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.
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.
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.
A few short years ago, I thought the often ~400% price premium for organics was so ridiculous that I simply wasn’t willing to pay for it, even if it was supposedly better for me. Times have changed, and two things have happened: 1] education has made me willing pay the price and 2] I found ways to not have to pay the price.
The second bit is the better of the two, isn’t it? I think so. Having one’s cake and eating it too feels darn good. The more I source my family’s food outside the walls of a box-store, the more I find opportunities to procure ethically produced, local, and often organic products for roughly what I was used to paying inside those box-store walls. Most certainly at a fraction of what I’d pay at a retail organic store. This is very important to me, not simply because our family can eat better food for little extra money, but because it has proven to me that the price objection I once felt – which I’d wager keeps a lot of folks away from organics - need not exist. There’s a better way to access organic, local food. It is accessible. I do it every day.
For your consideration I offer the following example. Highwood Crossing‘s organic unbleached white flour, of which I just obtained 40kg, with shipping, $38/20kg bag. That’s $1.90/kg. A local-to-me organic producer Sunny Boy, goes for $8/1.8kg bag at retailer, or $4.44/kg. The photo below shows Robin Hood flour at a national grocer at a regular price of $9.99/5kg, or $2/kg. Wait a minute. Isn’t that more than the $1.90/kg for local, organically grown product?!? Why yes, yes it is.
The bottom line is that I’m now happy to pay more for top quality grains from local producers like this. I’m not interested in feeding my kids sprayed grain or encouraging non-sensible agricultural practices in general, if I can avoid it, which I can. But for those resisting local or organic or ethical food based on price as I did for along time – please know that with some resourcefulness [like joining a local bulk-ordering club, buying direct from farmers, doing some legwork yourself, or any other method of carving out the overhead and profit of middlemen], you can eat better food without spending a dime more. It can be done.
ps – I obtained the Highwood Crossing flour through a bulk order. I’ve also obtained organic grains here at similar prices. I know folks who’ve done it through local bulk buying clubs, which I hope to be able to provide info on soon. And yes, I know you can buy conventional flour for cheaper than in the photo above, but that’s a bit besides the point, imo.