Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sourdough Starter Trials

I recently learned the trade of bread making using sourdough starter, also known as le levain (in French), poolish, starter, or even the mother.
It is a method that does not use powdered or cake yest. Instead one breeds their own yeast via fermentation.
To start the process place raisins and water in an airtight jar. The amount of time it requires to begin the fermentation process really depends on the temperature of the environment of the jar. I believe it generally takes 2-5 days. I suggest that the jar is shaken and the cap unscrewed and then retightened every day. One can tell when it is ready by the smell and the appearance of the raisins. The raisins should appear slightly degraded and the jar should give of a sweet fermented odor.
Once the raisins are ready, they and their juice are combined with flour and water. This is the starter. There exist many methods for caring for a starter and right now I follow one of the easier methods, the way I learned in France. I simply feed the starter every or every other day depending on the fermentation action. The starter is fed by simply adding more flour and water. After a few days, it should be well established and be ready to use.
To make the bread, I use about half the starter and combine it with flour water and salt. This is the basic recipe that I made while I was in France. I have, however, become slightly more adventurous and attempted a cinnamon raisin loaf by also adding cinnamon, raisins and maple syrup.
I intend to branch even more as my starter adventures progress and would like to also experiment with different starter methods. (There are some that use fruit juices and some that have very distinct directions each day i.e. the amount of each ingredient added, when to refrigerate the starter and when to through part of it out.)
In the future I'll try to make a tutorial as my descriptions lack detail and measurements. This is because the method I learned in France had little detail as well and all measurements were approximate.
Le Levain:
Trial One:
(I forgot to add salt so the bread tasted like cardboard. I also split the dough between two pans so the loaves lacked height even though they did rise to about twice their size)

Trial Two: Cinnamon Raisin
I was pleasantly surprised by how well this loaf turned out. I was a little worried because I'm still getting used to feeding the starter on a daily basis. Not halving the loaf made a big difference regarding the success of the loaf as did remembering to add salt, in addition to the other ingredients that generally make up a cinnamon raisin loaf.
The flavor was quite lovely with a sweetness that was right on target. I used soymilk instead of water for this loaf to add a little richness.
Some families and bakeries keep the same starter for decades, confident that they've perfected the yeast strain and caring for the starter daily as if it were a pet or small child.
I was recently reading the packaging bag for a loaf of La Brea Bakery Bread. They state that their sour cultures, which are vital in many of their recipes contain flour, water and organic grapes.
If you're interested in bread baking or just want to improve your skills, I highly recommend checking out the following resources:
Site: The Fresh Loaf "A community for amateur artisan bakers and bread enthusiasts. [The] site contains featured recipes, lessons, book reviews, a community forum and recipe exchange, and baker blogs.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Rhubarb: The alternative

As one can see, our rhubarb plant has become quite unkept over the past year. Its grown quite well over the past year but it seems to me that the only thing its good for is strawberry-rhubarb pie and personally I'd rather just eat the strawberries.
Today, however, I learned that the tubular structure of rhubarb can be quite handy when one desires a straw for their ice water. Its much less tolling on the environment than a processed straw and seems so much more natural.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Sushi Soiree

Sushi is one of those things that you never really get sick of, even if you use the same ingredients over and over and over again. I'm quite a fan of the traditional avocado, carrot and cucumber combo with a little tamari and powdered wasabi.
During this particular sushi extravaganza, not a cucumber was to be found and so we had to get a little creative. We added a number of new items and I do have to say if may now be difficult to go back to the old tradition.
We tested arugula, steamed sweet peas still in the pod, steamed shitake and portabello mushroom slices and sliced bok choy, all of which added an exciting touch to the sushi and were warmly welcomed by our taste buds.
Although brown rice is not traditionally used for sushi, I believe it is a healthier version and works quite well. I do not rinse or soak it before cooking and once its finished, I add a little sugar and rice vinegar.

Summer Warmth and Weaving

I have a few days left of freedom before I start working for the summer and hope to make the most of them.
Inclusive of the mentioned endeavor, I made a scarf for a dear friend who has been asking for one for quite some time.
The technique involved a scarf net and weaving. I used a bulky polyester-acrylic blend of yarn.

I was visiting Portland last week and was lucky enough to pass by The Whole Bowl (in the Pearl) at a hungry hour. The Whole Bowl is a food cart that serves healthy bowls of Mexican goodness. For $5 one can get a 12oz bowl filled with brown rice, avocado, salsa, black and red beans, olives and cilantro. The bowl is topped off with their special Tali Sauce, which is vegan and refereed to, by many Portlanders, as Crack sauce. There are a few other non-vegan options that can be easily left off and the cart is 100% vegetarian!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Versunkener Apfelkuchen

This German Apple cake is really quite delicious and uses a springform pan. Desserts made from springform pans always seem to look so elegant.
The recipe is from The Joy of Vegan Baking and can easily be made fat free is one so desires

Monday, June 09, 2008

Vegetable Cobbler

I've been wanting to make something like this for quite sometime. I made strawberry peach cobbler yesterday but forgot to take pictures and thought I would try a savory cobbler version for dinner tonight. The recipe can be found here

I think it needs a little work spicewise, maybe a little thyme.

I made a few substitutions and it seemed to turn out fine.

Whole what flour --> Spelt Flour

Red Potato--> Baking potato

Kuzu root starch--> Arrowroot powder


I indulged when it came to mushrooms and used shitake. (The clerk at the supermarket did not know her mushrooms and charged me for criminis!)

Overall the preparation for this recipe is a little time consuming but the overall preparation is quite simple!