Friday, February 3, 2012

Back in the swing

We have officially moved, and after my first week of arriving late absolutely everywhere (Google maps' sense of time is a little optimistic, and I have problems with punctuality anyway), we've been settling in quite nicely. We have a backyard! And a hammock! And a coconut palm, in the sense that it hangs over into our yard. I'm hoping we can work out a trade with the neighbors-- brownies for coconuts? I want to plant stuff in the backyard. Last weekend I bought some seeds...lettuces, radishes, herbs. I have no idea what I am doing. I want to build a pizza oven. And have chickens. And a goat. Felipe is scared. 
                    -¿Qué rayos vamos a hacer con una cabra? -Hacer queso de cabra, obvio....         
                    (-What the hell are we going to do with a goat? -Make goat cheese, duh...)

While visions of clay ovens whirl around the back of my head, we've been getting back into the swing (hammock!) of things cooking-wise. I almost always have an adjustment period where the first couple of thing I bake in a new place suck...and it's not even necessarily an issue of the oven, I dont know, it just takes me a bit to feel comfortable. The loaf above, which is full of oats, cracked buckwheat and (normal?) wheat, was one of the indicators that things are getting back on track. I was very excited to find cracked buckwheat at Casas Pedro, which is a chain of bulk ingredient stores in Rio...there is not much that I love more than the bulk section of natural foods stores. Felipe always laughs at me when we pass by the dried fruits and nuts at the supermarket and I look longingly at the walnuts...without a Trader Joe's, they are way out of our budget.

I've yet to see if the cracked buckwheat will work for kasha (it's a bit beaten up and dusty looking), but I happily threw some into a multigrain dough and was very pleased with the results. I miss the distinctive, pleasantly bitter taste of buckwheat (this is the first time I've found it in any form on this continent), and adding a handful into the multigrain dough let the buckwheat flavor come through without overwhelming the rest of the ingredients. I´ve talked about my basic whole wheat bread here before; it's on regular rotation for breakfast, toasted, with salted butter and cafe con leche. I don't really like it when flavors are described as honest, but I'm at a lack for another way to explain what I like so much about this. It's not fancy, it's filling, and it's just right. The buckwheat helps to give it an extra kick, as do the oats and seeds. You don't even need a loaf pan (and you know what we realized? Even though they're made with the same amount of dough, free form breads last longer for us than ones in loaf form. It's a mental thing: a slice is a slice, I guess.) When making this bread I don't measure anything except the water, yeast and salt, and I don't time the rises or the baking either. The dough just kind of chills all evening, and I putter around the house, (mostly) pretending to work, bitching to Felipe about the news and Republicans, talking to my family on skype, and making oatmeal cookies. Perhaps (hopefully) you choose to spend your evenings in a more productive manner; all I'm saying is, like coconuts and backyards, this bread is a nice thing to have around.

Buckwheat-Oat Bread

2 c. water
2 tsp. dry yeast
1/2 c. rolled oats
1/2 c. cracked buckwheat
1/3 c. cracked wheat (bulgur)
1/4 c. muscovado sugar (or brown sugar)
1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour plus more for kneading
2 tsp. salt
olive oil
oats and sesame seeds for sprinkling

In a large bowl combine the water, yeast, oats, buckwheat, cracked wheat, muscovado sugar, and whole wheat flour. Stir well to combine the ingredients and then set it aside, covered (with a dish towel or a plastic bag) for about an hour. Stir down the dough, add in the salt, then begin to stir in the all-purpose flour until you have a shaggy, kneadable dough, adding extra flour as needed. I tend to err on the wetter side because it seems like it results in a bread with a more open hole structure, which I like, so I use just enough flour to allow me to knead the dough. Knead for 5-10 minutes on a floured surface, until you have a dough that gently springs back when you press it with your finger. Form into a rough ball, add a glug of olive oil to the bowl (scrape out any errant dough that's left over first), place the ball into the bowl, then turn it over, leaving both side of the ball lightly coated in oil. Cover the bowl once again and go do something else while the dough rises to double its size, 1.5-3 hours. 
Lift the dough out of the bowl and use your hands to fold the dough over onto itself several times, creating a tight boule (The Fresh Loaf has a good explanation of this process.) Place the dough, seam side down, on a baking sheet, cover once again and leave to almost double, which shouldn't take more than an hour.
Preheat the oven to 350F. When the dough has almost doubled, mist it with water and sprinkle oats and sesame seeds over the top. Use a sharp knife or blade to cut an x into the top. Bake the bread for ~ 45 minutes, until the bottom sounds hollow when tapped.
Let cool before slicing. Really good toasted and spread with butter.

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