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Bread Baking Therapy

I was wondering what was going on with my physical and mental state recently, as since we came home from our voyages, I feel rather on the blue side of things. Mind you, I’m fighting what A. calls my case of the Spanish flue, just because I contracted the bug as we were returning from Spain, and since then I’m challenged to find my regular level of energy through my coughing fits and congested sinuses. But there are other reasons, I’m sure. The typical fall weather is here in Vancouver, with rain, and clouds, and then some more rain. Add to this the fact that I’ve felt uninspired to hold the camera in my hand recently, or when I did I disliked every picture I took. To top that, I’m without my laptop (had to give it up for the warranty repairs) and, this said laptop of mine, turns out to be like the extension of me, evidently essential for my daily existence. Though A. put together a desktop computer for me, it being the collection of all the spare computer parts he’s been faithfully collecting over the years, it’s slow, it’s barren of my files, it’s noisy, and too big to be hug-able. Oh yes, I shouldn’t complain – I’m grateful I have a computer at all, I love the fact that it’s warm and cozy in my home, and the cold will pass eventually, but I allowed myself to feel sorry for myself for a few days, before I decided yesterday to be done with this kind of melancholy. What helped was the quote I came across on Wild Yeast where I went for some bread eye candy, and where these words jumped out at me:
“… no Yoga exercise, no hour of meditation … will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread.
–M.F.K. Fisher, The Art of Eating”
I received the much-needed kick, and I got my strut back. I turned on the oven and baked some gorgeous ciabatta, the formula for which I’ll gladly share if anyone is interested.
By the way, the Wild Yeast is my favourite bread-baking go-to resource and the place to see some beautifully styled bread images. I know how difficult it is to make bread look good on pictures. With all its brown, orange and yellow tones, it’s a challenge to make the bread stand out and yet tell the “bread story” with the addition of photo props that wouldn’t compete for attention with the subject of the shot. Susan knows how to do it and if you want to take good bread photos I urge you to visit her wonderful blog for some good bread-styling lessons.

Sourdough Ciabatta
Recipe By: Bill Wraith (Note: The following write-up is copied almost word-by-word from Bill’s original recipe tha can be found here. The changes I’ve incorporated appear in italics)
Preparation Time: approximately 8 hours
Categories : Breads – Sourdough

Amount Measure Ingredient
——– ———— ——————————–
482 grams bread flour (13.2% protein)
340 grams water
454 grams sourdough starter, 100% hydration
14 grams salt

Autolyse:
Mix the flours and water together in a bowl using a dough hook. Let sit for about 30 minutes.

Mix:
Mix flours and water above with all the starter and salt. Mix for a few minutes, switching between low and medium speeds – just long enough to thoroughly mix the starter and salt with the mixture from the autolyse step. The dough should be quite “wet”, meaning it will not clear the bottom or even much of the sides of the mixer bowl. It should be fairly sticky and already have a fair amount of gluten development.

Bulk Fermentation and Folding: (about 4.5 hours)
Make a fairly thick bed of flour on the counter about 12 inches square. Using a dough scraper, pour the dough out into the middle of the bed of flour. Allow it to rest for a few minutes. Then, fold the dough by flouring or wetting your hands, then grabbing one side of the dough and lifting and stretching it, folding it over itself like a letter. Do this for all 4 sides. Brush flour off the dough as you fold over the sides that were in contact with the bed of flour. You don’t want to incorporate much flour into the dough as you fold. After folding, shape it gently back into a rectangle or square, spray it with a light coating of olive oil or some other oil spray, and dust very lightly with flour. Then cover it with a large glass bowl. Repeat the folds approximately every 45 minutes two more times. After three folds, let the dough rise for another 2.5 hours, at which point, the dough should have doubled roughly in volume.

Shaping:
Divide the dough into 3 pieces of equal size, roll them in the bed of flour to dust the cut ends, and let them rest a few minutes. The dough is wet and will quickly resume its flat, rectangular shape by itself. Gently place the pieces on the couche. Use the couche to create folds for the ciabatta.

Final Proof:
Let the breads rise in the couche for about 2 hours, until they are puffy and have increased significantly in volume.

Prepare to Bake:
Preheat oven to 525F (convection oven). While that is going on, take each loaf out of the couche. Invert each loaf onto a peel fitted with parchment paper. Press down on the dough with your fingers fairly firmly to feel the peel underneath. It sounds crazy, but the loaf will bounce back just fine in the oven if it is not overproofed. This step is important to avoid “separation of crust and crumb” or “one gigantic hole” instead of many holes. It also evens out the loaf so it has a nicer shape after baking.

Wild Flowers

It’s been a week now since we started this vacation; the week that has passed so incredibly fast, but is leaving me with the contentment in my heart for so many reasons. First, we’re staying close to the family, finally having the opportunity to not only be close to them physically, but also to be present in our mind to experience and appreciate the moment. Most of our previous visits were shorter, so from the start, they carried the threat they’d be coming to the end soon, thus hurried us through many of the circumstances like meeting with family and friends. This time it’s different. Our encounters are relaxed and none of the events is scheduled or planned. Additionally, the weather is just absolutely gorgeous. It’s warm, it’s summer, birds singing, flowers blooming, fresh and beautiful food growing – the epitome of the pastoral, village life with its abundance and beauty. All one has to do is to take it in and appreciate it. I, certainly, do.

Minął już tydzień odkąd wyruszyliśmy na te wakacje, tydzień, który przeleciał niewiarygodnie szybko, ale jednocześnie, zadowolił i uradował z wielu powodów. Po pierwsze, jesteśmy blisko rodziny, wreszcie mamy szansę na bliskość fizyczną, ale również, mamy czas, żeby być świadomym i żeby docenić ten wyjątkowy moment. Większość naszych poprzednich wizyt była zdecydowanie krótsza, wobec czego niosła z sobą groźbę szybkiego końca i poganiała nas do śpiesznych spotkań z rodziną i przyjaciółmi. Tym razem jest inaczej. Nasze spotkania są relaksujące, prawie zawsze nie planowane. Pogoda jest uwieńczeniem tych pozytywnych doświadczeń. Lato w pełni, gorąco, ptaki śpiewają, kwiaty kwitną, zdrowe jedzenie rośnie w ogrodzie obok – kwintesencja sielankowego, wiejskiego życia z całym swoim urokiem i bogactwem. Jedno tylko pozostaje – docenić to doświadczenie i ja, z pewnością, to robię.

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Easy Bread

The amazing thing about the rural life we’re experiencing here is the availability of the organic food. I still can’t believe, we can go out shopping with an extensive shopping list and purchase all products on it without stepping into a supermarket. Pretty much, everything, from fruit and vegetables, sourdough breads, and freshly made cheeses or churned butters is available from farmers’ stands or artisan food makers. No need to bake breads anymore. So easy!

Zadziwiającą sprawą w tym wiejskim naszym życiu jest dostęp do zdrowej, organicznej żywności. Nadal trudno jest nam uwierzyć, że wyruszając na zakupy z długą listą, możemy zakupić wszystko bez wstępu do supermarketu. Począwszy od owoców i warzyw, przez chleby na zakwasie, jak również świeżo wyprodukowany nabiał jest dostępny ze straganów, albo od małych lokalnych producentów. Nie ma potrzeby wypiekania chlebów.

In the Open Air

The summer house is located in the smallest village I’ve ever been to. It counted exactly 16 houses originally when my in-laws first started coming here. During the last 30 years, it has been continually changing from a sleepy village to a summer destination for thousands of the city folks who come here during the summer months. One very endearing structure in here is a chapel. It’s so tiny. It has a door at the back that opens for winter Sunday mass and barely allows in 10 to 15 of permanent residents. In the summer though, the small altar in the front is the center of attention for hundreds of vacationers who attend the mass. The mass happens al fresco, in the open air with the benches strewn around in the old garden amongst the apple trees and roosters walking around at will.

Letni dom, w którym mieszkamy mieści się w chyba w najmniejszej z wiosek. Na początku, kiedy rodzice A. zaczęli tu przyjeżdżać, był to przysiółek, który miał dokładnie 16 domów. Przez następnych 30 lat, charakter wsi stopniowo się zmieniał, z sennej wioski w miejsce gdzie tysiące „miastowych” ciągną, żeby spędzić letni weekend czy wakacje. Jednym z miejsc tutaj, które mnie wzruszają jest wiejska kaplica. Jest maleńka. Drzwi od tyłu pozwalają na przeprowadzenie niedzielnej mszy w zimowe dni dla nie wiecej niż 10 do 15-tu stałych rezydentów. Latem, natomiast, maleńki ołtarz od przodu umożliwia setkom wakacjuszy uczestniczyć we mszy na świeżym powietrzu. Ławki stoją sobie rzędem w starym ogrodzie pośród jabłoni, podczas gdy koguty przechadzają się swobodnie nieograniczone żadnymi rygorami.

Stillness

The summer house is not far away from the lake, an easy, 5-minute walk, with soothing views and the unforgettable smell of the pine sap. It was quiet and beautifully still at the lake with an odd angler sitting by the water in total silence.

Żeby dojść do jeziora od domu potrzeba zaledwie 5 minut i jest to łatwy spacer z kojącymi widokami i przyjemnym zapachem żywicy. Nad samym jeziorem było cicho, a jezioro tkwiło w porannym bezruchu. Tylko gdzie niegdzie spostrzec można było samotnego wędkarza siedzącego w ciszy na kładce.

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Rurally Yours,

Greetings from rural Poland. I’m lovingly walking around the countryside and I’m enamored with all I see – the early morning fog, wild flowers of all sorts, an occasional horse gazing curiously, and mostly, the impromptu farmer’s markets spontaneously forming at the road side, selling the produce that has just been picked up, or dug out, from the nearby garden.

Pozdrowienia z polskiej wsi. Spaceruję po wsi z radością, rozkochana we wszystkim co widzę – poraną mgłę, polne kwiaty każdego rodzaju, przypadkowego, ale ciekawskiego konia, a przede wszystkim, te improwizowane stragany, które spontanicznie pojawiają się na przydrożu, sprzedające warzywa i owoce dopiero co zerwane z pobliskiego ogródka. Zwyczaj, który niestety, jest na wymarciu w Ameryce.

First Impressions

The first few days after a long trip usually pass in a haze. Jet lag, the circadian rhythms affected by the brutal sleep deprivation, mixed in with the beauty of the Old World taken in anew, all contribute to rather slow and, at times, incoherent reactions. But one gets away with all one’s weird behaviours, unsocial at times, as one accustoms once again to the slower pace of life. We’re taking in whatever surrounds us for the moment, settling into the summer house, enveloped in the countryside, experiencing the true summer weather for the first time this year.

Pierwszych kilka dni po długiej podróży ze zmianą stref czasowych zwykle mija jak we mgle. Jet lag, rytmy dobowe organizmu poważnie zachwiane brutalnym brakiem snu, przemieszane z wrażeniami estetycznymi, które ta Stara Europa zapewnia przybyszowi z Ameryki, przyczyniają się do zwolnionych, czasem wręcz, niespójnych reakcji. Ale te zachowania, momentami wręcz nietowarzyskie, uchodzą nam na sucho podczas gdy powoli przyzwyczajamy się do zwolnionego trybu życia. Wchłaniamy wszystko co nas otacza, bez pośpiechu osiedlamy się w domu na wsi, po raz pierwszy doświadczając prawdziwego lata w tym roku.

Two Days Turned Into One

We left Vancouver on Sunday and arrived to our destination on Monday without as much as a minute of darkness outside the plane’s window, or even a few minutes of sleep so desperately needed. But I still marvel at the daze my life has become in the last two days when they melted together and I marvel at the lovely feeling of coming home again.

Wyjechaliśmy z Vancouver w niedzielę, dojechaliśmy do celu w poniedziałek, bez minuty ciemności poza oknami samolotu, czy choćby kilku minut tak pilnie potrzebnego snu. Nadal jednak z podziwu wyjść nie mogę jak dwa dni zlepiły się w jeden, i nadal jestem pełna zachwytu nad powrotem do domu, kolejnym, ale zawsze tak samo z lubością witanym.