Sunday, January 25, 2009

Rise and Tan...

Despite being thoroughly covered in snow here in western NY, we haven't fled south for warmer climes. No, we're working on completing that inevitable process like anyone who lives in a land where temperatures plunge far below freezing every winter. We're converting our blood to molasses.

But, while waiting for this to occur, to make the cold more tolerable, and to pass the time, we're trying new things!!

I can see my mom now...wondering what other hobby we've decided to pick up....;)

Lifting the spirit

There's something inherently spiritual, I think, to the art of making bread. And when one takes that process clear from the grain on through, it sees the baker gain yet another level of appreciation for this artform. Can you imagine the expression on the very first bakers when they happened upon the miracle combination of ground grain and wild yeast that lifted a ball of dough skyward? many before me, and I'm certain many after, I have developed a hearty appreciation for the effort and outcome of the breadmaking process. Mike and I screen our wheat, sorting the last of the husks and so on from it, pour it into the grain mill and work our muscles against the grinding of the burrs. After grinding sufficient enough flour, it needs to age for a bit. I tried making bread with two week old flour last week, and that was a touch young - so we're going to let the next batch sit for three. Once we find the magic time, we'll keep ahead of the supply, grinding now what we'll need for the future.

Courtesy of my friends over at the Green Branch, I've been playing with a few different recipes. Some that are 100% wheat, one that definitely isn't. The all wheat recipes are something of a leisurely process. You start with a biga(starter) and a soaker, softening the grains and freeing the gluten from the wheat. Those two rest overnight in a cool place(your fridge, or in our house, the kitchen counter), are brought together the following day with the remaining ingredients. After that, the dough is worked quite similarly to doughs with white flour. The bread from this process is rich, dense and hearty, and has quickly found a place in our meals.
The recipe for this loaf was from a book called Peter Reinhart's whole grain breads : new techniques, extraordinary flavor. I must say, it's a great book, and I'm certain I will add it to my cooking resources when I decide to visit a bookstore again. Thankfully, we have access to an awesome library system and make use of it as often as possible.

We tried another recipe from that book today. Bagels! And not just any bagels, rye/whole wheat bagels. As with the bread, it starts with a biga and soaker, which I got going yesterday. Today, I combined the two kneaded the quite stiff dough, then let it rise for about an hour and a half. At that point, we were ready to start turning the dough into bagels!
Here are the formed bagels. Really easy to do, just roll the dough into a rope just like when you played with PlayDoh as a kid, then connect the ends into a ring! Mike was much better at the process than me, and made certain that I allowed the proper 2" round hole in the center.

After that was a one minute plunge into alkanized water. What is that, do you ask? Well, it's easy enough to make - boil water, add baking soda. Tada!!

Post boil, prebake. The bagels grew significantly after the boiling! After this it was into a 450 degree oven for half an hour.

Tadah! Beautiful, aren't they? We haven't tried them yet - they're still cooling, but they definitely look good enough to eat! Assuming they taste as good as they look, we're planning on doing big batches of these then freezing them. Why give Tim Hortons our hard earned money(not that we do that often) when it really wasn't all that hard to make on our own! (Not to mention it's nice to get to use the oven when it's only 15 degrees outside....;)..)

Now, for that one recipe that is decidedly not 100% wheat(although I am working on gradually introducing more whole wheat to it). I know, you were on pins and needles, weren't you? Okay, okay, I won't keep you in suspense any longer!

The other recipe is the one that produced the dough for the phenomenal crust for these pizzas. The recipe was posted by a friend on GB(click here to check it out) and I've simply fallen in love with this easy process. The dough's ready to use in three hours, though it's better the longer it sits, and is one that you can make up and leave in the fridge, using it as you like for up to two weeks. From what I can tell, if I were to make up a batch of pizza crusts, I could make 6 crusts out of one batch. The longer it sits, the more of a sourdough tang it developes(yum!). I've made small loaves of bread with it, but really love using it for pizza dough. It's really nice to have it in the fridge, knowing if we get craving pizza I can just pull out a couple of hunks of it and have pizza in half an hour or so!


No...we're not developing an affinity for tanning salons, nor are we sneaking off to the Bahamas. Over the holidays I tackled my first batch of rabbit pelts, and am quite happy with how they turned out! Grand total I think it took a total of two weeks' time between the time spent in the pickle and the time spent drying and working the leather until it was supple. The process was both easier and harder than I had expected, but I'm glad I gave it a shot, as it cements our intentions of raising dual purpose breeds in our rabbitry. I've my second batch in the first(and weaker) pickle right now - I'll tackle the first step of fleshing the hides this evening before strengthing the tanning solution and leaving them to soak for another week or so.

So, without further ado, here are some shots of the furs.

Oh, and the bagels were delicious!!! :)


Anonymous said...

Awesome looking bagels! I made a 1/3 whole wheat 2/3 white ABin5min dough which I'm using for pizza tonight. I must have been channeling you. Good job on getting Mike into the posting gig. I might have to try that. ;)

Jen said...

Thanks :) We really enjoyed the bagels, and will definitely be doing more of them, though with the work involved we'll definitely do them in batches! I need to get another batch of the ABin5min dough going, now that you mention it! :)

Joanne said...

Hello - I was catcing up on your blog tonight and read the linked article about the bread. You've put me in the mood to try this recipe - I have tomorrow off so will get some going. It looks like it is going to be cold so a good day to crank up the heat! I printed off the last three entries to send to Marilyn so she can keep up on with you, too!

Jen said...

The bread recipe really is a nice one...good to keep in the fridge for spur of the moment pizza and bread!