Making Whole Wheat Bread: Recipe and philosophizing.

001This grew out of a discussion on Facebook about bread making. Kylie Buddin requested a recipe.

Bread really seems daunting to many people who are otherwise confident cooks. My first advice to people is to lower their standards: Your lumpy, under-risen loaves will still taste better than store-bought bread. Don’t be afraid to fail, and always eat your failures. You put good stuff in, and as long as you don’t burn the crap out of it, it will be good.

It is also a process, like playing the piano, that awards practice. In particular, knowing when bread is well-kneaded is a feeling that is unmistakable when you know it but that can only be approximated in words.

Whole Wheat Bread, the currently evolving recipe

  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 2 heaping teaspoons dry yeast
  • 2 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/3 Cup Molasses
  • 1/4 Cup vegetable oil or butter
  • 1 Cup White Flour
  • 2 tablespoons Wheat Gluten
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3+ Cups Wheat Flour — as needed.
  1. Combine yeast and warm (not hot, around 110F) water with a couple teaspoons whole flour and stir. Set aside. It should bubble a bit after 5-10 minutes, indicating the yeast is alive.
  2. Mix buttermilk, molasses and butter/oil in a pan on a stove. I use a digital thermometer to warm it up to 110F while stirring. If you don’t have a thermometer, you can just stick your finger in it. It should be like bathwater you could climb into without it stinging.
  3. When your liquid mix is warm take it off burner. Add a cup of white flour and the warm liquid to the yeast & water mix. Stir until smooth.
  4. Add salt and gluten and stir until fully mixed.
  5. Add a 1/2 cup of whole wheat flourr and stir until fully mixed in.
  6. Keep repeating step 4 until the dough mix starts separating from the side of the bowl.
  7. Turn out on liberally floured counter or breadboard. Cover your hands in flour and knead dough. Every time dough starts getting sticky add a few tablespoons whole wheat flour and continue kneading.
  8. When dough ceases to be sticky to touch, continue kneading for 5 minutes or so.
  9. Cut into 2 equal sized blobs. Roll and stretch blobs until they’re long enough to touch both ends of the bread pan.
  10. Add a teaspoon of oil to each bread pan. Put the dough blobs in pans and roll them around so that they’re well coated in the oil.
  11. Set aside to rise. Use a clean towel or plastic wrap draped loosely over the bread pan. Keeps dirt and vermin out, and heat in, while not restricting fresh air flow.
  12. Allow to rise until bread is above the edge of the pan.
  13. Put in 400 F oven for 25-35 minutes. It is done when the top is dark brown and when you thump it it has a hollow thud quality.
  14. knock out of pan onto a wire rack to cool.

Random thoughts:

The inside of the bowl will have dough stuck to it. When you turn out the dough to knead, you can rub off the bits of dough from the bowl into your big dough blob. Waste not want not. If you don’t have experience kneading, you can watch videos on Youtube about it.

The two main gestures are stretching and folding. You do it because it stimulates the protein in the flower, in combination with the liquids, to form long chain molecules that give the the dough structural integrity, such that small bubbles of gas can form as the yeast consumes starches and sugars.

There are endless variations one can introduce. If you beat an egg white and brush the top of the loaf it will make it shiney. You can add nuts or dried fruit. You can substitute a cup of oatmeal for some of the flour — in that case, heat the buttermilk mixture almost to boiling, and drop in the oatmeal. Let the oatmeal absorb liquid as the mixture cools — again, to warm going on hot.

Rising time is quite variable, and depends most on ambient temperature. In fact you can put the dough in the refrigerator and let it rise over-night. One good method is to put a dish of boiling water in your oven (before turning it on) and put the loaves in the oven.

Subway says Pepperoni Makes You Gay

The fuck? Watching this commercial makes my brain hurt:

If I understand the scenario, two guys are eating sandwiches at a Subway restaurant. They enthuse about the flavor-enhancing qualities of adding pepperoni to a sandwich. They are then launched into a shared hallucination where they’re being poled along a canal in Venice by a gondolier. Someone (not the gondolier, though by tradition, they sing for tips) sings a song about Pepperoni to the tune of “O Solo Mio.” Their eyes lock, the spell is broken, and they awkwardly make small talk about sports.

The point is that in their fantasy, the sandwiches and the gondola ride awakens homoerotic feelings in them. What I don’t get is how this in any way is supposed to sell sandwiches. It’s like that insane Quizno’s advert where it’s implied that the sandwich chef has burned his dick sticking it in a gay sandwich oven.

What’s especially disturbing about this is it enacts the specious narrative that it’s possible to Catch The Gay. If you’re not vigilant, deviant desires might catch you unawares and turn you into one of those butt-sex-loving nancy boys. The absurdity of this is premise is rivaled only by its durability in the American imagination. Even if it is possible (and every variation of human behavior is possible!), why would two men discovering they desire each other be such a horrible thing? And why are they using it to sell crappy sandwiches?

Up until a few years ago advertisements seemed to follow a recognizable narrative with an obvious subtext. You could deconstruct them, and even if they were dishonest or sexist or whatever, they made some sort of objective sense. They sought to awaken or create a desire in the viewer, that can only be satisfied by the product being advertised. The moral implications of that aside, at least you knew where you stood.

Now it seems like they’ve added a new rhetorical strategy to the field: arguing from the premise of what the fuck? In other words, come up with something implausible, maybe a little risque, that in no way makes any sense. Then you remember the product because you think “what the fuck was that about?” I guess it works, since I bothered to write about it.

So resist. Don’t buy Subway — their sandwiches taste like newspaper anyway. And if you can’t resist or have no choice, do not add pepperoni to your order. Pepperoni adds nothing but nitrites, salt, and saturated fat to the meal.

Of course, this ad fits perfectly with my theory that nothing advertised on television is good for you. The healthiest diet available to an American is the one where if it’s advertised on television, you don’t eat it. When was the last time you saw an advertisement for kale? Or brown rice?* The whole basis of the corporate food business is Added Value: You take foodstuffs, bought as cheaply as possible, adulterate it with salt, sugar, and fat, package it, and advertise it. Then you profit when people sicken themselves by eating it.

*and here’s another constantly reinforced trope of mass media — if it’s good for you it must taste like crap. How many times have you seen a sitcom where the joke is that people get stuck in a ‘healthy’ restaurant and the joke is ‘the food is good for you but it’s disgusting!” Haha very funny. Fact is, if you stop eating bad food and start eating healthy things, your palate changes and the healthy stuff tastes better.

Green Beans, Olive Oil, Salt, Sriracha = Amazing

We are now entering the season where really good green beans grown locally will be available. I don’t know where the ones in the stores now come from but they’re pretty great as well. But I’ve been experimenting with a way of cooking green beans that we like so much we do it every week at least once.

1. Rinse and cut the green beens to desired size — I usually remove tips and then break them in half. You want enough beans to fill the wok to where you can still comfortably stir or flip them.

2. Get a wok smoking hot. Add a tablespoon (more or less depending on amount of beans) and swirl it around the pan. Have a cup or so of water next to the pan.

3. Before the oil gets a chance to burn dump in the beans.

4. Stir them constantly until the oil is evenly spread/absorbed. If your Wok Fu is strong, flip the beans repeatedly.

5. As the beans cook, add a dash or two of salt every minute or so. Enough to draw moisture out, but not so much that they’ll be saltier than you like when they’re done.

6. You want the beans to brown slightly, as this is what gives them their desired flavor. So, alternate between stirring and leaving the beans sit for 30 seconds or so.

6. The real secret: beans can and will burn black if they get too hot. As they cook, watch (and smell) closely, and if they get so dry that they begin to smoke, add a tablespoon of water to the pan, and then stir/flip vigorously.

7. The beans are done when they are as tender as you like to eat them. I prefer them just past al dente. Remove from the heat and let stand a few minutes, covered if you like your beans softer.

8. Garnish to taste with Sriracha sauce. Just a little bit will cause an awesome flavor synergy, but if you like your food very hot, green beans cooked this way can stand up to quite a bit of heat before the fire obscures the taste. I like the Sriracha sauce but any hot sauce (or Mongolian Fire Oil) would work too.

This is a method of cooking that works well on pretty much any vegetable except delicate greens. I like to think that the high heat, low moisture method concentrates the flavor back into the vegetable, as opposed to boiling or steaming.

This is especially good with kale — the Good For You vegetable that is challenging to prepare in a palatable manner. I like to boil kale a few minutes before chopping it and cooking it in the walk, as it is too sturdy to get tender with normal sautee or braise cooking.

I’m playing Friday at Dawn’s for Mission Creek Festival #mcic

If you’re in Iowa City, and you like FREE music, with FREE food and FREE drinks, I’ll be playing this Friday at Dawn’s @ Dusk

In a week with a lot of sweet shows, these will be very interesting — the concept is every live set is 10 minutes long, so 12 artists in 2 hours. With food and drinks. For free.

Those who don’t like FREE can find somewhere else to pay to chill.

I will be performing a live, improvised set consisting entirely of sine waves. I’ve wanted to do this for years, and I’ve boiled it down to an amazingly simple setup, involving very little staring at the computer. Mostly Akai LPD8 to choose record channels and trigger clips, keyboard to play the notes. I use the computer keyboard to turn off clips and change scenes in live.

A 10 minute set of this is a perfect length. Any longer and unless I’m the reincarnation of Eric Fucking Satie, it will wear out its welcome.

Miscellany – Food, Computerz, Carz

1. Steamed artichokes tonight, I guess now is the season, they were great. Discovered a new garnish for dipping — Squirt a bit of Sriracha sauce into Hellmans Mayonaise (or Best Foods to you left-coasters!). Insane good. Also: recommended by the cute checkout womanl at New Pioneer Co-op — thai chili paste in Mayo. For the record — ALL the checkout women at toe Co-op are cute.

I’m going to Farmer’s Market for Tomatoes and such in the morning, and Tomatoes with spicy mayo sounds amazing.

2. Wild Turkey in dark roast coffee with your favorite whitener. Who knew??? I think it’s possibly better than Irish Whiskey.

3. I had my first experience with bad RAM sticks. They was name brand too! The computer would work until it got warmed up and then start rebooting any time I tried to run a program. The generic sticks from the local computer shop worked better than the fancy ones from New Egg.

4. Pursuant to the above, anyone who wants a nice Intel Motherboard for Socket 775 (i.e. Core2 Core2 Quad, etc) I have a spare now.

5. Wasted a lot of time at the Toyota Dealer today looking at a Cash for Clunkers deal. Settled on a car, and asked the guy how much he’d knock off to close the deal, and he said 500 to 700 off. I countered with a $1000 and he said “I’ll check with my manager.”

Well then he left and came back and looked it up on the computer and said “well there’s only $700 mark up on the car so I can’t go a $1000.” I said “OK” and he went to talk to the manager. He came back after 5 minutes and said “we are limited on Corollas, they’re the most popular Cash For Clunkers car, so the best I can do is $100.” I said “see ya!”

WTF? I know Corollas are popular but I’ve never had a deal vanish like that. Complete Bullshit.