This has been the first pleasant day we've had in months. Breezy and dry, with 70s this morning and 80s this afternoon. There's only one problem--it's dry. Way too dry. We had almost no rain in July, none at all in August, and none so far this month. It's crazy--I've read how much rain has been falling in Louisiana and the southeast US from tropical storm Lee, and all we've gotten from it has been wind. There won't be any grilling around here for Labor Day, at least there better not be, with all the wildfires burning around the Austin area. (Thankfully, none are near us at the moment, but we know people close to the affected areas.)
Still, parents with the day off from work and kids with the day off from school flocked to the park this morning to enjoy the lovely weather. We were among them. We're lucky to have some really great places to play, like the playscape at San Gabriel park. The girls got to run around like maniacs for about an hour, and I got to sit in the shade and read. Well, and take some pictures. =) Then it was home for lunch and naps. I love extra days off.
I did some baking yesterday. I'm starting to get back into the bread baking mood, now that we're actually seeing some days below 100º. (The Austin area has had 79 days of 100º+ so far, and there's still a chance we could have more.) I even revived Ernie, my sourdough starter, and have baked sourdough bread two weekends in a row. Last weekend, I baked Pain au Levain from one of my favorite books, Artisan Breads Every Day. I really like that recipe, but I wanted to make something quicker this time. I turned to one of my trusted resources, King Arthur Flour, to see what I could come up with.
I have to say, I really like the recent redesign that KAF did on their recipe section. For one thing, it's much more iPad-friendly. I was also happy to see that in addition to weights in ounces, many recipes now give the option for grams as well. It's an easy conversion if I have to do it myself, but it's nice to save a step. I do have to wonder, though, why it will tell me that a tablespoon of sugar is 14 grams, but not give me a weight for 2 1/2 teaspoons of salt. Oh well, it's not like it's that hard for me to figure out for myself. =)
There's a section of sourdough recipes, with all kinds of interesting stuff (including pizza and waffles and even chocolate cake). I settled on the recipe for Rustic Sourdough Bread. There is a handy blog post to go along with it, showing how the recipe can be adjusted to give different results depending on how much time you have on your hands. I went for the quicker version, which still has nice flavor while only taking a few hours. I fed Ernie Saturday night, so I had a nice active starter ready to go Sunday morning. I did have to do some math, though. I keep a firm starter, with a hydration of about 66%. That means that for every 100 grams of flour, it has 66 grams of water. The recipe has a link to KAF's fresh starter, and the instructions for it led me to believe that it's a 100% hydration starter, meaning that it has equal amounts of water and flour. So I had to figure out how much total water and flour were in the original recipe (totaling the amounts from the starter and what is added later). I decided to keep the amount of starter constant, so I had to figure out how much water and flour were in the same amount of my starter (the recipe calls for about 225 grams of starter) and adjust the additional water and flour accordingly. This is where I love my notebook. I didn't want to write it out here, so the photo below shows my calculations and notes for this recipe:
The verdict? Well, we've managed to polish off the first loaf already. Samples yesterday, toast for breakfast today, sandwiches for lunch. The other loaf got sliced and went in the freezer for B's lunches this week (and maybe some for me, too). The flavor is nice--a bit of tang, but not too sour. It was a hit with B, which is good, since she can be picky about bread. I'll definitely be making this recipe again--I love how easy it is, as long as I remember to feed my starter first.
If you'd like to try this bread for yourself, you can find the recipe here at KAF. If you don't have a starter of your own, there are a number of great tutorials on the web, including this one from my friend Phyl. I made mine using the steps in Artisan Breads Every Day, and posted about it here. For more yummy and beautiful breads, be sure to check out the collection each week at Yeastspotting.