Winter time for me means soup, soup and more soup. But wait! It also means walnuts. “You silly, walnuts aren’t in season right now”, I hear you say. Well that’s true, but I say hey why not use those bagged, shelled walnuts from the market or if necessary, order a sack online? When it comes to walnuts I don’t need much convincing, just a slight nudge or the faintest craving. And so yes, I made fresh milled whole wheat walnut sourdough with roasted walnut oil. I also made soup, but I think you’re here for the bread.
It’s been cold here in New Mexico, like really, really cold. When it’s ten degrees Fahrenheit outside you only want to do one of a few things: 1) have a cup of hot coffee and light the fireplace, 2) make a big bowl of homemade minestrone with a nice crunchy slice of sourdough bread, or 3) go outside for approximately 2 minutes while the dog runs through the snow, be thankful for a warm home, and promptly return indoors. Don’t get me wrong, I love snowboarding (and we have excellent snowboarding nearby), snowshoeing, and dog walks with 3-plus jackets on, but a day inside with hot coffee and comfort food is a wonderful thing.
The cold weather had me motivated to look at traditional foods made in colder regions, and thus my recent acquisition of The Nordic Cookbook by Magnus Nilsson (in case you’re wondering, yes, I have more baking and cookbooks than I know what to do with. There’s something amazing about cookbooks: they instantly transport you to the kitchen of another cook and are filled with endless potential for exquisite new food). When they say it’s a tome they are not exaggerating. Upon opening I immediately paged to the section titled smørrebrød, which literally translates to “butter and bread”, but represents the daily ritual of “open sandwiches” in Nordic cultures. Placed on a slice of rugbrød, or sourdough rye bread, these open sandwiches are miniature works of art with delicately placed meats, cheeses, butter, vegetables, pickles and greens. One can easily get lost in the research of smörgås, as the Swedish call them, there are endless variations with a myriad of delicious ingredients. Continue reading
I ordered white Sonora wheat berries on a whim. I was already ordering some flour from Hayden Flour Mills in Arizona and I decided to just add a bag to my order. I’m so glad I did. This white Sonora sourdough recipe is comprised of a good chunk of whole grain wheat flour and yet doesn’t taste anything like like it.
White Sonora is a soft white wheat that is not typically used for hearth loaves but used more frequently as a basis for food like tortillas. However, there are some bakers, namely Josey Baker in California, making some excellent bread from this wheat. Early in my trials with this flour I made some unexpectedly fantastic loaves, and these early bakes tipped me off to what would ultimately be my focus for this bread: the crust.
My baking focus has lately been predominantly on my sourdough starter maintenance and maximizing fermentation, and I’ve made some of the best bread I can remember (all the bread pictures in this post were made with this starter). This is somewhat a continuation of my Managing Starter Fermentation post that I wrote quite a while ago, but pinpoints on following my process of initial feeding, watching the rise to peak, building a levain and finally discarding a portion of my sourdough starter over the course of a day.
This entry is a short interlude that doesn’t contain a bread formula, but rather, an accompaniment to just about any of the loaves baked here. I ate this with a recently baked whole wheat loaf made with fresh milled flour, my sourdough waffles and also my go-to white sourdough formula but I’m also eager to try it out on my walnut levain. Ricotta is incredibly versatile and you can find recipes abound, but as I’ve recently discovered it tastes far superior to store bought options when freshly made at home with good quality milk.