Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Baby Bobby works!

So I brought Baby Bobby into this world to lighten up my multi-grain loaf (well, actually, it's King Arthur's multi-grain loaf--with a little variation of my own) and extend its shelf life.  

My first SUCCESSFUL bake of this bread with Baby Bobby (we don't have to mention the unsuccessful one, do we???) was this past Saturday.  

Sidenote:  It was not Baby Bobby's first successful bake, only his first success with multi-grain.  Baby Bobby made his debut in Sourdough English Muffins (recipe here: ) which are amazingly wonderful and I'd already made twice.  

I knew as I pulled the loaf out of the oven that it was light and lovely.  It smelled divine.  But it had to cool, and I had to go to bed.  The next morning we tasted it--light (for a whole grain bread), soft, moist--delicious.  Especially good with Trader Joe's Blackberry Jam.  Mmmmmmm.  Sunday evening it was still soft and moist.  Monday night I thought about slicing and freezing it before it got stale, but the texture was still perfect.  Tonight I planned to slice and freeze the remainder, but it is still very moist and lovely.  Perhaps tomorrow.  

Baby Bobby is certainly doing his job!

In other bread news, I got quite a bit of baking done these past 4 or 5 days, knowing that the weather is warming up and it will be too hot to enjoy baking for a while (no air conditioning!).

  On Friday I made two AB in 5 olive oil dough boules with kalamata olives.  They were lovely--the crumb was amazing and I almost had a smellgasm when I took them out of the oven.  I'd glazed them with a cornstarch wash--I don't know what it is about that cornstarch wash, but it really enhances the aroma of savory breads.  I stood listening to them sing (crackling crust) and trying to inhale them when they came out of the oven.  

Yesterday  I made's basic pizza for dinner.  The teenager had ranch dressing, grilled chicken and tomatoes on hers.  The rest of us had ranch dressing and tons of veggies (mushrooms, onions, olives, garlic, artichoke hearts, spinach, and tomatoes.  Yummy!  A veritable garden on your pizza.  

While I was letting the dough for the pizza proof, I made a batch of Alton Brown's pretzel dough.  When making pretzels I discovered what a great dough it is and I use it all the time for a white bread sandwich loaf.    

I'm not sure what it is about that dough, but it really gets those yeastie beasties going and it is a FAST bread even though I use active dry yeast instead of the instant called for in the recipe.  It doubles in less than an hour and I could barely contain it in the loaf pan while I baked the pizzas--I even put it in the fridge to slow it down to no avail.  And it practically sprang right out of the pan in the oven.  It nearly doubled it's PROOFED size!  Yowsa!  

Tonight I sliced it up into even slices thanks to my slicing guide.  I left a few slices out and froze the rest, two to a zipper sandwich baggie with waxed paper in between.  My little one takes out one or two slices to make her sandwiches in the morning.  Sometimes the teenager will even deign to eat it.  

Finally, tonight I decided to make pita bread.  It will be hot tomorrow and we will have a cold supper of salads, fruit, vegies, and hummus along with my pita.  I didn't want to heat up the kitchen too much so instead of the oven I made them on the griddle on my stove.  They bubbled nicely, but they did not make pockets, so they are more of a khoubz (I think that's what it's called) instead of a pita.  But they taste pretty good.  Hopefully the teenager won't complain too much (it is finals week and she is not in a pretty mood).  There was a bit of burning flour on the griddle, so I'm wheezing a bit.  

I like the house to be as cool as possible before the weather warms up.  That way it takes longer for the heat to "penetrate our defenses" and make us miserable.  Our house can stay cool a long while thanks to two factors  1) no direct sunlight except a small amount in the kitchen window in the morning and 2)  Two solar powered attic fans that suck the hot air up and out.  But if it starts out warm in the first place, it's miserable.  

Now a few days without baking while we wait for the North Bay air conditioning (the cool, foggy marine layer that keeps us comfortable most of the time)  to kick back in.  Hurry back, fog.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Who is Baby Bobby?

Baby Bobby is neither a baby nor a person. Baby Bobby is my wild yeast sourdough culture.

I know what you're thinking. Only weird and totally obsessed people name their sourdough starter. And write a blog about baking bread.

Yes, that would be me.

Welcome to my blog.

Baby Bobby is about a month old. Two months ago, I was rekindling my bread baking hobby after many years in hiatus (attending post graduate school while working two jobs and having kids--one born in the middle of grad school--will slow down your hobbies, you know?). If you told me two months ago that I would be making a sourdough starter from scratch and lavishing more attention on it than I do on my kids (according to them), I'd have laughed. I don't even like sourdough except on very rare occasions.

But one of my goals in baking bread was to save money and stop putting out maybe $35 or more dollars per month on the various breads my family eats. Wine guy likes multi-grain bread for sandwiches & healthy english muffins for weekend breakfasts. Our kids like fluffy white nutritional disaster bread for toast and sandwiches. I'm not a big bread eater, but I enjoy an artisan style loaf with certain dinner menus. On Friday nights we have challah, which has climbed to almost $5 a loaf these days--if you want a good one.

So I set about making the breads my family eats. The artisan style breads were actually the easiest because Artisan Bread in Five Minutes per day was the catalyst that touched off my reunion with breadbaking. And I'm an experienced and skilled challah baker.

Next, I tackled the multi-grain bread my husband prefers. I thought that would be the hardest to duplicate, but to my surprise, it wasn't too hard. I tasted his Milton's Multi-grain bread to see what it was like (way too sweet for my tastes!). I searched around and found a recipe that seemed close on King Arthur's Recipe site: . BINGO! It was delicious and even Wine Guy agreed it was better than the commercial bread.

The day after I baked it, I noticed it was pretty dry and stale already. I learned why when I picked up the loaf in it's plastic storage bag the next day and it fell naked to the floor--a big hole in the bag.

But the next loaf I baked staled pretty quickly, too. I sliced the third loaf and froze the individual slices to reduce that problem, but it just seemed very solid and dry after cooling on the counter overnight.


I started researching. Was it the way I was storing the loaves? Was there something I could add or subtract from the recipe?

My reading led me to two theories that are supposed to help. First, the longer it takes to develop the dough, the longer the finished bread lasts. Second, adding sourdough starter to dough lightens the crumb and lengthens the life of the finished bread--even when the sourdough starter is not used for flavor or leavening.

OK, so I guess I needed a starter.

I followed the excellent directions here:
It was cold in our house, so it took a full 10 days, but eventually what is now known as Little Baby Bobby was born. A 2 oz. bubbling baby starter.

Why Baby Bobby? My kids have an obsession with the name "Bob". When a deer hit my husband's car and almost killed him (yes, the deer hit his car, not the other way around), my kids named the deer "Bob". And when they don't know the name of a male, it's always "Bob". So when I asked for suggestions for a name for my starter, of course, the suggestion was "Bob".

But this is a baby, and Bob didn't seem to fit. Maybe the starter will grow into that name, but not now. What stuck in my head was the name of the title character from one of my little one's books--Little Baby Bobby:

It's a great, bubbly, and rhythmic story about Little Baby Bobby in a runaway buggy running through the town. And when the breads don't work out, I can use one of my favorite expressions in the book. "Oopsa, oopsa."

So far, no oopsa, oopsa. It works beautifully (after some recipe tweaking).

That's Little Baby Bobby.