Sunday, June 13, 2010

Not by Bread Alone

A one-track mind?


Well of course, there are lots of things besides bread that are fun to make.  Last summer, a neighbor and I cooked a pig in a pit.

OK, this one was his idea, but it was my back yard!  

Maybe the pig feed stories should wait for a separate posting, or, even better, wait until this summer's party.  Who knows what crazy ideas we can come up with this year?  Maybe combine the bread making and the pig roasting and have a giant 'pig-in-a-blanket'.

Maybe not.  :)

We also enjoy making various types of sausages.  Below is my 1947 WWII Army field oven, made by Reynolds Aluminum.  I was just a kid, and my dear old friend Ed and I were on a fishing trip.  He was driving his pickup truck, pulling his flat-bottom boat on a trailer we had made from a rear trans-axle and some spare parts, when I spotted this stainless steel beauty in a yard sale.  I pointed, mouth agape, and he knew by the look on my teenage face that I really wanted it.  And at three dollars, I could afford it!

Being Ed, he had some first-hand some experience with crazy ideas.  I think he even he had a pretty good idea what I was thinking, because he offered to drive by "the dump" on the way home that night to get some old stove racks.  Of course, the dump was closed, so we jumped the fence and helped ourselves.

Wow, that sounds really horrible.  

Let me re-phrase that in today's lexicon.

We saved some endangered stove shelves from a sanitary landfill and conscientiously recycled them.

Anyway, through the years it has been used to smoke carp, salmon, venison, turkey, duck, beef, eggs, just about anything you can think to smoke.  There are many nicer and more easily controlled smokers available today, and My Darling Bride routinely encourages me to buy something newer, and perhaps a little smaller.  But, because of the large size, and also the sentimental value, I keep this old veteran around.  

My Darling Bride has banished it to the back yard, behind the fencing.

That's probably a good thing.  Some days she would like to send me there as well, so I built a level platform for the smoker, and count myself as lucky.

There are times where, even if I have to shovel it out, it is put into service.  Last winter, we needed to smoke the fall's supply of venison sausage, beer sticks, and some andouille sausage.  For an experiment, some of the andouille was made from pork and some from turkey.  It did not even taste 'healthy'; in fact, it was pretty darned good!

Nowadays, my nephew and brother in law are always ready to lend a hand with these projects, and I really appreciate them both.  Especially since my nephew worked as a butcher, and my brother in law runs a food store.  I could not ask for better partners in this kind of project, as we all have unique skills.  For some reason, though, neither one wants the smoker as a gift.  I've tried!

The large smoke box lets me smoke whole picnic hams, or even five pound summer sausages.  It will hold several large carp, hung from the top.

This one is a clear casing, before smoking.

Maybe it is like bread making, in the sense that you get your hands dirty.  Maybe, it is just the bragging rights you get from doing something out of the ordinary.  Maybe it is that generations before us preserved part of the winter's larder in almost the same way.  But most likely, it's just the good fun of getting together with family and friends for a cooperative project. 

It is always satisfying, after the work is done, knowing that there are freshly smoked goodies in our houses.  Yes, we could drive to the store or the butcher, but much like with the home made bread, it truly tastes better when it is hand crafted.

In the picture above, one clear casing was used to make a 'special' sausage for a buddy.  He had been fishing, and he was unfortunate enough to have witnesses in the boat when he accidentally hooked a seagull... 

Of course, we gave him a hard time for the rest of the year.

He got this light colored summer sausage for Christmas, and it was called a 'Seagull Sausage'.  Sadly, I have never heard from him again.  

His wife went mad.  True story.

What are you gonna do? 

Time to scrape together some pizza ingredients for this afternoon!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Time to try a new path...

A lot of the bread I try is from the 
Mellow Baker's handbook - Hamelman's 'Bread'.

But I was curious.
There are a ton of bread recipes out there 
that have oat meal in them, 
but not so many that have oat flour.
I have a pantry full of oat flour.

I can't help it.

I go to the 'Hippie Store', 
and things like that just call to me. 

Hippie Store.  
Ten years after my mother's passing, 
and my she still finds a way 
to worm into the conversation.

The 'Natural Foods Cooperative' is just too much to type.

So anyway, I thought about what I like in bread.

So far, I really like Hamelman's 'Light Rye'.
A lot.
Ten pounds later, without using butter, and I am wearing the proof around my waist. 

There is really only about a cup of rye in that bread, but the pre-ferment is some sourdough starter and water and rye flour.  It really gets a lot of flavor out of one cup of grain.

See it coming?
Yep.  One cup of oat flour, one cup of water, two tablespoons of Gladass' best froth:

After about six hours it seemed like the levain was ready, so I added five cups of flour, a tablespoon of powdered milk, two cups of water, a tablespoon of Kosher salt, a teaspoon of yeast, and just a little drizzle of honey.

The dough worked up really nicely.

Sorry to leave this post inchoate, but I do not have access, right now, to the pictures for the rest of it.  This Bread came out with a great flavor, even if I did not proof it in the pan long enough.  

The rest of the pictures are coming, really!

Update:  June 9, 2010.

Not that impressed, but OK with it.
I had a dumb idea that it needed to be glazed in butter
which was tasty, but kind of took all of the decorative rolled oats away.  They were cleaned up my Emma, Phoebe, and me.
Actually, they were really nutty flavored after being baked and, drenched in butter, they were pretty tasty.

The first thought was that there was not a great
deal of oven spring, which should not have surprised me.  
The second opinion is that they were
pretty heavy in weight.  
It was good when it was still warm, 
but that is true of most bread.

Once it cooled, we toasted some 
and ate it with tuna salad.  
It was OK, but just OK, even when toasted.  
The flavor of the oat flour just was 
not that distinct or impressive. 

The Darling Bride noted:  
"You would not have to make that one again."

Followed by, 
"Yeah, I suppose you are gonna 
quote me in your blog again?"

I hate to disappoint her, so yeah, I did...

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Minnesota Sourdoughs, Wheat and Rye added

Warning - long post alert!

There comes a time where you have to go for it. 

Today is that day.

I have been making sourdough breads since last November, and I am always impressed by the differences in flavor that can be had from the same starter.  

Now, to be fair, I fed my pet starter some whole wheat flour before using her in that huge Miche a few posts ago, since I really did not know what to expect.  I knew that sourdough, at least my Gladass, loves rye flour.  A lot.  With salt, please, but that is another story.
So, in Hamelman's  excellent book 'Bread' there are three 'Vermont' sourdoughs.  Today I am starting the second and third recipes, one with added Whole Wheat and one with added Rye.  You can find the first Minnesota Sourdough version on a previous post.  You won't find it my house, since even the crumbs are long since consumed.

Phoebe even got some of Demeter's Currant Jelly on her ears. That is true dedication to the job.

My Sister, the Beneficent Demeter herself, gave me a very nice scale to use.  I ought to use it more, and so I shall.

Today I am setting the levain, or pre-ferment, for both of the added grain varieties, and I will attempt to do them side by side.  For convention, I will try to show the Whole Wheat justified to the left, and the Rye should be the right justified pictures.

To begin with, I have always read about the discrepancies between volume and weight with flour.  I thought I would give it a try.  On the right, 4.8 ounces of flour, on the right 3.25.  The volume given was one cup and three quarters cup.

What with me not being the best photographer, you cannot really see the contents of the cup too clearly.  I will ask you to trust me that the next two shots of the cups are indeed the ones in the scale picture. 

 But you can see that if I had measured by volume, I would have been over on the weight.

Flour, Water, and Sourdough Starter are all that is called for in this recipe for the levain.  I thought that maybe I should check in on Gladass, my trusted old friend, and see how she was holding out.

I wish that you could smell this container.  She might be a little hungry, but there are still lots of bubbles, that great aroma, and the semi-gelatinous feel to the wort.

Time to combine the  few ingredients.

That's Gladass, top off and center stage 
whenever she can be.
Three quarters of a cup of water on the left, 
one half on the right.
Two tablespoons of starter on the left, 
one and one half on the right.

Next, everything gets a quick stirring.

But wait, don't forget to feed that starter!

There is slightly more volume on the left.
Both get covered in plastic wrap, time stamped, and set aside.


See you after at least 12 hours!  

Hmmm.  Maybe I should check the website for possible errors in the recipe.  Mellow Bakers, here I come.

Update:  Thank goodness I checked.  I really must remember to never, ever, rely on my memory; ah - er, wait.  I have to start being better at remembering!

Indeed, the Rye version had a correction.  To the 3.25 oz. of flour already in the wort, I added another 3.15 oz. for a total of 6.4.  To the 4 oz. of water, I added another 4 oz.

Now the Rye is a little larger in volume than the Wheat levain.  I forgot to wipe off the sides, so the Rye looks a little messy, but you can sorta see it is bigger now.  No?  Well, trust me.

The good news is that either way this levain smells wonderful.
  It had already worked up quite a nice froth in a couple of hours.


Now I will be back in 12 hours, minimum.

'cause I am hungry, doggone it!

...and I am not alone in that sentiment.

Getting wet makes you hungry, and it is raining like cats and...

...sorry about that, Ladies.

It is really raining here.

Update Number one:  June 9, 8 :30 pm
It is a beautiful spring day,
but Man, that dough is cold.

The Darling Bride was busy.
Too busy to take it out of the cooler for me.
But still, not too busy to pick me up 
from the bus stop, so I better be nice!

Here is the wheat flour.  I folded it before I even thought about taking pictures.  Hey, I never said I was bright.

It looks good, though.  I believe it will make a good loaf.

Here is the rye.  Before I folded it, thank you very much.  Two items of note, both doughs sweated water on to the plastic wrap.  Also, both doughs resisted taking on any oil.  I had sprayed the bowls, lightly, with Pam, since I did not know how they would release.  When I went to tip the dough out, the oil had nearly all worked its way to the surface edges of the dough.  Rude.  I dumped it out, and resolved to use less next time.

Both doughs got a nice lengthy stay on the counter top while they were stretched out.  Hopefully that will aid the warming.  Both are now folded, once, and back in their bowls. 

 See you in a few hours for the next update.
 Update:  the next day.

It is morning, and it has been a long night.
A confirmed morning person, it  is rumored that I turn into a pumpkin around 11 pm.  Last night, at five to eleven, I had just finished dividing and shaping the loaves for the final proof.

Flattened, rolled, and formed, I noticed that there was a subtle difference between the two loaves already.  The Wheat was not as elastic.  It would tear more easily. 
While the Rye was a much more robust and stretchy dough.  
 Since my sleep starved brain could not figure out a way to used the peel twice, I decided that I would bake one set of bread on a cookie sheet instead of the stone.

So, the pan was sprinkled with some corn flour and the Rye dough was set out for final proofing, then covered with plastic wrap.

One ready.
I read in Hamelman's 'Bread' that the final proof 
for these is 2 to 2 and 1/2 hours. 

I started to whine.
1 p.m.?   For bread?

That little voice says, 
" A lack of planning on your part
does not make for an emergency on my part."

Man, I hate little voices.

Then, the Wheat got the same treatment, except on my peel.
Luke (my oven) was ready to go and set for 350 degrees F.  The Wheat was slid off the peel onto the stone, water spritzed into the oven, and my mother-in-law's egg timer set for 35 minutes.  Soon, the T.V. was on and the couch was warmed up.  Oddly, both dogs decided that they were going to get more sleep 
upstairs with the Darling Bride.
Just as soon as my eyes were closed, 
I could smell the bread.  You know that 
special smell you get from a loaf when it is done?  
There is a difference.  
There it was, all right, that 'done' smell.  
The egg timer went off, 
and when Luke was opened up, 
this is what I found:
A little dark, but not too bad.  
Man, that is the most temperamental oven...
In went the Rye.

Spritzed with water, Kosher salt sprinkled on top, it was not the prettiest loaf I had ever seen. But it was going to have to be good enough.  Sleep was only an hour away!
This time the temperature knob was set to 325 F., and the timer set for 35 minutes.  Much better.  Sleep was going to be that much better, knowing that the rye was not burnt.

The secret to me not cutting open a fresh loaf has been discovered.  Sleep deprivation.  If you go to bed, you don't cut open the bread till morning!  Here is the crumb shot of the wheat.  Finally, there are some major sized holes like I see over on the Mellow Baker's site.
The holes in the crumb of the Rye were not as large as the Wheat, but still pretty good.  When the Darling Bride woke up to give me a ride to the bus stop, we had a taste test.
She really liked the wheat.  The crust that I thought was scorched was actually just really brown, not burnt at all.  It was more tender than the Rye.  The Rye was my favorite, had a little more of a chewy crust and custard-like crumb, with a distinct twang from the sourdough that was no where to be found on the Wheat. 

My Darling Bride started to fuss over to whom she could give all this bread.  I volunteered to eat more than my share, and the Dogs were willing to back me on that plan, but then she looked at my waistline and quickly remembered some starving neighbors.

She agreed to leave one half of each loaf, so that we can taste it later, after it has had a little more time to set. 

At least three of us can't wait!
When did bread baking become a three day process?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Minnesota Vermont Sourdough

I noticed that Google's Blogger is back up, so here goes... first try at Hamelman's 'Bread' version of Vermont Sourdough.

In the beginning, there is life! 

Once that was nicely blooming, the rest of the ingredients were added and allowed to rise.  I folded it twice, just to get my hands in that dough.

Most of the raise was in a large stainless steel bowl.

The dough was cut in half, mostly for the chance to use that whopping 11" Gerber fillet knife.

It's dough.  It probably works just as well using the sharp or the dull side.

I press it out, causing a slight gas
release of the larger bubbles.

Then, it gets the 'paper airplane' fold to start with.  Still a kid at heart!

Then flip it over, since when rolled away from yourself you can use the heel of your palm to full advantage.

This is the start of the roll.  For some reason, this did not end up football shaped at all! 

I cover them with plastic wrap to discourage any tough skin from forming.

After the loaves have risen, score them (No, not shown.  I forgot!) then mist them and add Kosher salt, and into the oven they go.

I was a little distracted, and had already loaded a pizza on my peel.  Good thinking, Burntloafer!  Ah well, I just used a cookie sheet to get them to the cutting board.

Where, of course, I sliced them long before I should have.  I admit it.  I have no willpower!  Maybe I should remove all traces of butter, jam, jelly, and peanut butter from the house?  Nah.  I have a pepper grinder and a secret stash of olive oil, too.