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davidg618

My wife makes three loaves of light whole wheat bread, alternating every other week with an all-white flour version of the same recipe. Two of the loaves are our "daily bread", the third routinely goes to a neighbor. She uses our bread machine, a Zo, on the "Dough" setting, and does a 2nd bulk fermentation, panning and proofing, and baking outside the machine. The machine does a one hour bulk proof; her second bulk proof is usually 2 to 2-1/2 hours depending on the dough's behavior. The long bulk proofings allow the doughs, expecially the whole wheat version, a chance to develop good flavors.


Curious if I could convert the recipe to a sourdough, i scaled it to produce the same dough weight and hydration as the original recipe, but replaced some of the white flour and water with 240g of active sourdough starter at 60% hydration, built using the 3-build approach I use for all my sourdough formula.



The photo answers my curiousty with a firm yes.


However, the experiement taught me the question I should have asked: "Is it worth the additional time and effort?"


This bread is all one would ask for in a sandwich bread: excellent flavor; closed, but light and slightly chewy crumb; and a soft crust--even before I brushed them with butter. But I can say the same things about my wife's bread. Here's a photo of her all-white version I took a couple of weeks ago.



From my point-of-view we're going to stay with the tried and true Yvonne has baked for the last six years. Doing the sourdough was fun, and we will certainly enjoy eating the result.


Sometime in the future I'm going to see if I can be successful baking a single sourdough loaf entirely in the Zo. I think it's possible, in the programmable mode, using a very active starter, and removing the paddles after the knead step. This will allow up to a four hour bulk fermentation step. But that's for another day.

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davidg618

I'd planned to do yet another bake of classic baguettes ala Hitz' formula, but after seeing and reading Pamela's blog entry a week ago, and after comparing Dan's formula with what I've been doing--they are very similar except for the liquid levain--I gave into my temptation and made the DiMuzio formula. The only change I made was to scale the formula to 1000g final dough weight (four 250g small baguettes) which isn't really a change, merely a diminuation. The DiMuzio formula calls for instant yeast, in addition to the liquid levain. I considered not using it, ultimately deciding to be faithful to the formula.


I prepared the liquid levain from my starter cache, using the 3-Build process I've made my own, over a nineteen hour interval. I mixed all ingredients together in my stand mixer for five minutes--bread hook, on lowest speed--then 3 minutes on second lowest speed, rested the dough 30 minutes, did a stretch & fold, and started to chill the dough for overnight retarded bulk fermation. I did two more S&F at 45 minute intervals before I was satisfied with the dough's development. Left to ferment overnight in the fridge, approximately 12 hours. Next morning, I divided the dough, and returned half to the refrigerator. I let the dough rest for thirty minutes. It didn't reach room temperature, but it had doubled in volume so I divided it again in two,  preshaped, rested 20 minutes, shaped, and proofed for an hour. Baked for 10 minutes, with steam, at 480*F, cleared the steam as much as possible, dropped the temperature to 450°F and baked further to 208°F internal temperature. I had decided to do the bake in two two-loaf batches. The one time I baked four baguettes simultaneously, despite the convection oven, I experienced uneven baking among the loaves.


Meanwhile, I'd removed the remaining dough from the refrigerator.


I was pleased, with the first batch's oven-spring, but one of the two loaves had a minor blowout. I'm still not confident my shaping and slashing is what it should be, and the visual results of the first two loaves didn't boast my confidence even an iota. I prepared and baked the second two loaves like the first batch with two planned changes--and one mistake. Planned: I allowed the shaped loaves to proof 15 minutes longer, and I slashed approximately 1/4 of an inch deeper than the first batch. Unplanned: In a senior moment, I forgot to lower the temperature to 450°F after the first ten minutes.  I think this only effected the crust thickness and color. The second two loaves are on the right in the picture below. I removed the loaves, like the first two, at 208°F internal temperature.


The crumb is all I could ask for, and the flavor, in my perspective, not surprisingly, is better than the poolish initiated baguettes I've been baking. Let me hasten to add, I love their flavor as well, but the sourdough levain adds complexity absent in the classic baguettes. I especially like the crust's nutty flavor bursts, and the chewier crumb. Furthermore, the flavor is only mildly sour.


So, I'll claim a conditioned success: Taste: A, Visual: C. Procedures: C+; I got a lot of them right, but not all of them. I've watched shaping and slashing video's and read shaping and slashing instructions ad nauseum, but my hands haven't yet developed the muscle memory to be able to do it rightly, without thinking about it. More practice, practice, practice. At least I've got lots of mouths that love to eat my bread, regardless of how it looks. I did, however, see one neighbor close her eyes while chewing a mouthful. I had assumed it was a gesture of ecstasy, and felt flattered, but maybe, that wasn't the real reason!


 



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davidg618

Woke up this morning wanting to bake something, but also wanted a rest from building starters, poolishes, or sponges; weighing flour and water and salt and dough; and seemingly endlessly setting the timer. So I did nothing.


Until, chatting with Yvonne about 11 o'clock, she mentioned sticky buns: it had been a long time since I'd made them, "distracted as you were by sourdough, and sourdough, and did I mention sourdough?"


Three hours later they were...



... oven ready.


and, about forty-five minutes later...



...they had cooled enough.


These are from a King Arthur recipe I've been making for about ten years--a straight dough. I never turned the scale on; volume measurements all the way. Ahh-h-h-h, it was fun.


Yeah, I'm learning some new habits, but they've got to be comfortable living side-by-side with old ones; they ain't gonna die.


David G.

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davidg618

"doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different outcome."


Then the counterpoint must be, "Sanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and getting the same results." If so, I'm sane! Well, maybe that's going a little too far.


Nonetheless, I am delighted, so far, with my results. I repeated D. DiMuzio's pain au levain formula, and my processes, and techniques as nearly as possible on two renderings seperated by a week in time. "As nearly as possible" is the key; for example I used up all the bread flour I had on hand the first week, so the second go used a new bag, probably for a different lot, but the same brand (King Arthur).



A photo of the two bakings: The loaf in the upper left corner is week one (we ate the second, and bigger loaf). The two front loaves are this week's effort. There are slight differences in appearance--nothing significant--the biggest being the difference in crust color between the two same week loaves. After 10 minutes baking, with steam, at 480°F I turned the oven down to 450°F for the left hand loaf (the smaller one, by weight), and 440°F for the right hand loaf, which had to bake an additional 10 minutes. (I'd done the same the week before, but the crust color was more nearly the same.)



This is the crumb from the first week's loaf. We haven't cut either of this week's loaves, but by the feel of them we expect the same degree of openess. The flavor of the first week's loaves is excellent: good sour from slowly building the starter (30% of the flour weight) over 24 hours, and overnight retarded bulk proofing; the whole wheat flour lends a distinctive base note, surpirsing because it's only 10% of the flour weight; and the high initial heat, and steam, give the crust a delightful toasted nuttiness. The final test will be the taste of the second week's loaves, but we don't expect any significant difference.


We entertain a lot; additionally, we live in a community that frequently comes together for potluck dinners. It's reached the point that I'm expected to serve or contribute a loaf or two of my bread, and a bottle or two of my home vinted (if that's not a verb it should be) wine. I want to be consistent, or nearly so, that's why I'm focusing, at the moment on only two formulae: DiMuzio's pain au levain, and Hitz' baguette's.


Next week: Baguette's for the second time.

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davidg618

Happy with my progress manipulating starters, and baking sourdough boules using D. DiMuzio's San Francisco Sourdough formula, beginning last night, and finishing this morning I let my starters rest, and tried, for the first time, to bake classic baguettes, i.e., baguettes initiated with a poolish. I was stimulated to do this by my mixed results--great flavor, ok crumb, disappointing proofing and ovenspring--baking sourdough baguettes.




For a first attempt I'm very satisfied with the results, especially the flavor. While I was setting up to photograph, I paused three times to have yet another piece with butter.


The formula, and guidance came from Ciril Hitz' Baking Artisan Bread", which I followed to the letter.


So I've got my baking focus, for the next couple of months centered on working with these two basic formula: DiMuzio's sourdough, and Hitz' classic baguette dough. Like the moldy, oldy directions to Carnegie Hall...practice, practice, practice.

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davidg618


Last week's result



Yesterday's result


Using Daniel DiMuzio's guidance, both from his latest book "bread baking, An Artisan's Perspective", and following his posting here on TFL,  I've been working with two different sourdough starters,from different sources. One contributes flavor much to our tastes for sourness, but disappointing in proofing times, and lacking in oven spring, and a second starter that has been phenomenal in yeast activity, i.e., proofing and oven spring, but dissapointing in our preferred sourness. Both starters are maintained in the refrigerator at 100% hydration.


Last week, using Daniel DiMuzio's pain au levain formula with firm levain (480g ripe firm levain, 700g total flour, 68% hydration) I built my firm levain at room temperature (76°F) from the first sourdough starter with three builds, spaced approximately 8 hours apart, gradually increasing the mass three times each build, and, simutaneously, reducing its hydration by one-third each build. DiMuzio's formula calls for a pre-ferment 60% hydration, I chose to match the dough target hydration, 68%, because I wanted to keep the build as wet as possible during its ripening hopefully favoring yeast development. I visually checked its progress and fed it its scheduled builds based on observable peaks; nevertheless, the build interval was nearly eight hours each time.


Expect for using all white flour, I followed Dan DiMuzio's formula exactly. I mixed the dough in my stand mixer for five minutes, allowed it to rest 30 minutes, and bulk fremented it with three stretch and folds spaced at 45 minute intervals. Doubling took approximately, three hours after the final stretch and fold. I shaped two boules (one 1-1/2 lb, one 2 lb); proofing took 2 and 1/2 hour. I baked the loave at 480°F, covered, with steam, for the first ten minutes, reduced the oven temperature to 450°F, uncovered the loaves and baked for another fifteen minutes until internal temperature was 206°-208°F.


The results were very gratifying. The proof times were nominal, compared to most sourdough recipes I've read or tried, and the oven spring was adequate, attested by first photo. I didn't get a photo of the crumb; it was close but light and airy, not dense; and the flavor was delightful to our palletes.


For three days immediately prior to yesterday I've been caring for a firm levain, built from the second starter (great yeast activity, disappointing sourness). Starting with 50g of seed starter, I added sufficient flour to immediately reduce its hydration to 65%, subsequently I fed it, approximately, every eight hours, maintaining its 65% hydration, ending early yeasterday morning with 480g of ripe firm levain. My goal, of course, had been to favor bacterial growth, as Dan suggests, over the extended build period.


I made the dough, shaped and baked the loaves as identically as possible to the first starter test. Proof times were, as expected shorter: 2 hours, and 1 and 1/2 hours respectively.


The results were equally gratifying, The levain retained its previous yeast activity, and the level of sourness we hoped for was achieved. The crumb is nearly identical (perhaps a little more open) compared to the first starter's loaves. The first two loaves are history, so I couldn't do a side by side comparison.


For sourdough, I'm satisfied, for now, with the three step build (increase/decrease by thirds from seed mass and hydration) I'm using, so I don't think I'll do anything with the first starter. On the other hand, I'm considering ways to improve the second starter's bacterial contribution to flavor, but ultimately regain its maintenance hydration, and the ability to build a ripe levain in one day. I suppose the most obvious thing is repeat the three day firm levain build, and then use my twenty-four hour three-build modification back to maintenance hydration. Waiting is...

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davidg618

My wife and I love ciabatta, especially for soaking up soup, a handle for bruschettas, or a base for cheese. It was only natural I, obsessed with improving my bread baking skills (especially sourdoughs), would try a ciabatta.




I've been running a set of experiments trying to decide two things: 1) what hydration I should keep my SD seed starter at, and 2) is it worth the effort to do multiple builds to arrive at the formula starter I choose to use? This ciabatta was constructed with 250 gm. of 73% hydrated starter built with three intermediate stages. The initial seed starter was 10 gm. at 200% hydration. The target dough weight was 1050 gm. (three 350 gm. loaves) at 73% hydration.


My tentative conclusions are: 1) the 200% Hydration favors yeast, not bacteria, development. This results in short bulk, and final proof times, and good oven spring, but nearly indiscernable sourness. (This conclusion includes the results of two previous baguette bakes.), and 2) the three build starter time is worth it. This ciabatta has a distinctive, yet still mild, sour flavor: a nice compliment to bleu cheese, or French onion soup.


The crumb, is, to our needs, also near perfect. I expected an even more (undesired) dense crumb. I folded the dough more than its feel deemed necessary. However, neither I nor my wife are fans of the "more-holes-than-bread" crumb other bakers seem to strive for in ciabatta.


I've developed two spreadsheets:  The first helps us baker's calculate the flour and liquid for a target dough weight and target hydration, using (or not using) a SD starter, poolish, or sponge while also allowing choices re which flours ahd how much of each, as well as fluids--water isn't the only choice (i sometimes use beer). The second spread sheet calculates the required seed starter needed to create a desired starter weight and hydration, achieved with three builds--the necessary flour and water for each build is calculated also.. Each build triples the starter's beginning weight, and increases (or decreases) by one-third its hydration %. If anyone is interested, send me a message with your email address and I'll send you the spread sheets. They were built with Microsoft Excel (.xls extension.)


David G.

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davidg618

(You can, if you wish, skip all my mutterings. The recipe is at the bottom.)



My little Welsh grandmother was a gentle soul with streaks of stubbornness, impishness, and independence just below the surface. Born in Wales in the 1883 she sailed to America, with her coalminer father and her mother in 1894. By the time I knew her only her baking, and a light lilt in her speech hinted her origins; she had become American, through and through.



My grandfather died the year I was born, leaving my grandmother a widow. She spent the rest of her life living with her oldest daughter, Alice, also a widow due a horse drawn milk wagon falling on her husband, who was the duo’s bread winner. She held a good paying job. They lived comfortably, and quietly—until the grandchildren started to arrive. I was the third grandchild born amid six—two each among her other three children—and the first boy, fathered by her oldest son: oldest son of the oldest son. I came to learn that gave me important status in the Welsh culture that shaped grandma. She spoiled me rotten. Childless, Alice spoiled all of us.



Grandma was grateful to Alice for providing hearth and home, but refused Alice’s money to pay for gifts for her grandchildren. To earn money—a necessary tool to spoil grandchildren—she marketed her crafts. She tatted doilies; crocheted doll clothes; made stuffed dolls from working men’s tall, white socks; and she baked. The Third Welsh Congregational Church's white elephant and bake sales were her initial outlet store. By the time I could drive, she had nearly twenty loyal customers throughout the city. I was her delivery boy.  Every Thursday, after school, I drove to Grandma’s house; loaded the family car with bagged, wax paper wrapped loaves—white and whole wheat—and drove her route. The smell leaking from the bags was my teen year’s drug of choice. I got high sniffing bread once a week.



Her prices, for the times, were expensive: fifty cents a loaf, but no customer complained. Wonder Bread’s predecessors sold for about eighteen cents a loaf in the stores. Despite the city’s highly immigrant population, European style breads were missing from the shelves of local bakeries. The phrase “artisan breads” wouldn’t be invented for fifty years.



In the month before Christmas, and only for “special” customers, she also made Welsh cookies—$1 dollar a dozen.



A brief tutorial: England and Wales had many mines: tin, lead, and coal, Miners worked hard, and needed energy to keep going. Mine owners were cruel despoilers. (Ref: watch How Green was my Valley 20th Century Fox, 1941—I find fictional references contain much more imaginative examples than those in nonfictional references.) Miners carried there lunch and snacks into the depths of the mines, and ate lunch on the job.



Tin mines are especially hazardous, tin ores contain arsenic compounds. Tin miners can’t risk touching their food with their dirty hands. To the rescue, the Cornish pastie: a pot roast en croute; eat the innards; throw away the crust. Live for another day of mining.



Coal is mostly carbon, just like we are. A little coal dust never hurt anyone (discounting Black Lung), right? Welsh coal miners carried Welsh cakes in their pockets; loaded with lard (more about lard, later), and butter, and sugar the cakes were packed with energy almost as dense as that in the dynamite used to harvest the coal: energy to mine more coal, or run like the devil when the roof starts falling (see above reference.).



I haven’t the slightest idea what lead miners ate in lead mines (can’t find a reference.).



Welsh Cakes: the recipe.



The original recipe, complements of Aunt Alice. Grandma’s eyesight had failed by the time I asked for the recipe. Alice only sent the ingredients. I was flattered she had assumed I knew how to assemble them. The inelegant, heavy-handed printing is my notations. Trivia question: What the hell is saleratus? (Answer below.)



Ingredients


12 cups    all-purpose flour (51 oz.) (More may be needed to achieve a stiff dough)
¼ tsp.         Salt (if you use unsalted butter increase to 1-¼ tsp.)
4 cups        sugar
1 lb.         Butter
1 lb.        Lard
6        eggs
½ tsp.    nutmeg (I like the flavor of nutmeg, reduce to a ¼ tsp. if you choose, but don’t leave it out entirely)
1 lemon    zest (Grandma always used lemon, orange doesn’t have it for me.)
2 tsp.    Vanilla
1-½ tsp.    baking soda (answer to Trivia question.)
2 tsp.    cream of tarter
4 tsp.    baking powder
1-½     cup currants (I substituted dried cranberries once, delicious but not tradition!)


Directions


Let’s first get the lard issue out of the way. I had coronary artery bypass surgery twenty years ago. Subsequently, I tried, over and over again, to reduce the fat in this recipe. I failed. Every attempt was a disaster. Then I tried substituting butter for the lard; better, but the texture was heavy. Like good pie dough's flakiness, this recipe benefits from the lard. Trust me; don’t waste your time experimenting. Besides, I think you should really challenge your Lipitor once in a while to keep it at peak performance. Incidentally, most supermarkets carry lard; you will find it where Crisco is displayed, not in the refrigerator section.



Cream the butter, lard and sugar until light and fluffy, add the eggs one at a time, nutmeg, lemon zest, and vanilla and combine thoroughly.



Mix the flour, salt and other dry ingredients; whisk to distribute evenly.



Combine the wet and dry ingredients. Add the currants. Work gently, only until a homogenous, stiff dough is formed; don’t overwork it.



Note: the original recipe calls for milk if the dough feels too stiff. That’s never happened for me. I always need to add a bit more flour to achieve the desired stiffness.



If you are making the whole recipe—I never make less than a half recipe—divide the dough into four equal pieces, roll into balls, and flatten into 1 inch thick discs (just like pie dough). Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least three hours. (I sometimes leave it overnight.)



Work with one disc of dough at a time, leaving the others in the refrigerator. Roll out evenly to ¼ inch thickness on a lightly floured board. Cut out cookie size circles. (I use a 2-3/8 inch diameter biscuit cutter; Grandma used a Welch’s grape jelly glass)



Preheat your griddle. I use an electric, non-stick griddle, with the temperature control set to 350°F. For a stove top griddle, or a nonspecific heat knob equipped electric grill, you’ll just have to experiment. Start with medium. On a non-stick surface no oil is needed, and I highly recommend you use a very light coating (an oiled, paper towel wipe) on other surfaces only if needed. (I make pancakes on a seasoned cast iron griddle with no oil, and no sticking. I think I did the same with Welsh cakes in long past years.)



Fry until deep golden brown on both sides, turning once. Cool thoroughly. Expect a light, almost flaky texture, and a clean taste with hints of lemon and nutmeg.
This recipe makes about 10 dozen. The cakes freeze very well.



One final experiment NOT to try: Do not try baking Welsh cakes; even my dogs wouldn’t eat them!


Sorry, I don't have a picture of the final product. I'll post one in December.


Update:


Here is the promised pictures. We started our annual Christmas cookie bake today.


Rolled out, and cut.



Six or seven minutes on a side at 350°F.  An electric grill sure beats the top of a wood-fired stove Grandma learned on.


Ready for Christmas.


David G.

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davidg618


My oldest son bought a bread machine in 1988. A, Rube Goldbergesque device that, after a fashion, produced an oddly shaped loaf of bread reminiscent of a miner’s lunch pail: tall where it should be short, square where it should be round, and round where it should be square.  Its white bread cycle produced a soft-crusted loaf, with a crumb akin to Wonder Bread. I don’t recall if it had any other cycle choices. I promptly lost interest in bread machines, and for the next decade remained a smug, hands-on baker.



Until I went rideabout in a 5th-wheel trailer—for six months.



When I was younger I backpacked; I lived out of a sack for a week or more three or four times a year. A 30-foot 5th-wheel trailer has more room than a hiking sack, but not much. But they come equipped with stoves, with sinks, with refrigerators; and the stoves have ovens. Backpacking, one expects to eat freeze-dried grub, reconstituted with water faintly tasting of iodine, and gnaw on biscuits resembling hockey pucks in shape, size, and texture. That’s the price—along with the occasional blister—for the freedom of the trail. An oven’s presence raises one’s expectations. “I can bake bread!” you think. Ha! Fat chance!



My trailer’s oven has a knob divided seductively into ten-degree divisions beginning  200°F and ending at 450°F.  “It’s just like home,” I thought, comforted. I soon learned differently. At 350°F my oven could melt lead, but the crucible had to be placed in the innermost left hand corner. Placed in the right hand corner, next to the oven door, for an hour-and-a-half a Pop Tart barely warmed. My first (and only) attempt to bake bread resulted a misshapen lump, charcoal at its north end, and drooping to  the south. I went to a local trail outfitter’s store and bought a supply of hockey pucks.



In a few months I learned from other RV owners I was not alone. I met veteran trailer-hounds, full-timers, and disillusioned newbie’s, like me, who used their ovens for storage room, a place to keep the picnic-table grill, baseball gloves, or the cat’s litter box.



And then I thought of bread machines.



Reluctantly, with skepticism rampant in every thought, I bought one, but not until I’d researched carefully. A decade after my son bought his bread machine, many bread machines still clung to the miner’s lunch pail loaf shape. Only a very few had by then acknowledged that the common loaf shape was here to stay, and adapted their designs appropriately. Ironically, this trend seemed to be led by the Japanese. I’m not sure they sell bread in loaf form. In my brief travels to the Far East I’ve only encountered bread rolls, and I’ve never seen a loaf in a samurai movie. 



Nonetheless, there was still something lacking: control--control over time and temperature. I solved the first, control over time; I never did solve the second—in the trailer. Once home for the summer, I had my trusted oven.



Control over time: I like to think I invented the dough cycle, now commonplace in bread machines, and the yet-to-be-realized “retard cycle”. It was very simple: take the dough out of the machine, and turn the darn thing off. It’s done its job; give it a rest. Proof the dough in a bowl; retard it in the refrigerator.



I bet you’re wondering how I got the machine to bake the proofed and/or retarded dough. That was simple too. Good thing, I’m not a rocket scientist. When I was nearly ready to bake I ran the machine empty through its early cycle steps, i.e., “Preheat”, “Knead”, “Rise”, and “Knead”. Silly? Yeah, but it worked. Besides, the cat box was in the oven I’d given up on. Listening to the machine’s unimpeded motor whirl while “Knead”ing was soothing, not as good as hand kneading, but still soothing.



I’d shape the loaf, tuck it back into the bread pan—I’d take out the paddles; that made removing the baked loaf easier, and left only two little round holes in the loaf’s bottom—just before “Bake” started. For the final three months I wintered in the San Antonio—my real mixer and oven were in Connecticut—I ate good bread, not great, but I knew all its ingredients to the gram, and having time control I would nurse all the flavor and texture I could out of each loaf’s flours.



Today we still own a bread machine, and it get’s used every week, sometimes twice in the same week. We mostly use the dough cycle. My wife, Yvonne, makes our everyday bread, mostly white or whole wheat, and she too knows the flavor secrets revealed controlling time. She bakes three loaves each time, the machine does the kneading and the first proof. The rest is in her hands. One loaf goes to the breadbox, one to the freezer, and one to our recently widowed neighbor—home made bread is healing, even bread-machine bread. She also makes sweet breads we take to potluck dinners, or give to friends. For those she fills the machine with ingredients, and forgets it until the machine beeps.



I’m the artisan baker. Oops, that sounds arrogant. Let me rephrase. I’m the free spirit baker. That’s better. Most of my breads—sourdoughs, ciabattas, baguettes, etc.—are hand (and Kitchenaid) wrought, but sometimes I use the machine.



This morning, over coffee, Yvonne said, “ Make some focaccia, with sun-dried tomatoes.” I did.


The basic recipe comes from, “Bread Machine: how to prepare and bake the perfect loaf” by Jeannie Shapter. (Y bought it at a Barnes & Noble book sale, for five bucks.) My take is a variation: sundried tomatoes, capers, and rosemary in both the dough and the topping, in lieu of sage and red onion topping only; all else is the same. I put the bread machine on dough cycle. When its finished the dough gets a few minutes of light hand kneading, twenty minutes rest, and directly to the pan, stretched to the corners. After a final proof, nearly doubling, it goes into a 400°F oven. I don’t use bread flour for this recipe, preferring all-purpose flour. The finished crust and crumb are soft: a great sandwich bread. Tonight’s diner is home-cured-and-smoked ham, with Swiss cheese, panini. I’ll mix up some Dijon mustard and honey, but Yvonne won’t use it. The focaccia’s flavor is enough for her.


Most of my breads take 12, 18, even 24 or more hours, but…Let me put it another way. I love fly-fishing, but I still use worms on occasion, and catch big fish.

Here are some pictures of this morning’s focaccia.



Tuesday (or Wednesday), Grandma’s Welsh cakes recipe.


 


 



Ready for the oven



Cooling



Ready to eat

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davidg618

Curiouser and Curiouser


Recently, I was on the short-list--I don't think they had enough people show interest to ever have a long-list--for the editor's job on a carriage driving magazine . The organization's Executive Director interviewed me, via telephone.  Among her many questions was one that struck a nerve, my pleasure nerve: "Dave, I don't get it," she said. "You're retired. You got the world by the a**; why do you want this job?"


Without a moment's thought I answered her. "I'm seventy-two," I told her, "and I'm as curious today as I was when I was five. However, now I know there's a lot more to be curious about than I did then." Despite this brilliant answer, I didn't get the job. ( I do, however, write for the magazine.)


Among my many curiouslties is bread: eating it, buying it, storing it, serving it, and, most of all, baking it. I baked my first bread in a frying pan, over an open fire, in Northeast Pennsylvania. I was twelve, a Boy Scout, and taking one of the tests for the Cooking Merit Badge; the Boy Scout Handbook called the bread "Bannock". My finished Bannock's bottom was burnt, its innards were doughy, its outside crunchy and dense. It was delicious.


In my teens I watched my little Welsh grandmother bake bread, and rolls, and near the holidays date pinwheels, Welsh cakes (a fried cookie), and currant bread. On birthday's she made tortes from stacks of froice (welsh crepes) When I earned my driving license I delivered her makings to church bake sales, Saturday morning breakfasts, and a few regular customer who ended each week with a loaf or two of grandma's white or whole wheat. She charged fifty-cents a loaf--expensive, but worth it. I offered to help her, but she only smiled and kept kneading. Her small hands set a beat; her eyelids nearly closed. No way would she share that soul-mending meditation.


Married with children, on weekends, or home from the sea, I'd bribe my children with homefried doughnuts, white bread ala grandma, and near the holidays I continued the tradition: Welsh cakes, and date pinwheels where, and are, my signature offering in our commuity's Christmas cookie exchange. My children fled the nest, my months at sea grew, and my curiousity turned to new hobbies, among them beer brewing, and wine making. I just can't get away from things fermenting.


A decade retired, I have the the time now to do it all: cook, bake, brew, vint (is that a verb?) write, watch the Science Channel, and occasionally nap. And, curiouser and curiouser, my vocabulary, and knowledge grows and mutates; e.g, hydration, proof, and retard have taken on new meanings; wort, sparge, rack, sourdough, mirepoix, and King Aurthur populate conversations. I'm expected to show up at community potluck dinners with a bottle and a loaf; I've been sent home to fetch when I haven't. Until I found The Fresh Loaf I'd no idea this baking virus I suffer is endemic.


This is fun; I've never blogged before. If you chose to waste your time reading my mutterings DON'T expect daily entries. I'll drop a recipe now and then. Any one interested in Welsh cakes?


 

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