Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A map to help you eat local

I stumbled across this map, which shows by state and month, what ingredients are in season. Very spiffy graphics. When checking for Wisconsin, it does become apparent that it can be challenging to eat local around here. For November through May, the growing season is listed as dormant and you would have to go for stored items, such as apples and potatoes. This does put our challenges of hosting a local meal in March into perspective.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Recipe: Spent grain bread

Here's the recipe we use for our Spent Grain Bread. It is adapted from Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads (if you like whole grain bread, this book is great!). It takes two days, but it is really simple stuff on both days. It uses 'spent grain' which is the grains that are left over from brewing beer. In the homebrewing process we use, these grains are steeped for about an hour in 68℃ / 155℉ water. Normally they would be discarded (we'd composted them before we started baking them). The taste, texture, and color of the bread will vary considerably with the type of grain used for the beer (big difference between a stout and pale ale grains). If you're not a homebrewer try asking your friends - I'm often surprised at how many people are homebrewers - youought to find someone who knows someone who brews. You could also ask a local microbrewery.

This recipe makes two loaves, or about two dozen rolls.

Day 1:
About 20 minutes of work.
The soaker works to hydrate the grains in the whole wheat by mixing it with water and salt and let it sit overnight. This makes the grain softer but also enhances flavor and makes the bread a little sweeter (check Reinhart's book for the whole explanation).
  • 454 g / 1 lb whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp (8 g) salt
  • 1½ cups water
Mix all soaker ingredients until flour is fully hydrated, then cover and let sit at room temperature for 12-24 hours. Can be refrigerated up to 3 days.

Reinhart uses the term 'Biga' for an overnight starter that uses a small amount of yeast and also soaks the whole wheat flour to increase flavor and acidity.
  • 454 g / 1 lb whole wheat flour
  • 5/8 tsp active dry yeast (1/2 tsp instant dry yeast)
  • 1½ cups warm water
Make a well in the flour. Pour the water into the well and then sprinkle the yeast in the water. Mix the water, gradually drawing in all the flour until hydrated. Once you have a ball of dough, knead in the bowl using wet hands for about two minutes. You may need to wet your hands again, but be careful not to add too much water to the dough.
Let the dough rest for five minutes, then knead again with wet hands for about one minutes. This time, the dough will be easier to work with, although it will still be tacky. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.

Day 2:
About 2 hours de-chill, then 20 minutes mixing followed by 2-3 hours fermentation. Baking takes 45-60 minutes.
Now we make the bread. Remove the Biga from the refrigerator about two hours before starting to mix the final dough.

  • Soaker
  • Biga
  • 225 g spent grain
  • 113 g whole wheat flour
  • 2¼ tsp (10 g) salt
  • 2 Tbsp + 1 tsp active dry yeast (1½ Tbsp instand dry yeast)
  • 85 g (4½ Tbsp) honey
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil (optional)
  • Extra whole wheat flour for adjustments
Chop the soaker and biga into 10-12 smaller pieces each - sprinkle some extra flour to keep them from sticking to each other. Hydrate the yeast in a little warm water (just enough to form a thick paste). Add to biga and soaker pieces along with the remaining ingredients except extra flour. Mix with a spoon or knead with wet hands for a few minutes to evenly distribute all ingredients. Take the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for 3-4 minutes until dough is soft and tacky but not sticky. Form the dough into a ball and let it rest on the counter for five minutes.

Knead the dough again for about a minute. The dough should feel soft, supple, and very tacky. Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, covering it in oil on all sides. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise at room temperature for 45 to 60 minutes.

Form the dough into two loaves or smaller rolls. Cover loosely and let rise an additional 45 to 60 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425℉/218℃. Add a steam pan to the oven and a hearth stone. When you put the bread into the oven, pour a cup of water into the steam pan and spray several times with a water mister inside the oven (not on the bread). The purpose is to create steam that will produce a crusty crumb on the bread. Lower the temperature to 350℉/ 177℃and bake for 20 minutes. Rotate the bread 180°and bake another 20-30 minutes until the bread is done (thump the bottom to hear if it sounds hollow).

Cool on a wire rack and enjoy! Leave a comment if you try it out and let us know how it went.