My yeast experiments

April 9

For about a year now I have been trying to brew beer. I’ve been moderately successful, but nowhere near what many homebrewers are.

As always I am playing with my food, wondering ‘what if’. This is one of those process blogs which hopefully will get updated on a daily basis over the course of these experiments.

I am trying to answer the question of how can I best propagate and refresh beer yeast.

I am sure it can be done, after all brewers have been brewing beer for millennia and most of that time they did not even know there was this thing called yeast until Louis Pasteur figured it all out.

Here is the problem with yeast and beer. The yeast consumes the sugars, giving alcohol as a byproduct. The trouble is, alcohol kills yeast. So the yeast in one’s trub is, I understand, pretty degraded. For this reason – I believe – the conventional wisdom among brewers is not to reuse your yeast more than 3 times. But, I’m telling myself, that can’t be quite right, as farmers and brewers brewed for centuries without the luxury of a local brew store and yeast makers like White Labs, Wyeyeast and the like. Now on the other hand their beers could all have been like my last batch which fell from 1.065 and stalled out at 1.030. So maybe bad attenuation was the norm.

What I have read is that to propagate and refresh yeast, you should use a weak wort – about 1.030-1.040. This is 1 part dry malt extract (DME) to 10 parts water by weight. I also understand that the optimal amount of yeast slurry is likewise about 1 part slurry to 10 parts wort.

On the bread side of things – we know that bakers and brewers have co-existed and worked with each other for millennia. That is pretty obvious. They both are in the business of propagating yeast and making things from it. In one case, the yeast is nourished by the grain, the other it is nourished by the byproduct of the grain – the barley malt.

So this has led me to trying out a couple of experiments.

Experiment 1: yeast starter from Trub

April 7-8th

In this case I want to find the optimal time and conditions for propagating beer yeast using old trub that has been refrigerated since bottling a few days earlier. My cylinder holds 180ml of liquid and the hydrometer. I’ve combined 17g slurry, 17g DME, and 170g reverse osmosis water, thoroughly mixed and poured into a graduated cylinder with my hydrometer in it at 6AM – 21C. It registered 1.032. During the day there was clear fermentation, but I could not call it vigorous. It probably reached its peak by late evening (15 hours) and by the next morning (6AM) it was down to 1.010. So it would appear that between 15-18 hours is an optimal time – but I need to try it a couple of other times.

The next morning I took 17g of this slurry, 17g of DME 170g of H2O stirred, and repeated. That one is still ongoing. 12 hours on it has slowed up.

Experiment 2: bread starter

April 8

The extra slurry got me thinking about bread starter. What if I used that slurry to propagate a bread starter the same way I would my usual starter. The difference would be that it would not have the time to begin developing lactic acid bacteria. But might it be more effective at restoring yeast strength than my wort?? So: 100g of that 1st night slurry and 60g whole wheat flour. It really took off and was bubbling away within an hour. (Lag time? What’s that? ) I decided to let it go for a couple of hours. Then my next step: to use this as a slurry instead of the trub from the beer. This was set up at noon, its now 5PM and it appears to be going strong, though the hydrometer is still reading 1.030. I’ll monitor it through the evening. This setup had 17g of the 166% starter, 17g DME, 170g H20

Experiment 3

Onto the bread: (April 8)

I still had about 50g of the first nights slurry left over after experiment 2. . What to do with it? What about bread? So: I mixed up a white baguette dough – 80% hydration, (300g AP flour, 50g slurry and 190g water, 6 g salt. It too has been fermenting nicely. After 6 hours I poured it (well – it was the best it would handle!) in a baguette liner and stuck it in the fridge. I can tell it’s going to be quite chewy. (PS: It was indeed chewy. It had a fairly tight crumb, and was not quite as flavorful as sourdough. )

This experiment goes to show that with a little yeast of any kind you can do things with. You just need to make sure your flour is weighed, the salt comes in at 2% and you are specific in your hydration. I tend to go with multiples of 100g as this becomes easy to sort out the salt and liquid. A 300g flour at 70% hydration therefore needs 6g of salt and 210ml (g) of water. Using a slurry like this means that it needs to be calculated as part of the water.

Experiment 4: Yeast starter from the bread starter

April 8

Since the bread starter (experiment 2) was so resoundingly fast acting, I wondered about turning it back and using it to propogate a beer starter.

April 8, noon

So following my now usual ratios, I took 17g of this very active starter, mixed it with 17g DME and 170g H2O. I used my hydrometer cylinder and hydrometer to check on its progress. It started at 1.030.

April 8: 8PM

WTF!!! The hydrometer reading is at 1.040. What happened?

April 9 9:00AM

Its still active, reading at 1.020. I’ve also refreshed my sourdough starter, and thinking of using some of this starter to do sourbeer as it will have the lactic acid bacteria going strong. I’m thinking of doing a second gallon of beer using the flour starter from Experiment 4.

Time to make some beer….

2 PM April 9

I refreshed my 2 little experiments – the one using only the trub, and the one that had had the flour as food as well. In both these cases, I used 200g H2O, 20g starter and 20g DME. Both have started at 1.030. My plan is to brew 2 gallons, but pitch one gallon with one yeast and 1 gallon with the other.

April 10th

Brew day! Somehow I messed things up but it should turn out ok in the end. I added too much water. I needed to add a bunch of malt extract to bring things to an acceptable og (1.062 when all is said and done). But it worked out as I have enough wort for 3 x 3 litre jugs. The third will be pitched with safale 04 as a kind of control sample.  I pitched all 200g of the refreshed starter from the 2 experiments, and 20% of the Safale04 yeast which is normally intended for a 5 gallon brew (yes I hydrated it for about 30 minutes in 50ml of RO water). I also added 4g of yeast nutrient to each batch. All is good.

April 11

20 hours after pitching, all 3 jugs are actively fermenting. The two which used the old trub refreshed a couple of times are significantly more active than the Safale04 control sample. This is very hopeful because I would dearly love to be able to keep developing my own yeast for beer in the way I do for bread.

April 23 Fermentation is done!

My experiment 2 jug comes in at 1.012 YAAAY!  (6.65%)

This is the one where I added flour to the starter and let that develop

My experiment 1 jug came in at 1.018. Respectable. Better than stalling out in the mid 20’s. (5.85%)

My ‘control’ jug with safale04 yeast comes in at 1.020. (5.58%)

I have not yet bottled them  – that will come likely tomorrow.

Generally they all taste the same – a decent ale – nothing to be ashamed about.

Some tentative conclusions:

It would appear that the addition of flour to the trub and allowing it to ferment in the same way one would do with sourdough has strengthened the yeast. It is worth pursuing this more.

It would also seem that refreshing the yeast with successive fresh wort, leaving it a day between each one also makes for a stronger yeast than the basic dry yeast.

Further explorations and questions:

  1. I need to explore 2 ways of working with the flour: The variable is the point at which the flour is introduced.
    • refresh trub with wort once, refresh that with flour, refresh a third time with wort
    • begin the trub refresh with flour and then a second and third time with wort.
  2. I still want to work more with refreshing the trub with wort. I have 2 main questions here:
    • What is the optimum number of times to refresh before I hit the law of diminishing returns?
    • How much should I pitch? Which gets at one of the biggest questions: What’s really my cell count?

 

 

Sourdough Bagels

Imagine: Fresh tangy  bagels right out of the oven for breakfast. Ones made by YOU. 

Sounds great?   You can do this and it’s not that hard.

This blog tells you how – and in particular bagels of the sourdough persuasion.

There are a few sites that will teach you about making bagels, but they are usually done by professional bakers, thinking of larger scale production. They also are yeast based.

I’m a home baker, not making any more than between 4-6 at a time. This is important as I am interested in both freshness and efficiencies of both time and ingredients. And sourdough is my baking medium of choice.

This blog is  associated with some of my other blogs on sourdough:

 but bagels are a particular kind of baking process that requires a different treatment.

There is one really excellent instructional video you really ought to view before doing your own – Breadtopia’s bagel video http://breadtopia.com/how-to-make-bagels/ This one is a yeast based recipe, is considerably bigger scale, and with respect to the water in the oven, a tad complex for my liking. But its the one that made the most sense to me when I was developing my own technique.

Sourdough bagels can either take a really long time to pull together, or they can be relatively fast. The relatively fast version means that you already have a bag of dough ready to go in the fridge. The slow version means you begin with a starter, refresh, refresh again, make a bulk dough, THEN put the bagels together. I will describe both, beginning with the fast version.

The Fast Version

To do this version, you need to have at least a .5k or 1lb of sourdough bulk rise dough in the fridge.  Check out my Making sourdough easy and ‘just in time’ blog for the backgrounder on how you can set up a truly efficient sourdough regime. 

The night before  (best done when preparing dinner.)

Time : about 20 minutes

You need

  • Bulk rise dough
  • Weigh scale
  • Parchment paper
  • Plate or baking tray
  • Wet (rinsed wet) cloth
  • cornmeal
  • Dry malt extract or sugar

Instructions

  1. Check your dough’s hydration. You should already know this. Bagels require a 60% hydration. If your dough is different than that you can use my hydration change calculator to make the adjustment. If this is still a tad confusing and you just want to get on with it, bagels need a stiff dough – however you get there. 
  2. Assuming 110g or 1/4lb per bagel, take out the dough needed to make the number of bagels you want.
  3. Also add some sugar. This can be in the form of regular sugar, or dry malt extract. For these small batches I add about a tablespoon or so. The sugar encourages more yeast action in the bagels. Maple syrup or honey can also be used but if you do, you have to treat them as liquid and add flour to keep the hydration at 60%. For our small batch I would suggest 30g honey/maple syrup and 50g flour.  Knead the dough, the sugar and (if needed) extra flour or water until it is a well kneaded ball.
  4. Separate the dough into balls of dough – one per bagel. Weigh them so they are all the same weight. Vigorously knead and roll the dough as you would plasticine to make each dough ball into a long sausage shape. [photo showing the rolling and twisting] 
    Bagels can be anywhere from 100g to 150g

      Bagels can be anywhere from 100g to 150g

    Bagels rolled and twisted in a sausage shape

    Bagels rolled and twisted in a sausage shape

    bagels-6

  5. Twist the sausage shape working to stretch the gluten in the dough as much as possible. Form it into the classic bagel shape crimping the ends together.
  6. Prepare a parchment paper with a thin layer of corn flour, place the bagels on the flour, leaving lots of space between them. Cover with a damp towel and put into the fridge overnight. [photo of bagels ready for the fridge]

    Bagels ready to go in the fridge (with a wet towel of course)

    Bagels ready to go in the fridge (with a wet towel of course)

In the morning…

Time: 40 minutes in all, 10 minutes of active work

You need:

  • Cornmeal
  • Baking soda and sugar
  • Baking stone
  • Widest frying pan you have, but should be at least 2” deep
  • A slotted spoon
  • A tablespoon measure
  • Pizza peel
  • Parchment paper
  • Bagel toppings (egg wash, poppy seed, sesame seed, flax, other grains and nuts….)

bagels-12

 

Instructions

  1. Make sure you have a baking stone in the oven, more or less in the middle, and enough space below to fit the frying pan with water. Turn the stove on to 480F/250C.
  2. Using the widest frying pan you have, fill it ¾ full of water, add 1 tsp of baking powder, 1 tbs sugar (or if you have it, dry malt extract) and set to boil, lid on. Your timing on these two items depends on how fast your stove and your heating element heat up. Ideally the oven should reach 480F about the time the water is boiling on the stove. What you are trying to avoid is having the bagels ready to go into the oven before it is properly heated. 
  3. Remove the bagels from the fridge and place them next to your frying pan of boiling water. Gently make any final shape adjustments you want (bigger/smaller hole, rounder etc.) 
  4. When the water is at a rolling boil, place the bagels in it. You should be able to place between 4-6 bagels in a 12” skillet. It will initially go off the boil with the fridge cold bagels. Once it comes back to boiling, boil the bagels on one side for 30 seconds at least . Sometimes the bagels stick to the bottom  – if so gently pry them up about 10 or so seconds into this first boil. They should rise to the top once they expand and they must do this before they are turned. It’s important to note that most of their rising occurs in the boiling.  After 30 seconds, flip the bagels with the slotted spoon and continue to boil for another 30 seconds. 20161103_061600
  5. While the boiling is happening, sprinkle more cornmeal on the parchment paper (or you can use new parchment paper if you like) and prepare the toppings and a spoon.
  6. Working quickly, remove the bagels from the pan and place them on the cornmeal parchment paper.
  7. Using a spoon, sprinkle toppings as desired 20161103_061721
  8. Put the frying pan of nearly boiling water in the oven under the baking stone 20161103_061816
  9. Using a pizza peel, slide the parchment paper with the bagels into the oven [photo of bagels ready to go into the oven]
  10. Turn heat down to 450F/233C (it will likely be at that once the water and bagels have  gone in) and bake for 20 minutes. 
  11. Remove and place in a basket – parchment paper and all. 
  12. Enjoy! (and don’t forget to remove the pan from the oven too.)

20161103_064041

So that was the short version: about 20 minutes in the evening and about 45 minutes the next morning. Here’s the longer version for a 6 bagel batch. I use organic whole wheat flour for the starter and a combination of all purpose organic and red fife flour for my dough.

The LONG Version

24 hours ahead (morning)

The timings for these risings are a little shorter than what I would usually do, and the compensation is rising them in a warm location. Alternately you could do the first refresh the night before (2 nights before the bagels are made), plan on about 8 hours per rising, and in a cooler environment of 20C/68F

  1. Refresh 100g of starter with 100g water and 60g flour, and let it develop for 6  hours at a warmish room temperature around 24C/75F (e.g. 6AM-12 PM)
  2. Refresh this starter again with 250g water and 150g flour, letting it develop for 6 hours. (e.g. 12PM-5PM)
  3. Prepare a bulk dough with 120g of this starter, 360g flour, 170g water, and 8g salt.
  4. Let rise for a further 5  hours or so before proceeding to ‘the shorter version’.

The following table shows how you would manage things beginning 36 hours ahead or 24 hours ahead.

Step 20C/68F 24C/75F
  1. First refresh
10 PM (36 hours before) 6AM (24 hrs before)
2. 2nd starter refresh 6 AM (24 hours before) 12PM
3. Bulk dough 2PM 5-6PM
4. Shaping into bagels/refrigerating 8PM 10-11PM
5. Boiling 6AM 6AM

As you can see this is a day long project and a lot of attention to time, detail, and being available all to get only 6 bagels. It’s not even ideal, as it really is best to prepare the bagels around dinner time the night before. To accommodate this you would need to begin your starter refresh in the middle of the night.  That’s why I prefer to do the shorter version  – but you would need to be doing what I note in my “Making sourdough easy and ‘just in time’ “ blog.

More fun with Sourdough: Party Bites

It’s been a while since I last did a blog.  I’ve been pretty busy with an online course I’m teaching.

This blog is about finger foods and neat things you can do with sourdough. It started a couple of days ago with a request. My son attends a program with other adults who have quite complex needs and they’re having a Christmas party. I was asked to supply some of the food and the criteria set for me what was that it needed to be

  • delicious
  • easy to eat finger food: something you can pop in your mouth.
  • soft
  • healthy
20151217_072639

The finished bites. This quantity uses about 700g of flour and about a litre of filling.

So I was wondering what to do. I had an idea of people being able to pop something fairly small into one’s mouth. I thought about using bread dough to surround a filling  – sort of like an oven baked sandwich.  Like Tim Hortons Timbits except healthier. A further criteria  I also added was that I didn’t want it to be greasy: when it was picked up and eaten hands would remain clean.

I figured that if I rolled out a 66% hydration dough (your average bread dough) to about a quarter inch or so, trimmed to an even rectangle, about 12”/30cm x 4”/10cm that would be a good start.

I then brushed on melted butter (you need a fat hit in this kind of thing – but not too much). Next I added about half a teaspoon of  filling, and wrapped it up so the filling is entirely cased in dough.

It went as I had envisaged and I’m very pleased with the results.

The two fillings I used in this particular case were a vegan ricotta analog:  a block of tofu, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, pepper, and parsley. It’s what I used for my  cheeseless vegan lasagna.  The other filling I made was a mix of diced red pepper and chicken burger from  chicken burgers I made  recently. But really, you can add any filling you want.

20151216_134011

Ingredients for the vegan ricotta analog

This is a food in the same tradition as filled pastries and croissants,  somosas, calzones, ravioli, patties, pasties – even arguably fritters – except that instead of being several bites big, its one  – at the most 2 -bites big. And unlike its culinary siblings, using a bread dough means its clean to the touch and contains a lot less fat, though just enough to make the taste amazing.

Assuming you bake bread, I’ll take the directions from the point where you have a dough that is  bulk risen and ready for its final rise. For the quantities you see in these pictures, I started with about 700g of flour.

  1. Heat oven to 450F
  2. Roll out first rise completed  bread  dough to about ¼” thick and trim it with a pizza cutter to yield rectangular shapes 4” or 10cm wide  20151217_055319
  3. Melt about 20-30g butter
  4. Brush the melted butter on the rectangles
  5. Spoon ½ tsp  blobs of your desired filling  along the length of the rectangular dough leaving a small space between each one  – just like making ravioli. 
  6. Fold the  half of the rectangle with no filling over the filling.
  7. Cut  between the folds with the pizza cutter and begin to crimp and work on the on the ball to make it as smoothly round as possible, with all the filling encased. The more accurate  the better.
  8. Bake on a baking tray with parchment paper or a silpat liner for about 11 minutes at 450F. They should be browned on the bottom and gently puffed out.20151217_062536
  9. A note on the filling: if you are using meat, it can go in raw as you will be baking it to about 200 degrees F. The fat drippings from it will infuse into the cooking dough, making the end result wonderfully comforting and filling.
  10. Don’t be tempted to brush some butter on the top  unless you  want it obviously greasy.  
  11. Cool and serve.

If you like the look of these, I’d be really interested in what you decide to use as a filling. Please jump to the Replies and share your ideas.

Fun stuff to do with sourdough

Fresh herbs and slices of butter leaving room to fold over the dough.

Fresh herbs and slices of butter leaving room to fold over the dough.

A couple of days ago I did my sourdough workshop. It meant I had to prepare a loaf (which was all eaten), a bulk rise, and during the workshop we put together another bulk rise. It meant I had quite a lot of doughy product to sort out after the workshop.
The loaf that had proofed overnight in the fridge after enduring about 3 hours of proofing at room temperature was predictably overproofed. I should not have slashed it. Oh well. Taste was still fine.
What I decided to do with half the dough we put together was to make a BBQ’d herbed tea biscuit (sort of) dinner flatbread.
I took about half the dough (about 400g) which had been refrigerated overnight and had risen slightly & rolled it out on a floured surface until it was about 1/2” thick.
I then went out and cut some fresh oregano, thyme, basil and chives, cut them up and spread them on the dough. Garlic and pepper too.
Next I laid the inside 70% of the surface with generous slices of unsalted butter, and folded the corners and sides over so that no butter was showing.

BBQflatbread (3)

In the middle of folding and rolling. Its important the butter does not squeeze through.

In the middle of folding and rolling. Its important the butter does not squeeze through.

Following the technique used for laminated pastries – puff pastries, croissants and the like, I folded the dough gently in 3, rolled it out gently, being sure to flour it so nothing would stick. I repeated this “fold in 3 then roll out” sequence a number of times – maybe 6-8. Anytime some butter showed up, I slapped a little flour on it.
For the final roll out I left it at approximately ½” or 1.5 cm thick in a somewhat oval shape, on parchment paper, for about an hour.
After an hour, turned on the BBQ, and once hot, I gently turned the dough off the parchment paper and onto the BBQ. I’m afraid the timings here aren’t a fine science: you want to cook it through. This amounts to 2-3 minutes on each side. What happens is the dough cooks, the butter melts and evaporates, infusing into the dough and helping it to rise, as its trapped by the flour layers around it.
It can be served either as a large flatbread, or cut into squares and served as tea biscuits.
What you get is a quite decadent buttery herby dinner flatbread. Yum!

BBQflatbread (1)

image

baguette and pitas about to be baked

The next day…..

But there was another chunk of dough as well, languishing in the fridge. What to do with it? Well I had put on chickpeas to soak – thinking humus and falafel. So what more logical than to do some pita to accompany it. Again I had about 400g of dough to play with. Not enough.
So what I did was to add some more dough – white flour: 400g flour, 240g water, 8g of salt: all ‘baker’s ratio’. I was also a little concerned that the starter would be a little old so I added a pinch – truly no more – of yeast as well. Four hours later and it was nicely risen to become little pitas and a baguette. The dough in the fridge had become a kind of mother dough. Here I wanted something like the choices I get at a sub shop. I added italian herbs, garlic and Asiago cheese on top. For the pitas I wanted fairly thick soft ones that could hold a falafel or other sandwich material.

It all worked out well. The baguette is delish as are the pitas. All this goes to show what kind of flexibility and on the spot creativity you can get with a chunk of old sourdough bulk rise.

Sourdough Bread – simple and delicious!.

Wouldn’t you love to be able to make a beautiful loaf of sourdough bread, but found the prospect  too complex, confusing and time consuming? Wouldn’t it be also great if you could integrate it seamlessly into your already busy life? This blog describes  a process for making sourdough bread that, if you follow it more or less correctly, will yield a rich, complex, nutty, flavourful sourdough each and every time. 

I’m preparing this as an online accompaniment to a sourdough bread workshop I am doing for my food coop. I’d like to see lots more people doing sourdough, and, I’m a teacher by profession. Even though I may be far from an expert on bread, I can at least teach it.

Understanding Sourdough

A basic sourdough loaf begins with 4 elements: starter, flour, water, and salt. That’s what you can see and measure. What you can’t see is the complex microbial community that also lives, grows and changes in it  – until its baked, that is.

The starter starts off as flour and water, but growing in it are important living bacteria species of probiotic  Lactobacillus as well as yeast – Saccharomyces cerevisiae. These microbes are present in the flour to begin with, but need water to activate them. The rise in the sourdough comes from the yeast producing carbon dioxide, as well as evaporating water being trapped in the loaf. Meanwhile, the lactobacillus metabolizes sugar to provide that distinct nutty/tangy flavor.

Since the yeast and bacteria are responsible for all that happens, it’s important to understand life from their point of view.  They  are very simple little one celled organisms and they don’t have a lot of needs. Their main need is food and temperature. In the case of sourdough, their food are the starches and sugars in flour but they need  water to release and activate them. The yeasts and bacteria grow best at different temperatures.  Sourdough yeasts  can grow and develop in a in a wide range of temperatures from 10C to 35C. Their optimum range is between 25-30C When they are baked, they die off after  about 45C degrees. The variety of lactobacillus bacteria present tend to prefer higher temperatures. Most people prefer room temperature as this often provides a good time window for the rising. It also gives the bacteria more time to develop, and thus a more complex, nutty flavour.

In the picture below (left) you can see the  two yeast cells on the left  budding, the one at the bottom has just separated. The picture on the right shows lactobacillus bacteria in their colony.

 Yeast reproducing Lactobacillus

Here’s a video of yeast reproducing.

We can use this information to effectively control our sourdough times, and taste.  For example if we want to have a faster rise it can go on top of the fridge, or in a slightly warmed oven.  If we want it to take longer,   – if we want our bread to rise while we’re away at work for about 9 -12 hours might be an idea to put it in the coolest spot in the basement, or the fridge.

The taste can be manipulated too: leaving it at room temperature and going easy on the refreshing will encourage the lactobaccili bacteria and give a tangier loaf. Likewise, increasing the amount of starter will achieve a similar result.

The starter

The starter is the most important key to great sourdough. Its the home to numerous micro organisms including the  yeast. Its responsible for both the rising and the taste. Through its care, you can manipulate it to achieve different results.

mixing the starter refresh

mixing the starter refresh

Starters can be made easily: 150g (approximately 1 cup) of fresh organic whole wheat flour and 250g pure water (1 cup)  mixed together, in a covered one litre glass jar will at room temperature will start bubbling in  a few days. Note that the flour weight is 60% of the water weight – or to put it the ‘baker’s way – the water is 166% of the flour. But its easier on the mental math to think of the 60% ratio.  Ideally use  organic whole wheat flour and unchlorinated unflouridated water (as these chemicals will kill them). Once it is bubbling, pour off all but 150g of it, and refresh it with 90g flour and 150g of water. Do this one more time after it bubbles up again, let it develop, then refrigerate. This stabilizes the culture and it  should be already for use at that point. Once started and maintained, you should not have to do it again.

Initially its important to see how long your refreshed starter takes to fully bloom. Put a piece of vertical tape on your jar and note the time and temperature of its rise. This will give you vital information about your starter characteristics. In my case, its 8 hours at 22C. What that means is that when I put a new loaf together, it needs to do its bulk rise and proofing all within that 8 hour window. This will assure me of a successful loaf with great oven spring. It also means that I can likely retard the rising to 9-12 hours by keeping the bulk rise conditions at a lower temperature – say 17-18C. On the other hand, the rise will be a lot faster on a humid day in summer. 

Taking care of your starter

Keep your starter in the fridge  – especially if you want sourdough to be reliable and easy to maintain. At this temperature, it remains not quite dormant yet ready for use.  If you keep your starter at room temperature it’s going to be very active until it starts dying off and you will be spending a lot of energy refreshing it. It can remain viable in your fridge for up to a couple of months. Bakers have different ways of managing their starter. Some always keep at least a cup of starter (approximately 250g) available.

I like to keep a little over 100g. When you wish to bake, you must refresh it – an equal weight of water and 60% of the starter weight in flour. With my 100g I refresh it twice: The first time, I add 100g water and 60g flour (=260g). The second time I do 260g of water and 156g of flour. This leaves me with lots of starter to put together a 2800g dough – see my Making Sourdough Easy and just in time blog 

Now consider the food for the starter and think about it from the yeast’s perspective. Let’s say we have 100 grams of starter and you feed this hundred grams of starter 50 grams of flour and 50 grams of water. From their perspective they’re going to look at that and ‘say’ “Seriously like I’m going to finish this in no time flat! I need way more!”

On the other hand if you had only 10 grams of starter and you feed it 200 grams of flour in 200 grams of water it’s going to get really excited: “Wow this is like so much food I just can’t wait to chow down and get into it and reproduce like crazy and move like crazy and make all kinds of carbon dioxide gas.” (which is responsible for the rising and the  holes in your bread).  

So the learning here is:

  • if your starter is getting a little old, use less of it, not more.
  • If your starter is getting a little old, refresh it. The ratio is as follows – by weight: 10 parts starter, 10 parts water, 6 parts flour. My usual go to is 150g starter, 150g water, 90g flour.
  • If you want to use more starter to make a tangier bread, make sure it has been well refreshed and is at its peak of bubbliness. This can be done by refreshing only some of your starter (half cup each of starter, flour and water) and using most of that for your loaf.

The whole rising cycle

This great diagram (below) from http://www.classofoods.com/page1_3.html shows the evolution of the yeast and bacteria in the bread. (You may need to click on the image to see it clearly.) Ideally, you want to do the bulk rise for most of its exponential growth phase, the final rise at nearly the end of that phase, and into the oven as it’s nearing the height of it. This is hard to do – we can’t exactly build in a scale to show how much ‘food’ is left for the yeast –  and it will take practise. If you do not let it fully develop, it is underproofed and will seem gummy. If it’s overproofed, you will not get any oven spring – that magic lifting it undergoes in the oven. It might even fall. With practice, you will get to know your starter, and your local conditions well.

yeast cycle

The lag phase is seen initially in the bulk rise: you look at it and nothing appears to have happened.

In the exponential growth phase it expands. Ideally it should be proofed and baked in this period.

If it reaches its stationary phase or beyond – too late – sorry. Its way overproofed.

Baker’s percentage and Hydration

Baker’s percentage: Usually percentages add up to 100 –  except for bread.  The weight of the flour you use is always 100%. All of the other ingredients are expressed as a percent of the weight of the flour. Thus if you have a loaf that has 1000 grams of flour and you add 20 grams of salt, the baker’s %  would be 2%.  Every single ingredient in your bread can be expressed as a Baker’s Percentage. If this 1000g loaf had 20g salt, 600g water, and 50g starter, the Baker’s Percent for the whole loaf would be 167% (100+60+2+5).

Hydration hydration is the wetness of the dough, the ratio of the flour to the water expressed as a percentage.  It’s the weight of the water divided by the weight of the flour. If you’ve got a 1000g loaf (100%) and you add 600 grams of water (600/1000) =  60% hydration. In the starter, 250g water/150g flour gives a 166% hydration.

Final bread hydration is usually anywhere between 60% to 85%. 85% gives you a very wet dough, but one in which the yeasts will appreciate the extra  water medium.  Even 1% makes difference in hydration. From this discussion it should also be clear that you need to weigh your ingredients, ideally using an accurate scale. My personal go-to ideal hydration for an everyday pan loaf is 66%.

Hydration table

Over the past couple of years my reliance on excel to make sense of the data in my world and my urge to make good bread have resulted in the development of a planning application for any yeasted bakery product. While it will make ready sense to anyone used to Google sheets or Excel, I believe it is friendly to those who are not so comfortable with it.

The worksheet has a variety of tabs along the bottom that correspond to the type of baked good you want to make. The ‘LOG’ tabs enable you to keep track of what you have done, something that is always useful until you really get the hang of it.

Its simple to use: you can only change the yellow cells. Changing these will change the formulas telling you how much flour, water and salt to add. All the other cells are locked, so you can’t destroy it accidentally.

My sense is that if this is a tool you find useful, you will probably want to  download it as an Excel file, or make your own google sheet copy. Downloading to Excel will remove all the cell protection.

Equipment

Beyond some basic kitchen gear such as mixing bowls, spoons, jars, oven mitts and of course a stove, here’s the other gear you need.

Must have’s

  • A scale: good electronic scales are widely available at hardware and kitchen stores. Make sure it can take up to 5kg. Once you start using it you will come to appreciate the consistency it gives you in your cooking.
  • A good breadpan: thick, no rust. Have at least one that is the size of a pan loaf you want to make.
  • 1L glass jar – preferably wide mouth. This is for the starter beast in your fridge.
  • pastry brush: to oil the pan, spread toppings or egg white before baking

Good to have

  • Electronic kitchen thermometer: Until you get completely used to your oven/bread/timings, you need to be sure the baked bread is at least at 190F/88C
  • Pizza stone: It means that the bottom of your pita/pizza/boule/batard hits a very hot surface when it goes in the oven ensuring more even cooking and a great crust on the bottom. The pizza stone must go in before you turn the oven on. 
  • Pizza peel: to move things on and off the pizza stone easily
  • Parchment paper: used under pitas, batards etc. makes their transfer in and out of the oven really easy. It also saves you on the cleanup.
  • Bread scraper: to help with stretch and fold, clean your surface, help your bread out of the pan
  • Water spritzer: Spritzing the loaf after its been in the oven a few minutes helps the crust get nice and crunchy.

Optional

  • Baguette couches to rise and bake baguettes
  • Other bake pan sizes
  • Proofing baskets and cloths: the bread is proofed in these and turned out onto the pizza peel
  • rising bins: These are large plastic bins many pro bakers use for bulk rising a lot of dough.
  • a lame  – an old fashioned razor blade to slash the bread. Sharp knives, serrated knives work well too.

Other foodstuff to consider:

While you can make a very simple bread with only flour, salt, water and starter, you inevitably will want to consider other additions:

  • oil to brush on the pans
  • egg white to brush on top
  • wheat germ, any kind of grain, small seed, sunflower seeds either mixed into the dough during your stretch and fold or as part of the crust
  • herbs/spices/garlic/cheese (as in making a herbed foccacia for dinner)

Doing it!

  1. Refresh the starter you need for your loaves: the amounts of water flour and original starter are built into the hydration table. Do this 6-8 hours ahead of mixing. This will assure you of a well refreshed starter.  Something important to note here is that when you pour out your refreshed starter, weigh it again. The gassing off will have reduced the weight of your starter by about 7-8%.
  2. Plan out what bread(s) you want to make using the hydration table. The same dough can be used to make several different products.
  3. If your starter is highly active and you want more of a sourdough tang, use more starter  – as little as a 3:1 ratio to the flour. If it is a little older, you may want to use less – up to 20:1. Doing this will delay the proofing time.

Mixing

  1. Thoroughly combine and mix flour, water and starter together.
  2. Wait 20 minutes. This wait period is called the autolyse. The flour is hydrated, fermentation begins, the proteins stretch out, the gluten has a chance to begin its development in the absence of salt.  
  3. Add in the salt: 2% of the weight of the flour. The salt is critical to toughen up the dough and slow down the fermentation. Use the calculator as there is also flour in the starter that needs to be taken into account. 
  4. Knead until well combined, put in a bowl with a wet cloth, noting the temperature you are rising it in.

    place back in bowl

    The beginning of the bulk rise

The Bulk Rise (AKA fermentation)

  1. Let it rise until it is almost doubled in size  – but not more. When you gently press it it should indent, not collapse, and slowly spring back. Depending on the temperature, this will take between 3 and 18 hours. At room temperature this will be between 6-9 hours.  Initially you’ll need to explore parts of your own environment to identify ideal times/locations.
  2. You can stretch and fold the dough once or twice in this period. This removes gasses from the dough, allows the yeasts and bacteria to become acquainted with other parts of the colony (and maybe more food) and helps the dough rise evenly.
  3. The dough cannot have finished its full rising at this point, otherwise it will be overproofed by the time it hits the oven.

Shaping the dough and proofing

  1. Remove it from the bowl and knead using the stretch and fold technique.
    Pull

    stretch one corner of the dough…

    and fold back to centre….

  2. Let it rest while you prepare your pan(s) (assuming you are making a couple or more bread products).
  3. If you are making more than one loaf, divide it into however many loaves/pitas/buns etc. then begin a second stretch and fold with each one that culminates in them being in their final shape. Use your scale: loaves and boules are typically 800-1000g, baguettes: 400g, buns and pitas: 100g or so.
  4. Shape your final loaves. Youtube is a great resource for observing specific techniques for specific kinds of breads: Loaf pan, boules and batards, baguettes
  5. You more than likely will want to include crust toppings. Here are some ideas:
    • Its always a good idea to brush on oil if you are using a pan.
    • a variety of grains, nuts, and seeds always go well. They also form an important layer between the bread and the pan to prevent it all sticking. 
    • working garlic, herbs and cheese into a baguette gives an excellent dinner side
    • corn flour or regular flour as a dusting on the top or bottom works well
    • White egg wash will glisten up the top
    • oil or melted butter brushed on the top browns it nicely too. 

      sesame buns on parchment paper

      sesame buns on parchment paper

  6. Slashing is critical: a thin cut on the crust allows the bread to expand well in the oven (oven spring). See either Youtube or this Food 52 entry.
  7. Use parchment paper for anything going on a pizza stone. It makes it so much easier!
  8. Let the bread(s) proof for between 1-2 hours, until they have begun to rise and will slowly spring back after being gently poked.

Baking

  1. bake your loaves using these general guidelines. Finished bread should be between 190 and 205 F:
    • for an 800g loaf – 450F/232C for 12 minutes, 425F/218C for 12 minutes, 400F/204C for 12 minutes
    • For a pan loaf cooked directly from the fridge: 450 for 15 minutes, 425 for 14 minutes, 400 for 13 minutes.
    • Pitas take about 3-4 minutes at 450F/232C, preferably on a baking stone
    • Baguettes and buns take between 12-20 minutes at 450F/232C: the bigger the loaf, the more the time.
    • Due to the fact that your oven drops 30 degrees every time you open the door, I prefer to cook my different kinds of loaves separately, though I sometimes will throw in a baguette when a pan loaf is 1/3 cooked.
  2. Remove from oven and their pans and allow them to cool for at least 30 minutes.

Fitting sourdough into your busy life

Integrating sourdough into a busy working life is perhaps the biggest barrier to starting it in the first place. It appears to be too complex, the timings do not fit in well with your wake/sleep/go to work schedule. I’d argue that this can be worked around if it is truly something you wish to do. Here are some ideas:

  • When beginning it, do your initial tries when you are not going to work. Use the hydration table log to record your changes and observations, and to get a feel for it.
  • Identify some of the following:
    • What time of day do you want it to appear out of the oven? (set this as your goal)
    • When are you not around in your house?
    • When is your usual sleep/wake cycle?
  • Keep in mind:
    • Initial mixing takes about 15 minutes over a half hour period.
    • You do not have to be around for the bulk rise
    • The final proofing will take between 2-3 hours from beginning to the end of baking, of which you will be actively attending to the bread for between 10-30 minutes depending on how much you are baking
    • Consider baking directly from the fridge. In this case the loaf has proofed for 12-24 hours in the fridge and goes directly into the oven. This will cut down on your ‘need to be around while the bread proofs’ time.
    • Think creatively of various places in your house that are either warmer or cooler, ranging from a warmed oven (heat to its lowest temperature, then turn it off) to your fridge. Even within your fridge there will be cooler and warmer areas. Basement floors can be really useful if you are in a house.
    • If you completely blow it and either under or overproof it, and you know it, pitas or pizzas are incredibly forgiving, and you will still be more than appreciated for the result.
  • Make a plan that takes into account the needs of the bread and your own time needs and commitments. Try it out, reflect – talk about it with other bakers either near you or on the forums noted below  – you will find a solution! Here is an example of this kind of plan, for someone who is around in the evening, but at work between 6:30AM and 6:00PM, and given an 8hr starter cycle (which may be different for you).
    • Upon getting home from work, refresh your starter.
    • In the evening, plan the loaf or loaves that will be cooked the following evening,
    • Before hitting the sack, mix the flour, water and refreshed starter. After 20 minutes, add salt, knead for a minute, and refrigerate with a damp cloth over it.
    • First thing in the morning, take it out, do a little bit of stretch and fold, and leave in a place that is not more than about 20C.  Go to work.
    • Return from work; stretch and fold, prepare loaf or loaves, leave them in a nice warm place (if you want hot bread with dinner) to cut down the proofing time to an hour or less. Prepare dinner, finishing with baking your bread.

Resources

I’d like to point out some really important resources: This blog and the workshop I am giving are but door openings into the magical wonderful world of sourdough. There is so much more to know, and to experiment with.

  1. The Fresh Loaf is a really thorough and comprehensive site with its own very interactive discussion forum wrapped into it.
  2. Northwest sourdough is the work of Theresa Greenaway, a West Coast sourdough expert baker. The work I am presenting to you is directly derivative of her work. In her 4 volumes on sourdough she authoritatively covers all the possible uses from breads to quickbreads and cakes. I would  strongly recommend getting all four of her books.
  3. Related to this is the  https://www.facebook.com/groups/perfectsourdough/ which has a faithful following of both expert and newbie bakers.
  4. And another facebook sourdough group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/360136781918/
  5. Wild Yeast is another baking blog focused on sourdough
  6. The Tartine Loaf is legend on the west coast and this you tube shows you how. This loaf was the focus of Michael Pollen’s AIR chapter in Cooked, also an excellent read.
  7. Bread science is expertly covered by Emily Beuhler in her book of the same name.
  8. Check out the Lactic Acid in Sourdough article for a technical but easy to read explanation of the chemistry of it all.
  9. The Clever Carrot is a blog of similar scope to this one – well described.

The ultimate ‘from scratch’ burger

This blog is all about how to make your own homemade burgers. I don’t only mean the meat part. I mean everything that goes into them: the condiments and the buns as well.  Well,  maybe not the cheese, and you may be buying your own tomatoes and onions too. Nor is there a beer recipe for an accompanying brew.  This is  about everything else: the pattie, the bun, the condiments.

I know that can sound a little silly given what most people do:  head down to the store, grab some buns and some patties, cut up a few tomatoes and cheese. Barbeque. Dollop store bought  ketchup, mustard, and relish on them.

This blog is for those who want to kick up their culinary game and  do it all from scratch. So if you crave the adulation of your foodie friends impressed with your culinary DIY wizardry, then read on. In addition to the meat, I’m including a lentil burger recipe for all the wonderful vegans and vegetarians out there. I’m also covering mayo and dijon mustard, as I know lots of you like those on your burgers too.

It may seem quite daunting but really, its not. Everything except the buns are all made ahead of time. I’ve got other blogs where this is all referenced. However, I’m putting up the recipes here so you can stay on this page and make a batch of 6 burgers plus all the trimmings from what’s here and have a great time. You can dig into my other blogs for more details and refinements.  So let’s go into each of these pieces that makes up the quintessential American burger and look at how each one is done.

Before we start… know this…. I use a weigh scale and everything here is expressed in grams….

The buns (2 hours total time, 20 minutes of hands on time)

Let’s start with the buns because the buns are the only thing you need to really think about the day of. After all, if you’re going to all this trouble, why ruin it with buns a day or two old?  I’ll assume that you’re somewhat familiar with baking but if you’re not that’s okay too. I’ll separate this into a note for those of you comfortable with making breads and another for those of you not so familiar: A fail safe bun recipe. The quickie recipe may be a good option for those of you ‘already bakers’ but pressed for time.

You are already a bread baker

Familiar with bread already? Make up your basic bread dough – whether its yeast, sourdough or something hybrid. Prepare your dough as you usually do. When it comes time to shape, cut the dough into 110g or so chunks and let them rest while you get other things ready. Prepare a cookie sheet big enough to handle your buns. Line it with parchment paper or a silpat liner. Pour out a mound of sesame seed on the counter. Gradually press out the burger bun into the sesame seed and gently press them out until they have reached the desired burger shape. Egg white wash is optional, as is a brushing of oil on the top. Cover with a damp cloth until they have risen  – as you would for your usual bread. Bake for 12 minutes at 450 – you may need to adjust this depending on your local situation, but the buns should register beyond 190 degrees when done.

20150622_163149

Baking is new for you

Basic bun recipe: For 6 burgers, and using instant yeast, do as follows: (total time: 2 hrs from “OK lets do this! to “Wow! They look amazing!” ‘Hands on’ time – about 30 minutes )

Ingredients

  • 250 ml tepid or room temperature water
  • 10g instant bread yeast
  • 390g flour
  • 8g salt

Method

  1. Mix 10g instant bread yeast with 250g of tepid water. (You can use a lot less yeast too – like 3g -, and it will yield a more complex and tasty result, and take a lot longer to rise – like 8 or more hours.)
  2. While the yeast begins to develop, mix the dry ingredients: 390g flour (all purpose, whole wheat, a combination – your choice), 7g salt.
  3. Combine the water/yeast with the flour/salt and knead for about 5 minutes. Cover with a damp towel and leave to rise until it is clearly rising. This will be approximately 45  minutes to an hour depending on the room temperature: the warmer the room, the faster the rise.
  4. Gently remove the dough and knead by stretching the dough and folding over itself. (View this video between the 4:50 and 5:30 mark to see the technique) Do this about 2-3 times, until the dough tightens up. Divide the dough into 6 even pieces and let it rest. Prepare a couple of baking sheets: either oil the pan or use parchment paper.
  5. Pour out a generous quantity of sesame seeds or what ever else you want to have appear on the outside of your burger.
  6. For each pattie, do a final stretch and fold, roll into a ball, press into the sesame seeds, gradually working the pattie until it assumes the size and shape of your ideal burger pattie. An egg white wash or brush with oil is optional and will result in a glistening top.  Place on the cookie sheet and cover with a damp towel. Turn on the oven to 450.
  7. Once they are all on the sheet, leave about 20 minutes with a damp towel on top (for this quantity of yeast. If you decided to go with a lot less yeast and a longer rising time, plan on up to an hour).
  8. Bake at 450 for 12 or so minutes. Do check the buns after 10 minutes as the time will change according to both your oven and how many buns you cook at once. They should register at least 190 degrees when done.
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Buns on parchment paper about to go in oven

The burgers (30  minutes if you are using mince; about 60 minutes if you are grinding raw meat yourself)

20150517_173625

The ‘burger factory’

Burgers are  really  sausages without skins. There are a lot of burger recipes out there that involve bread crumbs, flour, eggs and the like, but when you approach it like a sausage you get a really rich tasting and satisfying burger. I follow Michael Rulhman’s sausage recipe in Ratio as a base. If you use my sausage calculator  – see my blog on sausages – you can use it to adjust your ingredients and quantities. Here is a recipe for 6 x 100g patties:

Mix together:

  • 425g mince
  • 65g fat (i.e. total of 980g that is a combination of meat and fat. This can be bacon grease you have saved, chicken fat from soups, suet, even butter or coconut oil, though meat fats are preferable. Keep in mind there will be some fat already in the mince.)
  • 25g very finely diced onion (about a quarter of a small onion)
  • 8g salt
  • 1g (about 1/8 tsp) pepper
  • 13g pressed garlic (about 1 clove. More can be added.)
  • 60g red wine (about ¼  cup). Beer would work too – maybe a nice porter.

Mix thoroughly.

These quantities assume it’s according to taste and preference.  Typically, patties weigh in around 100g  which is slightly less than a quarter pound. But doing it yourself means that you can do whatever you want – though if you make them too thick and big you may have logistical issues with your bun, and risk them being uncooked on the inside and charred on the outside. I probably wouldn’t go less than 90g nor more than 150g. That all said, a 50g pattie makes a great breakfast sandwich slider, with eggs and cheese.

If you wish to get more creative or change up quantities, check out my sausage calculator

To freeze, shape the mix into patties, individually wrap in wax paper, put in freezer bag and then into the freezer. To defreeze, microwave to raw (1 minute for 1st pattie, 20-30 secs for each additional pattie,  spread out on a plate). AAAND they’re ready for the  bbq.

To serve fresh, cover and refrigerate until needed.

Lentil Burgers (about 1 hr, 40 minutes hands on)

For all the vegans in the crowd, my lentil burger recipe. This is based on a Chef Michael Smith recipe I have messed with, but its definitely different enough for me to call it my own.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup lentils
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • hot sauce/pepper/ to taste
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • optional: salsa to taste
  • Method
  1. cook lentils with 2 cups of water and a little salt
  2. cut and dice onion, saute in oil with a little salt and the herbs/spices
  3. grate 1 large carrot
  4. combine cooked lentils with carrots and onions and simmer, boiling down the extra liquid
  5. add other ingredients and keep simmering until oats have disintegrated and the mix is getting thick and sticky. ALWAYS keep stirring to prevent burning. The idea is to achieve the thick stickiness needed to hold the pattie together when cooking.
  6. shape into patties and refrigerate or freeze, or leave as a mix and form into patties right before cooking.

Freezing tip for burgers  – and anything else like this:

You know how frustrating it is to extract just one frozen pattie, or piece of fish, or bun or what have you from the package in the freezer? Here’s how to avoid that. Spread the wrapped  patties on a baking sheet and put that in the freezer for an hour, then bag them in sealed plastic bags. They will freeze in such a way that they will not stick together when you retrieve them.

Tomato ketchup (20 minutes)

Tomato ketchup is pretty easy.  It’s essentially tomato paste + vinegars, salts, sugars and flavorings. I usually make a batch of green tomato chutney each year, at the height of the green tomato season and for my ketchup I use a cup of that plus a  small 125 ml can of tomato paste. My blog on the chutney describes that preserve, and what I have done here is to distill that recipe so that you have measurements for 1 250 ml jar that you would combine with a single can of tomato paste.

Green tomato chutney 2012 (7)

setting up for green tomato chutney

Green tomato chutney: 1 single jar (the calculated weight is given, along with an approximation of how much of the fruit)

Ingredients

  • half a green or a fairly dry tomato (93g)
  • ¼ onion (46g)
  • ½  tart apple  – like a granny smith (46g)
  • 1 tbs raisins or currants (5g)
  • 1 clove of garlic mashed and pressed
  • 1 tsp of finely minced fresh ginger (1g). (really fresh good quality garlic and ginger powder can also be  used)
  • 5g salt
  • a pinch each of cloves & turmeric
  • 23g brown sugar
  • 28g vinegar

Method

If you want a jar of chutney, roughly chop the tomatoes, onion and apple using the pulse function of a food processor until they are the size and consistency you like. Add in the other ingredients. Leaving it for a week or two will help meld the flavors.

For the ketchup, puree all the fruit and vegetables, then add and mix in the sugar, vinegar, spices and a small 125ml can of tomato paste.

Relish (10 minutes)

Relish essentially is pureed pickles plus sugar. If you taste commercial relish you will see the truth of that very quickly. It’s also salty so there’s sweet, salt and vinegar and that’s why we love it so much.

IMG_0413

Pickles & sugar is all you need.

To prepare the relish, weigh out the pickles and then add 10% of the pickle  weight  in sugar and 10% of the pickle weight in the pickle vinegar brine.  Although there is already salt in the brine, I suggest adding a little more – to taste: 3% of the pickle weight. Using the pulse of your food processor, chop until it is the desired consistency. You can experiment with other additions: garlic, spices, apple come to mind.

An example of this would be: 300g pickles, 30g sugar, 30g pickle brine, 9g salt.

Mustard

Hot dog mustard – AKA yellow mustard (20 minutes)

I’ve been having a lot of fun with mustard lately as you can see in some of my other blogs. Recently I came across a recipe for hot dog mustard by Joshua Bousel. He has you mix yellow mustard powder with water, and add  salt, vinegar and some turmeric and garlic, then cook it briefly for about 5 minutes. The recipe here gives you almost a cup and it’s also weighed in grams which is the way I like to do business.

Ingredients (Joshua’s recipe with metric weights yielding a cup of mustard)

  • 150ml water
  • 35g dry ground mustard
  • 60g white distilled vinegar
  • 2g all purpose flour
  • 4g kosher salt
  • Large pinch turmeric
  • Pinch of garlic powder
  • Pinch of paprika

Method

  1. Place water, mustard, vinegar, flour, salt, turmeric, garlic powder, and paprika in a small saucepan over medium heat and whisk until smooth.
  2. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes, stirring often.
  3. Allow mustard to cool, transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to a month.

Dijon mustard (10 minutes, but it should have a week or two for the flavours to meld)

My standby basic Dijon mustard is as follows – but check my blog for other options

Ingredients

  • 75g (combination of) yellow mustard powder, crushed yellow mustard seed, crushed brown mustard seed. (I keep a coffee grinder for grinding spices and nothing else)
  • 75g apple juice
  • 75g apple cider vinegar
  • 3g salt

Method

Mix these together to yield a 250ml jar. It will be quite hot. If you want it calmer, put the mix in a pot and heat it up, tasting until the heat is at a level you prefer. Leave it at least overnight for the mustard to absorb the liquid.

Mayonnaise (10-20 minutes depending on how much persuasion the emulsion takes)

Some people love mayo on their burgers. For you, here’s mayo. This is Michael Ruhlman’s take on it, as described in his inspirational Ratio book.

This will yield 1 cup of mayo, so I usually double it as it is tricky and labour intense. You spend the same time and labour making a double batch.

Ingredients (1 cup mayo)

  • Beat in this exact order.
  • 1 egg yolk at room temperature
  • 1 tsp water
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • ½ tsp salt (but taste at the end)
  • 1 cup oil: You want a really mild almost tasteless oil, as it will impart whatever flavour it has to the mayo. DO NOT therefore use cheap, harsh  olive oil. My preference is grapeseed oil.

Method

Start with the largest bowl in your possession and a good big wisk. Have all ingredients prepared beforehand as once you start whisking you are committed to the end. Also strategize and position the bowl so that it is held in place while one hand whisks while the other pours. Some ideas about this are: sitting and wedging the bowl between your tummy and the table edge, or using a rolled towel to sit the bowl in.

Whisk until emulsified:

  • 1 large egg yolk at room temperature with 1 tsp water at room temperature. The successful beating of the water and egg yolk is critical to everything else that happens. If this does not emulsify, the rest of it won’t either. If this is proving difficult, make sure your egg is relatively fresh, and also that everything is at room temperature.
  • Keep whisking and add in this order:
  • lemon juice, vinegar, salt. Add these slowly, making sure your emulsion holds. (I like using both lemon juice and vinegar. It wants the lemony taste, but with a little vinegar kick. )
  • Add the oil in a slow stream to the whisk.
  • Optional: 1 tsp – or 2 of Dijon mustard. Indeed you can add whatever you like at this point to make your own unique artisan mayo.

If you mess it up, and it breaks, pour all the mayo into the oil cup, and start over. Add a teaspoon of water and another yolk and try again, whisking until emulsified. Slowly add in the broken mayo, whisking continuously.

IMG_0453

The assembly

Burger all done!

The reward

Well – That’s it. Sure it would be a massive undertaking to do all of this on one day. And you are also likely to be serving other stuff as well  -snacks, dips,  salads , desserts, etc. Just keep in mind that everything but the bread can – indeed should be – easily be prepared ahead of time, and the buns can be done while you are doing other mealtime prep.

Enjoy your burgers and all the praise & awe from your gathered friends!

The Food Chain

This is going to be one of those off the cuff blogs, quickly written, uploaded, and likely edited as time goes on and more ideas on the theme come along.

We usually think of the food chain as being the order that various critters in nature eat each other for their sustenance. Here its about what to do with food that gets left over. I’m not talking about how you take last night’s entre and reconstitute it for lunch the next day. I’m going beyond that.

I hope that readers can be inspired somewhat by this and contribute new ideas.

The sauce continuum

Begin with ….. roasted or BBQ vegetables. (BTW…. if you roast or BBQ veggies, stick a bulb of garlic in it. Put it in the fridge after, or use it – you will always have the essential ingredient for any ‘roast garlic….’ recipe). Back to the veggies: cut them up into quite small chunks. For every 200g or so add 5g salt, 35g vinegar, 200g tomato sauce/tomato paste (vary this to get the right consistency), herbs and spices: consider some of basil/oregano/thyme/ rosemary/cumin/mustard/hot pepper, that roasted garlic (to taste!), a handful of chopped olives. The result: a roast vegetable antipasto.

And next down the food chain? as in if the antipasto is not gobbled up in a day or 2? A sauce! Begin by pureeing what is left of the antipasto. Taste and consider its viscosity. The aim is to make a sauce that pours slowly but surely out of a narrow necked bottle. If anything it will be too thick. Here’s where you can have some fun. Get a vision of the kind of sauce you want to pour over a burger, on a sandwich, as a marinade over chicken or steak. Just keep in mind that you can add but you can’t remove. Here are the parameters to consider:

  • Salt – always a good one to begin with, and also one that can be overdone.
  • Vinegar – consider the type of vinegar, and only use a little at a time. Lemon/lime is part of the vinegar parameter
  • Heat – hot peppers, cayenne, hot sauce
  • Garlic – you likely already have this – do you want more?
  • Tomato: Since the antipasto had a tomato base, by definition its going to be a tomato based sauce. If you like the amount of tomato in the taste, and the vinegar continuum is right, but the sauce needs diluting,  then add water. If it can take more tomato then add tomato sauce. If it needs thickening, then tomato paste.

Finally  – choose a bottle. The food industry does an absolutely stellar job of inventing just the right size and shape of container for their products. So save a few glass sauce bottles for your own DIY stuff. Make sure it pours just right – bottle and label, in the fridge it goes. Whereas your original entre dish would be a science experiment after a week, the transformations, including the addition of vinegars and salts, mean that the resulting delicious sauce will be happy and likely used up over the next 2-3 weeks.

The sourdough continuum

All sourdough makers are aware of keeping their starter beefed up and active for the holy grail of sourdough – that perfect loaf of bread. Inevitably some starter is poured off. But instead of composting this, put it in a jar and pop it into the fridge. Here are some beginning ideas on what to do with this leftover starter.

Crackers:

Essentially cracker dough is a 60% hydration dough of flour, liquid (including up to 20% oil), 3-5% salt, and dry flavoring. The dough is rolled out – for super thin crackers, use a pasta roller. For the sourdough version the starter is used in part of the dough. Check my hydration table to help create your own sourdough crackers.

Pancakes

Pancakes are an easy way to use up starter. Although the starter helps the leavening, the main leavening comes with the addition of eggs and baking powder. Essentially the pancake mix is a very wet – 200% or so hydration mix of flour, liquid, eggs, oil, salt, sugar, and leaveners – baking soda/powder. I’ll refer you to Theresa Greenaway’s Discovering Sourdough  – my absolute authority on sourdough – for the original recipe. My hydration table (link still to come) functions as a kind of app that will guide you to making bigger or smaller amounts of mix.

Scones and hotcakes

I’ll refer you here again to  Theresa Greenaway’s Discovering Sourdough  book 1 which has lots of great hotcake recipes that can be done with leftover starter.

That’s it for now…… if you have other creative ideas for the ‘food chain’ please share them!

Burns