The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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Floydm

A month has blown by since the last time I posted here.  With good reason: we spent most of November in Europe visiting my wife's family.  

We had a couple of days in London:

The rest in Warszawa...

and Kraków.

Food/bread-wise, we didn't have time for food tourism.  Yes, I hit Blikle bakery while in Warszawa for some pączki, but most of our meals were either with family or at Bar Mleczny.  

Which I am not complaining about: the food is fantastic, the breads and rolls always fresh and very, very good. I wish we could find breads like the fresh bułki (seen above) as easily in North America as you can there. Literally every corner store has them, fresh and unwrapped, and very good: light and crispy but not massive and pillowy like most of the grocery store rolls I find here. It must require a very different approach to shopping than what we have here, with many more frequent trips to a local shop, for it to be profitable for even small stores to stock so many fresh perishable items. 

* * *

I have been baking since being back.  At top is a cross section of a Dill Cottage Cheese loaf I made last night, very similar to this dill bread recipe.  An exterior shot:

I also baked a white French loaf to go with a pot of soup:

and my regular sourdough rounds, two of which are rising at the moment.

I've been enjoying reading about everyone's Thanksgiving meals. This was the first year since moving to Canada that we didn't also celebrate American Thanksgiving. We did a big production with turkey and stuffing and cranberries in October, however, so it didn't feel like we were missing anything. It is just good to be back home and baking in my own kitchen again!

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Floydm

Right now I certainly have the will to bake, and some interesting new books to bake from, but am so busy with work and travel that I'm not finding time to bake much at all right now.  Above is the one sourdough boule I made last week. It did come out pretty nice, I gotta admit.

This weekend's travel took me past Bread Farm in Bow, Washington, which is always worth a short detour to visit.

 

I finished reading In Search of the Perfect Loaf on a ferry ride.  Highly, highly recommended.  I think anyone who enjoys visiting this site regularly will enjoy reading it and recognize quite a bit of their own ambitions in Sam Fromartz's story.  Read it!

Since I'd finished my book on the return ferry ride I just had to admire the scenery.  

 

Such is life in the Pacific Northwest.

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Floydm

Happy Thanksgiving weekend to all the Canadians here!

We are having some friends over who've never had a turkey dinner and putting on the whole production with stuffing, sweet potatoes, and cranberries tomorrow.  I'd like to also bake rolls using Peter Reinhart's Wild Rice & Onion dough, which is still one of my all time favourites. 

* * * 

At the top is a straight French bread I made last weekend to go with a pot of soup.  Nothing fancy, but sooo good with the right kind of meal.

* * *

Which reminds me, I recently received a copy of United States of Bread, a new release.  It is such a new release that it has a single (one star) review on Amazon. That is too harsh, In my mind.  

I'll agree that the subtitle and description are a bit ambitious for what is essentially a little book of traditional North American bread recipes, things like Anadama bread, Amish dill bread, potato bread, and buttermilk bread. A lot of recipes in it I am familiar with from versions of them in one of Bernard Clayton's books. But I like that it has variety but not too many recipes and could imagine giving a copy to somone just getting into baking those sorts of breads.

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Floydm

I hope everyone is having a good late summer, early fall.  

Things have been remarkable busy in my household the past few months and only appear to be getting busier the next few months. But I have been baking when I can.  

Mostly I've been baking sourdough boules, these sorts of things.

My basic formula is 72% hydration with 20% whole grain flour, though I tend to experiment and make it lighter or grainer based on what other breads we have in the house, what we are going to have for dinner, or what sort of loaf I am craving. 

I am baking these in my enamel pots, which are cheap and pose no risk to our oven.

 We do enjoy them!

* * *

Also worth mentioning that I was contacted a few weeks ago by the folks at Craftsy, an online hobby training video site that a few community members have mentioned. I typically turn away solicitations and advertising partnership requests, but my interest was piqued when I saw they had an Artisan Bread Making class taught by Peter Reinhart as well as a Sourdough Bread Making class taught by Richard Miscovich (there is also a shorter free pizza making class taught by Peter as well). Both Peter and Richard teach at Johnson & Wales and are highly respected both as bakers and as instructors. I've taken classes or worked with both and respect them both immensely.

So I signed up for the Craftsy affiliate program (which means this isn't a paid post, but if you click through one of those links and sign up for a class there, I get a cut) and am working my way through Peter and Richard's videos. I've enjoyed what I've seen so far.

Have other folks taking these classes? Your impressions?

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Floydm

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending the 2014 Grain Gathering in Mt Vernon, Washington.

Formerly known as the Kneading Conference West, the Grain Gathering is the preeminent gathering of bakers, millers, farmers, malters, and breeders in the Pacific Northwest.

The Grain Gathering consists of three days of presentations, workshops, meetings, and demonstrations about making the best use of local and heirloom grains.  It is very hands on: there are no shortage of opportunities to get your hands dirty!

Many of the workshops were similar to those taught in previous years, such as Kiko Denzer's workshop on building a cob oven.

And Mark Doxtader of Tastebud Farm again taught about making pizza in a wood-fired oven.

He had a fancy new rig this year. His pizzas were amazing, as always.

Highlights for me included being involved in the production line making the rolls for Saturday evening's dinner.

When I first arrived I started chatting with an older gentleman next to me, who told me "That's my wheat." I assumed that meant he grew or milled the wheat, but it turned out I was speaking to Merrill Lewis, a retired English professor turned amateur wheat breeder who had been developing this new line of wheat for over a decade.

Here we have the farmer, the breeder, and the baker. Tom Hunton of Camas Country Mill, Merrill Lewis, and Juli from Breadfarm.

We baked with Merrill's Edison wheat harvested in both 2013 and 2014 so we could compare the results.  The freshly harvested performed a bit better, but both were delicious. 

Another highlight for me was attending Jeffrey Hamelman's pretzel making workshop.

Aside from the lye bath, which he reserved for himself, the session was entirely hands on.

Finally, the conference ended with a chat with Dan Barber, author of the new book The Third Plate.

I have not had a chance to read The Third Plate yet, but my understanding is that the work of Dr. Steve Jones and the Bread Lab at the WSU Mt Vernon Extension Campus, where this conference was held, feature prominently.  

It goes without saying, but I'll say anyway that if you ever have an opportunity to attend a conference like this, go. The sessions are great, and bread and grain people are without fail really good people.

Also, as in past years I heard lots of kind words about The Fresh Loaf and the community we have here, which I wish to pass on to you all. Many many people who never (or rarely) post here rely on the knowledge and expertise you all share here and appreciate the kindness and civility with which you share it. Thank you all!

Also, be sure to check out MC Farine's blog for a lot more great pictures and stories about The Grain Gathering.

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Floydm

Hi hi...

I baked yesterday for the first time in a looong time.  Had my ripe starter ready to go, only to discover that the battery in my scale had died.  So I completely winged it.

My best guess is that this ended up around 20% rye and a little lower that 70% hydration.

I hope everyone is having a great spring!  Ours has been quite busy with work and a move (same neighborhood, but it still requires packing and unpacking everything).   

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Floydm

Nothing fancy, but I baked a few days ago.  First time in quite a while.  

Overnight poolish, slow rise of the final dough the next day, not a scale or measuring cup in sight. 

Not one of my best efforts but, all things considered, still quite good.

I hope folks here are having a wonderful spring.

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Floydm

Hi all.

It has been some time since I baked or posted. In late January I started a new job. It is wonderful, but it has seriously cut into my baking time. I do log into the site very day, trim spam, help people with their accounts, and so on.

Seen here is cinnamon raisin oatmeal bread and a couple of sourdough loaves I baked on Sunday.  Neither came out perfect, but I can't complain considering how long it has been.  

I hope you all are having a wonderful winter.

Edit: Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I just got Tartine Book 3 in the mail. Beautiful, isn't it? I hope I can find some time to dive into it soon. 

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Floydm

10% whole wheat, 10% rye sourdough with a long, cold fermentation outside.

I recently spotted a near-mint condition copy of The Village Baker, which has always been one of my favourite baking books that I've never owned.  I made his cream cheese snails again, which I haven't made in years.

Finally, I found a can of pumpkin puree in the cupboard so I whipped up some pumpkin chocolate chip muffins.

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Floydm

I've been baking a bit the past few weeks.  Above is a 20% whole wheat sourdough I baked a week or so ago.  The crumb:

For our Christmas dinner I whipped up something like the Buttermilk Cluster:

It was indeed rather tasteless compared to what I usually bake, but it still was quite decorative and more than adequate for mopping up everything else.

What else?  Cinnamon Rolls from a few days ago:

And a 75% hydration sourdough with 10% whole wheat and 10% spelt flour I baked yesterday:

These ones got a real long, slow ferment thanks to the cool weather we've been having.  Nothing like those of you in the Midwest or the East of either the US or Canada have been having, mind you! Still cool enough that the beaches and the forests are frosty...

 ...and the sourdoughs are extra tangy.

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