Friday, October 31, 2008

Waking Them Up

My babies are waking up! I got them out of the fridge yesterday morning; the poor things looked chilled to the bone, watery, and weak. So pathetic and sad! I almost felt guilty.

They clearly needed to get the blood moving again. To stir some life back into them. To eat something! So, I did what any good mom does when her kids look cold and weepy---I fed them (just water and flour, nothing fancy) and almost immediately, it seemed, they were back to their boisterous, tangy-scented selves. It made my heart swell with pride, it did! Silverton says to wait for three days before baking after chilling the starter, but I bet I could’ve baked with them today.

Anyway, all that to say: We’re back in business, folks, and I have a couple new recipes up my sleeve. Well, at least one ... but I think it’s a good one. It involves pumpkin seeds and a sweet potato. Just in time for Thanksgiving, too.

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Cold Nap

My babies are sleeping. Shh.

Because I did a lot of baking over the past couple weeks and now have quite the stash of bread in the freezer, I decided to put the babies to sleep for a week or two. There’s no need to be using up all that flour if I’m not needing it. So I filled two pint jars three-quarters of the way full, one with the whole wheat starter and the other with the white. I labeled and dated the jars and popped them in the fridge.

It’s nice to have a break from the rigorous feeding schedule, but I know I’ll be glad to see my babies again when I wake them back up. Frozen sourdough bread is plenty good, but there is nothing like a hot loaf of crusty bread, straight from the oven. Mmm. Absence does make the heart grow fonder.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Taking Risks

I am not one to play around with recipes much. I like to follow the directions exactly as is. I'm just not a risk-taker, I guess. Does that mean I'm boring? Maybe, but I'm also consistent.

The one thing that keeps me from appearing too boring is that I try new things. And that's interesting, right? I figure if I try out lots and lots of different recipes no one will ever catch on to the fact that I'm not thinking for myself, creating original recipes. (Or have you all figured that out already and are tittering to each other behind your fingers? Please don't answer that question.)

Anyway, all that boring blather just to say that I tried something different with the whole wheat sourdough bread. I'm proud to say that my little experiment was successful.

Tinkering with Silverton's golden recipes gave me a little adrenaline boost and made me all happy inside. As The Pioneer Woman would say, it made my skirt fly up.

What I did different was this (it's really not much so you must promise not to laugh at me): I shaped the bread into loaves instead of boules, proofed them in heavily-greased bread pans (first out on the counter, then overnight in the fridge, and back out on the counter the next morning), and then baked them in a 400 degree oven for about 35 minutes---no flipping them around, only a tiny dock-slash down the backbone, no spritzing the oven with water.

The result was a normal enough looking loaf of bread, one that did not sink and go flat (I decided that was a problem), with a very moist and chewy crumb and without a hard, tough-crunchy crust, something that has understandably been bothering my children.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Blow Out

This is what happens if you don’t dock the bread properly, or if it hasn’t been proofed all the way.

In this case, both factors were present. The bread was under-proofed (right around 58 degrees instead of 62) so I should have made a deeper cut when I docked it.

But I didn’t, and you can see how the bread contorted itself as it struggled to find room to expand.

So now it sports a Novocaine-induced chipmunk face---a loaf of bread that has had dental work. How about that ... a genuinely toothsome bread.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Basic Whole Wheat Bread

The whole wheat boule is a little tangier and nuttier, more of a sour bread, but it’s still not what I would call a strong-flavored bread. And it’s neither too dark nor too dense. Of course, you can make it as dark as you like by adding a higher ratio of whole wheat flour to white flour or by including other whole grains. But I like it as is—for a basic whole wheat bread, this is about perfect.

The dough is a little wetter than the Country White dough, and it doesn’t rise quite as high which results in a flatter-looking boule. I may be doing something wrong, so if I figure out the problem (if this is even considered a problem) I’ll let you know.

Whole Wheat Boule
Adapted from Breads from the La Brea Bakery by Nancy Silverton

2 cups (1 pound) cool water
1 3/4 cups (1 pound and 1 ounce) whole wheat starter
1 tablespoon barley malt syrup
5 2/3 cups (1 pound and 11 ounces) unbleached bread flour
1 ½ cups (6 ounces) whole wheat flour
1/4 cup wheat bran
1 tablespoon sea salt

Mix together the water, starter, syrup, flours, and bran on low speed for 4 minutes. Let rest for 20 minutes. Add the salt and mix for another 6 minutes. Transfer the dough to a well-oiled bowl, cover well, and let proof for about three hours.

Proof and bake the bread as is outlined in the recipe for the Country White bread. (Dock the bread with a backwards C, followed by a slash that is perpendicular to it and then two slanted slashes on either side of the main perpendicular cut. Confusing, huh? Look at the photo, or else cut it up in whatever way you find pleasing.)

Update, December 8, 2008
The dough is too wet, even when shaping into loaves. When docking, it deflates and does not rise again. Therefore, I have started adding more whole wheat to the dough. The recipe calls for six ounces, but I put in somewhere between 10 and 12 ounces, plus another 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Give A Hearty Welcome To...

...the newest member of our family: Our whole wheat starter baby!

I conceived this baby two days ago, Tuesday morning, by putting one cup of white starter in a clean half-gallon jar, adding 1/4 cup whole wheat flour and ½ cup water, and voila! I had me a new baby!

I feed it three times a day, like the other baby. I think you’re supposed to wait for three full days of feedings before using the starter in bread, but I’m going to cheat and start a batch of bread today, after only two full days.

The feeding schedule for a whole wheat starter is as follows:

In the morning put one cup of starter (only use the white starter once, just to get it going—from then on reserve one cup of the whole wheat starter every morning) in a clean jar, add 1/4 cup whole wheat flour and ½ cup water. Give the slurry a good stir, lightly secure the lid, and set the jar out of the way on the kitchen counter or up on the fridge.

At noon, or four to six hours later, add ½ cup whole wheat flour and 3/4 cup water.

In the evening, or four to six hours later, add one cup of whole wheat flour and 1 ½ cups water.

This is a much more runny starter than the white starter, the water and flour separates, and it just doesn’t look like it’s doing much. But it makes excellent bread, as I will soon show you!

Note: If you make the Farmer Boy Pancakes with whole wheat starter, you will need to add some extra flour, either white or whole wheat, or another one of your choosing, to thicken up the batter. Or you can combine both the white and whole wheat starters in the recipe—that is, if you have both babies going simultaneously.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Wettest Dough Yet

This one-day bread is not difficult to make, though the first time around you will fret over it because it will be the wettest dough that you have ever yet made, I bet. Learning the ropes of handling puddle-wet dough as opposed to an elastic-ball of dough that you can knead the crap out of is certainly challenging, but also fun. Eventually it becomes simple, and then it starts feeling like old hat. (To be honest, I’m not there yet, so that last sentence is purely hopeful speculation.)

The point of having such a wet dough is that you get lots of nice, big holes. This bread should be served alongside something that you can dip it into, such as soup or Peposo. It’s also very good split in half and toasted—kind of like an English muffin.

The bread is best fresh because after the first 24-36 hours it tends to harden quite a bit. I think the leftover pieces will make a splendid bread pudding.

Silverton uses this dough as a basis for a number of other recipes, such as Rustic Olive-Herb Bread, Focaccia, and Italian Bread Sticks, so there is lots of room for playing around.

Rustic Bread
Adapted and roughly summarized from Breads From The La Brea Bakery by Nancy Silverton

2 2/3 cups (1 pound and 6 ounces) water, divided
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (1 pound and 3 ounces) white starter
1 teaspoon yeast
8 3/4 cups (2 pounds and 3 ounces) bread flour
4 teaspoons sea salt
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons olive oil
semolina flour, or cornmeal, for dusting

Put 2 1/3 cups water, the starter, yeast, and flour in your hand-dandy Kitchen Aid mixing bowl and mix for six minutes (or do it by hand and get really big arm muscles). Cover the dough with a cloth and let rest for 20 minutes. Add the salt and mix for 2 more minutes.

In a small bowl mix the remaining 1/3 cup water, the milk, and the olive oil. Keeping the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients. No matter how slowly you add the liquids, there will still be some sloshing, so have a cloth ready to loosely drape over the mixer to act as a make-shift shield. Once the liquids are blended in, mix for another 4 minutes. Cover the bowl with a shower cap or plastic wrap and let it rest for 2-3 hours, or until it has doubled in size.

Heavily sprinkle your work surface with flour and dump out the risen dough. Sprinkle the puddle of dough with more flour and cover with a cloth and leave it alone for 20 minutes.

Get out two cookie sheets and cover them with large pieces of parchment paper. Sprinkle the papers with cornmeal and then bread flour.

Cut the dough in half (it will feel like you are cutting Elmer’s glue),

and somehow, with much rigorous maneuvering of your shoulders, transfer one of the dough puddles to a cookie sheet, roughly spreading out the dough as you lay it down so that it is about 8 x 10 inches and about 1 ½ inches thick (mine was more spread out and thinner—gotta work on that).

Repeat the process with Dough Puddle Number Two. Dimple the dough-puddles with your fingers, and sprinkle the tops of the dough with bread flour and cornmeal. Cover with a cloth and let them proof for 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees, re-dimple the dough, and when the oven is ready, slide Puddle Number One, along with it’s piece of parchment paper, onto the baking stone.

Make sure to spritz the oven with water: once before putting in the loaf of bread, once right after putting the loaf in, 2 ½ minutes later, and then 2 ½ minutes later. Reduce the oven temperature to 450 degrees and keep the oven shut for the next 15 minutes. Remove the parchment paper and allow to bake for another 5-10 minutes. Crank the oven back up and repeat with the next loaf, er, puddle.