Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Library: March comes in like a lion and out like an appendix

Today I walked to the library.

This might not seem like a huge feat since the library is all of 3/4 mile from home and it's, well, the library. But I had an appendectomy on Sunday night and this was my greatest venture out into the world since surgery.  I picked up three books: Peter Reinhart's Artisan Bread Everyday, Ree Drummond's The Pioneer Woman Cooks, and Tracy Kidder's Home Town.

Perusing Ree Drummond's book prompted two actions.  The first was a shopping list for a vegetarian version of her pot pie.  Andy is at the store fulfilling the ingredients list as I type.  The second action is this - me typing a blog post after a long, long hiatus!  Although blog posts have been few and far between, rest assured that I have been baking bread and LOTS of sourdough pancakes.  I know Lil has baked at least a few loaves in her many cooking endeavors.  No longer in the quaint and cozy Upper East Side tenement building we called home for two years, we both lost the lust for bread blogging, definitely not baking/cooking though.  Unfortunately, I had to lose my appendix to remember how fun this blog was... but here I am, sitting up and typing a return-to-blogging-post!

Like I mentioned, sourdough pancakes are a regular weekly treat.  I also got in the habit of baking something I, very creatively, named "Northamfrancisco Sourdough" inspired from a Bread Alone by Daniel Leader and Judith Blahnik recipe for San Francisco Sourdough.  I don't have any photos of it today but I have baked at least a dozen loaves/variations of this recipe.

Northamfrancisco Sourdough
Recipe inspiration from Bread Alone
Yields two loaves

Established sourdough starter
1 1/2 cups All-purpose flour (and more for kneading)
3 cups bread flour
2 cups rye flour OR 2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
1 tablespoons sea salt
caraway seeds or rosemary (optional, but why not!?)

Start the poolish by combining 2/3 cup starter, 1 cup water, and 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour.  If you have a scale (like Lily), 8 ounces of each.
Allow the poolish to ferment, covered for 24 hours.
For the final dough, combine 3 cups bread flour, 2 cups rye/whole wheat flour, 2 tablespoons ground flax seeds, 1 tablespoon sea salt, and caraway seeds or rosemary to your liking
Combine the poolish with the dry contents of the large mixing bowl.  A lot depends on the consistency of your starter, but you will likely need to add water (room temperature) here to create the final dough.
Once your dough is impossible to stir, place it on a floured countertop and get kneading!  16 minutes!  "The dough is ready when a little dough pulled from the mass springs back quickly."
Shape the dough into a ball and place it into an oiled, large bowl.  Turn once to coat with oil.  Ferment the dough for 2 1/2 hours until doubled in volume.
Deflate and transfer the dough to a floured surface to rest for 30 minutes.  Honestly, I sometimes skip this step if I am impatient.  The Bread Alone recipe actually does this twice.  That's an hour more wait time for bread!
After 30 minutes, or an hour, or no time at all, divide the dough into two long torpedoes.  "The torpedo is the classic San Francisco sourdough shape."  If you prefer to be rebellious, shape the dough into boules.
Proof the loaves for 1 hour (until they are 1-1/2 times increased in volume), covered with a clean, damp cloth or plastic wrap.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Before baking, spritz the loaves with water and add more rosemary/caraway seeds on top.
Bake the loaves for 15 minutes, decrease the oven temperature to 425 and bake an another 15 to 20 minutes.  Total bake time will be about 35-45 minutes.
Try to cool completely on a wire rack before tasting.  I have never been able to wait...

So, besides blogging, I actually started a loaf from Artisan Breads Everyday - it's Reinhart's version of San Francisco sourdough bread.  It's just a baby "wild yeast starter" now (aka poolish) but in 6 to 8 hours it will be bigger!

Here's the sourdough mama, happy and farting little "hello" bubbles to you, Lil.

Your turn,

PS No pressure.  If nothing else becomes of this attempt at re-energizing the bread blog, I now have recorded instructions for that Northamfrancisco bread in a safer place than a yellow post-it!


  1. i'm in! what if we repurposed the blog...called it the upper yeast side and beyond and we could both include our other cooking adventures?? and yes, i feel like this is the appropriate platform on which to respond to you.

    1. Definitely! Other cooking adventures should be included (especially if you are a glutard). Appropriate platform. No doubt about it.

  2. I read two books while recovering from surgery a few summers ago, and can still distinctly recall walking to the library to return A House for Mr Biswas just after finishing it, and the heat matching well the setting of that book. The other was a find in the hospital book sale: the dolorous Ethan Frome. They seem like glum reading for the bedridden, don't they? At least I wasn't in hospital due to a self-injury following a suicide pact, and in both cases, I felt lucky compared with the protagonists.