Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Quite Possibly, The Prettiest Loaf of Bread in the World

Oh yes, I've had my sourdough growing pains, many of which I've discussed in disturbing length here.  The last couple of loaves were okay, but nothing to write home about.  But tonight, I believe I've reached the first level of bread Nirvana:

And, like Shakespeare wrote, tis an ill cook indeed that does not lick his fingers, so Brent and I sawed off a slice.  And it tasted very, very good.  Very.

And so, after this loaf (maybe I'm at five now?), here's what I've gleaned:

1.  Generally, a teaspoon and a half of salt is too much....but one teaspoon is too little. 
2.  The recipe I'm using calls for too much water.
3.  As much as I'd like to serve whole wheat bread to my kids, using WW flour in the dough (even a little bit) is not suiting my taste and texture preferences right now.
4.  The top must be scored like in the pic above.  Otherwise, there's cracking on the sides.
5.  25 minutes is the right amount of baking time.

I'm thinking about forming my own band.  The name?  The Grateful Bread.  Yar yar yar.  Life is good.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Keepin' My Eyes On The Rise

Tonight, I am not so completely exhausted...so I will talk about food.

August is nearly gone, and I have decided to reinstate breakfast cereal here at Chez Nelson next month.  Not that it was terribly difficult to provide non-BC morning meals for my kids, but with an extra person living here with us now and this chaotic schedule upon us, I feel the pressing need to keep breakfasts as simple and self-sufficient as possible.

I did prepare one last batch of homemade granola to tide us over till September, though.  I don't think I'll stop making granola - it's so good!

The breadmaking, on the other hand, is becoming more and more a nonnegotiable thing.  As in, I don't think I'll ever be able, in good conscious, to buy a loaf of store-bought bread again.  I've got a system worked out too:  about two or three times a week, I do a loaf of sourdough and a loaf of bread machine white.  The loaf of white goes into the freezer (stockpile in case of Armageddon), and the sourdough stays on the counter for daily consumption.  A loaf goes PDQ...and that's why I'm stockpiling...I have two teenageish boys in the house now.  Yea, verily are they voracious...

Tonight, I tried my hand at making Bulgogi, a Korean meat dish.  I used the recipe at this gem of a website I found called Easy Korean Food.  This morning, I processed the soy sauce, pears, apple, garlic and oil and then marinated some sirloin steaks...all day long (instead of overnight).  Brent threw them on the grill (as opposed to frying them) and we had sweet potato fries and a bag of Trader Joe's Harvest Grains Blend.

The best part of the evening's meal for me?  Doing our usual going-around-the-table-and-sharing-the-best-part-of-the-day.  Because Jaycob, our FES from South Korea said it was "dinner," because he was very hungry and because "of the delicious food".


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sourdough Blues

Well, I never!

My foray into self-sufficient bread baking has seemed marked by tragedy from the get go.

1.  The first starter I tried went liquidy and bad on me.

2.  I used the second starter to make one loaf.  The recipe I was referencing said bake for an hour.  The ensuing product was NFL-football material.

3. I "fed" the starter, then proceeded to knock the jar over, spilling most of the contents across my kitchen counters.  There was hardly any starter left, but I added the flour and water "refeed" anyway.

4. Loaf #2 baked for only 45 minutes, but it was still too long.

5. Loaf #2 resulted in a bland (though edible) loaf of bread.

6. Starter is completely gone (after just two loaves of bread).  My proportions must have off.

7. I start another starter (#3). 

That brings me to today.  I contacted Capt HD for the proper oven temp and time information and then proceed to turn out a beautifully textured, nicely tasting loaf of sourdough bread.  The starter was fed (measurements from yet another source) and allowed to foam.  It has been placed in my refrig, loosely covered. 

Hopefully, this whole bread baking thing will not suck anymore.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sourdough Starter, Take Two

Well, I've worked up the guts to try this again.  My reference this time was the book, Ultimate Bread

Things seemed to go better this morning.  I dissolved the yeast in the water, I added flour, and I stirred.

I did not have excessive bubblage.  No overflow.  No sticky cleanup. 

A Minnesotan friend of mine told me I needed to stir the starter a couple of times a day, which I did.  So far, so good.

We'll see what tomorrow brings.

My kids are a fan of the bread machine white bread, and so it's time to stockpile.  I know white is not as good as wheat, but MY white bread is not full of the crap that Wonder Bread is....so there.

By the way, on a totally different topic, my 12-year-old son has started his own blog here at blogspot.  It is essentially a chronicle of his year as a first-year homeschooler.  School begins tomorrow for him (a full week earlier than his sister and brother).

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Ah! The Beginning of the Bounty!

One great thing (in addition to others) about Brent getting his Master's degree way back in May is that he recommandeered the planting of the garden.  When it was just me, it was tomatoes, green peppers, and one token jalapeno plant.

This year, though, Brent planted tomatoes, green peppers, and...lettuce, oregano, peas, green beans, potatoes, and radishes.   I know, the guy went crazy!

The lettuce grew fine, but we weren't vigilant about cutting it.  The peas and green beans didn't do well, and the oregano was bunny food.  However, we enjoyed radishes earlier in the summer, and lovely meal of red potatoes just last month.  Green peppers have trickled in, also, in pairs.

Elliot visited the garden yesterday to harvest tomatoes, and he brought in a half-dozen palm-sized pretties.  Today, though, Spencer went out and brought in a full bowl of ripe-and-ready tomatoes.  The question now is, what to do with them?  I was in not in the mood to cook them down and can them, so I went with what I did have energy for...dicing and freezing them. 

Personally, I love diced tomatoes...I use them often in stews, chilies, and pasta dishes.  Versatile!

Here's the before (kinda) picture.  The yellow bowl is everything Spencer brought in today, and the orange bowl was half-full from Elliot's haul.

Dicing the whole batch took me about an hour and a half.  Fortunately, I enjoy it.  When all was said and done, this is what I got.

Kinda looks funny when it's all laid out like this.  Doesn't look like a whole lot...especially considering how long it took.  :) 

Oh, and in other food news, I did a quick loaf of plain white bread in the machine today ("This might be the best bread I've ever had, Mom," says the 12-year-old.)  My freezer now holds a loaf of Light Rye and a loaf of White.  Whee!

I chucked the sourdough started, because after that initial bubbling over on Day One, it never recovered.  Liquidy and runny and not foamy.  Will try again later on this week.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Obese Sourdough Starter

Today, I created (or attempted to) my own sourdough starter.  I considered capturing my own wild yeast, but in the end, opted for the yeast-flour-water concoction.  Perhaps someday....

So, at about 8:30, I mixed two cups of water, two cups of flour and one tablespoon of yeast.  When I got home after nine holes of golf, this is what was on my kitchen counter.

Yeah, a yeast volcano.  A sticky, pasty mess.  No worries.  I cleaned it up and moved it to a bigger Mason jar.  Good times.  We'll see what happens on Sunday.
Tonight, we ran out of the last of the store-bought bread.  So I pulled out the Light Rye I'd done two days ago.  Another loaf of the same is baking the bread machine right now.  Life is good.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Our Daily Bread

While it is true that man cannot live by bread alone, this girl is going to attempt to live without premade, presliced bread for the next a lot of weeks.

Now, this is kind of a big deal.  We eat bread pretty handily around here.  The kids make sandwiches for lunch, have toast in the morning, etc. etc.

So - this means, I will now be baking my own bread.  Finally!  you are thinking, this lady is finally with the program.  This is the commitment I am going to attempt to make:  three (maybe four) times a week, I will make a loaf of something yeasty in my bread machine.  Then, I will wrap it, freezer bag it, and place it in my deep freeze.  Some folks stockpile ammunition, I shall stockpile bread loaves.

I read Martha's post about sourdough bread here, and was inspired to do it for myself.  In the last month, I've had conversations with two people who bake their own sourdough bread, and if that isn't enough of a message from the universe, I don't know what is.  So, tomorrow, I'll begin the process of capturing my own sourdough.  Yay!  Fun!

Oh, and the breakfast thing?!  Tomorrow will be Morning Five, and things are going well.  Nobody has asked about Cheerios or Lucky Charms at all.  I've been asked to make pancakes once and the husband made omelets this morning.  Otherwise, they've gotten their own toast, yogurt, and eggs.

Ba-da-ba-ba-baa...I'm lovin' it.