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.

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