The New Raised Bed For Asparagus and A Salad Table Update

-A.J.

The box of Jersey Supreme Asparagus recently arrived. When we went looking for somewhere to plant them we discovered that really didn’t have a good place for them to live. The other two raised beds are already full of chives, rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano, and so on. What we did have was space for one more raised bed. It was easiest to just order a raised bed kit from Amazon for delivery to the house:

180408 raised bed 1

The boards themselves are dovetailed on the ends. They’re supposed to just slide into the grooves on the posts. The reality is that there was more than a little bit of leftover material from the machining process, and the tolerances left something to be desired. I wound up using the two “hammers” in the foreground to knock the boards into place. (Yay for weird scraps in the woodpile!)

Next up was lining the bottom of the bed with newspaper, adding the soil. making trenches, then lining the trenches with compost:

180408 raised bed 2

The box of asparagus contained twenty-seven crowns of varying sizes. Ideally there would be four crowns at most per trench — I had to squeeze a few of the smaller ones five to a trench to fit everything. It’s a fairly sunny spot, so hopefully this batch will do better even if they are a little tight together.

The last step was to add squirrel protection (bird netting):

180408 raised bed 3

Note that the raised bed kit comes with decorative “caps” for the posts. I chose not to use them specifically so that it would be easier to cover the bed with bird netting or potentially run hoops over bed.

One selling point of the Jersey Supreme asparagus is that it’s relatively early, which here in the Pacific Northwest is a good thing. The Territorial Seed Company description:

An exciting release in the Jersey asparagus series. The predominately male hybrid emerges approximately 7-10 days earlier than other varieties. This is welcome news for asparagus lovers and market growers. Great tasting and very tender, Jersey Supreme is just as cold tolerant and disease resistant as Jersey Knight. Will overwinter to zone 3.

The description mentions “market growers”, always a positive sign.

(Link to the raised bed kit for those interested.)

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The Salad Table:

In mid-March I spread a bunch of assorted seeds around the top level of the salad table. It’s many of the usual suspects — arugula, romaine, dill, cilantro, and other lettuces. We’re just now seeing some activity:

180408 salad table top

The Miner’s Lettuce on the north side of the middle tier is well ready to harvest. Really, it’s already flowering, so we’d better get to it soon:

180408 salad table middle

The Super Sugar Snap peas in the pots on the north side of the table are just getting rolling:

180408 peas

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Visit Dave at Ourhappyacres, host of Harvest Monday.

 

The 2018 Bracket Of Peril!

-A.J.

The 2018 Bracket Of Peril is here! The prize, as always, is a whole bunch of nothing!

Link here.

Group Name:  Cheap Seat Eats

Password:  TakeMeOut

jimmer

GNOIF’s Outrageous Slings And Arrows

-A.J.

GNOIF #31 recap — GNOIF’s Outrageous Slings And Arrows  (Medieval themed games. The title also hints at Cupid’s arrows around V-Day and also to Hamlet — possibly Shakespeare’s most famous soliloquy.)

Games That Got Played:  Five Minute Dungeon, Imperial Harvest, Sheriff of Nottingham

Games That Didn’t Get Played:  Avalon, Carcassonne, Castle Panic, Citadels, Guillotine, King Domino, Medieval Academy, Python Fluxx, Queen Domino, Seven7s, Small World

It was a small crowd made smaller by a few folks calling in sick. Still, I think everyone had fun and we got a chance to see people that we don’t see as often as we’d like, so that was good.

The focaccia bread used for the Big *ss Sandwich came out better than usual.  The recipe for posterity:  800g flour.  640g Bread Flour (80%), 160g Barley Flour (20%), 640g water (80%), 24g olive oil (3%), 18g salt (2.25%), ~12g diastatic malt (1.5%), 1.5 tsp instant yeast. Mix on 2nd speed for 10 minutes. Leave the dough in the mixing bowl and cover. Go out for breakfast and then to the store for a total of about 2 hours. Move the dough from the bowl to an oil-lined sheet tray, stretch the dough out to near the edges of the tray, cover (with another inverted sheet tray) and let rise 1 hour. Dizzle oil on top, make many indentations with fingertips. Bake at 460F for 25 minutes rotating halfway through. Let cool on a rack.

The increased hydration seemed to offset the lift-reducing barley flour. That, and I used a little more oil on top than I have been lately (a semi-generous amount this time). The end result:  Good volume. Good crunch. Good browning. Good bread.

There. I finally co-opted another post with a bread post.

 

The 2018 Seed List, And New Containers

-A.J.

The seeds have arrived. The list from Territorial Seed:

Qty Item # Product Description Price
1 FL2438/S Bee Feed Flower Mix – Bee Feed Flower Mix 3.05
1 FL2432/S Beneficial Bug Flower Mix – Beneficial Bug Mix 3.05
1 FL2428/S Bohemian Rhapsody Flower Mix – Bohemian Rhapsody 2.95
1 HR1130/P Confetti Coriander/Cilantro – Confetti Coriander 4.35
1 LT406/L Flashy Trout’s Back Lettuce Organic & Pelleted – Flashy Trout’s Back Lettuce Organic 3.45
1 BN038/S Fortex Bean – Fortex Bean Seeds 4.65
1 ON557/S Guardsman Onion – Guardsman Onion 2.95
1 XA106/C Jersey Supreme Asparagus Crowns – Jersey Supreme Crowns 38.95
1 LT393/L Red Sails Lettuce Organic & Pelleted – Red Sails Lettuce Organic 3.45
1 MS473/S Roquette Salad Arugula Conventional & Organic – Roquette Arugula 2.85
2 LT394/S Salad Bowl Lettuce – Salad Bowl Lettuce 5.70
1 PE636/P Super Sugar Snap Peas – Super Sugar Snap 3.95
1 LT395/M Winter Density Lettuce Organic – Winter Density Lettuce 3 grams 6.95

I accidentally did a double order on the “Salad Bowl Lettuce” but that’s ok because the seeds will last long enough that they’ll get planted eventually. I was interested to try some red and/or speckled lettuces — the Flashy Trout’s Back is pictured below. The Winter Density (romaine), Cilantro, and Arugula are staples and represent the varieties that have done the best for us over time. We’re also going to try some asparagus in a better location — the batch we planted 3 years ago hasn’t really thrived.

Flashy Trout's Back

Flashy Trout’s Back

Then there are the beans. We really enjoyed the bush Maxibel filet beans last year. Fortex beans are supposed to be a very similar pole bean that’s highly recommended around the interweb. The Territorial Seed description:

70 days. A productive gourmet delight. The exceptionally long, medium-green pods grow to over 10 inches long. This stringless French filet type pole bean can be harvested at 6-7 inches for extra slender beans. Scrumptious when fresh, the rich, sweet flavor is a welcome treat. Fine restaurant or specialty market farmers should grow this one. The 6 foot tall vigorous plants require trellising.

That sounds tasty, doesn’t it? In a related note, if the Territorial Seed description states:  “fine restaurant”, or “a must for the market gardener”, or “market farmers should grow this one” — that means that it’s a variety we want to Strongly Consider. We also picked up some neat looking cranberry beans at the farmer’s market last year that will get a try. The plan is to train the pole beans up the sides of the trellises that have the cucumbers and vining zucchini.

To house the beans I purchased four of these to squeeze underneath the edges of the trellises:

City Picker

 

It’s a self-watering 20″ by 24″ container. (Amazon link here. The price seems to be going up as we approach gardening season. I paid about $40 with free shipping for each.) According to the literature each container can support 20 pole beans(!) Hopefully we can find a way to neatly tuck them in to the existing spaces under the trellises. It’s going to be interesting to do a side-by-side comparison with the EarthBoxes.

The 2017 seed list. The 2016 “Too Many Seeds Probably” list.

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Visit Dave at Ourhappyacres, host of Harvest Monday.

 

A No-Knead With Barley Flour

-A.J.

On the left is a No-Knead Bread that substitutes 25% barley flour for the bread flour. The bread on the right is the normal recipe:

180121 barley bread

The barley flour bread was baked in a smaller container, which accounts for some of the difference. Overall though, the barley dough didn’t rise nearly as much as the regular dough. The barley crumb wasn’t “compact”, but it definitely wasn’t as open as the regular loaf.

From a taste standpoint, the barley was fairly similar to the 30% Spelt bread from three weeks ago. They’re both decidedly different from 100% regular bread flour — regular bread flour has a much more “refined sugar” vibe going on. The Spelt was earthier than a regular bread, and I think the barley was earthier still. Interestingly, I really didn’t get “nutty” out of either the spelt or the barley.

I think I’m inclined in the future to limit the percentage of barley in a rustic bread to a lower amount, or just substitute more spelt flour instead. The spelt was much more enthusiastic and the crumb was better. Either that, or barley just needs way more hydration than I gave it. It could be the “right answer” is to increase the hydration from 75% to around 85% and see if that gives the barley bread more lift.

Right now I’m liking spelt more than barley, though I’d guess I need to give barley a few more tries before I really figure out what I think.

Also: I keep typing “barely”. I don’t have that problem with spelt..

The Pizza Bible, And Honey BBQ Chicken Pizza

-A.J.

I recently received a copy of The Pizza Bible by Tony Gemignani. (Subtitled:  The World’s Favorite Pizza Styles, from Neapolitan, Deep-Dish, Wood-Fired, Sicilian, Calzones and Focaccia to New York, New Haven, Detroit, and more). I requested it as a gift. I’ve been reading and listening to a lot of YouTube videos focused on breads and pizza, and Gemignani stood out to me as someone with a broad and deep knowledge of what makes good pizza. He’s a 11-time World Pizza Champion, and he owns a restaurant in San Francisco that features 7 pizza ovens, each focused on a different style of pizza — each style has it’s own distinct dough and handling. He’s clearly really done his research.

The book is excellent. I picked up a few ideas, a couple of which went into this BBQ Chicken Pizza with Shallots and Mozzarella.

180106 bbq chickken pizza2

The Recipe:  I “marinated” two minced shallots in Honey BBQ sauce with a little red wine vinegar and mixed ground peppercorns. Chicken tenderloins were poached, cooled, cubed, and allowed to rest in a light coating of BBQ sauce.

The dough:  300 grams bread flour, 190 grams water (63% hydration), 6 grams kosher salt (2%), 15 grams olive oil (5%), 6 grams diastatic malt (2%), 1 teaspoon instant yeast. Mix all ingredients on low speed for 8 minutes. Let rest 30 minutes, then stretch and fold the dough. Preheat oven with pizza stone to 500F at least 30 minutes, I gave it an hour.  Let the dough rise another 90 minutes. Shape the dough, top with the BBQ/shallot mixture, and bake on the stone for 8 minutes. Top with the chicken and mozzarella and bake 5 minutes more.

The first new “tip” from the Pizza Bible:  Gemignani will use a variety of combinations of “dusting” flour when he stretches the dough. I used about a 50/50 mix of AP flour and semolina. I pressed out the pizza by hand, taking care not to squeeze the air out of the edges. In the process the dusting flour with semolina was incorporated into the bottom of the pizza.

2nd “tip”:   2% diastatic malt is loosely double what I’ve typically been using for pizzas. Many recipes in The Pizza Bible recommend that amount of malt. It seemed to give very good results this time.

The book is written very much in his speaking style. Here he is discussing the new book (December 2014) – “Food At Google”

 

And March 2015 “Chefs At Google”:

The two videos total around 90 minutes — I feel like I learned a number of things from the videos.  Highly highly recommended watch.

The Amazon link to the book.

I think I may need to start using higher hydrations for pizza. The end result is lighter. It creates a big pizza that’s more air and the pizza doesn’t weigh me down after eating it. Nobody loves a gut bomb.

 

Spelt Flour In A No-Knead, And A Helpful Handling Idea

-A.J.

I recently decided to start experimenting with flours other than “regular” wheat flour, so I purchased some Spelt flour, Rye flour, and Barley flour.

First up:  Spelt flour.

spelt bread 171230

Pictured is the No-Knead recipe, substituting out 30% of the Bread flour and using Spelt instead.

Notes On “2017 No Knead Tweaks”: 

When I started making No Kneads I was baking them at 450F. I’m now using 460F. In Lahey’s book “My Bread” he calls for 475F.

Lahey calls for preheating the oven for 30 minutes. I try to shoot for an hour, which is much longer than I had been preheating the oven. (It had been as little as 15 minutes. Now I don’t think that’s enough time to really get the whole oven hot.)

For the final proofing I’ve been coating the bowl with a neutral spray oil, then dusting the bowl with rice flour. More on that further down this post.

I try to slash the dough a little after it gets into the hot dutch oven. It’s been my experience that I get better and more consistent rise that way.

I’m going to update the No-Knead tab after I get done with this post.

The next picture shows a 30% Spelt bread/70% King Arthur Bread flour on the left, 100% King Arthur Bread flour on the right:

spelt left 171230

The Spelt flour bread is darker. It also seemed to proof faster and rise higher. Per wikipedia: “In comparison to hard red winter wheat, spelt has a more soluble protein matrix characterized by a higher gliadin: glutenin ratio.” My suspicion is that Spelt flour also has something that is contributing to increased enzyme activity, whether it’s more damaged starches in the flour, or a higher initial population of enzymes, or just different enzymes. It also worth noting that the gluten structure created by Spelt flour is more delicate — the dough requires gentle handling to prevent degassing.

Speaking of gentle handling — here is the end result of trying to use parchment paper as a sling to place a No Knead dough into the dutch oven:

bread parment sling 171230

See the dents in the sides? That’s where the parchment interfered with the oven spring of the bread. Failed experiment.

Lahey recommends using a cloth (or your hands) to transfer a No Knead dough into the dutch oven. If it’s a cloth he recommends generously dusting with “wheat bran, cornmeal, or flour” (pg 52 of “My Bread”). I’ve been letting the final rise happen in a bowl because I’ve seen him do the transfer from the cloth to the oven and I think it makes more of a mess than I’m willing to tolerate in the kitchen. The thing with the bowl is that flour will stick to the sides, so I’ve started oiling, then dusting the sides of the bowl with rice flour. Rice flour doesn’t contain gluten, and I’ve found that it will allow the dough to release much more easily from the bowl.

And it only took me six years to figure that out.

As far as the taste and appearance of the 30% Spelt No Knead —  I felt like the “regular bread flour” tasted more like refined sugar. The Spelt tasted much mellower and rounder. The finished exterior appearances of the two breads were very similar, as were the crumb structures. The Spelt raw dough had a very distinct red/pink hue to it. A bunch of discerning palates had nice things to say about the Spelt, so it must have been ok.

I’ll be baking with Spelt again.

Three Flatbreads, And Thoughts About Modernist Bread

-A.J.

Last week I listened to Francisco Migoya:  “Insights From ‘Modernist Bread’ – New Discoveries In The World Of Bread Science.” (On YouTube. I didn’t go to Johnson & Wales to hear him speak.) The video is at the bottom of this post. It’s an hour, but there is some interesting stuff.

Modernist Bread is a bigger set of books than the Modernist Cuisine. It’s over $500.

But the thing is, whatever truly new and/or revolutionary content the books may have to offer, isn’t it likely the information will be on somebody’s blog, or the FreshLoaf forums in no time flat?

Flatbread/pizza with basil puree, pine nuts, and parmesan.

Flatbread/pizza with basil/olive oil puree, toasted pine nuts, and pecorino romano.

In the video Francisco talks about the percentage of oil in a bread formula to allow maximum oven spring and lift.

Pecorino romano and diced roasted red and yellow peppers

Pecorino romano with diced roasted red and yellow peppers

It turns out the answer is 2% oil. I’ve been using 0 – 3% oil when I’m trying for lift. I appreciate his sharing the actual amount, but I don’t think I need to be investing $500 for the info.

9-hour rise focaccia. 75% hydration. 4% oil. Finished with sea salt and minced red onion.

9-hour room-temperature rise focaccia. 75% hydration. 4% oil. Topped with with sea salt and minced red onion.

 

Maybe I’m being too harsh. I guess we’ll see. I’m not going to be an early adopter on this one.

Still, interesting talk:

 

Baguettes, And Another Bread Thing I’ve Been Thinking About

-A.J.

I think I’m learning more baking baguettes than I am most other things right now, and I think that’s because they’re encouraging me to look holistically at how I’m approaching bread baking —   I feel like I can make a focaccia or a No Knead and they’re relatively forgiving. Baguettes require more attention to… everything really. One decision leads to the next which leads to the next.. From start to finish, if I make a serious error somewhere along the line it’s harder to recover from and still have something…  Let me put it this way, I’ve turned baguettes into crostini before anyone else ever saw them because I hated the way the breads were shaped coming out of the oven. I’ll usually serve ugly stuff anyway and call it “rustic”. Not that time.

But getting back to the “holistic” thing:  I’ve been reading a lot of different authors and a lot of bread recipes. Some have lots of kneading in the mixer, some have none, some use refrigerator preferments, some use room temperature, then there’s high hydration, or two hydrations, and on and on and on.

Cell phone picture.

Cell phone picture.

It seems to me that at a fundamental level they come to the same point:  While the dough is in the “bulk rise” stage there will be at least one stretch and fold. This happens before or during the stage that used to be referred to “punching down”. It doesn’t seem to matter how much kneading has happened previously, stretch and folds organize the gluten and gives a much better crumb structure and loft.

As an example – Peter Reinhardt will give a lecture where he’ll start by loosely combining a wet dough in a bowl and during the talk he’ll stretch and fold the dough about every 15-20 minutes. The dough will go from a shaggy wet mass to being fairly orderly and neat in a little over an hour. (In a related note: I’ve heard him say that four stretch and folds is the optimum number, but I’ve never heard him describe why that is.)

Another cell phone picture

Another cell phone picture

2nd example – Jeffrey Hamelman will often recommend not fully developing the dough in the mixer, then giving the dough some number of stretch and folds on the counter.

3rd example – Jim Lahey’s No Knead Bread involves no kneading at all, but it does have a stretch and fold at the end of the bulk rise.

I’d heard someone on Youtube, and I wish I’d given it closer attention, but he basically said that given time, gluten will develop, and that kneading isn’t really developing gluten, it’s just organizing the gluten that’s there. I don’t know how true that is literally, but it got me thinking just allowing lots of time with minimal kneading and a few stretch and folds along the way is an excellent way to go about doing things.

I think this one might have used a real camera.

I think this one might have used a real camera.

I’d been heading that way for a while. For the ill-fated Sounders championship game viewing party I made baguettes to be used as part of meatball sliders.  I used some AP flour and a lower temperature bake because I didn’t want a super snappy crust that would have meatballs shooting out when someone took a bite.  The recipe included a 300g/300g AP flour/water mix that spent two days in the refrigerator. It also included a 200g/200g AP flour/water mixture that spent about 18 hours on the counter. I finished it with 1.5 TBP instant yeast, 18 grams salt, 70g of water, and 400g of bread flour.  The total formula:  900g flour, 570g water (63%) hydration, 2% salt. This made 6 smallish baguettes.

What the recipe didn’t include was the KitchenAid. I kneaded the components by hand until it came together, then did a few stretch and folds until I was happy with it.

I don’t know if it’s a breakthrough or a revelation, but I feel like the baguettes have been getting better on average over the last year or so, and the stretch and fold technique likely has something to do with it.

Happy Holidays everyone. And happy baking season.

EarthBox 2017 Recap — The Tomatoes and Tomatillos

-A.J.

The final 2017 garden recap post — The Tomatoes and Tomatillos.

The two “Verde” tomatillo plants had a pretty typical year — 14.6 pounds. Normal output is 15-20 pounds. I think it my have actually been too hot on the patio at times and it may have stressed out the tomatillos somewhat. It felt like they were “done” earlier than usual.

170730 tomatillo

We simplified things with the tomatoes this year. (The “why we did that”, a description of the varieties, and a list of everything else we grew is here.)

Two Oregon Spring in one box. 48 pounds(!).  That’s 12.8 pounds per square foot(!) They’re early, consistent, compact, and no hassle. They taste good, they’re super high yielding, they make good sauce and work great in a Caprese… Did I happen to mention we love Oregon Spring tomatoes?

Two Roma in one box. 31.6 pounds. Still an excellent yield at 8.4 pounds per square foot. And almost all of them ripened. Romas are almost always listed as “determinate”, these stayed small and made large fruit. It may be that the “mono-box” of one variety really helped.

Two Black Krim in one box. 20.9 pounds. If we got 20 pounds of produce out of every box every year I’d be cool with it. Black Krims have a terrific dark, earthy taste — they always win our taste tests and they make a great sauce.

170908 harvest Friday

The final box contained-

One Old German. 20.9 pounds. It ripened to a light orange. I don’t think we were floored by the taste, or, more accurately the taste may have been oversold. We wound up mixing it in with darker tomatoes for freezer sauce.

One Cherokee Purple. 10.5 pounds. It was a slow starter and to some degree was buried by the Old German, but 10.5 pounds is still a nice yield. Sort of a fruitier, less intense Black Krim.

In other notes, I think we made some real progress at other more traditional gardening things. We’re getting the hang of the unique needs of the salad table — very few things bolted this year; we had fresh greens almost all year, and there are still lots more greens to eat now in late November. With more knowledge and practice the salad table may provide a true 4-season harvest. In a related note, we’re getting better at the timing of seed starting for salad greens. We planted more chives in the back yard with the hope of fresh “onions” most of the year. Finally, we grew beans for the first time this year and had some success. I’m enthusiastic about the potential for fresh beans in the future.

 

Pretty good gardening year all the way around.

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Visit Dave at Ourhappyacres, host of Harvest Monday.