Wednesday, May 26, 2010

April showers delivered!

It was a long hard winter, as evidenced by a buddy's woodpile:
April was pretty dry at first, but it did finally rain.
And though Midwestern America can have desert-like qualities:
Who knew you could find these here?  My nephew did.  He found some right through his shoes.
 It seemed like it would never 'green up', except in a few small spots:
Which was neat enough, because eventually the wild strawberries came out.
But eventually, the May flowers came.
Some wild violets,
and some tame.

My wife has a very green thumb!

But, with some dependable assistance, I found a new favorite:  The May Apple.

With its single flower.

Next:  Back To Bread.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Day After...

Well, we went to Sister Demeter's house and a great time was had by almost everyone. The last picture shows someone who felt left out.

But as promised, here is the 'crumb shot' from the Miche in the previous posting. I think it came out pretty good:

My Vicious Killer Guard Dogs took a break, and partied:
Of course, when you party like an animal, you crash like one, too...

We went to the Cheese Factory the next day. There are samples, pre-cut and wrapped cheeses, and if you want they will cut it from the large blocks in the background.

Of course, a few folks were left behind. They are hoping to get some bread out this, as well!

See you next bread!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Not quite five pounds big!

OK. I have a habit of opening my big mouth and then, afterward, thinking things through.

I was recently soo smug about getting sixty pounds of flour that I just
had to brag about it. On line, for the world to see, over at the Mellow Bakers.

Now, as it happens, I read for a living. Every day I scan hundreds of pages of text, so you might think that I was pretty good at reading for comprehension. 

You would be wrong.

Turns out that each bag was twenty five pounds. So really, I had seventy five pounds. And I am already through twenty five of those.

After a little good natured ribbing, it was easy for me to boast that I would do the full sized Miche Pointe-a-Calliere while the majority of the other bakers reduced the sizes of their loaves to half or even third size. What the heck - I had the flour, right?

Except, golly gee, I really had not read the recipe. It was a large sour-dough loaf made from wheat flour, not all purpose or bread flour. No problem! I had bought a twenty pound bag of locally milled whole wheat flour just the day before. Got lucky again.

Check the recipe. It says 'high extraction' flour, not whole wheat. Whoops.

I tried to strain some of the bran from my whole wheat flour; but that particular dog didn't hunt too well.  Maybe I need a better strainer.

Check the recipe?

OK, it says to use 15 per cent 'regular' flour if you can only find whole wheat. Lucky again!

Then I got that nagging little voice, and thought that I better check the Mellow Bakers Blog to see if there were any typos or suggestions to be found. There were, indeed, but as I checked my copy of Hamelman's Bread I discovered that I had a pretty recent printing.

Lucky guy.

I had set the sour-dough pre-ferment up by the book. I thought it was too dry and stiff, but hey, I have been learning a lot from this book, so I trusted the recipe and sure enough it all came together nicely.

Put the pre-ferment away in the microwave overnight, take it out, and it just looked terrific. Gladass, my pet sourdough, must like whole wheat as well as she likes rye, because it really was well raised.

As I moved the bowl from the microwave to the counter, it deflated like a souffle. Do you suppose that is the 'slight indentation' they mentioned in the book? No? Ah well, it looked good to me, and by golly, I finally had the time and place to try this third bread recipe for May.

Because of my complaints about not being able to read the tiny little script on the off-colored pages of the book 'Bread', (see how I worked in my excuse list?) the lights were obediently turned on, old man's reading glasses on my head, and I re-read the recipe.


The scale that Sister Demeter had given me was used to weigh out the ingredients; there will be no more of the same mistakes I made with the corn bread. 'Lose your American measurement habits...' I thought, '...and weigh it out!'

So, I did, and instead of getting the promised too-wet dough, I could only get half of the flour mixed wet enough for the autolyse.

I decided to ignore the facts and go by the recipe.

Everything sat the required time, and eventually I got to add the salt, sour-dough starter, and mix it up for a few minutes.

To the best of my memory, this was the first time I saw that Hamelman let us get our mixers past the first speed, but there it was in print; turn it up to the SECOND speed!

Hey, I have ridden enough toy trikes in my day to know that when you get a green light, you go for it! Three whole minutes at the second speed!

Once I regained my composure, I remembered that this was supposed to be a really large loaf, so the KA mixing bowl got a quick washing, a light oiling, and then the dough went back in for the first ferment. Covered with plastic wrap, into the pre-warmed oven, it sat and did its thing.

It was really soft, nice dough, for being nearly all whole wheat. Very smooth, tacky, but fairly dry.

I took it out and folded it three times, every forty minutes, as instructed.

It is very hard for me to resist kneading and rolling the dough.

I like getting my hands into it, so to simply fold the dough and then place back it the bowl was pretty hard. Hey, I never said I wasn't twitchy!

Those are the first and third folds, by the way. Not much improvement in feel, but I thought it looked and felt pretty good right from the start. After the third folding, I shaped it and placed it on my 'super-peel' for the final raise. I went back and checked the book again, read how you could cover it with a large plastic container, and remembered that Paul from yumarama blog used a cover, so I set out to get one and get it washed. Nice time to remember, right?

After washing it and messing around with all the things which had been in it, I forgot to take and pictures of the dough under the box.

Trust me, it looked like a science experiment from the third grade. I had oiled and inverted a small bowl to make an indentation in the top, tried to do some of the fancy stenciling you see on teh intertubes, and then covered it with both plastic wrap and then the upside-down box. Of course, that is when my wife came home, shaking her head and grinning at the fool she had married.

When time was up, I unwrapped it and started to do some scoring work. The plan was to make a large flower of sorts, but during the final ferment what was the carefully measured center-of-the-loaf had done some serious tectonic shifting. Instead of being close to the middle, it had drifted out somewhere in the Atlantic.

So what do you do when there is an emergency? Get out the duct tape! I did not know why, but instinctively I knew that there would be some good that would come from that duct tape.

I used the gray wonder tape to prop up the side of the peel while scoring the loaf. My wife came over, and being the type who is unable to resist looking at a train wreck, started to tell me that the scoring of the center circle needed to be deeper than what was done by the little cup..., I handed her the knife!

(Actually, it did make it better. Thanks, dear!)

The fancy stenciling I tried? It all got wet and dissolved. I took the hint, and sprinkled a little Kosher salt around the top.

Into old Luke went my Miche. If you look closely you can see the fires of hell, glowing red under the pizza stone. You can also see that while the duct tape did correct some of the lopsidedness, it was far from a perfect circle. Hey, I was still pleased!

The final result looks really good. Getting the right angle for the shot will help with that illusion! I circled the loaf a few times before getting this photo - long enough that my Darling Bride started to laugh at me. Again.

I will bring a crumb shot home and append this posting. Right now, we are loading up the killer attack doggies and heading to Wisconsin. Fresh cheese, a home cooked meal by Sister Demeter, and a birthday party for Demeter's Love Slave. It should be fun!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Corn Bread Part deiux

OK, I admit it; I do not always read for comprehension. Some times good enough is good enough.

So when I read that you were supposed to use a quarter cup of corn meal, I just used a quarter cup. Never mind the weight right next to it...

And so, the corn bread was really boring. My Darling Bride summed it up nicely: "You know that B______y's Supermarket bread that looks so good? It doesn't taste like much, but it sure looks good."

So, once I saw that Paul - the head honcho over at Mellow Bakers (and several others) had noticed and corrected the error, I knew I had to try it again. It came out much more yellow, with a bit more flavor. The body is full, and it was a fun bake.

And the flavor is better, but still not nearly as good as the Light Rye.

But it
looks good.

Look at these bagels - wait, wha...!?

I will admit to having my doubts.

In fact, I was seriously considering not making the bagels from Hamelman's book 'Bread', for a number of reasons.

First, I did not want to watch my blood sugars skyrocket after eating a bagel. For some reason the bagels I buy in town really have that effect, and as a Type 2 diabetic I really do not like this kind of surprise.

Who needs guilt?

Second, I did not have malt powder or syrup. Not since my homebrewing days, and lordy that has been a while...

Third, I was reading some of the comments from the other bloggers on The Mellow Bakers blog, and sounded like a few people had irritating problems. Things like the center was doughy, dealing with bagel boards, skimmers, and the notion that the dough was too cold when taken out of the fridge.

Frankly, some of the bakers over there are both experienced and competent; most are simply fantastic bakers. If they had troubles, well, I was more than a little intimidated.

Now I had made bagels a few years ago in a fit of creativity, but they were like a lot of breads in the sense that when they are warm and fresh out of the oven, just about any bread tastes good. Twenty minutes after I made them, they turned into rocks so hard that the squirrels refused them. I did have a track record to overcome.

But, I had visited Sister Demeter over the weekend, and she had taken the plunge. She had bought a can of malt syrup and powder as well. In typical fashion, she offered me some, and in furtherance of that typical fashion, I took both with a smile and a thank you. It is good to have someone leading the way, and I thought that I would follow, yet again, in her footsteps.

So that took care of the second objection. I read the recipe and the blog comments again, and decided that I might as well give it a 'Mellow' try. Why not? After reading the comments about bagels boards and doughy centers, I knew I was going to take a few liberties with the recipe. As I ladled that whopping two teaspoons of malt powder into the mixer there were a number of cheats running through my mind.

The dough came together nicely, and was promptly popped into the refrigerator for a bulk ferment overnight. That way the bagels would be confirmed as warm by my hands when doing the forming.

The hardest part of the whole recipe was dividing the dough into thirteen parts!

The dough stayed pretty sticky, and my hands needed to be floured a couple times as things warmed up. Eventually, there were twelve round rings on a chunk of parchment paper.
Yeah, twelve.

In the back of the picture below are the starters for my second or third attempts at Corn Bread, Rustic Bread, and a couple of other projects as well. I have taken to writing down the recommended fold and bake times with a dry erase marker on the plastic wrap.You know, when you get the chance to bake all day you have to make the best of it!
I did go through the effort of setting out ice water, salt, sesame, and got the malt syrup and water simmering nicely.
Once the sugar water came to a boil, I re-shaped the bagels as best I could, and dropped them into the pot, where they proceeded to go right to the bottom.

And stayed there.

What about floating up? Using a spatula they were released from the bottom, where they had nicely glued themselves in a serious attempt at ritual drowning. Once freed from the bottom, they popped right up and floated on the surface like they were supposed to do.

Using a strainer spoon that I had bent at a ninety degree angle, they were easy enough to lift from the proofing to the ice water. Touching them in the ice water you could feel the gelatinous surface. When I tried to roll them in a nicely prepared bowl of sesame I made a terrible mess of things, so after the first attempt, the bagels went directly to the parchment paper, where my Darling Bride sprinkled a little Kosher salt and then sesame on them, turned them over, and did the other side. It is good to have help sometimes!
I was not too sure, but Darling Bride quickly scooped up four of them to deliver to the taste testing neighbors. They approved, and asked for more. She then brought a few more to her girlfriend's house, where they were promptly covered in cream cheese and devoured. She came back, I sliced one for her, and she rolled her eyes in disbelief.


If the Darling Bride says she likes something, you have done well.

She loved them. Well, that was just too much for my self-control.

I gave in and 'sampled' one for myself. Blood sugars? Eh, check it later. Right now, for this moment, I lavished the fragrant bread liberally with my Sister's strawberry jam.

They were wonderful...

...and then, they were simply gone!

Just that quickly, there was nothing left; no evidence other than the dirty dishes and a few stray sesame seeds here and there. These really were wonderful bagels. The outside was chewy, but not so tough that you felt like it was a workout. The inside was really flavorful, and although they were a fair amount of work, I figure that with enough practice it will go much faster.

Besides, there is a lot of malt powder left!

And who knows when we will have a need for bagels?