All grains contain peptides that mimic morphine or endogenous opioid substances. This is where I deal with my latest loaf craving. Get your bread-based exorphin fix here.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Halloween Sweet Potato Bread

Halloween Sweet Potato Bread

A Tartine 100% Whole Wheat Bread or Integrale with some sweet potatoes for a Halloween colour treat.

The Sweet potatoes are roasted in the oven in foil for 90 minutes at 400 degrees F

267g of one sweet potato are mixed with the water for hydration

I started with 70+5% hydration, but I ended up adding more because the dough required it.

Half of the yam is broken up in the water

mixed with dough, you get flecks of orange

I added the other half of the sweet potato too, but left it in rough chunks

Chunks are added after the salt and another turn.

Squooshed in and then turned

One of the loaves had some paprika in the rice flour that lined the banneton -- to end up in the crust

Proofed loaves

The 2 Sweet Potato Loaves in the forefront; some everyday Integrale loaves behind it.

This bread is 80% hydrated, but some of that hydration comes from the sweet potato itself.  Then chunks of sweet potato are added for extra colour and sweet flavour.

 It is a bit strange, but this bread actually tastes quite good, toasted with blue cheese.

Notes to Myself
  • Happy Halloween

Inte-holy-grale 100% Whole Wheat Bread

Another Everyday Bread

My bread of choice lately.  This is just another 100% Whole Wheat Bread, the so-called Integrale or "Holy Grail" of Tartine Bread.


Made with my 100% Whole Wheat Wild Starter Culture, Whole Wheat flour, some sea-salt from Portugal, and water from our twice-filtered sandpoint.

a little bit of flax meal and rice flour on the crust

Simple and elegant.  Lots of flavour, tons of sustenance. 

A Variation of the Tartine Pizza
I tried again to make a pizza with the Tartine Country Bread dough, but I made a mistake and proofed it.  In re-reading the recipe from the recipe book, I discovered that the pizza dough is not proofed, but the pizza is made just after the bulk fermentation stage, at the time of dividing the dough.  And only 400g of the dough is used, i.e. just a little over 1/3.  So once again my pizza was too airy, too doughy.  I made one for me and one for my wife, and mine fell apart when transferring it to the stone.  Tasted good anyway.

I made it with some hard peccorino goat cheese, and some spinach.  I used spinach instead of nettle, and the goat cheese instead of the cheese called for in the original Tartine Pizza recipe.  Also added some mushrooms, some tofu-pepperoni.

All that was left of the pizza after charging up the old camera

Just at the moment when I was putting the pizza together, my camera died.  The focus is shot.  I suspect it is because dough got into the mechanism.  I have moved back to an inconvenient older, digital camera I have hanging around, but I am disappointed with the results.  And transferring the pictures to the computer is now inconvenient and takes too long.

Because of the camera situation I may be at an end to blogging about my bread.  Not that anyone cares.  I'm just doing this for fun, and when it ceases to be fun, I'll just stop.

Notes to Myself
  • You can quit blogging any time.  Maybe channel your energy into something more meaningful.
  • The Tartine Pizza isn't from proofed dough, just bulk-fermented dough.  
  • Make sure that there is lots of flour on it and on your hands before trying to put it on the peel or transfer it.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Everyday Breads

Everyday breads

The last time I baked, I made about 6 or 7 loaves in one day.  The details are a bit fuzzy now: I should have written it all down earlier, but here's what I remember.

1. Some millet bread
I added some millet flour (25%) to a whole wheat loaf made with Tartine methods and ended up with some very dense bread.

This actually was a boon, since my wife has been complaining that her jelly will not stay on the breads with the huge irregular holes.  Honey also passes through when that other bread is toasted, and the honey warms enough to flow.  So this millet bread turned out pretty well.  I can only eat 1-2 slices at a time though, it is so filling.

I cracked into the first loaf while it was still warm.

2. SuperSourdough Bread

This started with an experiment with pizza, of all things.  I had some old spent sourdough starter.  Not overly old, but past its peak: Tartine-style breads call for young, vibrant wild yeast cultures, and this was about 8-10 hours past that peak.  Still, I was once again tired of just tossing out my discards, and I decided to see if I could make a pizza with this one.  I made some dough with my already-mixed Tartine flour (a 50:50 mix of whole wheat and all-purpose that in the Tartine Recipes is used for starter.  I no longer use this flour anymore for my wild yeast starter, opting instead to keep just one starter going, and since my interest is whole grains, my wild yeast culture is a 100% whole wheat starter at 100% hydration, with which I am now baking all my bread.  Long story short: all this mixed flour was just sitting there no longer being used).  I mixed all of the sourdough (not just 20% of the dough, so it was probably 40-45% of the final dough), and I let it sit before adding the salt, and maybe even gave it a turn or two.  But then: I forgot about it until the evening.  So it had an extra long bulk ferment, at room temperature, maybe 12-14 hours.

I made a pizza with half of the dough and it turned out okay, but it was very sour tasting.  I didn't toss the rest of the dough out, though.  I refrigerated it, and again forgot about it for a day or two.  Suddenly, there it was, and I could now toss it out or do something with it.  I decided to bake it into a bread, knowing that it would probably turn out super-sour and even inedible, but something that perhaps the backyard chickens would eat and turn into eggs.

The sour dough was only out of the fridge long enough to shape and preheat the oven, so it was still quite cold when I put it into the dutch oven.  At the very last moment, I also decided to drop on top of it a bit of fermented millet that I had been keeping in the fridge, to use it up.  It too was past its prime, and too sour for ordinary use.  But if I was just feeding this to the chickens, why not put it on top?
the dough proofing

last minute idea was to add some refrigerated fermented millet on top of the proofed loaf when it hit the oven

fresh from oven, still in dutch oven

millet crust of a sour bread

looks crunchy: but it isn't

sour sour sour sour sour

can't see where the millet begins

weird loaf: different but not inedible

This dough even smelled sour when it was baking.  The finished loaf had a sour scent to it, and it looked awfully strange, with the millet on top giving it a very odd textured crust.

But wonder of wonders: the crust is not crunchy, it is soft.  And the texture of the loaves is gentle.  Yes, it is sour tasting, but the bread is not inedible.  I actually quite enjoy it for a change of taste.  And when you slice into it, you can't really see where the wheat dough ends, and the fermented millet begins.  A very odd loaf, I admit, but quite a fun experiment.

The chickens got none of it.

2. Olive Bread
One of my co-workers was complaining that I hadn't made any olive bread recently, so I made up a sourdough bread with 85% whole wheat and 15% all purpose wheat flours.  To this I just dumped in some drained Kalamata Olives that we had in the fridge (about 358ml).  So it wasn't the official Tartine Olive bread.
two different doughs bulk fermenting: olive is on the right

after dividing and baking: the olive loaves
the olive loaf I tried to give away and ended up cutting into myself: lucky to get this crumb shot

more holes than olives
I gave one loaf away to my yoga instructor and her spouse, and was going to give another one to my coworker.  But she wasn't working on the day I arrived with the loaf, and wouldn't be back for a couple of days.  I decided to slice into it myself and share it with whoever else happened to want to try some.  Very few of my coworkers even bothered to try it.

That's the thing, when I work with so many girls who are watching their figures and believe that not eating bread will help.  I can't give the stuff away.

I dragged the loaf home again, and my wife had a couple of slices.  There was just a fraction of the loaf left when I dragged it to work one last time a couple of days later and gave it to the co-worker who had originally asked for it.  She was grateful even for the tiny starting-to-stale crust that remained ("You mean I can take the whole thing?  Are you sure?").

3. Whole Wheat with 15% Rye
This was baked for me.  I figured I'd need a couple of loaves of this, to get me through a 3-day weekend of working 12 hour shifts.  But this bread is so filling, I really only required the one loaf.  Today, now that the weekend is over and I can sit down and write about the breads I baked, I sliced into the second of these loaves for the first time.  And it will last until the bread I bake today is ready to eat tomorrow, easily.

And that's the thing about whole grains, that still have all the fibre intact: you don't get fat on this bread, because this bread satiates.  Even with all the cheese and butter that I tend to use.  And I believe it is because the sense of fulfillment lasts a long time.  You don't feel hungry again after 20 minutes the way you do if you eat white bread.  You don't get such a spike in insulin, a glucose rush in the bloodstream.  It doesn't sit like a rock in your stomach, but you feel full longer.  You won't want to gorge on this bread.  But taste it, and you will want to eat it.

I try to tell my coworkers this, but some of them just don't get it.  And why would they?  They have no experience of it, because true whole grain bread is something that doesn't exist in the marketplace any more (unless you live within 10 minutes of an artisan baker, and lets face it, how many of us do?  And so often even artisan bakers won't make truly 100% whole wheat bread without some bread flour.  I've met with two different artisan bakers who told me "it is impossible to make bread without some all purpose or bread flour").

impossible bread
Furthermore, my bread is very suspicious looking to people who have never seen anything like it before.  And the nurses I work with are taught by the hospital's Lords of Infection Control that All Bacteria are All Harmful and must be eradicated with sterile procedures, frequent hand-washing, alcohol-based chlorhexidine scrubs, etc.  In the hospital we try to be careful but nevertheless superbugs are growing that are hyper-resistant to antibiotics.  Bacteria are evolving immunity to our drugs far faster than any antibiotic medicines can be made to destroy them, and the so-called superbugs especially thrive in hospitals that fastidiously remove with powerful cleansers their less evolved competition.

Bill Bryson writes of bacteria in his book, "A Short History of Everything":

"Given an adequate supply of nutrients, a single bacterial cell can generate 280,000 billion individuals in a single day... In the same period, a human cell can just about manage a single division. 

About once every million divisions, they produce a mutant.  Usually this is bad luck for the mutant -- change is always risky for an organism -- but just occasionally the new bacterium is endowed with some accidental advantage, such as the ability to elude or shrug off an attack of antibiotics.  With this ability to evolve rapidly goes another, even scarier advantage.  Bacteria share information  Any bacterium can take pieces of genetic code from any other."

All the cleaning and hand-washing (hand-wringing, more like) leads to one inescapable conclusion: we can't win against bacteria.  Not now, not ever.  So we might as well learn how to get along with it (them).  In fact, we couldn't live a moment without some of them (Bryson again: "Microbes... supply the greater part of the planet's breathable oxygen...").  We only hear about the negative effects of some of them.  Re-educating people about the positive benefits of some bacteria is sometimes difficult.

I tried to describe what was in my sourdough culture (wild yeast and lactobacilli bacteria) to a nurse that had recently graduated from nursing college.  She wanted to know where my sourdough came from and I told her that I grew it myself from a mixture of water and flour, allowing it to ferment.  I described the process, thinking she was fascinated by it, but I misread her interest.  When she finally exhaled and told me that it sounded disgusting, I realized that her curiosity was similar to people who slow down at car-wrecks to survey the human wreckage.

This is the kind of uphill battle I fight when I try to describe to my coworkers what is in my bread and why I believe it is good for them, and even that it is safe for them to eat.  My bread and the culture it is derived from is probiotic.  This is living in concert with the bacteria that can't be eradicated.  This is harmony with the unseen world around us.  This is symbiosis with life that is nearer the source of the evolutionary tree than we are, life that is related to us and will support and sustain us if we do not neglect it.

My bigger fear is that I will bring home from the hospital some antiseptic, anti-bacterial cleanser on my hands and inadvertently destroy my sourdough culture that I have spent years developing.

Sandor Katz said it first and best in "Wild Fermentation":

"Your life and my life and everyone's lives and deaths are part of the endless biological cycle of life and death and fermentation.  Wild fermentation is going on everywhere, always.  Embrace it.  Work with the material resources and life processes that are close at hand.  As microorganisms work their transformative magic and you witness the miracles of fermentation, envision yourself as an agent for change, creating agitation, releasing bubbles of transformation into the social order.  Use your fermented goodies to nourish your family and friends and allies.  The life-affirming power of these basic foods contrasts sharply with the lifeless, industrially processed foods that fill supermarket shelves.  Draw inspiration from the action of bacteria and yeast, and make your life a transformative process."

Amen to that, brother.

everyday breads

Notes to Myself
  • You can use older wild yeast starter if you don't mind a more sour loaf.  I like it fine for a change once in a while.
  • Millet that has been boiled, cooled, fermented and refrigerated turns into a sort of porridge.  Coating a loaf with this cold, damp porridge yields a rustic crust that is soft and sour.
  • 100% Whole Wheat Bread is possible.  Sourdough and frequent gentle folding during the bulk fermentation is key to developing the gluten.
  • Once in a while one likes to have a denser crumb, just to hold the jelly and honey.
  • Stay close to the source of life.  Believe in the culture that you develop from ingredients close at hand to make your bread. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

60% Rye with Coffee Hydration

60% Rye 40% WW loaf made with coffee, malt, and boiled rye kernels

Just like it says. 

It is a sourdough, made with a rye starter.

The liquid was mostly coffee: I asked for the darkest roast that the coffee shop had, and allowed it to cool to room temperature.  To bring the hydration up to 60%, I added a bit of water.  Another 100g of hydration in the form of 1/2 liquid malt, 1/2 water was added when I added the salt.

the starter

the coffee

cup of rye kernels, before boiling

some malt, some water

I wanted a dark, dense loaf, sort of vollkornlich

I did fold it about 3 times, once after adding the salt, once to add the rye kernels, and then once more before dividing.

Dough went into a buttered tin and it was allowed to rise 5 hours.  Just before putting into the oven, I painted the top with egg white and tossed a tiny bit of turbinado sugar on it.  I scored it and baked it with steam.

Not quite what I wanted.  I wanted a rich, dark loaf that had lots of chew, some coffee-like bitterness, and tons of flavour.  What I got -- what I often seem to get when I bake these denser ryes -- is a bread that is overly moist inside.  The knife drags through.  I keep wondering how bakers achieve a dark, dense crumb.  Is it from extremely long bakes, at low temperatures?  I want something like pumpernickel, but a bit less bitter.  My crumb is not dark enough, too wet, not quite right.

This bread is only mildly coffee-flavoured.

Just before posting this, I see that Nils Schöner is experimenting with bread again.  His "first attempt" at  the Russian Black Borodinsky Bread is closer to what I am trying to do I think.  But Nils is more careful than I am: he only published a tantalizing picture of a piece of bread.  I assume that he feels he hasn't perfected his recipe, so he does not yet give it to us.  I'll have to keep careful watch.

Meanwhile, having to look elsewhere for the recipe, I find The Fresh Loaf blogs have a forum for the Borodinsky bread, with several variations.  One variation suggests a very high initial temperature, then a long bake at low temperatures.  I'll have to look into this some more.  In the meantime, I have a lot of 60% Coffee-flavoured rye loaf to get through.  Perhaps some of it will end up as altus in another bread…

Notes to Myself
  • Look into the Borodinsky Bread to see if this is the sort of loaf you want.
  • The Turbinado sugar on top of the loaf turned it a rich, bittersweet dark brown, and that is sort of the taste I was going for throughout.  Is it possible that the dough itself requires more sugar, or more roasted flavours?
  • Try boiling and then roasting the rye kernels.  I have never heard of anyone malting rye kernels, but why not?  Sprout them and then dry them and roast them, see what happens.
  • Once upon a time, this loaf would have been good enough for me.  Now it isn't.