Friday, December 30, 2011

Dry(ish) Dough Success

I made a version of Wild Yeast's Norwich More Sour Sourdough again. I was determined to get it right this time. So I only added 35 grams of water extra. I mixed it together with the normal head on the Kitchen Aid instead of the dough hook and saved the dough hook for kneading process. However, the Kitchen Aid seemed to be having a lot of trouble kneading the dough so I added another 50g of water and it seemed to work out much better.
Loaf One
I've noticed I have an impossible time walking away from the Kitchen Aid while it's mixing or kneading. I like that it doesn't make a mess, but I just feel like I can't leave the baking process. I guess old habits are hard to break.
Loafs Two and Three
The bread turned out beautifully. Really stunning. My only complaint is that it tastes a little more like store-bought bread than my usually fare. Obviously it's much fresher than it would be in a store and no commercial yeast and a little added whole wheat for flavor, but it doesn't have the same depth of flavor that for example the Tartine Loaf has or even that of my own easy sourdough.
Loaf and Mini Loaf
I also made a couple of the mini loaves (see above and below). They were silly but really cute.

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, everyone. I've been a bit MIA recently because preparing for the Holiday dinner is quite a large task. Servius messed up his rotator-cuff pretty badly and so he has not been able to help as much as usual. We've had some other unforseen setbacks too. But despite all of this, the house is decorated and almost cleaned and we are going to sit by the fire and eat the apple tarts I made for breakfast.

I woke up early this morning to start baking the loaves (five loaves of bread just in case something goes wrong). The first loaf is beautiful so its been a lovely Chirstmas morning so far. Merry Christmas, everyone.

P.S. I heard a story about a dear friend who said she would move back to this city to come to our Christmas dinners. I wanted to let her know that we would be happy to have her anytime she comes back to this coast!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Wine Snob: L'insolite Malbec


I had an absolutely fabulous Malbec recently I wanted a glass of wine with the wonderful mushroom we had about a week ago. It was the night Cerinthus flew into town. I have mostly tried Argentinian Malbecs but this one is French and it was wonderful.

The L'insolite was the color of the Japanese plumbs outside my window-- a beautiful purple color. The scent was of musty cherries and antique book leather. It was wonderful. The flavor changed over time. I decanted it for about 30 minutes as recommended, but I also drank it slowly with the food an it evolved over time. At first there was a raspberry flavor with a slightly sour bite. There was also a warm note-- a little like wood) with the slightest hint of wood. There was also a pinch of unrefined cacao. The flavor lingered in the mouth as though it was stuck to the tongue or the roof of the mouth. Delicious.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Broken Philosophy?

The title of this blogpost is in response to my previous post: "The Philosophy of Baking." I've been using the kitchen aid a lot, mostly because it makes baking significantly less messy than baking my hand because everything is contained in a single bowl. This is especially helpful when I am making bread because usually kneading the bread is a rather messy process. However, it is a learning process.

I decided to make Wild Yeast's More Sour Sourdough with my Kitchen Aid, as the recipe calls for a mixer. However, I didn't account for the requirements of the mixer at all. I made a dough that I amped up to 77% hydration, because this is a reasonable hydration to knead by hand. At this point, the dough hook hardly seemed to work at all. I also did not properly account for the temperature correctly; the bread ended up having its bulk fermentation cut short and it produced loaves where not all the water cooked out of the bread.

Next time I will know better. Perhaps even the dryer dough will work better with the Kitchen Aid.

Holiday Cheer

It's really beginning to feel like the holidays. We're sending a bunch of stuff off to the post office today so that our relatives get their gifts on time. It's been a couple of days that I might describe with one of Sallust's favorite words...asperae dies...but things are looking up.
  • We now have a live Christmas tree (and yes, I mean live, as in still-living. We plant them in our yard, although this one is small enough that we can probably re-pot it and prune it for next year before it retires to the yard).
  • Cerinthus is coming tonight
  • There is some lovely sourdough in the refrigerator so that I can bake it right before Cerinthus gets in and the house will smell like fresh bread
  • My room is (almost) clean
  • We've brought some decorations up from the garage.
Happy holidays, everyone.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Philosophy of Baking

So yesterday our Kitchen Aid mixer came. Servia and I decided that would be our early Christmas present and we could use it for some holiday baking. We searched around for a while and found a refurbished one on the Kitchen Aid website. Excited to try it out, we made two batches of cookie dough last night.

The Kitchen Aid is shockingly efficient. In about 30 seconds it can cream butter and sugar to a consistency that it would take me at least 10 minutes to achieve. It was amazing.
Creamed Butter and Sugar
The one thing that bothers me is that with this machine baking is a streamlined process. Although I certainly sample the fruits of my baking, I started baking in order to relieve stress. Baking is very physical-- creaming butter or kneading bread requires strength and skill. Even though I have been remiss on hitting the gym (and I primarily do cardio when I have), I have little muscles in my arms from kneading bread dough. Without the physicality of baking, it turns the stress relief from stress baking to stress eating, which can be very dangerous. So is this appliance going to ruin how I bake?

No. In reality, the efficiency can be extremely helpful. I often have to make a dessert for my final class of a session, etc when I'm stressed and have other things to do. Furthermore, one of the batches of cookies I made last night are my dark chocolate shortbread cookies. These cookies are a big hit, but they are actually more frustrating to bake than I would like. The dough is extremely dry and very hard to combine to the correct consistency. The Kitchen Aid made them without the frustration and they were suddenly both simple and delicious.

Thus, I have (quickly) made peace with the mini-factory in the kitchen. I will still probably make almost all of my bread by hand (with the exception of trying this amazing loaf of deliciousness that I've been eying for ages). However, over the holidays when efficiency is paramount, I have a feeling the new Kitchen Aid and I will become fast friends.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Fixing the Chicken

Since I've been on vacation, I've been watching dinosaur specials. I know, it's really nerdy, but to compound it I've been doing this while making my Greek Principal Parts list.

So by now, I've run out of most of the various dinosaur specials that are around (sad!), and because all of my paleontology lectures from the "Prehistoric Creatures" series by National Geographic lectures on iTunes have stopped (do you hear that, National Geographic? Get your act together!), I've been seeking paleontology lectures elsewhere. I came across this TED Talk that totally cracked me up.
As it is, so far as we know, impossible to extract DNA from a dinosaur, Jack Horner talks about reconstructing a dinosaur from their closest living relatives, the birds (which are in fact classified as avian dinosaurs). He talks about reactivating genes in a chicken to create a living (non-avian) dinosaur. Pretty cool, and he's also quite funny.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Meditiations on a Cup of Coffee

One of the nice things about coffee is that even if it's bad, it makes you feel better at the end of a bad day. This is what I was thinking about Monday night when my finals finished. Having a warm cup of coffee in my hands just made me feel so much better.

My finals were...unfortunate. As I only had two days to study between my final projects and finals, I tried to target my studying to what seemed most likely to be on the exams. As it turned out, I could have moved one of my finals to a later date in order that I wouldn't have to take both finals in a row with almost no break, but I learned that too late (this is what comes from trying to learn the ropes of a new institution). So I target-studied, and this turned out to be a rather ineffective strategy.

What actually ameliorated my wounded pride ameliorated further the next morning. I realized that even if things went as poorly as I thought, I learned a lot. My Greek and Latin are better. I wrote another paper on Plato that utilizes ideas I could not bring into my thesis. And, I have a better idea how the system works. So, at the end of the next term, I'm going to clean up on my finals.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Apple Pielettes

Baby Pies
I had some left-over pie crust and a few extra apples the other day so I made pielettes in our little tartlette pan. They were delicious, even if the crust-apple ratio was a little ridiculous (I only had three apples so they were a bit skimpy.

 I made these pies without the top crust for my thesis orals board and they were a bit hit.
Breakfast, anyone?
I used the same apple pie and pie crust recipes as usual.

Time and Temperature

Modified Tartine Country Loaf

This is a lesson on time and temperature in baking. It is one that I learned a few weekends ago. Here is the lesson: make sure you recalculate time based on temperature.

Two of the loaves I had this weekend proved the point rather perfectly. The first loaf I made this weekend followed the time precisely even thought the temperature in the kitchen was much colder. Unfortunately, this meant that the final proofing was not as effective as it should have been. The bread, then, had lovely holes, but did not spring much in the oven and had a dense almost doughy texture on the inside. I dried out the bread and made it into croutons. The croutons were good, but they required a lot of drying in the toaster over before I brushed them with my olive-oil herb mixture.
Note Doughy crumb and lack of oven spring.

Loaf number two, however, had a happier time. I messed up my schedule on the bread so I was supposed to be doing a few stretch-and-fold proceedures during dinner. Instead, I let the bread sit in the cold air to extend the time between tending to it. So it rose over 6.5 hours instead of 4. The bread turned out beautifully that I didn't take a proper shot of the crumb before we ate much of it!
Loaf #2 Crust

Loaf #2 Crumb (for better picture see top)