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, March 29, 2013

Experimenting with Bread

Dried apple and sunflower seed Sourdough Whole Wheat Bread

The kitchen is one of the places where humans learn about science for the very first time.  Experimenting in the kitchen has got to be the place where most of us first "get it": the concept of trying new things, of testing an hypothesis.

I remember when I was a kid, one of the first experiments I ever made was at breakfast.  I liked peanut butter on toast, and I liked cheese whiz on toast.  I hypothesized that they would taste great together on toast.

I was surprised by just how bad it tasted.  It was awful.  Each taste combined to bring out the absolute worst in the other taste.  I had discovered chemistry in my mouth.  And not in a good way.

But there was something about finding things out for myself that remained very satisfying, even if the meal itself was a flop.

Bread Experiments
Last Tuesday I was in a bit of a baking mood.  My wife was away: no one to annoy, so I messed up the counters in a kitchen frenzy.  I made a couple of loaves.

The first was an experiment with a sourdough that was just past its prime.  I often experiment with sourdough discard, wondering what to do with it.  I've made breads, and pancakes, and muffins, and quickbreads, and indeera-like flatbreads, and cookies and granola bars, and I've been unhappy with most of what I've made.  Perhaps the reason is, sourdough discard is a bit more sour than you might expect for these baked goods.

A few recent discard experiments:

Today I figured: if I was just going to make something like cookies with this discard, adding sugar, why not try adding some sugary substance to it to make a bread?  If I was just going to make something with baking powder, couldn't I just as easily make something with yeast?  I generally avoid adding sugar or yeast to my bread.  And I avoid using processed, white flour too.  But for this sourdough discard, I figured I'd try it.  Besides, we had some newly-made maple syrup on the counter.  I began tossing ingredients together.  LIke the maple syrup, I used whatever was at hand.  And I wasn't weighing anything.

  • Recently refreshed, but past-its-prime Sourdough Starter (~400g)
  • 1 c wwflour
  • 1 c organic white
  • ~1/c udad flour
  • ~1 c water
  • 10g salt
  • 10g yeast
  • ~ 1 teaspoon maple syrup

This was kneaded a bit and tightened, and then placed in a buttered tin.  It was to rise about 2 hours and then baked.  I baked it at 400degrees for about 45 minutes.  This loaf turned out fairly nice.  

One for the chickens.

Later, I made another version of the same recipe, just skipping the white flour.  It too was okay, but was a bit too moist, or needed a bit longer baking.  Or something.  One for the chickens.  Like most of the other cookies and flatbreads and pancakes that I've been playing with here.

Dried Apple and Sunflower Seed Bread
This is another bread I made on this day in the kitchen.  Later, when I had several finished loaves on the counter, and could pick and choose whichever one I wanted, this was the bread I mostly chose.  It was lovely. I froze one, and ate the one I applied the egg wash with great joy.
  • 200 pickle juice
  • 500 water
  • +100 water
  • 5 c wheat
  • 38g apple, dried
  • 170g sourdough
  • 100g sunflower seeds
  • One of the loaves is topped with egg wash following baking, sprinkled with a small amount of rock sugar, then placed in cooling oven to set.

Partial Rye Loaf with Onions and Garlic, making it up as I go
A couple of days later, I was still in a baking mood, so I made this onion and garlic Rye bread.  It largely started as an experiment in a high-hydration sourdough starter.  But from the beginning, I intended on adding onions.

The onions should have been caramelized a teensy bit more.  The garlic infused what was left of the olive oil that the onions were frying in with lots of flavour, and of course, this permeates the bread.  A very curious taste, it hits deep in the throat, as if it is a tonic for the thyroid.

  • 2 c water (228g x 2 = 456g)
  • 1 c wheat (~200g)
  • 1 tsp sourdough

This sourdough starter is at approximately 228% hydration!  It was mixed up and left on counter overnight, until foamy.

  • 730g water (~4c) 
  • sweet onion + garlic + olive oil = 300g
  • salt 22g
  • sourdough (all)= 656g+20g= ~676g

The sweet onion was fried in about 1 1/2 tbsp of olive oil while I chopped the garlic bulb.  The cloves were starting to sprout a bit, and I used the green sprouts too in the frying pan.  It could have used a bit more frying, but I always freak out when I see the onions start to stick to the bottom of the pan, and start backing off the heat.  The onions and garlic and olive oil cooled a little bit -- but not too much -- before I added them to the wet mixture.

I mixed the above ingredients before adding any flour at all.  Afterwards, I simply added flour, freshly milled, from either rye or wheat kernels.  My original intention was to use 1 c of rye, and 4 c of wheat, but because everything was so wet, I ended up using more.  I tallied the weights as I went, only totalling it when I was finished.

   added grains:
  • 1 c rye 185g
  • 3c wheat 675g (total 860)
  • 1/2 c rye 86g (total 946g)
  • 1/4c rye 43g (total 989g)
  • 1/4 c wheat 47g (total 1036)
  • plus 1/2 cup more (94g), x4 (376g) of wheat


Total Grains, freshly milled (figured from the above list of added grains):
  • 1 3/4 c rye kernels: 314g
  • 5 1/4 c wheat berries: 1098g

Total Flour: 1412g

If you add the wheat from the starter, the total flour of this bread is 1612g, and if you add the water from the starter to the total hydration, you get 1186g.  The total hydration is thus 74%.  Typical Tartine-style salt would be 1.8% of this total flour, somewhere around 29g, so the saltiness of this loaf is a bit low; but the extra flavour from the garlic oil and onions makes up for what might otherwise be blandness.  

This bread turned out nice, for an experiment.

Notes to Myself
  • All recipes are lab notes from other people's experiments.  
  • Figure out what the author of any given recipe is trying to prove, and then make your own assumptions.  That's what is fun about the kitchen.  There's always something else to prove.
  • Expect some failures.  Revel in failures.  You learn best through failures.  Failures are more memorable than successes.
  • Lab notes are supposed to provide you with methods and procedures that make what you've proved verifiable to others (or to yourself in other circumstances).  Since my bread rarely if ever turns out the same twice, does that make it less science, and more art?  But when did the definition of art become "hit or miss?"
  • How many variables are there to control for, in the baking of a simple loaf of bread?  Beyond what's already been counted, that's for sure.  There are always more variables to consider.
  • Bread is infinite science.  Like any other thing we can try.

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