Monday, March 28, 2016

Pre-Passover Pause and Spring Cleaning

I will be baking bread, just taking a break from the 108 Bread project. Tradition stands in the way, though only for a few weeks. My personal ritual is to start cleaning the minute that the Jewish holiday of Purim is over, which is now, which means angst, planning, scrubbing, and dusting until the holiday of Passover begins. Oh and shopping for items we only eat during Passover or which are bread related, such as mayonnaise, and, in my house, require a crappy mass-produced kosher supermarket replacement that often gets tossed after the holiday.

Not enough time for maintaining a chametz-related - Hebrew word meaning leavened - blog.

Zero bread - but just for a week

Now the central culinary aspect of the week-long festival is the absence of bread, any bread-like product, and, for many Jews, a whole list of other foods. I won't go into details; otherwise this post would become a PhD thesis. All leavened products and crumbs - hence the spring cleaning - are out, unless I have banished them to a sealed closet or cabinet. 

As bread #89 will be a matzo and I do not eat matzo between Purim and the start of Passover, I will delay this next venture. I want the first taste of matzo during the first Passover seder to taste special; it's not law, it's mishegas (a Yiddish word for a kind pf personal craziness). Also, I would like to use my very chametz-related baking stone, which would render the home-baked matzo so unkosher for Passover that even the dog would refuse to eat it on the holiday and cause him to scream out about a complete sacrilege being committed. He would probably scream with a Yiddish accent, a la any older Brooklyn person or Bernie Sanders. 

Curiously enough, this respite also allows me to procrastinate a bit more for the last 18 breads of the 108 bread project, the challah quest. I promise to complete this and get onto other possibilities, like selling bread, or teaching bread baking, or writing a book about bread baking from the perspective of someone who lives a normal life, fantasizes about bakeries, but really is not fit for the uber-organized requirements of the baker life, such as getting up before 7 a.m.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Bread Number 88: Lovely Multiple of Four for My Group of Four Peaceable Writing Compatriots

It's 8:30 a.m. and I have a challah dough almost ready for braiding, a sponge sitting on the counter - made this morning - and the flour for that dough ground and protected in the freezer in a ziplock bag. I'll come home late this afternoon from the husband's minor surgery and finish that dough. The challah will be baked and cooling off by 10.

Just because I have not been working on this blog does not mean an absence of home-baked bread. I've been so busy with research and projects at work, so accustomed to and in the rhythm of making favorite breads, so procrastinating - oh yes - the upcoming challah challenge to finish up the 108, that writing here has taken a seat way back in the bus.

For you, my writing lady pals

From time to time during monthly dinners and writing critiques that are the rituals of the Blockheads, my writing group, I keep my pals up to date on the 108-bread project. They have been known to bite into and enjoy the fruits of this quest. About a month ago, they laid down a challenge. That challenge was to make a bread dedicated to them, a bread especially for them. But of course.

Four of us and 88 the next number - kismet. I would make a bread with four kinds of grains and two kinds of seeds and enjoy the mathematical loveliness of the number 88. Perhaps something took exactly 11 minutes along the way. Really not sure.

I bought whole wheat, rye, spelt, and farro berries, which can be used to make food other than bread, though I have not yet tried any of those. I made my usual sponge, described below, used my flour mill machine (a piece of genius), and mixed up a dough with a wonderful aroma. I added caraway and sesame seeds. Next to my much-loved rye bread, I think this one is my favorite. And I am so glad that my writing pals supplied the idea. I dedicate this bread to them.

To Rose, Jill, and Franca: Women whose writing I always look forward to reading, whose company I enjoy, and whose analyses give food for thought. 

This post is long overdue. I did the first try of bread #88 back in February and a second try three weeks ago. This is the recipe for the second try, which turned out to be a super delicious bread, at least to my happy taste buds.


100g starter (100 percent hydration)

200g water
200g bread flour

I let the sponge rest for 10.5 hours in the kitchen.

150g whole wheat flour
84g spelt flour
40g rye flour
26g farro flour
11g salt
4g sesame seeds (plus more for the top of dough when baking)
4g caraway seeds (plus more for the top of dough when baking)

All of the whole-grain flours were freshly milled by my brilliant German flour milling machine.

Stretch and folds and resting

Yes, I've become blase, I do things somewhat by rote, but that's because I've succeeded already in this 108-bread quest. I've learned so much that I'm not thinking,pondering, considering every move. I've discovered good moves that work well and just need monitoring.

Usually I do four stretch and folds, each separated by 15 to 30 minutes. This time I did three. The dough was ready; it had a decent amount of rye and spelt, which do not seem to require as much manipulation. Sometimes the best instinct is to stop. I did three stretch and folds at 20 minutes apart. I slightly and quickly shaped the dough.

I put the dough bowl, covered, in the fridge for 24 hours. When I put the dough there, it was almost 7:30, a perfect time to bake the next evening. 

Baking with rye and spelt

I did not go super high on the oven temperature here because of the rye and spelt, which, I've read and observed on breadtopia videos, do well significantly below 500 degrees. I preheated the oven - with the baking stone and top of la cloche inside - at 480 degrees. 

I shaped the dough, sprinkled on some water, and then sprinkled more sesame and caraway seeds on top. I also made an X-slash on top. I admit that I have not gotten at all creative on that part.

Upon putting the dough in the oven, I turned down the temperature to 460 degrees. At 15 minutes in, I turned it down further, to 440 degrees. I turned it off completely at 37 minutes. (That's a result of a previous mistake that ended up being spectacular.)

Total baking time: 42 minutes.
Taste: Fantastic. One of my favorites. Everyone seemed to like it. 

End note: I have to get back to putting in photographs. I miss the visual element. I like looking at bread and slices photos.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Bread Number 81: A Tasty Variation

The variation on Bread #81 is a stretch on the term variation because I changed quite a bit from the original recipe. This is a delicious whole wheat and requires no sponge phase. I did do an autolyse, partly because it's an easy way to build strength in a wet dough. This bread also fits with the whole wheat theme of my last couple of breads. Because this bread turned out so well, it is worth its own blog post.

The only reason I did not bother with a sponge was pure laziness. We enjoyed the winter storm festivities of gathering with neighbors for long dinners, watching two feet of snow accumulate, doing some artwork, and my solitary snowstorm accomplishment of binge watching a season of Girls. (Yes, the characters are spoiled and self-absorbed, but I love watching shows about New York, particularly Brooklyn, and it's well written. I thought the disrespect toward Iowa was a bit much.)

So there I was on a Sunday morning without any dough. 

553g whole wheat flour - freshly milled
528g water

Mix, cover, and let sit for 25 minutes. Incredible how quickly just the two ingredients combined and rested magically become so dough-like.

Add to autolyse:
100g starter 
12g salt

Hydration percentage: 96 percent

I did two stretch and folds, each 40 minutes apart. Be careful, the dough is slippery and extra stretchy due to its high hydration percentage. I let the dough rise in a 70-degree closet (my little warm spot in the house) and then put it in the fridge for seven hours. No bread on Sunday, but it was ready on Monday. Love DC because with two feet of snow over the weekend, no one was going anywhere on Monday and we had fresh bread.

Baking preparation
Preheat oven to 470 degrees for one hour with dutch oven inside. Sprinkle rice flour onto the bottom of the very hot dutch oven. Shape dough, though it will not hold a shape due to its wetness. Slash the top a few times. Not sure how well a pretty slash design would work, though it might if you get that dough very quickly into a hot oven.

Baking time: 52 minutes
Taste: Absolutely wonderful 

Next try: Shape the dough on a wet surface and with wet hands because - you got it - it's a wet dough.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Bread Numbers 86 and 87: Lovely Whole Wheat

Splendid whole wheat breads, each 50 to 60 percent whole wheat. These are impressive in their superiority to any bakery bread. Indeed there's no reasons other than variety or getting out of the house to eat anything other than a fine whole wheat bread with butter for breakfast. Super yummy, and that is a technical term.

Breads #86 and 87 had my usual sponge, with no whole grain flour. The doughs, however, featured whole wheat flour and seeds. My suspicion is confirmed that the household members will eat anything with caraway seeds and declare it delicious. Sesame seeds do not produce the same exuberant response, though I really like them.

Same sponge for breads #86 and 87
100g starter
200g water
200g bread flour

Mix, cover, and leave out overnight or all day for eight to 10 hours. Never misses and produces a bubbly beauty of a sponge.

The dough, indeed, the whole process for these two breads is so close as to be a mistake not to consider them refinements of one bread. But the whole matter of what constitutes a different bread is rather arbitrary.

Bread #86 will be listed first, then a comma, and then amount of the ingredient for bread #87. For some significant ingredients, the amounts were the same for both breads.

303g whole wheat flour - freshly milled and smelling so lovely in an early-morning kitchen
128g, 113g water
12g, 10g salt
4g sesame seeds
0g, 6g caraway seeds

Mix, cover, and do four stretch and folds, each 15 to 30 minutes apart. Let rise on counter. 

I then put each dough in the fridge for about 24 hours, and baked right from the fridge.

Baking preparation
Preheat oven to 470 degrees for one hour with a dutch oven inside. Shaped the dough, sprinkled with water, and sprinkled with caraway (only bread #87) and sesame seeds. Before plopping the dough in the dutch oven, I also sprinkle the whole bottom with rice flour to prevent the dough from sticking.

Baking time: 56 minutes
Gorgeous oven spring
Taste: Great for bread #87 and okay for bread #86

Bread Numbers 84 and 85: Barley, a Nice Nutty Minor Player

Two sour breads with quite long rises and about 20 to 30 percent barley flour, freshly milled. Not sure if the taste is different with freshly milled flour or whether the aroma in the kitchen after I grind up the flour makes me think the taste is better. Also, and this could be completely unrelated (not to mention that grammar police would not be pleased with a sentence that begins "Also, and"), but the breads I've made since milling my own whole grain flours have taken considerably longer time to reach a full rise.

I'll give both recipes below, one primarily whole wheat and the other about half bread flour. One caveat: I really liked the sour taste, but others in the household (well, one other, in particular) were not as pleased. For me, a long, slow rise is something to be thankful for and appreciate. But it is not a typical bread flavor. 

Bread #84
This bread had barley, rye, and caraway seeds. It was approximately 30 percent freshly milled whole grain flour. I did a sponge phase overnight and then let the final dough rise the next night. 

101g starter
200g water
200g bread flour

This sponge is a regular for me. It is easy to mix together and it becomes a bubbly sponge either overnight or during a work day. I use it for all kinds of breads. I mix well, cover, and leave out on the counter, this time for almost 10 hours.

Add to sponge:
64g rye flour
115g barley flour 
Both of the above were freshly milled
121g bread flour
8g caraway seeds
12g salt
126g water

Mix well, cover, and do four stretch and folds within the first two hours. I did mine about 25 to 30 minutes apart, but I've also done 15 minutes apart when I've been in a rush. It all works fine.

Left the dough covered and on the counter for 10.5 hours. 

I then put the dough in the fridge for nine hours, but I would feel comfortable leaving it for up to 24 hours.

Baking preparation
Preheated oven to 450 degrees for one hour with the top of the la cloche on the baking stone. Big oops in that I might have cracked the oven door. Not sure. Maybe that was another baking episode or not even my fault. It's not a spring chicken anyway.

Oven time: 51 minutes, the last three uncovered.
Taste: Wonderful

Bread #85
A one-stage dough with mostly freshly milled whole grain flour. I should be wearing Birkenstocks and a cotton granny dress. I used a decently large amount of starter to account for the cooler, winter temperature in the kitchen.

400g water
100g starter
82g barley flour
410g whole wheat flour
11g salt

Love the smell of the barley flour right after it is ground. It has a combination of a hint of chocolate and baking pie dough aromas. I mixed and covered the dough. I did two stretch and folds, the first at 30 minutes and the second 40 minutes after the first. I had to be quite gentle because the dough was starting to break. 

I let the dough rise for 27 hours - yes, for more than a whole day and night - though it was in a 63-degree room for part of that time. I then put the dough in the refrigerator for five hours.

Baking preparation
Preheat the oven for one hour at 470 degrees with the dutch oven inside. Baking time only 47 minutes, maybe because it was not the most impressive oven spring.

I was nervous about this one because the dough was breaking easily. Maybe I let it rise for too long. But the taste was really good and super sour. Worth trying again.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Bread Number 83: Am I Making Almost the Same Breads Over and Over? Yes

I have never sought out a career that demands travel. A few widely-spaced trips a year, fine. But for several months it felt like I was constantly out of town. I was not quite, but too much in terms of getting into a rhythm for bread baking. A whole week at home for Christmas week will revive me. Then, perhaps another trip in January.

Bread #83 was a rye with a little whole wheat flour mixed in because I had very few wheat berries left. Now it's time to reorder, but I haven't caught up with all manner of things at home after the last trips, those to beautiful Colorado, friendly Texas, and dynamic Alabama.

The nice part about baking for so long is that even off my game I have standard go-to formulas. This means I can whip up a dough and I feel confident without paying too much attention. Not how I generally like to proceed - fan of mindfulness and all that -  but there is other stuff in my life besides bread. 

200g starter (made with white flour)
290g water
38g whole wheat flour
141g rye flour
271g bread flour
8g caraway seeds
11g salt

I used a lot of starter because my jar was pretty full. Plus, I initially planned for an overnight rise at a kitchen temperature of 70 degrees. Turned out to be 65 and I left the dough out half a day more. It helped to have a person at home who could put the dough in the fridge, not a luxury one has with a regular commuter lifestyle.

Mix all ingredients well and cover. I did two stretch and folds, each 30 minutes apart. Then I let the dough rise on the counter for 14 hours. Next, in the fridge for six hours.

Despite not much fridge time - I  usually wait for 24 hours of fridge time - I decided to bake. 

Preheat oven for one hour with dutch oven inside at 470 degrees. 

Just  before baking, take dough out of fridge. Shape, do the slash on top, and sprinkle with water. Don't forget to sprinkle some rice flour into the dutch oven before plopping dough in there.

I forgot, but I got lucky. No sticking of dough to dutch oven bottom.

Baking time: 53 minutes, the last five uncovered. Beautiful oven spring. Nice solid go-to bread taste. Nice to have a great bread be normal.

Second try

I left out the whole wheat flour because I have not gotten to the wheat berry purchase yet. I am buying food storage containers to store them and the order for wheat and rye berries should be made today. I accounted for the lack of whole wheat flour by increasing the bread flour amount to 339 grams.

This time the dough took 18 hours for the first rise, followed by 11 hours in the fridge. Lovely, lovely oven spring and a great taste. A nice rye is always a winner in this household.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

A Bakery in Colorado Worth a Trip

Mountains, yes. Pretty landscapes, check. Hiking and climbing galore. Reasons why people trek thousands of miles to Colorado, a state where the residents have a sense of superiority because they think everyone secretly wants to live there. Not me, nice beauty out there, but I like a tree-lined neighborhood.

Now another reason to visit Colorado and get off the beaten track in the neighborhood of Boulder is the Moxie Bread Company, a bakery in small Louisville, Colorado, close to Boulder, but on the way to Denver. It was a small town; now it's a small town in the midst of Denver-to-Boulder sprawl - with a view of those mountains, of course.

[Note: I tried to insert the absolutely gorgeous bread photos here, but my laptop has decided to have a fit each time I try. Not sure why it's being so grumpy when it's usually happy to insert photos. I might try again soon.] 

And wonderful bread at Moxie. All naturally leavened. A gorgeous oven with multiple levels. Good coffee. An oasis. The bread is heavenly tasting and lovely to look at. You know the second that you see the display case that this is a special bread destination.

Native New Yorker, must criticize
Someone at Moxie either passed through or is from New York because there's Bed-Stuy Rye and bialys. Now, I'm from Brooklyn and there is no unique rye in Beford-Stuyvesant, a neighborhood that was until recently low income and dangerous, but now is enjoying a renaissance for people with more money - and white people. I had one of the wonderful whole grain bialys at Moxie. It was a luscious roll, but in no universe was this a bialy. A bialy has a particular shape; it's not merely a roll with diced onions on top. Still, delicious.

Still Moxie is an oasis of great bread made in a way that screams out - but no one in Colorado screams - baker's craft. And it is a cute spot for bread, coffee, a sandwich, or to use the free wifi and work. I went back and worked for a whole morning there.

My bakery fantasy - not dead yet
There is a vacant eatery nearby with nice outdoor space and I wonder if it is a good location for muffins, coffee, bread classes, and baking books. Maybe other baking classes as well, and my friend could teach jam classes. I see myself in that fantasy spending a half hour baking, then painting for hours.

One bread challenge remains that could bring me back into the bread world for a while  - the quest to make a sourdough challah as good as the one produced by the bread machine's dough making, which includes commercial yeast and sugar. Not sure I would give up the sugar, though I've made good challahs with honey instead.

Too busy at work and with business trips right now to even fantasize fully about the bakery idea. Yearning for less work travel, but, frankly, once I am there (wherever that happens to be) I always enjoy the time there.

Probably not a good business idea when the fantasy does not include bustling, perky, or, for that matter, any customers.