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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

We Have a Winner

After a minor setback last night, in which my too-wet dough stuck so disastrously to my very well floured cloths that the cloths had to be discarded, this morning I baked a really good loaf of sourdough. This one had no leaven other than the starter, which when I mixed up the dough yesterday morning was at the point where it was doubling in volume in a couple hours.

I used this LA Times recipe, sort of. My starter is only part whole wheat (I ran out of whole wheat flour a while ago and started using all-purpose and bread flour—no big deal), and I used a bit less whole wheat flour in the dough itself: 9 ounces starter (which was quite a bit more than 1 cup), 5 ounces whole wheat flour, about 10 ounces bread flour (to which I later added maybe another ounce due to the aforementioned sticking problem), 12 ounces water, 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt.

I followed all the folding and shaping steps, but because my dough was so wet to begin with I had to gently fold and knead it again last night instead of baking it. I stuck it in the fridge overnight, let it rise at room temperature for a few hours this morning, then shaped it into boules and put them in flour-cloth-lined bowls covered with plastic (above) to rise for another hour or so.

Turned a boule out onto parchment on a peel, then onto a stone in a 450-degree oven with lots of steam (ice in the bottom of the oven, plus misting the oven walls in the first few minutes of baking). I did not turn down the oven temperature as it says to do in the recipe.

Here's what I got: a very holey, moist, chewy crumb; a nice chewy crust (not very crisp, though); and, most important, a wonderfully complex flavor. It's good and salty, quite sour but not in as assertive a way as my last sourdough attempt. Basically it's just fantastic bread, and I'm very happy with it. Next time I make sourdough the process will be less problematic, I think, but I will do the overnight rise in the fridge again, as I think that helped the flavor develop and mature considerably.

On the muffin front, I made some of the Everyday Food quinoa muffins Heidi mentioned, but I baked them in mini-muffin pans and used only 2 tablespoons sugar instead of the 3/4 cup called for, and chopped frozen cherries instead of raisins. They are, well, not sweet, and the low sugar content meant they didn't brown very well. (I don't know about the picture on the Martha Stewart recipe page, by the way. Where's the quinoa in those muffins?)

The bug taste-tested them, and when I saw that she'd picked the cherries out and left the crumbled half-chewed remains of the quinoa part on the counter I decided to try another recipe. Daycare workers don't need that kind of mess at a Valentine's Day party, I figured; they'd probably appreciate just a little more sugar high and a little less mess.

So I adapted a blueberry muffin recipe my mom sent me from her stash. She says that in the old days muffins weren't supposed to be sweet at all because they were served with supper, and sure enough her old recipes called for only 2 tablespoons sugar (and in once case none at all!) per 2 cups or 1 1/2 cups flour. I split the difference, and the results were so popular I had to hide them from little hands.

Semi-Old-Fashioned Raspberry Muffins

Makes about 20 mini muffins

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, melted
3/4 cup milk
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup frozen raspberries

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter and flour mini muffin tins.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

In a small bowl, whisk together the butter, milk, egg, and vanilla. Gently stir the wet mixture into the dry ingredients with a rubber spatula until the dry ingredients are almost all moistened; do not overmix or the muffins will be tough. Gently fold in the raspberries. (You can toss the raspberries with a little flour before folding them in if you don't want the color to bleed too much. I wanted the pink to spread, as these are Valentine's Day muffins.)

Fill the muffin cups to the top and bake in the center of the oven for about 15 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove the muffins to wire racks to cool.


heidi said...

I should have mentioned that I was out of eggs, so substituted some maple-flavored whole milk yogurt and applesauce (just random amounts, I didn't even try to approximate an egg's worth). Mine browned OK, but 2/3 of them went into non-stick pans.

I wasn't making mine for the kid though...they were for me since I never have time to actually eat breakfast before work any more! And I take mine full-sugar :)

Liana said...

Oh, that sounds good too. I like the quinoa muffins with the reduced sugar but was thinking they could've used one more flavor: a spice, a zest? Apple and maple would be perfect.