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

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Not Rye (but so very close), and Gluten-free and Honey Graham Bread (35 of 42)

As our countdown continues, we bake a a honey graham bread and a gluten-free rye. 

When it was first mixed the dough for the gluten-free rye seemed pretty firm and when I used it the following day it was pretty easy to work with, especially for a gluten-free dough, which I can have trouble with.  I made a boule with half of it, and it was really very good--Not Rye (but so very close), and Gluten-free!

 I used it to make a Ham and Swiss on on Not Rye (but so very close) Panino.
In fact, the only catch is that the recipe calls for Teff flour.  
Teff, properly Eragrostis tef, is, according to Wikipedia, "an annual grass, a species of lovegrass native to the northern Ethiopian Highlands of Northeast Africa." The article notes that
Common names include teff, lovegrass, annual bunch grass (English); Ṭeff/Ṭéff (Amharic, both representing the same sound, an ejective consonant); Ṭaffi/xaffi (Oromo, both representing the same sound); Ṭaff (Tigrinya); and mil éthiopien (French). It is also written as ttheff, tteff, thaff, tcheff, and thaft. The word "tef" is connected by folk etymology to the Ethio-Semitic root "ṭff", which means "lost" (because of the small size of the grain).
The Wikipedia article notes that "Teff accounts for about a quarter of total cereal production in Ethiopia," and that "[i]n 1996, the US National Research Council characterized Teff as having the 'potential to improve nutrition, boost food security, foster rural development and support sustainable landcare.'"  This may in part be because Teff "is adapted to environments ranging from drought stress to waterlogged soil conditions."  Id.

The Wikipedia article also notes that "Teff is high in protein" and "is considered to have an excellent amino acid composition (including all 8 essential amino acids for humans) and has lysine levels higher than wheat or barley."  Bob, of Red Mill fame, notes on the package that Teff is "a Nutritional Powerhouse!"  The website for The Teff Company, which grows Teff in Idaho, observes that "[o]f the 56 medals available in major athletics championships from 2000 to 2003 (Olympic Games and IAAF World Championships) at marathon, 10,000 meter and 5,000 meter distances, 26 were won by athletes from Ethiopia" and posits that "[i]t is not a coincidence that these athletes ...  come from Ethiopia, the land where teff is a significant portion of the daily diet." 

Bob also notes that "[d]ue to Teff's size, it is almost impossible to grind in your home mill," but observes that "[w]e are glad to do the work for you."  As to size, Wikipedia notes that "[b]ecause of its small seeds (less than 1 mm diameter), one can hold enough in one hand to sow a large area" and that "[t]his property makes teff particularly suited to a seminomadic lifestyle."  The website for The Teff Company notes that "[o]ne pound of teff can produce up to one ton of grain in only 12 weeks," and that "[t]hree thousand grains of teff weigh one gram."  

Jeff and Zoe indicate in the recipe that Teff is gluten-free, but I noticed that the package I got from Bob's Red Mill did not list it as gluten-free.  I suspect that may be because strictly speaking it is not!  But, according to Wikipedia, "the gluten in teff does not contain the a-gliadin-fraction that causes celiac disease," so it can be used by people who cannot eat wheat gluten.

So with all this going for it, why is the fact that this recipe calls for Teff a "catch?"  The price.  Around here Bob's 24 ounce bag goes for about $7.  If you want to get serious about it, you can get 5 pounds from  The Teff Company for $20, which includes shipping.  On the bright side, based on the info on Bob's package, it appears that I can incorporate the Teff I have left into my regular baking. 

After making the boule I used the other half of the dough to make an oblong loaf.  By the time I got to it, the dough was at the end of its useful life, and had gotten very wet.  Unlike the first loaf, this one was too wet to work with, and really sticky.  Kind of like working with peanut butter, but not as tasty to lick off your fingers.  I had to work in more flour to be able to use it at all (I plead the 5th on what kind of flour I used, but it sure was not Teff).

Once I got the loaf formed, I wanted to control the lengthwise spread, to keep a bigger cross section.  Since I was using my Italian bread pan, I used onions as stops.  

 But the yeasties were not to be denied, and they pushed my onions right out of the way!
 Despite, or perhaps because of, the wetness, the dough baked up with a good crumb,
and worked great for a pattie melt with a quinoa salad.
The price of Teff notwithstanding, this was certainly one of my better efforts at gluten-free bread.

The second bread for this assignment was Honey Graham Bread,  made, not surprisingly, with honey and graham flour.  There was also some cinnamon, which I boosted a bit.  I made a full batch instead of the half called for in the assignment, hoping for the best.  Once again turning to  Wikipedia,
Graham flour is a type of whole wheat flour named after the American Presbyterian minister Rev. Sylvester Graham (1794-1851), an early advocate for dietary reform. According to the Larousse Gastronomique, Graham despised processed white flour and believed that bran was the cure-all for the bad eating habits of his compatriots.
Generally, graham flour is more coarsely ground whole wheat flour.     The Wikipedia article offers that
Rather than simply grinding the whole grain wheat kernel (bran, germ, and endosperm), in roller-milled graham flour the components are ground separately. The endosperm is ground finely, initially creating white flour. The bran and germ are ground coarsely. The two parts are then mixed back together, creating a coarse-textured flour that bakes and keeps well.
Red Mill Bob  characterizes his Graham Flour  as "coarsely stone ground whole wheat flour made from U.S. #1 dark northern spring wheat."

The recipe called for baking this bread in a loaf pan. 

 It baked up fine, and was very good, especially toasted. 

 I also baked two loaves in my Italian bread pan, at 450 using steam.  This worked out well too.

Finally, since I had Honey Graham dough, I could not resist making Honey Graham Crackers. 

I rolled the dough using my Joseph Joseph ROLL0100CB Adjustable Rolling Pin with 6 Removable Discs.  
 I really like this rolling pin for getting a uniform thickness of dough, which is especially important for things like crackers.  The only problem is that the discs jump from 1/16" to 1/4".  But I use a 1/8" thickness a lot for pizza and calzones and such.  So I made a set of after market discs.

I used a cheap poly cutting board and a 2 1/4" hole saw.  I drilled a 3/4" hole for the center, which is just a skosh big, but better that  than too small.  The resulting gap measures about 9/64", which is close enough for to 1/8" for my baking skills.

I rolled the crackers directly on parchment paper using the 1/16" discs, and docked them.  Then I slid the whole thing in the oven (400 degrees) for about 8 minutes to get them to start to firm up.  THEN I used a pizza cutter to cut them apart.   
 And back in the oven until they were golden brown.
 I took some of the edges out a bit earlier than the ones in the middle because they were browning a bit faster.

Now, I am not going to put Nabisco out of business, but the Honey Graham Crackers were pretty good too.

So that is is for this time.
The countdown continues, with 7 to go!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Betsy's Seeded Oat Bread and Provençal Fisherman’s Bread (Pain Bouillabaisse) (34 of 42)

It's bustin' out all over.  The rains continue, and it appears that the ducks--Fred and Ethel--are here to stay.

I thought I would start with an observation on fashion, being a 21st century metrosexual male and therefore fully qualified to opine on the subject.  Not all progress is good, but with regard to some things, it clearly is.  In the category of the latter, we all should be glad that the attire in this video has gone out of style, especially, I am led to understand by the star of the film (who is an interpreter at an historical site and one of my peeps), when it comes to going to the bathroom:

 Now, on to the baking.

I don't know Betsy, who apparently asked Jeff and Zoë to develop a loaf "full of tasty and nutritious seeds," but the eponymous Seeded Oat Bread they developed for her is terrific.  At Michelle's suggestion I had made it before, and was happy to have an excuse to make it again.  This bread has rolled oats, whole pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds, and ground flaxseed.  It is lightly sweetened (I used honey, but you can use barley malt or agave syrup) and enriched with a bit of oil.

I made a full batch, and used half to make two loaves.  Instead of sprinkling seeds on top, I sprinkled them on the counter and rolled the loaves in them as I formed them.  I think this works much better because the seeds adhere more securely and reliably.   

I used the rest of the dough to make English Muffins.
 In previous posts (e.g. Muffin Mania) I have described my English Muffin Method--using parchment paper to get the muffins onto my electric griddle after they have rested and risen.  In sum, I roll out the dough, cut it with a biscuit cutter, and place the muffins on parchment paper dusted with cornmeal.  I then dust the tops with more cornmeal and let them rise.  Then I cut the paper around each muffin and use a spatula to move paper and muffin to the griddle.  I cook the muffins about 7 minutes on each side, and after about 4-5 minutes on the parchment paper I slide the muffins off (or the parchment paper out) for better browning.   This method has worked for me--it avoids mangling risen muffins which have gotten stuck to the peel or counter--but  cutting the paper was a bit fussy.  So, I decided to try a more global approach.

I cut a piece of parchment paper to the size of my griddle (trust me, this is less painful if you do it before you preheat the griddle), put it on a cookie sheet that had no rim on one side (or use the bottom of a rimmed sheet) dusted it with cornmeal, made my muffins, placed them on the parchment paper, dusted the tops with cornmeal,  and let them rise just as usual.  

But instead of cutting the parchment paper I slid the whole shebang right onto the griddle.  
 Then, after 5 minutes, I picked up one end of the paper and slid the muffins off the other end.

It worked pretty well, certainly well enough to supplant my old method. The only problem was that the paper was kind of long and awkward to pull out.  Next time, especially if I am not making quite so many muffins, I would leave a bit of space through the middle, cross-wise, and once it was on the griddle cut the paper in half.  Then I could work from each end to the middle to get the muffins off, which might be a bit easier.

As for the muffins, they were terrific.  By way of experiment, I worked craisins into some of the muffins, this too was a great success--I wish I had added craisins to more of them.  

The next assignment was for Pain Bouillabaisse, a  Provençal Fisherman’s Bread.  I was a bit leery of this bread, largely because it had sliced fennel bulb in it, and I am not a big fan of licorice.  As is often the case when expectations are modest, I was pleasantly surprised. (As the saying goes, expect less and you (usually) won't be disappointed.  A related concept holds that you should borrow money from a pessimist (or in the case of my children, your parents), because they don't expect to get it back.  There is also a corollary  approach to happiness which posits that you should live simply, give more and expect less (good luck with that, let me know how it works for you).) 

 In addition to the fennel this bread had garlic, herbes de Provençe, and saffron--traditional flavorings for a Bouillabaisse.  No fish, however.  For the saffron I used threads rather than powder, and steeped them in the water I used to make the bread.  They imparted a lovely color. 
I baked the loaf in my perforated bread pan, and it turned out great.  The crust was soft, but I am not sure if that was due to the oil in the dough or if I slightly undercooked it. 

 Either way, the bread was very nice.  I could not identify any particular flavor, certainly not licorice.  But the combination of herb[e]s with the garlic and the fennel was very very pleasant. The only down side to making this bread is that bulb of fennel, which I do not usually have in the crisper pan.  That makes this pretty much a "special occasion" bread. 
Finally, another experiment.  I had seen a Food Network recipe for Chicken Pot Pie Turnovers. The recipe used frozen puff pastry.  Now I love chicken pot pies, but they are not the most healthy of entrees.  So I thought, what about Chicken Pot Pie Calzones?  I mixed some left over chicken with some defrosted frozen mixed vegetables and some chicken gravy.  I used about a cup of each.  My goal was to not get it too saucy, so I kept the gravy fairly thick.  Then I rolled some Whole Wheat Master dough out thin into circles, spooned on some filling, folded them, sealed the edges, cut some slits in the top, and baked them at 375 for about 30 minutes.  Then the hard part, I let them rest about 10 minutes.  

They worked out pretty well. 

So that is it for this time.  The countdown continues with 8 to go.