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.
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.
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.
(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 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.
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"?
After two months of almost constant sun, rain showers and grey skies have returned to southern BC. It is still lush and beautiful, and most every day we are still getting some lovely breaks in the clouds, but it is quite apparent that we'll be seeing less and less of Mr. Sun for a good long while.
And the kids go back to school tomorrow. The long evenings outside riding bikes or playing with friends are soon to be replaced with more studying, reading, cooking, and baking. Sad to see summer go, but those are all good things too, in my book. :)
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I biked around town today and found a shop that carries a bunch of fancy flours including Anita's Organic Mills products, which I've heard good things about from other BC bakers, so I picked as much as I could lug back. And I fed my starter today for the first time in weeks. Let the baking commence in 5... 4... 3...
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A funny story from a week or so ago. We found ourselves in one of those interchangeable suburbs found anywhere in the US doing some back to school shopping (yes, we're becoming those kinds of Canadians now). We got hungry and looked around while standing in a parking lot near a Best Buy and a Kohl's and all the other big box stores. The nearest restaurant was a well-known chain restaurant with many of the trappings of an artisan bakery and which has a fairly safe sounding soup, salad, and sandwich kind of menu which I'd actually never eaten at. Truthfully, I was actually a bit curious to see how it was and whether what they sold might at least provide a hint of artisan bakery food (par-baked, of course) the way, say, Starbucks actually serves a decent enough cup of coffee that in many places it was a pretty big step up from what you could find there before they came to town. Besides, greasy fast food is one thing, but how bad can a sandwich be, right?
The sandwiches we got? They were bad. I mean really, really bad, like "I've gotten better sandwiches in hospital cafeterias and in those little triangular plastic boxes sold at grocery stores and gas stations" bad. I was ... actually awed by how bad they were, considering the price and the description on the menu. I've gone to computer conferences where they cater box lunches containing sandwiches for 5,000+ attendees and never gotten anything as bad. How could our made-to-order sandwiches be so nasty?
It made me a bit sad to think there may be some folks out there who associate what they serve at this chain with artisan bread and reminded me of certain "factories" or "gardens" I've been to that serve ersatz Italian fare. While the joints do have red checked tablecloths and play Dean Martin on the stereo, if that is one's experience of Italian food then you really have no idea what Italian food is like.
Fair to say I won't be eating there again.
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Aside from that disappointment, our cross border run went well. Among other things accomplished was picking up a parcel delivered to my parent's house on that side of the border (save money on shipping). Here's a little snippet from the box:
Some of you, I'm sure, can figure out what I picked up from that. I am very excited and looking forward to putting it to heavy use this winter, and the next... and the next... and the next! Much more to come about it as I start putting it to use.
I've been overloaded the past couple of weeks, so I've fallen a bit behind on my blogging and baking.
Going back the furthest: BreadSong gave me a heads up about an Advanced Baking class being taught very close to where I live at the UBC Farm a few weeks ago. The class was being taught by Florin Moldovan, an accomplished Vancouver-based baker who ran a popular bakery in the Kitsilano neighborhood here. Sadly Florin closed the bakery right around the time I moved here before I had a chance to visit.
There were about a dozen of us in the class. In his intro class, Florin covers the basic steps in baking (mixing, fermenting, shaping, etc). In the advanced class, he introduces preferments, soakers, sourdough, baker's math, and other things that folks had questions about.
Everyone was asked to bring a large mixing bowl with them.
Florin provided the ingredients and had the soakers and starter ready to go. At the end of class we each got to leave with a bowl full of dough.
The next day the dough we'd prepared baked up beautifully. My photo doesn't do it justice.
Florin is an extremely accomplished baker, but one thing that struck me about the class is you wouldn't have to be that good to teach a class like this: a lot of us could do it. Gear-wise, since everyone was asked to bring a bowl and none of the baking was done there, all you really need is space you can occupy (and get dirty) for a few hours and about twenty bucks of ingredients. Pre-measure the ingredients, have them ready in plastic cups or bowls before the class starts, and hand out a couple of print outs about the basics of baking and some simple formulas. Good times, and a great way to introduce folks to baking or meet other bakers.
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Last week was a travel week, down to Oregon to see friends and wrap up our final loose ends there. The storage locker is empty now; we are now fully settled in Vancouver.
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After returning, I baked a nice loaf using a soaker and starter similar to what we did in class.
100g rye flour
130g cracked wheat
100g whole wheat flour
300g Robin Hood "best for bread multigrain blend" flour
400g all-purpose unbleached flour
The starter and soakers
The exterior shot is at the top of this post. Here is a crumb shot.
This technique works well for me and is unlikely to damage the oven in the apartment we are renting.
My loaves this time were around 73% hydration, a little wetter than last time. My formula was:
100g rye flour
900g bread flour
100g whole wheat flour
all of the starter
I stretched and folded twice about an hour apart, then took advantage of the cool weather we were having to ferment the dough slowly outside for another three hours. I brought the dough inside, divided and shaped it, and then gave it just over an hour for the final rise.
Baked in the covered pots at 465 for 15 minutes, then reduced the temperature to 435. I removed the lids at the 30 minute mark, baked them another 20 minutes before turning the oven off, and then removed them from the oven 10 minutes later (1 hour in the oven total).
The flavour was better on these than the previous loaf, and the crumb was more uneven too. I'm very pleased with this one.
I used a firmer starter than I usually do. I believe it was 30 grams starter, 50 grams water, 50 grams rye flour that I left out overnight. In the AM I added 500 grams bread flour, 370 grams water, and 10 grams salt. Folded 3-4 times over 3-4 hours, shaped it, baked it in a pot for 45 minutes.
As Breadsong already posted about, this past weekend the Bakery Congress 2013, the largest annual baking industry event in Western Canada, was held in Vancouver, BC. As tradeshows go it was cheap and I was looking for an excuse for a bike ride on a beautiful sunny day, so I pedaled over to the PNE to take a look.
The minute you walked in the door you could smell that this wasn't just any tradeshow.
Breads and sweets everywhere!
I chatted with Ross from Nunweiler's Flour Mill quite a bit and picked up a couple of bags of their organic flour, including their Red Fife Flour. I'm looking forward to giving it a try!
Lest we forget we are in Canada: hockey-themed giveaways.
Ah, the slicers. Do those every bring back memories...
Need a mixer, anyone?
This picture I took for Song of the Baker, who is always telling me about how great the flour from Anita's Organic Mill in Chilliwack is. I will get out there to check out their store, one of these days.
Baking presentations were running throughout the day. Here Craig Ponsford, former BBGA chairman and part of the Gold Medal winning Team USA at Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie, and Tracey Muzzolini, from Saskatoon and who has also competed in the Coupe du Monde de la Boulangerie with Team Canada, prepare to present on making whole wheat baguettes.
Scoring the loaves.
Craig asks "How many of you are getting asked by your customers about gluten free?" He then went on to talk a bit about the benefits of "whole-milled" whole wheat flours as opposed to whole grain flours that are actually reconstituted from white flour.
Back on the floor, you can see that there were a lot of vendors and attendees here. Vendors were selling ingredients, machines, packaging, ...
Errr.... probes too. I think this was to measure the volume of the loaves? A bit over the top, IMO, but if you bake tens of thousands of loaves a day that kind of precision matters, I suppose.
I had an enjoyable time and was able to snack on enough samples of sweets that I was thankful for the long bike ride home to work off some of it!