With all the sourdough experiments taking place in the kitchen over the past several months, there always seems to be a partial loaf of bread waiting to be sliced. In the quest for oven spring, crackling crust, and an irregular gelatinized crumb, my recipe books have become dotted with post-it notes and the freezer full of back up loaves. Whereas I once ate porridge or fruit or eggs for breakfast, everyday now starts or ends with toast & jam. High-hydration bread doughs have changed baking for me.
My favourite tool is now a plastic dough scraper. When I finally found a replacement for the one I lost last year, I bought five just to be sure I would never be without again. I travel with it, but then again I travel with plastic gloves and a folding table too. Thoughts of summer bring dreams of building a wood-fired cob oven in the backyard. Taking the lid off the container of starter at regular intervals to get a whiff of what's fermenting and watching the bubbles slowly form or quickly foam on the surface are tasks I do to familiarize myself with the starters cycle; I treat my plants and cats the same way (the attention to detail, not the bubbling or foaming). I have yet to name my starter. I fear growing too attached may leave me overproofed and deflated if it were to die somehow. Evidently that is something to work on - later.
When I was an apprentice, tending the sourdough starter (feeding the Baby) was up to the pastry chefs. Depending on what day of the week and how much bread was needed for service, the Baby was fed 3 times per day - about every 8 hours. Yes, that meant feeding it some times in the middle of the night. The next day's bread was prepared and shaped the day previous, proofing overnight in the walk-in before being baked on hot bricks the following morning. I loved that bread. In between the early and late services I would sneak pieces of the heels and dip them into creamy bearnaise sauce where the tarragon flavours of anise and pepper would combine with silky yolks and butter then soak into the crumb of my bread and into my waistline. BLT's were always a favourite choice for staff meal and taking a spare loaf home at the end of Sunday night (after cocktails and the Underground Garage) always ensured I had something to eat on my day off.
What to do with another loaf?
Corn & spelt sourdough has been my latest endeavor. After a couple of successful rounds with a porridge loaf, a seeded loaf, and a couple simple whole wheat loaves, I've taken the techniques and formulas for high-hydration sourdough breads and am now attempting to develop my own versions. Each batch I learn several new things and I am eating more than I am feeding to the birds. That being said, I do get a little exhausted of toast so coming up with ways to use bread is almost as exciting as making bread.
When you think of bread pudding you probably think sweet. This version, however, is more like a savoury custard, a quiche, than a dessert-like pudding. Cubed, day-old bread provides flavour, substance, and helps thicken the egg-cream mixture. Sauteed mushrooms, leeks, and kale provide loads of nutrient dense vegetables that seem to be lacking from my literally jam-packed diet as of late. A little chopped rosemary and preserved lemon lend aromas reminiscent of a sunny Mediterranean coast and locally sourced sheep's milk gouda cheese brings the dish back to home again.
Kale & Mushroom Bread Pudding - Recipe
Makes one large pudding or 6 small
Recipe adapted from Tartine Bread
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 leek, white only, diced 1/4-inch, rinsed and drained (about 1 cup)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp dried rosemary, chopped
1/2 bunch kale, rinsed, stems & leaves separate, finely chopped
1 tbsp preserved lemon, diced 1/8-inch
2-3 slices of day old bread, cubed 1-inch
3/4 cup 35% cream
2 cups milk
1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
kosher salt & pepper
1/2 cup grated cheese
Eating. Drinking. Sharing.