We're just heading in to the season where we will rarely be home (either helping friends at their farms or wandering the back country) and so will have a need for convenient foods that pack well, are nutrient rich, and require minimal preparation. I won't have a ton of time most weeks, so right now I'm busy filling the freezer with soups and stews (to carry in a thermos, or to quickly heat for a late dinner or early breakfast), roasted and sliced meats for sandwiches or soup additions, and (of course!) a variety of baked goods.
Up until this year, the "baked goods" were comprised of a variety of rich and hearty quick bread muffins. These were (are) all whole grain and loaded up with nuts and fruits and even vegetables (we are NOT talking cupcakes here!). We rarely had sandwiches in the past, since there weren't any breads that we particularly liked, so a meal or snack would be some sliced meats, some raw veggies or fruit, and a muffin or two. Now that I've become obsessed with this whole bread thing, however, that is going to change!
I have decided to still stock up on the muffins (still great for snacks), and on some sweeter breads (cinnamon buns and butternut blueberry rolls), and on more of what we consider "treat" breads (english muffin style buns, and 100% rye loaves), but will make the time each week to make our "daily" bread loaf --- purely for the joy that I get from the bake!
This prep week started on Monday with me being indecisive about what I wanted to bake this week, so pulling out a few wee bits of my rye NMNF starter and getting a few levains built up. One ended as 160g 100% hydration rye, one ended as 300g 100% hydration whole wheat, and one --- well, it's Lechem's fault, really:
THAT one is sitting in the fridge - I want a full empty day to properly use it!
Tuesday had me deciding on a 60% whole grain "daily bread" loaf (750g flour: 22% hard red, 18% spelt, 15% durum, 5% rye @ 79% hydration):
which was bulked and shaped before hitting the fridge for a retarded proof:
I also figured I'd give a shot to a sweeter, enriched dough using up some flours that I had already milled and needed to be used (100% whole grain, 600g flour: 78% soft white, 11% hard red, 6% durum, 5% rye with 150g of potato added along with a couple of eggs, some half and half, a touch of maple syrup and totaling somewhere around 75% hydration). This one just got mixed and sent in to the fridge for a retarded bulk ferment:
Somewhere in there I also threw together this bubbling cauldron of goodness to sit and simmer and mingle all day:
Wednesday had me starting out with the enriched dough - choosing to roll it out for a shot at cinnamon rolls. It was quite cool and dry, so it seemed like a grand idea for me to try letting them proof in the unheated oven with the light on. I got distracted by a neighbour, so didn't check on them for well over an hour --- at which time I discovered that my oven light is much too powerful for this usage, and I had some proofing dough floating in a lake of melted butter and cinnamon... Ah well - flipped the oven on and baked them off, hoping for the best...
"The best" turned out to be more "buns" than "rolls", with a tender but solid crumb and some caramelized crunchy buttery sugary thing going on in every bite, contrasting well with the sourdough and whole grain tang. Not exactly as planned, but definitely a good enough result (4 out of 12 are already eaten, so...)
Since the oven was already warm after these, I cranked it up even more and got the 60% whole grain loaf baked off:
Now that's more like it! No crumb shot yet - we just finished up the "failure" from last week (still delicious on the 8th day after baking), so this one won't get sliced until tomorrow morning...
While that was baking, I got some muffins happening - a mix of barley flour and soft white wheat, with pumpkin, almonds, and cranberries coming along for the ride:
By dinner time, it was feeling like a good day:
But, when I was putting some things away in the fridge after dinner, I realized that there was still a rye levain hanging about in there not doing anything useful... While I'm not really a fan of pizza, there was a post a while back that had me considering it: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/51209/teglia-romana It just looked so darned good that I started considering that pizza might be like bread --- that it might be that I just wasn't fond of the pizza I had been served in the past, but there might still be a pizza recipe out there that I might love... I didn't have yeast to use this recipe (and don't have the experience to cross it over to sourdough) so I popped on to the site, found a recommendation from MichaelLily for the dough and process from here: http://www.varasanos.com/PizzaRecipe.htm and figured I'd give it a shot... (without modifying my oven for frighteningly high temps, mind you!). So - I grabbed some flour and mixed up some dough and got it in to the fridge to proof...
Thursday I had little baking planned, but saw that there was still some left-over rye levain in the fridge (the pizza dough didn't really use very much), so I threw together a quick 100% whole grain dough (600g flour: 33% barley, 27% spelt, 25% soft white wheat, and 15% rye all at 80% hydration). I wanted something super quick, so did the bulk ferment in the microwave (not on - just with some hot water) for a 4 hour turnaround, then shaped it in to english muffin shaped buns and let them proof for a bit. Just for the spirit of experimentation, I decided to bake them instead of grilling them, and put them in a 450 degree oven on a preheated steel covered with a roaster lid for 10 minutes then uncovered for the final 10 minutes:
Surprisingly (to me), the crumb ended up looking pretty much like it would have from the grill:
I did get more muffins happening while these were going on --- this time a batch of banana nut muffins with a 50/50 blend of soft white and oat flours:
We headed out for a walk before dinner, got to chatting with some folks on the trail, and didn't get home until quite late. I did get the pizza dough out (it came out beautiful and stretchy and soft from the fridge), and tried to figure out the bake time for a 450 degree oven (I tried par-bake for 5 minutes then load with toppings then bake for 15 minutes), but it wasn't quite right. I think I had too many toppings and should have par-baked it longer, since the centre came out quite mushy --- but the rest of the crust was lovely. No pics (I was too hungry to even think about that), but there is still another ball of dough in the fridge for another day...
All baking is done for this week, and I've got a massive ham in the oven instead of more bread... well, so long as I don't find any more "leftover" levain hanging out in my fridge...
Next week - I'm just going to have to face down that durum starter and see what I can do with a 100% durum bake... as well as whatever I come up with for our "daily" bread. While I admit to being obsessed with the novelty of the baking, I must say that the wonderful flavours from even the "failed" experiments and the continuous inspiration provided by the posts and blogs here are making it tough to keep it in perspective that I'm only baking for 2 people...
Thanks all - and have a great weekend and upcoming week!