I realize this outs me as a huge bread geek (as if A Year in Bread hadn't already) but I found the coolest little formula today. It's a quick way to convert the quantity of yeast in a regular bread recipe to make it using a longer, slower rising process.
Being a huge fan of bread that spends its first night in the refrigerator, I am probably inordinately excited by this - and no doubt everyone else already knew this bit of math - but I just had to share.
May I just say, I love my new box of light! Following the Strobist's excellent instructions for photography on the cheap, in this case the DIY $10 Macro Photo Studio, I transformed a cardboard box into, if not a thing of beauty itself, a thing that will give that "thing of beauty" quality to other things.
When I was a young'un, I moved from "Baja Oregon" to a very small coastal town in southwest Washington. A town where the locals joked, in some cases bragged, that, upon arriving, you should turn back your clock 20 years - to the '50s. I, being a child of the coolest artistic little beach towns in Baja Oregon, thought this was mildly amusing...for about 15 minutes.
I arrived in late-spring and my first summer there was, to put it
mildly, not my best year. Two things saved me that wet, foggy summer.
The first was a job at the local pizzeria, where Gina, a wise-cracking
New Jersey girl — everyone swore we were sisters — taught me to toss
rounds of dough high in the air and, much harder, catch them again. She
also let me play with the brick oven. I loved Gina.
The second bit of salvation arrived one night when I met Becky and we instantly became BFF, before there even were BFF. This bread, made in loaves, was Becky's favorite. I baked some every week or so for years and years. Then Becky and I lost touch. I also mostly stopped baking this bread. Both sad things.
Many questions have plagued humankind for eons:
One might wonder how dull my day was to spend it hunting down the answer to such a question, and one might be right. In my defense, however, that's not what I started out to do...
If I had to pick one word for my life the last while, it would have to be scattered. Just as one crazy thing is brought under control, the next careens into view. Like garlic butter in your cake pan. Or a teetering stack of biscuits.
One of my surest cures for scattered is bread. As I gather the bits of ragged dough and knead them together into a cohesive whole, I am, likewise, remade just a bit, my loose edges reintegrated and all that. It's one of my favorite meditative states.
Some people insist on doing things the hard way, the complicated way, and I will gladly admit to being one of them - especially when it comes to bread. Not all the time, mind you, there are days when I need bread today and throw together a quick batch of baguettes, but on the other hand...well, lets just say that when I had to make fresh sourdough starter - after doing unmentionable things to my old one (the pretty pink stuff growing on it was cute but unappetizing) - I insisted on doing it by capturing wild yeast.
Worse, I made three kinds of starter: rye, white whole wheat, and white. This met with varying degrees of success, let's just say that if you plan on doing this at home, you can skip the plain white flour version. After ten days of nurturing three starters along, however, my kitchen is but a Bunsen burner away from qualifying as a mad scientist's lab. And I still haven't made any bread from the wild yeast starter, two jars of which are bubbling along in the refrigerator.
With the holidays coming up, dinner rolls take a step forward over at A Year in Bread. Susan, Kevin and I have posted recipes for three different takes on rolls suitable for your holiday table. We've got three tempting options for your holiday table, soup bowl or your Friday turkey sandwich.
Another option when individual rolls are called for is an epi, a traditional shape that represents a sheaf of wheat. While it is technically still a loaf, they have almost as much delightfully crust as a roll and individual sections break off easily in a perfect union of form and function.
Epis are also surprisingly easy to make. You start with a baguette shape and make a series of cuts with scissors. Since the implement of destruction is scissors rather than a knife, small people can help too. Speaking of children, you can start with a mini-baguette to make a child-size epi so the monstrrrs at the table get the fun of ripping off their own piece.
I think every baker needs a few never-fail recipes in their back pocket. Recipes that they can play with endlessly with a fair degree of certainty of success. This recipe is a variation of one of my standby recipes: a poolish baguette from Peter Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice. If I had to pick just a few breads to bake all the time, this would be one of them. In its original form, it makes wonderful baguettes and is well suited to being shaped for breads like epis and I have been able to corrupt... err, vary it pretty endlessly over the years.
In fact — confession time — I once made a double batch of this bread. Except I didn't double the yeast. And I tripled the oil. (don't ask, it was late, I was rushed and had no business driving a KitchenAid...) As I kneaded the dough, stumbling my way through a series of "this feels all wrong" corrections, I slowly figured out how badly I had screwed up. Ever the good food writer, I trudged on, determined to take photos for an article titled "How to waste two pounds of flour" that I would write someday. Except for one problem: the bread was fine. It wasn't great, but it was good. This recipe earned its place in my back pocket that day.