Monday, April 22, 2013

Polydactal Cats and a Pane di Como Antico loaf

Mrs PG and I got on one of Delta Airlines human cattle car flights to Ft Lauderdale, FL where we were fortunate enough to have the use of her nephew's home as a base of operations for a trip to southern Florida. We definitely weren't in Kansas.

After a look at a small corner of the the vast Everglades, we aimed our prodigious rental car for Key West, the southernmost city of the US. It's no longer the bawdy home of Hemingway or the hipster haven of Jimmy Buffett's youth. The town has been sanitized for the tourists that drop in by the thousands on cruise ships and the influx of the wealthy who always seem to tame the fun towns with their four star inns, Starbucks, artsy galleries, and yachts that are often larger than the flagships of many a third world country's navy. Something similar happened to Jackson, WY, Santa Fe, NM, Durango, CO, and is currently taking the cowboy out of Montana.

We had a beer at Sloppy Joe's, saw the free ranging chickens of Key West on Duval Street, toured the Hemingway house with its famed cat cemetery, and saw a few of the 46 famous six toed (polydactyl) cats that currently live there in feline decadence. I couldn't get a picture standing by the iconic marker near the Southernmost Hotel because there were too many people with the identical thought so I settled for a hat pin from a nearby souvenir store.               

The Kennedy Space Center turned out to be the best stop on our vacation from my point of view. While the visitor's center had some gimmicky attractions, I found the place to be a lot more overwhelming than expected. The Space Race started during my elementary school years so I've always had a quite romantic view of the program. That got changed somewhat after seeing the reality side of it. There were more than a few actual rockets there on stands and even one Saturn rocket, the type used to send men to the men, laid out vertically so we could see the size and complexity of the undertaking. Throw in a few recovered space capsules, a lunar rover, moon rock samples, and various space suits and the adventure geek will come out in a lot of guys. The number of foreign tourists there gave testament to the appeal of traveling to the moon. The art deco buildings on South Beach in Miami seemed pale in comparison and I took an art education specialty in college.

When we got back to KC after ten days in Florida, we were greeted with a 36F temperature and a 27F wind chill factor. Due to cool, damp weather while we were gone, very little had started blooming and trees still looked bare. The juncos that I depended on to clean up the bird food scattered by the sparrows had left to migrate north and the starlings moved on to better pickings in another neighborhood.

Over the last few days, trees have started to fill out and my collection of peonies are racing along to catch up with the season. There's a mention of snow in tomorrow's forecast but it won't stick around for more than a few hours.

The first loaf pictured is just a practice loaf for home use. The starter needed to be revived and I wanted to finish off the last of the hard red winter wheat I had in a freezer bag. I should have taken my own advice from a previous loaf and gone for a single slash down the long aspect of the loaf. The blowout on the side would have looked more dramatic or even artistic (shudder) had I done so.

140 g at 75% hydration

Main dough
267 g bread flour
78 g hard red winter wheat flour
55 g white whole wheat flour
280 g water at 85F
11 g kosher salt
All of starter

My starter suffered no ill effects from taking a couple weeks off and strutted its stuff in the second loaf, a pane di como antico. Once we get past the non-traditional shape and feeble slashing pattern, the formula is really tasty. Lily, the six year old daughter of an acquaintance and his wife, even ate the crust first before she went to the crumb. It will be several years before she's old enough to be an apprentice so I better spread this adaptation of the Carol Field's recipe around the 'net in hopes that someone will eventually give me a little feedback.

Pane Como Antico ( Old fashioned Como bread)

150 g at 78% hydration

Main Dough
435 g bread flour
65g white whole wheat flour
5 g wheat germ
5 g dry milk powder
360 g water at 90F
10 g kosher salt
7 g olive oil

At the end of bulk fermentation, the dough was still a little sticky due to what I estimated to be around 72-74% hydration so I went with using my oblong brotform. The loaf is traditionally round. I also used an overnight retarded proofing so I could meet my goal of having the freshest loaf possible for our friend Sachiko's birthday party on Sunday afternoon. This a big loaf but it is good enough to take to family dinners or impress your mother in law.

My blogsite has had new visitors from Algeria and Norway over the past couple of weeks. There were some 24 pageviews from Romania in the past few days so I guess someone must have borrowed a recipe of mine that I borrowed from someone else. I'm flattered.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

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