No special reason to include this bread except it was so good looking and was made with rye and spelt flour and was still warm and crackly and disappeared very, very quickly.
My longtime friend, Jen, has gone big-time into fermentation. She’s making ginger beer. I gave her a Kombucha scoby that she is turning into super-fizzy kombucha experiments with cherries, limes, ginger, and oranges. So to satisfy her urge to learn sourdough she drove out from Cleveland for a weekend of baking and a jar full of starter. Above, we are holding our stack of barbecued flat breads that we used to smother in baba ganoush. We roasted the eggplants on the barbecue, which is a trick I learned in the Middle East. The charred skin sends a smoky caramelized flavor to the deflated pulp even after you peel it. (You can achieve the same result under a broiler and the strong heat will make the eggplant deflate in record time.) The baba ganoush was warm and creamy when we ate it and the lightly bubbled flat breads were still lightly coated in olive oil from their grilling.
This is my standard house gift when I’m invited for a meal and ask if I can bring a bread. This one is sourdough rye. I added some apple juice as an experiment and though the dough smelled like an autumn orchard, there was no hint of apple in the finished bread.
Last week, because classes have finally ended, grades are handed in, and all that remains is bureaucratic drivel, I found some room for a little baking creativity. I whipped up a dozen English Muffins augmented with some flax seed meal and raw sunflower seeds. The key to English Muffins is to first fry them on a cast iron skillet for as long as you can stand it without burning the bottom, flip it, repeat, and then bake.
(Click on photos to see full size.)
To prepare for our fermentation lab in Soil to Plate I made three jars of Meadville starter for the two groups of students that make sourdough bread. Other groups make yogurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, and yeast bread.
Here are the students kneading.
And their loaves.
Every year around Christmas time, my wife’s brother Marty, flies from Los Angeles to Meadville to cook and bake. He makes main courses of goose with all the trimmings, breakfasts of blini and lox, sides too numerous to count, Danish peppernodder, and his grandmother’s melt-in-your-mouth caramels. I do my best to bake enough breads — this year I made seven different kinds of sourdough — to keep up. Here is my attempt to describe a week of enjoying life with one of the world’s great cooks. Click here.
I’d be remiss if I did not post pictures of my adventures in making ginger beer. In my first attempt to launch a ginger bug, I could not get yeast to grow. Turns out that all ginger you buy in the store that is not explicitly labeled organic has been irradiated and no amount of grated ginger in a jar full of water and sugar will start to bubble. The natural yeasts on its skin (think grape yeasts used to make wine by way of analogy) have all been killed.
My second attempt to make a bug (pictured to left) using the peel and core of organic ginger, succeeded admirably. When I used the bug to infect three quarts of boiled ginger, sugar, and water, I inadvertently omitted lemon juice. Ginger beer is supposed to ferment in just a day or two and when mine failed to make any bubbles, I let it go another two days. The ginger slime I made instead, even thinking about its mouthfeel now, three weeks after the fact, makes me a little queasy.
On the third try, remembering the lemon juice this time and adding a quarter teaspoon of cream of tartar, I made ginger beer. It is supposed to be mildly alcoholic and effervescent, but I cannot honestly say that I achieved either. It was, however, quite yummy, slightly tickly, ginger lemonade.
In the foreground a sunflower boule made with King Arthur Special Bread flour. I stumbled across King Arthur Special Bread flour when I ran out of my standby white bread flour and the great thing is it really is Special. The couple of times I’ve used K.A. Special Bread flour, my breads have been lighter, risen more quickly and obediently, and tasted better. My order of a fifty pound bag should arrive at the Erie Whole Foods coop.
In the background are two trays of granola with grated organic carrots, ginger, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, peanuts, walnuts, flax, and, of course raisins and oats.
To celebrate the 10th Annual World Bread Day I baked a sourdough buckwheat boule. Buckwheat is hard to work with because it has no gluten, is very heavy, and tends to turn doughs a little blue. Since World Bread Day is hosted in Germany, it seemed fitting to bake a German style loaf. The upside to buckwheat is it gives bread a wild earthy taste.
If you go to the World Bread Day webpage in about a month you will see breads from all over the world with links to a global panoply of bread blogs. Or you could just go to the bakery and buy yourself a really good loaf.
This summer we grew wheat in the Allegheny College garden, then harvested, threshed, winnowed, milled, and baked. To see what happened, click HERE.
I forgot that for many years I only made bread in loaf pans, but now that Northwest Pennsylvania is enjoying its best tomato harvest in a decade I realized it was time to bake something light and sliceable. This one started with my Saudia Arabia starter and was supplemented with half a bottle of beer, half a cup of buttermilk, whole wheat and semolina.