In The Valley Kitchen

The Age of Raisin

This is my second try at sourdough raisin bread.  The dough is a mix of bread flour and whole wheat.  After the dough was mixed I spread it out  and brushed with melted butter and Kahlua syrup (Kahlua that has been cooked down a bit to thicken).  Then I sprinkled a layer of raisins and cinnamon and rolled in all up for bulk rising.  After four hours I formed the “boules” and let them rise a wile longer in their bannetons.  The bannetons went to their sleeping quarters (a large tightly covered plastic box) and were put outside for a nice long retardation rest.  In the morning the loaves were baked. If only the smell of the buttery-cinnamon bread baking could be made into a spray.

The theory behind layering in the raisins, Kahlua syrup and cinnamon instead of just mixing it together is that the layers will allow the bread to achieve maximum rise when fermenting and that the final bread will have some unevenness with surprise bursts of cinnamon or sweetness here and there.  More experimentation required.

In The Valley Kitchen

Sylvia’s Pickled Carrots

In case you were wondering……

The word carrot is first recorded in English circa 1530 and was borrowed from Middle French carotte, itself from Late Latin carōta, from Greek καρωτόν or karōtón, originally from the Indo-European root *ker- (horn), due to its horn-like shape.

Only 3 percent of the β-carotene in raw carrots is released during digestion: this can be improved to 39% by pulping, cooking and adding cooking oil. Alternatively they may be chopped and boiled, fried or steamed, and cooked in soups and stews, as well as baby and pet foods. A well-known dish is carrots julienne. Together with onion and celery, carrots are one of the primary vegetables used in a mirepoix to make various broths.

Carrots:  Secret Life of:

Flowers change sex in their development, so the stamens release their pollen before the stigma of the same flower is receptive. The arrangement is centripetal, meaning the oldest flowers are near the edge and the youngest flowers are in the center. Flowers usually first open at the outer edge of the primary umbel, followed about a week later on the secondary umbels, and then in subsequent weeks in higher-order umbels.


Historically Speaking…

-Pennsylvania Dutch settlers smoked dried and shredded carrots in their pipes hoping that carotene would mimic the stimulating properties of nicotine without being addictive.  For nearly a century it was believed that carrot smoke improved night vision.

-Heydrich Drumph an out of work farm hand secured a government grant to start a large scale carrot farm on the outskirts of Bavaria in the 1820s. He had chemists extract the orange pigment and develop a line of cosmetic tanning products marketed as “Drumph Tan”.  Unfortunately orange tans did not prove popular and the enterprise declared bankruptcy after a year when Drumph quietly disappeared along with the remaining company assets.  Several thousand barrels of orange tanning cream also disappeared as operations shut down and could not be located by creditors.  Their fate remains a mystery.

ref.  Mole’s Believe it or Not Archive of Astonishment


Fall Soup

Tasty fall soup for this bout of colder than necessary weather.  Home made chicken/vegetable stock with Echo Valley squash and potatoes and some just picked kale,  blended with hand blender.  Toasted sourdough croutons/Echo Valley Organics garlic with 24 month Parmigiano and – can’t hurt- a few drops of olive/truffle oil.  Pretty yummy.


Shōjin Ryōri

You might be inspired by this article describing Shōjin ryōri, an approach to food preparation derived from Japanese Buddhism going as far back as the 6th Century.

Literally “devotion cuisine” it is designed to promote alignment of mind, body and soul into careful balance.  It strikes me as an extension to the mindfulness and community that has motivated our collective gardening efforts over the past few months.

Shojin ryōri focuses not only the importance of ingredient selection and balance, but the mindfulness of the chef. “It’s about finding the perfect balance, and this comes from the rule of five,” the article notes, drawing on the five phases of Chinese Philosophy known as wuxing, the number thought to reflect the cyclical balance needed in nature and society. “In shōjin ryōri, this applies to colour, flavour and technique: the goshoku (colour) of white, black, red, green and yellow; the gomi (flavour) of sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami; and the goho (technique) of simmered, fried, raw, steamed and grilled are all required elements.”

In addition to nutritional balance, the rules of wuxing apply to the five senses, inspiring the diner to notice and value each ingredient as well as the care taken to prepare it.

Shojin ryōri is also an opportunity for connection with other people. “Passed from chef to diner, the meal forms a bridge.”

Another aspect of Shojin ryōri that I particularly appreciate is “ichimotsu zentai”, which means “to use the whole thing”. “The most important part of shōjin is consideration and appreciation for us to survive, we receive the lives of other things, so we must not waste them.” Nothing should be discarded thoughtlessly.

“Itadakimasu” or “I humbly receive” is a phrase those practicing shojin ryōri use when eating to acknowledge the sanctity of food lovingly grown in community, prepared with awareness and savored as the perfection it is.

Download a pdf copy of the article here:
BBC – Travel – Japan’s ancient vegetarian meal


Approaching Sourdough Deliciousness

My bread today is approaching really really yummy.

The ambient temp in the last few days has been 25+C.  Everything happens much faster than normal (for here).  The starter that I took out before bed was double in volume by the next morning and definitely ready to go by 9 am  (normally would only be 50% greater in the same time).

I did the bulk ferment stage  for 4 rather than 6 hours, shaped the breads then let rise 1 hour more and into the refrig for the overnite retarding phase.

These loaves were slightly whiter and lighter than the last few:
800g white bread flour
100g Anita’s Bakers Blend
100g Red Fife
650g water
300g very active starter
20g salt

Here you can see my two lined bannetons and my airtight “proofing box” which conveniently fits in the refrig.


Approaching Pizza Perfection

Slowly,  slowly,  Mr. Mole’s Wood Oven Pizza is approaching perfection.  There is always room for improvement but the result is now “entirely satisfactory”- the crust is thin, crisp yet soft with a nice edge.  A small amount of simmered sauce, with some fresh Mozzarella, 24 month aged Parmagean and a bit of Swiss Gruyere for added creamy flavour.  Fresh oregano, sparse addition of very thinly cut zucchini, red pepper, mushroom, onions, and optional Ayrshire bacon.

Mole has concluded that the optimal oven temperature is 550-600F.  With a few rotations the pizza is perfectly done, nicely cooked through with a slight darkening.  He found that when fired up above 600 the pizza cooks too quickly.

Mole is now ready to host Queen Margarita should she be passing this way (and still is a pizza fan).


Sourdough Times

Breadcraft is coming along.  Experience has led me to some definite guidelines:

  1.  Starter must be strong, i.e. recently fed. What seems to work well is to feed about 50g of refrigerated starter in the evening with 100-125 g flour (mix white and whole wheat and or rye) and similar amount water.  Let sit at kitchen room temp (17-20C) overnight and put in “proofing box” (see # 4) in the morning for a few hours until significant expansion is evident (50-100% increase). I am experimenting with amounts of starter and baking cycle with the goal of not making more than I can use (and ending up with four jars in the fridge).
  2. Flour protein content  should be 12% +.  “Bread” flour has higher protein content 12-14%.  Plain flour might be as low as 11%, not good for sourdough.  Mills in Canada don’t’ seem as diligent as US companies such as King Arthur at specifying protein content.  Rogers Bread flour does list the protein content at 13-14%.  I have been using some of that with Rogers unbleached flour as well as Anita’s white flour, Anitas 50-50 bread flour blend and Anita’s whole wheat.  All these Anita flours say they are good for sourdough but do not specify the exact protein content on package.   I have also tried adding small amounts of “Bob’s Red Mill Wheat Gluten Flour”.  I am still undecided which protein level is optimal.  I need to try some Antia’s “Sprouted High Protein Flour” listed at 16% protein.
    Possibly my favourite bread so far is from the recipe for Anita’s Buckwheat Sourdough.   Delicious flavour.  If I can make that recipe perfectly with some added figs I might morph from Mole to the Cheshire Cat.
  3. “Autolysing” seems to help bread rise.   Autolysing just means mixing the flour with the water before adding the starter and salt and letting it sit for 1 or more hours.
  4. Proofing temperature is major factor with sourdough.  Most recipes give wait times assuming 25C.  Things move significantly slower at 17C, maybe half the speed.  My “proofing box”:  I discovered that the oven with a 50W incandescent light bulb on is about 25C- perfect rising temp and stable.
  5. Don’t over proof.  What is working well is a first proof (“bulk fermentation”) of 4-5 hours and the final proof after shaping of 2 hours.  When I let it sit longer the bread did not rise as well.
  6. “Retarding” the dough by putting it in refrigerator overnight works well.  Big advantage is that  bread can be baked in the morning at whatever time you want, also, the cold dough is much easier to handle and score.
  7. For optimal “Oven Lift” – The best baking method has been to preheat cast iron “Crueset” pot, drop the bread into it on some parchment paper and bake with the lid closed @450C for 20 minutes for “oven lift” then uncovering and lowering the heat to 375C for another 1/2 hour.

Crunchy crust, chewy inside, yummy all over. Too soon et.


Chocolate Almond Biscotti

The best almond chocolate biscotti of all time!.  They are crunchy, nutty and chocolatey in perfect proportions.   I hope I can give them to my son before I have eaten them all.

This is the recipe I followed more or less.  I used fewer almonds and added 70% chocolate.  And I used my Kitchen Aid mixer. Hope it wasn’t a critical variable but I used one jumbo egg and one small one.


Wood Fire Oven Pizza

Finally, I got to try out the wood fire oven.

It definitely burns hot. After I had the fire going with fir kindling for about 15 minutes it went to up 800F. I let it cool down and added chunks of arbutus, and settled it down to 6-700F. The pizza cooks in 4 minutes and has to be rotated so it doesn’t burn. It was pretty neat, the crust is definitely wood fired oven crust. Still lots to learn, I’d really like to get a sourdough crust working.

The oven can be used for lots of things other than pizza. Will be handy in a power outage. And, naturally I now want to enlarge the deck a bit and build a roof over the oven so I can used it all year round.

Yes, you will be invited for one when such pleasures become possible.  I will procure a red checed table cloth and some straw bottle Chianti.


A Tale of Three Starters

Here are three starters in the morning after they had been fed the night before. The elastic band indicates the level before feeding. The first two on the left show more vigorous growth, with the middle one the most. It was all white flour, the other ones were 1/2 wheat 1/2 rye. The two on the left are definitely ready to make bread with, otherwise they will be past their prime. The one on the far right had been in the fridge the longest, I decided to feed it one more time before using.

Flash quiz: what is the difference between “sourdough” and “levain”?  Answer: no difference-  both terms refer to bread made with “homemade”, “wild”, “natural” leavening rather than store bought processed yeast.  Levain is a french term preferred by some who object to the “sour” part of sourdough because of the connotation of spoiled or unpalatable.

This is the “float test” on the middle starter- like Chauncey Gardener at the end of “Being There” when he walks on water he is ready to go.

My breads are improving. They taste delicious, a result I believe of the low temperature and slow rise.  I am still working on getting the shape right.  Why am I not adding rosemary and thyme?  Where’s my brain?  I want to try this interesting recipe from Anita’s Flour for sourdough buckwheat bread.

Delicious French Toast and Grilled cheese.  Almost too delicious.