Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Stone Free

A recent post on the wonderful Wild Yeast blog is singing the praises of baking stones, specifically Fibrament brand stones. The argument is
If you’re after crusty artisan (or artisanal, if you’re so inclined) hearth-style breads, that thing that holds your bread in the oven should be a baking stone.
Everyone from Alton Brown to James Brown seems to agree that you can't be a serious home baker without the stone. This is great news for people selling oven stones, but is it true? No! Exaggeration! Good bread is 90% about getting the dough right. That means starter activity, hydration and shaping are everything. The other 10% is knowing how to make your oven a welcoming place for bread. The secret is... wait for it... HUMIDITY! So beginners, don't waste time looking for a silver bullet at Willams Sonoma. First, watch videos like this. Then figure out how to get steam. Then repeat.

How can I be so sure? My oven stone broke 6 months ago. I did a few bakes without it and realized that it didn't make any difference. Yay, one less thing to buy! And don't get me wrong, I don't hate oven stones! They are a nice stable platform to slide loaves or pizzas off and on, but a dark sheet pan can do just as well. Here are some pics of a recent loaf I made without a stone.

Crusty enough for my dinner table!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Calculator now available as an app for Chrome

My hydration calculator is now available as a free app in Google's Chrome Web Store. If you use Google's Chrome web browser installation is super easy. The benefit of using the app from the web store is that it works even if you don't have access to the internet.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Cranberry Pepita Sourdough

Behold, cranberries! Nope, it's not Thanksgiving, but this loaf will make a mean turkey sandwich. I love pepitas in sourdough. Raw ones are really good for you. I find that soaking them for a bit in warm water helps distribute the nutty flavor through the bread.

Cranberry Pepita Sourdough

72% hydration
700g organic all-purpose flour (Central Milling)
200g white whole wheat (Trader Joe's)
200g sourdough starter @ 100% hydration
477g water
15g salt
200g raw pepitas, coarsely chopped, soaked and drained
200g dried cranberries

Mix/autolyse: 35 minutes
Bulk fermentation: 4 hours @ 72F. Stretch and folds every 30 minutes
Divide, bench rest, and shape: 20 minutes
Proof: 2.5 hours (or 1.5 hours, then retard for 2 – 16 hours)
Bake: 40 minutes @ 500F

I tried adding the cranberries and pepitas at shaping time. The result was fine, but the distribution of the fruit and seeds was poor. Next time I will add them during one of the last stretch and folds to achieve a more even distrobution.

The soaked pepitas will make the dough a bit wetter than you would expect. Dusting the bannetons with a mixture of wheat and brown rice flour can really help prevent sticking.

Here is a shot of my high tech proofing chambers in action.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Salmon Chervil and Fennel on Sourdough

Chad Robertson's Tartine Bread cookbook has some wonderful bread-centric recipes. Among his "day old bread recipes" is a Dungeness Crab sandwich. Of course a sandwich is a fine use of day old bread, but if day old is good then fresh is better. Let's face it, bread is the sine qua non of a sandwich. A sandwich without bread is just a mess. Take a moment, or even better, the rest of your life to obsess about the bread for your sandwiches. Here is a picture of the loaf I baked this morning and the bread I'll be using for this sandwich:
It was baked according to Chad's country sourdough recipe. 75% hydration, 10% Trader Joe's white whole wheat, and 90% Central Milling organic all purpose flour. Pickup a copy of Tartine Bread for detailed instructions on the bread. And try my sourdough hydration calculator here. Chad's sandwich recipe is just a simple meat salad sandwich with a decidedly french attitude. Here, the filling for the sandwich differs from Chad's recipe by using salmon rather than the crab. I had a few tins of wild Alaskan pink salmon on hand and substituted it.

Salad Ingredients:
  • 2 - 6 ounce cans salmon
  • 1 bunch fresh chervil chopped
  • 1 bunch fresh tarragon chopped
  • 2 tbsp. mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • salt/pepper to taste
Mix the salad ingredients well. I recommend preparing it several hours in advance because as the flavors mix it gets better. If your bread is older or store bought you will want to toast it, but if you are working with a lovely warm moist chewy loaf of fresh sourdough, just skip it and enjoy that amazing texture and the fresh anise and citrus flavors of the salad mixing with the warm buttery sourness of fresh, naturally leavened bread. I had mine with some fresh cherries.

These cherries were all conjoined twins. Two pits to each cherry. Enjoy! Sending this to YeastSpotting