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.


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.

Pannier Week Four

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I spent the weekend on a mini-vacation in West Virginia visiting friends and playing music—my perfect holiday!  It was a little odd heading south into snow, but life was nevertheless stirring.  And did I mention there was a butter tart tasting? My personal favourite and the hands-down winner in the neo-trad category was appropriately created by OMG.

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This week I will be making the multigrain again, for Conny who requested it, and little baguettes that combine wild yeast and commercial yeast starters to create an aromatic bread with a crisp thin crust.  Eventually I would like to tell you more about the ingredients, but for now, here is a simple list.

Multigrain (except where noted, all of the ingredients are organic and locally grown and milled).  Oh, and Sky Pilot is the name of my starter.

K2 sifted red spring wheat flour, water, levain (P&H white flour (Western Canada), water, Oak Manor sifted stoneground wheat flour, Sky Pilot), multigrain mix (in equal parts: Hack Farm flax seeds, Oak Manor stoneground yellow cornmeal, conventional pumpkin seeds (somewhere), K2 rolled oats, K2 millet flour, K2 purple cornmeal, Cedar Down Farm whole unhusked barley, Forbes Wild Foods wild rice, whole K2 rye kernels, whole K2 spelt kernels), K2 red spring wheat flour, conventional K2 white winter wheat flour, sel gris from (France).


P&H white flour (Western Canada), water, K2 sifted red spring wheat flour, levain (P&H white flour (Western Canada), water, Sky Pilot), poolish (P&H white flour (Western Canada), water, yeast), sel gris (France).

Week 2: A spelt family

An unexpected pleasure last week was how well the fougasse sliced and toasted up. I had never thought to try eating it that way before, but toasting brought forward the nutty-sweet flavour of the sifted red spring wheat. Plus, its topography makes for many delightful little pools of butter.  Two buttered slices paired with Mennonite prosciutto from Fresh From the Farm made the perfect afternoon snack.

This week, my spelt flour is aged enough to make one of my favourite breads–a whole grain sourdough spelt.  No white flour here, just a 90:10 mixture of sifted and unsifted whole grain spelt flours.  To complete the little spelt family, I’ll be adding unmilled spelt grains this week, which also helped make last week’s multigrain pleasantly nutty. I’m hoping they’ll do the same this week.  Plus, I think they’re adorable.

Pannier’s first week

First things first: Thank you all so much for making Pannier’s launch party such a success! The positive energy hangs in the air even now as the reality slowly sinks in that this is actually happening!  I am intensely grateful to everyone who has helped me get here.  I plan to write about you and your individual contributions over the next few weeks, so stay tuned!

As for the sinking-in part, I am equal parts exhilarated and anxious, which I suppose is completely normal when you start something new!  Pannier is off to a fantastic start with sixteen subscribers, so I’ll be making the equivalent of 9 full shares of bread this week.  I am nervous in part because I’m dying to try to figure out what the heck I did to make the multigrain loaves that turned out so well at the party.

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I mean, this is the bread I’ve been aiming for for so long–I mean, look at that gorgeous open and glistening crumb. Do I know what I did? Well, sort of. I had decided to take a risk and modify a recipe I hadn’t tried before to achieve this bread, but the night before baking I didn’t like the looks of the starter, so I mixed a new one by expanding some extra Sky Pilot (you’ll meet her soon too) I always try to have on hand.  The multigrain mix didn’t seem like it would be enough so I added more.  I forgot to measure the water I added to the dough so I just added it till the dough “felt right”, which is even hard to say what that is, because I had never tried the recipe before!  Its true, I thrive on a little risk, but this was WAY more than I had bargained for!

I wasn’t planning on trying to figure it out this week–I had thought I would make a 100% spelt sourdough that I love–but the multigrain is what is happening instead.  Why?  Because the first thing that I did last week after the party was head up to visit Mark at K2 Milling, about 80 km north of Toronto, with my friend Cynthia, who just launched her own artisan shortbread company.

Mark supplies most of the flours that I use, and he just moved his mill to a new-to-him facility in Beeton.  You walk into the draughty old wooden building and you are met with plump cotton flour sacks, a dusty collection of interesting old tools, machinery and household objects, and a contented cat.  He had some samples of flour out on the counter that you could touch and smell and look at.

And I went nuts.

Half an hour later I had loaded up Betsy with nearly 300 pounds of flour and grain, all grown organically within 100 km of the mill.  I got sifted and whole grain spelt flour, rye and spelt kernels, millet flour, oatmeal, a winter white wheat, a sifted and whole grain red spring wheat, and my personal favourite: purple corn grits!

So one reason to do the multigrain this week is that I am dying to try out these new flours–this week’s bread is going to have all of these things in it except the spelt flours.  I’m also going to try replacing some of the white flour (which is organic but grown in western Canada–more on that in a later post) with some of Mark’s sifted red spring wheat to bring the whole grain percentage up to 75% from last week’s 58%.

The other reason to not do the spelt this week is that the spelt flours are too young–turns out there’s a sweet spot immediately after grain is milled, and then again after three weeks of ageing.  Use a two-week-old flour, and you are asking for trouble.  Please don’t ask me why just yet!  I really have no idea, but this is a tip that was passed on to me by Jesse at Polestar Hearth in Guelph, and I am grateful!