Sunday, June 16, 2013

Timing is, ...

 ... Everything.

mom, dad and newly minted doc
Yes, in fact there IS a doctor in the house, er ...barn

As I mentioned recently, I am just getting my sourdough starter back on track. This go round, I followed a different approach to maturing it; I had been feeding it with a ratio 5 parts water to 8 parts flour (by volume). This resulted in a very vigours starter but as might be expected, a very stiff and sticky prodict.  Much lower hydratrion than I am used to working with.

About that timing:

My niece (my sister's daughter) was having a graduation party down in Corvallis on Saturday and we were planning to go. They live on a small farm and all festivities are held in the barn. This a huge old barn (built in about 1880) which my
It really is a big ol' barn
brother in law has lovingly nurtured, maintained, and esentially rebuilt board by board over the last 20 years. it is a real working barn; they always have a cow and calf (which they raise for their own consumption), excesss milk goes to making cheese (or for bater).  Eery so often they raise a pig for the freezer, my sister keeps a heard of goats which produce kids for market and and most importantly goat's milk which she uses to make cheese (for sale at the farmers market) and a flock of sheep; she sells the lambs and the wool. He's a home brewer and so they have sectioned off a small part of the barn into a little saloon, aptly named 'The Slippery Slope'.

So apart from the working aspects, the barn is also the place for celebrations of all manner. There is a big fire pit and most events involve (evenually) to a gathering around the fire with story telling and general merriment. Often they hang a sheet in the old barn entry and project movies. We all sit around on lawn chiars or hay bales, and the movies are frequently classics.

Well I guess I'm off in the weeds again, about that timing.

So, their daughter Eva has just officially graduated from med school and is now a MD!  She is about to enter a three year residency. In my mind an amazing accomplishment, made all the more sweet as she plans to 'specialize' in family practice, which of course is no specialization at all. She also plans to work essetially in rural areas. It means a lot to me that this special girl is taking what is viewed by some in the medical community as the low road, or a path to a somewhat diminshed financial reward.  But she grew up rural, a 4H'er and knows well the value of health care in less populated areas. She's already served a rotation at a very remote 'hospital' in Africa and did an internship in a rural Wyoming clinic. So obviously, a big celebration, on the farm was in order, with the Slippery Slope figuring prominently.

Hmm, what does this have to do with timing? (a story teller is expected to string the plot together, so far I've tossed you vignettes scattered from Corvallis to Africa, not a lot of string, ... some story teller!)

Well less than two weeks ago, I started activating this new SD starter and it was now esentially ready for the initial roll out in a real bread recipe.  I thought a couple loaves of home made sourdough french might make a decent contribution to the shindig at the slippery slope. 

Well, this enadeavor almost "wasn't" ! The 'drier-than-I-am-used-to' starter threw me off. by the time I had the water, yeast and flour mixed together the dough was so incredibly stiff that it just would not come togther as that smooth silky mass I am used to.  Knead as I might it riddled little lumps of dried flour resisting incorporation.  In building this dough I had no starter to spare so a 'do over' was not possible.  I either had to salvage this or stop along the way and get a bag of corn chips and some store bought dip to bring to the farm pot luck (um yeah, no way was that happening!)

So the obvious next step was to try to add water to the already stiff dough. If you have never tried this befor let me just say, ALWAYS add your flour sparingly to the liquid ingredients first. Donlt ask me how I know this rule, but, in my haste I had obviously not held back enough flour to begin with. Trying to incorporate more water is just a mess, but I was motivated and though I didn't have more starter to work with, I had time (sneaking up on that timing theme).  This bread takes two days to make so there was time to make adjustments.  It took a lot more kneading than usual but with a full 6 hours of bulk fermentation, the dough came together quite nicely by the time I was shaping loaves and getting them into the Bannetons. 

The next step is an overnight rest in the refrigerator.  This retards the rise which allows the dough to develop structure while adding that great sourdough flavor.

I did not get much rise in the refrigerator over night, but I got up extra early and took the loaves out. Our drive away time was about noon so I knew what my absolute 'no-later-than' time was to get the loaves in the oven in order to be able to get down to Corvallis (3 1/2 hr drive) in time for the big doin's.

It all worked out. The loaves had great oven spring, nice crust, and color and decent crumb.
we drove away about on time with warm loaves cooling on the back seat of the car. The bread was a little more moist than usual, I could have let the loaves sit in the oven as it cooled down which would probably have made them about perfect, but that wasn't part of the timing (hows that for a 'timely' piece of stringing?)  Even so, they were well received.      

It was a great party, and a great celebration.

Congratulations on your great accomplishment Eva!

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