Pesto time

It’s Pesto time again! So I thought I should reblog this. 2 years in, I still love this recipe. The only thing I would add to it is the advice to pick your basil late in the afternoon of a really sunny day to maximise all those volatile oils.

homecookexplorer

Its Pesto Time!

As September rolls around with the last hot days of summer, its all about selecting the perfect day to harvest basil before it becomes bitter and the flowering has its day. If you are like me, that can only mean one thing: Pesto.

Pesto – that totally intense and wonderful concoction of basil, parmesan, garlic and pine nuts. So quintissentially Mediterranean. A hot, languid summer day in a jar to guide us through the long dark winter.

I don’t think I have anything new to add to the basic pesto recipe. Mine is long derived from a now old Italian vegetarian cookbook: The Romagnoli’s Italian Vegetarian Cookbook – all ingredients are measured in imperial volume measures (I’m sure at the insistence of the English publisher). But what I do have to offer here is a really useful calculator to sort out  all of the rest of the…

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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.

Backwoods sourdough

Sept 10

This blog is going to be a process blog where I don’t know quite where it will end up.  I’m also going to try to do this entirely on my phone.

Here’s the story. On the last weekend in September,  I will be going on a backwoods canoe trip facilitated by my very experienced son. It’s the first time for me and likely the last as my various commitments sadly tie me down.  Needless to say I’m really looking forward to it.

Yesterday at breakfast I had run out of bread and had only a sourdough bulk rise ready to be made into a loaf.  About 4 hours away. (Proofing baking& cooling). I tore a couple of small chunks from the bulk rise, flattened them out, put a little oil in a frying pan and a couple of minutes later, fresh delicious sourdough hotcake.  My son had one too and wondered about the potential for doing this for our trip. I said ‘sure, easy’ and showed him my lump of dough. He said “Too heavy like this. Can you do it so we only bring the flour? ” I said I would work on it.

I posed the question on a couple of Facebook forums. While there was interest, no one  (so far) had tried what I am trying to do though a couple noted that this is what Klondike miners must have done so many years ago.

My vision is to get a low hydration starter going – something that can stay in a ball. At supper I would take half of it mix it with just enough flour water and salt for an overnight bulk rise; add a little flour and water to keep the starter going. Next morning flatten out the dough into buns and fry on the stove.  If there are large flat rocks I could use them.

I’m about to try it all at home first – beginning with the starter. So for 100g of starter at 166% I need 104g  of flour to make it 65%. (try my hydration change calculator) This should yield 200g of 65% starter.

Best internet discussion I’ve found so far… https://backpackinglight.com/forums/topic/87645/

And I’ll keep adding to the blog as this experiment develops.

Sept 11

Last night I prepared my initial stiff starter. (I am of course in my house experimenting with nothing on the line.) This morning I peeled off half of it, (100g)  added a pinch of salt, flattened it with my hands only and put it on a hot skillet. The remainder of the starter is back in its jar, room temperature,  to be refreshed tonight.

Hotcake in dry skillet

The dough barely rose and felt stiff. Clearly a lot of work to do.

 

Little rise. Sadly its not like the result from my big bag of dough in the fridge. Taste is ok but then again its hot. That’s the idea though- to eat it right away. I have to double check my formula as the dough felt a lot stiffer than 65%.

The crumb shot as such.

So…. a little later in the morning I decided that if I liked the dough I had in the fridge then I should use it as a starter base. So: 50g dough  (1g salt) 100g flour and 65g water. This is how it starts:

The new starter dough

Experiments like this lead to strange places. This is a “french toast fritter pancake”. Instead of soaking a bread slice in egg, egg is kneaded into raw bread dough then fried in a really light coating of oil. Next time I should let it settle / rise for a bit. I’d definitely try it again.

September 12

All is working as it should. Last evening I mixed more flour and water into my starter  (66%) and this morning tore off a chunk of it, added a pinch of salt and cooked it dry on the stove top.  My son’s analysis: “it does the job”.

Next task: scale it up so it can feed 3, but keeping the same amount of starter. What I like so far is that it’s flexible and quite predictable.  The caution: get your heat right.  Less better.

.Sept 13

First a shout out to Bud who seems to be the only FB reader to truly get what I’m doing. Thanks for all your advice!

On my jog yesterday I figured out my weight proportions: there are 3 of us which at 100g per person suggests a dough of 300g plus 100g starter. 200g flour + 130g water gives a 65% hydration dough and a little more than enough per person.  This dough is set up the night before and in the morning split 4 ways. 1 put back in the bag and 3 get a pinch of salt added and are cooked. How much easier could this truly be? Next task: figure these quantities as volumes and not weights. Also give it a final test run.

Sept 15

I tried my first effort with the volume needed for our trip.  I made 3 different sizes/thicknesses. Essentially if one is doing a thick bun it needs to proof just like a loaf of bread. Thin buns are a lot more forgiving.

The 3 bun shapes tried.

The thickest one definitely needed proofing!

Sept 29

We leave tomorrow.  I’ve been given interesting challenges here: pancakes and naan. Both feature oil or butter in the mix.

Here’s how the pancakes could work: a zip lock big  bag with the following little bags within: 100g dough and 9g skim milk powder; a second with 100g flour; a third with 1g flour, 7g sugar,  2g salt,  7g baking powder.

Night before: mix dough and flour with almost a cup of water and gently mix until everything is evenly hydrated. Next morning add the third bag,  and some oil. mix gently leave for 30 minutes. Batter should be ready.

Camping notes

September 29

The starter dough

I put up one of my big 2.8kg basic doughs.  Some of  this went into a loaf for the wonderful person taking care of things while we are away. From this dough I took off 2 pieces of  hundred grams and put them in 2  large ziplock bags.  I also made up of three other Ziploc bags each with 200 grams of whole wheat flour in 4 grams of salt. These would  be the hot cakes to be made on the trip.

Panini sandwiches

Panini sandwiches for the first day lunch had been prepared the day before and day of our trip.  I took the remaining eight to nine hundred grams of my older bulk dough from the fridge,  rolled it out and laid on slices of butter as one would do for a croissant: It was folded and rolled out several times to make a laminated dough. The final roll was approximately one quarter to three eighths inch thick. It was then cut into rectangles about 4”  wide and left them to proof for about an hour. While they were proofing,  I prepared the Panini fillings: BBQ vegetables, cold meats, pickles, brie and cheddar slices. These all went into a couple of bags for assembly early the next morning.

I BBQ’d them on a medium heat about 1-2 minutes per side until they browned and expanded.

September 30th –  we depart

Paninis

These were made for lunch on the first day.   

Before we left I did the final prep. The paninis were thick enough that they could hold together well enough to be slit open easily and filled without breaking up and without breaking the hinge at the back of side of the bread. The butter laminate and grilling method ensured that the outside would stay together and so be fully functional as a sandwich. The completed sandwiches were wrapped liberally in wax paper and labeled. (This is important for later on).

We arrived at our departure point about 12:00PM. We wanted to get going and weren’t hungry. We left the outfitters in a rented  3 person canoe around 1 o’clock and by 3 o’clock we had reached our first portage. Out came the greatly appreciated paninis. The wax paper was carefully folded and returned to the pack.

Hot Cakes number 1

I realized when we were eating the Panini’s that I had not set up the dough for the hotcakes that evening.  Standing beside the biggest beaver dam I have ever seen I mixed the hundred grams of starter dough, 200 grams of flour and salt and  then eyeballed approximately 120 grams of water from my drinking bottle. I set about massaging the dough through the plastic bag, and  realized it would be about 4 hours before I was to cook them for dinner – and they had just begun their bulk rise.  I needed to get them along quickly with their fermentation so in the bag went, under my shirt and next to my tummy for what was to be a fast rise. There they stayed  for a further three hours of travelling and a difficult portage. Once we got once we got to the campsite and began our dinner prep the first thing to do was to extract  the dough  now happily bubbling away.  This dough was divided into 4 equal pieces: 1 was put back in the ziplock bag with the next batch of flour and salt, and again the water was eyeballed. Massaged sufficiently, it was stuck it back in the food pack for consumption the next day.

I retrieved the wax paper from the paninis and use them to flatten out the dough without getting my cutting board dirty.  I put another layer of used wax paper over them to protect them from fire embers and dust. They then proofed while the  rest of our dinner –  guacamole, whitefish, roasted vegetables  and chantarelle mushrooms was being prepared. Once the fish was cooked, in went the hotcakes, soaking up the remaining lovely  oil and butter deliciousness still in the pan from the fish, chanterelles and barbecued vegetables. The result was excellent. They were hot nicely risen nicely browned and delightfully flavored with the pan drippings.  

October 1  – Hang out at the campsite day

Pancakes

it was determined on our first morning we would have pancakes with homemade jam and summer sausage for breakfast. When you think about it, pancakes are really like a super hydration bread with some oil,  sugar, and baking soda.

For the pancakes I decided to approach these separately from the sourdough hotcakes and it’s a good thing I did because I needed to get them started at the same time as the hot cake dough the night before. I calculated that enough pancake mix for the three of us with mean 100 grams of starter dough at 66% (this was the second bag of dough I had prepared)  Here is how I thought it through: 100 grams.of dough @ 66% + 67 grams of water would give me 166% hydration. 100 g  flour + 4 g salt + 166 grams of water would likewise also give me a 166% hydration dough. I’d need to add  230 grams of water to the dry flour and starter  to make it happen. But that is not all.  This pancake mix (according to my pancake calculator based on Theresa Greenaway’s sourdough pancake recipe)  would also needs 7g sugar 2g  salt, 7g baking powder, and 9 g of skim milk powder.  Putting all of this together I had 3 separate zip lock bags

  1. 100g of 66% starter in a large zip lock bag
  2. 100g whole wheat flour in a small zip lock bag
  3. 15 g flour, 7 g sugar 3g of salt, 7g baking powder and 9g skim milk powder in  small zip lock bag.
  4. At our fish dinner, bags 1 and 2 were mixed together along with 230g of water – about a cup – eyeballed!  

I wanted this to proof overnight but I did not  want to add in the baking soda, milk  powder sugar mix  and oil until shortly before cooking. My son was a little concerned about  leaving this freezer bag of yukky liquid, sincerely hoping  it would not explode in the night  while in the food bag slung up in a tree to prevent bears or other creatures getting to it. The next morning after a night of 10-degree temperatures the bag was looking the way it should:  a nicely bubbling ferment. In went the bag of remaining flour and other stuff and also added a shot of sunflower oil – pancakes do  need oil for taste, texture and to  avoid sticking.  I have to say I was apprehensive about this mix, based as it was on quite theoretical assumptions  but they turned out amazingly.

Hotcakes 2

The second batch of hotcakes was for  lunch on the second day as an accompaniment to tomato soup. Again the first thing was to extract them from the bag, divide into 4, and put one back in the bag for the next batch. This batch I felt was a little dry so I added more water before turning it out. All went well  – as it did the night before.

One problem though – after a thorough check I could not find our final bag of flour/salt! Yikes! This was going to be for breakfast the next and final morning. Was it left behind? Must have been! There are  worse things in life.

Our  starter’s final hurrah

Going into our final campfire dinner, I still had the starter. We had planned to have mac and cheese, with rehydrated dried vegetables. What I had forgotten about in making mac and cheese was that you need a roux. The only flour I had left was in that little ball of starter dough. Necessity is the mother of invention and thus I made a valiant effort to convince a little piece of my remaining starter dough that it would have to serve up its life as flour for a roux.  It worked, barely  – with deft and quick stirring, lifting it off the flame, making it as roux like as I could, working the added cheese so it did not become a gloopy stiff chunk.

October 2  – heading back

The next morning I cooked what was left of the starter dough, and it all worked out well in the end. After sausage and trail mix, our food bag nearly exhausted, and we were fuelled for the 5 hour portage and canoe back.

Some conclusions are in order

  • Having hot fresh bread on your camping trip is a wonderful thing.
  • Sourdough camping can be done fairly easily.   70 grams of flour per person per serving is required, along with the 2% salt mixed in. A  100g ball of 66% starter is all that is needed to keep it going.
  • Camp sourdough it does not take a long time but it does need planning
  • It really does need one person committed  to doing  it.
  • Keep the starter in a large sturdy freezer bag and have a couple of other bags at the ready too.  
  • The cooler the temperature  the longer you have to proof it, and   vice versa.  If you need it quickly then you need to find a warm body.
  • There are lots of variations possible from pancakes to fritters to hotcakes. They can be fried or grilled or cooked on a hot flat rock. Cook it dry or in  butter, oil or  bacon grease.
  • One objection from my son was that the extra cooking uses up more heat. In our case it wasn’t on account of the hot cakes that we consumed a lot of fuel –  I was making  cedar tea in large quantities for one of our party who was feeling a little under the weather.
  • Next time (I hope there is a next time) I probably prefer to bring a whole bag of flour and dip into it as needed. That would have saved my bacon on this trip  There is also merit to having each meal laid out with its own bag of flour with the salt pre measured.

Kombucha!

Kombucha is the perfect answer to our craving for fizzy non alcoholic beverages. It is wonderfully flavored, gently effervescent, only slightly sweet, nicely complex, and overall delicious. Although made with black tea and sugar, the bacteria have feasted on these very ingredients, changing them in their wonderful alchemy into more bacteria, yeast, carbon dioxide and a slight bit of alcohol. 

My journey with fermented foods is now well into its second year. Such a lot has happened, and what our household consumes has remarkably changed. Health has also subtly but perceptibly changed too. I now can’t remember when anyone was down and out with a cold or flu, yet we’ve been in contact with many who have. No one has reported urinary infections, yeast problems, or anything like.

My initiation to kombucha had nothing to do with this though. I was aware of kombucha, but had never tried it. One day shopping, I bought a bottle and it was decent if unremarkable. There was a small slimy thing in it I now recognize as a tiny scoby. I set aside a 1 cup jar with the scoby and some mango-orange juice to see what would happen. Indeed in about a week, it consumed all that juicy sugar and now had grown. “Well”, said I, “this is most interesting. Lets see where we can take this.” Long story short I began investigating, joined the Kombucha Nation FB group, started a spreadsheet to chart my initial attempts, purchased a 3 gallon stone crock. By far the most succinct and useful article on it is a Wiley Library online article. I strongly advise readers to click the link for their overview

Initially my family members were pretty skeptical, and in my initial attempts, understandably so. They still kept going for the spritzer, worried the bottles might explode in their faces or that somehow they might be poisoned, or that it would be simply awful. None of that happened, and now our homemade kombucha is the go-to drink. In fact I’m having to increase my bi weekly production by about 50% to keep up.

That all said, they now have their favorites, and just like with commercial products, they expect them to taste consistently similar and be available when needed. My kombucha making is now post experimental and can be said to be in regular consistent production.

Now that I am at this point, I thought I should share what I do. My final ‘push’ came when my butcher to whom I had given a bottle to try really liked it and wanted to make her own. Just passing on the starter and a scoby might not necessarily guarantee the success sought, at least immediately.

But why should I bother to do all this when there are so many other excellent blogs out there? For me, the answer lies in identifying and illustrating a consistent and manageable process that will always give excellent results. Judging by the feedback I have received I know I have an excellent product doing it this way. I look forward to hearing how you have made out with it, and also I look forward to hearing from more experienced kombucha makers than I with your ideas and comments on this process.

Here’s how it goes….

Every 10 days or so I do a Kombucha brew day. I start a new batch and bottle (second ferment or ‘2f’) the old. I process about 4-5 litres at a time and the method I have worked out gives me reliable, delicious kombucha every time.

Materials:

Mise en scene

  • 6 litre (or so) pot
  • 3 gallon crock
  • Bottles – beer bottles, or flip lid bottles. The shape of the narrow necked beer bottle encourages natural carbonation. This is because the fermenting yeasts do not require oxygen, whereas the bacteria involved do. The narrow neck in a sealed bottle reduces the oxygen available, encouraging the yeast to continue fermenting, converting the sugars into carbon dioxide. Once everything is added in you will need about 6 litres worth of bottles. You can use anything technically, but unless you use a narrow necked bottle of some kind, it won’t carbonate as well. 
  • Bottler and caps if you are using old beer bottles. 
  • Measuring cups – 1L, 500ml
  • Funnel
  • A strainer that can nest in the funnel
  • 7-8 1L mason jars
  • Thick kitchen towel
  • Weigh scale
  • wooden spoon

Ingredients

  • 4-5L Good quality water – not flouridated or treated tap water
  • 20g loose tea: It can be a variety of teas – I have used Darjeeling, Earl Grey, Kukicha, and Green tea – any will do
  • 200g sugar
  • 1L of kombucha starter (from previous batch)
  • 1 SCOBY (from previous batch)
  • A variety of good quality juices – about 1.5L in total
  • 1L Sugar syrup (weigh a bag of sugar in a pot, add an equal weight of water. Heat until the sugar is dissolved, yielding a 1:1 syrup. Pour into jars for a variety of uses. )

The very first time

You need to find a scoby – most people get one from a friend, or someone you know.  Anyone who makes kombucha can peel off some of their scoby and give it away. If you are truly in need, take one of the tiny scobys from a commercial Kombucha and put it in a 1 cup jar with a little juice. Leave it out, covered, on the counter. It should grow. As it gets bigger, feed it more juice, and work up towards the container you will be fermenting your kombucha in. You also need to get a litre of kombucha as a starter. This can be from said friend, or can be bought commercially.

Make a tea with 2L water, 20g loose tea and 200g sugar. Boil for a few minutes, cover and let cool down.

20160823_083122

Loose tea works well – you are trying to extract as much as possible from it.

Once cool (under 100F) pour in the crock, add 2L water, 1L Kombucha starter, the Scoby.
Cover with a thick kitchen cloth and let it ferment in a coolish dark room (60-70F) for about 8-10 days. (Note – fruit flies love kombucha too, so you will need to both cover the kombucha and tie it tight with a string or elastic if you have these bugs around)

First ferment ready to do its thing.

First ferment ready to do its thing.

Brewday! (your Kombucha is initially fermented)

This quantity will make a total of 7 litres of kombucha.

  1. Make a tea with 2L water, 20g loose tea and 200g sugar. Boil for 5 minutes, cover and let cool down while you do everything else.
  2. Gather all your materials and ingredients together.
  3. Remove the scoby from the crock and set it in a bowl with water.

    Scoby in water - but if fruit flies are about, cover it up.

    Scoby in water – but if fruit flies are about, cover it up. In the jar beside it is the 1L starter kombucha for the next batch.

  4. Pour 1L of kombucha from the crock into a mason jar, and cover. This will be the starter for your next batch.
  5. For the 2nd ferment, or 2f, the kombucha is flavored and bottled in such a way that it naturally carbonates. Pour the rest of the kombucha into the remaining 1L mason jars with 650 g (or ml) of kombucha in each 1L jar.

    20160823_082534

    The reason for the 1L jars is to make the whole process efficient, predictable and manageable. The jar is filled with 650g of f1 (first ferment) kombucha.

  6. Pour 100g of the sugar syrup in each jar. For kombucha, 5% sugar is an ideal fermentation ratio. Since your sugar syrup is 1:1 sugar to water by weight, you are therefore adding 50g of sugar to your 1L (1000g) of 2f kombucha – or 5%.

    About to add 100g (=50g or 5% sugar)

    About to add 100g syrup (=50g or 5% sugar). The sugar syrup is easy to make ahead of time. It’s also a good base for desserts.

  7. Pour 250ml of the juices you have for your batch of kombucha into each mason jar, filling them to the top. You now have about 6-7 litre bottles comprising 650ml kombucha, 100ml sugar syrup and 250g juice. Stir to mix thoroughly.
    20160823_084211

    Be careful of the sugar content of the juice you use, since you are already adding sugar for the f2. The juice should be as natural as possible. Juicing your own is even better, and since it flavours the kombucha with only 25% of the total content, it goes a long way.

    20160823_084828

    I like to sort out how much of each kind of flavor I want. Using the 1L base quantities helps in this process. Note the pot of tea/sugar brewing and now cooling for the next batch.

  8. Pour each jar into narrow necked bottles, using either a funnel or a 1L measuring cup. If the juice or the kombucha has any sediment you may wish to use a tea ball in the funnel to filter this out. If you are using 344 ml beer bottles, you are looking at 3 bottles per litre. If you are using Grolsh style flip top bottles, its approximately 2 bottles per litre. If your bottle comes up a little short, top it up with more juice.

    A fine mesh teaball inside a funnel to filter out juice sediment.

    A fine mesh teaball inside a funnel to filter out juice sediment.

  9. Bottle and label

    Bottled and labelled. It will be ready in a few days.

    Bottled and labelled. It will be ready in a few days.

  10. Go back to that tea you made that has now cooled down. It should be less than lukewarm. Press out all the tea flavor you can and pour it into your now empty crock through a filter (unless you used a large tea ball). Add 2L of cold water to it, add the litre of kombucha starter, and the scoby along with the water it was in. Cover the crock with dry thick tea towel and let it ferment in a cool dark place until your next brewday 10 or so days away.

    20160823_094359

    The next batch of kombucha (about to be covered) in its basement hideaway at a comfortable, dark, consistent 68F/19C along with some beer, wine – and, yes, the household tools.

  11. Let your bottles sit at room temperature for a couple of days – less if your location is warm. After, move them to a cool location or your fridge. This recipe is quite happy for a couple of weeks in a 65-68F environment, though it will get fizzy! Before consuming, put them in the fridge to cool – it tastes better, and the carbonation is less active.

Keeping it clean: If you are using beer bottles, rinse them out thoroughly and wash them thoroughly once you have poured your drink. If you use your crock only for kombucha and are filling it in the same session you are processing your 2f, a rinse with water works fine.

Enjoy your brew! A word of warning though. The first few times you open them, do it in the sink, with your hand firmly over the top in case it is over carbonated. This might happen for example if the juice you decide to use has a higher sugar content than what I am using. To deal with your own variables you would need to make adjustments – either a warmer or cooler ferment for your 2f period.

There are many ways to make kombucha. All of them are fine, and all of them feature tea, sugar, a scoby and starter, and time. This simply happens to be what I have evolved. I hope this can help to both make conversation about kombucha, and also help readers who have been considering making it.

Sooooo………….A quick brewday recap:

First ferment (F1)

  • 2L water
  • 20g tea
  • 200g sugar
  • 2L more water once tea has brewed and cooled down (tea must be at room temperature before the scoby and starter are added.)
  • Into your crock, pour the tea (strained), your scoby from the prior batch, and 1 litre of kombucha from your prior batch. Cover and ferment at room temperature for about 10 days.

2nd ferment (2F)

Per litre of finished kombucha, combine

  • 650 g 1F kombucha (from your crock)
  • 50g sugar (I do a 1:1 sugar syrup therefore 100g of this syrup)
  • 250g juice

Bottle in narrow necked bottles, leave at room temperature for 4-5 days.

DIY Cultured Cashew Cheese

Hi everyone – its been a while since I blogged. The busy-ness of life has got in the way. A few months ago I tracked down Reece  – a member of our food coop – as he had published this amazing recipe for cultured cheese in our local co-op magazine. Reece is a hard core fermenter who does all sorts of very cool stuff with lactic acid bacteria and its my honour to have him as a guest blogger here. As a bonus – there are some cool other links to pursue at the end. 

Burns

First of all, thanks to Burns for inviting me to write a guest post on his blog. My name is Reece. I’m a college librarian, cooking, baking, and fermenting/brewing enthusiast, and a fan of listening to podcasts and audiobooks on long walks. I met Burns through Karma Food Co-op in Toronto, and occasionally write a zine, and on my blog peakes.wordpress.com.
I’ve been making cultured cashew cheeses for a few years now, and appreciate this type of fermentation for the ease of achieving really tasty, quick (for a fermentation), and varied results with easily available ingredients.
Cashew cheese, actually a fermented nut paté, is dairy-free and simple to make at home with natural ingredients and basic kitchen equipment. Culturing the cheese increases the nutritional value of the raw ingredients, adding probiotics to your diet, and adds complexity to the flavour.
The instructions below provide the basics for making a spreadable cashew cheese. It’s just a beginning, though: by adjusting the recipe and adding ingredients, you can make a wide variety of cashew cheeses. By changing the nuts, you can get an even wider variety of nut cheeses. You can also air dry cashew cheese to make a sharp, hard, salty block. More about ways to be creative with this recipe at the end.

Materials Required

  • Large wide-mouth jar
  • Cheesecloth
  • Elastic band that will fit around jar mouth (a wide elastic will hold the cheesecloth best)
  • Food processor or powerful blender
  • A container/containers with lid(s). These will be your cheese molds – choose plastic, silicone, or glass. If using the latter, it’s easiest to remove the cheese from the mold if you line it with plastic wrap or parchment paper first.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups raw cashews, soaked in water for 4-8 hours
  • ⅔ cup nutritional yeast (optional, but recommended)
  • ½ cup rejuvelac (see instructions on making rejuvelac below): requires ¼ C dry whole raw grain or pseudograin
  • 1 tablespoon miso
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Step 1: Make Rejuvelac (Days 1-6)

Rejuvelac is a cultured sprouted grain beverage that is used to provide beneficial bacteria to the cheese (the miso does as well). If you have sprouted grains, seeds, or legumes before you may already have a process for sprouting – feel free to use that method for the first part of the rejuvelac-making process. My method is below. This makes enough rejuvelac for several batches of cheese, and it can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator for months at a time.

Rejuvelac

Ingredients

¼ cup dry whole raw grains or pseudo grains (e.g., brown rice, quinoa, spelt groats, millet)

Water

  • Put the grain in your wide mouth jar and fill the jar up to the top with water. Cut a 2-layer piece of cheesecloth big enough to cover the mouth of your jar and use the elastic band to secure it in place. Let the grain soak over night.
  • In the morning pour the water out of the jar through the cheesecloth. Then rinse the grain by filling the jar up with fresh water and dumping it out a couple of times. This prevents the grain from going moldy. Set the jar upside but on an angle so that excess water can drain out. A dish rack works well for this.

Rejuvelac2

  • Repeat step 2 two-three times per day until the grain begins to sprout (about 3 days). For some grains you must look closely to see the tiny white tails begin to emerge. Grains will sprout more quickly when it’s warm, and need to be rinsed more regularly in very hot weather.
  • After the grains have sprouted, add 1.5 cups water to your jar. Set the jar aside at room temperature for 3 days, keeping it out of direct sunlight and away from sources of high heat. After 3 days, the water should be somewhat cloudy, and smell a little earthy. It may taste tart as well. Now you have rejuvelac! Compost the grains (their nutrients have leached into the water), and save the liquid.

Step 2: Combine Ingredients (Day 7)

  • Add all ingredients to your food processor. Process until the mixture is smooth, stopping to scrape the sides a few times.
  • and cover. Now the fermenting process continues!

Step 3: Fermentation (Days 7-9/10)

  • Leave your covered container(s) of cheese in a warm area for 2-3 days. Sample the cheese as time goes by, if you like. After maximum 3 days transfer to the fridge, and let firm for 6 hours before eating. The cheese will continue to slowly sharpen in the fridge. It will last in the fridge for a few weeks, or in the freezer for months.

Get Creative

There is no reason to stick to this exact recipe – I’m offering it for guidance, and to get you started. Get creative by replacing the cashews with hemp seeds, or add sun-dried tomatoes or fresh or dried herbs to the cheese. Sage, smoked paprika, chives, peppercorns, etc. are all great options, just add to taste. A small amount of additional cultured food will also enhance your cheese and make the flavour more complex – try sauerkraut, brine of kraut or pickles, kimchi, additional miso, or yogurt (dairy or non). Just make sure to check and see that what you are adding is unpasteurized, live cultured and contains no preservatives, sulphites, etc. (which could prevent the cheese from fermenting). Enjoy, and feel free to contact me at reeceaxl@gmail.com.

 

More Information

Wild Fermentation http://www.wildfermentation.com This site is full of information on making and using all sorts of fermented foods, and on the benefits of fermented foods.

Punk Domestics http://www.punkdomestics.com A site of recipes for fermented foods, including dairy and cashew cheese.

Fermented Vegan Cheese http://fermentedvegancheese.blogspot.ca A blog of fermented cashew cheese instructions and a cheesecake recipe. Includes information on making harder cheeses in molds.

Post-Punk Kitchen http://www.theppk.com If you don’t have time to make fermented cheese, the recipe section of this site offers several non-fermented nut and seed cheese dishes.

Making sourdough easy and ‘just in time’

How to make sourdough really easy

Going back over a year now I’ve been looking for ways to tame sourdough to my own schedule. Notably I wanted to have fresh hot bread for breakfast. Since then people in my sourdough workshops proposed other challenges : to make it fit into their busy lives.
In this latter case it was reasonably easy: find cool places in your house for a longer bulk rise including the fridge. But these answers still presumed time for a starter refresh, bulk rise, shaping and proofing, and baking. Controlling for temperature this could be anywhere from a 6 to 24 or more hour cycle.
Recently I’ve been trying something new. Instead of thinking of a whole process ending up with all the dough baked at once, I’m preparing a much larger base dough, letting it rise a couple of hours on the counter then throwing it into the fridge in a large freezer bag. That

The dough bag continues  - slowly - to ferment in the fridge.

The dough bag continues – slowly – to ferment in the fridge.

done, I take only what I need when I need it. That way I get “just in time and just enough” and its always fresh.
Not only can you do this at the bulk rise stage, you can also do it with the final proofing. A shaped loaf can happily be in the fridge rising for a couple of days.
For some of you reading this may bring quiet agreement – perhaps its what you do. For others you will be asking ‘Tell me more’.

Starting off….

As always with sourdough it starts with the starter. I like to use 166% starter. I keep a 100g jar (or so) from the previous batch. It begins with the refresh: 100g starter, 100g fresh filtered water, 60g organic whole wheat flour. 8 hous later I should have 260g of starter. I refresh a second time: 260g starter, 260g water, 156g flour. Now I have about 780g of really bubbly twice refreshed starter. This is something I do when it is convenient to do, and while I have both bead in the pantry and a dough in the fridge. That said, there is some planning and anticipation needed as you want to make the bulk rise when the starter is at its most vigorous.

The bulk rise

I now make a large base bulk rise of 66% hydration: approximately 500g of starter, 1500g of flour (3x the amount – or the starter is 33%), 808g water (66% hydration when the hydration of the starter is factored in). Autolyse as usual for about 20 minutes and add 33g salt (2% when starter flour is factored in). This yields a 2.8 kilo dough. Let it rise out of the fridge until doubled, but do not let it overproof. If anything cut it short. Punch down, take off a chunk for a loaf to be baked next, pack the rest of it into a large freezer bag, seal it up and stick it in the fridge. You now have a chunk of dough that is immediately available for whatever other bread you wish to do: dinner rolls, a baguette or two, burger buns, another loaf, bagels…. The bag can be in the fridge quite happily for a number of days, but I’d want to use it up within a week. You will find it continues to very slowly ferment.

The Loaf Proofing

Although I make lots of different kinds of bread, I always like to have a regular loaf available and fresh. My family varies on how fast it is consumed – a 20-some decides he’s hungry and its all gone, while someone else decides they are going on a severe diet can mean its consumption really slows down. But at the point its needed, I don’t want to have to knead it & let it rise for an hour or two. What I do is that shortly after – or even at – the time a loaf is baked, I set up another loaf – decide on the type of loaf, the various crust toppings, the hydration – and then I wrap it in a plastic bag or a wet towel, and into the fridge it goes. Fermentation is slowed right down and its ready to be baked at the point you want it. I bake it directly from the fridge as opposed to having it warm up first. This ensues it does not get overproofed, and makes scoring a lot easier. Baking it directly from the fridge means it needs to bake longer, so if doing this is new to you, keep a thermometer in it and take notes until you get your time down.

Burger buns: it seemed that we’d be doing burgers tonight.

An example:

On Monday evening I prepared 2500g of dough. It rose overnight. Next morning I took out 900g for a pan loaf, prepared it and stuck it back in the fridge. Somewhere mid afternoon on Tuesday, I decided to make some hummus as part of dinner. I took off about 500g of my dough, rolled it out to make half a dozen pitas. They rose on some parchment paper as I prepared the rest of dinner and heated the oven. The next morning (Wednesday) I baked the loaf I had prepared. Between the loaf and the pitas, no more bread needed for a bit. On Thursday evening I thought that bagels for breakfast on Friday would be a fine breakfast, so I took about 500g of dough, added flour and a little salt, along with diastatic malt to give me a 60% bagel dough. These were shaped Thursday night, and boiled/baked on Friday morning to the surprised appreciation of the family. About this point I refreshed my starter again in preparation for the next bulk dough. On Friday evening, everyone wanted pizza so that used up the remaining 600g of my dough. During dinner clean up I set up my next bulk rise, finding a cool spot in the house to let it go until first thing next morning. As you can see its a system that enables you to not have to worry about the start to finish span of bread making, nor do you have to predict days in advance what you will be baking and when. Much of it can be done when you are doing other kitchen work you would have to do anyway.

Messing around with it a little more

You will notice above that the bagels were 60% while the bulk rise was 66%. There may indeed be other situations where you want to change the hydration (like making a high hydration chewey baguette) or have a more specific flour mix than just your basic stuff. This can be done.
Using my hydration change calculator, you can add either liquid or flour/salt to your base dough to effect this change. In the case of the bagels, I needed to add 37g of flour and .7g salt to my dough. If had wanted to make a 78% baguette, I would use the calculator to find that I need 40g of water, or whatever other liquid.
Supposing you want to add in a different kind of flour – you want a rye loaf. Here you do have to work a little harder. Lets assume my base dough is 50% white all purpose and 50% whole wheat, and its at 66% hydration, and you want the rye flour addition to be the same as the other flours (the 50% weight). Lets say that the weight of all purpose is 200g and also is the weight of the whole wheat. If you wanted an equal part of rye flour, you would then mix in 200g of rye flour, 132g of water and 4g of salt. Now however you have created a condition where unfermented flour has been added to the dough, in a significant amount. You would therefore need to let this new mix ferment for a number of hours (according to your temperature), likely then shape it, wait an hour or so and then bake it. You are in effect using your base dough as a kind of levain, and if you are venturing into this area, it does require some planning. However, if you determine that your thing is to have 2 kinds of base doughs, you could then have one dedicated to rye, or a high hydration white, or whatever you would like.