Amazing Bread

This non-sourdough bread is made with 1/2 white whole wheat flour (milled at home) and 1/2 King Arthur AP flour. It is a two day bread, first mixing a “poolish” of flour, water and a tiny bit of yeast the evening before, then mixing the poolish with flour, water salt and yeast the following morning. It is well worth the time to make this bread, in my opinion.  The formula and process is derived from Forkish’s book, Flour Water Salt Yeast.

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Veggie Pizza

On Sunday or Monday night I mixed my dough as described here, put it in the fridge and made one pie Tuesday and this pie on Thursday.

I used cremini mushrooms (according to whole foods signage), roasted cauliflower and broccoli, fresh mozarella, provolone and Reggiano Parmigiano. The sauce was a simply a fresh tomato blended with some oregano, drained and refrigerated from the earlier pizza. My ingredients are staged while the oven is preheating to 550F:


This time I set the broiler to High, before shaping and topping the pizza to get the cast iron saturated with heat.
By the time the pizza was shaped and ready, the oven temp read 531. I set it for 550 again and loaded the pie as it came up to temperature. Here is the pie shaped, sauces and cheesed:




After the cheese, I throw on the mushrooms and veggies, turn off god broiler and set the oven back to 550 and bake:



IMG_1986.JPGNothing left to do but top with fresh basil and cut it up for dinner.


Baking a Sourdough Bread (Part 2) – The Overnight Country Brown

For a general introduction to sourdough baking, please refer to Part 1.

Once you have a sourdough starter going, and it is predictably growing within 6-12 hours of feeding, you are ready to bake.  For purposes of this bake, I am going to assume that your starter is typically fed equal amounts (by weight) of flour and water, and that if left at room temperature it doubles from 6-12 hours later. I am also going to assume that you keep your starter in the fridge. If you do not do so, you can skip the first evening’s instructions since the purpose of the Wednesday night feeding is to get the starter going again.

The formula for this recipe comes from Ken Forkish’s Flour Salt Water Yeast which is a book I highly recommend since it contains formulas for making excellent yeasted breads as well as pure sourdough breads (like the one being written about here).  One caveat, however, is that he recommends baking his loaves in a dutch oven (as does my other recommended author, Chad Robertson’s Tartine Bread).  This is what allows the glorious crust to form.

Forkish uses a starter which is 80% hydration versus 100% hydration. What this means is that his starter is a little stiffer because rather than feeding the starter equal amounts flour and water, he feeds his starter with flour and water equal to 80% of the flour weight. For example, 10 grams of flour and 8 grams of water (or 125 grams of flour and 100 grams of water as I do here).

Wednesday Night
Take the starter out of the fridge, and refresh it. For me, that means stirring the week old starter with a finger or fork, and feeding it some flour and water.  If you want to keep things “neat”, take a tablespoon of the starter, put it in a clean jar.  Add 10 grams of flour and 8 grams of water, stir and leave it out overnight. Here is my starter the following morning:

Starter fed night before.

Thursday 6:30 a.m., my starter is bubbly. This seems a little wet to me and I wonder if I got the ratios backwards and fed it 8 grams of flour and 10 grams of water.

Thursday Morning
1. Spoon out 25 grams of the starter into a separate container and then mix in 100 grams of water and disperse the starter.

Take 25 grams of your starter that was fed the night before and put it in a clean container. (This is my 8 quart Cambro container). It reads 299 grams because I did not zero out the scale and my container weighs 274 grams.

Add 100 grams of water and disperse the starter.

2.  Add: 100 grams of All Purpose Flour such as King Arthur Organic All Purpose Flour.
25 grams of whole wheat flour (I used White Whole Wheat flour, milled with my mill).

Mix with your hand or a wooden spoon until it looks like this:

This is the levain, freshly mixed, viewed from the top.

Here is the levain viewed from the size.

Cover the levain and let it sit at room temperature for a while.  For me, this meant leaving it from 6:40 a.m., until 8:15 p.m., after I put my kids to bed.  It looked like this:

My levain: 8:11 pm, 14 hours after it was mixed. It expanded to cover the entire container and expanded upward a bit. There are lots of tiny bubbles in it, letting me know that it is healthy.

3. Ideally, an 30-60 minutes before the levain is ready, you will, in a separate large container “autolyse” or “hydrate” 604 grams of all purpose flour, 276 grams of whole wheat flour (I used the same flours as I used in the levain), with 684 grams of warm water.  My water was 94 degrees.  You have plenty of flexibility here in terms of when you start hydrating the flour. Here, at 8:12 p.m., I hydrated my flour:

In a separate container I am hydrating my flours: 604 grams of All Purpose Flour, 276 grams of white whole wheat flour and 684 grams of water at 94 degrees F.

4.  After 20-60 minutes, you are going to add 216 grams of the levain to the hydrated flour and water, together with 20 grams of salt. The easiest way to measure the levain is to put your container on the scale, zero it out and then remove enough levain to make the scale read – 216 grams. Here you see the scale reads -219, and given the bits that stuck on my scraper, is close enough.

Removed 216 grams of the levain to transfer into the bucket with the autolysed flour and water.

On the left is the 216 grams of Levain. On the right is the autolysed flour and water, with 20 grams of salt poured on top.

5. Now it is time to mix the levain, the autolysed dough and the salt. First, I take a wet hand and pat down the dough and salt, then I fold it a few times to roughly incorporate the salt.  I use Ken Forkish’s “pincher” method which is essentially to take your wet hand and pinch the dough between the forefinger and thumb, cutting through the dough in 5 or 6 places, folding the dough and repeating the process several times.  Once the salt is incorporated, I put the levain on top of the dough and repeat the pinching and folding of the dough to mix the levain and salted dough thoroughly.

Note: do this near a sink, and put a bowl of warm water in the sink to dip your mixing hand into as the dough won’t stick to a wet hand.   Here is what the dough looks like just after pinching in the levain:

Dough and levain just “pinched”. It is quite wet.

Here it is one minute later after several pinch and fold cycles. It is already more structured, but still very wet. Repeat this for 2-3 minutes until everything is thoroughly mixed.

Here is the dough at 8:34 pm, thoroughly mixed. Temperature is 83 degrees. You can impact the temperature of the final dough by using warmer or cooler water.

Here is the final dough after mixing, viewed from the top without the thermometer reading.

Thursday 8:35 pm. Here is the final dough from the side. Not the best picture. You can see that it does not fill the container. I guesstimate that it would be more or less at the 1-liter line if flattened out.

6.  This bread does not require “kneading” but does require “stretch and folds”, which can be accomplished in the bucket or bowl containing the dough.  Wet your dominant hand, reach under 1/4 of the dough and pull it up (stretching) and folding it over the top of the dough. Rotate the container 1/4 turn and repeat until the dough has been turned once in each direction.  If possible, rest the dough so that the seams are on the bottom of the container, as this will allow the dough to hold its shape longer.  You will do this a total of 4 times before retiring for the night.  The dough is ready to be turned when it goes from being shaped like a ball to being more like a pancake.

Here is the “stretch”. This dough is particularly wet and nearly “pours” when scooped up.

And folded over once.

This is the dough after the third or fourth rotation (during the first series of stretch and folds).

Here it is , an neat little package (and you can see how much is stick to my fingers). In the next picture, I flipped it over so the seams were on the bottom.

After the first series of stretch and folds, seam side down. You now will wait until the dough spreads out before repeating for the 2nd series of stretch and folds, and then repeating two more times for a total of 4 stretch and folds before retiring for the night.

Here is the dough from the side, after the first series of stretch and folds.

Here it is 15 minutes or so later, spread out again and ready for another stretch and fold.

10:00 pm, the dough is covered up again and left on the counter overnight to rise, hopefully, to the 3 liter mark.

Friday Morning
Depending on the temperature of your kitchen (or wherever your dough is kept), the starting temperature of your dough and the vitality of your starter, your dough should be triple in size when you wake up.  Here is the dough at 6:10 a.m. Friday morning:

It is not quite at 3, but it is close enough, especially since it did not fill the bottom of the bucket initially when I guesstimated that it would hit the 1 mark.

7. Time to lightly flour your work surface and pour/scrape the dough out carefully on to the work surface.

This is more flour than I usually use, but I recommend going heavier on the flour initially, especially since it will only be on the outside of the bread and will make it easier to handle and shape the dough.

The dough removed from the bucket. It will need to be divided in two and the easiest way to do that is to run a bit of flour down the center and cut it with your bench knife.

Here is the dough bucket with only a bit of the dough stuck behind. The pink thing is a flexible dough scraper.

8. After you divide the dough, you will shape it into a boule. There are several ways to do this. I simply took 1/4 of the dough, folded it to the middle, repeated for a total of 4 times and then cupped my floured hands around it and shaped it into a ball, pulling it toward me while dragging my pinkies along the countertop, turning the dough a bit and repeating the cupping/pulling motion until the dough formed ball of sorts.  My dough was still rather loose.

9.  In a floured basket or towel-lined bowl (floured towel), pick up the boule and place it seam-side down.  Here is what mine looked like — and if I had to to it over again, I would have used more bench flour and then a bit more flour so the dough was “soft” rather than somewhat sticky.

6:30 a.m. Friday The dough will need to rise for 3-4 hours. It should pass the poke test (I have not really figured this test out just yet because it seems to pass the test as soon as it is put in the basket!)

My dough looked like this, after 3 hours:

Here is the dough, after 3 hours.

10. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees, with combo cooker(s) inside.

I bought two combo cookers. If you have only one, you will bake one after the other. You might want to put one of the loaves in the fridge while the first one bakes, but that may not even be necessary. You have a large window of time within which to bake a bread that has no commercial yeast in it.

11.  When the oven is up to temperature, I flip the basket over onto a peel (you can use parchment paper and a cookie sheet if you like), and then transfer the dough into the shallow portion of my combo cooker, covering the cooker with the deeper portion and bake for 30 minutes covered, and 20-30 minutes uncovered.  Let it bake darker than you are comfortable with.

Here is the dough just out of the basket.  Yours will hopefully look much nicer than this and won’t have torn.

This dough took a beating but still baked up fairly nice.

I don’t wish this on my worst baking enemy.

My second loaf did not fare much better out of the basket, but it too baked up okay.

Ugh! Looks like a disaster but all hope was not lost.

Less dough stuck here but the loaf still took a beating.

This was the better of the two loaves:

This one hardly looks like it was nearly destroyed out of the basket.

And here is the other loaf.

And here is the “better” loaf, cut down the middle:

And here is the end piece cut off.  It was quite tasty with and without butter.

The bread tastes great, plain or with butter.  It makes fantastic grilled cheese. It makes a delicious peanut butter sandwich.  All in all, a very versatile loaf.  If I had a less stick dough, or perhaps used more rice flour in the basket, the bread would have bloomed nicer and given a better crumb.  But, look at how great it came out despite the near disaster of having torn the dough considerably before baking!

Komo Grain Mill (reviewish)

I previously mused about my thoughts on hand-powered versus electric powered mills here.  I settled on an electric mill, and specifically, the grain mill made by Komo. Specifically, I bought the Komo K1 pictured below. It was a little pricey, but so far I am quite happy with it.

One of my favorite uses for the mill is to open it up to the coarse setting and grind 2 ounces of oat groats into a cereal bowl, which I then cover over with vanilla yogurt, and mix to hydrate.  I usually mix in some fruit and put it into a small container and take it to work for breakfast.  Our 1-year old also loves this for breakfast, which is a bonus.

Of course, you don’t need a $600 mill to make coarsely ground oats, and you might even prefer a “flaker” to turn the groats into bigger flakes.  Where the Komo mill really shines is at grinding fine flour from wheat berries. You will find no shortage of reviews for grain mills in general or the Komo mill in particular, and I suggest reading and watching them.

Here are a few things to note in the event they are important to you:

The flour comes out rather warm. The more you grind the warmer it gets.  The heat can be reduced somewhat by refrigerating the wheat berries before you grind them.  I have decided that the warm flour is a ‘bonus’ feature, allowing me to grind right into a bowl of room temperature water so that when I mix up my dough, the dough is warm.  This isn’t really a feature as I’d prefer cold flour which I can mix with the water temperature of my choosing. But, this mill does not turn out cool temperature flour.

The mill is noisy. It is less noisy when I make my “groats” and yogurt because oats are a lot softer and because I grind very little of them so the noise ends very quickly.  But if you are grinding 4 cups of wheat berries, it is not a quiet process and it is not a terribly quick one. Keeping the lid on the hopper dampens the noise somewhat.

The Komo grinds the flour right into your mixing bowl or other vessel.  But, the spout is not all that high so you can’t use a very tall container unless that container rests somewhat below the counter.  The unit fits under the cabinet, though I usually pull it out a bit to make it easier to get the lid off and pour in the wheat berries.  When I am done with it I usually push it back under to make more room on the counter.

One “con” about grinding into a bowl is that it is probably messier than the mills that have a flour chamber.  Often times when the grinding is done, there is still a bit of flour in the spout which will trickle out over time if you don’t reach in there and wipe it out. I don’t care too much, as I will just wipe the counter if flour gets on it.

I have not done any taste tests to determine whether my whole wheat flour yields better tasting loaves than store-bought whole wheat flour. But, I love grinding my own flour because I know that it is never stale.  I also love having wheat berries around because they make delicious and very simple pioneer pancakes.

Basics of Baking Sourdough Bread (Part 1)

20140308-151417.jpgSourdough means a culture of “wild” (vs store-bought) yeast and bacteria that adds flavor and leavening to dough. The name is a bit of a misnomer since not all sourdough is sour. You will have to trust me on this — there is a sourdough bread that you will love. You have only to bake it.

The Sourdough Starter

There are lots of different ways people use to make sourdough starter, but the one I followed came from King Arthur Flour’s article, Creating your own sourdough starter.  It is straightforward with nice pictures. It can take a week to ten days before your starter is ready to make good bread.  You can also order powdered starter for free here and I recommend doing so because if your own starter fails after a week of trying, you can at least take comfort knowing that a free starter is on the way.  And of course, if you know anybody that bakes, or have a local bakery, you can always ask for a tablespoon of starter and then just feed it and use it as if you gave birth to it yourself.

Once you have a sourdough culture going, you can use it for many things ranging from pancakes/waffles, to batter for onion rings, and of course, you can use it to make great bread!

One important thing to realize is that if your water is chlorinated, you may have a difficult time getting the starter going. While some people recommend leaving the water out overnight to let the chlorine dissipate this doesn’t work for all forms of chlorination.You can use bottled water if you like. I use Zero Water filters, which are among the few that filter out chlorine.

Maintaining the Sourdough

Once my sourdough starter was growing happily (after about 8-10 days of feeding out on the counter), I decided to store it in in the fridge, so I would not need to feed it daily.  I keep a few tablespoonfuls of starter in a 1/2 pint wide-mouth mason jar.  The “wide-mouth” is important because it is easier to add the flour and water when it is time to feed the starter. Mason jars are a lot less expensive if you can find them in a hardware store or a yard sale.  When storing my starter, I use a plastic lid which screws on loosely, rather than the canning rings and metal lids which can form an airtight seal. You can also store it in plastic Tupperware or re-purpose a plastic peanut butter container if you like.

There are as many ways to maintain a sourdough starter as there are people who maintain them.  This is because the culture is very stable and difficult to kill. In fact, if you scraped out as much starter as you can from your jar, you could regenerate it all simply by taking your “dirty” jar with stuck bits of starter, adding 10 grams of water, swishing it around until it was cloudy from the bits of starter stuck to the jar, and then mixing in 10 grams of flour.  In 6-12 hours you will have a happy viable starter to carry on with.

You can follow King Arthur Flour’s maintenance procedures if you like, but just note that you don’t have to stick with feeding 4 ounces of starter four ounces of flour and 4 ounces of water. You can just keep a ratio of 1:1:1 meaning 1 ounce starter is fed 1 ounce of water and 1 ounce of flour. And you can use even less, which why I like going to grams on my scale, feeding 10 grams of starter 10 grams of water and 10 grams of flour.  Don’t worry if you are not exact here, your starter is hardy and will forgive any mis-measurements.

The Rest of the Dough: Flour, Water, Salt

My “daily bread” is a “lean” bread, consisting of only flour, water and salt.  It is “lean” because it has no added fats in the form of oil, butter, lard, etc. These things are fine to add to bread.  They just aren’t necessary.

The reason you don’t see “yeast” as an ingredient is because you don’t need to add commercial yeast to a sourdough bread. Indeed, some purists would have you drawn and quartered for adding yeast while maintaining that you were making a “sourdough”.

I am pretty sure that salt is salt is salt, and that it does not matter what kind of salt you bake with.  That said, I use Kirkland Pure Fine Sea Salt, available at Costco or online.

The basic technique I use for baking my typical loaf entails making a “levain” (i.e., adding the sour dough starter to some water and flour, and letting the mixture become gassy over the course of 6-12 hours).  When the levain is ready (really, it is now fed starter that has been left to develop for 6-12 hours)  mix the flour and water required for the “dough”, and let it sit for 30 minutes to an hour (hydrating the dough). You then add the levain to the hydrated dough together with the salt, and do a series of “turns” or “folds”, in a bucket if you like (it is neater and easier to clean). I use the Cambro 12 Quart Round container for the mixing of the final dough (lids usually sold separately) and the Cambro 6 Quart Round to mix up the levain.  You can use any tuperware suitably sized, but the Cambro containers are great.

Once the dough is ready, you’ll divide the dough, shape it, let it “proof” in a basket/broform or towel-lined bowl and then you will cook it in the oven, after putting it into a cast iron Lodge Combo Cooker or other dutch oven.  The dutch oven acts as a tiny steaming vessel, trapping the steam from the loaf and making sure the bread is in moist hot environment which promotes “oven spring” letting the bread grow tall while it bakes and keeping the crust from getting too hard too early in the bake.  Halfway through the bake, you remove the top of the dutch oven and put it under the bottom.

It is not unusual to start the process on Day 1, and finish baking on Day 3.  And, given the timing of things, this usually means taking up some portion of the weekend for those who are working during the week.

The techniques are described more or less similarly in Chad Robertson’s Tartine Bread and Ken Forkish’s Flour Water Salt and Yeast.  I have both books and if I had to recommend only one, I think I would go with Forkish, even though I love both of them.  They both include the wasteful practice of suggesting you make more “levain” than you will use, which is obviously wasteful. Once you get the hang of things you won’t need to do this.  But, if you follow the recipes as written you will wind up with a lot of extra starter/levain, which you can use to make great pancakes or waffles.

The picture above, by the way, is of two loaves I baked.  The knife is for show, as it stinks for cutting. I wound up buying a cheap knife that works quite well for cutting my bread.

Part 2 shows my baking of the Overnight Country Brown.