Sunday, January 27, 2013

Christmas Bread

Barley Bread
Christmas is my favorite holiday because I have a quiet morning with family followed but a large dinner with family and friends. In the middle, there is a lot of cooking, cleaning, and moving. This year, for that middle period, I decided I was in charge of morale. It's a bit job getting everything in order, but it's still Christmas so we should have a little fun: a lovely picnic.

Pretty much everyone in the family gets a bit hypoglycemic; if we don't eat, we get tired, cranky, panicky, and, if things get really bad, trembley. So, food at lunch time was in order. There was some nice cheese for later so I stole a bit of that and combined it with one of the five loaves of bread I made and some carrots and brought a plate to each person in various places around the house. That loaf of bread was eaten so quickly that I didn't manage to get a picture of it, but you can see the rest below.
Whole Wheat Boule

Whole Wheat Batard
I made three kinds of bread (five loaves total) for two reasons. One, so that we could have plenty of delicious bread left over for the next few days. Two, something seems to always go wrong if you're making bread for an event, so it's always better to have extra. This time, the whole wheat and the Barley bread (my experimental loaf) turned out marvelously, but the country loaf was the tiniest bit underproofed and, as a consequence, it retained more of the water during the baking process and was denser because it had less oven spring. It looked beautiful, but it was best enjoyed toasted (as underproofed breads usually are).
Country Loaf Ear

Country Loaf
The bread was delicious. The barley bread, specifically, was a revelation. I often use barley to sweeten the crust and add depth of flavor, but this was something entirely new to me. I will post the recipe in the next few days.
Whole Wheat and Country Loaf, used for decoration and eaten over the next few days
Ultimately, Chirstmas, both bread and everything was a great success thanks to lovely friends and the amazing team effort of my family. It just shows that bread, cheese, and carrots are the perfect combination.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Wonders of Oat Bread

Oat Bread
I made Cordata's amazing oat bread twice over winter break. I cannot reiterate enough how much I love this bread. It has an amazing depth of flavor, it takes very little work, it's beautiful, and it's simply delicious. I usually substitute whole wheat starter for both the white an the rye starter.
Two Loaves Again
Usually, when I make this bread, I make it in the Kitchen Aid and I add extra water so the kitchen aid can manage to knead the bread (if it's too stiff, the it simple sits on the kitchen aid turns around-and-around).  However, the recipe says not to add more water and to mix it by hand. However, I was suspicious that this might not work. However, while the crumb was a tiny bit smaller, the bread turned out quite well. However, I shaped it slightly oddly so it looked kind of funny. See below.
This loaf didn't shape correctly, but it bloomed beautifully

The crumb was pretty open for such a stiff dough

If you haven't tried this bread, try it now. It's really quite amazing. Oats have a ton of flavor potential.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Rye Bread

My First Rye
This is probably no secret, but I don't like rye. I never have and, sadly, I probably never will. I always used whole wheat or barley to substitute the rye in recipes.  However, I used rye flour to begin my sourdough starter a long time ago and I decided that I should finish it off. Fortunately, Egnatius came to visit for Christmas and he likes rye, so I decided to make a loaf for him.

The recipe appears here in the comments portion of a post on the Fresh Loaf. I used regular water, whole wheat starter (because I didn't have any rye starter) and dark rye flour. I also cut the recipe in half.

Sadly, I didn't like the rye bread. Egnatius and my father liked it, although they said it had too many caraway seeds (I would suggest 5g or less instead of 10g if you're making a half-recipe). It is supposed to be very good with jam (according to the rest of my family).

I seem to have lost my crumb shot. Sorry about that. The crumb was fairly tight, but moist, toothsome, and creamy. It was a very nice texture.

Anyway, it seems like a very good rye recipe, if you like that sort of thing. It was a fun recipe to make, even if I didn't like it.


While I'm still waiting to hear from all of my institutions, I have some good news from others. Egnatius just got accepted to a big university in Canada for a PhD! That's pretty cool. He is still waiting to hear from everywhere else. Also, a friend of mine in the program got accepted to one big-name California school and has an interview via Skype and a campus visit each with big Ivy League schools. It would undermine anonymity to provide any more information, but I'm really excited for them, and since no one seems to be posting on the Grad Café, it seemed right to let people know that certain schools were out.

While I wait, I have some breads I'm planning on making, so I'll keep you updated on that as well.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Thought it was over already?

So I thought the application process was over and now it would just be waiting to hear from graduate schools.


It turns out this was a problematic assumption. Transcripts seem to have vanished into thin air on the way to a number of my schools. I finally had to fed-ex some to one of the schools because they are making their decisions next week. Seriously, this is insane.

I did a lot of things wrong during this process, and now I know better. Maybe I'll post some helpful hints for others once it's all over.

Now that I've sorted about half of these problems out, I am going to go back to making and posting about bread and other wonderful tasty things.

An artsy photo of the grain mill surrounded by King Arthur Flour
One last thing: I was given a wonderful hand-crank grain grinder for Christmas. It's totally awesome, and I've found that with some of the fancier grains, it's a lot less expensive to grind your own flour. I've only made one loaf with hand ground flour, but it was pretty cool. However, I can't secure the grain grinder to the table because the power needed to work the hand-mill is simply too much for my table. If anyone has any ideas on how to build a solid workbench, that would be awesome. More news on the mill soon!

Monday, January 21, 2013

In Our Yard...

Mushroom Cloud

We have a small little strip of yard at the back of the house, not more than a few feet wide. It had been raining, which is fairly unusual for this area. We ended up, for the first time ever, with a strange congregation of mushrooms in one small space. I wanted to know what they were, but I don't know much about mushrooms. I assume they were poisonous.
Mushrooms Close-Up
Also, a few weeks ago I read a really interesting article in the New York Times about global warming affecting truffles.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Back Again, I Hope

So I just finished my applications to graduate school. It proved to be a more troubling process than I had originally expected, but I'm done and now I just have to wait. I do still have school and classes to keep me distracted, but I thought I would do an update on some general things while I'm slightly less busy.

A Thank You
King Arthur Flours, picture credit: Servia
A friend of the family and fellow food aficionado (actually, she makes much fancier food than I do), and her family gave me a generous gift certificate to King Arthur Flour. This is what I got.
  • Diastatic malt powder-- I've been hankering to try some of this for a while but it's just so expensive. Diastatic malt power is made from barley, my new favorite grain. It is a sweetener, but it's a sweetener made from sprouted grains, so it's actually good for you. It specifically uses the enzymes in the sprouted grain to convert the starches in the bread dough into their component sugars. I got a bunch of barley and I'm planning on making my own using this recipe (although I will use barley in place of wheat) if it turns out that I like it. It's often used in whole wheat breads that tend to be slightly bitter in order to help promote the process of starch conversion.It also helps improve the rise of the bread.
  • Non-diastatic malt powder-- this is the distinctive sweetener in bagels. It doesn't have the same enzymes as diastatic malt powder, but it does also give a sweetness to the dough. It can be used as a replacement for sugar or honey in bread, although I don't know how the proportions work.
  • Durum Flour (extra fancy)-- I absolutely love durum flour and I've noticed that the extra fancy tends to perform better in bread and pizza then the semolina. Some of my most beautiful breads have been made with substituting some of the white flour for durum (see the two pictures at the very bottom of my Bread Lesson II post).
  • Sir Lancelot High- Gluten flour-- I bought this flour for two reasons. The first is that I'm desperate to make another attempt at Bread Cetera's Multigrain Bread. This looks phenomenal, and I misread the directions last time so I ended up making a mistake. It tasted fine, but it looked really silly so I didn't even post it. This time I will not be foiled! I also plan to make an attempt at bagels again. Maybe with a group of people (because it's a lot of work for very little yield).
  • European Style flour-- Last year my family got me a book called English Bread and Yeast Cookery, in which Elizabeth David claims that soft flour has more flavor and so while the American breads rise higher, the European breads are more flavorful. While this is not actual flour from Europe, King Arthur Flour claims it is a good imitation so I want to see if it really is better.
  • Pumpernickel Flour--Servia is a big fan of Pumpernickel bread. I have never tried to make it, but at Christmas dinner she and two friends decided to do a Pumpernickel day. Since on of the friends is responsible for getting me this flour, I decided I'd get a bag so we can make some proper pumpernickel.
So anyway, thanks to my friends who gave me this gift card. It will allow me to bake and blog for the next few months at least.