Monday, March 29, 2010

Le Pain de Campagne! Welcome to Artisan Bread, Sulpicia, Daughter of Servius

I just made my first load of truly artisan bread. It is incredible. Both Cerinthus and Cynthia love it. It is incredible. I must give credit where it is due-- I used the recipe from Breadcetera (1). I need say no more, just look:

This bread is in celebration of the fact that I turned in my thesis draft this morning.

  1. Here is where I got the recipe: Instead of medium rye flour, I used half whole wheat flour because it was what I had around. I also could not manage to keep the shape of the bouton d'or.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Round Two with The first was Original 100% Whole Wheat Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

The blog from which I gained this recipe told me to bake half the bread (1), and save half in the refrigerator for use in the next 5-7 days. I made it late Tuesday night and it has been sitting in the refrigerator since then. It rose slightly each day in the refrigerator. When I brought it out again, I shaped it into a long loaf and slashed the top of the loaf.

I let the loaf rise for an hour and a half. It doubled in size. Unfortunately, I do not have my peel yet, but the loaf sat on an oiled pan. I preheated the oven stone to 400 degrees F, and then turned the oven down to 350 degrees F. Then I put the bread in (I couldn't get it off the tray, so unfortunately it had to stay on the tray for the first 5 minutes before I could slide it onto the stone) with a metal pan full of water underneath the stone.

It turned out pretty well, although it still was a bit dense.

The crumb is not perfect. This, I think, comes from inadequate mixing technique.

Still, unlike the last two loaves, it was good enough that I'm pretty sure I will finish the loaf before it goes stale and I have to turn it into croutons. So that says something.

Proud Parent of Two Sourdough Starters

I am now the proud parent of two sourdough starters:

One is twelve hours older than the other. I was a little apprehensive when i fed it for the first time last night, because the instructions on breadcetera (1) told me throw some out. However, the starter has doubled the size that it was before I tossed some of it out. Crazy.

This was last night

This was this morning!
Anyway, I'm SUPER excited. I cannot wait to try making some sourdough in a week. The real challenge will be the sourdough pizza dough for Cerinthus. He liked the pizza dough last night so much (even though it was underdone) because it was crisp on the bottom and fluffy that I cannot wait to try the recipe on breadcetera (2). Unfortunately, however, I like really thin pizza crust. Once I have perfected the thicker crust maybe we'll alternate between making thin and thick.

On a different note, my thesis draft is due tomorrow at noon. I still have a lot of work to do on it, although I am certainly getting to the place I want to be with it (the draft is around 65 pages and all three chapters appear-- although no introduction and conclusion as of yet).

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Starter Lives! and Adventures in Pizza

Tonight I decided to make pizza. Amusingly, pizza is Cerinthus' food. His mother makes it a lot, but he has never been satisfied by the crust. Tonight he says "this is what pizza should taste like." WIN!

The pizza was not perfect, to be sure, but it was much closer than any homemade pizza he's ever tasted. Here is what I did. I took this recipe (which is technically a deep-dish recipe):

Pizza Dough (1):
1 1/2 cups warm water (about 110 degrees F)
1 (1/4-ounce) packages active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup semolina flour
1/2 cup olive oil, plus 2 teaspoons to grease bowl
1 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, combine the water, yeast, and sugar and stir to combine. Let sit until the mixture is foamy, about 5 minutes.

Add 1 1/2 cups of the flour, the semolina, 1/2 cup of the oil, and the salt, mixing by hand until it is all incorporated and the mixture is smooth. Continue adding the flour, 1/4 cup at a time, working the dough after each addition, until all the flour is incorporated but the dough is still slightly sticky.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth but still slightly tacky, 3 to 5 minutes. I used the method of mixing recommended by Steve from Breadcetera (2).

Oil a large mixing bowl with the remaining 2 teaspoons oil. Place the dough in the bowl and turn to oil all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm, draft-free place until nearly doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. (I wish I had a picture. For me I kept the dough in a very warm area. It practically TRIPLED in size.)

Divide into 3 equal portions (I needed to make pizzas on a 12x12 pizza stone). From here, the original recipe requires deep dish pizza pans. I didn't have them, and I had just bought a pizza stone.

Note: this pizza stone is actually the unpolished part of a piece of granite that Cerinthus got for $4 at a tile store since I am a college student on a budget. I rubbed olive oil into it and the dusted it with semolina flour.

From there, I rolled out the dough, plumped up an inch or so for the crust, and then added tomato sauce (from Trader Joe's) and mozzarella. The dough was way too sticky (and the pizza peel I ordered has not arrived yet) so I used a flour-caked cookie sheet. It worked ok. When it was time to take the pizza out, it had solidified enough that I could move it freely, which was nice. I cranked the oven up to 500 degrees F and cooked the pizza until the cheese bubbled and there were patches of brown.

As is obvious, the first pizza got totally mangled as I put it into the oven. However, the crust rose admirably. The problem was that it didn't cook all the way through. I definitely need a solution to this. Ponticus, who came over to have some pizza, said perhaps heating the oven stone up to 500 degrees F and then bringing the oven temp down to around 400 to cook the pizza. I might try that next time.

While the pizza was rising, I decided to check on my yeast starter which, after 12 hours didn't seem to have much going on. But much to my surprise, as the pizza dough rose, so did the yeast in the starter. My starter still looks terrible on the top:

but looks great from the side:
If you can't tell from the picture, it's all bubbly, which means it's alive! I'm SO HAPPY. Sadly, tonight when I feed it I'm going to have to throw half of it out, per Breadcetera's instructions (3). I thought I had killed it because on of the tablespoons of flour I put in to start it was bleached flour (by accident). However, I found out that it grows anyway, although at a slower pace. I'm not sure if this is because of my apartment's heating, or because of the flour, but either way I'm totally happy it lived.

  1. From Joelean's Culinary Adventure:
  2. Mixing tips and video:
  3. Breadcetera instructions: Starting a Starter

Sulpicia vs. Conference vs. Sourdough Starter

So, I got rejected from the UBC conference (not a surprise since it is for grad students) and wait-listed at Cornell (which is probably good because I can no longer get financial aid to go there since I got so much for the St. Thomas conference. However, I was accepted to the Willamette conference, and I will be presenting my final chapter of my thesis! This chapter is the one where I unveil my crazy theories about Platonic dialectic, so it should be interesting to see what the classics community thinks of it. On the other hand, I need to finish my third chapter first. Wish me luck.

The second major project I'm endeavoring right now is making my own sourdough starter. Cerinthus loves sourdough, and I also would like to be able to not have to buy commercial yeast all the time (it's expensive!). So, I'm making some. My roommate, Cynthia (1), does not look pleased, but she was excited by the prospect of sourdough bread.

I now have a use for my old pasta sauce jar! According to Cerinthus, in the US reusing is more efficient and better for the environment than recycling so I'm trying to reuse as much as possible. I'm going to reuse my yogurt containers to grow fresh basil. Yum.

Here is the inside after eight hours:

It still looks like lumpy oatmeal (2). What did I do wrong? Maybe it's just not warm enough in my apartment. I'm going to give it a 48 hour testing period to see what I can do with it.

  1. Cynthia is Propertius' lover from the Monobiblos and the two successive poetic cycles (although I believe not in Book IV). She is characterized by a philandering heart, a wild temper, beauty, flightiness, spontaneity, some minor intellectual prowess, and controlling strength. My roommate, whom I love dearly nonetheless, fits this description very well.
  2. According to Steve from Breadcetera, at the beginning it should look like lumpy oatmeal:

The Bread of Life

I have not posted in a while. The reason is, I've been getting a bit depressed.

Canada was great-- I got an award for being the runner up (there called "honorable mention") in the best overall presentation at the conference and I got a little bit of valuable feedback. However, when I got back to school, there was a huge amount of work that had piled up. It was hard. Plus, I began to have real problems sleeping. I thought at first it was the change in time zone, but now I'm not sure what it was. The sleep problems lasted for over a month.

During that month or so, I began to go crazier and crazier. Mood swings, overeating to stay awake, overeating because I was starving all the time, no energy to exercise, the desire to stay in bed all the time. I was beginning to feel like I was stuck in sophomore year.

Even worse, two of my friends died, as did another vague acquaintance from my class. The closest of the friends, whom I shall call Iris because of her bright personality and lightness of spirit (1), ran the community service project that I work for and was the shining light that made it happen and the glue that held it together. I miss her terribly. This also caused a rupture in my world.

In the last week, I have tried to get myself back on track. I'm still overeating a little bit, but I've significantly curbed it. The night before last I finally got some decent sleep, as I did last night. My mood swings are a little better. I've started running again-- there's a half marathon I like the sound of happening in September and I'm hoping to run it! I went to Iris's memorial yesterday. The school community service coordinator asked me to say a few words, since I was the one on the project of whom Iris spoke most highly. So I did. They were short, and not as personal as I would have liked them to be, but I was commended by quite a few people for them, which was nice to hear. I want to honor her memory.

However, the real thing that seems to be saving me is bread. I have started making my own bread. I know-- this sounds like a recipe for disaster, espeically because of my problems with overeating. However, the one time I stayed up late doing work without overeating was because I was making bread. I had to stay awake because the bread needed to rise, be kneaded, bake, etc. In between, I worked on my thesis. It was pretty awesome. At the end, I had two mini loaves of bread, one completed thesis chapter and the beginnings of another. Yay me.

I started off with two different recipes. The first was Original 100% Whole Wheat Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day (2). I have to admit, I don't have any white whole wheat flour, so I just used a half-and-half mixture of white and whole wheat. This bread was ok, but not great. It was a little like normal homemade bread-- i.e. slightly too dense. It also didn't rise very much and turned out kind of pancake like-- although it rose outward a lot. I'm going to try with the other half batch of this that I have in the refrigerator and see if I can get it to turn out any better. I did not take pictures of it, sadly, having been up most of the night and very strung out, but I will take pictures of the second batch. The first batch had begun to stale a bit, so I turned it into croutons last night. They're pretty good. I don't make much salad because I'm so ridiculously picky about the lettuce, so I am going to send it to my mother, who makes salads a lot.

The second was Whole Wheat Artisan Bread (3). It turned out quite well, although the loaf spread a bit. The best thing about this bread was that when Cerinthus tried it in the morning, he liked it! Although, he did say he thought it tasted like good sandwich bread rather than good artisan bread, which, in reality, is probably true. The reason that Cerinthus' approval is such a victory is that he discouraged me from baking bread in the first place because he is convinced that only commercial bakeries can bake the bread he likes because the bread his mother and sister made when he was a kid always turned out to be really heavy. However, although this bread looked a little bit hockey-puck like, it turned out really well.

The inside (or I think the bread-making term is the "crumb") looks like this:

Close up:

Anyway, I originally thought the shape of the bread was due to not having a loaf pan, but later I found the reason for this spreading was inadequate gluten development (4).

Bread has given me a reason to be excited about research and thesis. I have something to look forward to. Although Cerinthus is a light and a joy in my life, he too is less active and bright recently from all of the work he has to endure. But bread is life, and as long as I don't over indulge (either by giving it away or sending it off as croutons) I get to have the joy of baking bread.