Google 2013 | Ziets' Ramblings

Friday, 20 December 2013

A Summer Sail And Crayfish Season: Time For A Feast


The crayfish season in the Cape opened on 15 December for non-commercial taking of crayfish.

Over here it means that we have to wait for the weather. Having a licence is the least of the problems of obtaining this delicacy from the sea.

We waited, planned and aimed for two days, depending on the weather. Crayfish season overlaps with the real windy season here in the Cape. However, this time there was a small cold front passing the Cape, allowing a brief respite from the howling southeaster.

We went out in a friend's yacht by the name of Moppie, a Sadler 32 sailing yacht named after the Cape style songs. Had a quiet sail from Gordon's Bay down to Rooiels where the crayfish grounds lie.

Of course, it looked like your church bazaar in a rural village with all the boats on the water. These included ourselves, being the only sailing vessel in the fleet, along with a plethora of rubber dinghies and other motor boats, rounded off with a middle aged couple from Rooiels on a paddleski. Fun on the water indeed!
There were some clouds around, with the odd few drops of rain, but nothing to spoil the joy of being out on the water in one of the most beautiful parts of the world. 

We put out three nets and motored around for twenty minutes or so, waiting for the crayfish to start feeding. We then pulled up the nets one by one, replacing them in different places when found empty. This went on for two rounds and we were almost getting worried about blanking for the day's crayfishing. We had the sum total of four small crabs to show for our efforts. These were returned to the water.

Our fortunes changed very fast, however.

On the fourth round of trekking (pulling up) the nets, we found seventeen crayfish in the net, most under size. We kept two, placed the net in a new location and went to retrieve the next one. This one produced eighteen crayfish, most of which were over size. A haul of biblical proportions indeed!

This went on for the other two nets as well. So we sorted them, kept the largest ones and returned more than forty over sized crayfish to the water. Pity we did not have more licences.

Needless to say, we sailed back to Gordon's Bay on a gentle breeze with a song in our hearts. What a way to spend a day!

Having my share of the haul then called for some careful planning. This was my first ever successful crayfishing trip. Never before have I had fresh crayfish to cook. And it is summer here in the Cape, Very hot.

I decided on a salad style dish, with crayfish fried in garlic butter, served with avocado mousse, salad greens and slices of baguette fried lightly in olive oil. This was accompanied by a Pinot Noir MCC (Methode Cap Classique or bottle fermented) rose. The salad greens from my vertical vegetable garden, of course.

Dessert was to be a fruit yoghurt. We never got that far...

Preparation is a cinch. If you take more than about twenty minutes, you are doing something wrong. The crayfish are parboiled for five to seven minutes, then removed to a cold water soak to stop the cooking process. I used the tails only and discarded the rest. This was not going to be a messy greasy face sort of meal. Make fish stock with the rest if you really are into preservation. You then need to break all the limbs to get the meaty parts out.


Ingredients

3 crayfish
2 heads of garlic, chopped and mashed
1 cup of salad greens
1/2 cup rosa tomatoes
slice of diced strong cheese. Feta or mature cheddar
1 sprig of spring onion
1 dessert spoon coriander leaves
1 small baguette
1 medium sized avocado
250 ml plain yoghurt
1 dessert spoon lemon juice
some olive oil
some cooking oil
dollop of butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Bottle of your favourite dry rose bubbly.


Process

Chill the wine. Most important part of this dish, I should imagine.

Make the avocado mousse first, this will give the flavours time to spread throughout the mousse. Peel and mash the avocado, then use the blender to mix in the yogurt. The mix should not be runny. Add some salt and pepper to taste, then add the chopped spring onion and coriander leaves. Keep a sprig or two for garnish when dishing up. Add the lemon juice at the end. Leave this lot in the refrigerator to develop some flavour while you prepare the rest of the dish.


Parboil the crayfish as described. Cut open the tails and remove the intestines. Then slice the tails into steaks of about 12 mm / ½ inch thick. Heat some butter in a frying pan, then add the garlic. Fry this until the garlic has the proper shade of brown then add a small dollop of cooking oil. This will stop the temperature from rising higher and the garlic butter from burning. Add the crayfish steaks and fry them until they are nice and golden brown. Remove them from the heat and allow to repose while you fry the bread.

Slice the baguette on a slant so you have elongated slices. This does nothing to the flavour, but does add some shape to the end result when on your plate. Heat some olive oil in the pan with the juices from the crayfish. Add the slices and fry them till they are browned to your taste. These may soak up more oil than you anticipate, so keep some olive oil on standby.

Dishing up is as easy as arranging some salad greens on the plate, add a ladle of mousse, a sprig of coriander leaves, the bread and the crayfish.

Voila! A romantic summer dish.

Bon appetit!


Authored by Johan Zietsman

Last updated on 2013-12-20

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Home Baked Bread: A High Fibre Loaf




At last I am back in my favourite kitchen. Home. After two months away and many culinary adventures later, I am back in my own homely little kitchen.

The words do have a cosy ring to it, much like the Mole's place in The Wind In The Willows by Kenneth Grahame. Your own place has this feeling of home.

Having been away for so long, I had this primordial urge for proper bread. I crossed a mental hurdle just before my departure on the last voyage, so the missus hasn't tasted the version of bread I now bake. I purchased a copy of Peter Reinhart's book The Bread Baker's Apprentice some time ago and studied it. You have to open and study the book.

Which means reading intensively several times. Especially the part about what happens when you start mixing flour, water, salt and yeast. I had ample chance to experiment on the voyage, mostly successfully and often very successfully. The challah I made on board could be the best loaf I made to date. I shall certainly strive to top that one.

This time around I decided on a plain and simple loaf. Light Wheat Bread is the heading in the book. The recipe in the book requires whole wheat flour. I do not have flour with crushed wheat, so I used brown bread flour instead. The flours that I use are whole grain, stone ground, unbleached, non-GMO anyway, with the brown bread flour having ample wheat husks to give the loaf a rustic coarseness. Long words to describe decent, old fashioned coarse flour.

I followed the recipe reasonably to the point. I had to use whole milk instead of the three dessert spoons milk powder prescribed in the book. Otherwise the mix is easy and the directions for decision points are clear and easily understandable.

Here at home it is high summer now, with temperatures in the late twenties and early thirties Celcius. There is some mercy, though, in that we have the famous Cape Doctor. The south easterly trade winds, funneling into a near gale over the local Hottentot's Holland mountain range and across False Bay almost every day, cooling us down a bit.


Needless to say, the high temperatures make for very short rising and proofing times. You need to pay attention to the happenings inside the proofing box. Perhaps this fast proofing also makes for less flavour, but that one I shall test when I have space in the refrigerator for a large blob of dough and overnight proofing.

Ingredients for two medium sized loaves


2 ½ cups white bread flour
1 ½ cups brown bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 dessert spoons brown sugar
¼ cup whole milk
1 ½ teaspoons (10g) instant yeast
2 dessert spoons vegetable fat (shortening)
1 ¼ cups water at room temperature


Process


Stir together the dry ingredients, then add the water until the dough becomes sticky. Allow five to ten minutes for the dough to develop gluten, then rub in the shortening. The version of shortening that I use is quite hard, so I have to really let it thaw, then rub it into the dough.

Mix the dough thoroughly and make sure that it is reasonably soft and elastic. Knead this until the dough is satiny. Do a window pane test, as Peter Reinhart describes it. Stretch a piece of the dough so it thins out and becomes translucent. The dough should hold this easily. If not, he dough is too dry or too soft. You will know. Add flour or water as needed, knead it in and check again.



When the dough is ready, pat it with some cooking oil against drying out, then cover it and allow to rise for an hour or three. In my case an hour and twenty minutes was sufficient time for the dough to triple in volume.

Knead it down and shape it as required. I divided the dough into two equal pieces, shaped them and popped them into rectangular bread tins. This was covered with a damp cloth and allowed to proof until the dough was standing above the rims of the bread tins. This took about twenty minutes in the conditions prevailing in my kitchen.

Pop the loaves into a pre-heated oven at 230ºC/450ºF, spray a fine mist of water into the oven, leave to bake for five minutes, then spray water again. Turn the oven down to 190ºC/375ºF after ten minutes and bake the loaves for another thirty minutes. If you made thinner loaves, the baking time will be less, so do check on the baking progress towards the end.

These loaves had a decent oven spring and sprung to one and a half times their starting volume again in the oven. The crust was crisp and chewy, with a wonderful soft and springy crumb. The vegetable fat I use for shortening makes for a much slower drying-out rate, so the loaves last a bit longer than overnight.



However, if you have hungry teenagers or sailors around when the loaves come out the oven, I doubt that you will have to worry about the storage life of the loaves...

And remember, use real butter.


This blog post also linked to
Yeastspotting!


Authored by Johan Zietsman

Last updated on 2013-12-14







Thursday, 12 December 2013

Crossing Another Mental Hurdle: Multigrain Sourdough Loaf


Interesting how we all learn mostly from our own experience. Edward de Bono has written at length about the thinking process and thinking mistakes. And somewhere the idea emerges that problem solving is a process that will get you back to where you were. Progress requires different thinking.

And so it is with me too. I wrote a whole blog post describing a way to get out of a thinking rut in the realm of photography. Then, in the wee hours of the morning when everything is quiet except for the noises from the southeaster howling outside, it dawned on me that perhaps I am in a baking rut too. In a way of speaking.

Nothing out of the ordinary, nothing really wrong. But a definite feeling of having to do something new, something out of the ordinary.

Later that morning, after the early morning chores had been attended to, I opened my copy of Crust And Crumb by Peter Reinhart. The book is a veritable treasure trove on the various processes going on inside the dough. Worth reading several times and keeping it as a ready reference when planning your next loaf.

I decided on a multigrain sourdough loaf. Just for the difference in process and a new way of preparing the dough. I have never made bread that took longer than a morning or so, from preparing and kneading the dough until the baking is done. This was a going to be a first for me.

The project started off with feeding of the sourdough to wake it up. Then it was fed twice a day over two days. I decided on a biga style sourdough, which resembles a dough, rather than my normal batter-like sourdough. By the evening of the second day the biga was almost walking out of the refrigerator, so I popped it into the freezer. I had to slow things down a bit, as I was not going to stand kneading dough in the middle of the night!

The next morning the biga, now frozen solid, was taken out to thaw. I cut the block into smaller pieces to get it thawed quicker.

In the meantime I gathered the rest of the ingredients. Quite fun, as we do not normally have the ingredients listed in the recipe as standard items on our grocery list. However, the book says one is free to experiment. So I did.


I did have some left-over cooked basmati rice, which I used. Then I added some maize meal as the coarse corn flour part. Braaipap for my South African readers. You may substitute this with some corn flour that is used to make tortillas. We can't make tortillas with the maize meal we have here, and you can't make mieliepap with the stuff they sell in Mexico for making tortillas. But for this bread it is all about the flavours.

There were also semolina, rye flour, brown bread flour complete with some bran and rolled oatmeal in the multigrain mix. You may experiment, but keep it to the quantity listed in the recipe, otherwise you may find that the loaf is very brittle as a result of too little gluten in the mix. The ratios given in this recipe is an indication only, experiment to your heart's delight.

I also added two tablespoons of vegetable fat to the mix. This helps with keeping the bread from drying out too fast. It then lasts for some days instead of drying out overnight.

The instant yeast is just one sachet. Here in South Africa it comes in 6 gram sachets, which translates to 0.16 ounce. Bear in mind that there is already some very lively yeast cells working in the dough, so this is just a booster. As for the buttermilk, the recipe calls for ½ cup,which I doubled. This left me with a trickle of buttermilk in the container. Next time I shall add all of the buttermilk and adjust the water content in the dough. In the quantities I used, this will not make a huge difference.

In terms of the process, I tried to follow this within reason. Mixing is by hand, so is the kneading. The quantities given in my book were doubled to make three medium sized loaves.

This experiment resulted in the best sourdough loaves I have made to date. The multigrain content provides a palette of flavours, ending with a sweet after-taste. This bread also got discernibly sweeter the longer you chew on it. A wonderful recipe, definitely a keeper for me.

And now I have a much better understanding of how to treat my sourdough!

Ingredients


For the multigrain blend


¼ cup rye flour
½ cup rolled oats
¼ cup semolina
¼ cup brown bread flour
¼ cup maize meal

For the main dough


4 cups biga-style ferment
3 cups of unbleached white bread flour
1 ½ cups multigrain blend
4 tablespoons cooked basmati rice
4 tablespoons brown sugar
2 ½ teaspoons salt
6 gram instant yeast
1 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons vegetable fat
½ to 1 cup of water
Some rolled oats for garnish on top
Some cooking oil to pat the dough against drying while rising.

Process


Mix the biga into the other ingredients. I normally add the vegetable fat only after a few minutes, giving the gluten time to develop. Otherwise you may also end with a brittle crumb in the loaf.

Knead the dough until it becomes satiny. You will find, as the book describes, that the dough is quite gritty in the beginning. This is due to the coarseness of the multigrain mixture. This coarseness will disappear as you knead. I follow the advice of Peter Reinhart by testing the dough for elasticity. He calls it the window-pane test. The dough should stretch to a translucent state and keep the thin membrane. If it doesn't, then it needs more kneading or the dough is too dry. I don't have fancy equipment or a controlled environment, so this look and feel method works for me.

Incidentally, from another source I learnt to taste the raw dough. If it does not have a pleasant taste, something is wrong. In my case, it is the quantity of salt. But this method works well. Pleasant tasting raw food normally results in very good tasting cooked food.

This dough is supposed to be about 65% hydration, so it is on the soft side, but still knead-able. This mix of mine came out nice and elastic and I was just able to fold it. This was left to rise for ninety minutes or so, by which time the volume had more than doubled. Remember to pat the dough with some cooking oil against drying out during the first rise.

I folded this a few times without jarring it to get it back to the almost the original volume. This ball of dough was then divided into three balls. These balls were shaped by rolling and folding them into a flat cylinder shape to fit the bread pan.

I used greased bread pans and then dabbed some oil on the tops of the loaves again. These were left to rise until the dough protruded above the bread pan rims. Add some rolled oats as garnish and pop these into the oven.

I nowadays use both top and bottom elements in my oven, no fan, and I spray some water into the oven. These loaves were baked in the oven pre-heated to 230ºC /450ºF for ten minutes, then the temperature was turned down to 175ºC /350ºF for the rest of the baking period of forty five minutes to one hour. The oven was misted on introduction of the loaves, then again at ten minutes and fifteen minutes. Depending on the shape and size of your loaves, the baking time may vary. Check after forty five minutes to see if the loaves have baked through. They sound hollow when tapped and should have a nicely browned crust.

Turn them out to cool for an hour before slicing them. They are full of steam and quite brittle when they emerge from the oven, so don't be tempted to slice them. You may just spoil a very good loaf into a brittle mess.

And remember, use real butter!


This blog post also linked to Yeastspotting!

Authored by Johan Zietsman

Last updated on 2013-12-11

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Photography: How To Get Out Of Your Zoom Lens Rut



 And get lucky in the process. You never know.

We all go through this every once in a while. You get in a rut. Using one favourite zoom lens for all the shooting.

Stereotype thinking.


Shooting landscapes? Use your wide angle lens. 24-85 mm. Medium distance subjects? Use the 70-200 mm lens. People? 24-70 mm lens. All zoom lenses. And the photography manuals and popular press proposes this, thereby probably exacerbating the problem.


Don't get me wrong. I am not against using standard type lenses for certain work. I am also not proposing that my examples are correct or wrong. What is happening is a slavish following of what the press says and no application of your own mind. Following the crowd, perhaps. That is the issue we are discussing

I am seeing more and more people carrying DSLR cameras, using them in point and shoot mode. A compact camera would have been a better bet, but fashion dictates otherwise.


But this is not the real problem. The real problem is that we all, to a certain extent, use but part of the capabilities of our equipment. Include your tablet and cellphones here. This introduction is meant to illustrate the extent of the rut we create for ourselves.

Coming closer to home, I also suffer this malady from time to time. Some years ago I made it a compulsory exercise for myself to go out and use other items in my small inventory just to keep the hand in. so to speak.

One of the exercises is to take a fixed lens and shoot an essay using only this lens. Zoom with your feet. Thirty minutes maximum. Then narrow the options down by choosing some interesting part of the day or some interesting subject. In this case I did both.

I don't own a lot of lenses and equipment. My inventory consists of a Nikon D80 camera,  a 70-200/ f2.8 lens, a 50 mm/f1.8 fixed lens and a 18-135mm/f3.5-5.6 kit lens that came with the camera. The kit is rounded off with a reasonably sturdy tripod and a cable release. I also invested in a SB900 flash. Simple kit, nothing elaborate.

But even with this simple equipment I found that I was increasingly using the two zoom lenses and that the fixed 50 mm lens was lying idle in the camera case, gathering dust. So the forced exercise was to make an essay out of images of the flowers and other things in my garden. After sunset, with dusk setting in fast. We were living in Pretoria at the time and it was around six in the evening. The sun was below the horizon already and darkness was closing in fast.

Some excitement into the fray.


I chose the fixed lens as the main challenge and also because I was forgetting how to use it and what images one can get. And the object of the exercise is exactly to keep at the game and understand your equipment. And besides, this little lens is a gem in the sharpness of the images I get for the price that I paid. Almost like an open trade secret that we all forget from time to time. In a manner of speaking.

I opted not to use the flash, as the experiment was to create images using the available light. Another learning experience. Of course, use of the tripod and cable release were mandatory in those conditions. I also shoot exclusively in RAW mode, as this gives me post processing advantages in that I get the image straight from the camera with all the lines very well defined. No internal dithering or such like to compress the images. That I can do myself in ways that I decide.

I used a copy of Lightroom on a friend's computer for the post processing capability and forced me to concentrate on what I was doing before pressing the button.




Needless to say, there was a lot of experimenting on the day. Flowers are relatively easy to photograph, but not in low light in a breeze. Luckily the breeze kept still for long enough to get some decent images. I also managed to photograph one of our cats, who mercifully sat quite still for long enough to get an image. Normally they would be chasing insects or each other at that time of day, making it almost impossible to get in a shot. They also do not like the shutter noise from the camera and keep on dodging me when I have the camera in the hand.

The essay resulted in everything that I expected, and then some more. The images were sharp where I intended them to be, quite colourful with vivid colours, even in the low light of the dying day. The compositions were what I intended them to be, so there was hardly any cropping to be done. Less post processing required and I get the full advantage of all the pixels in the camera sensor.

I can live with that.

And then there was one little white speck on a red flower that I could not fathom where it came from. Zooming in during the post processing revealed a gem of an image, requiring only a little sharpening for the full effect.


A tiny white spider standing in a very aggressive stance, facing the camera straight in the eye.

This made the whole exercise worth more than I expected. A large reward for the little extra effort of compiling the photo essay.

You never know what you may get when you pose these challenges to yourself. And quite a worthwhile exercise in general. It certainly widened my perspective on my equipment. No pun intended.

What are you doing to get out of your mental rut?

All the pictures of the flowers were taken with a Nikon D80 camera using a 500mm/f1,8D lens, center weighted metering, manual mode, ISO 125 and shutter at 1/40 second. The photo of the cat was taken with the same camera, the ISO set at 200, 50mm lens at f/1.8 and shutter speed at 1/30 second. The light held long enough to complete the essay.



Authored by Johan Zietsman.

Last updated on 2013-12-06.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Epilogue: Tortola after 20 000 Leagues Over The Sea



The last part of our voyage included the customary stopover at St Maarten for essential repairs and maintenance before delivering the boat to Tortola. These repairs are very small, basically removing the odd rust spots from the stainless steel parts and buffing the stove back to a pristine, shop floor condition. And servicing engines, of course.

All part of the price to pay for being allowed on a brand new boat to cross the ocean.


The last day at sea did not offer much adventure. We basically motored all the way from St Lucia, as there was hardly any wind. The views of the islands at night, with all the lights shining, the cars moving and aircraft flying made up for the lack of wind, though. It forms an urban backdrop to the voyage, making a gentle psychological transition from a seaward frame of mind to a landward one.

The last transition is when you enter the Sir Francis Drake channel through the Round Rock Passage just south of Virgin Gorda. A beautiful scene early in the morning, flat water and boats sailing all over the place.

For me, this is the last of an era, as I shall not be sailing with my skipper and friend again. Nothing due to a broken friendship, but a career growth path for me. This simply means that I shall be sailing with other skippers before getting my own command, so to speak. There is some hope of a future in the sailing world, as the world's recessions ebb and people spend more of their hard earned money on holidays.

This crossing put my log up to just over 20 000 nautical miles. I used some poetic freedom in the title, misquoting the title of the book by Jules Verne. It just sounds so much more romantic. Actually, a league in terms of a distance unit is not a nautical mile at all.

A league is the distance to the horizon when standing at sea level. This translates to about three odd nautical miles, being the distance to the horizon from an eye height of about five feet six in old terms. It is the distance to the end of your visual range at sea.

For me, a league means more of a psychological distance. It relates to a rite of passage in one's life, perhaps. Certainly, this last voyage put me into this thing mode. I learned a lot about the sea and ocean voyages, as well as the technical aspects of provisioning, sailing, boat husbandry, if you will, and the mundane parts of sailing.


But more, I learned coping skills. The art of adjusting to the vagaries of life on board a small vessel in a very large ocean. Coping with the various forms of fear that your ego tends to instill in your mind due to a lack of external stimulation. The exact same external stimulation that we get an overdose of, living in cities.

An extended ocean passage provides a golden opportunity for some self examination and review of your inner self. A cleansing of the mind, perhaps. There is also the skills acquired to cope with interpersonal relationships on board. No use in having major disagreements and serious conflict all the time. One learns some leniency.

Well, at least one would hope so. Stories about weird behaviour patterns on board abound. Cabin fever, it is called. Luckily, we managed to avoid this by proper social interaction. It helps with letting off steam.

And the quiet times on watch in the wee hours of the morning helps a lot with personal meditation. I used this frequently when getting upset about something happening during the day. The quiet time allows for some clear and rational thinking.


We had lots of sun on this last part of the voyage. As opposed to the lack of sun during the first part of the voyage.

Winter is a very relative concept. I was purchasing some perfume as a present to the missus and asked the sales assistant for a summery, floral fragrance. She remarked that it is all winter at the time. I had some difficulty in understanding this, as the outside temperature at the time was in the middle thirties (°C, middle 90's F). I took a deep breath and explained to her that I was from Cape Town where it was summer and that I was not coming from some way out mental place. In spite of looking like Santa Claus in board shorts after six weeks at sea. I decided that that would take too much explanation.


Although the temptation was there. I had just finished reading the Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams and was still in that weird and quaint frame of mind projected by the book.

I actually had this vision that the modern smart cell phones are almost the same as the little machine  that carries the name of the book. Very small differences between what I have physically in my  hand versus the description of the machine given in the book. Not scary, but very much enlightening. Mr Adams was not so weird in his thinking after all.


I read a lot on this voyage, as always. This time I made a point of reading some classical books as well. I am about a third of the way through Homer's Odyssey and read The English Patient, a few of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's best Sherlock Holmes stories and the Kama Sutra by Vatsyayana.

Yes, THAT book. Apart from the technical explanations on various techniques and positions, the book carries on to explain when and with whom one may have sex. Having read this, I then realised that extra marital sex has been going on forever, otherwise the author would not have gone to the trouble of including those chapters. Quite enlightening. I also then read the Odyssey with a different frame of mind, seeing more unfaithfulness unveiled in the famous work by Homer.

The same thing makes up the gist of Kipling's stories about life in India in the heyday of that British colony. Victorian times indeed! My English teacher at school will be proud of me.


I also crossed some mental hurdles on this voyage and put my baking skills into a higher realm. The bread on this voyage will go down as the best I have baked by far. It just shows what a little extra study and application of the knowledge can do, even in this uncontrollable heat.


Now it is time for a rest and some recuperation before tackling the new year. Time for some consolidation of thoughts and experiences. But not too much planning. Otherwise life will pass by while I am making plans, in the words of the late John Lennon.



Going with the flow is perhaps a good idea. Less taxing on the body and the mind, I venture. And perhaps including more adventures.


Who knows...



Authored by Johan Zietsman

Last updated on 2013-11-18

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Day 43: Last Sourdough Twists In The Caribbean



Today is the last day of the long legs of our voyage. We are sailing past the island of Montserrat in the Caribbean at the time of writing this.

In weather that is very hot and humid, the only respite from the heat being the breeze caused by our moving through the air. There is literally no wind to speak of. Not even the famous zephyrs that the Vaal dam sailors in inland South Africa know so well.



My last watch will be tonight from 00h00 to 03h00. During this time my last baking efforts for this voyage will come into fruition when the loaves are baked. This will be the last use of the oven before decommissioning prior to handover. The refrigerator is almost empty, ditto for the freezer.
Slowly but surely we are packing away all loose personal items and getting everything in order to clean up and hand over the boat.

This period in the voyage always comes with some nostalgia. You are now handing over your child, which you so very carefully looked after and nursed through sickness and health, to some foreigner.
Enough of nostalgia. Hungry sailors also need to eat. So we turn again to the age old staple:

Sourdough bread.

This time around I decided on a similar dough than the challah I made earlier on the voyage. As this is the last baking of the voyage and we still have a night sail to Tortola, I decided to make two loaves. Hopefully they will last long enough!



The dough is again quite soft. I started with the last of my sourdough, ditching about half of it as the gluten in the flour was already consumed. Half a cup of white bread flour was fed to this, along with enough water to make it just runny.

After leaving this starter to ferment for six hours, I mixed in the rest of the ingredients, barring two cups of flour and the currants. This quite soft, almost runny dough was left for another seven hours to ferment before the next mixing and kneading.

The last ferment was left for five odd hours before final shaping and proofing. Final proof was four hours.


Shaping was done by making four long snakes and twisting them in pairs, as opposed to the three stranded braid of a challah. The loaves were cut on top to facilitate even oven spring, and basted with some whisked egg white.


These were baked at 230ºC/450ºF for twenty minutes. The oven was turned down to 190ºC/375ºF after twenty minutes and the loaves turned back to front to facilitate even baking in the small oven.



Ingredients

For the starter

½ cup sourdough
½  cup white bread flour
Mix and allow to ferment for at least six hours

For the main ferment

All the starter as above
2 cups brown bread flour
3 cups white bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
3 eggs
1 egg yolk (The white is kept aside for the basting)
4 dessert spoons brown sugar
1-2 dessert spoon vegetable fat
2 cups water

Mix all the above thoroughly. The consistency should be almost runny, too runny to knead. Cover and allow to ferment until double in volume. This took some seven hour in my case.





For the last ferment

All of the above
1 cup white bread flour
1 cup brown bread flour
½ cup blackcurrants

Mix all of the above thoroughly. The dough should now be still soft, but foldable if not kneadable. Fold for ten to fifteen minutes until the dough is satiny and quite elastic. It should not be sticky any more.

Pat with some cooking oil against drying out, cover and put aside to ferment until double in volume.
Take the dough out, turn out onto a floured kneading board to rest for fifteen minutes, then divide into two loaves and do final shaping. Try not to degas the dough. I opted for a twisted format, so there was quite a bit of handling of the dough.

Allow the shaped loaves to ferment at least another hour before baking. They should be at least 1½ time their original volume.

Baste with beaten egg white, slice the tops to facilitate even oven spring, then pop them into the oven. Bake for twenty minutes at 230ºC/450ºF, then turn the oven down to 190ºC/375ºF. Turn the loaves back to front to facilitate even baking and bake them for at least another twenty minutes. Check for through baking. The loaves should make a hollow sound and should be reasonably crisp on the outside.

Remove the loaves from the oven and turn out onto a cooling rack. Allow at least forty minutes for these to cool before slicing them. Don't worry, they will still be warm!


Well, as you may have noticed, I wrote most of this before the loaves went into the oven. This is where the twister became a real twister. The dough rose beyond comprehension and I had to do the shaping much sooner than anticipated. The dough was quite soft still, too soft, in fact.

But I did not heed any warning.

So it appears that the dough has morphed into something alien. Or is the proper word “mutated”? Whatever the case, the dough dripped through the oven grid between popping the loaves into the oven and the end of oven spring. Much like something escaping from one of the lesser known planets in Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Perhaps I should write Peter Reinhart about this alien effect. Or perhaps just send him a link to this blog post...

The two loaves became one in the oven, restricting the air flow and thus the proper baking. The shapes of  the loaves were completely lost, but the taste remained.

There is a lesson in here somewhere, I think.

But then I got hungry.

Fresh bread is always wonderful.

And remember, use real butter.




This blog post also linked to Yeastspotting!

Authored by Johan Zietsman

Last updated on 2013-11-06

Monday, 11 November 2013

Day 41-42: Marigot Cove, St Lucia



We stopped at St Lucia, thereby making our landfall in the Caribbean. What a wonderful experience.
We went alongside at the Moorings base in Marigot Cove on the north western side of the island. For us, that is the cheapest place, as we are part of the company personnel, if only for the delivery of our boat.



However, it is not cheap in general terms. The cove is so secluded and protected, I think the inhabitants will read about hurricanes in the news. This cove is almost a fjord, having only the smallest of flat ground along the sides, with quite steep cliffs surrounding the cove of about three quarters of a mile in length and less than two hundred odd yards across. Long and narrow.


Of course, this seclusion has not gone unnoticed and the result is some charming villas overlooking the cove. I think some film stars would go there for a holiday just because of the seclusion. The place has been spared the monster of high rise development, so the essential Caribbean character remains, which helps to round off the Caribbean island experience.

There are at least three beach- or waterfront restaurants within shouting distance of each other.  Which includes crossing the water. I know about the shouting distance, because the ferrymen crack jokes and keep conversations going across the cove. Think of the quaint Caribbean accents and dialect, complete with laughter in the distance and you will get the picture.

Add at least three ferry services to help carry people to and from the various beach bars and restaurants and you have a merry time.

The ferry services are free. Sort of. Some are attached to a specific restaurant and patrons are carried for free. All other passengers have to pay.

Being newcomers, it boggled our minds for a while to figure out which is the ferry attached to the beach bar we wanted to go to. If you call the wrong ferry, you have to pay, instead of getting transported for free.

And the beer is cold. I had one, which did not touch sides. A month at sea does that. Then I had another one. After that one, I had several more at a leisurely pace. It is exceedingly hot in this neck of the woods, and steamingly so in the cove, with almost no wind. Which means you work up a thirst very fast. Luckily, the waterside restaurants have large open verandas with proper shade, so it is quite cool there.


The stop was for the crew to get medication which had run out on the crossing. Long voyages are clearly not for everyone.  So I relaxed in the shade. No need for any shopping, which was a blessing. This provided a golden opportunity for me to really have a proper island experience. Relaxing in the shade, sipping languidly at a cold beer, watching small ripples on the water. The boats on their mooring buoys only bobbing from the wake of passing ferries. Chilled out living par excellence.

Sight-seeing fell off the bottom of my last reserve list of things to do on St Lucia. There is only one thing.

Relax.

Period.

Perhaps, some day, I shall be able to have a proper holiday in these parts.


At present we are motor-sailing along the coast of Martinique, having left the paradise that is called St Lucia at around eight this morning. We are about 200 odd nautical miles from St Maarten, our next planned stop. Back to the grindstone for another two days. Some shopping, essential maintenance and repairs,  Cleaning. Then an overnight sail to Tortola to end off the voyage and hand over the boat.

Already one starts feeling the pain of pulling roots after the long voyage.

This boating life grows on you.



 




Authored by Johan Zietsman

Last updated on 2013-11-05