Monday, September 26, 2016

Baking Notes

Ugh. After months of hot summertime temperatures goading my sourdough microbes into extraordinary eruptions of feasting, flatulence and procreation, they have now decided that they would rather nap in the cool evenings than give lift to my carefully constructed bread dough.

To wit:

Night Before ^

Next Morning ^

See what I mean? That dough didn't rise overnight, it relaxed. I had to scoop out each floppy mass onto the counter and tighten it up again with a bit of folding, not kneading, but just folding it up on itself to wake it up. A bit of dough yoga, perhaps? The result was only so so as it was the cool temperature of the kitchen that was the real culprit. These divas precious babies needed somewhere warm, so I took them to the only source of heat presently available. 

 First on top, with an upside-down muffin tin so as not to scorch their little bottoms . . .

. . . and then proofing underneath to warm up their tops.

This nonsense went on for three hours until I figured enough was enough. Other than a slight puffing, neither the wheat nor the spelt looked particularly enthusiastic, and if I waited any longer I risked them collapsing when presented with the 450 degree oven that was awaiting them. 

So I'm not really sure if I shouldn't have given it a warming up the night before, or maybe added some more starter in the morning to give it a boost. They weren't exactly dormant, but they also weren't lively. Being in a cool environment is not the same as being in a fridge, apparently. Either way, these doughs should not look so lacklustre.

The end result?

The big holes in the wheat bread is the over-proofing, and the minimal splitting in the spelt loaf is probably the same reason. Not quite sandwich material. Croutons, anyone? 

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Weekend Reading

For those who love reading lists, here is a pretty good array of titles. You can ignore the "manly" theme as these books are good for every thinking human being regardless of their chromosome configuration. The rest of the website, though, is humorous and worth a look too.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Baking Notes

Great success! Instead of going through the multi-step sponge method, I went back to starting my sourdough the night before by mixing all the ingredients in one go, kneading, and then letting it rise overnight. In the morning I have a pillowy dough ready for shaping and proofing. I don't know what the science is behind this but I get a more open crumb (left, whole wheat) this way which makes for a great morning toast with jam or lunchtime sammy with turkey, tomato and lettuce. The bread on the right is spelt bread for which I used a very coarse stone ground flour giving it the expected dense crumb, which is great for making a European style open-faced sandwich with butter, cheese and ham. This loaf could have probably been slightly more open had I not kneaded it so much before letting it rise. But alas, sometimes I just cannot help myself when it comes to kneading. It is so therapeutic in so many ways.

Speaking of therapy, I am taking an online grammar refresher course because writing is something I love to do, but grammar is something of which I am not always sure. (Boom! prepositional phrase with an old-school ending)

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Reading Notes

Not sure where I'm going with any of these: some of them were given to me, and one is from my own bookshelf. Being Mortal is so far winning my attention right now. It's an eye opening read for anyone facing old age either for themselves or through a parent or other loved one. What am I saying? EVERYONE will be confronted with this at some point in their lives. It's quite an important subject in a well written book by world renowned physician and author. He knows of what he speaks.

Alaska is an epically fun weekend read. The fictional story behind it is kind of dated and cheesy, but the rest is packed full of history and geology and other stuff that makes your brain expand with all the knowledge.

The Illegal is one I've not yet picked up but looks like a ripped-from-the-headlines good read.


Monday, September 19, 2016

Torch by Cheryl Strayed

I love this book. I immediately passed it on to others I know who would appreciate an honest in-depth look at grief and what it can do to a family. A heavy topic, I know. But wow. After reading Wild and loving it for the honesty and insight into human nature, determination and vulnerabilities, I knew that anything else she wrote would be well worth reading. Her characters and settings are just so real you can feel their presence.

In her debut novel, Torch, bestselling author Cheryl Strayed weaves a searing and luminous tale of a family's grief after unexpected loss. Theresa May Wood has fled a bad marriage and rebuilt a life with her children, Claire and Joshua, and their caring stepfather, Bruce. Their love for each other binds them as a family through the daily struggles of making ends meet. But when they receive unexpected news that Theresa, only 38, is dying of cancer, their lives all begin to unravel and drift apart. Strayed's intimate portraits of these fully human characters in a time of crisis show the varying truths of grief, forgiveness, and the beautiful terrors of learning how to keep living.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Early Autumn 
by Alexander Ignatius Roche
(Scottish 1861 - 1921)

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Library Love

Check out those old brick walls and exposed beams. And is that a brick floor too? With a lovely, simple woven rug? A library doesn't get more splendidly rustic than this.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Shortbread Cookies with Spelt and Rice Flour

A new recipe! These are delicious and buttery and melt in your mouth. I added a bit of fresh grated ginger root into the dough to keep things zingy and interesting. Spelt flour has a lighter more delicate texture which is great for cookies like this, and the rice flour gives it a bit of crunch. I'm sure it could work with regular wheat flour, though, if you wanted to give that a try. It would be interesting to do a side by side taste test. My hunch is that the wheat flour will make a heavier cookie.

1 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
1/2 cup white sugar
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup rice flour
2 cups spelt flour & pinch of salt

Optional additions: lime juice & zest/ orange juice & zest/ grated ginger/ cinnamon etc.

-Cream together butter and sugar
-Add zest and juice
-Add flours and mix together with your hands until it is all moistened but crumbly.
-Pack it together and roll into a log about 2 inches in diameter
-Refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight until it is hard
-Slice into rounds about 1/4 in thick and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment or silpat
-Bake at 275 degrees for 30 min.