Sunday, October 16, 2011

Rebooting the Starter or Back in the Kitchen Again

Mrs PG and I are back from our trip to New England to visit my parents and other family members. The expected colorful foliage hadn't occurred by the time we got there and had hardly begun by the time we left. While we were there, we took some short excursions that proved to be fun and loosely connected to my baking.

Orchard Hills Bakery in Alstead, NH was visited on a whim on a damp and rainy day. Alstead is a small New Hampshire town that you'd never guess has a fine bakery hidden away on a gravel road outside of town proper. It's located on a farmstead that was once owned by the proprietor's grand parents.  After tasting Noah Elber's breads you can be sure of two things; first, that his grandparents would be happy with Noah's achievements and second, that you'll recognize how much more practice you'll need to approach the quality level of his breads. My estimation is that I need to bake around 600-700 more loaves before I can realistically say I'm close. Don't let my shortcomings prevent you from visiting the bakery, it's worth the trip over the bumpy roads and do use a GPS to find the address.

We stopped at a Hannafords supermarket in Ellsworth, ME to look for some local foods. I found some Raye's Mustard and some buckwheat flour from the Bouchard Family Farm in Fort Kent, ME. I've never used buckwheat flour before so I no longer have any excuses.

Gilbertville, MA is the home of Rose32 Bakery. The Mitchells, who previously owned the Grace Bakery of San Francisco, have a good thing going on in what was once a gas station. Using a Llopsis oven imported from Spain for their baking, they offer European pastries, breads, breakfast and lunch, coffees, tea, a limited selection of beer and wine, and excellent service. The bakery is another reminder for souls such as I to practice, practice, and practice some more.

Not long after we returned from New England, I rebooted my starter to bake one of my "house" loaves. There are no glamor shots of the loaf and none called for. I like the flavor but the crumb is tight and nondescript looking. I have a couple of loaves planned for next week and hope to have my sense of procedure back in form after they're done. One of them will be an Anadama loaf, probably using ADY rather than my sourdough starter. I found a recipe for buckwheat baguettes on the Farine blogsite so I may try my hand at those or simply use the dough for a boule.

Outside in the yard are the tell tale signs of a rapid autumn. The leafs are falling from the trees but more from dry weather than anything else. Chickadees are the only birds I've seen at the feeders in the past few days but that paucity of guests may have been caused by the birds depleting the food in the feeders while we were on the road. It may take a few days before they realize the cafe is open again. The ground is dry and the clay soil hard from lack of rain. That makes plans of transplanting daffodil bulbs and day lilies seem futile for now. While there's a rumor of rain on Monday, that waits to be seen. Our first frost may arrive by Thursday which will help rid us of insects in the yard but it will also kill the remaining annual flowers that now have their brightest blooms of the year. The quality of the light is changing from the warm tone of autumn to the austere harshness of winter. Maybe that will give me the motivation to try my hand at oatmeal-cranberry cookies. The name does sound good enough to warm up a November afternoon.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

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