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News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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semi-wild bread

The cooler weather has set in with a vengeance and whenever it is windy, our draughty house is even colder than usual. Consequently, I was once again having difficulty getting dough and/or shaped bread to rise.

cold kitchen = SLOW rise

So I decided to add a tiny bit of commercial yeast to our wild bread recipe. The dough still took forever to rise - it was after midnight when I took the bread out of the oven. I had hoped and expected to be baking the bread just before dinner at around 19:30... but I didn't get to shape it until 19:00!!

I really should have taken a photo of the bread just before it went into the oven. It was easily half the height. Talk about oven spring!

semi-wild bread

The crumb was nicely chewy and the flavour had a slight sour tone but a lovely nutty flavour. Even though the crust was quite dark, there was not even a hint of burnt aroma or taste.

Here is the recipe I used:

semi-wild bread

-Elizabeth

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challah

After seeing Eli's version of Maggie Glezer's sourdough challah from her book A Blessing of Bread, I really wanted to make challah. But this particular bread uses a firm starter. (Firm starter?! I don' know noth'n' 'bout makin' no firm starters, Mizz Scahlet!) I don't have A Blessing of Bread yet (I do have Glezer's wonderful book Artisan Baking though and it's one of my favourites). And my other cookbooks talk about how to make firm starters but, but, but... I need hand-holding with new techniques. ESPECIALLY where wild yeast is concerned.

So I did an internet search to see if anyone else had made Glezer's challah. And found yet another version of Glezer's challah on Tatter's blog, "The Bread Chronicle". This one is made with a liquid levain. Ah, that's what I like to see!! I'm familiar with liquid levains. Not exactly an expert with them but at least I've used them frequently.

I had fun braiding challah.

challah weavingchallah weaving

challah weavingchallah weaving

I'm sure that it's incorrect to have that little bit of whole wheat flour but I really like to add just a little (using Carol Field's idea of adding wholewheat flour to our highly refined white flour to mimic stoneground flour). I think the tiny bit of whole wheat adds flavour as well, making the bread seem not quite so much like "white bread" that can be so flavour-free.

Our challah was wonderful! Wonderful and flavour-full. I loved the honey in it. And it was really fantastic for breakfast with hard boiled eggs and strong coffee with lots of cream.

challah
  • semi-wild challah recipe based on the recipe for basic sourdough in Piano Piano Pieno by Susan McKenna Grant and a recipe for challah in Maggie Glezer’s cookbook A Blessing of Bread

And yes, Glezer's book A Blessing of Bread is now on my "wish list". I think I neeeeed to have it.

-Elizabeth

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I don't know if any of the Fresh Loafians (thank you, Mark, for such an excellent term!) has already talked about this - there are SO many posts here!! But even so, it bears repeating:

The Breadline Africa Worldwide Blogger Bake Off was created and began on 15 October 2008. (It ends on 15 October 2009 or when US$1 million has been raised, whichever occurs first.) With our support, Breadline Africa can "convert shipping containers into locations for food production and distribution. These sustainable community kitchens will not only provide foods such as bread and soup to those in need, but also opportunities for skills development within these poor communities".

And here's where we come in:

Bake Bread - Give Dough - Feed Africa

There are various ways for you to get involved:

Anyone can join. Once you register, you can as tag others to do the same. So, not wanting to single anyone out... if you haven't been tagged already, consider yourself tagged. Let's get baking and sending our dough!!

For complete details on how you can help, please see:

__________________________

Breadline Africa is an internationally registered charity supporting ground level African charities that are working with communities to help them to become self-sustainable and "break the cycle of poverty in the lives of individuals and communities in Africa through sustainable, long-term solutions".
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seed and grain bread

Our multigrain bread recipe has a fair amount of rye flour in it. I still haven't found reasonably priced rye flour so decided to replace the rye flour with wheat flour and some corn flour. This is the great thing about bread recipes. They are pretty forgiving and substitutions can be made fairly easily.

The dough was somewhat slacker than it is when it's made with rye flour. But it still rose well. Ha. Almost a little too well.

After mixing it, I left it to rest for about an hour rather than the 20 minutes I thought I was going to leave it. It had risen considerably and only required about 5 minutes of kneading instead of the 10 to 15 I would have given it.

I did manage to shape it in time though. It was just starting to approach the top of the rising bowl - pretty much perfect amount of rising. Okay, maybe a little bit over-risen....

Too bad I saw dmsnyder's post entitled The effect of scoring on loaf shape AFTER the bread was already in the oven!

I almost didn't score it at all - it was on the verge of being over-risen (cough). I was going to score it crosswise but then decided I like the look of the length-wise score. However, if I'd known it would cause the bread to flatten, I would have gone with the crosswise slash - or herring bone. Next time....

Still, in spite of being allowed to overproof, the bread turned out beautifully! It was so pleasing that we decided to use it as cinnamon toast for dessert (after wonderful chicken and vegetable soup made from the carcass of our Thanksgiving roast chicken). When we sliced into it, the aroma was fabulous. I will definitely be making this variation again.

seed and grain bread
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In August, I received an email from Hayley Mick asking if I would do a telephone interview about how "rising food prices (particularly when it comes to grains, flour etc) are affecting bakers" and whether "it put a damper on [my] productivity". She said she had found me through The Fresh Loaf. Her email came just at the time that we had ridden our bikes all over Toronto trying to find rye flour and learning that "Five Roses" (now owned by Smucker Foods) has discontinued production of "dark rye" flour due to slow sales.

So I readily agreed to do the interview. Little did I realize that they would want to come and do photos as well! And about a month later, I appeared on the front page of the Life section of Canada's national newspaper "The Globe and Mail".

making wild yeast bread © photo Globe and Mail/Deborah Baic August 2008

And an even larger photo inside as well!!

making wild yeast bread © photo Globe and Mail/Deborah Baic August 2008

Here is the bread I ended up making:

wild yeast bread © ejm August 2008
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flatbread
I mixed the focaccia dough at around noon. It was around 25C in the kitchen. The dough hadn't even budged by 5:00pm. Still no sign of any rising by 6:00. So I decided to cut the dough into 8 pieces and try making pitas. As I rolled out the discs, I wracked my brains trying to think what was different.
  1. I had rehydrated the yeast with cold water. That shouldn't have been a problem. It was plenty warm enough in the kitchen
  2. I had added leftover sludge after feeding the wild yeast. That shouldn't have been a problem. It wasn't that acidic. In fact there was no sour taste to the dough at all.
  3. Maybe I had added too much salt. I don't think so. It didn't taste too salty.
  4. I had added malt to the yeast. No, if anything that would have helped rather than inhibited the rise.
  5. The flour is relatively new. If at least 4 loaves of bread hadn't been made from that bag of flour, I'd have blamed the flour.

The next morning, my husband found a little dish of creamy looking water on top of the stove. There were a few fruit flies doing the breast stroke in it. The liquid smelled faintly of apples. And THAT'S why my focaccia dough refused to rise. I forgot to add the yeasted water to the dough! Quel moron. Hmmmm, if there was no yeast in the dough, these can't really be called "pitas", can they? I think they have to be considered as "chapatis" because they are yeast-free.

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burgers
We're completely distracted these days by our vegetarian burgers. The other day we decided to make them again, using 3 different kinds of beans: black, kidney and garbanzo.

We were going to serve them with pita that we planned to bake on the barbecue. We had toyed with the idea of shaping the discs early and letting them rise a little before baking and then I suddenly decided we nnnneeeeeeeded to have real hamburger buns and that we could bake them on the stone in the barbecue (as per GrapevineTX's post "Outdoor bread baking, gas grill and attempt #1".


The hamburger buns (or if you prefer: "shamburger" buns) were made with pita dough (all-purpose & whole wheat flours, oil and a little brown sugar) and baked in our gas barbecue.


Here's how we did the baking in the Barbecue: After the buns have been shaped and risen, we put them over direct heat for about 8 minutes, turning them once to account for uneven heat in the barbecue. Then moved them over to cook with indirect heat until they were done (about another 8 minutes)... (our gas barbecue can be turned off on one side).


bunsbuns
buns
You can see why we keep getting distracted into making burgers, can't you? And as long as it's barbecue weather, we really can't stop....

(February 2009: edited to add an anchor for the baking method. -Elizabeth)

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The other day when I made these hamburger buns, based on Susan's (Wild Yeast) recipe for soft hamburger rolls.

hamburger buns

What excellent hamburger buns!!



And easy to make too! Buns are SO much easier to shape than loaves! The only slight difficulty I had with the recipe was with the fractions of grams Susan called for. My fancy new scale isn't THAT fancy. It will not register partial grams.

The part I really loved about the recipe was the instruction on how to get the sesame seeds onto the tops of the buns. I've always sprinkled them on. But Susan has a much better method:

[S]hape [each piece] into a tight ball. [...] Roll the top of the ball on a wet towel to moisten it, then in sesame seeds.

How smart is that!? The seeds all go onto the buns instead of being scattered on the pan below.

I did make a couple of changes to Susan's recipe. I used active dry yeast instead of instant and decided to use only one egg rather than the two she called for. To make up for the missing liquid, I added a quarter cup (or so) of water. I also decided to add the equivalent of a cup of skim milk by adding powdered milk.

We used the buns for vegetarian burgers* garnished with cheese, bacon, red leaf lettuce, tomato, pickle, bacon (ha! why not?), mustard and eggplant relish. And that red stuff? It's beet salad. And that golden crispy stuff? Onion rings made from the left-overs after feeding wild yeast!

hamburger and onion rings

* To make the burgers, we used chickpeas as the base, basically following our falafel recipe but putting in thyme, onions and garlic, rather than the middle eastern spices and coriander leaf. We were completely thrilled with the results and may never go back to ground meat burgers again....

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Onion Rings - June 2008

I've been meaning for ages to rave about the onion rings we made weeks ago using Tanna's (My Kitchen in Half Cups) brilliant idea for using up left over sludge after feeding the wild yeast. They were fabulous!! And very very bad for us. Because we want to have onion rings every day. This is not good. I really don't want to have to buy new trousers.

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wild rye bread © ejm July 2008

Dark rye bread flavoured with onion and caraway seeds and made with wild yeast; based on a recipe by "Breadchick", one of the Bread Baking Babes (BBB)

My starter is extremely active these days. I think that's one reason this bread turned out so incredibly well. When I started to make it, I was sort of sneaking around about it. It was a bit warm outside (around 28C) and I wasn't absolutely certain that turning on the oven would be a big hit.

My fears were unfounded. We loved this bread. And no wonder. It was fabulous!

It was equally delicious on its own, or buttered, or toasted and buttered. And it made the most stellar Reuben sandwiches (made with home-made red cabbage sauerkraut)! Did we take photos of the sandwiches? Ha. Of course not. We were too busy stuffing them down our gullets.

I was particularly thrilled with the slashes on the bread. I've never managed to have slashes stay so well defined. I only hope I can reproduce this! I can't wait until we have enough freezer space so I can make it again.

wild rye bread © ejm July 2008

For a more detailed account, please see:

The all-purpose flour I use is "No Name" (Loblaws) unbleached (about 11.5% protein). The rye flour is "Five Roses" Dark Rye flour (no idea how much protein). The bread flour is "Robin Hood" 'best for bread' flour (about 13% protein).

And I used my shiny new digital scale to weigh the ingredients!

digital scale © ejm July 2008wild rye bread © ejm July 2008

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