Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Turkey Red Loaf

I've done some extra research on the Turkey Red strain of wheat and its cultivation in Kansas. There seems to some conflict about whether or not it was the wheat strain brought over from Czarist Russia in the 1870s. One source said it wasn't typical of the wheat grown by the Mennonites near the Black Sea in that era. Another source relates how later in the 19th century, 15,000 bushels of Turkey Red were brought over from Russia and placed in boxcars in three different Kansas counties for distribution to the local farmers. I suspect that without some scholarly research at Kansas State University, I won't be able to present anything definitive. In any case, Turkey Red did become the dominant strain planted in Kansas for years as far as I've been able to determine.

The pictures are of my first loaf made with the bolted Turkey Red flour. It's a lean sourdough loaf with no added sugars or fats. Did I mention that it's really good as well? Consider yourselves notified.

110g at 85% hydration
85% AP flour, 15% whole rye flours.

100g bolted Turkey Red flour
100g water

Main Dough:
200g bread flour
100g water at 85F
6g kosher salt
all of starter
all of soaker

It's in what I guess I can term as my small loaf format. Usually, my loaves have 400g of assorted flours. I used my regular procedures and the dough turned out to be easy to handle. The loaf was proofed in the shopping bag setup that Codruta brought up on TFL. It works very nicely for small loaves. A little more proofing wouldn't have hurt the loaf but I still got a nice oven spring. The flavor is much like that of a good white whole wheat flour.

There's some Heartland Mills whole wheat sitting in my freezer downstairs and I know I won't be able to stop from trying that flour soon to see which of the Heartland Mills whole wheat flours I prefer, Golden Buffalo, Turkey Red, or the whole wheat. I don't see that as a problem. The problem is finding the flour at a reasonable cost. I did find it at the Bad Seed Farmers Market in KC, MO earlier this year but that's only open on Friday nights. Shipping and handling from the mill in Marienthal, KS costs as much as the flour.

It's time for a break, call it a sabbatical if you will, for me. I'm going to take some time and get away from the computer and go about in the world for about two weeks. I've put my starter down to 60% hydration so it should be just fine in the refrigerator as long as there are no extended power outages. Check back around 16 OCT 2011 or so when I fire up the oven again. Leave any messages or questions for me through my account at The Fresh Loaf. Until then, may your dough always rise, the oven bake evenly, and friends gather around your kitchen table.
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Monday, September 26, 2011

A Nice Loaf of Bread

This has turned out to be a nice loaf of tasty bread. I don't think it fits under any special type or is typical of any nationality but it works for us so it's all good.

150g at about 85% hydration, 85% AP and 15% whole rye flours, built in two stages.

96g whole meal flour
96g water
Main Dough:
17g whole rye
17g spelt
270g bread flour
170g water at 85F
all of starter
all of soaker
8g kosher salt
15ml honey
15ml sunflower oil

I admit that I enjoy playing with a two stage build on the starter. It does take more self discipline to plan on how to have an active starter at the time of mixing, especially when I've slightly altered the characteristic of the starter by introducing a new rye flour. Fortunately, I have the time and a willingness to learn from any mistakes. The starter does pay back with a vigorous bulk fermentation and a better flavor.
The odd quantity of whole meal flour was due to the fact that was the end of the flour. I added the rye because rye and whole wheat or whole meal goes well together, adding a flavor that's hard to identify. The spelt has its own charms, especially as the loaf bakes. The bread's aroma seems to spread out further in the house. I like how this loaf turned out. It doesn't have the dramatic crackled crust but I'm still working on producing that.

That crackled crust might show up after I work with my newest flour, Heartland Mill Bolted Turkey Red. Turkey Red is the strain hard red winter wheat introduced to the US by Mennonite immigrants from Russia that settled in Kansas in the late 19th century. The land that had once been described as part of the Great American Desert in the early 19th century transformed into a bread basket to the world as the successful cultivation turned once pasture lands and buffalo commons into wheat fields. Turkey Red is no longer commercially planted in large scale because its yield is no where near competitive to more modern varieties. Heartland Mill does carry the wheat in both berries and flour. Even though its considered a heritage variety, the price is reasonable for someone interested in trying something new or as the case may be, old. It looks interesting to me.

As I continue my yard clean up chores, I'm finding more and more plantings of day lilies that were hidden by neighbor plants. The obvious resolution is to move them to empty spaces. Unfortunately, day lilies spread quickly when given the opportunity and present a new problem three or four years down the road. Then there's the digging up, moving, and digging new holes aspect as well. If I win the lottery or a rich relative passes away and leaves me all their money, I'll be able to move and leave the problem for the next owners. I have no great expectations for either circumstance to occur.

Seeing a bald eagle in flight isn't a big deal if you've never seen one in person. However, I have seen them and it's still an amazing sight. Considering how few were left due to use of pesticides after WW2, their numbers are now such that people may start taking them for granted again. I saw one overhead while working in the yard and they're as spellbinding as hummingbirds in their much different ways. The eagle is really big, with wingspans wider than that of an NBA center. They soar in a majestic flight pattern that makes me wish I had gone to flight school rather than college. No matter how documentaries or National Geographic specials you've seen, they can't do justice for this bird. I strongly suggest everybody find an opportunity to see them.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

About that gravy or PG's industrial red sauce.

Earlier this week, I mentioned that I was planning on making a pasta dish for our meal on Thursday. That was the reason for my attempt at an Italian type loaf of bread. I referenced to the sauce as a gravy. There's a fair amount of area residents of Italian descent and most, not all, refer to the red, tomato based sauce that's served with many pastas as gravy. If you call it spaghetti sauce, I do know what you're talking about. If you have the time to read, I'll tell you how I make my gravy/ red sauce/ spaghetti sauce.

Back in the early 1990s, Mrs PG and I stopped for the night in a small New York state town on the Hudson River. We had plans to tour West Point, the US Military Academy, the following morning. A helpful desk clerk directed us to a small Mom and Pop Italian restaurant and pizzeria that was favored by the local townspeople. We were impressed by the food and asked the proprietor what he used in building up his sauce. If I recall correctly, he told us that he used the same basic sauce for both his pasta dishes and his pizza, the difference being that the sauce for the pizza had a little water added to thin it out.

The foundation is equal weights of crushed tomatoes and tomato puree and as in a good loaf of bread, some time. For Thursday night's meal, I started in the afternoon with about one pound of lean ground beef, browned, drained, and lightly salted in the colander before it had cooled more than a minute. In the same dutch oven, I browned about 1/2 C chopped onion and added two cloves of chopped garlic- we like garlic- just before the onions were done. Then I added 28 oz cans of crushed tomatoes and tomato puree. I stirred it up, returned the ground beef to the dutch oven, mixed the contents some more, covered, and set the flame for a low simmer. I had some leftover cooked chuck roast that I thawed, diced, and threw in the pot at this time. I could have used leftover pork loin as well. It wasn't much, just enough to add to the appearance and mouth feel of the sauce. The long, slow, and low simmer is key to tenderizing the chopped up roast.

I've switched over to seasoning this industrial red sauce to shortly before serving, about 15-20 minutes before hand. You use less seasoning and the flavors are more bright. I like to add basil, oregano, a little bit of salt, crushed red peppers, and celery seeds. fresh basil is best but you have to restrain from using too much until you know how it works with the sauce. I grow San Marzano tomatoes in my garden and they fit well in the sauce. I don't wear dentures so I don't worry about removing the seeds.

This is a learn through experience sauce for the added seasonings. The richness of good crushed tomatoes and puree has enough sweetness that you can get away with any of my favorite seasonings added as long as it's not to excess. As in making bread, practice makes perfect. If you like pizza, you have reason to practice at both.

I hope that you like the sauce.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Bustin' Loose

That is a dramatic breakout on this loaf. I thought I had slashed deep enough to prevent it from happening but that's just another lesson from this loaf. The recipe has to go in the "To Be Tweaked" file before I can call it a formula. I used a preferment and relatively-for me that is- low hydration but didn't get the open crumb I like. I attribute that to one or a combination of the following factors. First factor is the use of semolina flour as part of the ingredients. The semolina I have isn't as fine as durum. I used 50g of the semolina in the preferment so it was hydrated by the time of the mix. I have to investigate whether it's more thirsty than other flours.
Second factor is a relatively short preferment of about one hour. My expectations that I could get a doubling of volume in one hour were accurate but at 70% hydration, I suspect another 30 to 60 minutes at 72F/ 23C wouldn't have hurt.
The bulk ferment was longer than usual for an ADY bread because I used only 1/4 tsp of the yeast in the main dough. I've done this before and gotten a more open crumb but the room temp was around 78-80F.
Because I sought to mimic an Italian bread, I added about 2 tsp or 10ml of olive oil.
My bake schedule was preheat to 430F, 10 minutes at 425F with two mistings, 18 minutes at 400F and an internal temp of 206F.

It looked good, the crumb wasn't dense or hard to chew in the least, but the flavor was on the lightweight side. Next time around, I'll have to let the preferment sit out for a while longer, at least two and maybe more hours. That will mean I can go with even less yeast, about 1/8 tsp, and the understanding that I have to schedule more time for everything to work. The hydration will have to be higher since the olive oil probably affected the crumb as well. While it softens the crumb and extends shelf life, it also means fewer big holes for the butter and the crafted appearance. Compromises, compromises. Here's a brief rundown of the work so far:
100g bread flour
70g water at 85F
1/4 tsp active dry yeast
Hydrate yeast in the water for 10 minutes, add flour, and mix well until there's no dry flour. Cover and rest at room temperature for 60 minutes. This is technically adequate but a longer rest using less yeast to get the doubled preferment would likely bring about a better flavor.

Main Dough:
200g bread flour
130g water at 85F
1/4 tsp ADY
6g kosher salt
2 tsp or 10ml olive oil
all of preferment
2 tsp honey
In the mixer bowl, hydrate the ADY in the water for 10 minutes. Add preferment in small chunks. Stir or mix briefly to loosen up the preferment. Add flour and mix at first speed for about 1 minute or until contents are a shaggy mass. Cover and autolyse or rest for 20-30 minutes.
Add oil and salt. Mix at first speed for 3 minutes to mix ingredients. Mix at second speed for 3 minutes. Dough should separate from the sides. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead briefly into a ball. Place dough in an oiled bowl for bulk fermentation and cover.
Two stretch and folds were done at 35 and 70 minutes. At 105 minutes, I did a preshape and covered the dough to let it relax for about 15 minutes. After shaping into a batard, the dough was placed on a sheet of parchment paper and covered with a towel for proofing. The oven was preheated to 430F. 45 minutes into the proofing, the dough appeared to be ready for slashing. This time is questionable and another 15-30 minutes could have been possible. From there I went into the above mentioned baking sequence. While this loaf would have been fine in a lot of eyes, I wasn't satisfied. It tasted on the ordinary side so as I said, it's a "to be tweaked" recipe.

Saturday morning addendum. It's a pleasant autumn day here on the western banks of the Missouri River. I found some of the last of the sweet corn crop for this year at the Farmers' Market. Usually, sweet corn disappears at the beginning of September in this area so I feel fortunate. The finches and sparrows are few in number at the feeder today. Chickadees and cardinals have been in evidence as usual and titmice are making a return in numbers. I haven't seen many goldfinches lately even though I've set up a feeder with nyjer thistle seed for them. On the way back from the Farmers' Market, I saw two bald eagles overhead when I was approximately a mile away from the river. There are still butterflies about and a planting of sedum near our storage shed is popular with a variety of small bees. The long range forecast calls for morning lows in the low 40s next week so i expect the wildlife and mildlife outside the window to change. On the minus side of things, moles are leaving evidence of their presence in my yard. My neighbors wouldn't think kindly of me if I were to take to more vigorous means of banishing the rodents from the yard so I'll have to forget small explosive charges and such. There's got to be a Plan B for dealing with them.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

No Casualties to Report

The starter is a wonderful thing. We can crank it up in size for large volume baking, keep it small for the recreational baker, refrigerate it to save ourselves from refreshing it, put it out on the counter for daily use, play with the hydration for amusement, and otherwise treat it like an old ball cap that accumulates character through age and experience. I didn't mistreat my starter, just played with a new rye flour, and it's still in business. Maybe it's not as rambunctious as I'd like but better than I deserve some days.

After surrendering to my whims and buying a bag of wheatMontana AP at WalMart, I just had to bake to see if my memory of the AP that I hadn't used in about 18 months was accurate. I haven't lost my memory, the flour is still very good even if it's a little pricey at $3.76/ 5#. Using a 35g seed from my renewed madre, I built about 165g of 88% starter that hit peak in 9 hours at a room temp of 72F. The madre still needs some tweaking but so far, so good. From there, I went to my usual house loaf.
Because I was a little generous in pouring sunflower oil to grease my fermentation bowl, the dough was looser than I'd intended so I used a 9.25"x 5.25" loaf pan rather than a free standing loaf. Other than my failure to follow my own procedures closely, there wasn't a problem and the bread still tastes good.

With a little bit more nerve or vanity, I could always give the formula a new name but that will have to wait until I try to deliberately recreate the loaf. As it stands right now, I'm off to search for a small loaf to serve with pasta and a meat gravy on Thursday night. There's some leftover semolina flour in a cupboard that may be the inspiration for the new loaf.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

What They Say Is True

Friday's lesson was a verification of the warning that a starter may need to adjust to the use of new flours in the build or elaboration. I had finally finished up the rye flour that I had bought at Whole Foods and decided to open up the rye flour from Heartland Mills. The HM rye is described as a whole meal rye and does have some visible bran in the flour.
I prepared  a starter and refreshed the seed starter or "Madre". Both were made up to have a 75-80% hydration. My scale isn't scientifically exact so I often adjust on the fly when baking. I could have made it easier by starting Wednesday but didn't. The starter ratio was 1:3:4 of seed, water, flour. They both sat on the counter at 70F room temp for 12 hours and had doubled but weren't quite at peak dome stage when I put the madre in the downstairs fridge and started a pan loaf of 75% AP/25% whole wheat.
Bulk fermentation was just so-so but I thought an overnight proof would finish the job. That didn't turn out too well for either. I preheated the oven to 450F thinking there would be some oven spring and I could finish at a lower temperature.
The loaf isn't a total failure and it isn't a brick. It's ugly and uneven in shape. I know what I did wrong and I've adjusted.
I took the madre out of the fridge Friday and used about half in a pizza dough, more for flavor than anything else. My old active dry yeast, two years in the freezer, did the honors for the pie. The rest was kept and I refreshed at about 80% hydration.
This time around the starter did build up much better and just before peak, I put it in the fridge. I'll have to refresh it more often for a few weeks to get a benchmark for its performance. The plan is to simply use a 1:2:2 feed for the starter during builds and somewhere make the time for a careful drying of an active batch. It's doable.

On the music side of things, the MJQ "The Complete Last Concert" is one of my desert island albums. Because it was originally recorded on analog tape, there are moments when you hear the limitations of that format, especially in the recording of Milt Jackson's vibes, if your system has good resolution. Once you get past that, the music is a joy. All the musicians were outstanding artists on their instruments and their discographies read like a who's who of post WW2 jazz.
Another desert island album is Van Morrison's "Astral Weeks". It's been around for more than 40 years for good reason.
Melody Gardot has a very strong effort in "My One and Only Thrill". It's worth buying, whether as a high resolution download or a disc.

The Missouri River has finally dropped below flood stage and is slowly opening up to river traffic. Local damage in Leavenworth County is currently estimated at $6 Million and will probably rise. There are few birds in the area of the house right now. I've seen quite a few hawks, mostly red tail hawks, in the area lately. Farmers have been harvesting a second, smaller crop of hay lately so I'm not surprised at all about the number of hawks. I haven't seen any bald eagles this summer but they should be back in the area soon.
There is one small reward for the end of the season for flowers. That's in the fact that the blooms are now at their brightest.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Just a little Spelt

Adding just 10% spelt to the flours made this loaf one of the best smelling loaves to bake in my oven. The aroma carried throughout the house. The flavor is mild despite a two stage starter build. I doubt that was influenced by my cautious use of  a tablespoon of some local honey.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Back to School

After rereading MC's blog pieces on Gerard Rubaud and his bakery, I came to the conclusion that I'm not ready to attempt to reproduce his bread. First of all, elaborating a starter with his methodology is far more detailed than I remembered. It does sound like fun, being part baking prep, part alchemy. The second problem I see is that his hydration levels for the dough, 79 to 80%, are like those used for ciabatta breads rather than the 67 to 70% of a country or rustic loaf. I do wish I could make breads like his but it's going to take a lot more learning on my part.

Consequently, I enrolled in a bread baking class/ seminar/ show and tell session scheduled for next week. The Kansas Wheat Commission will provide the instructor and the class will be at the Kansas State University Extension Service Office in KC, KS. About all I could find out is that the class is approximately two hours long, there will be free recipe handouts, demonstrations on mixing, kneading, and shaping dough and other instruction.

One of my questions will be how do I get a job like that?

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

An Odds and Ends Loaf

No new barriers were broken here on this nice loaf. I did manage to finally use up the last of the open rye flour in the starter which means I can open up the bag of rye from Heartland Mills. I know I'll have to be wary of making any assumptions on how that flour will bake through the first few loaves but that's OK, I'm strictly amateur. I also used about 3% spelt flour, about 15 g in the main dough. There's some spelt from HM in the freezer when I get through that.

There's an interesting bit of writing on the Farine blog about a baker in the Burlington, VT area that uses spelt as part of his flours in both the starter and main dough. Considering how bad the travel in VT is after the damage of Hurricane Irene, Mrs PG and I will probably forgo our annual side trip to the Green Mountain State to pursue the loaf. Fortunately, Ms Makani took extensive time to interview Mr Rubaud about his techniques and ingredients used in his business.

It's a lean dough so I'll have to work out quantities of ingredients for small, in my book, loaves before I lurch into those.

The fine weather continues for us for a little while longer. There's a rumor of temperatures in the high 80s starting Sunday but that may be brief. I'm enjoying being able to work outside and use up some of the energy I put into political postings on other websites this summer while avoiding the hideous aspects of this year's Kansas summer.

Most of the local farmers have stopped bringing sweet corn to the Farmers Market but there may be one last batch available for the early risers this Saturday. It looks like I'll have to get up early enough to get to the 7AM opening to take advantage of the crop one last time.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.
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Sunday, September 04, 2011

A Quick Change in the Weather and Some Media Commentary

After being battered and abused by the whims of the weather, we seem to be in the midst of a preview of autumn in Kansas. The 100F+ days of last week are gone and on this Sunday, we're fortunate enough to witness a mild 69F and Northerly winds at Noon. It seems surreal. After a light lunch, I'll grab my garden tools and mosquito repellent before engaging in some hand-to-weed combat for a while.

I grabbed the Elizabeth David book "French Provincial Cooking" at the local library based on how much I enjoyed her "English Breads and Yeast Cookery". She thoroughly engaged my attention early on in that book when she stated that most breads use too much yeast. Ms David led a "colourful" life and could flat out write. Her volume on bread has been available since 1977 , but should be read for her exquisite and humorous skills in describing bread baking's history and sociological impact in England and the Commonwealth nations. People who have no intention of baking bread can enjoy the work. "French Provincial Cooking" covers foods that are served everyday in the homes and bistros of France so I'm approaching the book without fear and my bifocals clean.

For those who take a modicum of interest in my musical selections, I strongly encourage the purchase or possession of "Kind of Blue" by Miles Davis. Recorded in 1954, the album is a classic among jazz recordings and still a "must listen to" album in 2011. Do be careful when buying a copy. The original vinyl LP edition and first CD editions have three cuts, the second side of the LP, that were incorrectly produced. They were said to be a semi-tone high if I recall correctly. When I find myself puzzled as to what to listen to, I go to "KoB" and enjoy discovering something new even though I play it about every other week or so. It's one of my desert island albums

The Madeline Peyroux CD "Half the Perfect World" will make an excellent addition to your library. Once you get past the fact that she sounds similar to Billie Holiday, Ms Peyroux's vocal chops and the easy swinging, sort of Djangoesque arrangements will keep your ears tuned in. The production values are quite good as well.

The documentary "Kings of Pastry" is available on DVD. Rent or Netflix this movie ASAP. It will be shown on PBS this season but don't wait. You can always save it with your DVR to watch it again, I know I will. There's no need for me to burden you with a review but for the fans of cinema who need a reason, it's a DA Pennebaker documentary.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Hidden Malted Wheat Flakes

I plan on finishing the editing of this post sometime in the next 48 hours but I did want to at least put up these pictures of the latest loaf. That way I'll dig up the self discipline to evaluate what I did and start the work of tweaking the formula.
While rummaging around the flours in the downstairs freezer (it's in my beer fridge) I rediscovered some malted wheat flakes that I found at the King Arthur Flour retail store in Vermont. My first couple of experiments weren't offensive but weren't impressive either. The back of the package includes a recipe for "granary bread", using about 1/2C of the flakes per loaf. The instructions direct the baker to pour 1/2C of boiling water over the flakes and 1Tbs (15 g) of the sweetener of choice. Having chosen molasses, the formula fell into line with the quantities used in my Sourdough Molasses Bread.

I can't see much of the flakes in the loaf when I look at it in daylight so if you're not seeing them in the pictures, your eyes don't need to be examined. Even a new Nikon for myself wouldn't change that. I still want that Nikon.
The dough didn't handle as expected at   the start of bulk fermentation. By the time it was ready to shape, it had transformed to a reasonable mass for a batard. I used the paper bag and parchment paper method to do an overnight proof in the refrigerator.

The bread itself is a good loaf. The flakes didn't add to or harm the flavor or texture of the crumb. I have one more bag of the flakes left so I have at least two more chances to figure out how to make the flakes work for me.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.
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