Day after day, Chris Gonso, produces beautiful poetry, pose and photographs on his blog about rural life with his family. His work is a potent reminder to turn off the computer, go outside, cook, garden, be with the people we love. Feeling stressed? Discouraged? Too busy to cook? Pay him a visit.
Inspired by the Netflix documentary “Cooked,” featuring Michael Pollan, this week I’m on a bread-making jag.
In this gorgeously filmed series, Pollen apprentices himself to masters in the cooking arts and learns how the classical elements fire, water, air and earth transform nature into food.
The episode titled “Air” includes visits to Morocco, food laboratories and master bakers to unlock the secrets of gluten, sourdough, and the art of baking bread.
As my husband will attest, the results of my bread-making have been mixed, but this time, infused with the Pollan spirit, I know I can do it! Sourdough from scratch. No packaged yeast.
Equipment and ingredients:
• Clean glass or enamel bowl
• Clean spoon
• Clean dish towel
• 2 cups flour
• 1 1/2 cups water (optional: 2 T acidic juice, pineapple, orange or lemon)
Day 1: mix 2 cups flour and 1 1/2 cups water in the bowl. Cover with the dishtowel. Leave it out on a counter.
The batter attracts wild yeast, which feeds on sugar in the flour. The process produces gas, which creates the bubbles that make bread rise. The resulting culture, known by sourdough officionados as the “mother” and referred to as “her,” might take a couple of days, but can start growing right away.
Day 2: feed with 1/3 cup flour and 1/4 cup water. The batter will be lumpy but that’s O.K. The yeast will finish the job. If a clear fluid appears on top, stir it in. It’s alcohol, a natural byproduct that adds flavor and helps preserve the batter. A pinkish or moldy-looking fluid means you’ve attracted the wrong kind of bacteria. Discard the batter and start over.
Day 3-7: repeat feeding procedure up to Day 7, then use or throw away some of the mother and keep the rest in a jar in the refrigerator. Batter that is ready to use is bubbly and has a nice sourdough scent. Mine might be ready by day three or four.
Or, it might not be ready—batter can be activated by the same bacteria that makes cheese ferment, making it bubble right away. Around day 3 or 4 though, this bacteria stops working. The batter becomes flat and dead-looking. This is the point where many would-be sourdough makers give up, when actually the yeast hasn’t started to work yet.
Yeast likes more acid than the almost-neutral pH combination of flour and water, hence the optional addition of an acidic juice listed above. If the culture doesn’t start to grow by day 6, add 1/4 teaspoon apple cider vinegar to the daily feeding.
It’s all right to leave the batter on the counter for an extra week or so to enhance flavor and texture.
Stay tuned for Part B: Sourdough Bread From Scratch. Maybe.
Are you a bread maker? Any tips on making sourdough from scratch?
In Russia, масленица, or Butter Day starts April 7, and the observance lasts all week. My brother, who lives just outside Moscow, writes that Butter Week usually involves lots of pancakes, aka blini.
Here’s good news for those in the U.S. who took to heart misguided dietary guidelines in 1977, warning us off fat. Butter is back in our good graces. Scientists have discovered cutting out saturated fats does not make people live longer. Consumed in moderation, butter is fine for most of us.
For more on Russian food, what it’s like at the dacha in the summer, and Russian winters, check out Dan Brooks’ new blog:
Cool interpretations of this week’s photo challenge:Harmony
Carrots, squash, beets and cabbage grown here this time of year are very nice, but the siren song of vegetables from south of the border better match my February state of mind. Bring on the spice and color.
Corn and Bean Salad
Serves: 6 servings
• 7 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
• 1 fresh tomato, chopped
• 1/2 to 1 green bell pepper, chopped
• 1 cup frozen corn or fresh cut from the cob
• green onions, sliced, to taste
• 1 /4 – 1/2 fresh jalepeno pepper (or Anaheim for milder flavor), ribs and seeds removed, minced
• 1 small clove garlic
• salt and pepper to taste
• 1/4 – 1/8 cup fresh lime juice
• 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard teaspoon fresh-ground pepper
• ¼ cup olive oil
• ¼ cup vegetable oil
Fresh spinach or other greens
1 Place the beans, tomato, bell pepper, corn, onion, and jalepeno in a large salad bowl.
2 Mash the garlic and salt together to form a paste. Whisk together the mashed garlic, lime juice, mustard and pepper in a small bowl. Add the oil in a slow, steady stream while whisking. Continue whisking until smooth. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss to coat. Serve immediately over fresh spinach, or for a better blending of flavors, chill overnight.
For other interpretations of this week’s WordPress Photochallenge: State of Mind