Saturday, November 22, 2008

George's Seeded Sour

I loved this bread the last time I made it. The seed combination is brilliant, a perfect combo that mirrors a seeded sourdough bread I used to buy at our farmer’s market that made me go all swoony.

But I made a mistake this time. (I’ve been making a lot of mistakes, but I try not to dwell on them too much because then I get discouraged and am no fun to be with.) I used seeds that had not been stored in the freezer (I do know better) and had been piled listlessly in the corner of my kitchen cabinet for a year, or, oh I’m so embarrassed, more. So the seeds were a little bitter, which kind of ruined the effect.

Moral of the lesson—buy fresh seeds if you are going to make this bread, and then store them in the freezer until you need them again.

George’s Seeded Sour
Adapted from Breads from the La Brea Bakery by Nancy Silverton

2 1/4 cups (1 3/4 pounds) white starter
1/4 cup (2 ounces) milk
2/3 cup (3 ½ ounces) whole wheat flour
½ cup (1 1/3 ounces) dark rye flour
2 tablespoons bread flour
1 ½ cups (10 ounces) cool water
2 ½ tablespoons quinoa
2 ½ tablespoons millet
1/4 cup amaranth
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
5 cups plus 2 tablespoons (1 pound and 5 ½ ounces) bread flour
1 tablespoon sea salt

Start the bread in the late afternoon of Day One:
Make a sponge with the first five ingredients: using a spoon, mix them altogether in a bowl, cover tightly with a shower cap and leave the bowl sit on the counter until it has doubled, about three hours.

Put the water, sponge, grains, poppy seeds, and flour in the mixing bowl and knead for four minutes. Let the dough rest for twenty minutes.

Add the salt and mix for another five minutes. The dough will be sticky. Knead it by hand on the counter for a couple minutes and then put in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a shower cap and chill in the refrigerator for about six hours, or overnight.

Morning of Day Two:
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and take off the shower cap. If the dough has not yet doubled, let it sit at room temperature until it does.

Cut the dough into two pieces and shape into elongated boules, about ten inches in length. Lay them on the counter, smooth side up.

Prepare your proofing tray: Lay a cloth on a cookie sheet, lightly dust it with flour and bunch up the cloth in the middle, creating a little wall to divide the two loaves.

For the seed mixture:
2 tablespoons amaranth
½ cup sesame seeds
3 tablespoons poppy seeds
3 ½ tablespoons anise seeds
3 teaspoons fennel seeds

Mix the seeds together in a small bowl and then pour into a large tray that has sides.

Now’s the fun part. Spritz the tops of the loaves with water, roll them, wet-side down, in the seed mixture and lay them, seed-side down, on the proofing cloth.

Cover them with another cloth and allow to proof for three to four hours.

Heat the oven to 500 degrees. Flip each loaf over, dock them, and slip them, seed-side up, into the oven. Follow the same spritzing and baking procedure that you use when making the Country White.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Don't Cheat When Proofing

Here is the pumpkin bread that I told you would be coming.

It's not made with pumpkin, but with sweet potato, and enlivened with cumin and toasted pumpkin seeds. The last time I made this recipe it got rave reviews and everyone scarfed it down, but this time it is languishing, half-eaten, on the kitchen counter.

It is all my fault. I decided that the bread didn't really need to take two days to make---I could just rush it through if I cut back on the proofing times just a little. So I did, and while the final product has good flavor, the texture is too dense and heavy. So please learn from my mistake: do not skimp on the proofing times, and you shall be richly rewarded (with scarf-able bread) for your honesty and integrity.

Pumpkin Bread
Adapted from The Breads from the La Brea Bakery

Start the bread in the late afternoon or early evening so that it can ferment in the fridge overnight.

Two medium-sized sweet potatoes, or one big clunker
1 1/3 cups (7 ounces) shelled raw pumpkin seeds
1 ½ cups (12 ounces) cold water
1 cup (8 ounces) white starter
5 tablespoons raw wheat germ
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 1/4 cups (1 pound and 2 ounces) white bread flour
1 1/4 cups (7 ounces) whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon sea salt

Bake the potatoes in the oven,

and then peel them and scoop out 1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) of the pulp and set it aside.

Put the pumpkin seeds on a cookie sheet and toast them in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes until they are golden brown. It’s important to get them all nice and toasty-brown because then they will taste lighter and crunchier once they are baked into the bread. Set them aside.

Mix together the water, starter, wheat germ, cumin, and flours, and knead well. Let the dough rest for twenty minutes, add the salt, and knead for another 5 minutes. Add the pumpkin seeds and knead for another two minutes, or until the seeds are well-incorporated. Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with a shower cap and let it ferment in the fridge for about 10 hours.

In the morning, cut the dough into two equal pieces and shape into loaves. You can make the bread into standard loaves, or boules, depending on your preference. I think they would also make fine dinner rolls.

If you make elongated boules, lay them smooth-side down on a flour-dusted cloth that has been placed on a cookie sheet. Pull the cloth up around the edges of the loaves to provide a separation between them and to help them keep their shape.

Once your bread loaves/boules/rolls are shaped, cover the loaves with shower caps (or if you’re using cookie sheets, slip the pan into a garbage, or big zip-lock, bag) and put them in the fridge to proof for another 6-10 hours.

Take the bread out of the fridge (now you are on late afternoon/evening of day two) and remove the plastic and cover the loaves with a cloth. Allow the dough to proof on the counter for one to two hours (till the dough reaches about 60 degrees). Dock the bread and bake in a hot oven, about 400 or 450 degrees, for about 30-40 minutes (less if you made rolls).

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Unauthentic Practicality

I finally made it through a entire day without neglecting my starter and so the following morning I celebrated by making a recipe of country white and a recipe of whole wheat. I baked the country white in loaf pans, and docked them with two diagonal slashes. The bread turned out chewy and soft and tender, but totally different from the oatmeal bread type of chewy, soft, and tender.

I also baked the whole wheat bread in loaf plans, docked with just one long slash. The bread, just the one loaf, kind of fell in on itself and I’m not sure why. But I do know that it’s important to dock the bread, even when baking in loaf pans, because I forgot to do it once and there was a giant air bubble between the top crust and the main body of the bread which was a pain because the top crust would always burn when toasted.

I’m finding that its tons easier to make this sourdough bread in loaf pans. I just plop the loafs of bread in the pans, cover the pans with shower caps, and line them up side-by-side in the fridge. The following morning I pull them out, replace the caps with a cloth, and let them rise on the counter for several hours. Then I dock them and slip them into the hot oven.

Is that boring? Unauthentic?

Probably, but it’s just us eating the bread. Who am I trying to impress, anyway?

But still, I feel like I’m cheating.

Maybe I need to give myself a lecture: You’re being practical, JJ. Practical.

Monday, November 3, 2008

I Forgot Them, Twice!

I don’t know if I’ll ever get around to making bread. I can’t seem to get my act together long enough to feed the starters three times a day. I don’t remember ever having this problem before. Even when I was hemorrhaging and ended up in the hospital, even when an explosive 14 year old foster daughter landed in our lap, even when I traveled, my starters never got neglected.

But on Saturday I went shopping all day long and forgot to put “do the starters” on Mr. Handsome's list and then I forgot to call home at lunchtime to tell him to feel the babies, so they only got two feedings that day.

And then yesterday I got sick (a stomach bug) and forgot to remind Mr. Handsome to give the babies their bedtime feeding because I fell asleep at 7:30 and slept all night long (and that was after I slept from 3-6 pm, and that was after taking periodic naps all day long ... I was doing a lot of sleeping). It’s not like I can blame Mr. Handsome. Not at all, really. See, he had been swamped with work: taking all the kids to church, hosting my grandparents who were visiting from PA, and then my balding bro and his wife came too, and making dinner (potato soup and apple pie) for everyone. If the starter babies were going to compete with all that chaos, then they needed to be the type of baby that screams bloody murder, which they aren’t.

The good news is that now I know what the starters looks like when they’ve only had two feedings. Just for the record, the white starter gets a thin layer of frothy liquid on top, and the whole wheat starter smells a little flat. They’re probably just fine, and I could’ve baked with them, except that I didn’t have enough starter to use in bread and still have some leftover to keep it going. So, we’re waiting till tomorrow.