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Friday, October 14, 2011

Tomatillo Salsa Verde Bread

Tomatillo Salsa Verde Bread

Since the success of my recent sourdough garden tomato breads (50% ww version here and 100% ww version here) I have been curious about whether a Salsa Bread is possible.  Today I dumped some of our home-made Tomatillo Salsa Verde into some whole wheat sourdough bread dough to see what would happen.

A lot of people don't like tomatillos in their garden, because they are slightly opportunistic, and keep coming up even if you don't replant them.  And a lot of people don't know what to do with them.  Unlike tomatoes, they require a bit more work (you have to peel them from their outer, paper-lantern husk), they have quite a different texture (waxy on the outside, sort of soft spongey on the inside -- they remind me of bread, in a way), and they are not as versatile as tomatoes in recipes.

Linda of Tree and Twig blog has recently shared a tomatillo salad recipe that looks good, and I will try soon.  But simply Everyone has a tomatillo salsa recipe, and tomatillos fulfill a big niche in our own salsa, a Salsa Verde.  We've been making a Salsa Verde with tomatillos for several years now, and every year it is a bit different because the recipe is just the taking off point.  In effect, you use what you have.

The Tomatillo Salsa Verde Recipe With Which We Start:

  • 5 1/2 c chopped tomatillos, about 900g/2pounds
  • 1 c chopped onions
  • 1 c chopped hot peppers
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped cilantro
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 c white vinegar
  • 1/4 c lime juice

We use an onion chopper for our onions, and it works well for the tomatillos too, so once they are husked and washed, this goes fairly quickly.  Everything is combined in a big saucepan, it is brought to a boil, stirring frequently, and it is allowed to boil down to the desired consistency.  We boil about 10-20 minutes.  Then the jars are canned/preserved as usual.

But it is hard to say precisely how much of any ingredient we are actually using.  Jazz musicians have been heard to say "good enough for jazz!" when they hit a note that to our ears might seem a bit "off" -- but as Thelonius Monk said, "There are no wrong notes in jazz."  Any note can be used, incorporated, mistakes are not mistakes but serendipitous sounds that can lead to incredible improvisations.  Well, in the same way, we start with a recipe but add various ingredients and say, "Good enough for salsa!"  (The jazz reference may be confusing to those who dance salsa or play salsa music.  The jazz reference was a metaphor.  When I say "good enough for salsa", I am not disparaging salsa music or dance, just as I didn't intend to slight jazz.  But I am referring to the literal salsa, i.e. the sauce made from a recipe, not salsa the dance or salsa the music, which may have specific rhythms that cannot be changed and have it remain salsa)

This year I added about a third again more tomatillos to our salsa because we simply had to use them up or waste them.  And why would anyone want to waste them?  You can't compost them or your whole garden would be tomatillos.  I don't think the seeds are destroyed by anything, not even the high heat of compost or even passing through a chicken's stomach.  And if you add more tomatillos, you must add more onions, more hot peppers, more garlic, more vinegar, etc. etc.  This year, the limiting factor was lime juice.  My wife tasted the boiled down ingredients and pronounced it could have used more.

The Bread
The jar of tomatillo salsa that I opened had about 463g of material in it.  I didn't measure the ratio of juice:matter that is, but considered the whole thing "hydration".  To this, I added 337g of water to bring the total to 80%.  However, I did separate the solids and used juice and water initially for the first mixing.  But I had to add the solids to get it all moist enough to mix together.

Tomatillo Salsa Verde and a bit of water added to dough

The Salsa Verde chunks are part of the hydration

Salt added after autolyse

expanstion of dough during proof

Wicker design

Another 5% water was added with the salt after a short autolyse to bring the total wetness to 85%.

The dough was folded and turned Q30min for 4 hours with wet hands and a wet scraper.  Especially in the early stages, this dough had a propensity to tear rather than stretch.  I was tempted to add more water, but didn't (except for the water that was on my hands).  After 4 turns, though, it began to get a bit more flexible.  It never did get silky, however.  I'm thinking that the vinegar in the fluids didn't sit too well with the yeast, or it didn't give the gluten what it required to make nice long strands.
The bread turned out quite all right, except for a problem I had with the dough sticking to the basket when I inverted it onto the peel, prior to scoring and sliding it into the oven.  As usual, I'm not using the right baskets, I'm still using inexpensive wicker.  This time I assumed my dough was not so sloppy that I required a cloth liner.  I was wrong.  But even though one of the loaves is terribly misshapen, it is still bread.

But the taste is unusual.  There is something unexpected about it, as if my taste-buds, encountering salsa, were wanting corn rather than wheat.  Perhaps the salsa idea would go better with an Anadama type of loaf.  The scent is rather strong and vinegary and the hot peppers dominate the taste.

It does taste okay toasted with a bit of herbed soft cheese.

While I do not think that this bread is really wonderful, my wife liked it, and a co-worker who tried it liked it well enough. 

I gave the better loaf to a friend to try.  Perhaps I should give them an ESAS-like subjective scale to rate the various breads I'm giving them.

Notes to Myself
  • Try an Anadama loaf with some salsa, the next time you are compelled to add salsa to a bread dough.
  • Try pouring off the liquid and using it sparingly. You won't need much. Use water instead, and add the salsa matter on the second turn. At that time, you can add a bit more of the juice. Let the gluten develop first.

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