Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

San Francisco Sourdough Bread Part 1

February 27, 2015

A sourdough starter is a minor miracle. Combine flour, water, and a mixture of natural bacteria and yeast, wait a few hours, and a dramatic change occurs! The teeming microscopic life within the wet mass of flour find an abundant source of nutrition and begin producing a bewildering array of flavorful chemical compounds and gaseous carbon dioxide. Within a short time the inert lump has drastically increased in volume. Life has asserted itself in an unmistakable way.

The starter has just been fed. 2 ounces of starter, previously stored in the refrigerator, are mixed with equal weights of water and flour. Only chlorine-free water should be used since we don’t want to inhibit the bacterial growth. I use a Brita faucet filter.

Freshly fed starter

Freshly fed starter

Here is the same starter six hours later. The yeast have produced a enough gas to increase the volume more than double. At this point the starter has a mild acidic odor, somewhat fruity and not at all unpleasant.

The same starter after 6 hours

The same starter after 6 hours

For the most reproducible results the ingredients are weighed. I use measuring spoons for the salt, but everything else is weighed. I’ve found this Oxo scale to be very accurate and reliable. Since the scale has a 12 lb capacity I can weigh directly into the mixing bowl.

Starter and water have been weighed

Starter and water have been weighed

I’ve mixed and kneaded the bread by hand several times, but find the mixer with a dough hook is faster and results in a much easier clean-up. I mix at lowest speed for seven minutes. The dough comes together around the dough hook and cleans the sides of the bowl, but remains in contact with the bottom of the bowl.

Mixing with a Danish dough whisk

Mixing with a Danish dough whisk

All of flour added, ready to mix with dough hook

All of flour added, ready to mix with dough hook

Dough gathers into a ball around the hook

Dough gathers into a ball around the hook

After 7 minutes the dough is somewhat sticky but isn’t difficult to handle with a little flour on the hands. I gather the dough into a ball, clean out the bowl, return the dough to the bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

After 7 minutes of mixing the dough is soft and sticky

After 7 minutes of mixing the dough is soft and sticky

Rounded dough ready for first rise

Rounded dough ready for first rise

The bowl is placed in a wine cooler set to 61F and allowed to slowly rise for about 10 to 12 hours. The long cool rise allows the flavors to fully develop. (I have wine bottles in the cooler too. I’m not going to give it up entirely to the bread!)
Even at 61F the dough has risen more than double. The dough is scraped from the bowl onto a lightly floured work surface. The dough is handled gently so it will not totally degas.

After an 11 hour cool rise

After an 11 hour cool rise

Dough transferred to a floured board

Dough transferred to a floured board

Initially the dough is very soft, pliable and sticky. A little flour on the surface and the hands make easier to handle. Some structure is introduced to the dough by allowing its own weight to stretch it out, then folding it over. This is repeated a few times after which the dough is much easier to gather into a stable round loaf shape.

The first stretch

The first stretch

The first fold

The first fold

The final tightening of the loaf is accomplished by dragging the loaf on the unfloured board, rotating it to evenly distribute the tension.
Please go to this blog post for the rest of the story.

The formed loaf, ready to place in the proofing basket

The formed loaf, ready to place in the proofing basket

San Francisco Sourdough Bread Part 2

February 22, 2015

I started baking sourdough bread a few months ago. I’ve baked bread with commercial yeast for decades, but I always wanted to try my hand at sourdough. This Website provided much of the information I needed to get started. After trying to create my own starter with no success I bought a San Francisco sourdough starter from this company.

I took a few photos while I was making a loaf of San Francisco Sourdough Bread last Friday. The photos start with the formed loaf. I’ll cover the earlier steps of the process in a future post.

The formed loaf, ready to place in the proofing basket

The formed loaf, ready to place in the proofing basket

The proofing basket, also called a banneton or brotform, is made of natural cane. The interior of the basket is generously sprinkled with flour to keep the dough from sticking while it rises. The rise in the basket takes about 2 hours.

Ready to rise in the proofing basket

Ready to rise in the proofing basket

To maximize the oven rise and crust formation in an ordinary oven I use a stoneware enclosure called La Cloche, which is French for “bell”. I transfer the dough from the proofing basket to the room temperature stoneware, but some bakers prefer to preheat the stoneware.The closed container traps some of the moisture and provides radiant heat from the stoneware lid. This is similar to the environment in a traditional masonry oven.

Transferred from the basket to the base of the La Cloche

Transferred from the basket to the base of the La Cloche

The loaf is slashed with a sharp blade so when it rises in the oven the crust will separate in a predictable manner. There are many ways of slashing a loaf. I’ve been using a simple “X”.

Slashes cause the crust to split in the desired pattern

Slashes cause the crust to split in the desired pattern

The top of the La Cloche is in place and the bread is ready to bake

The top of the La Cloche is in place and the bread is ready to bake

The bread is baked in a preheated 450F oven for 30 minutes with the lid on. The lid is then removed, the temperature is reduced to 400F and baking continues until the crust is browned, usually about 10 or 15 minutes.

The finished loaf

The finished loaf

This bread is especially good toasted. The mild sour flavor blends perfectly with butter. The crust has a nice crunch but isn’t too tough or chewy.

 A closeup

A closeup

Tired of the same old eggs?

December 17, 2011

This recipe is from Make it Paleo by Bill Staley and Hayley Mason. The whites and yolks are separated, then the whites are beaten and combined with unsweetened coconut. The yolks are nestled into the resulting mounds and the assembly is baked until browned. The yolks turned out about medium and the dish was a welcome change from the same old eggs.

Coconut-nested Eggs