Hot and cold and hot and cold. Is it fall already? I have no idea.
Temperature wreaks havoc on naturally leavened bread, and I’ve been fighting the ups and downs all week. The ideal temperature for fermenting the dough is 76F and when it's warmer or colder (like it was earlier this week) you have to adjust by using warmer water or proofing in a warmer spot. Vice versa when it's warmer (colder water, cooler spot).
As I’ve been making more and more bread I’ve been feeling myself get more in tune with the dough. I know much better now when a dough is properly fermented and ready to be shaped; I can diagnose the various problems with my bakes (over-proofed, under-proofed, under-fermented, under-steamed). Despite all the advances, every time is a new experience and a new challenge.
I think that’s what makes it fun.
This Week’s Loaf: Kingston Country and Seedy Wheat
Two types to choose from this week! The first is a classic ‘country’ loaf or a Pain de Campagne. Country loaves are characterized by their very open crumb structure and a high percentage of white flour with a little bit of whole wheat in the mix. Some people call these ‘dirty whites’. I use 10% NY grown Whole Red Wheat flour and also throw in about 3% cracked wheat for texture and extra wheaty-ness. This is the first style of sourdough I learned how to make, but I’ve gotten much better at it over the years.
The second is a fun sandwich bread I’ve been experimenting with. It is a majority whole wheat (Red Wheat and Rye) with a whole bunch of toasted seeds mixed in (Pumpkin, Sunflower, Sesame, Golden Flax). It’s full of flavor and will make a great bread for jam, cheese, or any other creamy spread.
This is another one of my ‘classics’ that get’s made almost weekly in the height of summer. Nows your chance to eat the last of the basil or make this recipe (from The Pizza Book) and schmear it generously on a piece of Kingston Country Bread.
I grew up eating pesto that my dad would make every summer from basil grown in plastic buckets in our Brooklyn apartment. His was always super garlicky and salty from pecorino. It is still the ideal I model mine after - the big difference from mine is that I blanch my basil.
The ratios here can be adjusted to your taste and according to what is available. We’ve found that pesto is made better with the addition of one extra (seemingly fussy) step. Blanch the basil. Blanching sets the bright green color you expect from great pesto, and that the color never changes into an unappealing brown. Also, the order of ingredients is important. If you put everything in at once, the texture will not be as pleasing.
Freeze any leftovers and take them out in the middle of winter. Once thawed, try a bite and dream of warmer days.
- One large bunch (130g) fresh basil leaves
- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 (3g) large clove garlic
- ½ cup (60g) Pecorino Romano, cut into small chunks
- 3 tablespoons (30g) pine nuts
- Kosher salt
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and fill a large bowl with ice and cold water (should be mostly ice). Pick all the leaves from the bunch of basil and clean thoroughly.
Using a spider or mesh sieve, take the clean basil leaves and dunk them in the boiling water, making sure they are all submerged. Count to 15 and then drain quickly and dunk the basil in the ice bath, splash the leaves around to make sure they all get submerged.
In a blender or a food processor process the garlic with a teaspoon of salt. Add the pine nuts and cheese and process into a chunky paste. Add the basil leaves and a ½ cup of olive oil and pulse until chopped into a very thick paste. Keep the motor running and drizzle or add the rest of the oil slowly.
Taste for salt and add more as needed (the cheese is salty and should have added a lot of saltiness).
Transfer to an airtight container and press down. Cover with a thin layer of olive oil if there isn’t one on top already. This keeps for a week in the fridge and months in the freezer (though the flavor is definitely best the first day you make it).
Now Playing: King Krule - 6 Feet Beneath The Moon Spotify
I’ve been anxiously awaiting this British abstract crooners follow-up, but in the meantime, I’ve been re-enjoying his debut album from 2013. It’s actually moody in a way that not much music is these days and something about the transition of seasons and the changing light reminds me of it.