Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Yes, we Can...and Did!

Ahhh, to feel hope and confidence in one's government again. Although I stayed up to watch McCain concede and Barack triumph and was woken up at 5am by Claire, I feel refreshed. I feel like we're going back in a positive direction as a nation and I am excited for the future. I've been consumed, obsessed and completely stressed out about whether we could, as a nation, elect Barack president and now I know we can. Just the simple fact that my kids can now grow up without the assumption that the White House should only be occupied by some old white guy is a great and beautiful thing. Just that makes this election worth it. But no, there's more. We get a man who is articulate, intelligent, measured and thoughtful in his approach to dealing with problems, and willing to accept that he doesn't know everything and must sometimes work with others to make something good happen. Of course, I am a little biased, but I think Barack ran a campaign that he can be proud of, both ethically and organizationally. He kept the moral high ground; didn't go after the extremely tempting and easy target of Sarah whatsername. McCain lost any respect that I had for him with his campaign strategy of doing/saying anything to win despite often being contradicted by reality.

Anyway, I think we're back on a positive course as a nation. I hope we'll hold this course so that I can go back to writing about bread which is what I really enjoy. Thank you Nate Silver at for keeping me sane. Without him, I would be completely dysfunctional. K bye, gotta go be hopeful now!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Working on the Fall Menu, Here's version 1

Donovan’s Steak & Ale

Chicken Wings

Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail

Shrimp Corn Dogs
Roasted Garlic & Caper Aioli (or something?)

Clams Steamed in Beer

Crab Cakes
Cucumber Salad, Spicy Remoulade

Duck Pizza
Caramelized Onions, Roasted Apples (???), Smoked Gouda or Smoked Mozz or Smoked McCadam Cheddar, BBQ

Beer Battered Mozzarella
Puttanesca Sauce

Baked Brie
Seasonal Fruit Compote

French Onion Soup

Lobster Bisque with Madeira Cream


Grilled Sirloin Steak & Iceberg Wedge
Crumbled Bleu Cheese, Bacon, Red Onion,
And Balsamic Glaze

Home-made Dressing, Croutons, and Tomatoes
With your Choice of Grilled Chicken or
Pepper Grilled Tuna

Seared Duck Salad (doesn’t sell much)
Roasted Apples, Pistachios, Bleu Cheese
Mixed Greens and Gorgonzola Vinaigrette

Entrees Served with Seasonal Vegetables

Grilled Delmonico Steak
Steak Fries, Balsamic Glazed Mushrooms and Onions
Maple~Bourbon Sauce

Bacon~wrapped Gorgonzola Stuffed Filet of Beef
Roasted Garlic Whipped Potatoes, Red Wine Sauce,
Haystack Onions

Slow~Roasted Prime Rib
Herb Roasted Potatoes
Jus, Whole Grain Mustard & Horseradish Cream

Grilled Dry Aged New York Strip
Bacon, Cheddar and Scallion Baked Potato Pie,
Haystack Onions, Brandy~Mushroom Sauce

Grilled Hanger Steak
Steak Fries, Roasted Onion~Red Wine Sauce

Other Meats

Beef Short Ribs Braised in Beer
Roasted Garlic Whipped Potatoes

Grilled Cider Brined Pork Chop
Fried Mac & Cheese, Ubu Demi

Venison Pot Pie
Leg of Venison Stewed with Rosemary, Juniper
And Root Vegetables under a Puff Pastry Lid

Pan~Roasted Half Chicken
Corn Bread Stuffing, Tarragon Pan Sauce

Sautéed Chicken Marsala
Herb Roasted Potatoes, Mushroom Marsala Sauce

Chicken Pot Pie
Chicken Stewed with Sage and Root Vegetables
Under a Puff Pastry Lid

Seared Duck Breast
Fried Mac & Cheese, Cider Glaze


Pan Roasted Chilean Sea Bass
Sam Adams Oktoberfest & Crab “Beernaise”, Herb Roasted Potatoes

Sautéed Crab Cakes
Vegetable Couscous, Spicy Remoulade

Pan~Roasted Atlantic Salmon
Vegetable Couscous, Warm Bacon Vinaigrette

Grilled Yellowfin Tuna (shall we change this too?)
Herb Roasted Potatoes, Tomato~Caper Sauce


Seafood Bake
Shrimp & Crab, Penne, and English Peas,
Baked in a Marsala & McCadam Cheddar Sauce

Shrimp Scampi with Linguine

Pumpkin~Sage Ravioli
Mushroom & Caramelized Pearl Onion Marsala Pan Sauce
(if we’re getting duck confit, that would be kick ass in this, except for the vegetarians)

Grilled Eggplant & Mozzarella Stack (I hate this)
Grilled Peppers, Portabella Mushroom
Tomato~Pepper Coulis

Thursday, September 11, 2008

And now for something completely different...

Yes, I occasionally let the geek flag fly. Two geek posts in one day.

Do you have a hadron for particle physics?

Worried that the LHC has destroyed the world and we just don't know it? Check this out to find out. I wish I had taken Physics in school and not been so intimidated by math because of a sucky 6th grade math teacher that I never followed up on my interest in this kind of thing because it's cool stuff. Last year I saw a documentary on the building and implications of the CERN collider and got excited about the project. Besides if it does create a black hole big enough to swallow the world maybe we'll be spared the possibility of having another republican administration. Instantaneous annihilation doesn't seem so bad anymore does it? But most of the physicists agree that that isn't a credible possibility. Just in case though, I recommend checking the above link periodically to make sure.

Mostly though, I just saw a T-shirt on Wil Wheaton's blog saying something to the effect of "Particle Physics gives me a Hadron" and have been trying to figure out a way to work it into my blog somehow. Amy gave me the perfect method when she found the collider update link. By the way, St. Lawrence county, my home area, was in the running for either CERN or another super-collider back in the developmental stages but the NIMBY's won out.

Monday, September 08, 2008

If Barack can sing this well...

He should be president, right? The final, conclusive proof that Barack deserves to be the prez. The grumpy old coot sure doesn't despite being a slightly less repugnant, repulsive, embarrassing and oafish republican than our current one.

And in case you need more real reasons to not vote for Palin/McCain check this out.

OK, gotta stop now. I feel a rant coming on and I need to get all my facts right and ducks in a row so that at least it will be an informed rant.

First Review for Donovan's Steak & Ale

We've been visited by two of our regional newspapers in the past few weeks and our first review appeared in the Watertown Daily Times this Sunday. Overall, very positive; 4.5 forks out of 5 is a good place to start. Everyone deserves a lot of credit for our success the first two months out of the gate. Donovan, Dana, Art, Marilyn and all the Reyome family have all put a crazy amount of time, effort, thought, and more into getting the place looking great and the waitstaff trained properly. It's great to be somewhere that everyone is on the same page and the owners are intimately involved in the daily operation of the restaurant and not simply absentee distractions. The servers, Laurie, Chelsea, Meagan, Paula, Erica, Natalie and Trevor have done a great job and exceeded my expectations in a short amount of time. Jeremy, with whom I worked at Maxfields, has been great; a terrific worker and good complement to my style and attitude. We've pretty much lost Chris to soccer and his senior year at high school unfortunately; but he's still a big help on Sunday nights. Trevor (the same one who is a server) is obviously good at multi-tasking and has come a really long way in just 2 months. Sean, another Maxfields transplant, is finally on board on the weekends and is a great addition to the kitchen. He managed to jump on the grill his first night (a Friday) and put out 100+ dinners with no problem. And, no restaurant could function for more than about an hour without a good dishwasher. John, our dishwasher keeps us loaded pretty well with plates and saute pans and does it without a complaint despite obviously being way too smart for such a repetitive boring and unpleasant job. We're planning on phasing him into cooking a little at a time to get him off dish a couple nights a week.

Anyway, things have gone really well so far thanks to the great team effort and good leadership. We're expecting another piece October 4 in the Plattsburgh Press Republican from their reviewer who dropped in for dinner and was so impressed that he decided to profile us. I'll try not to let it go to my head. We still have to get that last half a fork next time around. Thanks for the review Wally! This'll be a busy week. Time to work on the fall menu and try to figure out a Beer Dinner. I really want to have an opportunity to do some more upscale and intimidating stuff and a Beer Dinner seems a good venue for that.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Yeastspotting, Finally some time to bake bread again!

I decided to dust off a Miche recipe I've been tinkering with for a year and work on it some more for my first foray back into bread baking since opening the restaurant earlier this summer. I decided to use more Rye and less Whole Wheat since I prefer the flavor of Rye. Sorry Mr. Poilane! I guess I'll still call it Miche since it still looks about as butt-cheek like as any other miche.

My Miche

Build 1 7:20am

40g KAF Bread Flour
21g Rye Flour
19g Whole Wheat Flour
95g Water
22g 100% Hydration Starter

Build 2 3pm (Build 1 had doubled and looked like bubbly pancake batter)

153g Rye Flour
147g Whole Wheat Flour
158g KAF Bread Flour
3g Sea Salt
550g Water
all the levain from Build 1

Final Dough 7:20pm (Build 2 had increased by about 50% and looked like slightly thicker bubbly pancake batter)

525g KAF Bread Flour
21g Sea Salt
80g Water
all the levain from Build 2
plus about another 50g Bread Flour while kneading

1. Mixed until incorporated (about 2 minutes) and allowed 15 minute autolyse, then kneaded for 6 minutes and pre-shaped into large boule.
2. Allowed to rise at room temperature for 90 minutes then divided in 2 and shaped into smaller boules.
3. Allowed to rise at room temperature for 45 minutes then retarded overnight
4. Pulled Loaf #1 from refrigerator at 7:20am to de-chill. Sprinkled Loaf #1 with Caraway Seeds and Cumin Seeds. Oven set at 450 with steam pan in lower rack. Slashed with a # Sign. Loaf #1 in @8:40am 425 with steam for 15 minutes, then 40 more minutes without steam. 10 more minutes with door open.
5. Loaf #2 baked directly from refrigerator with oven set at 475 during re-heat. Then down to 425 when loaded. No seeds since Amy hates Caraway for some inexplicable reason. Baked with steam for 15 minutes, then without for 40 more. 10 more minutes with door open.

Sliced Loaf #1 after 1 hour and tasted it. Now I remember why I love bread and baking it! Nice slightly sour grainy flavor, great crumb & crust. I'm glad it's cooling off outside and I have some free time to bake again. At least I managed to keep one starter alive! Bagels tomorrow morning. I'll add the pictures once I figure out our card-reader.

Friday, August 08, 2008

"Like Angels Pissin' on your tongue"

Apparently this was the enthusiastic reply by one of our customers last night when Donovan asked how dinner was. I'm not sure it's slogan material, but at least the people where happy with the food! Things are still going well and we're into our second month of business.

Monday, August 04, 2008

...and here's the more later.

Like I said, things have gone quite well considering the stress and uncertainty of the last few days pre-open. Our soft opening Tuesday, July 8 went off without a hitch and we started off with a relatively easy first week averaging about 70 covers per night. The next week, as word got out that we were open, we got busier and started to really get into an effective group groove. The next week we got our liquor license and things really got busy when word got out about that. That Saturday night we did 160+ with no trouble at all. Well except for having to send Chris over to do dishes in the middle of getting slammed and having to muddle through down one cook. I guess we muddled well since I can't remember a single problem that night. Dishwashing has been the sore point during our first month. Our first dishwasher quit last week in a fit of anger over the fact that the waitstaff wouldn't do his job for him. He had expectations of the waitstaff well beyond any that I've experienced anywhere in my years as a cook and chef. Ijit! And this is in addition to the cooks doing a lot of his clean-up at the end of the night which is about the last thing that I want to be doing after a good 11 or 12 hours there already. So now we have a new dishwasher who has a fine attitude, but really needs to figure out a system to move things along a little faster.

Anyway, even with the Franklin County Fair in town, we had our best week yet, coming close to or exceeding the 100 mark every night this week. It took its toll on me, Jeremy & Donovan this week; with all of us remarking last night that our asses were kicked. I hurt from the bottoms of my feet to my neck and I'm definitely ready for the temperature to drop below 120+ in the kitchen. I'm glad I've got 2 days off now to recover. It's a good feeling anyway, working this hard and being this well received and doing it for the benefit of someone whom I like and respect instead of who I worked for over the last 3 years. But I won't say any more about that. I'm trying to keep this nice and that would not be a pretty rant. Hearing Donovan and or Art or Dana say thank you at the end of each shift is a big deal for me. I appreciate it.

About the best thing I can say about bread right now is that I've managed to keep my original starter viable despite ignoring for days at a time. One starter...out of four! Damn me! Also, we're making some of our own bread, in the form of corn muffins; which is something to be proud of. I will get back to baking and blogging about bread (soon?) but I need to be spending less than 12-14 hours/day out of the house to make it work. And it will be nicer when it cools off a little.

I'll try to keep the updates coming at a more regular pace, maybe with some actual bread posts too. No promises though, we keep getting busier week by week. Smoked BBQ Beef Ribs coming this week, made on our very own smoker! Woohoo!

"I'm not a cooker"

This is what one of our more promising cook candidates said when asked by Dana if he'd be interested in being a cook instead of server which is what he really applied for. Turns out Chris is a cooker. I was pushing for people with little or no "experience" aka bad habits, and Chris filled that requirement well. He's a seventeen year old baseball/soccer/hockey playing high school senior who worked at his family farm and another farm before coming to work with us. No restaurant experience whatsoever. He is fantastic! Calm, cool, and collected. Follows directions wonderfully and has a great memory. Has a great attitude and is pretty fast considering that he's still learning the dance. Not to forget anyone, our other hire besides Jeremy and me, Trevor, is just as good and comes with some experience and apparently no bad habits. But Chris was a particularly pleasant surprise considering we were all worried about him after his opening line.

Things are going ridiculously smoothly considering the new staff, new restaurant and new everything. More later I think.

"We're not the geniuses, are we, really? Just the technicians."

great quote from Marco Pierre White talking about making great food and the importance of the initial ingredients.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Yeastspotting-Power Bread

I've been busy working on getting the kitchen/restaurant ready to go and have been out of the bread making loop for almost an entire month. Well, except for making bagels once a week, struan, and a couple varieties of corn muffins which I'm testing to use as a fresh bread option at the restaurant. If anyone has a great corn muffin recipe, pass it on and maybe you can be immortalized at Donovan's Steak & Ale. I think we're looking for a combination of sweet and savory since we're Yankees up here and like our corn bread and muffins on the sweetish side.

So here's the recipe, nearly verbatim, ingredient-wise anyway, from Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads

Day 1: Pre-Soaker
71g Raisins (I used Golden Raisins)
14g Flax Seeds (I used golden and brown)
170g Water

1. Combine all and soak for 8-24 hours.
2. Puree.

Day 2: Soaker
255g (all) Pre-Soaker
170g Whole Wheat Flour
14g Wheat Bran (Reinhart calls for Oat Bran, but as I didn't have it, I substituted)
4g Salt

1. Combine and hold at room temperature 12-24 hours.

Day 2: Biga
170g Whole Wheat Flour
1g Instant Yeast
142g Buttermilk

1. Combine and knead about 3 minutes.
2. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours until ready to make final dough. Pull from refrigerator to warm up 2 hours prior to making final dough.

Day 3: Final Dough
443g (all) Soaker
313g Biga
57g Sunflower Seeds, ground into flour in small batches in coffee grinder
57g Whole Wheat Flour
29g Sesame Seeds
10g Flax Seed Meal (my only addition to the original recipe)
4g Salt
7g Instant Yeast
21g Maple Syrup from my trees

1. Cut Soaker and Biga into 12 pieces each.
2. Combine remaining ingredients in mixer bowl.
3. Add Soaker and Biga to mixer and work on low for about 1 minute until it all forms a ball.
4. Knead on low (kitchenaid 1) for about 3 minutes until tacky and nicely cohesive.
Or knead with your hands on a lightly floured board until tacky and nicely cohesive.
5. Rest 5 minutes and then knead 1 more minute.
6. Remove to an oiled bowl for 45-60 minutes until increased to 1.5 times its original size. Pre-heat oven to 425F. Place a steam pan in the bottom of the oven.
7. Form into loaf and place in oiled loaf pan, slash down the middle, and allow to rise for 45-60 minutes until increased to 1.5 times its original size.
8. Put in the oven. Reduce temperature to 350F. Bake with about 4 oz. water in the steam pan for 20 minutes.
9 Remove steam pan, rotate 180 degrees and bake 20 to 30 more minutes until nicely browned and hollow sounding when thunked on the bottom.
10. Cool on rack for at least 1 hour before slicing.

I just cut into it and tried it. It's very tasty and lighter & airier than I was expecting having gotten used to the struan which is a similar looking bread. I think that is due mostly to my using the Biga pre-ferment rather than my white levain. I guess I'll have to try a Biga-struan to make sure.

And here's the photo

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Drive Easy

Heard this on NPR this morning and it makes sense to me considering that now that I have a 75 mile round trip commute each day I'll be spending something like $250/month just getting to work. I can afford an extra 3-5 minutes in the car to save $.20/gallon on gas. Yikes!

Here's a link to the interview I heard on our local NPR station.

Lunch Menu

Finally, the exciting stuff!

So far it seems like we'll be starting dinner Wednesday 7/9 and lunch Friday 7/11, just to give ourselves a slightly more manageable opening schedule. We'll be corning our own beef, making our own Pastrami and smoking some brisket too. Very excited about all that. Here's the Lunch Menu...


BBQ Veal Sliders
Roasted Garlic Aioli

Chicken Wings

Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail

Clams Steamed in Beer

Crab Cakes
Cucumber Salad, Spicy Remoulade

Beer Battered Mozzarella
Puttanesca Sauce

Baked Brie
Seasonal Fruit Compote

French Onion Soup

Lobster Bisque with Madeira Cream


Grilled Sirloin Steak & Iceberg Wedge
Crumbled Bleu Cheese, Bacon, Red Onion,
And Balsamic Glaze

Home-made Dressing, Croutons, and Tomatoes
With your Choice of Grilled Chicken or
Pepper Grilled Tuna

Spinach Salad
Brie, Strawberries, and Honey~Sherry Vinaigrette

Seared Duck Salad
Roasted Apples, Pistachios, Bleu Cheese
Mixed Greens and Gorgonzola Vinaigrette

All Burgers are accompanied by freshly made Potato Chips and a Pickle

Donovan’s Burger
Chive & Horseradish Havarti, Haystack Onions
Garlic Aioli

Bacon~Bleu Burger
Applewood Smoked Bacon, Bleu Cheese
Caramelized Onions

Steakhouse Burger
Swiss cheese, House Steak Sauce, Sautéed
Mushrooms and Haystack Onions

Up North Burger
McCadam Cheddar, Home made Maple
Horseradish Mustard, Applewood Smoked Bacon

Royale with Cheese
Brie, Sautéed Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions
Our special Thousand Islands dressing

American cheese

Other Sandwiches
Our own Home made Corned Beef, Kraut,
Swiss cheese and Thousand Island dressing

Pistol on Whiskey
Our own Home made Pastrami on Rye

Oven-roasted Turkey Breast, Kraut
Swiss cheese and Thousand Island dressing

Turkey Club
Layers of Oven-Roasted Turkey Breast,
Applewood Smoked Bacon, Garlic Aioli, Lettuce and Tomato

Tuna, Avocado & Bacon “Club”
Seared Tuna, Lettuce and Tomato,
Spicy Remoulade

Three Cheese Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Lettuce and Tomato

Tarragon Chicken Salad Sandwich
Lettuce and Tomato

Crab Cake Sandwich
Lettuce and Tomato, Spicy Remoulade

¼ Pound All Beef Hot Dog
Kraut, Spicy Mustard

Open-Faced Prime Rib Sandwich
Jus, Balsamic Onions and Mushrooms
And Swiss cheese

Next up, the Dinner Menu!!!

I don't think I'll bother posting the Kid's Menu; nothing to very excited about. Boring old kids.

Dinner Menu Finalized???

or anyway, close to finalized.

Donovan’s Steak & Ale

BBQ Veal Sliders
Roasted Garlic Aioli

Chicken Wings

Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail

Clams Steamed in Beer

Crab Cakes
Cucumber Salad, Spicy Remoulade

Beer Battered Mozzarella
Puttanesca Sauce

Baked Brie
Seasonal Fruit Compote

French Onion Soup

Lobster Bisque with Madeira Cream

Grilled Sirloin Steak & Iceberg Wedge
Crumbled Bleu Cheese, Bacon, Red Onion,
And Balsamic Glaze

Home-made Dressing, Croutons, and Tomatoes
With your Choice of Grilled Chicken or
Pepper Grilled Tuna

Spinach Salad
Brie, Strawberries, and Honey~Sherry Vinaigrette

Seared Duck Salad
Roasted Apples, Pistachios, Bleu Cheese
Mixed Greens and Gorgonzola Vinaigrette

Entrees Served with Seasonal Vegetables

Grilled Delmonico Steak
Steak Fries, Balsamic Glazed Mushrooms and Onions
Maple~Bourbon Sauce

Pan-Seared Filet of Beef
Garlic Whipped Potatoes, Béarnaise Sauce,
Haystack Onions

Slow~Roasted Prime Rib
Herb Roasted Potatoes
Jus, Whole Grain Mustard & Horseradish Cream

Grilled Dry Aged New York Strip
Bacon, Cheddar and Scallion Baked Potato Pie,
Brandy~Mushroom Sauce, Haystack Onions

Grilled Sirloin Steak
Steak Fries, House Steak Sauce

Other Meats

Applewood Bacon~Wrapped Pork Filet
Fried Mac & Cheese, Caramelized Onion Sauce

Pan~Roasted Half Chicken
Herb-Roasted Potatoes, Tarragon Pan Sauce

Sweet Tea Brined Chicken
Fried Mac & Cheese, Red-Eye Sauce

Seared Duck Breast
Herb-Roasted Potatoes, Balsamic Glaze


Crab Stuffed Trout
Vegetable Couscous, Sage~Madeira Brown Butter

Sautéed Crab Cakes
Vegetable Couscous, Spicy Remoulade

Pan~Roasted Atlantic Salmon
Vegetable Couscous, Cucumber Salad
Roasted Pepper & Tomato Sauce

Grilled Yellowfin Tuna
Herb Roasted Potatoes, Tomato~Caper Sauce


Shellfish Mac & Cheese Gratin
Shrimp & Crab, Penne, and Asparagus Tips,
Baked in a Madeira & McCadam Cheddar Sauce

Shrimp Scampi with Linguine

Four Cheese Ravioli

Grilled Eggplant & Mozzarella Stack
Grilled Peppers, Portabella Mushroom
Tomato~Pepper Coulis

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Days 5 thru now

I've heard through the grapevine that I'm disappointing people by not posting about our progress like I said I was going to. What with the terrible weather that smacked NNY around a couple of Tuesdays ago and losing a big maple tree, and losing our power for several days, and this & that I slacked off a bit. Anyway, cataloging every bit of cleaning I did made for some dry writing, and reading too I'm sure. By now, the kitchen is clean and nearly organized and about ready to open. I think we've finalized the menu...for now. At least we have a menu we're ready to distribute to the waitstaff in a day or two and open with on the 9th. Donovan, Dana, Art (Donovan's dad) and Marilyn (Donovan's mom) and many others have done a lot of work getting the front of the house looking great. Between the staining and poly-ing of the bar and bar floor that Art has done, the cleaning, planting, painting and pruning that Marilyn has done, and EVERYTHING that Donovan and Dana have done, the place is going to look fabulous when we open. They've begun the process of filling the place with cool antiques that really lend personality, and have found some Malone newspapers for June, 1944 to dress the table-tops with. One of Donovan's uncles was in yesterday doing some electrical work and will be back to do more, including installing a 220v electrical service somewhere in the kitchen so we can plug in the Alto-Shaam. Jeremy, a fellow Maxfields alumnus joined the crew and started working last Saturday. Unfortunately for him, he's tall so I gave him the job of cleaning the ceilings. Now they're all done though. My mom, Janet, even pitched in several days worth of kitchen cleaning for the cause too.

That's about all for now. I'll try to come up with some good pictures and maybe post the menu soon too. Sorry for the hiatus. Opening a restaurant is a lot of work, but it doesn't necessarily make for gripping reading. Back with more soon.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Day 4

I didn't get too much actual labor accomplished today besides steel-wooling the burners for the six-burner stove so that they're clean and new looking again as opposed to rust and crud encrusted. I washed some more of the walls in the kitchen and finally got the menu planned. Now I need to type it up over the weekend, make it look and sound nice and let the owners, Donovan and Dana Reyome give it the twice over and price it. Sorry if I mis-spelled your name Dana. Now I also know the name for sure...Donovan's Steak & Ale. In Malone, New York. Tentative opening is July 9. Once we get the menu truly finalized I'll post it.

We also went to lunch at St. Lucia in Malone to check out the competition. It's a very nice looking place, with a reasonably interesting menu and well-prepared food. Of course, ours will be better! But they seem to be geared more toward lunch and we'll be shooting more for the dinner clientèle. Donovan also gave me a tour of Malone, his hometown, and a place that although I grew up only 30 miles away I am totally unfamiliar with. Very nice-looking town, and not at all what it looks like from my only experience of it driving through on Rt. 11 on the way to Vermont. That's about it for now. More pictures some day soon.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Day 3

Nothing very interesting to write about today. I chiseled cooked on grease off the fryers and then boiled them out three times to get the several inch thick layer of sedimentary gunk out of the inside. Now they look almost like new. Started the super fun task of scrubbing down all the kitchen walls so the Health Inspector can't complain about them. The kitchen is starting to look pretty clean. The only remaining off odor is that of gas that isn't being consumed by pilot lights or sucked out through the hood yet. There's still plenty of organizing to do. I wrote out some questions for potential cooks/dishwashers. I did the critical walk through to see what points there are to tighten up before our preliminary health inspection. I made bagels, brought home-made Strawberry Rhubarb Jam and other goodies to share with the owners and ended up being the only one to show up today. Oh well, more for me & my family. Anyway, that's all I accomplished today. More tomorrow and maybe exterior pics if the weather's good.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Day 2

Today I took a break from scrubbing stainless steel and scooping up gobs of grease and did something a little more fun. I hunted through the kitchen and located a good powerful bar blender, assembled a functioning food processor, cleaned all the kitchen utensils I could find, found squirt bottles and bar pourers to use on the line for wine and oil etc, and cleaned them. Ok, I said a little more fun. At least I have a better idea what we have and what we need. Considering the state of cleanliness of the place, it is remarkably well equipped. There's a nice, mostly well maintained six burner stove
and two nice "sandwich" units, here's the big one on the saute side

On the other hand, the 2 nice fryers were left in disgusting shape, see

But I can fix that when I get some of the magic fryer boiling-out powder. We get our dish-machine from Ecolab in about 10 days to fill this space in the dish room

Tomorrow I'll work on scrubbing down the walls in the kitchen and take a long, hard look around to start getting prepared for our pre-open health inspection. Maybe it will be nice enough outside to take some pictures of the property.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Opening a Restaurant Day 1

Today was my first day at my new job after a 10 day vacation since finishing at Maxfields. I saw the restaurant about six weeks ago after the principal owner found the site and offered me the job, but not since then. Quite a bit of cosmetic work has been done in that time. Of course, today I didn't remember to bring the camera so I have no shots of the kitchen before I started cleaning. Maybe I'll remember tomorrow. The last tenants left in a hurry after getting in too far over their heads with debts from previous failed ventures. Anyway, they weren't too careful about cleaning anything before running away. There was a big fat layer of grease and grime all over every piece of equipment in the kitchen, even in the utensil drawers. Plenty of left over potato chips, dead lettuce, and nameless goo in the deep dark corners of the reach-ins. I fixed all that today, cleaned and polished all the stainless steel, and began a list of needs, wants, and wishes as well as some thoughts about how to re-arrange the kitchen for maximum efficiency and proper flow. More cleaning, sorting, and cataloging tomorrow. Time to finally go back to Maxfields and reposess my meat grinder, sharpening stone, and radio so I can feel at home. The new restaurant will be a Steakhouse with some twists. I'll check with the owner about publishing the name, his name, and the menu in the near future. We're supposed to be finalizing the menu the day after tomorrow so that will be a big step out of the way. I'll try to keep this updated regularly if for no other reason than the fact that it will be a resource for Amy & me if we're ever crazy enough, and out of debt enough, to do it ourselves. Also I'll try to remember the camera so there will be something to look at.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Semolina-Sourdough English Muffins for BBD #10

After my croissant catastrophe yesterday I regrouped, decided to make English Muffins for the first time, and then spent a food-filled afternoon in Ottawa, our nearest city. Before leaving though I fed my new Semolina Levain to try a different take on Susan's Sourdough English Muffins. I did make a couple of changes to her recipe, using the aforementioned Semolina Levain, substituting Semolina in place of the Whole Wheat Flour, and substituting my homemade Maple Syrup for Honey/Agave Nectar. I kept the amounts of each the same though. I also translated her measurements in teaspoons to:

7g Baking Soda
5g Sea Salt
6g Maple Syrup/Honey/Agave Nectar

since I've become hooked on the success that precise gram measurements seem to guarantee. Never having made English Muffins before, they seemed to behave as I expected they would in all steps of the process. I'm giving my last one 1 more minute on the griddle as I write, cooling the rest, and trying to decide whether to go with butter or Douanier, a Morbier-like cheese I got in Ottawa made by Fritz Kaiser in Quebec. I'm leaning toward the Douanier. By the way, if anyone out there needs a restaurant recommendation in Ottawa, we ate at Domus yesterday and it was a great lunch! Very seasonal/regional. The chef even used Cold Pressed Canola Oil in place of the ubiquitous EVOO as a nod to favoring Canadian ingredients over non-. I was not a fan of the flavor, slightly nutty & bitter, but I respect the motivation.

Anyway, back to the English Muffins. They're done, fork-split, toasted, and very nice with the Douanier. The crumb is a tiny bit tighter than I expected, probably due to the Semolina. They taste great though & next time I'll try them with the Whole Wheat Flour just for the sake of comparison.

Ahhhh. I feel much better than I did after baking yesterday. Thanks for the great topic!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Croissants are a Bust

I love Croissants! I've loved them since my one and only trip to Paris during which I was served Croissants and lovely french coffee upon waking each day in my hotel. The croissants that I just made were an insult to the noble form. I followed the directions and don't think I got anything wrong really. I might have made the rolls tighter when shaping them, but other than that I don't know...My oven is somewhat erratic and unpredictable, but I thought I had gotten used to its eccentricities. They took so long to brown on top at the temperature recommended in Local Breads that the bottoms were tough and over-cooked. The interior was not really satisfactory. The flavor was ok, but not superior. I've had trouble with the time and temperature of the last 2 recipes from Local Breads after having much uniform success before with Leaders book. I'm going to go ahead and blame myself and my slightly wacky oven for this one though. It was an unfamiliar dough and process and I assume I just missed some minute but crucial detail. I'm going to go back to the drawing board and try another option for BBD#10, and save Croissants for another day. Disappointed!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Croissants are under way

After 4 graduations, 2 on each of 2 back to back weekends, giving notice at my job so I can open a restaurant, and a vicious stomach bug that made its way through all the kitchen staff and me and the kids and Amy, I've settled on Croissants for my entry in the latest Bread Baking Day challenge. They are being retarded overnight after having their 3 triple folds this afternoon. Oh yeah, to do this formula I also had to produce a Liquid Levain to conform to the recipe I'm using. Fortunately, I'm taking a week off between jobs and I've had a chance to try some more of Dan Leaders recipes from Local Breads. Just for fun, I also cultivated a yogurt semolina levain so that I was able to make the 100% Semolina Altamura Bread from Local Breads. I set my expectations low since it's been a while since I've done a hearth bread and I've never tried baking with Semolina. It turned out great! Unfortunately it somehow was eaten before I could photograph it. Oh well, I'll be making another soon. I'm also trying out some breads that I might use at the new restaurant if I can find time to develop a bread schedule in the middle of everything else. Well, time to go to sleep so I can get up early to shape/proof/bake those Croissants in time for breakfast. Better remember to take pictures!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

BBD #10, Breakfast Breads

This months Bread Baking Day challenge, hosted at Baking a Sweet Life is Breakfast Breads. Excellent, I just got up early this morning to bake my second round of Bagels for breakfast, so I'm already in the right frame of mind! I'll have to figure out a variation if I do go with Bagels so that I'll learn something new while I'm doing the challenge. That's the whole point, right? Maybe it's time to try a laminated dough, like Croissants. Amy would be very pleased to eat some Croissants, I know. We'll see...I've got my busiest two weeks of the year at work right now, with 4 colleges graduating and Mother's Day in the middle of it all. I just spent over $6k of my employers money bringing in a little food for this weekend. My usual buy for a week is more like $2500-$3000. Plus our Sysco Drivers are on strike and deliveries will be an issue, complete with picketers if we end up using replacement drivers. Nothing like a little challenge to make a busy time even more interesting, yay!

Enjoy the challenge! Sounds like another fun one, with lots of possibilities.

Monday, May 05, 2008


I've been eagerly anticipating the arrival of Diastatic Malt Powder from Barry Farms so that I can make water bagels. It finally came over the weekend and I got the dough together after work last night to make the bagels first thing this morning. I'm using the formula from Susan at Wild Yeast Blog. One thing I would mention about the dough if anyone wants to make it is that it is the stiffest dough I've ever made and unless you have a more heavy duty mixer than my KitchenAid I would recommend bringing the dough together in the mixer and then kneading by hand. My mixer sounded very unhappy trying to bat that dough around and I stopped it after about 30 seconds and continued by hand. The only change that I made to Susan's formula is that I used Diastatic Malt Powder instead of Non-Diastatic which means that the enzymes in mine were still active and able to work on the flour to break out more sugars during the overnight fermentation. After doing some reading about bagel-making, I also chose to add some of the DMP to the water while boiling the bagels. This seems to be one of the secrets to getting the "authentic New York" water bagel flavor and look.

Right now the bagels are in the oven, almost at the end of their baking time and should be ready to eat by the time Amy gets down here ready for breakfast. Having just turned them one more time, I think next time I'll try egg-washing them to get the toppings to adhere better. So, is it an obsession if I dream about making them for the 2 nights before I make them and then get up at 4:43 to do it? They're out of the oven now, and look great, smell great and are nearly ready to be eaten. I took pictures, but they don't really do them justice. Oh well. I bet they'll still taste good.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

At least one of my regulars is doing some good for the World!

A regular at Maxfields and friend of our family is working on sustainable Biodiesel that avoids the problems of rising food prices and deforestation. Here's the article. Dr. Phil, as he's known at work, has kids the same age as ours and we all occasionally manage to get together to let them play. Maybe his efforts will offset all the carbon that I must be responsible for what with all the combustion going on in the restaurant. I hope so. Some day my carbon footprint will be steps.

My Bread Pantry...Yikes!

I've turned into a pretty enthusiastic home bread baker, with plans to start a bread program at work soon. I seriously consider one day building a wood-fired bread oven and getting out of the restaurant business and into the artisanal baking business. One day; you know, after I learn to do it efficiently at work, and we climb our way out of debt. I keep adding more ingredients, tools, and stuff as well as learning new techniques and background theory. It was looking at all the stuff that I have now that gave me pause and made me want to write this post and see just how long that list turns out to be. So, here it is:

White 100% Hydration Levain
2:1 Rye:Spelt 130% Hydration Levain
Dry Active Yeast
Instant Yeast
Unbleached High Gluten Flour
Unbleached AP Flour
Coarse Rye Flour
Stone Ground Whole Wheat Flour
Unbleached Spelt Flour
Stone Ground Grits
Golden Flax Seeds
Brown Flax Seeds
Sunflower Seeds
Brown Sesame Seeds
Poppy Seeds
Bran Flakes
Rye Flakes
Wheat Flakes
Rolled Oats
Bob's Red Mill 10 Grain Cereal Mix-a great add-in for Multi-grain breads like Struan
Vital Wheat Gluten
Ascorbic Acid-haven't figured out where I want to experiment with this, but will
Diastatic Malt Powder-In the mail, looking forward to trying Bagels when I get it
Milk Powder
Spanish Sea Salt
Baking Soda
Caraway Seeds
Cumin Seeds
Fennel Seeds
Maple Syrup-from our Maple Trees
Lame-for slashing dough; it really does seem to do better than a serrated knife
Bench Scraper
5 quart KitchenAid Artisan Series Mixer
Pelouze Gram/Ounce Digital Scale
Long Handled Peel
1 "real" bentwood oval Banneton
4 Oval Wicker Bread Baskets which work great as Bannetons that I liberated from work
2 Round Wicker Bread Baskets-these work better than the "real" ones because they're practically non-stick and require much less coaxing (and coating) than the expensive version
Baking Stone
Plastic Spray Bottle for Misting
5 foot long Butcher Block table with Drawers full of tools and more non-specific ingredients

Yep, that's a darn long list!

Thanks to Potsdam Food Co-op, all of my Flours, Grains, and Seeds are Certified Organic. Excellent!

I think this is about it, for now...until I desperately need some other crazy thing and can afford to buy it. I make bread of some kind 2 or 3 times a week and hope to be doing it every day at work some time soon. I'll start out small with only one type to supplement the products we buy in and build up from there when I can handle more in addition to my other Chef-y duties. I'm researching the oven-building thing and may soon go to the local Chamber of Commerce to see what kind of 3-5 year plan will get me out of the restaurant and into my own bakery. Any advice is welcome. I wonder if our local/regional Community Supported Agriculture network can help. Also if there's an ingredient/tool/whatever that you can't do without, I'd love to hear about that too.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Bread Baking Day...Oats

April really got away from me, and now it's April 29th already. Fortunately, two of my favorite breads are oat-centric and I've tried to get into the habit of taking pictures when I make bread that I'm happy with so I'm not completely unprepared. I've got one proofing right now as a matter of fact. I've always been a fan of Peter Reinhart's Struan in all of it's iterations from Brother Junipers on up to the newest version in his new Whole Grain Breads, New Techniques, Extraordinary Flavor. This new version uses a soaker to hydrate the grains and seeds and to break out some of the flavors from the flour. Here's what I started last night, and am finishing as I write.

First I built up my white levain to the amount necessary for his formula:
Levain 75g
Organic High Gluten Flour 225g
Water 225g
1. Mix until all Flour is Hydrated.

Next I made the soaker:

Spelt Flour 20g
Whole Wheat Flour 27g
Sea Salt 5g
Buttermilk 170g
Stone Ground Grits 30g
Rolled Oats 50g
Rye Flakes 15g
Wheat Flakes 15g
Golden Flax Seeds 15g
Brown Flax Seeds 15g
Poppy Seeds 15g
Sunflower Seeds 20g

1. Combine and mix all the above until well Hydrated. All the Grains & Seeds, with the exception of the Poppy Seeds, are Organic.
2. Allow to sit at room temperature 12 to 24 hours.

Then I Mixed the Final Dough:

Soaker ALL
Levain 400g
Melted Butter 15g
Maple Syrup (made at my house with Sap from my trees) 57g
Sea Salt 5g
Yeast 7g
Spelt Flour 20g
Whole Wheat Flour 52g

1. Combine all ingredients except Soaker and Levain in mixing bowl.
2. Break up Soaker and spread over the above.
3. Add the Levain and mix on low speed (Kitchenaid 3 for me) for 3 minutes.
4. Allow to rest/autolyse for 5 minutes.
5. Mix at low speed for another 3 minutes.
6. Ferment at room temperature in an oiled bowl until it rises to 1.5 times it's original size; usually about 75 minutes. Pre-heat oven to 425F. Get a steam pan in the oven, and have 3/4 cup water ready to go.
7. On a floured surface, shape into a loaf and proof in loaf pan until it crests at the top of the pan, about another hour.
7b. If you want to scatter seeds or Rolled Oats on the surface, slash the loaf when you put it in the pan, mist with water, and scatter away. This time around, I did Poppy Seeds, Rolled Oats, and Sunflower Seeds. Then proof as above.
8. Place in oven, dump water in steam pan, spray walls with water 3 times at intervals of 30 seconds with the door closed between each spray. Reduce oven temperature to 350F.
9. Bake 20 minutes, rotate, bake another 20 minutes, rotate, bake another 20 minutes.
10. Check temperature, it should register 195F when the bread is done.
11. Remove bread from loaf pan and cool on a cooling rack for at least an hour.
12. Enjoy the Oat-y goodness!

This month I also made the seedy baguette I've already blogged about using Maple Sap in place of water just to see what would happen. The bread turned out about the same as always with a very slightly darker crust, and a very light aroma and flavor of Maple Syrup. It's definitely something I will try again more than once when the sap starts running next spring.

Here are the pictures...

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

First Rye Levain & More

Since my last post I've been too busy making bread, boiling sap, working, and playing with the kids to actually write about making bread. I've made two successful attempts with my new Rye Levain. The first is the seedy baguette from "Local Breads". Can anyone tell that I just got that book and am working my way through it? It's only my third bread book and I'm very impressed with the attention to detail and testing that must have been done to get the formulas down for home-scale production. I forgot to take any before shots each of the three times I've made this one in the last ten days, but I do have some nice after photos.

Seeing that I've made three batches in ten days, I guess they were pretty popular around the house and at work. It's pretty easy to make if you're not afraid of slack dough. Although, you do need to have a German Rye Levain handy.

German Rye Levain 100g
Rolled Oats 28g
Sunflower Seeds 28g
Pumpkin Seeds 28g
Sesame Seeds 28g
Water (room temp.) 525g
Instant Yeast 5g
High Gluten Flour 500g
Sea Salt 10g

1. Combine Oats and Seeds in a bowl and mix with 175g Water. Allow to sit overnight.
2. The following day, combine soaker with the remaining ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix with dough hook on medium-low (KitchenAid 3) for 8 minutes.
3. Scrape bowl and dough hook down and allow to rest (autolyse) for 10 minutes.
4. Mix again on med.-low for 6 minutes.
5. In an oiled bowl, ferment for 2 to 2.5 hours at room temperature, until dough has doubled. Halfway through this time, pre-heat your oven to 450F and get a steam pan ready.
6. Turn dough gently onto a well-floured surface and form into a rough rectangle. This would be a good time to measure out water or ice for your steam pan. I find that 3/4 cup cold water works fine for me to create a steamy oven for about the first 12-15 minutes of the baking time, which is about all you want.
7. Cut into 3 equal pieces and gently form each into baguettes.
8. Transfer them gently onto a parchment paper covered peel or the back of a baking sheet. I use a baking sheet because they seem to fit better than on my peel. I can do 2 on one sheet and then do the last loaf solo. If you have a bigger peel/baking sheet/baking stone go ahead and do all three at once.
9. Slide them onto them baking stone in your oven, fill the steam pan with your cold water/ice and set a timer for 15 minutes.
10. Rotate 180 degrees at the 15 minute mark and re-set for 15 more minutes.
11. They should be nice and dark golden brown. Leader calls for reddish brown, but what you're looking for is a really deep, dark golden brown verging on "did I wait too long" here and there.
12. Cool for at least an hour if you can withstand the intoxicating nutty aroma that long. After that, go out and buy Leader's "Local Breads" if you don't own it already. You won't regret it.

I also made a 70% Rye German Farmhouse bread using my rye levain, but forgot to take pictures;
...and one of my weekly breads, Norwich Sourdough

Aside from making bread and working, we also tapped two of our five sugar maples ten days ago, and boiled our first 6 gallons of precious sap down to 2.5 pints of pretty nice looking, and tasting, syrup. I plan to figure out a bread to sneak some into and post about that some time soon. Amy has said she plans on blogging about this on her blog, so I'll let her show off the pictures of the professional sugar-shack we visited, our thoroughly unprofessional sugaring operation, and the liquid gold itself. Unfortunately, she's off to Maryland for the funeral of one of her cousins who died completely unexpectedly last week. So you'll just have to wait until Amy is back and in a blogging mood to hear more about it and see the pictures.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Celebration Breads

In the last week we have made two Celebration Breads, one for St. Patrick's Day and one for Easter. Amy used her Irish Soda Bread recipe from her mother for us to eat Monday. I made my first attempt in over 10 years at a braided Easter Bread. The braid tasted great, and looked pretty good after I figured out the right technique about a third of the way into braiding the loaf. Here's the recipe for the Soda Bread...
Irish Bread from Father Brian’s Mother

4 cups unbleached flour
3 tsps baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
6 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 stick of butter NOT oleo, softened
2-3 cups buttermilk
1 cup raisins
1 tbsp caraway seeds

Combine dry ingredients. Cut in soft butter. Add seeds and raisins. Mix well. Add 2 cups buttermilk. Mix gently – if dry, add more buttermilk 1 tbsp at a time to make nice soft dough. It will be sticky.

Turn onto lightly floured board. Shape into round with floured hands. Cut a deep cross in top. Place in buttered 8 or 9 inch black fry pan or 8 or 9 inch layer cake tin – Not Glass. Bake at 350 degrees 45 min or until it tests done.

Some folks sift dry ingredients- my mom did – I never do.
Some folks use baking soda – I don’t, unless the buttermilk is fresh. I usually use buttermilk when it is thick and glops out of the container – about 3-4 weeks old. You can tell if it is going to be good, it actually “talks” to you when you are shaping it on board. You can “hear” it rising – truly.

Good Luck. Have the kettle up for tea, with plenty of butter and jam at the ready. Enjoy.
P.S. Try it toasted (not a conventional toaster) in toaster oven. It’s super, can also be frozen.

And a Picture...

...and some poorly composed, yet accurate shots of my braid.

I'm still trying to figure out not only how to make my blog posts look nice, but my bread photos. Anyway, the breads themselves look good. I chose to do the braid for my first entry in the Bread Baking Day #8 challenge, brought to us this month by Susan. The recipe I used is adapted from Daniel Leader's "Local Breads".

Czech Easter (or Christmas) Braid

Warm Whole Milk 213 g
Egg Yolks 2
Instant Yeast 5 g
AP Flour 304 g
Butter, Unsalted 50 g
Granulated Sugar 50 g
Sea Salt 6 g
Raisins 95 g

Egg Wash
Whole Egg 1
Granulated Sugar 50 g

1. Combine Egg Yolks and Milk in mixing bowl and stir to blend. Add yeast, flour, butter, sugar and salt and mix on Kitchenaid #2 to combine into a rough dough. Switch to the dough hook and knead on Kitchenaid # 4 10-12 minutes (I did 12) until smooth and elastic. Scrape down the bowl and add raisins & knead until evenly distributed (took me 1 minute).
2. Ferment in a lightly oiled bowl for 1.5 to 2 hours until nearly doubled. It took 2 hours here in chilly Northern NY.
3. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and form into a rectangle.
4. Using a bench knife or chefs knife, cut into 3 even pieces.
5. Working from the center, roll into 12 inch dowels with your hands.
6. On a lightly oiled baking sheet, arrange the 3 dowels parallel to each other and press bottom ends together.
7. Braid them. I hope you know how to do this, because I am not good enough at it that I can visualize the process well enough to explain it coherently.
8. Proof in a warm place for about another 1.5 hours until they look light and pillowy.
9. Combine egg wash ingredients, mix well and brush the loaf with egg wash.
10. In a preheated 350 F oven, bake for about 40 minutes rotating at 15 minutes and checking at 30. The crust will be a deep, dark, golden brown and very shiny.

I sliced into it about 50 minutes after it came out of the oven and it was very nice. It definitely staled very quickly though so I'd eat it or freeze within less than 24 hours.

In other news, I made these Bavarian Pretzel Rolls

this morning for the restaurant where I am Chef and got paid for them and everything!
It's nice to do something you enjoy and get paid for it.

Darnit, I just looked at the post and I need to re-organize the photos. Can't do it right now; time to get ready for work.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Experiments in Rye

It's not enough that I cultivated one wild yeast starter. After reading Daniel Leader's "Local Breads" I decided I'd better cultivate a separate Rye levain too. My first starter, a white wheat levain, was started with a high percentage of Rye since it has a higher ash content(good minerals & other yeast food)and possibly more wild yeast. After getting it started, though, I have fed it with High Gluten organic White Flour. So far, all the breads I have made have been predominantly made from White Flour, either AP or High Gluten. Now I want to try some high percentage Rye breads which seem to need to be leavened by the higher acid Rye levain that I'm building now. I'm on Day 3 of building and so far so good. OK, so I may have cheated and not followed Leader's exact process since I started with a piece of my white starter instead of capturing new yeast only with Rye Flour. But, I figure that pretty soon with the amount of Rye I'm using each day, it will be all Rye. I think by tomorrow it will be built to the point that I can start refreshing it on a daily or weekly basis depending on my baking schedule.

Since I like to be organized and track my progress, I'm keeping an Excel spreadsheet charting the daily progress of my starters. Some day, maybe even later today if I can figure out how to do it, I will put a link to the spreadsheet in here somewhere for anyone interested enough to check it out. For now, though, here's the idea in brief. I am keeping track of such things as the amount of starter:water:flour that I use in each daily refreshing of the starter. By the way, for those who don't know, refreshing is done to feed the yeast and allow it to keep propagating so I'll always have a starter to use when I want to bake bread. I also track the time of day, temperature at feeding time, 12/24 hour volume increase, flavor and aroma at 12 and 24 hours, and make notes about the bread that I bake each time I use the starter. With my wheat based starter I shoot for a 1:3:3 ratio and 100% hydration (equal weights in grams of water and flour). The Rye starter will be stiffer, about 80% hydration. Sorry, this is probably pretty dry reading for anyone who isn't obsessed with bread, but I'm doing this as much to explain it to myself so I can understand it better, as much as for anyone else's benefit. I promise there will be pictures and recipes coming soon, once I dig out the camera and have time to bake again. I guess I'd better get moving if I want to take part in the Bread Baking Day challenge for this month and do a festive bread of some kind.

Oh yeah, one more thing...reading about bread in the several books and blogs that I use, there is only a loose kind of consistency in the use of the words starter, levain, leaven, sourdough etc. I'll try to stick to using either levain or starter, and what I'm talking about is the wild yeast cultures that I've captured, cultivated and now maintain by feeding regularly and then use to raise or leaven my breads instead of commercial yeast. I don't have any problem with using commercial yeast, it's just a cool and fun and addicting little home science experiment to do it with something I've cultivated myself. Thanks to Susan at wildyeastblog for exhorting us to weigh our ingredients instead of measuring by volume! My bread baking efforts have improved radically since I took that advice.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

So, the reason I'm back trying again with this blogging thing is that I want to start doing monthly Bread Baking Day challenges that I discovered at my new favorite blog "Wild Yeast Blog". I figure that blogging about it is one more way to get myself invested in actually doing it consistently. I've become just a little obsessed with bread baking after finally having success cultivating and maintaining a wild yeast starter or levain. Fortunately, Amy & the kids all seem to like the end product so I'm getting away with it so far. Today, I made Pretzels leavened with commercial yeast today from a formula in "Local Breads" by Daniel Leader, a baker in the Catskills. They were foolishly easy compared to the multi-day, multi-build sourdoughs I've been doing recently...and they turned out great!

This months Bread Baking Day challenge is hosted by Susan, the woman who does the Wild Yeast Blog. Holiday or Celebratory breads are the theme. Seeing that tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day, Amy has already done her part by making her grandmothers Irish Soda Bread today. I'll try to take a picture of it before we eat it all to put along with whatever I decide to do for Easter. I think I might try a braided Easter bread; it's been quite a while since my last frustrating attempt at braiding.