Tuesday, August 24, 2010

First canning adventures: Zesty salsa!

Last summer while learning to bake bread, I also spent a ton of my time reading food blogs, and I read about some other things (besides bread) that I really longed to try: making my own butter, making homemade yogurt, and canning . . . something, anything.

Apparently this is the summer to realize my cooking dreams!

Left: canned salsa
Center: homemade yogurt & granola
Right: cultured butter with 40% rye

I've been following Andrea's (Family & Food & Other Things) canning adventures with Tigress' Can Jam for a long while, and the descriptions of the canning process fascinate me. I love making things from scratch and knowing the exact ingredients of the things I feed my family. Canning just adds a whole new level.

Then a few days ago, we happened to be at a farm supply store and all of their canning supplies were on sale! I couldn't resist. I got a pot with rack, set of canning supplies, and the Ball Blue Guide to Preserving, all for only $25! Can't beat that.

I figured I'd stick them in the basement and give them a try early next summer. And then we found ourselves at the farmer's market this weekend, and I thought about all of the extra tomatoes that I had at home, so we bought a few more tomatoes, a bunch of peppers, and some cilantro, and came home and made SALSA! Salsa has to be one of my hubby's all-time favorite foods, so even though our kitchen was a disaster and I was constantly yelling out for help, he was fully in support of this project and happy to be my faithful assistant.

I chose the zesty salsa recipe from the Blue Book, and although the book says not to vary the recipe at all, I did cut the recipe based on how many tomatoes we had (75% of the original) and subbed in a few different ingredients (mainly types of peppers) based on what we had at the house ~ and added a little extra cilantro because we love it.

Zesty Salsa
(adapted from Ball Blue Guide to Preserving)
7 1/2 cups chopped, peeled, and cored tomatoes
4 cups chopped and seeded peppers (lady slippers, anaheim, pablano)
3 1/2 cups chopped onions (red and yellow)
1 1/2 cups chopped and seeded hot peppers (jalepenos, hot banana)
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 1/4 tsp salt
1 cup vinegar (cider and red wine)

I first chopped everything up for the salsa. In hindsight, I should have started the pots simmering with the bottles and lids then; I didn't anticipate how long they would take to come to a simmer. But then I realized that I had the wrong size lids, so I had to run out to the store to get the right size anyway, so it ended up being better that I hadn't started the pots.

When I got home, I washed the jars and lids and then started all three big pots: one with the salsa, one with the jars and lids, and the canning pot. I was very careful not to let the pots get above 180 F and was thankful for my Thermapen (although I also kept reminding myself that people have been canning since long before instant-read thermometers so it was probably okay not to be too obsessive).

Once the salsa and jars had been simmering for 10 minutes, I started the canning process (with my faithful assistant). Hubby lifted each jar carefully out of the pan and put it on a towel, and then I ladeled in salsa.

He used the jar lifter to take out each lid and place it carefully on the jar. I wiped the threads of the jars clean with a towel and lightly screwed the bands in place.

Then hubby used the nifty jar lifter to place them into the canner and lowered the canning rack. We need to work on this step, as we had a hard time getting the pint jars to fit securely in the rack and a couple of them kept tipping over, which was a little stressful.

We covered the pot, brought it to a rolling boil, and set the timer for 15 minutes. Once the timer beeped, we let everything rest for 5 minutes, took out the jars, and left them alone over night. I heard a few satisfying pops! which was exciting.

This morning I checked the lids: there was no give and I couldn't pry them off. I took the bands off and cleaned the bottles and now we have several months worth of bottled salsa ready to go!

Of course, we also popped one open so hubby could give it a try: he loved the various pepper flavors and said he was sad that he's lived with store-bought salsa all this time. I really enjoyed this salsa with chips as well. More importantly, though, my first canning adventure was a success!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Modern Baker Challenge: Pita Bread

A couple of my girl friends and their babies were coming over for a last-hurrah-before-school-starts lunch today, and I needed something easy to prepare, preferably ahead of time.

Aha! I thought. My all-time favorite curry chicken salad served in the pita bread from The Modern Baker. Problem solved.

This was both the easiest recipe ever and the most frustrating. It's a quick day-of bread with only one rise and a few rests.

I stirred together the simple ingredients (flour, salt, yeast, water, oil), mixed them a bit, let them rest a few minutes, and mixed them a bit more. The dough was very wet (again) so I added a bit more flour.

Still a little wet and sticky, but I gave it a stretch-and-fold and that helped, and then I put it in an oiled bowl.

An hour later, the dough had doubled, so I divided it in twelve and rolled each piece into a ball. Easy. Rolling them out after a short rest was easy, too. It took two tries through, but all of the pitas rolled out into pretty nice circles. I had some helpers while I was rolling out my dough (by far the highlight of the morning):

The trouble started when I went to put the pita circles into the oven. First of all, they. would. not. slide. off. It reminded me of my first try with the BBA pizza recipe; they all just folded over and crumpled onto themselves. Argh. Once I got them in the oven though, about half of them poufed up nicely. And that part was fun to watch. By the third batch, I decided to put the dough circles on a piece of parchment paper like I do with pizza, and that worked better.

When I went to do the second set, they were totally stuck together. Completely. There was absolutely NO way to separate them, even with the flour between the layers. Maybe because the kitchen had gotten too warm?

Anyway, after chasing the little ones out of the kitchen every few minutes to open the oven and fight with the dough to come off the peel, I decided I had enough pitas for lunch and would just call it quits.

It was pretty cool to make my own pitas, and I really love pita bread. But the taste on these was just so-so, and I found that several of the pitas (ones I had left in for an extra minute to achieve the golden color NM describes) were hard and cracked instead of being soft. So I think I'll try pita bread again . . . but maybe a different recipe.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Mellow Bakers: 40% caraway rye (August)

Well, August has been a successful month in the land of the Mellow Bakers ~ at least for me! Three breads baked, three sets of yummy loaves! We loved the five grain and the baguettes. My final one was 40 percent caraway rye.

This one started with a sourdough soaker last night: rye flour (I only had medium, not whole rye) mixed with water and a bit of Austin (my starter). I've been a little lazier with the background reading in Bread. When I first received The Bread Baker's Apprentice, I read all 100+ pages prior to baking my first loaf. With this one, I just jumped in and have been reading when I have time or a specific question. Anyway, I finally read how to do a rye sourdough (p. 193), and I realized I hadn't been making them quite right. And what do you know, for the first time, my rye sourdough actually showed some movement today!

This afternoon, I mixed the sourdough with bread flour, water, caraway seeds (I had half of what was called for), salt, and a bit of instant yeast. I tried to mix them in the stand mixer as Hamelman instructs, but the dough was really wet and I was only making a half batch, so my dough hook couldn't do much. I ended up pulling it out and doing a few stretch-and-folds on an oiled board. It seemed to work!

The dough doubled in an hour, I formed it into a batard, and it rose again . . . too quickly! I realized too late that the dough was bursting out of the banneton, and the oven and pizza stone were barely preheated. But I didn't have a choice, so I gave it a slash and threw it into the oven.

I was afraid that the dough had overproofed, but given the way the slash opened up and the additional split in the back of the loaf, I guess it hadn't! It didn't rise up much, but it spread out some.

Taste-wise, this bread was delicious with some homemade butter. I'm sure it will make great sandwiches, too. It reminds me of the April light rye, which we also really enjoyed. I think Hamelman is turning me into a rye-lover!

Modern Baker Challenge: Prosciutto Bread

Spaghetti with our favorite bolognese sauce was on the calendar for dinner tonight, and we usually serve it with garlic bread. However, the only bread I have in the house is a multigrain sandwich loaf ~ not so much prime garlic bread material! And we wanted to run out to the library this morning, so I needed something quick. I settled on Prosciutto Bread, from The Modern Baker, which has gotten pretty good reviews. Not exactly garlic bread, but it seemed like it might be a good fit with spaghetti.

Phyl (Of Cabbages & King Cakes) thought this bread was pretty good, but really lamented the fact that it wasn't made with cheese, unlike the casatiello from the BBA Challenge. We loved the casatiello, so I took Phyl's advice and, in addition to the prosciutto, added some chunks of provolone as well.

This was an easy-peasy bread to throw together. I mixed everything, let it rest, gave it some stretch and folds, and let it rise. I'd only made enough for one loaf, so I shaped it into a batard, let it rise again, and baked it. It didn't rise much ~ just spread out. It was finished 10 minutes before the timer went off, and I was a little panicky when I tried to get it off the pan. At first I was a little crabby that N.M. had only called for cornmeal and not something else to help it release ~ then I realized that it was the cheese making it stick, and that it was completely my own fault! And then I realized that with a spatula, it actually came off pretty easily. Phew!

Hubby loved this bread. Probably not as much as the casatiello, but it's certainly much faster to make. I can see making it again when he requests castatiello, which he does with some frequency. The kids and I all had a few nibbles, but the meat was way too salty for me, so it will be up to hubby to finish the loaf. I'm sure he's up to the challenge.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Modern Baker Challenge: Seven grain and seed bread

My dad asked hubby to have me make and bring sandwiches to the ballpark yesterday. "I can't," said hubby. "We don't have any bread in the house."

"No bread in the house?!" asked my dad, incredulously. "How does an obsessive bread baker not have bread in the house?!"

Indeed. So this morning, I opened The Modern Baker and turned to seven grain and seed bread which has gotten good reviews from both Andrea and Phyl. I love a good multi-grain, and was pretty happy with the recipe from the BBA until I tried Mags' oatmeal bread which became my go-to recipe. Hamelman's was great, too. Like I said, I love multi-grain breads.

I was pleasantly surprised with how quickly this bread came together. I started it at 6:30 this morning and it was ready for sandwiches well before lunch at 11:30.

Nick Malgieri calls for a cup of seeds ~ 1/3 cup each of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds. I didn't have them on hand, and we really needed bread, so I figured that I'd just make do with what I had on hand, and if the bread was good, try it again with the called-for seeds. I was able to gather a little under 3/4 cup of seeds: poppy, sesame, and flax. I added some brown rice, too, to the oatmeal soaker. I was also just about out of whole wheat flour, so I used what I had left and then filled in the rest with white whole wheat. I also used all-purpose flour and rye flour.

The dough was really, really wet. Was it because I weighed my ingredients instead of measuring? I feel like I get more flour when I scoop it into a measuring cup. At any rate, I had to add almost a cup of extra flour before I got a dough that wasn't so sticky that it glopped all over the bowl and my hands. And I'd even used less water, just in case. With the extra flour, it behaved beautifully.

Once it was ready to proof, the dough rose really quickly; it doubled in just under an hour. I'm not sure why, as our heat wave has passed and it is absolutely gorgeous here right now; our house was a comfortable 69 F this morning. After forming, the loaves rose quickly again, filling the pans in about 45 minutes. They took about 35 minutes to reach an internal temperature of 185 F.

This bread made an awesome turkey sandwich for lunch, and it was also incredibly delicious with butter. Hubby and I both loved it. Unfortunately the kids don't care for breads with interesting textures (ie, seeds), so they didn't like it at all. Still, I would easily make it again ~ if the kids don't like it, it just means more for us!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Modern Baker Challenge: Parisian Fruit Tart

When I first received my copy of Nick Malgieri's The Modern Baker in the mail and paged through it, I knew I would have to make the Parisian Fruit Tart for my dad's birthday, even though we're not scheduled to get to the sweet tarts and pies section of the Modern Baker Challenge for a long time.

This is my dad's ideal birthday treat: a sugar cookie crust with a pastry cream filling and lots of fresh fruit (especially berries). (It's hard to believe that we share the same genes, given that his ideal dessert is made completely without chocolate ~ the horror!) I used to have to go to a super fancy restaurant/bakery in town to pick up one of these for his birthday ~ and hope that they had them made that day, because they didn't always.

This year, I made my own.

N.M. says that this tart and crust need to be made the day you're going to serve them, so that's what I did. This morning, I started with the press-in cookie dough. It's simple enough to make: cream butter and sugar, add vanilla and an egg yolk, and finally some flour. N.M. instructs you to then scrape the dough out and press it into the tart pan. I found this totally impossible. The dough was so wet that, even with floured hands, it stuck to my fingers and every time I filled in one hole in the bottom of the tart pan, another one opened up. I tried sticking it in the fridge to cool it down for an hour, as you do with sugar cookie dough; after all, it was a pretty hot day today. But it didn't matter; it was still incredibly difficult to get it to fill the pan evenly. And forget rolling it in logs to get it to stick to the sides! I just took tiny globs and stuffed them on each part of the fluted pan.

The rest of the recipe was easy: the pastry cream, the fruit, and the glaze. I'm not completely convinced that the tart needs the apricot preserve glaze ~ I think it would be great plain ~ but the glaze didn't hurt anything, either.

Cutting the tart was my other challenge, but N.M. warns about this; he actually calls for mini-tarts: "though they lack the dramatic punch of one large one, which is not easy to cut into neat wedges." But I didn't have mini tart pans; only the 11 inch that I purchased for the chocolate orange almond tart.

We celebrated my dad's birthday at the ballpark, where the family has season tickets for our minor league baseball team, so I did my best to create a baseball shape with my fruit; hubby helped with the design. Even though the tart didn't stay in neat slices, the whole thing disappeared by the time the ballgame started and met with rave reviews. I can definitely see making this recipe again, although I think I may experiment with a different crust next time.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Help from my friends, part 2: Semolina buns

A while ago, I wrote about how much I love the food blogging community for all of the wonderful ideas they share which improve my family's eating experience; well, they did it again!

While on vacation a few weeks ago, three writers I follow all wrote about the same Dan Lepard recipe for semolina bbq buns. Joanna (Zeb Bakes), Di (Di's Kitchen Notebook), and Celia (Fig Jam and Lime Cordial) all gave glowing reviews to this recipe, saying that the unusual buns made with semolina were perfect for burgers, chicken salad, spicy Italian sausages, and even plain ol' peanut butter. I knew I had to try them.

The recipe was easy to follow and the bread came together easily. I soaked semolina in boiling water for 10 minutes, and then added the remaining ingredients (unsalted butter, yeast, salt, bread flour, water, honey, and yogurt). Then I followed the Dan Lepard technique for developing gluten.

Ever since "meeting" Joanna through the Mellow Bakers, I have been interested in the Dan Lepard technique she uses and writes about; it is similar to the stretch-and-fold in that it uses mimimal effort and more time in order to extract gluten development and maximum flavor out of a dough. D.L. uses short bursts of kneading: for example, in this recipe you knead for 10 seconds, rest for 15 minutes, knead for 10 seconds, rest for 15 minutes. Then rest for an hour and proceed with shaping. As with the stretch-and-fold, it's amazing to watch how the dough changes over time without endless kneading.

I rolled out the dough and then divided it into eight buns, without actually separating them. I had some problems getting my dough into a rectangle shape; it insisted on moving back into an oval, and I was in a rush, so I let it be and we ended up with some oddly shaped buns. After another rest, I spritzed them with water, sprinkled them with semolina, and scored them with a butter knife. Then I baked them, and then we ate.

Hubby loved these as a bun for his burger. The kiddos and I generally eat burgers without buns, so we ate them on the side with butter. Delish!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Mellow Bakers: Baguettes (August)

For August, the Mellow Bakers have a choice of two variations of baguette: one made with a poolish and one with a pâte fermentée, both pre-ferments that help develop the bread's flavor.

Inspired by the ever-funny Steve (Burntloafer) who described how he made both versions for a taste test, I decided that this will probably be my last opportunity to do that for quite a while (with school starting in just a couple of weeks). So I got out two sets of bowls and set to work, making half batches of both recipes.

In his post, Steve also talks about forgetting which batch was which at various stages of the process ~ something that I have totally done in the past! So I was extra, ultra, mega careful about only working with one batch at a time and making sure my labeled cling wrap was on top of the proper batch at all times. It worked out pretty well.

Last night, I made the pre-ferments. The poolish is equal amounts flour and water, a tiny bit of yeast, and no salt. The pâte fermentée is a firmer dough, with less water and a little added salt. Both (clearly labeled!) sat on the counter overnight, for a little over 12 hours. (Unfortunately my camera batteries were dead, so I didn't get pictures of the process.)

Starting with the poolish version, this morning I mixed the rest of the ingredients together, let them rise with one stretch-and-fold, shaped three 250 gm baguettes (once again using this excellent video), let them rise, slashed them, and then baked them for about 18 minutes, steaming them at the beginning.

I went through the same process with the pâte fermentée version, only about 20 minutes behind the first one. Due to how long various parts of the process took, this version actually got about 10 or 15 extra minutes in the final fermentation, just enough time for two of the loaves to grow slightly together ~ argh! Luckily I was able to separate them without too much damage.

And here they are! (poolish on the left/blue plate; pâte fermentée on the right/green plate)

With the exception of the preferments, the two doughs looked, felt, and behaved in the same way through the entire process. After baking, they were the same color and looked the same inside. (I was surprised by the lack of big holes....)

Tastewise, however, they were incredibly different. The one made with the poolish tasted like one of the best baguettes I've ever made: deeply flavored, creamy, chewy, crackly crust. The one made with the pâte fermentée, however, tasted like regular ol' pretend baguette from the grocery store (= white bread) and was nowhere near as chewy.

I have a theory. I wanted to start the two versions at the same time, but when I mixed them this morning, the poolish was very active and bubbling with a very obvious "active" smell while the pâte fermentée looked like it had developed only slightly overnight. I went ahead anyway, knowing that several of my starters with Hamelman have not had obvious development in the mornings. But I'm wondering if I'd let the pâte fermentée sit for another five or six hours, if it would've deeped the flavor of the bread. Any Mellow Bakers out there care to weigh in?

Whatever the reason, we enjoyed four of the six loaves today, as snack, dinner, and at bookclub, all doctored with homemade butter ~ yum!

More Mellow Bakers' excellent August breads can be found here.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Cultured Butter

While I was researching homemade yogurt last summer, I also came upon some recipes for homemade butter. Like yogurt, it went on my to-be-made list, but I didn't get to it before school started.

Then last month, I read this post from Phyl (Of Cabbages and King Cakes) on cultured butter and got re-inspired. So this weekend, while making yogurt and the Modern Baker chocolate orange almond tart, I also made butter.

I followed Phyl's detailed instructions: First, I mixed a quart of heavy cream with 1/3 cup of plain yogurt and let it sit overnight. Once it was slightly thickened, I cooled it to 60 F, and then mixed it in my stand-mixer. It was amazing to watch the process as the cream thickened, began to seperate, and then finally broke.

I poured off the buttermilk and then "washed" and kneaded the butter.

This was such a fascinating process, and the end result was delicious! I can't wait to try homemade butter on fresh bread this week. The cream is expensive, so I'm not sure I'll make a habit of making my own butter, but I'm really glad I tried it, and I'm sure we'll make it again as a special treat.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Modern Baker: Chocolate Orange Almond Tart

I know that once school is in session and we get to the next sections of Nick Malgieri's The Modern Baker, I will be too busy to bake all of the recipes, so I'm getting ahead whenever I can. Especially since the tarts and pies look so amazing.

When I needed a dessert for my brother's housewarming this weekend, I was inspired by Sara (at Three Clever Sisters) and Andrea (at Family & Food & Other Things) to jump ahead to the chocolate orange hazelnut tart (p. 179). Sara made it as written, and Andrea made a chocolate raspberry almond tart.

I do not like hazelnuts, so I was glad Andrea suggested the almond substitution. Chocolate raspberry is my absolute favorite combination, so I really wanted to go that route, but unfortunately raspberries are one of the few foods my hubby dislikes, so I stuck with chocolate orange.

Last night, I prepared the almonds and made the tart shell. N.M.'s directions for blanching and roasting the almonds were pretty slick; I had no idea it was so easy to get the skins off!

The sweet tart dough (made with ground almonds) was pretty easy to throw together in the food processor, and then I put it into the fridge overnight. Even cold, it was still incredibly sticky today, and I could not roll it, so I used N.M.'s instructions for pressing it into the pan. That process actually went pretty well.

The filling came together pretty easily, too: cream, sugar, butter, and chopped chocolate melted together; eggs whisked with rum and orange zest; all of it combined, poured into the shell, and topped with chopped almonds. It baked for 25 minutes and looked and smelled absolutely wonderful.

We took the tart to the party this afternoon, where it got many compliments on its looks. Unfortunately, it is so unbelievably hot here that no one felt much like eating anything ~ especially not a rich dessert. Still, I noticed slivers of it disappearing, and I wasn't sad to have leftovers to bring home with me. It has a very rich, dark chocolate flavor, and the hint of orange is awesome. It really needed something creamy and light to accent the bittersweet chocolate ~ whipped cream or ice cream. N.M. suggests whipped cream, but I didn't want to have to make and transport it to the party; I will definitely be making some for us tonight, though! =) And I will definitely make this recipe again, whenever I need an impressive dessert.

Update: Added some sweet whipped cream tonight . . . amazing! I think I will probably still try 60% chocolate instead of 70% next time, but either way, YUM!

Homemade yogurt...at last!

I have been dreaming about making my own yogurt for over a year now, since before I started baking bread or writing a cooking blog or spending every waking hour reading food blogs and thinking about cooking (well, maybe not every hour). As soon as I learned that it was possible to make homemade yogurt, I was intrigued. It's one of those things like vanilla extract or butter that I just never realized was possible to make from scratch. (Dumb, huh? Clearly everything can be made from scratch. But I'd just never thought about it.)

Although I bookmarked about 5 different articles, I never got around to actually trying it, and once the school year started, life just got too busy.

So here we are in August again, and I know that's now or never (or at least not until next summer). I found about a billion different recipes to make yogurt, all slightly different from one another. Which was both frustrating ~ how do I know what the right way is?! ~ and also kind of freeing because it means there isn't really one right way. Right?

I used a bunch of different references ~ this article at 101 Cookbooks, this article from the NY Times that Sara (Three Clever Sisters) referenced, my new Mark Bittman How to Cook Everything book, this post from Frieda (at Frieda Loves Bread) ~ and then just did what made sense to me.

1. I purchased a 1/2 gallon of 2% milk and a small container of plain, whole milk yogurt.

2. I sterilized 4 pint mason jars by putting them in boiling water for 10 minutes; some places mentioned this step and others didn't, so I decided to do it to be on the safe side.

3. Meanwhile, I gently heated my milk in a large saucepan until it registered 185 F. This was definitely the most time-consuming part, requiring the most attention, especially as I started to get close to 180 F. I knew that you couldn't let it get much over 185 F or you could damage the milk. I stirred the milk occasionally, although again my sources were mixed as to whether this step was necessary.

4. Once there, I turned off the heat and let the milk sit. While giving it another stir, I noticed a skin, which I didn't remember reading about. I wasn't sure what to do with it; in the end, when I poured the milk into a liquid measuring cup (for easier pouring into my jars), I just used a fine mesh strainer to get rid of the skin.

5. When the milk hit 120 F, I spooned 1/2 cup of yogurt into a small bowl and stirred in some of the milk.

Once combined, I stirred the mixture into the big cup of milk. (Again, my sources disagreed on the exact temperature to cool the milk to, as well as the amount of starter yogurt to use. As for the starter, they were very varied: from 1/4 cup per 1/2 gallon milk to 1 cup per 1/2 gallon milk. I decided to split the difference and use 1/2 cup.) Then I poured the milk into my four waiting jars, which were still warm.
6. These I placed into our smallest cooler. I heated our rice sock for 2 minutes in the microwave and put it in the cooler. Then I covered everything with a towel, closed the cooler, and set the timer for 6 hours.

7. 6 hours later, when I opened it, the cooler only registered 85 F, but when I opened one of the jars, I found that the yogurt had indeed set and that the yogurt itself was registering 101 F. So I think this warming method works pretty well, although I might reheat the rice sock once next time. We took a teeny tiny taste (tasted like plain yogurt!), hubby finally admitted that my project was pretty cool, and we put the jars into the fridge overnight.

8. This morning, we tried it. It is the best plain yogurt I've ever had ~ by far. It's slightly sweet, with no tart aftertaste.

I tried to make strawberry yogurt by blending strawberries and yogurt with my immersion blender, but it just made a shake and didn't hold the consistency of the yogurt. So we had parfaits with the plain yogurt instead. (Of course I'd had to make homemade granola as soon as my yogurt project was in process: my new favorite granola recipe (from the King Arthur website.) I was shocked to discover that it didn't even need any added sugar ~ even with my massive sweet tooth! Delicious!

Plain, the texture was perfect. Once I added fruit, however, it became too liquidy for my taste. So I started the process of draining my yogurt (Mark Bittman's instructions can be found here).

And I figure I can try Joanna's idea (from Zeb Bakes) and use the drained whey in my next batch of sourdough!

All in all, I consider this experiment quite a fun and tasty success!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Mellow Bakers: Five-grain bread (August)

It's August 1st, and I'm already baking the first Mellow Bakers August bread . . . can you tell I missed my kitchen?!

The three Mellow Bakers' August breads are five-grain, poolish baguettes, and 40% rye with caraway. I feel like we just did a baguette and a rye (because we did), and I really, really love multi-grain breads, so it was a pretty easy choice.

This bread uses grains for 40% of the flour weight. Late last night, I prepared a soaker of rolled oats, flax seeds, wheat bran, and cornmeal.

This morning, I mixed the soaker with bread flour, a tiny bit of vital wheat gluten (Hamelman called for high-gluten flour), whole-wheat flour, rye flour, safflower oil, eggs, salt, yeast, and water. The recipe makes three loaves, which seemed excessive for a week in our house, so I made 2/3 of the recipe. After mixing for several minutes, the dough seemed really sticky, so I added in a bit more bread flour. In retrospect, although the dough looked like sticky batter, when I pulled it out of the bowl, it definitely had gluten development and was workable . . . I believe I could've made do without adding the additional flour (although I didn't add much, so I don't think it hurt anything).

Hamelman says that this dough favors overnight refrigeration, so after kneading, I stuck it in the fridge, degassing it a few times and giving it a stretch-and-fold after an hour. Even with all of this, the dough was still exploding out of the bowl every time I opened the fridge. I didn't actually leave it overnight, but just for the day (how would the dough know that it was 8am - 3pm instead of 11pm - 6am?).

This afternoon, I let it come to room temperature for about an hour, and then formed it into two loaves: an oblong for my oval banneton and a sandwich loaf, knowing that's how we'd use most of the bread. These rose for 1 1/2 hours and then went into a 460 F oven. The bread in the loaf pan was finished after 25 minutes, and the free-form loaf after 30 minutes, both registering about 195 F.

I loved the texture of this bread, and I think that it will make fantastic sandwiches. I'm curious about how the kids will respond . . . they usually don't like the texture of seeds or nuts in things. The rye flavor was more dominant than I expected, and I might substitute it with more whole wheat flour next time. Although I really enjoyed the taste of this bread as-is, I also think it will be a really fun recipe to experiment with ~ using different whole grains and flours. This is definitely a keeper!

Check out the other Mellow Bakers' August breads!