So, in the last few days, I have had a couple fails.
(Not fails. Just methods that don't really work.)
First, I started a sourdough starter. It was going fantastically but then I suspect my father-in-law may have inadvertently raised the temperature of the room too high (we have wood heat and he does adore a good roaring fire, even this late into spring), and I think it did terrible things. Not his fault, I don't think he had any idea I was making a starter and even if he did, he wouldn't have known the implications. If I have the motivation, I'll start anew tomorrow.
Then, I tried this durum semolina bread. Or is it a durum bread? Or a semolina? Lots of comments ensued discussing the difference between the two. The bulk supplier I got mine from was inconveniently titled, "Durum Semolina." So apparently it's both. I never really did figure out whether or not I was using the correct type, but the bread turned out all right. Problem was, I decided to try to use my unrefined sunflower oil in the recipe. It would have been okay, I think, except that I find unrefined oils impart a certain taste in the breads which would be excellent in some ways, but not in others. I don't think it was paticularly good in this bread, and it ruined it for me. For a couple days, I was down on my bread luck, and I just allowed my family to buy bakery-bought bread. (Mind you, it's pretty good. Should you ever find yourself near LaHave Bakery in Nova Scotia, it's quite lovely.)
But we just ran out of bread, so I put my kneading hands on and went back to the basics. I baked Tassajara bread from the cookbook of the same name.
It wouldn't have been anything out of the ordinary, except that I used some yeast I found in the grocery store on my last trip. Just from Fleishmann's (that's all I can get around here), it was in a vacuum sealed package and labelled, "Bakery Format." A fair size bigger than the largest jar of traditional yeast but almost the same price, I gave it a go. Call me stupid but I wondered if it was some form of vacuum sealed fresh yeast because it was so tightly packed, it felt soft to the touch of the outside of the package. I opened it up and saw that it appeared to look like ordinary instant yeast. Slightly bummed but not deterred, I went ahead and made my Tassajara Bread.
My god, the results. They look incredible. This means nothing at the moment because I don't have photos up (camera is dead) but in the morning I'll post them for all to see.
Of course, nowhere near the most amazing loaves I've ever seen or anything, but these loaves have tripled in size at least. The rising times were cut in half, and if anything, I was afraid of over-rising/proofing.
Pending photos of course, I would be curious if anyone knows anything about this mysterious bakery format yeast. I'd never seen it before and Fleischmann's--at least the Canadian site--doesn't even list it among its products.
But in the end, I feel better about my baking. Turns out I'm not a total flop.
Photos to come!