The BISHOP and the bread

24 crusty rolls, some of them mixed with olive tapenade

Mixed: 9:15 pm

Molded: 6 am next morning

Baked: three batches, beginning at 7 am

For Bishop Joseph’s visit to our parish

Being Orthodox, we are blessed by a visit from our bishop at least once a year. He spends the weekend with us, answering questions, telling us what’s on his heart, and presiding over services. As a family we make extra space in our lives to attend the various events; just being available allows for all sorts of adventures to take place.

Adventure Number One: Arriving early early for Saturday evening vespers and the little one getting to play in the church.

Adventure Number Two: Rising at baker’s hours to make rolls for the luncheon. That’s 5am folks–5am with the house hushed and time all to myself. Now that’s adventure!

Adventure Number Three: John Ronan asking for a pumpkin muffin that sat on the Bishop’s own plate. Wish I had a photo of that one. Thanks, Mr. Bishop, for your pumpkin muffin!

Despite my 5am wake time, this kind of baking and giving is not a stretch. It’s the kind of stuff you and I do every day, isn’t it? We cook and clean, we drive and encourage and comfort. We work, and plant radish seeds, and fold laundry, and even re-learn algebra when we need to…

I’ve written this post a dozen different ways now, and each time it comes out sounding like a sermon. I’m not a bishop–I’m just a jane, and I guess what I really want to say is–I love baking! And I’ve come to really love giving…

It has taken a bit of work to get me here… To really love the giving part.

Before I sign off, and ask you to write the sermon instead–aren’t Bishop Joseph’s vestments simply gorgeous? Just being in the same room as that cloth made me want to sew for an entire weekend straight.

And weren’t those rolls also gorgeous?!!! More about my pot baking success soon. (And that’s a warning… If you read these posts regularly and don’t yet own an enamel or cast iron pot, I urge you to be on the lookout for one you might invest in. Baking bread inside them is like having your own portable brick oven shipped to you from a quaint French village… And I’m gearing up to share recipes and techniques that will all center around that blasted pot.)

Okay, now it’s your turn. I’d love to hear whatever sermons you might have for me. Though the Giving Virtue may have crowded out some of my Sour Stinginess–there’s still plenty of space in my heart that needs a good remodeling. Fire away! I’m ready and waiting…

Farmer’s Market II

Two loaves of no-knead sourdough

Mixed: 10:30 pm

Molded: 7 am next morn

Baked: 8 am

Donated both loaves to the market

I’ve been tumbling from one event to the next this last week. I organized a dinner for 60, finished up the last giveaway of my books, ran a three-day sale, kept up with homeschooling my daughter, plus wanted to have some close friends over so actually endeavored to scrub the house. It’s that time of year…

So, when my husband gave me a hard stare and asked whether I really wanted to mix up a batch of dough for the farmer’s market at our church, I stopped and tried to weigh his words carefully. Sometimes we give too much–we stretch too far, and we end up sacrificing beauty for hurry. I don’t like to hurry–there’s very little peace found in hurry.

In the end I decided to spend the energy and make the bread. Thankfully it’s a recipe that only takes a few minutes to mix, and very little effort to bake. And the two loaves were purchased and carted off even before I got the camera out of the bag. I’m glad I baked, and the added money will help folks in need this winter season. But I’m heeding my husband’s words still, and trying to not end up on that hampster wheel of spinning in circles, unable to see beyond the cage.

Being Orthodox, this season of Advent is a time of prayer, fasting and introspection. Bread baking fits so beautifully into this scheme, and with the cold weather here, I plan on mixing batches and batches of dough as these forty days pass. Here are a few other things I’m doing, then, I’d love to hear from you.

  • Crocheting a shawl made of wool from Peru–I’ve just started and am almost through with the first skein
  • Planning on making an Advent wreath right after Thanksgiving. Can’t wait…
  • Reading through all four Gospels with a group of very lovely women–two chapters at a time
  • Hoping to do a wee bit of de-cluttering and giving away
  • Need to trim the hedge!
  • Continue to help John Ronan with his reading lessons
  • Finish the story about Saint Romanos

Now, what about you?

Door Number Three

Two loaves of no-knead sourdough

Mixed: 10:30 pm

Molded: 10 am next day

Baked: 1:40 pm

First, I love the rain. I love overcast days. I love the fog. And the snow. Even hail. We get so little inclement weather here, so anything outside of sunshine and 70 degrees is lovely, and, to me, it beckons adventure.

I love adventure 🙂

I also love to be cozy. Funny how we can love so many things–even things that seem to be opposite one another.

This homeschooling year, Tuesdays are very light teaching days for me. We leave big blocks of time open for heading to the library, or driving to another town to see an exhibit, or for long stretches of research, reading or writing. So… just yesterday, Tuesday, my daughter (the homeschooling one) was deep into books on stress, taking notes for a science paper. Feeling, seeing, smelling the rainy weather, I just knew I had to bake and share some bread. With no teaching to do, John Ronan and I had the whole afternoon free.

By midday, dough that I’d mixed the night before was on its second rise. The little one and I were looking at a blog posting together; he was in a snuggly mood. The author of that blog had written about crafty winter projects. With the munchkin in my lap, we scrolled through the pictures, read the text and out came a grand proclamation, “Mama! Let’s make a Teddy Bear!”

Feeling adventurous (since I’ve never made a Teddy Bear or anything like it) I said, “Well, yes! Let’s make a Teddy Bear.”

Ten minutes later we had downloaded instructions to the funniest little Easter Birdy. I braved the garage and hefted out the sewing storage box, and then hefted out the sewing machine too. I turned on the oven (since the dough was just about finished rising) and…

We started to sew!

She took four happy hours to make. John Ronan followed every step and cheered me on. Just LOVE that boy. And the Easter Birdy had a very eventful afternoon playing on the rocks and swinging next door; she even got to go to preschool today in John Ronan’s ducky lunchbox.

But back to the oven–an oven who was having another off day. BAD oven. It seems the bottom element isn’t heating, except when it feels like it, so when I should have been baking bread at noon, I was finally putting the dough into the right sort of heat 1 hour and 40 minutes later. I’m sure you want to hear all the details…

  • Convection still works so we heated the oven that way. The convection heating element is behind the fan, behind the very back of the oven. The Oven Guy, Jerry, taught me that this week.
  • No-knead bread is very forgiving. You just can’t seem to completely mess it up. This bread had way overproofed (seems to be a habit of mine this week) yet, I tell you, that sourdough was still quite tasty…
  • I burned the top of the bread. Baking on convection will do that. I’m not a convection oven fan. I always think, Now, why would you want to bake something in the very windy, drying heat of the Sahara Desert? I’d prefer to bake behind a protected and heat-radiating rock face on a Greek island…
  • Thankfully, the sourdough that came out of the green pot was less charred looking. I set that loaf aside for the giving…

Fast forward to 5 pm. Cleaned up the scraps from our sewing day. Then…

Knocked on the blue screen door to our right, the loaf of sourdough wrapped in brown paper and tucked under my arm. Nobody home.

Knocked on the bright red door on the corner. No answer.

Knocked on the green door where they grow exotic everything in the front yard. Two year-old Owen answered. Then he knocked down two pumpkins that were sitting on their porch wall. I handed over the sourdough to a very thankful mommy, who then had to run after Owen because he had escaped out to the side yard. I celebrated, on my way home, the meeting of two new neighbors.

What a day. Lots of rain.

Three doors.

Two loaves of sourdough.

And one Easter Birdy.

Fifth Century Baking–Experimenting with Barley and Brewer’s Yeast

French Jaco made with brewer’s yeast–No-knead made with spent barley and brewer’s yeast…

Mixed, molded, baking like crazy. And as an aside, we’ve got mushrooms growing all over our yard, the roses are blooming for the last time before they get pruned, and epiphany and the blessing of the waters was awesome!

According to my research, a typical meal in an Anglo-Saxon household consisted of a pot of soup or stew and a loaf of bread. The breads ranged from brown and basic, to sweetened and full of surprises. And if it was a day for feasting, then the breads became more exotic, maybe even were served twice–one loaf with the first course (or sending): bread, soft cheese and stewed meat, and then again at the end (after the fish and veggie course), as a sweetened bread, paired with baked fruits. If they were REALLY having a party, then they would get out their roasting sticks, and serve their food on “trenchers,” large slices of coarse, stale bread used as plates. I’m still trying to imagine how that’s done.

With all the fresh foods available to us these days, we don’t need to rely so heavily on bread and grain for our diet, but it’s fun to see what food and life was like more than 1,500 years ago.  When it comes to bread baking, and the basic methods and ingredients, not a whole lot has changed.

Baking with Brewer’s Yeast

My first two experiments have proved interesting. I read somewhere on the web that brewer’s yeast wouldn’t rise a loaf of bread–but that’s just not true. Brian, at Telegraph Brewery, explained that at the brewery they are using the same strain of yeast that is found in bread baking–just that it has been honed a different way to encourage and enhance different flavors for their various batches of beer. Since I love making a very basic loaf of bread–the jaco that I mention from time to time–(the basic recipe is in the comments section of my Burning Down the House post, and also on my recipe page under French Bread) I thought I would try my basic batch simply using the yeast trub as a leavening agent, since there’s nothing fancy at all in that mix of bread and it would easily show the results of any changes. Here are my notes:

Jaco and Boule with Brewer’s Yeast

3 cups of unbleached white flour

3/4 cups of whole wheat flour

2 teaspoons salt

14 ounces water

2 tablespoons yeast trub (sucked off of Telegraph’s Robust Ale tank) instead of the typical 2 teaspoons of instant, dried yeast

Mixed: 2:35 pm–very soft and silky feeling. Finally doubled at 9:45 pm after having to proof in the oven for a bit at 100 degrees to get it moving. Molded at 9:45 pm–felt kind of floppy while molding. Retarded in fridge all night. Took out at 7:30 am–again, looked floppy, lacking structure. Heated oven, baked at 8:20 am–when I scored it, the dough was not floppy, but very dense and I realized that it should have risen on the counter for another couple of hours. Oh well. Here are the jaco and boule right before heading into the oven…

The bread structure, after its bake, was more open than I thought it would be, but it was still quite dense. The flavor was yummy–there was no trace of a beer taste. It was not overly yeasty. The brewer’s yeast responded like a sourdough might, taking its time to work through the dough. Next time I just need to be more patient. Here are the two loaves, baked… Not fabulous, but not horrid, either.

Mix Number Two–using the no-knead method

2 cups unbleached white

3/4 cups whole wheat

Heaping 1/2 cup spent barley from Telegraph

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2/3 cup buttermilk

Rest of the liquid–used cool water–totaling 1 5/8 cup of liquid)

1 tablespoon yeast trub from the Robust Ale tank, instead of typical 1/4 teaspoon dried instant yeast

Mixed: 2:15 pm–the dough was a bit too wet, I think. Should have used only 1 1/2 cups of liquid or even less because of the moisture content already in the barley. Here, you can see the spent barley mixed in…

Molded 7:30 am the next day–it shaped just fine. Baked 8:50 am. Ate–that night. The crumb was a little too wet, but the spent barley added nice flavor and everyone gobbled it up with the meal. Thumbs up all around. The yeast didn’t work any differently than if I had added the typical 1/4 teaspoon of dried. Great outcome.

So, I think that the brewer and the baker must have been friends in ancient days. I’ll give you loaves of my bread for your table, if you give me some of your barm for my bread. Let’s be friends. Saint Brigid –at Kildare–created a thriving community of monastics (she was Abbess over both men and women) and of lay people, who engaged in all sorts of typical trades, plus there were artists galore who lived and thrived there… I think the bakers and brewers were good buds, maybe even with their workshops side by side–on the foody side of town.

Do you have friends that you trade with? Sharing our resources creates opportunities to share of ourselves–to help each other, and to minimize on that all–too-often act of opening our wallet. I swap babysitting, and carpool, but that’s about the extent of my world of trade. I’d like to expand on that idea. Tell me your stories of the Baker and the Brewer in your corner of the world…

The Trade–Bread for an Arizona Blue Moon

Enormous pain a la Suzanne

Mixed: 9:30 pm Tuesday

Folded: 12:15 pm Wednesday

Molded: 12:45 pm

Baked: 3 pm

Gave to: our hosts here in Scottsdale

We’ve traveled to the Arid Zone to visit with family over the holidays. My husband’s enormous clan is out here and we always try to make our way out to Scottsdale, (and Chandler, and Tempe, and Phoenix–they live everywhere!) sometime during the winter. If you’ve ever heard my fainting-in-the-heat stories, you might understand why we prefer the cooler weather…

Always received with warmth, this year there is added enthusiasm as I’m trying to bake and give away bread, even here. Plus, several of my sister-in-laws are hoping for baking lessons. Already we’ve made one no-knead/pain a la Suzanne recipe, which despite the fact that we had the most basic of flours, came out beautifully. I just don’t think you can mess that recipe up.

Anyway, I think we’re getting the better end of the stick. We’re contributing our cheer, and a little bread:

And they’ve already given us a sunset

…and a blue moon.

Cheers!

Thumbs Up

Petit pain a la Suzanne

Mixed: 9:30 pm Christmas Eve

Folded: 1:15 pm Christmas Day

Molded: 1:30 pm

Baked: 3:45 pm

Gave: to the family!

Apparently my family thinks I should keep on baking. I received two new baking pots this 09 Christmas and another addition to my bread baking library. I couldn’t have been more thrilled. I already had a batch of bread rising, so used the green pot (that you can see better below) for making this beautiful loaf for our Christmas dinner:

All week I’ve been in hyper-baking mode. The family has been helpful, but more than once they’ve been shushed away from a hot loaf or a batch of scones. “Those are for…” I was continually saying… I took a poll and determined that they were getting a bit miffed by the fact that I was churning out bread, but there was none, not even a crust, in the cupboard. So today, this Christmas day, I baked just for us–our own loaf, not cut in half, perfectly whole and hot–and delicious!

Mmmm. It was good.

Tomorrow I’m back to sharing, and now I have two new pots, that will fit side-by-side in the oven, to fiddle with.

Two. One so I can bake for the new neighbors down the road, and the other, for… us:)

By the way, I’m taking orders for the new year.