Going for the Crusty

A couple of times now I have attempted to make crusty rolls. I am hoping to get them nailed down this month. Both attempts had their successes and but neither was just right. The thing about bread is that there are a bunch of factors that determine its character–the type of flour, rising time, oven temperature, baking time, humidity, other ingredients. Change one and the whole thing changes.

I know that to get a good crust you need to keep ingredients simple–flour, water, yeast, salt, maybe a little sweetener to get the yeast doing its thing. You need to let it rise enough so its makes big air pockets. You need to bake it hot enough, and adding water makes a difference. I tried all those things and I will need to keep experimenting.

The first batch? I added some butter. I should not have done that I guess. And the temperature was pretty high. I added a good dose of steam as I added them to the oven to bake so that helped, and I brushed them with an egg white/water wash. Those were crusty. They had just the right combination of crunch on the outside and softness on the inside. They were, however, a bit dark on the top. I mean, they were not quite burned, but I would not call them golden brown.

The second batch looked far better, but I had not let them rise as much. The water I added to the oven may not have been as hot as well. So they looked amazing–brown and puffy. They had some crust crunch, but not a whole lot. The flavor, however, was spot on. So they were downright delicious but not quite what I was aiming for.

I was going to try again today but the time passed and suddenly it felt too late to give this project the attention I needed to give it. So maybe tomorrow I will give it another go. The dough will have no butter, the temperature will be hopefully high enough but not too high, I will give them enough time to rise and I will add boiling water to the oven right before I pop them in. Maybe I will get it right. If not, I still have half the month to try again.

Wild Leeks Soup

It is the season of wild leeks. That season is short. In the woods, green covers the forest floor. The bright new leaves pierce the dried maple and beech leaves that fell in the fall. When the sun shines through the bare branches, you can smell them.

My son and I popped into the woods late in the afternoon. We each had a trowel. We dug up some leeks. Drive the trowel straight down, pull it back to loosen the soil and shake out some leeks. They are sort of similar to leeks you might buy in a market, but much smaller, smaller than typical scallions. And they are softer, more fragile. We made a small pile, enough to hold in one hand. Bright green on one end, covered in dark dirt on the other.

I washed them in the sink. I collected quite the pile of soil in the trap, mixed with a few dried leaves and grass stems. I had a clean bunch in the end, ready to be made into soup. I cubed several potatoes and sliced the leeks, tossed them with butter and olive oil, and sauteed. I added some water, some stock, some salt and pepper, and cooked it all into a soup.

I also made dinner rolls. I hear yeast is getting hard to come by. We always have a lot on hand anyway, so we are good to go for now. Dinner rolls are like the lazy bread–make some dough and knead it and let balls of the stuff rise in a pan. Then bake it and… fresh rolls, easy and quick. Soup and bread–pretty standard dinner around here.

Oddly, by the time the soup had reduced and gotten thick, it turned a bit green. I mean, the leeks were green but I have never had them turn other stuff green. And this new green was much darker–not the bright green of the fresh leeks. So it had a bit of an off color, but it was dang tasty. Those cut leeks smelled strong before they cooked down so I admit was a little nervous that I had put in too many leeks, but my fears ended up being unfounded.

Our wild leek window is small so I need to dig up some more before they fade away. Omelets? Quiche? Pizza topping? I’ve got lots of options. Especially if I want some green food.