While I have been knitting a lot (!) over the last couple of weeks, I have become near obsessed with baking – most especially bread. On my last birthday Thor gave me a Panasonic bread machine. I love love love it; it pulled me back into the bread making I gave up in the mid-1980s.
After I worked my way through Beth Hensperger’s The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook I wanted to try making bread the way I used to so many decades ago. But now my hands are older (as am I!), so kneading heavy dough by hand was something I knew I couldn’t do anymore.
Then I dug out my old, now ratty copy of Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book and read thee encouraging words to people whose hands weren’t up to kneading bread: Use a machine with a bread hook like the KitchenAid mixer! (Mine is now close to 20 years old, but it works perfectly well!)
I got bored using conventional yeast leavening so decided I needed to learn how to make sourdough starters. I first made a rye starter. As I had to feed it twice daily for several days before using it (now I keep it in the ‘fridge so need to feed only weekly), I decided it should be named. Meet Humprey (named after Humphrey Bogart, of whom Thor does amazing impressions).
Now I’m experimenting with different breads, some using starters, others not. Here’s a picture of a trio I served at a dinner for friends. The bread on the left is a “corn rye” (using a rye starter – and I upped its sourness by leaving a half an onion in the starter for a day – but which, despite its name, contains no corn).
The middle bread (the top of which I should have slashed), is a Norwegian grovbrød (“coarse bread”). The grains in a grovbrød vary; for this one I used a sour rye starter with graham flour.
The bread on the right is a New York-style Jewish rye. I did not use a rye starter on that bread but, to increase its sourness, added juice I poured out of a jar of home preserved Kosher dill pickles.
Humphrey continues to thrive, and he’s been joined by another sourdough starter: a San Francisco-style sourdough starter (as of yet unnamed). This starter has been much more finicky than Humphrey ever was, but I think it’ll end up being fine.
All this baking means as I knit, I am surrounding by the aroma of freshly baked bread! Thankfully it’s difficult to eat and knit at the same time. 🙂