Monday, January 30, 2012

Second Audition and a Rare Sighting

This is the second loaf that I've made with Paul's South African descended starter. I am part of the sub-group that believes that the flour fed to a starter plays a large part in the character of the starter. The conditions its kept in, whether at room temperature or in a refrigerator, pretty much takes care of the rest by affecting the reproduction rates of the flavoring bacteria. In about three weeks or so, the yeast spores present on my Heartland Mill flours will be taking over but in the meantime, this is a great starter. I built my starter in three steps in order to get a more lively batch and it responded well. The average room temperature, around 70F, wasn't optimal but if I dry some from the next build, I'll try ressurecting the sample in early summer when room temperatures will be in the 76-80F range which is the best for achieving a vibrant starter.

For the most part, this was close to the formula used in the first audition. I did, as stated, use the three stage build with 150g at or about 82% hydration. The dough turned out to be easy to handle, though probably not due to my cutting back a little bit on the water for the dough because I had to add about 18g during the mixing as an adjustment. The same flours were used and there hasn't been that much difference in the weather over the past week. I think I can live quite happily with this formula and will have it written up formally, complete with a name, in a week or so.

The rare sighting was either a Cooper's Hawk or a Sharp Shinned Hawk that perched outside my window on Friday morning. I have a low budget and low tech support for the bird feeder that's made out of PVC pipe and about 8.5 feet tall that
the hawk landed on. That put the hawk less than 15 feet feet away from me. Usually these hawks will perch much higher in trees or on power lines but not on Friday morning. I stared at it for about fifteen seconds, called to Mrs PG to come and look, and we both continued to marvel at the sight and our good fortune in getting a chance to observe a hawk at such close distance. I can't recall ever seeing a hawk outside my window before and it will probably be a long time, if ever, before I see one out there again.

The rest of the usual suspects from the world of birds have been dining heavily at the feeders. There are usually at least eight goldfinches around the thistle feeder in the morning, jostling one another for a perch. Juncos can be seen on the ground underneath the goldfinches, eating the seeds they spill. Last year, some juncos figured out how to bypass the middle bird and go directly to the feeder but I've only seen that happen once so far this season. Perhaps if we get some snow and the competition for food gets tougher, the juncos will become aggressive.

According to the statistics kept by the hosting blog site, this is my one hundredth post. Other than the fact that I've managed to gather the discipline to write on a reasonably regular basis, I don't put to much significance in the number. I do want to ask any readers that stumble across my postings to leave their home town information in the comments box because I'm curious. The stats page showed pageviews from places such as Sri Lanka, the Phillipines, Singapore, and Cambodia in the past ten days so I thought that if I didn't ask, no one will take the time.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

New Starter Audition

Last Saturday, for the TFL Meet Up in Shawnee, KS, Paul was generous enough to bring several small samples derived from the starter that he cultivated during his assignment in South Africa. While the sample I received was quite firm, probably about 50-60% hydration, it was quite active and released enough gas that it nearly popped the small zip lock bag that contained it before I got back home. I knew I had to bake something with that starter soon. I'm not ecstatic about the resulting loaf because it was one of those try this and try that approach loaves so that was my own doing. I certainly do like the flavor of the sample so I'm going to use some more to do a three stage build to get the yeast beasts rolling for my loaf for Saturday and use the discards in my pizza crust for Friday. I found some excellent Scimeca medium heat Italian bulk sausage at the Price Chopper in Platte City, MO so I'm locked into the pizza project.

25g SA starter seed
50g room temperature water
61g 85% organic AP/ 15% whole rye flour mix

100g water
100g white whole wheat flour

280g bread flour
20g whole rye flour
176g water at 85F
9g kosher salt
15g molasses
30g wheat germ
All of Starter
All of Soaker

Despite my guessing at how much extra water I needed to compensate for the starter appearing to be somewhere near 75% and the wheat germ, I didn't get as open a crumb as I was trying for. Perhaps my expectations of the starter's leavening strength with a single build after sitting in the fridge for four days were overly optimistic. After baking so few loaves with wheat germ in the mix, I can't say that I know its behavior. Still, the flavor is fine, probably as good as using the starter I already have so there's no loss except for the birds in the yard. They won't be getting their beaks into this bread.

I checked on the volunteer cilantro plant that I found in the yard and wrote about back on 01 January. It's still there and alive. There hasn't been any significant snowfall so far this year and no extremely cold temperatures yet so it survives. There are some daffodils starting to send up their first leaves, about three weeks early.

My copy of "Inside the Jewish Bakery" by Stanley Ginsberg and Norman Berg has finally arrived and after a quick scanning of the first two chapters, I'm definitely looking forward to reading it through to the end. I don't know how many breads I'll be baking from this book but I expect that I won't have  many reasons to fall back on my "easy" loaves this year. I have the County Fair's blue ribbon for rye breads on my mind.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Meet Up Breads and a new old book

We had a meet up of KC area TFL members at Barley's Brewhouse in Shawnee, KS this afternoon. In all, we had five people that actually post there and three guests. I wasn't discouraged at all by the small turnout because no one had ever done more than talk about such an event and I helped make it happen. You've got to start somewhere.

The top two pictures are of the loaves that were my contribution to the sampling. The third is of the collection of breads we sampled. The large wicker basket in picture three is a chocolate bread. Cue the Homer Simpson reaction, "Hmmmmm, chocolate. Bread. Such a wonderful food." Everybody had at least one piece of that loaf and I know for certain some had more than that.
Despite the over consumption of carbhydrates, there's interest in another meet up towards the end of Spring. The idea is to start with a format of attendees bringing in their work in a particular type of bread, such as a rye bread. When I consider the number of different rye breads, it begins to sound like a great concept to me. Raj, AKA UneditedFoodie, will be sending me his list of local area food blogs and I'll contact those blogs to see if they have members that would be interested in joining the crowd. Sounds like a cross pollination of bloggers to me. We had a very diverse group of people that enjoy baking bread and serving it to family and friends. It definitely was a worthwhile time.

The top loaves were just one of my typical loaf batches divided in two. I extended the bake time by a few minutes because my oven is different with two loaves.
150g at 100% hydration
80g white whole wheat flour
80g water
Soak for four hours at room temperature

300g bread flour
20g whole rye flour
186g water
9g kosher salt
15g Hillside honey
28g wheat germ
all of starter
all of soaker

The ciabatta looking loaves actually just use the Gallette Persane formula from my previous post. This time around, I did use 24 hours for the first stage preferment and another 26 hours for the sponge. I had to adjust for time demands of sleep so I slowed the fermentation down by setting the sponge in the basement at 62F instead of room temperature. It worked like a champ for me. I still used a modest 1/4 tsp of active dry yeast for the first two stages and didn't add any more during the dough mix. The bulk fermentation and proofing were slower than expected but I still got a really nice flavor. The two stage building of the sponge contributed to the flavor but today I had a much more slack dough to handle. I don't know enough to say whether it was due to the long sponge build and something like enzymatic changes in the flour or just the changing weather affecting the outcome. It was a fine bread when I served it at the meet up, lots of wheaty flavor and a moist interior crumb.

My new old book added to the collection this week is "Breads of France" by Bernard Clayton Jr. It was first printed in 1978 so I expect that most of the book was written in the early to mid 1970s. There are some procedures in the book that I didn't agree with at first but I may be getting to far ahead of myself by doing so. I've reread a few recipes and I have to concede that my views are changing. I'll be baking more of the recipes included in the book over the next six months and when I do, I'll attribute the foundation of the recipes to Mr Clayton.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Wheat Germ Variation

I thought it was time once again to work with some wheat germ in my bread. Not just for the health benefits but also to try and add something to the appearance of the crumb. I expected that if I added enough wheat germ, then there would be little flecks of brown and black scattered around the interior but nothing happened in this experiment. 
The wheat germ was 7%, approximately 28g, so I can't be faulted for not trying. Perhaps it was just a case of the wheat germ absorbing enough moisture during the mixing, fermentation, and proofing processes that it lost its appearance. On the other hand, this particularly handsome loaf is tasty.

150g at 100%
100g white whole wheat flour
25g  whole rye flour
125g water at room temperature
<1g kosher salt added to slow down enzymatic activity during overnight soak.

All of starter
All of soaker
275g bread flour
166g water at 85F
15g honey from Hillside Farm
7g kosher salt
28g wheat germ

Baked using the magic bowl method where I used a large stainless steel bowl to cover the dough in the oven. The bowl was preheated along with the baking stone until the oven reached a temperature of 450F. I removed the bowl from the oven, loaded the dough which was on parchment paper, and then covered the dough. I baked at 450F for 15 minutes, removed the bowl and parchment paper, and resumed the bake at 425F for another 20 minutes. The loaf had attained an internal temperature of 202F so I turned the oven off and used a pot holder to keep the oven door cracked open for 5 minutes. After that, the difficult part was restraining myself from taking a slice before the loaf cooled off. 

I sliced the loaf this morning and it's at a least a third gone tonight. At least the whole grains and wheat germ are in there to give it some goodness and virtue.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Gallette Persane Bread

The formula for these loaves came from from the 1978 edition of "The Breads of France" by Bernard Clayton, Jr. Mr. Clayton spent a lot of time during vacations in France visiting boulangeries in many sections of the country and interviewing their head bakers. Given the era, Mr Clayton's efforts must have been motivated out of love for good bread and not with an eye for profit or fame. The particular boulangerie that was credited with this formula was "La Petite Marquise", located near Place Victor Hugo, in the 16th arrondisement of Paris. The establishment at the time Mr Clayton visited promoted itself as what Americans would call an organic foods bakery.

I chose this bread as my first project from the book because I thought I could successfully convert the formula from volume measurement to metric weight and scale down the yield to two loaves. I did have some doubts about the formula in that Mr Clayton started with a preferment of 113% hydration that called for a package of dry yeast. The formula also called for a 24 hour period to develop the "starter" preferment. That caused a furrowing of my eyebrows but I figured that I needn't follow everything to the letter.

The starter is added to the same amounts of flour and water to create a sponge. The sponge is meant to sit at room temperature for at least 12 and up to 24 hours. Mr. Clayton obviously believed that time is the friend of flavor in bread.

Mr. Clayton wrote his instructions for mixing and kneading by hand. I decided to work with my mixer. All my ingredients for the dough, excepting the olive oil and salt, were folded into the sponge in my mixing bowl. Because the ambient room temperature in my kitchen was on the cool side, I added 1/4 tsp of ADY with the water. I used a brief mix to form the familiar shaggy mass. After a thirty minute rest, I added the salt and olive oil, mixing at first speed for three minutes to incorporate the ingredients then mixing at second speed for four more minutes. When the mixing was finished, I figured I had a reasonable dough for what I estimated to be a 77% hydration. This was all seat of the pants flying, as they say, and definitely not Mr. Clayton's directions.

Bulk fermentation was done in my new baking toy, a Cambro 4 liter container, that was sprayed with PAM and covered after adding my dough. The prescribed 1.25 hour period passed and the dough had doubled. So I turned it out, dividing it into two rounds. When a brief rest of 5 minutes was over, I shaped the dough by pressing the rounds with the heel of my hands into two 8" round by 1/2" thick loaves. The loaves were placed on parchment paper and covered with a flour dusted towel for the 40 minute proof. The oven was preheated to 425F.

At the end of the proof, I made four parallel slashes across the loaf and then made four more at a right angle to the first four. I loaded the loaves into the oven and baked at 425F for 40 minutes. The loaves were cooled on a wire rack. Mr. Clayton suggested that the bread be served by breaking the loaf along the cut lines.

This bread isn't quite a flat bread and not quite a focaccia. Stone ground whole wheat flour is 44% of the total flour so I didn't expect a wide open crumb. However, the WW flour is used in the starter and sponge so the bitterness that some associate with WW isn't very noticeable. The flavor is really agreeable. I managed to use only 3/4 tsp of active dry yeast for two loaves so I expect that the full formula shouldn't need more than a full teaspoon rather than the package Mr. Clayton dictated, YMMV of course. Mr. Clayton also said that the bread freezes well so I placed one loaf in a freezer bag to be saved for next weeks consumption.

After doing Bing and a Google searches, I haven't found any formulas for this bread on the internet. There are very few mentions so I'd like to share this formula in order to spread it around. By no means do I think it is in its final form, the formula still needs some tweaking. If anyone takes the time to work on this, I hope you'll leave a comment on my blog about your success or mishaps. The measurements are what I used for two loaves of about one pound or half a kilo each.

1/2 tsp active dry yeast
158g water at room temperature (70-75F)
140g stone ground whole wheat flour
Mix, cover, and leave at room temperature for 24 hours. If possible, use your mixer or mixing bowl for the first two steps as well as mixing your dough. The starter and sponge will expand. My starter was falling after 14 hours when I began the next step.

158g water at room temperature
140g stone ground whole wheat flour.
Stir down starter, add water, stir in water and add flour. Stir until you have a thick batter, cover, and let mature at least 12 hours, up to 24 hours. Due to time constraints, I initiated the next step of mixing the dough after 8 hours.

All of sponge
7g kosher salt.
119g water
1/4 tsp active dry yeast
10g olive oil
18g wheat germ
233g all purpose flour

The birds have returned to our yard in numbers after the snow yesterday. European starlings have taken a liking to the suet feeder and have learned that they can land and perch on the feeder outside my window. It has a small plate of plastic on the bottom of the feeder to catch some of the seeds that the more enthusiastic eaters spray about. I've finally seen a junco learn about perching at that same feeder, a first for me, but so far the juncos haven't caught on to perching on the thistle seed feeder. That should be only a matter of time before they catch on.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The New Buckwheat Loaf

I decided to take another try at working with buckwheat flour and this second attempt is better but not quite there yet. It still needs some work. This time around I used bread flour instead of AP, changed my flour ratios, and extended the mix time. In return, I did get a better oven spring. The buckwheat flour doesn't seem to be more than subtle in flavor so far which leads me to suspect I have to add an even greater percentage before I taste the flour. It's a good tasting bread and I know I'll have to try tweaking the formula one more time soon but I think I feel a yeasted bread experiment bubbling around in my subconscious for the next loaf.

67g white whole wheat flour
67g buckwheat flour
133g water at room temperature

150g at 100% hydration made with an
85% organic AP flour/15% whole rye flour

All of soaker
All of starter
300g bread flour
133g water at 85F
9g kosher salt

We stopped by the Backyard Bird Shop in N. KC, MO where the staff member filled us in on what was happening in the local bird population. The Sharp Shinned Hawk is a migrating species that winters over throughout the state of Kansas and has returned to the area. This species is known to attack birds at feeders which may explain why the birds were MIA for a while. The current guests at the feeders include house finch, goldfinch, house sparrows, tufted titmice, blue jays, cardinals, juncos, nuthatches, and three different types of woodpeckers. Cedar waxwings are said to be in the area but I can't say that I've seen any or would recognize one if I did see one. There are often large flocks of starlings in the area. The starlings do go to seed and suet feeders but haven't been doing much of that that I've observed. For the most part, they've been just flying in and scaring off other birds through numbers and noise. They behave like the ruffians of the bird world. Our neighbor has a heated bird bath and at times there will be up to sixteen crowded around the perimeter, blocking access to any other species.

Judging by the way the levels in the feeders are descending more quickly than previous, the birds will be well fed for the cold weather that should be coming in from Canada tomorrow evening.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.
Posted by Picasa

Friday, January 06, 2012

10% Buckwheat Flour Trial

The bag of buckwheat flour in the cupboard finally caught my attention for a long enough time that I had to try my hand at baking a new style of loaf. I don't recall eating buckwheat breads or pancakes before but since it's been around for so long, I couldn't go too far wrong that I couldn't use it for bread crumbs for the birds in the backyard.

As my title suggests, I used 10% buckwheat flour in the formula. Once again I used my Heartland Mill AP flour but I think bread flour would've been the better choice here for oven spring. The problem may also be due to insufficient kneading in the mixer. Buckwheat has no gluten. It also looks like my hydration was to high at about 73%, the dough didn't keep its shape in the oven and flattened out. I need better shaping skills to get a loaf this wet to stand up after loading.

150g starter at 90% hydration

60g white whole wheat
60g water at room temperature

40g buckwheat flour
40g water at room temperature

Both soakers rested for 4 hours before mixing

All of starter
All of soakers
300g AP flour
166 water at 92F
9g kosher salt

While the ingredients seem to be good, my procedures for handling the dough need to be improved. I like the flavor and suspect that more buckwheat flour is possible without obnoxious results. There's work to be done on this one.

Since I don't type as much as I stab at the keyboard, I've been writing down some recipes on a legal pad lately. I been reading and borrowing as much as I can learn from Leader's "Local Breads" and Clayton's "Breads of France". Clayton's book was written in the late 1970's. The copy I have was loaned by the public library in McPherson, KS and appears to have been printed way back then. I have it for another couple weeks and may look for a used paperback copy. The recipes use volume measurements rather than weights. Clayton makes only passing remarks about levains so rewriting the recipes into sourdough formulas will be a project best left for days when the winter weather is atrocious. There's still enough dry yeast in my downstairs freezer so I could try a recipe or two. The Galette Persane flatbread recipe looks reasonably easy to do with a mixer.
Leader's formulas dictate a different procedure than what I'm used to seeing. Everything up the bulk fermentation is familiar but Leader doesn't call for any stretch and folds to strengthen the gluten and feed the yeast. I haven't tried his techniques so I don't know how well they work. The only complaints I've read about the book have been in regard to some careless editing so he may have something going on that I've yet to learn the how and why about.

The usual suspects around the bird feeders have started to return after an absence of about 10 days. Chickadees and a woodpecker have fed infrequently until today. There's a weather front coming in the next 24 hours but without rain, it doesn't appear to have any significant changes for weather. This has been a mild winter by all accounts and a dry winter as well. In any case, the birds are a welcome sight when around and are always good for a chuckle with their antics.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

NYE Loaf 31 December 2011

This is the best choice of crumb shots that Michelle from emailed on Sunday. It's a Pain de Campagne that I based on a recipe from Daniel Leader's "Local Breads". Usually, I'll include more WW or WWW and rye flours for my home use as a matter of personal taste but as I mentioned in an earlier post, folks were just slicing up the loaf and eating it without butter or honey. here's a skeletal outline of what made it work.

150g at 100% hydration
The starter was made in a two stage build. It's winter here in Kansas and my starter works much better that way.

24g white whole wheat flour
24g whole rye flour
48g room temperature water
The soaker should be started in time to give it at least 4 hours in a covered bowl.

All of starter
All of Soaker
352g bread flour
218g water at 92F
9g kosher salt

1. Cut soaker into small chunks and place in mixer bowl. Add to starter and stir down to loosen up the starter. Pour half of starter-water mix into the mixing bowl. Add bread flour and then remaining half of starter-water mix over the flour. Using the dough hook, mix at low speed until you reach the shaggy mass stage, usually less than 1 minute.
2. Cover the bowl and let it rest for 25 minutes.
3. Sprinkle salt over the dough and mix at low speed for 3 minutes, adjusting dough with water or flour ONLY if needed. Mix at second speed for 4 minutes. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface. Shape into a ball and place into an oiled bowl or container for bulk fermentation.
4. Ferment for 3 hours with stretch and folds at 1 and 2 hours.
5. At 3 hours, turn out dough and preshape. Cover with the bowl and let the dough relax for 10-20 minutes.
6. Shape the dough for an overnight retarded fermentation in a refrigerator. Remove dough from refrigerator to room temperature for about 2 hours before baking to finish proof.
7. Preheat oven with baking stone to 450F for at least 30 minutes. If using cast iron skillet for steam, preheat skillet as well.
8. Add ice cubes to skillet 5 minutes before loading loaf. Place loaf on a peel or parchment paper and slash. Load the loaf.
9. Bake at 450F for 12 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 425F for 5 minutes. Remove parchment paper if you're using, and turn loaf around. Bake for at least 18 minutes or until the internal temperature is 205F.
10. Turn off the oven and leave the door cracked open with an oven mitt for 5 minutes. Cool the loaf for at least 3 hours on a wire rack before slicing.

That's not too detailed but if you've baked sourdough loaves before, you should be able to fill in the missing lines on your own. If you have any questions or comments or reports on your efforts at this style loaf, just remember that as always....

Comments, humor and questions are welcome.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, January 01, 2012

367 Days Later

There is no prize for guessing what the plant with the bright green leafs is. The surprising thing about the photograph is that I took it on Friday afternoon in the backyard of my house. After plenty of frost days, I'm a little bit amazed that a cilantro plant could still be alive at this time of year. Its existence has nothing to do with me or my having a "green thumb". Some things just happen. We have a California Poppy plant that's still green and for better or worse, so are some weeds in the flower beds.

This first loaf is a pain de Campagne I baked for a New years Eve dinner at Rob and Sachiko's house in Farley, MO. I can't help myself from baking this style of bread. This particular loaf owes its formula to D Leader's book "Local Breads". It was particularly successful in that people were cutting slices and eating them plain, with no butter or honey. Rob started people on slicing some mild blue cheese to go with the bread and that worked quite well. Michelle, from WWW., has sent me a couple of jpg. files of crumb shots that I'll post sometime in the next few days with the formula for this loaf. If you do cake decoration, check out her web site. She does do international shipping.

The second loaf in today's post is what I baked for home consumption. Besides using 30% white whole wheat flour, I also added 40g of wheat germ for this sourdough loaf. I suspect that it was the wheat germ that helped to bring about a much firmer dough than the 70% hydration I estimated before mixing. Usually, I will do two stretch and folds during a 2hr30min-3hr bulk fermentation. This loaf was ready to shape after a 1 hour bulk fermentation. I'm not saying it can't happen because it did happen this time. My saving grace on the loaf was probably a slow proof where I started in the refrigerator at around 42-45F then moved it out into the basement where the ambient temperature is averaging 62F. There was a decent oven spring. I have some crumb shots for this loaf that will probably added in the next day or two as well.

I first started this blog back on 29 December 2010. Since then, I'm amazed that I my blog has accumulated some 1690 page views. I have to be humble about that statistic because I also remember that there are over 6 Billion people on the planet with at least half of those folks with internet access. My blog may be available worldwide but it's still obscure. The fact that I get frequent page views from Germany and Russia is both flattering and puzzling since both countries have such strong cultural ties to bread throughout their histories.

Sometime in the near future, I'm going to find a guest book app to add to the front page. Maybe then I'll find out whether or not all those links from and are real people or spammers.

Comments, humor, and questions are still welcome.
Posted by Picasa