Tag Archives: cooking

Sourdough and its discontents

Last month I checked BREAD HEAD: Baking for the Road Less Traveled, by Greg Wade and Rachel Holzman, out of the library. If I didn’t have ten bread-baking books already I’d definitely buy it. I might anyway, or I might check it out from the library another time

I was dubious because the book places heavy emphasis on sourdough, like the loaf in my photo. I like sourdough but not so much I’d make sourdough recipes a regular thing. That makes it feel pointless to go through the work of growing a starter, then keeping it around after I finish the initial bread  — I may not make another sourdough for months and I don’t want to keep nursing the starter along. It would be different if I had a family of five to feed, but it’s mostly just me and there’s only so much bread I can eat a week.

Wade and Holzman make it easier because their system is simpler: flour and water mixed, then you wait until enough wild yeast gets in to ferment it. It still makes way more than necessary; after the first bread I made (sourdough banana bread) I had to pour a lot of it out. And I hate wasting food.

However on the next sourdough I figured out how to reduce the initial quantity to about 25 percent of what was recommended in the book. That left almost no waste.

The recipes are good. I’ve made apple muffins (not sourdough), crumpets (ditto) and cornbread (not sourdough but it does use a cornmeal/buttermilk ferment). The sourdough I made (the one in the photo) was a good bread but not stunningly superior to the breads I normally bake.

I’ll make one more sourdough before I send the book back to the library.

#SFWapro.

 

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Adventures in baking

Last month I got more of an itch to bake than I have in a while. I made vegan, gluten-free chocolate-chip cookies——and ciabatta, though they came out smaller than I’d expected. Still, easy enough I might try it again when I’m having sandwiches.Last weekend I made a peppery squash bread though with sweet potato instead, as I had some of that left over.Last month I also checked a book, Bread Head out of the library. I’ve only gotten around to trying one recipe, a buckwheat flour sourdough banana bread, but it was most tasty.I hope to try a couple more before I send the book back (I’ll give it an actual review then) but overall I don’t think it’s for me. The authors, Greg Wade and Rachel Hotlzman, are into sourdough starter big time. I like sourdough but not os much that it’s worth keeping a pot of starter around all the time. Still the book did serve as a useful reminder on things like checking water temperature for my breads — possibly that’s why the ciabatta came in undersized.

The other recipes came, top to bottom, from Vegetarian Times, 100 Great Breads and a book called Country Baker: Breads and Muffins from Country Living magazine.

#SFWApro.

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Cornish pasties!

I had an itch to try a recipe that was more work than usual so I decided to make a Cornish pasty recipe I found on the Washington Post website. Although technically they’re “Cornish” pasties because it’s a heritage recipe and the name is reserved for the authentic recipe, which uses meat. I used veggie sausage. Other ingredients: rutabaga, potato and onion, wrapped up in a buttery dough.They were a fair amount of work; anything that involves making dough, rolling it out and then putting filling in it usually is. But they taste good and they’re very satisfying. About half of one makes a meal for me.

Now I have an itch to try a Samosa recipe, as that also involves wrapping veggies in dough, though with more spices.

#SFWApro.

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The cooking mojo is temporarily gone

Normally I love cooking and baking. Bread in particular.The past month I’ve been surprised how little I’ve been cooking, compared to usual. Not that I’m switching to junk food or takeout — fruit on cereal or yogurt, veggie sandwiches, scrambled eggs with this or that are all easy and they all provide me with healthy, or reasonably healthy, meals. Plus TYG’s been cooking for herself and I often wind up eating her leftovers

I think it’s that this has been a very hectic couple of months. TYG was dealing with some heavy work stuff in early April, then she began the transition to a new job at a new company. Being the awesome person she is, she negotiated to give five weeks notice to her current employer so that she can prep her former subordinates in everything she does that they’ll need to take over. Trouble is, she knows a lot so it’s been intense. And that leaks over to me in the form of more dog care, more running errands, etc. Which is perfectly reasonable, but it does leave me rather wiped by the week’s end.

So I wind up doing a lot less of anything on the weekend, relaxing as much as possible. It’s definitely the right choice but it feels strange. I look forward to getting back to normal next month.

#SFWApro.

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Cats and food

Snowdrop has decided to hang out in the planter sometimes.Wisp, meanwhile, has suddenly decided to sleep on the couch next to me or in my lap rather than on her pillow.It’s almost like they’re living creatures who change their preferences rather than wind-up toys.

And here’s the raw apple pie I mentioned planning to make. A mix of nuts, dates, apples and dried apples, it’s quite tasty. Especially with some cheddar on top.#SFWApro

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Pushing the food envelope

I have several food goals that I’m working on this month. Well, actually, most months. I’ve found if I don’t put them down regularly I slack off.

The main ones are baking more bread, making more vegetable-centric dishes — even though I’m vegetarian, it’s easy to go heavy on cheese or eggs and skip the green stuff — and more fruit dishes. Also to use more of my spices because after a while they go bad, and that’s wasteful. And to push myself to try some new things. This has turned into an excuse to check cookbooks out of the library and see if there’s anything good in them. For example Lee Watson’s Peace and Parsnips gave me a recipe for these chunky-looking but tasty apple-date muffins.Next weekend I’m going to try the book’s recipe for a raw apple pie — no baking, just a lot of chopping, mixing and pressing together. We’ll see how it goes.

I also recently tried a Vegetarian Times experiment in spelt bread. Spelt flour, with a generous cup of sunflower seeds mixed in.The flavor was strong enough it would have worked better as a sandwich bread rather than just as toast. It also makes firm, solid slices for sandwiches; next time I plan some sort of fancy sandwich, I may make the bread again and see how it works.

#SFWApro.

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The horror — the horror!

Did any of you “go fancy” for the holidays with fruit cocktail eggnog pie?Cthulhu and Yog-Sothoth would recoil from this.

#SFWApro.

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TYG planted a garden

I think it looks good.I’m impressed by her dedication. I’m not the gardening type, and I can’t see myself spending a weekend working on something like that unless she asked me to help her. I will, however, happily work the basil, tomatoes and rosemary into recipes (the chives too, but I’ve no idea what, yet).

#SFWApro.

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So I made some bread

Normally I wait until the end of the week but I’d used up the beer bread I made last week. And the recipe for Cobb bread (a traditional English bread) I found in 100 Great Breads was a low-work one so I was able to fit making it into my afternoon’s work without much trouble.I tried calculating the correct dough temperature again and it did make the bread rise very well. It’s a basic white bread but with a salty tang and a great texture.

I highly recommend the 100 Great Breads book.

#SFWApro

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Wow, that actually worked

Last year, I found Breaking Bread by Martin Philip a frustrating book. As I discuss at the link, when I followed Philip’s advice on keeping the dough at a precise temperature the dough rose much more than usual. But as my other bread books don’t specify a dough temperature, that didn’t seem to do me much good. Even so, I’ve had the urge to try and see if I could get the same results with other recipes. So last weekend, I gave it a shot.

Reading on the subject online indicated most bread doughs need a temperature between 75 and 78. Picking a whole-wheat recipe, I somewhat arbitrarily set the target temperature at 75 (75 to 78 is not a big difference but apparently it can make a big difference in the results). With air temperature at 66 and flour at 68 that meant the water temperature should be 91 degrees to get 75 degrees in the dough (I used my kitchen thermometer to figure all this out).

I actually miscalculated and made the temperature higher, but the bread still came out much larger than usual with my baking. I was able to use them for the sandwiches I made that evening — usually the slices are a little too small to be satisfactory.

I look forward to using this approach again.

#SFWApro.

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