Tuesday, March 22, 2016

7 Days and 7 Minutes Rye Bread

It is common for people to focus on the slips and stings of life’s journey but I prefer to ponder the diamonds and jewels collected along the way. One such for me has been a chance encounter about 6 years ago that resulted in what is now my passion for sourdough bread.

I have never eaten a lot of bread and still don’t but I learned what good bread was as a child, when my mother started making organic, wholemeal bread with fresh yeast. Sunday night tea was invariably left-over roast chicken with salad and a slice or two of her excellent bread, with lashings of butter, followed by fruit salad and ice cream. Only on Sundays did we eat in front of the TV because we all loved watching Young Talent Time!

How another 45 years slipped by without me discovering the joys of making sourdough bread is a mystery but I now rarely eat any but my own sourdough breads. I must say, though, that when I visit my 93 year old mother I do still love eating her freshly made, wholemeal, fresh yeast bread.

I run workshops about the sourdough method I use and those workshops have helped support me these last 5 years. In fact, if I could find a way to run more of them, I could happily give up various other parts of my work as I love giving the workshops as much as the participants love receiving them.

I describe my sourdough method as an easy, foolproof way to make nutritious, delicious bread. So it continues to amaze me that so many books are written about sourdough baking, and many of them very complicated, because sourdough is an ancient creation and is incredibly simple and natural. Most books have recipes that add all manner of ingredients to the basic loaf which all sound fabulous but which I find detract from the taste of a truly excellent sourdough flavour.

There is one book I do love: The Handmade Loaf by Dan Lepard. It is the story of Dan’s travels through Europe, Ireland, Scandinavia, Russia and more, recounting the villagers, grain farmers, wine makers, bakers, millers and grandmothers who have made sourdough bread using whatever grew in their climate and was available cheaply, since the dawn of time. It is a treasure of innovation and history and teaches you that fermentation has been harnessed by mankind throughout human history and, really, almost anything will ferment and some of the leftovers from other products (like grape skins from wine making) make exceptionally good bread ingredients.

He does not use exactly my method but the recipes are easily adapted. One of my favourites is a combination of two of Dan’s discoveries, reworked by me to include sprouted, rather than cooked, rye grains as a substantial part of the loaf. I call it “7 days and 7 minutes rye bread” because it takes 7 days from the minute you decide to make it, until you can actually eat it, but it only takes 7 minutes of your time in total!

7 Days and 7 Minutes Rye Bread

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Day 1: weigh out 300g of organic rye grains. Put into a bowl, cover well with water and leave overnight.

Day 2: Strain off water. Place the rye grains into a damp calico bag and tie that to a wooden spoon over a deep enough bowl that it hangs without touching the bottom.

Day 3: Fill the bowl with water and let the bag of rye grains soak for 30 minutes. Put the timer on because you don’t want to kill the rye grains by drowning them! Tip the water out and let them hang again.

Day 4: Open the bag. The rye grains will probably be just sprouting. If not then repeat day 3. Once they are just sprouting, remove from the bag, put into a sieve and wash well. Put them back into the bowl and pour over 250ml white wine. Stir and leave all day.

Meanwhile you need to feed the rye sourdough starter twice during this day so you are ready to make the loaf in the evening.

To make the loaf (evening of day 4):

Strain the wine from the rye grains and save both! Beat together 200g starter +the strained wine + water to make up to 150g. Mix in 400g of the rye grains (save the rest, about 1/2 cup, to put in a soup / stew / another loaf of bread).

In another bowl mix 250g organic, wholemeal rye flour + 1 tsp salt. Stir in the contents of the first bowl. It will be a sticky dough. Rye has very little gluten so there is no need to do 2 risings. Simply grease a small loaf tin and dust it with rye flour. (I use a loaf tin that will fit inside my cast iron pot for easy baking.) Press the dough gently into the tin and make an even top. Cover lightly and leave at room temperature for 15 hours….

Day 5: Heat the cast iron pot for 30 minutes at 240C. Bake the loaf as normal…. 35 minutes with the lid on at 240C then 15 minutes with the lid off at 180C. Remove from the oven but put the lid back on and allow it to cool all day in the pot.

Evening of day 5: Remove it from the pot and the tin. At this point it will be sticky and damp underneath. Don’t worry! I wrap it in a beeswax cloth, but Dan says put the loaf in a lightly oiled, brown paper bag.

Day 6: Do nothing! Do not eat it yet!

Day 7: Ok, now you may have a slice for lunch. If it is still a little damp, wait until day 8. It will be fabulous and you will be starting on the next 7 days and 7 minutes rye bread process.

Now, if we all took 7 days to make our own bread, instead of buying bread, we’d all be healthier and happier! This recipe is dedicated to Jan Howard, who kindly showed me how to make sourdough bread back in 2010 when I first moved to Tasmania and who is originally from San Francisco and told me about Tartine.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Sam’s Cafe, Tiburon

One fine Monday holiday morning Alex and I took the ferry from San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf to Sam’s Cafe at Tiburon, another place Alex likes to ride to for brunch sometimes.

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We stepped ashore after a glorious ferry trip across the bay, past the Golden Gate Bridge, in brilliant sunshine. There were lots of people getting off with their bicycles and plenty more seemed drawn to the various, prominent cafes. I followed Alex past them all, turning left at the main street and in through a door to what looked like a small bar, with no view of the harbour. However, beyond the bar and past the indoor tables we walked, out through another door, along a short bridge to a huge deck, entirely covered with tables and people already enjoying coffee and food aplenty. Since this was the only way to get to this deck, I was amazed that all these people knew it was there! Although, if your yacht was moored at Tiburon, you’d see it alright.

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Strangely, there were no umbrellas and no shade of any sort. Luckily, Alex had booked a table and we sat down to look at the menu in the pleasant sunshine.

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The menu seemed very unusual and most interesting. I mean, I have never heard of a crab and shrimp omelette, never mind it being served with a choice of potatoes or fruit. I didin’t know what Hangtown meant and what does “Eggs any style” mean??

Then things got even more interesting! Ok, so now there was Korean kimchi with scrambled eggs and rice….. and roasted poblano…. what’s that? Huevos Rancheros, I was lost with that one but black beans seemed an odd thing to put with cheese, salsa and scrambled eggs!

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I went with the one I found most unusual, Roasted Poblano and Alex had the crab and shrimp omelette. The coffee was not espresso but drip filter and topped up endlessly. Everything was beautifully and freshly cooked. I was part way through the delicious scrambled eggs with tomatillo salsa folded through and fetta on top, when I discovered a large, roasted, green capsicum underneath. “Ahhhhh” we both said, “that must be what roasted poblano means!”

Alex’s omelette was packed full of crab meat and shrimps; possibly the best omelette ever. My plate had a piece of folded bread….. like a cross between a pancake and a flat bread, which I assumed was for scooping up the thick and saucy black beans. Whatever the strange combinations were all about I don’t know, but it was all thoroughly enjoyable, especially out there on a deck over the water (even though the tide was out), with my fabulous son Alex.

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We walked a few streets of Tiburon, a delightful little town, and came upon this artist doing a wonderful job of capturing the character of the place.

 

We found this incredible spice shop too, where I bought a very solid, very interesting salt and pepper grinder set and a good, southern spice rub, for Hugh.

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Monday, March 14, 2016

Fred’s …………. and Sam’s and Moe’s

Commonly in San Francisco, it seems, eateries are named thus and I ate at three of them. The first was Fred’s Coffee Shop. It was my initiation day to the highways of San Francisco with son Alex and daughter-in-law Jing and I was ushered into the front passenger seat to enjoy the views and converse with Alex, the driver. I found conversing calmly, whilst going on the opposite side of the road than I am used to, at 65 miles an hour, on a 5 lane highway, with hundreds of other cars at close proximity, difficult. Moreover, at times there were highways crossing above and below us and there were exits to navigate from time to time, which Alex did expertly, using google maps on his smart phone, safely secured to the windscreen. You see, where I live, things are slower, the traffic is w-a-y less and roads are called highways when they have 2 or even 1 lane!

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On the outskirts of Sausalito we parked the car and I was relieved to be on my feet. I wondered why there was a crowd of people on the footpath in front of Fred’s Coffee Shop and soon discovered that by 10am on a weekend, the place was full and there was a waiting list. Oh lalalala, I was learning fast about life in San Francisco. I noticed, while we stood waiting for an outside table, that I was the oldest person there. Nice; I love being amongst people younger than myself and do get frustrated that where I live this is so often not the case.

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After about half an hour we had a table and I quickly chose from the extensive, double sided, breakfast menu….. Swedish pancakes with fried banana, candied walnuts AND berries (the menu said OR) plus a latte.

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The latte was HUGE but really excellent, as was the plate of pancakes. Did I eat and drink all that! YES! No wonder Fred’s was the place to be on a Saturday morning. Alex and Jing often ride there on their push bikes and avoid the highways, taking a scenic route through the giant redwood forests.

The whole 2 weeks I was in San Francisco, I did not find as good a coffee as this until I went to Tartine on my last day. One day I even caught the ferry back to Sausalito and walked and walked to get to Fred’s Coffee Shop but I did not realise it closed at 2.30pm and I missed it because I had spent the day wandering the beautiful back streets, beforehand.

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At the end of our day, we headed home….. with thousands of other people, at times almost coming to a standstill!

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Saturday, March 5, 2016

Cocoa and sugar

I thought I knew a thing or two about good chocolate. I have always been quite a chocolate snob; I will not touch milk chocolate or “white” chocolate, instead opting only for dark, strong chocolate, and none of those highly decorated but tasteless chocolates so many small producers make.
One day in San Francisco Alex and I were walking the streets and needed to find a toilet. We came across a likely looking cafe so decided we’d have a coffee and use the loo, if they had one. I sat at a table, while Alex went and looked for the bathrooms. While I sat there, I read a leaflet on the table and realised we were in a chocolate factory, called Dandelion.
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Dandelion Chocolate is a bean-to-bar chocolate factory in the Mission District of San Francisco, just down the road from Tartine, the famous sourdough bakery we had failed to get into because of the queue. The info said “….we roast, crack, sort, winnow, grind, conch, and temper small batches of beans and then mold and package each bar by hand. By sourcing high quality beans and carefully crafting tiny batches, we try to bring out the individual flavors and nuances of each bean.” “Cool, lets see how good they really are!” I said to Alex, thinking I knew about chocolate. So off he went and ordered hot chocolates and a little treat.
Well, there were several hot chocolates to choose from and whichever Alex chose was simply the best I had ever had, by a million miles! For our treat, Alex chose 3 miniature brownies on a card which explained that each was made with the same ingredients, just using chocolate made from different beans. We cut them in halves. I started at one end and Alex at the other. One bite in and we both exclaimed “wow….. incredible!” Then to the middle brownie…. and ohhhh so remarkably different but equally as good. The third brought the same response. I realised that these people knew more about chocolate than I thought possible.

I went over to their display and read about what they do. They take so much care to choose ethically too. (You can find it all on their website). Hugh makes great brownies, fabulous brownies, but clearly the way the chocolate is made and where it comes from makes fabulous brownies into stellar ones so I bought two little bars of chocolate to bring home for Hugh and I to share and compare.
Dandelion bars only have 2 ingredients, cocoa and sugar; nothing else. The bars are both incredible but so different….. and the only difference is the cacao beans. Each night I have one tiny piece. It is all you need as the flavour lingers on and on.

If ever you are in San Francisco, you must go to Dandelion.