The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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I made two experimental doughs yesterday.  The winner by a landslide was the White Chocolate Apricot Sourdough.

I really loaded it down with white chocolate chunks and chopped dried apricots.  I was afraid it was going to come out too heavy, but it rose quite nicely.

The only fault was that I had the oven too hot for a sweet bread, so the bottoms of the loaves came out a bit blackened.

Still, this one is a huge winner.

I know I've seen someone else use the white chocolate and apricot pairing somewhere, but I can't find it on the site or in any of the baking books I have easy access to (some are in storage), but still... a hat tip to my unknown inspiration.  This one is delicious!

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I started a dough last night that was somewhere between Ken Forkish's Poolish Pizza Dough and Peter Reinhart's Neo-Neopolitian Dough

Not bad.  Using AP flour, it was nice and extensible, but I'm not getting as much crunch on the crust as I was when I used a stronger flour.  I'm not sure if there is much I can do about that, but I'll keep tinkering.

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After two weeks of travel and eating out, it was super nice this weekend to be back in my kitchen and able to eat at home.  I celebrated by baking three batches of bread.

The first, pictured above, was a 60% whole wheat, 13% spelt sourdough (73% hydration).  It was good, though a bit grainier than what my family typically likes.  Still, we enjoyed it.

I also made a batch of Hokkaido Milk Bread.

And a batch of Saffron Buns.

Pure comfort food, warm and buttery and slightly sweet.  Just right for cool fall days and getting settled back home.



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I just returned from my trip back East.  It was a great trip, we saw all kinds of wonderful things, and the fall colors were amazing.

Definitely one of the highlights of the trip was getting to try real Montréal bagels.

We had time to try two bagels shops in the Mile End district: St-Viateur Bagel and Fairmount Bagel.

Neither place was much more than a mixer, bench, a wood oven, and a cash register.  You don't come to these places for the decor, just the bagels!

But the bagels... 

It is hard to do justice to the bagels! Sweet and crisp on the outside and slightly charred sometimes.  Wow... 

 In Vancouver we have Siegal's Bagels and Rosemary Rocksalt -- run by the same family -- that are doing a good job of recreating Montréal bagels.  They've certainly got the rig set up right:

But ... I don't know what it is, but I've never found myself just standing on the sidewalk lost in thought while munching on their bagels the way I did the Fairmount bagels.  They were that good.  Truly something to experience, if you ever get the chance!

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I baked a couple of times last week.  Both were sourdoughs with a rye-fed stiff levain and approximately a 70% hydration, 50% whole wheat final dough.

This is the first batch, in which I used up my Red Fife whole wheat flour.

The second batch I used a 2012 crop BC soft whole wheat that was grown by a farmer BreadSong knows and which she was kind enough to share some of with me.  I also added 10% spelt flour, just out of curiosity.

It didn't look quite a nice on the outside, but the second batch had fantastic crumb and really wonderful flavour.  It had this beautiful, warm, almost caramel coloured crumb, which really doesn't come through in the photos.

The first batch was very good too.  I love baking in the cool fall weather we've been having because it makes it very easy to do a long, slow fermentation that really seems to bring out the best my sourdough. 

That's it for baking for the next few weeks.  We are heading back East for a bit to see friends and sightsee in Montreal, Vermont, and Boston.  The fall colours should be fantastic and I hope to get a chance to check out a few of the bakeries, mills, and bagel shops back there I've heard so much about.  

I hope everyone else is getting a chance to fire up their ovens again, and my best to fellow Canadians celebrating Thanksgiving next weekend.  

Happy baking!

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Some Lazy Man's Brioche I made this week.  Quite tasty.

My biggest takeaway, baking-wise, from the Kneading Conference West this year is that I've been baking with too strong flour.  I almost always use bread flour, and generally try to bake with the highest protein flour I can find.  It works, in the sense that I usually have strong loaves that can hold their shape well, but they are tougher and less tasty than they need to be.  So I'm trying to ease up and get used to mixing in more AP flour.  I did this with a batch of pizza dough last week and it turned out really nice, much more extensible than what I typically make.  

Still much more to learn about and explore.

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A couple of recent bakes here... The first a 50% whole wheat sourdough.

My loaves were a bit small for the brotforms I used so they didn't come out too impressive looking, but they tasted really nice, nutty and tart.  I used Nunweiller's Red Fife Flour, which contributed significantly to the flavour.

I also made Hamelman's Golden Raisin Loaf.

This one is about 20% whole wheat and includes both a levain and a bit of commercial yeast.

Quite a tasty loaf, though as is to be expected it staled noticeably quicker than the pure sourdough loaves did.

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In other news, I've recently become the proud owner of an Ankarsrum Original, AKA Electrolux DLX, mixer. Mike Avery did a great review of it compared to a Kitchenaid or a Bosch mixer a few years back, which really helped me make up my mind when I was first considered an upgrade. I haven't used it enough yet to opine much, but I'll definitely share my impressions as the develop.

My first real test of it was making a batch of Ankarsrum bread, one of the recipes that comes with the mixer.

The dough contains roughly equal amounts of spelt, rye, and wheat flours and a healthy dose of rolled oats and molasses.


I was quite a bit out of my wheat-centric comfort zone on this one but it turned out really well.  Perhaps not beautiful, but quite delicious.

And the mixer passed with flying colors, handling considerably more dough than my entry-level Kitchenaid ever could.  I think, if anything, that is my biggest issue with the mixer so far: this mixer really isn't really meant for small (3-4 cup of flour) batches, so I'll have to scale some of my recipes up. I'll also have to convince a few more of my neighbors that a little gluten in their diet won't kill them, otherwise my freezer is going to be full capacity all winter long. 

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I just got back from the 2013 Kneading Conference West at the Washington State University Mount Vernon Extension Campus.

(My write up of last year's conference, which gives quite a bit of background about it, is here.)   

Lots of great food, like these wood oven baked bagels made by Mark Doxtader of Portland's Tastebud Farms, and really nice people. Lots of TFL members and visitors among those friendly people too, many of whom sung the praises of what an awesome, helpful group we have here. So, once again, I tip my hat to all of you who take the time to share your considerably expertise with the rest of us. 

The wheat in their test fields was a little past its prime, but still beautiful to behold.

On a personal level, I took away quite a few things that I'll explore in my baking the next couple of months.  But a couple of things I wanted to share with the TFL community.

This is Dr. Stephen Jones, the director of WSU Mount Vernon, and the work he is doing to help reestablish a local grain economy in the Pacific Northwest is incredibly exciting.  Check out some of the links in the right rail on this page such as his article on "Kicking the Commodity Habit" or the article from the BBGA newsletter on grain production in the Skagit Valley.  To see farmers, millers, maltsers, bakers, and researchers all getting together to try to figure out how they can produce better product closer to home is really really exciting.  

This was one of the slides from Dr. Jones' presentation, something like a flavor wheel for wheat.  He made the point that no matter what kind of bread you are baking today, the wheat you are using was bred for roller-milled, strong white flour that makes a voluminous loaf (the branch highlighted in blue).  His team and students are trying to identify and establish other standards for other grain uses, so that one day artisan bakers might be able to bake with wheat that had been (non-GMO) bred to emphasize different characteristics of the grain, say its spiceness or sweetness, maltsters with grain bred for what they want to do, and so on. Really thought-provoking, and really exciting to see the way the team here is going about this work.

For an example of local grain production and the role it can play in a community, you couldn't get a much better example that Camas Country Mill in Eugene, Oregon.

Tom Hunton (above) and his wife Sue run the farm.  They've been growing and milling wheat in the Willamette Valley since 2009, selling it to local bakeries, co-ops, and schools, as well as producing grain blends and soup mixes for the Oregon Food Bank and others in need. Their farm has also become a common field trip destination for local schools.

Recently a property down the road that housed a one hundred year old one-room schoolhouse became a target for redevelopment.  Rather than see the schoolhouse torn down, the Huntons decided to act and have relocated the schoolhouse to their farm.  They are now trying to raise a bit of money to help renovate it so they can use it as an education center for visiting schoolchildren.   

The Huntons are really nice people doing the real work to make a sustainable, local, community-based food system actually come together.  

I'm going to donate and hope to have a chance to visit their farm and education center on  my next trip back to Oregon. I'd encourage other TFL members, particularly those in the Pacific Northwest, to do so as well.  Maybe we could donate a brick or two from "The Fresh Loaf Community"?

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Following up on Wingnut's pizza post, here are a few shots of our pesto pizza from last night.

I used an overnight poolish for the crust, made the dough in the early AM and baked in the evening.

Pretty decent char on the crust for standard home oven.

Good stuff!


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