The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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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.

 

  

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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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Floydm

Hi hi from Vancouver, British Columbia!

My family and I are spending the remainder of summer up here, with me telecommuting back to the office a few days a week.  

There is a ton to see and do here.  Bakeries are, of course, on my hit list.  I've already sampled a fair share.  I visited Siegel's Bagels our first morning here. 

Their bagels are so, so good.

Terra Breads are quite good and easy to find in the local grocery store and on Granville Island.  I hit Mix: the Bakery this morning (beware, music on the website) and tried their scones, which were heavenly. The flat bread selection at the local market is amazing, too: pita bread, naan, taftoon bread, and other flat breads I've never seen or heard of before.   Many more photos and posts from up here as I get out and explore the city.

-Floyd

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Floydm

I upgraded the WYSIWYG editor on the site today.  It now has a spellchecker (yay!) and should work on newer versions of IE.  I think.  

Please let me know if you run into any trouble.  If you can include browser and platform information in your comment it would be most helpful.

Thanks!

-Floyd

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Floydm

In March I travelled.  A lot.  My best guess is about 10,000 miles.  And, of course, when I travel I search for good bread.


Vancouver from Granville Island


First up was a trip to Vancouver for a Canucks game.  I did not get a change to go to all of the bakeries that folks here recommended, but at least I did get a chance to try Siegal's Montreal-style Bagels.


Bagels


I don't know for certain that these are authentic Montreal-style bagels but fresh out of the oven they were delicious.  I will definitely be hitting Siegal's again the next time I'm up there... Perhaps for a playoff game in a couple of weeks!


Next up, a trip to Chicago for Drupalcon.


Chicago


The conference was two blocks away from Fox & Obel, an upscale grocery store with a very good bakery in it.  The bakery was recently named one of the ten best bakeries in the US by Bon Appetit magazine.   I did not get a chance to take a photo of any of their breads, but their Olive Ciabatta rolls fueled much of my visit.  And of course I had to try a Chicago style pizza while I was there.  I had a veggie one from Bella Balcino's that was quite good... not a total gut bomb, which I could not handle a few hours before hopping on the plane home.


A quick trip home and back east to Washington DC.


Washington Monument


Incredible weather, decent food, and the Presidential motorcade went past us twice close enough to see Obama's face.  Needless to say, my kids were thrilled.


After DC we went through Providence, RI.  I walked around the Johnson & Wales campus a bit and tried to go to a pizza joint that Peter Reinhart had recommended, but alas it it was closed on the night of the week we were there.



Final destination: Boston.




Mike's Pastry in the North End is famous for their cookies and cannoli.  The Cannoli were excellent but it was the pignoli cookies that really blew my mind.  I definitely intend to find a recipe for something like them soon.


And now we are back.  My starter survived just fine and made some lovely baguettes yesterday.


baguettes


-Floyd

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Floydm

I went down to the Red Mill to wish Bob a happy 82nd birthday today.



Bob and Charlee Moore


Most folks on the West Coast, particularly bakers, are very familiar with Bob Moore and his Red Mill.  For the rest of you folks: Bob's story is well worth reading in full.  In short, over the last forty years Bob built a hugely successful business promoting whole grains and healthy eating.  Bob's Red Mill's products are widely distributed in grocery and health food stores all over the US and Canada.


 A year ago, Bob celebrated his 81st birthday century by handing ownership of his company over to the employees.  This year, Bob celebrated by giving away $5 million to Oregon State University and another 1.3 million to Portland's National College of Natural Medicine to fight childhood obesity.



After a toast from a few friends and associates, Bob gave a brief thank you speech and got a laugh with his suggestion that starting the day with hot cereal was the key to his longevity and good health.  



(You can find more photos of the Red Mill and of Dave's Killer Bread Bakery, which is right across the street, in this Flickr slideshow).


I spoke to Bob briefly but long enough to give him my thanks and express my appreciation for all he has done for the community, both the baking community and Oregon.   


Happy Birthday, Bob!  May you have many more and continue to be a role model to us all.

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