Friday, September 09, 2011
Starting to Look Like Fall
For some people the time of new beginnings is at the beginning of January...all those New Year's resolutions feel so cleansing. For some the turn of the year marked by their birthday sets them thinking of the year past and the year to come. For me new beginnings often come with the fall. Since summer is and was my least favorite time of year I guess that the return of cooler air, fall colors and, for many years, the beginning of school is a cause for celebration...summer is over! Feeling the light turn more golden and the air more crisp often starts me thinking of new ways to do things and new experiences to enjoy.
In the spring I'm tuned in to the garden...weeding, setting out new plants, trying to visualize the garden-to-be filled with big tomato plants spilling over their cages, rambling cucumber vines, squash plants with huge fans of leaves hiding those baseball bat sized zucchini, while all I can see now are puny little plantlets with just a few tender leaves surrounded by large areas of cleared soil. Sometimes I've had enough time to cover that soil with wood chips for mulch. In some ways that just makes the tiny plants look even smaller.
Come fall and the realization of those dreams of a bountiful harvest I suddenly find myself with the energy and interest to do 'spring' cleaning which is a good thing since it usually didn't happen in the spring. Garden cleanup is easy. Months of accumulated clutter in the house is more challenging.
Invariably when I'm cleaning up and getting rid of junk I'll come across a recipe or two that I intended to make until the doldrums of summer got in the way. That, too, is part of the excitement of fall. Now it's cool enough to do a bit more baking. Spending more time in the kitchen is fun now that I'm feeling more energetic.
It's a good time to experiment, too. On our trip back from a wedding this past spring Sweetie and I enjoyed a multi-grain cracker that I later tracked down at our Whole Paycheck store. As expected, it was too expensive to purchase very often so I've been wanting to make something similar at home.
The latest catalog from King Arthur Flour has a recipe for canape pumpernickel bread. That seemed like a good jumping off place since the crackers we enjoyed were dark brown and looked like they started out as little loaves of bread that were sliced thin and then baked again to make them crisp.
You understand that I'm mostly using their recipe for proportions, right? I have a vision of my version even before I begin. My version will probably include a little rye flour, but also some buckwheat flour or maybe some of that KA Ancient Grain mix, along with regular unbleached and some stone ground whole wheat flours. There will be a little molasses for color and flavor, sea salt, some nuts...maybe pecans since they are soft enough slice well, perhaps some pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, flax seeds and dried cranberries.
Doesn't that sound delicious?
I have some mini bread pans to bake the dough in and a very sharp serrated bread knife to use for making the thin slices. If these work I may have to splurge and buy some triple cream cheese to have with them. Yum!
The crackers turned out almost like I had hoped. Next time I'll up the add-ins a lot because there was too much dough to 'nuts and seeds' ratio. I'll also use more rye flour and less all purpose for a deeper flavor and slightly denser crumb. I might even try it as a quick bread although I do like the tang from the sourdough starter.
A big mistake was to forget to score the top of the dough to allow for oven spring. Mine blew out dramatically which made cutting super thin slices a challenge.
Freezing the loaves before cutting them thinly might also be a good idea.
I loved the mixture of grains and the flavors of the nuts, seeds and cranberries. These make a nice late afternoon snack with some creamy mild cheese. Bet they will be good with some blue cheese, too.
I will make these again and keep trying for a cracker that meets my expectations. These were close, and ever so delicious. Sweetie even liked thicker slices toasted with his breakfast. He asked that one of the little loaves be saved for regular use, not crackers. I think he was right. Fortunately, the weather is getting cooler...time for some more fall baking!
Au revoir dear readers.
Redwood Forest Crackers
1 1/2 oz (1/4 cup dark rye flour1 1/2 oz. (1 cup) KA Ancient Grains flour
1 5/8 oz. (1/4 cup) buckwheat flour
6 1/4 oz ( 1 1/2 cups) Unbleached all-purpose flour
7 1/4 oz. (1 cup plus 2 tablespoons) KA Irish wholemeal wheat flour (or whole wheat flour)
1 cup sourdough starter OR 2 teaspoons instant yeast dissolved in 1 cup lukewarm water
2 tablespoons mild molasses (not blackstrap)
1 1/2 cup lukewarm water
3 tablespoons vegetable or mild olive oil
1/2 cup pecans
1 teaspoon flax seeds
1 teaspoon poppy seeds
1 tablespoon light colored sesame seeds
3 tablespoon sunflower seeds
1/4 cup dried cranberries
In a bowl, mix together the flours until combined.
In another bowl combine the sourdough starter, water, molasses and oil. Stir to combine.
In another bowl combine the pecans, flax seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds and cranberries. (Note: Next time I'll double the quantities of these...less dough, more add-ins will create the crackers I dream of.)
Combine the ingredients from all three bowls in another bowl (of a stand mixer if you have one) and mix and knead to make a stiff, sticky dough. Let the dough rise until it's almost doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
Divide the dough into 4 pieces and shape them into loaves. Place in greased mini loaf pans, cover with oiled plastic wrap and allow the loaves to rise about 30 minutes. (Note: Next time I'll make sure to score the top of the dough to allow for oven spring. The photo above shows the error of neglecting that step...although the crackers still tasted great.)
Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes, until the crust is brown and the internal temperature registers 190 degrees F. Remove the bread from the oven, and cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Remove from the pans and cool completely on a rack. When completely cool, preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
Place a loaf on a cutting board. Use a sharp knife to slice in very thin slices. (Note: Next time I may freeze the loaves to make it possible to slice them even thinner, although these were beautifully crisp and crunchy.)