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Meet the Baker: Éric Marché

Farine - May 5, 2015 - 9:02am
For me, stepping into Boulangerie Pains, Beurre et Chocolat (PBC), in Nantes, France, was like entering Dame Tartine's famous edible palace (if you didn't grow up to the accents of Il était une dame Tartine you may need to check out the English version of the lyrics to see what I am talking about): my pulse quickened and my brain went into serotonin overdrive as I took in the dazzling display of breads, bretzels, viennoiseries and pastries. I had definitely entered another, wondrous, dimension. The young salesperson flashed me a glorious smile. Before I could introduce myself, Éric Marché stepped out of the lab and came towards me. He too was smiling. We shook hands and talked a while. Then, picking up a buckwheat Menhir nantais (a menhir is a standing stone), one of his signature breads, he good-naturedly agreed to pose for a picture before shepherding me to the back to put my coat down and meet his wife Cathy. Five minutes later we were chatting like old friends.
  

     
Like several of the bakers I have met over the years, Éric came to bread from another walk of life. He was 40, working for a regional newspaper and living in southwestern France when he switched tracks. He was already a serious home baker: "I couldn't find bread I liked where we lived. The only way to get the kind of bread I was looking for was to make it myself." Five years earlier, Cathy had quit her job as a business facilitator working for the local chamber of commerce to become a pastry chef. Now it was his turn. He applied to École Banette near Orléans and was accepted. Within six months, he had graduated with two diplomas: the CAP (certificat d'aptitude professionnelle or certificate of professional competency) and the BP (brevet professionnel, a higher professional certificate). Within the Banette system, a beginning baker may be supported by a miller who helps him or her get a foot in the door by providing market research, technical and commercial assistance, etc., in exchange of which the baker becomes a customer. Éric and Cathy thus learned of a bakery coming up for sale in Le Croisic on the coast of Brittany, fifty miles or so west of Nantes. (Le Croisic is right near Guérande, known worldwide for its famous sea-salt). They sold everything they owned and in 2004, as soon as school let out for the summer, they uprooted themselves and their three kids and moved to Brittany.

 Baguette de l'Erdre (tradition au levain) The bakery was a big one.  In high season when business was brisk, it employed up to six people in the back and seven in the front: Éric and Cathy worked hard and managed to increase production by forty percent compared to the previous owners. But the low season was long (Le Croisic mostly comes to life when school is out: to give you an idea, the bakery used to sell one thousand and five hundred baguettes a day in the summer against two hundred in the winter), the miller's flour contained more additives than Éric cared to use and the work wasn't nearly as creative as he had hoped: locals were not really interested in trying out different breads. By 2007, they knew they had to move to a larger city and become independent. They picked Nantes partly because they wanted to stay in the Loire region and partly because competition was fierce in the city: there were many excellent bakers there including La Petite Boulangerie, owned and run by MOF Franck Dépériers, (MOF means Meilleur Ouvrier de France). Making it in Nantes would definitely be a challenge. But at that point in their lives, a challenge was exactly what they were looking for.

Brioche Éric and Cathy found a bakery in Saint-Félix, a lively and prosperous part of the city, in a spot where there had always been a bakery although at the time the premises were reduced to bare walls. Once again they sold everything (at a loss because they were still paying back their loan) and moved. They chose a local mill, Minoterie Girardeau, which had been in the same family for four generations and still stone-milled all of its organic flours. By then it was 2008. They went to work. This time though Cathy was no longer in the back making chocolate (something she had greatly enjoyed doing in Le Croisic's cool climate and big lab): the new lab was simply too warm and too small. So she put on a new hat and took charge of sales and catering. "I love interacting with people, so I am fine," she told me with a twinkle in the eyes before leaving the floor to Éric, only to reappear a few minutes later with a luscious little cake that I was made to sample on the spot, the gâteau nantais, a regional specialty. The taste was like nothing I had every had before: a cross between a French almond cake and a baba-au-rhum. Now I am not a cake person and I never liked rhum very much (my older brother's favorite cake was baba-au-rhum and I always dreaded his birthday growing up) but were I to be magically transported to Dame Tartine's actual palace, Éric and Cathy's gâteau nantais is what I would wish the walls to be made of! "Very easy to make!," proclaims Éric, "The secret is to use good butter, good rhum (and a lot of it) and the best almonds you can afford." There was indeed so much rhum in the slice I had that, had I indulged in a second one, I would probably have been over the legal alcohol limit for driving. (Note: Éric kindly sent me the recipe and I will share it in a separate post. Thank you, Éric!)
But back to bread. Everything in the bakery (including viennoiseries) is leavened with a natural starter. Éric keeps several different ones, some of them seasonal.
  • A liquid starter (100% hydration) based on T65, a farine de tradition française, a wheat flour to which no additive can legally be added and which retains 0.62 % to 0.75 % minerals (see this classification of French flours - in French). Used for baguette de tradition.
  • A firm starter based on organic T80 wheat flour (flour which retains 0.75% à 0.90% minerals). Used for all organic breads besides the kamut and the spelt.
  • A firm spelt starter. Used for the kamut and spelt bread because of its lower gluten content.
  • A high-gluten starter based on farine de gruau (T45). Used at Christmas time for panettone.
  • A levain nantais: liquid starter based on farine de tradition to which beurre roux (brown butter) is added at feeding time. Used for viennoiseries as well as for fouace, a regional bread traditionally made at vendanges (grape harvest) time. 
  • A starter based on levain nantais to which brown sugar syrup is added at feeding time. Used for fouace as well.
For baguette dough, Éric feeds the starter and lets it ferment for two hours. Next he incorporates flour and water by mixing them together for three minutes, lets the mixture autolyse for two hours, does the final mix (four minutes on first speed), lets it bulk ferment at room temperature for two or three hours, divides and shapes, then retards it for sixteen to twenty-four hours. He explains that by treating the dough gently and barely mixing it, he helps preserve the aromas and taste a prolonged high-speed mixing would inevitably destroy.
Menhir nantais The menhir nantais is made with 15% sarrasin (buckwheat) and 85% farine de tradition and leavened with firm levain. But Éric roasts 5% of the buckwheat flour which gives the bread the unmistakable aroma of the crêpes de sarrasin (buckwheat crêpes) Brittany is justly famous for.

Buckwheat flour: roasted (top) and raw (bottom) Visually, it is hard to tell the two flours apart but the minute your nose comes into play, you know which is which.

Buckwheat dough, retarding (for up to 48 hours) Everyone has a favorite bread, right? Éric's is the 100% rye with its subtle hints of honey and spices.
Mine is the tourte de sarrasin, a buckwheat loaf so powerfully aromatic I took one home and had a slice for breakfast for the remainder of our stay in western France. Sliced, toasted and spread with butter speckled with sel de Guérande, it tastes like Brittany itself. So, yes,  I am a convert and next time I make buckwheat bread, I too will roast 5% of the flour.
In 2013, PBC won the fourth spot among a hundred or so bakeries selected to compete at the national level in M6 TV show La Meilleure boulangerie de France.
In the two weeks following the announcement of the results, traffic increased by fifty percent: people came in for the menhir, for the gâteau nantais, for the bi-color croissants and for other viennoiseries.

Croissant & moulin à vent au citron (lemon pinwheel)

Pain aux raisins (raisin roll) and raspberry croissant When traffic went back to normal, Éric found out that his regular customers had become more adventurous: they were willing to try different grains and to trust him with new flavors. Today he makes an average of thirty-two different breads on any given week, including eight or nine organic ones. There is a rule in the lab that everyone must come up with a new bread or viennoiserie every month: some of these creations make it into the bakery's regular répertoire. So it went for l'Italienne (made with herbs and tomatoes on ciabatta dough)...
... and for the Algeria-inspired Mathloun, among others.
At PBC, flours are either organic or the product of sustainable farming. Ingredients are sourced locally whenever possible: salt comes from Guérande, butter from Laiterie de Montaigu in nearby Vendée, honey from Ruchers du Pays blanc in Brittany, etc. Unsold bread goes to food banks and customers can buy an extra baguette and leave it at the bakery for the first person in need who will walk in and ask for it. Cathy keeps track on a big slate behind the register. On any given day, an average of fifteen baguettes are thus shared. I love it.
When asked what best advice he would have for a young baker, Éric doesn't hesitate: "Your first concern should be taste. Shape, length, grignes (cuts), they all matter, but at the end of the day, you don't share a shape, you share a taste. Never lose track of that." Being a baker is a demanding job: it requires long hours (Éric and Cathy are on their feet from 4 AM to 8 PM with a thirty-minute nap in early afternoon) and it seriously disrupts your social life. Looking back though, they only have one regret: that they didn't start at a younger age. But their three kids have remained their first tasters and customers and now that a grandchild has joined the family, they know the taste of good bread will pass on to yet another generation. If that isn't a good enough reason to get up at dawn and fire up the oven, then what is?

Crème des pains

Left: Seeded country loaf. Right: Le Rustique.  Front: Le Norvégien
A slice of Norvégien Crumbs
  • PBC makes no gluten-free bread
  • All flour blends are done in-house
  • Except for the baguette, all bread is sold by weight
  • Dough for the baguette is hydrated at 78%. The starter gets only one feeding and a two-hour fermentation before being put to work. It gets incorporated in the final dough at the same time as the coarse sea salt
  • All seeds are toasted then soaked
  • To roast the flour, Éric puts it in a 320°F oven for a total of fifteen minutes (mixing it every five minutes to prevent it from burning)
  • Spelt bread contains 40% seeds (sunflower, soy, buckwheat and brown flax). Made with malt syrup and firm levain and hydrated at 120%, it keeps five to six days and is a best seller
  • The fruit purées that go into some viennoiseries contain only 10% sugar
  • Crème des pains is made with farine de tradition and crème fraîche. It has a brown butter aroma
  • The Saint-Félix is made with farine de tradition and wheat germ. It has a thick crust and a robust chew
  • Le Norvégien is made with three different whole-grain organic flours (spelt, rye and wheat), six different seeds and three kinds of dried fruit (fig, cranberry and apricot). It bakes for two and a half hours in large 3-kg pans. It keeps for several days
  • Salt content: from 1.77% for baguette and related doughs down to 1.13% for rye, with spelt and kamut hovering at 1.50%.

Moulin à vent au chocolat (Chocolate pinwheel)
Categories: Blogs, The Bread Feed

Matcha Banana <b>Bread</b> (Grain + Dairy-Free) - MindBodyGreen.com

Google Blog Search - April 24, 2015 - 2:29am
Using only whole food ingredients like healing moringa leaf (for a boost of greens), probiotic-rich tigernut flour, creamy stone-ground nut butter and clean plant-based protein, this flavorful banana bread with crunchy almonds ...
Categories: Blogs

New #1 Contender Crowned On WWE NXT, Eva Marie Learns <b>...</b>

Google Blog Search - April 22, 2015 - 6:50pm
New #1 Contender Crowned On WWE NXT, Eva Marie Learns Sliced Bread #2 (Video), Corey Graves.
Categories: Blogs

Protein Cinnamon-Roll Banana <b>Bread</b> | POPSUGAR Fitness

Google Blog Search - April 22, 2015 - 2:14pm
The following post was previously featured on Purely Twins and was written by Lori Morris and Michelle Corso, who are a part of POPSUGAR Select Fitness. It's been awhile since we have shared a quick bread recipe.
Categories: Blogs

Quick Look: I Am <b>Bread</b> - Giant Bomb

Google Blog Search - April 21, 2015 - 6:00am
What can the gnarliest piece of bread possibly knead with a skateboard? Find out!
Categories: Blogs

London: E5 Bakehouse

Farine - April 20, 2015 - 12:24am
I wish I could tell you more about E5 Bakehouse and its bakers but both the shop and the lab were so busy when we arrived that I didn't dare interrupt by asking questions. We were welcome warmly though and when he heard I was a bread blogger, Jean Kearn, the French barista (a talented musician as I later learned) took me to the back for a quick hello.
The bakers were shaping the multigrain, working a mile a minute. We exchanged smiles and greetings. But there was no time for more. Next time I am in London, I'll make sure to call ahead. Meanwhile this video I found on E5's website will give you a glimpse of the bakery. I suppose the gleaming new Austrian mill I saw in the next room (the mill house) was acquired after the clip was shot since it isn't mentioned.
I would love to talk to the miller (see here for info on the flours and grains). There were samples in a basket on the counter and I had a taste of the new country loaf, made with wheat milled in-house. It had a terrifically wild and rustic flavor and I fell in love all over again!
I had left a card with my email address and a few hours later I heard from Alexandre Bettler (in the blue shirt on the picture). Alexandre is French and his dream is to open a bakery in London. Towards that goal, he already operates in Clapton Today Bread, a micro-bakery where he does one bake a week with a focus on organic rye breads. The bread is delivered by bike locally both to shops and to subscribers. Yet another bakery to put on the list for the next visit...
Categories: Blogs, The Bread Feed

Blueberry Banana <b>Bread</b> | Skinnytaste

Google Blog Search - April 19, 2015 - 7:56am
Blueberries and banana combine so well together in this delicious, super moist bread made with lots of very ripe sweet bananas which allow you to cut back on the fat without sacrificing the flavor and texture. This is perfect for ...
Categories: Blogs

London: Fabrique Bakery

Farine - April 18, 2015 - 1:01am
Without a map or a working phone, it took us a while to find Fabrique Bakery, nestled as it is under Arch 385 of the Overground on Geffrye Street in Shoreditch (East London). But it was well worth the search as we found out to our ravenous delight when we sat down for a bite.

Cheese and fig jam sandwich on walnut bread The bakers were finishing up in the lab. When they were done, Jens came and talked to us before settling down at his laptop to relax a while.
Jens trained as a pastry chef in his native Germany. He explains that Fabrique is a Swedish bakery, hence the gorgeous cardamom and cinnamon rolls and the aromatic cranberry-pumpkin seed rye.
Fabrique has eleven locations in Stockholm. The Shoreditch one is their first in London. Several more are planned to open within the next five years. Jens' eyes shine with excitement. This is his first job as a bread baker and he clearly loves it. The breads are leavened with liquid levain. A hint of commercial yeast is added for a better lift. The best seller is the levain.
Most of the breads are humongous. You can buy the whole loaf, half the loaf or a third of it. Charmed to see work listed as an ingredient, I buy one third of the 100% rye. It will keep well and make for a fine breakfast for our remaining few days in London.
Then, thanking Jens for his welcome, we cast one last look around...
   ...and fully revigorated, set out for our next bread encounter.
Categories: Blogs, The Bread Feed

You&#39;re a slice of <b>bread</b> that desperately wants to toast itself - Boing <b>...</b>

Google Blog Search - April 17, 2015 - 10:26am
There's a secret desire that lingers in the heart of every loaf of bread: to burn. In the game I Am Bread, developed by the creators of the popular Surgeon Simulator, you are an individual slice of bread on a journey to toast itself.
Categories: Blogs

Vegetables and Cheese Meet <b>Bread</b> - NYTimes.com

Google Blog Search - April 17, 2015 - 9:21am
Vegetables and cheese, hot or cold, always make a great sandwich combination.
Categories: Blogs

London: The Bikery

Farine - April 17, 2015 - 1:15am
And no, there is no typo in the title of this post! Better Health  Artisan Bakery at 13 Stean Street in London, England, is officially changing its name. The new sign is already up.
A bit confusing for visitors from abroad trying to find their way without a map (our phones are useless in Britain), to this remote spot in East London. Spotting the sign from the end of the street, we thought for a minute that we had the wrong address but a helpful breeze brought the unmistakable whiff of baking bread and, bereft of Google Maps, we simply followed our noses.
  The Centre for Better Health -which has active here in Hackney for more than fifty-five years- is a "community-based charity that promotes well-being and supports recovery from mental distress,'  through counseling, classes and on-the-job training. It operates three social enterprises: the afore-mentioned Better Health Bakery soon to be known as The Bikery, Better Health Bikes and Better Health Products Ltd. We only saw the bakery.
Yann Lamour, the head baker (who is French and trained at Ferrandi in Paris), was in the shop when we entered. He kindly took a few minutes of his time to tell us more.
The twelve-month training program has been in existence for two and a half years. Geared towards men and women with mental issues, typically referred by their "carer," their doctor, a counseling centre, but sometimes self-referred as well, it isn't meant to train future bakers as much as to provide a stepping stone towards a new life. The participants are all dealing with some mental issue or other (from depression or anxiety to schizophrenia or other forms of psychosis) but they are all in remission. They have to have been stable for at least two years before they can join.
"Bread making is a form of meditation, " says Yann, "Touching the dough, seeing it grow and transform is a healing experience. " The participants also have their own goals: some seek a chance to meet people in a controlled environment, others want to learn how to develop a routine by sticking to a schedule (arriving on-time, etc.), others still wish to learn teamwork. When their twelve months are over, they don't all become bakers. One has discovered in himself a passion for plants and the open air and is now a gardener. Another plans to be a driver. Another yet is interning in a social restaurant, etc. The common denominator is that for each of them the time spent at the bakery has helped unlock the future.
The breads are all-leavened with natural starters, either a wheat levain at 55% hydration or a rye levain at 100% hydration.
The bakery -who employs four to six bakers- sells at the market on Saturdays and has wholesale accounts with restaurants and natural food stores. It is open for retail Tuesday to Saturday. If you ever are in London, hop on the Overground and follow your nose. You won't regret it.
Categories: Blogs, The Bread Feed

Meet the Baker: Matthias Arbion

Farine - April 12, 2015 - 2:32pm
Funny how things work in life. Back in May 2012, when I went to Victoria, British Columbia, to visit baker/farmer Diane Andiel for the purpose of a Meet the Baker post, I met her French "wwoofer" Matthias Arbion, a passionate environmentalist and indefatigable traveler. Matthias holds a masters degree in environmental studies from the University of Angers and another in land use planning from the University of Rennes. When we first met, he was roaming the world, looking for his calling. He liked working the land and tending farm animals but he was also deeply interested in making a difference on a larger scale by promoting careful stewardship of our planet's limited resources. Due to the sheer immensity of the country he had thought there would be more opportunities in Canada than in much smaller France but either it didn't turn out to be the case or seeing Diane bake and eating her bread every day sowed in him the seed of another vocation.
In any case, he had finished his "wwoofship" (don't look up the word, I just made it up!) and already crossed Canada from British Columbia to Quebec mulling his options along the way when he recalled an article he had read months earlier about a guy who had switched tracks mid-career to become a baker. He had trained at École internationale de boulangerie in Provence, France. Something clicked. Matthias emailed the school director, Thomas Teffri-Chambelland. Thomas replied immediately. The month was November and the next training cycle started in January. Matthias lost no time in making up his mind. Figuratively speaking, he hopped on the next plane to France.
He trained for three weeks at the school in the organic artisan baker program (which focuses on baking with natural leaven and all organic flours and grains), interned for a month at La Conquête du pain in Montreuil, near Paris, then another six weeks in Montreux, Switzerland. There the flours were much stronger than the ones he had become accustomed to in France. He learned to work with and adjust for very different doughs. It was good training for the CAP de boulanger (certificate of professional ability) exam which he took and passed in short order as a candidat libre (independent candidate). Immediately afterwards, in September 2013, he received a call from Thomas asking if he would be interested in a job at La Fabrique à pains, the bakery he was opening at 4 Rue Pierre de Coubertin in Aix-en-Provence.
We had kept in touch on Facebook all along and last fall, during a visit to family in Marseille, as we were planning a day trip to nearby Aix, I asked Matthias if I could go and visit him at work. And that's how it happened that by an overcast November morning in Provence (yes, they do have them!), I pushed open the door.
The first thing you notice when you enter is how bright and open the space is: the only thing separating the shop from the lab is the bread counter. Then you see the bread. Which is beautiful and smells heavenly. I am sorry, Dior, Gucci, Chanel and the rest, I love fragrances as much as the next woman but  if I could take one scent and only one scent with me to the proverbial desert island, it would the aroma of freshly baked bread (although it would probably drive me bonkers if the scent wasn't followed in short order by the actual fresh bread!).

Seeded baguettes

Tourte fermière (khorasan starter, 5% rye)

Baguettines aux olives (olive twist)

Pure Khorasan

Brioche

Tourte de seigle (100% rye) Then you notice the people. The place is a beehive. Everyone is constantly moving, constantly working. Everyone seems to have an immediate purpose.


Pompe à huile (olive oil brioche) When the bakers aren't loading the oven with sheet pans of pompes à huile (a local brioche made with olive oil), they are sweeping the floor. When they aren't dividing and scaling, they are mixing dough or helping customers. I ask Matthias how it all works and he says that in the morning, one person is in charge of the doughs and another of the oven while a third attends to customers. From 1 to 4 PM when customer traffic as slower, no one is specifically assigned to sales and everybody pitches in. Generally speaking, everyone gets a turn at everything, including cleaning although Matthias is mostly in charge of production. He also does the outdoor markets (the bakery does five markets a week, principally in Marseille but also in Aix and Aubagne.) He says he greatly enjoys the dual aspect of his working life: he loves production (especially mixing doughs and manning the oven for the campagne) but he also loves being out in the fresh air, freed from the constant constraint of ringing timers.
  
Petit-épeautre (einkorn) Matthias went from apprentice to co-manager in a very short time (the bakery had barely been open a year at the time we visited) and it is clear that the passionate environmentalist and would-be steward of the land we had met in Canada two years earlier has found not only his calling but also an outlet for his powerful organizational skills. He has his formulas down pat, he documents everything. The others come to him with questions and get answers. He projects both competence and a quiet authority. He is in his element.

Brioche and brioche aux pépites (chocolate brioche) An apprentice approaches the bench. Matthias walks back to the mixer with him. I turn my attention to the shop. Business is brisk. I hear customers ask for du pain bien cuit (well-baked bread). Music to my ears because too often on this trip I have heard the opposite: pas trop cuit, le pain, s'il vous plaît ("on the lighter side please!"), a request that drives me nuts. I want to scream: "Don't you know that a well-baked crust makes for a much more flavorful bread?." But do they care? Probably not. Is blandness becoming the new taste? (Pounding my head against the keyboard right now!)

These big pans hold anywhere between 1800 and 2000 g of dough An elderly gentleman walks in and inspects the offerings: Il est appétissant, votre pain! ("Your bread looks good.") He walks out with two baguettes (bien cuites) and a brioche. Yay! There is hope yet.
Being a baker is hard. The job is physically demanding, sometimes exhausting but Matthias says he forgets it all when someone says: "You gave me back the taste of my childhood," or "Thanks to you guys, I am eating bread again" or, as recently happened, "Your bread is extraordinary." Customer satisfaction is a strong motivation. Another is the knowledge that a baker can work almost everywhere because everybody eats bread (especially in France), which means that the job is pretty much crisis-proof. It also offers plenty of room for creativity and épanouissement (self-fulfillment). Matthias thrives on being part of a team: "This is all teamwork. Everybody has a role to play. It is essential to stress this fundamental truth. I don't know yet what the future has in store for me but because I love collaborating with others, I can't see opening my own bakery anytime soon. I love teaching, working on different projects, and I can think of many exciting possibilities within the framework of my job here."

Campagne nature (high-extraction wheat on rye starter)
Khorasan (on left) and rye (on right) starters

Local flours from Moulin Pichard
Khorasan (kamut) on the left, petit-épeautre (einkorn) on the right

Petit-épeautre (einkorn) Khorasan is one of Matthias' favorites. It has a powerful fragrance. But my own delight is the einkorn. I have yet to taste back in the States an einkorn that "sings" the way einkorn from Provence does. Sadly I lack the words to describe its taste. I wish I had had Michael Kalanty's tool at my disposal back when I visited. Maybe I would be more articulate. As it is, I can only say, relying on my memory, that Provence einkorn speaks of sun and wind and rocky hills and of a terroir like no other. The job of the baker is to let the soul of the grain shine through and, like Dame Farine in Marseille, La Fabrique does it exceedingly well. I could live on both bakeries' petit-épeautre. The stuff of life.
I ask Matthias if he misses his environmental work. He doesn't. His job is deeply satisfying on that level as well: "It may seem far-fetched but in fact there are similarities. We are closely associated with organic farming. Ninety-five percent of our ingredients are locally sourced. We know how they are produced. We work with a miller in Haute-Provence (Moulin Pichard), we get our olives from Nyons, our walnuts from Grenoble. We emphasize both terroir and quality which means we remain true to our values and our beliefs and we make the most of our skills."
Who knew that sometimes you need to bounce around the world to find your inner baker?
Tourte fermière
Crumbs
  • La Fabrique uses all organic flours without any additive. All are locally sourced
  • Most bread are naturally leavened.  La Fabrique keeps three starters: khorasan (kamut), rye and rice (for gluten-free breads)
  • The starters are fed twice a day
  • Tourte fermière is made with young levain to cultivate a lactic aroma
  • The doughs are very hydrated (hydration is 110% for instance on the khorasan), which is why many of the breads are baked in pans
  • Autolyse: anywhere from 30 to 90 min (three hours for the baguettes)
  • Commercial yeast is used only for baguettes (2 or 3 g of fresh yeast per kilo of flour)
  • Baguette dough ferments for 24 hours (including an 18-hour old bulk fermentation)
  • Percentage of salt: 1.8% (in line with European recommendations)
  • Shaping is kept to a minimum.
  • Owner Thomas Teffri-Chambelland built his own mill where he mills riz de Camargue (rice from the Camargue area of Provence) for La Fabrique's rice-buckwheat bread. For more on Thomas, take a look at this video (in French).
Categories: Blogs, The Bread Feed

Aroma and Flavor Notes for Bread by Michael Kalanty

Farine - March 22, 2015 - 6:33pm

Image courtesy Michael Kalanty

I have always had my doubts about the word "delicious," finding it both enticing and frustrating. Enticing because it conjures up an array of pleasant olfactory and gustatory sensations and frustrating because these sensations remain wholly undefined, cloaked in a veil of vagueness: hearing or reading that an heirloom variety apple is "delicious" doesn't tell me anything about the taste of the apple, does it? It only tells me that the speaker or writer enjoyed eating it. Good for that person to know, for sure, but no help to me at all if I am trying to decide whether or not I might like it as well.
Having been aware of the emptiness of the d... word for a while, I have made a conscious effort to avoid using it on this blog when describing bread. But of course that meant I needed other words and to my dismay the ones that came to me were not necessarily more descriptive.
Now the task has become easier thanks to Aroma and Flavor Notes for Bread, a tool developed by Michael Kalanty, baker, chef, teacher, sensory scientist (more on that in a later post) and, last but not least, author of How to Bake Bread: The Five Families of Bread. What Mike set out to do, based on his experience working with chefs and bakers all over the world, is to give bakers the words they need to convey the actual aroma and flavor of bread, much as winemakers describe the aroma of wine or coffee roasters that of coffee.
As explained in the accompanying article, the method is pretty straightforward, you start with the crumb and you chew (preferably with your mouth open to better aerate the flavor, so don't try it on a date!).
First you identify the sourness (or lack of) of the crumb, then the character of that sourness. Smooth and dairy-like or sharp like citrus? As it happened we had been to San Francisco a few days earlier and we had brought back from Tartine Bakery a Rye Porridge loaf. I had cut it in half and put it in the freezer reserving it for a special occasion. This test definitely qualified.
I took one half out, waited for it to thaw, "resurrected" it in the oven at 350°F for about ten minutes, then let it cool down. The kitchen filled in with luscious bread baking aromas. Notice I didn't say "delicious," but is "luscious" better? I don't think so,  it conveys judgment, not information. I needed to let go of that mindset and put myself in a evaluation mode.
When the bread was cool, I separated the crumb from the crust and started chewing.
I could taste sourness but what kind? I looked at the orange and yellow infographic : the choices were green apple, grapefruit, lemon or vinegar. Vinegar and grapefruit could be eliminated right away: the one was too tangy, the other too bitter. I briefly thought of lemon but it was too acidic for what I was smelling and tasting. I settled for "green apple."
On to dairy sweetness: did I perceive an aroma of milk or butter? Not really. The closest approximation to a dairy product I could think of was a young raw milk cheese. I wrote that down. Already I was off the chart and liking it: it felt like poetry with training wheels.
As I continued chewing and aerating my palate, I also clearly identified the flavor of cooked grain. Since I have never had rye porridge, I can't say that I tasted it but I did taste boiled grain. And it didn't bring to mind rye as I know it. In fact that bread couldn't be more different from any other rye bread I have ever had. Interesting...
Moving on to the crumb, the first note I perceived was malt. I clearly discerned "roasted" as well but try as I might I couldn't identify either chocolate or balsamic. As I chewed I became keenly aware of the fact that I was very much an apprentice in the art of analyzing aromas and flavors. I was tasting things I had no words for because I had never stopped long enough to establish a correlation between language and what I was experiencing. There is definitely a learning curve to the process. In the end it boils down to educating one's palate. If I try the bread again in a few months after some practice, I will probably be more specific.
I looked at the infograph again. The crust definitely reminded me of a French dark beer, a Pelforth to be precise, which I haven't had in decades. Funny how the tastebuds remember. I assume American dark beers are not that different. But I understand that, to be really useful, the reference would need to be checked.
At the end here are the words I jotted down to describe Tartine's Porridge Rye bread. Probably not enough but hey, it was my first time.
  • Crumb: malty, mildly acidic (like a green apple), reminiscent of oatmeal and a very young raw milk cheese
  • Crust: again malty,  roasted, slightly bitter crust reminding me of a French dark beer.
Now doesn't that tell you much more than if I had just said "delicious?"
Which of course it also was. As well as luscious. Good words for sure as long as they are not the only ones we use.  To conclude I would like to thank Michael for generously sharing this tool with us. Seeing how it immediately filled a gap for me, I am convinced it will come in handy for many other bakers, professional or home-based as a way to facilitate dialogue. Thanks to bakers' math, we already have a good idea of what a bread will be like just from looking at its formula. If the baker adds aroma and flavor notes, we will also know how it will taste. I have a feeling many bakers, especially in the younger generation, will be keenly interested.



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