A thankful, if not Thanksgiving, weekend
Saturday's game plan was to do a turkey dinner with all the trimmings for some of our South African friends. The aim was partly to broaden their cultural sensibilities (not to mention waistlines) but more importantly to thank them for how pleasant they have made this past year for a couple of Americans who are a long way from home. Alas, it was not to be. My wife came down with some sort of abdominal unpleasantness that had her down for the count on Friday and left her feeling very weak on Saturday and Sunday. Fortunately, she's back to her usual self but the planned activities for the day were pretty much shot to tatters.
With only a few errands to run and not wanting to leave her home by herself, I made up a Plan B which, wait for it, also involved food! It started small enough and then morphed into something bigger. It wasn't too long after starting that I thought "I have the whole day. I could make some bread to give away as well as some for ourselves."
I started with Leader's Polish Cottage Rye, since that is naturally leavened and would therefore take the longest to go from ingredients to finished bread. I've not made this before but I will be making it again. It contains just over 25% rye flour (I used whole rye instead of the recommended white rye), all of which is in the rye sour. It makes a beautiful big miche-sized loaf, just over 1200g in weight. I missed that note. I had the oven all set up to bake on the stone, with steam. When I looked at how the dough was doming over the top of the bannetons, I realized that wasn't going to work. Then I pulled the stone and steam pan out of the oven and put each loaf on parchment in its own half-sheet pan. The oven in this house has only two shelves and the coil is exposed in the bottom of the oven, so that left no room for the steam pan. Consequently, I baked them with convection. When first transferred from banneton to pan, each loaf spread quite a bit. Each one had good oven-spring but I wonder whether they might have been even higher if there had been a way to get steam in the oven at the same time. Note that I'm not complaining about result. The crumb is smooth, moist, cool and creamy; sorry, no pics of that. The outside looks like this:
It's the time of year that I usually make Bernard Clayton's Pain Allemande aux Fruits. I've blogged about this previously, so won't repeat myself here except to say this is a wonderful bread! It is rather messy and tedious, which is why I usually only make it once a year. Shaping is always a challenge with that much fruit and nuts in the dough. The fragrance and the flavors are so exquisite, though, that I can't just not make it. Here it is, all baked, bagged, and ready to go:
And, just because I knew some friends wouldn't be all that jazzed by rye bread or fruity bread, I decided to make Sweet Vanilla Challah from Beth Hensperger's The Bread Bible. This has been blogged about, too. The shaping is extremely simple, especially compared to a braid, but the result is stunningly elegant:
So, instead of saying thank you to a few friends, we were able to thank several more. While my wife would have preferred to skip the whole sickness thing, the end result was much appreciated by others.