Doughvember Disaster!

OK, let’s be honest – none of my Doughvember baking can be called a strong success. Flat pizza dough? Too-much-rye hockey puck of a loaf? I didn’t even take pictures of that one, I just ate it grumpily, and slowly. I didn’t even bring my sourdough biscuits to fruition, I just thought about them (that was because of a lack of fat in the house, though, I swear!).

I did have some success using the bread machine to mix the pizza dough. For a unitasker, I do love the bread machine. Usually.

After the pumpkin incident last week, I knew that I needed to make some bread, and some pie cookies, and I knew that my hands and elbows were not going to be up for rolling pie dough and kneading bread. Enter my friend the bread machine.

As I mentioned, the pizza dough was my first experiment using the bread machine with my sourdough starter. Even though the dough didn’t rise as much as I would’ve liked, I attributed that to my impatience/not feeding the starter sufficiently before trying to use it. And as far as the dough itself went, I had no complaints. It came out a little wetter than I would’ve liked, but that was acceptable, considering that it was my first experiment. And it was easily solved by a little actual kneading.

mmm, butter

The second-hand bread machine cookbook that has been my go-to guide does have a sourdough section. I chose the most basic recipe from there and went forth. My past experience with less-than-stellar yeast has been better when I used the “whole wheat” setting on the machine, because it preheats the machine, and gives slightly longer rise times. Since my starter has been a little slow, and my kitchen is chronically cold, this seemed like the way to go.

At first, everything seemed to be going just fine. The dough came together like it should have, it seemed to be rising, all was right with the world (relatively). I forgot about it for a while (I think I took a nap. It’s hazy.), and came back to find that it had under 20 minutes left on the bake time. And that it was both small and misshappen.

yes, it really is a loaf of bread

Oops.

Based on how this loaf came out, I think I’m going to continue with the system of mixing the dough in the machine, and do the shaping and second rise manually. Beyond being under-proofed, this loaf was also undercooked. I ended up putting it in the oven for maybe 20 minutes? I baked it until the interior was over 200 degrees. It was all I could do. As you can see up at the top of the crumb, there’s still a little dark band of undercooked dough, even after a second baking. Luckily, someone in the house loves bread, even bread that has FAILED ME, so the loaf is gone, and not into the compost.

New Day, and apologies

Hey there.

I hate to do this, because I think that “apologetic blogger” is kind of the worst, but it needs to be done.

I apologize for my recent absence. I had a really bad week last week. I can’t think of the last time I’ve had so many ridiculous, horrible things all in such a short period of time. Luckily none of my injuries are permanent, and once the miasma of anger and ennui clears I’m going to have some pretty good stories. Today is a new day, and a new opportunity for awesomeness. I am ready.

While I was in hibernation, I did manage to create a backlog of bloggable adventures. Here are some things you can look forward to this week:

I had a doughvember disaster! (What’s new?)

I ate my weight in yellow vegetables! (But I am not yellow!)

I did some thrift- and produce-retail therapy! (And tried a new fruit!)

I found this punk DIY kitchen site. There is nothing punk about me, but I do love it. Last week they featured a recipe for pickled eggplant, today there are pears in earl grey syrup. I am all over that shit.

AND! Thanksgiving is next week! Hurray, hurray! I can’t wait. Things are looking up.

Now: time to make the donuts pie cookies. I think they’re pear cranberry today, and they could be yours!

Sourdough Crust Pizza

Over the weekend I decided to apply my doughvember mojo to the challenge of feeding and entertaining a house guest. I may have been a little lax on the bread-making front this week.

After feeding my starter, I cheated a little bit and used my bread maker to make and proof the dough. Despite having had this breadmaker through my grand sourdough adventures, I had never combined the two before. It definitely felt like cheating, but I’ll be doing it again, since it entirely solved the problem of keeping dough warm enough to rise in my really cold kitchen. (I didn’t take any pictures of that process. Next time!)

I used this recipe for sourdough pizza crust as my starting point. I liked that it was adjustable. Based on my experience of how much dough the breadmaker produces, I adjusted the recipe for 3 12-inch pizzas, and actually made 2 that were somewhat larger than that.

After the first rise (in the machine), I divided the dough into two balls. It did not rise very vigorously; I may be pushing it a little harder than it would like. Then rolled/squished/shaped each ball into a round, and placed them on parchment paper dusted with cornmeal (because I have a stone but no peel, and parchment paper is the best).

At this point they got about 45 minutes for a second rise, though it was cold in the kitchen and they didn’t rise much. Luckily that’s less of a problem with pizza than bread. Our house guest was vegetarian, with a preference for pesto pizza, so Mr. Pie made a Thai basil chimichurri/pesto hybrid for one of the pies, and a fresh tomato sauce for the other. He declared it the ‘most homemade’ pizza he’d ever made.

the carnivore's pizza
Mr. Pie’s meat pizza, complete with face-melting home pickled jalapenos.


Vegetabletastic pizza. I particularly enjoyed the way the kale got crispy, and the cheese-on-top-of-toppings strategy. Mmm, cheese.

I may have fallen victim to some flying by the seat of my pants while cooking these. I did not have the oven hot enough, and the crust could have cooked a little longer. It has been a really long time since I’ve made pizza, apparently. Still, despite the imperfections, there was none left at the end of the night, and I would have eaten several more slices. While it didn’t rise particularly well, the dough tasted fine and held up to the shaping pretty well. We will definitely be doing this again!

No baking without patience

Yesterday I wrote a post about my love of sourdough, to kick of Doughvember. Today, I am eating the loaf of bread that was baking yesterday, and I feel I should tell you about it.

Here’s my single biggest lesson about baking in general, and yeasted breads specifically: patience is your most important tool.

I can already hear you groaning, as I am also groaning quietly to myself. “Patience? Really?” Unfortunately, yes. The best flour, the most perfectly temperate kitchen, the most magical yeasts (either from the wild or from a package), they’re all worth nothing if you don’t give them time to do their work.

My case in point: Someone *coughmecough* didn’t give her dough a sufficient second rise yesterday, and instead leaned on the superlong, low temperature (because my kitchen is freezing) first rise. And then made the opposite mistake once the bread was in the oven: did not set a timer, lost track of time, over-baked.

Sheesh.

Of course, the other mistake I made was one that no amount of patience could have prevented: I remembered that rye flour is the key to a healthy and vigorous starter, but forgot that I don’t like a bread with lots of rye in it (at least, not all the time).

Luckily, the taste isn’t bad, just a little heavy on the rye, and the crumb is, ahem, sturdy enough to stand up to cold butter, and there’s something very satisfying about sour bread and sweet butter. We’ll call that the positive.

I fed my starter yesterday to make this somewhat disappointing loaf of bread, and I’m not planning another loaf today. Reminder to myself for Friday: take a deep breath, give the bread some time.

Much love for the sourdough

Back at the beginning of this blog, I talked about confirmation bias, the tendency to notice things that support your existing expectations. Earlier, we were talking about pie being everywhere (also, shrimp plates, but that’s not relevant). Lately, I have been noticing something else.

When I made arrangements to make bread with Wendy, we also discussed making sourdough starters. At one time, I had about half a dozen active starters, because I went to Evergreen and it was a legitimate part of my educational trajectory. Because, you know, Science! Or whatever. But after I finished school, I didn’t have any interest in maintaining that many starters, so I chose the best one, and then failed to keep it alive properly. Of course, it was really the second-best one, since my housemate had already killed the best-best one. Good times.

I did love the sourdough, though, really. It is delicious, versatile, and satisfies my inner pioneer. What’s not to love? Wendy had attempted to start a culture, to no avail, so I sent her to the store for rye flour. Rye flour is the answer! Her new starter is bubbling happily away, getting ready to be put to use with her newly-honed bread skills. I started one of my own, as well, which is now making its first loaf of bread in the oven. Hurray!

I was also delighted to see a tweet this morning about a challenge that a couple bloggers are doing, right up my alley. Doughvember! The general gist is to be in the practice of using your sourdough starter, and thereby improve your skills. I am down!

I think it’s particularly cool that Linda of Salty Seattle is giving away some of her starter. I hope you’ll follow along!