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...