August 23, 2009

Sourdough Again

After over three months hibernation, the sourdough starter that I froze before we left for Ireland has been thawed, fed twice and made ready for action. The onset of ripe heirloom tomatoes led me to crave a sourdough sandwich with crisp bacon, ripe heirloom tomatoes and crunchy bacon.

Although there are dozens of regionally produced sourdough breads available to buy, without too much trouble, making my own means that I can add whatever I like to the dough and not pay a king's ransom for the results. The fact that the Straight Shooter Man recently gifted me with not one, but two...two! freshly milled flours added to the fun. He visited the Bale grist mill in Napa on a photo shoot and bought both the whole wheat bread flour and the spelt flour that they milled on site with old French mill stones.

I started with one of the first Sourdough Bread recipes I used when my starter was brand new last fall. Now that I have a better sense of how to bake bread with a starter, I only used the recipe for a general guide and quickly went down a different path.

The flour bowl contained a mixture of unbleached bread flour, 12-grain flour, whole wheat bread flour and spelt flour. For additions once the kneading was finished I lightly toasted walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds. Although that looked good, I also toasted a rolled grain mixture I use for muesli. It has barley flakes, triticale flakes, wheat flakes and oat flakes.

There was no addition in this bread of a sweetener like honey or molasses or brown sugar, nor any butter or milk.

Although it might be too late for this week, I'm sending this over to the host of Yeastspotting, that weekly wonderland of inspiration for yeast lovers, hosted this week by Susan (I think). Do go by and check out all of the wonderful entries.

Sourdough Multigrain with Seeds

2 cups all purpose unbleached flour
1 cup 12 - grain flour (or use additional wheat flour)
1/2 cup whole wheat bread flour
1/2 cup spelt flour
1 cup sourdough starter
1 1/2 cups lukewarm (70 degree F) water
1 tablespoon salt
additional bread flour as needed
1/3 cup sunflower seeds, toasted
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
1/3 cup mixed grain flakes (rolled grain), toasted
1/3 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

In a large bowl mix the all purpose flour, 12 grain flour, whole wheat flour and spelt flour together to combine.(I used a whisk to whisk them until combined.)

Put the starter, water and 1 cup flour mixture in the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk to make a smooth batter. Use the paddle or dough hook with mixer on a low speed to work in additional 1 1/2 cups flour mixture. If not using dough hook, change to dough hook at this point. Add rest of the flour mixture to the dough, 1/2 cup at a time with the mixer on a low speed. Let the mixer knead the dough for about 5 minutes, or until dough is elastic, or turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead in the rest of the flour then knead for 5 minutes until the dough is elastic.

Let the dough rest 5 minutes, then push down with the palms of your hands to spread it into a rectangle approximately 10 inches by 12 inches.

Mix the seeds, grain flakes and walnuts together. Spread half on the rectangle, leaving an inch uncovered around the edges. Roll up like a jelly roll, then fold the two open ends into the center of the dough roll. Again push down into a rectangle, spread the other half of the seed mixture over it, leaving an inch uncovered on all sides, roll in jelly roll fashion, fold in the ends and knead a minute or two to distribute the seed mixture even more.

Lightly coat a 4-quart mixing bowl with oil and transfer the dough to the oiled bowl. Turn the dough over once so that the top of the dough is lightly coated with oil. Cover the mixing bowl with a loosely applied layer of plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise at room temperature, until it has doubled in bulk, at least 8 hours, preferably overnight.

Press the air out of the risen dough and gently knead it until it is springy again, The dough will have a smooth, flexible 'skin', although some seeds may poke through.

Divide the dough in half. Working with one half at a time, shape the dough into 2 balls, tucking the cut edges of the dough into the center of the balls, and stretching the 'skin' over the surface of the dough balls. Try to do that without tearing the 'skin'. This is hard to do with all the seeds. If a few pop through, don't worry about it.

Put the balls of dough on a baking sheet lined with a silicone pan liner or bakers' parchment. Loosely cover the loaves with plastic wrap and let them rise until they are doubled in size, about 4 hours.

Put a baking sheet on the bottom rack of the oven and put a second rack one position above it. Pour a 1/2 inch layer of water into the baking sheet on the bottom shelf. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Just before putting the loaves in the oven, use a box cutter or a very sharp knife to cut shallow slashes in a cross over the surface of the loaves, about 1/8 inch deep. Bake the loaves until they are well browned and sound hollow when tapped, about 35 minutes. An instant read thermometer inserted into the center of a loaf will register 200 degrees F.

Transfer the baked loaves to a cooling rack and let them cool to room temperature before slicing.

Bakers dog news: Xam had stitches removed on Friday and he is like a young dog again, running around and even chasing his tail! Still has the grey muzzle and eyebrows to let us know the truth, but he has a spring to his step when we take walks that hasn't been there for months. Yay! Thanks for all your good wishes...I know it helped. Hugs, Elle

August 11, 2009

Doggy Update

Big smiles around here tonight. We heard from the vet and test results are cancer and all is OK. Xam will go back in a little over a week and get the stitches out. Right now he is getting antibiotics and lots and lots of affection and hugs!

August 08, 2009

Chunky Bread and Bread Bakers Dog Updates

If you have been following my other blog, Feeding My Enthusiasms, you'll know that I have had dental (gum) surgery and have been on soft foods for over a week. It gets old. It is also difficult to get up much enthusiasm for baking a nice, crusty bread when you won't be able to eat it. Doing better, but still mostly eating soft foods. By next week I'll be back to sterner stuff.

Today I did bake two nice loaves of fresh, fragrant bread because Sweetie really, really deserved some bread and this is the one he requested. He put up most of the signs for a Yard Sale that the P.E.O. chapter I belong to is holding today to raise money for scholarships for women. Over an hour last night and about the same this morning (staring at 6:30 am!) certainly earned him something special from the oven. He followed that up with about 6 hours of tree trimming and then chipping the branches trimmed, with liberal assistance from Straight Shooter from SF.

This bread is also by way of a thank you to Straight Shooter from SF because he returned from a photo shoot to Napa last weekend with some freshly ground wheat bread flour and spelt flour. I used a cup of the whole wheat flour in the bread and as I was kneading it I could really smell the sweetness of fresh grain.

This bread is a variation of the asparagus bread that the Bread Baking Babes made in June. I substituted 1/2 cup cubes, roasted zucchini for the asparagus. I used 1/2 cup fresh Swiss chard (cut in chiffonade, steamed, drained and squeezed dry, then measured) instead of the arugula in the original recipe. I used 1 cup of the freshly milled whole wheat bread flour and three cups of unbleached white bread flour. Because tomatoes are late to ripen but the basil is going gangbusters, I added 1/4 cup minced fresh basil. Zucchini doesn't have the assertive flavor that asparagus does, but the basil not only smells wonderful, but adds great herby taste to the bread. Otherwise the recipe is the same.

This makes a moist, flavorful, chunky bread, full of veggies, nuts and Parmesan. The crumb is soft and fairly tight and the crust is good, although not as good as last time when I used the sourdough starter. I did add steam a couple of times, but didn't open the oven door...already too hot in the house! The loaves are a bit on the flat side, partly because I think I let them rise too long for the second rise and partly because the plethora of veggies makes it hard to have a good 'skin' of dough to hold the loaf higher.

I'm sending this lucious bread over to Yeastspotting, one of the best places to see what other bakers are doing with yeast bread! Check it out!!

Update on Xam: He had surgery this past Thursday to remove a large mass back to the left of his spine by his tail. A fluid biopsy a few days earlier had shown infection, but not cancer, so we have our fingers crossed...won't hear until Tuesday. He is in good spirits and doesn't seem to have noticed the 30 stitches on his rump! He ate bits of this bread with great gusto!

Asparagus (Zucchini) Bread
(with Parmesan Cheese and Walnuts - 2 small loaves)

125 g green asparagus (I used 1/2 cup diced, roasted zucchini instead)
25-30 g rocket (I used 1/2 cup Swiss chard instead)
1/4 cup minced fresh basil
50 g walnuts,
50 g freshly grated Parmesan cheese
450 g strong bread flour (you can also use half whole wheat and half white or white whole wheat if you can get that) (I used 1 cup whole wheat bread flour and 3 cups unbleached white bread flour)
12 g fresh yeast or 1 1/4 tsp dry instant yeast
250-270 g water (whole wheat version may use a little more water)
25 g olive oil
10 g (sea) salt

Boil 3/4 liter of water with a pinch of (sea) salt. Clean the asparagus, set two of them aside, cut the rest into 4 pieces. Boil these pieces for 2 minutes in the water, scoop them out (so you can use the water for the rocket as well) and rinse under cold water (to stop them cooking).

Put the rocket in the boiling water for a few seconds (until wilted), drain and rinse under cold water and drain again. Press the water our of the rocket, chop it coarsely and but the asparagus into 1/4 inch (± 1 cm) long pieces, set aside.

Crush the walnuts coarsely and grate the Parmesan.

Measure the flour and yeast in a large bowl, mix in most of the water and knead for a few minutes (on low speed), add the olive oil and knead for 10-12 minutes. Add the salt and knead on medium speed for 5 minutes until very elastic.

Let the dough rest for 10 minutes. Work the asparagus pieces(zucchini pieces), rocket(Swiss chard), walnuts, basil and Parmesan in with care so that they're evenly distributed. The dough should be very supple and elastic, hence the long kneading time. For me the best way to incorporate all the ingredients is to spread the dough out into a large slap, sprinkle all the ingredients on and roll it up. Let it rest for 5-10 minutes, press flat and fold... rest 5-10 minutes press flat and fold. Shape into rounds.

Place the dough in a greased container, cover and let rise for about 2 hrs.

Divide the dough into 2 equal parts.
Make round balls, cover with a tea towel and let rest for 10 minutes.
Flatten the balls and fold into taut breads with slightly tapering ends. Lay one asparagus in lengthwise in the middle of the bread and press in slightly. Sprinkle with wheat flour and cover to rise for 70 minutes or until doubled. Before baking you can sprinkle a little grated cheese on the bread if you like (optional).

Preheat the oven (preferably with stone) to 460ºF.

Place the loaves directly on the stone. Spray with water (or poor some hot water in a metal container on the bottom of the oven that you preheated to create steam)
Lower the temperature after 5 minutes to 400ºF. Open the door after another 10 minutes to let some air in. Repeat twice during baking. (I must admit I forgot about this step)
Bake for 40-45 minutes and cool on a wire rack.