Thank you very much to those of you who have visited Chicano artist Roberto Gonzalez’ website! My interview with him is in the works and will be posted here at “Bread and Tortillas.” If you haven’t yet had a chance to explore his site, please do so at http://www.robertojosegonzalez.com/ He greatly appreciates the visits!
These delicious and unusual tortillas with the whimsical title are a kind of prelude to what’s to follow, which is a recipe involving a wok, a very rustic Mexican ingredient, and one of Sonal’s fabulous spice mixes, a curry masala. Her wonderful blog is at http://simplyvegetarian777.com/ I had to do justice to the masterful blend of Indian spices she so generously took time to send me. These tortillas are designed to accompany the dish I came up with using her mix.
What I can tell from looking at recipes and photos, chapatis are the Indian flatbread which most resemble the Mexican tortilla. At their most simple and basic they involve atta, oil or ghee (optional), salt, and water. Atta is an Indian style whole wheat flour which give chapatis their particular taste and texture. The dough is portioned and rolled out to a flat thin round shape then cooked on a special griddle. This sounds like a very close relative to the tortilla.
Some of you might remember my cilantro and serrano pepper tortillas from a while back. I removed the serrano peppers and added turmeric and ground toasted red chillis to the recipe for a taste that might remind one of India. The dried red chillis, which I found to be very flavorful, moderate to high in heat, and slightly sweet, are a product of India. They are a distinct variety from the Mexican ones I’m familiar with. The one teaspoon of turmeric is just enough to give a nice color and slight flavor to the tortilla. I tried to imagine other Indian spices in the recipe, but ultimately decided on keeping it simple . Using fenugreek leaves instead of cilantro sounded intriguing but where was I going to find fresh fenugreek?
I also made a batch using a 50-50 mix of all-purpose flour and sifted whole wheat flour. I used 2 tablespoons of a neutral flavored oil, grapeseed, instead of vegetable shortening. This was a dough I believed to be closer to what a chapati would resemble. It turned out tasty and much healthier, I just preferred the flavor of the 100% all-purpose recipe. I found out that atta is a lighter textured and sweeter tasting whole wheat flour than ours because of the milling process. I need to visit our specialty market soon!
For 10 tortillas:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoons toasted and ground dried red chillis (3 Indian chillis)
3/4 to 1 cup loosely packed chopped cilantro
1 good full teaspoon salt
about 3/4 cup warm water
A couple of twists of black pepper from a pepper mill would be a nice addition to the recipe. (See Roberto’s comment below). Oil could also be substituted for the vegetable shortening. though you will likely have to adjust the amount of water. Start with less than 3/4 cup water.
Place the flour and shortening in a mixing bowl. Using your fingertips, work the shortening into the flour until thoroughly blended. Mix in the turmeric, ground chillis, and salt. Next add the cilantro and mix in well. Pour in the water and blend well to make a loose dough. Put it on your work station and begin kneading. Go at it for about 4 to 5 minutes or until it becomes smooth. We are not looking for elasticity, just smoothness. Add water or flour as needed to make a dough that is neither wet or dry. Experience is the best teacher. Divide the dough into 10 portions and form each into a round. Cover with plastic and let rest for 30 to 45 minutes.
Get your griddle, comal, heavy pan, or iron skillet hot over medium heat. Take one of the rested portions and roll out with your rolling pin to about 6 inches in diameter. Place it on the hot comal. A few bubbles will probably begin to form. Turn it over after about 45 seconds to a minute. There should a few brown spots. Turn it over once more after a minute or so and let cook another 30 seconds or so. Just make sure it’s not overdone. You know what a tortilla looks like! A lot will depend on how hot the comal is and how moist the tortilla dough is.
This is a flatbread with an identity crisis! Or maybe it’s comfortable in 2 worlds. More likely it’s somewhere in between. The title, by the way, in case you missed it, is a kind of play on words, “Tortillas ‘from India'” or “Tortillas ‘from the Mexican native Indian woman.'”
I bet this would go nicely with Mexican or curried lentils. However…
Next up on the prep table will be my recipe using Sonal’s curry masala!
Hello/Hola dear friends and readers. I’m writing this quick post to highly recommend to you the art exhibit, Roberto Gonzalez: Sacred Waters, at the “Centro de Artes” in the heart of downtown San Antonio. Roberto is a highly esteemed artist and great friend of mine I’ve had the pleasure of knowing for many years. It gave me great joy to find out he was exhibiting at “Centro de Artes”, and more so because his work is up during Fiesta Week San Antonio during which the city receives thousands of people from around the state of Texas and the U.S. If you plan to be in the city, give the museum a visit. If you are an out-of-towner going to Fiesta Week, the museum is conveniently located in the middle of it all by the Mercado (Market Square). If you are interested in contemporary and timeless Xicano art, go see his magnificent work.
I spent a memorable afternoon visiting with Roberto as he gave me a personal tour of his paintings. What an honor! The personal imagery and vibrancy of his work stayed with me as we left the museum to find lunch. From the evocative and meditative ambience of the museum we stepped into the bustling and dynamic atmosphere that is the city of San Antonio. It was preparing for its biggest city wide cultural celebration, which was only a few days away. We eventually found a couple of spots to sit and chat to catch up on what we’ve been up to in our lives lately. I always get a sense of peace and well-being from him as we talk. I had more questions to ask about his work and philosophy. I thought it would be interesting to share his ideas and reflections about his art through “Bread and Tortillas”. He was his usual gracious and generous self as he shared some insights into his work. Through the coming weeks I’ll be posting the interview in parts. Stay tuned!
His website can be found at http://www.robertojosegonzalez.com/ You’ll find that he is also a performance artist, composer, and musician.
“Centro de Artes” is located right on the Market Square at: 101 S. Santa Rosa Avenue 210-784-1105 It is open Tuesday-Sunday 10 AM to 5 PM.
His exhibit will be up through June 19.
From his “Artist Statement”:
“The Xicano artist works as an agent to restore our cultural spirit before all is lost, before we all become the same. Being a Xicano artist is and has always been a searching reflex. The search is for cultural attachments. The separation and loss of connection to Madre Mexico has been profound historically. It forced Xicanos to have the need for developing a new selfhood.”
“My path as an artist is a practice of the following. Being, secure attachment to self, natural state, conscious integration, mindful bonding, creative and spiritual transformation, enlightenment, liberation, and oneness. All of this is in support of my reverie in the studio when I begin work and in the very real sacred space of the creative moment. It is a grace of oneness in creation, soma in bliss. Who I am becoming, is who I am as an artist.”
If I happened to be in Paris during the city’s baguette competition, I’d make sure to go and see all the excitement and commotion. Or is it more of a laid back affair? There are probably hundreds of entries, can anyone really get worked up over thinking they have the best chance to win? There are strict rules to follow if you’re competing in the “Grand Prix de la Baquette de la Ville de Paris”. Your baguette must be 55-65 centimeters long and 250-300 grams in weight. It’s judged on appearance, cooking, texture, smell, and taste. The crust should be crisp, while the crumb should be elastic with irregularly sized and unevenly spaced holes. Dark crusts and 5 slashes are the norm. It must be made with only flour, water, yeast, and salt. I make French style baguettes as often as I can at my restaurant job to serve crostinis, bruschetta, special sandwiches or whatever other excuse I can come up with to make them. It’s a type of bread I have to make on a semi-regular basis just to stay in practice. Proper shaping is kind of a tricky thing. It took me more than a few tries and fails before I started to get some kind of handle on it. Sooner or later I will post a recipe because it is one of my favorite breads to make. My baguette today is world’s away from the French type. For one, it’s leavened with sourdough. Then, besides bread flour, it has ground chipotle chile, some whole wheat flour, a bit of rye flour, and agave syrup in it’s ingredients. “Baguette”, which means “wand” or “baton” refers only to the shape of this bread, not the texture, flavor, size etc. I wanted a flavored bread that could sub(really, no pun intended) for the telera or bolillos, the traditional white flour rolls used for making tortas, the iconic Mexican sandwiches. I’ve made chipotle flavored sourdough loaves before, but sliced bread doesn’t work very well for making tortas. A baguette, a flavorful spicy one at that, however, is a good stand-in.
The main challenge I encountered along the way was managing this very wet and sticky dough. Lightly flouring my work surface and sometimes the dough itself was very helpful. After dividing the dough and letting the pieces rest for 1/2 hour, I formed them into rectangles 3/4 to 1 inch thick (about 2 centimeters). I folded them up as if folding a letter then shaped them into a “batard” form. I then rolled them into “batons” by rocking them back and forth and gently pulling the ends as well to get them to the right width and length. I made them as long as my baking stone allowed. Of course they had to proof in a couche.
I didn’t want to have a fully developed sourdough bread flavor and texture. I doubled the usual amount of levain I usually use and cut back on the amount of flour. I have noticed that the crumb comes out lighter and softer when I make those adjustmenst, 2 qualities I was looking for in the bread.
15 grams sourdough starter refreshed 8 hours before (1 Tablespoon)
200 grams water at 78 degrees F.
200 grams bread flour
All the levain
500 grams water 80 degrees F.
45 grams agave syrup
600 grams bread flour
150 grams whole wheat flour
50 grams rye flour
2 Tablespoons ground chipotle chile
20 grams salt plus 50 grams water
- I made the levain the night before baking. It was ready in about 8 hours.
- The next morning I dissolved the levain and agave syrup into the 500 grams water.
- I stirred together the 3 flours and ground chipotle pepper and mixed them into the levain water mixture, making sure everything was well moistened.
- I let the dough autolyze for 45 minutes to an hour.
- I mixed the salt into the 50 grams water and then squeezed it into the dough, making sure it was evenly dispersed.
- Bulk fermentation lasted 3 1/2 hours.
- I shaped them as I described above for a proof of 4 1/2 hours.
- I scored them and baked 3 at a time in a 475 degree oven for about 15 minutes per batch. After 7 to 8 minutes I lowered the temperature to 430 degrees. During the first 7 or 8 minutes I misted the oven 3 times with water.
- After they were done, I let them cool on a rack.
One of the nice things about the blogging world is that you get to see what other bakers and cooks are doing and thinking about foods. For a self-taught bread maker like myself, it is an invaluable window into the baking world of those who share similar experiences. It’s even better when you can share some humor while you’re at it. You’ll see what I’m talking about if you check out Angie’s Fiesta Friday.
The last several weeks have found me trying out spelt flour in sourdough bread and tortillas. I had used it a couple of times before in regular bread but appreciated it’s flavor and qualities much more when I recently made 100% spelt flour tortillas as well as this sourdough bread. It has won me over as a flour to keep in my kitchen. Today I’m presenting a take on spelt sourdough with 3 kinds of seeds. By coincidence Elaine and Ginger were also baking versions of sourdough bread with spelt flour in the ingredients. Their delicious looking loaves are more complex in flavor with their use of rye berries, oats, and seeds. It’s always very interesting to read as they generously share how they approach their breads. They are two who take baking and cooking very seriously… Meanwhile, I was taking a less complex route!
To get a better feel for using spelt I kept it simple and used a minimum of ingredients. There are equal amounts of bread, spelt, and whole spelt flour. I wanted to make sure I would get some decent gluten action. When I make sourdough bread, I usually aim for a loaf with alveoli big enough to drive a truck through. What I understand about spelt is that it is somewhat comparable to whole wheat flour in the amount of gluten it can develop. So you bet I’m going to go for a high hydration percentage, 70.5% in this case. I also thought about what effect the seeds might have on the developing gluten. I read somewhere that even some of the ground components in whole wheat flour can cut gluten that’s trying to build up as you knead. Who knows to what extent that’s true. Perhaps if you knead for a long time it would make a significant difference. However, I have noticed in several recipes I’ve come across that nuts or seeds are not added until the middle or end of kneading. None explained the reason for delaying the addition of these extra ingredients. It occurred to me that seeds or nuts would interfere with the dough and perhaps even cut some “strands” no matter how carefully it is stretched and folded. So this dough had been proofing at least an hour before I carefully folded in the seeds. This I believe, would give the dough some time to develop and strengthen.
This is a very wet and sticky dough that requires some deft handling in case you’re not used to it. As the portions rested for the 1/2 hour before shaping, they flattened out to the form of a thick pancake. Even at the end when I placed the finished dough in the oven, they flatten out on the baking stone. As I misted them with water during the first 10 minutes of baking I could see them magically began their oven spring.
I underestimated the gluten potential in spelt. The holes came out larger than I expected. The flavor and texture turned out very nice too. Spelt flour adds a “sweet”flavor to the bread and has very little if any of the bitter taste you find in whole wheat flour. The toasted seeds added a nice nuttiness and bite.
I’ll just give a summery of the process with key points. If you want more details, let me know, I’ll be happy to further elaborate.
For two medium size loaves:
1/2 to 3/4 Tablespoon starter (refreshed 8 to 9 hours before)
100 grams water
100 grams bread flour
All the levain
600 grams water 80 degrees F.
300 grams bread flour
300 grams spelt flour
300 grams whole spelt flour
20 grams salt mixed with 35 grams water
150 grams mixed toasted seeds (I used 50-55 grams each of sesame, sunflower, and pumpkin seeds)
- I made the levain the night before. It was ready to use in about 10 hours in my 75 degree F. kitchen.
- The pumpkin and sunflower seeds were toasted in the oven. The sesame seeds were pan toasted over a stove.
- The levain was dispersed in the 600 grams water and the flours were mixed together then added to the water/levain. All the flour was evenly moistened. Autolyse lasted 1 hour.
- The salt and 35 grams water was mixed together, then squeezed into the dough. I then covered the dough and gave 6 turns over 3 1/2 hours. I added the seeds during the turning phase after about 1 hour.
- I took it out of the bowl and divided it into 2 portions. Each was formed into a ball, covered and allowed to rest about 30 minutes.
- I shaped them, then placed them in bannetons.
- Final proofing lasted 5 hours.
- They baked in an oven pre-heated to 500 degrees. I lowered the temp to 420 after 10 minutes. During the first 10 minutes I also misted the oven several times with water to mimic a steam-injected oven.
- They baked in about 15-20 minutes. I let them cool completely before slicing.
Here are the baker’s percentages if you’re interested.
Bread flour 33.3%
Spelt flour 33.3%
Whole spelt flour 33.3%
Seeds 16.6 %
Bread flour 100%
I hope everyone of you is having a great holiday season and a good New Year! I wish you all profound peace for the upcoming year. I think we can always use a bit more of it.
I should go over the nomenclature of the main extra ingredient for these tortillas. I saw them in Diana Kennedy’s beautiful and massive “Oaxaca al Gusto, an Infinite Gastronomy”, a cookbook dedicated to 11 distinct regions of that southern state in Mexico. This is not the post to get into the book but I’ll just mention it is gorgeous, with many beautiful photos of foods and dishes which can only be found in that region’s remote corners. “Tortillas de Quintonil” which she translates as “Tortillas of Wild Greens” is the recipe I found in the book. In another one of hers, “From My Mexican Kitchen”, she writes that quintoniles include several species from the amaranth family and fall under the umbrella of quelites or wild greens. For Rick Bayless, quelites are more specifically what is known as lamb’s quarters. Marilyn Tausend in “Cocina De La Familia”, also refers to quelites as lamb’s quarters. So you dear readers who are forager’s and/or gardener’s, I include a photo of the green so that you can comment on the identification of it. I appreciate any clarification. In Mexican cooking they are primarily used as a light stew with perhaps onion and garlic, as taco filling, or as an ingredient added to pinto beans. This is the only time I’ve seen them as an ingredient in the masa for corn tortillas. These greens are readily available year round in one of our supermarkets alongside verdolagas, huauzontles, epazote, yerbabueana, berro, other greens or herbs used in Mexican cuisine. We are fortunate to have them. I’m also keeping a good eye out for wild quelites, since they seem to grow wild in many parts of the U.S and Mexico.
According to Kennedy, quelites are used especially during the rainy season to help in times when corn is running low, thus stretching the stock of maize for a longer time. They add a green earthiness to the tortillas which I enjoy. My cilantro flour tortillas came to mind when I made them, but these have a different flavor altogether. They are very tasty and unusual, good for making tacos, quesadillas, or just eaten alone with salsa. They will surely attract curiosity if you present them on your next Mexican buffet.
Kennedy uses fresh corn masa but I opted for masa harina, which means an addition of water is necessary. The quelites provide some moisture so I watched carefully as I added the water. Cooking the greens with a bit of onion and garlic before adding them to the masa makes them more flavorful.
This recipe is an adaptation of hers. She also suggests using other types of edible greens or spinach.
This will make 9 to 10 tortillas:
3 good bunches of quelites ( it will render about 1 cup after cooking down)( each of the bunches weighed about 1/4 #)
about 1 heaping tablespoon chopped onion
2 medium garlic cloves chopped
2 tablespoon oil
1 cup masa harina
1/2 cup water
3/4 teaspoon salt
To be more specific, you need about 6-8 ounces of leaves only. The stems are too tough to use. Remove the leaves from the stems and thoroughy wash them to remove the dirt. Drain them. Get about 2 quarts of slightly salted water to boil in a pot. Add the greens and cook until just tender, about 2-3 minutes. Drain them and run cool water over them. When cool enough to handle, squeeze as much water as you can from them.
Heat a frying or saute pan to medium heat and add the oil, I used grapeseed, but olive oil, vegetable, or other kinds of mild flavored should do ok. Saute the onion for a minute, then add the garlic. Don’t let them burn. Finally add the quelites and fry just lightly for a minute or two. Add more oil if necessary. Remove from the heat and let them cool down. Next, finely chop the green mixture.
In a mixing bowl, put the masa harina, salt, and chopped quelites mixture and blend well together. Add most of the 1/2 cup of water and incorporate. Add more water as needed to make a moist dough. It should be neither too moist or too dry. One way I check is by squeezing a small portion between my thumb and index finger. It should not be too dry that it cracks at the edges.
Divide the masa into 9 or 10 portions and form each into a ball. I let them rest for a few minutes. Keep them covered with a moist towel. They tend to quickly dry out. Get your trusty tortilla press and a piece of plastic wrap. Cut the plastic into two pieces that are each just big enough to cover the plate of your tortilla press.
You might have one of these or the metal type of tortilladora. If not, you can get away with using a rolling pin to shape your tortillas. If you can do it by using your two hands, I’ll be quite impressed.
Get your comal or heavy skillet pre-heated over your stove to medium hotness.
Place one of the pieces of plastic on the plate of the press and put one of the masa balls on top.
Put the other piece of plastic on top. Then press. You may have to rotate the dough once to get a nice circle.
Remove the top plastic
Place the dough and bottom plastic on your weak hand.
Carefully flip it over onto your strong hand and remove the remaining plastic.
It’s ready to flip over onto your hot comal.
The tortilla should give a slight sizzle when you place it on the comal. Cook the tortilla for about a minute to 90 seconds, then flip it over. After another minute or two turn it over again and let it cook maybe another minute. If your tortillas are sticking, they are too moist. If they crack and harden, they are either too dry, or the comal is too hot. You’ll get the hang of getting the dough the right consistency and the skillet to just the right hotness with practice.
When they are done, they may have a few nice brown spots. They should be nice and flexible and not crack when rolled or folded. Keep them covered with a kitchen cloth. So far they’ve kept well after a day when kept in the refrigerator. They just need to be heated up to get their flexibility back.
They tend to be a little thicker than regular corn tortillas, but they are still quite soft and flexible. Just keep them covered.
I made some mouthwatering quesadillas with some of the dough.
Pureed butternut squash flavored with ancho chile powder and epazote for one, and refried beans and epazote for another.
Or the butternut squash and ancho powder puree with cilantro and mild red pepper.
That’s a stripe of New Mexican chile tomato salsa there. Many different types of salsa go well with these.
I know I’m very late but I’m sending these tortillas over to Angie’s Fiesta Friday to help celebrate the 100th edition of her fabulous party where you’ll find insanely talented cooks, gardeners, storytellers, and more presenting their incredible creations. It is quite a feat to have kept it going strong for so long. She also has her many friends who have assisted with the work it takes to keep such a labor of love going. Congratulations Angie!
What kind of salsas do you more often make at home? There are many types to choose from for different uses aren’t there? Within each type there are many variations to try out or create. Much depends on what is available to you in your stores and markets though I guess just about anything is available online these days. A wider variety have become more readily available in recent years in my area. Do you make salsa as dips for tostadas or are they used for topping your main or side dishes? The kind I seem to be making the most of lately are the roasted tomato or tomatillo variety. It’s for the simple fact that I have all these dried chiles that need to be used up. Chipotle, guajillo, arbol, Anchos, New Mexican are very often the key chile ingredient. They seem to make for the more classic roasted tomato/tomatillo salsas. Because of their particular flavor and/or heat level they can stand alone to suit individual tastes as the sole chile in the recipe. Some dried chiles are not as popular as a stand alone chile in salsas. Which brings me to the mulato chile. It is used indispensibly in many mole recipes for its deep dark color and sweet, almost chocolaty flavor. How does it hold up in a salsa? I started by pureeing roasted tomatoes, onion, and garlic, then began adding the toasted mulato chiles. Although it gave an interesting flavor, it was too muted and needed some balancing out. I added arbol chiles for a brightness, a bit of nuttiness, and heat. Something was still missing so I reached for pasillas, which have fruity notes to them. My next choice would have been guajillos for their lighter flavor but I was completely out of them. The result in any case, was a much more balanced flavor with each chile adding its own qualities. It still needed some brightening up so I added apple cider vinegar. A mere teaspoon really enhanced the flavor. This turned out to be a very tasty salsa with a unique flavor profile. I dipped fried tortilla chips, topped some lentils, tried it on some tacos, and also dabbed it on quesadillas. It was hard to ignore this one.
There are many possibilities to play with in making this type of salsa. We also have the choice of using tomato or tomatillo, or both. Do I want to roast the garlic or leave it raw? Do I roast or saute the onions? Does it need the acidity of lime juice or vinegar. How about adding oregano, cilantro, or thyme. Some combinations don’t work, but many will. Why always settle for the tried and true when you can come up with something uniquely yours.
Left to right are pasilla, arbol, and mulato peppers.
This recipe makes about 1 quart
12 Roma tomatoes
1/2 medium onion
5 unpeeled garlic cloves
2 mulato chiles
7 arbol chiles
2 pasilla chiles
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
Water as needed to adjust consistency
salt to taste
First I broiled the tomatoes until they began to char a bit. I turned them over to slightly char the skin on both sides. I was carefull not to broil them to a mushy state. As they were going I put my comal (iron skillet) on low-medium heat. The onion was sliced and pan roasted on a heavy skillet until softened and slightly blackened. The garlic was also added to the pan and cooked until softened. In another heavy pan, the chiles were toasted. Set the pan to medium-high heat. Remove the seeds from the chiles and one by one press them on both sides on the hot skillet with a metal spatula for a few seconds. You may notice a slight change in color. It will release a nice aroma. Do not burn or it will turn bitter. Immediately remove the chile and continue with the rest. I left many of the chile de arbol seeds in the chile to give more spiciness to the salsa.
When the tomatoes, onions and garlic had cooled down, I peeled the garlic and put everything in the blender to puree. I then added 2 mulato chiles to the blender and after tasting the result, decided that was good on that kind of chile. Next in were the arbol peppers. That would give enough heat and a subtle nuttiness. The pasillas were then added to give more balance. I tasted it after one, then added another. The apple cider vinegar did its trick next. I added a bit of water to adjust the consistency. Roma tomatoes have less juice in them than most other kinds of tomatoes. I finally seasoned with salt to taste.
The salsa paired well with refried lentil quesadillas (vegan). The tortilla is home made with corn masa.
This is one I’ll make again. I’d also like to try substituting guajillos for the pasillas or mulatos.
Be sure to visit Angie’s fabuloso Fiesta Friday where I’ll be taking this bread. There you can find out about Selma’s posthumous award she received from U.K.’s “Observer Food Monthly” at their annual ceremony. Prestigious indeed! Way to go Selma, you continue to touch our hearts!
Before I begin I also wanted to mention an update with an added introduction to my “Hatch Chile Salsa Verde”. Emily, the author of the wonderful blog “Cooking For Kishore” suggested to me to submit it to her fun series, “Food ‘n Film”. The October 2015 edition is still open. Do give her a visit!
I had a hard time trying to think of a good name for my blog when I started. I would have been very happy with “The Cosmic Tortilla”, my first choice, but a French band had already taken that up. “Bread and Tortillas” sounds so unimaginative but there was a simple reason behind the name. The idea was that those two meal accompaniments could be found on our table depending on what was being served. Tortillas for Mexican food, bread for about everything else. This was a time when tortillas were considered way too ethnic for mainstream U.S. of A. I don’t remember how long ago it was, maybe 20 or 25 years ago when I saw a TV commercial for “Mission Flour Tortillas”. The setting was a dining room of a middle to upper class white family. “What!?” I said to myself. “The tortilla has arrived!”, or maybe Mission was pushing it along. We don’t think twice anymore about the diversity of foods that are available to us. On the flip side, the bread we were eating as kids was not very ethnic at all. I could not imagine a TV commercial for say pumpernickel or sourdough or any kind of artisan bread. That would have also been too ethnic for the mainstream. Not including “pan de dulce” which we ate every Sunday at our table, our family had 2 kinds of bread on our shopping list. One was the plain old white sandwich bread, which was our multi-purpose accompaniment for all things “American” like sandwiches or toast. (Special occasions called for “Pan Frances”, which is found in Mexican bakeries.) Oh, and we used white sandwich bread to make “capirotada” (Mexican bread pudding). The second kind of “American” bread we enjoyed was raisin bread. Back in those days, those were the only types of non-Mexican bread available for us to buy in the little towns of the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. What kind of breads or tortillas did you eat growing up?
I can’t help but be reminded of the good old commercial raisin bread we were so fond of as kids when I bite into this mesquite sourdough. The small amount of mesquite flour gives it a different flavor, but the raisins and cinnamon are a natural fit for it. And voila, NO PERSERVATIVES, ADDITIVES, CONDITIONERS or anything else. It tastes much better than the stuff you find on your supermarket shelf. The soft crumb has a great chew though I think the dough could stand a little more water for an even moister crumb. It’s been many years since eating commercial raisin bread but I am willing to bet that in comparison to my loaf, it would now seem to crumble and almost dissipate in your mouth, rather than let you enjoy flavor to the fullest. Not that the flavor is all that great!
I made a version of this bread a couple of weeks ago and decided to add more cinnamon and a little less sugar this time around. It got eaten so fast though that I didn’t have a chance to take any photos. I take a lot of the blame for that. I better take my camera out before it’s too late.
I used a bread loaf pan and also made a boule from this recipe. I didn’t bother trying to make a swirl of raisins like you see with sandwich style loaves. I think it would have disturbed the tiny pockets of air that I carefully tried to nurture during the fermentation phase.
For 2 medium size loaves:
1 tablespoon sourdough starter refreshed 8 hours before
200 grams water at 70 degrees F.
100 grams bread flour
100 grams whole wheat flour
All the levain
475 grams water at 78 degrees F.
525 grams bread flour
125 grams whole wheat flour
150 grams mesquite flour
50 grams granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
12 grams table salt + 30 grams water
1 1/2 heaping cups raisins
Make the levain the night before:
I make this about 8 to 9 hours before I mix the final dough. Dissolve the starter in the 200 grams of water in a small bowl. Mix together the 2 flours and add it to the sourdough mixture. Blend everything well to make sure all the flour is moistened. Cover with plastic and let it ferment overnight at room temperature.
On the day of baking:
The next morning take a spoonful of the levain and drop it into a small bowl of water. It’s ready if it floats. It should be ok as long as it doesn’t smell vinegary.
Dissolve the levain in the 450 grams of water in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the flours, sugar, and cinnamon. Add this to the levain/water solution and mix well to moisten all the flour. Cover with a wet plastic or a wet cloth and let it autolyze for 30 minutes or so. Next, dissolve the salt in the 30 grams water and then squelch this solution into the dough. Now add the raisins. It took me only a minute or two with the help of my 6 quart mixer but you can also do it by hand. Put the dough in a container for the bulk fermentation. I gave it a stretch and fold every 30 minutes for 3 hours. The dough became soft and supple with a slight increase of volume. It also tended to stick less and less to the container throughout the 3 hours.
Divide the dough into two portions and form them into rounds. Let them rest for about 10 minutes. Shape them to your desire. This dough is not so wet that it requires baskets or bannetons to proof but I liked using the loaf pan for one of the portions. Place the free standing loaf on parchment paper if not using a proofing basket. Lightly spray with baking spray oil and cover with plastic. I let these proof for about 4 1/2 hours. They had risen about 50%.
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. about 45 minutes before baking. If using loaf pans, place them in the oven and immediately lower the temperature to 425 degrees. Bake until the internal temperature of the bread reaches 200 degrees F. I scored the bread with a simple slash though I’m not sure it was necessary. If you shaped the dough into free standing boules, score them as desired and place in the hot oven. Do use your baking stone if you have one.I misted the oven with water 3 times within 10 minutes and then lowered the temperature to 425 degrees. I found that I had to cover the bread with foil about 15 minutes into baking to prevent the crust from getting too dark. Make sure you are rotating the bread every now and them to insure even baking. Remove when it reaches 200 degrees.
Put the bread on a rack and let them cool completely before slicing. It’s a test of patience to resist the temptation of cutting a warm slice of it right away.
This bread has a higher ratio of levain than I usually use. I wanted to go for a quicker ferment and tighter crumb to mimic a loaf of raisin bread.
Mesquite flour has no gluten. That’s why I think it takes longer to rise despite the relatively high amount of levain in the dough.