Thursday, August 23, 2012

hippychick is rolling in the dough

it's always a good day when fresh homemade bread is on the rise.  today is one of those days and it's all thanks my beloved sourdough starter fed and started just over a year ago, a steadfast commitment to the mastering of the loaf and an ever growing love for the baked harvest hot from the oven.

the reality is that i've not yet mastered the loaf but my efforts as of late are proving successful more often than not. i imagine that i will probably never truly master the loaf and here's why.

for me every loaf is different and should be different.  i never follow a recipe by rote. i like to use what's in the pantry. i regularly mess around with flour to grain to oatmeal ratios and i don't keep measurements.  i eye it.

i think about ingredients that will compliment one another. i look as i am mixing and kneading dough for a particular texture.  i feel for a particular weight and pliable elasticity.  i have learned through trial and error when a dough is too dry or too wet. i have learned that ingredients used at room temperature benefit the mix and the rise of the dough. i have learned that even when everything looks and feels right, the bread may still not rise as one would hope for.  i have learned not to expect any kind of regular result.

the good news is that even the less than perfect loaf often still tastes great.  it may just feel heavier or more dense than what you might have been initially going for. it's in those moments that you pat yourself on the back for coming up with some type of special peasant bread loaf that only the most down home folk will enjoy.  or you can slice it up into smaller bits, toast it to use as croutons or grind it down for use as homemade breadcrumbs.  there's always a use for it.

if it's really rough - chop it up and set it out for the birds and try, try again.

what's in a loaf?  sometimes it's a simple mix of sourdough starter, water, flour and salt.  other times it's sourdough starter, whey, salt, chia, flax, hemp, herbs, spices, lentils, seeds, and bulgar wheat with a possible addition of homemade jam, maple syrup or unsulphered black strap molasses for a bit of sweet.

for those of you who don't know, a bit of a slice in the dough as it rises actually helps the rise.  how many slices one needs or how big the slices need to be, i don't know.  i've read it helps so i do it and i do it again by eye and often at deisgnerly whim.  i'll slice sideways, diagonalways, make a square, attempt a circle or create a basket weave slice pattern prior to the rise.  there is really no rhyme or reason to it all, it's just whatever strikes me that day.

the loaves i've been baking are slow and steady risers.  i don't use commercial yeast.  i depend upon the sourdough starter for the rise power.  so what might take and hour for a commercial yeast may take two to six hours and sometimes more for a sourdough starter.  the time depends upon your ingredients, the strength of your starter, the temperature of the room, the quality and the ratio of the ingredients, if it's a light bread or a heavier seeded or fruited (raisin) bread and a whole lot of other scientific bits i am sure that i am ignorant of.

as a side note, it may be important to know that i also regularly keep a counter top, room temperature probiotic kefir yogurt culture which means that i have a steady stock of homegrown yogurt available for use.  i use the kefir yogurt for eating, i drain it in a filter for yogurt cheese, i mix it into dry oatmeal and often enjoy it with fresh berries.  it's more tart than most store bought yogurts.  it's tingles in your mouth.  it's very much alive and i find it adds a great texture and a complex flavor to my breads. the drained whey is an excellent protein source and has often proven a great bread loaf ingredient.

today's loaf is fairly simple - fairly simple to me anyway - it's a probiotic yogurt bread with grain and seed.   here is the list of ingredients.
  • sourdough starter
  • 50/50 mix of whole wheat and white flour
  • bulgar wheat
  • ground flax seed
  • chia seed
  • hemp hearts
  • kefir yogurt - a probiotic fermented yogurt
    • I make my own at home with raw milk
  • whey
    • drained from yogurt used for making yogurt cheese
  • black and white sesame seeds - sprinkled on top only
  • butter
    • just enough to slather the outside of the loaf just prior to being set into the bread pan
    • it keeps the loaf from drying out during the slow rise
these loaves are almost ready for the oven.  i bake at 400˚F for about 45 minutes.  i then check the loaf by measuring it's interior temperature.  i bake my loaf to a temperature between 180˚F -190˚F.  once out of the oven i immediately remove them from the pan and allow them to cool resting atop of the pan.

*of course there is always one loaf that is cut into prior to it's being fully cooled but hey, that's half of the reward.  i feel no guilt in the enjoyment of a steaming slice of freshly homemade bread.

1 comment:

Trekout2 said...

Very cool we will give it a try