Monday, January 26, 2009

Last of the bread for now...

Well, I'm back, and this time I used yeast captured from tea leaves! I used a chai black tea and raw sugar to make the tea yeast water. One uses the same principle as making Fruit yeast water, but substitutes tea leaves for the fruit.

I modified the preferment method recipe from Wao's blog, and used Rye Flour from Bob's Big Red Mill. (I will endorse this brand, which is readily available at Whole Foods, your local natural foods store, or through their website. I will not endorse their excuse for grits, though!)

I will post the formula once I have refined it a bit more, but I used whole wheat flour, rye flour, and all-purpose flour. I added cocoa powder, coffee, and molasses like the raisin pumpernickel from Bread Alone by Daniel Leader. Damn good book! Buy it!

I let the first rise happen in the fridge, then pulled it out and shaped it. After it rose for a while, but was still cool, I dusted it with a lot of flour and scored it with a sharp knife. Notice the parchment paper under the loaf. I got wise...

I tossed it in the oven on a preheated baking stone under a stainless steel bowl. I put a cube or two of ice in a metal measuring cup under the bowl as well to generate steam. This is what came out!

The taste isn't quite what I'd like it to be yet, which is why I'm waiting on posting that formula...

Don't y'all forget upcoming cooking lessons! Come back soon!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Even More bread....

Well now, these are the the preferment recipe again. Looks funky but tastes good. I do believe I will reduce the sugar amount. This is just a bit too sweet, I think.

I am working on some other techniques to improve the rise. Check the next bread post for more on that...

This was really good sliced and toasted as a breakfast bread. Strawberry-rhubarb preserves make it fabulous. I can't wait for my shipment of Grandmother's Scuppernong Jelly to put on this (Scuppernongs are white muscadines, or white thick-skinned wild Southern grapes. True Southerners pronounce it "SKUP-uh-naaawg"). Nothing like homemade fruit jellies on homemade bread!

Y'all come back real soon!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

More bread, as promised.

Now, here's one laughable tiny loaf!

I cooked it in a Rommertopf terracotta loaf crock that I got at a yard sale. This is a very small loaf pan, and the dough was even smaller. The recipe I used from Wao's blog was the straight dough method, with no preferment. I think I'll head back to the longer recipe.

It stuck mighty fast to the bottom, too. I suggest parchment paper or a silicone liner. I'll try that myself next time.

It still tasted good, though. I grilled slices in olive oil and served it with my shrimp scampi pasta.

Oooh, you like this photo, don't you? Well, stay tuned. I'll be lending a young gal a hand and showing her a few cooking tips down the line.

Y'all come on back now! Y'hear?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Baking bread... like the Japanese??

I'm a Southern gal, but that doesn't mean that I am not willing to learn how things are done elsewhere. Sometimes you learn a thing or two about a thing or two. And now the Japanese are teaching me about making bread.

Yes, you heard me. But this is different.

This is making bread from wild yeast fruit water.

Southerners are nothing if not wild and, er, fruity. And honestly, with all the beer ingested per capita below the Mason-Dixon line, we're pretty yeasty, too. So maybe this ain't so much of a stretch.

It started like this:

Those are grapes from my local farmers' market in water with a little bit of Trader Joe's Organic Agave Sweetener in it. I didn't much like the sweetener for general use, so I decided to use it in the making of my yeast water. I also added some tangerine peel from the tree out back. It had just rained, so most of the pollution had presumably been washed away. (and yes, that's a used Tequila bottle. Mexico can't be bad. It makes tequila. Besides, they're more Southerly than us, which makes them Southern. 'nuff said.)

The idea is that yeast grows on all living plants, so you want to capture them. Yeast exists naturally on all fruits and grains. Yeasts on grapes do the heavy lifting to make wine. The yeast on apples makes cider. Commercial yeast is really yeast from grains that proved itself amenable to cultivation and shipping. Like most commercial endeavors, the point is to sell stuff, so the selling point of commercial yeast is reliability. It reliably raises bread. It also reliably tastes somewhat like cardboard, but you can get it everywhere, and it raises the bread. It also raises bread FAST, and we humans like it fast nowadays.

There's something like 100,000 times more yeast cells in a gram of commercial yeast than in a gram of this yeast water, but given time, this yeast water will do the same thing commercial yeast does - raise bread. The main difference is that THIS bread will have good flavor. You just have to wait a minute for it to work.

Commercial yeast and chemical leaveners are relatively new. Humans have been baking leavened bread for thousands of years, and this is one of the methods. The other popular ancient method is levain (pronounced Luh-VAN. That's French, see.), which is flour and water allowed to ferment. The yeast that was on the grains got mixed into the flour as it was ground, so the yeast is still there. The yeast grows and the mix is thrown in with other flour and water to make bread. The Egyptians did it this way, too.

So, this is the Japanese method. You can use fresh fruits, dried (unsulphured) fruits, veggies, grains, or even tea leaves. That's right, tea leaves. You can imagine my delight at the thought of raising bread with sweet tea. :D

So, after a couple days, my fruity water looked like this:

Note the traditional levain next to it. I killed that one. :( Beware leaving your yeast starters on top of the stove. They're like to die when you heat up your oven.

So, I used the yeast water along with a little King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour and King Arthur All Purpose (NOT an endorsement! This was cheapish, middling quality, and readily available at Trader Joe's. It is neither organic nor stone-ground. BAD! It is unbleached and unbromated, which is good. An organic version is available on their website.) flour, a little Penzey's French Grey Sea Salt (YES! this is an endorsement! Buy EVERYTHING this company has to offer! Download their catalog and drool!), and got this:

Danged if it weren't tasty! Here's the recipe I used. You'll need to proceed to the next post to get the full recipe

Since I'm a perfectionist Southern cook, I am allowed to chide myself for not achieving a higher rise, more open crumb, or better slashing. I'm also allowed to wail about the burnt bottom crust. I also put that in so you don't feel so bad if you mess it up, too. To be fair, this was attempt #3. Y'all will laugh when you see pictures of the next one!

So, I've made some more, and I'll post photos from those soon. Meanwhile, do head over to Wao's Blog. It's called Bread and Original Yeast. It's her fine writing that made me join this mania. I've searched quite a bit and not seen any site in English that explains this method other than hers. If you want to know how to begin, just head back to the beginning of this blog to the February 2008 posts. Be sure to comment and let her know why you dropped by. She's real sweet about answering questions.

She also posted info on the wonderful site called The Fresh Loaf. I love their forum. I found most other baking information that I needed, such as dough slashing methods, how to knead, and what the heck is a couche on there. Nice folks.

I'll work on my levain, and I'll keep working on my bread. Meanwhile, stay tuned. I hear tell of a friend who needs help leaning how to cook, and I reckon I'll oblige.

Y'all have a nice day, now.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Holy hell...


Ok, so I found them at a health food store called Follow Your Heart (locals refer to this place as Follow Your Wallet. I will do a cost comparison to see if it is cheaper than Whole Paychecks, er Foods). This was 2 bucks and change for 2 pounds, and is from Bob's Red Mill. There was another box from Arrowhead Mills that cost about twice as much, and I couldn't see the grain. I think that one is yellow corn, too.

It's not quite what I'd like it to be, though. For starters, it's labeled as "Corn Grits also known as Polenta". *sigh*

All right, twits. Yes, it's the same grain. Yes, it's a similar grind. HOWEVER: grits are usually white corn, and polenta is most often yellow. I cannot remember EVER eating yellow grits in my whole Southern life. That's not to say it can't be done, or shouldn't. But polenta can also be made from chestnuts or buckwheat. Not so much for the grits. I will allow that the colors of the corn can be different, but the preparation of the corn before grinding is entirely different. The hulls are first removed. Read on!

I found a lovely descriptor of the differences here:

What's the difference between polenta and grits? Grits are made from ground, dried white or yellow corn kernels from which the hull of the corn is removed by an alkali, such as slaked lime or lye.

Grits, or hominy grits, a specialty of the South, are prepared much like polenta, seasoned with butter, salt and pepper or cooled to a firm consistency, sliced and fried. Whole, dried hominy is known as posole in Mexico; when it is ground into flour, it is masa harina.

Well that's pretty damn clear to me that what you've sold me is not Grits, but Corn Polenta or Very Coarse Corn Meal. They are NOT one and the same! You can make grits using polenta corn, but it is less nutritionally valuable (the liming or lyeing step completes the corn proteins, and makes the nutrients digestible by humans), and harder to do. Not that I won't try, of course, but don't call it grits! That's a sin.

But I'm gonna make grits with this anyway. To hell with the nutrition. I want some grits!!

What this does tell me is that I might be able to make grits if I search the local Latino markets and find some posole... Ah, yet another challenge!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Welcome to the Guide!

I got to thinking a few weeks ago, which is a very dangerous thing. I was thinking that I wish that some one had made a guide to the Los Angeles area for folks like me - displaced from the South and yearning for home.

It's not just that these left coasters have no clue about grits (Denny's grits? Puh-lease!), or haven't ever heard of red velvet cake, or (gasp!) wonder why the hell anyone would want sweet tea, it's that so many of them have forgotten how to live!

Granted, each of those three points is a sin unto itself. I don't much believe in sin, but being a dyed-in-the-wool Georgia Peach, I've heard a thing or two about sin over the course of my life. If anything is a sin, there's some sinning going on in the City of Angels, and it's what they dare to call a tomato. As if that tasteless crap can actually be called a tomato! God made tomatoes and they sure as hell don't taste like this! Blech!

This city is full of cars, greener-than-thous, and money. And damned if there ain't a serious grit shortage! Money has got to be good for something, so why there are no grits in sight is beyond me!

Don't get me started on the smart-aleckey old bitch I served the other day who acted as if she knew everything in the world when she said that when you put sugar in tea, that makes it sweet, so every restaurant has sweet tea, and Southerners shouldn't complain. I refrained from telling her the science behind temperature, chemical homogeny, saturation points, and thereby the simple fact of chemistry and physics that illustrate that sugar doesn't readily dissolve in cold water. You dissolve the sugar in the tea while it's hot, so it'll be sweet while you put it over ice, dolt! It didn't help that she was an awful person anyway, and was raising hell about nothing because she'd been in jail the previous day. The things you find out as a waitress, I tell you what! Fortunately, her friends realized her cantankerousness, and they tipped me just fine! But I digress...

Now don't get me wrong, there are nice people out here. There are millions of residents in Los Angeles county, and so there have to be some good ones, just on the law of averages. However, the money proximity makes people think they have to act like big shit so people will think they're big shit. It's the kind of thing that will get you laughed at behind your back at every Southern potluck, but out here, your cronies would just nod and swear you're doing right. If you're gonna act like that back home, you damn well better make the best banana pudding on God's green Earth, or else everyone you know will mock you endlessly.

And speed. Don't get me started, they want everything FAST out here. Cars, girls, money, food. Few realize that good food is worth a wait. I've seen/heard people bitch about the most amazing 5-star restaurants with 9-course meals, and they had the nerve to call it slow. Were you expecting to eat that much in 45 minutes? Surely not! Ooh, popular restaurant on a busy night, with a party of 30 right next to you and you think you have a right to be served before everyone else in the joint? Think again!

Which brings me again to how many Angelenos don't remember how to enjoy life. Or, maybe they do remember, but there's just in a big 'ol HURRY to live NOW! Some are coming around, though. the throngs at farmer's markets every day give me hope. Some people want to know about the real taste of a tomato! I wonder, though, if I took a poll, how many of those market-goers are actually Southerners in disguise.

What I aim to do is this: enlighten the many by doing some key services! I'll hunt down good Southern, Soul, Creole, and Low Country food and let y'all know where to find it. If it's barbecue or fried pork rinds that are worth a damn, I'll let you know here. Locations of sweet tea? Yes. Best local grits? Definitely. And every once in a while, I might introduce you to an improvement, something that could make the South even more amazing, should it crop up there. I'll let you know what Southern food chains you'll find, and those you won't. I'll let you know what's interesting to see, and when not to drive in certain areas. In short, I'll make surviving a trip to L.A. easier, be it long-term or short-term of a stop.

And I just might find things that make me happier in the mix!

Y'all come back now, y'hear?