Baking on the Big Green Egg

My last post explained a bit of how my parents have moved to a new home and are getting settled here in Santa Barbara. My dad’s ultimate goal is a garden and chickens (coming soon!), but along the way he’s had many other interesting thoughts and hopes–and some have come to fruition, and others, like the outdoor oven I was telepathically rooting for, have not.

But, he did purchase a Big Green Egg.

If you haven’t encountered one of these round, fuel efficient, space-age-looking barbecues, then, well, maybe you will? 🙂 I have a brother-in-law who loves his–and makes pizza, and cooks turkeys, and bakes lasagnas and all sorts of other kooky things… But cooking on this type of barbecue is all new for me and my dad.

We were curious how a loaf of bread would bake in the egg. Would it act like my cast iron pots, would it bake like a wood-fired pizza oven, would it mimic an earthen oven? So we put it to the test one gorgeous, Santa Barbara afternoon.

IMG_4653_2

IMG_4652_2

IMG_4655_2

IMG_4660_2

And the verdict is?

  • We opened the lid too many times to check on things.
  • The heat was easy to control by fiddling with the vents and we were basically able to bake between 500 and 400 degrees for the full 40 minutes.
  • The surface of the heating stone gets too hot and burns the bottom of the loaves. Will need to fix that–will ask Brother-In-Law!!!
  • Had to scrape away quite a layer of char on the bottom.
  • The heat in the egg seems to be quite dry–will add a can of water for steam next time.
  • Though the finished loaves look kind of nice in the photograph, the crust color was pasty and muted, and I know you’ll say they look super fabulous, but you were not measuring their color alongside a dad, who is a baker…
  • Warm bread, no matter how off color, even when you have to saw away the burned bottom with a knife, is always delicious…

Because we burned the bottom of the bread, we decided not to grace the neighbors with the second loaf. We WILL try again and certainly do some sharing.

What about you? Have you had success baking in an outdoor setting? I’d love to hear your stories of adventurous baking.

Cheers, friends…

Ugly Transformed

IMG_4106_2

My last post was all about a really awful-looking loaf of bread. See it above? All wrinkly, white, dense and unpresentable? But with all those good ingredients inside, I decided to reuse what I had ruined. Ever heard of bread recycling?!

I I broke pieces of the ruined bread from day old loaves and made a very wet mix of new dough. I chose to use the no-knead method, and hoped that this magical recipe, which I have never ever ruined, despite the many variations I’ve tried, would help redeem my good ingredients…

IMG_4104_2

And voila!

The bread turned out beautifully, and off it went to be shared, with another loaf of no-knead that I mixed a jar of red pepper mix into…

IMG_4099_2

I like that all of this happened. That the ugly happened and that I was willing to do the work and search for a new beauty. It’s a good metaphor for me–because brokenness is around me, around all of us, but with work we can save the good and make something new and redeemed from the bad. It just takes effort, and faith.

And guess what? I’m off to Paris, friends, and will be writing from there! Sending you all love…

Ugly Bread

It all started out so beautifully. A wonderful mix of sourdough, kamut and rye… The late night kneading. The early morning molding…

But, you know. The afternoons are busy and there I was, tending to twelve different things at once–the bread was in the oven…

Somehow the oven was turned off. No need blaming anyone. Who really cares! I have a distinct appreciation for ugly bread–I have a whole photo folder dedicated to ugly bread pictures. Here is my latest. Isn’t it something?!!!IMG_4066Eek.

It’s awful.

The oven was turned back on and I finished the bake an hour later. At least it made the bread edible–not as bread, but as French toast the next morning.

But giving? I’m sorry to say, folks. I just can’t fathom giving something this horrible looking to anyone.

Not anyone.

So, I took it on a photo shoot, and let the bunnies have a sniff.

IMG_4063If you bake, then you can sympathize. Even my baker brothers can’t send every one of their loaves into the world.

Here are a few of my other, truly ugly creations:

IMG_0331st n close up braidingsour ugly baked

Cheers, Friends! Happy giving…

On Camera

So….

Back in December a young photographer at church approached me, full of questions about my bread baking and giving. What is it all about, why do I do it, how often do I bake, what have I learned? He listened intently, and then asked if he could make a short movie about the topic. I hesitated, then said yes.

I despise being in front of the camera. Mostly because I am sinful, and vain, and see myself as less beautiful than I would like to be. Growing up in Southern California, surrounded by beautiful people–everywhere–it’s an easy trap to tumble into. That is a very honest answer coming straight from my heart. So, knowing my struggles, I said yes. I said yes to help combat a vanity that has no place near the realm of giving from the heart. And I said yes because this experiment isn’t only about me and my (hopeful) personal transformation. It’s about sharing with others and hoping they might somehow be a little transformed, too…

Matt came by and zoomed two cameras my way. I cuddled into a chair and started to talk. He asked question after question and I settled into speaking and sharing, aware of my nerves, enjoying my enthusiasm, and especially pleased with how the light was streaming through the front window, comforting me…

And then we baked. We spent the entire day together–cameras clicking, adjusting lenses and rolling out dough, shifting piles of junk around so they weren’t in the frame, revealing more and more of the story and the process of baking bread.

And here’s the result!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQZOejtAWbI&feature=youtu.be&hd=1

 

 

This is Matt’s work, Matt’s idea, and we’ll see what sort of journey this video embarks upon. I’ll be telling you a bit more about Matt Roberts, too, in a future post, but for now, it’s back to baking, folks!

 

 

Distracted by Fire

Driving home from the morning run to school I recognized the familiar plume of smoke that shouts Fire. Here in Santa Barbara we’ve become all too familiar with the symptoms and realities of forest fires.

I returned home, had breakfast, opened up my computer and there was the emergency email from the County, providing a bevy of details. Emails came about every half hour and were full of specifics–how many engines were headed up the mountain, how many helicopters and air tankers, how many men on the ground. They were going to throw all their resources at this blaze to catch it now–on maybe the hottest and most dangerous day in October. I said a quick prayer for friends who live in that exact place.

But here at my home, with the fire several miles away and the winds calm, I went about my day.

And that meant bread baking. I knew things were off in my head when I discovered I was almost out of flour but decided to bake anyway! The rest of the white flour went into the mix, then some garbanzo bean flour, a little honey and milk, some yeast, grind up some kamut, and, OH!!!, why not grind some oats while you’re at it! Was I crazy?

I was crazy.

Back to email. Back to fire updates and fiddling with stories, and sweeping up pine needles.

Before I knew it the dough had risen risen risen, risen way too long and the shaped rolls were looking desperate and wrinkled and forgotten. Into the oven anyway!

And again, lost in some other time zone I forgot the oven was hot, and that the rolls were done. Over baked; it was just one of those days.

To save it all, despite the bizarre concoction of grains and what not, John Ronan came home from school wanting toast with fig jam. Of course! I said. And rhubarb jam, he said. Of course! I said again. I was thrilled–the child doesn’t even like figs or rhubarb.

And believe it or not, the whole dinner gang loved the bread, wrinkles and all. Distractions don’t always make something turn out lovely, but I suppose it doesn’t mean they can’t at least be tasty!

So, here’s to all of you who get distracted from time to time like I do. Part of life, part of being human. But forgive me for not sharing the bread. I just couldn’t. Look at it–would you have shared?

And the fire is close to containment. Thank you for your prayers! No excuses of that sort today. Time to get back to baking (with not quite so many ingredients…).

Cheers, friends.

Pain de Campagne

Ever been to France?

Pain de campagne is a staple bread that you will find in all boulangeries around the country. It translates as “country bread” and is typically made with a levain or sourdough starter and both wheat and rye flours. In order to get a nice light, but chewy texture this bread takes a bit of time to complete. I will tackle this sort of recipe on a day when I know I have chores at home and will be present for the various steps along the way.

When I moved to France as a young woman to study languages I came to love this hearty loaf of bread; it wasn’t one that was made in any large quantity in my family’s bakery here in California. Along with the baguette, I remember it being on the table of many homes in which I lived and visited, and I have hoped to duplicate it in my kitchen. It’s like a hearty dose of the good earth, and so good as sandwich bread, in the morning with eggs, or alongside a hearty vegetable soup. Yum!

I have tried a variety of recipes and finally found one that worked for me. Rejoice with me!!! That’s about ten years of trying! If you like to bake, and don’t have this bread book, titled Dough, by Richard Bertinet–then onto the Christmas list it should go. That’s where the recipe is found…

As an aside, this is a horrible representation of pain de campagne. I’m sharing this link because it’s the very first in line when you search for it on google. Good grief. Don’t follow that recipe.

As for the giving! I’ve made three batches now of pain de campagne in the last month and have given three of the six loaves away. One was eaten by a glowing pregnant mama, another went to my son’s first grade teacher, Miss Conway :), and the last ended up in the hands of my parents, who are currently in a long phase of house reconstruction…

Hope you get to France one day to try one of their many amazing breads–but if not, have fun giving this recipe a try. Or come knock on my door and I’ll make you a loaf!

Really, I would love to 🙂