30 January 2011

Crispy Rye and Seed Crackers (modified)

Running out of time, my plans to bring some bread of lavash crackers to a party were dashed. Flipping through my bread books, I found a recipe that seemed to fit my requirements - no yeast, quick prep/quick time, and snack food. Rye and seed crackers; they looked beautiful in the book and sounded great paired with a strong cheese. I took the ingredient list to the grocery store.
 And, umm, the grocery store failed. Rye flour? Nope, you can have light rye flour but not the good stuff. Pumpkin seeds? Seriously, no, you have to buy a pumpkin if you want those. But I improvised and they turned out pretty damn good. As I haven't cooked the original, I don't know how the flavor compares. To take care of using light rye, which has less flavor, I added a dash of buckwheat flour. Careful with this, though; buckwheat is very strong stuff in flavor. It was about 10% buckwheat and 90% rye, but you could only taste the buckwheat.
To substitute for the lack of pumpkin seeds, I just used more sunflower seeds to balance it out. Again, the overall flavor was very hearty, with a strong buckwheat kick to finish. Paired with a goat cheese, it was sublime. The only limiting factor in this recipe is number of cookie sheets - I had to half it, which was enough for two full sheets of crackers; sufficient as a snack or as one of many dishes around a room.
 Crispy [Light] Rye and [Not Pumpkin] Seed Crackers (makes 2 cookie sheets, modified from a recipe in Artisan Breads Everyday)

  • 1/4 cup (42 g) sunflower seeds
  • 1.5 tbsp (14 g) flaxseeds
  • 3 tbsp (56 g) sesame seeds
  • 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp (115 g) light rye flour
  • ??? tbsp (10 g) buckwheat flour
  • 1 tbsp (14 g) vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tbsp (10 g) honey
  • 6 tbsp (85 g) water, room temperature
  • Additionally, 1/2 tbsp honey, 1 1/2 tbsp warm water, sesame seeds, sea salt, ground black pepper, ground walntus, or whatever other garnish you want
Grind the sunflower seeds into a flour; I used my burr grinder (for coffee). Also grind the flaxseeds, or just use pre-ground flaxseed powder. Combine the ground seeds, the solid seeds, and the flours. Mix together, then add in the water, oil, and honey. Stir for a 2 minutes until all ingredients are incorporated. If the dough is sticky (it was for me), add more rye flour. To test for stickiness, push your finger against the dough and pull it back - if the dough grabs your finger and then lets go, its fine. But if any dough is left on your finger, add more flour.

Flour a work surface and knead for 30 seconds. Separate the dough into two equal piles. Prepare two cookie sheets with parchment paper and preheat your oven to 300 degrees. Flour a large work surface and a rolling pin; roll the dough as thinly as you feel comfortable, checking and flouring as necessary. Slice the slice dough into cracker shapes using a pizza cutter (or, if you don't have one, a sharp knife held at a high angle). Transfer the sliced crackers to a baking sheet.

Combine the honey and water, whisking them together. Brush over the sliced crackers and sprinkle garnish on top (sea salt, ground pepper, more seeds, ground nuts, or really anything you want). Place in oven for 10 minutes; rotate; cook for 10 minutes more; rotate again; cook for 25 more minutes, increasing the temperature to 325 degrees.

Final note: I consider honey vegan. If you don't consider it vegan and want to be a vegan, use agave syrup.

Cold Vinegar/Sesame Noodle and Tofu Toss

Looking for a simple, not-heavy dinner, we decided on something involving a green pepper because we had one. Stumbling our way through ideas, soba sounded really good. We didn't exactly find soba, and it wasn't quite udon - the package called it "Japanese style noodles". Definitely not soba because it was not buckwhet based and it was far too small to be udon. It was also flat; my guess is the package had a ethnic confusion or wikipedia is not-all knowing.
We made a few mistakes in the prep. The noodles were very gluteny - after a short boil, we gave them a quick rinse to cool and then tried to toss them with the sliced ingredients. It was more of a ball of noodles sloshing around in a pile of tofu, peas, and green pepper with various seasonings. The proportions of seasoning was also off, but I've fixed that below in the recipe. I recommend eating this with a cold, unfiltered sake.

Vinegar + Sesame Noodle Toss (20 minutes to make, serves 2)

  • 1 small package fresh, ethnically challenged noodles.
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 small block pre-seasoned/cooked tofu (we chose a salt and pepper one)
  • 1 handful snow peas
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp vinegar (rice or white wine, maybe balsamic if you are feeling adventurous)
  • (Optional) furikake
  • (Optional) Sriracha

Cook the ethnically challenged noodles as described on the packaging - this probably means bringing water to a boil, adding noodles, bringing back to a boil, and cooking for a few minutes after that. Drain noodles and rinse very thoroughly with cold water until they are less sticky and have chilled. Chop pepper, peas, and tofu into thumb-sized pieces. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and toss. If desired, top with some furikake or add Sriracha during the tossing process for a nice kick.

24 January 2011

Pain a l'Ancienne Sage Twists

So I made these baguettes again. I can't help myself - they need an hour to rest/rise before going in the oven, cook in 12-15 minutes, and then 15 minutes to cool. Compared to a minimum 2 hour rest/rise for other recipes (and don't get me started on the time to cook and cool a loaf), it is hard to beat. You get a crispy, crackly exterior, lightly caramelized, with a moist and airy interior every time.
I cannot stress how delicious this bread is, compared to the amount of work involved. Even when you botch the recipe, like I did. The botching explains the shape, by the way. I completely spaced out when measuring water - I needed ~225 grams and poured ~275 grams. Thinking myself something of a bread-baking baller, I believed it fixable. The stretch-and-fold was nothing of the sort; the dough was a soup that clung to anything near it. I used a silicone spatula to do something like a stretch-and-fold - I would slide it under a side, pick it up, and let the dough back down, about 8 times per repetition and a repetition every 7-10 minutes for 40 minutes.
This still did not fix the dough; in the morning it was still soupy and impossible to touch. I floured more than I have every floured before, but even after caking it you can see above how liquidy it was. The mini-baguettes wouldn't hold their shape at all, but I found by doubling them back and twisting them (after a coat of flower), they stuck together well enough to be baked.
My other modifications to the recipe was adding 10g of chopped fresh sage (to a half batch) and putting some sea salt crystals on top of each baguette after shaping. I'm glad I didn't use more sage - other herbs/flavourings I've put in bread like this have been on the 15g-20g range, but sage packs quite a punch. I am going to have to be careful, or I will only end up baking two breads: these baguettes and Struan.

Shortbread Thickness

For today's shortbread experiment (well, Friday's but posted today), I played around with thickness/shape. Unfortunately, in doing so, I regressed w.r.t. the baking temperature. I mistakenly baked at 325 for 20 minutes, despite finding out in a previous experiment that 350 was optimal.
We have three sizes here: normal/normal, half/normal, and normal/half. The first part is how thick it is, the second part is how wide it is. You can see that the thinnest one is the most colored inside, but then you realize it is an optical illusion due to my phone camera taking a bad photo and my cleanup attempts failing. The half/normal came out the crumbliest, and the normal/half and normal/normal were indistinguishable. Remember, the goal for shortbread is to cook out most of the butter so it becomes crumbly instead of mushy. Here is my pinky for reference. And, yes, these things are small.
On the left we have pre cooking, and on the right post-cooking. They do plump a little in the oven, and lost a little bit of their shape. The important bit is letting them cool completely - they are actually best the next day (or, at least a few hours after baking) instead of fresh out of the oven like most cookies are. Yay for not during myself!

19 January 2011

Mashed-and-Baked Parsnip with Sage "Gravy", Broccolini, and Spicy Beans

A few ideas planted themselves in my mind yesterday - broccolini is and will always be delicious, I haven't made potatoes ever, and sauces are delicious. A plan was hatched for cooking: one surefire thing, one probably good thing, and one experiment. All on the same plate! Well, this is the overall meal. I would say "rousing success" but I usually under-season things and it was a dinner for one, so no actual judgement was passed upon this meal.
The "surefire thing" actually turned out to be two things - the broccolini and the beans. I've charred broccolini enough times to call it a go-to dish and I have definitely cooked enough beans to feed an army of very flatulent soldiers. The rest of the meal was more experimental - while I have consumed, and watched the process of cooking, mashed potatoes many times, I have never partaken in the process. I guessed my way through it (and used parsnips instead of potatoes) by boiling them until they were quite soft, then mashing them. It seemed to work.

The gravy was an educated guess at how to make a no-meat no-packet gravy. It mostly worked, but it did take a while. My basic idea was learned watching my grandmother produce the gravy for Thanksgiving last year - she boiled chopped onion in some water until it essentially disappeared. Then she added turkey drippings, but I wasn't about to cook a turkey just for the drippings. Bean liquid, that which comes in the can with canned beans, seemed a likely substitute.
While I had the oven set to 475 degrees and pre-heating, I got a clever idea for the already-mashed parsnips. Throw them in the oven to brown! It would be perfect, a true masterpiece, a notch on my belt of amazing meals. The reality was a little different - I don't think it did anything much to them - but I can pretend. The rest of the things that came out of the oven were good enough.
Mashed-and-Baked Parsnip Cake w/ Gravy/Beans (serves 1.5, takes 1h or so)

  • 2 parsnips
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 1 bunch radishes
  • 1 bunch broccolini
  • 1 bunch fresh sage
  • 1 can brown beans, undrained
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • cumin
  • paprika
  • salt
  • pepper
  • olive oil
  • (optional) source of spiciness (here: sriracha sauce)
Peel onion and slice into rings/slivers. In saucepan with lid, place onion, water, fresh sage, and liquid from can of beans. Bring to boil, add the cumin and paprika, then cover and simmer while you prepare everything else. Chop parsnips into smallish cubes and place in boiling water until a fork destroys them.

While things boil and simmer, prepare everything else: dice half of the carrot, slice long strips out of the other half, dice most the radish leaving a few thin slices for garnish. Preheat oven to 475 degrees. On baking sheet, place broccolini, sliced carrot, sliced radish. Brush lightly with olive oil and sprinkle salt on top.

Drain parsnips and mash them, adding a dash of olive oil, salt, and paprika. Heat on medium for a minute or two while stirring in the diced carrot and radish. In a bread pan or other oven-safe dish a few inches deep, form parsnip mixture into a square. Place baking sheet of broccolini et al and bread pan of parsnip et al into the oven.

While everything bakes, heat the beans in a pot, adding salt and pepper plus spiciness. If you don't want them spicy, they should probably get an additional flavor of something, but I leave that to the reader. After ten minutes, shut off the oven. Increase heat on simmering gravy to high and gradually add in flour, constantly whisking while it boils. Let boil for a minute or two, it should thicken as you stir, and reduce back to simmer.

Serve as I have in the picture, or freestlye that dish.

18 January 2011

More Experiments

A followup on two previous experiments for today. The first, and most delicious, would be the bread (the first link, previously named "Cornmeal Raisin Rolls"). I think, after tweaking the recipe a bit, I've got a new name for it - Chewy-as-Hell Bread. Also delicious. Also containing raisins. I doubled the amount of cornmeal in the dough and slightly upped the raisins - this made it a tad firmer, and infinitely chewier, than the previous recipe. If you want to bake this at home, you can experiment with adding a very small amount of honey (like a teaspoon or two to give it more sweetness) and changing the amount of raisins (up or down, your call).
I just noticed - the scoring pattern kind of makes the loaf look like a pile of crap. Umm, I assure you, it tasted nothing of the sort. I tried two new things on this loaf, in addition to tweaking the recipe. First, I used a poor-mans couche/basket combo to try and shape the loaf better. As pictured below, I prepared a metal boal by putting some paper towel in it, spraying it with a bit of oil, and then dropping the dough in, seam-side up. If we go by finished product, I think it worked, but visually there was no indication of any differences, besides creating a pocketed pattern on the dough (seen below on the right).
The other major change in baking style was to improvise a dutch oven for the first half of baking. I baked in a cast-iron skillet, but put a spare 9x9 casserole dish I had over the top. I think this had an effect on the dough, but I didn't try an A/B test so I don't know for sure. It definitely had a very crispy crust around it, more than I usually get from a loaf.

Chewy-as-Hell Bread
  • 310g unbleached bread flour
  • 255g warm water
  • 60g polenta-grind cornmeal (previously: 30g)
  • 20g raisins (previously: 15g)
  • 7g salt
  • 4g instant yeast
The night before:
Combine yeast and warm water, making sure yeast is active (it should bubble a little, the yeast will mostly dissolve, and it will smell great). Combine all dry ingredients except raisins in a bowl, mix. Add the water and yeast, stirring for a minute with a wooden spoon until all the water is absorbed. Add the raisins, stirring for another minute. Let rest for 5, then stretch and fold four times with a ten minute rest between each. You must stretch and fold - you can see the before and after below. The dough goes from a gooey, sticky mess to an almost-manageable, still sticky ball.
The day of:
2 hours before baking, remove the dough and shape into a loaf on a lightly-floured work surface. Proof at room temperature, covered. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. 10 minutes before baking, remove the cover and coat an oven-safe pan (cast iron, no wooden handle) with cornmeal (normal cornmeal, not polenta-grind). Place the loaf in the pan. Right before placing it in the oven, score the dough. Put in oven, cover with another oven-safe metal thing, and reduce heat to 450 degrees. Let bake for 12 minutes, rotate the pan and remove the lid. Let bake for 12 more minutes, turn off the oven, and let the dough sit in the oven for 5 more minutes. Cool for an hour before cutting/serving.

Experiment Two, Shortbread (Longer Bake Time)
And an update on shortbread experimentation: I tried cooking for 20 minutes at 325, using the base "sweet" recipe. Much better - very flaky and hard, a tiny bit browned. I think 350 might be the optimal temperature for 20 minutes because the very center still had a bit of yellow, not white, dough.

12 January 2011

100% Whole Wheat Hearth Bread

Another bread knocked off the list from the cookbook; this time the "hearth" 100% Whole Wheat bread. Hearth in the title refers to the consistency of the dough as well as the cooking method - it aims to be light and fluffy, full of air pockets, with a crispy crust. Very much like a baguette or ciabatta you get fresh from a bakery. You probably don't want to use it for a sandwich and you are ripping off chunks instead of slicing it. Unlike sandwich bread, it usually contains only the essentials (flour, water, yeast, salt), although that was not the case with this loaf due to working with whole wheat.
Whole wheat flour is very hard to get fluffy bread from. It is dense and doesn't really develop gluten as readily as your standard white flour. To give the recipe a little bit of spring, it called for a bit of brown sugar (to help the yeast, I believe) and a bit of oil (to remove the dryness you get from whole wheat). The water percentage is also much higher than a standard loaf of bread, but not quite as high as the rustic bread I've cooked a few times into mini baguettes. It still uses stretch-and-fold instead of kneading, and a ridiculous amount of stirring. Five to seven minutes at "medium" by hand with a wooden spoon is not the easiest thing in the world.
On the left is the dough ball fresh out of the fridge, ready to rise for 2-3 hours. On the right, it has spread out quite a bit after the rise, and been scored. I tried something new with the scoring - I cut it very deeply, then sprinkled a mixture of white flour and corn meal into each of the scores, smearing it with my fingertips. This created a distinct look to the scoring and possibly helped avoid my usual scoring problem of the bread simply rising through the scores and only ending up with light wrinkles. I did cut the dough deeper than usual as well.

11 January 2011

Black Bean and Rice Mini-Burgers

Returning to a dish I've cooked a few times before, I decided to play around with my black bean cake recipe. This is a pretty easy dish, and if you take out the rice it requires a lot less time. I also got to use a new, awesomely named, ingredient - dinosaur kale! The meal pictured below isn't the most balanced, but luckily it produces a lot of extra kale/mushrooms/etc to eat on the side.
Not pictured: ketchup used as topping when I realized just how dry they were without it.
Black Bean and Rice Mini-Burgers (makes 8 patties which serves 2-ish, takes 1 hour, or 30 minutes without the rice in the patties):
  • 1 can black beans, drained (15 oz was the size I used)
  • 1/3 cup uncooked rice
  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • 1 tbsp flaxseed meal
  • 2 tbsp corn meal + a lot more on the side
  • 1 tbsp stone ground mustard
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of sage
  • pinch of cumin
  • 1 red pepper sliced into circles
  • 1 yellow squash sliced into circles
  • 1 bunch dinosaur kale, cut down to burger-sized pieces
  • a few trumpet royale mushrooms, sliced into strips
Cook the rice as per instructions. While the rice cools a bit, mash the beans in a mixing bowl with a fork. You want a few beans to survive the massacre but otherwise create something like a goop of beans. Add in the flaxseed and corn meal, stir. Crush the walnuts in your hand and add into the mixture, as well as the rice, and stir. Add in the mustard, salt, sage, and cumin, mixing until it is somewhat uniform.

Prepare the toppings - sautee the mushrooms with a punch of salt, bake the peppers and squash in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, and sautee the kale with some lime juice or other flavor enhancer. To make this easier, you can do this while the rice cooks and put everything in a warm oven for 5 minutes right before serving.

On a work surface, dump a generous heaping of corn meal. Something like 1/2 cup at least. Form a patty of the bean mixture in your hand and generously cover one side with corn meal. Flip it over in your hand and coat the other side, then flip it over again to shake off the excess cornmeal. I made 8 patties with the recipe, but you can size them as you want. Keep them thin if you want to cook them in a pan, but they can be thicker if you want to bake them.
For stovetop (preferred): In a large frying pan, add oil and set to medium heat. Drop patties in, flipping after 7-10 minutes when they have solidified a tad and adding a splash more oil. Let cook another 7-10 minutes until the bottoms are a nice shade of brown, flip and give it 2-5 more. You can stop cooking them earlier, but they will fall apart easily if you do.
For oven (takes longer): Preheat oven to 375. Place patties on lightly greased baking sheet and cook for 15 minutes, flip, and cook for 15 minutes more. They will not change in color much but will solidify quite a bit. If you don't think they are baked enough, another 15 minutes won't hurt.

Top with kale, mushroom, pepper, then squash. You will probably want some form of sauce/liquid topping, as otherwise the meal will be quite dry. I recommend either ketchup, mustard, pesto, or hummus. All work well.

07 January 2011

Oops!... I Popped It Again

Sad face. A repeat of breadtastrophe. This time with a more complex recipe - Pain au Levain. This is a sourdough recipe, like the last few I've made, but I decided to make sure it rose by using the optional yeast in the recipe. Oops. It is supposed to be the hallmark of naturally-leavened bread - the starter is a mix of whole and white flour, and the final loaf is all white. Otherwise, it is a standard loaf (flour, water, salt, yeast). Edit: holy crap I just took a bite. This bread is good. Definitely don't need a jar of peanut butter to save this one.
Not as disastrous as it could be in the looks department, this bread was only lightly walloped with the ugly stick at birth, its parents reprimanded by the CPS but allowed to keep their child pending further evaluation and monthly visits by a sworn officer of the law; it will grow up and be lightly ridiculed in high school but still find a date to prom and the date will not be unattractive. Altogether, it will live a decent life, relatively unmarred by its appearance but forever a little insecure.

So, what went wrong? I'm guessing a few things. One, my schedule has been more than a little spotty this past week - the starter was prepped Monday and refrigerated overnight as the recipe called for. Tuesday morning, I mixed the final dough and plopped it in the fridge where it sat until Friday morning. The book says it can survive up to four days in the fridge; this I do not doubt in the least. However, it got rather cold in my fridge. Post-shaping, the loaf was too cold to hold. At this point, I should have known I was in trouble. The yeast was most definitely sleeping the entire time in the fridge, not rising in the least. It would wake up when warmed, yes, but it should have done that over the past few nights and when it was first mixed.
I let it proof in my apartment for around an hour and a half, at which point I checked in on it. It had risen a bit, and spread out quite a bit on the surface. Again, I knew I was in trouble but just said "bah, what is the worst that could happen? Full speed ahead!". The proofing stage is just that - you let the dough prove it is ready to be cooked. That it rises a little is expected, but once shaped it should mostly retain that shape (unless working with a very watery dough). This rose more than a little and refused to keep its shape.
You saw above what happens when dough that is still rising goes in the oven. It pops when cooked and lives a mundane life. I think there were a few things I could have done to save this. First, let it rise and then proof. At the 1.5 hour mark, when I saw it had risen and flopped out, I should have reshaped it and let it sit out a bit longer. Instead, I simply stuck it in the oven. If the dough is that cold coming out of the fridge, there is no way it was doing much of anything while sitting there until it had warmed. The starter also went direct from the fridge to the dough - this, too, could have been warmed slightly.

The way you go from per-loaf starter to dough is to combine the starter with some water to soften it, then mix in everything else. The water is supposed to be luke-warm to make sure everything wakes up, but given the coldness of the starter when I combined it with water, I think letting it warm slightly before mixing would do wonders.

There is always a next time.

04 January 2011

Hario V60 02 [Coffee At Home]

I had the pleasure of attending a "Better Brewing At Home" class at Four Barrel last night, where I learned of the many ways to prepare coffee at home (as well as how to fuck up coffee at home). I've made plenty of coffee in a French Press (good enough) and a few times from a Mr. Coffee (blech). The methods demoed where the Chemex, the Clever Dripper, a French Press, and Hario V60. Of the methods, I thought the Chemex and the V60 tasted the best (given the beans and my coffee preference of "bitter, fruity, nuanced" and not "full bodied, hearty"). For reference, that is much closer to espresso than normal drip.
 Before I go into details, the most interesting part of the class was probably the "how to ruin" coffee bit, namely the tasting of bad drip. The under-brewed coffee was not so bad - it was like a very weak tea; I could drink it easily and if I was served it in a restaurant I would probably finish it. In fact, it tasted like most restaurant coffee you get. The over-brewed was a different beast. It waged a war against the moisture in your mouth. In wine terms, it had a huge tannin. It was barely palpable, let alone drinkable. Do not want (except, maybe, as an experience).
The V60 uses a somewhat fine grind - on the advice of the teacher of the lesson, I got a Hario Mini Mill and set it to three "clicks" from closed. This is a burr grinder - while it does require some manual labor and a bit more time than a push-button Kitchen Aid or other non-burr grinder, it won't destroy your beans and it won't create an uneven mixture of coffee chunks. Get one, they are cheap. I'm using 20g of coffee and 300g of water for this batch, as 15-1 was the recommended ratio. A kitchen scale is also something you should own.
To prep the coffee, you first warm everything by pouring hot water over it (of the temperature you prep at, so 195-205 degrees). While the water was heating, I poured the grinds into the filter and formed a divot in the middle by rotating a spoon around in it. For the V60, you are supposed to pour ~10% of your water, by weight, into the filter starting from the center and then working out to bloom the coffee (release the gases in the beans, let it settle), then slowly pour the rest of the water in so you finish pouring around the 2.5-3.5 minute mark (adjust as needed for taste). This pour should be in the center of the filter and a very slow rate. You can see in the above photo the divot shape and the blooming coffee, which appears to have water that is too hot (it shouldn't be bubbling like that but rather foaming).
 On the left is the finished pour, on the right is the filter/grinds after the water has drained. This cup of coffee was a little off - it didn't have the full fruitiness the one poured by a master barista had. I think the cuplrit is a combination of water that was a bit too hot and a brew time that was wrong, in some way. It wasn't quite bitter or tannind, but it was definitely moving in that direction. For a first cup in a new method, this wasn't bad. Hopefully this won't turn into an obsession, but it looks to remain cheap with this equipment.

Shortbread, Now With Buckwheat

For todays (well, not todays but you know what I mean) micro-recipe, I did a 50% sub of buckwheat flour for normal flour, and a baseline of 1/2 tbsp powdered sugar. So, roughly 1/2 tbsp powdered sugar, 1 tbsp butter, 1 tbsp flour, 1 tbsp buckwheat flour. The dough was a lot firmer and required far more stirring to get the ingredients to come together.

 Pre baked on the left, post baked (but pre cooled) on the right

The finished cookies also tasted like buckwheat, obviously. I'm not sure this was a good thing. Another thing I experimented with in this batch was cooling time - I split the single-serving into two biscuits. I at one after 30 minutes cooling time, and ate the second after about 2.5 hours of cooling time. The 2.5 hour cooling time was far superior, as after 30 minutes the biscuit still had quite a bit of heat and chewiness (not something one looks for in an ideal shortbread). The 2.5 hour one was not quite that perfect combination of flakiness and dryness I expect, but it was much closer. I think my baking time/temperature might need some adjustment.

02 January 2011

Sourdough is Hard, Let's Go Shopping

My sourdough starter decided it was mature enough to enlist in the bread-making army a few days ago. For a fresh recruit, it didn't do a bad job. Now, sourdough starters are hard work. Not in a prison sentence, manual labor kind of way; it is more like taking care of a small child for the first week. You have to stir it a few times a day, feed it every few days, and keep a careful eye on it. It took about 8 days to go from a small pile of flour and pineapple juice to a mother starter that now sits in my fridge, to be picked apart and used in any future sourdough breads.
On top of that first week of twice-a-day checking, the bread involves much more waiting than any of the other loaves. I went with two recipes - San Francisco Sourdough (fitting) and 100% Whole Wheat Sourdough. Both were purist - that is, they contained no yeast beyond what I captured in the air for my starter. This meant making a bread-specific starter [few minutes of mixing, 6-8 hours of waiting], making the dough itself [few minutes of mixing, 40 minutes of stretch-and-fold, 2-3 hours rising that night], and letting it rise yet again before the baking [4 hours of rising]. I can't imagine cooking this bread having to work that day.
Going for the purist version, especially for my first sourdough, was probably a mistake. The San Francisco loaf did not rise the least in the oven and I undercooked it - it became a somewhat doughy, very dense mass of sourdough. Still tasty, mind you, but nothing like the lean bread in airiness. Next time I may have to add in some instant yeast after the starter to get those pockets a-forming. The Whole Wheat fared much better, as evidenced by the photo above. Neither loaf really had much sourdough tang; I will assume this is due to my starter being fresh.
 Now that I have the starter, I can try some fancier recipes without worrying about subbing in instant yeast for the starter - Pain au Levain might come next, or possibly even a panettone-based recipe (though the one in my book needs 12-16 hours to rise, which would be difficult to fit into any schedule).