The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Floydm's blog

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Floydm

We've been having a lovely fall here in BC and I've been getting back into the baking routine.  These sourdough loaves were shared at our Thanksgiving dinner.

Then we had pizza night a couple of days later.

And last weekend I made a big honkin' miche with 5% rye flour, 10% whole wheat.  

I forgot to get a crumb shot, but it was pretty nice.

Of course, what would autumn be without apples and apple pie?  

Recently I learned a trick for making the crust: rather than trying to cube and cut the butter in with forks like the cookbooks always tell you to do, just toss the butter in the freezer for an hour or so before making the crust, then use a cheese grater to slice into little bitty bits.  It is so much easier and having the butter that cold to begin with makes the crust considerably flakier.

Happy baking!

-Floyd

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Floydm

Not the prettiest loaf I've ever made but proof that my new starter is indeed alive. 

* * *

In other news, I just can't wrap my head around it being Thanksgiving here in Canada Monday.  It feels too early in the season for pumpkin pie and turkey.  I think we're going to have a mini-Thanksgiving with some friends here Monday and then celebrate again with family members from the states six weeks from now.  Will I bake?  We shall see.

-Floyd

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Floydm

I'm in the process of starting a new starter.  I decided to try it without raisin water or pineapple juice or anything special, just whole wheat flour and water. 

At the end of day one, no activity but no problem.  Similar after day two.  At the end of day three it smelled nice when opened the cupboard, so I removed the plastic covering the bowl and...

Ew.  

So now I'm trying again using the pineapple juice formula that Debra Wink and SourdoLady recommend.  Hopefully the additional acidity will prevent this from happening again.

In better news, I tried baking crackers the other day.

I didn't exactly nail it but they were better than any crackers I had previously made.  

-Floyd

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Floydm

This past week I've acquired two new baking books worth mentioning here.

The first is Home Baked: Nordic Recipes and Techniques for Organic Bread and Pastry by Hanne Risgaard.  Hanne and her husband run Skærtoft Mølle, an organic mill in southern Denmark and home to one of the world's largest bread festivals each fall.

The extended title pretty well sums up the contents of the book: lots of recipes and beautiful photos of Nordic breads prepared with organic whole-grain flour. Whole wheat, spelt, and rye flours all play prominent roles, as do both sourdough and commercial yeast. There are a few more conventional options too like hamburger buns.

Jeffrey Hamelman, who penned the forward, calls attention to the final section of the book entitled "Leftovers." Indeed, some of the ways of using up old bread such as the Rye Bread Layer Cake and the Rye Bread Porridge with Whipped Cream recipes look quite intriguing.

I've not had a chance to bake from Home Baked yet, but this looks to be one of the more substantial baking books coming out this fall and one worth checking out.

* * *

The other book I just acquired isn't new but is new to me: Andrew Whitley's Bread Matters.

Andrew Whitley is co-founder of the Real Bread Campaign in the UK and gave the keynote at this year's Kneading Conference West. In his presentation he told compelling stories about his experiences running a small bakery that uses mostly local ingredients and how a local bakery can play a pivotal role in forming a strong rural community.

Bread Matters is one part baking guide like Bread Bakers Apprentice and another part political manifesto along the lines of Omnivore's Dilemma. In it Andrew argues strongly that there is a direct correlation between the reduction in nutritional content -- and the increased use of enzymes as processing aids -- in the increasingly industrialized bread being consumed in Britain and the increase in allergic and negative health issues being experienced throughout society. His articulation of his position is worth hearing, and whether you buy his argument or not the recipes and baking instruction section of this book is substantial and impressive. I've marked a number of pages to come back to once I have a starter going strong again.

A special note for Canadians: I found a copy of Bread Matters this week at a local Indigo bookstore. It was the 2009 edition, hardcover, and in the clearance section. Original retail price $42.99, I got my copy for $9.99! If you check the website you can find out if there are any copies at that price available near you. For under ten bucks, picking up this book was a no-brainer.

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Floydm

I've always admired immigrants, folks who, for love or opportunity, pull up their roots and start over.  This summer we've been going through what has to be the easiest immigration process possible -- same language, same geographic region, very similar culture, no questions of about citizenship or difficulty finding employment -- and still... it has been a tremendous amount of work.  I can't even imagine how much work it must be when the obstacles are larger or the circumstances less fortunate.  My respect and admiration for anyone who has gone through it has been redoubled.

Now we are here in Vancouver, largely settled in.  As of today my kids and I are on the Provincial health plan.  My wife's papers have been approved too, so she is legitimately residing with us and no longer "visiting."   All has gone as well as one could possible wish for and we are loving it here.

And I'm finally finding a little time to bake.  Well, only once, so far, but it is a start.

Baking in a new kitchen is always a challenge.  As is using a new oven that isn't mine with a glass door.  No more tossing ice cubes in willy nilly and not worrying about the damage I do.  But I brought my baking stone and picked up an aluminum roasting pan to invert over it to create a little steam, so we'll see how it goes.

I spotted this flour blend at the grocery store and decided to give it a try. 

I was extremely imprecise on this one, just trying to get back in the saddle rather take accurate measure.  My formula was roughly:

Poolish

1 cup AP flour

1 pinch instant yeast

1 cup water

I left that out covered on the counter overnight and then mixed it into

2 cups Robin Hood bread blend 

1 cup AP flour

1 cup water

2 teaspoons Kosher salt

1 teaspoon instant yeast

Mixed with my standmixer for 5 minutes, let rise on the counter top for an hour, folded and put in the refrigerator for 6 hours.

About an hour before baking, I removed it from the fridge, divided it, and shaped a couple of loaves.  I rolled them in sesame seeds before placing them on a pan since I forgot to pick up parchment paper and the last thing I wanted was to have them stick to the pan and ruin everything.

They rose for about an hour, then were baked at 465 for 10 minutes with the aluminum cover, then 425 for another 15 minutes after I removed the lid.

I can't say they were the best loaves I've ever made, but I certain consider them a success and a great starting point!

-Floyd

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Floydm

Hi everyone,

I am long overdue to make a post here about our transition to living in Canada and everything that has been going on with me, but not tonight.  Tonight I did, however, register for the Kneading Conference West in mid-September in Mount Vernon, Washington.  Any other TFLers going?  I'd love to meet up with anyone else attending.  

-Floyd

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Floydm

Two bits of personal info to share with the community.

* * *

The first is that this summer my family and I are moving to Vancouver, BC.

As some recall, we spent last summer in Vancouver. Dorota and I fell in love with the city. I was born in Montreal, making my kids and I dual US/Canadian citizens, but I haven't lived in Canada since I was wee. I've always thought about it — though I grew up in California, I took hockey lessons in grade school and studied French rather than Spanish in high school — but it never seemed like the right time.

After this summer we decided that if this is something we want to do we need to just do it, so we began the immigration process last fall. We've now cleared enough of those hurdles that we are preparing to relocate there soon. We are super excited about it, though quite nervous, since it is still unclear precisely where we'll live, where and how much work I'll find, where my kids will go to school, pretty much everything about what our new life will look like. We have leads for some of these, but still this is a big step into the unknown for us. Wish us luck!

* * *

The second bit is that recently I was approached by a suitor wanting to buy The Fresh Loaf. This happens from time-to-time, but this was the most credible, substantial offer I've received. After much thought and many conversations, I turned the offer down.

The suitor currently owns a number of other websites and online forums. They purchase web properties with high Google PageRank and good growth potential, both in terms of traffic and advertising revenue. "Online value investing" is the way I think of it. TFL is a good candidate for that kind of portfolio.

I declined the offer because I wasn't convinced that this company's management would continue to prioritize the well-being of the community. Mind you, I don't believe they would intentionally do it harm - among other things, they offered to include in the contract the hiring of a professional moderation service (I didn't know such a thing existed either) to help keep things civil here. But I wasn't sufficiently convinced that their approach to site management would foster a thriving community. Increasing the amount of anonymous traffic and ad views here is clearly the easiest way to monetize the site and there is plenty of good content on the site already to sustain traffic growth for many years, even if the community disappeared tomorrow. The financial incentives to maximize the one type of traffic at the expense of the other are high and seem nearly irresistable to anyone not passionate about the community side of this site.

So I let the opportunity pass. That was hard, given the uncertainty of our near future. Vancouver is one of the least affordable cities in North America — if not the world — and we are not wealthy. I work for non-profits, rewarding work but not terribly lucrative. That money would certainly have made our transition to Vancouver easier. But still I think I made the right decision.

Maybe it is just my ego, but I feel like there is more to this site than what's captured in the traffic stats.  It isn't just another website or message board,  it is different: it's a tight-knit community, a community of folks who share a passion and try to treat each other with support, courtesy, and respect whether they are baking newbies, serious amateurs, or professionals and regardless of age or country of origin. That makes it really special to me and, I think, a lot of other folks too.  I don't want to see that get messed up.

* * *

Through this period I've reflected a lot about the future of TFL, what TFL means to me and what I mean to the community, and what would be be best for both my family and for the TFL community.

Without question, I am an imperfect manager of this site. I am not a terribly advanced baker, and I personally don't have the capacity or capital to put as much energy into improving this site as I think it deserves. There is a lot of cool stuff that could be done here, things like making the site easier to use on mobile devices and better integrated with social and multimedia, and that is just on the technical side. There are tons of cool things, editorial and content-wise, that could be done here. Or I could imagine getting more involved helping organize community get-togethers like Lumos did recently. The possibilities seem endless.

Amazingly, despite my recent negligence due to all of my other commitments (two jobs, two kids, the immigration process), site traffic continues to grow.

My plan is to chip away at some of these projects this summer, after my family's transition to Vancouver. Let me rephrase that: my hope is to chip away at some of these projects this summer. I can't offer a plan or a promise until my family is well-situated and provided for in our new home.  But, that said, if you or someone you know is looking for an interesting business opportunity and has the time, energy, interest, and capital to do it right, by all means, get in touch with me. Were the conditions right, I would not be adverse to passing on the baton to another individual or company. You wouldn't need to convince me that you'd steward the site exactly as I have, only that you'd continue to keep the well-being of the community foremost in your mind as you carried on.

-Floyd

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Floydm

Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François, the authors of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, swung through Portland a couple of weeks ago to promote their newest book, Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day.  I was able to catch a few minutes of their time to chat about the new book.

As the title suggests, Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day is similar to their previous books in that it centers around a high-hydration no-knead master recipe that takes only a few minutes to assemble.  Many variations of this dough are introduced, as are the appropriate sauces to accompany everything from your classic Margarita pizza to a Brussel Sprout, Pancetta, and Pecorina pizza.  Pitas, Chapati, and Turkish flatbreads are covered as well, as are gluten-free and whole wheat pizza doughs.  

Jeff and Zoë told me there are now just shy of half a million of their books in circulation and that they personally respond to around twenty emails a day from folks asking questions about their recipes.  While artisan and wood oven pizzerias have become a staple in places like Portland and San Francisco and the East Coast has a deep tradition of serious pizza, it is their impression that there are still many places where pizza as something that doesn't come out of a cardboard box is still catching on.  Particularly in these tough economic times with more folks eating at home, it is their hope that through this book they can make good pizza both affordable and accessible to as many people as possible.

 

  

Floydm's picture
Floydm

Monday is Thankgiving Day in Canada.  I'm listening to CBC 1 and they are talking all about turkey, cranberries, and stuffing.  Yum.

For Canadians looking for recipes to bake this weekend, a few of the more popular Thanksgiving recipes here:

 Buttermilk Cluster

 Sweet Potato Rolls

 Wild Rice & Onion Bread 

I think the latter is my favorite, though I bake them as rolls rather than loaves.  Just follow the technique used in the Sweet Potato Rolls recipe.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Floyd

 

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Floydm

Fall is here and my baking reflects it.  Today it was zucchini muffins.  Earlier this week it was a grape focaccia.

My grapes are Concords.  I remembered ZolaBlue's beautiful Concord Grape Focaccia but ended up using a recipe and technique for a Rosemary Grape Focaccia with Sea Salt from Dan Leader's Local Breads.  

As you can imagine, it is more savory than sweet.  Though I used a poolish, the dough was a bit plain and pale, seemingly underfermented.  It improved a bit the next day.  

There are more Concords on my vines, so I may try the sweet version soon.  Or I wonder if it would be good to combine the two and use sugar instead of salt with grapes and rosemary?  Hm....

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