The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

PMcCool's blog

  • Pin It
PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

My wife recently picked up a copy of Leader's Local Breads, and I am part way through reading it.  I needed to bake this weekend, so thought that I would try a formula from the book.  Based on what I had available, I opted for the Pain au Levain, using my existing sourdough starter to prepare the levain for the formula.  I also chose to add sunflower seeds to the bread, following one of Mr. Leader's options.

It was enjoyable to work with a mostly-white bread dough again.  Much of my recent baking has been predominantly whole-grain breads (not counting RLB's focaccia that factored out at 113% hydration!), which tend to have somewhat heavier and stickier doughs.  This formula calls for small quantities of both whole wheat and rye flours, but they are fairly low percentages of the total flour content.

Here's the finished bread:

Pain au Levain batards 

And a shot of the crumb:

Pain au Levain crumb 

As you can see, there was plenty of oven-spring.  The dough was a little bit short of being completely proofed.  I may have been able to let it proof a little longer than I did, but I'm happy with the outcome.  The flavor is surprisingly (to me) mild; the wheat flavor comes through cleanly, along with the nutty sweetness of the sunflower seeds.  The last couple of sourdoughs that I have made had a high whole wheat content and a pronounced sourdough tang.  Other conditions were essentially the same, so it appears that the flour has an influence on the degree of sourness.

This is a very enjoyable bread.  I hope that others in the book are equally good.

Paul 

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

This weekend's bake, per my wife's request, was a walnut stout bread.  The recipe that I used (note that all measurements are volumes, not weights) can be found here: http://www.kitchenlink.com/mf/2/4133.  We first saw it printed in the Kansas City Star some years ago; the link attributes it to the Houston Chronicle.  It's probably one of those recipes that was reprinted widely, since it is so good.  Oh, and don't miss the Cheddar-Ale spread recipe at the bottom of the page.  It is wonderful with this bread!

There are a couple of insights that I can offer, having made this bread on several occasions.  It is essentially a rye bread, which means that the crumb is very smooth and somewhat dense.  The dough will be sticky as you handle it.  The recipe suggests adding flour during kneading to control the stickiness but I elected to knead with one hand and clean the countertop (and my hand) with a plastic dough scraper.  It helps to keep the finished bread from being too dry.  The recipe merely says "rye flour".  I don't know if it means white rye, medium rye, or whole rye.  In my case, whole rye flour was on hand, so that is what I used and it turned out fine.  The recipe also requires 1 Tablespoon of coriander, and that is not a misprint.  Between the coriander and the anise seed, it is a very fragrant bread.  As for the stout, I've used Guinness on previous occasions with good results.  This time, I used Boulevard Brewery's Dry Stout (local to Kansas City) with equally delicious results.  I think you could get away with using any dark beer or ale, whether stout, porter, bock or dunkel.  The flavor may shift a bit, but it wouldn't upset the overall results.  Obviously, the richer the flavor of the beer or ale, the richer the flavor of the bread.  The walnuts are, to my tastes, essential for the bread.  They contribute both flavor and a crunch that play off the other flavors and textures very nicely. 

The recommended baking time is 35-45 minutes at 375F.  I checked a loaf's temperature at the 40-minute mark and it was only about 180F, so I left it in for another 10 minutes.  If it had been taken out at the recommended time, it would have been gummy.  Since I only make this every two or three years, I haven't really experimented with different temperature/time combinations.

Here is a picture of the finished loaves:

Walnut Stout Bread

Paul

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

What follows is a case study of "Its beautiful!  Let's change it!"

When we moved into our present house in August 2007, one of the things that we especially liked about it was the large, open kitchen with lots of cabinet space and room to maneuver.  No more tripping over each other, as in the cramped kitchen of the previous house; no more trying to find a place to set something down that wasn't already occupied by something else.  It was pretty typical of houses that were built in this area in the mid-1990's; lots of honey-oak cabinetry, formica counter tops, ceramic tile backsplashes, etc. 

We have, over the years, been collecting ideas of things we would like to have in our kitchen.  There was the "If money was no object" list and there was the "Get real!" list.  One of the things that we fell in love with a few years ago was soapstone for counter tops.  I don't recall where or how we first became aware of it, but I do remember that after seeing it used (and still usable) in a Shaker village built in the mid-1800s we figured that durability wasn't going to be a problem.  I'll spare you the rationalization / sales pitch as to why we chose it over other options.  Let's just say we like it.  In looking at the somewhat worn Formica counter tops that were in the house, we decided that this might just be the time and place to take the plunge. 

Once the decision about counter tops was made, several other things followed in rapid progression.  For instance, to take out the existing countertops, the existing backsplash had to be removed.  Besides, white ceramic tile wouldn't have complement the new soapstone counters.  To get all of the backsplash out, the existing microwave oven had to be pulled.  Said microwave not only functioned poorly, it's vent fan recirculated cooking odors back into the house instead of venting outdoors.  Oh, and the dinged up, surface-mounted porcelain sink?  That had to go.  While they're messing with the plumbing anyway, let's get a new disposal, too.  To quote the King of Siam: "Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera."

So, by choosing new counter tops, we got:

- new counter tops (natch)

- new backsplash

- new microwave, vented outdoors

- new undermount sink

- new faucet

- new disposal

- new switches and outlets (to coordinate with new backsplash)

- new pulls for the drawers and cabinets

- new under-cabinet lights

Talk about unforeseen consequences!

The steam-injection oven remains on the "If money were no object" list.  We decided that we could live with the existing white refrigerator, even though all of the other appliances are black.

Here is how things looked at the outset:

Before

Another "before" view:

More before

The first thing to go was the backsplash and counter tops.  Not having a place to set things down for a couple of weeks was an adjustment we never quite got used to:

Tear out

The day after the wrecking crew tore out the backsplash and counters, another individual came to take the final measurements and make the templates that the stone fabricator would need to cut the raw slabs into the finished pieces for the counter tops.

A crew came back to install the wiring for the puck lights underneath the upper cabinets while the stone fabricator was doing his thing.  Under-cabinet lighting wasn't something that had been on either list but after seeing how much darker the slate tiles were going to be, compared to the previous white ceramic tiles, we decided that it would be a good thing to have. 

And then came the day that the new counters arrived:

They're here!

The installer in the above picture is finishing a seam between two sections of counter top.  Note that he has already installed the under-mount sink.

The final step for installing the counter tops was the application of a coat of mineral oil.  When soapstone is oiled, it darkens dramatically.  Since the stone isn't porous, I'm not sure exactly why it works.  The closest approximation I can think of is the difference between dry pavement and wet pavement, particularly when driving at night, in the sense that the oil fills in microscopic irregularities on the stone's surface in much the same way that rain fills in the irregularities of the pavement's surface, making it look much darker.  Or maybe I'm the one that's all wet.  Anyway, oiling is not required.  It does nothing for the stone, other than change its appearance.  My wife thinks that she will probably not oil our counters with any frequency, if at all.  She prefers the "dry" look.  Here's a picture that shows part of the stone oiled and part of it dry:

Oiled vs. dry stone

Over the next couple of days, the slate tile backsplash was installed, grouted and sealed.  You can also see two of the puck lights under the upper cabinets, along with the new faucet at the sink and the new pulls on the cabinets and drawers in this shot:

Slate backsplash

And a couple of more shots showing the finished work:

Finished!

Finished!

Additional photos, if you are interested, are located at http://s94.photobucket.com/albums/l111/pemccool/Kitchen/.  The before and after order is scrambled; Photobucket seems to adhere to the LIFO approach for inventorying multiple uploads.  If any of you know how to reshuffle the order of the photos in a Photobucket album, please tell me how.

We had dithered about whether or not we should refinish the cabinets, eventually defaulting to a wait and see approach.  Now that everything is in, we are content to keep them as they are.

We are very satisfied with how things have turned out, even though some of the et ceteras drove the price up higher than my informal initial estimate.  We expect to be using, and liking, this kitchen for a long, long time.

Bottom line?  "It's beautiful!  Don't change a thing!"

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

I had occasion to try several new things last weekend: Rose Levy Berenbaum's recipe for "Levy's" Real Jewish Rye Bread, one of my recently acquired bannetons from SFBI, and the Pampered Chef equivalent of a La Cloche (which has been sitting around unused for years).  This also marked the second time that I have made bread on the new soapstone countertops that were recently installed.

The recipe comes from RLB's "The Bread Bible".  The bread contains 3.3 oz of rye flour, vs. 8.5 oz of bread flour, so it is scarcely any more sticky than a wheat dough would be.  And with 2 tablespoons of caraway seeds, rye isn't the dominant flavor.  The bread begins with a yeasted sponge, which is allowed to ferment 1-4 hours.  It eventually bubbles through a flour layer that is placed on top of the sponge:

Fermented sponge 

Once the sponge has fermented, the flour mixture, oil and salt are stirred in.  The dough is then kneaded and left to ferment under an overturned bowl for a 20-minute rest:

Resting dough

After the dough has rested, it is kneaded again and then allowed to rise until it is doubled.  At that point, it is given a letter fold, then returned to the bowl until it doubles again.  After the second rise, the dough is flattened slightly and then shaped into a ball and allowed to rise until it has doubled.  Ms. Levy recommends that the final rise after shaping occur in a covered bowl.  I opted to use a fabric-lined banneton, dusted with rice flour, covering the exposed surface with plastic wrap to keep it from drying.

Ms. Levy suggests baking either on a baking sheet with steam, or in a cloche.  In both cases, she recommends having a baking stone in the oven as it preheats, then setting either the baking sheet or the (also preheated) cloche on the baking stone.  It seemed like overkill, but I followed the instructions as given, using the cloche.  The risen loaf was tipped out onto parchment paper, slashed, then placed in the cloche and covered.  I'll need to practice the technique a bit.  I was a bit gun-shy about burning myself on either the cloche base or its lid, so I wasn't as gentle with placing the loaf as I should have been.  It deflated slightly but recovered most of the loss with oven spring.

Based on the directions, I pulled the cover from the cloche about 10 minutes before the estimated completion of the baking time, expecting that it would finish browning during those last few minutes.  Instead, I saw that the loaf was already well-browned.  So, I stuck a thermometer in it, which quickly registered 210F.  At that point I declared it done and placed it on the rack to cool.  Here's how it looked:

Cooling rye bread

And a shot of the crumb, taken the next morning:

Crumb of Levy's rye

More of the color comes from the malt syrup in the recipe than from the whole rye flour that I used.  The crumb is firm and moist, the crust thin and chewy.  It makes a mean ham and Swiss sandwich. While I like caraway in a rye bread, the amount in this bread is more than I would use for my tastes.  Next time I make it, I will either cut back on the caraway, or substitute fennel or dill, which will be more to my liking. 

Thank you, RLB.  This is good stuff!

Paul

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Well, if I had had my druthers, I would have been in San Diego for the meet.  After all, I was in Ensenada, which is pretty close.  Compared to Kansas City, that is.  But, no, I couldn’t get away from work for a fun Saturday with other TFL-ers.

 

Being in Mexico so much in the past few months has had an upside, though.  That would be tortillas.  Not the stiff, cold, nearly tasteless disks of flour or corn from your supermarket shelves or coolers.  Uh-uh.  No, we’re talking about steaming, burn-your-fingertips-hot, still puffy, straight-off-the-comal fresh tortillas here.  The real deal.

 

I’ve had freshly made tortillas before.  We lived in Houston for five years and there are a bunch of restaurants in that town where you can find fresh tortillas, although they are usually the flour variety.  I’ve even made my own, although I haven’t really mastered these deceptively simple little flat breads. 

 

What I’m finding here in the Baja is something almost magical.  Whether rolled up to eat as a bread, or torn off in chunks to pick up food, or wrapped around meat and other fillings, tortillas make a simple meal complete in very much the same way a crusty bread makes a bowl of soup a dining experience.

 

Growing up in northern Michigan really didn’t give me any useful insights into tortillas.  The only thing that I knew about tortillas was that they came in boxes (think Lawrys or Old El Paso), were hard, brittle, made of a coarse corn meal and used to make tacos. And that they disintegrated at the first bite.  And I wondered: why would anybody get excited about something that lets you take just one bite before it collapses into your lap?  Later on I learned about flour tortillas and things like burritos and enchiladas; then tortillas began to make a bit more sense.

 

But here, as I am sure is the case in other parts of Mexico, tortillas aren’t just an ingredient that you use in one dish of your meal.  Instead, they are an integral part of nearly every meal.  And that is a very good thing.  Especially the maiz (corn) tortillas.  They are just as soft and flexible as their flour brethren and come in a variety of sizes. The flour tortillas don’t hold a candle to the maiz tortillas when it comes to taste, though.

 

For instance, there is a tiny little eatery called Paola’s in the village of La Mision, about half a mile east of Highway 1D along the Baja coast.  There are maybe 4 or 5 tables, each seating a handful of diners.  You walk up to the counter and you can see the stove, which usually has 5 or 6 large kettles and pans on it.  There’s usually beef in one pot, pork in another, chicken in a third and, sometimes, a fourth with lamb, or goat, or tongue or whatever else Paola found at the market that morning.  There will also be a pan of beans, usually, though not always, refried; and another of rice.  You tell the ladies which meat you want (which is usually braised or stewed with chilies, onions and/or other vegetables) and they will ask “Maiz o harina?”  (Corn or flour?)  You reply with your choice of tortilla, then tell them what you want to drink and go sit at your table.  In a few minutes, your plate will arrive, along with a basket of tortillas that are simply too hot to pick up. 

 

Once the tortillas cool just enough that you can snatch one out of the basket without burning yourself, you have an important decision to make.  Should you skip the silverware and use the tortillas to scoop up your food?  Should you start stuffing the meat into your tortilla for an impromptu taco?  Or just alternate bites of the meat and tortilla so that you get to experience the melding of flavors?  In the end, it really doesn’t matter, so long as you savor the flavors that are completed and balanced by the inclusion of the tortillas. 

 

Another favorite dish in these parts is the fish taco.  Ensenada is home to a fishing fleet, so you can get fresh fish every day, ranging from sea bass to tuna to squid to lobsters to shrimp.  Fish tacos are usually made with white-fleshed fish, like locally caught flounder or halibut.  The flesh is cut into strips that are battered and deep fried.  A few pieces go into a soft tortilla, preferably a maiz tortilla.  They are then topped with shredded lettuce or cabbage.  If cabbage, it’s more like a slaw with a faintly sweet-tart creamy dressing.  Other than maybe squeezing a lime over it for some extra zing, all you have to do is roll the taco closed and enjoy every bite.  All of which would be impossible if not for the tortilla.

 

While sitting in a restaurant waiting for my check one evening, I saw a woman walk into a work area and haul out a very large stainless steel bowl.  She proceeded to scoop several pounds of flour into the bowl from a large bin, then added a largish blob of either shortening or lard, some salt and part of a pitcher of water.  She then began to mix it all together with her hands (I wonder if there is a Spanish equivalent for frissage?) until she had a large mass of dough, adding water to get the consistency just right.  After rubbing off the excess dough clinging to her hands, she set about rolling the dough into balls that were sized somewhere between a large egg and a tennis ball.  About that time, my server brought my check, so I didn’t get to see her finish the process.  I’m assuming that, since these were flour tortillas and she was making a large number of them, she probably used a press to flatten the balls into disks which were then put on a griddle to cook.  However, I was walking out the door before she got to that stage.  Still, it was interesting to see that the tortillas I had enjoyed with my meal were freshly made on site.

 

Tortillas are sometimes used to thicken soups, or as garnishes.  And, yes, they can even be bent and fried into a crispy shell for tacos or salads, although I haven’t seen that in this part of Mexico.  For my tastes, though, the tortilla is at its absolute best in its simplest and freshest form.  Then it can work its magic in any way the diner desires.

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Since Labor Day weekend, I have been out of the country on business trips almost constantly.  Most of my time is spent in the Ensenada area, which is about a 90-minute drive south of San Diego.  There was a 1-week trip to Trinidad (also business) but, other than the odd weekend back home every other week, I’ve been here in Ensenada the whole time.  The only exception was last week, when I spent a week of vacation at home.

 

In ordinary circumstances, that would be far more time away from home than I like.  My present circumstance is that we sold one house, bought another and moved in the Thursday before Labor Day.  And then I got the “We need you here next week” call on Friday.  The following Tuesday, I was on my way to Mexico, with only three weekends at home since then.  Not the best set-up for doing all the things that go along with moving into new place.  My wife is very competent and has dealt with the load very effectively and graciously but there is way more than she can deal with alone, particularly if it involves heavy lifting.  Consequently, my weekends at home have been crammed with moving heavy items, painting (LOTS of painting), yard work, etc.  I managed to squeeze one batch of sourdough bread in on one of the weekends, mainly because I needed to refresh the starter anyway.  Other than that, it’s been a long time with virtually no chance to play in our new kitchen.

 

Until last week.  Yes, housework still went on.  We painted two bedrooms and one bathroom upstairs (the kids were coming later in the week and we thought they might want quarters that looked like dwelling places rather than construction sites), hung pictures and mirrors, and, with help from one son-in-law, installed the surround sound system.  But, in and around all of that, there was baking; lots and lots of baking.

 

The first bread was the Pumpkin Cornmeal bread from Beth Hensperger’s Bread for All Seasons.  I was looking for something to start on while building the sourdough starter up, along with wanting to do something seasonal.  After looking through several books, it looked like just the ticket.  It’s a yeasted bread that includes pumpkin puree, cornmeal and some rye flour, too.  I shaped it into boules and baked them on a stone.  The loaves had a warm, golden tone in both the crust and the crumb, thanks to the pumpkin.  Wonderful stuff, as it turns out.  Very good by itself and delightful when paired with homemade applesauce.  It made delicious toast, too.

 

I got a little carried away with building the sourdough starter, winding up with nearly three pounds of it.  After giving it some thought, I realized I could use as much as I needed for whatever I wanted to make and refrigerate the unused portion for subsequent batches so that I wasn’t committed to baking everything in a single day. 

 

My first sourdough choice was the Pain au Levain with Whole Wheat from the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking book.  I have made it several times before, with varying results.  This time around, I used a 50/50 blend of Wheat Montana’s Bronze Chief and Prairie Gold whole wheat flours, which gave me plenty of whole wheat flavor without the bitterness that sometimes accompanies the red wheat varieties.  I scaled the formula up enough to produce three large batards, adding some additional water to accommodate the “thirstiness” of the Wheat Montana flours.  That’s probably what gave me the best results that I have had with this formula.  The finished loaves had a crumb that was much more open than I usually achieve, which was both chewy and moist.  The good news/bad news aspect about scaling up the formula was that the loaves wouldn’t fit on my rectangular stone, so I wedged a round pizza stone in beside it so that I could bake all of them.  Not the best decision.  I think that I blocked enough air flow inside the oven that the heat sensors couldn’t properly measure the temperature.  As a result, the bottoms of the loaves came out a bit scorched.  The rest of the crust was an incredibly deep reddish-mahogany tone with lots of blisters.  I can live with the scorched bottom crust, since everything else about the bread turned out so well.  However, I won’t be using that approach with the baking stones for future attempts.

 

Next up was the New York Deli Rye from Peter Reinhart’s Bread Baker’s Apprentice.  My wife loves this stuff and I can’t argue with her.  It’s a wonderful bread, studded with bits of onion and caraway (or fennel seeds, in this case).  Since I had whole-grain rye flour on hand, instead of the white rye that the formula calls for, I used that.  The loaves were probably a bit more dense, as a result, but in a good way.  Since I was using AP flour instead of a high-gluten bread flour, I added a tablespoon of gluten for each loaf, which probably kept them from being bricks.  I chose to bake it in loaf pans for sandwich bread, rather than as hearth bread. 

 

Before going to bed that particular evening, I mixed up some sourdough English muffins from the formula in the King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary Cookbook so that it could ferment overnight.  The following day, instead of rolling out the finished dough and cutting the muffins, I scaled it into 2.5 ounce pieces which I shaped into loose balls and then flattened them into disks.  I’m still not sure about my results with these.  They look great and the flavor is fantastic, but the crumb tends to be smoother than I want; not the ragged, open texture that I’m looking for.  It’s probably two factors; one, a need for additional hydration and two, gentler (or less) handling.  However, nobody complained.  My 5-year old grandson even requested one for an afternoon snack.

 

The last bread that I made with the remaining starter was the Sourdough Oatmeal Maple bread from the King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking book.  Instead of rolled oats, I used some rolled barley flakes that were on hand.  That was a good choice.  The resulting loaves were large, tall boules (enhanced, no doubt, by the addition of some gluten in the dough), crusty on the outside with a moist, chewy crumb.  The barley flakes should have been in a soaker overnight, but I cheated by soaking them in hot water while assembling the rest of the dough.  They added a lovely heft and resistance to the crumb.  The maple syrup showed up as a low-key sweetness, without an overt maple flavor.  Maybe it would have been more noticeable if I had used oats rather than barley.  The bread played very well against a beef roast that we had for dinner one evening.

 

While I would have loved to post some pictures, our home PC was in the shop that week for what turned out to be some dying memory chips.  The uneaten portions of the bread either went home with our daughters or into the freezer, so no pictures and no way to post them.

 

It was a wonderful week on a number of levels, not the least of which was the chance to be at home and baking again.

 

Now I’m back in Mexico and baking vicariously through other TFL members’ posts.

 

Paul

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

In spite of the crazy, rainy weather of the past week or two, farmers in Kansas and other Great Plains states are trying to get the wheat harvested whenever field conditions allow. On my way home from work this evening, I saw these guys making their way across a field:

Wheat harvest, Johnson County, KS

As soon as I got home, I gathered up my camera and my 5-year old grandson and headed back to the field so that he could see what a combine looked like and what it did. And to grab these pics, too. Yes, those are office buildings in the background of the picture, above. Johnson County is home to a number of Kansas City suburbs and more farm land gets paved every year for subdivisions, shopping centers, office parks, etc. Hard to complain about it too much, since I'm part of the problem.

Here's a closer shot of the combine as it crossed our line of sight:

Wheat harvest, Johnson County, KS

This last shot shows one of the two combines at work in the field stopping to unload into a waiting semi-truck trailer:

Wheat harvest, Johnson County, KS

In this shot, you can see a traffic light and part of a house in the background.

My grandson was quite impressed by the big machinery, even though he didn't completely understand what was going on. I tried to explain how the kernels from the stalk of wheat that I plucked for him were the part of the wheat that was being harvested and that it would be milled into flour for breads, cookies, pies and so on. I know he understood the food end of it and he knows what flour is; I just don't think he has a concept of how something growing in a field could be turned into those things. It will come, eventually. At least he has had an introduction to one of the steps in the process.

Oh, and for the curious among you, it's winter wheat. It was planted in October or November of last year.

PMcCool

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

After being on vacation 10 days, it’s taken me almost 2 days of intermittent poking around to catch up on the various goings on at TFL.  This is one busy bunch of bakers!  I especially enjoyed the JMonkey/TattooedTonka sourdough starter event and the reminiscing by others about how they got started with making bread.

 

Since we weren’t pressed for time, we decided to take a train from Kansas City to Chicago, and then from Chicago to Grand Rapids, Michigan, which is the end of the line for that Amtrak route.  Our oldest daughter, her husband, and their son traveled with us.  Our not-quite-5-year-old grandson, already a veteran air traveler, thought that riding the train was just about the coolest thing he has done so far.  The generous seating arrangements definitely are more comfortable than most cars or aircraft for a similar duration trip, not to mention the ability to move around without banging into your fellow travelers.  If they would make high-speed lines more widely available here in the U.S., I’d definitely use rail more often. 

 

Most of our time in Michigan was spent visiting family but we did manage to play tourist for a couple of days.  We visited Mackinac Island one day and did all of the usual sightseeing/fudge eating/T-shirt buying stuff.  Hmm; guess that makes us “fudgies”.  That’s a northern Michigan term for tourists, especially those from downstate, as well as a nod to the fudge shops that proliferate in most of the towns up there that draw tourists.  Our grandson was thrilled by all of the horses that are used to transport goods and people by wagon or carriage, since cars and trucks are banned from the island.  While one is less likely to be mowed down by oncoming traffic while crossing the street, it’s just as necessary to watch where you put your feet as it is to keep an eye out for carriages or bicycles.  We also bought some pasties from a store in Mackinaw City and took them back for one evening’s dinner with my wife’s brother’s family.  Yum!  Sorry, Mini-Oven, we never did make it across the bridge into the U.P.  Guess that will have to wait for another trip.  The other touristy thing we did was to tour some of the wineries on Old Mission peninsula north of Traverse City on another day.  There were only one or two in the region 30 years ago but the numbers have been growing in recent years and some of them are turning out some very drinkable wines.   

 

No baking was attempted while we were away, so I’m definitely looking forward to firing up the oven this weekend.  I was afraid that I might actually have to buy some bread at the supermarket when we got back into town, but was relieved to find some of my own in the freezer.  (Help me!  I’m turning into a bread snob!)  We did get to enjoy some other folks’ baking, though.  My mom made a batch of bismarks for the crew after a long day of cutting, splitting and stacking firewood for next winter.  A friend brought both dilly buns and home-baked hamburger buns for a cookout on another evening.  All were wonderful and none survived for very long. 

 

Vacations are funny things.  I never want them to end, but I’m always happy to get back to my own place and sleep in my own bed.  Okay, so maybe I’m the funny thing.  Anyway, I’m back home and happy with that and with the trip.

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Mini Oven and Eric,

Maybe the world is smaller than I think!

There are some professors at Tech whom I remember very clearly.  One is David Cimino, who taught a couple of my Physics courses.  He really could draw a perfect circle, about 2 feet in diameter,  on the blackboard.  Pretty amazing to watch.  The name Hanner sounds vaguely familiar but I don't think I had any classes with an instructor by that name.  I never did meet a Bornhorst, although I watched Bruce Horst in the nets for the hockey Huskies.  Probably doesn't count, eh?

My 30th class reunion is coming up this summer, so I'd like to get back up to the Copper Country.  Even if I didn't see anyone I knew, it would still be worth the trip.  There is so much that I used to enjoy up there, like the view from Mt. Brockway, or the waterfalls that are so numerous, or the sweet rolls at the Hilltop Inn in L'Anse (had to work a baking reference in here somewhere!), or the arboreal drive on US 41 heading north toward Copper Harbor, Eino and Toivo jokes, the original Library's pizza, and more.  One of these days I need to go to the Porkies, too.

Dunno about the snow situation up there, since I'm living in Kansas (after stops in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Alabama and Texas).  The alumni newsletter dropped their snowfall tracking section a few weeks back, so I'm guessing that it should be about gone, other than maybe a few shaded areas back in the forest or the cities' snow dumping areas.  My wife (then girlfriend) was skeptical about my snow stories.  For instance, at one point on my walk from campus to downtown Houghton there was a traffic sign which, in Spring or Fall, was a couple of feet above my head.  In late winter it was about knee-high.  We married my senior year and experienced a literal 40 days and nights of snowfall after moving in, which just about put her over the edge. She's a believer now.

When you were growing up in Ontonagon, Mini Oven, did you ever picture yourself living in places as distant and different as Austria and China?  Thanks to my career in engineering, I've been to places around the globe that I never expected to see outside of TV or a newspaper.  Quite the unexpected benefit of my college years at MTU.

Is the White Pine mine in Ontonagon still operating?  I thought that I had heard it had closed, but that there was a possibility of it reopening.

Thanks for triggering a bunch of memories, thimbleberries and all.  Here's a website, in case you are feeling nostalgic: www.coppercountry.com

Paul

PMcCool's picture
PMcCool

Since the breads I made most recently were both sourdough ryes, I was looking for something different this time around that would work well for sandwiches. My first inclination was to haul out an old favorite, a honey whole wheat bread. While flipping through Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads, I happened across a buttermilk whole wheat recipe that I had not tried previously. Since I had all of the necessary materials on hand, I thought that I would give it a try. The recipe follows [with my notes]. I'll also include additional comments at the end

Buttermilk Whole Wheat Bread

from Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads

makes 1 9"x5" or 2 8.5"x4.5" loaves

Ingredients

2 packages dry yeast [I used 2 teaspoons instant yeast]

3/4 cup warm water (105-115F)

1-1/4 cups buttermilk, room temperature (or 1-1/4 cups water and 4 tablespoons buttermilk powder)

1-1/2 cups bread flour, approximately

3 cups whole wheat flour, stone-ground preferred

1/4 cup shortening, room temperature

2 tablespoons brown sugar or molasses [I used molasses]

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons salt

Step 1 - In a large mixing bowl sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and stir briefly to dissolve. Set aside while allowing the buttermilk to reach room temperature, about 15 minutes.

Step 2 - When at room temperature, pour the buttermilk, bread flour, 1 cup whole wheat flour, shortening, brown sugar or molasses, baking powder, and salt into the yeast mixture. Blend with 50 strong strokes of a wooden spoon, or at low speed in a mixer until the flour and the dry ingredients are absorbed. With a wooden spoon or mixer flat beater stir in the remaining whole wheat flour, 1/2 cup at a time, and, when it becomes thick, work with the fingers. Allow 4 to 5 minutes for the whole wheat flour to fully absorb the liquid before adding more flour. The dough will be slightly sticky and soft. You may wish to add more bread flour to help control the stickiness.

Step 3 - Sprinkle flour on the work surface and turn out the soft dough. In the early stages of kneading, a metal spatula or dough blade will help turn and fold the dough. It will also scrape up the film of dough from the work surface. Knead with a strong push-turn-fold action, occasionally lifting the dough above the counter and banging it down hard. Knead for 8 minutes, buy hand or with a dough hook.

Step 4 - There is no "first" rising--the dough is put in the pans and set aside to rise. Divide the 2 pieces, if desired, and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Shape into balls; press the balls into ovals the length of the pans. Fold in half lengthwise, pinch the seam, and place in the pans with the seam under. Push the dough into the corners of the pans. Cover the pans with with wax paper and leave at room temperature until the dough has risen 1" to 2" above the level of the pan, about 50 minutes. (Rising times will be reduced if using instant yeast.)

Step 5 - Preheat oven to 425F 20 minutes before baking.

Step 6 - Bake the loaf or loaves in the oven until they are golden brown and loose in the pans, about 30-35 minutes. Cover with foil if the crusts are browning to rapidly. The loaves are baked if the sound is hard and hollow when thumped on the bottom crust.

Step 7 - Remove loaves from the oven and place on wire racks to cool.

My variation went like this:

Step 1 - Mix the warm water, the buttermilk, the whole wheat flour, the brown sugar or molasses, and the baking powder. Autolyse 60 minutes. (I actually had to run some errands and it was closer to 90 minutes before I got back to the autolysed dough.)

Step 2 - Stir in the instant yeast.

Step 3 - Stir in the salt.

Step 4 - Stir in the shortening.

Step 5 - Stir in bread flour, 1/2 cup at a time. (I wound up stirring in 1 cup, total. The balance was used for flouring the counter during kneading.)

Step 6 - Since the gluten was so thoroughly developed during the autolyse, I stopped kneading after 5 minutes, which was enough to ensure that everything was completely blended and distributed.

Step 7 - Clean and grease the mixing bowl. Place kneaded dough in bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to ferment at room temperature until doubled in volume.

Step 8 - Degas the dough slightly, shape into loaf or loaves, place in pan(s). Cover the pans loosely with with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until the dough has risen 1" to 2" above the level of the pan, about 50 minutes.

Step 9 - Preheat oven to 425F 20 minutes before baking.

Step 10 - Bake the loaf or loaves in the oven until they are golden brown and loose in the pans, about 30-35 minutes. Cover with foil if the crusts are browning to rapidly. The loaves are baked if the sound is hard and hollow when thumped on the bottom crust.

Step 11 - Remove loaves from the oven and place on wire racks to cool.

The effects of the autolyse were phenomenal. The dough texture looked as though it had been worked for 8-10 minutes, even though it had been stirred just enough to moisten the dry ingredients. After stirring in the bread flour, it was almost the the silky smooth texture that I usually associate with a well-kneaded white bread. The other thing that I should mention was that I was using Wheat Montana's Bronze Chief flour, a finely milled high-protein whole wheat containing 4 grams of protein in a 30-gram sample. For all practical purposes, it's bread flour that still has the bran in it. One of these days I'll have to try a 100% whole wheat bread with this flour.

Overall, I'm very happy with the results of this bread, using this approach and this flour. The loaves were some of the prettiest that I've ever pulled out of the oven, equalling the loftiness of a typical white bread. Here's a picture of the finished loaves:

Buttermilk whole wheat loaves

The crumb was close-textured and even; not at all crumbly or dry. No bricks this time:

Buttermilk whole wheat crumb

Oh, and it tastes really good, too!

And, while I was baking bread, my wife was attending a book signing by Giada De Laurentiis, as evidenced by the photo below:

Giada

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - PMcCool's blog