Bread Baker's Apprentice: Artos

On the eighth day, she created Artos. It's a Greek Celebration bread, and "Artos" is the general name for these loaves. (I'm also told that "artos" is the Greek word for "bread.") There are loaves to celebrate different holidays, and my next loaf will be the Christopsomos, which is for the Christmas celebration. Closer to Easter, I'll be baking the Lambropsomo to celebrate Easter, but for now, let's take a look at the master formula used to make all of the celebration breads.

Artos is an enriched (meaning it has both fat in the form of olive oil and sweetener in the form of honey), standard dough (having to do with the amount of hydration...this one falling into the "sandwich bread" realm), made with a mixed leavening method of both wild and commercial yeast. Yesterday I started off with 7 oz. of barm and mixed that with 16 oz. of bread flour, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of instant yeast. I've used up most of the Gold Medal flour I had, and so I've graduated to King Arthur Flour. In addition to being more expensive, it seems to have a larger fan club. Everyone to whom I've mentioned King Arthur extols its virtues for making the best bread. So, okay...I'll bite.

Also added at this point were cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, lemon extract, almond extract, eggs, honey, olive oil, and warm milk. I mixed it first with the paddle attachment and then switched off to the dough hook to be kneaded for 10 minutes. It came together into a ball nicely.

It was supposed to reach 77-81°F. before it was ready...check.

Also, it needed to pass the "window pane test". I can't take a picture of my own dough here because it requires both hands to do the window pane test. Basically, this means breaking off a bit of dough, stretching it out next to the light of a window, and check for gluten development. It needs to be elastic enough to show light through without breaking or tearing. Here's the picture from the book.

And mine passed the test, so into its proofing bowl it went.

While I was waiting for it to finish its first rise, I moved the remainder of the barm into a plastic container and refrigerated it. I first weighed the empty container since feeding this puppy will be done by weight, and I dated it for when it needs to be fed. I was a little confused about the date. It's supposed to be able to go three days, but I wasn't sure if that meant three days from when it was last fed or whether it was three days from the day I used it. Better safe than sorry, I figured, and so I'll feed it three days from when it was last fed.

It was supposed to take anywhere from 60-90 minutes to double in size. Mine took two hours.

From there, I shaped it into a "boule", and that was easy enough. If you look closely, you can see a large bubble of trapped gas just beneath the skin. I was able to massage that down a little and flatten it out before leaving it to its second rise.

This was done on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and so it was hard to measure or judge its volume. Nevertheless, after 90 minutes it looked like this. My oven was warm, and so I decided to go ahead and bake it. (In a minute, I'll tell you what I learned about this.)

And even with all this watchful waiting, I could barely tear myself away from the bread. When it went into the oven, I decided to walk away for a little while and let it bake in peace.

While I was waiting for the first rise, I finished up the first embroidered block for the Summer Holiday quilt.

I took it downstairs to press and trim. After 20 minutes in the oven, I was supposed to turn the baking sheet 180° to ensure even baking, and whoa! It had already risen to near-comical proportions. Yikes! I was hoping it wouldn't outgrow the oven because it still had anywhere from 20-25 minutes to go.

And then, I sort of stuck around watching it. It didn't get any larger, and after 20 minutes, it was ready to come out of the oven. I brushed it with a glaze made from sugar, water, honey, and lemon extract, and then it was to be sprinkled with sesame seeds. I used oatmeal instead. We just say "no" to sesame seeds here at the Three Cats Ranch.

It was so balloon-like that I took to posting pictures on some Facebook bread baking groups to get the opinions of others whether it was supposed to look like this. Those folks were very reassuring. One man who seems to know a lot about these kinds of breads told me this balloon-like appearance was normal and referred to as "oven-spring". The loaf straight from the oven is taught with steam pressure coming from the inside. As it cooled, it shrunk a little, taking on a lumpier appearance.

One person said something like, "It rose that high without [exploding]. You did good!" At that comment, I realized that it actually had exploded a little bit on the back side. If you look carefully at the image below, you'll see that there is a crack and a little leakage. 

I'm assuming this is what she's referring to. It didn't hurt the bread any, and so I wasn't too worried. I'm learning, and so these comments are very helpful.

Okay, so I couldn't cut into it for at least an hour. It made sense to get back to work on my block. The designer, Lynette Anderson, uses an English paper-piecing method to put a border around the stitched blocks. Here's the picture from the book.

And those little hand-stitched triangles had disaster written all over them. For the second time of the day, I just said "no".  It happens that I had a nice sized piece of strata leftover from when I made a pieced border for the Written in Thread quilt.

Also, I have these strips from when I made the pieced blocks for this quilt, and I figured I could fashion a pieced border using all of these.

I cut a 1 1/2 inch strip from the larger strata and then took it apart, adding in a strip from the pieced blocks to make a border that fit perfectly.

The blocks need to measure 9 1/2 inches unfinished, and so I used some strips from the background fabric to make a narrow outer border.

This block goes in the upper left hand corner of the quilt, and so I laid it next to its adjacent pieced block. I think it's going to be just fine using those strips of strata from Written in Thread. By adding in the strips from the pieced blocks, you don't notice there are bits of fabric from a different quilt.

So that's finished. The next time I work on this, I'll be making this block, called "On the Road." I love that the cat is driving.

So then it was time to cut the bread. Here, you can see that it has shrunk significantly. The most helpful comment from the Facebook group yesterday was that the high rise resulted from under-proofing. She explained to me that I could tell if it was ready to bake by poking the raw dough in the side to see if it springs back after light pressure. If it does, then it still needs time to rise. And I knew that, but I forgot. It isn't mentioned in Peter Reinhart's book. I'll remember for next time. If you look at the bottom of the loaf, you can see that it's a little underdone there, and it collapsed a little under its own weight as it cooled.

Nevertheless, I'm so happy with this. It is soft and delicious, and the glaze sweetens it just a touch. We each had half of two small slices. Yum. It was hard not to eat the whole loaf in one sitting. Rather than continue eating, I pulled myself away and made up Block #20 of 20 for the Bee-utiful quilt along. This one is called "Bee Friendly". And that's where I'll pick up with my stitching this morning.

As for the bread, I had a slice this morning, toasted, with plenty of butta.

Food for the soul.

In a few days, I'll get to work on the Christapsomos loaf. It's essentially the same bread with the addition of golden raisins and dried cranberries. Mmm, mmm, mmm.


On Ice

It was a terrible day of weather yesterday. What started as snow turned to freezing rain by mid afternoon. It was windy and cold at 26°F. which made it a perfect day to stay inside and sew. My first quilting task was to finish quilting the sashings I'd started the day before. When I mentioned this in yesterday's post, I was planning to quilt "orange peels" into the sashings. After doing the outsy-insy portion of the insy-outsy, however, I kind of liked it just the way it was. It reminds me of twisted peppermint candies.

To be sure I wasn't just being lazy, I consulted the resident engineer (home for the day because of the icy conditions). He agreed with me that this is enough quilting for the sashings, and so it will be.

While I was quilting that, I used up the first of several small spools of thread. This turned out to be an excellent toy for two very bored cats.

Notice the little gray rabbit at the lower right side of the image above. That is ordinarily Sadie's favorite toy. It came off of or out of some other toy, long neglected, but the little rabbit gets a several-times-daily workout. You can see in the image below how she spends most of her day with her beloved little rabbit. She's still pretty kittenish.

Knowing bad weather was on the way, I'd filled the bird feeders the day before. I was so glad I did because our feathered friends were out in flocks. Obviously, they were appreciative of the seed and it kept the kitties entertained, watching from Mike's office window.

For a couple of minutes I watched a poor fluffed up hummingbird try in vain to get food from this frozen feeder. When he returned for a second try, I took heart and replaced the frozen one with a liquid one. No doubt, it needs replacing as I'm writing this.

We had something of a disaster when one of the roof panels on the catio buckled under the weight of the snow and ice.

Mike went out with a ladder and push broom and pushed all the snow off, hoping to avoid any further damage.

Then he was able to move the panel back into place, but it is out of its track and still needs a little more work to put it right. It doesn't appear to be permanently damaged.

My quilting buddy spent most of the afternoon with me, bored as he was. We gave him the opportunity to venture out a couple of times. He just stood at the open door, sniffing. When we used our feet to give a little shove to the tail end of the cat, he folded up like an accordion and headed back inside.

It was a boring day for our little cat.

He snuggled up in the puddle of my quilt and napped while I quilted. This works while I'm on the left side of the quilt, but it will not work when I move to the right side today.

It takes most of a day to quilt an entire quilt block. I was hard at work on Block 2 of nine when I remembered the barm that was fermenting downstairs.

And it was ready to go.

Keeping in mind the book's instruction not to inhale the fumes, I held my breath and uncovered it. When the danger had passed, I put my nose down close and sniffed. It smelled like freshly baked bread. And look at that bubble action!

So, into the refrigerator it went to await my day of baking...TODAY!!! 

By day's end, our windows were glazed over with freezing rain.

After dealing with the barm, I went back upstairs and finished the quilt block. The sashings still need to be done, but then I'll be moving onto Block 3.

As I'm writing this, I'm waiting for an hour to pass. I've measured out the barm I need, and I'm giving it some time to wake up. Soon, I'll be mixing it up, proofing it, and turning it into my first loaf of Artos.

It has taken me eight full days to get to this point, and so I'm pretty excited to get going on it.

Our weather is warming gradually. Listening at an open door, it's possible to hear ice cracking and falling off the branches. Mike will wait it out for a few hours and then head off to work. We're expecting warmer temperatures as time goes on today and regular wet rain by this afternoon. And so it goes with Portland weather. Here today, gone tomorrow.

There's more quilting in store for me today between dealing with the bread. By day's end I should have a loaf to show for my effort.


All Night Long

When I got up this morning, I was sure I could hear Lionel Richie singing in my kitchen. When I checked in on the seed culture...whoa! Look at those bubbles!

Remember that it had barely risen above the level of the tape when I checked it yesterday morning.

This morning it had doubled in size.

 So with that, the seed culture is ready, and I can start the "barm". The barm is the actual starter for the loaf of Artos bread I'm going to make. I used 7 oz. of the seed culture and mixed it with 16 oz. of bread flour and 16 oz. of water. When it was all nicely distributed, I put it into an 8-cup glass measure.

The container needed to be at least twice as large as the barm, and so this should be fine. Also, I've added the tape to the level of the barm so that I can measure its progress.

Now, its job is to ferment at room temperature for "approximately 6 hours, or until the barm is bubbly." Given our cold temperatures, it might take longer. I'm told to expect the plastic wrap to "swell like a balloon." When I notice that, I am to release it and let the gas escape. Here's where it gets scary. According to Peter Reinhart (the book's author), I should try not to breathe the fumes as they escape because "the carbonic gas mixed with ethanol fumes will knock you across the room!" The exclamation point is his. Okay, then. Duly noted.

Speaking of the smell, you might recall that he told me the seed culture would not smell good, but that it would brighten toward the end of the process. Early on, I'd say it smelled kind of like beer. Toward the end of the process, it was smelling more like freshly baked bread. These descriptions are not exact, but the best I can come up with. 

When the barm is ready, I'm to replace the cover and refrigerate it overnight before using it. If all goes well, I'll be ready to bake some bread tomorrow, and I'll have a 3-day window to do so. From there, I can refresh it and keep it alive indefinitely. There's a lengthy explanation of this in the book, which I have not completely absorbed. I'll say more about that when the time comes. My plan is to keep it alive as I progress through the book so that I don't have to go through this whole week-long process again. I'm also told I can freeze it. All of this is a little fuzzy in my brain. I don't know about you, but I can only absorb so much information at a time, and I tend to disregard anything that isn't imminently useful.

So...that's kind of exciting. To me, anyway. Bread! Tomorrow! What better way to spend a (forecast to be) cold, icy, snowy day.

Also, I got a start quilting Gingerbread Square yesterday, and it's going very well. I quilted the snow on the ground with widely spaced echos of the embroidery lines.

Above ground, I quilted some pebbles and swirls to suggest falling snow and wind.

This took some time, but eventually, I had the whole center block quilted, and I'm happy to say that I did not suffer even one thread breakage. I'm using a white metallic thread on top, so that's saying something!

To break up the monotony of all that pebbling, I decided to quilt the adjacent sashings for each block as I go. For this, I'll be quilting insy-outsy lines. As I do both directions, I'll have intersecting circles. When I did the free motion quilting sampler for the Sit Down FMQ Facebook group, she called this motif "Orange Peels." I don't know if that's the actual name or her name. Maybe one of you knows.

When I'd gone all the way around in one direction, I was getting kind of tired, and so I stopped there. As I went, I was kind of holding my breath hoping that when I got all the way around the block, I'd be going in the right direction when I got back to where I started. I was. Phew!

So, Mike is home today. The snow and ice hasn't started yet, but the temperature outside is 27°F. which is pretty darned cold by our standards. Every weather source is predicting snow and freezing rain and encouraging folks to stay home if they can. We don't need any more encouragement than that. There's nothing but quilting on my agenda, and so that's what I'll be doing.

If the progress on the bread doesn't make you want to party, then head on over to my giveaway for Giveaway Day. There's some pretty spring fabric over there for one lucky winner.