There are few virtues a man can possess more erotic than culinary skill.
Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses
by Isabel Allende

Starting in November of 2009 Michelle at the Big Black Dog formed a group to bake its way through Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Zoë François and Jeff Hertzberg. I loved Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, so I signed up with the group. Michelle first had us do a couple of warm-up assignments, which were my first attempt at blogging. The first "Official" post was on January 15, 2010, and it was followed by 41 more, on the 1st and 15th of each month. When I signed on I said I would bake the whole book, and like Horton (the elephant) I meant what I said and I said what I meant. I finished baking the book on October 1, 2011. Having completed that challenge, now I am just going to do some stuff, and post about it. As part of that stuff Michelle is posing a new, and different, challenge for us each month.

I am still baking bread, mostly the Five Minutes a Day kind, and if you would like to try the Five Minutes a Day bread method there are some links, with recipes, in the right hand column to get you started. Please give it a try.

But first, a word from my sponsor . . .
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One person, Greg Craven, has suggested changing the question from "which side is right" to "what is the wisest thing to do given the uncertainties and the risks involved?" To me, this seems like a very productive way to refocus the conversation. So, if you are confused about, concerned by, or interested in the issue of global warming please take a few minutes to watch his VIDEO. If you find it interesting or helpful, please pass it on to others.

This day be bread and peace my lot.
Alexander Pope

How can a nation be great if its bread tastes like Kleenex?

Julia Child

Everyone is kneaded out of the same dough but not baked in the same oven.
Yiddish proverb
(And some are only half baked.)

There is no love sincerer than the love of food.
George Bernard Shaw, via Sharon

Of all smells, bread; of all tastes, salt.
George Herbert

Friday, May 14, 2010

Master Recipe, Three Ways (9 of 42)

The assignment for this episode is to bake three variations of the Master Recipe: Hearty Whole Wheat Sandwich Loaf, Turkish-Style Pita Bread with Black Sesame Seeds, and Whole Grain Garlic Knots

I first baked the Turkish-Style Pita Bread with Black Sesame Seeds.  
This pita is rolled out thicker than a regular pita since the Turkish-Style Pita does not puff.  Although I have a bench scraper, and use it, I have found that a plastic putty knife often works better to loosen dough on the counter when I roll, it is a bit smaller and gives better control, especially in tight places--they come in different sizes and are cheap, too.  And using a putty knife is a guy thing, though not as good as Elwood's using power tools.  Maybe I can duct-tape a bread knife onto my sawzall . . . .
After rolling, I used my medieval docking tool to dock the dough, brushed it with melted butter, sprinkled it with black sesame seeds, and baked it. 
I got a fair amount of oven spring.  Perhaps I should have rolled it a bit thinner, but it tasted great. 

After letting it cool a bit, I cut it into wedges and served it with  

Baba ghanoush
Adapted from Ellie Krieger and Steven Raichlen
2 large eggplant
10 whole garlic cloves, peeled
4 tablespoons tahini
4 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup chopped flat parsley
salt and pepper to taste
Cut 5 slits into each eggplant and cram a clove of garlic into each slit. Cook the eggplant on the grill, turning semi-regularly, until blacked on all sides and very soft in the middle, 20-30 minutes depending on your grill. Cool, remove most of the blackened skin (a bit remaining gives a nice extra smokiness), and dump the pulp (with garlic) into a food processor. Add the tahini and lemon juice and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the parsley and serve.

Next I baked the sandwich loaf,  
and used some of it to make a crab salad panino (singular, for Ellen and props for getting her Master's Degree).
Then it was on to the Whole Grain Garlic Knots, which called for garlic, which is doing nicely, but not ready to harvest,  and parsley, which I overwintered, and was ready to harvest.
I made my knots, without too much sturm und drang, let them rise, drizzled them with the garlic/parsley oil, and sprinkled with some grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. How could they not be good?  
Which brings us to this episode's Special Feature, a knot-knot joke presented by one of my Whole Grain Garlic Knots, which as you can see is suffering from a split personality:


Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Miller's Tale 1.1

 According to Archers, alchemists, and 98 other medieval jobs you might have loved or loathed, millers historically had a bad reputation.  Not only did they charge you for milling your OWN grain into flour, they were likely to cheat you by keeping some of YOUR flour for themselves.  That alone seems like a good enough reason, to me, to grind your own flour.  In addition, according to Marleeta Basey in Flour Power: A Guide to Modern Home Grain Milling the nutrients in wheat berries begin to degrade the moment the protective shell is broken, by milling.  Do you know how old you flour is?  I do! 

I decided to mix up a batch of 100% Whole Wheat Bread, Plain and Simple from HB in 5, and I milled the flour right before I mixed the dough.  My Nutrimill can be adjusted for the coarseness of the grind, but I have not played with that too much yet.  I turn it on and set it sort of in the middle.  The flour seems to turn out just fine that way

I measure the ingredients by weight, and have not had any problems with the dough being too wet or too dry.   Jeff wrote about using freshly milled flour at Using Fresh-Ground Whole Wheat Flour, and he reached the same conclusion, though he did note that his dough seemed just a bit wetter.  He attributed this to the coarseness of the grind, and observed that you might need to adjust the water based on your particular flour.  I have noted before that when first made my dough seems a bit wetter, but after rising and sitting it seems to end up about the same. I am wondering if it just takes a bit longer to hydrate, though it is equally possible that I am imagining things.  Jeff also noted at How’d That Fresh-Ground Whole Wheat Store? Report at 15 Days  that dough made from freshly milled flour stored as well as dough made from store-bought flour, which would make sense since it is so much more fresh. 

After rising and refrigerating, I baked a regular loaf, and a baguette, and they were great.  Back in the day, as they say, I avoided wheat bread like the plague.  I have noticed that the more I eat things that are "healthy"--things that I would previously not have eaten except under duress or to be polite--the more I like them.  It appears that familiarity, at least in this case, breeds fondness rather than contempt.  It also suggests that those of you who have family members who are not as fond of whole grains should keep at it,  they may come around. 

I next baked some pizzas, but they disappeared before I could take a picture.  I rolled one of the crusts out using flour and the other using cornmeal.  The cornmeal gets worked into the crust as you roll, and makes for a nice chewy/crunchy texture.  Try it next time.  Finally, I took the last of the dough, worked some Grill Mates® Roasted Garlic & Herb Seasoning into it,  rolled it out, and cooked it on the grill.  It was great!
 Grilling bread is one of my favorite ways to bake when weather permits.  I usually throw it on the grill as soon as I roll it out, but I let this batch sit for 15-20 minutes while the grill heated and I got a nice extra rise.  We ate some with our dinner, grilled halibut, and I used the rest the next day in a panzanella.

I diced up some grape tomatoes, Vidalia onion, and cucumber; added some of my defrosted homemade pesto, some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, mixed in the bread, and let everything sit to melge for about an hour. Pretty and tasty too. 

So, in sum, so far I am really enjoying my mill and the bread I make from my flour.

This post is Yeastspotted.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Milk and Honey Raisin and Chocolate Espresso Whole Wheat Brioche (8 of 42)

 Hurray, hurray, it's the First of May, . . .
And my lettuce sure looks great today!

While prior planning may not in fact always prevent poor performance (men plan and the gods laugh) I tend to think it does not hurt to try.  I am sure that when Julie Powell began blogging about her attempt to cook her way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking she never thought that it would culminate not only in a book but also in a movie in which Amy Adams would play her.  Well, I for one don't think it is too early to start thinking about who will play us in the movie about the HB in 5 Bread Braid.  (By "us" I of course mean those of us who fairly regularly blog about baking their way through the HB in 5 book according to Michelle's schedule.  "Us" does not include the infrequent contributors, the mere followers and lurkers, or the groupies.  Those roles are what "extras" are for.)

Since I would not ask you to do something  I am not willing to do myself, I will start the ball rolling by suggesting that Kevin Kline play me.  He is, after all, ruggedly handsome, has gotten better looking as he has aged, has a good singing voice, dances well, and has a wife who was extremely hot in her day.  And as if this were not enough, he was a Pirate King!  As Bill Murray said in Groundhog Day, me, me, me, and me again.

So, who should play you?  And, just for fun, who do you think should play our fearless leader, Michelle?  Post a comment to let me know who you think should play you and who should play Michelle.

Now, on to this fortnight's bread.  First I made the Milk and Honey Raisin.  I used egg substitute.  I also made a full batch, rather than a half, because I like raisin bread.  After seeing Cathy's chocolate espresso flower pot bread I decided to try baking this bread in a flower pot, using a 6" pot and following Cathy's directions for tempering the flower pot.  I cut a round of parchment paper for the bottom of the pot, and sprayed the pot well with cooking spray,  Then I put 2 pounds of dough in it to rise, and baked it.

I think it came out pretty well, though I had a little trouble figuring out the best way to slice it. 
 Although the recipe has you bake this dough  in a loaf pan, I next decided to try it as a free-form loaf, baking it at 450, with steam, on my stone, just as with any other loaf.  I brushed it with egg wash and sprinkled it with some raw sugar.

 I think I actually preferred it this way, with the crispier crust.  It was particularly good as cinnamon toast. My saintly wife pronounced it the best she has ever had.
Finally, I used the rest of the dough to make English Muffins (see my "technique" at Muffin Mania).

I do not bake my own English Muffins only because they taste great or just because I enjoy baking them.  I also do it to "walk the walk" with regard to my views on the importance of women's rights.  Since I have 3 daughters (as Aeschylus noted, "there is advantage in the wisdom won from pain") I feel that I am doing a sister a solid, or in my case 3 sisters three solids, and striking a blow against stereotypical views of women, when I bake my own English Muffins instead of buying them.  Thomas' English Muffins, you see, are (is??) owned by Bimbo Bakeries USA  (a subsidiary of Grupo Bimbo).  Seems pretty politically incorrect to me.  

The other task in this assignment was to bake Cinnamon Crescent Rolls with Cream Cheese Icing using the Chocolate Espresso Whole Wheat Brioche. I only baked half a batch, and they were very well received, despite the inartistic icing job. I left some un-iced, and they were very good too.

With the rest of the dough I baked a small plain loaf (the pan was slightly too small, as it turned out).

I had tried to come up with something fancy, but in the end opted for simplicity. As Einstein said, "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not one bit simpler."

To avoid being that one bit simpler, I did put some peanut butter on it!  Chocolate and peanut butter, who'd have ever thought?

That gave me an idea.  Perhaps channeling my friend Sharon, who is not only my favorite Elvis fan, but also the only person I know who has been pooped on by a pelican--and not once but twice . . .

I used the bread to make a grilled peanut butter and banana sandwich--now how's that for TCB?

 And as for how it tasted, I can only say, WOW!
So, that is it for this time, and as Elvis would say, "thank you, thank you very much."