Wednesday, March 26, 2008


I'm a breadbaking fool, living in a nation filled with bread. To justify my madness, sometimes I just gotta give it away. It's nice to get feedback in the form of deep moans, grunts, lip smacking and chewing sounds. I also like the blurted out "you made this?" That one always gets me. But enough said.......

It was my friend M and his mention of a Fermented Food Feast that would benefit City Slicker Farms here in Oaktown that was the recent reason for a big give away. So, I spent a few days building up the starters to mammoth amounts and then commenced doughing. From left to right in my kitchen, the morning of the event.......

Let's see here. That's two 1/4 whole wheat, free form loaves doing their final rising under the glass bowls. Well, the one on the right should be. Oh, and three sheets of english muffins rising in anticipation of the griddle. These will turn out being part of Shuna's birthday present and represent batch number two of the day.

Over here we have one huge bowl of sourdough starter. It was fed recently and is not yet looking like a madly bubbling cauldron of chalky goo. That will come soon enough. The jugs are soon to be 1.5 gallons of starter for give-away. The red bowl and mostly hidden green covered casserole are focaccia doughs doing their first rise. 1/4 whole wheat and an herbed all white version respectively. The glass bowl contains a free form white sourdough loaf.

Damn, like will it end? How about two all white baguettes in my favorite loaf pan. The tub of muffins is from round one earlier. The bags of flour are empty for now but will contain muffin give-away six packs. Turning further to the right and taking another picture revealed the dirty dishes and my filthy floured self, so I'm stopping there with the kitchen tour.

I took advantage of some afternoon light to take a picture of what came out of the oven. I especially like the golden hues on the crust. It made me think of the spring currently popping out in the desert and how I'm missing it. Content with the loaves, I packed them in the car with the other goodies and made my way down to the party.

To round out the yeast gift, I included a three pack of fermented apple cider. Two of them were from farmers' market produce, the third from store bought for comparisons sake. All of them are equally dry and bubbly. Not exactly a wild fermented item like much of the other items at the fundraiser, including the sourdoughs, but I figured everyone like a little hooch. All in all I was very pleased with my output and proud of my wares. Looking at it now, it appears like a photo of my yeast repertoire.

The following day I still had a quart or so of active starter and I just couldn't see it go to waste. Those poor little cultures of bacteria and molds needed my help. They needed to go out burning up feeding my family. I made up a huge batch of herbed foacaccia, cornmeal laden pizza dough, and a sourdough version of Tea's Russian Black Bread. It was another few rounds of mincing, mixing and kneading but most of the time I couldn't be happier doing anything else.

The pizza dough worked out very nice for pesto with mushroom and jack cheese calzones. The black bread formed a nice dense looking brown bomb. It smelled of absolute delight before baking. During, I almost tore off a piece to burn the shit out of my mouth with.......and then thought better about it and decided to preserve my taste buds for enjoying it for the next few days. I started thinking of how it would pair with salmon and cream cheese.

So if this looks good to anyone out there, and you have a sourdough and a hankering for a nice earthy dark rye loaf, well then feed the starter and get some ingredients because this one will become an instant favorite. Dark, molasses, rye and yum. Just add some fish and cow extract and you're in business.

Thanks for the recipe Tea! I'll go ahead and add my own, scaled down sourdough version of it, based on what was in the house if anyone feels like playing around with it. Enjoy!


make 1 cup of strong ass coffee with a moka pot or espresso maker.
drink half, you'll need it.
in a large bowl add:
1/4 c molasses
3 T butter
2 T cocoa powder
nuke it, or heat it up in a pan and transfer back into the bowl. add 1 T apple cider vinegar and the remaining half of your coffee. when this is just warm or near room temperature add about 2 cups of sourdough starter.
in another big bowl add:
2 c rye flour
2 c all purpose flour
1 c whole wheat flour
1/4 c cornmeal
2 t salt and give it a mix
add bowl of mixed flours to the dark liquid starter combo bowl or vise versa, depending on whichever bowl is big enough to contain the flour you will inevitably start throwing everywhere while mixing it up. make a huge mess until the dough comes together, then knead it for about five minutes. then let it rest a bit. let yourself rest a bit too. maybe make yourself more of that coffee or crack open a nice dark beer. maybe a homebrew.
when you feel like it, mince up:
3 T of onion
then measure out:
1.5 T caraway seeds
1/2 t of fennel
incorporate these into the dough and knead for about five more minutes or until the dough is nice and smooth.
let rise in a well oiled bowl in a fairly warm spot and punch down when doubled.
form into a large round and let rise (I do mine on parchment paper) until nearly doubled.
place onto a pre-heated baking stone at 475 degrees for about twenty minutes, making sure to turn halfway through. if bread ain't sounding hollow yet, take off the stone and bake at 425 degrees for another 5-10 minutes.
wait until it's most the way cool and then eat it for the next two days with just about anything, like butter, fish, beer, cheese, chutney, coffee, air...........

Friday, March 21, 2008

shark food

This past Wednesday evening, elder monkey and I attended a San Jose Sharks hockey game. She'd been to two before, but was on our laps at the time. This was her first time that she remembered. The two of us drove on down to San Jose in good time with no traffic and parked way out in the free zone. She's a little hiker and we hoofed it quickly, pretending we would "chase" various groups of people. Before we knew it we were at the gates with our tickets, pack full of treats, but most importantly "Sharkie" in hand.
She takes a look at the hundreds of folks milling about.
"What are all these people here for daddy?"
"To see the Sharks hockey game honey, just like us."
"Wow, this must be one big shark tank!"
"Well, that's just what they call it hon, but really the only sharks in it are the hockey players."
"Yeah, and my Sharkie!"
"Yup, and your Sharkie honey. And lots of others. In fact, look around and you tonight and you will see other people with their little sharks swimming around when the right music plays."
"I don't want my sharkie to swim around!"
"It's up to you sweetie, you'll see."
We arrive at the front of the building and que up.

Magic Fae Fae and the baguette wrapped in a kitchen towel did their job at concealing the hooch, just as planned, allowing us safe maneuvering past the rugged security, consisting of the ticket scanner guy asking sheepishly: "oooh, hey, can I check your bag there?" I wondered if Canadian hockey arena workers made it into the american leagues as this case sounded to be.

We secured our tickets in a pocket and made our way up the stairs. It is a stroll all the way around the arena to get to our section and we pass all the concessions. Her eyes were aglow with the possibilities. She stops at the fresh popcorn.
"I think that later, I want the sweet popcorn, if we happen to find some."
Happen to find some!
My heart melts.

We find our seats and sit down for the last 5 minutes of the pre-game stuff. The monkey looks around, mouth agape at the multimedia presentation that is the NHL. When the puck hits the ice, I break out the baguette and fixin's and start constructing sammiches. Monkey wants one with cheese. I think to myself, we did it, we did! a kid who eats stinky cheese on home-made bread!

Five minutes into the game a fight breaks out that seems to last forever. Figures.
"Why are those men hitting each other?" she wonders aloud, in a voice that everyone in the section can hear I'm sure.
"Well sweetie, sometimes in hockey, when someone is angry at someone and wants to fight them, they take off their gloves and the referees lets them duke it out!"
"Oh." I can see her imagining that all she needs to do is wear gloves the next time she's around her brother and angry.
"He sweetie, don't get any ideas, you don't play hockey yet."

After finishing the first round of food and making it through the first round of high-fives with strangers during the first goal, she requests one with salmon next. Yeah, that's my kid, right there. I tear her off another hunk of bread and put some nice slices of smoked salmon in there for her. Her eyebrows nod up and down with approval and I hear a few sounds of contentment.

To celebrate the occasion, I do what hockey fans do. I have a beer. Only I remain seated and pop open the pink water bottle to drink some fine homebrew. That's right, you heard me. Snuck in homebrew. Shit, I figure, at $7.75 a pint for a beer on tap at the tank, I'll open one at home and transfer it into an unbreakable container for safe transport and "suffer" through the effects it has on the beer. Ahhhh, the tough moral decisions that one must face in this life. Good thing they go rather nicely with an IPA.

We nosh away for the rest of the period. After seeing everyone else get up and go somewhere we decide to try it ourselves, buying a bag of "confetti popcorn." She takes her first taste and makes a face.
"That one tasted like banana!"
We make it back to our seats and I make myself another sammich and polish off the beer. We witness a horrific crash behind the goalie into the boards that results in a player leaving on a stretcher with a broken leg. One of those kind of games, just filled with brawls and injuries. We get through two periods before losing all steam.
I ask her if she wants something else like a hot dog or maybe some fries.
Time to go.
"Well, let's pack up and head out sweetie."
"Yeah honey?"
"Can we wait until we see the ice cleaners one more time?"
"Sure sweetie, sure............"

After the Zambonis did their work and "everything is smooth again" we let ourselves out and began the trek back to the car. She makes it all but two of the blocks on her own. During those we look for jets landing at the airport nearby while she tells me how excited she is to be up so late to see the "golfey players." At the car we get her into jammies and start listening to the radio broadcast. In the final minute, the lead changes twice. We pull away and it's sudden death. She's talking non-stop. "Sweetie, it's after 10 o'clock, can we be quiet for just one minute and then we'll talk?"
"Okay" she manages to exhale.
10 seconds later she's out.
It's a real nail-biter.
In a shoot-out the Sharks win. I'm ten minutes from home, the monkey is asleep, jammied and smiling in her sleep. I'm one happy dad.

The next morning I reached in the pack and took out what was left of the bread. A dorsal fin it appeared. I reflected on how yummy the rye and wheat combo worked with the alder smoked salmon and ultra tasty chevre. I sliced up the remains and put it in the toaster, then got out the remainder of last night's fixin's from the fridge. I figured we could revisit our menu from the shark tank (minus the beer) and eat shark food for breakfast.

Two of my favorites on home-made sourdough baguette slices.
The SGS combo. Salmon, Goat, Sourdough.
Mmmmmmmm........shark food.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

hints that spring is nearly here

Sometimes, here in sunny California, it can be a little confusing as to exactly when it's spring. Sure, you've got that whole equinox thingy and all, but well before that, spring has sprung. The plants know what's up. Some keep track of the temperature while some pay attention to the sun's rays. Some pay attention to neither. Or both. I try to make sense of it all, but it's the little clues of it's arrival, such as these flowers placed so lovingly into the hood of my car. When I see this, I know spring is near.

Another way of telling is by who visits. Think about it. You probably have a few relatives or friends who you only see at certain times of the year. A holiday perhaps. If this regularity can be counted on then you start thinking things like: "oh, hey, auntie so and so is coming to town, it must be (insert occasion here)." When it's Saint Nick, you think x-mas. The Great Pumpkin, Halloween right? And so on and so forth. Well, around here, before that big damn bunny makes his appearance we get a visit from Princess Cinderella and the Pink Princess Mariposa. Yes, spring is here when I find myself making lunch for these two.

Maybe you are a devout eater of what's in season. If that's the case you'd probably say spring is here when you're eating asparagus or something else fresh, green and newly emerged from the cold or recently frozen ground. Now, I love my asparagus and all, but to me nothing says the arrival of spring like eating peach pie. You heard it: P E A C H P I E. The filling for this baby was made back at the end of September and tucked away into the freezer. With the warming weather and trying to imagine what we can cram in the freezer that is the last of winter's goodness, it seems we shall need to make some space. The peachy goodness has got to go. Next up is a bag of Red Haven pie filling. When that one goes, there ain't no more warm peachiness until I feel the fuzz from this year's crop on my lips.

When I really know it's spring though, is when the light streams through the Tofuhenge just so. It will pierce through one of the bean curd windows and illuminate the center with a nice clean line. With high enough air quality in the kitchen the light will even shine through all the way to the pull-down panels on the ancient Wedgewood. Of course you have to have constructed your "henge" with the proper alignment for this to happen, but when it finally does, as far as I'm concerned spring is here.

Silly readers, and you thought tofu was just for eating!

Happy almost sprung..........