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.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Rye Bread Comparison Loaves

Chicken is peaking in the window at the bread cooling on the table
Two different 70:30 Rye breads

These are 70:30 rye:ww breads.  They were bulk fermented for 8 hours overnight with no salt.

In the morning, I added the salt and a bit more water, bringing it to about 80% hydration.  After an hour, I divided the dough and put it into tins.  They then sat 4 hours until baked.

There are 2 loaves of each kind of dough, both are 70:30 rye:ww flours.  But one of them was 1/2 chops.  I used my new spice grinder to grind up 350g of rye kernels, and 150g of wheat berries (half of the flour, for one of the doughs).  I thought I ground them to the flour stage, but there were still some small chunks in the flour.

The kernels can be ground up 1/4 cup at a time.
  • 1/4 cup of wheat kernels makes about 50g of chops.
  • 1/4 cup of rye chops makes about 32g of chops.

I was hoping with this baking to see if I could duplicate the excellent results I had with a longer fermentation time of a rye bread.   I just wanted to see if I could move the lengthening time of fermentation to the earlier bulk fermentation end, instead of the later proofing stage.  I don't think the results were quite as good as the last time.

In this experiment I was also trying to see the effect of adding chops to a loaf (vs not adding chops).  You can see that the volume of the one with chops is somewhat less.  I found the loaf with chops staled a bit quicker too.  I think that when fresh, it had the superior (nuttier) taste.

Unfortunately, I burned the roof of my mouth on a baked potato the same day I made these, and I found these breads extremely hard to eat because of it.  I couldn't taste much.  These are hard, quickly staling breads.  Both the burn in my mouth and the bread took about a week to get over.

Notes to Myself
  • I could not for the life of me understand why these breads staled far quicker than the last rye bread I made.  As I cast about for a reason, I picked up Daniel Wing and Alan Scott's book "The Bread Builders: Hearth Loaves and Masonry Ovens" once again, and read there the section on Stale Bread (p. 105 etc.).  This is an excellent discussion, more complete than I have ever seen anywhere else, collecting science from lots of studies that have sampled hydration of crumb and crust over time, and analysis of the structure of the crumb.  But while it suggests some reasons why my loaf staled quickly, it also hinted that because of its sourdough leaven and its wholegrain goodness, it shouldn't have staled so fast.

    Suggestions gleaned from the discussion as to why it may have staled so fast:
    • it was over-fermented
    • it was baked too hot or too long

No-mind WW Sourdough Bread

Because of the recent minor bread-disasters, and because I required some bread to take with me while working a weekend, I had to bake again fast on the heels of my previous loaves.  I used my zen no-mind to make a couple of 100% whole wheat sourdough loaves.

That just means I no longer have to think about it to make these breads.

The recent minor bread-disasters: (1) my wife turned off the oven while I was baking my whole wheat bread, and the dough flattened out on the stone before I realized it and turned it on again.  That bread turned out to be a dense, unevenly baked loaf, but it tasted fine.  Just looked funny, and not good enough to give away to my friend who has come to expect his bread. (2) the pizza dough was overly fermented, so to use up the dough I just made a couple of smaller loaves with the leftover dough.  I thought I hadn't taken pictures of it, but here it is, sans crumb-shot.

No mind bread
Notes to Myself
  • Zen is a difficult topic for me.  I have struggled with trying to understand it intellectually, but realize that this is a fool's errand.  There are conflicting reports in literature about zen, and it goes as deep as any koan: it is the difference between "no mind" and "mindfulness".  Zen embraces both.  Satori seems to be a state that is beyond mind.  You achieve it with attention to no-mind.  Mindfulness of no-mind is a contradiction.  It is said that beginners can sit in zazen and achieve satori in an eyeblink.  But zazen is practice enlightenment.  You sit and you sit and you sit, trying not to wobble.  Eventually you aren't wobbling, you are just sitting.  And then you realize you are just sitting.  And that is the enlightenment.  All is clarity, the mind doesn't stand in your way when you are sitting. 

    And does one achieve this mindfulness in the beginning?  In the beginner's mind, all attention is scattered.  With effort, the attention can be drawn back to the singleminded attention.  But what is required is Wu Wei, effortlessness.  It can't be achieved with effort.  So the beginner who has brought her mind back to focus then allows it to drift again.  And the sitting continues, but the thoughts are elsewhere.  Eventually the sitting comes to consciousness again.  But what is the mind attending to?  What is the purpose of all this sitting?  It is merely to sit.  And be mindful.  Of No-Mind.

    Baking bread is a meditation.  It is what happens when we are mindful, it is what happens when there is no-mind.  It happens.  We are part of the process, but it is not necessary for us to internalize it.  It happens at arm's length.  It happens when touch it.  In the beginning we will it to happen, but in the end it happens without our will's involvement.  Bread appears, and we have made it.  We were mindful of the process once, but now, like breathing, it is second nature.  We can be mindful now of no-mind.

    But like in yoga, where we attend to breath even though it is autonomic, now we also attend to the bread-making process.  We don't do it on autopilot, we stay involved.  Time stretches, it elongates like dough.  There is a space beyond the moments that we conceive as joined together. That window onto space looks out over eternity.  Windowpane shines through these moments.  Stretch it out.  There is more here.  Attend to it.  Eternity in each fold and stretch.

    The bread, it very nearly makes itself.

    But you never remove yourself from yourself because there is no self.  You become the bread.  The bread becomes you.

    "This is my body, broken for you."

Yoke Mardewi's Sourdough Chocolate Cake

For Valentine's Day this year, I made my sweetie a Sourdough Chocolate Cake.  Sounds awful? Well, not necessarily.

 I was intrigued by the picture of the cake in Yoke Mardewi's book "Wild Sourdough: the natural way to bake." Intrigued as well by her description of the cake as having no detectable sourdough taste, not even by her young daughter.

Where do you want to go today?

Chocolate cake: a no-brainer

Unfortunately, it achieves this by being heavy on the fats and sugar, and extreme on the chocolate.  I guess I should expect that from a cake -- it is why I prefer bread after all.   I should mention at the outset that my wife bakes excellent cakes (usually from her family's German tradition, cakes like Schwartzwälder Kirschtorte or Haselnusstorte) that are not overly sweet, and are as far away from 'Duncan Hines' as you can imagine (she has also mastered pies from my mother's Scottish tradition, but that's another story).  So the bar is set rather high for cake in our household.

Yoke's Cake really had to be something extra special to compete. And in the final analysis, it wasn't the cake that won my wife's heart, but the fact that I had merely tried to make something special for her on Valentine's Day.  

The Recipe
Yoke's recipe is simple, and most people who enjoy North American Style cake will probably like the results. It is better than boxmix cake or store-bought cake (I don't think its as good as homemade ordinary cake, and certainly isn't in the same league as my wife's cake, which beats anything I have had anywhere).  I used spelt flour.
mis en place -- or is it?


more fats

sugar and cocoa: wait, wasn't I supposed to add apple?

Unfortunately, I can't recommend this recipe for beginning bakers (I am an absolute rank beginner when it comes to cake). There are items in the Ingredients List that are never mentioned in the Method section, and things in the Method section that never appear in the Ingredients List.   I hate that.  I had my apple all sliced and weighed and turning brown and didn't see where or when or even if I should add it.  There was mention of adding cream in the Method section but I hadn't set any out because it wasn't listed in the ingredients.  I left it out, assuming that Mardewi had meant to suggest it as an alternative and had simply forgotten.

My wife came home when I was just about to melt the chocolate for the ganache frosting, and she stopped me. "That's way too much chocolate," she said, seeing I was about to use 7 oz of chocolate (as the recipe called for) for my cake that was in a 9x9 pan.* "Use less than half that amount of chocolate."  I used half, and my wife was right, it doesn't require 7 oz of chocolate.

But I added the apple shreds where my "vast experience" in baking cake told me I might (I guessed), and I tried to keep the mixing to under three minutes like Yoke repeatedly warns. 

shredded apple added as an afterthought?

My cake didn't see an appreciable rise in the time frame Yoke suggested, but I suspect it is likely a bit colder here in Canada in February than her kitchen in Australia, so we won't hold that against her.  She said it would also rise in the oven, and I didn't see that (although the top did crack a bit, so I suppose there was some action underneath).  Still, the crumb turned out not too bad for a first try.

Yoke Mardewi has published two books on Sourdough Baking, and I have the first.  There are a few mistakes in the recipes in the first book, but I still find the book inspiring and full of ideas on how to use up my sourdough starter.

The cake sat for about a week before we (mostly I) got through it.  I preferred it a bit staled.

But I still prefer bread overall.

"I don't care for dark bitter chocolate," my wife told me.
And after all these years, I learn something new about her.
I thought all Germans preferred dark chocolate.  I'm guilty of racial profiling.
Notes to Myself
  • Maybe you can make a sourdough version of Schwartzwälder Kirschtorte.  But would you even want to try?
  • * Yoke's recipe calls for a tin 2" x 4" x 2 1/2" deep (20cubic").  That just seems wrongBut even when you correct her cm to inches conversion and make it 2.8" x 4.3"x 3.1", her volume is only 37.3 cubic", while mine was somewhere between 81cubic" (1" deep) and 121.5cubic" (1 1/2" deep).   My mixture would not have fit into a pan the size she recommends.
  • I'll be pretty leary before trying another of Yoke's recipes.  I suspect there are more mistakes in the book, and I'll have to be careful.  I still love the pictures and the ideas in the book, and if she were anywhere nearby, I'd want to take one of her classes.  I bet she could make it fun.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Adding Rye Chops and Cracked Wheat to Whole Grain Breads

Rye Chop Bread and Cracked Wheat Bread

Recently I obtained an electric spice grinder.  The box said that it could grind spelt, so I felt that it might be also appropriate to grind (small) quantities of rye kernels or hard wheat berries.  Adding cracked wheat to breads and sourdough rye chops can really lend a bread a lot of flavour.  And I was curious to see how the tiny machine would fare when grinding these hard kernels all the way into fine flour.

The first Cuisinart grinder I got had to be returned.  It simply did not work at all.  The second one seems to work okay -- although I wouldn't dare try to grind more than 1/4 cup of hard kernels at a time.  It doesn't really take all that long to grind that much -- about a minute and a half, depending on how fine you want to chop it up -- but I think that much more volume than the 1/4 cup would really tax the tiny high-speed engine.

I have a couple of old hand-grinders (originally coffee grinders) that do a much better job grinding grain kernels, but they do require some extra time and muscle power, and I find them a bit awkward to use.  It is difficult to support the base and crank them at the same time.  I have heard that the excess speed that these electric grinders use will have a negative effect on the kernel's oils.  Could be: I don't know.  But I do know that when you take the lid off, there is a lot of very fine dust floating around inside the unit.  The scent is faintly electrical, faintly oily.  Has some of the protein been denatured in the high speed crushing?

I trialled a couple of different sourdough loaves:

(1) A 100% rye bread with 1/2 cup of rye chops that had been sitting in sourdough all night ...


2)  A 100% whole wheat bread with 1/2 cup cracked wheat that had been sitting in sourdough all night.

Overproofed and baked in a too cold oven: no rise.
"Arggh.  Who turned off the oven?!"

The loaves were overproofed, because we went out visiting and didn't get back for several hours (about 4 hours after I would have baked them, had I been home).  This actually benefited the rye loaves, and I count them among the very best rye loaves I've ever baked.  Unfortunately, the whole wheat loaves suffered badly.  They may have been all right, but I was trying to fit the baking cycle in between my wife's use of the oven for dinner, and she inadvertently turned off the oven in mid baking of my loaves, thinking she had left it on.  Arggh.

The Rye Loaves plumped up extra big after an extra 4 hours of proofing

Pizza Finale
We didn't get home soon enough for me to make it, so I refrigerated the pizza dough I had been putting together, the same time as the above loaves.  The next day I made some sourdough pizza, and I wasn't impressed. 

I only used about 1/3 of the pizza dough, and later on I made a couple of smaller breads from that same batch, rather than repeat the awful pizza. 

Those loaves contained all purpose flour, so I didn't want to eat them.  Blecch.  My wife gave one away.  I think the chickens got the other one.  I don't think I even took a picture of them.

Notes to Myself
  • A much longer proofing of rye dough can actually benefit it. Try it again, leaving the dough in the tins for as much as 12 hours, to see if you can repeat this serendipitous loaf.
  • Remind wife not to turn off oven when you are baking.
  • What else can you grind up with this little spice blender? Hey: why not try spices?

Friday, February 24, 2012

A Day with 4 Loaves

I'm a bit behind in blogging my breads.  On this day I made 4 loaves, the first 2 a 100% whole wheat sourdough and the second two were made with 17% rye.  As usual, I gave away half of what I made.

Again, I am not really learning anything new here, I just required some bread and I like these loaves.

I keep reading and re-reading the book "The Bread Builders"
Someday... I will have a woodfire oven in my own back yard!

Notes to Myself
  • How difficult it is to find someone who will take these breads I bake.  Most people (my family included) are simply not interested.  They would much rather have breads that are somewhat mushy.  Thank goodness I have one friend who is not afraid to try my loaves.  How nice it is to have someone to help me eat some of my bread.
  • My 300th blog posting.  Huh.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

25% Rye Sourdough with WW

Even before the last Quinoa loaves were finished, I made a couple of 25% rye wild leavened loaves.  This is my typical everyday bread anymore.  I just love the taste of it -- lots of flavour, not too sour, slightly bran-bitter, with a gently sweet aftertaste.

But I'm still throwing away some sourdough once in a while.  I would like to get to the stage where there is no waste at all.  Where one only uses what one needs.  These days, I bake too frequently because I want to use up the sourdough I'm making.  And then my wife gets angry because there are all these leftover crusts everywhere.  Sure, we feed it to the chickens.  But she wants me to slow down with my baking, and I want to speed up to keep up with my sourdough culture.  I am still struggling to find the balance.

With this loaf I am not learning anything new.  Just striving to put the bread into my life schedule (or vice versa).  As usual, I'm giving away half the bread I make, to a friend.

These hands that daily hold the hands of the dying:
Today they also mold dough that will become bread for the living.
Again and again I behold the mystery at hand.

It is too easy today to wax religious about the bread I am baking.  My thoughts turn to God and the ways we may know God.

Notes to Myself
  • More rye breads please.  I feel safe with rye.  I feel nourished, in body and spirit, when I eat rye breads.  I'm a junkie for wheat exorphins, but I feel nourished by rye.
  • Recently I thought I read somewhere (was it in a dream? I have tried to find that passage again in one of the several books I haphazardly take up and put down, but to no avail) that there is no grain that is poisonous for humans.  Somewhere I thought I read that all grains contain no human toxins.  But that simply isn't true.

    I love to pick up books like G.P. Chapman's "The Biology of Grasses" and graze through it.  Books like this show that grasses have been existent on earth for 70 million years, far longer than humans of course, and yet they remain in evolutionary flux, and highly adaptable to climate, terrain, and the influence of humans who are such a relatively new force on their environment.  I love to read the story of how we still struggle to put these grasses and their seed-grains into some sort of evolutionary, systematical categorical framework, to better understand and appreciate them, and I love how grasses so often thwart our ordering of families, genera, species.  They are like little ubiquitous zen koans, breaking apart our organized-mind way of thinking with their absurdities.

    Today while trying to
    find the passage I thought I had read about grasses being benign for humans, I instead came across a few paragraphs about one grass in particular that has long been notorious for its toxin.  It is darnel  (Lolium temulentum, also known as cockle, or the Biblical tare).  When young, it looks similar to wheat.  The wiki says that ingesting the seed makes one feel "poisoned with drunkenness and can cause death" (although another source says that while it has killed animals as big as horses, there have been no reported human deaths).

    The mechanism of the darnel toxin remains a mystery, or a curiosity.  Some say the seed contains the alkaloid
    temulin; one also reads of a fungus that invades the grain. 
    "The symptoms are those of a deliriant nerve poison. There is confusion of sight which was known in very early times and is mentioned by classic writers. Further symptoms are dilation of pupils, giddiness, drowsiness, staggering and stupefaction. Trembling is followed in some cases by convulsions. In others vomiting and purging may take place. The respiration is laboured and the pulse slow. Inflammation of stomach and intestine have been observed."  - Poisonous Plants
    I imagine women sitting together, chatting happily as they sort grain after a harvest, from the very earliest agricultural settlements, separating tares from wheat, prior to milling the grain.  "By its fruit you shall know them."  Everyone knew what this image meant.  The black grain of the tare is obvious and simple -- but tedious and time consuming -- to separate by hand.  All of this was known by humans working with grains, with cereals, from the very beginning.  We have lost so much knowledge because we work now with processed goods.  Ask anyone today what "cereal" is, and they will point you to the aisle in the grocery store that contains boxes of processed grain products.  We have even forgotten what cereal is. 

    I think that we are still struggling with finding a mythology that we can believe in.  The story of Ceres is a tale told to children, that explains a mystery.  But it is a mystery we are no longer cognizant of.  Instead, we tell our children tales of Santa Claus -- a myth that answers a wholly irrelevant and concocted mystery.  For real world problems, we look now to science.  But the story of the evolution of grain (and humans who share the same DNA) is likewise a tale told to children.  We want explanations.  So we give them to ourselves. 

    The truth is beyond what our feeble minds can handle.  But when you touch again the actual grain, and grow it, and transform it into bread yourself, you are once again taking part in the mystery, a mystery that has been reenacted through generations of humans beyond counting.  And on some level, at the level of touch or on the somatic plane, you finally "get it."

    That is the Nirvikalpa Samadhi I am after.  To take the bread, and know it, and say "I am that."  No separation between subject and object.  "Take and eat." 

    Every mouthful a memory.