Ugly Transformed

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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…

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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…

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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…

Bread and the Ballet

I was introduced to Mauricio over email. My sister sent me a message and implored me to meet this nice young man from Chile, who was coming to Santa Barbara to dance.  He had worked for her at her gym in South Carolina…

It took two weeks, but we were finally able to have him over, and spoil him a bit. He’s dancing for the State Street Ballet here in Santa Barbara, and will be touring with them once he returns from Chile at the end of September.

So, I’m sure this is a long shot, but do you remember when the last World Cup soccer matches were in play and I tried baking a few breads from around the world? Silly, I know, but I adore silliness. Anyway, back then I found a workable recipe of a sweet anise bread (from Uruguay) and I’m thinking this might be a wonderful gift for a young dancer who says that he loves bread. He pridefully announced that people in Chile eat more bread than any other South American country. I think this gives me free reign to spoil a starving dancer with at least one fresh loaf of bread.

Don’t you?

Anyway, he just left the States for the comfort of his home in Santiago. While he’s away, I’ve already practiced making this recipe once. Yum. See–already half eaten before I could get the camera out!

The recipe link above leaves much to be desired, so I had to fiddle here and there, and then I braided the loaves for extra fun. I will post a new recipe–my own version–in a few weeks (after a few more trials, which my kids will adore; they love this bread and will probably shower me with affectionate hugs and kisses when I bake it again…)

What about you? Any  young Chileans floating into your life these days? Dancers? Maybe not, but if my kids are any measure, you may want to try baking up this loaf just for fun. Bonus hugs and extra smooches are always worth the effort…

Sourdough!

Two batches of sourdough

Gave two small boules to Mad’s intrepid science teacher, and shared a jaco with our in-laws

I grew up in a home where every day meant fresh sourdough bread on the table. There was an endless supply coming from our family’s bakery, and though I knew our sourdough was better than most, I was horribly surprised to land in Colorado as a young adult and discover that good bread couldn’t be found everywhere. As much as I loved the mountains in Colorado, that preservative-rich, chewy white bread that abounded there was dreadful. Eew! Eew! Eew!

In Colorado I tried to make my own sourdough but miserably failed. My baking skills were still too juvenile and I could only make beautiful yet inedible and overly sour loaves. Most of them were shaped into long flutes and served as fighting weapons for my kids. They were so heavy and hard and horrible!
Now that I’ve been baking consistently for many years now, I finally  decided I was ready to become a baker of sourdough. I can keep a starter alive–I can look at dough and know where it’s at in its rise, and I’ve learned some of the oven tricks which help create an artisan loaf. I’ve been gearing up for this big day for quite some time and yippee!!! I made my first real loaf of sourdough!!!
I say real loaf because I have successfully made several very edible batches of sourdough using the no-knead method, where you add starter to your mix, along with a tiny bit of commercial yeast, and bake off your loaves in an enamel or iron pot. And believe me, the no-knead bread is an amazing imposter and worth perfecting. But what I’m talking about is this method: mix-by-hand, let rise for 12 hours, then mold, then let rise another 10 hours, then bake. It’s patience bread, really, and so worth the time…

Sourdough is made by mixing “sourdough starter,” (or mother dough–or levain) with flour, salt, and water. The starter is a yeast mixture of wild yeast, flour and water that is kept alive by regular “feedings.” I know, it sounds a lot like having another baby in the house. This baby, however, eats infrequently, and lives happily in your cupboard or fridge…

Unlike my brother’s bakery, Etxea Bakery in LA, the temperatures and climate in my house vary from day to day, so baking a loaf of sourdough takes a watchful eye. The first batch I baked rose for an initial 12 hours (from 8am to 8pm), then I molded it and let it rise on the counter until 11pm, then I put it in the fridge until 7am the next morning, when I finally baked it. Almost 24 hours start to finish. The second batch rose for 16 hours (from 10 pm until 2pm the next day!), then I molded it, and baked it off at 6pm that evening. A 20-hour journey for this batch–and quite a different voyage for the two rises. Both batches were delicious, but so varied in the way those little yeasties went to work…

Some things I learned:

  • The first rise, just like in all other types of baking, will always take much longer
  • Sourdough is very resilient. The bread can even seem a bit flimsy when going into the oven, like it has overproofed, but the oven spring is amazing.
  • Working with sourdough seems very forgiving. The time frames are so much longer–if you need another half hour to finish a chore, it won’t ruin the bread to wait…

I’ll be posting a sourdough recipe in the next few weeks. For now, if you live in LA and want some terrific sourdough that my brothers are producing, you can grab a friend or spouse, and head to one of these hot restaurants for a taste 🙂

Paradise Cove Beach Cafe–Malibu

26 Beach Restaurant–Venice

Cafe on Location–Tarzana

Fin’s–Calabassas

Fin’s–Westlake

Fonz’s Steaks and Seafood–Manhattan Beach

Fratelli’s NY Pizza–Woodland Hills

John O’Groats–Encino

John O’Groats–West LA

Kate Mantilini’s–Beverly Hills

Kate Mantilini’s-Woodland Hills

Kip’s–El Segundo

Lawry’s Carvery–Century City

Lawry’s Carvery–S Coast Plaza

Lawry’s–Beverly Hills

Literati Cafe–West LA

Malibu Seafood–Malibu

Michael’s--Santa Monica

Neli’s Deli–West LA

Nichol’s Restaurant–Marina del Rey

Petrelli’s Steakhouse–Culver City

Rock’n Fish–LA

Rock’n Fish–Manhattan Beach

Stanley’s–Sherman Oaks

Tam O’Shanter–LA

The Galley–Santa Monica

The Great Greek–Sherman Oaks

Tony’s Liquor and Deli–Sherman Oaks

Venice Beach Wines–Venice

Sorrento’s Italian Market–Culver City

Zin Bistro–Westlake Village

Rosemary Rolls

Rosemary Rolls–some made into the shape of a heart

Mixed: 12:30 pm

Molded: 2 :00

Baked: 3:30

Gave to parents of brand-new-baby Salem Isabel!

Here’s a recipe showing how I bake using my kitchen aid as a mixer. I love to mix my doughs by hand, but every now and again I end up using the machine. Recently, when my shoulder was giving me painful fits, it was the only way I was able to make bread using just one arm.

EVERYONE in our home loves rosemary rolls–I love them most at the mixing stage, when I’m chopping the rosemary and the pungent smell fills the kitchen; it rubs all over my hands and lifts my spirits. With the smell seems to come an extra dose of hope and joy to my day, and those are two virtues that I can’t get enough of…

Rosemary grows like a wild weed here in Santa Barbara. Here’s a photo of one planted in our yard, which I’m trying to prune to fan out below my office window.

Rosemary is planted in medians along the roadways here, it crawls up stone walls, and sometimes the upright shrub can be seen reaching to the sky, pretending to be a tree… It’s from the mint family, which explains the intense aroma, and its native growing ground is in the Mediterranean. If you live in a colder climate, you can pot it and bring it indoors, like we did when we lived in Colorado. Rosmarinus means “dew of the sea” and maybe it’s my love for the ocean that causes me to bake these rolls so very often. (If you’re not my friend on facebook, where I post my weekly beach photos, friend me!)

Here is a quick recipe for one of my favorites! If you give it a whirl, I’d love to hear how the recipe worked for you.

(By the way, it’s basically my French bread recipe except for these three differences. It’s mixed with a machine, rosemary is added, and I’ve increased the amount of ingredients in order to make a bigger batch of dough for more rolls. Makes about 16.)

Time Commitment: Depending on the temperature in your kitchen, have to be in and out of the house for at least 3 1/2 hours in order to make these rolls. If you choose to retard the dough after the first rise, then it makes this recipe very flexible.

Tools you need:
  • Cookie sheets or bread peel
  • Large mixing bowl
  • an oven :)
  • Kitchen-aid or other such mechanical bread mixer thingy
  • Other tools I use, but that aren’t imperative: spray bottle, parchment paper, dough scrapers, baking stone,

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour (I use Trader Joe’s unbleached flour in the blue bag)
  • 1 cup bread flour (could use all TJ’s flour, but I like to add a bit of high protein bread flour to the mix)
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast (can use cake yeast, just need to double it)
  • 16-17 ounces of cool or lukewarm water
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt (I like sea salt)
  • rice flour or corn meal for dusting
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
What to do:

Step One: Combine all dry ingredients in mixer bowl set with a dough hook. Mix for a quick minute, then add all of the water. Mix on second setting (not too fast and not too slow) for about 6-7 minutes.

Step Two: Add rosemary. Mix for another two or so minutes. The dough should be flinging around the inside of the mixing bowl, hopefully not sticking to the sides of the bowl. If it’s really sticking, then add more flour little by little. Be careful not to over-flour your dough; it makes the bread awfully dense. Do the dishes, or the laundry, or light a candle while the mixer does its work.

Step Three: Oil a large glass or ceramic bowl. Transfer your dough from the mixer to the oiled bowl. Cover with a damp towel. Allow it to rise for at least an hour (in my kitchen it usually takes at least 90 minutes–and more typically 2 hours) until doubled in bulk. If I want it to rise more quickly, then I heat my oven to 100 degrees (this is a very low setting and many ovens don’t go this low, but you could just heat your oven for 4-5 minutes, then turn it off…) and proof the dough inside the warm oven.

Step Four: Time to prepare my pans for baking, then mold the dough. First, I take out a sheet of parchment paper and place it on a cookie sheet. I reuse my sheets of parchment paper 2-3 times. I sprinkle the paper with rice flour (you can also use corn meal or regular flour) in order to easily remove the bread when it’s baked.

Divide the dough in half with a sharp knife or dough scraper. Then divide each piece in half (that makes four). Then halve the little doughlets again (that makes eight!). Then in half again!!! 16 🙂 I love making rolls; my brothers can mold rolls using both hands at the same time. I’m not that gifted. Maybe someday.

To shape the rolls, fold the dough in thirds, then with the seam side down, begin to roll the dough like a top across your counter, spinning on the inside of your cupped palm. Make sure your counter is clean and not dusted with flour, so the dough sticks to it a bit. I tried to demonstrate this in the video. Once the rolls are shaped and placed on the parchment paper, cover them with a damp cloth.

(Step Four and a Half: This is an optional step, and is the point when you can easily put your molded loaves into the fridge for a period of retarding. I’ve retarded loaves for between two and twelve hours… Just make sure your molded dough is covered with a moist cloth; you don’t want it to dry out. If you’re putting the loaves into the fridge for just an hour or two, then it’s best to let them rise a bit before putting them next to your chilly leftovers. If you’re retarding your bread all night, then you probably don’t need to let them rise at all before you head to bed…

When you remove the dough from the fridge, if the loaves have fully doubled their bulk, then set them on the counter just a few minutes before you bake. If the dough hasn’t fully risen when you pull them from the fridge, then allow them to finish rising, then straight into the oven they go.)

Step Five: Allow the dough to again double in size. This rise takes less time than the first, usually about 40 minutes to an hour. About 30 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 500 degrees.

Step Six: Your rolls are ready to bake and the oven is HOT. Place your cookie sheet onto the baking stone in the center of the oven. Take a spray bottle and spray in your oven, (I like to spray below the bread, but be careful of the heating elements…) to create steam. I typically do this twice during the first 10 minutes of baking.  Bake for 10 minutes.

Reduce the heat of the oven to 425 degrees. Rolls take less time to bake than larger loaves–I typically bake the rolls for another 16-18 minutes (a total of 26-28 in all).

Step Seven: Remove the bread from the oven, and cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes.  Then, the best part. Share : )

World Cup Bread–Uruguay

Baked two loaves of Uruguayan sweet anise bread

(Also made some faina…)

Mixed: 8:15 am

Molded: 10:15 am

Baked: 11 am

Gave to Steven and Elaine, nice neighbors who just moved in next door

My husband and I are big soccer fans. Almost geeky in our love for the sport. He played as a child, and we both played for many years as adults. There’s something really addicting about chasing after that black and white ball–and scoring goals. I really loved to score goals 🙂

So, each year when the World Cup comes around we break all our normal television rules, call the cable company for service, and rise at whatever time needed to watch the matches. Yes, geeky in our love…

Anyway, I’m a big South American fan and come the semi-finals I was rooting on Uruguay with fervor. I got so excited about their chances that I decided to look up some Uruguayan bread and bake away. I got even more excited when I found a recipe for a gluten-free flatbread called faina or farinata. It’s a mixture of garbanzo bean flour, parmesan cheese, salt, black pepper and olive oil. It sounded wonderful and I was ready to pass on this great new find to all my gluten-intolerant pals. But… the faina is pretty near horrible stuff. I made it two nights ago and everyone in the family gave it a willing whirl. The comments that passed around the table went like this: “disgusting,” “awful,” “how could you?!”

I began to despair for Uruguay. If this is what the team is fed on then no wonder they lost to the Netherlands.

Here it is–I made a tower out of the pieces that I cut into cracker-like shapes. I’m not sure what else to do with it–except play. The kids said it might make a good Lord of the Rings lembas if we were in an epic tale of despair versus hope, (and that we would win by feeding it to the bad guys) but….

Ahhh, but I gave the Uruguayans a second chance with the Sweet Anise Bread recipe that I found. I fiddled and adjusted a few things, and wow, what a delicious bread! I was happy to share with our brand new neighbors on the corner, which led to an afternoon of getting to know them–a blessing we haven’t had from tenants in that house in a long time.

So, Germany and Uruguay play in just a few hours. Depending on the outcome, I think I’ll know which bread they ate for breakfast before the match.

Ingredients: Additives

Two loaves of sourdough

Mixed: 9:15 pm

Molded: 3:30 pm next day

Baked: 5:30 pm

Gave one to Dr R, ate the other with our tomato soup

A picture speaks a thousand  ingredients…

Most commercial breads have a shelf life of ten days. When you bake bread at home, using flour, water, salt and yeast, your bread doesn’t need much of a shelf life at all. You can simply enjoy it when it’s warm, eat it as toast the next day, and make croutons or bread crumbs if any is left over. Since we bake very little for our own consumption–about one loaf every two to three days for five people, we rarely have stale bread on our hands. And I’ve certainly never had a leftover loaf of bread grow mold!

Even if you’re not interested in making your own bread, I’d encourage you to purchase breads not made with preservatives. The added ingredients on a package of bread are there to prevent the growth of mold, help the manufacturers create a more uniform and “cloned” product, and to add to the flavor… They are not mixed into the dough, with love, for the benefit of the consumer, but for the profitability of the producer…

Just so you know.

Fifth Century–Roasted Barley Bread

Two loaves of roasted barley bread

Mixed: 8:45 pm

Molded: 1:30 pm next day

Baked: 3:45 pm

Gave one loaf to the Dunn’s–ate the other

Ever since visiting Telegraph Brewery, here in Santa Barbara, I’ve been wanting to use the rest of the spent barley that was scooped out of that very cool copper cooking contraption. It’s one of those impressive machines that the brewers in the fifth century would have given many cows and sheep for. My first use of the barley came straight from the copper tub and I mixed it into my dough, the barley still warm and plump and sweet from being boiled. Using the barley this way was delicious in the bread–it added flavor, texture and taste, and I would bake bread again and again like this if I lived down the road from the brewery and could sneak over for scoops on the sly. I posted about this bread a week or so ago.

Another probable fifth century use for the spent barley I’ve been thinking about is–drying, then roasting, then grinding the barley, to mix in with the wheat flour. It doesn’t sound that outlandish, does it? Roasting is not a new idea–we roast tea leaves and coffee beans and veggies, and the Ancient Celts were formidable roasters–it was their festal and favorite way of cooking meat. I don’t think I’m too far off thinking that maybe some baker cousin of Saint Brigid had red hair, was a bit odd like I am, and roasted barley on occasion to put in her bread.

I set to work.

First I spread the plump and boiled barley out on a cookie sheet. The oven had been used that evening, so once it cooled I put the sheet of barley inside to dry over night. It dried for about 18 hours before I cranked up the oven to broil, then placed the barley back in for three minutes.

I’m famous in this house for burning things. The oven was just dinging three minutes when I pulled the smoking tray out. We ran for the doors and windows so the smoke alarm didn’t sound. Sure enough, the barley in the middle portion of the cookie sheet was burnt. Oh, well. I decided that in the fifth century, folks probably burned things too. So I let the barley cool, then scooped half of it into my small, wooden mortar.

I ground the pestle around for a long while–maybe even 15 minutes–having to switch back and forth between hands, until the mix became as fine as I could make it. Then I called my effervescent daughter, spooned the second half of the barley from the tray into the mortar, and asked her to have at it.

Once the mix was finished, I couldn’t resist smelling it. My nose just wandered that way… I wanted to brew it, and taste it. It reminded me of a roasted green tea that I like to drink– Hoji-cha–and it even smelled a bit like coffee.

On to the bread. This was to be as fifth century as I could make it. Here’s my mix:

3 cups of unbleached white, wheat flour

1/3 cup of roasted and hand ground barley

2 tablespoons of Telegraph yeasties

1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt (not Celtic, though. I saw some at the store and it was too pricey for me at $9/container)

1 1/2 cups well water (just kidding–no wells around here. Used the cool water out of the filtered faucet…)

The bread behaved beautifully. I’m convinced that this brewer’s yeast direction is not only a fifth century thing to do, but that we twenty tenners could learn a lesson or two about being nice to the ale makers. Instant yeast is expensive, and both the straight yeast that is siphoned off the beer tanks, and the brewer’s yeast starter I’ve created (liquid brewer’s yeast mixed with flour) have worked beautifully with the no-knead, pain a la Suzanne, method. Yes, befriend a brewer. Not only could you swap loaves of bread for glasses of ale, and maybe swap some stories while you’re at it, but both the spent barley and the yeast are worth having in your fridge on baking day…

So, the roasted barley in the bread made it almost black. I was surprised at the color; I didn’t expect 1/3 cup of ground barley to make such an impact.

And the flavor was…good… but odd. Perfect toasted, with butter and something sweet, like pomegranate jam, or cinnamon sugar, but not a good bread for a potluck or to bring as a hostess gift. Unless you’re bringing it through a time warp, back to Saint Brigid and her household. I bet she’d love this creative loaf. And while you’re taking a loaf of roasted barley bread back to Saint Brigid, go ahead and take back one of those copper beer boilers, too. You could set up shop brewing, and I could set up shop baking, and we’d be friends, having a good ole time, and you’d gladly let me slyly scoop your warm spent barley out of your copper pot.

Just think. No cell phones. No flat screens TVs and Superbowl Sundays. No carpooling in our Volvos. Instead there’d be brewers, and bakers, and candlestick makers, and chieftains trying to marry you off to poets, and bards strumming away, singing around the campfire… It might be cold and rainy at times. And the houses might be smoky (from my roasting efforts!). But we could settle in Kildare, and cheer on the monks illuminating the manuscripts, and sing with the nuns in the Cathedral, and share the work of our hands with a growing community of those fun-loving, crazy Irish, who, at that time, still went to war dressed in not much more than their swords and shields…

Amazing where a story on roasting barley can lead you…

Cheers!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”