Going Wild with Pumpkin Cornmeal Rolls (BBB October 2017)

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BBB October 2017 summary: Pumpkin Cornmeal Rolls; making adjustments to the recipe; using wild yeast instead of commercial; a Bread Baking Babes project; World Bread Day and World Food Day;

BBB October 2017 Bread Baking Babes (BBB) October 2017: Pumpkin Cornmeal Bread

I just can’t stop using our Jane Mason Starter!

This October has been strange – so warm that it’s difficult to believe I have to think seriously about rescuing the potted plants (bay tree, rosemary, etc.) and hauling them back into the jail of closed doors and windows.

But the vegetable markets are confirming that it is indeed autumn. There are pumpkins and winter squashes galore, lining the walkways and makeshift tables and shelves outside of every shop.

How perfect for this month’s BBB bread that calls for pureed pumpkin!

But there’s no way that I’m going to buy tinned pumpkin! Who knows what’s in those tins??

Pumpkin puree: You know, the canned orange stuff that’s lining the supermarket walls right now? The stuff you use to make all your favorite fall desserts that’s labeled “100% pumpkin”?! Yes, well, it’s actually made from 100% not pumpkin. The mix is made from a variety of winter squash (think butternut, Golden Delicious, Hubbard, and more). […] [T]he USDA is fairly lenient with gourd terminology in general, which is why it’s perfectly legal to label a food product as “pumpkin” when, in reality, it’s made from a different variety of squash.
Emma Crist, I Just Found Out Canned Pumpkin Isn’t Pumpkin At All, Food&Wine, 23 September 23 2016

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Is the starter ready? Looks can be deceiving…

summary: how to tell if the wild starter is ready; bubbles are an indication but not foolproof; float test is essential; working towards predictability; scheduling the starter; feeding;

“[It] might be the case that your starter is rising, but you’re not there to see it. If you feed at night, it might be rising up while you’re asleep, and by morning it has fallen again, so it looks the same.” – Donna Currie, Sourdough Starter Frequently Asked Questions | Serious Eats

With all those bubbles, the starter on the left looks ready but is not;
the one on the right with the smaller bubbles seems unready but is raring to go.
Wild Starterwild starter
After performing the Float Test, it was clear that
the one on the left had overfed itself; the one on the right was ready to go.

How did I know? It was because I finally understood that I needed to do the Float Test. This was really brought home to me a couple of weeks ago when one of my sisters was visiting. I was showing off to her about how essential the Float Test is. After we admired the starter wildly bubbling, I filled a small bowl with water and proudly said, “watch!” as I dropped a bit from a fork into the water. Being the expert that I am, I was positive it was going to float. The starter immediately sank like a stone. I couldn’t have been more surprised!

But I think I know now why I pretty much ignored the Float Test in the past. It’s because I thought it was similar to the windowpane test.

  • Float Test: yes, definitely necessary.
  • Window Pane Test: no, completely unnecessary….

I’ve only once performed the windowpane test (and I confess that I conveniently forgot that it actually worked) because it seems that you can tell by looking to know if the gluten has been developed enough. I pretty much agree with what Rose Levy Beranbaum has to say about the windowpane test.

The “windowpane test” used by some bakers entails pulling off a small piece of dough and stretching it: it should not tear, and if held up to the light, it should be translucent. I do not use the windowpane test to determine dough strength because some doughs, such as those containing a lot of seeds, will always tear when stretched. Others […] become extensible at a later stage during rising, which stretches and strengthens the dough, and during pulling, “turning” or folding it over on itself.
-Rose Levy Beranbaum, “The Ten Essential Steps of Making Bread, The Bread Bible, p.57

float test On the other hand, the Float Test is completely different. I now refuse to make bread dough without the starter passing the float test! There have been way too many horrible failures here in the past before I finally retained what I had read about the float test. (continue reading )

Wild Naan for Sourdough September

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summary: recipe revision for naan using natural starter instead of commercial yeast; converting a recipe calling for commercial yeast into one using wild yeast; brief history of commercial yeast; another project for Sourdough September

Sourdough September 2017 On Thursday, with two more days left in September, we realized I could bake one more batch of wild bread this month.

Because these organisms [the ideal types of yeast for sourdoughs] always grow on the outside of a fruit or grain, whole grain flours containing the bran will have a much higher microflora count than will white flours, which have very little bran. […] [A] sourdough starter made with white flour will be slower to develop than would one made with whole-grain flour. – Maggie Glezer, “Unraveling Sourdough”, Artisan Baking Across America

Aha! I KNEW there was a good reason that I have insisted on using whole wheat flour to create and feed our starter!

And it is lovely and active. So, naturally (no pun intended), we want to use it to make bread! Because, after all, people were making bread long before jars of commercial yeast were readily available to the general public. And, of course, people continued to make lovely bread without commercial yeast after that time as well.

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Wild Bread Notes (or… KISS)

summary: importance of the float test for the levain; scheduling; disregarding advice from some experts; KISS; it’s Sourdough September

The baker’s skill in managing fermentation, not the type of oven used, is what makes good bread. – Chad Robertson

It’s so thrilling that I have finally been able to embrace baking with wild yeast! And the three essential things I learned this summer are:

  1. Don’t be afraid.
  2. Put a hat on the bread for the first half of the baking time.
  3. Make sure the starter floats.

Yesterday, when it was 30C outside, it was really hard to believe that it was the end of September. But today, with the outdoor temperature mercifully at the correct level (around 16C), the following note from BREAD magazine isn’t so difficult to fathom.

This is the last week of Sourdough September! I hope you’ve developed a real taste for it and will continue on nurturing your starters in October and beyond. Basically, once you get into the rhythm of maintaining one, making bread with it is just a matter of finding a schedule that suits you.
Personally, I’m a firm believer in making your dough do the work while you sleep — overnight fermentation is a cool way of developing flavor to your bread and allowing the yeasts to eat the sugars in your dough whilst you rest!
-BREAD Magazine Update, 24 September 2017

We’ll definitely be continuing to use the Mason starter bubbling away happily in the fridge. I’m really interested to see how it will act as the kitchen temperature drops when autumn really sets in. I’m also very excited about using it for making naan, focaccia, fougasse, etc. etc.

Here are the resulting loaves from this month of “Sourdough September” (I would have baked more, but our freezer isn’t large enough….):

BBB Swiss RyeTartine BreadTartine Bread
BBB Swiss Rye, 10% whole wheat, 70% sifted whole wheat
Tartine BreadTartine Bread
50% sifted whole wheat, 25% sifted whole wheat

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