Week 6B: Carrot-cedar-sunflower sourdough

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I really really want this to work: plump spring-harvested carrot and parsnip (grown by Melvin Yoder and Vernon Stoll–such great names!) in a whole wheat sourdough flavoured with cedar leaves and sunflower seeds.  It could be great!  But it could also taste too much like tree, in which case I will default to something a little safer, like rosemary or dill.  I came up with this recipe nursing my fever last week, and am testing it right now.  Mostly carrot with a little parsnip for added sweetness, and cedar leaves infused in sunflower oil to liberate their flavour.  Young cedar leaves are just loaded with Vitamin C–also good for me to munch on as I beat back this cold.

I decided to use a 70% whole wheat sourdough as my basis, but (of course) I’m experimenting with yet another new flour.  This one is called gold finch, and its a local soft wheat flour from K2 Milling.  Normally, I associate soft wheat with pastries and cakes, but I learned from Calantha Elsby, who makes beautiful breads at the Elora Bread Trading Company, that one does not always want high protein content (read gluten content) for sourdoughs.  This came as a complete surprise, so of course I had to check it out.  Mark at K2 sent me the protein breakdowns for his whole wheats:

Gold finch ~ 9.0%
Osprey ~11.5%
Red tail ~13.0%

To put that in context, the all-purpose flour you buy in the store is probably between 10.5-11.5%, while anything labeled bread flour usually has more, up to 15%. So for my bread experiment this week I’m comparing a 50:50 mix of osprey and gold finch–so, a kind of all-purpose flour–with 100% osprey, which is more like straight-up bread flour.

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The great thing about not being a practicing scientist anymore is I can do experiments where I don’t control for all of the changes I make. I mean, I really don’t think the gold finch flour will make the bread taste more or less like tree. The other great thing is I only have to convince myself, which saves repeating the darn thing 29 times.  And that is *so* great.

Week 6: Survey results, and some changes

This week I’ll be making a change or two at Pannier.

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First, I am delighted to have been hired to help teach Intensive Academic English at the University of Toronto for two weeks in May.  I love everything about this job except that it means I will not be able to bake for you on May 1 and May 8.  I really appreciate your support of this decision!  I will be sure to credit or, if you wish, refund your accounts for these two weeks.
This is a great opportunity to check out some of the other amazing bakers in the city.  Take Simon Blackwell, for example, who creates gorgeous breads in a gorgeous space in the back of Soma chocolate shop.  Simon has been something of a mentor for me, so I’m delighted to bake with him at the park this coming Wednesday. Here are some of his beautiful breads at Sanagan’s Meat Locker in Kensington Market.
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The second thing that’s changing is that I am transitioning my packaging away from paper wrapping to re-usable cotton bags starting this week.  There are lots of reasons for this, but it is mostly an issue of time.  There is a lot that I love about the paper, and if I had four sets of hands, I would totally keep it up, but as it is, I barely make my delivery schedule each week, which leaves no room for me to grow.
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I first spotted my future bags at the Guelph Organic Conference this winter and fell in love with them. Thanks to your support, I can now afford to order 70 new bags from Nadine at Envirothreads, who makes them by hand in Lindsay, Ontario out of organic cotton.  I’m in the process of updating my website to explain how the bags will work, but the short version is that every member will get two bags.  I will ask you to pay a $10 refundable deposit for the bags while you are a Pannier member, but you can also opt to keep them once your share expires. I will charge the deposit only when you renew your share, which means that I’m trusting you to hang onto them in the meantime!
The last thing that’s changing is that, because I am phasing out the paper, I can now deliver earlier to the University and to LGA.  This is in response to several of you who have requested earlier delivery. I’m going to aim for between 3-4 pm!
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Thank you to the 45% of my members who responded to my survey last week!  Here are the average results:

  1. You like my bread! 4.6 out of 5
  2. Your delivery or pickup option is working out! 4 out of 5
  3. I am communicating well! 4.9 out of 5
  4. You think my prices are right on! 2.7 out of 5
  5. You have had a marvellous overall experience! 4.6 out of 5

Thank you all, this is really great to hear!

Your favourite breads have been (out of 14 responders):

  • Little seedy buns (8)
  • Fougasse (7)
  • Mini-baguettes (6)
  • Multigrain and demi-baguettes (5)
  • Miche (4)
  • 100% spelt sour (3)

It is so interesting to see what people end up liking! For example, I thought the miche and the multigrain were totally awesome, while the fougasse and mini-baguettes were a little disappointing.  Shows you what I know!  Actually, it justifies my goal of baking all different kinds of breads, because everyone likes different things.

Infant seedy buns

Infant seedy buns

Your least favourite breads have been:

  • 100% spelt sour (3)
  • Little seedy buns and mini-baguettes (1)

Even Stephen on the spelt sour!  This is another one that I think I can do better, but I wasn’t sure whether I should try it again.  I’m encouraged that some people liked it well enough to mention it (and even request it), so I’ll definitely try it again.  One complaint about the little breads was that they were too hard–its true, the little breads don’t last as long as the larger ones, so its probably best to eat them first or freeze them right away.

A third of you like the idea of seeing favourite breads show up in rotation (with the fougasse and spelt getting special mention), while the rest are fine either way.

I love that you are all so supportive of me trying out new breads!  This was a big question in my mind when I started up Pannier, whether my members would embrace the experimentation, but you have!  And its awesome.

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Three people mentioned they would like to see more breads with additions, with rosemary being a clear favourite, and one person requested a rye or other dark bread.

Duly noted!  As the land wakes up and starts to produce delicious things, I will be incorporating that produce into my breads, like the rosemary in last week’s corn sourdough. As for a rye, I’m working on that too.  This was my first attempt and it was positively delicious, but to make it I have to organize small pans. And I have to get you all to promise not to slice it until the next day!  Breads like this take time for the crumb to set and for the taste to mature.  Totally different from most breads we are familiar with! 

In honour of the sun

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Week 5 line-up: 70% whole wheat sour + herbed yellow corn sour

In honour of the return of glorious sunshine, I will be making a herbed yellow corn sourdough this week.  This delightful bread, which I learned from Chad Robertson, combines golden Ontario corn and whatever herbs I can find at the farmer’s market this afternoon–the perfect expression of springtime.

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Two weeks ago I needed to do something about my surplus of old bread.  I also had a bunch of random milk and cream left over from the square dance. Bread + milk = savoury bread pudding = one of my favourite comfort foods. I don’t really remember how I learned about bread puddings, but I love them because they are so loose and wonderful–I feel like they have taught me how to improvise in the kitchen.

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That’s because savoury bread pudding is the most flexible dish in the world.  Here I used three kinds of bread, some organic swiss chard, a sweet potato, some garlic and fresh sage, but you could really use any vegetables, meat, leftovers, cheese, nuts, and seasonings you have around.  You get to eat it so you can decide your proportion of stuff to bread!

The only real judgement comes when you add the liquid.  I usually beat one egg per cup of milk, cream, buttermilk, broth (or a mixture, or any other liquid), season it with salt and pepper, and then I toss the bread mixture with the milk. I let it sit for a minute or two so the bread can start to absorb the liquid, and then I check the bottom of the bowl and feel how wet the bread is.  If its not super wet and I don’t have much liquid left over, I add more. I prefer to add too much than too little because with too much I just get a more custardy pudding, while with too little, well, I think “dry” is the most friendly way to describe the result.

I butter or oil my baking dish, fill it with the mixture, and then I finish it by topping it with cheese, drizzling with olive oil, or dotting with butter. Or–as I did this time–all of the above.  I start it out covered in a 375 F oven until it bubbles and is starting to set when I peek.   I then take off the cover and bake it a little longer until the top is brown and I can no longer resist the heavenly aromas coming from my kitchen.