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Artisan Breads Every Day and Sourdough Pizza

Over this past year, I have been testing recipes for Peter Reinhart's new book, artisan breads every day. The goal of this book was to find a way to get the full flavor that delayed fermentation offers, but to make the preparation time shorter. Or something. I don't know, because with the delayed fermentation plan, you mix the dough and then bake the next day. Not a lot of involvement in the middle.

But one thing that this book did offer was something along the lines of the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day style of making a bulk pre-ferment and then using a part of it each day for up to five days and baking a fresh loaf from that. This actually makes some really good French bread. One of my favorite recipes was the "same day french bread", which uses a pre-ferment to pull in extra flavor. It is called same-day because you don't count making the pre-ferment for some reason (maybe because you can also use it for the next 4 days). But that was some of the best French bread I have ever made. And in the process of testing these recipes, I learned the importance of the "stretch and fold" technique. This is the best way to strengthen the gluten in a very wet dough. Even a dough that has 70% or more hydration can become smooth and workable with the stretch and fold. After doing this, I found that my freestanding loaves gained 50% in height, rather than being so flat.

Part of the reason I though I would write this was that I chose to make some sourdough pizza dough from this book for our Friday night pizza night yesterday. Mmmmm. I do love good sourdough. The dough turned out to be very tasty, though I think next time I will leave out the honey since I think it made the crust brown too quickly. Our old oven died about three weeks ago and our new oven can bake at up to 550°F, which is about where you should be cooking pizza, but not having experience with those extra 50 degrees is making pizza baking interesting. As far as the rest of the family goes, they say they prefer the original Pizza Napoletana recipe from Peter's Bread Baker's Apprentice book. That is a darn good pizza dough recipe, so it is hard to beat it. But I have to mix it up every now and then or we wouldn't ever know if something better came along.

I will likely write more about Artisan Breads Every Day another time, as I find time to work through the recipes. Can anyone say Chocolate Croissants?

Duck!

We live not too far from a pond that ducks live in during the summer months. There are usually from 10-60 ducks there at any given time between April and October. In the spring and early summer we love to go down there and see the itty-bitty fuzzy ducklings. They don't usually get to come too close to the walking path because of the protective mothers, but as they get older, they get bolder. When we remember, we bring some bread heels or other grain product so we can feed them.

Not too long ago I burned four loaves of bread. Yes, Captain Bread makes mistakes too. We were upstairs watching a movie and I didn't hear the timer go off. Now when we do that, I set the timer on my phone so I will be sure to hear it. Anyway, they were overcooked by five or ten minutes and were a little bit too dark to be pleasant. The crumb was still soft and didn't taste burnt, so I took to cutting the crusts off each time we ate some. We ended up with about a loaf-sized pile of burnt crusts. I saved them so we could take them to feed the ducks. We went twice with our burnt offerings and the duck ate them up like candy.

Mary's Bread

This post is dedicated to my dear sister, Mary. She has five adorable, but picky-eater kids. She buys a bread that her kids would describe as manna. They eat it by the loaf at her house. When our family was at my parents house over Thanksgiving, I learned of this and was enlisted by Mom to help find a recipe that Mary could make on her own rather than buy.

Mary's Bread
Mary's Bread
Being the whole grains nut that I am, I could not condone a pure enriched flour recipe (which is what said manna contains). The ingredient listing was along these lines: enriched wheat flour, water, sugar, salt, yeast, potato flour. We tried to make something like that, but our first take tasted more like cotton than manna. I am pretty sure a bit of salt would have done wonders for it, but I think some whole grains could have added some more flavor too. The next thing we tried was the homemade buttermilk rolls recipe on the back of the Bob's Red Mill Potato Flour. But since that 24 oz. bag cost nearly $6, I thought we should try making it with mashed potatoes rather than potato flour. Sorry Bob. Anyway, the rolls tasted great. Lauren thought they tasted funny, but I thought they were fine. I am going to say any funny flavor was Mom's whole wheat or her powdered buttermilk.

Anyway, I used that recipe as a start for Mary's bread. It was oh so soft and very tasty. I figured this was as close to bread candy as you could get and still have whole grains in it. Anyway, I guess I have managed to sell my own brand well enough that my kids will eat anything that is labeled as "Daddy bread" and tell me it is delicious. This is the first step to making this bread. Talk it up. Let your kids know that Uncle Vernon slaved for days in a hot kitchen trying recipes to get the perfect one. You could even tell them that I baked a loaf to send you, but their cousins snarfed it up so fast that there was nothing left to send. Make them want the "Mommy bread". After you have them craving it, go ahead and bake it. There is no other smell like fresh baked bread. Even bread that tastes bad smells good in the oven. If it is something that your kids enjoy, you could have them help you bake it. This gives them a personal vested interest in the final product and should set a positive prejudice in their minds toward the bread. And if nothing else works, tell them it will make Uncle Vernon cry if they don't try it and like it.

Mmmm. Buh-licious bread!!

Pain a l'Ancienne
Pain a l'Ancienne
Finally a crust and crumb that I can brag about. This is a loaf that I started as part of a Toastmasters speech. The speech was about how to make the best pizza dough ever. Since for demonstration purposes, the pizza dough and the pain a l'ancienne dough are identical to start with, I figured nobody would notice. Really the only difference is that the pizza dough has slightly less water in it, which makes it less sticky to the point that you can handle it.

Happy birthday to me!

img_0695
img_0695
About a week before my birthday, Nicole and Nathan both came down with nasty head colds. I didn't need a crystal ball to figure out that this meant Lauren and I would likely be sick on my birthday. What we didn't count on was that Nicole and Nathan would still be sick as well. It turns out that by my birthday, my symptoms only included a sore throat in the morning, but Lauren was really not feeling so well.

I have found my struan

About one week after I checked out Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads book from the library, I decided to start my own wild yeast whole grain sourdough starter. I figured this was some easy business since people have been using wild yeast starters since the beginning of time. Oh, not so, my friends. My first try failed. I am going to point my finger at the vinegar bottle as the culprit. You see, I was trying to follow the 'Pineapple Juice Method' but I didn't have any unsweetened pineapple juice (or sweetened for that matter). The reason for adding the juice in the first place is to raise the acidity level of the mixture so the leuconostoc bacteria won't take over before the lactobacillus and wild yeast get a good start. I figured one acid was as good as the next and substituted a diluted acetic acid solution for the citric acid solution. After 10 days, all I had was a funny smelling slimy goop. I decided to start over. This time I used diluted lemon juice instead. After about 6 days I had definitely captured some wild yeast.

Best darn 100% whole wheat bread ever

I think the title says it all. After having read The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread, by Peter Reinhart, I really started making some tasty breads. I have tried the Pain a l'Anciene, the amazing Pizza Napoletana, Foccacia, Pugliese, Anadama bread, and Multi-grain Bread Extraordinaire. They were all very wonderful (and I plan on continuing to make them) but I was left feeling somewhat unfulfilled. For several reasons: I want to eat healthy, and too much white bread is not good for the body; I have more whole grains on hand than white flour and it would be nice to know how to make tastier breads with just the whole grains; people before G.A. Bockler survived without white flour, why can't I?

I found my answer when bumbling around on Amazon, looking for things to round out my wishlist. I was rating items so Amazon could give me better suggestions of things I might like (which it does a fairly poor job at), when I came across Peter Reinharts's Whole Grain Breads: New Techniques, Extraordinary Flavor. Wow! Does he ever deliver.