Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Bread Riots

They're having pasta strikes in Italy, tortilla riots in Mexico -- in case you haven't noticed the world's cupboards are starting to look bare... Here at home, my eyebrows go continually higher every time I buy a loaf of bread. How can it be $3... no, $4.... wait, $5 a loaf? They should just put a digital plaque instead of a sticker on each of the packages. Then the price can change as fluidly as the price of an airplane ticket (another topic for another time).

I'm striking out on my own. For a while I had a bit of a bread-making obsession, then I wound up being too busy to fit in the weekly bread-making. Well, I'm still busy (thus my lack of recent posts!) but now I'm making the time to do the household butter-making... plus fizzy water-making...and ice cream-making...

We live in San Francisco, so I thought,"Hey, even if I can't have a garden, I can't have compost in my apartment, I can't even properly grow catnip, I can at least harvest the wild organisms of the air." So I set about making a sourdough starter.

There are a ton of instructions out there on harvesting and caring for the wild Lactobacillus sanfrancisco. I used Mike's process with pretty good results, I haven't exhaustively tested all those other though. Maybe if I get good at this bread thing... One of the most useful tips I read, though, was that the starter should be made/kept only in plastic or glass. I've made it in metal bowls before and always had trouble, but apparently the metal inhibits the micro-critter growth.

I did attempt the Berkeley Sourdough recipe from Boudin Bakery, but I seem to have incorporated too much white whole wheat and not enough bread flour because it mixed up dense, and was even denser after all those risings and bakings.

I've got hungry mouths to feed around here though, including my own. So I set aside the sourdough starter (don't worry, I'm feeding the beast in our fridge) and instead, made an interim batch of sandwich bread, courtesy of Farmgirl Susan.

What I love about Susan's recipe is that it's clear, simple to follow and the results are really terrific. She explains the steps that have always mystified me (why the little 20 minute rest before the first big rise? Why wait to put the salt into the dough?) Plus she's got some ADORABLY cute lambs on her farm in Missouri.

I followed her recipe, only subbing in some of the King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour for some of the bread flour, and we were rewarded with lovely light happy loaves.

I actually don't own enough loaf pans, and so some of the dough wound up in mini loaf pans, which produced such cute little poofs, that even My Omnivore couldn't restrain a little squeal of delight.

They are the perfect snack size and make for painfully cute mini-PB&Js-- you could eat, um three and not even blink.

I think I have to incorporate mini loaves into every batch now.

I'm also thinking I might need a wooden bread bowl. Okay, alright, so I don't need one, per se, but they're awfully pretty and they might help me make better bread... Rationalizing, rationalizing...

For one or two days it was actually hot, and we relived our Italian trip briefly by making ourselves Spritzes with Aperol (1 part), Prosecco (2 parts) and a splash of seltzer. Garnish with a slice of orange and you're in heaven.

Aperol has become easier to get I think, still not as popular as Campari, but I like it a lot better, as it's not as bitter and has a great citrusy floral aroma.

It's not the case right now, but at the time it was too hot to cook. (Now the fog is veiling the tops of nearby high rises and a fell wind is whipping the trees sharply off of vertical. Look for the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to come riding out at any moment)

On the four days out of the year when it's hot in San Francisco though, I prefer not to cook, and a plate of mixed cheeses with some fried sage leaves is just the ticket. Clockwise from the bottom left: Slices of Parmagiano-Reggiano, Wensleydale, St. George, a goodly dollop of our favorite SF Drake from Cowgirl, and in the center, some Fourme d'Ambert.

1 comment:

Antonio said...

Cheese, wine and sourdough bread