Monday, February 8, 2016

Spelt Bread How To

Spelt bread is a delicious and easy to digest alternative to regular whole wheat bread. It's easy to substitute for whole wheat in any baking you do too. The only thing to remember is that it is not as gluten-y which is to say ... rubbery. It ends up being more like a thick batter that only reluctantly stays together while kneading, so it has to be treated gently. Once baked, though, it's got a moist rye/pumpernickel type consistency.

When making bread from scratch you can use whatever yeast you normally use but I have a spelt sourdough starter that works wonderfully well also - it just takes more time to rise. I put together a couple tablespoons of starter with a cup of spelt flour and enough water to make a thick batter and let it sit overnight in a large 8 cup glass measuring cup covered with plastic wrap. Once it's bubbling it's ready to use for baking. I add 4 cups of flour, 2 teaspoons of salt and enough water to mix it all together to make a thick, workable batter.

Here I've dumped out the thoroughly mixed dough on to the countertop to 'knead' with my handy dough scraper. Since the dough is so wet and delicate it's easier to fold over and over again with a dough scraper than with your hands.Even though it's mixed here, it's still pretty ragged and undisciplined.

I do this for about 5 minutes or until it looks a little more civilized.

I then lift it gently back into my clean and greased glass measuring cup, pat it down and sprinkle some spelt on the surface to give it a 'skin' that would normally be present on regular dough because of the gluten. This skin helps keep the rising within the body of the dough instead of  bubbles breaking through the surface. Cover it and let it rise in a warm and quiet place for about six hours (shorter if you're using instant yeast) or until it has doubled in bulk.

Beautiful, isn't it? Kind of like a spa for flour and water.

Anyway, moving on.

Once the dough is large and full of life, uncover it and gently spatula it out of the bowl and into a parchment-lined loaf pan. Pat it down and sprinkle a little flour on the surface again as the old surface will have now been absorbed and you want to keep those uppity bubbles contained. It will lose a little bit of its bulk during the transfer but not not enough that it can't regain while resting in the pan for another 40 minutes or so while the oven heats up to nice robust 450 degrees.

Once it has rested, recovered and puffed up again in the loaf pan it's ready to bake. To control the rapid rise when it hits the heat in the oven, I like to slash the top diagonally but it can also be done with one slash down the middle.

Turn the oven down to about 425 and bake for about 60 - 70 minutes . These numbers are what work for my old decrepit oven but could be tweaked for newer hipper ovens. Just keep an eye on the loaf while it's baking, is all I'm saying. It should be dark and crusty when it comes out.

See? Delicious. It's great with a smear of salted butter and a slice of cheese or to build a rustic ham sandwich. It toasts great too.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Reading Notes

Well I guess it was inevitable. Shelfari, whose website and bookshelf widgets were so fun to fill and post on my sidebar, are now gone. I was invited to move my reading list over to GoodReads, which I did, but -meh- it's just not as visually delightful as Shelfari was. I'm not impressed.

In other reading news, I am having a most enjoyable read of Mark Twain's "Life on the Mississippi." I always find it so interesting that authors from a hundred years ago can still resonate so well with readers today. His language and humor is wonderful. This is his own story written somewhat like a diary and filled with the hardscrabble characters he encountered in his time on the river. He has also included his own footnotes explaining some terms or situations regarding steamships and river navigation. He and authors like him truly bring history to life.

I've been baking again, too! I'm refining my sourdough spelt bread recipe/technique and will be posting pictures of my latest creations soon.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

I've been looking for some literary references to New Orleans for an upcoming trip and found this link which looks like fun except when you take away William Faulkner (too weird and incoherent), Anne Rice (vampires and fantasy are not my bag, although Interview with the Vampire was...ok), and any NOLA based crime writers (since I'm not much of a crime reader), then I'm pretty much left with these two books as a reading list. I might check out some Tennessee Williams and revisit some Hemingway too. But for now I'm pretty stoked. This is a manageable, travel friendly collection to throw in my bag and read on the plane and while noshing on coffee and beignets at Cafe du Monde.

Window seat reading
by Charles James Lewis

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Monday, January 18, 2016

Reading Notes

It snowed all day Sunday so I spent most of it here with a pot of tea and multiple copies of Tender is The Night both on my iPad and an old paperback. I like switching between the two because I'm a nerd that way and, well, as much as I've railed against reading screens it is in fact easier on my eyes. But I do love holding tatty, old dog-eared paperbacks.

The story itself, though a little strange, is a transportation into 1930's France with the kind of evocative writing I love about Fitzgerald. And who couldn't use a little literary daydreaming right about now?

Speaking of old paperbacks, look what I found while rummaging the shelves in my favourite used book store. I loved listening to David Bowie as a teen and have always kept a few of my favourite songs around to sing along with and reminisce over. It was a shock to hear that he had died last week and what better reason to break out those songs for a thorough listen? Wow, such intense emotional, angsty teen memories. It was a good time in my life, actually. I felt I had 'discovered' something fringe and it helped me evolve.
And now, thirty years later, this book...

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Well now if this doesn't tick all the boxes.
photo by mikkel vang/ stylist emma person lagerberg