Lots of time - that is what you have when you are unemployed. I am taking this opportunity to do more time consuming cooking. Canning has been one project. It is now cooler so I have been more interested in trying different types of bread.
My first project is trying a sourdough starter. I have never worked with a starter but I'm intrigued with it. I love sourdough. I found this recipe for a wild yeast sourdough starter on The Fresh Loaf and started up my culture. I has just about been a week so it may be ready. It hasn't made a lot so I'm going to do more research on it. I'd like to try making bread and waffles or pancakes with the starter. I just find it very intriguing to be able to create bread without yeast. I've tasted several Belgium beers that also use wild yeast and they are so different. Sour but good.
I had a craving for focaccia bread. I found this recipe for Focaccia on The Fresh Loaf and I really wanted to try it. One of my favorite Focaccia bread that I have had was a potato topped Focaccia that I got from a bakery along the Cinque Terre. The combination of thin potatoes, fresh bread, oil and rosemary was heavenly. This recipe isn't for a potato topped Focaccia but instead uses potato in the dough. Several artisan bread companies in Seattle make a potato bread so I though this would be a great second project.
The recipe starts by baking or microwaving potatoes and then grating them. Next you create a sponge. The recipe called for quick acting yeast but I had just regular active yeast. It worked fine. NOTE: The initial post on the recipe gives the wrong amount of yeast. It says 1/2 tsp and it is really 1 1/2 tsp of quick yeast. 1 1/2 tsp of active yeast works fine. Just start the active yeast first in the warm water. I have it about 3-5 minutes before adding the flour and then I waited for about 20-25 minutes until I had a sponge.
Next you add the flour. I do not have a large mixer so I did it by hand. First I added about 2 cups of flour and then added about 1/2 cup more. Then I turned it out and started kneading and added about 1/2 cup more. I used a course grater for the potato so there were a few pieces of potato even when I had finished kneading making it a little knobby.
It took about 1-2 hours for the first rise. It is cool - 65 degrees so I like using a large pan with a small amount of warm water to raise the temperature and assist the rising of the dough. After it had raised, then I punched it down and cut it in half. I knew we could not eat a full sheet of bread so I used a piece of foil to cut my pan down to size. I stretched out the dough into a rectangular shape, topped it with olive oil, fresh rosemary and salt and let it rise again. I baked it for about 25 minutes.
It was wonderful. It wasn't yeasty at all and the potato gave it a good depth. I would have liked a bit more rosemary and salt but otherwise extremely yummy. We didn't eat all so I'm going to try reheating part tonight and then making the other half later this week.
My third flour project was homemade pasta. I tried it for the first time earlier this summer and I wasn't too impressed. But I wanted to try it again. I read over a couple of the threads on Slow Travel and there were several discussion regarding what type of flour to use. You want to use hard durum flour to give the pasta some 'bite'. Last time I think I used 00 flour from Italy. I realize now that it was too 'soft'. I also rolled the pasta too thin. It ended up being a very thin noodle.
I had a bag of Bob's Red Mill Semolina Pasta Flour. Some Slow Travelers use only semolina and others have found it to be too dry. I decided to use 1/3 Semolina to 2/3 all purpose flour. The recipe I used was 3/4 cup of flour (1/4 cup semolina and 1/2 cup all purpose flour) and 1 egg. It was so much better. It tasted more like pasta than noodles. It was a little dry but cooked up very tasty. I cooked down some fresh tomatoes along with a bit of vegetarian bouillon, butter and herbs (basil, rosemary and sage). Oh... My... Goodness... I'm going to make it again tonight.
Kneading the Focaccia