Sunday, August 15, 2010

Beer Bread, like it's namesake, leaves regrets.

So I was a bit behind with the breads over at Mellow Bakers.

I had somehow forgotten to post the bagels, and worse yet, I was struggling with the Beer Bread.  I set the barley seeds to sprout three times, and apart from a very interesting smell to the cupboard, I was rewarded with mold each time.

I planted a few seeds in the Darling Bride's flower beds, so right up until the point that she weeded them out I had proof of viability.

Anyway, I thought I would substitute pearled barley instead, and add a little malt powder for the flavor.  I cut the recipe in half, since I am not sure how much will get eaten this week.  I set the pearled barley in a cup of water and microwaved it until it seemed pretty soft.

And as often, when you take short cuts, it was mediocre.

It looks good.  It tastes OK.
But I was expecting more, so I will have to take an "F" for this project and try it again.

Well, maybe not an "F".

Maybe 'incomplete' is more like it.


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Hamelman's 40% Rye with Caraway

This is going to be a quick post, as I am pressed for time.  But trust me, I did it by the book.  I have all the boring scale pictures here, but not labeled, so...   ...I think I will just skip it, and go right to the preferment:

It was made with a fairly stiff preferment which was held for the full 16 hours.

It did not want to readily fall out of the bowl, so a spatula was used to pry it out.

This bread is a stronger version of the Light Rye, and I made it with the full measure of caraway.  I should have waited and gotten some poppy seed or black onion seed for the top, as my friend Joanne suggested.  But I was home with the dogs and no car, so I just made it.

And that Joanne is none other than the famous Joanne from Zeb Bakes.

Hey, I am not above dropping a famous name or two.  Like, say Abby, or Oggi.

You can find a whole list of good blogger bakers over at Mellow Bakers.

And it is very good indeed; just not quite as good as the light rye.

It is still wonderful bread!

I am getting spoiled, though.

And I have two very impatient gals, waiting for a walk.  Bye!

Thank you. Thank you. We all thank you...

That Darling Bride just does not understand.  

There is Real Food, which Emma and Phoebe (hereinafter referred to as 'the Girls') expect to eat. 

Nay, demand is a better word.

Real Food is the stuff that they eat with the Darling Bride, whenever and anytime that she eats.  It is what they eat with The Ice Cream Lady on trips up to the lake.  It is what they used to eat with Burntloafer when he would go hunting or fishing, but that seems like a distant memory at this point.  

The point here is that the girls like and expect real food.

And then there is - eww - Dog Food.  Dog Food is the stuff they bring you between meals, as noted above.  It is the stuff that the humans leave in nasty old bowls on the floor, next to an equally nasty bowl of tepid water.  The Girls treat Dog Food in very much the manner in which it is presented.  

Woof there  it is...  Woof there it is...   

Whoever made that song has probably sampled the dog food.
Actually, they treat dog food in much the same way that their old pet Burntloafer treats a Salad.  Dog Food and Salads are just what they bring to you between meals of Real Food.

So back to the Darling Bride.  She went away and left the girls with no one to feed them but old Burntloafer, and he seems much more interested in feeding the neighbors than taking the proper care of the Girls.  The Darling Bride knew that they would be stuck here with that old man, and she knew that they would get hungry, since Burntloafer has never fed them while he eats.  For that matter, he seldom even feeds them the same things that he eats.  

He was obviously raised without the benefit of proper manners, and seldom shares with others. The whelp!

Darling Bride took note of the fact that the Girls are now 'Mature' Dogs, as they are over 13 years old, and in times past, she has let a sales lady sell her "Senior Maintenance" designer dog food.  But before Darling Bride left for her trip, she made an even bigger mistake.
She bought them "Low Calorie Reducing Senior Dog Food"! 

And so, Dear Reader, you must know that the girls would refuse to eat it.  Period.  

It is not like the dog biscuits they get from the drive through window at the bank.  As any properly raised and polite dog knows, you simply take that very delicately and spit it onto the floor of the car, so as to make it clear to the bankers that they ought to know better than to hand out cheap Milk Bone knock offs.  Those, you can always go back and eat when you are safely out of sight of the Tellers - if you have to. 

This new stuff, though, is just bad stuff, and not fit for well bred dogs such as the Girls.
After several days, even Burntloafer knew there was a problem.  He is a thick headed old fool, but eventually even he noticed that they were on a hunger strike.  And he noted to himself that he had only one way to get to the store, and that was on a bicycle.  The thought of such a fat old man on a bike, trying to carry a bag of dog food that was at best akin to salad made them sigh, scratch at the pillows, and go back to sleep.  Let their stomachs rumble.  No one cares.  Sigh.

Then old Burntloafer had an idea.  Since Gladass was feeling neglected as well, what with all the straight yeast breads lately over at the Mellow Bakers, he remembered that he had seen something very interesting on a post called Wild Yeast. That was a recipe for Sour Dough Dog Biscuits.  He had everything needed except for an egg and vegetable bouillon, but those were easily substituted with Miracle Whip and Beef Bouillon.  Whoo hoo!

For an old guy, that Burntloafer really set right to work.

He dutifully made the dough, measuring carefully.  The Nice Lady at Wild Yeast had even made the recipe in grams, so it was easy to follow.

 And soon. the house smelled good again, with the particular aroma of Real Food.  Now, they thought, if they could only wait until nightfall and sneak back down to get whatever that old guy was baking...

 It even had the look and smell of real food!

...and he made enough to last at least two days!

The girls waited patiently, never being so rude as to come right out and object, but they had their ways of letting the old man know that they were not happy with this situation.  They would not even look at him.  

That should show him.

But wait!  

What's that smell?

Could it be?

He did!  He gave us something we can eat!

It's about time!

Thank you, Wild Yeast Lady! 
Thank You!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Double down!

Double down...   ...let's just say that I am a poor excuse for a gambler, but I am learning when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em.

What?  You didn't see that coming? 

OK, so there had been a bit of a problem with the Twin French loaves last time.  The problem being that no one could not tell the difference between the baguette with poolish and the baguette with pate fermentee.

Yeah, there was that little issue of garlic scape butter, and trust me, that stuff would have made warm cardboard taste darned good.  But still, I had given some to the neighbors, sans garlic, and it did not seem to matter.  No one seemed able to taste the difference.

And trust me, at this point they are not as bashful about saying what they like and dislike.  For instance, the Twin Boys next door.   "Hey Mister Steve, when are you gonna make me a banana creme pie?" , says Twin Number One.  Followed by Twin Number Two saying, " Forget him, I am older and I want pecan pie."  

They have quite gotten over the issue of shyness around me, and I am very pleased and satisfied by that fact.  These are boy's boys, through and through.  They love to play in the dirt, and if it is wet dirt, as in a muddy old river, they are even happier. 

Anyway, that was a bit of a tangent.  What was my point?  

Oh, yes, to explain that, if there was a difference between the two breads, they would have had no hesitation in telling me so.  At. All.

So today, we would do it again.  And of course, as long as  it is going down, why not add some plain french bread and some of my old sourdough standby?  Sounds like a plan.  But this time it would be done by the book.  No more cups and hand full; this time, the scale would find good use.

Before being introduced to the Mellow Bakers, the sourdough was my reliable old standby for French of baguette bread.  Because of a book called "Ratios", this was the recipe that was used the most in our household for French baguettes.  

Five parts flour, three parts water, two parts starter, and one Tablespoon of Kosher salt.  I made a lot of it, and people liked it.  

I liked it!

 The plain French bread is from Hamelman's 'Bread' book, page 233.   

It is a straight yeast bread, and it gets it flavor from a long bulk ferment time.  Good stuff, but it gets a bit of a bad reputation because, as Hamelman himself admits, he likes the fuller flavor of a pre-ferment bread.  

But, I liked it!

The baguette with poolish is from page 101.

The poolish was dutifully started last night by adding flour, 

 water, and a little yeast, mixing well, and setting it to wait for at least 12 hours.  This time it was clearly marked, even using radically different bowls for each preferment. 


 The baguette with pate fermentee is from page 103.  

The pate fermentee- ( Aw, come on.  I hereby proclaim it to be 'fermented dough' from this point on!) 

The fermented dough was dutifully started last night by adding flour 
with water and salt and yeast.

As you can see, it is definitely
a much stiffer base to start from.


Again, it was clearly marked and was set off to work.

While yours truly set off to sleep, perchance to dream.


This morning - well, it was still morning after all, even if it was not the usual 5:30 a.m. - the breads were mixed and set out for bulk fermentation. 

For the poolish dough, the flour  

and water  

 were mixed with salt and yeast and the poolish was was added in as well. 

Want a better look at

the consistency?  It was a large sponge-like mass.  Smelled great!

For the fermented dough, the flour 

and water were mixed with  salt and yeast, but then the fermented dough was added in.  

This was indeed a different beast, at least in shape and form.
Then, off to the screen porch for bulk ferment.   An hour later, each yeast-based bread got a fold.  An hour later, another. 

The 5-3-2 sourdough prefers not to play the same games as the other breads.  Understood, and with some amount of empathy on my part as well. 

Then it was time to form and final proof the poolish. 

It was set in two batches, as there is only one baguette pan in my house.  I am already getting suggestions to reduce.  I was really happy to find out it was not my waistline she meant - this time.

 The cake sheet helps capture stray sesame seeds.

 And it was starting to look a little scorched after only twenty minutes at 455 F.  

Ol' Luke is like that, flaring up like an alcoholic relative after New Year's Eve.

And here is the first outcome, one right side up and one upside down to show those all-important 'dots'.

Next, the plain vanilla French bread goes in... 

(Probably shouldn't use that phrase in a cooking post, huh?)  

Correction, the plain French bread goes into the oven. 
It was a lot harder to score that the prefermented breads, but I still had hope.  Besides, there is always that garlic scape butter, calling to me from the fridge.  

Honestly, it is becoming an addiction.
But I have not seen any vampires.

And here are the two loaves of plain French bread.  

I had only made a half batch of this and the sourdough, since I wanted to make sure that the neighbors would still be willing accomplices to the taste-testing.  

I will have two complete sets of four types, with two poolish and two pate, er - fermented dough loaves for myself and the neighbors down the road.  Hey, you never know when they will see me walking around delivering bread in my shorts, tennis shoes, and a tee shirt. 

Wrapped and numbered for delivery... will notice that there are no number 4's.  On purpose!

Finally, and for sure a lot later, my old stand by sourdough came off the super-peel onto the baguette pan.  I could handle the other doughs, but that sourdough stuff can be like sub-floor adhesive; some of the best glue out there.  

But I'm gonna keep those sourdough; I tried it, and I still like the sourdough the best!

Some of these neighbors have hinted, rather broadly, that they are starting to feel 'left out'.  Boy, they don't know the half of it.  The neighbor to the north has gone on a diet since this whole bread baking thing got underway.  


I can only hope!

Here are the loaves made with fermented dough.


It will be interesting to hear what they all think of the differences.  For myself, I can only say that I like them all.

Good thing I have lots of willing neighbors. 

What's that?  Oh, sorry, Emma and Phoebe.  You have been more help than I could have hoped, my thirteen year old puppies!

Yeah, OK, you get some, too.

Of course.


Tomorrow I will update this with the results, if there are any!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Twin French Breads

For August, the Mellow Bakers are making two styles of French bread.  One starts with a poolish of flour and yeast and water, the other has salt added to the pre-ferment.

I thought I would make the French bread with poolish and the French bread with pate fermente at the same time.  It seemed, at the time, like a reasonable way to compare them.  But without thinking, I placed them both in similar bowls, right next to each other on the three season porch.

But the first thing that I forgot was to mark the pre-ferment.  Hey - I was busy. So, the next morning, when it was time for the bake, I simply tasted the two pre-ferments.  The simply poolish would not have any salt in it, and as I expected this was a good way to distinguish between the two bowls, which otherwise looked the same to my blood-shot eyes.

So then eventually I had to let them get a final proof in sets of three on my baguette pan.  It seemed like a good plan as well, you know, to get those little 'dots' on the bottom.  The problem was that I did not account for how much rise there would be, and the loaves bled into on another, all along the sides.  It reminded me of a very large focaccia with 'dots' on the bottom.  I obviously was not thinking.

When I groused about it, the Darling Bride simply said, " If they are rising that much, just do them over and only put two loaves in the three ridge pan.'  I hate it when she points out the obvious like that. 

Sort of. 

No, actually, I find it really endearing, but only when she is right. 

Of course, I can't let on.

But it meant that I would either be combining the 'extra' dough again, or doing something with the middle loaf.  I decided that since I was in such a mad rush to make so many loaves, I would do the final proof for the Pate fermente style on sheet pans with some corn meal, and without thinking (notice that recurring theme?) I combined the two supposedly different recipes.

I thought I could tell the difference, because that middle loaf that I had pulled off the baguette pan was divided into two shorter loaves.  It would now be noticeably shorter.

OK, so it was not that much shorter.  Before long I had both types combined, my weak little mind just could not keep it together.

It thought that since they were going to be going to Sister Demeter's house I would have a group of willing victims - er - I mean willing, experienced food critics to tell the difference between the two types.

Long story short, no one, including me, could tell the difference.

And it did not help that Demeter's Love Slave had made some garlic scape butter.  It was awesome, really made the bread wonderful.  We ate a lot of French bread, slathered with DLS's garlic butter, to accompany a fine meal of fresh veggies and chicken kabobs, which DLS had grilled to perfection.  Followed by fresh Door County cherry pie, lemon pie (there is one in the background) and even watermelon that Son of Demeter had provided.  We were all stuffed to the gills, and no one could tell one type of bread from another.

"Well, try them again." 

"No way - can't eat any more - too full."  


It was a typical meal at Demeter's house.  Even the dogs were full.

But I got the desired 'dots', by golly.

And I still have some neighbors to check with. as well.  I think that I gave them different kinds.  Hopefully. 

I will ask, and if anyone thinks that there was a difference, I will report back and make them again.

To the best of my beer palate ability, there was very little difference between the two types of French bread.

But then, all I can taste this Monday is garlic!

Whew.  What a great weekend.  Stay Mellow!

But who is counting?

Well, the book calls it 'Five-Grain Bread'.


So, I guess to tell the story behind the story, a little explanation is in order.

WARNING:  Weird Story Ahead - Not for the Squeamish!!!  Skip ahead to the place it says 'WARNING ALERT OVER' if you would like.

My Mother suffered from some delusional issues - I guess we all suffer from delusional issues - but my family as a group suffered from our mother's delusions.  And trust me, there are plenty of stories I could back that statement up with.  But she had a lot of wonderful qualities as well, and I would not presume to sum up her existence on a simple bread blog.

But to be certain, she was really into conspiracies, alternate medicine, chiropractors, homeopathy, Communists, religions, yadda, yadda, yadda...

But she was also one hell of a good cook.  So much so that she cooked on the river barges towards the end of her life, and was sought-after as a cook.  A Seriously Good Cook.

But, to the point of this story, she had read somewhere that we all needed our intestines cleaned out.  She was convinced that there was at least 20 years of accumulated steak residing in my stomach, releasing toxins that would most certainly make me go bald, renounce her religion du jour, and maybe even cause me to (gasp!) get married.  It was simply her duty to render aid that would assist me to get it cleaned out.  Now, she knew that there was no way that I would go along with several methods she and some of the siblings would use, such as...    ...uh, No.  Not going there.

Let's just say that she had several other ways of ensuring intestinal cleanliness and let it go at that.

But she figured that she could get to us with food.  She started to doctor the food with psyllium seed ( the plant that is the basis for Metamucil) and flax seeds.  Both were effective means to obtain their intended result, and both means would be accompanied by a chorus of, well, earthy sounds.  Oh the stories I want to tell...   ...the same stories I have tried so hard to forget.

Well, I tell you all that much of my long-past personal life, just to tell you the reasons that I hate flax seed.  I hate psyllium seed.  Matter of fact, I am pretty squeamish about anything that might change the daily routine of my stomach in such a dramatic fashion.

So when the Mellow Bakers came out with the five grain bread, I counted on my fingers the types of grains I knew were 'safe'.  When I got to the Fifth Element ( whoaa - that was a sci-fi Freudian slip!) of Hamelman's book 'Bread', I stopped in my tracks.  There is no way that I am using flax seed, I thought.

Then I remembered, and smiled: We are Seriously Mellow here!   Yay!!!


So I used some spelt instead of flax and moved along.  I also sprinkled the top of the loaf with sesame, but that was mostly by habit, not design.  And it did not hurt anything, in fact if was pretty complimentary.

For a highly grained bread, this one was a surprise.  It uses enough AP flour and yeast that you get a really nice ferment that is easy to make, and actually pretty quick to make.  I did not have the courage to make a free-form loaf, and the dough had the consistency of a sourdough wort-mother with grains tossed in for good measure.  It could have handled it OK, but it would have looked a lot like focaccia bread.

I eyed the finished loaf warily, not too sure that this was going to be posted as an August bread or a 'Bread Disaster'.  Once it cooled slightly, I tried it and I was quite pleasantly surprised.  While it is hardly a favorite, I will keep it in mind for the next time we get a visitor or neighbor that wants a multi-grained bread, but does not have more than a half day to wait. 

And when you add Sister Demeter's Cherry Jelly - it becomes superb.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Birds, Bees, and Yeasty Beasts!

The following is from a short post on The Loom, by Carl Zimmer.

You want a little Science with your bread musings?  How about an assertion that the little beasties that make your bread rise are making a choice?   Really.  This is some amazing stuff, kind of fun to wrap your head around!   :hmm:

"[Yeast]  This single-celled fungus–for which we should give thanks for bread, beer, and wine–can reproduce in several ways. Most of the time, it produces buds that eventually split off as free-living cells of their own. Its daughters are identical to itself, carrying the same two sets of chromosomes. Sometimes, however, life get rough for yeast, and they respond by making spores, each with only one set of chromosomes. Later, when times get better, the spores can germinate. In some cases the yeast cells that emerge just grow and divide. But they can also have sex. One yeast cell merges with another one, combining their DNA to produce a new yeast cell with two sets of chromosomes.

What makes yeast sex especially interesting is that the cells communicate with each other first. A yeast cell produces a pheromone that can cause another cell to stop dividing and start crawling towards the source of the signal. These pheromones divide yeasts into two groups. Yeast cells carry one of two genes for making pheromones and will only mate with yeast cells that produce the opposite type.

But if you surround a yeast cell with a ring of pheromone producers, the yeast will not just pick a partner at random. It will exercise a choice. The cell will measure the pheromones coming from each suitor, and it will creep its way to the strongest source....


... the scientists compared how much pheromones each kind of yeast produced. They found that yeast of higher quality churned out more pheromones than yeast of lower quality. So a yeast that chooses to mate with a strong pheromone producer will be endowing its offspring with good genes.

Smith and Grieg’s experiment makes me think about the yeast in a glass of wine in a different way: I now imagine an ocean of love songs. But it also makes me appreciate just how far-reaching Darwin’s ideas about the evolution of sex have turned out to be. The same rules apply–to bird, frog, and fungus alike."