Wednesday, October 21, 2009

My new interest in baking really cheap bread (yeast is the most expensive thing about bread, for real) lives symbiotically with my continued visits to the gym. Back when I wasn't working out, I really felt like I had to limit my intake of delicious, thick, buttered slices of bread, all chewy and toothsome... because eating too much bread made my pants tight. I don't know how the bread actually altered the fabric of my clothes, but there it is. Anyway, yeah, I've been working out, still, plus we now use the rock-climbing wall once a week. I think we've gone four times, maybe? It's pretty fun, and scary, and hard. But mostly fun. Even though I know I won't plummet to my death, I definitely get some adrenaline flowing when I'm near the top and I have to lunge upwards to try to grab a hand-hold. My arms give out after about three climbs, which is just pathetic. It's not even that I'm "feeling the burn" or whatever, but my arms just won't hold me anymore. Which sucks. But whatever.

Anyway, I've made two more loaves of sourdough since the first one. The second was a more traditional bread, with short-ish rises and lots of kneading, and it was fine. It rose well, the crumb is nice and even. Like a regular loaf of bread, with a bit of a sour taste. Nothing to write home about.

Here it is sliced open.

Pretty much just regular bread.

It was not really what I was going for, so I went back to the no-knead recipe, and this time I, you know, actually followed the directions. And it came out great!

Beautiful crusty sourdough!

Unfortunately, I ignored one of the crucial parts of the recipe, because a couple of blogs said I could: the preheating-the-pot part. So I put my dough in the dutch oven, cold, and then put it in a cold oven before turning it up to 425. As a result, the bread became one with the bottom of the pan. Here's what it looked like once I managed to scrape and pry most of the loaf from it.


I had to do two rounds of soaking to get the pan clean. I did some further googling, and it sounds like you can use parchment paper to avoid the problem. There's a "local foods" potluck this Saturday as part of, and I plan on bringing a loaf of local-yeast bread. And it will be perfect! Or the greenhouse gases will have won!

Monday, October 05, 2009

My new thing is making sourdough from scratch. I've been working on the starter for a couple of weeks now -- at one point it seemed to have stalled out at the "very stinky" phase, but I added some rye flour and it got right on track -- and tonight I am finally baking my first actual loaf of bread. I put together the "recipe" based on about 10 different sources online. Due to having started this right before a work day, I decided to do a "no knead" dough, which is meant to sit for longer than a regular dough. Anyway, in about 20 minutes, I should find out if I made a lovely, crispy-crust, tender-chewy-inside loaf, or a hard little shitbrick.

I got a cold last week. The past few times I've gotten sick, I've followed the advice of cold medicine advertisements on the television: I took Advil and Sudafed and made my ass go to the office. And lo and behold, I would end up feeling terrible and sick for days -- weeks, even. This time, I started feeling cold-ish on Thursday, I took Friday off (though I felt guilty about it), slept all day Saturday (I didn't even get dressed), and felt well enough by Sunday afternoon to attend an afternoon mulled-wine soiree. I'm still a bit phleghmy but otherwise I feel pretty ok. Staying home and resting a lot did me a lot of good. Is it possible that the cold medicine companies do not have my best interests at heart?

Edited: Ok, here's the bread:

Looks like an actual loaf of bread, right? But no, let me open it up to get the side view:

As you can see, it's way too flat. I think I should have let it rise more once I had loaded it up with the extra flour today. Regardless, it tastes fine (needs more salt), is not too terribly dense, and the crust is impressively crusty. The bottom is nearly burned, though, and I'm not sure what's up with that. I just scraped it off, like you might with some burnt toast.
Anyway, I learned a lot for next time. And now I have a small amount of hearty bread to eat!