Thursday, September 17, 2009

Splatgirl vs. Ciabatta Bread, Round 1

Now that I've got my wood-fired oven up and running and have started to get a handle on the whole pizza making thing, I'm working on dipping a toe into bread baking. Being a "bread baker" is something I've always aspired to do but never really fully embraced mostly because I've had limited success with so many of my previous attempts. This time, however, I think I'm well and truly committed and willing to work through whatever failures I encounter just because playing with fire and smoke and hot bricks is so darn fun and it's a way to make the most of a nice hot oven in the aftermath of a pizza cooking event. And because what I really love are those crusty artisan breads and a WFO is absolutely perfect for that type of baking.

I decided I'd start with trying to master my most favorite kinds of breads, and toward that end I've been cultivating a wild-yeast sourdough starter. As those of you who are bread bakers know, starting a sourdough culture from scratch takes time and patience. I've tried before and failed, but this time it actually seems to be working which is just the kind of early encouragement I needed! I've only just barely gotten it to a point where it's ready for an actual attempt at sourdough bread (tomorrow, with full report to follow) but while waiting around for my little yeasties to grow and thrive and sour, I've been reading and researching like crazy, trying to really understand all the howto's and whatfors of bread baking instead of just blindly following recipes as I've tended to do in the past.
Anyway, in the course of that adventure I came across a recipe for ciabatta that sounded so foolproof and simple that I knew I just HAD to try it. Because really, it's my favorite bread for just about anything and to say that my previous attempts at home-making ciabatta were limited succeses would be drastically overstating things. In fact, those loaves have been some of my most miserable failures. But as of today, my ciabatta world has shifted, and I'm exceedingly proud and happy to report ciabatta success!

The recipe comes from The Fresh Loaf website, which is a new-to-me and completely awesome resource on all things bread baking. It's basically a very, very wet, batter-like dough that, by beating the daylights out of in the Kitchen Aid, turns into a wobbly gluten-y wonder that requires nothing more than a couple of hours worth of rising and proofing. I thought the recipe seemed pretty amazing, and now that I've made it, I'll say that it IS pretty amazing. I'm certainly no expert, but it seems like the effort to results ratio is well into the realm of fabulous with this one. You can find the recipe here.

I neglected to take a picture of the various states of the dough, but as I said it starts off more like cake batter and is transformed by A LOT of whapping about in the mixer to a jiggly blob that holds together quite strongly but is still very, very sticky and wet. Here's my proofing loaves:
proofing ciabatta
All I did to get to this point was mix and then do a bulk ferment in a container on the counter until the dough had tripled. Then I dumped it out of the container onto floured parchment and cut and nudged it into three portions with my dough scraper, being careful to degas it as little as possible. These sat to raise for about 45 minutes before being flipped onto another piece of floured parchment on my peel and then shoved off into a hot oven:

finished loaves of ciabatta

For the sake of time and R&D, I baked these off in my indoor oven on a preheated baking stone with the temperature at 500. As you can see, I think I went a bit overboard with the flour, but that's an easy fix. And my crumb didn't come out quite as open and loose as I think it should have, which I'm taking to mean that I should have let the dough whap about in the Kitchen Aid a bit longer. I mixed this batch on speed 6 for about 15 minutes, so I guess next time I'll go for 20 or 25 and see if that gets me bigger holes. And yea, there DEFINITLEY WILL be a next time, as in probably tonight or tomorrow, because the end result is ridiculously tasty for what little time and effort it required, and this is by far the most successful I've ever been with a ciabatta. I can't wait to try it in the WFO!

Check out the best part of the whole endeavour...a delicious tomato/arugula/cheddar sandwich for lunch:
tomato, cheddar and arugula on fresh baked ciabatta

I'm darn pleased with myself and I can't wait for Boy to get home so I can show off my mad skillz. Good thing the recipe made three loaves or he might have missed it!


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

It's Handbag Porn Hour!

Now that it's found it's home with new owner Meleah, another reveal of another uber-fabulous bag!
pieced satchel bag

Because she's a local girl, Meleah was able to come to my studio and make her material selections in person. She got to work on perusing my fabric piles while I got to work munching on the delicious chocolate biscotti she brought along. She didn't really need me anyway, because she's obviously got a great eye and make some selections she did! She said she wanted something crazy and bright and fun and I think we succeeded on that front!
pieced satchel bag
I'm beyond honored that Meleah chose me and my craft over diamond earrings to celebrate her wedding anniversary, and that her fab husband took the cue and then took the time to track me down and get her a Splatgirl Creates gift certificate. I think my Boy could use a lesson from hers!
pieced satchel bag

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Special K Diet

So those Pacific Northwest peeps might have their Nanimo bars and their pink cookies and their Clover coffee on every other corner, but apparently that good old midwestern favorite, that addictive little pot luck gem that we take for granted, the Special K bar, is something unheard of. Who knew?
special K bars

Anyway, that everyone's favorite Pacific Northwest resident Mariko didn't know about the Special K bar is the sole reason this photo exists. Because if it weren't for her demanding to see this mysterious treat, I'd just as soon have forgotten about them. But not because they weren't good. (she also got me to tweet the recipe, which is something of a thing. recipe tweeting, I mean, and for the record, it's much harder than you'd think. recipe tweeting, I mean.)

Boy was gone last week and without him here to distract me or bring me to my senses, I was having a little obsessive battle of wills: Me vs. my sweet tooth. Yes, me. Really. I was craving Special K bars like a madwoman.

Here's how it went...
Boy's absence, day 1: thinking to myself how much I'd like a Special K bar. Special K bar. SPECIAL K BARSPECIALKBARSPECIAL K BAR SPECIALKBAR

Boys' absence, day 2: trying to convince myself that I don't need to make Special K bars, but then deciding that I should walk my mail up to the post office and stop at the grocery store for the ingredients I need to make the bars I'm not going to make so that in case I decide to make them I'll feel 1% less guilty about it for having earned a little exercize offset. Walk dog 4 miles after dinner, then feel extra smug about exercizing twice in one day AND not making Special K bars. I am SO the boss of you, sweet tooth.

Boy's absence, day3: make deal with self: go running. A good long hard run, and THEN you may make Special K bars and have one. Return from good long hard run and discover, for the first time all week, I am no longer obsessed with eating a Special K bar. Wonder if I might be getting sick.

Boy's absence, day 4: Wake up with a wicked Special K bar craving, likely due to having been reminded of such by the previously obtained ingredients left out on the counter. I think the butterscotch chips are speaking to me. Yes. They are definitely speaking to me.

Boy's absence, day 4 1/2: I fought the bars and the bars one. A half-batch. Thin, and with a thin coating of chocolate/butterscotch just like I like. Eat one. Eat another one. Repeat.

Boy's absence, day 4 3/4 : Eat one. Repeat. Repeat. Follow with special bed time treat of Special K bar.

Boy's absence, day 5: Wake up to a breakfast of four Special K bars. BEST MORNING WITHOUT BOY EVER. Feel like a slave to sugar. On the other hand, I put them on a plate, so that makes them more nutritious, right?

Boy's absence, day 6: thinking it would be sad for Boy to come home to stale Special K bars so decision is made tha the remaining two rows must go into the freezer, right after I have just one more. Repeat day 5 breakfast. Is that the freezer speaking? Remove remaining now frozen bars from freezer. Repeat day 5 breakfast for lunch. Have a nectarine just for kicks, followed by another Special K bar. And since there are now only three left in the bag, it would be best just to finish them. Right?

Special K bars? What Special K bars?

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Labor Day

What else to do on a lazy Labor Day than get the wood-fired oven going and make some pizzas!
I had some leftover pulled pork from a shoulder I smoked a while ago, and I decided it was time to put that to eats and celebrate with some jerk. Jamaican jerk, that is.

jerk pork pizza
Jerk pork pizza, anyone?
These got some of the pork, a drizzle of reduced jerk marinade, sliced shallot, a mix of aged cheddar and mozz, some EVOO and a scattering of chopped scallion after cooking. And I mixed up some spicy slaw to top it all off. Sort of like a pulled pork sandwich except easier to eat and much, much better!
jerk pork pizza

At this rate, it won't be long before we're all pizza, all the time here at Splatgirl Creates. In case you haven't figured it out yet, wood-fired oven=best project ever completed.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?