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Postal Grunt

The competition at this year's Leavenworth County Fair bread division was sparse. As I posted a few days ago, I entered a sourdough and a horiatiko psomi loaf. Because place ribbons aren't handed out for the entrants' self-esteem, I'm pleased that both of my loaves won blue ribbons.


Horiatiko Psomi

The sourdough, I was told by a junior judge, was up for consideration for the Bread division grand prize but it lost points because of the holes in the crumb. The master judge prefers a denser crumb. The winner was an outstanding looking cinnamon roll that made the rating a little easier to take. I wish I could make a cinnamon roll like that one.

I'm not discouraged in the least since no one provides judging guidelines. Armed with the knowledge of how the judges work, one of my loaves for next year will be a Sourdough Kansas Pioneer Bread. I've thought that the bread was a little dense in the crumb so far but I've got another year to see if I can outwit the judges and grab that purple ribbon.

As for the gratuitous goat pictures, I just find goats to be great subjects. When we go to fairs, my wife likes to see the varieties of chickens and I've taken to the goats. It's a fair after all.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

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Postal Grunt

I spent some time in the kitchen this weekend. I was baking bread and establishing a separate starter that wouldn't see the inside of the refrigerator until the last loaves were done. There was also a fair amount of cleanup after the flour flew. The first loaf was out of the oven on Friday morning was another attempt at an Anadama Bread that turned out well, just not too open in the crumb.

This is a link to my blog article where I chatter about that loaf.

The new starter was just an elaboration of my regular starter that I wanted to keep on the counter as an experiment for the four loaves i had in mind. My expectations were that it would be more vigorous and possibly more flavorful. The vigorous quality was met but it was not quite predictable. I should have foreseen that. The flavor is better but only to a  subtle degree, not earthshaking. It needs more counter time.

The next loaf  was an interpretation of the pan de Horiadaki that David first blogged about recently. I didn't follow his formula too closely because I had been asked to add some whole wheat to the loaf. I substituted about 1/3 of the flour weight with Golden Buffalo. As you can see, I did use an 8" cake pan which I think worked out well. The loaf went to an acquaintance of Mrs PG so there's no crumb shot.

There is a crumb shot of my next loaf which was another psomi, using 25% Golden Buffalo this time. It was an attempt to use sesame seeds to see if I could find a more noticeable presentation. I really like this recipe. The crumb is open and the flavor is great.

I liked the flavor of the psomi so much that I baked one for one of my entries in the Leavenworth County Fair. The other entry is a sourdough, a category that I won last year. That may have just been beginner's luck so this year's entries aren't quite perfect in appearance but the taste is better thanks to the information that is given out so kindly here on TFL.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

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Postal Grunt

After seeing Glenn's posting of his weekend bake, I thought that I'd show a couple of pictures of my project. It's what I often call my "house loaf" lately though this particular loaf appears to look better than most I've turned out. Maybe it was good fortune but I like to think that I keep learning from all the information being shared here on TFL.

Baking bread here in Kansas in the summertime has been another learning experience in that even with air conditioning, the room temperature averages around 80F. My sourdough starter doesn't seem to be consistent in its speed this summer, but it still does a good job. Practice, pratice, practice.

It's still good, if slightly messy, fun to bake and enjoy the results. I posted barely coherent babblings on the loaf at my blog.

Comments, editing suggestions, humor, and questions are always welcome.

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Postal Grunt

There's an awkward name for a bread. It's the third of three recipes that I wanted to do this summer using ADY and it worked out well for me.

It's what I consider a fairly simple recipe using elements taken from Mr Hamelman's "Bread" and recipes I've read here on TFL. I also have to give out recognition to Codruta for her idea of using a paper grocery bag during the proof of a loaf. It's a great idea, simple and effective.

With very good flavor and a soft crumb, this 46% WW loaf is an excellent sandwich loaf IMNSHO. I already have the recipe posted on my blog and hope that someone will try it and send me some feedback.

For those who partake in the pleasures of the chile pepper pod, I also posted my recipe for a quick and dirty pico de gallo that will help "energize" you and liberate any stuffy sinus cavities you may have.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

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Postal Grunt

Last month, I posted about my work on developing a formula for the Pioneer Bread recipe from the Kansas Wheat Commission.

Being quite pleased with my effort, I said that I'd get to work on a sourdough version of the same bread. After some work with my ADY yeast formula this past weekend, I baked that loaf and feel pretty good about it as well. I do concede that the slashing needs some work but I like the flavor, so does Mrs PG.

It turned out to be relatively stress free in that the most work was the flagrant calculator abuse to figure out my starter quantities. I have yet to master using a spread sheet.

I've indulged myself by posting some chatter about the loaf at my blog

I think the formula is fairly solid at this time and it may be one of my entries in the Leavenworth County Fair. Before I lock into that, I want to try using butter in place of the sunflower oil in the recipe. I have the most current version of the recipe in a seperate document that I can forward in either an .odf for Open Office users or a .pdf attachment for everyone that is interested in a copy. Just leave a message for me here at TFL and I'll send it along. Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.

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Postal Grunt

Recently, I decided it was time to go back to trying my hand at some loaves using the ADY that's stored in my downstairs freezer. The first recipe that I'm working on is Pioneer Bread from the Kansas Wheat Commission's web site.

For those rare few with a curiosity about wheat harvests, the web site has a day by day account about this year's harvest. They also have included maps that depict the daily progress. It's not for everyones taste but it is suitable for work.

Pioneer Bread is similar to a lot of other loaves that are described as rustic or farmhouse loaves. This particular loaf is an enriched loaf in that the recipe calls for the use of vegetable oil as an ingredient. Since the recipes are taken from the winning loaves at the Kansas  State Fair, I didn't think I could go too far wrong. So I set out to convert the recipe into a formula using weight measurement rather than volume. I also added a preferment and have tried soaking the corn meal and whole wheat components. My procedures aren't quite textbook but the second time around on this loaf has met the approval of both Mrs PG and myself. The crumb isn't as wide open as I'd like but the taste is very good and the aroma from the bake filled our little house.

For those who have suffered through this far and may have an interest in the formula, I've included a link to my blog posting that has my initial attempt at the conversion to weight measurement. It's not a perfect piece of recipe literature but if you can wade through and try the loaf for yourself, please email me or leave a comment. I expect to have a sourdough variation worked out and posted on my blog by the middle of July.


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Postal Grunt

I suspect that I'm not the only one that has had an impulse or two to color out side the lines. This time, I got caught up in reading too much and just had to do something I hadn't found in my books. I had read about using using large preferments that were bigas or poolishs but I had to try a pate fermentee. I wanted some bread to go with the all purpose red sauce I was working on and thought that I could make pizza dough for the next night in the same batch. No problem, right? Just mix it up, divide it, put half in an oiled bowl, cover it, and place it in the fridge for a long winter's proofing. The other half was to be bulk fermented, S&F'ed, and then shaped.

Well, I had seen something in Ciril Hitz's book, "Baking Artisan Bread", that used extra dough for a kind of flat bread that was cut in quarters and I thought I'd aim at that. When I got to shaping, I flattened the dough into a circle about 5/8-3/4" thick and wide enough to fill the bottom of a pie pan. Here's what happened...


It's not pretty but I do have the alibi or excuse of inexperience. That sounds better than ignorance, don't you think? The crumb is something else again. We've all heard of baker's houses but this was the first time I'd ever seen a baker's cave.


Don't do this at home kids, it's been done already. If I ever take another shot at this, I'll go with a poolish, much like Hamelman's Pain Rustique formula to give my little mixer an easier day at the job and use a stone so I can have a flatter dough. The dough did turn into a fine accompaniment to the evening's pasta and the pizza crust on Friday night did pass muster. There were no other complaints, digestive or otherwise.

The other folly is that I'm opening up my blog to everyone that's curious or a glutton for punishment or has too much time on their hands.

It's a work in progress; part journal of my baking, part overview for family and friends to look into what's happening in my kitchen and garden, and finally, a way for me to get back into a more thoughtful kind of writing, something I haven't really done since I graduated from college almost 39 years ago. Feel free to peruse the recipes and use them if you think they're worthy. Be sure to leave your comments and share a laugh when you've got one. Over and out.


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Postal Grunt

I've been trying to improve my whole wheat loaves as a project for this year. The Italian breads I thought I'd master have been put on the shelf while I work with some home milled flour that I purchased from a local farm. My results with the 1-2-3 formula have been good but I wasn't satisfied in that I felt I could do more.

So I borrowed a copy of Reinhart's "Whole Grain Breads" from the Tonganoxie, KS Library through the NEKLS and cleaned my glasses before cracking open the book. So far, so good, I appreciate the added knowledge I gleaned from the pages. The concept of "epoxy breads" is interesting but I didn't want to get into that as much as I just had to figure out soakers for myself. It must have been all that talk about enzymes working over the starches that got me. It has turned out to be worthwhile.

That's what I call my first successful soaker loaf. I used 50g of whole wheat and 50g of WheatMontana's multi grain cereal, 100g water, 2g salt for the cold soaker . Some bread flour, a little more WW, water, 180g of starter, and 7g more salt ended up with very tender and flavorful crumb. I thought the crust tasted a little bit salty in the first slices but that hasn't been the case since. I have no explanation for that.

I've already got another loaf started for tomorrow's session with the flours. Since I don't have to bake for a living or for a schedule, I'm tweaking the procedures already. I'm sure that it will be edible outcome. If I can do this, everyone that is willing to try can do it too.


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Postal Grunt

The Leavenworth County Fair isn't a slick fair. The buildings aren't air conditioned yet (not a good thing in August in Kansas), the midway has lots of greasy, deep fried foods, and the rides have an authentic air of danger surrounding them. When you walk around the livestock sheds, you do have to look where you're walking. There's a certain amount of relief about genetic diversity when you see the different breeds that have been forgotten by industrial farms but are still loved by the farm families that show them every year. It's the real thing with duct tape construction contests, an oldest married couple in the county contest, and a Demolition Derby to close things out on Saturday night.

I wasn't really satisfied when I pulled my sourdough loaf out of the oven on Monday night. I thought it was too big at around 765 grams and my slashing wasn't symmetrical or dramatic enough to be of merit.

My French Country Farmhouse loaf had the same problems.

However, I figured that I had committed myself into entering and thought that I could always make it out as a learning experience. The established guidelines for the judges has been to award the prizes based on merit of taste as well as appearance so I felt I had a chance. I drove down to enter the loaves on time- a $0.25 entry fee per loaf- before 9AM and returned home to wait for the 1PM judging.

The judges weren't finished when I returned so I did the tour of the livestock displays. I admit to having grown up in a Massachusetts factory town but I can appreciate the care that the 4-H kids put into preparing their animals. However, after 45 minutes, I had to go and see the verdicts on my projects.

This first picture is my sourdough and the next is the French Farmhouse loaf.

The judges took out small slices from each loaf. One slice for tasting and another for display. I donated the loaves to the Fair for a sale to benefit the building's AC installation fund. I thought that extremely worthwhile. If you had been there yesterday, you might have chided me for being a cheapskate to not donate a little more to speed up the project.

As nice as it was to win the prizes, admittedly against few competitors, I started planning my entries for next year. Smaller loaves in the bannetons that arrived a day late, some glaze to add individuality to the presentation, and slashing to brag about. The best thing about my experience was the 10 or 11 year old girl that came up to me and told me that she had already bought my sourdough loaf. She said her family is Italian in background and having good bread is expected at her house. That's good enough for me.



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Postal Grunt

I've found that the new year means I'm still going up the learning curve on my sourdough loaves. The continued low temperatures here in Kansas combined with above average barometric pressures gave me an opportunity to observe first hand some of the effects of weather on my starter and in the behavior of flours.

My starter exhibited the behavior that I should have expected with cooler room temperatures between 68-70F. Loaves rose more slowly, especially the loaf that had been retarded overnight. After refreshing my starter to a 1:2:2 ratio, activity was diminished, taking about 6 hours to double rather than the expected 3 1/2-4 hours.

I haven't lost my taste for loaves with whole wheat flour. I was surprised when my standby wheatMontana Bronze Chief turned my hydration estimates upside down. I usually aim for around 65-67%  in loaves that have 500g total flour but the loaves turned out to appear much drier than 65% after kneading.


The crumb on this first enriched loaf wasn't as open as I'd like but the flavor was more than acceptable

My most recent loaf is a boule of Bauernbrot based on Salome's excellent formula where I used up the last 60g or so of rye from a bag, added more of the Bronze Chief, some AP and finished off with some bread flour. The dough was again on the dry side when kneading. Either my estimate of hydration was low or the rye and WW absorbed more than usual amounts of water. The outside temp was around 1F, barometric pressure was a very high 30.56. I did an overnight retarding after shaping and the loaf needed almost 4 hours to warm up for baking.

The crumb doesn't show up well in this picture either. The flavor is fine enough that my wife wants to take what's left up to Omaha for her parents to sample. Now I have a reason to look back through my recipes for a formula for a bread I haven't tried before.

I've got a plan for the next four weeks. First off, I'm going to build up my starters in two steps rather than one or just taking out 100g from the container I keep refrigerated and letting it warm up. Instead of 100g, I can use 150g because I have the time to experiment with the process. Hydration level is something to work on because this is the first winter I've used a starter. Dough hydration will be moving up to the high 60s or low 70s. I know I'll have to learn new techniques because plain kneading won't be enough to get the results I'm aiming for. It's back to the bench for me, there's work to be done in the flour patch.


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