Friday, January 2, 2009

Alpine Bread

Once upon a time, there were just three commercial television networks and most families owned only one television. During this fabled time, it was common for a family to gather around the television and watch a program together. It was also common for programs to build to a climatic cliffhanger, and when viewers were at the edges of their seats, the action would freeze and the dreaded words "To Be Continued" would flash across the screen. Collective groans would fill living rooms, and then families would discuss what might happen next week. I have fond memories of such nonsense. My favorite To-Be-Continued moment might be from the TV show Happy Days. I'll never forget a leather-jacketed Fonzie on water skis as he approached a ramp to jump a blood thirsty shark. It was high drama for a seven-year-old muddywaters.

Nostalgia. Those were the days.

A few weeks ago I provided readers with a toned-down version of a Fonzie-jumps-the-shark moment - minus the absurdity, I think - when I mentioned my quest to cultivate a rye sourdough culture and bake brotchen. I left readers hanging, but today I'm here to give you an update on my jumping of the shark. The following is a brief recap of what happened:
  1. Due to a low room temperature, my sourdough culture struggled to come to life.
  2. My culture eventually came to life and possessed a nice sour tang.
  3. I used my culture in my first attempt at making the recipe in this post.
  4. The recipe turned out great, but I couldn't detect that nice sour tang in my final product.
  5. Therefore, I decided to scrap the sourdough, and use a starter that was more practical.
While I didn't end up with a brotchen that measured up to Wheatfields Bakery, I ended up with a bread that is more practical for my busy schedule, and it's quite tasty. It's a hearty companion for a bowl of soup.

Alpine Bread
Adapted from Daniel Leader's Local Breads

Poolish Ingredients
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1/4 cup of rye flour
  • 1/4 cup of water
Ingredients for Dough
  • Poolish from above
  • 1/3 cup rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/3 cup flax seeds
  • 1/4 cup wheat berries
  • 2 1/4 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • PREPARING THE POOLISH AND SOAKING THE GRAINS: 24 hours before you plan to bake, mix the poolish ingredients and allow it to rise at room temperature. The poolish won't rise a lot, but it will become bubbly and spongy. Pour the rolled oats and seeds into a small bowl and cover them with 3/4 cup water. Soak them overnight, uncovered, so they plump and soften.
  • MIXING THE DOUGH: Pour the remaining 1 1/2 cups of water into a large mixing bowl. Stir in the yeast, bread flour, soaked oats and seeds, and salt with a spatula or wooden spoon. Scrape the poolish into the dough, and then with your spoon or spatula work the poolish into the dough.
  • KNEAD THE DOUGH: Use the dough hook and mix the dough on medium-low speed (3 on a KitchenAid mixer) for 8 minutes. Turn off the mix and scrape the hook and the sides of the bowl. Drape a piece of plastic wrap over the dough and allow it to rest for 10 minutes. Turn the mixer back on to medium-low and knead the dough until strands of gluten develop and it clears the side of the mixing bowl. During the 2nd round of kneading, you might need to add a tablespoon or two of extra flour, so that the dough isn't so sticky.

  • THE RISE: Transfer the dough to a lightly oil, 2-quart container. Cover and let it rise at room temperature until it doubles, which should take 2 to 2 1/2 hours. When you press your fingertip into the dough, your fingerprint will spring back slowly.

  • PREPARE THE OVEN: About 1 hour before baking, place a baking stone on the middle rack of the oven and a cast-iron skillet on the lower rack. Heat the over to 450 degrees.
  • SHAPE THE LOAF: On a floured surface, shape the bread into a boule, which is a round loaf. For instructions, visit this page at FoodTV.
  • PROOF THE LOAF: Let the loaf rise at room temperature for about 45-60 minutes. The loaf should look puffy. When you press your fingertip into the dough, your fingerprint will spring back slowly.
  • BAKE THE LOAF: Slide the loaf, still on the parchment, onto the baking stone. Place 3/4 cup of ice cubes in the skillet to produce steam. Bake until the loaf is nicely browned, 25 to 30 minutes.
  • COOL AND STORE: Cool the loaf for about 30 minutes. Store cooled loaf in a brown paper bag. Reheat in a 350-degree oven for 7 minutes to recrisp the crust. For longer storage, freeze in resealable plastic bags for up to 1 month.
Next time I think I'll shape this bread into some baguettes, and I'll do it on water skis while wearing a leather jacket. I'll keep you posted.

Sit on it,


Rebel said...

Thanks for the recipe, it looks good. I was plannin' on makin' some bread this next week, it will probably be this one. I like the healthy ingredients, for a hearty bread.

Nella said...

Oh My Gosh. Don't you just love yourself??? This bread looks wonderful. When I get my baking mojo back, I shall give it a try. All my favorites are in it.

Sarah said...

I've been wondering how your sourdough starter worked out. Starters can be so finicky. I love the looks of your Alpine bread and will have to give this one a try!

Anonymous said...

Muddy Waters, It is such a pleasure to see you in print. I can't believe I had not ever seen or read your blog. I've been catching up as much as a I can on your past post. Pure Muddy...mixture of River Rat with Baron of BBQ. I love it.

This section ask me to leave a comment but a comment will not due. A story seems more in order...

As you know I'm something of a Heinz 57 myself...Dutch, English, Spanish, with a little Cherokee somewhere way back on the maternal side but beyond that my heritage has a strong Lawrence KS background of Quaker dairy famers mixed with my maternal central Missouri Ruffian farmer, Baptist of course. It is from this Baptist Home Cook'in that this story begins.

For the past few years, my mom has become more involved in tracking her relatives, The Don Carlos Clan, from Prairie Home, Missouri. Specifically, Grandma Don Carlos holds many of the fond memories of my mom's childhood.

These memories have been passed down to my generation in a oral history steeped in stories of Sunday Chicken dinners, lard based breakfast, gravy, fried chicken, and biscuits. For 40 years to provide a tangible artifact to these stories, my mom has tried for forty years to provide a tangible aritifact to compliment the miracle of her grandmother's Denver Biscuits. I think you know, my mom is a good cook so her trials and tribulations have not been of the whimsical but a truly focused trek of faith, love, and responibility.

This past Fall as the leaves fell from the beautiful woods along the Mighty Mo my mother finally found a distant cousin who had the recipe written the hands of my great grandmother...complete with lard stains. My family had the priviledge of spending Thanksgiving at my parents with my sister's family and witnessing one of the more Epicurean moments of my life. It fits somewhere ahead of Elvis slicing brisket on my bread in Lockhart, TX and Marilyn New's Cocunut Cream Pie at the Paola Country Club when I was ten.

My Mom was nervous for her meal to come out of the oven. Much more so than I have seen in years since the older generation of our family attended our family meals. Our whole family was gathered around the oven waiting for the biscuits to come out of the oven. Almost a month of working on the proper yeast, flour consistancy, and cooking time was coming to a head at 1 PM, November 25, 2008.

The biscuits came out piping hot about the size of a extra large strawberry and light enough to float to the ceiling. I ate my first without anything on it just like my Mom. She cried and I fought with my Dad to get my second and third. 40 years of searching come home in a beautiful instant. It was better than Silent Night sung in a candlelit church. That soulful and that good. Love and heritage can be found in a biscuit.

As a matter of note, the 2nd with butter only, 3rd dipped in turkey gravy, 4th with cranberry sauce, 5th with butter again, 6th I had to sit down and reflect on my gluttony but quickly moved on to my 7th and 8th without remorse.

Always eat with a Spoon,

muddywaters said...

Rebel: Thanks! It really is a hearty recipe.

Nella: Thanks! I love the whole grains and seeds. Feel free to substitute any combination you have on hand. I hope you get your mojo back.

Sarah: Thanks.

muddywaters said...

TV: Hey, buddy! It's great to hear from you. I love your soulful story. I've always enjoyed your writing, and I look forward to hearing and reading more.I want to use my blog to document some of my family history through food. The first year of my blog has been spent just finding my voice and trying some different things. I'd love to visit with your mother about her quest for this recipe.

Making biscuits is an art; something I haven't quite mastered.

Keep your skillet good and greasy,

Marilyn said...

I would like a sweet little Jersey cow outside my door, just so I can have fresh butter with that Alpine bread. Yes. I would.

The Fonz cliffhanger was big for me, too - but that is, of course, when the show "jumped the shark." Still, quite a TV moment of yore.

Kate said...

Your bread looks awesome. I'm trying to build up the motivation to bake bread, and this might just get me off my but and over to the mixer.