Sunday, March 28, 2010

Kamut bread

A strange story behind kamut (which should be followed by an R in a circle, which I've no idea how to achieve in the blogger editting page - hey, blogger in draft, this is something you could add. Wikipedia has an easy way to insert symbols etc, why don't you?).

But, as I was saying, a strange story. First the one I don't believe: Kamut was a seed found in the pyramids, showing that it was the grain of the pharaohs themselves. But it does seems likely that it came from Egypt in the middle of the 20th century, and was a survivor of an older wheat-like grain. It was successfully cultivated in USA, where the name was registered. As far as I can see, that's still the only place it's grown in any volume. It's particularly resistant to pests and diseases, and so is frequently grown organically. The flour I'm using, from Doves Farm, has a protein content of 15%. Given all those advantages, why hasn't Kamut taken over the world? Must taste really bad.

Well, I'll find out sometime later today. I've now mixed 300g of the flour with 200g of liquid (usual amounts of sugar, yeast and salt). Kneaded and set to rise at 12:25.

Knocked back about 1600 and formed into a shape I can only describe as a cudgel. That may not be a good idea, this flour may need more height to produce a pleasant slice of bread. Never mind, though, because here is how it looks after baking (in oven at 2025 for 30 mins).
That's the best slashing outcome I've ever seen! Clearly the oven spring was exuberant. Just waiting for it to cool ... 

And now - it's very much like wholemeal, but a bit lighter and sweeter. The crust is fairly soft, and a bit longer in the oven wouldn't have hurt, and the crumb is fairly dense, but soft and easy to eat without butter. Overall verdict is that this is a really good alternative to wholemeal wheat. I think there's definitely a bonus where the slash ridges have caramelised, so it would be worth trying a more irregular shape. 

Friday, March 26, 2010

In search of the perfect loaf

A fairly odd programme on BBC4 last night purported to be the quest of Tom Herbert, an organic baker, to find the perfect (or at least prizewinning) loaf of bread. It wasn't that at all, but it fitted in a history of bread, which advanced the intriguing suggestion that industry wanted people to eat white bread because it mildly constipated them, so that they would spend less time away from their workpost. That sounds like utter nonsense to me.

Herbert's first attempt was to use 100% wholemeal bread, leavened with his own sourdough, which has been in the family for 40 years. His son commented that the end product would make a good frisbee. So he looked for more suitable ingredients, and ended up using spelt flour, spring water from a source in the Cotswolds, and Cornish seasalt. The result was apparently very tasty, but only got second prize in some vague unnamed competition in Islington.

It's more nonsense of course. How could he not have come across spelt before? Where was the experimentation to determine if the ingredients really did make a difference? All a bit of a pity, but it has encouraged me to try spelt flour sometime. It also encouraged me to start a sourdough, but it seems like a lot of trouble. He said he feeds it with flour and water every day, like some kind of tamagotchi.

And today I'm ignoring all his lessons, and having another go at French bread. I've decided to weaken the flour further, by using a bit of rice flour. So ingredients are:

250g apf
50g rice flour
200g liquid (inc half a tsp caster sugar, 1 level tsp dried yeast)
pinch of salt

I've mixed it in the processor, and it's stayed wetter than the previous dough, because of the rice flour, I suppose. So I'm now (1200) letting it rise in a kitchen that's probably around 14c.


Key point is that rice flour was a bad idea. It gives the bread a slightly dish-clothy odour - a variant of the smell that puts some people off basmatti rice. And also, it seems to have prevented or delayed browning of the bread.

Again, there's a huge improvement in leaving the dough in the fridge overnight, so in the next french bread attempt that's what I'll do.

But the next experiment will be with Kamut flour. No, me neither, but - maybe because of the tv programme - the shelves were bare of spelt flour today, so I bought a kilo of kamut. Sad excitement once again.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

French bread (2)

Today, I'm having another go at bread using weaker flower. As before, I'm using

300g apf
200g water, inc half a tsp moscovado, level tsp dried yeast
pinch of salt

This time, I've mixed the dough in the food processor. It was interesting the way the dough changed during processing. At first it clumped together fairly easily into a dry dough but during the 1 minute processing, it became wetter again.

I've left it like that but pulled it out of the processor bowl to prove in a cool kitchen.

The other different thing I think I'll do is keep half of the dough in the fridge. The last lot of bread went dry very quickly so I'll just bake half at a time. That should work, huh?

Friday update

Yesterday, the wet fresh dough was fantastically stretchy and almost became a long grissino, which I twisted twice into a 4-ply cable. Much better, with this kind of dough, to work it very little, so that it has fairly sharp edges and wrinkles, which attract caramelisation.

The dough that I fridged overnight turned out much better for its chilly doze (you could call it a dozy dough).  When I took it out of the fridge it had significantly risen and was drier, so I formed it into a short baguette, a baton, if you will, and baked it on the stone with steam for 12 @ 7 then 5 @ 5, which wasn't enough really. But I'm nearly there with this kind of bread.

Lessons: trust the dough to take care of its own shape; prove overnight in fridge.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Banana cake

No photos of this. It was tasty but heavy, simply because I almost certainly didn't use enough baking powder, which is probably defunct anyway - it's been in the cupboard since time immemorial. But it's a start:

200g apf
100g butter
80g caster sugar

2 eggs
2 bananas, mashed up a bit
not enough baking powder
pinch of allspice

And I did it in the food processor, which probably doesn't help much either.

I creamed the butter & sugar, then added the other ingredients, and processed briefly.
Oven 4 for 40 mins then 2 for 25 mins.

Here's what I've later seen as guidance:

The general rule of thumb for amount of baking powder in recipes: 1 to 2 teaspoons (5-10 grams) of baking powder leavens 1 cup (140 grams) of flour. The amount will depend on the ingredients and how they are mixed. 
Which would suggest 3 tsp for this amount. I was nowhere near that.

Weak bread

Plain flour's such an unattractive name. For once, the Americans have got it right, if verbose, calling it all-purpose flour. I've got a whim to make some pastry and cakes and so have bought a pack of apf (Waitrose Leckford Estate; protein actually quite high @ 11.8%). But before I cakeify, let's see what happens when you break the first rule, and use it for bread. I'm going for a very basic process, so:

300g apf
pinch (1g) salt
200g water, inc 1 tsp dried yeast

Agh, too wet, but I've prodded it about a bit with a spatula, rather than kneaded it, and left it to rise at 1000. (I think wet doughs need less kneading. The rising process does a lot more of the development in stretching the dough. That's my excuse.) More to follow.

1300 Update
The dough had risen nicely and looked somewhat drier, but kneading it was a sticky business. It's hard to describe exactly the feel of it; it held together well but was hard to shape. So I formed two short baguettes, and at 1530 put them in a 7 oven, on the stone and with steam. And here's how it looks:
There's nothing wrong with this at all. It may be the best French-style bread I've ever made (though that's not saying much). It has a similar taste to Waitrose's stonebaked baguette, unsurprisingly, I suppose, with a very nicely caramelised crust. I'll certainly do this again, maybe using an even weaker flour.