Altus Enhanced Whole Grain Hearth Loaf

Altus is made by cubing old bread and soaking it in water until it completely hydrates. After a few hours, this is then added to the soaker when that is made.

In my case, I used the butt ends of the rye seigle from the other week.

Rye seigle ends cut and soaked

Rye seigle ends cut and soaked

final dough flour & caraway seeds

final dough flour & caraway seeds

starter and soaker

starter and soaker

Too wet to cut into chunks

Too wet to cut into chunks

Note the commercial yeast bubbling away, there, ready to help.

With enough extra flour it came together

With enough extra flour it came together

My batards are getting better

My batards are getting better

Center cut and baking

Center cut and baking

The halo effect is from the steam bath in the oven

My most picturesque loaf so far

My most picturesque loaf so far

A teensy bit under-cooked, but still good

A teensy bit under-cooked, but still good

Whole Wheat Hearth Bread

My wild yeast starter is behaving much better* The rye seigle was a bit sweet for my taste, so I left the honey out of the recipe for the whole wheat hearth. This recipe came together more or less effortlessly and the result is delicious.

A story in photos:

whole wheat soaker, Friday night

whole wheat soaker, Friday night

whole wheat starter, Saturday morning

whole wheat starter, Saturday morning

soaker, Saturday evening

soaker, Saturday evening

starter, Saturday evening

starter, Saturday evening

soaker, epoxy ready

soaker, epoxy ready

starter, epoxy added

starter, epoxy added

commercial yeast, final booster

commercial yeast, final booster

smooth combination

smooth combination

get a sense of how it feels

get a sense of how it feels

rest until doubled

rest until doubled

Do Not Punch Down or De-gas at this Point !!!

form a batard

form a batard

bake until deep brown

bake until deep brown

gorgeous texture

gorgeous texture

 

 

 

* It is behaving so well, it bubbles and grows in the refrigerator !!!

Rye Seigle

A seigle is a loaf that is more than 50% rye. This is going to be  a tale told mostly in photos,

whole wheat mother starter

whole wheat mother starter

soaker, Sunday night

soaker, Sunday night

pre-ferment, Monday morning

pre-ferment, Monday morning

yeast, molasses, honey

yeast, molasses, honey

epoxy method

epoxy method

kneading

kneading

one hour of rising

one hour of rising

punched down

punched down

waiting to rise again

waiting to rise again

panned as a batard

panned as a batard

a good start

a good start

flattened a bit

flattened a bit

looks like bread

looks like bread

a bit dense, but very tasty

a bit dense, but very tasty

So, the wild yeast starter I borrowed was mixed to a very different formula from Peter Reinhart’s and as a consequence, my pre-ferment didn’t rise and grow over the course of the day as it should. Thus, there was a struggle to get some levin action during the final mixing and the final dough is a bit dense and a bit too moist. But as a first attempt at very serious whole grain baking, I feel good about the results.

The good news is that I refreshed the mother over night and it is now very (very) active* so future loaves should be much less of a clutch effort.

 

 

 

 

* In fact, it may or may not have exploded all over the inside of a cabinet over night.

The Staff of Life

First, a confession: I’m a lousy baker.

The aspects of my personality that make me a good improvisational cook (the premise of this blog up to this point) are also the aspects of my personality that make me pretty terrible at following precise instructions — which is what baking requires. I always want to fiddle, tweak, exchange, approximate… and that doesn’t create consistent results.

But life often creates moments to learn that sometimes a challenge is the very thing we need to learn some balance.

I’m spending a few weeks visiting family for the long holiday season, and this happened to coincide with my mother discovering flavored balsamic vinegars and infused olive oils. She picked up a sample set of each, and wanted some plain bread for dipping — all the bakery bread in the house wasn’t plain. So, knowing she was very busy, I grabbed a simple French bread recipe from the Food Network website and did my best to stick to the book to produce a couple loves of plain white bread.

The results were shockingly good.

She intended to host a holiday dinner this past Saturday evening, and so with some minor tweaks I turned out some very nice herb infused loaves for the occasion.

Meanwhile, I’d been reading Peter Reinhart’s “Whole Grain Breads”. Why? The truth of the matter is, I don’t eat very much bread. I don’t keep any in the house day to day. Yes, I have sandwiches or burgers if I’m out and about, yes I like pita when I’m at my favorite Lebanese cafe, but I’m certainly not a dinner roll kind of guy nor a morning toast guy. I tend to think of bread as “empty starch” calories and while I do exercise a fair bit, I don’t enjoy exercising enough to tip the cost/benefit scale of enjoying the eating of bread every day. But, if I could start making a whole grain loaf at home, especially if I could make it vegan so that I could even eat it during Lent, then perhaps I could be getting some additional fiber and vitamins into my diet while also filling some of my time with an ancient human activity.

And I have to say, the idea of having bread to give to people has been rattling around in my head for some years now. So, motivation for this project has been unexpected, swift, and definitive.

In the interest of time, my mom acquired some wild yeast starter from a friend, and yesterday we picked up bags of whole wheat and rye flours. Last night a soak of flour and water was established and this morning a portion of the mother was enlarged into a ferment which should spend the day slowly growing (hopefully). Later tonight, they will come together and be baked into a whole grain rye loaf. If all goes well.

When I get back to Houston, I’ll be growing a mother from scratch (assuming I can’t figure out how to get this one home intact) and continuing on my bread baking journey. I’ll be posting here with photos and updates — but not recipes as for now they’re coming from Peter’s book, which I paid for, and I don’t think he wants me giving them away for free.

Stay tuned.

Omu-raisu — Amulet of Leftover Destruction

Trying to return a bit to our early tradition of “cooking without a net”, kitchen improvisation, I want to recount a recent success.

Leftovers in question included an Indian style yellow curry with vegetable medley and shrimp as well as a shellfish paella (Spanish rice dish very much like a pilaf).

The additional major player, and the point of inspiration, was a clutch of farmer’s market eggs I had hoped would become fresh pasta, but which did not have sufficiently impressive yolks for that application (but which were still very excellent and ethical eggs).

Omu-raisu (aka omu-rice, aka omelette rice) is a Japanese comfort food which turns out to be an amulet for the obliteration of leftovers — the above items being a great example.

I beat three eggs with the curry sauce until it had retained quite a lot of air. This was poured into a non-stick pan (eggs are the only application for which such pans are acceptable) which had been pre-heated with olive oil (or butter) over medium heat.

Once the egg had begun to curdle, spoonfuls of veggie medley, curry shrimp and the paella were liberally sprinkled throughout the top and then a tight fitting lid was brought to bear on the situation. I highly recommend pre-heating the “filling” items in a separate skillet so that they aren’t trying to come up to temperature while the egg is trying not to completely dry out.

After a few minutes, remove the lid (careful not to drip all that water on the under side back into the eggs) and using a flexible spatula, fold the egg over itself either in half or, if you’re skilled, into thirds.

If you have leftover brown gravy handy, this will be an excellent addition at plating time.

Return of the Bread

The bread has returned after much trial and error.  No small amount of wandering in the wilderness of doughy ignorance was required to at long last arrive at bread that summons as expected, every time. The former incantation involved measuring by cups, and experimentation brought me to the following spell ingredients, some using weights:

The Dough

 

  • 22 oz (by weight) white flour (pref. all-purpose)
  • 1t salt
  • 1-1/4C starter
  • 1-1/4C + 2T warm water
  • 1/2C vegetable oil

The dough should be a smooth consistency that doesn’t stick to your fingers like The Blob. Finding this consistency can be a matter of trial and error. If it dough is too sticky, add flour one tablespoon at a time until it is not longer desperately clinging to your fingers. If the dough is too dry, use the same approach but with water.

Place the dough in a large bowl, cover with a damp towel, and keep in a warm place for 12 hours.

When summoned, it will be a large mass that can then be kneaded and split into twin loaves.  Again cover with a damp towel.

The remainder of summoning is the same.  I think I’ve discovered that 50 minutes in the oven is ideal.

Variations

Oatmeal Cranberry Bread!  I make the dough with an additional 2T of molasses.  After the first rise, I then add 1C Oatmeal, and 1/2C Cranberries (in the form of ‘Craisins’).  Make into loaves.  Let rise.  Bake.  It summons splendidly.

More on Meatloaf

In my Quantum Meat Loaf post I talked about how malleable and flexible this preparation is.

One quick update. Do not skip including large quantities of at least one strong, green herb such as fennel, oregano, thyme or sage — unless you like a strong lamb flavor and only intend to use your loaf for Eastern Mediterranean style dishes.

Most of my loaves have included quite a bit of fennel, which doesn’t make the whole loaf taste of fennel, but does allow it to work both in Italian dishes and Greek or Syrian dishes. My most recent didn’t have any fennel at all (for reasons I won’t bother to get into here) and the result was still delicious, but had a strong lamb flavor that could really only be tamed by fresh curly parsley (such as tabbouleh) or tzatziki sauce.

I’ve begun getting my ground meat from a farmer’s market vendor who has block frozen beef, lamb and pork, and so I’ve switched to ground pork instead of pork sausage, because the beef and lamb aren’t 90+% lean the way they are from the fancy grocery store that offers grass fed meat. But, the loss of the seasoning from the sausage has to be accounted for with my own inclusions — which has often involved a lot of ground fennel for me, and now I know it is necessary.