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Beans, Cornbread, and Politickin’

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<img src="http://forums.egullet.org/uploads/1159716896/gallery_29805_1195_4296.jpg" hspace="8" align="left">by Kendra Bailey Morris

An exclusive excerpt from White Trash Gatherings: From-scratch Cooking for Down-home Entertaining (Ten Speed Press, 2006).

As often as my Granny Boohler entertained, it came as no surprise when one afternoon she sat me down with two, big sweet iced teas to tell me the story of our family’s greatest claim to culinary fame -- the time she cooked a full-on beans and cornbread dinner for her most prominent dinner guest, our very own "West Virginian of the Twentieth Century," U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd.

Back in the early to mid-1970s, both my Granny and Grandpa were rather active in local politics. As a nurse at the local hospital, Granny was often involved in issues related to health care and education. One of her biggest concerns, and a legitimate one at that, was the quality of health care (or, rather, lack thereof ) that families living in more rural areas of the state were receiving. For many, a trip to the doctor for a check-up could result in literally hours of travel. Like others involved in the cause, Granny believed that implementing rural medical outreach programs, including bringing in more doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel to the hills, was desperately needed. And there was one very important person who happened to agree with her -- Senator Robert Byrd.

Not ones to pass up a chance to politicize, Granny and Grandpa attended a meeting at the local church where Senator Byrd was speaking on issues related to improving health care. When the meeting was over, they went up to wish him well, and then straight outta the blue asked the Senator to join them for dinner. It may seem shocking that they didn’t think twice about asking him over, but that’s how country people do it. It's not about how famous you are, it’s about how hungry you are.

Now, the Senator is a well-known beans and cornbread lover. Like many West Virginians during the depression, he was raised in a small coal town, coincidentally not far from where my grandfather and great-grandfather worked as miners. His story is one of achieving great success in the face of considerable odds, and although Senator Byrd may reside in Washington, his heart still rests in a little house up the holler. And apparently, so does his stomach. It seems that the older we get, the more we want to go back to that one meal that tastes like home. For mountain folk, it’s the beans and cornbread meal. Pinto beans simmered all day with a slug of fatback served alongside a big wedge of savory cornbread. Throw in a little chow chow (our version of relish), some chopped green onions, and a dollop of ketchup and you’ve true peasant food at its finest.

When Granny went to work in her little kitchen on that snowy afternoon, she knew exactly what the Senator wanted to eat, and she was a true master at making it. Just the day before she had whipped up a big pot of brown beans, so she set to work on some cornbread (we call it “grit bread”) baked in a cast iron skillet. To go alongside, apples from her backyard were gathered from the root cellar, sliced, and fried up in leftover bacon grease.

It wasn’t long before Senator Byrd and his entourage arrived, took off their snow-dusted coats, and sat down to table brimming with West Virginia specialties. After Grandpa gave the blessing (he always did this, as head of the household), the group began to eat, but not before Senator Byrd said his quick prayer of thanks. And then, like any proper country boy, he stuck his napkin into his shirt before spooning one single bite of beans into his mouth. They ate and ate, and talked about family, growing up in the coalfields, local politics, and God. Sweet tea was poured in abundance, and seconds were served more than once. Granny proudly watched it all happen, knowing deep in her heart that she was always built to cook for kings and queens. After all, the Senator exclaimed more than once that he hadn’t had cooking this good since he ate at Lady Bird’s.

After dessert, the Senator mentioned that he had a national televised speaking engagement later that evening and would they mind if he rested a while before taking off, especially after eating all that good food. So again, like a true West Virginia hostess, Granny didn’t think twice. She escorted the Senator to the basement rec room that Grandpa built himself, fluffed him a pillow, and draped a warm blanket over his shoulders. In a matter of moments, he was on his back fast asleep, with his black sock-clad feet barely poking out from under the blanket. To Granny, he was just another hardworking man from the coalfields, who, in this particular repose, seemed more like the young man who spent time working as a meat cutter and who loved to play the fiddle than a big city politician who was twice elected President pro tempore, making him third in line for the presidency of the United States. She leaned over to cover his feet and let out a short giggle when she saw that one of his socks had a hole in it the size of a quarter.

After an hour or so, the Senator awakened, fully refreshed. Granny and Grandpa said their farewells, and as the Senator put on his coat, Granny straightened his tie. It was then she saw it -- a big bean stain right on the top part of his polka-dot tie. "Mr. Senator,” she said. "I’m afraid you’re going to have to take off your tie. Seems you’ve got a bit of a spot on it." The Senator looked down to see the offensive stain and quickly removed his tie. "Don’t think I can go on television with this old thing!" he joked as he removed it and handed it over to Granny.

"Here. Let me," Grandpa said, as he took off his own tie and handed it to the Senator. "It would be an honor if you wore mine." And with that, the Senator said his thanks, put on his new tie, and left to greet his public. Later that evening, as my Granny and Grandpa reminisced about how good her beans were and how funny it was that their Senator had holes in his socks, they turned on the television to watch his public address. There he was, a standing proud West Virginian, bathed in lights and fanfare that only politics can bring, and wearing my grandpa’s tie. In that moment, the lines that separate poverty from excess, backwoods from Park Avenue, and insignificant coal towns from a parking spot at the U.S. Capitol were blurred, if only for one snowy day.

<div align="center">* * * * *</div>

The Senator’s Brown Beans and Fatback

This bean recipe is truly fit for kings and queens. Serve it up with a wedge of cornbread, homemade chow chow, and minced sweet onions for a taste of true peasant food. Just make sure to remove your tie before diggin’ in since this dish makes for messy eatin’. But beware, brown beans and fatback can be addictive, and as of yet, there is no known cure except more brown beans and fatback.

1 (16-ounce) package dried pinto beans

1 medium to large slug of salt fatback, or 1 to 2 meaty pork ribs

1 1/2 quarts water

Salt and pepper

Put your beans and water in a cooking pot on medium heat. Next, stick your fatback in a microwavable coffee cup and cover with water. Microwave on high for 30 seconds or so, then turn the fat over and do the same for another 30 seconds. Pour the fatback and broth into the cooking beans. Once the beans begin to lightly boil at medium heat, lower the temperature to low and cook for 2 hours, or until they’re soft like you like ‘em.

<div align="center">* * * * *</div>

K.G.’s Country Grit Bread

Grit bread is similar to cornbread, but it’s made with pure stone-ground grits, giving it a unique texture unlike any you’ve ever tasted. This bread is dense, moist, and not at all sweet on the inside while golden and crusty on the outside.

1 cup plain white stone-ground cornmeal (not instant)

3/4 cup yellow self-rising cornbread mix

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 teaspoon baking soda

3 to 4 tablespoons sausage, bacon, country ham, or pork chop drippings

1/4 cup plain white stone-ground grits

3/4 cup water

1 egg

1 cup buttermilk

Preheat your oven to 475 degrees.

Sift up your white cornmeal, yellow self-rising cornbread mix, sugar, salt, and baking soda into a big mixing bowl. Put your fat drippings in a cast iron cornbread pan (or muffin or cornstick pan) and warm them on the stove. When your drippings are melted, tilt your pan so the sides and bottom are well greased.

Mix up your grits and water in a bowl and cook in your microwave on high for 3 minutes. Stop and stir and then microwave again on high for 3 minutes and set aside. The grits will be about half done, but that’s okay. Whisk your egg in a bowl. Then add your egg with your buttermilk to the dry ingredients. Stir until the batter is well-mixed but still a bit on the firm and dry side. Now add the extra pan drippings and your grits. Mix all of the ingredients well with a large spoon. (If grits and water have cooled, reheat for 30 seconds before adding.) Your batter shouldn’t be too dry or too wet, but somewhere in between.

Pour batter into your cornbread pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. (Cornsticks take slightly less time.) Your Grit Bread is done when a nice golden brown crust has formed. Now, all you need to do is get a big slab of butter and dig in!

Cooking Tip: Leftover grit bread makes mouthwatering fried cornbread. For fried bread, slice cornbread into pie-shaped wedges and then slice each into 2 half wedges, each with a soft side and a crusty side. Next, heat your griddle or fry pan to medium-hot and drop in a small piece of butter. Place one of your half wedges (soft side down) on the sizzling hot butter. Do the same for your remaining half wedges. Cook until a golden brown. Finally, lower your heat to warm and turn all the half wedges over. Allow the other side to heat thoroughly and eat ‘em while they’re hot.

<div align="center">* * * * *</div>

Jeb Magruder’s Chow Chow

2 cups chopped sweet red peppers

2 cups chopped sweet green peppers

4 cups chopped cabbage

2 cups chopped sweet onions

2 hot peppers, chopped

5 cucumbers, chopped

4 cups chopped cored green tomatoes

3 tablespoons pickling salt

4 tablespoons mustard seed

2 tablespoons celery seed

1 cup sugar

2 cups vinegar

Chop up your vegetables into little cubes, but not too fine or the mixture will be mushy. Sprinkle with pickling salt; cover and refrigerate overnight. Lightly rinse your veggies and drain ‘em well.

Put the remaining ingredients in a large pot, and bring to a boil. Add the vegetable mixture and cook for about 10 minutes. Pack into sterilized canning jars, leaving about 1/2 inch headspace. Remove any air bubbles. Wipe jar rims and seal at once according to canning manufacturer’s directions.

This recipe makes about 8 pints.

Excerpted, with kind permission of the author and Ten Speed Press, from White Trash Gatherings: From-scratch Cooking for Down-home Entertaining (Ten Speed Press, 2006). Buy it here.

Kendra Bailey Morris (aka kendrabail) spent hours in the kitchen as a young girl learning West Virginia mountain cooking from her grandmother and mother. She is now a writer, private chef, and cooking instructor in Richmond, Virginia.

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I just don't know how to tell you. It's a wonderful memory, and a lovely bit of family lore, unique and irreplaceable---and WELL told in the telling.

Thank you for many memories---my grandmother was Mammaw, and her hands still guide mine as I sift and stir, touch a testing finger to the spring of a hot cake layer, juggle an egg white from shell to shell, and reach into her saltcrock for just the right amount to season every pot on the stove all at once.

Beans and cornbread---I wish they were as famous as foie gras and caviar. They certainly taste as good, and bring much more home-comfort pleasure. If I didn't have this big pan of snap beans ready to put on for tonight, I'd be trying that quick-soak on some pintos to get them ready for supper.

Thanks for a wonderful Fall-is-here read; it was just perfect.

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Thank you for a wonderful story and for sharing the recipes. I will try the cornbread and the beans later this week. It's a good thing I have both items in my pantry now. Again, maraming salamat.


Doddie aka Domestic Goddess

"Nobody loves pork more than a Filipino"

eGFoodblog: Adobo and Fried Chicken in Korea

The dark side... my own blog: A Box of Jalapenos

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This brought back memories for me. I spent some time living in South Carolina where country food reigns supreme. I doubt there was more than several weeks that went by where somebody that I knew wasn't holding a "pig picking" where a whole hog would be roasted up over 24 hours. It would often be served with collard greens, butter beans (cooked with bacon or fatback), sweet potato pie, and of course, slaw.

In a little town called Marion just outside of Florence, the food was particularly good -- and it is no wonder why it is the heart attack capitol of the US. They ate like kings and when it came time to meet their maker, they died with a smile of satisfaction on their face.

Ah, the memories of good southern food it brings back. I've always swore that someday, I'll build a big bbq in our back yard so that we can have pig pickings for our neighbors as mine did for me...

Thanks for the story,

-Art


Amano Artisan Chocolate

http://www.amanochocolate.com/

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This brought back memories for me also. I have posted many times in the past about my enthusiasm for cornbread, especially the "southern" type.

I also love cookbooks like this. I have Ernest Matthew Mickler's "White Trash Cooking" cookbook and his second cookbook, "Sinkin Spells, Hot Flashes, Fits and Cravins".

Which was re-issued as "White Trash Cooking II"

A subsequent book "More White Trash Cooking" authored by Trisha Mickler, after Ernest passed away in 1988, has not been quite as well received but is still worth having, if one loves the foods of the plain "down-home" folks.

Thanks for posting about this. I just ordered it.


"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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I, and most of my kinfolk, would be right at home at a "white trash gathering". (Can't believe I said THAT!) During the cooler months, my mother-in-law cooks beans with fried potatoes and cornbread on Monday nights. Although I work nights, sometimes, if there's some left in the pot, she sends some home with my wife for me. It's not something I could eat every day, or every week for that matter, but it sure is good when I get it. And her beans are nothing but dry white beans, some form of cured pork, and water...and maybe something secret...


---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“A favorite dish in Kansas is creamed corn on a stick.”

-Jeff Harms, actor, comedian.

>Enjoying every bite, because I don't know any better...

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Thank you all for the kind words. It has truly been an honor to carry on the white trash series. Moreover, I am so happy that the wonderful memories of those precious moments spent in my granny's kitchen bring back similar memories for you all. That's what it's all about-- it may be simple and cliche, but food really is what brings us all together at the end of the day.

Kendra

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When I was growing up in the mtns of nc in the 1980s beans and cornbread was a regular item on the school lunch menu, along with a side of greens and the option of a box of buttermilk. Somehow I do not think the way Asheville is now that it would be on the menu.

Meanwhile, thanks for the inspiration. I've bemoaning, make that BEANMOANING my sparse pantry and yet, I am going to have a tasty dinner tonight.


-----------------

AMUSE ME

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yet, I am going to have a tasty dinner tonight.

Us, too---this cool day and that wonderful remembrance were cause for our supper of Northern beans with ham, a pot of TENDER baby turnip greens, picked yesterday from the neighbor's garden by our son and cooked at his house last night. I added a crisp little pan of buttermilk cornbread, some COLD crisp slices of sweet onion, and some 40-weight iced tea.

I felt like lifting my glass to Kendra's Grandma.

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I enjoyed the excerpt as well as the whole book. One thing I think might be a little misleading about the in-your-face, politically incorrect title is that it leads one to believe this might be a humor book when, in reality, it's not only a serious cookbook but also contains a healthy dose of heartfelt, high-quality food writing.

Kendra, how have you been faring with the title choice? On the one hand, it's a brand so maybe the book benefits from that. On the other hand, I imagine some of the less imaginative media might feel the title is too hot to handle.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I enjoyed the excerpt as well as the whole book. One thing I think might be a little misleading about the in-your-face, politically incorrect title is that it leads one to believe this might be a humor book when, in reality, it's not only a serious cookbook but also contains a healthy dose of heartfelt, high-quality food writing.

Kendra, how have you been faring with the title choice? On the one hand, it's a brand so maybe the book benefits from that. On the other hand, I imagine some of the less imaginative media might feel the title is too hot to handle.

--------------------

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"

Great question, Steven. When Ten Speed and I first began pushing the book before it came out, quite a few entities (bookstores, well-known cooking schools and various media) were very hesitant to take on the book. Several bookstores refused to allow signings, and much of the media simply turned their heads at the whole idea.

Moreover, as a seasoned culinary instructor, I was certain there would be a few cooking classes that I would be allowed to teach in conjunction with book signings. We pitched a couple of classes to various schools throughout the country under the "comfort food" concept, and several schools went for the idea until we mentioned the title of the book. Then, suddenly, it wasn't such a good idea anymore.

Same thing happened with a very well-known national newspaper article. All was well until the title was mentioned, and then the whole project was instantly dropped.

However, now that the book is finally out, the positive response from the media (especially in my hometown and surrounding areas in Virginia/West Virginia) has been overwhelmingly positive, much in part to a few great articles in the papers (see www.richmondtimesdispatch.com Food and Balance section) and on egullet that clearly address the book for what it is-- a heartfelt, first-person account of life in my granny's kitchen with plenty of country-fried recipes that remind folks of home.

Don't get me wrong, there are still quite a few people out there who find the whole idea offensive. And to those people, all I can say is read the book and then judge. The book is highly personal with memories that were so powerful to me personally, I often wept while writing them. Moreover, I have found that the very people represented in the book don't find the title offensive at all. For us, in a strange way, it's a badge of honor. In many ways, being considered white trash, helps to shape our identity.

And while the book carries on the the white trash name, it is also different from the others in the series. The original "White Trash Cooking" and the two books that consequently followed, featured the food, stories and photos of the deep South (Florida panhandle), for example, while "White Trash Gatherings" clearly focuses on Appalachian, mountain food. Also, while the previous books had many grab-your-gut funny stories, they were a little more tongue-in-cheek than this one, I think. I wanted this book to have more of a prose-like quality (I guess that's the MFA talking). Even more, I wanted to present the great people of West Virginia, especially my family and friends, for what they are-- the most decent, kind, hard-working, God-fearing people you will ever come across. And if any of you venture to Bluefield, WVA, just stop by my granny's house and you will sit down to eat some of the best country-fried peasant food you've ever had. Believe me.

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I am not fond of the "trash" title. And I have not read or purchased the book.

I grew up on this sort of food. My Grandmothers were not trash, nor my family members.

I'm sure it was meant well???

Can't someone do a book on poor family Southern cooking without referring to those who did it as less than "socially acceptable"?

A title of "Less Than Socially Acceptable" would be better than "White Trash".

I started reading this thread being a bit annoyed, but glad that others would learn about some damned-fine meals.

Now I'm absolutely mad and disgusted. The more I read it, the angrier I get. The title really frosts me.

If you plan to give good southern home recipes, simple as they may be, stop denigrating those who made them, dammit !!! They are the ones who made your book possible.

Off to sulk now.

Maybe I'm being hyper-sensitve. I plan to sulk anyway. :angry:

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When the first book to carry this name was being researched, the author interviewed dozens of citizens who live (and cook) much as their ancestors did and who are proud of their heritage. If you read the book you will see that it is not a condemnation of these people nor does it make fun of them. Those that were interviewed and whose stories were included in the book were very proud of it.

There have been a lot of books about "down-home" cooking, "Southern Old-Time" cooking, and so on, but none have had the instant success of this book. The catchy title caught their eye but the quality of the food and the honesty of the recipes made people recommend it to others.

In 1986, Ernest Mickler's book was a best-seller. If you scroll down to the 6th article on

this page from the New York Times archives

you can see what was being said at the time.

The following quote is from the Jargon Society:

"One book stands alone - Ernest Matthew Mickler's White Trash Cooking, called by Metropolitan Home "the best American cookbook of the century," which took Jargon and the country by surprise and storm. A fun book to hold and read, a visionary laugh at stodge, it is the one book Jargon had to divest, becoming bigger than Jargon could or wanted to handle. An unusual cookbook, in many ways it represents a sea-change for Jargon - a shift from the poetic arts to more works of photography and visionary folk art. White Trash was both a blessing and a curse, bringing a spurt of national notoriety to the press, which, I believe, has since hindered its fund-raising abilities. The question arises as to why Jargon didn't establish an endowment with the money made from the book, but Jargon remained true to its Utopian passion - publishing the best books possible from an expanding project list, and expecting the best from others - that the financial backing would appear for the next project: "I do always try to figure out some way to get the book paid for before I publish it...But after it is paid for and published I don't much concern myself with what happens to it. I feel that if the public wants badly enough...the books...they ought to be willing to make the effort to find them. The way I see it, it is much like 'dropping seeds into the ground.' Something is going to happen, and it usually does." (Rooke 6)

Mickler's point was that this particular niche of society, long written off by the mainliners, had a rich, historical and important culinary tradition that had to be recorded for posterity.

He was not putting these people down! He was celebrating their lives and cultural diversity.

The fact is that the cookbook sold so well that it introduced a great many people all over the US (and other countries) to these traditional foods of the rural south.

A significant side effect was the hugely increased interest in folk art of the rural south. Many of these people who had barely existed, found buyers seeking them out, galleries competing for their artworks and giving them the chance to make a decent living. One man, who became successful in the late '80s and early '90s, was interviewed as part of a PBS special and was proud to show off the home he had built and the community center and high school he had endowed with proceeds from his folk art.

The gallery owner who discovered this backwoods artist, and several others, said that she had bought Ernest Mickler's cookbook and wanted to see for herself the people who could do so much with so little. She told the interviewer that she never knew that something as simple as beans could be so satisfying.


"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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It appears that we "might could'a been neighbors" a ways back, Kendra. :wink:

My children attended elementary school in Peterstown, right over the hill, when we had a home in Bozoo :smile: for some years.

As an "outsider" (ah. . an ex-New Yorker even) it surprised me at first, the general attitude you mention above about the "natives". Most that I knew while living there had a huge laugh and a toss of the head over names like "white trash". They really didn't give a hoot what anyone called them. Life was not full of money, perhaps, but it was full of loving-pride in small things.

The fact that south-west West Virginia hosts an annual "Road-Kill" festival with great humor and yes, great food - is one of the best examples of this attitude, to my mind.

Mmph. Don't make no nevermind what they say. :biggrin:

Good luck with your book, and another question. Got any recipes or good stories about Beans and Taters?


Edited by Carrot Top (log)

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It appears that we "might could'a been neighbors" a ways back, Kendra.  :wink:

My children attended elementary school in Peterstown, right over the hill, when we had a home in Bozoo  :smile: for some years.

As an "outsider" (ah. . an ex-New Yorker even) it surprised me at first, the general attitude you mention above about the "natives". Most that I knew while living there had a huge laugh and a toss of the head over names like "white trash". They really didn't give a hoot what anyone called them.  Life was not full of money, perhaps, but it was full of loving-pride in small things.

The fact that south-west West Virginia hosts an annual "Road-Kill" festival with great humor and yes, great food - is one of the best examples of this attitude, to my mind.

Mmph. Don't make no nevermind what they say.  :biggrin:

Good luck with your book, and another question.  Got any recipes or good stories about Beans and Taters?

Thanks Karen-

You are so right. The mountain folk where I come from are well-known for their humor as well as our ability to laugh at ourselves. We sit around the dinner table poking fun at each other all the time! And yes, roadkill cookoff. I have been meaning to go. It sounds like such great fun.

As far as beans and taters go, my mom used to slow cook pole beans in a big slab of fatback and when the beans were nice and mushy (Southern style!) she would throw in some quartered new potatoes. Once they were cooked, we'd have a couple glasses of sweet tea and maybe some buttered potato rolls on the side. This was usually a meal we'd have towards the end of summer, especially if we still had any beans in the garden. In the winter, we'd use up any canned beans from the basement. Good, honest food at its finest.

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Kendra! The book sounds fantastic - I just added it to my wish list - highest priority to receive! We actually are neighbors! I am in Glen Allen - it warms my heart to know a fellow egulleteer is so close! Where do you teach cooking classes - I would love to put one of those on my wish list, too! Kim

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Kendra!  The book sounds fantastic - I just added it to my wish list - highest priority to receive!  We actually are neighbors!  I am in Glen Allen - it warms my heart to know a fellow egulleteer is so close!  Where do you teach cooking classes - I would love to put one of those on my wish list, too!  Kim

Hey Kim--

Good to hear from a fellow Richmonder! Thank you for the well wishes on the book. It has all been very exciting. Please come out to one of the book signings, too. We have the first one this weekend (Sat. Oct. 21 at 2pm) at Barnes and Noble Libbie Place. We can meet in person and talk shop. Regarding cooking classes, I teach for Sur La Table, but I have put teaching on hold for a little while in order to focus on the book. However, they have a bevy of wonderful local chefs offering some great classes. You can check out Sur La Table's classes online at www.surlatable.com

Kendra

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I've had the book for several days and am very impressed with it.

(I have a Memaw also and have posted her pork cake receipt.)


"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Boo! I have to work on Saturday (I work at the Fresh Market - if you ever come in, please say hi!). But let me know about future signings and I will try to arrange it! I have taken a class at Sur la Table - from Martin Gravely - it was wonderful - I wish I had the time to volunteer to help at classes. I have even been thinking lately of finding out if they have any full time openings at the store just as a sales clerk - not thrilled with the current situation lately.

Anyway - let me know about future signings, please! Kim

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Boo!  I have to work on Saturday (I work at the Fresh Market - if you ever come in, please say hi!).  But let me know about future signings and I will try to arrange it!  I have taken a class at Sur la Table - from Martin Gravely - it was wonderful - I wish I had the time to volunteer to help at classes.  I have even been thinking lately of finding out if they have any full time openings at the store just as a sales clerk - not thrilled with the current situation lately. 

Anyway - let me know about future signings, please!  Kim

You should definitely stop by Sur La Table. I am sure they are hiring for seasonal work at least. Could be a good way to get your foot in the door. And I know they always need volunteers for classes. They are super nice people over there. Good luck, and I will stop in Fresh Market sometime to say hello!

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      Couldn't find a topic devoted to sourdough discard cooking, so thought I would start one and see how much interest it would generate. Moderators, if there is a topic, please merge.
       
      Recently I have begun making sourdough bread and am caring for a sourdough starter. Since there is currently some difficulty finding flour (due to COVID-19 related supply chain issues, etc.) I don't want to throw out any of my sourdough starter. I am also following guidance from King Arthur Flour and Cooks Illustrated for working with a small sourdough starter (10 g. flour | 10 g. water | 10 g. sourdough starter) and using recipes that use smaller amounts of sourdough starter or only building my starter up if called for by a recipe.
       
      I have made the following recipes and would make them again:
      - King Arthur Flour sourdough discard crumpets. https://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/sourdough-crumpets-recipe
      - King Arthur Flour sourdough discard waffles. I used a mix of yogurt & milk instead of buttermilk but otherwise made the recipe as written.  https://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/classic-sourdough-waffles-or-pancakes-recipe
       

       

       
      What are you doing with your sourdough discard?
    • By gsquared
      Post your questions here -->> Q&A
      A Sampling of North Indian Breads
      Authors: Monica Bhide and Chef Sudhir Seth
      Introduction
      These breads are the taste of home for me -- wholesome breads prepared with simple ingredients and simple cooking methods. There are many different types of breads in North India. They can be prepared in the tandoor (clay oven, as is done in many restaurants), dry roasted, cooked on a griddle, or deep-fried. They can be prepared plain, or stuffed with savory or sweet filling, or just topped with mouthwatering garnishes.
      In the recipes below we are merely attempting to scratch the surface, presenting you with a glimpse of these magnificent breads.
      North Indian breads are prepared with various kinds of flours. The ones listed here use a whole-wheat flour known as atta and all-purpose flour. The dough is prepared in most cases without the use of yeast. (We have shown a special sweet bread here, called Sheermal, that is prepared using yeast.) Also, the tandoori breads are generally rolled out by hand not with a rolling pin. But in the recipes below, for ease of use for the home cook, we have used a rolling pin. As you will also see then, no special equipment is needed. We have prepared the breads in a traditional oven and in a non-stick skillet. (We have included some pictures towards the end of the lesson of a roti being prepared in a commercial tandoor.)
      A few tips:
      • Knead the dough well, adding only enough water or other specified liquid to make the dough the right consistency.
      • A must for preparing these breads is to let the dough rest as indicated. This will ensure that the dough softens and moistens, making it more pliable and easier to stretch
      • To prepare simple ghee (clarified butter) see below but for a in-depth discussion check out this wonderful thread in the India forum. (See the last few suggestions on preparing it by melting butter.)
      • You can also purchase ghee or clarified butter at your local Indian grocer or from www. Namaste.com.
      Clarified Butter (Ghee)
      Yields: About ½ cup
      ½ lb unsalted butter
      Heat a heavy pan over low heat. Add the butter, allowing it to melt. Once the butter has melted, increase the heat, bringing the butter to a simmer. The butter will start to foam.
      Reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. Watch carefully as it may burn. The milk solids will start to settle at the bottom, and the liquid butter will float to the surface. When the liquid butter becomes amber in color, remove it from from the heat. Cool to room temperature.
      Strain the amber liquid into a jar and discard the milk solids.
      Cover and store, refrigerated, for up to 6 months.
      Plain Naan Dough
      Naans are traditional Indian breads prepared in clay ovens or tandoors. They are commonplace on most Indian menus. We have tried here to present a simple dough for Naans and then two of the more unusual preparations for it: the Peshawari Naan and the Onion Kulcha. .
      • ½ cup milk
      • 1 teaspoon sugar
      • 1 cup warm water
      • 1 tablespoon yogurt
      • 1 egg
      • 4 cups of all-purpose flour (labelled "maida" in Indian grocery store)
      • 1 teaspoon salt
      • 1 teaspoon baking powder
      • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (for baking tray)
      • 2 tablespoons clarified butter or ghee
      In a bowl whisk together the milk, sugar, water, yogurt and egg.
      Place the flour, salt and baking powder in a large shallow bowl. Mix well.
      Pour the liquid onto the flour and begin to knead. Continue kneading until you have a soft dough. If you need more liquid, add a few tablespoons of warm water. Knead for at least 10 minutes, or until you have a soft dough that is not sticky.
      Oil the dough.
      Cover the dough with a damp cloth and place in a warm place for 1½ - 2 hours, or until the dough has doubled in volume.
      Directions for plain naan:
      Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease a large, heavy baking tray and set aside. Lightly dust the rolling surface and rolling pin with flour.
      Knead the dough again on the floured surface for about 5 minutes. Divide it into 8 equal pieces and cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap.
      Roll each piece into a ball and flatten it with your hands. Using a rolling pin, roll it out into an oval shape (about 8 inches). Using your hands, pull at both ends of the oval to stretch it a little. Continue until you have made 8 naans.
      Brush each oval with clarified butter.

      Place the naans on the baking sheet bake for 5 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil for an additional 3 minutes or until golden brown.
      Peshawari Naan
      In this delightfully sinful recipe, the naan dough is stuffed with dried nuts and raisins and baked. Serve this warm right out of the oven for the best taste.
      1 recipe prepared plain naan dough
      For the stuffing:
      • 1 tablespoon cashews (crushed)
      • 1 tablespoon almonds (crushed)
      • 1+1 tablespoons pistachios (crushed)
      • 1 tablespoon raisins
      • 1 teaspoon cilantro leaves, minced
      • 1 teaspoon sugar
      • 1 tablespoon Milk Mawa Powder (Dried whole milk powder)

      • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds, ground
      • 3 tablespoons melted butter or clarified butter
      Prepare the Naan dough.

      While the dough is resting, prepare the filling.
      Set aside 1 tablespoon of pistachios and the raisins. In a mixing bowl combine all the other filling ingredients. Add a few tablespoons of water to bind them together to form a lumpy consistency.
      Roll the dough into a log. Cut into 8 equal portions. Lightly dust the rolling surface with flour.
      Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease a large, heavy baking tray and set aside. Lightly oil or flour your hands.
      Take one portion of the dough and roll into a ball between the palms of your hands. Flatten the ball. Place it on the floured surface. Use a rolling pin to roll it out into a circle about 5 - 6 inches in diameter.
      Add a tablespoon of the filling to the center. Bring the sides together and pinch them to seal and form a ball. Flatten lightly. Dust very lightly with flour.

      Roll the flattened ball again on a lightly floured surface until about 5 - 6 inches in diameter.
      Garnish with the reserved pistachios and raisins.

      Continue until you have made 8 naans.
      Brush each naan with clarified butter. Place the naans on the baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil for an additional 3 minutes or until golden brown.
      Serve hot.

      Onion Kulcha
      We present this recipe by popular demand. Here the naan is stuffed with a spiced onion mix and baked to perfection.
      1 recipe prepared plain naan dough
      For the stuffing:
      • 2 small red onions, finely chopped
      • 1 tablespoon minced cilantro
      • 1 tablespoon Chaat Masala (www.namaste.com)
      • 1 teaspoon red chili powder
      • Salt to taste
      • 3 tablespoons melted butter or clarified butter
      • 2 teaspoons cilantro, minced for garnish
      • small boiled potato, grated (optional)
      Prepare the naan dough.

      While the dough is resting, prepare the filling.

      First, using the palms of your hands, squeeze out all the water from the chopped onions. If the onions still appear to be watery, add a small boiled grated potato to your filling. This will prevent the filling from spilling out of the kulcha.
      In a mixing bowl combine all the filling to form a lumpy consistency.

      Roll the dough into a log. Cut into 8 equal portions. Lightly dust the rolling surface with flour.
      Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease a large, heavy baking tray and set aside. Lightly oil or flour your hands.
      Take one portion of the dough and roll into a ball between the palms of your hands. Flatten the ball. Place it on the floured surface. Use a rolling pin to roll it out into a circle about 5 - 6 inches in diameter.

      Add a tablespoon of the filling to the center. Bring the sides together and pinch them to seal and form a ball. Flatten lightly. Dust very lightly with flour.

      Roll the flattened ball again on a lightly floured surface until about 5 - 6 inches in diameter.

      Dip your fingers in water and moisten the surface of the kulcha very lightly. Sprinkle with a few minced cilantro leaves. Continue until you have made 8 kulchas.

      Place the kulchas on the baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil for an additional 3 minutes or until golden brown.
      Serve hot.


      Ande Ka Paratha
      This is a unique addition to your recipe collection. A mild and flaky bread, it is a small kid’s favorite at our home.
      Makes 8 parathas
      • 2 cups Indian atta flour (whole-wheat flour)
      • 1½ teaspoons table salt
      • 2+2 tablespoons melted butter or clarified butter
      • Water as needed
      • 8 eggs
      In a bowl combine the flour, salt and two tablespoons of clarified butter. Slowly begin to add the water, kneading the flour as you go. Make a dough, kneading for at least 10 minutes. The final dough should be soft and pliable. It should not be sticky or else it will not roll out well.


      Cover the dough with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let it sit for 30 minutes.

      Roll the dough into a log. Cut into 8 equal portions. Lightly dust the rolling surface with flour.
      Lightly oil or flour your hands. Take one portion and roll into a ball between the palms of your hands. Flatten the ball. Place it on the prepared floured surface. Use a rolling pin to roll it out into a circle about 5 - 6 inches in diameter.
      Now fold the dough over itself.

      Take the folded dough and roll it around itself into a spiral.

      Tuck the end under.

      Do this for all eight dough balls. (This folding and rolling will make the paratha very flaky.)

      Now flatten the spiral and roll again on a lightly floured surface until about 5 - 6 inches in diameter.


      Heat a griddle on medium heat. Brush it lightly with butter and add the paratha. Cook for about 2 minutes, or until the bottom of the paratha begins to blister. Brush the top lightly with butter and remove from heat. Put the paratha aside on a warm plate.

      Grease the same griddle a bit and break an egg on it. Cook the egg sunny side up. Place the cooked side of the paratha on the egg. Press down gently to break the yolk. Let it cook for a minute. Brush the top of the paratha with butter, flip carefully and cook for another minute or two until the paratha is no longer raw.


      Remove the paratha from the griddle and place on a serving platter. Cover with a paper towel. Continue until all the parathas are cooked.
      Serve hot.

      Indian Bread Stuffed With Spicy Potatoes (Aloo Ka Paratha)
      This filled paratha is a very popular North Indian bread, served traditionally with homemade white butter and Indian pickles of your choice.
      • 2 cups Indian atta flour (whole-wheat flour)
      • 4 tablespoons semolina
      • 1½ teaspoons table salt
      • 2 tablespoons melted clarified butter or butter
      • Water as needed
      • 3 medium potatoes, peeled
      • 2 Serrano green chilies, seeded and finely minced
      • 1 tablespoon cilantro, minced
      • 1 1-inch piece fresh ginger root, grated
      • 1 teaspoon Chaat Masala
      • 4 tablespoons melted clarified butter or butter
      • A few tablespoons flour for dusting
      In a bowl combine the wheat flour, semolina flour, salt and two tablespoons of clarified butter. Slowly begin to add the water, kneading the flour as you go. Make a dough, kneading for at least 10 minutes. The final dough should be soft and pliable. It should not be sticky, or else it will not roll out well.
      Cover the dough with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let it sit for 30 minutes.
      While the dough is resting, prepare the filling.
      Boil the potatoes in enough water to cover for about 15 minutes. Drain.



      Put the potatoes in a bowl and mash them well with a fork. Add the green chilies, cilantro, ginger root, and chaat masala and mix well. Set this filling aside to cool.
      Roll the dough into a log. Cut into 8 equal portions. Lightly dust the rolling surface with flour.
      Lightly oil or flour your hands. Take one portion and roll into a ball between the palms of your hands. Flatten the ball. Place it on the prepared floured surface. Use a rolling pin to roll it out into a circle about 5 - 6 inches in diameter.
      Lightly brush the surface with the clarified butter. Add a tablespoon of the potato filling to the center. Bring the sides together and pinch them to seal and form a ball. Flatten lightly. Dust very lightly with flour.



      Roll the flattened ball again on a lightly floured surface until about 5 - 6 inches in diameter.


      Heat a griddle on medium heat. Brush it lightly with butter and add the paratha. Cook for about 2 minutes, or until the bottom of the paratha begins to blister. Brush the top lightly with butter and flip over. Cook for 2 minutes.

      Remove the paratha from the griddle and place on a serving platter. Cover with a paper towel. Continue until all the parathas are cooked.

      Sheermal
      A sweet bread, it is one of the few Indian breads that uses yeast. Keep the dough in a warm place to ensure that it rises. You can increase the amount of sugar if you like a sweeter taste.

      • 1 packet dry yeast
      • 1 teaspoon sugar
      • ¼ cup water
      • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
      • ¼ teaspoon salt
      • 2 tablespoons sugar
      • 2 eggs (separate 1 egg and set the yolk aside) beat the whole egg and the white together
      • 2 tablespoons melted clarified butter or butter
      • Extra flour for dusting
      • Pitted cherries/raisins for garnish
      Mix yeast with the sugar and 1/4 cup water. Set aside until frothy, about 5 - 10 minutes.
      Combine the flour, salt and sugar. Add the clarified butter, egg and yeast mixture. Knead until a smooth dough is formed. (You may need more warm water.) Set aside to rise until the dough doubles in size.
      Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease a large, heavy baking tray and set aside. Lightly dust the rolling surface and rolling pin with flour.
      Knead the dough again on the floured surface for about 5 minutes. Divide it into 6 equal pieces and cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap.
      Roll each piece into a ball and flatten it with your hands. Using a rolling pin, roll it out into a disc. Continue until you have made 6 discs.
      Beat the reserved egg yolk and brush a little on each sheermal. Place a few cherries on the sheermal for garnish. Place the discs on the baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes.

      Turn on the broiler and broil for an additional 3 minutes, or until golden brown.

      Tandoori Roti
      We wanted to show how the tandoor is used to prepare breads. These pictures are of a special roti or bread, called Tandoori Roti, being prepared in the hot tandoor or clay oven.
      The basic recipe entails preparing a dough of whole-wheat flour. (See the paratha dough prepared earlier.) The flattened rolled out discs are then cooked in the tandoor until the dark spots begin appearing on the surface of the bread.




      Post your questions here -->> Q&A
    • By eGCI Team
      Post your questions here -->> Q&A
      Sourdough Bread
      by Jack Lang (jackal10)
      Acknowledgements
      Dan Lepard, for inspiration and and contribution.
      Charles Lang, whose hands are in the photographs.
      Brendel Lang for the painting.
      The Members of the eGCI team for considerable labour and expertise.
      Samuel Lloyd Kinsey (slkinsey) my fellow instructor.
      Jill Grey, my partner, for putting up with the mess.
      Introduction

      The object of this lesson is to teach you to bake better bread— bread that will be the envy of your non-baking friends—bread so good that people will wonder where it came from!
      The recipe is archived here.
      Why sourdough? Because it tastes better. This is the real stuff; not some machine-made pap. You will make bread you just can’t stop eating, and that will spoil you for mass-produced bought bread. Once you have mastered basic white bread, you (or we) can go on to whatever variations you like or request. This is daily bread, fragrant with tastes of the yeast and the grain, and with a crisp crackling crust. Perfect on its own, or with good butter, or jam, or cheese and maybe a ripe tomato. It keeps (in a paper bag, not in the fridge) for close to a week, although you may need to toast it toward the end of the week. Toasted it makes magnificent bruschetta. You can bake weekly, or less often as the bread freezes well.
      This recipe and technique may seem straightforward, but it contains the results of years of experimentation and optimisation. We’ll make plain, white bread. Once you have mastered that, you can go on to fancier loaves. However (unless you really need the bran) you will come back to this basic bread just because it is so good and so pure.
      Bread comes in many shapes.

      English bread shapes

      European bread shapes
      This lesson will teach the basic French boule or flattened ball shape. We will also look at baguettes. But you can make any shape you fancy. The same dough works well in a tin, too.
      You can find more technical details regarding the history of sourdough bread and the composition of the starter by clicking this link. Reading this background history and science is not essential, but very helpful. It will give some insight into why as well as the how.
      Where to get your starter
      You basically have three options –
      1. Buy a starter off the web or from a local artisanal bakery. One place is here.
      2. Order the eGullet starter.
      You can obtain the special egullet starter by sending a PM to jackal10 with your snail-mail address. The starter will be sent out free, although the cost of the starter and postage is about $10. Please donate at least that much to your favourite charity, and we would appreciate it if you could include the name of the charity and the amount in your PM.
      Your egullet starter was collected originally in the vineyards of California, but has travelled extensively since. It produces a light, mild bread. When it arrives, it will look like raw dough in a plastic bag

      How your starter will look when you unpack it.
      You can leave it in the fridge until you are ready, or better, turn it into your own starter. To do this, add one cup of flour and 1 cup of water and mix to a smooth batter. You can do this by hand or in a food processor. Put the batter into a basin, cover and leave in a warm (80-85F/27-29C) place for 4-8 hours, or until you see bubbles on the surface. Ideally refresh it a couple of times, and you are ready. You can store the starter in a jar in the fridge.
      3. Make your own.
      You can make your own starter and harvest the local wild yeasts with some patience. The key is the remarkable stability of the yeast-lacto bacillus pairing. If you keep almost any fermentable mixture of flour and water at about the right temperature, and when it begins to bubble, feed (refresh) it regularly, you will get the right bugs.
      Some people add grapes with bloom on them (yeasts live on the surface), rye (high in enzymes), or other things, but that is mostly superstition.
      How to roll your own starter
      a) Mix 1 cup flour and 1 cup water to a smooth batter.
      b) Cover and leave in a warm (85F/29C) place until it starts to bubble (12 hours or so but it can take several days). Don’t worry about off smells or colours at this stage. Skim any obvious muck.
      c) Refresh it by adding another ½ cup of flour and ½ cup of water and stir. If the volume gets too much for your container, throw some away. Cover the rest and put it back into a warm place.
      d) Repeat the last step for 4 times at 8-12 hour intervals. The starter should be active, and smell wholesome.
      Starters can be kept in a closed jar in the refrigerator for months. They may separate into two layers, but just stir them together before use. They will, of course, keep best if used and refreshed regularly. If the starter seems sluggish, refresh it a couple of times (step c above) before use.
      Starter doesn’t freeze well, but can be dried for a reserve supply. If you need to ship it, make some into a lasagna sheet, or stiff dough.
      For best results always use the same flour, so the bugs can get used to it. Some people keep separate starters for white, rye and for wholemeal (whole wheat). I use white unbleached flour, which has added Vitamin C as an improver. As mentioned above, if your flour does not already have Vitamin C in it, you can add 1/2tsp Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid) but it is not critical.
      Recovering a sick starter
      If your starter smells off (cheesy or of peardrops), or has gone sluggish you can recover it by following the procedure for a new starter above, but inoculate the initial flour and water mix with a tablespoon or two of the old starter.
      Practical Section
      A typical bread-making timetable is
      Day 1:
      09:00: Refresh starter
      - Starter ferments -
      13:00: Make dough
      13:15: Dough kneaded (by hand)
      -Amylisation-
      13:45: Add Salt
      14:00 Finished dough
      - Bulk fermentation-
      16:00: Shape
      -Retard overnight –
      Day 2
      Pre-heat oven, and bake for 40 minutes.
      Ingredients for 1 loaf or four baguettes.
      To refresh the starter:
      1 c sourdough starter
      1 c Strong white bread flour
      1 c water
      For the dough:
      1 c refreshed sourdough starter
      3 c Strong white bread flour.
      1 c water (you may need more -- see below)
      2 tsp salt
      The dough in the illustration is ordinary unbleached supermarket (Tesco) strong white bread flour, 11.7g protein, with ½ cup of spelt flour added for flavour. This supermarket adds Vitamin C and amalyse to their bread flour. Different flours may adsorb different amounts of water. This flour needs a bit more water. The object is to make a very soft dough -- one that has only just stopped being a batter and just holds together.
      Sourdough Bread Instructions
      A. Refresh the Starter
      1. Mix together 1 cup starter, 1 cup strong flour and 1 cup of water. It should be the consistency of very thick cream.

      Starter just mixed.
      3. Cover, and allow to stand in a warm (85F/29C) place for 4 hours.

      Starter after 4 hours.
      After 4 hours or so, it should be bubbly. Temperature is fairly critical, as discussed above. Any hotter than 85F/29C and you start to kill the yeast; any colder and it will not be as sour and will take longer to rise.
      What we are making here is a sponge starter or poolish. Starters (pre-ferments) can be roughly divided by hydration into wet, batter-like pre-ferments, often called poolish from their origin and dry, dough-like pre-ferments, often called biga, as the technique is typical of Italian bread. Some bakers call a poolish a sponge; others use sponge to refer to all pre-ferments.
      B. Make the Dough
      Assemble Ingredients as listed above.

      The storage jar with the rest of the starter is at the back right, ready to go back into the fridge for next time.
      The easiest way is to whizz together refreshed starter, flour and water (but not the salt yet) in a food processor for 20 sec.
      Alternatively mix them in a large bowl:

      Ready to mix

      Dough after mixing.
      Should make a softish dough. The wetter the dough the bigger the holes in the final bread. Different flours need different amounts of water – add more water or flour to get the right consistency. You may need to add up to another ½ cup of flour so that it just stops being a batter and holds together as a dough. On the other hand if it is too stiff then add more water. Plenty of loose flour will stop it sticking too much.
      If you are making the dough by hand then knead for 10 minutes by the clock.

      Be rough with it. Lose your temper with it. Take out your frustrations on it. Slam it about. When it is properly kneaded it should feel resilient to the touch. It has been described as feeling like an earlobe, but I describe it like feeling a soft breast or buttock. You should be able to take a pinch of dough and stretch it so thin you can see through it – called the “windowpane test”.

      When kneaded the dough will stretch without breaking
      You cannot over-knead by hand. It is possible (but quite difficult) to over-knead if you are using a mixer or a food processor, as the dough can get too hot, and if worked too long and hard the gluten will begin to break down.

      Finished Dough
      Gather it together, and wipe a little oil over the surface to stop it sticking, cover it and leave it in a warm place for 30 mins.

      Resting
      This pause, before the salt is added, is for several reasons:
      - It lets the enzymes do their stuff. They begin breaking down starches into sugars to feed the yeast to make a better crust colour. Salt tends to retard this reaction.
      - It lets the dough (and you) rest and relax after the exertions of kneading.
      - It allows the flour to complete its hydration, High levels of salt can interfere with this.
      - It allows time for you to prepare your “banneton” to receive the finished dough. See Preparing Your Banneton below.
      After 30 mins add the salt and whiz for another 20 sec, or knead for another 10 mins. Oil, cover, and leave for 2 hours or so in a warm (85F/29C) place. The exact time is not critical – anything from about 90 minutes to 3 hours will work. Temperature is more critical than time.

      Rested Dough
      The dough will have expanded a bit. Don’t worry about whether it has doubled or not. A lot of nonsense is written in some cookbooks, resulting in much overproved dough. The dough will also have got a bit softer and wetter.
      Turn out onto a floured board.

      Dusting the board with flour
      Now handle gently - don't knock all the air out. The time for rough handling is over. Take the sides and fold to the centre.

      Folding the dough
      Folding the dough like this (you can also fold top to bottom as well) gently stretches the gluten and the bubbles forming in the bread. Dan Lepard's technique for his wonderful bread is to repeat this folding operation every hour for up to 5 hours during an extended bulk fermentation phase, resting the dough between times. When the dough is ready for shaping bubbles are clearly visible if you cut a small slit
      in the top of the dough with a sharp knife.
      Turn the dough over and shape into a ball. As you shape it try and stretch the surface a bit so it is taut.

      Shaping the dough
      Put it upside down (on its stretched, taut surface) into a cloth lined basket (called a banneton). The top of the dough in the banneton will be the bottom of the finished loaf.
      Preparing Your Banneton
      Traditionally, bannetons are made of cane or wicker, lined with linen, but you can improvise from a basin or a basket and a tea-towel or a piece of muslin. Ideally they are porous, so the outside dries slightly to help in crust development.

      Dough in the banneton
      Don’t worry if the top surface of the dough in the banneton is uneven: it will even itself out. Put into the fridge, covered with a cloth, overnight.

      In the fridge
      The dough is soft and needs the support of the basket. You could bake it after letting it rise for a hour or so, but its easier to handle, and gives a better crust if you keep it in the fridge (retardation) for between 8 and 24 hours. The cold will practically stop the fermentation, and so timing is not critical, and it gives you back control in that you can bake the dough when you want, rather than when the fermentation dictates.
      I’m lucky enough to have a brick bread oven that has a brick floor that holds the heat. The shell of this one I imported from France, from a company called Four Grandmere. If you are inspired to build your own, Dan Wing’s and Tom Jaine’s books are given in the references

      My oven

      Inside the oven
      You can approximate a similar environment in a domestic oven by putting a pizza stone or a layer of quarry tiles or engineering bricks on the lowest shelf to provide bottom heat.
      You are aiming for 440F/230C or even 500F/260C, as hot as most domestic ovens can manage. Heat the oven at least an hour before you want to bake to allow time to stabilise, and for the heat to soak into the tiles or equivalent. (If you have a wood fired oven you will need to light the fire about four hours before baking.)

      My oven heating up
      If you have an oven thermometer, check the temperature of the oven. You are strongly advised to do this as oven thermostats are surprisingly inaccurate.

      Thermometer
      When ready to bake, take the dough out of the fridge. Some advise letting the dough return to room temperature --a couple of hours or so, but I find I it better and easier to cook these very soft doughs straight from the fridge. The cold dough is stiffer, handles easier and spreads less.

      The dough from the fridge
      Again, don’t worry that it does not seem to have expanded much. Most of the expansion will be in the oven (called oven-spring). This will result in a lighter and better-shaped loaf than if the expansion is from proofing when some of the gas may leak out.

      When ready to bake, turn the dough out onto a baking sheet and remove the cloth. (For the wood fired oven we use a peel, lightly dusted with dry polenta meal so the dough does not stick.)

      Slash the top firmly with a very sharp knife. Professional bakers use a razor blade on a stick, called a “lame”. Slash quickly and decisively – it is a slash not a cut. Don’t mess the dough about. Spray the knife blade with cooking spray to prevent it from tearing the dough.

      The slashes allow the dough to rise in a defined way, and lessen the resistance to expansion by making weak points in the crust. In ancient times the pattern of slashes identified whose bread it was in the communal oven.
      Here a slightly careless slash has caught the dough on one side, so the finished loaf will be a bit uneven and rustic.

      Into the oven:

      Just loaded:

      20 minutes later, and halfway through the bake. Most of the expansion has happened. Our loaf is the one on the left.

      The pattern on the rye bread on the front right is created by using a banneton made from coiled cane. No cloth is used in that sort of banneton. Bannetons can be obtained from any good baking supplier. The ones shown come from Four Grandmere and the San Francisco Baking Institute.

      Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until it is a good colour. You might need to rotate it after 30 mins.
      Let the bread cool to warm before you slice it. Hard to resist the temptation to slice into the loaf too soon, but it needs time to finish cooking and for the structure to firm up as it cools.

      I like an open texture, as it gives more room for the butter. The crust is a little thick as the bread was slightly over baked.

      That completes the basic bread lesson.

      Variations on the basic recipe/technique
      I’d advise practicing plain white bread before trying variations. When you get that right you can get fancier. You might not get it completely to your satisfaction the first time, but as you go on your baking will improve. There are infinite variations possible.
      Crust Variations:
      My brother prefers a flour dusted crust. These were the other loaves in the bake:

      To get this effect, lightly dust the banneton and the top of the dough with flour before putting in the dough.

      The legs in the top of the picture are my sister-in-law, painting the scene. I’m the one sitting down; my brother is loading the oven.

      The dough is slashed in a feather pattern. To achieve this, make alternate slashes from each side of the loaf to just over halfway across. This pattern was tought to us by Ian Duffy, then of the San Fransisco Baking Institute.

      This is a loaf with 25% rye flour.
      For a shiny, thinner crust, put an empty pan in the bottom of the oven and pour a cup of boiling water into it after you have put the bread in the oven (be careful of the hot steam), and shut the door quickly. The idea is to provide a burst of steam, which gelatinises the outside of the dough. Professional ovens have steam injection for this purpose. Alternatively (but not as good) you can paint the bread with water before it goes in the oven, or use a garden sprayer. (Be careful not to get cold water on the oven light or it might shatter.) The baguettes below are made like this.
      Other crust variations you can try:
      Brush with milk or cream
      Brush with egg glaze (egg yolk+milk)
      Toppings (stick on with egg-wash or water):
      Porridge oats (oatmeal)
      Muesli
      Poppy seeds
      Sesame seeds
      Grated cheese


      Flavours and additions
      Add with the salt, but you might want to chop them and then hand-knead them in – the food processor chops them a bit too fine
      Onions (soften in butter first),
      Hazelnuts, walnuts
      Olives,
      Sun-dried tomatoes (oil-packed?)
      Caraway seeds
      Dill weed
      Raisins
      Smarties or M&Ms
      Seeds: Pumpkin, sunflower, sesame
      Flour variants: I’d recommend replacing only 1/3-1/2 of the plain strong white flour with:
      Wholemeal (whole wheat) (will not rise as much)
      Granary (has added malt)
      Rye flour (makes a sticky dough)
      For dark rye add 1 Tbs black treacle (molasses). Some like caraway seeds as well.
      Spelt (ancient wheat) (Poilane is reputed to use 1/5th Spelt. This was the example bread).
      “Mighty White” (steamed, corned grains)
      For a sweet bread: add sugar and butter with the fruit. Saffron for Easter.
      Baguettes
      Baguettes, that typical French loaf, are long thin loaves made with a soft, white dough. Because they are thin, they are baked at a higher temperature but for less time. The dough is delicate, and needs supporting continuously during proof and baking. You can get special pans for this. I’ve now thrown away my tin baguette pans (the ones in these pictures) and instead use a silpat baguette form (from www.demarle.com). You can just see it in the crust variation photo. Much easier and no sticking.
      To Make Baguettes from the Finished Dough
      Divide the dough into four, at the shaping stage:

      Roll and stretch into long cylinders, tucking the end in neatly. Cover, put into a large plastic bag, like a dustbin liner so that they do not dry out too much, and put in the fridge overnight. Next day take them out, and slash the tops.

      Put them in the hottest oven you can, and throw half a cup water into a pan or onto the oven floor. Beware of the hot steam!

      Bake until golden, say 30 mins

      Let cool on a rack. Enjoy with cheese and a glass of wine, or maybe some good soup.

      References
      Dan Lepard Baking with Passion - Dan Lepard - A great book. Website: www.danlepard.com.
      Joe Ortiz The Village Baker ISBN 0-89815-489-8 wonderfully evocative.
      Bread Builders. Hearth loaves and Masonry Ovens - Daniel Wing and Alan Scott. The definitive book on building and using brick bread ovens.
      The Bread Baker's Apprentice - Peter Reinhart
      Breads from the La Brea Bakery - Nancy Silverton
      Elizabeth David English Bread and Yeast Cookery ISBN 0-14-046791 is, like all her books, masterly for its time.
      Tom Jaine, Building a Wood Fired Oven for Bread and Pizza. Prospect Books ISBN 0907325
      Web resources
      www.danlepard.com
      www.fourgrandmere.com (Click on the Union Jack to get the English version).
      www.sfbi.com
      www.demarle.com
      www.sourdoughhome.com
      http://samartha.net
      www.sourdo.com
      www.faqs.org SLKinsey is a contributor- a good resource.
      Post your questions here -->> Q&A
    • By Terrasanct
      Hi all, haven't been here for years, not since about the time Bourdain was stuck in Lebanon.  It's been a while.  But I knew it was the best place to ask a food question.  On a trip to Seattle a year or so ago, we stopped at the Starbucks reserve at the headquarters.  They sell Princi baked goods.  There were so many things I couldn't figure out what to get, so I got a big round loaf of bread and a package of three huge crackers.  The crackers were just so good, and we've been getting them on every trip.  Since the apocalypse and everything, no traveling and lots of baking.  I ordered some overpriced semolina, thinking those huge crackers must be semolina based.  The crackers I baked were very good, but not quite the quality I was hoping for.
       
      So here are the things I could do differently--I only have regular olive oil right now, not extra virgin.  That might make a difference in the richness. The recipe calls for half semolina, maybe a higher percentage would be better?  I was able to roll out really thin, so that's not a problem.
       
      If anyone is familiar with those crackers and how they are made, I'd appreciate it.  Maybe I'll stick around this time.
    • By JoNorvelleWalker
      Ankarsrum, the Swedish mixer of many names: Electrolux Assistent, DLX, Verona, Magic Mill...
       

       
       
      I understand a few eGullet folks have these, or have had.  Mine came this afternoon.  From what I've read, mixing procedure with the Ankarsrum is different from mixing with planetary stand mixers.  At the moment I need advice specifically with whether I should use the dough hook (with or without the scraper arm) or the roller attachment for my bread.
       
      The Ankarsrum manual says to use the dough hook for dough with between 1 and 1.5 liters of liquid ingredients.  OK.  My usual dough recipe uses 410 g of water.  Rose Levy Beranbaum in The Bread Bible says to use the dough hook when mixing less than 4 pounds of dough.  Which if my math is correct is about 750 g of water (math is not my thing).  Beranbaum adds "For larger amounts, use the roller and scraper."
       
      Yet most bread recipes in the Ankarsrum recipe booklet that call for the dough hook use about a liter of liquid.  The recipes that call for the roller use less liquid, 400-600 ml.  Beranbaum is usually right but I'm wondering if she's wrong?
       
      Thoughts or suggestions?
       
       
      P.S.  Sparkling Gold was not my first color choice.  Sparkling Gold was perhaps not my thirteenth color choice.  But Sparkling Gold was 10 percent off.  Besides, the gold color matches the gold lettering on the bowl and dials.  Now I feel better.
       
       
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