12.4.2012 The First Law of Piles and some decent bread

Today I went out to my finished compost pile.  My plan for the day was to make it go away so I could start a new pile in its place.  It’s not much of a pile anymore.  Just a hump in the back pasture.  I was thinking I could sift enough to fill the tractor bucket and maybe have another wheelbarrow or two full.  But I completely forgot the First Law of Piles which states, “Any given pile of stuff has at least four times the volume as what you think.”

The First Law of Piles illustrated. What looked like a wee little pile of compost is turning out to be a tardis.

I sifted a tractor bucket full, and still had over ¾ of the pile left.  So instead of driving down my row of tree holes (still waiting on those trees) and dumping a couple shovelfuls into each of my 37 holes, I spread it out on the herb bed in the front yard and called it a day.  I really was much too tired to grapple with the psychology of a pile of dirt today.  And if you’ve ever moved a pile of anything from point A to point B, you know there is a LOT of psychology in a pile.

This is how I screen compost. Wooden frame (Sized to fit over our wheelbarrow). 1/2″ hardware cloth. A couple of shovelfuls at a time. Primitive, but it gets the job done.

Because of the weariness that was upon me today, I spent most of the day doing domestic goddess stuff.  Laundry, vacuuming, and bread baking.  I am pleased to report I have gotten the knack of using my baker’s peel and can get a loaf in the oven and onto a hot stone without slapping the loaf onto the back wall of the oven.  I also now have a sourdough starter (biga, levain, whatever word you want to use for it) that will raise a loaf entirely on its own – no yeast needed.  How cool is that?

Rising time is done. Slashed and on the peel – ready for baking.

My current recipe is very simple:

1 cup of starter

3 cups of white flour

½ cup of whole wheat flour

¼ cup of rye flour

2 tsp of salt

1 ¼ cup of water

Mix with wet hands to combine.  Let rest for 20-30 minutes and then knead for about 7 minutes.  Let rise for about 4 hours or overnight in the fridge.  Shape into a ball and place on a floured napkin in a colander.  Let rise for 2 hours.  Invert onto peel and slash.  Bake at 425 for 35 minutes.

And here it is all baked and ready for consumption. I still have some work to do on the shaping of the final loaf. It’s bursting during baking but only a little.

It’s not the greatest tasting bread I’ve ever made, in fact, it’s rather ordinary and not much of a sourdough taste.  Very serviceable though.  Substantial enough to mop up soups and delicate enough for a really good grilled cheese.

Now that I’ve got the proportions, rising and baking time/temperature down, it’s time to start experimenting with the fun stuff – flax seed, millet, almond flour, oats, buckwheat, barley.


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