Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese. ~ CK Chesterton

Howdy Yall! It's time to lick your lips and drool as we discuss yummy vittles and Texas testaments to taste!

I hope you enjoy your time with us. Please be sure to drop by and leave a message or a hello. We want to know how to better serve you!

~Blue Zebra

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Vermont Sourdough - A Southern Bread?

You know, the birthday celebration for Julia Child got me thinking. Julia wanted to let every American housewife know and understand that cooking flawlessly brilliant meals was at their fingertips; that everyone could do it. She was living proof. Clearly, more of her books and t.v. rubbed off on me than imagined, because that’s the basic premise for this blog. I want everyone to understand that good food, no, awesome food is easy. With a minimum investment of time and money, anyone can make incredible food; food that feeds the soul. The hardest step is to get over your fear of whatever you’re “askeered of” and do it quickly!

My greatest fear was fear of yeast and all things involving kneading and rising. I always assumed that yeasted items were fragile and depended so tightly on measures and rules and it frankly scared the
bejeezes outta me. I avoided it like the plague. Our family was not a family who baked other than the basic biscuit, good old fashioned pie, occasional muffin or cake and maybe a quick bread or two at Christmas. But with the exception of one batter bread, aptly named “Dilly Bread”, because of the loads of dried dill in it, we never saw loaves rising on the counter.

But I knew I had to conquer my fear and de-mystify the process of baking if I was ever going to be able to do what I wanted most. Namely, I wanted to quit spending the outrageous sum of money per loaf for “artisan bread” from the market. I am a tightwad. Frugal doesn’t even come close to my relationship with money and yet, I never seem to have any extra – no matter how tightly I close my fist. I come by this honestly, unfortunately. Few people know, now thousands will know, that for most of my life growing up, we had very severe money issues and were even homeless for almost a two year period, save for the charity of friends and family who let us live with them and who lent our dad money when he lost his business.

It seems like life was divided for me – b.w.d. and a.w.d. or “before Wawa died” and “after WaWa died”. Wawa was Dad’s mom, our grandmother, who lived with us from before the time I was born until the day she died. She died handing me a glass of orange juice at the breakfast table, one Sunday after Church, in September. It felt like all the kids left in the house (my oldest sissy had married and moved away only months before) as well as mom and dad, had a mysterious shake-up and reversal of fortune from that moment onward – but that will be another post. Needless to say, I learned the value of a dollar as a very small girl and it was a large and painful lesson, especially for me and my sissy, A!

So back to bread…curmudgeonly begrudging $3.00/loaf for bread, I determined to make it myself or die trying. I believe fear is the worse part of baking. Bread dough and bread recipes are not shrinking Southern violets. They are fairly tolerant of great abuse and in fact are amazingly resilient: under kneading, over kneading, lack of moisture, over hydrated, cheap flours, chlorinated water, filtered water, over proofing, under proofing, under baking, over baking, you name it! The dough will rise and transform into bread through baking, given enough time and patience. Even the worst loaf of homemade bread on the worst day will taste better than the best store bought bread on any given day. I promise.

The real secret to baking is to have mentors, or people who have been there, done that. They will hold your hand, wipe your brow – metaphorically or even virtually and basically reassure you that God is in his heaven and all is right with the world. Thanks to the internet there are whole sites dedicated to nothing but bread baking and these sights are populated by fantastically talented amateur and professional bakers, alike.

I encourage you to find one of these sites. Face your fear. Then break out the flour, water, salt and yeast and have a bread orgy! That $3.00 loaf will cost you about $0.20 cents to make and take you about 15 active minutes of cooking once you learn the methodology or as Julia said, “Once you learn the techniques, you will free yourself from recipes.” Well, maybe not quite! Baking bread will always at minimum require that you apply a balance or ratio of ingredients, but master the techniques of baking and you will be free to experiment with a window of grace attached. Bon Appetit!

Oh the other secret I learned? You have two choices with dough/gluten development. You can either knead the heck outta it and challenge the gluten, building protein strands as you go or you can let time and hydration do the dirty work and develop it for you. Guess which one I choose? :D

Vermont Sourdough Bread
By Jeffrey Hamelman – Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes
As posted by Weavershouse on another site
Yield – 2 loaves (batards)

150 grams Bread flour (5.269 oz)
188 grams Water (6.603 oz)
30 grams Mature culture (liquid) (1.054 oz)

750 grams Bread flour (26.344 oz)
100 grams Whole-rye flour (3.512 oz)
462 grams Water (16.228 oz)
19 grams Salt (1 TBSP + 1 tsp)
338 Liquid levain (all less 30 g) (11.872 oz)

Make the final build 12 to 16 hours before the final mix, and let stand in a covered container at about 21 °C/70°F

2. MIXING: Add all the ingredients to the mixing bowl, including the levain, but not the salt. In a spiral mixer, mix on first speed just until the ingredients are incorporated into a shaggy mass. Correct the hydration as necessary Cover the bowl with plastic and let stand for an autolyse phase of 20 to 60 minutes. At the end of the autolyse, sprinkle the salt over the surface of the dough, and finish mixing on second speed for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. The dough should have a medium consistency. Desired dough temperature: 22 °C/ 76°F

3. BULK FERMENTATION: 2 1/2 hours.

4. FOLDING: Fold the dough either once (after 1 1/4) hours) or twice (at 50-minute intervals), depending on dough strength.

5. DIVIDING AND SHAPING: Divide the dough into 1.5-pound pieces shape round or oblong.

6. FINAL FERMENTATION: Approximately 2 to 2 1/2 hours at 22 °C/76° F (alternatively, retard for up to 8 hours at 10 °C/50 °F, or up to 18 hours about 5,5 °C/42 °F).

7. BAKING: With normal steam, 240 °C/460 °F for 40 to 45 minutes. More often than not, this bread is retarded before the bake. The result is a loaf with moderate tanginess and a sturdy crust that conveys a lot of bread flavor.

Blue Zebra NOTE:

I followed the directions without any tweaks and folded the bread twice after the autolyze period: at 1 hour and at 2 hours. It rose to double in about 3 hours. I divided, rested, shaped and did a final rise of about 2 hours and baked.

This bread was only slightly tangy because I did not retard (refrigerate) the dough following the bulk fermentation. Had I done so, I believe it would have had a much more sharp, sourdough flavor. The texture of the crumb, while not as open as I’d like, was lovely – tender and moist. The crust crunched with just the right thickness and sharp crackle. You could actually taste the color brown when you bit into it. What does brown taste like? Brown tastes like a good piece of toast. Brown tastes like oven-ny goodness. This truly was the best sourdough bread I’ve baked and the prettiest. Hope you will give it a try! Oh, and I used my hands to mix and produce this bread. It still only took 15 minutes of active time, so don't be discouraged if you do not own a Kitchen Aid or other stand mixer! Also sourdough starters can be purchased online from several sources or you can start your own. Mike Avery is an excellent teacher for this Also, a great tool to have at your fingertips is this nifty gram converter. It doesn't take into account specific gravity of an ingredient but here's where I draw the line in the sand. If I need to be talking and thinking in specific gravities, then the recipe is doomed to failure before it hits the mixing bowl. As you can see in the first piccy of the bread...we managed just fine with this little tool. :D However, if you need more precision, here is the gram converter for specific ingredients.

Here's a little toast and jam as requested by my friend browndog! The jam is storebought *wah* but it is good, B assures me. It's peach amaretto with pecans. Now I can say, the peach and pecans are definitely Southern and even Texan. Our peaches from Fredricksberg and Fairfield are equal to any Georgia peach you want to try.


sher said...

Arggggg (Homer Simpson drool)! I wish I'd been there to smell it as it baked---and to eat several slices of it hot out of the oven. It looks beautiful Great post!

browndog said...

You know, Blue Zebra, Hamelman trundles on a bit about sourdough yeasties being creatures of wherever they are, so according to his rules you really are making Texas sourdough. And it looks terrific! I wouldn't call it beginner's luck, though--you've obviously got the bread thing down pat. Where's some of that come-hither jam you mentioned earlier?
To my surprise I heard, on NPR, that Julia Child was 32 before she took up cooking.

Kristen said...

Oh my. I love baking bread and I know so many people afraid of baking bread. I'm forwarding this post on to all! Great writing.

Oh - and not related to this but a comment you left over at Dine & Dish. Buttermilk Substitute... 1 cup milk, 1 tbs lemon juice. Let sit for 10 minutes and you have...buttermilk substitute!
I never buy buttermilk because I don't use it often enough. This little substitute is what I always use :)

Sue (coffeepot) said...

Blu Z I would love to try this but I am gram challenged.

Looks wonderful.

Susan said...

BZ, very nice! Isn't it great to overcome yeast fear? I hope you keep baking forever.

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

My dear BZ, you should be askeered more often. This is an awesome two loaves and beautiful write up!
Another thing about the buttermilk: if you are going to be cooking with it, it works very well to freeze it.

Blue Zebra said...

sher! Isn't it one of the toughest things to hold off cutting the bread till it's completely cooled? :D Nice to see you visiting I hope you will come back soon!

browndog I keep forgetting about the "naturalization of yeast" ;) which makes this bread a hybrid then! Thanks for your sweet compliment - coming from you, that is high praise! Did you see the new piccy of toast and jam? ;) And yes I'm reading a cool book right now: "Backstage With Julia" and will be reviewing it. She was an amazing woman. A true original.

Kristen thanks so much for forwarding and glad you liked it! Thanks for the buttermilk sub. B brought some home for me and I will be making the fudgy pudgys as cupcakes to celebrate my nieces first day back at school! TIA!

Sue - look at the recipe. I added the ounces conversions. Here is the link to converting from any unit to another: http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/gram_calc.htm

Hi Susan, great to see you here!! I just love it and am a convert now! Baking Forever!

MKIHC thanks so much for your lovely comment and your visit! Thanks for that great tip on buttermilk! I will do that with the leftovers from this quart. :D

lynn said...

Great job on the bread! It looks awesome.

Katie said...

Hey BZ, I lurk here even though I might not comment every time you post. I love the way your VT sodo came out--looks great! I haven't made any bread lately with my starter--just the now-famous-at-my-house english muffins.

RE: peaches, I always get annoyed about the Georgia claim to peaches. South Carolina produces WAY more than they do, and they're better, too. (Except for this year, but we had a bad freeze at Easter, which ruined all but about 10% of our crop.)

Katie in SC

browndog said...

oh, yum! Did this (toast and jam ) just get here or did I miss it before? Do you ever tackle jam making?

Blue Zebra said...

lynn - Thanks! I'm glad you liked it and hope you will try it.

Katie - hugs and glad to see you lurking lol! Gawd I can't wait for the fall when everyone will feel like baking again. Your muffins are legend girl. Sue at Coffee and Cornbread made them and posted about it! Go look!

browndog - I'm kinda "sticking my toe" in the water as far as fermentation and preservation goes and the sourdough starter, Sir Stinksalot is my first foray. I figure I will next try making something like a fermented pickle. Then if I still haven't killed us or given us botulism, I am planning on biting the bullet and risking making preserves! I've always wanted to but like with yeast, I've been "sorely askeered"! But I've determined my 45th year will be my year of facing fears! :D Wooohooo about darn time too!

browndog said...

Hah-! Just today I was wonderin' if you were a 'kid' or not. And now I know! (amazing how young 45 sounds to someone looking at the front end of 52...) You know, I've done pickles and jams, though not a lot, and really the hardest part for me is keeping the water at a good rolling boil--my stove stinks, and not in a good way like Sir Starter. Otherwise it's just hot and cumbersome but so pretty to look at when you're done.

Blue Zebra said...

LOL! I hear ya! I love the sparkly looking "gems" of looking at a row of canned preserves. I think I mighta been a magpie in another life if I believed in reincarnation! I am itchin to try the Claussen style refrigerated pickles and also itchin' to make homemade peach preserves and tomato jam. :D I'm thinking that will be a project for next spring on all of it. And 52 is just next door to 45! :D

Magpie said...

You need to try this:


Awesome, wonderful, easy.

Blue Zebra said...

Hi Magpie! Thanks so much for this link! I hope all the readers here will try it cuz it's a super bread and almost full proof don't you think?!

For very little amount of time, effort, energy, strength you get this impossibly beautiful loaf of bread that tastes better than any bakery loaf!

Great link and tip Magpie! Keep them coming!!!!!

ehanner said...

Blue Zebra you continue to amaze me with your skills. You are obviously a wonderful baker and photographer. Your bread photos capture the essence of the Artisan Baker. Great job!


Blue Zebra said...

Hi Eric! And welcome to the land of the blue zebra! I hope you will visit often and add your knowledge and voice to this site. Many of our readers are avid bakers! I'm glad you have enjoyed the photos. I'm working hard to improve them all the time. Sometimes they come out so blurry. :-/ I hope everyone will have patience with me as I work to improve the site. :D