Good and Bad Bakes

 Sourdoughs and SCOBYs  Comments Off on Good and Bad Bakes
Oct 262017
 

So Sue and I purchased a new oven and the oven and I are getting to know one another.
My first bakes turned out a lot of breads that didn’t brown very well.  This everything bagel (sesame, poppy, salt, and toasted garlic) tasted great.  They were very chewy and were really authentic, but alas, a little flat and pale.

 

This fancy recipe pumpkin sourdough looked fine enough, but there was a problem.  My longtime Cripple Creek sourdough (1893) had caught an infection.  Don’t ask: little filamentous things growing on top and cheesy smell.  I tossed it and in reviving a dried sample I had in storage I failed to wait a sufficient number of days before trying to bake with it.  The result was a pumpkin bread that looked good, but didn’t rise.

 

 

And these two loaves which also looked good but never cooked in the middle.  The same insufficiently mature sourdough meant the bread didn’t really spring in the oven. I was getting closer, however, to figuring out how to get the breads to brown in the new oven.

 

 

In the interim, Isaac and Delaney made sauerkraut (left) and kimchi (right), both natural fermentations, and both very tasty.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I got one bread to cook well in a cast iron pot.  Here you see it with a naturally cracked surface and a beautiful open crumb (those are all the holes you see inside the bread.)

And finally, the oven and I have begun coming to agreement.  Check out the ears on the cuts of this spelt-rye baguette.  When professional bakers score their breads they aim for a cut that peels back in the oven and toasts just a bit as it rises above the loaf.  My first success.

 

Secondhand Time by Svetlana Alexievich *** (of 4)

 Asia, Book Reviews, History, NON FICTION, Prize Winner  Comments Off on Secondhand Time by Svetlana Alexievich *** (of 4)
Oct 262017
 

Alexievich won the Nobel Prize for her oral histories of Russia and the Soviet Union.  Secondhand Time includes exquisitely curated accounts of members of the Former Soviet Union beginning with old-timers that can still recall Stalin.  She speaks with citizens still longing for the stability Stalin’s rule ensured and intermingles enough survivors of the gulag to make clear that nothing was worth the bloodshed and destruction that accompanied Stalin’s tyranny. She continues with accounts from the post-Stalin era through the Yeltsin restoration of order and Gorbachev’s opening to capitalism.  Her interviewees make abundantly clear that replacing the communist ideal of equality for all with the frenzied shark attacks of capitalism has not been a smooth nor beneficial transition.  The oligarchs have profited beyond anyone’s wildest needs and the needy have been left to struggle to survive.  Young people that have never known anything but capitalism, according to their elders, worship materialism over community and mutual support.  Like many Russian pieces of literature, Secondhand Time is extensive and thorough, almost as if you were in kitchen after kitchen drinking Russian tea and then vodka deep into the night.  The final picture is masterful, with one caveat.  Alexievich never really describes her methods and there is some evidence that she has moved quotations from one speaker to another in different publications suggesting some of her books might be as much fiction as non-fiction.  That changes how you read her, I’m afraid.