Here's a tip from one of our testers, Pat Fields. Sounds like a great idea:
I thought I'd pass along something I've found helpful
when adding water to a steam pan, namely using a
trough made of aluminum foil. I started doing this
when making your great pain a l'ancienne.
The way I do it is to first tear off about a 2-3 ft.
length of foil, then fold it in half lengthwise, then
repeat that until you have about a six-inch by 2-3 ft.
piece of foil, then fold that lengthwise into a
V-shaped trough. Then when the time comes to pour the
water into the steam pan, you just open the oven open
a little (thus letting out less heat), insert one end
of the trough in the oven until it rests on the bottom
of the steam pan, incline the trough about 45 degrees,
then pour the water into the end of the trough that
you're holding, and watch the water run into the pan
and start steaming, while your hands and face are a
safe distance away. The trough can be folded up and
put away for future repeated use.
Another question has arisen: How quickly do you have to test the recipes after receiving them?
I'd like feedback on the master whole wheat recipe by the end of March, if possible. If you cannot get to it by then feel free to report when you can, but I do need to make my tweaks as soon as possible and then get some new variations out to you. By the way, you will be using the mash in a number of recipes, as well as the starter, so if this is a problem please feel free to sit out some rounds until you get a recipe you're more comfortable testing. The mash method is, I believe, one of the real breakthrough techniques that this book offers, even though it can be a pain to make (literally, as I've been hearing).
Along this line, some of you have reported how painful it is to work with the hot mash. Some are using rubber gloves and others are using teflon spatulas to fold or knead your mash during the cycles. Great ideas! Also, you can try the bowl and blanket method, which requires no additional handling, though in these cases it is hard to maintain the 140-150 temperature range, which is the ideal. If you have access to diastatic malt powder (not malt syrup, which is non-diastatic--that is, the diastase enzymes have been denatured so the syrup is for flavor only not for enzyme activity), or want to buy some malted wheat flour from Monica Spiller (her web address is in an earlier post, below), the addition of a teaspoon of it when you make the mash will enhance the enzyme activity when you mix it. Malted flour, barley or wheat, can also be used in the wild yeast starters to enhance activity. Monica always uses it in her mashes and barms, but I've found that it's not necessary in the mash, especially when using the crock pot method. The crock pot is a hassle, yes, but it keeps the mash in the best temperature zone. Another reminder: you only need to keep the crock pot on (or on and off, on and off) and knead the mash during the first hour. After that, turn off the heat and let the mash sit in the covered crock pot to stay warm, but not to cook anymore, for two more hours (that is, three hours total time). After that it is ready to use or to store in the refrigerator.
Thanks so much for the feedback so far. I'm spending hours a day just poring over your responses and questions but it has been enormously helpful, especially in showing me how much clearer I need to be in the instructions. I've also been hearing back that kneading the seed culture each day, even on the days when you don't feed it, is working well to stimulate activity and eliminate mold and spores on the surface.
Enough for now. Back to work...
May your bread always rise!