Bread, Sourdough, Uncategorized

Baking Sourdough Bread

Until today, I have been letting my bread rise in a towel-lined bowl, which has resulted in excellent bread. However, I have been wanting to try using a basket or “brotform” so that I would get the decorative flour lines and, also, because we do not have enough bowl. Plus, the bowls were not the best, being a bit too steep. Moreover, sometimes, the dough got stuck to the towel (floured with a mix of flour and rice flour), and it made a bit of a mess having to launder towels.

So I bought some baskets. These things are VERY expensive on amazon. Think 20-30 bucks a pop. However, they can be found for much less elsewhere.

I rubbed them with a mix of all purpose flour and rice flour, and made sure to dust my dough with some of the same before putting then in to rise.

I flipped them out onto the peel and if the dough did not fall out I lifted the basket an inch and tapped it down and the dough released quite easily.



And, of course, the loaves look awesome.



Bread, Main course, Pizza, Sourdough

Pizza and Bread Making

Living in New York means I have easy access to excellent pizza and excellent bread. But having access is not the same thing as making it yourself, and I’ve been learning to make both pizza and bread which I prefer over what I can purchase at the pizzeria or bakery.

As I’ve written about before, one of the first books that I picked up was Tartine Bread.  Fortunately, the Basic Country Loaf that forms the foundation of the book, is also the recommended dough for pizza! Talk about killing two birds with one stone!  In Tartine Bread, Chad Robertson recommends the use of the Lodge Combo Cooker, a cast iron set of frying pans, one deep, the other shallow, which works perfectly for making the Basic Country Loaf.  Once I had that bread down, I decided to buy a Lodge Cast Iron Pizza Pan, based on the reviews I had seen.

I am happy to say that I have been making a lot of very fine pizza in addition to a lot of very fine bread.  I have found the Super Peel to be a pretty good aid in getting pizza dough onto a hot pan, whether it is the cast iron combo cooker or the cast iron pizza pan.  (I heat both to 500 degrees, and find the Extra Long Oven Gloves to be great for handling the hot cast iron.

By now, I am seeing that I have spent a boat load of money buying bread baking stuff, but it all pales in comparison to the grain mill I am still waiting to pull the trigger on…

Anyhow, my usual process is to drain a can of crushed tomatoes (lately, I have been using and preferring organic fire roasted crushed tomatoes), saute some chopped onions in olive oil, mix in the crushed tomatoes and divide it into 1/2 pint wide-mouth mason jars. Incidentally, this is what I store my starter in as well.  I use a screw on plastic lid but don’t screw it down tight.

Typically, I have been sauteing chopped onions and then adding a can of crushed tomatoes to make the sauce. I also keep my chopped onions in one of the jars as well, but use the standard rings to keep them sealed tight.  This keeps the onion odor out of the fridge and lets me store onions all week for use whenever I need them.

On Saturday, I made some dough and let one pizza’s worth sit in the fridge until Tuesday evening.  When I went to make the pizza I realized that I did not have any of my sauce made, and I did not want to dirty a pan, so I opened up the can of crushed tomatoes, poured it into a colander to let the water drain out cooked my pizza dough.

The process is as follows: I put the lodge pizza pan in the oven and heat it to 500 degrees.  I take the pan out of the oven, drizzle olive oil on the pan (which lets the dough brown better in my experience) and then use my peal to put the pizza dough on the smoking hot pizza pan for a 5 minute bake.  Once the dough is set and maybe a little browned (in this instance, I actually overcooked the dough since it was very thin in the middle and it became crisp like a cracker….turned out delicious), I add the sauce (1/2 pint jar is enough sauce for the whole pie) and top it with sliced mozzarella, at which point I return it to the oven for a few minutes, and once the cheese is all melted, I take it out, sprinkle some fresh Basil leaves on top and return to the top rack of my oven where I put the broiler on High and broil for a few minutes until the cheese just starts to brown.

The result:



Grain Mills

There are two camps when it comes to grinding grains to make your own flour. One camp wants to grind with electrically powered grinders and one camp prefers manual power.

There is loads of information available to see what suits you best. Personally, I hate loud noise and electric grinders are quite loud. This is the primary reason I dislike my Blendtec, which is dislike using five days a week because I love it.

Of course, when the grid goes down, I won’t be able to make our smoothies in the morning. And, lacking any foresight, I have no backup plan for this event.

Lacking an oven that works without electricity, I don’t know what use freshly ground flour will have during a blackout so the need for hand cranked flour during a blackout seems remote at best. This is not to say an outdoor wood burning hearth adjacent to my bomb shelter and a hand powered mill in e shelter does not have its place. I am just not prepared for the apocalypse and to do so, my first priority is weaponry. Until I have that under control, I can’t worry about flour. As someone once said, someone with more firepower will likely steal my mill and enslave me to make the flour when doomsday comes.

So, for me, the question is one of balancing convenience and ease of use, against noise and effort. While I hate the idea of a noisy appliance, if I am to make my own flour, I don’t want to spend 20 minutes doing so, after which I am too tired to make my bread. Kind of wimpy, but less wimpy than driving to the store to buy old flour.

My eye is settling on a KoMo grinder. It is a little pricey but it gets very nice reviews and people seem very happy with it. This is not a review or a recommendation. Just my musings while I debate about a big purchase.

Oh, I have made terrific bread using King Arthur Organic All Purpose and White Whole Wheat flours. Good enough that I now have an aversion to, and no longer buy, Bread. But if I am going to go the mile to bake my own bread, why not go the whole distance and make my own flour?

Bread, Pizza, Sourdough, Vegetarian Recipes

Sourdough Bread

It has now been months since we have purchased bread. And equally long since we have had a pizza delivered. I would definitely say that I’ve gotten my money’s worth from Chad Robertson’s Tartine Bread

Last night I started the process to make the two loaves pictured and four pizza doughs which will be wrapped in cling wrap and frozen for future meals.

I sauté some onion in olive oil, add a can of fire roasted crushed tomatoes and then divide the sauce into 4 1/2 pint mason jars. Then, when we want a pizza I just take out a dough in the morning to thaw. Add a jar of sauce and top with some freshly sliced fresh mozzarella and sliced tomato and we have a perfect pizza in 5 minutes bake time.

The bread makes the best grilled cheese and very fine peanut butter sandwiches. And awesome toast!

But this dough is not for the impatient! The process is a long one and seems to take a minimum of 30 hours from start to finish.



Pioneer Pancakes

Many people are happy to make their pancakes from a box. If you go that route, do go the extra mile and read the ingredients — and choose only those mixes that do not have hydrogenated oil and “natural flavors” in them. There are plenty out there.  And if you are an Aunt Jemima fan, read the ingredients on the various options since some are much worse than others (Original and Buttermilk look okay — I would avoid Original Complete and Buttermilk Complete).

But for those who want to try something very different, and happen to have a Blendtec blender, try the following (modified from the Blendtec pioneer pancake recipe):

112 cup Milk
1   cup hard red winter wheat berries (not soaked, just straight from the bulk bin at Whole Foods or, pay a ton for them on Amazon here)
2   tbsp olive oil
2    eggs
2   tbsp sugar (I use Organic Sucanat, an unrefined sugar)
1   tbsp baking powder (I use aluminum free baking powder)
12   tsp kosher salt

Add milk and wheat berries to your blender, press “Speed Up” to Speed 9, and run full cycle.
Add remaining ingredients to jar and secure press “Pulse” 5–7 times to incorporate remaining ingredients (press for only a fraction of a second here)
Allow batter to rest 5 minutes.
Then pour onto a hot griddle like any other pancake.  Turn them as soon as the bubbles form and then remove from the griddle 30 seconds to a minute later.  These come out very light and tasty. This is not the best picture, but it is what I took when I made them.
Main course, Pizza, Sourdough, Vegetarian Recipes

Sourdough Pizza

I have been making a lot of pizzas lately, using my lodge cast iron pizza pan.  I can’t say that it is “the best” solution for making pizza, and am still considering using quarry tiles to bake my pizzas on, because you can’t really preheat the lodge pan and get then add the pizza dough.  At least, not without a pizza peel.  And, I’ve got my eye on getting a Super Peel, which seems to magically lift and lay pizzas and pastries off of the counter and onto the baking stone.  It gets reviewed very well and I think it would make my life a lot easier and safer.

But, using the dough recipe for the “Basic Country Loaf” found in Chad Robertson’s Tartine Bread, I was able to make a very fine looking pizza. It tasted very good as well.  For the pizza below, I actually drizzled olive oil on the pizza pan, preheated it to 500 degrees, took it out and then dropped the pizza dough onto the pan.  I splashed hot oil everywhere except on me, thank goodness, and by the time the dough made it into the oven, it was already bubbling and beginning to brown.  I baked the dough for 5 minutes, took it out and let it cool on a wire rack before wrapping in plastic wrap.  The next day, when I was ready to make pizza, I just preheated the oven (with pan inside), made my home-made pizza sauce,  sliced some mozzarella and I was good to go.  There were some cherry tomatoes in the fridge which I used as well.

Bread, Sourdough, Vegan Recipes

Sourdough Bread II

This was my first sourdough loaf, cooked in my Lodge cast iron combo cooker (also known as a dutch oven). According to those who know better, the dutch oven acts as an “oven within an oven” which allows one to use the steam created by the high temperatures and wet dough to give a hearty crust to one’s bread.  This bread, even though I failed to follow the directions, came out very good.  I recommend the dutch oven with the long handles if your oven is not a small one. I just think the handles make it easier to ‘handle’ the pans as they are quite heavy.

People will tell you to use heavy oven mitts when handling these since they are going to get up to 500 degrees when handling. While I am certain that cheaper oven mitts will do, I went a bit crazy and purchased these oven gloves with extra long cuffs, which make handling the heavy and hot cast iron easy and secure.

I followed the instructions (not at all precisely) for the “Basic Country Loaf” found in Chad Robertson’s Tartine Bread.  The inside of the loaf looks like this (though the photo is a little blurry):

I have eaten the bread plain and with butter.  It is delicious either way!  I can confirm that it makes an out of this world grilled cheese sandwich, and know that it is going make excellent bruschetta.  The crust is a bit chewy but when grilled, it turns into a crisp and easy to chew delight.