Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Bread from Birka

My apprentice sister Asa in Svarta was recently honored by being selected as a Laurel in the SCA. Since her persona is Viking, we wanted to be sure there were some Viking dishes in the food for her vigil.

(By the way, if you don't understand the above paragraph, contact me privately and I'll explain it more)

I turned to the book "An Early Meal" for inspiration, and found a recipe for "Bread from Birka".  The authors talk about flatbreads in general, and were specifically talking about foodstuffs found in the Birka area in this section of the book.

The recipe called for mixing pea puree with barley flour and salt and then baking it, either on a hot rock or in a frypan.  They also mention that many flatbreads made with barley and oats were found.

I tried the pea mixture, first cooking dried green peas into a puree, then mixing it with ground barley, salt and water.

 This is my flour mill.  It sounds like a jet engine.

This is the barley before it was ground.

And this is what it looked like after being run through the flour mill.

Next, I mixed the flour with the other ingredients.

I mixed it into a smooth dough and then, after letting it rest, rolled out an about one ounce ball into a flat, mostly roundish sort of shape, about a quarter inch thick.

 This is the rolled out flatbread.  Copious amounts of barley flour were needed to prevent sticking.

This is a sample after cooking.  As you can see, it broke apart.  It also did not taste very good.  

Since the taste was not pleasing to me, I decided to explore the barley/oats combination.  I ground up some steel cut oats to go with the barley, mixed up a dough containing 2 parts barley to one part oats added some salt and enough water to make a stiff dough.  I also added 1/8 teaspoon yeast, more for the flavor than any leavening I might get.

I parceled this dough out into 1 oz balls, rolled them out and stored them stacked with wax paper between them. 

At the event, I cooked the flatbreads on a butane stove using a cast iron comal.  I got this in a thrift store quite a while ago, there is no manufactures name, only the number '6' on the bottom.  

Here's a shot of me cooking the flatbreads.  It was a very hot day.

The bread come out very tasty, and many people enjoyed it.  While the challenges of working with low gluten flours without the benefits of modern additives to add structure to the dough was interesting, I'm not sure I'd repeat this, unless asked to do so.  I'm happier baking with wheat.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Mudthaw 2015 Bread

I didn't enter the bread contest this year, I've won it twice so I figured I'd sit it out this time.  I did however bake some bread for the Athena Thimble's lunch table.

It was 75% white all purpose flour and 25 percent whole grain rye flour (plus water, yeast and salt).  I mixed up the dough on Wednesday, let it rise on the counter overnight, put it in the fridge on Thursday morning before going to work and when I got home on Friday, took it out and let it warm up/rise in brotforms while we ate dinner and then baked it on the Baking Steel under a cloche.  There were two loaves and the first one came out a little burned, but the second one was perfect.

I'm a little. displeased isn't the right word,
with the crumb, it's a little tighter than I hoped. Next time I'll use bread flour and hope for more holes.  I'm also going to soak the rye flour to see if that helps with hole structure.

Here are the two loaves after mixing.

This is the cloche from an earlier competition...and here is a picture of one of my brotforms

I also made butter.  Not in the churn, but in the Kitchenaid.  Here's a pic of the finished product:

Everyone seemed to enjoy it.  Off the clean the kitchen and soak some rye!!

Sunday, February 8, 2015


Today I made baguettes with the Cook's Illustrated recipe:

The shaping needs practice, and will get it, but the crust is amazing and they taste great!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Bratwurst...lots of Bratwurst....

So this weekend,  I joined my Laurel, Annectje and our friend Penni and produced 50 lbs of Bratwurst for an event in December.  Here's the recipe:

Many thanks to the people at Wegman's, who gave us a discount on the bone-in pork shoulders.  I picked them up on Saturday morning, drove them to Annectje's and we boned and portioned them, bagged them up and put them in the freezer overnight.

Today, I took the toys down to Annectje's and we ground the pork coarsely and seasoned it with marjoram, thyme, parsley, cumin, nutmeg and salt.  After we fried up a sample and confirmed it was seasoned correctly, we then ground it a second time through a finer plate.

First grind, with seasoning

Second grind, 

Gloves to keep my fingers from going completely numb... 
To the right (my left) is the cylinder of the stuffer...

After the meat was ground and seasoned, we used a stuffer to put it into casings.

Casings being washed before use.

Stuffer with casings attached.

The final product.

Now safely tucked away...

December 13th 2014. Bhakail. Be there.......

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Butter! Part One

Well, you have to have something to put on the bread, don't you?

I've taught a butter class as several SCA events this season, and this weekend I taught it to a bunch of Cub Scouts.  They were a great bunch of kids and I enjoyed myself much more than I thought I would.  So I figured it was time to post about it.

My class handout for the Making Butter class is here:  Making butter

There are several ways to make butter.  One that I've never had success with is to put cream in a mason jar, with or without several marbles in the jar, and shake it.

The next is the time honored butter butter churn.

This is my churn:

This was at a cheese/butter class I taught in the spring at Cooking Schola in Mass.

The name made this the churn for me!

We start with a quart of supermarket heavy cream.  Unlike cheesemaking, you can make butter with any pasteurized dairy, including ultrapasterurized.

The dasher is a length of dowel with two short pieces of wood attached at one end.

On Dasher...

You (or your audience) then move the dasher up and down fairly quickly, twisting slightly on the downstroke.  After a suprisingly short amount of time, the sound changes and starts to sound like splashing, which means it's working.  Another minute or two to get everything firmed up, and it's about a pound of fresh delicious butter!

And step one is complete.  

Next post:  Finishing the butter...

Sunday, September 28, 2014

From Milk to Meal - a few thoughts

So, having now taught the From Milk to Meal class several times, I've decided that some changes need to be made.  While the (few) people who attended seems to have a good time, I think that the sheer length of the class is scaring people off.  So I'm going to break it into three classes, which all feed into the final product.

I will post more details about the new class structure soon.  In the meantime, here are some pictures from the class.

Cheese hanging to drain

On left unsifted stone ground whole wheat flour, in middle what remains after sifting and on the right the "fine flour" left after sifting

Eggs + Flour = Pasta

New Knife

Sunday, March 30, 2014

News from Last Weekend...

The loaves that I posted pictures of last weekend were for an SCA Event I was attending.  If you don't know what the SCA is, try this link...

The Society for Creative Anachronism

The event was called MudThaw and is held yearly, as a celebration of the coming of spring time.  And there was a baking contest.

This is the loaf that I entered:

Here was my display:

And here is what the loaf looked like when we sliced it open:

The recipe is the one from several post ago.

300 grams of stater - 100 grams of sourdough, 100 grams of stone-ground whole wheat flour and 100 grams of water, mixed well and allowed to sit on the counter overnight and then refrigerated.
560 grams of sifted stone-ground whole wheat flour
40 grams of stone-ground whole rye flour
340 grams of water
13 grams of salt
3 grams of yeast

 Hydration level was 58.66 percent.

The long and the short of it, I won.  My prize was a lovely scroll, made by a dear friend of mine.

The text reads, "On this feast day of Saint Callinica and Saint Bassilica, that is the 22nd day of the month of March, the very best bakers of the East Kingdom assembled in the Barony of Settmour Swamp.  They were challenged to bake their very best bread: one that would benefit for their King and Queen, and Prince and Princell.  All were worthy and valient, but one surpassed all others.  And so, for the Anno Societatis XLIII, the winner of the bread baking competition, the champion of the noble dough, the subjugator of the yeast is:  Lord John Marshall atte Ford"

Sorry I missed a week.  See you next time.