Sunday, July 20, 2008

Cocktails and Apple Pie

Had some great drinks this weekend:
  • 7&7: a classic, at a classic place in Petaluma (Volpi's)
  • Buffalo Trace Old Fashioned: with Amarena cherries and orange bitters, classy take on a classic, at Cyrus in Healdsburg
  • White Peach Sangria: there was riesling, vodka, white peaches, and other stuff in there...and it drank like juice! At Willi's Seafood in Healdsburg
  • Apple Pie: someone made this for Roland, Trenton's grandpa; he didn't have the recipe (or if he did, he wasn't sharing!) Roland was nice enough to give me a bottle of 190 proof Everclear too (a rarity here, he buys a case in North Dakota every year)
So I tracked down a few Apple Pie recipes. It goes down smooth, but watch out, it's so smooth it's really dangerous.

Apple Pie #1

1 gallon apple cider
1/2 gallon apple juice
2 cups sugar
5 cinnamon sticks
2 cups Everclear alcohol

Makes 2 1/2 Gal.


1.Heat first three ingredients to dissolve sugar.
2.Once it has cooled, add 2 C. Everclear.
3.Add 1-2 cinnamon sticks per glass bottle.
4.Pour into glass bottles.


Apple Pie #2

1 gallon apple juice
1 gallon apple cider
3 cups white sugar
8 cinnamon sticks
1 (750 milliliter) bottle 190 proof grain alcohol


1. In a large pot, combine apple juice, apple cider, sugar and cinnamon sticks. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat and let cool completely.
2. When juice mixture is cool, Stir in the grain alcohol.

2nd Litho Rye

The next Litho Rye I made turned out pretty damn good. I added some honey, which helped.

  • All natural starter (sourdough!)
  • Great flavor (nice rye, not too sour)
  • Great texture (good size holes; nice chewy, spongy crumb; not damp)
  • Crust wasn't too thick
  • Beckey liked it!

  • Crust didn't brown on top too well (I took it out of the baking pan after 20 minutes, and just set it on the stone, so at least the bottom picked up some color)
  • Crust wasn't very smooth on top
This one is pretty close; if I can get the crust issues worked out, it will be a good loaf

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Litho rye revisited

Well, the 1st Litho rye turned out pretty bad. Very dense, crust didn't brown, rose very little in the final rise, flavor was VERY sour. Not good at all.

Making an updated version. I have been reading more about rye: has very little gluten, so is pretty fragile. When used in a starter, if not fed every 4 hours it becomes very sour. And it always acts extremely wet. I found that when working with wet doughs, damp hands can help out a lot!

The latest one starts out with the rye starter; starter is added to AP flour + water to form a sponge. The bread itself is ~2.5/1 rye-to-AP flour. I added a tbsp of honey to help sweeten the deal. Lastly, I'm starting this one out in a cold oven set to 450 degrees, then baking for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, reducing the heat to 375, and baking for 20 more minutes before checking for doneness. We'll see how this one turns out.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

the sour life

Well, yesterday's bread turned out really well. Still holding up well today. Beckey said "it's the best bread you've ever made." Her seal of approval means a lot to me, and is very motivating.

I stayed up til 3am last night reading about Lithuanian black rye bread, including about bakeries in the US that produce it and historical and technical recipe information. So I'm going to try it again, albeit with a slightly different tack. My grandma's bread recipe is decent now, I just want to improve it to get closer to what I remember, and I think I can.

The recipe in the Lithuanian Foods book I have uses an active yeast starter. I'm going to try to do the same with the sourdough starter I have now, but modified. I'm also going to try to use their recipe, at least in generalities (2kg of starter and 6kg of rye flour is simply too much for the kind of baking that I do! That's over 17.6 lbs of flour!); that said, it's interesting that they are using a 3:1 flour-to-starter recipe by weight, whereas my version of KAF sourdough is ~3:1.75 flour-to-starter by weight. And unlike my grandma's bread, the recipe that I have uses no scalded buttermilk.

Here's the beginning:

1/2 cup KAF starter
1 cup rye flour (Hodgson Mill)
1 cup water

Let ferment for 24 hours.

So I had some leftover starter, what to do? Starting one more project: Sourdough waffles! Should be ready to rock and roll tomorrow morning...mmm! This is also from the KAF baking book, we'll see how it turns out. We had some pretty good sourdough pancakes that John A. made up at June Lake, we'll see how these compare. Should be interesting; using regular milk instead of buttermilk called for in the recipe. Hope it's close enough!

sourdough #5

Success! Almost ompletely happy with this loaf.


Crust is dark mahogany, full of flavor. When biting in about 15 minutes after cooling, end piece crust "flaked" into big 1" uneven shards, wow, so delicious.

Interior was perfectly moist, soft crumb. No gumminess in sight, at least on the end piece. Good flavor; not a lot of sour tang. Color is nearly like white bread, no grayness as in the previous loaf. Great structure; larger holes, not super uneven (not La Brea Bakery style), but not dense in any way, rather: light, airy, much drier than before but not dry-tasting at all. Much like good hard rolls found in restaurants.

Bottom crust was brown, with some nearly black spots in places, but evenly browned.

Additional baking info:
  • Shaped round loaf; slashed with 4 scallop slices.
  • 3/4 cup of warm water for steam in broiler pan
  • Baked at 455F for 20 minutes. Removed broiler pan at 20 minutes. Baked at 450 for remaining 11 minutes
  • Instant-read thermometer read ~204F when inserted into the bottom, right out of the oven.
  • The total process took about 5.5 hours: from the moment when I mixed the flour, starter and water until 15 minutes after resting from finishing baking when I cut into it.
For next time:
  • Try some retardation tactics to increase possible sour tang. Make 3 loaves one evening. Let all rise for 1 hr. Cover 2 and place in fridge. Let remaining one rise and bake that night. Bake one from the fridge in the morning. Bake one from the fridge in the evening. Compare flavors.
  • Try adding more rye to the starter; maybe add some the morning before baking that evening?
This is a keeper! Really, no need to change, this is really an excellent loaf.

Now next up: grandma's rye bread! Some new things to try:
  • Use table salt (not kosher salt)
  • Check flour-to-starter ratio (3:2 by weight looks like a good start)
  • Use same basic process as Pain au Levain, or Levain de Pate (sourdough + instant yeast)
Other things I learned:

  • Cold dough can go right into the long as it comes out of the fridge looking like it's supposed to! Just preheat to 500 instead of 455, and once bread goes in the oven, turn the temp down to normal baking temp (450-455).

Monday, July 07, 2008

more sourdough

Have made at least 2 more sourdough loaves in the meanwhile.

Loaf #3: made with whole wheat flour, per recipe. Was not as flavorful, although folding helped with the bubble texture and volume. Crust didn't brown much, and dough was very wet to handle.

Loaf #4: switched back to the rye again. This one got retarded a few times in the fridge, and dough was extremely wet to handle. I think it sat too long; didn't rise too well, and baked up pretty flat. Decent texture, but too wet to handle and bake, and again, crust didn't brown.

I've had issues with the crust browning. Probably need to bake it longer.

Loaf #5. This time (started at 5pm, doing last 2 hr rise pre-oven right now), followed the King Arthur Flour (KAF) Pain Au Levain recipe volumes (not weights) to see if it made a difference. Funny thing is, dough was still extremely wet.

Here's the initial volumes I used. I weighed the volumes on my scale, to give a more accurate measurement of what went in:

5 cups all-purpose flour (weighed 1lb 10.75oz / 760g)
2.5 cups starter (weighed 1lb 0.5oz / 468g)
2/3 cup rye flour (weighed 3.25oz / 94g)
1-3/4 cup water (weighed 14.25oz, as expected for water)

So the weights given in KAF for starter, rye and water are right, but the AP flour was way off. Even with that, though, the dough was way too sticky, unkneadable without additional flour. I added 3/4 cup additional flour for it to just pull into a ball. It was still sticky, but able to be handled/kneaded in the mixer. Was almost too much flour for the mixer, though.

Here's tonight's recipe

5.75 cups all-purpose flour
2.5 cups starter
2/3 cup rye flour
1.75 cup warm water (~90 degrees)
2.5 tsp table salt

Mix flours, starter and water in a mixing bowl, stir until just combined. Let rest for 20 minutes. Knead on 1 notch above lowest setting for 10 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and towel, and let rest for 1 hour in warm place, in my case, garage on high shelf.

Dust flour in bowl. Using scraper and spatula, turn out onto dusted board. Dust with a bit more flour, then do letter-fold. Put seam-side down into oiled bowl, cover, and let rise again for 30 minutes. Dust, remove from bowl, letter fold, then return to bowl to rise another 30 minutes.

Dust peel with cornmeal. Remove dough from bowl onto dusted board, and shape into boule. Cover and let rise for 2 hours in warm place. 30 minutes before baking preheat oven and broiler pan to 475F. Shelf is 2nd from bottom with pizza stone, broiler pan on top shelf.

Heat 3/4 cup water in Pyrex (microwave for 1 minute). Slash loaf with serrated knife or razor blade (I think scallop slash looks and works best).

Working quickly, slide dough into oven, pour water into broiler pan (watch out for steam!), reduce heat to 455 and bake for 20 minutes (don't open the oven door!). Turn down temp to 450 and bake another 10-11 minutes. Crust will be beautifully brown. Check for doneness with oven thermometer thru bottom of loaf.

Let cool on rack for 15 minutes. I'll let you know how it turns out!