Category: Food

Let’s Share: Fermentation – Sourdough Bread

I have not been writing much lately, been busy with life and projects for future posts. One of these projects is fermentation; sourdough and kombucha to be exact. Today, I would like to share one of my current obsessions: sourdough breads.

After hearing about benefits – easier to digest and lower blood glucose impact – of sourdough breads, I have been baking them occasionally for the last four months. Well, more like practice.

You do not need much. For instance, I use a toaster oven because my oven is not working. Neither do I have a dutch oven small enough to fit inside said toaster oven, but the close proximity of the coils does help – that is what tell myself, anyways. Nor, I do not have a proper proofing basket or banneton – I use a plastic oval bowl and tissue paper.

Best one. Lovely, bubbly crust but weak scoring.

The point is, you do not need to have every equipment to start. The key is to just start. The sourdough breads still turn out delicious, regardless. You can slowly obtain more bakeware as you go if you enjoy baking breads or just make due with what you have.

Starting Your Sourdough Starter
The first step is starting your own sourdough starter. Add equal parts flour and water in a container with porous top like a small kitchen towel – I use a reused jam glass jar with two sheets of coffee filter paper and a rubber band.

I started with half a cup of whole wheat flour and water, but all-purpose flour works as well. The yeast and bacteria you need are already on the flour and in the air. I also use bottled water, as tap water may contain elements that are harmful to your wild yeast and lactobacillus colony.

After that, about three tablespoon of whole wheat flour and two tablespoon of water every day for three weeks; you will see tiny air pockets forming. You might want to move the starter to the refrigerator after 1-2 weeks during the summer, I started mine during winter.

Keep the starter in the refrigerator and fed once a week after the initial stage. However, if you plan to bake a lot, you can keep the starter at room temperature and feed daily.

Watch out for signs of molds. Discard and start over if molds develop on the starter. My starter once had black specks on the side of the jar. The main mass was fine so I carefully extracted the starter into a new jar and placed it in the refrigerator. This solved the problem. I could probably avoided the whole problem if I scraped down the sides better but keeping them in the refrigerator was a better choice.

The starter should smell like fade vinegar, or sour smell, after two weeks. You might even see liquid on top of the starter, this is normal, as I am told. I only saw this when stored my first starter in a jar with a loose lid; I switched to coffee filters since then.

Using Your Sourdough Starter
To use, general wisdom suggests that you discard about 3/4 of the starter a day before then add enough flour and water to fill 1/2 of the container again and leave overnight at room temperature.

I usually just take out the starter from the refrigerator and give a normal feeding then leave the starter at room temperature a day before. However, I let the dough ferment a bit longer during bulk fermentation to make up for my laziness. And no, I do not bother with the floating test.

[Summer Update: Reduce the time of bulk fermentation during the hotter summer days. The dough loses its elasticity, becoming very sticky.]

If you need to get rid of some starter, you can use the starter to make scallion pancakes and sourdough biscuits. Throwing portion of the starter away seems like a waste.

As for sourdough bread recipes, I like these two recipes the most so far: my best sourdough and tartine’s country bread. Both will provide more in-depth look into making sourdough. Oh, I half all the ingredients since the recipes are for two loaves. Currently, tartine style is my focus to master, the famous bread by Chad Robertson of San Francisco.

Working with the wet dough to create a tight ball and scoring the surface are currently my weaknesses. I think I might need a marble working surface. The dough sticks too much on my wooden surface. Here’s a video on sourdough techniques that like to reference.

3 day fermentation. Nice crust though.

Some More Tips
Due to humidity and other factors, I find that using less water – about 1 oz or 30g less – works better for me. Following the recipe completely, creates an unworkable sticky dough and cannot hold its form during baking. You will have to make a couple breads to figure out if you need to add or subtract some water.

Do not let the dough ferment for too long and consider shorten the fermentation timing during hotter days. Besides a stronger sour flavor, huge air pockets might form on the inside. The dough also loses its elasticity; it basically becomes a sticky mess.

Use parchment paper to easier clean up and removal of the bread but aluminium foil works too. Baking directly on the bake surface can cause the bread to “stick” to it.

Also, from experience, over baking is better than under baking the sourdough breads. The best part of sourdough to me is the nice crispy crust. You can pop them back in the oven if needed but this tends to dry out the bread more quickly.

I like to store my bread in a brown paper bag. You can warm up the bread any way you want but I really like some butter and grilling the slice on a hot pan. Add on an egg and/or avocado and you have yourself delicious breakfast or lunch.

My next sourdough project is to try pizza sourdough.

Equipment:
Bread flour
Wheat flour
Banneton
Razor blades or bread lame
Towels

Let’s Share: Alcohol Infusion


Alcohol infusions have been my obsession for the better part of this year. I would like to share what worked and what I have learned since I started.

First, the two sites that I used to start the journey are Northwest Edible Life and Boozed + Infused. NW Edible was more of a general guide into the world of infusions while the latter is for recipes, plus her taste for bourbon aligns with my taste.

Infusions made:
Apple Pie Bourbon
Coffee Bourbon
Dried Cherry Bourbon
Coconut Rum
Pineapple Rum
Ginger-Lime Gin
Star Anise Gin

I like longer infusion times, about 3 to 4 weeks. Some sites state that a few days to a week is enough but I like to maximize the flavor. My reasoning is simple, any less, I would rather just take the spirit straight if the flavor is weak.

For spirits, I use Colonel Lee bourbon from Total Wine (Jim Beam, if not available), Gordon’s gin, and Bacardi white rum.

For filtering, I use a funnel and coffee filters; I like to use two layers of coffee filters, but I am sure one is just fine. For juicy fruits, like pineapple and coconut, I use cheesecloth to squeeze out the extra juices before filtering through coffee filters.

Store your infusions in a cool and dark place. Give them a quick shake daily. My first four projects were not in a dark place, which may had affected the flavors.

The Good:

Dried Cherry Bourbon

3 c bourbon
5 oz Mariani Cherries
Two weeks

This turned out delicious, strong cherry flavor, even though it was a bit too sweet for me. Very easy to drink; went through the bottle in a flash. I mostly took this straight.

I would lower the amount of cherries to bourbon next time. 3 oz cherries to 3 cups bourbon, perhaps, but I worry about the cherry flavor diminishing. Try with 5 oz cherries before making adjustments. Best part is that this infusion only takes two weeks.

As a side note, three cups is about 710 mL, which fits in an empty 750 mL laying around.

Ginger-lime Gin

4 c gin
zest of 2 lime
4 TB fresh ginger
2 TB blue agave syrup (add at 3rd week)
4 weeks

This infusion was really good. The spicy ginger and citrus notes of the lime zest work well with the herbal essences of the gin, while the agave syrup lightens up the sharpness of the gin; creating an aromatic and tasty infusion.

Not sure I would change recipe. If anything, I might reduce the syrup just a tad to let the gin shine a bit more, but that’s just me.

Great by itself. Making gin and tonic with this destroyed the flavors. I’m sure this would work great in a cocktail but I like this as is.

img_20160707_140703a

Pineapple & Coconut Rum at 3 weeks.

Coconut Rum

750 ml white rum (or vodka)
1 brown coconut
3 TB thick simple syrup (add at 3rd week)
4 weeks

I happen to love coconuts. The richness of the coconut mellows out the rum to create a light and smooth drink; not too sweet, either. I wish the coconut flavor was stronger, however.

I used real coconuts. Removing the coconut meat is not too bad after some practice – watch your fingers. Shred them in a blender into small chunks. The oils will be filter out with coffee filters so do not worry about them.

I made this three times. I tried one batch with a cheap generic brand – Prestige – as a test, which turned out decent but had a rougher aftertaste. I might try roasting the coconut or look into adding fresh coconut juice as the sweetener to get a more prominent coconut flavor. I want to stick with fresh coconuts.

Thick simple syrup is made using equal parts of water and sugar. Evaporation will lower the water ratio.

The Bad:

Star Anise Gin
40 gram star anise, 2 cups of gin, and 1 tablespoon of simple syrup.

The star anise was too intense to enjoy, even with tonic. The intense flavor has a drying effect on my mouth.

I infused this for 3 days. If I ever attempt this again, I’ll probably do it for a day or so. The aroma of star anise gives to gin was lovely, however.

Other mentions:

img_20160515_161907a

Apple Pie Bourbon at 4 weeks

Apple Pie Bourbon
750 ml bourbon, 3 granny smiths, cinnamon stick, and ½ vanilla bean. 4 weeks.

I have to try this infusion again. The first attempt was not impressive, which also happens to be my very first infusion project.

From what I can recall, there was a lingering bitter aftertaste that I could not pinpoint. This was not bad but the “apple pie” taste I was looking for did not really come through. I did use the apples to make apple turnovers. Makes an interesting old fashioned, though.

For the next batch, I would cut the apples into smaller chunks. Perhaps, use different apples like honeycrisp or jonagold apples.

Pineapple Rum
Simple one. One pineapple and enough rum to cover. 3 weeks.

This turned out to be quite nice; light and smooth with a wonderful pineapple aroma. The flavor was a bit stronger than coconut rum, which is a plus.

However, the batch had a slight bitter aftertaste. Obtaining a really ripe pineapple or adding some sweetener – 1 tablespoon of thick simple syrup – might solve the bitterness. I did not add any sweetener, figuring the pineapple will provide the sweetness.

I used this with the coconut rum to make my own pina colada, which was only okay because both flavors were not strong enough. I might add in mint leaves the next time I make this.

Final Thoughts
Hope this helps those looking to infuse their own spirits. After a few, you will know what you’re looking for in an infusion but do not be afraid to try something different. I found that I like infusions where I can sip it because I do not like the fuss of making an cocktail. You, on the other hand, might infuse for the sole purpose of cocktails. Whatever the reasons, have fun. Cheers.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén