Sourdough with a Twist

A good sturdy sourdough is fabulous on its own, but it also serves nicely if you happen to be in a twisted frame of mind. Flavor twists such as olives, roasted garlic, or herbs are easy and keep things interesting. And then there are the simple twists of shape that add even more excitement to your life. Well, they add excitement to my life. It could be that I need to get out more.

For these crusty, twisty rolls, I tossed a bit of chopped fresh rosemary into a batch of Norwich Sourdough. With this pungent herb, about two or three tablespoons (4 – 5 grams) per kilogram of dough is enough to provide a distinct rosemary  flavor without overpowering.

The twist shape (tordu, if you’re feeling French) is a bit time-consuming, but this can be a good thing if, like me, you cherish hands-on time with your dough (did I mention I might need to get out more?).

Read on for shaping tutorial…

Seeded Multigrain Sourdough — It Is What It Is

This is a bread we made in class (way back in the halcyon bread days, before butter and sugar commandeered my educational life).

I modified the formula to use liquid instead of stiff levain. I removed the small amount of instant yeast, and increased the fermentation and proof times accordingly. I used a different seed mixture and slightly increased the amount of whole grain flour. I added an autolyse (rest period after fours are mixed with water and starter).

So is this the same bread we made in class? Here I turn to G. W. F. Hegel, who said, “Identity is the identity of identity and non-identity.” That clears things up nicely, doesn’t it?

[Read more...]

Notes from the Battlefront, and Semolina Sourdough with Fennel, Currants, and Pine Nuts

On a Friday night in late January, when most normal baking students might be relaxing and recovering from a hard week of cakes, buttercreams, meringues, and more cakes with a nice dinner, a bottle of wine, and maybe a movie, I had something else in mind. I caramelized eight bulbs of fennel,

and toasted more pine nuts and fennel seed than I’ll use all at once ever again. I fed my starter, building it up to over one kilogram, and called it a night.

On Saturday morning, I was back at school bright and early, adding my carefully-prepared elements to the mixer along with exactly the right amount of flour, semolina flour, olive oil, water, and dried currants to make 7.1 kilograms of bejeweled and fragrant dough.

Three hours or so later, I shaped the bejeweled, fragrant, and now very lively, fermented dough into fourteen pointy batards, tucked them snugly into their linen beds, and bid them a chilly good night at 46F.

I wondered nervously if these pointy batards could be trusted to settle down to a long, slow proof like they were supposed to. Would I return early Sunday morning to find them plump and energized from a peaceful nap, or would they be spent and deflated after a night of wild yeast partying with the loaves of six of my classmates in that unchaperoned retarder? And would they bake up into the deeply-colored, crusty-outside-soft-inside, savory-sweet loaves that I envisioned, or fall flat under the pressure?

The short answer is that when I pulled these loaves  out of the oven at 7:30 a.m., I was very happy, and satisfied that I was ready for battle in the form of SF Food Wars: Yeast Affliction!

[Read more...]

Mezze for Daring Cooks

The 2010 February Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Michele of Veggie Num Nums. Michele chose to challenge everyone to make mezze based on various recipes from Claudia Roden, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid.

Once in a while, it’s nice to catch a break.

I do love challenges, I really really do, honest, but sometimes it’s okay, when you realize that it’s the day before Daring Cooks posting day and once again you’ve procrastinated the month away, sometimes it’s okay to be able to say to yourself, “Relax, these are things you’ve made before. Stop hyperventilating, why don’t you, and just make supper.”

So, pita bread and hummus. Delicious and familiar. Does it count as Daring that I mixed it up, just a little, by throwing a roasted red pepper into the hummus, making half the pitas with sourdough starter instead of yeast (best pitas I’ve ever made, by the way), and adding some za’atar-spiked olive oil and my favorite middle eastern dip, baba ghanouj, to the platter?

No? Well, it was good, anyway.

[Read more...]

Sourdough Corn Bread

For Christmas Eve dinner I made chili and corn bread. Because we were ten people and I thought to save a little time on after-dinner clean-up, I made sourdough corn bread bowls to hold the chili. I mixed the dough at about 7 a.m. and the bowls were baked, cooled, and hollowed out just in time for dinner at 6 p.m. Uh huh, it was such a time-saver over washing ten dishes.

OK, so I may not win the Ms. Efficiency title this year, but everyone said these bowls were good. So good, in fact, that they ate them before going back for seconds on the chili, so we still ended up with a bunch of dishes to wash. But isn’t that, after all, what the holidays are about — baking and cleaning?

[Read more...]

The Difference Between Panettone and…

About three years ago, it came to my attention that my pressurized toilets were, literally, ticking time bombs.  Nothing bad happened, but it was only a matter of time. I knew this because the company was offering to replace those toilets with new (plain old, non-pressurized) toilets. Free shipping and everything. You’d have to pay for the plumber to install the new ones, but still, replacing them seemed like a no-brainer when you read things like “worst case, they explode and flood the house.”

A simple phone call and everything was arranged, no questions asked. My new toilets would be sent out by UPS within a week. All I had to do was sit back, relax, and hope my back end didn’t meet that worst-case scenario before those babies arrived.

Sure enough, a few days later I came home from work to find one of those UPS post-its on my front door. The gist was, “We tried to deliver your toilets but you weren’t home. We’ll be back tomorrow. Please be home.” Well, I wouldn’t be home tomorrow either, but surely this could be fixed with a phone call to the UPS Lady.

Me: Can you please leave my toilets in my driveway tomorrow?

UPS Lady: I’m sorry, ma’am, those items require a signature. We can’t leave them unless someone is home to sign for them. You have five business days to take delivery before we have to send them back.

Me: Can I waive that signature thing?

[Read more...]