Friday, December 30, 2016

A Beginner's Ciabatta

The thought of baking ciabatta ran across my mind recently so I gathered up my current favorite bread books to search for recipes and learn about the necessary techniques involved. I also spent a lot of time viewing Youtube videos. None of them agreed with the previous video so I went back on my old favorite, "Bread" by J Hamelman to borrow as much as I could .

After changing his work into metric measure and cutting it down to a small test batch size, I proceeded with my usual naivete that if I follow the instructions I couldn't go too far wrong.

I don't think I did too bad, the loaves were better than just edible and I should be able to duplicate the results in the future. This time around, I used my smaller mixer and used KAF AP as dictated in the book.

136 g KAF AP flour
136 g water, room temperature
1/8 tsp IDY

The IDY quantity is a larger than what the book would suggest for a batch this size  but I went bigger since I started the poolish in the evening when our inside temperature on the thermostat drops from 70F down to 65F for about eight hours. It worked out.

Mr Hamelman directs readers to add all the remaining or main dough ingredients and the poolish into the mixer bowl and start mixing at a slow speed. I went along using the paddle attachment at first speed for three minutes. Then I switched to the dough hook and revved up to second speed for four minutes. The dough cleared to side of the bowl but stayed connected to the bottom. The hydration of this dough is around 73% so it's sticky but in my effort, it wasn't so loose as to fall back into a blob. Mr Hamelman refers to the dough having some strength or muscle.

Main Dough
318 g KAF AP
198 g water at 85F
8 g kosher salt
5/8 tsp IDY
All of the poolish

The bulk fermentation took about three hours. After mixing, I shaped the dough as best I could on a floured surface. From there, it went into a oiled- EVOO, container and after one hour, I gave it a fold. A second fold followed at two hours. The bulk fermentation ended and the dough, now puffed up, went onto a well floured surface.

After a gentle shaping into a rectangular form and patting out the largest bubbles, the top of the dough was lightly floured to facilitate dividing. A metal bladed bench knife is a good tool to use in this situation because a fast, strong cut with a quick twist at the bottom is called for to divide the dough. Check out the Cyril Hitz video showing him trimming the edges for a well defined edge and placing the trimmings on the bottom of the dough to give it some height. I chose the "rustic" or unfinished look and just stretched out the two pieces before placing them on my floured couche. I just eyeballed the dough but scaling the dough is doable if you choose. Moving the dough will probably call for the use of the bench knife to help keep the amount of handling to a minimum. It worked for me.

Proofing took about 1 1/4 hours for me. YMMV since the dough rises to an almost cartoon like  height and it will spread if there isn't a fold in the couche. Once the proofing is done or when you get concerned that you may be overdoing things, transfer the dough to a floured bread board or some floured  parchment paper that is well supported. An inverted sheet pan or a cookie sheet pan will do. Slide the dough onto your baking stone which has been sitting in your preheated oven, 450F, and utilize some steam if your situated for doing so. Otherwise, mist the tops of the dough, close the oven, and peak through the window in the door as the bake progresses. They do rise. After fifteen minutes, turn the loaves around and remove the parchment paper if your using it. Another twenty to twenty five minutes of baking should reward you with nicely colored loaves. As always, let the loaves cool on a wire rack before serving.

That's it in brief. I would suggest that everyone take a look at Mr Hamelman's book. His instructions are far more explanatory and an excellent tutorial but if you just want to have fun, I think that this will get you through the basics and you can make up the rest as you go along.

Outside the window, the temperatures have been unseasonably warm for a few days and there's no snow on the ground. While my family back East in Massachusetts is dealing with snow, today I mowed the last of the leaves in my backyard into mulch. There haven't been any unusual birds at the feeders but I have seen a lot of red tailed hawks in the area, perched on light poles, near the tops of trees, or on wires and looking for their next snack.

This obscure corner of the internet has gotten a lot of visits from Poland over the last couple of weeks. I wonder if my father has been spreading the word about my follies here to relatives over there.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Sunflower Seed Sourdough

I didn't stop baking over the past four months. Some of the time was spent experimenting with dry yeast, shaping techniques, washing my starter, different brands of flour, and even bringing out the stand mixer. The rest of my time spilling and throwing flour involved revisiting old recipes. Nothing bad happened but I didn't produce anything new or different enough to get excited about hitting the keyboard.

I did find that I had been overlooking the importance of not over extending the bulk fermentation time. It appears that most of my dough will produce good results with a simple doubling in volume during the bulk fermentation instead of a tripling. I haven't kept copious notes or made comparison studies but it appears to me that the difference shows up during baking with better oven spring and a more open crumb. I'm curious as to whether it would be that there is more active yeast or just the same phenomenon that occurred during these bakes. In any case, this calls for new equipment. My next order will include a 4 L Cambro container which should make it easier to observe 

dough reaching a doubled volume than
in my present 6 L container.

The first loaf is the Sunflower Seeded Sourdough. It isn't a direct copy of J Hamelman's "Sonnenblumenbrot" though I admit to having perused the recipe several times this year. I used a simple 3-2-1 foundation and added 10% by weight-33 grams, of roasted sunflower seeds. It probably could have supported another 16 grams of seeds.

110 grams at 100% hydration

Main Dough
280 g bread flour
50 g WWW flour
220 water at 85F
33 g roasted sunflower seeds
7 g kosher salt

The second loaf is another 3-2-1 sourdough using 20% WWW flour in the main dough. It's the other loaf that started me on this doubled bulk fermentation dough thread.  It's one of my "standard" house recipes.

The availability of ground flax, chia, and hemp seeds at the local Walmart means that as soon as I exhaust the present seed mixes in the freezer, I should be able to just supply my own mixes

The garden wasn't as productive as usual this past summer. The hot weather at the end of June and beginning of July diminished the setting of just about all the vegetables. The local county extension service offices tried to comfort local gardeners but no one was really happy. Today was the day for planting garlic. After working the 3'x5' plot, adding compost and fertilizer, I set out 48 cloves for next year's crop.

We haven't been seeing very many birds at the feeders over the past month or so. I did see a couple of blue birds recently and some early juncos. Back in August, I saw the only turkey vulture of the year feasting on some roadkill a few blocks north, something I may not see again for quite a while.

The first serious, killing frost is expected for Saturday morning. While the frost will kill the oak leaf mites that have been particularly bothersome this year, it will also mean a bumper crop of falling leafs as well. Then there's the necessity of cleaning out the garage to make room for my electric snow blower. A local TV weather personality said that the old timers who predict winter weather according to the seeds inside persimmons are calling for a cold winter with lots of wet snow. That's not something I look forward to at all but somewhere way back in our dining area hutch is a bottle of Gran Marnier that only sees daylight after I've finished shoveling snow. I'd rather that it continue to accumulate dust.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

A Similar Table Bread

 Summer arrived and has taken up residence in our patch of ground here on the Middle Coast with cruel and oppressive heat. That means changing conditions for my yeast in that even with the A/C on, the usual room temperature is somewhere between 78 and 80F. Fortunately, that's on the upper end of ideal temperatures for yeast, both dry yeast and sourdough. Adding to the new conditions for the yeast, I switched from using KAF AP to using Hudson Cream AP. The HC AP is milled here in Kansas, out west of Wichita. It's at least one full percentage point lower in protein than the KAF AP which makes it handle differently. BTW, it works just fine when used in feeding my sourdough starters.

62 g HC AP
62 g water at room temperature, around 80F
1/8 tsp instant dry yeast

Main Dough
208 g Dakota Maid bread flour
60 g Dakota Maid whole wheat flour
169 g water at 80F
7 g kosher salt
1/2 tsp instant dry yeast
olive oil for greasing fermentation bowl or container

Add flours and IDY into the mixing bowl, stir well to mix.Use the main dough water to help transfer the poolish to the mixing bowl. Mix to a shaggy mass, cover, and let rest for about 20 minutes.

Add salt and fold in. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface, knead for about two minutes, place into an oiled container for bulk fermentation and cover. Do three stretch and folds at 20-25 minutes depending on room temperature, cover, and then rest until dough volume has doubled.

I had been presoaking the WW or WWW in my dough with the main dough water but in this case, I skipped the extra step. The resultant dough after the first mix was a bit dry but as it changed over to a tacky consistently later on during the bulk ferment. I suspect that the longer bulk fermentation at 70% hydration worked out in my favor here.

When the dough has doubled in volume, turn it out onto a floured surface, preshape, cover, and rest for 10-15 minutes. Shape and place in a prepared banneton or couche for proofing. In my case, I left the banneton at room temperature for about 30 minutes and then placed it in the refrigerator, which allowed me to bake the loaf in the evening when the house had cooled down. Preheat the oven and a baking stone at 450F for at least 30 minutes. When the dough has finished proofing, turn the loaf out onto either a peel or onto parchment paper on whatever pan or cookie sheet you use. Slash, mist the top with water, and load the oven. Bake at 450F for 15 minutes, remove the parchment paper if you're using it, turn the loaf around, and bake at 425F for 19-20 minutes.Turn off the heat, leave the oven door cracked open with an oven pad for five minutes. The room temperature made that foolish for me to do so I just kept the finished loaf in the oven for a couple of minutes and placed it on a wire cooling rack.

The end result was a good loaf; moist, tender, with a bit of acidity in the flavor.

The heat has yet to relent out here. The lawn has deep cracks in the soil and the garden needs watering at least every three days. So far, I've picked one cucumber and there are a few grape tomatoes that are now ripe. There aren't any peppers worth picking yet but they're coming along slowly. It's time to start digging up the garlic now, which I should do before the forecast thunderstorms rolling in tomorrow night.  I dug up one bulb out of curiosity that was fair in size but can't predict what size bulbs will come out of the ground tomorrow. I'm keeping my hopes up for a ripe tomato, the grape tomatoes don't count, by July 4th. So far, it looks like I'll have a San Marzano tomato to establish the bragging rights on that day.

Rumor has it that the hummingbirds are in the area but I have yet to see any.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Friday, June 03, 2016

Table Breads with Poolish Variations

The set of mixing bowls you see are actually older than I am. They've been given to me by my mother who found their weight made them difficult to use anymore. These post WW2 products from Pyrex  are still in great shape with only a small number of scratches incurred over some 69 years of use feeding our family and guests. My Mom also gave me a KA mixer which will be of use when mixing Christmas cookies and larger dough batches.

While I haven't given up on sourdough breads, I just haven't done anything different enough to post here. I have been playing with dry yeast breads lately with the intent of refining reliable formulas from past efforts. I started with a small loaf that included 15% fine durum wheat flour usually used in making pasta. The loaf was also the recipient of  some 40 g of  discard from the initial build stage of a starter.

85 g KAF AP
15 g fine durum wheat flour
100 g water at 88F
1/4 tsp IDY

Main Dough
175 g bread flour
85 g water at 88F
50 g discarded 100% starter
6 g kosher salt
olive oil for greasing fermentation container and for my hands during initial kneading.

I usually let the initial shaggy mass of dough rest for 20 minutes or so before adding the salt. I then put some olive oil on my hands and "air knead" by picking up the mass, roughly folding it to make it easier to pinch the dough with my thumbs, going up or down, while letting the dough hang. The dough takes on a kind of strip form after that, making it easy to fold and place back in the bulk fermentation bowl.

This bread did taste good for only my second time reworking the formula. I suspect I could use more starter if I wanted to but I probably should reduce final hydration from around 70% to 68%.
This second loaf is the basis for the second formula I've been working with lately. It's a 20% WW/80% bread flour project. It's smaller than my usual sourdough loaves and besides its taste, it also has the attraction being ready to eat in about the same time it takes to build up a vigorous starter. Upon slicing the loaf, I found that I need to allter my procedure. You see, I added all the WW flour to the poolish mix, a perfectly acceptable move.

When I use whole wheat flour and mix by hand, I get some streaks or swirls of a darker color in the crumb. This problem, if one chooses to see it as such, can be resolved by using a mixer if you have one. It's an appearance thing with no bearing on the flavor. I just baked a loaf with white whole wheat in the same quantities and procedures and it worked out fine, with no visible swirls in the appearance..

60 g stone ground whole wheat flour
40 g KAF AP flour
100 g water at 88 F
1/4 tsp instant dry yeast

Main Dough
200 g bread flour
108 g water at 88 F
6 g kosher salt
1/2  tsp IDY

The Spring 2016 season has been as unpredictable as those of past years. While peonies were weren't as plentiful and impressive as last year, the day lily plants are already quite bushy and getting ready to bloom. The garlic scapes have already been cut and the bottom leaves on the stalks are beginning to dry up. I may be digging garlic in a few weeks. The first tomatoes have shown up and today I saw the first baby sweet Italian pepper. I've tried three different lettuce plantings but they've all been failures, perhaps due to being washed away by the abundant rainfall over the last six weeks or so. I was fortunate enough to find a bale of straw to use as mulch in the garden. Wheat straw has become a limited commodity in this area since farmers have switched to planting corn to take advantage of the subsidies available.

Along with the usual suspects, I've been seeing some rose breasted grosbeaks and orioles, summertime birds for this area, at the bird feeders just outside my window.

Here is a list of countries of the visitors that have lately found their way to my obscure corner of the internet: Argentina, Colombia,Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, Indonesia, Macedonia, Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, South Africa, and the UAE.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Friday, March 25, 2016

A Late Winter Bulgur Loaf

 I like the sweet flavor that bulgur brings to a loaf. That gave me the idea to add it in as I was rummaging through the refrigerator, looking for ingredients that I hadn't used recently. It also adds a little bit of detail, maybe texture is the word I'm looking for, to the outside of the loaf. Since I had the luxury of time to make this loaf, I also used retarded proofing in the fridge and a longer than usual finish to that proofing on the counter before I loaded the loaf into the oven. I expected that the loaf would spread out due to the hydration but I had no complaints when the bake was done.

140 g at 100% hydration

42 g bulgur
36 g water

Main Dough
228 g bread flour
72 g white whole wheat
205 g water at 85F
All of starter
All of soaker
7 g kosher salt

Spring time has really started to roll in, semingly a few weeks early. Considering that the average last frost date in this area is 15 April, everyone is quite amazed. The trees are budding out and a few have a leaf or two to show for their efforts. The grass in the yard grew enough that I actually mowed the lawn this past week. I've dug up and turned over a couple small sections of my garden but the soil is still wet from the December rains and quite cold. I haven't seen any new varieties of birds at feeders, just the usual suspects with an increase in gold finches. There are quite a few hawks around town right now. They're often seen perching lower than normal in my observations, on power lines or on the arms of street light poles.

Some casual, drive by visitors to my obscure corner of the internet over the past few weeks have come from Austria, Israel, Lebanon, and Peru.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Monday, February 22, 2016

More Big Levain loaves

It's been about four years since I worked on loaves with a larger starter. This time around may have been a simple improvisation on my familiar 25% WWW flour sourdough when I found myself with more starter than needed and with plenty already stashed in the refrigerator. Since the average room temperature is still around 70F here at Casa de PG, I figured that manipulating the numbers away from the standard 3-2-1 formula would be the most difficult aspect. I was wrong, it was restraining myself from eating too much of my own work. These breads have turned out very well.

My idea was that if I used more than my standard quantity of 100% hydration starter, then all I needed to do would be to subtract the extra flour and water quantities from the ingredients in the main dough. While the bulk fermentation time was about the same length, there was an improved handling quality to the dough. which made shaping easier. Proofing time decreased by about 25% for the first loaf, from 4 1/2 hours down to 3 1/2 hours. I used retarded proofing for the second loaf so I can't say that I've discovered anything yet. I need to do more work using this variation in method before I pat myself on the back.

Starter, first loaf
160 g at 100% hydration, fed with KAF AP

Main Dough
250 g bread flour
90 g home milled white whole wheat flour
220 g water at 85F
8 g kosher salt

Starter, second loaf
160 g at 100% hydration, fed with KAF AP

Main Dough
250 g bread four
90 g home milled white whole wheat flour
220 g water at 85F
15 g wheat germ
8 g kosher salt

The first signs of the daffodils from the oldest plantings are now emerging. The bulbs that I planted late last fall haven't shown up yet. Usually the peonies arrive for work at about the same time as the daffodils but this winter's weather may be throwing them off their schedule. The garlic is still under its blanket of straw but I may go out there later in the week when the temperatures go back up and lift the straw to see what's going on.

Recent visitors to my obscure corner of the internet have come from Algeria, Oman, and Singapore.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Cellar Bread Variation

Times have been slow around the oven due to my efforts at clearing out the freezer of odds and ends that I put away, out of sight and out of mind until lately. This week has marked an increase in projects and the gas bill starting with these two efforts.

The first picture is of my initial attempt at making scones. I used the Cream Scone recipe from the KAF Baker's Companion. Let me say that the process turned out messier than I expected but nothing that didn't respond to soap and water and some elbow grease. Being positive, I can say it was a learning experience.

I followed the recipe as well as I could for a first timer, even to the point of weighing ingredients when I had that information. The end result is a essentially a tasty buttermilk biscuit. You can add some kind of dried fruits pieces or nuts, which I forgot to do. The KAF Baker's Companion has several other scone recipes, one of which includes chocolate chips, so I think I'll dabble in scones for a while as a side venture since the dough can be frozen for baking at a later date.

Winter's arrival has meant the average temperature in our cellar sits around 60-62F, almost ideal temperatures for a slow bulk ferment or proofing and coaxing a little bit more flavor out of the dough. For this loaf, the dough had three stretch folds over two hours then almost seven hours in the 60F cellar, at which time it had more than doubled in size.

Since I was fooling around with time and temperature for this loaf, I changed my percentage of starter by an admittedly small amount that actually worked out. The crumb isn't wildly open but on the other hand, I threw in some wheat germ along with the white whole wheat flour so I'm happy for now and can take this recipe for the wintertime a little bit further in the next six weeks or so.

140 g, at 100% hydration, fed with KAF AP

Main Dough
290 g bread flour
60 g white whole wheat flour
20 g wheat germ
230 g water at 85F
7 g kosher salt
I've got admit that this winter hasn't turned out to be as bad as I expected. I have had to shovel the driveway a few times but that was more indicative of the paucity of snowfall rather than any ambition on my part. I have my little snow blower in the garage but so far it has only gathered dust.

We're getting to the time of year where freezing rain becomes more likely than snow and that is a most unpleasant prospect to consider. In order to combat that dread, lawn and garden shows look very attractive and they should start up in a couple more weeks. I don't need more seeds but I will be looking for the yard toys that that spin and make noise. They annoy the neighbors more than they do any critters or vermin that may cross the yard but their bright colors do bring a smile to my face. They'll have to do until the daffodils start to show up and the dandelions rise up to risk my wrath with a tools of destruction and possible injury.

Lately, this obscure corner of the internet has gotten a lot of visits from Asia. Among the countries represented are S Korea, the Philippines, Singapore, Pakistan, and Viet Nam.Whether accidental or deliberate, I'm always happy to see where my visitors come from.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

Friday, January 01, 2016

Sourdough Bloomers and another Bran Crust Sourdough

"The Bread and Bread Machine Bible" by Ingram and Shapter was one of my first bread baking books. By no means is it the best ever, but it's usefulness is evidenced the spin off books that use portions to create different titles. One of the breads included is an English loaf called Poppy Seeded Bloomer. According to the book, the loaf is an English answer to a batard. The recipe didn't attract me but the slashing pattern caught my eye and I finally gave it try.

While the original recipe called for a lean dough of about 64% hydration and an extended bulk fermentation due to using a small amount of yeast, my loaves are sourdough with about 70% hydration.

I have been proofing larger loaves in my banneton but these are smaller by 30 g of flour so the banneton was lined with a towel. While none of these loaves are picture perfect, the slashing pattern worked out well in that the loaves didn't widen out. That was a small accomplishment to be sure but since it worked, I don't regret it.

This last loaf is another 1-2-3 sourdough pain de campagne, boosted with a Tbs of honey due to slower yeast action in my somewhat cool, winter environment, 68-70F, in the kitchen. The bran was added to the outside of the loaf by rolling the shaped, somewhat sticky dough onto some bran. Just to be sure I got the desired result, I also dusted the banneton liner with bran.

Outside, the first measurable snowfall we've had is slowly melting as the temperatures flirt with rising above freezing temperatures. I'm located just a few miles from the Missouri River but there are no flooding concerns here, unlike downriver in the St Louis area. The ground is saturated due to rainfall and snow melt so occasionally I'll be surprised by the sound of the sump running. Fortunately for us and the US Postal Service, the 2016 seed catalogs are arriving daily to start us daydreaming about Springtime and getting our hands in the dirt again.

The usual suspects are visiting my bird feeders with occasional visits from starlings, who will eat everything, and flickers. While the sparrows still don't exhibit good table manners at the feeders, the juncos, who are primarily ground feeders, are once again the beneficiaries.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.