my bread and butter (and jam)

IMG_7604We finished the team-taught experimental University of Oregon Clark Honors College “Bread 101” class on Monday, with students bringing in their final projects: loaves of bread baked with sourdough starter they cultivated during the term.  You can see all the pictures chronicling the 10-week experience here.

Just so we’d have all the bases covered, I made some butter and brought along a few jams for the tasting.  A student requested a recipe, so I present them to you here, yeastily, in case you want to eat eight loaves of bread in a sitting, too.  IMG_7622IMG_7606 It was a wonderful class, and I’m so grateful I had a chance to be a part of it.  Working with the scientists was so much fun, and we all improved our pedagogy and learned a great deal from each other.  And the class itself was a delight. Several of the students, mostly graduating seniors, were ones I had had as freshmen during my four years teaching in the Honors College, and it was a pleasure to see how they had developed as thinkers and writers.  That’s really the reward in teaching, and as I ponder the next phase in my life, I’m thankful that I can have this experience to cherish, a truly innovative course that I can say with no guile or guilt is part of the revolution that needs to happen in higher education.  A Pisgah sight of Paradise, I suppose, but I’m happy to have had it.

Congratulations to the graduates; may you earn good bread in both literal and metaphorical ways, and may your slices always fall with the butter side up!

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Homemade Butter

Butter can easily be made cultured by souring the milk overnight on the counter with a little cultured buttermilk mixed in.  I suggest using about 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Makes about 1 cup butter and 1 cup of fresh buttermilk.

Take one pint of the best whipping cream you can find, preferably not ultra-pasteurized.  (Strauss makes a good product.)  It’s best if it’s somewhere between ice cold and room temperature.  Place it in your mixer’s bowl and whip with the whisk attachment on high for about 8 minutes, scraping down the bowl occasionally, until the whipped cream “breaks” into solid bits and liquid.  Stop when it looks like grains of rice in swampy liquid.  You can also try this by hand with a whisk or by shaking it in a jar if you are a masochist.

Drain the liquid from the solids in a fine-mesh sieve for about 20 minutes, then add salt if you wish, mixing thoroughly.  Press as much liquid out as you can using a wooden spoon or similar.   Pack into a jar and refrigerate.

Boysenberry-Kaffir Lime Jam (low sugar)

This recipe is an adaptation of one for “sour blackberries” on the Pomona pectin recipe insert. It makes 4-5 half-pints for canning.  If you want to make it and give it away to friends, there’s no need to can the jam as long as you keep the jars in the refrigerator.  I’m providing basic canning instructions if you’d like to give it a try, though.  The pectin is necessary to make the jam low sugar, and I’ve chosen what I consider the best commercial pectin for low sugar spreads, Pomona.  It uses its own process with calcium water, so it can’t be substituted.  If you’d like to make a full sugar jam with no pectin, try a recipe like my roasted blackberry jam instead, substituting boysenberries and lime juice/lime leaves for the lemon.

  • 1 box Pomona Pectin (do not substitute other kinds of pectin)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • half-flat of boysenberries (or enough to make 4 cups of mashed fruit, about 6-7 cups)
  • 2 t. lime juice
  • 2 t. finely minced fresh kaffir lime leaf
  • 2 t. calcium water (see below)
  • 2 t. pectin powder

For canning: Prepare calcium water: combine 1/2 cup water and 1/2 teaspoon calcium powder (in the small packet in your box of Pomona’s Pectin) in a little jar with a lid, since there will be some left over for future batches. Shake well and store in the refrigerator.

Mix 2 cups of sugar with 2 teaspoons of pectin powder (in the large packet in the box).

Bring to a boil enough water in a large stockpot or waterbath canner to cover 5 half-pint jars.  Wash your jars, rings, and lids, and heat the lids according to the package instructions as you’re heating up the waterbath canner.

Examine fruit for leaves and dirt; quickly rinse, if especially dusty.  Mash enough of the berries to make 4 cups of pulp and place in a large pot, leaving space for the mixture to bubble up.  Add 2 teaspoons of calcium water, lime juice, and minced kaffir lime leaves, mix well, and bring to a boil.

Add sugar mix and stir vigorously to melt pectin.  Bring back up to a boil and let boil for a minute.

Remove from heat and let sit for a couple minutes.  Skim foam from top. Spoon hot jam into jars carefully to reduce bubbles, leaving 1/4-inch head space.  Wipe rims of jars and adjust lids and rings.

Process in a waterbath canner for 10 minutes.  Let sit in canner for a few minutes, then remove jars carefully and let cool, undisturbed, overnight.  Remove the rings and check the seals, refrigerating any that didn’t seal.  The jam will keep over a year on the shelf if the seals are intact; a couple of months in the refrigerator.

 

 

 

 

 

sourdough starter experiments with bonus pancake recipe

IMG_7064IMG_7067This is the book of the generations of sourdough starter. Well, blog post, anyway.

As described earlier, our Bread 101 class is making sourdough as a lab project. If you’re interested in participating or following along, we are making baker Chad Robertson’s rather complex and detailed starter recipe from his book Tartine Book No. 3.  My fellow instructors Elly and Karen are blogging their experiences, too, so check out Elly’s detailed daily blog entries and recipes at We’re Out of Eggs, I’ll Use Asparagus and Karen’s blog musings on fermentation and local cooking at Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market.

The upper right image is my initial starter made with 50/50 Open Oak Farm ‘Maris Widgeon’ wheat and King Arthur unbleached white flour.  Maris Widgeon is a bread flour that is grown in the Willamette Valley by the Open Oak/Adaptive Seeds family, but was developed 50 years ago for roof thatching in Europe.

The starter is almost unhappily tart with lactobacilli, the same beasties that create the sour in sauerkraut and yogurt.  With the almost constant fermentation I do, my kitchen is full of them.  The image on the upper left is the result of feeding a piece of the initial starter with more flour and water and letting it sit for another day to beget starter 2.0.  24 hours later, nearly godlike, I took a piece of starter 2.0 and fed it with more flour and water to beget starter 3.0.  The bottom image is starter 3.0, forming nice bubbles and smelling much more yeasty and pleasant rather than lactic.

All of us on the teaching team had the same reticence about the waste that goes into creating this sourdough starter.  The general idea is to ferment a couple cups of a flour-water paste, then pour off a small amount (75 grams, if you must know) then feed that little piece (250 grams of water and flour, if you must know) for 24 hours, then start again, repeating for several days.  Some of us reduced the initial inputs.  Others (like me!) made sourdough pancakes with the leftover fermented batter.  And they weren’t bad!

Be sure to check out Elly’s recipe and process for sourdough pancakes, which differs from mine.  For more on the fermentation process, see Karen’s entry on her starter.

EDITED TO ADD:  After a week or so of feeding, the starter has calmed down and is smelling more yeasty now, nice and gently sour, more bready than sauerkrauty.  Collateral damage, though, perhaps:  did the yeasts affect my latest batch of crème fraîche, souring next to the sourdough?  It failed to set up and grew mold on top almost immediately.  It’s always a wild ride with fermentation!

Sourdough Pancakes

Serves 4 with bacon.

  • 2 cups fresh sourdough starter
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons milk AND/OR 3 tablespoons cornmeal or flour
  • 1 tablespoon butter or coconut oil

Combine starter, egg, syrup, oil, and baking soda.  Use some milk to thin the batter to a pancake batter consistency OR add some cornmeal or flour if the batter seems too thin. You will need to use your judgment and your own pancake tastes – some like them thicker and fluffier than others. I ended up using both milk and cornmeal to find a perfect balance between batches.

Let the batter sit on the counter for 10-15 minutes to allow baking soda to do its magic.  Heat nonstick skillet or griddle to medium heat.  Add butter or coconut oil, coating pan as it melts, then pour 3-4-inch diameter rounds of batter for each pancake.

Prepare in batches, cooking pancakes until the surface is well bubbled and mostly dry on top, then flip over and cook for a few minutes more. You are looking for golden brown surfaces on both sides. The pan is too hot if it burns unevenly, and too cool if the pancake just soaks up the butter and doesn’t brown.

Serve with maple syrup. You may freeze leftover cooked pancakes on a cookie sheet, IQF (individually-quick-frozen) style, then pop them off the sheet and store in freezer bags for a quick breakfast.

 

bread 101

IMG_7058IMG_6695Am I souring on traditional discipline-focused college curricula?  No, but this spring I *am* teaching a tremendously fun course through COLT on literature, food and society (as discussed here), and I’m also part of an innovative team-taught course that partners the Natural Sciences with the Humanities, all in the name of a loaf of bread.

Yes, University of Oregon HC441: “Bread 101” investigates the science and culture of bread!

We’re all souring together as we create experiments with sourdough starters and bake bread based on historic recipes.  These “lab” activities will be contextualized in lectures and readings on topics like genetics, energetics, microbiology, history, ethics, and cultural studies.  We’ll be hosting University of Washington wheat geneticist and anti-GMO activist, Dr. Steve Jones, as a visiting speaker; visiting Camas Country Mill and Noisette bakery for a sourdough taste-off; learning about Willamette Valley wheat production with local food activist Dan Armstrong; and studying primary sources on bread baking and propaganda in an upcoming exhibit on historic cookbooks, “Recipe: The Kitchen and Laboratory: 1400-2000,” opening April 22 in Knight Library Special Collections. (I’m co-curating this with HC Prof. and Historian of Science Vera Keller — more info soon.)

IMG_7013 IMG_6023IMG_6897The course is unusual not only because it’s deeply local and geared to increase burgeoning interest in a Food Studies program at UO, but also because of its innovative curriculum that uses Humanities-based lines of inquiry and writing assignments to augment science literacy. Many Food Studies classes are taught from a Social Science or Nutrition perspective by a single instructor, so we felt the course could model new approaches for systemic collaboration across the Sci/Hum divide and offer value to this emerging discipline.

The course is being taught by Judith Eisen (Biology, Institute of Neuroscience, and Director of the Science Literacy Program), Elly Vandegrift (Biology and Associate Director of the SLP), Karen Guillemin (Biology and Director of the Microbial Ecology and Theory of Animals Center for Systems Biology), Miriam Deutsch (Physics and Oregon Center for Optics), and yours truly, Jennifer Burns Bright (Comparative Literature and English).

Course Description
HC441H: Bread 101
Bright, Eisen, Deutsch, Guillemin, Vandegrift

Bread is a complex medium, looking nothing like the original seed of grain from which it originates. Yet when we mix a few simple ingredients we are able to induce a transformation that results in an edible, highly nourishing, staple food product crucial for sustenance in many cultures. In “Bread 101”, students will explore with a team of faculty from the sciences and humanities the energy requirements, biomedical and biochemical aspects, and local and sociopolitical context of bread production. Students will read and discuss a variety of primary and secondary literature related to wheat production, the microbiological, chemical, and physical processes that transform wheat into bread, the energy cost of this transformation, and cultural implications of bread production. There will be several field trips and guest speakers. Course work will include active discussions, short essays, problem sets, and a presentation.

Module 1 Introduction to Growth, Domestication, Energetics
Module 2 Local Politics of Wheat and Bread
Module 3 Biomedical and Biochemical Implications
Module 4 Social and Cultural History of Wheat and Bread
Module 5 Global Energy Production Related to Wheat and Bread

Photos: My sourdough starter in progress, local grain display at Camas Country Mill, white board exercises on energetics and photosynthesis (with guest Nick Routledge), and a 1937 advertisement for Fleischmann’s yeast cakes (eat two a day for optimal health!).