Friday, March 30, 2012

Trotting out the Turkey Red and some missing "City Limits" loaves

The top picture is my garden plot for this year's expected crop of garlic. I counted some 62 stalks the other day so I lost 6% over the mild winter or due to my haphazard methodology in planting that I covered back in November 2011 or so.   

Below that is a planting of Italian oregano that has overwintered without benefit of mulch. I haven't been getting any really good oregano from the garden for a few years now but the stuff doesn't seem to be malevolent so it can stay until I need the space. If I find a starter for Mexican oregano, that time may be soon.

I donated a couple of pan loaves to the bake sale for the Cushing Hospital Volunteers. In my hurry to get them to the hospital, I forgot to pose them for their beauty shots. I can, however, share a little bit , maybe too much, about them.

Rather than building a starter, I decided to use a biga. At 66% hydration, some would still call it a poolish but I'm not going pro so we are stuck with biga. As part of this lark or experimentation, I went with some Wheat Montana Natural White, which is their all purpose flour instead of the usual bread flour. Because of the biga as my preferment, I managed to get away with using just 3/4 tsp of active dry yeast for the results. After mixing, the dough was easy in handle, fermented and proofed well. The appearance of the end result now leaves me miffed that I didn't get with the program and get those pictures.

City Limits Bread

Biga:
80g AP flour
40g white whole wheat
80g water at 85F
1/4 tsp active dry yeast
Mix well and let sit at room temperature for 11-12 hours.

 Soaker:
60g whole rye flour
60g white whole wheat
120g water at room temperature
Mix well and let sit at room temperature for 4 hours.

Main Dough:
480g Wheat Montana AP
280g water at 85F, used to proof ADY, plus 15g to adjust during mix
14g kosher salt
All of biga
All of soaker

I consider that to have been a really safe formula and the bread probably turned out well. If it didn't, then I guess I can expect an angry email or two because I included my email address on the labels I printed for the loaves.

The loaf included is the latest "turkey red" flour loaf that I've attempted. The turkey red flour (bolted) still retains its flavor. I still don't think the formula is ready for prime time exposure. The loaf isn't bad but I do have to say that I need to learn how to deal with flours that have lower protein levels. The Heartland Mill malted AP  I used seems to be low in protein. There's no information on their old fashioned flour sack packaging and the Heartland Mill website doesn't seem to list that info, at least not any that I could find. I had similar problems with Hudson Cream AP flour which has around 10.5% protein. The Wheat Montana Natural White that I used in the above loaves hits somewhere around 12%, on the high side for AP. The WM acts more like bread flour. As it stands now, my problem doesn't seem to be in the flour but rather a lack of proper technique. French and Italian flours have low protein levels relative to US but their bakers have made magnificent, open crumb loaves for for a long time. Back to the books again because I must have missed something somewhere.

The trees outside are almost all filled out now. A few native red buds and some dogwoods are now blooming. The apple and pear trees have run their course. Our average last frost date is 15 April so if one happens in the next two weeks, there will be some heart broken gardeners.

There haven't been too many birds in the yard for the past few days. The feeders are well stocked but hardly touched. The number of juncos around the feeders has diminished over the past 10 days so they may be on their way north.

It's time to mow the lawn again because I'm going to do something counter intuitive, which is feeding the lawn with fertilizer. As much as I complain about mowing, I also know that the best way to prevent weeds from overrunning the lawn area is to apply fertilizer early enough that the grass  spreads out before the weed seeds germinate. Given that our temperatures have been more like early May than late March, I might be engaging in a futile effort. Oh well, I bought the stuff and if I engage in a little bit of denial about it, no laws will be broken.

This past week's out of the ordinary hits originated in Israel and Malaysia.


Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.


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Thursday, March 22, 2012

New Sourdough Pioneer Bread and Bake Sale Practice Pan Loaves

The first loaf up is a another visit to a loaf from last summer. The recipe and ingredients are simple and the bread is satisfying.

Starter:
160g at 75% hydration

Soaker #1:
35g corn meal
42g water at room temperature

Soaker #2:
35g whole rye flour
65g whole wheat flour
100g water at room temperature

Main Dough:
200g bread flour
93g water at 85F
7g kosher salt
2 Tbs sunflower oil
2 Tbs brown sugar
All of starter
All of both soakers

I used Codruta's paper grocery store bag idea for proofing this loaf and that led me a idea for a better device. My idea is to use some pine boards to make a "mold" in a "U" shape, just as long as the bottom of the grocery bag and one of the sides capable of being adjusted for width, depending on the amount of dough used. The idea could be further complicated by using small, rounded molding strips on the bottom of the sideboards. They may not be necessary since towels could be placed under the parchment paper to save expense. Sometimes the improvement that is conceived with the purpose of being an elegant solution to a minuscule problem is just needless expense and complication.

The next two loaves are my practice loaves for next week's bake sale at Cushing Hospital. My mixer is only 4.5L in capacity so I took a chance on how much dough I would need and which pans I could use. It turned out just fine for me. The bread is fine as well.

Starter:
200g at 70% hydration

Soaker:
50g wheat germ
100g whole wheat flour
150g water at room temperature

Main Dough:

450g bread flour
130g water at 85F
11g kosher salt
15g honey
All of starter
All of soaker

I used my small loaf pans that are just right for 600-650g of dough. There was a fine oven spring so the crown was about 1.5" above the rim of the pan at the end of the bake so it all works.

The first day of Spring brought more rain to our yard. The grass is now about 5" long and getting out of hand. At least the unruliness hides some of the bare patches on the lawn. The peonies are taking off, growing about an inch a day it seems. I haven't spotted any ants around the foundation yet but that may be due to their sluggishness in cool weather. The forecast calls for warmer days by the weekend so vigilance is called for. My garlic plantation is doing quite well in this weather and it has surprised me to see that just about all the cloves I planted last Fall have sprouted up.

Needless to say, the weeds weren't fazed at all by the mild winter and are displaying their contempt for my efforts at eradicating them.

Finally, I want to note that the Google statistics for this blog have identified Puerto Rico as another country and not a commonwealth of the US. The statisticians must have gone to school with Rick Santorum. A reader from Poland was counted in the last few days. If you're a relative, stop and post a hello or if you know any of my relatives in Poland, tell them I said Hello!


Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.






Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Big Dance and an exuberant starter

Everybody that's familiar with American college basketball know that the NCAA tournament began this week. Mrs PG and I were fortunate enough to get two tickets for the first round game between Detroit and our local favorites, the University of Kansas Jayhawks in Omaha, NE. Since I had enough time to plan, I baked this pan loaf for my MIL who lives in Omaha.

It's a relatively simple loaf of with no formal name yet and Is probably going to be the foundation for the loaves I've been asked to donate to the Cushing Hospital Volunteers bake sale at the end of the month.

Starter:
155g  70% hydration, two stage build

Soaker:
100g white whole wheat flour
100g water at room temperature

Main Dough:
300g bread flour
180g water at 85F, plus another 15g for adjustment
9g kosher salt
15g honey
All off soaker
All of starter

The Tonganoxie Split is a bit of local weather lore that has been disputed by media weather forecasters but still believed by many. Usually those people are the ones who are looking for something to blame for the current conditions that they want to complain about. It's all based on the belief that the land formations around Tonganoxie, KS (home of the County Fair where I've participated in bread baking competitions) affect weather patterns that come up from the southwest. Either the weather goes toward the south of KC, MO or north towards Atchison, KS and St Joseph, MO. That, the local gardeners argue, is why KC and Leavenworth come up on the short side of the rainfall when we really could use some for our gardens and lawns. It's a much less harmful form of mythology to have faith in than the ephemera being spouted by our politicians in this election year.


It is a stretch to somehow put that previous bit of local trivia in the same banneton as a loaf of bread but this one is my Tonganoxie Split Loaf. I used a small portion of my newly remodeled starter to do a two stage build of rye flour for this loaf.
After 24 hours, the build had doubled but was nowhere near tripled or quadrupled which I've found possible when using mostly all purpose flour with this starter and warm,76-80F, temperatures. I bulk ferment my dough in a 4L Cambro container and its easy to see the dough growing by 50-60% in volume after an hour. My previous starter struggled to get to 50% in only the warmest conditions, 80-84F room temperature. Paul told me that this starter was vigorous but that seems to be an understatement. Perhaps by building up an almost entirely new culture I've gotten new pH levels and have been rewarded for doing so but that's just conjecture. This is a situation that demands an attitude of if it works, don't fix it. My loaves that have been made with the new starter are improving in taste  after 24-48 hours. There's a mild sourness that is pleasing to both myself and Mrs PG. With the dough being easier to handle and shape, it's all bonus right now.

Tonganoxie Split Sourdough Loaf
Starter:
160g rye sour, 70% hydration after two stage build
Soaker:
85g white whole wheat flour
85g water at room temperature

Main Dough:
315g bread flour
195g water at 85F, plus 15g water for adjustment if needed
9g kosher salt
All of starter
All of soaker

One last note from our trip to Omaha. Last summer I mentioned the flood damage caused by the river levels of the Missouri River. Today, a lot of the fine grained silt left on the bottom land that was flooded became air borne due to high winds in the 30-40 MPH speeds. Visibility dropped to 1/4 mile at times as we drove down the highway from Omaha. While not quite Dust Bowl conditions, it wasn't what anyone would call healthy fresh air. Some of the dust had to come from farmers tilling their fields for planting but down in the bottoms the dust was rising right there in front of us, not a distant condition on the horizon.

There is a weather pattern approaching my little house on the edge of the prairie that is forecast to bring about four days of rainfall that may be in the 2-4" total rainfall. We could use that to clean off the dust.

Brunei and India brought in new readers this week.


Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.





























Sunday, March 11, 2012

Daffodils on the way and a PKWG Loaf variation

This was the first daffodil bloom of the season that I found in the yard yesterday afternoon. By the time Mrs PG and I were heading out to eat in Lawrence, KS a few hours later, there were a few more to give it competition for the eyes of viewers who really need some Spring in their lives. We'll get that this week in that the forecast high temperatures will be in the high 70Fs and low 80Fs. Time to open up the windows, let the stale air out, and the allergens in.

This is the latest loaf out of the oven. It's a variation on my Pilot Knob Wheat Germ loaf in that I used less wheat germ, the originally intended 25G instead of 50g, and there was no presoak of the WWW. The final hydration was just a shade over 70% and the dough was still easy to handle. The original PKWG was around 69%. It's difficult if not impossible to definitively memorize flavors so I won't choose which is better. I could serve either to my mother or MIL with confidence. My brother might be a tougher sell but only because he baked sourdough bread himself. He's the clinical chemist in the family as well.

Starter
150g 75% hydration

Dough
300g bread flour
100g white whole wheat
25g BRM wheat germ
295g water at 85F
9g kosher salt

Baked on a stone at 450F for 10 minutes, reduced to 425F for 5 minutes, turned around and baked at 425F for 20 minutes. Loaf had an internal temperature of 206F at 35 minutes so I turned the oven off, left the door cracked open for 5 minutes, and then cooled on a wire rack.

I think I've mined this vein of bread enough for a while. I can't decide whether to go with a rye next, I've been reading my copies of Clayton's "Breads of France" and "Inside the Jewish Bakery" a lot, or to go with another crack at my Anadama and Pioneer Bread recipes. I'll give that some thought while I wash the cars in the driveway this week. I can't miss my chance to take advantage of the expected warm weather.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.





















Thursday, March 08, 2012

Kansas Bread Sticks

  I concede that these have little in common with baguettes. They have more in common in with Italian breads in that I used a biga and some olive oil for ingredients. I also  considered calling them "pane rude" or rude bread but I thought that might be pushing my luck with my Italian-American acquaintances.
Perhaps I could get away with calling them crude bread.

Essentially, the dough was about 70% hydration dough that could have been used for pizza with a little more effort on my part. The biga was 70% and left alone for 12 hours or so, then mixed with the remainder of the ingredients. An hour long bulk ferment was followed by shaping and proofing under a towel for another hour.They were baked on a stone at 425F for around 25-27 minutes and then cooled on a rack. The crumb wasn't bad but not really good. I think the next time I try this I'll use a lttle more yeast in the main dough, probably starting with 1/2 tsp in the main dough. Still, for using a total of 3/8 tsp of ADY, they turned out OK.

Biga
100g AP flour
70g water at room temperature
1/8 tsp active dry yeast

Main dough
300g AP flour
200g water at 88F
1/4 tsp active dry yeast
7g kosher salt
8g olive oil


Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.
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Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Pilot Knob Wheat Germ Loaf

Pilot Knob is a hill only a mile or two away as the crow flies from here. It overlooks Leavenworth and across the river bottom on the Missouri side of the river. It's home to a lot of deer that have lost all sense of danger because no hunting is allowed there and several cell phone towers that are notorious for the amount of radio frequency interference they throw into the nearby homes.

This loaf confirmed one of my suspicions about why my loaves weren't meeting my ever advancing benchmark for what's really good and what's only good enough. I baked it on a baking stone without any steaming pan underneath it and my perceived problem of an almost crushed crumb on the bottom of the loaves disappeared. In fact, that convinced me that I should preheat the stone longer than the time when the oven beeps after reaching the predetermined temperature. That's a great idea but I use a typical domestic gas oven, not a monster "gourmet" or convection oven. This is a low budget operation.

The two unplanned wrinkles in my procedure didn't detract from the effort. The first happened while I was scaling my wheat germ for the soaker. I just added an extra 25g before I caught my error and decided to just keep rolling along rather than obsessing on how to fix the mistake. How can there be a mistake when there was no fixed recipe, just a vague mental outline? I did find that I needed to add some water while mixing the dough.

The second wrinkle happened when Mrs PG and I had meet someone in Lawrence, KS while the bread was bulk fermenting. I took a chance on doing a stretch and fold then placing the dough container in the basement when the temperature was around 62F. We got back four hours later and while it had definitely risen, it wasn't terminal. A second stretch and fold was done and followed by an hour of room temperature fermenting before shaping. The dough handled very well so I didn't stop to worry.

There was need for the bread to be baked as soon as practical so I proofed for two hours, slashed- I still need practice, loaded, and at the end of the bake retrieved one of my better tasting loaves in a long time.

Soaker
100g white whole wheat flour
50g Bob's Red Mill wheat germ
150g water at room temperature

Starter
165g at 75% hydration

Dough
300g bread flour
150g water at 85F, plus adjustments
9g kosher salt
all of soaker
all of starter


I really do enjoy the flavor the wheat germ added. I've been using it for a while and could never really get a feel for it's use. I started with some supermarket wheat germ by Kretschmer's that looked better suited for use in a hot breakfast cereal. The BRM wheat germ appears to be more soft and fibrous for lack of better description. It too can be used as a cereal. Until I find a local source for fresher wheat germ, I'll stay with the BRM stuff.

The oven spring on this loaf surprised me. Given that I had so much WWW flour and the wheat germ, I didn't expect this result.

The temperatures climbed into the 70s today which made opening our windows possible. I didn't wash my car because along with the warmth came sustained high winds averaging 25 mph and gusts up to 40 mph. It wasn't a good day for hair or hats. Thunderstorms are expected for tomorrow night and rain through Friday morning. That means I have plenty of time to work on a batch of my industrial red sauce for pasta and pizzas.

It's time to proofread and start a biga for some pane de Como bread or maybe a couple of Stiratto to go with the pasta. It's also time to extend recognition out to new countries in the page viewership with Argentina, France, Greece, and Turkey showing up on Google list.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.
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Sunday, March 04, 2012

Don't Overlook the Obvious

I had one of those "Duh!" moments yesterday afternoon. After trying to figure out the "why" and "wherefore" of the missteps that lead to a less than adequate last loaf, I was at it again trying to figure why this loaf came up short. It had a nice oven spring, probably due to be just a little bit under proofed, and developed a dramatic looking grigne. The crust has a nice color but when you look at the crumb, it's on the dense side for a 70% hydration loaf and  the bottom is even more dense. Different loaf, same problem.

Before posting my ongoing frustration, I decided to grab a fast 20 minute "power nap" that extended itself into 75 minutes. Within less than 15 seconds after emerging into consciousness and totally unplanned for, I had one of those moments of clarity that resolved my question. I've been using a half sheet pan in the oven on the rack underneath the baking stone. Not only was it blocking heat getting to the baking stone during preheating but when I threw 5 or 6 ice cubes on the tray, the action added insult to injury for the bread. At least it looks like that was what was happening.

Two solutions have come to mind. First, not bother with steam at all since the oven door has some venting which probably limits any contributions from attempts at steam. This seems to be the easiest approach to confirm whether or not I was the primary problem cause. The second solution is to put the half sheet pan on the oven floor where it won't divert any heat from the baking stone. That's an easy approach as well. I'll be starting a new loaf tomorrow where I'll bake without steam to see if I'm on the right track.

The wine red tips of the peony plantings emergence are showing up over the entire yard. The high temperature forecast for Tuesday is 70F, quite warm for the beginning of March, so more signs of Spring are on the way. I may even get the opportunity to wash my car in the driveway on Tuesday. The bamboo plants at Rob's house across the river are already leafed out. No migratory birds have shown up in the yard as of yet and the juncos, our winter guests, are feeding heavily. The most recently identified bird is the northern flicker, which is a type of woodpecker that is a year round resident in the area. This afternoon, I saw a couple of bald eagles flying over the fields just east of the bridge over the Missouri River. They're usually just passing through the area as they follow the river according to the seasons. A few reside year round at the Federal flood control reservoirs here on the eastern side of Kansas.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.