Friday, October 23, 2009

Epic Fail

On Wednesday night, I started a sponge for some German rye sourdough bread (from Oppenneer's The Bread Book).  My sponge was happy and bubbly by Thursday morning.  We left to help the RMBL office with some mailings that ended up taking about 4.5 hours.

[T-Sarah put us to work stuffing envelopes with personalized mailers to all the people who love RMBL.  I was pretty antsy by the time we were done, but at least we survived without going completely batty, which I can only imagine Sarah would have without a bunch of volunteer help.  Also, she gave us blueberry muffins, so no harm no foul.  Om nom. Oh, and if you are reading this and you got one of RMBL's mailers, you should stuff the return envelope full of money, because we worked hard to make sure you got a mailer with your name on it and everything!]

We also had some food in town, went to the library (where I picked up Elizabeth David's English Bread and Yeast Cookery), and picked up our mail (including my x-country skis!).  I also searched for candy corn in Clark's, the little grocery store, but in vain!

[T - we did get candy at the bank though.  We dropped off some deposits for RMBL at two of the local banks, and I got an orange dum-dum at one and a box of Halloween nerds at another!  There was a big gummi fly I wanted to try, but I love nerds too much to pass them up, and in reality, it probably wouldn't have been very good.  It was just so enticing.  Also, as a result of the high altitude, its wrapper was puffed up like a balloon, which was probably part of the reason why I was so tempted to get it.]

Upon concluding our errands and returning to Gothic, I started my rye bread.  Everything was going fine until I had shaped it into two little freestanding loaves to let it rise for the last time.  They simply would not rise up- only out!  The dough rose just fine in the bowl the first time.  I suspect that my dough wasn't sturdy/thick enough for freestanding loaves.  Oh well.  It was baked and cooled last night.

This morning, I sliced off a piece and popped it into my mouth.  It was really REALLY strange tasting.  Honestly, the only way I could describe it to Thayer at first was 'weird, very weird'.  The recipe had called for 3 tablespoons caraway seeds, which, at the time, seemed like too many.  It was too many.  As Thayer said, it tasted like sticking your face into an Indian spice rack.  Also, the dough did not rise enough.  It was really heavy tasting bread.  I don't know, maybe it's edible with copious amounts of good butter.  But it certainly is not tasty.  We're going to try to make them into bread crumbs and croutons.  I think it might work for croutons on our Indian inspired stir-fries and soups.

[T- The bread got lodged in my teeth too, so I couldn't escape the sensation that I had just eaten a package of nightmarishly caraway-infused paste.  I don't really know what the bread is like, just because you can't notice anything around its...unique flavor.  I think that as bread crumbs, it may well add a delightful flavor to a dish.]

[T - today we also helped out Jenny (science director at RMBL) fill in plots that had been dug out as part of research on an invasive plant.  They were investigating whether a very thorough soil disruption and displacement will prevent regrowth, and as a result, there were twenty plots with the top 5-10 inches dug out, and we grabbed some shovels and put the dirt back into the plots.  Just some practice for grad school...

At any rate, it was nice.  We started off our day with some exercise, and it was a clear sunny day, but cool enough that the shoveling didn't get hot.  I also find physical labor like that very refreshing (for a while) and we finished filling in the plots about the same time that I was tired of shoveling dirt, so it worked out well!  Also, Jenny appreciated the help, and J and I have a fair amount of time on our hands, after all.  I was just glad I wasn't the one shoveling them out in the first place, as the dirt gets very packed around here and is absolutely full of rocks, all the way up to shovel-blade sized boulders.  Apparently, after they did the first few by hand, they realized how insanely difficult it was and moved on to a more mechanized approach.

As a COMPLETELY unrelated side note note, I also wanted to add a very special tag that for those of you who don't know, sourdough mothers form a delightful liquid on the top of them as they sit.  Now, as we all know (or should), the metabolic byproduct of yeast as it digests sugar in a restricted oxygen environment is ethanol, so this liquid is actually alcoholic.  This liquid is called 'hooch'.  The starter has about a thick cm of it on top- J takes a perverse amount of pleasure in referring to it as a  'hoochie mama'.  I tolerate it, out of the kindness of my heart.  Apparently, in the pioneer days, desperate for anything remotely entertaining, people drank it right off the starter when it formed.  Jessica and I have yet to try it, but we are curious about just how foul it is.  We will keep you posted.]


woolworkmn said...

Jessica!! Candy Corn! I search them out too and always get the left overs.

Thayer, are you cutting wood too? I appreciate the hooch info. I had no idea!

Thayer and Jessica said...

Yeah, I'm cutting wood. I love chopping wood. Jessica makes the kindling while I split the logs. We just bought candycorn in town, hooray!

Anonymous said...

I am, first of all, extremely excited by your discovery of hooch. While at the C.I.A., I used my starter's liquid offering to test the pioneers' approach. Let's just say the results weren't pretty. At any rate, rye breads can be a sumbitch like that--rye flour is very low in gluten-forming proteins, and on top of that it gets super gummy if you try to knead the dough more to make up for the fact. The best bet is to hardly knead at all, and either a: combine with a greater proportion of wheat flour, b: use a pan/mould and just deal with the fact that the bread will be dense, or c: cheat and add vital wheat gluten, which will probably make the bread rubbery anyhow. Kudos on your crouton/bread crumb solution. I can totally relate, as someone who has had to frantically come up with uses for huge amounts of stale and/or dysfunctional bread. Some of my favorite options are savory bread pudding/casserole, bread soup, and polpettini al lupo (meatless meatballs). Granted, at least 2 of those are largely dependent on eggs and/or cheese, but perhaps one could use a vegan item as a replacement binder (tofu? gluten? panade?). Blathering aside, I totally commend your baking, and wish you the best for your future creative cooking endeavors.