Sunday, December 03, 2006

plain jane bread (or re-inventing the wheel)

Last Tuesday the monkey was in the throes of a nasty stomach virus. Poor thing. She yakked for quite awhile and it was early in the morning when she stopped. H slept with her that night, and I wondered what else I could do to help. I could feed the sourdough right? Yeah, bake a loaf of plain white bread for the delicate recovery into eating food, that always accompanies such experiences. And for Z, I know that she just loves bread, in just about any form, so at the very least, I could get some bread in her in the near future.

Wednesday morning H went to work and the monkey lay around. She was on the couch watching "Wonderpets" and was saying she was cold. "Wrap me like the burrito daddy, with the blanket." What was that honey? "I'm cold daddy. Wrap me up!" I commenced tucking the edges of the folded blanket around her. She enjoyed it enough to pull it off so that the process may be repeated. She wasn't really smiling though, so the sicko-meter was still reading at least half. Can I get you anything sweetie? "No." How about some orange? (citrus has been a big hit lately) "No, I'm not hungry"

I pulled out the starter, fed from the night before, and it was bubbly and happy. I gave it a thorough stirring and measured out about a cup into another bowl. I added 1+ cups of water and about 2 1/2 cups of bread flour. I mixed it quickly and left it to get all spongey.

See, believe it or not, I have read about doing sourdough as a sponge first, but have never attempted it myself. Well, actually this isn't totally true, I've done it for english muffins and it is quite tasty, but for just a big loaf or baguette, no. I have been playing with a sourdough starter now for 9 months, basically unsupervised, so my experiments, though based in the published world of sourdough technique, are really me re-inventing the wheel of dough and learning the hard way, by repetitive motion, how to produce a good bread. I am an apprentice, with only my senses as master.

The sponge did its thing for around five hours, until it was threatening to vacate the bowl it was in. I stirred in a few more cups of bread flour, a little over a teaspoon of salt, and tablespoon or more of a nice green-hued olive oil. After mixing by hand brought the dough together, I put it onto the board and got down to thumping, slapping, and twisting it into a fluffy white dough, appropriate for a plain jane loaf. All white flour, salt, water and oil.

Hey sweetie......."Yes dada?" Can I get you anything, maybe some applesauce or something? "No." You sure, maybe we could have a little chocolate afterwards? "No, It's okay, I'm not hungry right now." She is DEFINATELY still sick. Well, the bread will be awhile more anyway.

After the dough had risen once, I split it into two baguettes and a free-form loaf. Before going in the oven, the dough had at least doubled in size. This stuff was going to be very light. Only one thing, after turning on the oven, the power went out. First a small on/off flicker, then maybe 5 seconds of on. Hmmm. What was that abou?[DARK] We fished out our flashlights, lit a few candles, determined that the heater wouldn't work, or the hot water heater (what was in the tank hot, but cooling despite its protective insulation I'm sure). But the old gas stove, dating to a time when electricity was not standard in most homes works just fine when the power is out. It contains no technology that involves an electrical spark. In fact at this point in time, the now common sparking lighters on gas ranges were some 50 years out. In short, my oven worked fine.

I baked the baguettes first, as they rose faster. I was using a head lamp when judging during my first oven intervention. They were looking rather dark, I thought at the time, so I turned the oven down to about 375 for the last ten minutes. When these were removed, I placed them on a rack to cool by an open window for a draft. I was going to try these tonight, torturing myself until after they cooled completely so I could judge the moisture content as it would be in an intact loaf. At this point, the monkey had brushed her teeth, after eating the tiniest morsel of a dinner, and would have bread in the morning. I'm sure about it. About half an hour before the loaf went in the oven the power was restored. I looked at the baguettes and thought: "self, you could have left the heat up for longer on them, try it with the loaf okay?"

On Thursday morning, the monkey woke up in a pretty good mood, ready to try the bread from the night before. I'm not saying she horked down a ton of it. She was just starting to eat a little something. But toasted, with butter or raspberry jam (or both as she prefers sometimes) seemed like something worth trying to eat.

Since then, our whole family has experienced some form of this little stomach enemy of ours. And we have been living off of bread. You see, with the nice fluffy results from my first sourdough involving a sponge, I just had to make it again the next day, in a half whole wheat form. Turns out that works great too. And when you are not feeling like eating much, or need it to be nice and plain, then my vote is a plain jane loaf. White, or whole wheat will satisfy, although the whole wheat probably has a higher nutritive value, that maybe we should think about leaning toward after a few days of not eating much.

When this weekend came around, we were all looking forward to some fruits and veggies (and hoping for some fresh live crabs, but without luck). This morning the monkey and I wandered over tho the Farmers' Market and blew all the cash we had on us. I was looking at the individual booths, seeing the span of region that it reprsents, and had a smile of contentment. We had our goods, likely the bulk of the veggies for our week, and it came from areas that either have a special place in my heart (Northern reaches of the Sacramento Valley) or in my family (Fresno County) or in my blood (my Californio connections to the Central Coast). It is a priviledge and an honor to talk to the purveyors at our market, and support some more of our local* scene. We rode the bike back, unloaded the loot on the table and took a photo as a means of archiving what was available this first week of December

So do I title this picture "Still life with morning market bounty" or simply "37 bucks, Dec. 3rd, 2006, Temescal Farmers Market"........


Mallika said...

How I love baking bread! But I've discovered a yeast allergy and most bread is off the menu for me. Do you have a recipe for bread baked without yeast?

D-man said...


The only bread without yeast (that is shaped like a loaf and not pancakes, muffins or scones) that I have attempted was a beer bread, and it was rather tasty. It was from the Joy of Cooking and called for a light or dark beer. Thr recipe really relies on baking soda and powder for most of the umph in getting it to rise. Liking my beer on the dark side I used a stout and made sure to include recommended cheese and some sauteed onions. The beer was really more for flavor, although the sugar in the recipe is probably there in part as food in case there IS yeast being introduced from the beer. I suppose that if you used a really light beer that is pasteurized, it would contain no active yeast culture and should be fine for you unless your allergy is acute. Anyway, thanks for the reason to think back on past experiments in bread (I think I tried this one last year before starting to work with sourdough, and liked it because the beer gave it a sour taste), I will have to try something in the future along these lines......