Thursday, December 27, 2012


A friend of the family gave me the lovely gift of one of the baby (7") Kindle Fires for Christmas. It is a lovely gift and I' m really enjoying it-- especially because I don' t have a smartphone so only now am I able to use my sparkpeople app.  I am checking whether I am able to post from the Fire. Happy belated Christmas everyone and happy New Year!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Holiday Cookies

One of my favorite things about the holidays is holiday baking. I get the excuse to make a lot of things that I don't need to eat in order to give them to friends and family (i.e. I can make things with lots of calories without feeling nearly as guilty).

Here are some pictures of my newest batch of cookies. Servia decorated them. I will post a recipe soon.

 I hope everyone is having a happy holiday season. I know that mine has been pretty hectic, but also a lot of fun. I just need to get my work done on top of all this...


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Sourdough Crumpets

So have you ever wondered what to do with your left over sourdough starter? If you're like me, you hate throwing out a whole bunch of sourdough starter every time you feed it. Also, I have trouble getting rid of starter to refresh my starter if it's sat for too many days (and therefore is overly sour [1]). However, this starter is not always the best for bread and it will make waffles or pancakes taste like vinegar. So, make crumpets.

I used very sour starter when I made these and they tasted great. This recipe is slightly modified from the recipe on Chocolate & Zucchini.

Whole Wheat Sourdough Crumpet

Sourdough Crumpets:
  • 270g sourdough starter (I used whole wheat, but you can use white or a mix)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • vegetable oil for greasing pan and rings
Note: you don't have to use crumpet rings, but I tried this and the crumpets really don't look much like crumpets. I don't have crumpet rings, I have some kind of egg rings for making breakfast sandwiches or something. They seem to work fine. When I made yeasted crumpets in college I used a can with both the top and bottom cut off of it. This works too.

  • Grease the pan and the rings and then heat them to medium. Be very careful with temperature. It is easy to burn the bottom of the crumpets if you're not careful, so be ready to regulate.
  • When hot, fill each ring with batter so that you can see half a centimeter of ring over the top. They will puff up.
  • Then, wait until they bubble. When you see that the edges are cooked, extract them from the rings and flip them over.
Mixture bubbling
Mixture bubbling with cooked edges

  • Wait until they finished cooking (there should be some brown among the bubble as shown in the picture at the top), take them off, and repeat the process with the rest of the dough.
  • Crumpets can be eaten hot plain or with butter or jam. After fully cooled, they can be saved in an airtight container for a few days and toasted or frozen in an airtight container (preferably a baggie) and then toasted.
These are delicious. They have that wonderful honey-wheat flavor. They're only very slightly sour, even when using very sour starter.

This post is a prelude to my post on English Muffins which will be coming soon. I plan on making sourdough English Muffins with a friend of the family who is going to make a version with commercial yeast so we can compare and contrast.

  1. Keep in mind that sourdough that smells really weird or is crusty or moldy should be discarded. Unless it's molded all the way through, you don't need to discard the whole thing. Just make sure you carefully discard anything around/under/touching the mold and then feed the starter a bunch. If it smells bad, you can try taking a single tablespoon of it out and creating a "new" starter out of that with plenty of flour and water. If it still seems off, throw it out and start over. In order to prevent issues like this, if you need to leave it for long periods of time, freeze it in an airtight container.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The "au Levain" experiment

The boule bloomed nicely, allaying my fears about it being overproofed
So I spent the last quarter hardly making bread at all. It's been a rough time. It's been really nice to be able to start baking bread again. I still have a lot of work to do, but I'm taking breaks to bake some bread and do some Christmas things. I started off by baking a version of my Sourdough Imitation Prophet Bread. It was good, but not quite as fluffy as the last time. The house has been really cold lately so maybe I underproofed  it.

One of the other things that I've been meaning to try is this bread mix I got: Bob's Redmill 10-Grain bread mix. Usually, I would not use a bread mix. I like picking out my own ingredients for recipes. However, I was excited because it contained "7 grain cereal, whole wheat flour, rolled oats,...dark rye flour, brown rice flour, corn flour, millet flour, oat flour, barley flour, white bean flour, triticale flour, corn grits, millet grits, dry yeast, and soy lecithin" (Bob's Redmill). I had seen a post on Au Levain about using a bread mix that had lost of interesting grains but no additives. However, I didn't realize that in contrast to her mix which was basically just flour with added gluten, mine contained dry milk, salt, and evaporated cane juice. The salt was unfortunate, only because I didn't know how much was in their. More importantly, the milk and sugar would soften the crust and change the texture of the bread.

However, since I had bought the mix, I made it anyway. Like in the Au Levain's version, I added 30% sourdough starter by weight (whole grain, 161g), and 4 grams of salt which seemed like it would get it to approximately 2% salt content. Then I used the following method:
  1. Mix starter, flour, and 350g of water (making the hydration about 70% because of my 100% hydration starter). I mixed it in my kitchen aid. I realized the bread was basically the consistency of thick batter so I started adding in bread flour until it turned back into the consistancy of bread. It must have been 6 or so ounces of flour.
  2. I let it autolyse for 40 minutes.
  3. Then I added the 4g salt and needed the bread for about 2 minutes on low. It didn't seem to help in the least in developing the gluten.
  4. As such, I did a set of stretch-and-folds, 2 every 10 minutes for an hour. It finally, grudgingly, passed the windowpane test.
  5. My house was cold...maybe 65 degrees or so. I let it sit out for 2 hours before I put it in the refrigerator overnight.
  6. In the morning, I let it sit out for 2 hours.
  7. Then I shaped it, but it in a banneton, and let it sit for 3 hours.
  8. I baked it for 50 minutes at 425 degrees F, the first 30 minutes under steam.
  9. The bread registered at 210 degrees F and I took it out. I let it cool for an hour before slicing.
Ultimately, while the bread seemed like it was going to be a failure  plenty of times throughout the process, it turned out ok. I added a huge amount of flour so the bread turned out to have a really closed crumb. However, it was still nice and crusty, despite the milk, and the flavor was good. It wasn't overwhelmingly dense either. There was one funny flavor that I couldn't quite pick out in there that I didn't like, but with so many grains I had no idea which one was responsible.
It had a very tight crumb, probably because much of the dough had non-gluten flours.

The experiment was interesting certainly, and tasty, but I'm going to check the ingredients more carefully before I buy another bread mix.
The texture was nice, even though the crumb was tight
 An interesting experiment.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Closing In on Freedom

Finals week is finally here. Its been a really long and arduous quarter. I still have work to do over break, but I have many things to look forward to as well. Holiday baking, especially bread baking, will be one of the highlights. I shall post my backlog of breads plus plenty of new stuff.

However, about 50 pages of Latin and 30 pages of Greek stands between me and bread. More this weekend.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Happy Black Friday

Hi everyone,

Happy belated Thanksgiving and happy Black Friday. I hope you all had a lovely day yesterday full of good food and time with family or friends. I took time out of my hectic schedule to cook a bunch of different dishes, but Iwill have to save my posts on those for after finals (ending December 14th) because I still have an incredibly busy road ahead of me.

So, I just wanted to say that the blog will be back soon with recipes for vegan apple pie and single-serving freezer apple pies as well as some more delicious (and semi-nutritious) bread recipes. Also, probably some discussion of the pedagogy of learning vocabulary, which has been something which as come up recently with two of the students I am tutoring (as well as learning Latin vocabulary in my own life).

I want to leave you with the lesson I learned last night: sometimes even things that sounds kind of strange, turn out to be really good. I tried this cornbread last night and I thought it was moist, flavorful, and delicious. I tend to love cornbread and hate pumpkin bread, but this was a lovely moist cornbread with just the subtlest hint of pumpkin flavor. Delicious.

Happy Holidays. Gone essaying. Back soon.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Review: Jeff Sharlet's C-Street

I just finished Jeff Sharlet’s follow-up to The Family. I’m sitting on a plane on my way to Ireland and I just devoured about half the book. While I don’t read much fiction anymore because I find so little of it compelling, it still always amazes me when a piece of nonfiction can be as or more gripping than a novel. Perhaps its an old prejudice from younger days—kid’s nonfiction is a terrible genre—that I have not managed to erase even after years of higher education. Even years in which, possessed for a passion by various books or articles, my friends would sit long hours debating into the night or call each other excitedly to find out whether someone else had read the same passage. I remember one sleep deprived semester planning to read only the first five pages of an article by – and staying up to finish it. The same article caused two friends of mine, who had spent the night in the classics lounge working and taking brief naps to regenerate, to bound out to greet my professor, bouncing in excitement, before our 8am class. Non-fiction certainly can inspire, but my gut tells me that it usually doesn't.

I may not be jumping up-and-down—I’m pretty sure that I would get chastised by the flight attendants—but I have to say that this book not just appealed to me but it impassioned me. After 2 hours of sleep, 1 hour of airport delay, and 3 hours of flying, I’m still writing this review and that in itself should speak volumes. This book is wild.

Back in the days of the John Ensign and Mark Sanford scandals I became very interested in C-Street. I heard Jeff Sharlet speaking on the Rachel Maddow show and I instantly wanted to buy his book. What appealed to me was not the hypocrisy of a Christian movement that hid and even helped the adultery of its adherents and leaders, but that a group of prominent officials could create a fundamentalist prayer cell meant to alter the way that they did government work in a country under the first amendment.

Perhaps even more, I was intrigued because I had come up with a similar idea for a novel. I was reading some Greek texts by one of the oligarchists—Xenephon, maybe, or Heraclitus, I don’t remember—and I came up with an idea about a modern oligarchic movement. Thinking back to the political writings of Chomsky that I read when I was in high school and the takeover of the democratic system by elites who manipulated the media and electoral process for their own undemocratic ends, I considered what would happen if this idea was taken wide-scale. I thought to myself, what if a group secretly began placing a number of crypto-conservatives into powerful positions in government and companies around the world preparing for an eventual takeover and essentially conservative revolution (however much of an oxymoron that idea might e). But my idea wasn’t compelling—conservatives, at least how it exists in the United States today does not inspire the devotion for a secret brotherhood like that. Then, right on television, Jeff Sharlet articulated the missing link: fundamentalism.

The Family is a fundamentalist Christian fellowship that does precisely that—they infiltrate the highest positions in government and other powerful institutions in order to network and spread their agenda. At first, it seemed like it couldn’t be true, but after vague and evasive quotes from members of the organization, I finally realized that it was absolutely true. I read The Family last year and I really enjoyed it. The exploration of the topic was deft and provided the necessary facts while giving an objective—sometimes unnervingly so—account of the operation.

The problem, however, with The Family, is that it got bogged down. Sharlet, wanting to give the full history of this insidious institution in American politics got bogged down in the details. Too many of the founders were striking men with blond hair and blue eyes described in almost exactly the same words. While one can’t change history to make it more varied, one can attempt to couch one’s narrative differently in order to keep reader interest. While I found the book fascinating, it didn’t stick as well as I would have liked in my memory and I didn’t pursue my research farther.

One day, browsing on Amazon, I noticed that Jeff Sharlet wrote another book. I put it on my Amazon wishlist, but I didn’t pay it as much heed as I might have. I was more interested in this book because it was called C-Street and so, I assumed, it would focus on the political aspects of the movement and the way in which the C-Streeters influenced American policy. He delivered. This book is an amazing chronicle of the way in which the fundamentalist contingent—specifically the family—influence American policymaking both foreign and domestic. The group’s influence runs even deeper than I anticipated and their issues are those which now appear on the forefront of America’s social battles: abortion, women’s rights, and homosexuality.

This book is magnificently written. Sharlet divides it into chapters based on the Family’s principles and each section blends politics, history, and interview. It’s gripping. Perhaps, in some sense, I have fallen prey to what Sharlet calls the problem of the American attention span. He argues that people are much more interested in sex scandals than they are in the family’s support of genocidal regimes. It did indeed take the Ensign and Sanford cases to bring C-Street to my attention. However, I hope that I have proven myself a more worthy reader than that. I found the chapter entitled “The War” to be the most engaging and almost as terrifying as the sections on the Ugandan kill-the-gays bill and on foreign policy more generally. “The War” detailed the rise of fundamentalism in the American military. The combination of superiors using their position to indoctrinate servicemen and the anti-Semitism detailed in this chapter was absolutely shocking. You have to read it to believe it.

Ultimately, I think this book was fantastic and that everyone everywhere should read it. The idea of Christian evangelicalism using government positions and advocating on blatantly elitist principles—they refer to these people as the “up-and-out”—is something that should be investigated and brought to the forefront of the public consciousness, especially since the American taxpayer is paying for a lot of the trips during which senators attempt to evangelicalize leaders of other nations—especially the poor and corrupt—is something everyone needs to ponder. Also, the writing is concise and powerful.

I’m planning on reading The Family again. Maybe on the flight home. I think I'm going to try to sleep on this next leg of the flight.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Too Hot for Bread


It has been too hot for bread over the last two weeks. The heat is ridiculous and I never want to turn on my oven. However, I have a bunch of sourdough starter languishing in the refridgerator. So I decided to make waffles.

Recently I've been on a big waffle kick. I started over the last 4 months or so making waffles on the weekends with my sourdough starter using a slightly modified version of this recipe from Wild Yeast. I usually half the recipe when I'm just making waffles for two people, but this time I doubled the recipe and made enough waffles to store in the freezer and toast whenever I wanted a nice crispy waffle. They are delicious!

Waffles on the Cooling Rack

Recipe for Sourdough Toaster Waffles:
  1. Make sure your sourdough starter is viable but also that it is young and sweet smelling like overripe fruit. If it smells wine-y or vinigar-y, your waffles will taste like vinegar. If it is not young smelling, refresh it and leave it out on the counter for a few hours until it's ready.
  2. Heat a waffle iron and grease it (I use a small amount of spray canola oil)
  3. Follow the Wild Yeast pancake batter recipe (I put in 2 tbsp of honey instead of maple syrup and I made the waffles half with whole wheat starter). The batter should be slightly thinner than muffin batter but thicker than crepe batter. I usually have to add a couple of splashes of nonfat milk to achieve my desired consistency. If you want a large stash, double the recipe.
  4. Ladle in enough batter for one waffle.
  5. Cook until it is cooked through, but not until it is crispy.
  6. Take out and let the waffle cool completely. Repeat this process until all of the batter is used up.
  7. Place the cooled waffles in freezer bags (air tight) and remove all excess air from the bag.
  8. Throw them in the freezer and stick them into your toaster as needed!
Bag of cooled waffles for the freezer

I have been really enjoying them. I'm planning on trying sourdough crumpets before the heat dies down.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

I Have Good News and Interesting News

So I have good news and interesting news.

Good news first.

Two of the seven kittens I'm fostering have been adopted! A fellow alumna from my high school feel in love with these adorable kittens and she's coming to pick them up sometime next week!
Calico and Smokey Adopted!
Check out the rest of the kittens here. They are incredibly adorable. My friend rescued them from almost certain death

Interesting news second.

I happened upon this story this morning in the New York Times. I found it, well, fascinating for lack of a better term. Read it, it's interesting.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Wine Snob: Chilean Red Wine Review

I have been warmly invited by Sulpicia III to review Casillero del Diablo Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 and Santa Helena Shiraz Reserve 2008. I have never written a wine review before and.I hope it is informative and interesting.
Wines and Chicken Piccata

The name "Casillero del Diablo" means "the Devil's Cellar". Concha y Toro, an enormous wine manufacturer based, makes this brand in the Central Valley region of Chile. Once upon a time, so the marketing campaign goes, the owner of Concha y Toro suspected his workers of thievery. He fostered a legend that the devil lurked in the dark depths of the cellar. The Casillero del Diablo brand is very popular and commonly sold in my neck of the woods, yet I never tried it before. Is the wine horribly bad or hella good? (I apologize for the atrocious puns.) I was quite happy with it. It has a medium body and a ruby red color. It smells of fruit, specifically blackberry. The taste is likewise berry fruit, but more cassis than blackberry. The tannins are very strong. It has a medium length finish. The tannins leftmy mouth very dry after swallowing.

I also bought the Santa Helena shiraz (syrah). This winery prides itself on the fact that it is constantly experimenting, trying new (and old) techniques, alternating between modern and traditional methods. I suspect this might result in larger than normal differences between vintages from this vineyard, though I may be wrong. I'll have to (reluctantly of course) try the 2009 and 2010 to check. It is also entirely sustainable. Itwas heavy and dark red. It had less tannins (making it medium-dry) than the first wine but it had a (typically syrah) short finish. It smelled and tasted strongly of berries.
The slightly lower amount of tannins, heavier body and richer flavor of the Syrah made me prefer it. However, if you like longer finishes, lighter bodies and less berry flavor, choose this Cabernet Sauvignon. I let both decant for an hour. They cost more or less the same price here (around €9) but if you're lucky they are slightly cheaper in CA.

I later tried both of them with Sulpicia's famous Chicken Piccata and they went together wonderfully. If Sulpicia is good enough to allow me to have some writing space again, I will return with some more Chilean reds or perhaps some notes on Chateauneuf-du-Pape (another current interest of mine).

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Star Trek and the Olympics: Topicality and Imaginary Universes

Egnatius told me that if J.J. Abrams did not make Kahn the next villain in his Star Trek movie, he's kicking himself. Immediately, I realized this was true.


Well, it should be obvious to the viewers of the Olympics. A few days ago, a 16 year old swimmer beat the time that Ryan Lochte swam in the 400m individual medly for the last 50m. This seems highly unprecedented and she's been dubbed a "supergirl." Immediately, commentaters said "doping," but my reaction was "genetic enhancement." And then I realized I'd probably just been watching too much Deep Space Nine.

However, today I read that I'm not the only one who jumped to this conclusion. The Daily Mail argued that some scientists are taking the genetic enhancement claim seriously. According to the same article, scientists have successfully tested genetic procedures using genetically modified viruses to improve the athletic endurance, muscle tone, and ability to gain weight in rats. I can imagine that an unscrupulous group of coaches, scientists, or both might be tempted to experiment on some athletes. I mean, athletes are already storing up liters of their won blood in order to put back into their bodies right before a match for increased endurance. Why not use a virus to genetically modify themselves?

What happens when one country can modify its athletes? Imagine, for a moment, that Ye Shi Wen is genetically enhanced rather than just incredibly well-trained. If China were to be successful with one athlete, they would probably try to modify as many as possible. As the technology is so recent-- the human genome was only sequenced in 2003-- the success rate would start off pretty low. In my same imaginary universe, they might start sweeping the games in around 2020 with athletic Frankensteins. At this point, things could start to turn ugly. Perhaps the rest of the world would band together in order to discover a means of genetic testing. Politics immediately become embroiled (as they already have in real life-- China claims that the world is biased against them). There might even be a low-level cold war type scenario-- the genetics wars...

Obviously this is a bit unrealistic, but it might just be real enough to help a box office smash. While I maybe a little unusual, this idea about genetic modification must be pretty widespread and will probably be discussed extensively in the press. While the Bourne Legacy, coming out this month, is about genetic modification and supersoldiers, it is a theme that has run through American cinema for a while and probably will not get a substantial topicality boost. However, the idea of a big blockbuster coming out about eugenics wars might make people think. There has been a rumor going around that Benedict Cumberbatch is set to play Kahn, the genetically enhanced supervillain from the 1967 episode "Space Seed" and the movie Wrath of Kahn was a tyrant from the Eugenics Wars on Earth, after which genetic modification was banned in the Federation (this is revisited in Deep Space Nine). While, in reality, we didn't sequence the human genome until 13 years after the Eugenics Wars were supposed to have began, at some point, genetic re-sequencing will become a massive political and ethical issue. And, if the seemingly absurd supposition that one of the Olympic athletes was enhanced turns out to be correct, the day might be coming sooner that we think. If Abrams did create a new Kahn movie, then he's right on the money (in more ways than one).

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Things Remain a Little Hectic

Calico, the kitten, 3 weeks old
Things are still crazy. I somehow thought that when the kittens got a little bit bigger everything would sort itself out, but it's just been a madhouse around here. If you want to see what I mean, the kittens have just learned how to get out of the box and explore. Here is a short clip of the first kitten who managed it. I honestly didn't expect it to be so much work, I just wanted to make sure the kittens were fostered and didn't have to go to a shelter. You can read the story here.

I had originally planned to try out doing my work in 90-minute blocks which is supposed to be quite productive (I've gotten very little done this summer). I read about the strategy here. I have PhD applications to attend to as well as keeping up my Latin, Greek, German, and French.I am crossing my fingers that I begin to manage some of my time a little better. I hardly have looked at any of these languages except Greek, and only at that for an hour or two once a week and I can feel it deteriorating.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Things Have Been a Little Hectic...

Things have been a little hectic around here over the past two weeks. Egnatius left to go back to Ireland and I helped him move out and pack. My family and I agreed also to host my friend's cat while she went to visit her parents on the other side of the country. This cat is fun and adorable, but quite particular so i will call her Princessa.
Cats love windows
While Princessa was here, she managed to become absolutely terrified of my room. She hung out up there most of the time for the first three days, but on day four it became the zone of horror.
Cute Kitty Pose
After that, late the night of 4th of July, she managed to jump off of something and twist her leg. Catullus II and I  took her to the vet. The vet said that she had only some soft tissue damage and gave us an anti-inflammatory, but not before dear usually-sweet Princessa attempted to rip the vet's face off.

However, in the mean time between agreeing to host Princessa and actually hosting her, my friend took in a pregnant stray whom she called Gimli. Gimli was a thin and lithe little ginger cat who sought out my friend at the beginning of the school year and my friend and her roommates had been feeding her. Gimli disappeared for a while in the spring and returned with a little ginger kitten, whom my friend named Eowyn. Sadly, one day shortly after arriving for the first time, Eowyn disappeared.

When Gimli became pregnant again, my friend took her in so that she and her kittens might be able to survive. Gimli, while bulging with pregnancy, was still as thin as she had ever been. About five days later, she had a litter of seven kittens.

I met the kittens on the first day after they were born. They were so cute and helpless. They looked almost like tiny hamsters.We gave them all nicknames based on look and personality attributes.
Calico, 1 day old
By the second day, we were arranging to take Princessa (my friend had to fly to the other side of the country to see her mother). However, my friend had not found foster care for Gimli and the kittens so she was going to have to take them to a shelter.
Kinky tail, 2 days old
Kittens, however, are much more likely to die in a shelter than in foster care, so my family agreed to take them until we could find homes for all of them.
Gimli and kittens
Gimli is an wonderfully sweet cat. She takes incredible care of her kittens. We have been looking for homes for all of them. I put up a website so that people can watch the growth of the kittens.

At one week old, they looked like this:
Superman, meowing. Photo by Steph Joyal

At ten days old, they looked like this:
Kinky-Tail, Photo by Steph Joyal.

They look much more like this now:
Calico, 16 days old
Calico, 16 days old
Smokey, 16 days old, asleep
So, this is the reason I am not posting quite a often as I had planned...

Friday, July 13, 2012

Sourdough Imitation Prophet Bread Recipe

sourdough, crust and crumb

Here is the sourdough version. I came up with it myself, for which I am pretty proud of myself. While I am verging on being a good bread maker, I still have certain problems with consistency, especially when it comes to chaning recipes from baker's yeast into sourdough so it was nice that this came out perfect the first time.

  • 170g white starter
  • 42g whole wheat starter
  • 231g bread flour
  • 8.5g salt
  • 170g milk
  • 14g sesame seeds
  • 14g hulled millet
  • 14g poppy seeds
  • 14g flax seeds (I forgot to toast these, but they're probably better toasted)
  • 14g sunflower seeds (toasted)
  • Egg white for brushing the top
  • Extra millet, poppy seeds and sunflower seeds for sprinkling over the top.

Day 1
  • Measure all the ingredients into a the bowl of a stand mixer.
  • Mix with the paddle attachment until the dough comes together. It should be slightly sticky.
  • Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.
  • Use the bread hook and mix for 4 minutes.
  • Remove the dough from the bowl and fold a few times for good measure
  • Let the dough rest for two hours covered by plastic wrap or similar.
  • After, the two hours, place it in the refrigerator overnight.
Day 2
  • Take the dough out of the refrigerator. Just over four hours before baking.
  • Let it warm up for two hours.
  • Turn it on to a floured surface
  • Shape it:
    • Separate the dough into three equal pieces
    • Roll these pieces between the hands into ropes about 15 inches long (approximately).
    • Braid the loaf from the middle to the exterior.
    • Turn the braid onto its side and bring the two ends together. Pinch them together.
    • Fold the braided ring such that the pinched-together portion is on the bottom. Place it in an oiled loaf pan (mine was oiled and then floured, but i don't think the flouring was necessary).
  • Let it rise for 2 hours at room temperature (about 75 degrees F) or until the dough feels light and puffy to the touch (covered with plastic wrap or similar)
  • Brush the top with egg white and sprinkle extra seeds on top right before baking.
  • Bake at 350 degrees F (325 degrees F convection) for 50 minutes. I baked mine at 300 degrees F convection per the instructions, but I had to extend the baking time immensely and so I think baking them at a higher temperature is better. Bake under steam the first 25 minutes for maximum oven spring, according to the lovely people on the Fresh Loaf. Bake until the internal temperature is between 180-200 degrees F.
Sourdough, crumb, close up
You can see here, the crumb is more open and creamier than the baker's yeast counterpart
Crumb Comparision: Baker's Yeast (left), Sourdough (right and top)
The bread was delicious. I liked it better than the baker's yeast one because it had a creamier taste and texture and it had just the slightest hint of acidity. However, they were both delicious.

Lunch the other day: Sourdough toast with egg whites
I highly suggest everyone tries one of these two versions. You can make the seed mixture depending upon your own personal taste. And, even for those who do not appreciate multigrain bread, the base is almost entirely white flour, so it shouldn't be too hard on the palate. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Follow-up: Imitation Prophet Bread

Sourdough, crumb
I mentioned the other day that I tried to make a bread from one of my favorite coffee shops. In order to do this, I tried two different tactics. In one, I stayed close to the recipe from Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day that seemed most similar to the bread I had. In the other, I made a sourdough version with a couple of key modifications. First, when I at the bread at the coffee shop, I thought that it was only sweetened by milk and not by honey, sugar, or some other sweetness. Although the version from the coffee shop was clearly not sourdough, it tasted much more like the sourdough version because it did not have a sweetener and had more milk (yielding a creamier taste and texture). I will post the sourdough recipe soon.

Ingredients for the Baker's Yeast Bread (makes 1 loaf)
  • 316 g bread flour
  • 42.5 g whole wheat flour
  • 14 g sesame seeds
  • 14 g poppy (the recipe omits this but rather doubles the sesame seeds)
  • 14 g flax seeds (I lightly toasted these, even though the recipe does not)
  • 14 g sunflower seeds (lightly toasted)
  • 14 g hulled millet (this is not in the recipe, I added it)
  • 14 g toasted pumpkin seeds
  • 8.5 g salt
  • 7 g dry active yeast
  • 170 g water, warm (approximately 95 degrees F)
  • 85 g nonfat milk, warm (approximately 95 degrees F)
  • 28.5 g honey (1.5 tablespoons)
  • Extra millet, poppy seeds and sunflower seeds for sprinkling over the top. 
Day 1
  • Measure all the ingredients into a the bowl of a stand mixer.
  • Mix with the paddle attachment until the dough comes together. It should be slightly sticky.
  • Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.
  • Use the bread hook and mix for 4 minutes.
  • Remove the dough from the bowl and fold a few times for good measure. Then put in the refrigerator.
Day 2
  • Take the dough out of the refrigerator. Just over two hours before baking.
  • Turn it on to a floured surface
  • Shape it:
    • Separate the dough into three equal pieces
    • Roll these pieces between the hands into ropes about 15 inches long.
    • Braid the loaf from the middle to the exterior.
    • Turn the braid onto its side and bring the two ends together. Pinch them together.
    • Fold the braided ring such that the pinched-together portion is on the bottom. Place it in an oiled loaf pan (mine was oiled and then floured, but i don't think the flouring was necessary).
Sourdough, just placed in the baking pan
  • Let is rest for 1.5 to 2 hours at room temperature (about 75 degrees F) or until the dough feels light and puffy to the touch.
Baker's Yeast, during the second rise
Baker's yeast at the end of the second rise
  • Bake at 350 degrees F (325 degrees F convection) for 50 minutes. I baked mine at 300 degrees F convection per the instructions, but I had to extend the baking time immensely and so I think baking them at a higher temperature is better.
Baker's Yeast out of the oven

Baker's Yeast, side view

Baker's Yeast, on cooling rack

Baker's yeast, crumb

Sourdough directions and ingredients coming tomorrow. Sorry...too much to do. I will write and explanatory post soon.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Quick Fun Video

So I was reading a New York Times article about NASA's new video. Apparently, the new Mars Rover will land on late August 5th PST. Here is a little promo. It's a bit melodramatic, but it's rather fun.

According to the article, there is a place called the Atlanta Science Tavern. They are hosting a party for the landing which will include five planetary lectures and a raging party. If you're in Atlanta, you should go and tell me about it. It sounds like fun.

A Question for Serious Bakers

So I have an annoying habit of tasting bread at a restaurant or a bakery with some friends and saying "pop quiz!" I then proceed to ask my unlucky compatriots about the ways in which the bread is identifiable, e.g. what kind of rising agent is used, if it is proofed in correctly, what kinds of grains compose it, etc. But oftentimes I also run into questions for which I have no answer.

One question that came up when I was making my Many-Seed Bread/Imitation Prophet Bread is: do I need to put a sandwich loaf under steam? I have never seen any indication that a sandwich loaf should be steamed. On the other hand, I haven't baked a sandwich loaf since I made my first successful rustic loaf, so I have no idea. Here was my experience recently that makes me think I might need it. When I made the side by side comparison of the commercial yeast bread and the sourdough version, the final rise time was the same (2 hours). The commercial yeast one rose a lot and filled the loaf pan. The sourdough loaf did not. It only increased a small amount in size, but it had the same light and airy texture as the commercial yeast version so it seemed ready to bake. As there was no mention of steam in the instructions, I cooked the commercial yeast loaf without it. There was almost no oven spring at all. On the sourdough loaf, I didn't want it to come out as a brick so I baked it for the first 25 minutes under steam. Surprisingly, the sourdough had massive oven spring. It did not get quite as bid as the commercial yeast loaf. However, I thought the crumb of the sourdough was better. It was still small and regular, as in a good sandwich loaf, but it was slightly more open and creamier than in the commercial yeast loaf.
Commercial Yeast (left), Sourdough (right and top)
Did the oven spring occur because I put the sourdough loaf under steam or was it just because the sourdough needed that final push to expand while the commercial yeast version did not? Does anyone know?

Formulas for both loaves coming tomorrow.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Imitation Prophet Bread

Prophet Bread

There's a little coffee shop near school that I like. I have taken a number of different friends there and they all seem to really enjoy it. The coffee is pretty expensive, so I don't go very often, but it is fantastic. However, it doesn't have much in the way of pastries. They have a few eccentric danishes and a couple of demi-baguettes with olives and figs. It's not really my cup of tea. However, one day I noticed that you can get toasted slices of brioche or 5 grain bread with butter, peanut butter, or fancy jam.

On the first morning I stayed at Egnatius' apartment, his kitchen was almost entirely devoid of food. I told him that we should go down to this coffee shop for breakfast. We each ordered slices of the "5 grain toast," his with butter and jam and mine with just butter. I rarely eat butter except a little bit on bagels, but I decided to try it. The toast came out as thick slices of white bread-- so white I think they might even have used bleached flour (or maybe there was just no whole wheat in it) peppered with millet, sun flour seeds, poppy seeds, flax seeds, and sesame seeds. The bread was delicious, especially with a tiny hint of butter and a delicious nonfat latte.

The last time we were there, I told Egnatius that I wanted to learn how to make the bread. After scouring over my bread books, I found a recipe called "Many-Seed Bread" in Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day. At first, I didn't know what the foreign round yellow seeds were in the bread from the coffee shop (Prophet Bread), but I eventually found, while going through recipes, that they were millet. I bought some bulk millet and went to work. The bread is delicious. Recipe to follow tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Whey Sourdough

Egnatius and Sue made some incredible cheese yesterday. Sue made her fabulous ricotta and Egnatius made mozzarella. In cheese making, one has to separate the curds from the whey and they whey is discarded.

Fortuitously, on Yeast Spotting this week, I noticed txfarmer's Whey Sourdough. She, too, apparently, had decided to make ricotta and used the whey for making sourdough. However, I was worried about the lemon juice in the ricotta being in the whey so I just used they whey from Egnatius' mozzarella.

There was a huge amount of whey left-- the result of an entire gallon of milk-- so I decided to make a variety of loaves. I made one double batch by txfarmer's specifications. I made the second set at Egnatius's design (he calls them his "designer loaves"). While I used the same process, I used this formula:

800g whole wheat flour
50g whole spelt flour
200g whole wheat starter
100g unbleached flour starter
610g whey + a little extra to soak the oats
20g salt
25g oat bran
50g rolled oats

The only changes to the method that I did were to add the soaked oats (both kinds) in during the mix at medium speed. I also added a preshape and a 25 minute bench rest to the shaping process.
Egnatius' Bread
Egnatius' bread was absolutely fantastic. It was nice and wheaty without being bitter. He is going to freeze one of the loaves and take it back to Ireland for his family.
Crumb is soft and crust is thin
So while whey thins the crust which I dislike, it also softens the interior and makes a 100% whole wheat loaf viable without being bitter which is fantastic. Whey is fantastic. Next time I will add even more whey for a more open crumb.

I also made two loaves by the specifications in the recipe. They were much lighter than Egnatius' loaves. They, too, did not bloom beautifully like txfarmer's loaves, but they were wonderful. The flavor was slightly sweeter and richer than traditional country sourdough on account of the whey. Also, the crust was heavier than on Egnatius' loaves, which I liked better. I am not yet sure of the reasoning.

If you make cheese, I would highly recommend using the whey for sourdough. It is quite a revelation for me.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Pizza Party

Egnatius' Homemade Mozzarella

Two nights ago I made some pizza for a bunch of friends. The pizza seemed to go better than ever before. I didn't get any pictures (I was making pizza for 8 people and trying to juggle the timing). I learned a number of things that I thought I would share.

The last time I made pizza for 8 people (bread baking day), one of the people I was teaching had worked at a pizzeria for a few years in between undergraduate and graduate school. He taught me how to shape pizza dough so that it has fluffy edge of crust. The method he taught me was to make a circle of finger indentations in a circle about 1-1.25 inches from the edge. Then, stretch the interior of the dough by flipping it from one hand to the other. This is the way that the make the lovely Neapolitan pizza at the pizza place near school. It also is the way that Eric seems to make it in this video. I am looking for another video that might have some better footage of the same technique.

While it has taken me a while to manage this technique (and I still have not mastered it), it turned out a lot better this time. This is the only picture I have. I made too much pizza so I refrigerated this one and I unfortunately only got to take it after it came out of the refrigerator. Also, sadly, this pizza does not have the cheese Egnatius made because we ran out of it. A gallon of milk only makes a small amount of cheese.
Pizza with Heirloom Tomatoes
I also modified my sourdough pizza dough slightly (reflected in the current recipe). I had to make two batches. For the first batch I substituted 90g of semolina for the bread flour. The recipe now reflects this because the flavor was so much nicer. I did this once with fancy grind durum as well and it improved the flavor but I only substituted about 50g that time so it was not the entire flavor revelation. But the semolina really changed the texture and the flavor of the dough. The dough was thin and crispy while still soft on the inside of the edges. It was delicious. I also let the dough sit out for longer during the kneading process and only aged it in the refrigerator for about 6 hours.

The second set of dough that I made, I forgot to make the starter beforehand. Instead, I used some fruity-smelling whole wheat starter that passed the float test (226g to replace the starter). I then compensated for the added whole wheat by making the 50g of  whole wheat into bread flour. They were a little heavier, but still delicious.

The party was lovely. Sue and her husband plus Egnatius, another friend from my program, and her sister. The friend from the program brought over a lovely Zinfandel.

I suggest that if you have the chance, try the new version of the pizza dough. It is fantastic. I also used the pizza sauce recipe from Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day (p. 70). It was fantastic. Here is a modified version of the recipe (this is the recipe I used):
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes (28oz)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, roughly chopped
  • 2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 5 cloves pressed garlic
  • 1 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
I mixed this and simmered it for about 20-25 minutes.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Land of Dreams? A Visit to Tartine Bakery

Tartine's Bakery
This has been quite a stressful quarter. So I came up with a crazy scheme to go to Anderson Valley with a bunch of my friends. Catullus II, upon hearing this idea, actually did all of the research and set up the trip. So Egnatius, Catullus II, and some other friends jumped in an SUV and toured Anderson Valley. On our way back, we stopped in San Francisco for the day. One of the places we went was the magical and wonderful Tartine Bakery which produces the book that saved my ability to bake bread, Tartine Bread.

Tartine Bakery is in a little unmarked building in the mission district. It's cute and all of the tables inside were taken. There were delicious chocolate cakes in the display case and you could smell it from an entire block away. I was really excited to be there at exactly 5pm to get the bread and I thought there would be a line out the door and only a few varieties of bread available like they say in the book.
Bannetons waiting for bread.
We got there at around 4:40pm. The bread, as it turns out, actually comes out of the oven at 4:30pm these days and there are tons of different varieties. The woman behind the counter listed at least five, although I only remember country, spelt, and white whole wheat. I bought a loaf of country and spelt.
You can barely see the country loaves rising on the shelf behind the glass.
I also got a croissant which was incredibly delicious and looked exactly like the one in the book. I was happy.

However, the bread did not look as it does in the book. The country loaf was great, but it was a tiny bit over-proofed (the crumb did not look like the gorgeous one in the book-- it was a little bit more honeycomb and thin although there were still plenty of irregular holes). However, one fantastic thing about this bread compared to mine did have one massive advantage. I usually use a national brand flour like Gold's or King Arthur. The local flour that they use at Tartine does have a lovely flavor-- especially when toasted-- that has a richer taste.

The spelt was fantastic although (1) it didn't taste much like spelt flour and (2) the crust was a little thin and the ears didn't bloom very nicely (see below).
Tartine bread: Country (left), spelt (right)
So, while the bread was still quite good, it was not quite the place I'd been imaging all year. I highly recommend giving it a visit. Have a croissant while you are there. It is delicious. But, while it is true that as Marie says in the video "no one should die without eating Chad's bread," you possibly can make it from his recipe instead of trekking to San Francisco.

While I was there, I did get a glimpse of the famous Chad. he was dressed like a hipster and hanging out directly outside the bakery. He seemed very nice and a little twitchy. He obviously wasn't in the bakery that day, just dropping by. But it was nice to see him. I sneaked a bad photo on my phone.

Although I leveled a bit of criticism against it, the bread was great. Also, as Eric says in the video below, a bit of the mood of the baker goes into the loaves each day. Maybe the bakers were just having a bit of a frenetic day.

One last thought: one of the things that I was most cut up about was the fact that there was no line out the door waiting for bread. I wanted to join the fray clamoring for bread at Tartine and experience the magic with other people. Instead, it was just me with a bunch of cranky people who had been driving for too many hours together and who had just had some stuff stolen (the car was broken into in San Francisco at the Palace of Fine Arts). So I guess I just didn't get my magic moment. Maybe next time.