Monday, June 1, 2015

Roasted Potato and Roasted Onion Fendu

It's been a while since we had a Roasted Potato Fendu for the share, so I thought that it would be nice to get one out there this week, since I'm harvesting the last of the volunteer onions that popped up in the garlic patch this season. Here's a couple of bruisers we picked and roasted yesterday.

The Biz sneaking up on me trying to steal the onions!
These two big onions will provide the onions for the first two days of the share, then I'll need to use other onions, some from our main vegetable garden, some from Jacinto Farms where, right now, they have some mammoth "Maui" and "Mata Hari" onions. I like the Mata Haris more than the Mauis...they have more flavor when roasted. This week's bread has twice as much onion as the last roasted potato fendu we made with onions. Look out!

Home grown onions in olive oil, ready for roasting.
In addition to roasting the potatoes and onions, this bread requires some whole wheat, which we always mill on Sunday, just before the week's first loaves are made. Here's the setup with the stone mill.

Hard Red Wheat berries being coarsely milled for the Potato Fendu!
Had to share this too...Cam's parents have contributed to the overall spirit of things here at the C&C Kitchens with this great gift; custom embroidered kitchen towels! Among other designs, check out this one:

Custom kitchen towels!
Hope you all enjoy the bread this week!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Crisis Averted.

Happy to say that the starter bounced right back! Unhappily, the bread today didn't really spring in the oven! I'm not happy with the way things turned out today, so I'll be cutting these loaves up and setting them out for folks to eat, I think.

Monday, May 25, 2015


As you might imagine, I spend quite a bit of time scouring forums to read about other peoples' experiences with bread. There's endless things to discuss. Anything as subtle as orchestrating the activities of a symbiotic culture of microorganisms by controlling time, temperature, and a limitless variety of ingredients is bound to spawn a long and rich discussion of  grand successes, abysmal failures and everything in between.

One thing that pops up every once in a while is some panic-stricken baker who is reaching out to the forums in desperation, wondering what to do now that they've accidentally baked their starter. I always have a private chuckle when I read these posts. "What sort of idiot would be stupid enough to bake their starter?!"

Today, I baked my starter.

I was going to be in the mountains today, but we decided to stay local instead. As I'm unable to actually not do anything for more than three or four seconds, I decided that I'd dig into a great book (The Best Recipe) to see if I could improve on the beef stew that my mom taught me to make, and that I've been cooking for more than 25 years. Their method called for cooking the stew in a dutch oven (already do that...) and going from the stovetop to the oven after everything comes to a simmer (that's new!).

As it's a holiday weekend, I knew I needed to double up on the bread dough I'd make on Tuesday. Tuesday's bread dough was started on Thursday night, the dough mixed on Friday, bulk fermented then shaped on Sunday night, and is now retarding in the fridge for tomorrow's bake. Trust me, it'll be fine. But the holiday means that I have to work Monday's bread into later in the week, so I have to start the levain today, mix the dough tomorrow, then bake two extra loaves on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively. That means I need twice as much starter as usual. So this morning, I set about doubling my starter.

I don't keep an independent starter. Without getting into too much detail, I bake so often that I can just "steal" a little starter from each day's levain. So I always have a mason jar that's either empty or has just enough starter for the next day's bread. When I need to make more bread on a particular day, I increase the starer before mixing the levain. That's what I tried to do today. But it's a bit chilly, so I used a baker's trick; I put the jar of starter in the back of the oven near the oven light and turned the oven light on. This creates an environment that's about 10 degrees warmer than your home's "room temperature;" just right for getting a starter good and lively, but not too sour.

I read that I was going to have to cook the stew in the oven, and I thought "gotta get the starter outta there. No way I'll forget...the light is on, after all."

Then I got started later on the stew than planned. A stew that takes three hours to cook.  Browning the peppered and salted beef in a little olive oil and consulting the cookbook while chopping the onions, I casually turned the oven on to preheat. 250 degrees. It was probably 20 minutes before I realized my error.


I'm sure that Cam thought I'd severed an artery or something. I reached in with my bare hand (I deserve what I get at this point) and grabbed the pint jar of what was once a nice and lively starter, and pulled it out.


Immediately ("Cam! Turn the browning beef!") I spooned out the very middle of the cooked starter mess and moved it to a new jar to try to save it from disaster by dousing it with cool water and giving it a fresh feeding of my whole wheat starter mix. Time will tell if I was successful. If I was, then this week will be okay, and the bread share might be delayed a bit. I'm sure it'll be fine, but like I said, there could be some delays.

Cam was very zen about it, mostly chastising me for freaking out about it all, but I think my frenzied panic was merited. Here's a few pictures. You decide. :)

Baked (left) and (hopefully) salvaged starters. Fingers crossed.
This is what you want your starter to look like when you mix it. I'm hoping there are enough of the little critters alive in here to keep things going strong in the starter.
Cooked Starter. This is the worst case scenario. The starter at the edges of the jar was thoroughly cooked. I'm hoping that what I scooped out of the middle is still viable and will produce a healthy starter again.
This is the beginnings of the stew that may have been the death of my old starter!
I'm confident that the starter will bounce right back. Even if it doesn't, I have a long-term plan to create a starter from nothing but 100% whole Redlands flour and water. That's something I've shelved because I've been too busy to really give it the thought and consideration that it deserves.

This might have just been pushed to the forefront! Ha!

Actually, I have a good backup plan. I can either culture a new wheat starter from my rye starter, which started as my wheat starter anyway...or I could pinch a little dough off tomorrow's bread to bring the starter back to life. I really, really hope that the cooked starter just fires back up again though, since I've had it going for a long time.

This week's bread is sure to be a good one...It's like the country wheat, but with half rye, half wheat, and more whole grain than normal.

We'll see!!

Monday, May 18, 2015

A New Month of Bread, Inluding a New Bread

First, a red alert... This week's bread has TREE NUTS in it. LOTS of tree nuts. I know at least one person in the Share is sensitive to tree nuts, and I apologize in advance. :) Not only is this bread loaded with nuts, it's loaded with hazelnuts, which, I read, are the nut that doctors use to test for tree nut allergies. If you're allergic to any tree nuts, you'll also be allergic to hazelnuts. So I read. Hazelnuts are also called filberts. I prefer that name, actually, because it's funny. Here's some filberts, quaking in their boots at the prospect of the hot oven they're about to face.

Hazelnuts headed to the oven.

I'm buying raw hazelnuts and toasting them. Conveniently, the skin of the nut mostly falls off when you toast them. Way easier than blanching...and who has time to blanch? Not me. In addition to a ton of hazelnuts, we've piled a bunch of dried Mission figs into this loaf. Now, while we do have a Mission fig tree here on the bakery grounds, these figs are from Trader Joe's, not my backyard. Maybe next year.

Full disclosure: I do not like nuts and fruit in bread. I really do not like fruit and nuts in bread. No foodstuff is less appealing to me than a fruitcake. I'm not just hating on fruitcake because it's cool to not like fruitcake. I really dislike it. It's a little like cilantro, which tastes like soap to me. Just like cilantro, I'm genetically predisposed to dislike fruitcake. But I like this loaf. It's not too fruity, and the nuts are pretty subtle. I wish they still had the crunch to them that they had when they're fresh toasted. I cut into a still-warm loaf and buttered it. Coupled with some crispy hash browns and scrambled eggs with smoked spare rib meat, it was part of one of the best breakfasts I've made in a long time.

Could not resist sharing this example of how you might want to use your loaf this week.

We went for a nice hike up below San Bernardino peak yesterday, and took a  couple of sandwiches made with this bread. We sliced it relatively thin then piled on some thinly-sliced leftover grilled chicken, added a bit of salt and pepper and just a little bit of mayo. Not surprisingly, it made a delicious sandwich. So this bread is not a one-trick pony; if you use your imagination, you'll find things to do with it besides eating it with butter,but I still highly recommend eating it with butter. It was an amazing day in the mountains yesterday. I had only my phone with me for still photos, and i haven't configured the new phone yet, so i think the HDR effect was on when I took this photo yesterday, but the picture still does a nice job of conveying what it was like around 9,500 feet up there yesterday.

Clouds over Yucaipa Ridge from San Bernardino Peak's Southern Flanks

The week will be an ongoing experiment with this loaf, actually, so Monday's loaf may look nothing like Fridays, but all should be quite tasty. This was the loaf that I started working on last week, fresh from the oven on Saturday morning.

Hazelnut Fig Levain

And here's the crumb. You can see that the crumb wasn't ready to be sliced.

Hazelnut Fig Levain Crumb, loaded with figs and nuts.
Home project and climbing trips loom large on the summer horizon. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we're able to keep all the balls in the air through this busy season. The bread share started in October last year, when most of the summer mayhem was winding down. Since beginning the share, we've made more than 700 loaves of bread here at the C&C kitchen. That's a couple of average days at a small bakery, but this is just our little home oven here, so it's quite a bit of bread!

June through September are prime months for getting stuff done, and my days might get too packed to maintain the bread share for three out of every four weeks. As I said, I'll keep my fingers crossed, as I have a bunch of ideas that I would like to try, mixed in with a few weeks of the old reliable loaves.

Ingredients in this week's loaf:

Toasted Hazelnut and Mission Fig Levain

Fresh milled whole hard red wheat, wheat flour, water, toasted hazelnut, mission figs, sea salt, natural levain

This is my "I hope I break even" loaf. Ha! If my math is right, the ingredients to make the loaf cost almost what I'm charging for it. That's not much of a business model... :)


Friday, April 17, 2015

A New Bread from Old Ideas

This week's bread is a real hybrid of a number of methods and mixes from the last year of so of tinkering. I don't know what to call it! I suppose it's just a white bread with some whole grains, but the mix, along with the level of hydration and the time it spends in the oven are what make it unique and, to me, something of a special loaf!
Unnamed Bread
In the picture, you can see the effect of really baking this loaf out. Some people would say that this loaf is burnt, but it really isn't; it's just pushing the Maillard reaction, which is what makes food turn brown (meats as well as breads) and brings out flavors that would otherwise not be apparent in food.

I'm a really big fan of toasted sesame, so when I knew I was going to bake these out good, I couldn't resist adding a solid coating of sesame to the loaf. Boy, I really like it. I hope you did too!

For those of you who might be wondering "whatever happened to that bread slicer Chris was so excited about?" it's still in operation. However, I haven't yet figured out how to use it effectively. These high hydration breads that we make here tend to have really sticky crumbs, even after given the chance to cool completely. This ensures that after a couple of loaves are sliced, the blades get good and gummed up, a situation that takes a LONG time to remedy (imagine cleaning both sides of thirty bread knives that are affixed to the inside of a small box. Fun!). So until I figure it out, sliced loaves will be limited to one a day or so, and only on request. And only when I can satisfy the request. Ha!

Next week, we're thinking that it might be a good time to try out a new formula for a primarily white flour loaf. Stay tuned!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Jewish Deli Rye - Minus the Caraway

This week's bread is a fun one. It's the usual Jewish Deli Rye, only with no caraway seeds! Originally, we were going to mill the caraway seeds and add them to the dough in place of the whole seeds, to see what we (and the share) thought of a rye bread with caraway flavor, but no whole seeds. I like the seeds. Some people don't. I get that.
Then it occurred to me that it's possible that there are folks in the bread share that have never had a rye bread that didn't have caraway seeds in it at all! I know that the flavor of caraway is so deeply engrained in what I think of as the taste of "rye bread" that until I made a loaf of rye bread without caraway, I never considered that rye bread has a flavor all its own that is subtle enough that it's lost under the assertive spice of caraway.

That said, don't confuse this week's loaf with a "real" rye bread. The formula is the same as the rye bread that I've made for the share many times before, with the exception of caraway seeds. Here it is:

Deli RyeBaker's %
Rye Flour15%
Water 20%
Final Dough
AP Flour41%
Bread Flour44%
Caraway Seeds2%
Sea salt 2%
Water 51%
Total Flour100%
Total Water72%

This time, I ground the rye to a very coarse pumpernickel grind. We hope you like it, and look forward to your reaction to this odd won't be seeing it again, though I anticipate that soon we'll have a "real" rye bread with a good bit more rye flour. We're working on something worth sharing right now! Here's this week's loaf.

Nary a caraway seed to be seen in this week's Deli Rye!
 I thought I'd be crafty and cross out "caraway seeds" from the ingredient list on the stamp for the Deli Rye, then was disappointed to see that I'd forgotten to include it on the ingredient list. Oops!

Forgot the "caraway seeds" on the it works well this week!
Cam and I have been enjoying a subscription to one the the LA Phil's Saturday night subscriptions this season. Part of what makes the symphony such a pleasure is finding great places to eat before the performance, which usually begins at 8pm. We've gravitated to ramen shops and other Asian restaurants, but have also sampled fish and chips at downtown dive bars, among other delicious things. There's a lot of good food out there. As proof that we don't just eat bread and pastries, I offer this snapshot of Cam enjoying a big bowl of spicy Tonkotsu ramen at Men Oh in Little Tokyo, not far from the Walt Disney Concert hall.

Spicy Cam and Spicy Tonkotsu Ramen
Last night's performance was really fantastic. A recital by Lang Lang. For more than two hours, this phenom banged out one world-class performance after another, starting with Bach's Italian Concerto in F Major, followed by The Seasons by Tchaikovsky. Sublime. This was all before the intermission. After intermission, Lang turned in a mind boggling performance of Chopin's Scherzos 1, 2, 3, and 4. The lid of the Steinway fluttered like a leaf in a gale while Lang hammered away at these piece's more enthusiastic sections. It was amazing. Transcendent. A delight.

However, I have to admit, I had a lot of trepidation, knowing that this performance was going to be at the Walt Disney Concert hall and that it was going to be a packed house of Angelenos, who are, without question, the worst, most inconsiderate, and selfish symphony-goers in the United State, probably the world. It's not limited to symphonies either. LA is the single worst place in the nation to witness live music. Look at the tour calendars of lots of musicians; they'll cover the entire nation and completely skip Southern California. I can't blame them.

I'd rather have beer bottles thrown at me while I played behind chicken wire in a west-Texas honky tonk than have to suffer through being Lang Lang on stage at the La Phil. At least the bottle-throwers are paying attention.

In LA, for a lot of people in the venue, it's much more about the selfie for instagram than it is about respectfully enjoying the performance. The problem in LA can be boiled down to that one fact; the fans do not respect the artist they have come to see.

The situation is compounded by two things about the Walt Disney Concert Hall, one spectacular, one horrific. The acoustics are tremendous. I swear, you could hear someone whispering anywhere in the hall from anywhere else in the hall. They thought of just about everything, including specially upholstering the underside of the chairs so an empty chair has the same impact on the acoustics of the hall as an occupied one. Really. Pretty neat, huh? This plays into the horrific part.

Between Frank Gehry (the building's architect) and Yasuhita Toyota (the hall's acoustician), neither must have given a lot of thought about what would happen when actual Angelenos filled the hall, because the floors in the seating area are un-carpeted wood. This means that any item that hits that floor during the performance is going to be heard by everyone in the hall. It's brutal. At our first visit to the LA Phil, a dropped cane in the middle of a quiet violin solo reverberated like a gunshot. Each of the dozens of programs that slide off the laps of Phil patrons produces sounds somewhere between a loud slap and the flutter of a flock of birds leaving a tree, depending on how it hits. And each time it happens, the whole hall gets to hear it.

Last night, there were at least a dozen dropped programs, often accompanied by the crack of the smartphone that was on top of the glossy-magazine-slippery program hitting the hardwood. At one of the rare quiet moments in Chopin's second Scherzo, a pre-teen four rows in front of us let loose with an entire bag of spilled skittles, which sounded either like a machine gun or fifteen dice games going at once. I couldn't decide which, but suffice it to say, it was distracting.

Normally at the symphony, you can expect some snoring from the occasional octogenarian who dozes off at a quiet moment. Not at the LA Phil. Instead, you get to enjoy the sound of wind chimes every time the elderly woman 15 seats away moves her arm, on which she's wearing 50 jingly bangles. When she's sitting still, another elderly gent, evidently with the short-term memory of a gnat, is turning a very loudly switched flashlight on and off every 50 seconds or so to pore over his program, I assume in an attempt to figure out which of Tchaikovsky's Seasons we were on. CLICK... CLICK.

It's lucky for him that he put the flashlight away at intermission. If I had to listen to that during Chopin he'd have had to enlist the services of a proctologist to find his flashlight. Thankfully, Chopin is so engaging that even the minute attention span of last night's audience was enamored enough to pay attention. At least when things were exciting.

When the entire orchestra is in the hall, it's at least loud enough to cover some of the annoyances. There's no mercy in a recital. You hear everything.

Nothing but one piano in the Walt Disney Concert Hall; a formula for disaster.
They could solve a lot of the problems they have by putting a simple sign on the doors leading into the hall. That sign could read:

Prior to the performance, 
During the performance, 

That would pretty much cover it. You could add "NO FOOD OR BEVERAGE" though that should be covered by "Make no sound." If you can't go an HOUR without a drink, you should be in a hospital, yet I see plenty of people enjoying beverages in their seats. Really?


Even with these precautionary measures, I suspect that the situation would not be improved.

Woah. What a rant!

 Enjoy the bread this week! Next week is Free Bread Week, then back to it in the first week of April.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

February Begins With Half of a Giant Bastard

Happy February!

Please don't take the infrequent updates to the site here to indicate waning interest. It's just been very busy on many fronts, and actually sitting down at the computer to do something other than research has been trumped by home project, other plans, lots of work to do at work (who would have guessed?) and weekends full of good food, friends, recreation, and a little bit more work. We've been busy.

We've also been adventuring in breads, branching our to (heaven forbid) some commercial yeast-leavened breads (including some hamburger buns that really complemented the BBQ we made a couple of weekends ago) and trying some tweaks to some old formulas (again).

We've added a couple of tools to our arsenal in the past weeks. We're phasing out the impact mill we've been using for our home-milled grains and phasing in a new stone-mill from NutriMill, the NutriMill Harvest.

Someone else's nice photo of the NutriMill Harvest
There's supposed to be a lot of benefits to stone ground grains (as opposed to impact-milled) but my main reason for getting the mill is its ability to grind coarser flour and cracked grains. That's just not possible with a high-speed impact mill. Unfortunately, this unit is quite a bit messier than the impact mill, but so far, I've been very pleased with the results, and this past week's loaf was made with hard red wheat berries milled in this grain mill. We left it pretty coarse, too...did you notice?

In other news, I finally got around to finishing cleaning, re-wiring, and re-assembling the bread slicer, which is working like a real champ. I have to admit, part of what kept me from doing this sooner was a lurking fear that I wouldn't be able to get it back together. Ha! These things are basically hand-built, and for whatever reason, Berkel used about 50 different fasteners when they put this thing together. I still need to make a crumb tray for the slicer, but I did fabricate a nice little rolly-cart for it that puts the 250-pound slicer at counter-height for easy of use. Here's some photos of it as it came together.

Some of the parts of the mostly-disassembled Berkel Slicer.
The crankshaft, motor, and belts are back in place after the wiring was installed.

The completely cleaned and re-assembled Bread Slicer with a large country loaf, ready to be sliced!
I toyed with the idea of repainting the slicer, but decided against it. I did paint the two blade trays, which had shed so much paint in the cleaning process that there was considerable bare metal showing, and that metal was mild steel, not the stainless steel that the food-contact surfaces are made of. So they needed painting. The chassis and body of the machine, on the other hand, had pretty beat-up paint, but at the same time, this machine put in a lot of years of service before I ever saw it, and that's part of its character. Giving it a whole new paint job would kind of be pretending that it's something that it's not. I prefer it as-is...though i did knock a few of the dings out of the chrome trim pieces. :)

Last month's version of the Ancient Grains loaf was one of the biggest hits to date. People seem torn about the need for sesame seeds, and I get that, but I like them, so you'll have to suffer through them once in a while if they're not your "thing."

A cooling row of Ancient Grains Seeded Sourdough Boules waiting to be bagged.

Last month saw the first candy lagniappe, some tasty butter mints that I got from the Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook, which I've made a few things from and have been generally pleased with. While I'm by no means a "sweets" guy, I really, really used to love these things when I was a kid. I think we called them "after-dinner mints," though I don't know if that's a thing or some sort of product-specific branding. Either way, what I ate when I was a kid was junk compared to these little guys. Boy they were tasty. A month later, I still have a little bowl of them in the fridge that I've been husbanding, eating one, maybe two a day.

Pastel Butter Mints
For the first week of February's bread share, we plan to do something (sort of) new. In the last blog post there was a picture of yours truly with a big ol' loaf of rye bread baked in the giant dutch oven that my brother gave me for Christmas. Well, it turns out that not only does it make fantastic, giant batard-shaped loaves of hearth breads, but these breads are the absolute limit of what will fit in the Berkel slicer! ALSO, when sliced, these giant loaves (which are exactly twice as much bread as our normal boule) slice into about 80% nearly perfect sandwich/toast slices, so you don't have as many heels and tiny slices, and no slices so long and gigantic that you can't used them. As this photo from Lee in the Bread Share attests, sometimes the middle slices of our bread can be real toaster-busters.

Too much for Lee's toaster.

Ha! Well, fear not. Our plan for next week is to give each member of the bread share a half of a giant bastard of deli rye. Here's what the loaf looks like as it's about to meet the slicer.

A giant bastard about to be sliced.
And after slicing, you end up with 30+ 1/2 inch slices of bread, just the right size for a sandwich or toaster. Not all breads are suited for this, but I think the Deli Rye is a particularly good candidate, since it's so good as a sandwich bread or toast. Here's a sliced Roasted Potato Loaf for reference for those of you who I wasn't able to deliver a sliced loaf to last week (sorry!).

Berkel-sliced Roasted Potato Fendu
So why would I call these new loaves giant bastards? Well, mostly for fun, but also because it's appropriate. The loaf is (at nearly 4 pounds, baked) relatively giant, and it's in the shape of a batard (sort of). Many baking terms are French, for obvious reasons. The French didn't invent bread, but it'd be pretty easy to argue that somewhere in the 19th century, they elevated it to an art from it's humble, pedestrian roots. They also gave the loaf shapes some funny names. Some are simple and obvious; baguette translates to "stick" and it's a stick of bread. Similarly, boule translates to "ball." But I'm not sure why they chose to call a batard and batard, since that word literally translates to "bastard." Maybe it was a father-less loaf. My favorite is the miche. Perhaps one of the most revered of loaves on the planet, the Poilane loaf is shaped as a miche, which is really just a truly large boule.

The literal translation of the word miche is "butt cheek."

Leave it to the French...