Pane Cafone (Country Man's Bread)

Pane Cafone (Country Man's Bread)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sharing is caring part deux

An old friend of mine contacted me on Facebook the other day and was wondering when he was going to get a chance to sample my home made sourdough.  He works crazy hours and I never know when his day's off are so we have kind of lost touch with each other the last year of so.
Well in honor of my friendship with Steve and his wife Charlotte I'm going to bake him a loaf of honey wheat bread using the SDI SF sourdough starter and I'm going to bake it in my cast iron dutch oven.
The recipe I'm going to use is Richard Packham's Everyday Sourdough Bread but I'm substituting honey where the recipe calls for sugar.

2 cups fresh starter
1 cup warm water
2 tablespoons sugar (honey)
1 teaspoon  salt
4 tablespoons dried milk powder
1 cup whole wheat flour
all purpose flour to make a stiff dough 4 - 5 cups

What's going to be interesting is that I have never used the cast iron dutch oven to bake bread in before so I'm going to have to be careful with the cooking time.  I plan to do the final rise in the dutch oven and put it into a pre-heated oven set at 400F and bake it for 40 minutes and see where that takes me.
First Rise and the Dutch oven

One other thing that I'm going to try is retarding the sencond rise by letting it rise in the fridge the second time.

In the dutch oven and ready for the 2nd rise

The Finished product. That is a big loaf of bread! 

I hope you enjoy this as much as I enjoyed making it Steve.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Sharing is Caring

My current passion with Sourdough bread goes back to my very roots growing up in the San Francisco Bay area.  Until I moved to Florida 19 years ago I just took it for granted.  Now 19 years removed from California I had to find a way to get my daily sourdough bread so I decided to make my own even though I had very little experience with bread making.  I mean how hard can it be?  Mankind has been making bread for thousands of years.
None of this would have been possible with out the generosity of people like The Friends of Carl who distribute Carl Griffiths 1847 Oregon Trail Starter for the price of a self addressee stamped envelope which is what I started with.  Carl's starter is very easy to work with and creates a nice mild loaf of sourdough bread.
Then I joined a Yahoo sourdough group and within a few months I was getting offers of different starters to expand my collection.  I had no idea that there were so many different types. My collection now consists of Carls 1847 starter, Sourdough International San Francisco Starter (my favorite, go figure), Richard Packhams 1965 San Francisco starter, Dr. G's Frankenstarter, which is an experiment of 7 starters combined, Amish Friendship bread starter and a Russian starter that I haven't activated yet and plan to make some rye bread out of.  That should be fun.
Paying it forward is the price I've been paying for the starters in my collection.  I have given starters to friends locally as well as sending them to people in Ohio, Calif., Maine, Arizona and Oregon.  Following The Friends of Carl's example, all I ask if someone wants one of the starters in my collection is $1 to cover postage, labels, envelopes etc..  I don't always have alot dried but I do try to keep a little of each on hand in case of emergencies, after all I do live in Florida and you never know when the power is going to go out.
My starters have probably drifted a little from their origins over time  so if you want a pure version of most of them then....

Here is a link to Dr. Woods website and the 12+ starters he offers for

I know most of us share starters, but keeping in mind the value Dr. Wood
brought to SD baking by collecting and maintaining pure cultues from
multiple sources, there is also a sense we should support him when

Bob's Basic Sourdough Bread Recipe (revised)

I got this recipe off the Yahoo Sourdough Group. Barb in Ocala had posted the original and her revised version. I made two small changes to her revision. I used honey instead of sugar and I increased the amount of salt to 1 tablespoon.


Yield: 3 large loaves or 4 small loaves

Sugar 2/3 cup (222 grams) (I cut the sugar to 1/4 cup)
Vegetable oil - 1/2 cup (120 grams)
1 teaspoon salt (8 grams)
1 cup active starter (273 grams)
1-1/2 cups warm water (364 grams)
6 cups bread flour (810 grams)

I start with 5 cups of bread flour and then add the remaining cup as needed,
depending on the humidity.

Mix ingredients in a large bowl.

Grease or oil a container. (I use a clear, straight-sided plastic container)

 I picked 2 of these up at Walmart for less than $2.50

Put dough in container and flip over to cover top of dough with oil or grease.
Cover with a clean, damp cloth.

Let stand 6-8 hours or overnight.

This is after 4 hours

Punch down and divide into 3 parts. Knead each part 8-10 times on a lightly
floured surface.
Shape and put into 3 greased (I use a non-stick cooking spray) pans and brush
tops with oil (or butter).

Cover and let rise 4-5 hours. I put pans in a large plastic bag and tuck the
ends under the pans to make it airtight. Make sure you tent the bags.
Instead of plastic bags I use clear disposable shower caps that can be picked up at your favorite dollar discount store.  They normally come 10 for $1 

Bake at 325F to 350F for 30-35 minutes.
After baked, for a softer crust, brush tops with butter and cool on cooling
When cool, wrap in plastic cling wrap, then aluminum foil and freeze.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Care and Feeding day at the zoo.

When I was prepping to make Bob's Basic Sourdough Bread, I was going to use the Richard Packham 1965 San Francisco starter that I revived last month but never used.  The night before I was going to bake I put 1/2 cup of starter in a glass bowl and added 2 cups of flour and water and covered it with a towel.  When I checked it the next morning it had a layer of hooch on it but little to almost no activity.  Yikes!  I grabbed  SDI San Francisco sourdough starter and gave that a shot.  Okay, that one worked the way it was supposed to but it left me wondering about the health of the other starters in the fridge.  I took them all out and poured 1/2 cup of each in a container and added a cup of flour and water to each to see how they reacted.  The Frankenstarter (formally know as the starter from the black lagoon) seemed to be slow to react but otherwise okay.  The other 2 gave me cause for concern  by developing a layer of hooch early on with very little bubbling.  I keep dried back ups of all my starters but I'd rather try to bring the ones I already have running back to a healthy state.  My solution was to add a teaspoon of potato water to each starter and see if that perked them up.  Potato water is very simple to make. Take 2 or three potatoes and cut them up in cubes, cover with water and boil for about 20 minutes.  Pour off the water into a container and let it cool.  I put the glass mason jar I poured the potato water into a bowl of cool water so I could use it fairly soon.

The pot at the right contains the potato water

I have well water in my house that is rather hard so if the potato water does not do the trick then I plan to try and jump start them with a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar. I understand the little yeasties like a slightly acid environment.

Luckily I didn't have to resort to the vinegar, the potato water seemed to have worked.  Everyone is healthy and happy now.
Don't you just love a happy ending?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Time to try out a new starter

With all the cycling I've been doing the last 6 days, I haven't had any time to bake.  Well there's a break in the action for the rest of the week so it's back to bread.
I have been able to activate a couple of starters this week, the Starter from the Black Lagoon and the David Packham 1965 SF starter.  I'll get back to the David Packham later, I want to try out this frankenstarter that Dr. G sent me.  I think I'll bake a couple of loaves of it and a couple of the Sourdough International San Francisco sourdough and bring one of each on a camping/cycling trip I'm taking this weekend and see which one my cycling friends prefer.
The recipe I plan to use is a Simple Sourdough Pan Bread
Hand Mixed with a Low Knead Procedure that I found online.

•   1 Cup Active Sourdough Culture
•   2 Cups Water
•   5 to 6 Cups Flour (divided)
•   1 Tablespoon Salt
Make the sponge
Six to ten hours before making the dough, put one cup active starter into a bowl and add two cups of water and two cups of flour. Stir until reasonably smooth, cover and set aside. The time for this step will vary. Ideally, you would want to go to the next step when the sponge had reached peak activity. I just make the sponge before I go to bed at
night and make the dough the next morning when I get around to it. The timing is not critical. If the sponge looks active, it will be fine.
Make the dough
Stir one tablespoon of salt into the sponge. Add three cups of flour to the sponge one cup at a time. Stir to incorporate after each addition. I always stop at this point and judge the dough. With experience, you will know exactly how much additional flour is required.
Until you have enough experience, add flour 1/4 cup at a time until you have a medium dough. It will probably take two 1⁄4-cup additions. You will most likely have to give up your spoon or dough whisk and finish mixing the dough by hand. Cover the dough and let it rest for twenty to thirty minutes so the flour can absorb the water.
Knead the dough
Knead the dough for 15 to 20 seconds. I do this right in the bowl. Cover and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Repeat the short knead twice more for a total of three short kneads.
Cover the dough and let rise for one to two hours. It does not need to double, but it should definitely increase in volume by at least 50%. This will take longer in cool temperatures.
Stretch and fold
Dump the dough onto a lightly oiled or floured work surface. Gently stretch the dough into a rough rectangle about one third as high as the dough was when dumped on the counter. Fold the dough into thirds like a letter, and then fold the dough in thirds in the other direction. Round the lump of dough and put it in a clean, lightly oiled bowl, cover and let rise until fully doubled.
Shape the dough
Divide the dough into two equal pieces, round, cover, and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes.
Form the rounded dough into loaves to fit your bread pans. Place the dough into buttered bread pans, cover with oiled plastic wrap and set aside to rise.
Final rise
When the dough reaches the top of the pans remove the plastic and make your decorative expansion cuts on the top of the loaf. Place the pans in a covered container to finish the rise. I put the pans in a plastic grocery bag and close the top with a twist tie.
Bake the bread
When the bread is fully raised, place in a 375° F oven and bake until done - about 40 minutes. Cool before cutting.
The directions for making the dough call for adding flour and mixing to a medium dough.
The dough will become softer after the rest and the short knead steps. The end result is a soft and easy to handle dough.
Kneading. You can use conventional kneading if you wish. After mixing the dough, let it rest for 30 minutes, then knead until the dough is soft and supple. However why work that hard?
Bread flour will give a higher rise, but All Purpose Flour will work just fine. This recipe has been tested with a variety of flours and all have produced acceptable results.
Some taste testers preferred a little less salt. You might try 2 1⁄2 teaspoons and see if that suits your taste.
This is a simple bread, however it makes a great tasting loaf. I like it just as well as some bread that is made by more complicated procedures.
Turn this into a nice whole wheat bread by substituting 1 1⁄2 cups of whole wheat flour for an equal amount of white flour and add one tablespoon of honey and two tablespoons of molasses.

 First up on the baking schedule is going to be the Black Lagoon Starter.
I had a heck of a time getting this stuff to go active on me.  I fed it, poured out half, fed it again, poured out half and fed it one more time. It would start to get bubbly then go flat.  Finally on the last feeding I just scooped out a cup when it got bubbly and went from there.  It acted fairly normal from that point on which kind of surprised me.  It even rose about twice as fast as the San Francisco starter which was far more active and was being made at the same time today. The Black Lagoon Starter was an experiment of Dr. G's when he combined 7 different starters in one jar.  I don't know if he ever baked any bread with it.  I think I'll rename it Frankenstarter.
Here's the finished product fresh out of the oven.  It looks fairly harmless.
It came out very pale even though I had a pan of water on the bottom of the oven and I spritzed the walls about every 10-15 minutes.  I also baked it at 425F. I couldn't wait for it to cool so I cut off a slice and slathered some sweet cream butter on it to try it.  I found it to taste very mild and even a little floury. I'm not sure if that's due to the starter or technique but I'll find out soon enough.  I used the exact same recipe/formula for the SF sourdough that I baked shortly after it.

Here is the San Francisco Sourdough that just came out of the oven.
 As you can see, the color is darker on these loaves.  I don't know how they taste yet.  It's 2:30 in the morning and the taste test will just have to wait until breakfast.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Some new things I'm trying

I'm always on the look out for a better or easier way to get things done.  Using a scale in my baking is, in my humble opinion, a better way to measure if you have the right scale.  I'm still searching for that one but I think I'm getting closer.
One of the other things I like to use in baking bread is a Pampered Chef 15" Pizza stone.  The only problem I have with the pizza stone is it's size.  I can only fit 2 pans of bread at a time on it and that can really slow me down when I have 5 loaves to bake.  Well while walking through Home Depot today to pick up some paint for a marking bike ride I was going on, I happened to notice a nice box of 18" x 18" x 1/2" unglazed terra cotta floor tile and instantly wondered how well one or two would fit in my oven.  As luck would have it, one of the tiles fits very nicely and I can fit all 5 of my bread pans on it.  Best of all it was only $1.77 per tile so for less than $5 I have a new, larger baking stone and a back up.  I've heard rumors of unglazed ceramic tiles containing lead and there is some debate back and forth on baking message boards about that but I don't recall hearing anything bad about terra cotta.  Just to be on the safe side though I plan to purchase a lead testing kit  and test the tile before I use it for anything.  I don't like extra ingredients in my bread if I can help it.

My bike schedule is such right now that I won't be able to do much in the way of baking until later next week so more through testing of the new scale and tile will have to wait for now.
Stay tuned.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Product review - Mainstays Digital Kitchen Scale

I wanted to be able to get more accurate with my dough so I picked up a Mainstays Digital Scale at Walmart which sells 2 different versions.  The small one pictured above for $19.95 and a larger one with a few more bells and whistles for $34.95. 
Being the frugal individual that I am, I thought I would try out the smaller of the two first and see if that fit my needs.  It has a ten pound capacity with a tare function that is great for weighting more than one item in a single bowl. It measures in imperial or metric weights.
What I found in using the scale for a couple of weeks though is that it is not sensitive enough for some recipes.  When weighing out small quantities of a gram or two it may or may not registar until you hit a larger amount which can be a real problem when your trying to measure baking soda or baking powder into a dough.  I also found the auto shut off feature really annoying since there is no way to turn that feature off.  If you spend more than 30 seconds looking at the recipe you will return to a blank display screen.  It also shuts itself off if you pour the ingredients too slowly into the bowl.  Grrrrrr.

Final verdict:  No deal, I took it back and traded up for it's bigger brother.  I'll let you know in a couple of weeks how it works out.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

My sourdough baking is about to get more interesting

A new friend, Dr. G, on the Yahoo sourdough group I belong to sent me some starters to try. 
  1. Richard Packham San Francisco sourdough starter circa 1965
  2. Russian starter from Sourdough International
  3. Black Lagoon (insert scary music here)
  4. 1847 Oregon Trail starter ( I already have some of this but it's always good to have a spare back up.

Some of these sound real interesting such at "Black Lagoon" which is a combination of 7 different starters.   Who knows what it's going to turn out like.  Sounds like a good batch to try for Halloween.

I decided to activate the Black Lagoon 1st and so far it's activating just fine.  I added one tablespoon of dried starter to one tablespoon each of flour and warm water and let it sit on the counter over night to soften up. This morning I started the feeding process and it's starting to come out of hibernation nicely.  
It, it, it's alive!!