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 . . .
Depending on to whom you listen, however, our standard of living, may, or may not, be threatened by climate change--global warming. Though scary, it is hard to sift through all the shouting and conflicting information to figure out who is right on this issue.
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

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Dilled Rye with White Whole Wheat and Whole Grain Rosemary Potato Dinner Rolls with a Salt Crust (25 fo 42)

Both the Dilled Rye with White Whole Wheat and the Whole Grain Rosemary Potato Dinner Rolls with a Salt Crust use rye flour.  Wikipedia notes that "Rye (Secale cereale) is a grass grown extensively as a grain and as a forage crop. It is a member of the wheat tribe (Triticeae) and is closely related to barley and wheat. Rye grain is used for flour, rye bread, rye beer, some whiskies, some vodkas, and animal fodder. It can also be eaten whole, either as boiled rye berries, or by being rolled, similar to rolled oats."  Pretty useful stuff! (The Wikipedia article does caution that "[r]ye is a cereal grain and should not be confused with ryegrass, which is used for lawns, pasture, and hay for livestock.")

According to WiseGeek  rye has been cultivated for more than 4,000 years. The article notes that"[r]ye is far more tolerant to poor growing conditions than wheat, and it grows in soil of low quality where other grains will not. In addition, rye is able to withstand prolonged submersion in water as well as drought."  Sounds pretty great.   But rye has a dark side.

Rye is highly susceptible to the ergot fungus. And when ergot infected rye is consumed it can lead to a variety of ailments, including "convulsions, miscarriage, necrosis of digits, and hallucinations."  Wikipedia notes that "[h]istorically, damp northern countries that have depended on rye as a staple crop were subject to periodic epidemics of this condition." Ergotism was more common historically, but it has also occurred more recently.  According to a lecture given by Dr. George J. Wong, Associate Professor of Botany at the University of Hawai'i,  "Ergotism occurred in 1926-27 in Russia, with 10,000 reported cases, in England in 1927, with 200 cases, among central European Jewish immigrants," and there was an outbreak in France in 1951.

There is a theory that consuming ergot infected rye was a factor in the Salem Witch Hysteria, see, for example, Bad Rye and the Salem Witches.  Though this theory sounds far-fetched, has been hotly disputed, and cannot be proven, the outbreak of ergot poisoning in Pont-Saint-Esprit, France in 1951 is interesting in that regard.

Time Magazine wrote on Monday, September 10, 1951 in an article on the French outbreak titled St. Anthony's Fire that "Pont-Saint-Esprit speculated that the village idiot had hexed [the baker's] flour."  Sounds like the work of witches--or warlocks.

In fact, tests determined that it was ergot poisoning. The Time article concluded "Pont-Saint-Esprit had been stricken by ergot poisoning, a medieval disease as old as its proud bridge, so old that it had almost been forgotten." Despite the conclusion of the medical experts of the time, as reported by Time, there is a counter view to the diagnosis of ergot poisoning in Pont-Saint-Esprit.  The CIA did it!  See Was idyllic French village driven crazy by LSD in a secret American mind experiment?   CIA.  Witches.  To-mā-tō.  To-mah-tō.

Anyway, as all who know me can attest, I laugh in the face of danger (or at least giggle nervously), so risk of ergot poisoning or no, I forged ahead.   OK.  Actually, according to Dr. Wong, the outbreak in  Pont-St. Esprit in 1951 was the last known example of ergotism.  Dr. Wong notes that "[t]hrough careful screening out of the ergot stage, ergotism is now rare. To clean Rye seeds, a floatation method has been devised. A solution of approximately 30% potassium chloride is poured over the Rye seeds and stirred. The ergot stage is buoyant and will float to the top and can be skimmed off."  But I still laugh in the face of danger.

I first baked the  Whole Grain Rosemary Potato Dinner Rolls with a Salt Crust.  They contain chunks of raw potato, which made them look a bit funny.  On first glance some of my testers thought they were cookies (though perhaps that was just wishful thinking).  For the salt crust I blitzed the rosemary and the salt together in a mini-food processor, stealing an idea from an episode of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.   I was careful with the amount of rosemary, since it can be strong, but I needn't have worried, it was very muted, which is typical when using whole grain flour, as we have often noted.   I thought the rolls were OK, but nothing that knocked my socks off.  And I am still not sure about the chunks of potato.

Since I had a half batch left, I used it to make a type of foccacia.  I let it rise about 20 minutes, spritzed it with olive oil before sprinkling with my rosemary salt, and baked it at 425.  They did not rise much, but were tasty used for blackened tilapia sandwiches. (The orange and yellow strips on the plate are peppers which I picked, and packed and pickled.) 

For the Dilled Rye with White Whole Wheat I used dried dill from the garden, and doubled the amount.  I still did not get much, if any, dill flavor.  The bread was good, however, though without caraway it just did not seem to me like a rye.  WiseGeek notes that "[r]ye has a very strong flavor, which some people find offensive to the taste."  Although breads used to be made from 100% rye flour, because of its strong flavor it is now usually mixed with wheat flour.  I did not notice a strong flavor, "rye" or otherwise, in this bread.  Maybe I will try HB in 5's 100% Whole Wheat, Plain and Simple with all rye some time. 

Since, as you can see from the pictures, my first loaf spread quite a bit, even though I used my 2x2 couche to keep it in check while rising, I baked the second loaf in my new perforated french bread pan.  I also patted the dough out, sprinkled on another dose of dill, and rolled it into a log to rise. 

It came out nicely, and tasted good, but I still did not taste dill.  Maybe fresh dill would have done better, but my dill is under 1 1/2 feet of snow right now....
Well, that is it for this time.  We go gluten-free next time, so be sure to check back on February 1st. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

You Can Publish Your Blog as a Book

nar·cis·sism  (nahr-suh-siz-em)
inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love; vanity. 
van·i·ty (van-i-tee)
excessive pride in one's appearance, qualities, abilities, achievements, etc.; character or quality of being vain.
vanity press or vanity publisher
a publishing house that publishes books at the author's expense.

I became aware that you could have your blog published as a book.  So I did it.  I published my HB in 5 blog up to the half-way point of the Schedule (Volume 1).  I did not do it for myself, of course, but for my fan.   I gave her the hard-cover edition for Christmas.  The reception was so overwhelming and the demand so great that my blog is now out in a paperback edition! 

The catch is that you have to, or at least I had to, pay to have the blog published.  But that is not a new concept.  Wikipedia notes that "[i]n the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries it was common for legitimate authors to, if they could afford it, pay the costs of publishing their books. Such writers could expect more control of their work, greater profits, or both. Self-publishing was not judged negatively as it has been more recently. Among the authors taking this route were Lewis Carroll, who paid the expenses of publishing Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and most of his subsequent work. Mark Twain, E. Lynn Harris, Zane Grey, Upton Sinclair, Carl Sandburg, Edgar Rice Burroughs, George Bernard Shaw, Edgar Allan Poe, Rudyard Kipling, Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman and Anaïs Nin also self-published some or all of their works."  So there!

Several outfits will do this for you.  I used Blog2Print as my Vanity Press.  I looked at some others, but this one seemed pretty easy, and I was very pleased with the results.  

 The program uploads your blog and gives you a complete preview to review.  You can choose to include or omit comments, or you can select which comments to include, which can save quite a few pages, and pages are money.  You can also select the entire blog or only those posts within a particular date range. 

There are things it does not do, however.  It is not very customizable.  It does not pick up the blog design--the headers and sidebars--just the posts themselves.  And within the posts, if you embed a video it does not show a screenshot or thumbnail.  Most of my posts are in Blogger, but I had used LiveWriter for some of my posts, and I had to redo the pictures in Blogger to make them appear in my book.  You can include some pictures at the back, and I printed and scanned some screenshots of my blog design and included them there, but the quality was not very good.  (Anybody have an easy way to capture high resolution screen images and save them?)

There are several versions of your book available to choose from, including a digital version which is pretty reasonable (about 8 bucks).  The site notes "[t]he Digital File Download is provided to you as a PDF file. With your purchase you'll receive a download of your completed book. The file is yours to read, print, and save on your computer for reference whenever you like (in case you lose track of it - we'll keep a copy for you for 30 days)!" This might be the way to go if you are looking to publish for archival, as opposed to presentation, purposes.   Those of you with blogs of recipes, particularly family recipes, might find this a good way to preserve them. 

So, if you are interested in joining the ranks of Lewis Carroll, Mark Twain, E. Lynn Harris, Zane Grey, Upton Sinclair, Carl Sandburg, Edgar Rice Burroughs, George Bernard Shaw, Edgar Allan Poe, Rudyard Kipling, Henry David Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Anaïs Nin--and me, check this out.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

100% Whole Wheat and Flaxseed Bread and Roasted Garlic Bread (24 of 42)

Both of these breads include flaxseed.  It is kind of like a theme.  Canada is the largest producer of flax in the world.  I did not know that until I started looking for conversion tables to convert dry measures of flaxseed into grams.  I came across the website of the Flax Council of Canada, which asserts that Canada is the largest producer of flax in the world.  This seemed to be one of those "trust but verify" things.  To verify, I Googled "largest producer of flax in the world" which took me back to the website of the Flax Council of Canada again, which still said that Canada is the largest producer of flax in the world, so it must be true.

Anyway, the Flax Council's Nutrition page has a useful table of weights to volumes. The Council also notes that whole flaxseed passes through you undigested, so it should be ground to release its nutritional benefits.  The Council notes that "[a]bout 42% of flax seed is oil, and more than 70% of that oil is polyunsaturated fat, a healthy fat. Flax also contains 57% of the important omega-3 fatty acid, ALA."  In addition, the Council notes that "Flax seed contains soluble and insoluble fibre" (we won't go into all the benefits the Council lists for that) and that "Flax seed is also one of the richest plant sources of lignans, providing up to 800 times more lignans than most other foods in a vegetarian diet."  So what are lignans?  The Council tells us that, too: "Lignans are phytoestrogens – compounds that have been shown in laboratory studies of animals to help protect against certain kinds of cancer, particularly cancers of the breast and colon, by blocking tumour formation."  Seems to me, based on what we learned baking the Quinoa Bread that if you only eat quinoa and flaxseed you might live forever--or at least it might seem that way. 

The Council notes that whole flaxseed will keep for a year kept dry at room temperature.  Once ground, however, it must be refrigerated and will only keep for 30 days.  The Council suggests grinding it as you need it.  You can use a coffee grinder or blender or food processor.  That is where the conversion table comes in handy, since you can weigh the amount you need and not grind too much.  For our purposes, 1 cup of ground seed weighs 130 grams, and a tablespoon 8 grams.  I made both loaves at the same time, and weighted out the amount I needed, plus just a little extra figuring there would be a bit of a loss in the grinder.

Since I made them at the same time it was interesting to see how the two different doughs rose.  The 100% whole wheat did not rise nearly as much as the Roasted Garlic, which has a fair amount of AP flour (slightly more than 50%) and is thus much lighter.  The same held true with the baked loaves.

I baked the 100% Whole Wheat and Flaxseed first.  I made a boule, and baked it in my flame orange cast iron Le Creuset pot. 

 (We watched Julie and Julia again over the holidays, for inspiration, and noted that Julia had a Le Creuset dutch oven of the same color.)  

As already noted, the loaf was dense.  No doubt the oil in the flaxseed contributed to the denseness, compounding the whole wheat flour's tendency toward denseness.  Also, one of the other bloggers noted that she increases the amount of vital gluten when using freshly ground flour.  I did add a bit extra, but perhaps more would have helped, though at some point you would need to adjust the water as well.

Notwithstanding the denseness of the loaf, we enjoyed it very much.  The flaxseed contributed a nice nuttiness to the whole wheat, and this was particularly noticeable when it was toasted.  As this sojourn has progressed I have gotten more and more fond of whole grain breads.  And, as the old adage goes, "the whiter your bread the sooner you're dead."  Now, living on quinoa, flaxseed AND whole wheat bread seems a bit more doable, especially if a jug of wine and my groupie (a "thou") are included in the mix. 

I baked the Roasted Garlic Loaf for New Year's Eve dinner.  In addition to the roasted garlic, AP flour, and flaxseed this bread uses spelt flour, which I also ground fresh.  Spelt is basically an heirloom wheat.  Wikipedia notes that it is "[a] hardy wheat grown mostly in Europe for livestock feed."  

My friend Chris, who bakes the most spectacular cakes on the North Coast (she has a cake business and if you are interested check her out at Martines of Ohio

gave me a perforated French Bread pan for Christmas, so I tried it out on this loaf. 

I used the entire half batch, since the pan looked like it needed more than a quarter batch, and let it rise in the pan, which I sprayed with canola spray even though it is non-stick (belt and suspenders).  But that turned out to be a bit too much dough--the dough kept trying to escape.  I corralled it before putting it in the oven, but it make a break for it again as it baked.

 Still, the loaf baked up beautifully, with a terrific crust (in part due to the relative dearth of whole wheat flour, which gives a softer crust due to the natural oils).

Because the dough was wet, it oozed a bit through the holes in the pan as it rose, which made it stick a bit, but I used a flexible spatula and it popped right out.


In addition to the nice crust this loaf has a really good crumb.  Those features coupled with the roasted garlic gave us a loaf we all liked very much.

So that completes the baking for 2010.  In response to Michelle's question for this assignment: "Are you still with me?"  I am.

Hope all have a safe, healthy, happy and propserous new year.