Sunday Baking: More Bread and Buckwheat

The second batch of the 5min a day bread I made was 100% whole wheat, which doesn’t seem to make much of a difference (so then why not?). I made…baguettes? Seedy long rolls at least. Shorter resting and baking time, probably 1.5 hrs from pulling the dough to out of the oven. Quite tasty and the crumb is very nice.

I baked off the rest of the dough today!

I baked off the rest of the wheat dough and started a batch of the 5:2 wheat:white. Weirdly, that one is a little big for my container while the 100% wheat is a bit small.

I moved the buckwheat chiffon to 100% buckwheat and it was fine. The buckwheat flavor is clear but not that strong. I tried a black cherry drizzled glaze which tasted great but was too thick and sticky for the delicate nature of the cake.

This week I’m thinking of trying olive oil and some mixed in flavoring (eg walnut, chocolate, or cherry). I might try a French buttercream or Swiss meringue or a super thin, crisp glaze (if I can figure it out).

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Sunday Baking: Bread Follow up

I made a 1 pound, free form loaf last week from the 5 min a day dough, a 2 pound, pan based loaf midweek, then another 1 pound, freeformer plus two small baguettes today.

Overall, it’s quite reasonable.

Last week’s and 2 pounder side by side:

It seems like the 2 pounder had a slightly more open crumb, but I think that’s just the luck of the slice. I did leave it resting in a warmer place for a longer time. The crust was thicker too (having larger volume, baking time was longer.

I did one seeded and one non seeded roll but I ate the seeded one hot from the oven.

The crumb is good but not magically better after a week in the fridge. I’m not sure I’m taking the wildly different, “more complex” flavor provide. But it was good and pretty easy. The dough got wetter over the week, I think.

And I’ve used up the dough. I’m going to get some more flour to mix up a new batch. I really like the roll option.

I also made a buckwheat chiffon cake (though the book called it a sponge):

It came out wonderfully light and springing. The buckwheat flour wasn’t prominent (it was nearly half rice flour) so I plan to try a full buckwheat one next week. But as it is, it was a super simple and delightful cake that happened to be gluten free (though not egg free). A keeper.

Sunday Baking: A Tale of Two Loaves

I like to bake and I bake a lot. I mostly do sweet things but I have made bread, crackers, and Gougères, but mostly only on an occasion. This year I hope to get more into a routine. A goal: not to want to purchase bread or crackers unless there’s a specific reason (e.g. there’s a flat bread from a nearby Iranian bakery that I would buy any day of my life; also German rye is a staple that I just don’t even want to try to make).

Bread is a bit of a PITA because it has multiple phases and you thus have to plan for it. I’m more impulsive with my baking. So, I’m really interested in recipes that either have short end-to-end times or are robust to indifference and neglect.

I’ve had great success with no-knead recipes (except you really do need to plan…8-12 hours lead time minimum up to 24). However you can extend the time by chilling the dough after a bit. This allows for very long, slow rises which produce a more complex and interesting flavor. A book popped up on Scribd, Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day, which systematized this so you basically mix up dough every two weeks and make loaves whenever you feel like it in “5 minutes” (the “master recipe” is available on their website). It requires a bit of set up but I’ve finally gotten around to getting a container suitable for the dough. Time to try it out.

I’ve also been dorking with super short flour to finish recipes. One used your microwave as a proofing box (which was ok but a bit involved) but I tried one for French bread with a bit of kneading, a 20 minute rise and a 20 minute bake which was…alright.

Today, I’m doing a head to head bake off.

One big difference is the 5 minute/day bread is whole wheat while the 1 hour French bread is white. I’ve done it with some whole wheat mixed in, but I really wanted to compare base recipes. The 5 min one also asks you to put a cup of water into the oven to give an initial steaming so I did it for both loaves.

The 5min has some vital wheat gluten to help it out but since its mostly whole wheat that seems fair. I also put some seeds on it, but they were a bit annoying in the oven so I omitted them from the French bread.

The big bit is that after you shape a 5 min loaf you need to rest it for 90(!) minutes! 5 or so minutes of effort but 2hr time to complete, in addition to the prep. The French bread really does take an hour from flour and water.

Results

First things first: They both worked pretty easily. I used the given baking times and had no trouble. I didn’t use a baking stone though I did take each loaf off the lined cookie sheet and finish off on the wire rack.

I baked them one right after the other, using the baking time for the 5 min loaf roughly as the rise time for the French bread. Here’s the loaves all cooled on the spiffy PA cutting board Zoe’s uncle Claude made for us (which I love love love).

They came out really pretty! Now the French bread loaf is way bigger, but that’s just what it is. I may have torn off a slightly smaller hunk than the master recipe called for (1 pound), but the final loaf is .82 pounds so it wasn’t so far off. I didn’t measure the oven spring, but it was dramatic for the French loaf. They both thump well.

I let them both cool fully, though usually I’m burning my fingers and mangling the loaf to get at hot bread with butter which is one of the best things ever. But the 5 min folks want you to let it cool, so I did for this round. Let’s check out the crumb!

Both are quite good the 5min has a much more open crumb (i.e., bigger holes). This is almost certainly due to the long processing time allowing the gluten to fully unravel and align, plus the added gluten.

With regard to flavor, well, the French bread is just at a huge disadvantage…all white and fast rise. But it’s not bad by any means and has a nice springy texture that makes it a good platform for spreads. I think adding flavoring (e.g., onion powder like the recipe suggests) could be smart.

The 5 min bread is just delicious and has the softest crumb of any wheat bread I’ve ever made.

Both breads have reasonable crusts though the 5 min on has a bit more crisp. The steam didn’t do much, so I’ll have to try the dutch oven method at some point.

Both when well with labneh and some olive paste (which I could have dialed down).

Verdict

Both are actually pretty good. Each recipe is easy and results in an at least decent loaf. If you have a stand mixer, the French bread one is pretty trivial to do even while doing other cooking. You could start everything at 6 and be eating by 7. That’s no small thing! You could probably make rolls with this pretty easily.

I’ll have to push on adding whole wheat flour and maybe gluten and maybe letting my mixer run longer on the kneading. I could mix seeds easily into the dough which would be nice and help with the flavor.

I’ll be making the 5 min bread over the next two weeks as I’ve got a mess of it in the fridge. There will be no complaints.

Intellectual Grouchiness

From at least 7th grade, I’ve had a strong streak of intellectual grouchiness (to use what is perhaps a slightly too benign term). Over my live I tend to be…vigorous…in my criticism (both positive and negative) and…creative…with the language I use to express that criticism.

I trace this to 7th grade because there was a notable shift there. I had been tracked “dumb” for sixth grade so was in the “section” with all the kids with scholastic and behavioural problem. (Several of the other kids were 1-3 years older than me because they’d been held back.) There was considerable stigma being in that section and intrasection stigma for being interested in classes. (I made friends but a lot of it was fraught.)

I was retracked in 7th grade which was helpful, but it was like transferring to a different school. Nigh everyone had settled circles of friends. So I ended up with the lone outsider who was frightfully bright but angry all the time, to say the least. I assimilated and in a few months was called into the counsellor’s office to discuss why in a couple of months I’d gone from sweet and polite to wildly sarcastic.

I pointed out the obvious and, well, nothing happened.

(Note that this was probably a hugely destructive relationship. The verbal abuse I was picking up was substantially directed at me. For years. My best friend was routinely mean to me esp about my intellectual capabilities.)

In addition to that I’ve a taste for the polemic. Being right is cool. Destroying bad arguments is a rush. Bad arguments are painful. Etc.

(I will at some point discuss my exposure to the Sellarsian school of intellectual meanness.)

This preface to reflecting on two recent posts, on Zombie Economics and on Federalism and the ACA. Both these posts are critical, the latter more than the former. John Quiggan came into the comments to complain about my lack of charity and the fact that I “don’t explain what I don’t like about” his book. (I think I am reasonably charitable and I think I do explain what I don’t like. But go read the comments.) The meanest word I use is “howler”. You could read that I thought John was hiding unfavourable data but that was not intended.

For the latter, well, I degenerate toward the end. I was commenting while reading and got ticked off. I don’t think it’s wildly inaccurate, but it wouldn’t be fun to read as an author and challenging to take away a useful message though I think my criticism is good. Of course, even phrased nicely, the message “rewrite this from scratch; stop making wild claims; show your work” isn’t going to be easy to take.

It’s easier to blog about things I don’t like when I let myself go. Actually a lot of things would be easier if I could let my acid tongue wag freely. (It wouldn’t always be going but having that available helps.)

But it’s not good, I’m pretty sure. It can be useful to people sometimes, but I don’t think of it as a generally ok move. The problem is that I’m still not as un self conscious otherwise which makes things harder.

But I will strive!

That federalism paper is still pretty bad.

Music Monday: Vow to Vowels

I stumbled on this song ages ago (maybe from a jwz mixtape? all I found was Vowels by the Capital Cities which has the immortal line, “There’s a freight train of emotion stuck in my lungs”), but then lost it. For soooo long. At some point googling most variants of “vowel song” became hopeless with all the kid edusongs out there. But then I did a weirder search (that I can’t remember!) and found it!

I’m most interested in the video (since I’ve been working on one), though the song is catchy enough. There’s something odd about the singer’s voice (esp on the chorus) that I can’t place.

I like chalk sidewalk art. There should be more.

In the Air

I am currently on an airplane. This is a scheduled post giving the illusion that I’m writing this in the sky. I’m not. I might be writing something else.

I’m probably complaining about how American has this new policy of not letting you pick your seats without paying for an upgrade (unless you are in a higher tier of their frequent flyer program), how that’s just awful, and how there’s little way to hold them to account. I might also complain about the changes to their frequent flyer campaign that lowers its value.

Their MAN-PHL flights are too convenient for me to give up on but I have no other loyalty to them. Indeed, I work to avoid them.

Quick GE2017 Lessons

Some thoughts on larger lessons to be drawn from the surprise result of the UK 2017 general election.

Brexit

Brexit is, thankfully, at risk. Hard Brexit is probably off the table and the difference between most soft Brexit’s and staying in is that we’re worse off. A Norway style deal means most of the obligations (including budget contributions) but no say.

But hard Brexit is worse than all these. The best deal for the UK (indeed, a wildly unfair deal) would be to stay on the old terms. This is unlikely.

Was it a Brexit election? Did the Remainers fail to get their revenge? The LibDems campaigned on a second referendum and lost! vote share (while gaining a few seats). Does this mean Remain is dead?

We can’t quite use the LidDem failure to say Remain is dead. I’m a hard core Remainer and I voted Labour. I may still vote against Corbyn in a leadership election on Remain grounds. I’d guess that most Remainers are not single issue and a lot of Remainers are anti-Conservative/hope to avoid hard Brexit types. Clegg probably lost in spite of his excellent Remoaning, not because of it.

Furthermore, LibDems are a third party. In a two party consolidation election they are likely to do poorly. And this is roughly what we see from the Ashcroft post election survey. Consider the party shift graph:

q2-party-by-2015-vote

What’s striking is that both Labour and the Conservatives held onto around 80% of their 2015 voters. There wasn’t a lot of coming home of 2015-Conservative-voting 2010-Labour voters. UKIP collapsed mostly into the Conservatives (but they feel more like a generally spent party). LibDems held on to only 50% with a contingent hitting Labour. SNP had main party level retention, but few gains.

Compare with the party split of Referendum voters:

q2-vote-by-eu-result

Labour is the party of Remain while the Conservatives are the party of Leave. But in neither case was it dominant. It seems that Labour is underperforming (compared to the Conservatives) for Remain voters who seem to defect to the LibDems (seems!).

The depressing chart is the “feeling toward Brexit” (enthused, accepting, resistent):q6-brexit-enthusiast-1024x923

The “all” line is the problem…only 28% are resistant. The Conservatives are definitely the party of Brexit, but Labour has a mixed bag.

Events may change things, but non-Brexit is a long shot given these results.

Bernie woulda won

I don’t go so far as Scott in saying that all “x woulda won arguments are useless”. Counterfactual reasoning is tough and the more divergent the counterfactual from the real would the weaker the possible evidentiary constraints. Analogical evidence from across different elections and election systems is also weak. Combine them and you are in speculation land.

Many of these arguments (pro and con) that I’ve seen are facile: “Corbyn did better than expected so Bernie would have done better than expected and won”. “Corbyn lost so Bernie woulda lost”. None of these are great. Trump was a much better campaginer than May. Republicans were structurally favored (a bit) whereas I think the Conservatives were structurally disadvantaged.

The interesting analogical argument (and I don’t have a source ready to hand, so perhaps I’m making it up) would be of the following form:

  1. Corbyn started from a ≈20 point hole.
  2. Corbyn ran a Bernie style campaign with a Bernie style manifesto and youth enthusiasm.
  3. Corbyn made up a big chunk of that 20 point hole.
  4. So Bernie would have seen a similar gain and won a landslide.

Of course, the problem, in general, is that in polarised two party systems, each marginal gain gets more difficult and acceleratingly so as you get to the rough party parity mark (50% in the US, 40-45% in the UK). Roughly, making up large amounts of ground from a low mark can be much easier than gaining a lead from near parity.

People looking at Bernie’s approval numbers (compared to, say, Clinton’s) might take as a cautionary note how May’s absurdly (we now know) approval numbers didn’t save her. One lesson is that approval (or disapproval) may be more tricky and less sticky than we thought.

My modest conclusion remains: Being Bernie/Corbyn left on policy, rhetoric, and perception just isn’t electoral poison in either the US or the UK and we should stop thinking that it is. Trump made lefty (if lying) noises! It doesn’t mean that left policy alone means victory…as we have direct evidence thereof. It just means that arguments about policy shouldn’t be dominated by a “if left, then unelectable”.