Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Almost Gardening Season and a Starter Conundrum

I'm still on the learning curve with the starter that I was given by Paul. It is every bit as vigorous as presented, being able to quadruple in size in less than 10 hours and with a fine flavor as well. Just to do something different, I've taken to keeping a small, less than 50g, amount of very firm starter in the fridge rather than the 120-150g of 100% starter that I used to keep. It's been really reliable.

This most recent loaf is an example of my problem in that I'm getting blowouts using formulas that were dependable before. The latest psomi was my first encounter. Another troubling aspect is that the crumb on the bottom of the loaf is compressed relative to the rest of the loaf. There are three courses of action to be investigated.

The first is to simply use less starter which could affect the pH of the dough and its effects on the gluten structures. Whitley's book, "Bread Matters" suggested this course though I don't presently recall his reasoning.

The second course is to utilize much larger slashing, going down the length of the loaf rather than three shorter slashes.The reasoning behind that is to present a larger path to relieve the pressure of the gases built up before the yeast dies. Nothing original in that action.

Finally, I could just lower the starting bake temperature from 450F to 425F and bake longer.

There's still the possibility that I just need to improve my shaping skills but that doesn't sound like as much fun as my pseudo-scientific approaches. I'll start another loaf tomorrow so I still have time to fret and rationalize over any course of action I might take.

Outside, the yard is almost ready for some lackadaisical efforts on my part to prepare for Springtime blooming. There are no dandelions in bloom but the first crocus has opened up. I checked the garlic "plantation" and there are quite a few stalks that have emerged from the ground already. I've thinned out the wheat straw-what else would you expect?, canopy to let in a little of sun and fresh air. I need to move some day lilies that are being overshadowed in their present locations. Just for the amusement that a little bit anarchy can bring, cuttings from our Shasta Daisies and Black Eyed Susans will be transplanted among some Little Bluestem grass that I put in the alley way behind the house. It will be next year before I can start moving Purple Coneflower cuttings closer to the garden to attract the bees that will help in vegetable production.

All my bird friends are in the neighborhood presently. The robins are particularly fat this Spring and the pair of mourning doves are usually around in the morning and late afternoon. The red bellied woodpecker is making his appearances and the hairy woodpecker is dropping in regularly as well.They are amusing but they can't quiet down the neighborhood dogs yet. That would be something to observe.

A little recognition is due for the page viewers from Malaysia, Latvia, and the Ukraine. I hope you don't take my scribblings too seriously.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Miche or a Boule? The Return of Turkey Red Flour

It was a hot time around the oven yesterday as I finished out some ideas that had been percolating in the back of my mind. The first idea was to try my hand at baking a miche with some of my Turkey Red flour from Heartland Mill. Since it's a bolted flour, some of the bran has been sifted out, I decided to skip soaking the flour. Because I had some 165g of 75% starter bubbling up, I used all that as well. I figured that shooting for a 72-75% hydration level would complicate it all and make it closer to the usual high hydration level of Hamelman's miche from his book "Bread", about 82%. With only two truly bad loaves in the past 30 months, I could take a chance on a fail without too much humiliation or hurt.
165g of 75% hydration white flour starter

All of starter
267g bread flour
133g Heartland Mill bolted Turkey Red flour
280g water at 85F
9g kosher salt

After a 20 hour retarded proofing and about 2.5 hours at room temperature to warm up, this loaf spread out like a pancake on the baking stone. 15 minutes into the bake, when I removed my water pan, there was good oven spring made evident by the rounded edges of the loaf.

With no experience at using so much starter in a loaf, I didn't expect to find so many big holes in the loaf. I'm interested in how much further the holes go. As an experiment in wet dough, I think it worked out well as far as taste goes and it leads me to think that I could easily use a regular WW or WWW flour with even more hydration. That may be a stretch of my ignorance but there's no harm in trying it out. If it's that ugly, no one will know if I don't post pictures.

The last picture is a loaf that I baked for my mother-in-law. It's a simple 35%
white whole wheat/ 65% bread flour loaf made with a poolish.

60g white whole wheat
60g bread flour
120g water
1/2 tsp active dry yeast, about 2.5g

320g bread flour
80g white whole wheat
266g water at 85F
9g kosher salt
8g honey
1/4 tsp active dry yeast

Since the loaf is now in Omaha, NE, I don't have a crumb shot but I'm sure Mrs PG will fill me in on whether or not her mother approved. Delores has asked me to try my hand at baking a potato bread loaf or two for her. I'm hoping that she'll dig up her recipes from her old cookbooks so I can replicate them. I know there are plenty of potato bread recipes available online but I'd rather use hers to be able to pass it along to her other children and grandchildren when they ask.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.
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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Salt Creek Sourdough

The old Salt Creek school district is just about four miles north of my keyboard, past the Leavenworth Minimum Security Facility- part of the Leavenworth Federal Prison, the west gate of Ft Leavenworth, and over a hill that was once cut out for a narrow gauge railroad almost one hundred years ago. These days , it's mostly farm land with with low output oil wells and some natural gas wells too.

The old Route 7 that led into Atchison, KS through Salt Creek has been bypassed by a new and wider stretch of highway. It may be much more quiet these days, but history tells us that wasn't always the case. The location probably was chosen for its distance from town. Before the US Civil War 1861-1865, the Russell, Waddell, and Majors company sprawled out across the area with its almost 4,000 horses and mules used in their transportation operations that spread out across the prairie before Kansas, Nebraska, and Colorado achieved statehood. The end of the Civil War brought the railroads. Buffalo Bill Cody was born before statehood in the Salt Creek area.

I decided to call this particular formula the Salt Creek Sourdough in a foolish effort to start organizing my loaves into families. This loaf would be in the "country loaf" family because it uses bread flour, whole wheat flour, and rye flour. Rye, enriched, and whole wheat would be included along with "white" breads as an indulgent afterthought.

Perhaps when I get cognizant that I'm baking essentially the same loaf, I'll try something new. I do feel an active dry yeast formula starting to surface for next week.

This particular loaf utilized the last 15g of the South African starter that Paul gave to me. I used Heartland Mill AP flour in a two stage build that took a little extra time but was quite vigorous when I started to mix it in. I saved about 30g and mixed in another 8g of AP the make the starter firm, like a low hydration dough, before refrigerating it. Using firm seed starters to build up levains is another one of my harebrained and unscientific pursuits for this time of year. If it works, great. As long as I don't lose my starter, and I do have some back up dried starter, I'm good to go.

There were other aspects of this loaf that forced me into improvising solutions for silly problems that I created for myself. My starter was somewhere around 70% hydration so I just did some crude and rude estimates for water to bring about the same hydration overall for the bread. Things were dandy until I added 25g of wheat germ. That addition caused me to add another 20g of water during the dough mix. I don't have an explanation as to why that happened or if I would've avoided that by soaking the wheat germ with the WWW. As I've said before, I'd never make it in the real world as a baker.

Here are the ingredients that I used to make this loaf happen

140g 70% white flour fed sourdough starter.
80g White Whole Wheat Flour
20g rye flour
70g water

All of starter
All of soaker
300g bread flour
196g water at 85F
9g kosher salt
25g wheat germ
Additional water to adjust dough consistency and flour for work surface.

I did do an overnight retarded proof in a refrigerator. The oven and baking stone were preheated to 450F along with a half sheet pan for ice for steam generation during the first 25 minutes of baking. The oven was lowered to 425F after the first 15 minutes of baking. At 25 minutes, I pulled the sheet pan and turned the loaf around. At the end of the next 20 minutes, the loaf looked good enough that I broke my rule and didn't check the internal temperature. While the loaf cooled on a wire rack, I could hear the loaf crackling away without putting my ear to the loaf.

When I finally sliced the loaf, my confidence was rewarded by a thoroughly baked interior and a moist, tasty crumb. With a little work on the appearance aspect, the formula is good to go for judging at the County Fair.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Psomi to learn from

This isn't the same psomi loaf formula that did so well for me back in August. I went about this loaf with the idea of trying some things out to see if they'd work. It doesn't look like much but I did get some knowledge gains despite my rather unscientific approach. The first thing that was different was the use of some stone ground whole wheat flour from Dakota Maid Mills, a hard red winter wheat flour as opposed to the white whole wheat used in August 2011. The other deviation from my August project was to skip using a soaker for the WW flour and to do a 30 minute autolyse of all the flour to be used before adding any of the starter.After that, I added the starter, salt, olive oil and honey, mixed the dough and then went into bulk ferment.

After the bulk ferment, I shaped the dough into a boule and placed it in a well oiled 8" cake pan for proofing and baking. That's where I made the mistake that led to the misshapen loaf. I covered the dough with a floured towel and placed the cake pan in a large plastic bag for the proofing stage but when I put the bag down on the surface, I forgot to check to see if the pan was resting level. Consequently, the dough slid and wasn't centered as it rose. As soon as I saw what had happened, I tried to compensate but obviously, to no avail.

The results are what they are. The blow out on the bottom is a result of the sliding dough. If you look at the bottom of the front slice of bread from the loaf, you'll a big difference in the density of the crumb. It wasn't in the eating but not a satisfactory result. The procedure for baking the psomi calls for a 400F oven and a longer bake time of 45-50 minutes. No slashing is specified.

Right now I'm thinking that a black pan, such as the pans used for deep dish pizza, might be a better choice for this loaf. The trick will be to find a good black finished pan for the purpose rather than use a cheap pan that will have to be replaced in a year or two. Such a pan could also be used for making a small batch of rolls for a dinner. As for the taste of the bread, there was no problem. It was a moist, tender crumb with no bitterness from the hard red whole wheat flour. The same ingredients could be shaped for a pan loaf or for dinner rolls and get good results. I'm not sure when I'll use this formula again as I prefer the results I got with using the white whole wheat flour. It's a matter of taste.

We had our first real snow that actually didn't melt away by the late afternoon. the snow that fell early this morning accumulated to a meager 3". I got to use my new snow blade at last but I quickly found out that it's still no fun to deal with wet snow no matter how well equipped I might be. There haven't been any new varieties of birds at the feeders in the last couple of days, just our usual suspects. The red bellied woodpecker hasn't been around for quite a while now. My suspicions are that it visited due to the feed we were using. It had dried cherries and raisins that the red bellied woodpecker especially enjoyed. The current bird food is eaten by the birds but there are a lot of seeds dropped on the ground that I need to identify so I can avoid buying feeds that contain the rejected seeds. Given their eyesight and lack of a sense of taste, I didn't expect birds to be gourmets at the feeders. They must believe that there are such things as free lunches.

Some of the interesting countries that have been reported for page views lately have been Moldova, Iraq, and Zambia. If there are real people and bakers behind those unexpected page views, leave your town and nation on the comment page.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.
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Monday, February 06, 2012

Late Super Bowl Sunday Sourdough Recipes

I thought it over and decided to post my ingredients and a few notes about the breads that I baked for yesterday's Super Bowl. I'm skipping most of the procedures since I expect that anyone who looks at the ingredients and bakes bread will use their own. People who don't bake probably aren't interested in my obscure blog so there's little risk in offending them. As for the members of my family and friends who keep current with this blog, I know you'll forgive me because you've put up with greater eccentricities and have let me live despite them.

150g active sourdough starter at or about 100% hydration

25g white whole wheat flour
20g whole rye flour
355g bread flour
266g water at 85F
9g kosher salt

After a 3 hour bulk ferment with a couple of stretch and folds, I shaped the boule and placed it in a well floured towel inside a colander. I used a plastic bag to cover my contraption and let it rest on the counter for about 45 minutes before I put it in the fridge for a retarded proof. The loaf needed about 2.5 hours to warm up on the counter before baking.

The oven was preheated to 450F and turned down to 425F after loading. The loaf baked at 425F for 15 minutes when I pulled out the parchment paper, turned the loaf around and turned the temperature down to 400F for 25 minutes. The internal temperature read 206F at that point so I turned the heat off and left the loaf on the stone for 5 minutes with the door cracked open.

I bake this sourdough walnut and raisin loaf every now and then. To me, it's more of a holiday bread for desert or for toast at breakfast. I might have "borrowed" the formula from a book but I suspect that it just fell into place one day and people liked it so I bring it out for occasions.

133g active sourdough starter at 100% hydration

320g bread flour
60g white whole wheat flour
20g rye flour
56g chopped walnuts, toasted at 350F for 10 minutes
56g raisins, raisins were soaked for 1 hour before mixing
20g brown sugar
260g water at 85F

This particular loaf didn't get my usual soaking of the WWW flour since I expected that the raisins would bring some moisture of their own to the dough. During the bulk fermenting, stretch and folds aren't called for due to the walnuts and raisins in the dough. My large loaf pans are 9.25" x 5.25" and usually swallow up the amount dough but I found that baking at 400F, rather than 450F brought about better oven spring in the loaf. The loaf baked for 20 minutes when I turned it around and left it to bake for another 25 Minutes to get the pictured results. Internal temperature was 205F when pulled from the oven. It is on the sweet side in taste so reducing the brown sugar by half might be something to consider for a baker using a 100% poolish instead of a starter. Unsalted butter makes a nice addition this bread though if you've got a better than average cream cheese by all means try that.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Not Exactly Pretty Super Bowl Breads and an After Party Update

Today is Super Bowl Sunday, the largest day of gluttony, carbohydrate loading, greasy food eating, and beer swilling indulgence in the US. It's treated as a holiday but has no religious or patriotic foundation. It's part celebration of the final game of US professional football season and part mourning that the NFL will not be part of our Sunday- occasionally Monday, Thursday, and Saturday, television rituals until preseason games begin in August. If you're not familiar with US football, imagine a football (soccer?) pitch covered in guacamole or hummus extending 6.5 meters high and you may begin to grasp how much Americans enjoy overeating for this festival of sport, calories, and viewing TV commercials, some of which can be more entertaining than the game itself. On the other hand, most February weather is much more gloomy and oppressive than this year's weather and a reason to get out of the house to be with family and friends is very welcome.

The top loaf is another expedition into exasperation as I try to develop my Sunflower State Sourdough. I used Heartland Mill flours again and I seem to running into an obstruction from using the All Purpose flour. The flavor is still good so in the "taste matters first" it's a keeper. I still get the wheat aroma and a well rounded sourness that's hard to complain about. There's a great likelihood that my problem may be that I don't have adequate technique knowledge to deal with a softer-lower gluten or protein, flour. I'll give this one one more try then file the recipe away to work on when I learn how to better deal with AP flour.

 The next two loaves are for tonight's game party. Rob and Sachiko are providing the prerequisite "Buffalo Hot Wings" complete with sauce from the originators of hot wings, Buffalo, NY's "Anchor Bar" and chili. The boule is a high hydration (72-74%) loaf with 10% white whole wheat and 6% whole rye flour. It got excellent oven spring and feels light for its size so I'm hoping for an open crumb.

 The pan loaf is my Sourdough Walnut and Raisin Bread. It was enriched with two TBL of butter and 23g of brown sugar which puts it into more of a desert bread or bread for toast rather than eating with a meal. I could have easily used dry yeast in this formula. It was baked at 400F for about 45 minutes rather than using 450F. With the sugar and raisins in the dough, I figured that I could avoid an overly dark exterior. The lower temperature may have helped with oven spring because the pan was one of my 9.25"x5.25" pans that ordinarily swallow up the amount of dough and make it look ill chosen for the effort.

Update: The party loaves turned out to be really popular. The sourdough boule had an excellent, open crumb. It was moist, tender, and not too sour. It did have just over 5% white whole wheat (25g) and 5% whole rye (20g) rather than the 25%-33% combination of the flours that I usually have in my sourdough breads. The walnut-raisin pan loaf struck a fine note at the party with everybody having at least one slice. Rob put the clamps on the remainder of the loaf because it's his intention to toast some slices in the morning for breakfast. Life is uncertain so go ahead and eat desert first for breakfast Rob.

If you're reading this page from out of town, Please take the time to leave your hometown, state, or nation in the comment box. I'd like to see where people are from.

 Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.
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