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

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