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Archive for the ‘Grains’ Category

Cob Oven Bread

09.07.12

I’m not sure quite what to say about the fact that I’ve had this lovely oven for months now, and today was the first time I actually intentionally baked bread. In my defense, I shall say: pizza, roast and braised meats, pies, loaves, deep frying, and smoked bacon. It’s interesting that a lot of folks think wood oven and think ‘bread’, yet it took me so long to get to it. It speaks to the over-performing-versatility of the thing. I know many of your are convinced, and I tip my hat to those of you who either have built one since I built mine, or are going to, due to my constant prodding. It makes me deeply content to know a few cob ovens adorn our city that didn’t before, simply because I shared my experience with mine.

For a guy who’s far from obsessed with perfecting bread, I’m pretty pleased with this one. Overnight ferment of 50% Gold Forest Grains’ hard whole wheat. About 80% hydration. That’s all there is to say about it. It’s bread. Baked in a wood oven. The one thing I did that some would scorn is I baked it with the last of a fire in the back, with the door open. Most would pull coals and close the door for more even heat and a higher humidity bake. That would have removed the pleasure of watching it and turning it as I saw fit. Really solid oven spring, nice toast. Now to get to eating it.

Episode 48 – The Carbon Farmer

08.20.12

I’ve been on a lot of farms in the past few years, but none quite like this. On my way up to Manning for a variety of shoots related to another project Brad had a role in contracting me for, we made a stop to take a look at their operation. On that same drive I had passed many a chunk of bush being pushed down by cats hired by farmers upping the scale game. And here these guys were, planting trees. I adore the guts it takes to do something this outside the box. Although the basic premise is simple: farm carbon, Brad’s way too smart to leave it at that. Planting trees provides opportunities to sell carbon credits and ‘farm’ wild foods. And reminicent of a conversation I’d had with a Chateauneuf du Pape producer a few years back about how the wine industry had matured and been pushed by competition such that they were pulling vines on land that was marginal for that use and probably shouldn’t have been planted in the first place – here’s Brad doing the same in my back yard. Well, his back yard. And it’s heritage grains and trees, not grapes. Okay, weak example, but talk about diversification – selling carbon credits to industry, land rehabilitation, growing organic heritage grains, and niche wild food. Folks must think he’s crazy. Wonder how many years before some start to follow.

From The Farmers’ Mouth – Time to Vote

12.21.11

My highlight reel of ‘From Local Farms‘ videos was just chosen by Daniel and Mirra of The Perennial Plate as a top-four contender in their recent video competition. I’m honored to be on the list, to say the least. The very reason I started a video series at all was directly because of Daniel and Mirra’s earliest episodes – inspiring me to pick up a cheap Flip camera, introduce myself to some farmers, and press some record button. My life, quite literally, has not been the same since.

So a big thank you goes out today to Daniel, Mirra, all the passionate farmers, and especially to you for taking the time to watch what other folks have to say about our food world. You plugging into and supporting projects like The Perennial Plate matters – it creates cracks in a food culture needing to evolve.

Please click over here to like the video on facebook, and vote for it too while you’re at it. If the vid wins the day, it will replace the regular programming of The Perennial Plate next Monday, exposing it to a very large viewership of like minded folks across many borders. That would be very cool. Even if it doesn’t, big thanks to Daniel and Mirra for your support of what I’m up to and sharing your audience.

Fire, Brick, Water, and Wheat

11.30.11

I couldn’t not take photos of these breads yesterday. It being a busy fall with harvesting, butchering, etc, I haven’t fired up the wood oven nearly often enough. There’s something meditative about watching a fire that’s akin to getting lost in music. Add to that the satisfaction of baking up lovely loaves of tasty bread while tending the oven, and it’s the kind of activity that can make your day.

This bread is the same pain a l’ancienne approach as I wrote about here. Having taken a quick look at that post I noticed that I’ve modified the loaf shape due to the design of my wood oven and how I’m baking them off. With hot coals still in the oven during baking there’s uneven heat making a baguette style loaf shape impractical – one end being done far before the other. So instead I’m free-styling them into whatever shape comes from cutting the dough into a few manageable pieces that can be turned easily in the oven if need be without removing them. It produces a puffed up mini-loaf that cut in half is fantastic for sandwiches. Kinda like pita meets pizza crust meets ciabatta bun. First course for dinner last night was herbed fried ruffed grouse breast, mayo, and carrot & pickled onion slaw stuffed into a half of one of these loaves. Tasty.

‘The Harvest’ w/ Chef Brittany Watt

11.16.11

I met Britt a few months ago, when the proprietor of the restaurant she was then working at introduced us. I promised her some plants, she came to get them and came for dinner, and I still haven’t managed to get her those plants. I think she and I get along because we’re both pretty hardcore when it comes to our values around food, and neither of us care much for beating around the bush. We were able to get out mushroom foraging this summer, and it looks like she’ll be jumping in on helping Allan Suddaby and I butcher elk this weekend. So there you have it: disclosure of bias + an explanation of why I was at her event, all wrapped into one.

Anyway, long story short: she’s started up her own gig, was having an ‘after hours’ harvest dinner geared entirely around farmers’ market vendor ingredients [NOT a normal activity around here], and invited me to attend as her guest. If you want to read a lovely blog post, Liane happened to be there. Read hers. I lack her eloquence. What I can tell you is that those chefs leading the way in their industry towards a real local and seasonal approach to food have my support. I’m unusual, with all my DIY/grow-it-kill-it-make-it-yourself stuff – I get it. I also get that many folks that eat out have similar values around local, seasonal, ethical food, and if I can support the chefs blazing the way in industry that serves the masses, I will.

Because I, quite honestly, hate writing about events [or worse, organizing them, don't ask me to do that], do enjoy the video below. It delivers far more than I could via writing and a few pictures. Last thought: get down to the Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market not just to shop, but to eat, as Britt now runs the concession. The menu blew me away, as it actually serves up food sold by the vendors under that very roof. Well done, whoever lined up this long-time-needed change [and I know who you are]. Well done.

Flax Aioli & Carrot Slaw

02.25.11

This is long over due. Long, long, long overdue. I have come to feel very strongly about winter slaws. Despite all my root cellar bliss, I thought that the one thing I’d long for is salad in the dead of winter, but honestly, I am still diggin’ the slaws.

This one is carrot from the cellar with a touch of cabbage, and a flax-oil/duck-egg aioli – finished with flax for some texture variation. It was tweaked with a little cider vinegar and seasoned, but otherwise is super-simple, local, healthy, cheap, tasty, and a tad exciting. That’s right: exciting. Winter salads can be exciting. It’s a new-to-me discovery, and I love it.

When I first started making slaws heavily this year – the garden greens ended mid-November, and no, I have not purchased any since – I thought I would tire quickly. They were good, but how much could one take of them, really? Apparently, lots. Granted, I don’t want to eat a lettuce-salad-bowlful, it’s better as a side kind of deal, but it’s also a lot more dense.

If you have a box grater and some local veg, you’re most of the way there. Try it.

Jack-o-lantern & Chevre Cupcake

02.09.11

Although not a big TV watcher, I have to admit I really love ‘Jamie at Home’. I was  recently watching his winter squash episode, and he  very quickly whipped together butternut squash cupcakes with a very low-sugar icing. ‘Hm’, thought I, ‘I have a bunch of jack-o-lantern pumpkin in the freezer that needs to get eaten’. Then, thought I, “I also have lots of chevre from Smoky Valley Goat Cheese in my freezer”. Hm.

See, back when we did a cheese tasting for Holly the cheesemaker, one of the ideas for use of her chevre was cream cheese icing on carrot cake. Every time that idea crossed my mind, I thought it  was genius. It was time to give it a go.

We directly substituted pumpkin for butternut, and chevre for sour cream, and as unlikely as it is for me to get excited about cupcakes, these are really awesome. They will be a new staple in our home. The girls like them, mom and dad like them, and they’re heavy on winter squash and goat cheese, and relatively light on sugar. The chevre doesn’t need a lot of sugar to whip up into an icing – a few tablespoons of icing sugar per cup of chevre, and it’s really, really good as icing – only a slight tang of tartness reminding me it’s goat dairy and not cream cheese. Because of the light tang, go easy on the citrus, I think, if using Jamie’s recipe. We used no citrus.

So there you have it. Me, endorsing a cupcake. Never thought I’d see the day.

An Afternoon with Bread

02.04.11

Life’s pace slowed for a moment today, so out came the flours. I made 3 doughs. 1] 50% Highwood Crossing Unbleached White, 50% Gold Forest Grains Whole Wheat. 2] 50% Highwood Crossing Unbleached White, 50% Gold Forest Grains Rye and 3] 100% Highwood Crossing Unbleached White. So a white, a whole wheat, and a rye. All with roughly 80% hydration, 1ml salt and active dry yeast per 100g flour.

The whole wheat seemed to proof the fastest, and was the most slack. Next was the rye, and then the white – which is odd, perhaps attributable to the white flour being cold [straight out of the cellar].

Below is a photo essay illustrating the doughs post ferment/pre final rise; the probe thermometer reading internal loaf temps inside my temp wood fired oven [grateful, as they cooked faster than anticipated]; the finished loaves [the white a tad small as some dough was nicked to make a small pizza for lunch while the oven was really hot]; my use of the coals when pulled out to bake: grilled some bugers for dinner; and lastly, a quick shot of the oven walls white from exceeding 600F [I think], burning off any residual soot.

Pain a l’Ancienne: My New Rut

01.30.11

My bread gig has changed. A couple times now. First, back in the day, it started with baguettes from a dough recipe in the CIA’s Professional Chef tome. Then boules. Then boules with half organic whole wheat, half unbleached organic white – stayed on this one for a good 2-3 years, I figure. Those loaves ended up evolving to 6lb of dough per. I have a big oven.

When it comes to bread, apparently I’m a rut guy. I like hunkering myself down into one. And staying there. So here’s my new rut. Pain a l’ancienne. Pain is definitely one of those french words that wins the linguistics’-cool-measuring-contest. Said with an english accent, no, but said with a french one, far better than the word ‘loaf’, no? Loaf. Wouldn’t want to be the guy who invented that word. Anyway, I’ve eaten loads of this style of bread in both France and Italy, and it has been a joy having some successes with it at home. I was inspired to give it a go after seeing some folks tackle Peter Reinhart’s approach [this blog being most useful to me, not being patient enough for Reinhart's book to become available at the library]. Strangely, the only real difference in my mind is wetter dough. I dial it up to 80% [from previous 70% recipe], get frustrated working with wet dough a bit, but then reap the rewards of awesome bubbly bread. Recipe: flour, 80% of the flour’s weight in water, then 1 tsp of salt and yeast per lb of flour. Voila. New rut. And this rut is so close to the last one they can hang out. Or perhaps were even made by the same vehicle.

I’m saddened a touch to post these photos, as I knocked out 9 loaves in 3 batches from one firing of the dry stack oven during my 2-year-old’s recent birthday party, and one of those batches turned out beautifully, during the day with nice light. But I had my hands full. These photos, sadly, are from a less successful batch in the dark that is our winter evenings. Oh well. C’est la vie.

Ever the QPR geek: 500g organic local flour = $0.95. Rest [including oven and wood], negligible or free. So call it $1.  $0.30-0.50/pain. Bargain.