Friday, July 22, 2011

From Raisins to Bread

After 5 days, the yeast was finally ready to use. I thanked my lucky raisins and separated them from the bath they’d been soaking in; they had done a good job fermenting bottled water into a golden, bubbling yeast colony.

I found these little raisins in a bodega in San Carlos, MX. Much smaller and not as sweet as their cousins from California; their tangy taste translates to currants or sultanas.

To make the masa madre, the mother dough or starter, I added 4-5 generous tablespoons of harina de trigo (in the states, this would be called “white bleached flour”), to the 1.5 cup of yeast liquid.

Using an empty Padre Kino, wine vase (a local version of Gallo wine), I shook the mixture to form the masa madre.

I let the mixture rest for several hours to rise. 11 am and 4 pm (grow yeastie, grow!)

I’ve read that you need to let the starter ferment for another 2 days to really develop the taste...but my impetuous insides clamored for me to make bread already, so I skipped this step. By early evening, I had already prepared the dough, salivating at the thought of smearing butter on a hot slice (it had been 3 weeks since any bread had entered these lips!). 

flour, water, salt, fresh yeast

I allowed the dough to rest for another 12 hours….(some time during the night a kitchen fairie, seeing that there was a much better container for the dough to grow in, transferred it into a pyrex baking pan).

Inside an oiled boil. Night night...don't let the geckos bite!

The next day, I was thrilled to find how beautifully the dough had grown! (hey wait???!…where did this pyrex pan come from?) I folded the dough and let it rest 1 more hour before baking.

Inside Mollie’s apartment, I preheated the tiny kitchen oven to 230 C or ~ 450 F; placing the cast iron skillet (sweet pantry excavation!) to get it nice and hot. After 30 mins, I carefully transferred the dough using a floured towel, to the inferno HOT skillet. Plop! Let bake 30-40 mins.

During that time, I did what ever I could do to distract myself….getting myself the hell away from the kitchen… listening to music, watching a man on the river, being breakfasted by mosquitoes, discovering little strange things on the couch...what is this?, rubbing Biela’s tummy, doing anything, anything!...from opening the oven and interfering with the baking process.

After 15 minutes, you start to smell, that heavenly bread smell emanating from the modern kiln, luring like sirens to carnal sailors….Come to me!…..

After 27 minutes, I couldn’t take it anymore. I took the bread out and let it rest for one last time (10-15 mins is ideal…in reality 7.2353 mins). 

Note to self: next time, please wait  40 mins for a darker crust. 

Finalemente....Come to mama!

Love at first slice or two or three... 

Hmmmmmm…..!??!!! The taste of the bread has a hint of tanginess, not flat and bland like bread from packaged yeast. It's airy and wonderful with butter and honey (or dunking into soup)...Buen provecho chicos!

with butter and honey 

Click to view all photos taken from raisins to bread.

Recipe for the yeast starter
Raisins* (2 small handfuls or 1 large handful…I have small hands)
Water (enough to cover or 1-2 cups)
Container with lid (salsa container, jam, wine jug)

Allow 5-7 days for fermentation.

*You can use anything organic. I’ve used dried apples, persimmons from my mom’s garden…have fun experimenting and let me know how it goes.

-Place it anywhere outside. Refrigeration is not necessary.
-Each day shake the contents and open the lid for a couple of minutes. -Encouragement is good! Quietly tell your raisins to grow into beautiful golden yeast).
-After day 3, the raisins will start to rise to the top and bubble.
-Around day 5-7, you will hear intense bubbling. It will smell sour not as strong as vinegar, but definitely fermented like beer.
-To make the starter, add flour to make a paste. Depending on how much yeast liquid you’ve rendered. 3-4 tablespoons or less or more. I recommend waiting 2 more days for the starter or sponge to proof. You can use it immediately, but trust me, it's better to wait. You will get a better flavor and a better bread dough after you've waited another 2 days.

-If you wait too long, the yeast can implode, so make sure you use it immediately and feed it flour. It is possible for yeast to die (it’s happened to me so don’t worry. Repeat, start again).
-If there are no bubbles, start again or add more raisins.
-If you're in a higher altitude or colder climate (as I was, when I was baking from Guatemala or Bariloche, Argentina, when I made a yeast batch), it may take longer 8+ days for the raisins to ferment. 

Recipe for the bread dough
*From Jim Lahey, owner of Sullivan St Bakery, NYC
3 cups flour
1 1/4 cups water
1/2 cup fresh yeast starter/sponge or 1/4 tsp dried yeast
Good pinch of salt
Oil (for coating)

Mix all of dry ingredients in a bowl. Add water and yeast starter and mix by hand or a wooden spoon until you have a ball. No need to over mix. Cover the bowl with a towel and let it rest for 12 hours. Remove the dough from the bowl and fold once or twice. Shape into a ball. Place the dough on a generously floured towel. Cover the dough with another towel and let rise 1-2 hours at room temperature, until more than doubled in size. Cut a slit on top of the dough. Preheat oven to 500°F for 20 mins. (You can either use a heavy le creuset pot with lid or a cast iron or a thick backing sheet. Which ever method. I prefer the simple thick baking sheet). Place a thick baking sheet in the oven to heat. When the pan is hot. Flip the dough onto the pan. Bake for 30-40 minutes. Allow the dough to rest for 15 minutes before slicing. Over with a towel to store.

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