For the second half of my Europe work trip I’ve been visiting a few astronomy friends in Copenhagen, a city both Peter and I know and love from our adventures two years ago. Unfortunately Peter wasn’t able to join me this time; something about work and a thesis and perhaps a couple mutterings about beer brewing. Oh well, I’ve been having plenty of fun without him, starting with an entertaining evening at the street parties organized by Distortion. It reminded me a bit of Halloween in Isla Vista, but only some people were wearing costumes and the average age was a bit higher (minus the toddlers safely rocking out from their balconies). I defer you to google for a realistic image of the chaos. For a change of pace, my friend Andreas, his girlfriend Mia, and I decided to hit the Swedish countryside for a long weekend of staring at nature. You see, I chose the absolutely best two weeks to visit Copenhagen, with one holiday each week to goof off and recuperate from what is starting to feel like a very long stream of never-ending travel (especially after my trip to the East coast three weeks before leaving for Europe). Thankfully, Sweden did not disappoint. We stayed in Mia’s parents’ cabin in the Swedish woods across the road from a lake. The cabin had canoes, fishing gear, and even internet. While we failed to catch any fish, we did enjoy exploring a couple of islands, and being the pessimists we are, came equipped with various meats to roast on the grill instead. On the second day, we went on an outing to an establishment in the middle of the Swedish woods where we sat outside sampling various teas (they had an impressive selection and I was grateful to Upton’s for at least a cursory knowledge of tea lingo) and some Swedish pastry that involved balls of cooked dough served with tasty jam. On our way there, we saw two wild boar and a handful of cute baby boar from the road, apparently a very rare sight. Between that and a bee attack in the car, it was an entertaining day. To top it all off, we got to take the ferry to and from Sweden through Helsingor, which I previously visited to see Hamlet’s castle. This time we saw the castle from the ocean view, surrounded by sail boats (probably Danes just celebrating a perfectly clear day in June, the first in more than a week) and sparkly water. Allow me to demonstrate: Perhaps I should clarify that part of my interest in visiting Sweden was due to my heritage of being a quarter Swedish, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but apparently it’s enough to require Swedish themed Christmas parties growing up and a strong attraction to almond-flavored pastries (although not to pickled herring). My mother was understandably jealous when I told her I was visiting Sweden without her, but I’m happy to report that Sweden is pretty much just like Maine (where my parents plan to retire), so they shouldn’t feel too left out. For example, both have way too many large rocks and a mostly-rocky coastline, tons of forest (specifically pine trees), and both are covered in lupins.
Despite previous reports, I’m still hale and hearty and a lover of a good sourdough. A recipe for Tartine’s country bread appeared in the New York times a bit ago. The Tartine bread book has been highly recommended to me (people tend to like it more than the Peter Reinhardt that I’ve been using for a while), and has been on my list of “things I’d like to probably get someday” for a while. So, naturally, I had to give this bread a shot. Since the recipe is given in full detail in the Times link, I’m not going to repeat it here, only point out what simplifications I made and still managed to be successful. And it does need simplification–the recipe as listed is a pain in the rear.
Commentary on Tartine’s Country Bread, by Suzanne Lenzer, adapted from “Tartine Bread” by Chad Robertson
a) As I already have a starter, I do this recipe in three steps: make the leaven (wait overnight), make the dough (wait for the day), bake.
b) On Saturday night, make the leaven as specified in step 3.
c) On Sunday morning, make the dough as in steps 4-6. Use the remaining leaven for sourdough pancakes (it’s pretty darn close to the 3/4 of a cup as called for in that recipe). The recipe says to mix with your hands; for the love of god, don’t do that, it’s far too messy: just stir with a spoon.
d) Throughout the day, fold the bread as specified in step 7. (Do your best to work this into your Sunday schedule.)
e) I don’t have any fancy proofing baskets, so I mostly skip the specifics of steps 8-10. Instead, I split the dough in half and do my best to pull them each into a boule shape on a well-floured surface. I then put them in well-floured covered bowls, and put one of the bowls in the fridge, and leave the other out to continue rising.
f1) Bake one on Sunday evening/night: let it rise for as long as you can (maybe another half hour to an hour), then preheat the oven with the dutch oven in it, and bake as specified.
f2) Bake the other on Tuesday night: as soon as you get home from work, take the dough out of the fridge and allow to come to room temperature. Preheat the oven and bake as before.
The only real failures I’ve had with this have been when I haven’t let the bread rise enough (while doing the folding) or haven’t let it come to room temperature before baking. As such, the Saturday/Sunday/Tuesday schedule is what works for me.
The bread is very, very good, and the crust is great. It is mostly white flour, though.