Thursday, December 3, 2009

Couple of reviews, Kombucha repitch, etc.

So, just out of curiosity, is there anyone reading this right now that isn't subscribed and seeing themselves in a little box to the right hand side of this message listed as a Follower? It'd be great to have you sign in if you are, just so's I know who I'm writing at, if not just myself. ;) Plus, you dogs out there who have nothing but gray outlines for their profile pic, shame on you! Fix that immediately!

Just came in from the coop after giving the chickens some leftover cereal and milk from the kids breakfasts.. they snapped that right up, quick. There's two egs in the box right now, and the kids pulled in three large ones this morning already. That makes my second 5 egg day. 100% chicken efficiency! 

The Kombucha project seems to be functioning well, too. Geoff came over last night for a beer session and Kombucha initial tasting. I washed up good and then just reached into the jar with the Kombucha in it and just picked up the whole floating jellyfish thing that had formed. It came right out with no problem in one piece, and I put it down on a small plate with a little of the liquid over the top to keep it hydrated. I mixed up a new batch of the sweet tea, which I neglected to post a recipe for last time.. and then sunk the new mother culture pancake thingy back into the jar with the new tea mixture in it. Easy as cake! The recipe I used for this tea is half and half black tea and green tea, at a ratio of 3.5 grams per 250 mL, which is how I make my regular tea, strength wise. I swirled into the tea 100 grams of white table sugar per 1,000 mL of water for the Kombucha to feed on. Pretty simple stuff. This morning, I went to take a look at how the new culture is doing, and it's already formed a abit of a funk across the top of the tea.. much, much faster than the first pitch.. which was way underpitched, really.

Me and Geoff had a small taste of the Kombucha tea itself as well, and both of us easily detected some sourness and acidic twang to the mix, but also noted it was still fairly sweet. Seems like the culture hadn't had quite enough time to do it's job.. so, since it's bottled in a swing top jar, I'll have to let the pressure off the top every day or so to keep the bottle from exploding. Sorry, no pictures of this thing.. I totally forgot in the excitement of a new "thing".. I'll get some pics of it on the next batch.

While Geoff was here, we had a few commercial beers.. this one included;

That's Captain Lawrence's Imperial Pale Ale. It's pretty good, but seemed to me to taste a bit too much like a pine tree. Like, seriously like a pine tree. I failed to take notes on this and it was one of the last beers we had of the night, so my memory is lacking other than that one major sticking point.

The other beer was this one:

That's Harpoon's Ginger Wheat, from the 100 barrel series. We had this one first, and took some notes on it. We noted a very clear beer, straw in color. Didn't hold much head for any length of time.. but had a fairy serious lemon aroma and flavor, and a more subtle ginger note that got kicked around a bit by the powerful lemony-ness of this thing. It's a 7%abv brew, but drinks like a much smaller beer. At first, it's a bit much to take, but after a few sips, the taste grows on you and it becomes very enjoyable. We figured we'd reccomend it to someone if we thought they were a wheat beer fan. It was good.

And lastly, I picked up an external hard drive from Staples from their Cyber Monday deal, ust before Christmas. It's something me and The Boss have been kicking around for a while now, getting a backup program in place, and since OS X makes implementing that so easy, with the plugging in of another hard drive, we jumped on this one. It's a 2 TB Seagate something or other, and it clocked in at $139. Cheap! It's 4 times the size of our built in drive, so with incremental backups, it should be usable for a good long time before it starts kicking out the old backups.

I'm tired! See ya's..

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sourdough bread success, krappy Kaisers and a Kombucha update..

Some success! After a few defeats in the ring with sourdough breads, I went back to the drawing board. I was just not getting any luck with conventional recipes for sours and just not getting any rising action out of these things. I know my starter has the power to rise well in excess of twice it's original size.. so I was sort of at a loss as to what was going on. I came across a site with a different approach, this one, which gave it's recipe for damn near anything you wanted to throw in it.. based on percentages. It was so different from the others, I gave it a try.. figured I had nothing to lose! Besides, they were advocating a *huge* increase in size of the starter percentage in the recipe than all the rest (typically 20-25% of the recipe, comared to the 66% of this site) that I figured it might even work.

So, I mmixed the stuff all together, shooting for a 500 gram (about one pound..) end result of dough. With that number, I used 250 grams of flour, and worked the percentages of the salt, starter and water from there, so my total was 500 grams, and let it be for a while. This was just a few hours before I had to leave for work at 1400 hours, so I wasn't sure how this timing was going to work out, but since The Boss was gonna be home for the day, I knew there'd be at least someone home to keep an eye on the thing in case of disaster.

I ended up with my numbers just about perfect, and after mixing the flour, starter and water, I let it rest. This is what they call the hydration rest.. I can't tell you how important this part is. Do it. It changes the flours and starches in ways so fantastic in only 20 minutes of hands off time, it makes the dough much more manageable. I thought this dough was a bit stiff, so I ended up adding a TOUCH of water, and left it at that. I proofed it in a bowl downstairs in the warm room for a bit, and after I ran out of time to wait, brought it upstairs to form the loaf. It didn't look all that risen for it's first rise, but when I squooze it on the table top, it surely did have co2 bubbles all through it. I gave it a bit of a knead, formed my loaf and put the thing in a greased pan to hang for the day. I was going to be gone for 10 hours at least, so I warned The Boss to watch out for it. When I called her later in the day, around 1900 hours, she said it hadn't done much.. but when I got home, it was pushing up against the plastic wrap I had sealed it with. I couldn't take a chance that it would deflate overnight, so I warmed up the oven at just prior to midnight and began to bake the thing. I also threw in the Kaiser rolls I had made the previous day that just didn't want to rise , just because they were in the way and they were gonna get tossed in the garbage if I didn't bake them. Well, when I opened the door, the "oven spring", as they call it, really did a great job on the breads and the loaf was just about an inch over the top of the pan! Awesome!

In this photo above, you can see both breads I'm describing.. me and The Boss cut the loaf up right then and there and had a few pieces. She said it was noticably different and better than a commercial yeast bread. Wile I thought it was quite good, I wasn't sure it was *that* much better. It's the longer storage times and less reliance on commercial yeasts that interest me in this project.

However, the real star of the show was the Kaisers. Tho they didn't turn out as planned, I learned something interesting. Without going into too much detail on the original recipe, it called for malt syrup, which I didn't have.. a Google search told me that malt syrup was.. well, syrup made from the malting process of grains. essentially, it's the beer brewing worlds liquid malt extract, with no hops added. That's common enough at a brewing store.. but I do all grain beer, so this didn't apply to me. I just don't use the stuff. A Google search for malt syrup replacements told me that you could take whole grains, steep them in water, begin the sprouting process and then grind the grains to a powder and add those for the flavor the recipe was calling for, in a pinch. While this sounds complicated for the normal household baker.. a lightbulb went off in my head. I didn't have to do a thing. I had many, many pounds of this stuff in my basement in the form of pale ale malt, chocolate malts, crystal malts etc. Now the gears were turning! A quick trip downstairs for 18 grams of crystal 40L, ground to a powder in the coffee mill, and I had my replacement. The color you see in the photo's above is a direct result of the crystal 40L addition.

The taste of this stuff, of those Kaiser rolls, is unbelievable! I've never had its equal in bread. It's so sweet, so powerful a flavor, and so pungent.. but let's the bread really shine. Oh, and The Boss won't go near it. Weird. This is a groundbreaking event for me, right here. This means I can color breads however I like, while still retainng the original flavor with certains grain additions, I can take lighter Lovibond malts and crystals and do fabulous things to a loafs flavor and not change the color at all. There's a whole lot of potential here for brewers/bakers that I think needs exploration. When I feel more comfortable in the area f sourdoughs, I'll definitely be experimenting with this. I'd encourage you to do the same. A zillion different grains are all as close as your nearest homebrew shop, conveniently packaged in nice, one pound bags. Do it!

This post is way too long.. but I should also mention that the Kombucha experiment is still under way and moving along slowly, still. There seems to be a thick film of goop on the top of the whole container now, but I can't get a really good picture at the moment.. gotta let it grow a bit more, still. This is day #10 for that thing.. we're still on track.