The demise of Herbert: an animated tale

Last week something awful happened. What you are about to see is as disturbing as it is true. Many small creatures were killed or injured in the unfolding drama you are about to see….

Mimi came into the kitchen one morning last week. She was in a particularly good mood as she walked across the linoleum to the kitchen counter. She was going to check in on her sourdough starter Herbert to see how he was doing and feed him some breakfast. As she walked, her mind was preoccupied with ideas of how Herbert would assist her in the creation of some sort of yummy bread or treat. Should she make baguettes or maybe something decadent like coffee cake?

As she approached the kitchen counter where she had left Herbert for the night, she sensed a strange movement on the counter. Ants! Milling around directionless. Ants! Crawling around in every space. Ants! Teeth bared, tongues licking, investigating everything in sight. Some of them…crawling on Herbert’s jar!

Mimi was furious! She acted quickly. She grabbed a sponge: splat! Splat, splat, splat! She dispatched the ants quickly and mercilessly.

Once the ants were gone, she knew what she needed to do. Nervously, she held her breath and reached for Herbert’s jar. She lifted the lid and looked inside….

…there it was. A lone ant. Dead as a doornail. Floating. Toes pointed to the sky. Who knows how long it had been there contaminating the very medium that led to it’s untimely death.

She loved Herbert and wanted to revive him, but he was contaminated and beyond help. Herbert was buried at sea a few days later. He will be sorely missed.

Addendum:

Mimi thought the ant problem was resolved and tried to create a new starter a few days later. Her name was Nadine. She was a sexy wild yeast starter and she was thriving. Today, Mimi found an ant with an IQ of 10 floating, toes pointed to the sky in Nadine. Nadine was buried at sea later that day.

There will be no more sourdough baking on Delectable Tidbits until all ants have been eradicated from the ugly, drafty little house where Mimi resides. Mimi will be bringing out the big guns soon in her battle against these fiendish interlopers. Please leave a comment with your suggestions and war stories from the front of the ant battlefield. She thinks she knows what to do, but she will gladly take all of the help she can get. Do it for her. Do it for the memory of Herbert.

 

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Baking with friends

Baking with friends, Part 1:

I made a huge mistake. Around a year ago, I made some wonderful buns. They were absolutely the most delicious buns ever. I found these scrumptious little bits of cheesy goodness on a blog. They were supposed to be made with Cambozola which is a mixture of triple cream cheese and Gorgonzola. I set out to make them with what I hand on hand which was Blue cheese. When I ran short on Blue cheese, I made up the difference with Parmesano Reggiano. I was going to write a blog post about these wonderful buns and then I somehow forgot.

These buns, rich and delicious were so good, I never stopped thinking about them. Every time I had blue cheese I thought about these buns but the problem is Point Reyes Blue cheese. It is the most amazing cheese. Ever. When I have some in the house, I have a specific use for it and then any leftovers usually find their way onto several crackers and the cheese just disappears. The disappearance of this cheese is sorely to blame for why it has taken me so very long to make these buns again. Really, it’s true.

How did I get so incredibly lucky to find myself with a nice size wedge of Point Reyes blue just waiting for me to bake with it?  Wind. It’s the new weather pattern here in Santa Barbara.  We stop getting precipitation, then we get wind and for the past couple of unlucky years, fire. I was going to barbeque some blue cheese chicken burgers last week, but I waited until after 6 o’clock which is about when the wind starts. I didn’t dare strike a match. To me wind equals fire now, and I don’t want to have to evacuate a fourth time in three years. So I decided I was going to broil my burgers. I grabbed the ingredients and found out the hamburger buns got moldy. I just gave up. Which is good because we forgot to break out the crackers and gobble up that cheese.

Now, I had a problem. I never made notes about the buns. I didn’t even remember whose blog I got them from. I just remembered it was on YeastSpotting. So what did I do?  I went to the YeastSpotting archive and began to painfully look at each week until… I found it!! And whose blog was it? My friend Tanna’s blog (My Kitchen in Half Cups)! I had to laugh! I should have remembered.

Please make these buns and then go to YeastSpotting to see what else was baked by all of the talented bakers this week. And… keep reading after the recipe…

Blue cheese and parmesan buns

Adapted from Maytag buns found on My Kitchen in Half Cups

130 g whole wheat flour

136 g unbleached white flour

2 g salt

28 g honey

140 g sourdough starter

66 g low fat milk

66 g water

1 large egg, lightly beaten

58 g shredded parmesano reggiano

86 g crumbled blue cheese (good quality such as Point Reyes)

40 g softened butter

Olive oil cooking spray

In a large bowl, whisk together whole wheat flour, white flour and salt.

In another bowl, mix together honey, sourdough starter, milk, water, egg, parmesan and blue cheese.

Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Mix to combine. Add softened butter. Mix in. Transfer dough to a floured board. Knead lightly until the butter is well combined and you don’t see bits of it in the dough. Form a ball and transfer the dough to an oiled bowl. Cover with a dish towel and let sit for a half hour.

Using cooking spray, generously oil two six cup muffin tins. Divide the dough into twelve equal pieces. Form into balls and place balls in muffin cups. Let the dough rise until puffy and it fills the cups most of the way. Since I only used starter, no yeast, this took about four hours.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, F. Bake the buns for 16 – 18 minutes or until browned. Cool in pans on a wire rack for about fifteen minutes. Remove buns from pans and allow to cool most of the way on wire racks. These buns are wonderful when they are still a bit warm from the oven.

Baking with Friends, Part 2:

 

There is a bread baking formula that is making the rounds on the Fresh Loaf. A lady named Flo Makanai figured out that you could make pretty great bread using the toss out from your starter.  Her formula is a 1, 2, 3 ratio of starter, liquid and flour. My friend John of the Lost World of DrFugawe made this bread over and over, getting fabulous results. Other folks on the fresh loaf are making it and getting fabulous results. I made it and I created a mutant loaf, deformed and tasting of wonder bread with a streak of raw dough in the middle and giant holes near the surface that caused the crust to burn. Horrible!!!!!!!!!!!!

I complained to my friend John, and instead of allowing me to cry on his virtual shoulder, he challenges me to bake ten loaves in a row until I get it right!!!! The nerve of my virtual friend! To be fair, he gave me instructions on how he has been turning out loaf after loaf of wonderful bread.

I started yesterday (this is a two day bread). My results were better this time, but still not good. My problem is that I hate, hate, hate the raw dough. It is sticky! I think I lost a third of the dough to the bowl, my hands, anything my hands touched and then the dough had the audacity to stick to the banneton, deflating itself before it made it to the oven.

But despite deflating itself, it did miraculously spring up in the oven. The outside crust was gorgeous. I got some big holes but they were on the surface again. I think I under salted the dough, it lacked flavor. But the worst part is it lacked flavor and texture. The crumb was springy like sandwich bread again, and there was no flavor at all. Just like sandwich bread.

I have to admit to a couple of shortcuts because this bread pisses me off, so I had no patience for it. I am going to list John’s instructions and then write down where I strayed. I know John will be back to mentor me. If anyone else wants to jump in with suggestions, please do so in the comments.

do a new loaf every day for at least 10 days – make improvements daily.

Loaf #1 down – 9 more to go!

use 100 g of starter – that’ll give you a 600 g loaf

I used 100 g of starter, 200 g water, 300 grams unbleached white flour for this loaf. I am thinking I need to use something besides water next time. Maybe sub out a little water for olive oil? Use milk instead of water? This should improve the flavor. Here is my problem. I remembered the salt, but after looking back at the kitchen mess, I could only find a ½ tsp. measuring spoon, I think I used ½ tsp of salt which is obviously too little. How much should I use??

use a tiny pinch of yeast too (tiny, tiny, tiny)

I don’t use commercial yeast. Other breads, no problem. This bread…

use minimal mixing – do fold and stretch in your mixing bowl – every 15 mins for 2 hours, then hourly.

I definitely have a short attention span. I did the stretch and fold every 15 minutes for about an hour.  Then I ate lunch.  Then I watched “The Next Food Network Star”, which I interrupted to stretch and fold at the two hour mark, I decided to keep doing the folds hourly but got bored three hours later, so I refrigerated the dough after around 5 hours at room temp.

you’ll need to heavily oil your bowl, and let it proof for 6/7 hours at room temp

The dough probably got some oil in it because I had to heavily oil the bowl each time I got the dough hermetically sealed to my hand.

Now form loaf, cover in plastic, and put in fridge, or I use BBQ grill on patio (works great!)

I formed it into as much of a ball as possible and put it in my banneton. Covered it in plastic and put it in the fridge for 16 hours.

in morn, heat oven to 475F for an hour

I heated the oven for as long as it would take to get my stone to 475F. My oven actually freaked out and got to more like 500F.

when oven is ready, pull cold but risen loaf from fridge or BBQ, score and bake immed. After 15 mins, lower temp to 450F, and bake for 20-30 mins more.

I baked even though the oven temp was 500F. The bread puffed up from it’s flattened state after I had to peel it off of the banneton. I actually put a pan with water in the oven for steam, which helped the crust formation. I lowered the heat after 15 minutes but only needed another 16 minutes before the internal temperature was way over 210F.

Now that I completed the exercise, here are my questions:

How much salt to use?

What sort of liquid should I use?

Should I use just white flour or add some whole grains?

How do I keep the dough from sticking to everything??

How do I shape this bread, the banneton is fighting with the dough!

So… At this point, I’m still not loving this bread but it seems to have potential so I’ll try it again. I’ll wait to see if anyone has any good ideas and then I’ll try your suggestions out next time. Thanks in advance everyone, and thank you John for making me get out of my comfort zone.

Trying to shrink

I hope you aren’t getting tired of muffins. Obviously, I’m not. Today’s post is masquerading as yet another muffin post, but it’s really about something else entirely. Something very personal. If you have been a very long time reader of mine, you will remember the year that I was serious about Weight Watchers and I lost forty two pounds. Several months ago, I just let it all go. It happened the way this sort of thing happens to people. I had a routine and it centered around work. I ate certain things at certain times of the day and walked during my breaks and then sometimes, made it to the gym on top of that. I had a really good routine that I hardly had to think about. The weight loss came easy. When I lost my job, I lost my routine, I got really depressed, things started to slip and a whole host of bad habits came back. Then I stopped trying altogether. I have gained back seventeen pounds.

Now, I know your first instinct is to be supportive and tell me that seventeen pounds isn’t even half of what I lost and I’m still okay. The problem is that I was going through all of this effort for my health. I don’t want to get diabetes, go blind, trip and break my hip, trip again and break my other hip and suffer the way my mother has. I don’t want to clog my arteries, suffer for years with angina and then have a quadruple bypass like my dad. I know I don’t want any of that, but I suffer from human nature and I am my parents daughter and I have ingrained poor habits that I have to concentrate very hard on changing every day. My dad said something last week that sums up what I need to strive for. He basically said that everyone gets old and everyone will die, but you want to do whatever you can to have the best quality of life until the end. Well said. Something I need to concentrate on very hard. Something that seeing my mom laying in her hospital bed so fragile and unhappy drives home for me.

One problem I have that I think everyone struggles with is portion control. I have a bad habit of having more than one of something I like and taking too much of it to begin with. In order to shrink me, I’ll need to shrink my portions so that’s what I did this week. I did a knock-off of the delicious strawberry muffins from last time but I made sure I made them in mini muffin tins. Here is the Mimi math for you. Each mini muffin is one half the size of a regular muffin. If I ate a regular muffin and then lost control and had to have a second muffin, it would equal four mini muffins. So, if I have a mini muffin and have a second, it equals one regular muffin. If I go really crazy and have three, it is equal to one and a half regular muffins, I am still ahead half a muffin. Terrible logic, I’m sure, but these are the little tricks that helped me lose the weight last time.

Sourdough apple walnut mini muffins

3 tbsp flax seeds

½ cup water

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 tbsp baking powder

¼ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp ground ginger

¼ tsp allspice

3/4 cup coarsely chopped, toasted walnuts

½ cup apple sauce

½ cup honey

½ cup buttermilk

½ cup sourdough starter

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 large apple diced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 24 cup mini muffin tin with olive oil spray and set aside.

In a blender, grind flax seeds to a powder. Add water and blend for forty-five seconds until thickened. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, allspice and walnuts.

In another large bowl, mix together all of the flax seed mixture with the apple sauce, honey, buttermilk, sourdough starter, vanilla extract and diced apples. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until well combined. Let stand for a few minutes to rise a little bit.

Spoon the batter evenly into the muffin cups. Put the muffin tin into the oven and bake for 20 minutes until the muffin tops are browned and a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Cool for a few minutes and then serve.

P.S. Any muffin batter can be baked as mini muffins instead. Just experiment with decreasing the amount of time they bake. Here is a list of muffins that have appeared on Delectable Tidbits before:

Blood orange sweet cherry corn muffins

Carrot-currant muffins

Coco-nutty-cocoa sourdough muffins

Orange poppy seed mini muffins

Peach and strawberry muffins

Sourdough strawberry walnut muffins

What do you do when you run out of eggs?

Years ago, I was a fiend for pressure cooking. Once I acquired my pressure cooker, I cooked everything I could find in it, got bored and then put it in a cabinet never to be heard from again. The author of my favorite pressure cooker cookbook, Lorna Sass, put out a vegan cookbook around that time. It was called Recipes from an ecological kitchen. Poor Lorna. I stopped using the pressure cooker book and the vegan book got relegated to the bookshelf as a reference manual for grain cookery. One thing in the vegan book that has always fascinated me was her use of flax seed as a substitute for eggs. She would grind raw whole flax seed in a blender, add water and blend for up to a minute to form a thick paste. She states in the cookbook that it works just like eggs in her recipes and makes for light and fluffy baked goods. It sounded like magic. It sounded too good to be true!

Even when I was a vegetarian, I still ate eggs and dairy. I love my eggs and dairy! I still do. I’ve never used her flax seed method because I always had eggs in the house and never had flax seed in my pantry. Now I bake bread. I have more flax seeds than I know what to do with. Today, I had no eggs. I was completely out and I wanted a muffin with my morning tea. Today seemed like a great day to try an experiment.

Over the past couple of months, I have baked muffins using Herbert a couple of times. Once was the delicious cocoa, coconut and pecan muffins and recently, I baked a recipe from my blog friend over at the Lost World of Drfugawe. John made these amazing cornmeal muffins. When I saw them, I had to make them. They turned out delicious, tall and fluffy. Drizzled with raw honey, they were superb. One thing that surprised me about his recipe was that he used a full tablespoon of baking powder. I followed the recipe, making just a tweak here or there, to be rewarded with such light fluffy corn muffins. When I thought about it, it made sense. There are acids that build up with the starter. The neutralizing powers of baking powder and acids are what makes baked goods rise. Since I planned to use starter, buttermilk, lemon juice and strawberries, all tart ingredients, I borrowed this little bit of baking wisdom from John.

My muffins were tall and fluffy. The flax seed paste mimicked the eggs as advertised but they also lent a nutty grainy flavor that complimented my toasted walnuts. I used a spare amount of honey for sweetener, so the muffins ended up on the less sweet side and the springtime strawberries are a bit tart but altogether, I have to call these muffins a huge success. Just the perfect morning breakfast food to go with tea or coffee. I was told by an appreciative boyfriend that these muffins are pure strawberry goodness.

These springtime muffins are going to YeastSpotting, the place to go for all your bread baking porn.

This recipe contains buttermilk because I like what buttermilk does to baked goods, but if you want to make them vegan, just substitute soymilk or rice milk for the buttermilk and agave syrup for the honey.

Egg free sourdough strawberry and walnut muffins

3 tbsp flax seeds

½ cup water

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 tbsp baking powder

¼ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

1 ½ tsp lemon zest

¼ cup canola oil

½ cup honey

½ cup buttermilk

½ cup sourdough starter

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 cup coarsely chopped, toasted walnuts

1 ¾ cups diced fresh strawberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, Place the raw walnuts in a small iron skillet. As the oven gets up to temperature, toast the walnuts for 5 – 8 minutes, watching them to make sure they don’t burn. Remove from oven and cool.

Spray two six cup muffin tins with olive oil spray and set aside.

In a blender, grind flax seeds to a powder. Add water and blend for thirty seconds until thickened. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and lemon zest.

In another large bowl, mix together all of the flax seed mixture with the canola oil, honey, buttermilk, sourdough starter, and lemon juice. Add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until well combined. Let stand for a few minutes to rise a little bit. Gently stir in the walnuts and the strawberries.

Spoon the batter evenly into the muffin cups. Put the muffin tins into the oven and bake for 20 – 25 minutes until the tops are browned and a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean.

The beer bread wars

Beer bread is now my enemy and needs to be conquered!

Sadly, I have no recipe for you today. I just need to vent about a bread idea that won’t seem to turn from a good idea into a great loaf. I had bookmarked this recipe for beer bread awhile ago. Last week I decided to bake the bread, but I wanted it to be multigrain so I swapped out some of the white flour for whole wheat, semolina, spelt and rye. I used a dark San Miguel beer for the beer component. Sounds wonderful doesn’t it?

Last week’s failure was the first hint that this bread might be my Achilles heel. I failed to allow the bread to rise long enough and I insisted on baking it as one big loaf instead of two smaller ones. I ended up with a compact loaf that had a really good flavor, delicious really…on either end. From about three inches into the loaf on either side, I had a raw spot in the middle of the loaf. I was so sad because the part that was cooked was sweet and had a delicious malted flavor.

The recipe seemed worth saving so I mixed up the dough yesterday and let it rise three and a half hours. It didn’t seem long enough, but I flattened it and then formed it into a loaf and let it rise a second time… all day. Around 8:30PM the dough still didn’t look proofed enough, so I put it in the fridge and gave up for the night. I brought the dough out this morning and let it warm and rise for… another 5 hours! I finally got it into the oven. I didn’t think the temperature was correct the previous week, so I raised it by 25 degrees. Big mistake. Forty minutes into baking it, I had an over browned crust and according to my thermometer a long way to go before the middle was cooked. I covered the crust with foil and gave the bread another 40 minutes in the oven. Impaling the bread with a thermometer every ten minutes or so (war is not pretty, I tell ya!), I was able to get the interior baked all the way, but now I have an ugly bread that has a tough crust and tastes…like…beer. The long proofing time just succeeded in making the yeast eat up all of the honey I used as sweetener. Ugh. I guess I’ll be making beery flavored sandwiches this week. Or maybe beer flavored croutons?

So much for my bread baking adventures. Tune in next week for something tastier than beer bread.

Here is a brief tour of the carnage:


The crust is dark and tough!

The bread had good lift off as you can tell since it is peaking over the pan…

….But that’s because it had a big ugly crack in it!!! Grrrr!!!!

Meet the next 5 pounds you will add to your hips

I have to dedicate this blog post to my boyfriend. He telecommutes most of the week and goes in to work a couple of days. On his telecommuting days, he is less stressed out and he is really happy. On the commuting days…he usually somehow seems to run out of time getting ready for work. The most awful things happen to delay him (and they are never his fault!) and he gets crabby as he realizes he is going to show up late and have to work well into the evening. Today was one of those days.

When I used to work, I had mornings like that too. Now I don’t. So when I see his morning spinning out of control, I just try to stay out of the way and hope for the best. This morning I had to be a little in the way because I was on a mission to make a sourdough knockoff of the Gruyere-Stuffed Crusty Loaves from the King Arthur site. I didn’t mean to help delay him, but I may have gotten in the way enough to get a little bit of the stink eye. Well, I’ll make it up to him with what I am about to show him and you. I stumbled onto this recipe the other day and when I saw that they were little loaves packed with cups and cups of cheese until they burst in the oven like little volcanoes of cheesy goodness, I had to say “sign me up!”

So this blog post is dedicated to F. who will see an email on his blackberry when I post to my blog. I am hoping it will make him giddy with anticipation over coming home to eat this bread with some lamb stew. I’m hoping he will smile and not care that I ate half a loaf already (in the interest of testing these breads for the good of the blog, of course!).

I started the dough last night. I decided that a half cup of starter would give the sponge just enough umph to power this dough. The next day when I didn’t see the bubbly mass that the site said I should, I added more starter to the dough itself. It worked out well. I stored the dough in the oven with a touch of heat and the light on and the dough puffed up really high.

These work like cinnamon rolls but you fill them with cheese! Three cups worth. Yes you heard that right!!

These are melty good loaves! In went a mixture of aged sharp provolone and aged sharp white cheddar. I also decided to add a lot of garlic and a mixture of fresh herbs which included rosemary, oregano, thyme, sage and fennel fronds. I wanted the cheese to ooze herbs and garlic. Oh yeah!

Make sure you line your cookie sheets with parchment.

When you bake the loaves, they will ooze and ooze. But they come out of the oven so brown and pretty!

Here is the glamour shot where you get to see the flavor, the fat and the calories just oozing and glopping out of the bread. It was so delicious that I had to have three slices. Good thing my lamb stew is a WeightWatchers recipe, lol!!

These remarkable eruptive loaves are going out to YeastSpotting where you will find a variety of other interesting yeasty items.

Provolone-Cheddar Stuffed Garlic Herb Loaves

Starter:

1 ¼ cups unbleached white flour

1 tsp salt

½ cup active sourdough starter

½ cup water

Dough:

All of the starter

1 ¼ cups water

1 tsp salt

1 ½ cups stone ground whole wheat flour

2 cups unbleached white flour

½ cup active sourdough starter

Filling:

2 cups shredded aged provolone cheese

1 cup shredded aged white cheddar

5 – 6 cloves garlic, minced

3 – 4 tbsp mixed fresh herbs such as rosemary, oregano, thyme, sage, fennel fronds

To make starter: The night before you want to bake, mix together all of the starter ingredients in a large bowl until well combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave out on the counter at least 12 hours. The mixture starts out as a dry lump but should expand into a puffy dough lump.

To make dough: Combine starter, water, salt, whole wheat and white flours and sourdough starter. Mix well and then turn out onto a floured board and knead for up to ten minutes until the dough is soft and stops being really sticky. You should be able to stretch the dough without breaking it (window pane test). Grease a large bowl. Set the dough into the bowl and cover with a damp clean towel. If your home is cool, turn your oven on to 350 degrees F. for exactly one minute. Turn off the oven and store the dough in the oven for up to 5 hours or until it has doubled in bulk.

Line your workspace with parchment because this dough is wet and sticky! Turn the dough out onto the parchment, and gently flatten and stretch the dough into a 9” x 12” rectangle. Cover the dough with cheese, garlic and herbs. Roll up cinnamon roll style, beginning from the long end toward you. Cover the dough with the damp towel and allow to rise until extremely puffy but not exactly doubled. Another 2 hours or so.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment. Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces and arrange two pieces cut side up on each sheet. Note: you will have two loaves that are cut on top and bottom. I pinched the bottom seam closed on those two to prevent bottom cheese leakage. Also, you may need to shape the loaves a bit so that they are a bit open on the top, cutting the dough may squish the loaves and you want them to be pretty on top.  Let the dough rest for up to 20 minutes while the oven heats up.

Bake for 20 – 25 minutes until golden brown. Transfer loaves to wire racks to cool. Enjoy while they are still a bit warm so that the cheese will still be soft.

Left over brown rice becomes amazing dinner rolls

I’m sitting here munching on the subject of my photo, thinking about how happy I am that I took on the challenge of nurturing a sourdough starter and subsequently learning enough about baking with it that I can pretty much be as creative as I want to be with my bread.

I avidly read about bread and one thing I notice is that many bakers like to drop some cooked or soaked whole grains into their bread. Lately, we’ve had plenty of brown rice in the house. Oatmeal has never agreed with my boyfriend and recently, he discovered that he can have hot cereal in the morning if he cooks up a pot of short grain brown rice. He adds raisins, walnuts and rice dream to it and he loves it. He makes a big pot at a time and I’ve been quite the opportunist, grabbing some for snacks or a side dish… and now for my sourdough.

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been playing with this recipe. The person who posted it, said it was full-proof, but following his instructions, I ended up with a brick! (A very tasty brick, however so I knew I just needed to try it again). This week, I added extra water and starter. The dough was way too dry last time and it is so much harder to hydrate a dry dough than dry up a wet dough.  I decided to err on the side of moisture. Since the dough was really wet, I just added more flour a little at a time until I liked the consistency of the dough. I also added a lot of brown rice and some sesame seeds for extra flavor. The result was terrific! I ended up making rolls instead of a loaf this time and the rolls baked up with a crisp crust, a dense soft crumb and a wonderful chewy texture thanks to the rice. The only problem I had was that I forgot to slash the rolls and they exploded. I took a picture of their photogenic side.  😉

These yummy rolls will be on YeastSpotting this week. Please click the link to see other wonderful yeasty concoctions!

Whole Wheat and Brown Rice Rolls

1 cup water

1 cup active 100% hydration sourdough starter

2 ½ tbsp olive oil

1 ½ tbsp honey

1 ¼ tsp salt

2 2/3 cups whole wheat flour + a little over 1/3 more as needed

1 ½ cups cooked short grain brown rice

2 tbsp raw sesame seeds

Cornmeal for dusting your peel

In a large bowl, mix together water, starter, olive oil, honey and salt. Add 2 2/3 cups flour, rice and sesame seeds. Mix until well combined. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and begin to knead. The dough will be wet. Start adding the additional 1/3 cup flour a little at a time, kneading well after each addition. You may have to add a little more than a third of a cup until you have a dough that is still moist but not sticky. Knead for 15 minutes until you can stretch the dough without breaking it (windowpane test). Form the dough into a tight ball and transfer it to a large greased bowl. Cover with a kitchen towel. Allow the dough to rise until it is doubled in bulk, 1 ½ – 2 ½ hours.

Flatten the dough gently and fold it. Form it into a ball again and place it back in the bowl. Allow it to rise again, covered, for up to 2 ½ hours until it is doubled in bulk.

Divide the dough into 13 equal pieces and form into little balls. Arrange on a cornmeal covered peel. Cover with a dish towel and allow the dough to rise until puffy, up to another 2 hours.

When you are getting ready to bake, place a baking stone in the oven and preheat your oven to 375 degrees, F. Slash the rolls and then transfer them to the hot oven. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes until they reach an internal temperature of 190 degrees, F. and they sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Cool completely before serving unless you can’t help yourself. If you can’t help yourself, make sure you are armed with butter.

For people who love crusty bread!

I love blogs. Blogs are wonderful for escapism. You visit a cooking blog and it is like you are hanging out with a talented friend who shares a common interest with you. Lately, one of my favorite hangouts is Macheesmo. Nick posts something on his blog six days a week! If he doesn’t have a recipe to share, he is sharing a tip, doing a round up of his favorite blogs or reviewing a cookbook. He posts plenty of pictures and everything he makes looks delicious. Last week, Nick shared a discovery he made with his favorite no knead bread recipe. After reading his post, I couldn’t get this bread out of my head. The technique was pure genius. He took his regular no knead bread recipe and when it came time to shape the bread, he formed it into a rectangle instead of a loaf. Just before baking the bread, he scored the dough into rough squares so that the loaf resembles a rustic looking set of pull-apart rolls. The difference is that these rolls are not light, buttery and fluffy, they are serious bread. When you eat these, you have to use your teeth! That probably doesn’t sound good, but it is very good. These rolls are enveloped in crunchy chewy crust, but the crumb is still like a good piece of artisinal bread. So… if you are the kind of person who loves the crust on a homemade boule, but you crave more of it, this is your bread!

The dough was wonderful to work with. I used my starter instead of yeast.  I mixed the dough and let it sit on the counter for around nineteen hours. I formed the dough into a rectangle. The combination of using starter instead of yeast and a cold house made it so my dough had to proof longer than expected, about five hours instead of two. But look how nice and puffy it got.

I had only one problem with Nick’s recipe, he instructed to bake the bread for 35 minutes, mine was done somewhere between 20 and 25 minutes and it started to burn a little by the time I discovered my bread was done. But look how pretty it turned out!

When you pull a roll off of the loaf, you can see the gorgeous texture:

Cut one in half and it is full of holes

I am going to definitely add this recipe to my rotation of breads I bake on a regular basis. It was so easy and the results are so perfect. The flavor was rich and complex and there was a nice sour tanginess. My boyfriend declared “these rolls kick butt!” I think that translates into, “Thank you Nick for the marvelous dinner rolls”. 😀

I am sending these crusty rustic rolls to YeastSpotting. Please click on the link to see some other amazing homemade breads and sweets.

Sourdough rustic no knead rolls

2 cups unbleached white flour

2 cups stone ground whole wheat flour

1/3 cup active liquid sourdough starter

2 tsp kosher salt

2 ¼ cups lukewarm water

Cornmeal and extra flour for dusting

In a very large bowl, Mix together both kinds of flour, sourdough starter, salt and water. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let stand out on your kitchen counter for at least 12 hours, up to 19 hours.

Flour your work surface liberally. Turn the dough out onto the surface, form it into a rectangle and then fold it up like you are folding a letter. Repeat this process a couple of times being careful not to deflate the dough too much. Flatten the dough into a rough large rectangle a couple of inches thick. Transfer the dough to a peel that has been liberally dusted with cornmeal. Cover the dough with a clean dishtowel. Let proof up to five hours. The dough should be very puffy and if you poke it with your finger, the hole should spring back very slowly.

A half hour before you think you’ll be ready to bake, place a pizza stone in the oven. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees, F.

Right before you are ready to bake, score the bread four times lengthwise and four times crosswise to form sixteen square rolls. Be careful not to cut all the way through the rolls, they need to be attached. Place a pie pan full of water onto the lower rack of the oven and then transfer the dough to the heated pizza stone. Bake the bread for 20 – 25 minutes. The bread should be browned and sound hollow when tapped from the bottom. Cool the bread completely before serving.

The Metamorphosis

 

met·a·mor·pho·ses 

1.  A transformation, as by magic or sorcery. 

2.  A marked change in appearance, character, condition, or function. 

Sometimes, my laziness know no bounds. I have been baking so much bread, cornbread, waffles and cakes over the past few weeks, that I ran out of white flour, brown rice flour and whole wheat pastry flour. I was beginning to run dangerously low on cornmeal, rye flour and stone ground whole wheat flour too. Herbert has been fed a steady diet of organic unbleached white flour since his inception. I wanted to keep feeding him his normal diet but the best price on my favorite brand of white flour is at a store on the other end of town. I really didn’t really want to make an extra trip there unless I had to. That’s why I started feeding Herbert stone ground whole wheat flour. By the end of the week, he was mostly whole wheat Herbert. A new and entirely different creature, indeed. 

Mostly whole wheat Herbert is brown with flecks of grains. When you open his jar, a miasmal cloud wafts up from his surface. When I stir flour and water into Herbert to nourish him, it is not the same. He doesn’t form a sticky glutinous mass, the flour stirs right in. If I don’t feed mostly whole wheat Herbert on time, a thick layer of hooch forms on the surface. Should I have been afraid? No, on the contrary I was excited to bake bread. From my research on sourdough, I have heard that feeding the starter whole grains can increase the sour flavors in the starter. I was excited to find out. 

I had plenty of stone ground whole wheat flour in the pantry. I had a bag of flax seeds just begging to have something done with them. I decided to let the sourdough recipe I have been working with for the past few weeks evolve one more time into a whole wheat flax seed bread. With a bunch of techniques now under my belt and a desire to play in the kitchen, I decided I would knead the bread by hand for close to twenty minutes to really get the gluten going. I would allow the dough a first rise on the counter and then pop it in the fridge for fifteen hours to really bring out the flavors. I would pull the dough out of the fridge, and let it come up to temperature in my banneton (which took the remainder of the next very cold day) and then bake a wonderful loaf of bread. 

My plan was a success. I ended up with a dense whole grain bread with a distinct sour tang and a good complex flavor. I’ll be making this bread again. The only thing I may change would be to bake the bread in a loaf pan next time. The bread just begs to become a sandwich and I think I would love to have more even slices throughout the entire loaf next time. 

Mostly whole wheat Herbert? I may let him be Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It is nice to have the whole wheat starter for special loaves but a good white flour starter can make the fluffiest cakes and pastries. Me? Still lazy. 

This fable is going to YeastSpotting a place for bakers, their breads and their stories. 

 

Whole wheat flax sourdough 

1 cup water 

1 ½ cups active liquid sourdough starter, fed whole wheat for past four feedings 

3 ½ cups stone ground whole wheat flour 

1 tbsp honey 

1 tsp salt 

2/3 cup whole flax seeds 

Place Flax seeds in a blender.  Use the chop button to pulverize the seeds.  I ended up with some ground flax seed meal, some partially chopped seeds and a lot of whole seeds.  I wanted these textures for the bread and you do to… 

In a large bowl, Mix together all dough ingredients including the flax seeds, mixing with a rubber spatula until all of the ingredients are combined and form a solid mass of dough. Turn the dough out onto a wooden board and knead for up to twenty minutes until you can stretch the dough and see through it without breaking it (window pane test). Wash and dry the bowl. Oil the bowl and place the dough in it, covered with a clean dish towel. Allow the bread to rise until doubled, three hours or more in a cool kitchen. 

Turn the dough out onto the wooden board. Flatten it out into a rectangle and then fold it from the short sides inward like you are folding a letter. Flatten it again and fold it again. Form the dough into a tight ball place the dough back into the bowl. Refrigerate up to twenty four hours. 

Remove the dough from the fridge and allow it to sit on the counter to warm. Flatten the dough and then form it into a ball. Place it in a banneton covered with a clean damp dishtowel. Allow to sit until doubled (the dough will still be cold and this could take several hours in a cool house). 

Place a pizza stone in your oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Dust a peel with cornmeal and turn the dough out onto the peel. . Slash the loaf and then place it in the oven. Bake for 30 – 35 minutes until browned and the bread makes a hollow sound when you tap it on the bottom. Place the bread on a cooling rack and cool completely before serving.

Biscuits: the forgiving bread product

Unmarried, childless and middle-aged. Therefore, expected to be a Thanksgiving guest in my parents home instead of the host of a Thanksgiving event. I love being with them but once I get home, I need to have a personal Thanksgiving dinner of my own devising. Tuesday was Thanksgiving again for me. I made my favorite turkey breast recipe (there would only be two of us so we didn’t need the whole bird), stuffing with pecans subbed in for the fussier chestnuts, maple glazed sweet potatoes, homemade cranberry sauce, steamed brussels sprouts and green peas (two very pedestrian vegetables to cut through the richness of the meal). It was a three-hour whirlwind cooking experience and in the middle of it, I realized there was no bread. I meant to buy rolls, but I forgot. I didn’t realize my error in time, so I couldn’t make bread. Once I thought about what to do, realized I had something good in my repertoire that I could toss together between making the sweet potatoes and finishing the rest of the cooking: sourdough biscuits.

As luck would have it, I did plan to make a sourdough loaf the next day for turkey sandwiches, so Herbert was happily bubbling away on the counter. I made sourdough biscuits a couple of times before, but I always made them with whole wheat pastry flour and I always had buttermilk on hand. I was nearly out of pastry flour and I was certainly missing the buttermilk. There was no way I could leave to go to the store. What do I do when I have no buttermilk but need to make a recipe that requires it? I substitute plain nonfat yogurt diluted with nonfat milk. You see, buttermilk hasn’t been real buttermilk for years now. Instead of being the liquid that is leftover as a byproduct of making butter, it is now a cultured milk product similar to yogurt or kefir, but not as thick. I love using buttermilk in recipes. It makes things tender, flavorful and fluffy, but a mixture of yogurt and milk makes a good stand in.

The resulting biscuits were everything I needed. They were quick to prepare. They were flaky and tender. Because I used mostly white flour, they also carried the yogurt/sourdough flavors well. My boyfriend could not stop eating these biscuits and he could not stop talking about how delicious they were. To me, that is the best praise of all. Now that I happened onto this new method for making biscuits, I think I will revise the recipe for good.

These biscuits go to YeastSpotting, showcasing the best bread on the internet every week!

Oh… and before I forget… I have the opportunity to give away a Reserve kit of Muir Glen Tomatoes this week. If you are interested in my contest, click here and drop a comment on the Muir Glen Tomato Giveaway post.

 

 

Sourdough biscuits redux

Adapted from the Golden sourdough biscuits recipe on Recipe finder

½ cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp kosher salt

½ tsp baking soda

½ cup cold unsalted butter

1 cup well fed sourdough starter

¼ cup nonfat plain yogurt

¼ cup nonfat milk

2 tbsp melted butter for brushing the muffins

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees f.

In a large bowl, combine the whole wheat pastry flour, white flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Using a pastry-cutter cut the cold butter into the flour mixture until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Don’t let the butter get too warm, you want the cold butter chunks to stay pretty solid to help with the flakiness of the finished biscuits. Mix together yogurt and milk. Mix with a whisk or fork until smooth. Mix the sourdough starter into the yogurt mixture. Add the yogurt mixture to the flour mixture. Using a silicone spatula, mix the dough until well combined.

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface. Knead the dough a dozen times. Pat the dough into a 1“ thick round. Cut the dough with a 2 1/2” biscuit cutter. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or butter the cookie sheet. Place the biscuits close together on the lined sheet. If there are dough scraps, gently press them together, form a ball and pat it out to 1” thickness again. Cut more biscuits. If I have enough scraps left for one more biscuit, I usually just squash it out into one last free form biscuit. Just don’t over knead the dough while you work with the scraps.

Bake the biscuits for 12 – 15 minutes until golden browned. Remove from the oven and brush the biscuits with melted butter. Allow them to cool before serving.

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