We had company over last night for board games. I baked a loaf of heirloom wheats so that everyone could try and compare the varieties side by side:
I decided on a combination loaf because I thought that would be easy to bake into a reasonably good and consistent result and it would eliminate variables that could happen if I baked all four little breads individually. The sections tasted distinctive, which was my one concern going in.
I started by milling 150 grams of each wheat berry. (Each process repeats four times, once for each variety.) I then combined in a tupperware 100 grams of a flour variety with 100 grams of cold water and a faint pinch of yeast as a poolish. I put the “extra” 50 grams of flour into another tupperware. I refrigerated both overnight then pulled them out in the morning to warm up.
In the morning I added the reserved 50 grams of flour to the poolish along with 3 grams of kosher salt (2% salt as a percentage of flour weight) and 1/2 teaspoon of Instant (not Rapid-Rise) yeast. Mix all to combine thoroughly, cover, and let sit one hour. Form the doughs into oblong disks so that all four will fit side-by-side in a 9″ x 5″ baking pan. Cover. Let rise another 90 minutes, then bake at 450F for 30-35 minutes.
They were definitely distinctive. The Rougue de Bordeaux tastes of cinnamon and spices. The Red Fife is less spicy but also sweeter. The Turkey Red was described as “meaty” or “bold”. The Sonora White is mild by comparison and it’s really intended more for tortillas, but it was a good contrast to the other red wheats.
It was fun introducing people to bread like they’d never experienced. I think next time it’ll be four (or just two) full-sized loaves — two loaves would be way less fiddly and people could literally stick their nose in to smell the aromas.
One of our holiday traditions is attending a pot luck / lasagna party hosted by a good friend of ours. I’ll typically make some sort of bread. (Search the bottom of the webpage for “epi”, “focaccia” or “fougasse” for some examples.) This year it was a festive herbed focaccia created using a room-temperature overnight poolish as the base:
One day ahead I started the poolish: 800 grams of bread flour. 800 grams cool water. A few grains of Instant (not fast-acting) Dry Yeast, about 1/16 teaspoon. Mix thoroughly, cover tightly, and let sit on the counter overnight.
The next steps need to start at least 6-8 hours before consumption. Most of it is hands-off, but all up it comes out to over four hours of preparation + cooling.
In the bowl of a stand mixer combine 200 grams of bread flour, 2 teaspoons of Instant Dry Yeast, 30 grams olive oil, 20 grams kosher salt. Mix that briefly then add the poolish and mix on low speed for 8 minutes. Cover.
The total baker’s percentage formula comes out to 1000g flour, 800 grams water (80% hydration), 30 grams olive oil (3% of the flour weight), 20 grams kosher salt (2% of the flour weight), yeast.
Bulk rise until doubled in volume – this will take 1 – 2+ hours depending upon the temperature of the house.
Once doubled transfer the dough to a parchment-lined-and-oiled 18 x 13 sheet tray.
Lightly coat the top of the dough with olive oil.
Using your fingers, poke the dough all over down to the base.
Sprinkle on fresh herbs of your choice. I used rosemary and thyme from our raised garden beds. Which were buried under snow, so that took a couple of extra minutes to pick through for good stuff.
Cover the dough and start the oven preheating to 450F.
Let rise one hour. Sprinkle the dough with flakey (Maldon’s) salt.
Bake for 25-35 minutes or until the internal temperature is at least 200F and the bread is pleasantly browned.
I accidently let the bulk rise much more than double. Between that and the starter poolish the dough was extremely loose and extensible. I sort of had to wrestle it into shape using a generous amount of oil to keep it from sticking to everything. Given a more correct rise time the dough should have been much more manageable.
I liked the festive appearance and the focaccia got nice feedback. I can see making this one again, though I think I may use a biga next time with the idea that it may make the dough more manageable in the shaping stage.
We were recently invited to a dinner party that involved dishes from a variety of cultures and places, sort of focused on North Africa and the Fertile Crescent. We brought naan. Pictured is a triple recipe to generously serve ten people:
I’ve made naan or naan-like things a number of times and basically winged it with decent-to-good results. This bake was for a discerning crowd so I wanted to use an actual recipe as a starting point to help ensure things didn’t go too far off the rails.
Ultimately I chose between Kenji’s Grilled Naan recipe on Serious Eats and a King Arthur website recipe. Kenji’s recipe calls for using an outdoor grill, so I mostly went with the King Arthur recipe because we were cooking on a grill pan instead of live fire. I used Kenji’s recommendation of bread flour instead of a mix of flours.
First, the King Arthur formula as written:
180g King Arthur AP Flour, 90g King Arthur Bread Flour, 142g warm water, 71g Full-Fat Greek Yogurt, 28g melted ghee or butter, 1-1/2 teaspoons Active Instant Dry Yeast, 1 teaspoon granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon salt. Full recipe here. …After baking brush with butter and top with nigella seeds and cilantro.
My slight modification that includes honey and uses Baker’s Percentages:
270g King Arthur Bread Flour, 142g warm water (52% of flour weight), 71g Full-Fat Greek Yogurt (26%), 28g melted ghee (10%), 1-1/2 teaspoons Active Instant Dry Yeast, 2/3 teaspoon honey, 5g (scant 2%) salt. Combine all in a mixer for 6 minutes on low speed.
Cover and let rise until doubled, about 60 minutes.
Divide into ~100g balls. (The original recipe calls for 65g, which I felt were too small for that event.) Let the dough balls rest 20-30 minutes.
Preheat grill pan to medium/medium-high.
Very lightly oil a work surface roll out a dough ball to 8-10″ long. Then roll the next ball as the one on the stove is cooking. Resist the urge to roll out very thinly — the center may burn instead of bubbling.
Bake the first side about 45 seconds — until it the dough bubbles, then flip and bake another 45 seconds or until the naan is just cooked through. (Cooking them too long makes them tough.)
After baking brush with ghee and top with minced chives.
For transport we put a cooling rack on the bottom of a sheet tray, then piled on layers of naan with each level separated by parchment paper. We wrapped the entire thing in foil. Shortly before dinner the naan was reheated in a low oven while still wrapped in the foil.
I’d never made ghee, but it’s super easy. There are tons of recipes online but basically you just heat butter until warm/very warm, skim the surface until the solids drop out, strain. Done. We heated a couple of smashed garlic cloves in the finished ghee for a little background sense of garlic.
The naan was well received at dinner, so that part went well. I think the King Arthur recipe calls for too much liquid — I wound up adding a few tablespoons of flour and then a pinch of salt to keep the balance. If I had it to do over again I would have held back about 1/3 of the water initially to see how the dough shaped up.
I sort of feel like that’s not-uncommon in bread baking and recipe writing — too much liquid in the formula that then combines with generous amounts of bench flour to compensate. As a rule I try to do the opposite and incorporate as little raw flour as possible, which then also helps maintain the balance of the recipe. That’s why in Step #4 it calls for a lightly oiled surface, rather than floured or heavily floured.
Ten people ate twelve of the fifteen naan. Little or No Leftovers = Successful Recipe. I’ll use this one again.
An easy weeknight pizza with tomato sauce, pepperoni, and mozzarella:
The formula: 350 grams AP flour, 220 grams room temperature water (63% hydration), 11 grams honey (3% by weight), 11 grams olive oil (3% by weight), 7 grams kosher salt (2% by weight). 1.5 teaspoons instant dry yeast.
The steps: Mix at low speed for 8 minutes or until smooth. Coat a bowl lightly with oil (it only takes a teaspoon or a little more). Ball the dough and swush it around in the bowl to coat. Cover. Let rise one hour, then fold the dough 2-4 times and cover.
Place a baking stone onto the oven – middle rack. Preheat the oven to 500F.
Let rise another 90 minutes then remove to a lightly oiled workspace. Gently stretch the dough into a circle, taking care not to smash the outer rim. Dimple the center all over with your fingertips. Transfer the dough to a screen or pizza peel. Top with the tomato sauce and pepperoni.
Bake for 8 minutes. Top with the mozzarella and bake for another 3-5 minutes until melted.
Our weeknight pizzas are 12-14″ in diameter. For crackery thin crusts we use 300 grams of flour. For “poofy” style pizzas we use 400 grams of flour. Today’s pizza was 350 grams and it was more poofy than crackery.
Today’s pizza was made with AP flour. Most of the time we’re using bread flour for pizzas. Either of those will work for this pizza, we just happen to have more AP flour in the pantry, so..
We also did a taste test of two (supermarket available) low moisture whole milk mozzarellas. It was Belgioioso vs Galbani. We baked a cheese-only pizza with equal amounts of the cheeses on each half of the pie for the test. The consensus was that they’re pretty even. I felt like maybe the Galbani tasted slightly creamier/milkier, but I don’t know that I could tell the difference in a blind test.
The topping is olive oil, zaatar, and Maldon Sea Salt Flakes.
The hydration is 75%, which is not on the high end for a focaccia — the dough is sticky but can be handled with wet or oiled hands.
800 grams King Arthur Bread Flour, 600 grams cold water, 16 grams kosher salt, 2 teaspoons Instant (not rapid-rise) yeast.
Mix the dough for 8 minutes on low speed, then cover and move to the refrigerator for 2-3 days. The refrigerator step can be skipped if crunched for time, though the focaccia will taste better after an extended cold fermentation.
Remove from the refrigerator at least 4-5 hours before you intend to serve the bread.
As the dough returns to room temperature: About every 30 minutes to one hour work around the bowl, lift the dough from the sides and push/drop the dough back towards the center, taking care not to pull so hard that the dough tears.
When the dough is near room temperature remove it from the bowl and place it on a baking sheet lined with oil-coated parchment paper. 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil should be plenty to coat the parchment. Spread out the dough without tearing it into a round/oval shape towards the edges of the sheet tray. If the dough fights back wait five minutes and try again.
Cover (I use another inverted sheet tray) and let rise one hour. If using zaatar mix 4 tablespoons with 4 tablespoons olive oil and let it rest and hydrate.
Preheat the oven to 425F. Using the tips of your fingers, dimple the dough all over, pushing down to the sheet tray. Spread a liberal amount of olive oil over the top, then top with the zaatar and a “healthy” sprinkle of flake salt. Cover and let rise one hour.
Bake for 30-35 minutes at 425F, then remove to a cooling rack, taking care not to spill any residual oil on yourself or other things you’re attached to. If during baking the bottom of the dough is getting too dark add a second sheet tray underneath the first. For this bake I used two sheet trays for the entire time.
The focaccia was served at a friend’s house with a Day of the Dead menu and beer theme and the bread was a big hit — the zaatar “face” motif didn’t last very long. This focaccia would also be good if substituting other herbs or cheese for the zaatar — I was targeting a sort of scary pumpkin face sort of thing, and zaatar tastes good and stands up to other strong flavors which made it a good choice for this event.
I’ve made many focaccias and I’ve come the the conclusion that the most important element is patience. The bread will be fine without the long refrigerator rise or extra folds and multiple rises, but I think the end result is better when it isn’t rushed. Because this was a weeknight bread I brought the dough to work and stored it in the refrigerator there, then removed it around to my desk at 2:30pm to start warming up for a 7:00 dinner. Many recipes will call for “one hour out of the refrigerator then proceed…” , but that never seems like enough time for the dough to warm up to room temperature and the later rises don’t wind up very satisfactory. Give it time.
The weather this year was generally cooperative. Our total harvest checks in at 175.5 pounds not including the beans or basil which we don’t weigh (too fiddly on a weeknight). 175.5 pounds from 10 boxes comes out to 4.7 pounds per square foot of growing media. Summary below the tomato pic –
Carmen Peppers – 1 box, 6 plants, 2.2 pounds
King of the North Peppers – 1 box, 6 plants, 2.9 pounds
Our historical yield for peppers has been around 1.5-2.0 pounds per plant. This year there were lots and lots of leaves and not a lot of fruit. I’m not sure what we can do differently other than hope next year is better.
Black Krim and Cherokee Chocolate Tomatoes – 1.5 boxes, 3 plants, 34.7 pounds
It was two Black Krim and one Cherokee. My feeling is that the Cherokee dragged down the average. We love earthy, rich taste of Black Krims so they’re staying. This isn’t the first year that a Cherokee was “meh”, so we’ll see on those.
In a related “unripe tomato” note – almost everything we harvested green ripened up on cooling racks on the kitchen floor over the last couple of weeks. I think that airflow and a fairly bright and warm environment are the keys to not having stuff rot. No more paper bags for us.
Very uninspiring yield. They tasted ok and they were attractive and something different.. But. The longer we’ve been gardening the more I lean away from cherry tomatoes because I’d rather spend the few minutes to harvest a few large tomatoes instead of tediously picking a zillion small ones.
Roma Tomatoes – 2 boxes, 4 plants, 47.6 pounds
One of the four plants did poorly and dragged down the yield. Either it was a weak plant or it didn’t get enough sun on the north/shady end of the stack. Still, almost 50 pounds of Romas makes a lot of sauce.
Oregon Spring Tomatoes – 1 box, 2 plants, 19.3 pounds
Oregon Spring are the first tomato plant I’d recommend to anyone gardening in the Pacific Northwest (we’re a little north of Seattle). They’re early, they’re prolific, they taste good, and they work pretty well for sauce too. 19.3 pounds isn’t the best year, typical would be 30-50 pounds for two plants.
“Slicing” Cucumber – 1 box, 4 plants, 31.7 pounds
31.7 pounds is on the low end of average. On the other hand they had good shape all summer — the plants waited a long time to start producing “fun house mirror” cucumbers. I’m totally happy with the cucumbers this year.
“Green” Tomatillos – 1 box, 2 plants, 13.7 pounds and
The tomatillos and zucchini shared a trellis with the idea that the pollinators would hit the zucchini as a byproduct of visiting all of the tomatillo flowers. I also helped out a little bit, pollinating with a toothbrush later in the season. It seems to have worked ok — in a bad year we’ll get five pounds of zucchini and in a good year we’ll get 15-25 pounds. We would have gotten more but critters (birds?) did some damage and destroyed a few zucchini when they were smallish. The tomatillos were right around the low end of average at 13.7 pounds, which is plenty of green sauce/salsa. I think we’ll try the same “share the trellis” strategy next year.
The trees are continuing to block out more and more sunlight as the years go by. Next year it may be that we reduce it down to one box of indeterminate tomatoes (Black Krim), just ensure that everything gets enough sun to be productive.
There were fewer destructive bugs than usual, but also fewer bees and more animals or birds destroying the random tomato.
It was a very marginal year for peppers and an average / low average year for everything else. October has been beautiful and sunny and if it had traded places with May the total yield would have been around average or a little better than average.
To paraphrase Yogi Berra: It’s getting late early around here. Our oak tree that always confirms the season is just starting to turn to fall colors and the garden is basically done.
On the 12th it became clear that the bugs were threatening to impact the pepper harvest, so we pulled what was left of the peppers:
The next week we harvested another sheet tray of ripe Romas. (not pictured)
As of the morning of the September 24 the garden looked like this:
A closeup of the “better looking” Roma box on the 24th:
The Purple Bumblebees on the 24th:
The tomatillo and Tromboncino shared a trellis. I think it worked out well. Our Tromboncino yield is up relative to the last couple of years and it didn’t seem to impact the tomatillos one way or the other. Yay pollenators:
Then after “picture time” we harvested everything except the tomatillo and Tromboncinos. We left those two boxes with the hopes we’d see a little more output. And the yard waste bin was full so that was a good stopping point.
The Rattlesnake and Fortex beans that we’re saving for seed or dried beans for eating. We’ve been harvesting the Fortex all summer in addition to what’s pictured:
And the last somewhat unripe harvest — it’s around 30 pounds of tomatoes:
We’ve had the most success with ripening not-ripe tomatoes on the floor of the kitchen on cooling racks. The kitchen is generally warm, and when the furnace starts up there’s a heater vent that provides good air circulation.
I feel like 2022 was a better year for the garden than 2020 or 2021, though the shade trees continue to grow and are gradually going to force us to reduce the size of the garden or just accept that the yields are not going to be what they were ten years ago. The wildfire smoke was minimal, and July and August were relatively warm and clear.
Next post will be the How Much Did That All Weigh? I’m curious to see if my perception of yield matches reality.
In the Seattle area, mid-to-late August is when the garden starts to ripen in earnest. It’s also when the plants are starting to show that they’re thinking about being “done”.
A sort of close up overview picture:
The front right is Carmen Peppers and King Of North Peppers. The Carmen’s are having a much more productive year. A Carmen close up:
Normally we lose a few to earwigs, but that doesn’t seem to be the case this year. I’ve only counted one lost to the bugs.
Pictured next is the more energetic of the two Roma Tomato boxes. This box got the sunnier location and it shows:
That’s two plants in one box. They’re leaning over to the left and invading the space of the Oregon Springs. The nice thing is that the Oregon Springs are a very early harvest so we should be able to pull those plants out in 2-3 weeks from now.
I think the Tomatillo and Tromboncino “sharing a trellis” is working out pretty well. The center of the space is dominated by the Tomatillos. We need to harvest a big batch of them within the next few days.
The Tromboncino are growing up the sides and along the top. They’re having a better year this year than they have in the last few. We got a 32″ fruit about a week ago. Today we harvested this:
Tromboncino have all of their seeds in the bulb at the end of the fruit. The flesh firmer than a regular zucchini. Their leaves are less susceptible to mold, which helps in our climate. They work especially well for us because we’re gardening on a concrete patio and the vining aspect of the variety keeps the fruit off of the hot summer cement.
Finally, the Rattlesnake Beans:
We’ll let these dry and use them like Pinto Beans. I like growing beans – we plant 20-40 seeds in a box and make sure they get water and that’s about it. It’s basically “free” food.
The cucumbers are also having a better year than in the last couple of years. After the early cool weather it’s turned into a fairly warm summer, but we haven’t had wildfire smoke sucking up the UV.
Up until three days ago it’s been a very mild summer. The last three days have been in the mid-to-high 80’s. So far we’ve harvested basil, beans, and zucchini, which is normal for this time of year. We should have cucumbers in the next few days. The tomatoes and peppers are further away.
A view from the front right:
Peppers on the right, tomatoes in the center. More tomatoes in the middle-left. Cucumbers middle right.
From up the slope on the left:
The three tomato plants in the front from left to right are Roma, Oregon Spring, and another Roma. The left side of the garden is North, and that side of the garden has been more shaded over the last few years by the ever-expanding oak tree to the northwest. The Roma plant to the South is doing tons better and it’s not close.
From the house:
The big thing in the center is Fortex beans. They always do well, and we always save bean seeds for replanting in the early summer. The basil is poking out from behind the left of the cucumbers.
We also set up the Tromboncino Zucchini and Tomatillos to share a trellis with the idea that the pollinators would hit both and we’d see a better yield from the Tromboncino. There aren’t very many bees this year, so we’ll see how much it helps. What’s odd is all of the Tromboncino flowers were male a couple of days ago:
But so far so good anyway. The Tromboncino on the left weighs right around three pounds.
We’ve had exactly one day this year that could be considered “hot”. It feels like the garden has yet to “take off”. It’s overcast and drizzly this weekend with the next sunny stretch forecast for… not in the next seven days. Highs are forecast as the mid-to-low-70’s. We’ll need some hot weather for the basil and peppers to really grow and fight off whatever is chewing on them.
Front (L-R): Rattlesnake Beans, Roma Tomatoes, Oregon Spring Tomatoes, Roma Tomatoes, Carmen Peppers, King of the North Peppers. Middle left are the Black Krims, Cherokee Chocolate Tomato, and “Purple Bumblebee” Striped Cherry Tomato. In the middle are “Slicing Cucumbers” and (hiding) Sweet Basil. Middle right are Fortex beans. In the far back left there are Tromboncino Zucchinis and Tomatillos:
So far the Tomatillo and Tromboncino are sharing the trellis nicely — The Tomatillo are in the center and the Tromboncino have been trained up the sides. I’m hopeful that by removing browning Tromboncino leaves towards the middle and bottom as they arrive it’ll leave enough light and space for all four plants.
One more view from the “front” of the garden:
The photo also highlights how we label the plants. The indeterminate tomatoes are doing well, and the beans grow regardless of the weather.
Hopefully we have some sun coming in the next couple of weeks.