Where there is a will there is a way

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Making bread at home becomes easy - just like everything else

One thing I have found is:  

Everything is hard the first few times you do it.  Then it becomes easy.

It was the same with getting used to using my breadmaker instead of just buying bread.  Although it took only five minutes a day to throw the ingredients in the breadmaker, at first there was a real investment of energy as I got the right measuring cups and ingredients ready, and actually read enough of the manual to figure out how to operate the breadmaker.  But that investment has paid off, since now I can't believe it took discipline to use a breadmaker at first (instead of buying bread).

After I got used to the routine of using a breadmaker, and in fact used it so often (and sometimes forgetting things like THE WATER), it broke after about a year.  But I also at that time visited my family in North America, and my Dad showed me how to make no-knead bread - as they now make all their bread this way.  Once more, it took awhile toget set up with all the things I needed, and to truly understand the process.  Now making no-knead bread is easy.  (And using the breadmaker - I've since gotten it fixed - is just like falling off a log...)

Don't get me wrong - regular bread is easy too - kneading is quite therapeutic.  And I love whipping up pizza dough with my hands, when I am in the mood for it.  But if you have to work too, as we usually too nowadays, and you still want to make bread at home, it's good to have an easy method so that you actually can realistically accomplish it.

Easy bread links on this blog:

How to make crusty white no-knead bread (artisan bread) in five minutes
How to make100% whole wheat no-knead bread (brown bread) in five minutes
How to make buns (bread rolls) easily at home using a breadmaker

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Video on making artisan bread (no-knead bread)

How to make crusty white no-knead bread (artisan bread) in five minutes

On artisan breadmaking...

Adapted originally from Jim Lahey's method, and Peter Reinhart - the process further refined by my parents who then showed me - some minor modifications in baking timing by me after reading The Mini Farming Guide to Fermenting by Brett Markham.

At first I thought they were making this kind of bread because it was easy - but it also tastes better, due to the slow brewing of yeast in the fridge.   In his retirement, my dad was searching for how to make bread as good as the crusty bread he had had in France.  One important factor is the high protein flour they use - so check that your flour is of high protein. 

The dough is very spongy, full of air, and you try to touch it as little as possible when you shape it and bake it. (It's also sticky). The final bread has lots of holes in it.   Disadvantage: your jam might leak through.   Advantage: tastes great, uses less of the expensive ingredients such as tonnes of yeast with bread improver (when I use my breadmaker), or sugar.   Also, no machine or hard labour is necessary.

This method is also featured in The Mini Farming Guide to Fermenting by Brett L. Markham.  He is a chemistry person, but also a self sufficiency person - in his book he includes photos, and offers a much needed explanation as to why this method of making bread works.   

From the chapter called, "Artisan Breads on the Stone":

"Artisan breads hove traditionally been time-consuming to make, but the combination of two innovations allows you to make no-knead bread in as little as five minutes a day. The first innovation was introduced in 1994 by Jim Lahey of the Sullivan Street Bakery in New York City. This was the incorporation of a substantially larger proportion of water into the dough and allowing longer sitting times. This allows the gluten chains to link without kneading.

"The second innovation was introduced in 2007 by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois, and consists of the simple fact that dough made in this fashion can be refrigerated. When the two innovations are combined, you can make delicious artisan bread in mere minutes.... The core idea of the method is that if you make a very wet dough and set the dough aside in the refrigerator, the gluten chains will interlink on their own over time, thus obviating the need for kneading the bread to obtain a good consistency.

 "The dough can be kept in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, and all you have to do is take it out, cut off a portion of it, let that portion rise, and then pop it in the oven. Over time, as you save portions of the dough from previous batches for your new batches in the same bowl,  your bread will develop its own sourdough character without need for maintaining separate sourdough cultures."

Also, says Markham, and this is really fascinating:

"Artisan bread has only four basic ingredients: flour, water, salt,and yeast.  That's all. Nothing more is needed.  Bread made in bread machines needs to rise rapidly, so sugar is included so the yeast will have immediate access to food.  Because the dough for artisan breads is allowed to sit, during which time a certain amount of autolysis occurs, some of the starch in the flour is naturally converted to sugar. 

"Salt is used in bread for two purposes. The first is to limit the activity of the yeast so you don't wind up with huge air gaps in your bread. The second is to strengthen the gluten. The yeast used for bread is the same species as that used for wine and beer, but the specific variety has been selected for baking purposes. The yeast eats sugars and makes alcohol and carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide makes the bubbles in the bread, and the alcohol evaporates during baking. 

"A potential fifth ingredient can also be included, and that is lactobacillus lactic acid bacteria. Lactobacillus can live symbiotically with bread yeast. When it does, it turns the alcohol byproduct of yeast into lactic acid, which gives sourdough bread its flavor. The lactic acid helps to preserve the bread and gives it a shelf life that is nearly as long as that of commercial breads containing preservatives. Up until the 1800s, practically all leavened bread was sourdough because yeast and lactobacillus as separate organisms were unknown.Once the difference was discovered, yeast was cultured by itself for the purposes of leavening. So, interestingly,by separating the symbiotic yeast/lactobacillus culture for convenience, preservatives in bread became necessary."


The Five Minute Method

Makes two loaves.

600g lukewarm water (3 cups)
2g granulated yeast  (1/2 tsp)
16g salt (2.5 tsp) 
800g white unbleached flour (6 cups)

You will either need a digital scale or measuring cups, two plastic containers for storing the dough in your fridge, and butter or other stiff grease for greasing the containers.

It is important that your flour is of a high protein level. I did find a local supplier (mybreadmix.co.nz)of very good flour, it is 13.5g of protein.  Look for high protein flour, or your bread will not be good. 

Making the dough

Short video just showing the texture of no-knead artisan bread

To lukewarm water, add granulated yeast and salt.  Stir and add flour until all the flour is incorporated.  Yes, you can use a bread mixer - or even your hands.  But I wouldn't advise it!  It's very sticky.

When measuring using measuring cups (as opposed to a digital scale), the amounts must be accurately measured.  Use a table knife to shear off the excess flour at level.

Let the dough rest for 5 minutes, and then stir vigorously for 1 minute.  The dough should be sticky, wet and shapeless.  Divide into two pieces and place in greased container that is large enough to allow for the rising (about one third to one half full).  Leave the containers at room temperature for a couple of hours, then place the containers into the fridge until you are ready to bake them, from 1-14 days (can use from three hours).  Alternatively, you can leave the containers out in room temperature for at least 12 hours before baking.

I put the dough in my fridge in ice-cream containers, leave them to rise in room temperature for a few hours (not in hot sun either, slow rising is fine), then place them in the fridge for baking the next day (letting them rise in the containers for a few hours first).  Then you don't have to bake them 12 hours from now - usually falling on 2am or some other inconvenient time! 

Baking the bread

Using a heavy cast iron pot (dutch oven), or a pizza stone: 

Step 1 - Get your container of dough and let it warm up for a few hours at room temperature. When you are ready to bake, flour a surface, dump the dough onto it.  Shape it by pulling up the sides to the center top.  This is called a "boule" (ball in French).  Flip "de boule" onto a floured wooden board.  Let rise for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 230 degrees C / 500 (22 degrees F, (220 degrees on fanbake), with the heavy cast iron pan (no need to grease) or pizza stone inside.

If you are using a pizza stone - as I do - add a pan underneath to get heated.  In a moment you'll add some water.  This is because it's the vapour that will make the crust.. crusty.  You don't need to do this if you are baking in a heavy pan with a lid on top - as the contained moisture will do the same thing.

Step 2 - After 20 minutes have passed or when your oven and pot are hot enough (about 40 minutes rising time in total - too long of rising time and the boule will be too flat and spread out), open the door and...

Take the lid off the pot, and slide the boule from your floured board - or fwap the boule from the towel - or set it, baking paper and all - right into the nongreased hot pan.  Put the lid back on (using hotpads of course), and shut the door.

Pizza stone:  Add 1 cup of water into the broiler pan underneath the stone.  Bake for 30 minutes.

Cast iron pot:  Set a timer and bake for 15 minutes.  After15 minutes, take the lid off and bake longer, could be 5 minutes more, 10, or even 15 - depending on how dark you would like your crust.  I found 10 minutes was just right, but check every 5 minutes to see (using a timer!). 

When it's done to your satisfaction, flip out onto a wire rack (or upside down) to cool.

For instructions on making brown (whole wheat) artisan bread on this blog, click here.  Also, click here to watch a video on making no-knead artisan bread.

How to make whole wheat (BROWN) no-knead bread in five minutes

Adapted originally from Peter Reinhart's book, Artisan Breads Everyday, and the process further refined by my parents who then showed me, Ann and Heber Jones.  

With no-knead breadmaking, half the dough is water instead of the usual ratio of a third.  Longer sitting times means the dough forms the gluten chains on their own.  (For more on the fascinating chemistry of breads, and also wine, beer, etc,  read this book: The Mini Farming Guide to Fermenting, by Brett L. Markham)

The Five Minute Method

Makes two loaves.  My dad's modification:  you can use either instant or non-instant yeast with this recipe.  Ann and Heber say:   "We found weighing the ingredients with a digital kitchen scale gave consistent results."  I use the whole wheat no-knead bread as my opportunity to add multi-grains, and linseed, sesame, or sunflower seeds.  Hey, if you're going to be eating brown bread, you might as well go all the way and make it as healthy as possible.  The white no-knead (artisan) bread is more of a yummy bread to have with dinner, or as toast.

539g lukewarm water 
14g salt 
5g yeast (or 4g instant yeast)
43g oil 
43g sugar or honey 
680g whole wheat flour

You will also need a digital scale, two plastic containers for storing the dough in your fridge, and butter or other stiff grease for greasing the containers.

Note: It is important that your flour is of a high protein level. I did find a local supplier (mybreadmix.co.nz)of very good flour, it is 13.5g of protein, whatever that means.  Look for high protein flour, or your bread will not be good.

First, I get all my materials together - two large bins of flour, both whole wheat and white, a mixing bowl and wooden spoon, the scale, salt, yeast, sugar or honey, oil, lukewarm water,and little containers for measuring the salt and yeast.  (I always find this breadmaking process relaxing, since I first did this with my dad.)

He always mixed the dough in an ice-cream pail - see photo, on right.  But any bowl will be fine.  A light plastic bowl for measuring the flour is good, though.

Making the dough

Step 1 - Measure all the ingredients but the flour together in your mixing bowl (or container), and mix well.

Heber says:  If you are using honey, measure the oil first - then the honey will come away more easily.  If you are using sugar - measure the sugar first.

Step 2 - Measure the flour, and add part of it, mixing with your spoon - "get it wet" first.  Then add the rest of the flour.  You are done when the dry ingredients are no longer visible, the flour is mixed in.

At this point, resist the urge to grab it with your hands!  It's really sticky!  You can use a dough mixer, if you find the stirring difficult.

Step 3  Wait 5 minutes.  After 5 minutes, stir vigorously for 1 minute.  Give it hell, stretch and pull it with the spoon. 

After I got this little timer for no-knead breadmaking,  it has done wonders for my life as I am a forgetful person  I use it for everything - it even has a magnet so it can stick to the fridge.

Step 4 -  Divide the dough into two even portions, and place into greased containers.  Let rise for a couple of hours at room temperature, then place containers in the fridge for baking 1-4 days from now.

My parents always have a few containers in their fridge slowly brewing - in a cycle of mixing up, storing in the fridge, baking, then freezing the baked bread.Alternatively, you can leave the containers out in room temperature for 12-24 hours before baking.

Baking the dough
1- 4 days later (with the white recipe it's up to 2 weeks, but bugs know what real food is), when you are ready to bake your loaves remove the containers from the fridge and let the dough warm up for a couple of hours.  Then, shape the sticky dough into loaves, and place in greased pans.  Let rise for another couple of hours.  Let it rise only as high as the walls of the bread pan.

Preheat oven to 160 degrees C (350 degress F) and bake for 45 minutes.

My dad showing me the bubbly texture of brown, risen no-knead bread dough as he shapes it to place in a pan to bake it.


I use butter - but it is best to use something "stiff" to grease your containers, and especially breadpans.  No-knead bread dough is very very sticky!

For instructions on making crusty white no-knead bread (artisan bread) on this blog, click here.

The Mini Farming Guide to Fermenting by Brett L. Markham

This book is punk.  "The Mini Farming Guide to Fermenting.  Self-sufficiency from beer and  cheese to wine and vinegar.  WINE - CHEESE - BEER - VINEGAR - BREAD"

Winemaking, beer brewing, how to make vinegar - and even has no-knead artisan bread in it! (my Dad showed me this method, it's punk too).

I always need more than a recipe - this explains how it works, so you can experiment at your own whim - and know what it is that you're doing.  He has a chemistry background, but just keeps you on a "need to know basis".

Requested this book at my local library - and of course I tried to scan in all sorts of bits before realizing it's cheap as chips as a Kindle edition - right now I want a copy of the bread, and wine sections - but all sections in time.  (Like vinegar making!)  Right now my plums are growing on the trees, and I want to be ready for them properly this year.  But the bread section is also brilliant.  Simple to understand, very well put together.  This is a great book.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Madagascar, Lemur and Spies - Natural World doc, 2011-12 ep10 of 13

My post on the Gibson Facebook page:

"Hey Gibson.  I just watched episode 10 of 13, of the BBC series, Natural World (Madagascar, Lemurs and Spies).  That was interesting.  Apparently you used to buy illegal rainforest hardwood from Madagascar - the source of the demand.  Illegal loggers would make your guitar parts right in Madagascar to ship to you.  Wasn't too impressed by Gibson's response either, ie, 'Madagascar is really screwed up anyways.'

"If someone hadn't risked their life to get evidence and prosecute you, you'd still be doing it.

"Shame on you, Gibson."


The point is, a kind of lemur which is amazing - "Silkies", the "ghost of the forest" (as they are so shy) are being destroyed due to the usual reason - loss of habitat.

Madagascar is screwed up because of people like you, Gibson guitar-makers.

. . .

A few days later...

The response so far - not from Gibson but from some random Americans:

"Ricky Underwood: What is so DUMB about people like this guy is they don't ever think that amybe, just maybe some one is replanting TREES for future generations. Tree huggers..... 

"Slick Camden: think u best take message to china. still doing it 

"Nonavee Dale: Trees take along, long time to grow. So do forests. 

"Nonavee Dale: Ricky - the logging was illegal, poachers were taking logs from their national parks because the country was too politically unstable to do anything about it. So you don't believe in law and order? That would be the only way such things (replanting at the right rate) could be organised. So you believe that you can take what you want. I'm not a treehugger, humans won't be able to live either soon if this sort of behaviour continues.

 "And Ricky - I'm a woman, not a guy."

From BBC's website:

Sascha Von Bismarck

Sascha is a Harvard graduate and ex-marine who runs the Environmental Investigation Agency in Washington DC. He is passionate about defending the environment and making corporations and governments take responsibility for their actions. Sascha spent six years lobbying to get the Lacey Act Amendment passed into US law and believes strongly that it is the way forward. In his view it has the potential to revolutionise world trade – when for the first time the companies who create the demand for precious wood – like Madagascan ebony and rosewood, are held to account if they have imported illegal wood. But he has no illusions about the mountain still to climb. Even if the music industry is a small part of the problem compared the China, it can become the spearhead of the solution. With the Lacey Act behind him, Sascha is continuing his battles to save the World’s forests.

Erik Patel

Dr. Erik R. Patel is a primatologist who earned his Ph.D. from Cornell University and his Masters from the University of California at Berkeley. He has worked in Madagascar every year since 2001 studying the behavioral biology and conservation of one of the most critically endangered primates in the world, the silky sifaka lemur (Propithecus candidus) both in Marojejy National Park and the Makira Natural Park.

Link to more on this program here.

Life and Death

I too want to live forever.

I love life.  But that's part of the give and take of life, every day I eat meat, a creature must die.

It would be egotistical to assume that one day, that taking, would not one day require a give.

listening to Nina Simone, a very bright light (that still gives light)

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Reading "Little House in the Big Woods" to my kids (after the B.F.G.)

We just read the BFG - that's "Big Friendly Giant" (by Road Dahl).  It's a must for little kids - mine are 5 (Luke) and 7 (Troy).

Kids and other real people will find it hilarious.  It's great for the imagination - he walks the streets at night, blowing dreams into the windows of little children with this great trumpet.  Not to mention whizzpopping (farting).  The soda he drinks in giant-land - let's just say the bubbles travel down...

My kids confided to me that they believed that he was real, and I didn't dare contradict them.

We read a chapter or two every night (unless I was too tired, then too bad), and they were hooked.

This has honed their little attention spans for a set of books I have been wanting to read to them for awhile - the "Little House on the Prairie" series.  If you only remember the TV show, try to forget. 

Laura Ingalls was a real little girl, and you can read all about her life, and how she lived, with lovely simple drawings for the imagination.  (She lived when people were settling in the West, born in 1867.)  We have started reading the first one, "Little House in the Big Woods".  It's written for the child's mind - for how they need to hear it to imagine it perfectly. 

Everything is described - how they smoke meat in a hollow log turned on one end, with a little roof on the top, and how after they prepare the pig's meat to last them over the winter, they blow up the pig's bladder for the girls to play with (little Laura, 5 or so, has a bigger sister Mary).  Lukie really wants to try churning butter in the ceramic jug they used to use with the stick (dash), with a lid with a hole in it.  I would like to try to find an antique one and try it!  (Think I'll pass on trying the pig's bladder idea, though!)

Laura, sitting on a pumpkin in the attic with her sister Mary.  Mary has a wooden doll, and Laura has a little wrapped up corncob for a doll.  I was fascinated with this little girl's life when I was also little.

How to churn butter.  Mary having a turn while Mother rests.  The little girls helped with the work to the best of their ability.

Vertical Forest in Milan

Artist impression, link here.

Real photo, link here.

Bosco Verticale, or Vertical Forest, being constructed in the heart of Milan by Stefano Boeri architects, is to have 900 trees. Better than a treeless apartment, but still very controlled. And what if some trees grow really really big? Or would they in that environment? What do you think of this as our future?