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 %
levain
Starter1%
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 loaf...you 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 stamp...so 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, 
TURN OFF ANYTHING WITH AN ON/OFF SWITCH AND LEAVE IT OFF.
During the performance, 
SIT AS COMPLETELY STILL AS POSSIBLE. 
MAKE NO SOUND.
HOLD NOTHING IN YOUR LAP.

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?

You could put something on there like "IF YOU HAVE A COUGH, WHY ARE YOU HERE?" or at least "IF YOU'RE GOING TO NEED COUGH DROPS, UNWRAP ENOUGH TO LAST THE PERFORMANCE BEFORE THE PERFORMANCE BEGINS." But that should be a given.

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...

Sunday, January 4, 2015

A New Year of Good Breads

We're back! C&C Artisan Breads spent the holidays in Pittsburgh, where (oddly) the temperatures weren't all that much colder than they were here in Redlands. No snow back east either, so the anticipated "white Christmas" wasn't to be. Alas.

While we were in Pittsburgh, we took some time to introduce folks to the easy and fun work of making a simple loaf of artisan hearth bread. We also shared a bit of the C&C starter with people so they could jump right into baking naturally leavened breads. This is not necessary...you can create your own starter with flour and water, but it takes a couple of weeks so we brought some starter along to kick things off.

Every year at Thanksgiving my siblings draw names from a hat for the Christmas gift exchange. This year, my brother Matt drew my name, and he got me pretty good. When I unwrapped my gift from him, I assumed it was a joke, since it weighed a ton. Turned out it was (and wasn't) a joke. He got me this behemoth of an iron roaster from Cabela's.  I was pretty excited, but thought it might have been better if he'd had it shipped to Redlands. Ha! I ended up baking a giant loaf of deli rye to go with the Christmas ham. It was one of the finest loaves of bread I've ever baked.

Your baker with a 2 kg loaf of deli rye.
Luckily, we had flown Southwest, so we were able to just check the roaster as one of our checked bags at no added expense. Definitely looking forward to using the roaster for special occasion loaves. It worked really well.

Here's the sliced loaf. The crumb was really nice, and it went pretty fast.

Sliced monster rye.
2014 was a great year! Here's a bit of a "best of" set of photos of last year's breads. We're hoping that 2015 is as good a year as last, with even better versions of our current repertoire and some new breads that will keep the bread share folks on their toes. Happy new year!

Pane al Cioccolato
Seeded Ancient Grain Sourdough
Roasted Potato Fendu
Whole Wheat Country Loaf
Jewish Deli Rye
Spicy Cheese Crackers


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Pane al Cioccolato...Finding a Formula and Method

We're finally recovering from owning up to promises made for the Thanksgiving holiday. Ha! On the Sunday before Thanksgiving, we baked twenty loaves of bread! That's something of a record for us, and the oven was loaded with bread from around four in the morning until five in the afternoon pretty much continuously. Wow! It was challenging, and I figure we baked around fifty two-pound loaves in seven days. Needing to take a week off wasn't such a bad thing. :)

Eight of the Thanksgiving Country Loaves proofing.
As luck would have it, our friends Amir and Clara stopped by on their way back from San Diego after the holiday and brought us two loaves of bread from Con Pane in Point Loma. They were both delicious, but one in particular caught my attention...the Pane al Cioccolato. The bread was sweet but not too sweet, chocolaty without being over-the-top, and definitely a bread, not a cake. We liked it. I do not usually seek out sweet breads, but I thought that this one was pretty nice, so I set about trying to make my own version of it. Three or four attempts later, I'm at something I think merits sharing.

Duplicating a bread you find you enjoy isn't as tough as you might think. For starters (pun intended), you can usually find a formula that people like to begin with. In this case, that formula was one from Carol Field's "The Italian Baker." This formula is for a direct-dough bread, meaning that you mix everything at once. It also used commercial yeast. I would rather use a natural levain, but I thought I'd stick with the program with a small modification; I used a poolish instead of a direct method. Poolish is a preferment. You spike a fraction of the formula's flour and water with a tiny bit of commercial yeast and treat it as a levain. The results were nice.

Pane al Cioccolato with poolish.
But it could be better.

The next version of the loaf, we swapped out honey for sugar, added some whole wheat and vanilla, then began with our natural levain instead of commercial yeast. A tiny bit of yeast was added at the final dough mixing stage. This dough was very slack and sticky, and the bread proofed very slowly, but the results were more tasty than the first iteration (I thought) though it was sort of hard to handle.

Pane al Cioccolato with Natural Levain
In the final version of the formula, we went back to cane sugar, only somewhat less than the original loaf, went with all natural levain, left the yeast out entirely, scaled back the hydration a tad, and modified the baking schedule a bit.  We're pretty happy with this loaf.

All-Natural Levain Pane al Cioccolato
While this loaf rises very slowly, we didn't see any benefit at all to adding the commercial yeast at the end of the mix. We haven't had a chance to get a stamp together for this one yet, so here's the ingredient list:

Pane al Cioccolato:White and Whole Wheat Flour, Water, Semi-Sweet Chocolate, Sugar, Cocoa, Butter, Egg, Salt, Vanilla, Natural Levain.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Roasted Potato and Roasted Garlic Fendu, and the Holidays are Upon Us!

Last week and this weekend were great days for bread. Well, I like to think so, anyway! I like to source my ingredients as locally as possible. Nevermind the discussions/arguments about the moral/social/economic benefits of using locally produced foods...I just think it's rewarding and fun to take the time to grow or find locally-grown foods for my cooking, bread and otherwise. One ingredient I never figured to find locally-grown was wheat, but I was wrong! Abby and Jason at Three Sisters Farm in San Timoteo Canyon, just a few miles from here, grew some hard red wheat which we traded some bread for a sample of and milled. I replaced the usual portion of whole hard red winter wheat we usually use (from Utah) with Three Sisters Farm wheat and the results were delicious! I thought the flavor was noticeably different (and better) than our regular wheat's flavor. We'll be sprouting some of what's left to try that in some experimental loaves as well, and will report back on that test. Exciting stuff! Here's a video of the wheat being winnowed on some antique machinery. Top notch.

Hard Red Wheat from Three Sisters Farm
We didn't have enough of Abby and Jason's wheat to bake it into this week's loaves, but this week's Roasted Potato and Roasted Garlic Fendu includes organic purple stripe garlic from Three Sisters, and is also made with Red La Soda potatoes from Jacinto Farms, just a couple of blocks from my house. Jacino grows here in Redlands, or at least nearby, as they claim that everything they sell comes from within four miles of town.

Three Sisters Farm Garlic, ready for roasting.
Red La Soda Potatoes from Jacinto Farms
Baking and freshly-baked bread smell wonderful. You can imagine what the kitchen smells like every morning. It's fantastic. What could be better? Throw in some roasted garlic. If you scratch your screen, you should be able to smell the roasted garlic in this photo.

Roasted Garlic
The roasted potatoes and the very small amount of olive oil left over from the roasting of the garlic and potatoes conspire to make for a very tender crumb and a soft crust in this week's loaf.

Monday morning's Roasted Potato and Roasted Garlic Fendu
A bad cell phone photo of some tasty snickerdoodles.
This week's breadshare also includes a little Lagniappe...snickerdoodles! My first adventure in baking was snickerdoodles, and at the Diersen house when I was a kid, I was the defacto snickerdoodle baker. I dare say, they were pretty good cookies. The recipe I used then had Crisco as the fat, and I do think there's something to be said for that, but this time I used a new recipe that uses all butter. Butter's a pretty safe bet.  These came out pretty good, but I've had better. Our memory of how good a food was years ago is always skewed. There have even been studies to quantify this, I guess. In the bagel section of his book "The Bread Baker's Apprentice," Peter Reinhart discusses the debate over what's the best bagel, and theorizes that "...nothing can top the taste of memory, but it is quite possible to find and make bagels every bit as good as in yesteryear, though never as good as those of our memories."  I still think they're pretty good, and any snickerdoodles are better than NO snickerdoodles!

Everyone in the bread share will be hearing from us shortly via email about the Thanksgiving holiday and our plans to ensure that everyone gets a loaf for their Thanksgiving table.

It's going to be a busy weekend in the C&C kitchen.

As a parting shot, I can't resist sharing this pan pizza with you. It's Cam's creation and includes gorgonzola, mozzarella, caramelized onions, pears, and I'm not sure what else.  But it was delicious.

Pan pizza with deliciousness.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

A New Loaf in This Week's Share

Happy Sunday!

We hope that this past week's rye was a big hit. We actually managed to sneak a loaf of it in the oven for ourselves, since we'd pretty much run out of bread! What a concept. A morning without toast is the start to a pretty sad day, indeed.

This week we'll be introducing a new loaf! It's still a work in progress, but I figure it's ready for release into the wild for testing and evaluation. We're going to call this one the "Ancient Grain Seeded Sourdough." But it's a lot more than that. It's made with five different flours; unbleached all-purpose flour, high-protein bread flour, and three whole-grain flours that we mill ourselves; hard red winter wheat, organic dark rye, and emmer farro. Emmer farro is the "ancient" part of the bread, as it's an heirloom wheat, which just means that it's not a grain that's been optimized for mega-farm production and mega-mill processing. This particular emmer farro is the last of the Bluebird Grain Farms stuff I picked up when we were in Twisp, Washington a couple of month ago.

These grains are supposed to have all sorts of benefits depending on who you ask. I generally don't trouble myself with the details...I just want to see if it adds something to the bread that makes it worth adding to the mix. I'm sure that emmer, einkorn, spelt, etc. all have unique nutritional benefits. I'm also pretty sure that the "modern" grains, hybridized to be most productive and efficient for the world's white flour demands, are still pretty good for you, especially when milled with the entire grain berry. It's fun to try new things.

Here's what to expect this week!

Ancient Grain Seeded Sourdough
 This loaf was left to open on it's natural seams, per the method popularized of late by Ken Forkish. I think that I'll probably score most of the loaves this week instead of using this approach. It's more fun.

Honeyville!
Yesterday we paid a visit to Honeyville in Ranch Cucamonga. I can't tell you how fortunate we are to live near one of only four Honeyville stores in the world. They have a pretty interesting story, which you can read here. They carry a wacky range of stuff that fits into two themes; bulk flour and grains, and emergency preparedness. The two seem to go hand-in-hand. In any event, they are purveyors of truly high quality grain products. Here's 200 pounds of flour to add to what's left of last month's 250-pound order.

I've not had a lot of time to update the blog here this past week as we're in the midst of a massive space-optimizing exercise here at the C&C Ranch. The big project we've been working on lately is creating more space in the garage, which is alternately "somewhat clean" and "impossible to move in" depending on how long it's been since we last organized it. Well, we just finished the second set of shelves, and these are the "big ones" which will up the total shelf space in the garage to soemwhere near 250 square feet. It's hard to get a good photo of these shelves, but here's an attempt. You can actually see the disassembled Berkel Bread Slicer in the foreground. Found a lot of hidden issues with this machine when it was finally fully disassembled, including some truly dangerous electrical jury-riggings. Sigh. At some point, I anticipate that the bread slicer will live right at the front of the base of the "T" section of these shelves. It's going to be a hot one today, so we're going to try to get these shelves populated before the mercury gets up to 90 today. Gads! Isn't it November?
The BIG shelves.

Oh, and I had to share this photo of a happy customer and a snapshot of some bread-related deliciousness. It's gratifying to get cell-phone snapshots of what people are doing with our breads. It's also gratifying to see people capturing people's excitement about the bread. I know I've said it early-on in this blog, but I never tire of people's excitement about the bread. Your opinions about the quality of our product really matters to us. Criticisms are welcome. They might not change the end product, but they're definitely given due consideration. Accolades are also welcome, of course. Your stories about how you, your family, and your friends enjoy our breads are the highlight of my day. Really. I never tire of it. Bread is such a simple, fundamental pleasure to make, eat, and share. Sharing and facilitating that experience with all of you is very rewarding.

Ben's Country Loaf with Avocado
A (perhaps somewhat too) happy customer with her Country Loaf. Ha!


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Back to the Country Loaf, and the Lagniappe...

It's the last week of the first month of the bread share, and as a thank you to the charter members of the share, we're throwing in a little something extra; the lagniappe. I was always familiar with the concept...the little something extra, a thank you of sorts. The "baker's dozen," for example. But I never knew it had a name until I got to the end of Ken Forkish's book "Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast," where Ken describes the concept, more of which can be read here. I don't even know how to correctly pronounce the word, but I like it.

When I tried to think of something that everyone would like, the first thing that came to mind was cheese crackers. I admit it, I'm a big fan of CHEEZ-IT crackers. They have powered me up (and been the reward atop) many a mountain. They're great food for climbing and hiking; lots of carbs, fat, and salt.

Spicy Cheese Crackers
But they could be better. I've made probably a couple dozen batches of these crackers, a variation on the theme that can be found on Joy the Baker's site here, and on Chef John's blog here. These are a truly simple food. Cheese, flour, butter, spices, a drop or two of water. Quality ingredients are only half the battle though, as like biscuits, good crackers are mostly all in the method.
Hard living outside the Chimayo store.

I used three cheeses this time, extra sharp cheddar, longhorn colby, and asiago. You can use whatever you want. You'll probably notice a little kick in the crackers! That's from one of the spices, a ground chili from a trip I took with my friend Amy to New Mexico that included a visit to Chimayo, a place famous enough for its chiles that it has chiles named after it. If you find yourself in New Mexico with some time to kill, Chimayo is a great place to visit, not only for it's chili peppers but for the Santuario de Chimayo, a Catholic church which has a small room where people can pick up a sample of holy dirt (no joke) which has been known to cure all manners of ailments. The walls of the little room are adorned with dozens of pairs of crutches, which I have to assume were left there by people who were cured by the holy dirt. Santuario de Chimayo is also a destination for penitentes, who crawl there from great distances. It's a crazy world.

But the chili pepper is delicious, and has lost most of its bite in the couple of years since we were in Chimayo. Don't throw away "old" spices. They're not what they used to be, perhaps, but what they are is something different that flavors your food in a unique way. Try it.

Scientific study of bread alveoli. :)
We've come full-circle to the Country Loaf here, and we certainly hope that you enjoy this loaf, since, really, we plan to make it more often than others, despite the variety so far. Time has been tight for trying out new loaves, but there's a Sesame Seeded 3-Day Mild Levain in the works. Not there yet, but it's close. Here's a picture of the crumb from the latest version. This is going to need a bit more work, but it's promising.

Three-Day Mild Levain
A  nice loaf, but a significant departure from our plan to work as much whole grain into the bread as is palatable. It's certainly a pretty loaf though, and tasty. Last week's roasted potato and onion bread inspired us to make our first hamburger buns, mostly because we fired up the smoker and cooked up a shoulder for making pulled pork, and it just seemed like it would be better on homemade buns. It was.

The buns were a little dense, but they were a nice, understated platform for what turned out to be the best pulled pork I've ever made. What a treat! We also cooked up some thrice-cooked french fries (parboiled, parfried, then fried) that are pretty much one of the most amazing food items you'll ever have, to be eaten infrequently of course. We whipped up a chipotle garlic aioli for dipping the fries and a Carolina BBQ sauce for the sandwiches, and coupled with a really nice cole slaw that Cam put together, we had us an old-fashioned feast.

I didn't manage to get a photo of the whole feast assembled, but even the leftovers look tasty, as you can see in this photo from the next day's lunch.

Pulled Pork with Carolina BBQ Sauce on Roasted Potato Roll
That makes me hungry just looking at it. Ha! And here's a preview of Wednesday's loaves, having their bench rest before final shaping. Such potential!

Country Loaves at Rest