Gas station without pumps

2021 June 25

Retirement present from my students

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 22:56
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Several of the students in my applied analog electronics course got together to get me a retirement present, which was very sweet of them.  They gave me two “foodie” books: The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart and Renaissance Recipes by Gillian Riley.  A dozen of the students wrote notes on the end papers of The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. It was a very sweet and thoughtful present. Somewhat surprisingly, my wife and I did not own either of these two books in our collection of about 140 cookbooks (which include over a dozen renaissance cookbooks and at least nine books on baking bread).

The students also gave me an apron with silk screening: 

The Man   The Myth

THE

 LEGEND

HAS RETIRED

I suppose I should pick one of the recipes (oops—formulæ) from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice for the next bread-and-tea event.


2021 February 13

Mixer-bowl bread

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 18:51
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On Friday, I made a variant of the mixing-bowl bread of a few weeks ago.

I started the bread on Wednesday, but baked it Friday afternoon.  I did not measure all the ingredients, so the numbers here are approximate:

1½ cup sourdough starter
1 cup bread flour
1 cup warm water
1 teaspoon yogurt
2 teaspoons vinegar (with mother of vinegar—vigorously shaken before measuring)

The yogurt and vinegar were added to re-inoculate the starter with their bacteria—the focaccia last week did not seem to have enough old-dough flavor.  Use the dough hook of the mixer to mix the ingredients (they are too liquid to make a dough). Let the sponge rise for several hours, then take out a cup of it to save as the next starter.   The sponge did not seem very active, so I let it rise more overnight.

Thursday morning I added

1 Tablespoon salt
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons dark brown sugar.

While mixing with the dough hook, gradually add

4 cups whole-wheat flour

The goal is to get a dough that is elastic but still slightly sticky.  Turn the dough out onto a counter floured with whole-wheat flour and knead by hand for a couple of minutes, keeping the dough lightly floured to keep it from sticking.  This used another

¼ cup whole-wheat flour

and resulted in a soft and elastic dough that was not too sticky.  Put it in a mixing bowl (not the one from the mixer) with a little olive oil and turn it to coat the ball of dough with oil.  Let it rise for a day with a damp cloth covering the bowl.

Friday morning, I greased the bowl of hte KitchenAid mixer with

cocoanut oil

and turned the dough into the mixer bowl. The dough deflated a little on being transferred from one bowl to the other. Let it rise in the new bowl for 4 hours. Bake at 400–450°F for about an hour and 20 minutes (until the center of the load is around 195°F). I turned the loaf out of the bowl then to bake another ten minutes on terra cotta tiles, but that may not be necessary.

The loaf is quite tall, with cute dimple in the middle from the corresponding bump in the bottom of the mixer’s bowl.

The bread was very similar to the previous mixing-bowl loaf, but with a slightly better crust.  The crumb was good and the bread had a good whole-wheat, sourdough flavor.  This is probably the tallest loaf of sourdough I’ve ever baked—about 13cm high (5″) at the tallest part.

2021 January 16

Mixing-bowl bread

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 10:40
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Yesterday I had a small bread-and-tea event (only 2 people besides me)—the events really don’t work as well on Zoom as on-campus, where the smell of the freshly baked bread fills the hallways. On Zoom, I can’t share the bread I bake.

The bread I made yesterday was not a particularly special recipe, but I tried baking it differently.  Instead of using a loaf pan or shaping the loaf on baking parchment, I just left it in the mixing bowl that it had been rising in, and baked it there.

I started the bread on Thursday, but baked it Friday afternoon.  I did not measure all the ingredients, so the numbers here are approximate:

1 cup sourdough starter
2 cups bread flour
2 cups warm water
2 Tablespoons sugar

Use the dough hook of the mixer to mix the ingredients (they are too liquid to make a dough). Let the sponge rise for a couple of hours, then take out a cup of it to save as the next starter.   To the rest add

2 teaspoons salt
2 Tablespoons olive oil

While mixing with the dough hook, gradually add

2½ cups whole-wheat flour

The goal is to get a dough that is elastic but still slightly sticky.  Turn the dough out onto a counter floured with whole-wheat flour and knead by hand for a couple of minutes, keeping the dough lightly floured to keep it from sticking.  This used another

½ cup whole-wheat flour

and resulted in a soft and elastic dough that was not too sticky.  Put it in a mixing bowl with a little olive oil and turn it to coat the ball of dough with oil.  Let it rise overnight with a damp cloth covering the bowl.  After a couple of hours the dough had doubled in size, but shaking the bowl a little deflated it, without needing to punch it down.

In the morning, grease a different stainless-steel mixing bowl with

cocoanut oil (or butter)

and turn the dough into the new bowl. The dough again deflated on being transferred from one bowl to the other. Let it rise in the new bowl for 4 hours. Bake at 375°F for about an hour (until the center of the load is around 195°F). I turned the loaf out of the bowl then to bake another ten minutes on terra cotta tiles, but that may not be necessary.

Here is the baked bread still in the mixing bowl it was baked in.

Turning the bread out onto the tiles was very easy. I could have just cooled the bread at that point, but I decided to bake it a little longer to make the crust a little crisper.

The bread cooling on the rack shows the nice color and shape from the unusual loaf pan.

The bread had a slightly softer crust than some of my sourdoughs (as expected from using a pan), but the crumb was excellent—the somewhat soft dough and gentler handling of the bread before the final rising probably helped.

2020 November 5

Pita bread

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 20:55
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This week’s bread is a bit constrained, as my oven failed on Tuesday, and the gas burner in the oven would not light.  This has happened twice before, and each time the igniter needed to be replaced.  The first time it happened, I got an appliance-repair person out to diagnose and fix it, but the second time I fixed it myself (replacing the igniter is not very difficult).  I’ve ordered a new igniter, but it may take over a week to get here.

So, I’m limited to stovetop breads.

I considered doing steam buns again, but I don’t really have time this week to make the filling and shape the buns.  My wife suggested that I make  flatbread in a frying pan—she often makes pita bread using a recipe from Flatbreads and Flavors by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid.  Because I wanted to use my sourdough starter, I adapted the recipe a little.

I started the bread the day before baking.

1¼ cup wet sourdough starter
½ teaspoon dried yeast
1½ cup whole-wheat flour
1½ teaspoon salt
1½ teaspoon olive oil

Mix the yeast into the starter.  If your starter is not soupy like mine, then you may need to add warm water. The yeast is probably not needed, but I was worried that my sourdough had gotten a bit old and the yeast in it might not have been very active.

Mix in the rest of the ingredients and knead by hand until the dough is smooth and elastic.  My dough was a little dry, so I kneaded in another ⅛ cup of water a few drops at a time. Leave the dough in a covered bowl to rise.

When ready to bake, divide the dough into eight parts, and roll each part on a lightly floured board into a circle about 8″ (20cm) in diameter and less than ¼” (6 mm) thick.

Heat a large cast-iron fry pan over medium high heat. Cook one circle at a time in the fry pan—15 to 20 seconds on one side, flip it and cook for about a minute “until big bubbles begin to appear”, then flip back to the first side and try to get the whole circle to balloon.  Flatbreads and Flavors has some advice on how to achieve that by pressing gently with a towel to spread the bubbles that have already appeared.  The authors also recommend adjusting the heat so that the bread takes about 2–3 minutes to cook.

I plan to make just 2 or 3 of the pita bread for bread and tea, with the rest for our dinner (and maybe one or two the next day).  If the recipe comes out as well as when my wife makes it, I might make a batch of dough to leave in a bag in the fridge, so that I can make one or two pita a day for lunch.

I made one tonight (a day before bread and tea), so that I could have a photo for this blog post:

I think I need to roll the bread just a little thinner tomorrow, and make sure that the pan is up to temperature before I start—this bread took a little over 3 minutes to cook and started browning too much before it started puffing.

2020 October 23

Whole-wheat sourdough in loaf pan

Filed under: Uncategorized — gasstationwithoutpumps @ 16:31
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For today’s bread-and-tea Zoom meeting, I decided to bake a sourdough whole-wheat bread in a loaf pan, mixing several of my previous recipes together.

Yesterday, I mixed

1 cup sourdough starter,
1 cup bread flour,
1 cup water,

and left it overnight covered with a damp kitchen towel.  Early this morning, I removed 1 cup of the sponge to save as sourdough started and added to the rest

1 cup warm water,
1 cup bread flour,
2 cups whole-wheat flour,
½ cup rye flour,
2 Tablespoons sugar,
2 Tablespoons olive oil,

and stirred them together using a silicone spatula.  I then kneaded the dough in the bowl, adding

½ cup whole-wheat flour.

I added a little olive oil (a tablespoon?) to the bowl and coated the ball of dough with it.  I left the dough to rise about 3 hours, then transferred it to a buttered loaf pan, where I let it rise again for about 5 hours.

I slashed the top of the loaf lengthwise and baked in an oven preheated to 400°F (set to 450°F on our oven) for about 45 minutes, until the center reached 190°F.  I removed the loaf from the pan and baked directly on the baking tiles for another 5 minutes (turning the oven temperature down to 300°F).  In retrospect, I should have turned the temperature down sooner, as the top crust darkened too much.

The loaf is a little darker on the top crust than I find optimal, but it should work ok as a sandwich bread.

The bread cut well and had good crust and crumb, but I forgot to include salt! There should have been 2 teaspoons of salt in the recipe!

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