. Enough of the standard purple is adequate for transplant. As long as I don't get too taken away with my gardening self, I already have plenty of work in the future to get a bed ready for next year.
The burpless cucumbers have started to produce but I find the bush plants are a PITA. They sprawl everywhere and lack the flavor of my climbing variety, Marketmore 76.
The jalapenos have grown to size so I need to pick them to stress the plant for more production. They go well with the chile de arbol in a pico de gallo. Adding a couple of chile pequin ratchets the heat up to just below painful but enough to "energize" you.

Yesterdays morning rains left a 1.5" rainfall. A downy woodpecker and a pair of red belly woodpeckers showed up shortly after the end of the rain. The male was particularly noteworthy when he came crashing into the feeder with a full wing span out. BOOM! and there he was. The woodpeckers seek out both feeders in our yard because the seed mix includes raisins and dried cherries. That doesn't mean they bypass the sunflower seeds or millet but it must be some kind of jackpot for them when they dig out a dried cherry. They spear the cherry with their beak and launch for parts unknown with the prize. I've seen a red headed woodpecker perched on the wires leading to our electric service box but none feeding in our yard yet.

Should anyone desire the formula for today's loaf or for my pico de gallo, email me or leave a comment and I'll get back to you.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Anadama Post Script

The evidence of the first Anadama loaf was consumed down to the crumbs today so I think I'll put some of the formula out tonight with the idea that I might see where I should be going with it more clearly.

60g AP flour
40g whole wheat flour
100g water, room temperature
<1g, or about half of 1/8 tsp ADY
Add ADY to water and hydrate for 5-10 minutes. Mix flour and water thoroughly. Cover bowl and let the preferment develop at room temperature for 8-12 hours until doubled.

62g yellow corn meal
62g water
Mix corn meal and water, cover and let soak until the preferment has peaked.

278g AP flour
144g water
30g or 2 Tbl unsulphured molasses
34g or 2 Tbl unsalted butter
2g or about 1/2 tsp ADY
9g kosher salt
I added the molasses to the water and microwaved the bowl for about 25 seconds to warm the water and help molasses dissolve or mix with the water more easily. When the temperature of the mixture dropped below 95F, I added the active dry yeast to hydrate the ADY. I did have a lot of yeast action going on in this loaf.
During the mix, I added 4 Tbl of AP flour to adjust the dough to something I thought I could handle. It was still on the sticky side and better suited for a pan loaf. My hydration estimates were destroyed by the addition of the butter and molasses. The next time around I can either cut back about 20g of water from the formula or just add about 30g of AP flour. Using bread flour might make a small difference but I'm not betting the farm on that.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.
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Sunday, July 03, 2011

Idle Chatter and Progress on the Anadama Loaf

Our visiting birds remain a source of amusement. There is a new diva among the cardinals and we've never seen anything like her. Most female cardinals have rather dull coloration but this one is different; she's Pink. Pink has a shock of feathers on her head that don't look like the usual Mohawk type comb. Her's is spiked, as if someone put gel on her feathers. Then there are the pink feathers on the shoulders under the wings and in her tail. There are very pink, almost fluorescent pink blotches on her chest. Definitely, a diva among cardinals.

The bird feeder outside the window has six perches for feeding. The house finches have pretty much made it their turf, pushing out the other birds when they try to land. They get quite aggressive with one another and usually, I never see more than three out there. Today proved different. When I saw four perched I had to chuckle, but suddenly five managed to get along and then, six. I had never seen that before. One of those things you have to see to understand.

Sweet corn has arrived at the farm stands! It is one of the compensations for chigger bites and oppressive heat of summer in Kansas. A favorite farmer of sweet corn has posted an aerial photo of his farm on the flood plain of Atchison, KS. It's flooded but the house is still dry for now. The Leavenworth Farmers Market will miss his family operation this year. We've done a great deal of business with the Garrett Bros. farm stand in Lawrence, KS. They're on US-24, just across the road from the Lawrence Airport. They've switched from planting different varieties to the "Peaches and Cream" bicolor variety that has come to dominate most of corn offered for sale in the area. While I prefer trying different varieties, when it's as fresh as their offerings, I can cope quite easily.

Moving on to my plans for developing a formula for Anadama Bread, it's still a project in progress. My schedule was riddled with changes but I took my first shot at it starting yesterday afternoon. I did build a preferment or poolish. I used 60g of AP flour and 40g of WW and a matching weight of water. The yeast was less than a half of 1/8 tsp because we had plans to go Lawrence and I didn't want the poolish to ripen too soon. Seven hours after I built the poolish, it was ripe so I went to work with the rest of my first draft formula. To keep things brief, I offer to email the formula to anyone who asks, but for now, I'll move ahead.

After mixing the dough, it was plain to see that it needed some adjustment. I added about four TBL of flour, probably in the area of 20-25g of AP flour to get it back to reasonably slack dough. As the dough proofed, large gas bubbles appeared on the skin of the dough. My previous attempts with slack dough have been inconsistent so I changed my goal from a boule to a pan loaf.

Since it was getting late, I shaped the loaf and put it in the fridge for an overnight proof. I baked the loaf this morning. There were still a lot of surface gas bubbles on the loaf and I thought it might be overproofed but I slashed and loaded the loaf. I had gotten too far to give up. I looked through the oven window after ten minutes and everything was fine. There was oven spring and the crust was starting to color. When the bake was complete, I let the loaf cool for three hours before slicing. It did make an excellent bread for a ham and Swiss cheese with Dijon mustard sandwich. It has a flavorful, almost sweet, and tender crumb.  The formula just needs a few tweaks and I can call it a keeper.

Random Speculations
I haven't used molasses in a bread before. This particular bottle was Grandmother's Molasses- unsulphured- something that can be easily found in a US supermarket. There was no grading as to whether it was considered light or medium. I do wonder if using molasses, which is traditional with Anadama bread, was the reason for the plentiful supply of gas bubbles. I used two TBL, about 30ml, of the molasses. When using 30ml of maple syrup in my Pioneer bread formula, I didn't get anywhere near the gas production despite similar procedure and flours. Total active dry yeast used was around 1/2 tsp  which should be less than 2g. Remember, a sachet of ADY weighs 7g and would be considered barely enough for a loaf this size in most cookbooks. Using so little yeast wasn't a heroic measure by any means, it's just something I do because I know I can.
Using my 40g of WW in the poolish didn't seem to be a win or a loss for the loaf. Maybe I missed something important in what happened but since it worked, I can do it again or not if I choose.
Soaking the corn meal is a must in this recipe unless you plan on cooking it. This was the third time I tried soaking corn meal and it works. The important thing is to soak for more than four hours to enable the enzymes in the corn meal to start breaking down the starches and the water to hydrate the meal. A short or no soak at all would leave the meal with a coarse texture in the bread. Corn grits or polenta is a suggested ingredient for this bread but I suspect that definitely would benefit from cooking or a long, hot soak.
A levain or sourdough can be adapted for this recipe. When I get around to that level of progress, I'll probably begin with an AP starter for a mild flavor contribution.

My next attempt on an Anadama loaf won't be for at least 5 or 6 days. I want to try something else and see if I can find a clue or perhaps that epiphany that leads to the keeper recipe.