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My Husband the Mad Mower

Sep 7, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose

Believe me, I’m grateful that Elliott takes care of the great outdoors here in Hope so that I can sit on the back porch and write about it! But come late August I get nervous when he starts making threatening noises about mowing the back lawn again and that I’d better pick the flowering garlic chives before he mows them down (he knows this to be an unforgivable offense but still it propels me into action).

Regular chives with round leaves have lavender blossoms which bloom early Summer but garlic chives have flat leaves which I find more flavorful, and delicate white blooms that smell very aromatic and make an exquisite and tasty garnish. They are particularly lovely sprinkled on salads such as this cucumber and onion salad. I also cut the leaves into small slices and freeze them for baked potatoes during the Winter.

My garlic chives plant was given to me by my cousin Marion Bush whose company “Wild Edibles” in Westchester NY supplies wonderful things from ramps to lobster mushrooms to restaurants in the greater NY area. She learned from her mother my Aunt Margaret who in turn learned from our Great Uncle Nat who founded the New England Mycological Society. Years ago Aunt Margaret taught chef Larry Forgione about wild edibles and also provided him with them for his restaurant. She likes to joke about how they used to meet like drug dealers in the early hours of dawn in a parking lot in Long Island as my Uncle David didn’t want it known that she was doing this!

The one plant that Marion gave me over 20 years ago is now growing everywhere except for the spot where I officially planted it, which means we may eventually have a lawn of garlic chives. This does not please Elliott. But look at the bouquet I harvested and decide for yourself!

It reminds me of a sad/funny moment at Uncle Nat’s funeral in the Berkshires. The ground was carpeted with thyme. Aunt Margaret couldn’t resist saying: “Are you supposed to have (a) wild thyme in a graveyard?” Thus carrying on another Uncle Nat tradition…punning.

Comments

nicholas, i'm not tired of answering your questions but i'm frustrated by my inability to help you because i can't figure out what you're doing.
if you were to use the same flour as i do, and the same water (by weight) you would get almost exactly the results that i get. but you are using whole wheat flour which changes everything. i've found wholewheat absorbs a lot more water as well. bottom line: make the bread as close to my recipe as you can manage to see what it's supposed to feel like when it's at the % of hydration i'e demeed to be ideal for the particular bread. if you like it, then at least you have a starting point as to what you're aiming for. you will find out how wet is too wet by experience. ciabatta is extremely wet and has huge holes and yet rises but also puddles.
as for the science behind why refrigerating the dough creates more flavor--i did think i explained it. to summarize, the short answer is that different esters and flavors result at different temperatures. yeast is a life organism and when reproducing at cold temperatures more acidity developes. i'm not sure anyone knows why--but it is proven empirically that this is the case. reread these sections several times. it was agony putting it into coherent phrases and i don't really relish the idea of revisiting it. i offered it to give people more understanding to achieve what they were hoping for. in the process i found that i also could attain the qualities in bread i value. this is a matter of personal taste so it's now up to you to experiment and find your ideal. the information is all there. just DO IT! the more you bake bread the better it gets.

REPLY

Nicholas Flugga
Nicholas Flugga
10/15/2006 07:44 PM

First off, thank you very much for these emails. I hope you don't get tired of answering my questions, as you have been a big help! In addition, it's very exciting to be in communication with you. I think it's great that you find the time to reach your readers.

I did try the pugliese, and the texture was what I wanted, except it pooled out on me, and was only about 1" high in the middle, so I tried another recipe in a flour lined colander, and then the basic sourdough in the banneton, but you know how well that worked for me :). Well, I understand how to calculate percentages, and yes, you did talk about them in the text, but I'm just confused on how to calculate them with a biga involved. And no, I didn't know that the percentages at the end of the chapter were not meant to be bakers percentages. I know you talk in the book about the difficulties associated with them.

I do use finely freshly milled whole grain flour in most of my breads for most, but rarely all, of the flour content. Some sources say that whole wheat flour absorbs more water, but for some reason, I find the opposite to be true. it seems like I have to add more flour than called for in many recipes.

Lastly, is there any way to learn how wet is too wet? I used to bake traditional american bread... mushrooming puffy loaves with a tight crumb... and now, after learning what I really liked in a bread, and after learning how to make it, I've experimented with slack doughs. So, at what point is a dough at a good moisture that it will hold it's shape decently well, but still have an open crumb?

I've tried adding a bit of gluten to the dough, to toughen it, but this doesn't seem to help much.

And one last question:
Do you know the science behind why refrigerating the dough creates more flavor?

REPLY

julie, i didn't know onion flowers were so unpleasant!

i've heard wonderful things about cyprus for years now and hope someday to get to visit. thank you for sharing this.

REPLY

what would happen is what i already described: the cake will rise perfectly, look great for 5 minutes after taking it out of the oven, and then fall in the middle.

chlorine is said to dissiplate completely during the process of bleaching. i wouldn't swim in a pool that was unchlorinated bc the alternative is scarey. these are personal choices. if you prefer to use unbleached flour, king arthur has just come out with a book on them and though i don't know first hand, they may have chosen recipes or developed recipes where the unbleached flour shines. also, you can make any of my cakes that don't use butter in its solid unmelted form using unbleached flour.

REPLY

These flowers are very unusual, sincerly saying they are similar to the onion when it blossoms. Have you ever seen? also beaitiful, but the only smell is unsupportable!Do you like travelling?I with my husband we were on Cyprus this summer. We've find an accessible hotel there, with the help of www.cyprushotelsguide.net and had a real cool vacation. Cyprus is a very original island. We visited Paphos.The most shocking place was the Castle of Paphos and Kato port. The castle is situated in the middle of the water and you can get there just on the boat or swimming. The castle is situated at the harbour, originally built as a Byzantine fort to protect the harbour and rebuilt by the Lusignans in the thirteenth century, then dismantled by Venetians, who found themselves unable to defend it against the Ottomans, who in their turn restored and strengthened it after they captured the island. It was destroyed in the earthquake of 1222, however it all the same keeps its forms. See it! Very, very shockingly beautiful!!!!

REPLY

Dear Rose,

Okay. I have learned from you the many advantages of bleached cake flour--the altered pH, the absorptive ability, the way fat adheres to it--and that cakes will tend to fall in the middle without it. But now I read in Harold McGee that bleached flour is not allowed in Europe and Britain, and I have to admit that the idea of chlorinated flour makes me a little uneasy. So what exactly are they using over there, can we get it here, and how would we change our recipes to use it? What would happen if I used King Arthur unbleached pastry flour in your cake recipes?

REPLY

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