Monday, January 24, 2011

Oh. My. Gods.

Both of these loaves came from the same batch. I fixed my recipe which was at 60% hydration and bumped it up to 70%. I did a final rise for three hours. The first (left) I baked as usual.

The second, though, I decided to bake in my Le Creuset Dutch oven. It made all the difference, and a truly amazing difference it was.

First, the color is a deep and varied golden. The slashes, which I made awkwardly within the 500 degree pan, did a little additional bloom. The bread is blistered across the top. It rose higher and had a better shape than the other loaf.

Second, I have to say, the flavor is spectacular. I don't know how a pan can make so much difference but it did. The flavor is full and rich and nutty. The texture is loose and random. The color of the crumb is whiter and creamier.

I don't know if you can tell, but I'm very excited by the results.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Better Bread

I've been baking sourdough bread for almost a year. I'm not sure how many loaves I'll have to bake before I'm satisfied with the results. The bread is good, but it's not exactly what I'm going for. I want a better shape, a more sour taste, and a more open crumb.

I'm fortunate to work with home baker Mark Stambler twice a month, which gives me an opportunity to work on many, many loaves at once, hopefully moving me farther along my learning curve. Mark critiques my loaves, as well, and offers suggestions, which has been very helpful.

Lately my biggest problem is my bread "blowing out." It puffs up in the oven like a football and then herniates through a crack in the bottom. Very ugly. I tried slashing deeper - that didn't help. I tried a longer rise time before retardation - to reduce over spring. The loaf pictured here had two hours. You can see that on the left it's a little higher. At the bottom is a scar about 1/2 inch wide where the inside of the loaf was trying to force its way through. I'll try three hours next time.

Do you see the cracks on the loaf? I don't know what it is but I'm smitten by those. I take the loaf from the oven to the open window. At 5:00 am it's cold enough to crack the bread. The sound is sublime.

There's something about bread. It's like swimming in the ocean, or putting your hands in the dirt. Everything else disappears and you become an element of the earth. That's as close to religion as I'm going to get.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Spazmat at the Gas Station

I was pumping gas the other day and noticed something strange about the pump sticker. How in the hell did that little cell phone skull thingy get into the lower right hand corner. It's part of the sticker and it was on all the pumps.

I snapped a photo and looked it up. The artist is Spazmat and I've read that his stickers stay up forever because they are not often noticed.


Kill your cable

We dumped our cable last year and have barely missed it, though do enjoy the money we've saved from the switch. We have Netflix and Roku, so are still able to watch episodes, movies and the greatest docus.

Here's something I read yesterday - another great argument from cutting the cord:

"...a recently published study in the American Journal of Public Health suggests that the amount of commercial television (e.g. television with advertisements) that children watch before the age of 6 is associated with increased body weight 5 years down the road, even after adjustment for other important variables including physical activity, socio-economic status and mother’s BMI. In contrast, watching non-commercial television (DVD’s or TV programs without commercials) showed no association with body weight."

Scientific American, Can sitting too much kill you?, By Travis Saunders