The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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PiPs

"Life must change from time-to-time, if we are to go forward in our thinking."

Stay tuned ...

Cheers,
Phil

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PiPs

Weekend dawn has surrendered to lazy rain and on our kitchen counter French toast soaks as the remainder of the house sleeps. 

A week ago we spent some time near the beach well away from the routine of our city life. Time spent on beaches and flying kites in the salted seabreeze rejuvenates the soul. During sunset walks we stepped over washed up jellyfish whilst gazing at distant whales breaching on the horizon. But most important of all we relaxed.

Back in Brisbane, I have landed some temp work with a design agency which is keeping my days full and my brain busy. It is nice to be challenged and I think the work will reward both my confidence and skills–which is exactly what I need right now.

Ever since I started baking I have always breadcrumbed my leftover bread, and the tempo of its use in our cooking matches the rate at which we collect stale bread–a perfect equilibrium! When grabbing a few slices of desem bread from the freezer for breakfast I noticed that my collection of stale bread ends had snowballed and contained all sorts of treasures like Tartine's Sesame Bread, Danish Rye, Desem, Miche and some Pain au Levain's with bold baked crusts.

These combined flavours in the breadcrumbs adds an exciting strength of flavour to the ready-made flavours available in caramel crusts. A caraway and cumin loaf is an exquisite addition if available! 

I have found the best time to approach making breadcrumbs is at the close of a weekend bread bake. After switching off the oven, the collection of stale bread is defrosted, cut into small cubes, spread on a baking tray and left on the cooling baking stone for the night. The following morning I check the brittleness of the bread cubes–there should be no softness at all–then in batches reduce them to fine crumbs in a food processor. Ear plugs are a luxury for this!

 


The flour milled with my Komo mill is used for more than just bread. I have been trialling shortcrust pastries made with freshly milled wheat sifted down to a dark high extraction flour with delicious results. This recipe is one of our favourite meals and has been made all the better by replacing the standard frozen shortcrust pastry the original recipe calls for. I have never seen children so eager to eat pumpkin as they are when presented with a slice of this pie.

 

Pumpkin and Feta Pie
Serves 6

200g high extraction four chilled (preferably freshly milled)
100g unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes
pinch of sea salt
2-3 tablespoons chilled water

Half a butternut pumpkin (squash) peeled and cut into 2cm (3/4 inch) cubes
4 garlic cloves unpeeled
4 tablespoons of olive oil
2 red onions halved and sliced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
100g (3 1/2oz) crumbled feta cheese
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary 

  1. Put the flour, butter and pinch of salt in a food processor and process for 1 minute. Add the chilled water and process until the mixture comes together. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours.
  2. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Spread the pumpkin and garlic on a baking tray and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and bake for 30 minutes or until tender. Transfer the pumpkin to a large bowl and the garlic to a plate. Leave to cool.
  3. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan. Add the onion and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Add the sugar and vinegar and cook for a further 15 minutes or until the onion is a dark golden colour. Add to the pumpkin and allow to cool completely.
  4. Add the feta and rosemary to the pumpkin mix and squeeze the garlic out the skins into the mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Roll out the pastry to a 35cm (14 inch) circle and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Arrange the pumpkin mixture over the top leaving a 4cm (1 1/2 inch) border. Fold over the pastry edges, pleating as you fold.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes or until pastry is crisp and golden.

 

The rain appears to have really set in and the garden is just soaking it up. So while we are housebound for the time being it seems there is no excuse for not getting stuck into some neglected housework ... before I get into trouble ... eeek!

Happy baking (and milling) everybody.

Cheers,
Phil

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PiPs

I am awake far earlier than I would like to be. As I start to write this it is still dark outside and the cool air carries the feint song of only the earliest of the early birds. I too am an early bird. Yesterday was my final day at work so I am still a mix of emotions. Feelings of relief, apprehension, sadness, excitement and plain old scared stiff flood over me with little notice and catch me completely unaware … but enough about this … from change comes opportunity. Everything will work out!

To take some time to recuperate Nat and I are about to enjoy a small break from the rat race and plan to spend it lazing by a pool and walking on beaches at sunset. It has been so long since we have had any kind of real holiday it may take us a day or two to remember how to relax.

Before we head away I like to make sure we have a few loaves stocked in the freezer to make the transition from holiday bliss back to reality a little easier—something wholesome to return home to. The whole-wheat 'desem' (100% whole-wheat sourdough) I baked this week was inspired from a few different sources and incorporates some new processes for me. 

Janet Cook and I often discuss our desem starter maintenance and one of the techniques that Janet uses with her whole-grain baking is retarding the dough during bulk fermentation. Now I have always been a bit of a 'retarding shaped loaves' kind of guy as I am normally a bit of a control freak during a dough's bulk ferment period, so it was going to be a big step for me to change this habit.

The push to try this new method came with some email correspondence I had with Dave Miller of Miller's Bakehouse regarding the schedule he uses with his whole-grain baking. Dave bakes with freshly milled flour and uses it when 'it's wriggling with life' so I was curious how he incorporated this into his schedule. The answer is by utilising a long cold bulk ferment. This way Dave can split the bake over two days. The first day is spent milling and mixing and the second is shaping and baking. A highly hydrated dough that is kept cool also makes shaping easier and the final proofing is less likely to run away from him on warmer days.

So I formulated my timelines and set about tempering some biodynamic wheat grains from Four Leaf Milling. Just a word of warning to those who want to temper their wheat in a plastic tub by shaking around the added water. HOLD THE LID ON TIGHT! … dear oh dear, I am still finding wheat grains in corners of our kitchen from a little tempering accident that may have occurred.

I milled the flour in one pass with a slightly coarser setting than I normally use, all the while stirring the new flour to cool it as quickly as possible. I then set about mixing. Since I was going to use a long cold bulk ferment I couldn't see any benefit using a extended autolyse so I kept that within an hour before I added the desem starter and mixed the dough thoroughly. I allowed the dough an hour on the bench before giving it a stretch-and-fold and placing it in the fridge overnight for 12 hours.

One part of this I have neglected to mention so far is the starter builds. I am using the same time and temperatures for the starter builds as in my previous miche bake. Namely two very short warm builds—the starter was doubling in three hours.

Two day whole-wheat desem (4 x 1000g)

Formula

Overview

Weight

%

Total dough weight

4000g

 

Total flour

2222g

100%

Total water

1778g

80%

Total salt

40g

1.8%

Prefermented flour

222g

10%

 

 

 

Final desem starter build – 3 hrs 25-26°C

 

 

Starter

85g

50%

Freshly milled organic wheat flour

170g

100%

Water

107g

63%

 

 

 

Final dough - 25°C

 

 

Desem starter

362g

18%

Freshly milled organic wheat flour

2000g

100%

Water

1638g

81%

Salt

40g

2%

 

Method

  1. Mix final desem starter and leave to ferment for 3 hours at 26°C
  2. Mill flour and allow to cool to room temperature before mixing with water (hold back 100 grams of water) and autolyse for a one hour.
  3. Add starter to autolyse then knead (French fold) 5 mins. Return the dough to a bowl and add salt and remaining 100 grams of water and squeeze through bread to incorporate (dough will separate then come back together smoothly) then knead a further 10 mins.
  4. Bulk ferment for one hour at room temperature. Stretch-and-fold after one hour and place in a fridge at 4°C for 12 hours.
  5. Remove from fridge and allow an hour at room temperature.
  6. Divide. Preshape. Bench rest 30 mins. Shape.
  7. Final proof was for 1.5 hours at 24°C
  8. Bake in a preheated oven at 250°C for 10 mins with steam then reduce temperature to 200°C and bake for a further 30 mins. 

 

 

I won't lie to you, I was a little apprehensive about what state I would find the dough in the following morning. But during the night the dough had developed nicely and had not skinned or over-proofed. The dough then spent some time on the kitchen bench while we enjoyed our breakfast. Shaping the cool dough was effortless and it wasn't to long before it was ready for baking.

The first thing I was surprised about was the sweetness to this bread. I had imagined that after an extended fermentation albeit at cool temperatures, that the bread would have had more unwanted tang than was present. This was a revelation to me. The second thing I noticed was the warm caramel flavours in the crust. The bread was packed with deep full flavours. The coarse flour inhibited the crumb a little but it was not gummy or heavy. Perfect for morning toast or a bed for scrambled eggs.


Fresh flour hybrid sandwich loaf = Fail

I have spent some time reading Owen Simmons 'Book of bread' and have enjoyed learning about the intricacies of the English and Scottish bread traditions. So much so that I have been experimenting with the idea of a hybrid sandwich loaf. I have a picture in my mind of a soft yeasted high top bread with the added complexity of some sourdough.  After some tasty success using white flour I tried a version using freshly milled flour sifted down to a creamy soft colour … and made some of the yuckiest, awful bread I have made in a long, long time :)

I didn't like the flavour, the texture, the crumb or the aroma. I am still trying to piece together how a yeasted straight dough with a small amount of added sourdough using a short process created such a foul beast of a loaf. The final loaf looks great, and the dough felt really nice but when it came time to slice I could tell the rubbery crumb was not going to be pleasant eating. Sour, chewy and rubbery. A completely different bread to a version I made earlier in the week using white flour. Perhaps I am just to accustomed to eating highly flavoured french style hearth breads using high extraction flours and was disappointed with this. I am still unsure, but at least it will be good enough for toast.

 

Anyhow, I have bags to fill, chores to finish and a car to pack. I'll see you all in a few days!

Cheers,
Phil

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PiPs

We are only half way through spring and already the temperatures feel like summer. Hot windy days with no rain have left our lawn and garden golden brown and crunchy. Over a railing in the back yard, well hidden from the scorching afternoon sun a star jasmine has been thriving and filling the kitchen with its scent. We now wake to the morning call of stormbirds.

My current job is winding down into its final week and I have been busy applying for jobs with some success. I have been called back for a second interview for an in-house graphic design position this afternoon. Fingers crossed …

During the week I had the good fortune of spending a day with Brett Noy at his award winning bakery Uncle Bob’s Bakery in Belmont. In 2012 Brett Noy was the first Australian ever appointed to judge the World Cup of Baking—the Coupe de Monde de la Boulangerie—his passion for baking, attention to detail and dedication to the training of Australia’s future bakers shone through every conversation we had.

Brett and his team were so accommodating and gracious throughout the day. They answered all my questions and even allowed me to get involved in the days bake. It was great to see a different side to sourdough production as I have only been involved with small wood-fired micro-bakeries up to this point. So much food for thought … thanks again Brett!

With all this activity I have been keeping my baking relatively simple. I am still following the formula I posted here but on occasions experiment with one feature and watch the result. This week I experimented with using freshly milled whole-grain flour to feed the levain. As a result, 10% pre-fermented flour was from freshly milled wheat and another 8% freshly milled spelt and 2% freshly milled rye was added to the final dough—so in all, 20% of the flour was freshly milled whole-grains.

To keep a sweet flavour profile in the levain while feeding with freshly milled flour required some changes to the build times. The trick is to keep them short and reasonably warm to maximise yeast growth and expand them well before increased acid build-up occurs. This meant the builds were expanded as soon as they doubled—about three to four hours.

There was a wonderful point as mixing commenced—you could see the whole-grain levain streaking through the dough as it dissolved and finally disappeared. For the remainder of the afternoon the dough sat in bulk and continued on schedule until shaping and retarding overnight in the fridge. A miche and two batards were baked the following morning after a few hours on the bench coming to room temperature.

The crumb and crust were keeping in line with previous pain au levain I have baked but with perhaps a more defined wheat flavour. There isn't a sharp tang but instead a delayed flavour that is quite hard to pinpoint. We took the batards to a Sunday afternoon BBQ where a friend took a bite and exclaimed that "while she had eaten bread before … she had never tasted it until now” … a wonderful quote made all the more poignant when I explained that the bread she was eating was comprised of only flour, water and salt …

and the tart making continues

... a berry and ricotta tart for the Sunday afternoon BBQ. A sweet ricotta filling is baked into a tart shell and then cooled. It is then topped with a strawberries and blueberries which have been lightly soaked in caramelised balsamic. A light and bright afternoon tea …

Cheers,
Phil

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PiPs

Two years ago Nat purchased Chad Robertson’s Tartine Bread for my birthday and wrote an inscription on the inside cover … ‘To inspire you’

When I want to shake things up in my kitchen and try something different this is the book I turn to. I love the restlessness and pursuit of perfection in the stories. For me, this is its inspiration. It is not a manual and it is not a handbook … it’s the story of a journey.

While I have baked many of the formulas in Tartine Bread over the years I have not experimented enough with Chad’s schedule for maintaining a leaven. This was to be part of my inspiration this week so I converted a portion of my firm levain into a 100% hydration starter fed with 50% freshly milled wheat and 50% plain flour.

The trick is, you see, to catch Chad's leaven at the perfect time. I find this is even more critical for me using fresh milled flour and I have on many occasions had to do an intermediate build to save an over-fermented leaven. And the best (and cheapest) tool I have found for judging leaven readiness? … my nose!

After fermenting in the cool night air the leaven passed both the float and sniff tests (sounds gross) and was then mixed into the dough. Tartine’s sesame loaf uses the basic country bread formula with a cup of toasted unhulled sesame seeds mixed through the dough in the early stages of bulk fermentation.

The slow gentle dough manipulation is relaxing, but I still find it a high maintenance bread to prepare. Keeping temperatures maintained with a small amount of dough over a four period can be tricky during the seasons and the constant attention required for turning the dough can be frustrating. In the end however I was rewarded with subtle dough that shaped easily and bloomed beautifully in a hot oven.

The sesame flavours are subtle. I think Nat was expecting stronger flavours from this bread and was surprised by its sleepy nature. A tablespoon of sesame oil in the dough could be a nice addition without overpowering any of the future flavours that would be stacked on a slice or two.

 

My miche adventures continue …

My experimentation with creating high extraction flour has moved on to the process of tempering. By slowly adding a controlled amount of moisture to grain over a period of time, the bran will toughen allowing easier (and larger) separation when milling. My process of tempering is high-touch. I don’t own a grain moisture meter so I was extremely careful that the grain was dry to touch before milling.

One percent of water a day was added to the grain over a four day period followed by a final 24 hours rest before milling. Normally I mill cold grains from the fridge but have heard that this can lead to the bran shattering into smaller pieces so I instead milled room temperature grains. I feel like I am a bit stuck with this. The small stones on my mill have a tendency to heat up the flour quite substantially but I do end up with larger pieces of bran and softer flour using this process. Hmmm …

The resulting flour was sifted to 80% extraction in one pass and was not re-milled or re-sifted. A more complicated miche was planned for this bake. I would use a rye starter in addition to my standard levain, plus include a small amount of barley malt extract for flavour and colouring only.

 

Tempered High Extraction Miche (2 x 2kg miche)

Formula

Overview

Weight

%

Total dough weight

4000g

 

Total flour

2286g

100%

Total water

1714g

75%

Total salt

43g

1.8%

Pre-fermented flour

571g

25%

 

 

 

1. Rye sour – 12 hrs 25°C

 

 

Starter (Not used in final dough)

10g

10%

Freshly  milled coarse rye flour

55g

50%

T130 rye flour

55g

50%

Water

186g

160%

Total

296g

 

 

 

 

2. Levain – 5-6hrs 25°C

 

 

Previous levain build

174g

50%

Flour (I use a flour mix of 70% Organic plain flour, 18% fresh milled sifted wheat, 9% fresh milled sifted spelt and 3% fresh milled sifted rye)

348g

100%

Water

201g

58%

Salt

3g

1%

 

 

 

Final dough. DDT=25°C

 

 

Rye sour (1.)

270g

15%

Levain (2.)

722g

42%

Sifted fresh milled wheat (80% extraction)

1715g

100%

Barley malt extract

50g

3%

Water

1267g

74%

Salt

40g

2%

 

Method

  1. Mix rye sour and leave to ferment for 12 hours at 25°C
  2. Mix levain and leave to ferment for 5-6 hours at 25°C
  3. Combine flour and water then mix to shaggy consistency - hold back 100 grams of water.
  4. Autolyse for one hour.
  5. Add levain and rye sour to autolyse then knead (french fold) for five mins. Return the dough to a bowl and add salt and remaining 100 grams of water. Squeeze the salt and water through the dough to incorporate (the dough will separate then come back together smoothly). Remove from the bowl and knead a further 10 mins.
  6. Bulk ferment for two hours with a stretch-and-fold half way through. Mine was ready after 1.5 hours … watch the dough!
  7. Divide. Preshape. Bench rest 30 mins. Shape into large boules and proof in floured baskets seam side up.
  8. Final proof was 1-1.5 hours at 25°C
  9. Bake in a preheated oven at 250°C for 10 mins with steam then reduce temperature to 200°C and bake for a further 40 mins. 

One and half hours into a planned bulk ferment of two hours I could tell the dough was ready for division and shaping. Perhaps it was the inclusion of the rye starter, perhaps the malt or perhaps both … either way, the dough was moving fast.

I am becoming braver with both my proofing and handling of these large breads but peeling one into my home oven is still a stressful moment. Our poor little oven does its best to punch it up while I sit and dream of a masonry oven or stone floor deck oven and the results I could achieve.

The sifting method, malt and rye starter created a darker crumb than previous miche but gave the bread a deep flavour that was nicely balanced. I had suspected the rye starter would have a large impact on the flavour but this was not the case at all.

So will I continue to temper grains before milling? I am really not sure. It creates more planning and logistics before a bake. I do end up with softer flour, but the heat generated by the mill really bothers me. I think some experimenting with tempering and using the fridge to cool the grains before milling may be in order.

Cheers,
Phil
p.s. Happy World Bread Day everyone!

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PiPs

I am not sure if things happen for a reason or not, but sometimes pleasant surprises occur and push you in directions different from what you had in mind. These events can be small or epic, but I am sure they are all important in the making of ones life. What I do believe however, is that if you put out a question or an idea to the world and keep it close to your heart it will be answered … one way or another :)

Two weeks ago I really hadn't been giving rye breads much thought apart from reading a couple of articles relating to Chad Robertson’s latest experimentation with rye bread formulas … oh, and I may have been more than a bit obsessed with Lisbeth Salander and the amount of open faced sandwiches she consumed :)

This all changed however on a dreary Saturday afternoon when by chance we stopped by our favourite antique store. To be honest it is more than a store. It’s a warehouse that floods your senses. I can only take it in small doses as there is only so much visual clutter, weird aromas, dust and awful music playing that I can take.

I couldn’t believe it! Sitting on a shelf near the front door was a Danish rye bread slicer. My heart skipped a beat. I had read about them some time ago and even remember sending Nat an email with a picture of one exclaiming something along the lines of, “how cool is this!” It was in lovely condition possessing a blade so sharp that my blood turned cold with the thought of the possible injuries. Needless to say it now lives in our home tucked up on a very high shelf, far from small curious fingers.

In an instant my brain flicked into rye mode, and accompanied by endless cups of tea I spent the next few days obsessively researching and putting together a formula for a Danish inspired rye bread. It seems to me that there is no ‘correct’ way to make a Danish rye so I took elements and methods that appealed most to me and made my own.

The basic idea I had was this: 80% rye flour, lots of grains and seeds, dark beer, malt and the use of a pre-dough that fermented all of this the day before baking. I also wondered whether fermenting the cooked grains and seeds would reduce the amount of phytic acid? Any thoughts?

 

 

Danish Inspired Rye (2 x 1650g)

Overview

Weight

% of total flour

Total flour

988g

100%

Total liquid

1289g

131%

Prefermented flour

295g

20%

Desired dough temperature 24°C

 

 

 

 

 

1. Rye sour – 12 hrs 24°C

 

 

Starter (Not used in final dough)

10g

1%

Freshly  milled coarse rye flour

43g

4.3%

T130 rye flour

44g

4.3%

Water

144g

14.5%

Total

231g

 

 

 

 

2. Pre-dough 16hrs 22-24°C

 

 

Ryesour (1.)

231g

23%

Freshly  milled coarse rye flour

104g

10.5%

T130 rye flour

104g

10.5%

Cooked, soaked and drained rye grains

600g

61%

Flax seeds

200g

20%

Pumpkin Seeds

100g

10%

Sunflower seeds

100g

10%

Water

475g

48%

Stout (or dark beer)

170g

17%

Barley malt extract

15g

1.5%

Salt

15g

1.5%

 Total

2099g

 

 

 

 

Final paste  @ 24°C

 

 

Pre-dough (2.)

2114g

213%

Bakers flour

198g

20%

Freshly  milled coarse rye flour

248g

25%

T130 rye flour

248g

25%

Water

500g

50%

Salt

15g

1.5%

Total

3323g

 

 

Method

  1. The day before, prepare the rye sour (1.) in morning
  2. Also in the morning boil 200-300g of rye grains for 30mins then soak for the remainder of the day. (You want to end up with 600g drained weight – I had leftovers which I use in cooking)
  3. In the afternoon/evening prepare the pre-dough. Drain soaked grains and combine with rye sour, water and remaining pre-dough ingredients. Stir to combine and then ferment for 16hrs.
  4. The next day combine pre-dough with final paste ingredients and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon for 20-30 minutes (basically stir/mix until tired. Rest then begin stirring again)
  5. Scoop into greased and lined tins (mine are 8 x 4 x 4 pullman) and smooth top.
  6. I proved them for one and a half hours before covering with lids and placing on a baking stone in an oven preheated to 270°C.
    I immediately dropped the temperature to 200°C and baked them for one hour and 45mins. I removed the breads from the tins and baked them a further 15mins directly on the stone before removing them from the oven.

When the loafs were only slightly warm they were wrapped in plastic then placed in the fridge for what seemed like an eternity. This gave me plenty of time to start delving into the world of Danish open faced sandwiches … Smørrebrød.

Hot spring weather in Australia seems an enormous distance from Denmark but I am now hooked on these flavours. I love dark rye breads. I love butter. And I love the emphasis placed on combining ingredients/decorations that create both visual and culinary pleasures. The bread is a canvas on which to experiment!

The bread I baked is not bitter or sour, but has an assertive flavour that can best be described as meaty, and when topped heavily with simple butter it is a treat unto itself. When I finally emerged from the seemingly endless world of Smørrebrød research I finally settled upon two combinations for my first Smørrebrød—and both began with a layer of butter.

The first had a layer of blue cheese, then a thin slices of crisp green apple rubbed with lemon. It was topped with bacon and dressed with chives. The second was a simpler affair of herrings (unfortunately I could not find pickled herrings so used Dutch ones instead) which was topped with thin slices of red onion and a sprig of dill.

… they were eaten with a knife and fork …

Cheers,
Phil

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PiPs

For the most important years in a young boy’s life I had the good fortune of living next door to my grandparents—perched high on a hill at the very edge of town. I have so many fond memories of these years—watching storm clouds build in the west, a school holiday spent watercolour painting with my grandfather, piano lessons with my grandmother, summer days spent picking grapes, kippers on toast for breakfast, fig jam and fresh grapefruit.

Surrounding their house was a large garden that was not only beautiful but also plentiful. Grapevines across the road, almond trees, stone fruits, a vegetable garden, rhubarb, chokos (chayote … yuk!) fig trees and lining their back fence were citrus and grapefruit trees.

These grapefruit trees are simply incredible. After all these years they still produce a constant stream of fruit and every trip up to my family sees me bringing home large bags brimming with grapefruit and lemons. And to top this off is the fruit from my parents own burgeoning citrus trees.

Back in Brisbane, we hand on as many grapefruit as possible to Nat’s parents and some of our friends but this still leaves us with extra fruit using up valuable fridge space—my first instinct with excess fruit is always to make jam.

You see, I grew up with jam makers—my grandparents always had a steady supply of cumquat marmalade and fig jam topped with wax seals, and I remember many afternoons spent making apricot jam with my mum from boxes of fruit picked out of an orchard behind our house.

My method for grapefruit and lemon marmalade is pretty high-touch. Six grapefruit and six lemons are covered with water in a large pot and boiled until the skin is easily pierced with a skewer. After being taken off the heat the fruit is then left to soak overnight.

The following morning I half the fruit and scoop out the flesh which I place in a muslin cloth to separate out the liquid. The peel is sliced thinly and I combine it with the extracted liquid in a large pot before adding the same weight in sugar. (… or up to one and a half times the weight depending on the sweetness required) I then cook out the marmalade until it wrinkles in a set-test. It is then bottled in sterilized jars and finished with a boiling water bath.

I just adore the play between the sweet and tartness combined with the texture of the peel. Toasted pain au levain and marmalade—breakfast has never tasted better!

We were bringing a treat to morning tea with friends the following day so a few grapefruit and lemons were kept aside. On top of a flaky sweet shortcrust pastry from the Bourke Street Bakery cookbook I put together a citrus tart using lemons and grapefruits. My skill with shortcrust pastry is improving and each result brings further encouragement.

Rest the dough! Work quick! (it’s getting warm in our kitchen) Rest the dough! … and did I mention rest the dough?

Zest from grapefruit and lemons are combined with their juice plus cream, sugar and egg yolks. This filling was a bright delight and I found the grapefruit added an element of interest and to a well-known favourite. Flaky pastry covered the quickly emptied plate.

And amongst all this kitchen activity some bread found its way to the oven—as it does every weekend—and yet again it is my take on Gerard Rubaud’s pain au levain. I am continuing to retard the shaped loaves overnight and then start the next morning with the aroma of fresh baked bread.

A loaf is left out on the bench wrapped snugly in a tea-towel and the remainder are sliced and frozen for use during the week. mmm … marmalade on toast perhaps?

With the kitchen wiped down and clean we relax into the late afternoon. Perhaps a treat?

Cheers,
Phil

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PiPs

Each day I try and find some time to write. It’s a habit I started years ago. And although I am sometimes shuffled along in life, and occasionally forget my place, it's a practice I always return to. It is not so much a diary, more like a snapshot in time and atop of every page I start with a grateful list for that particular moment in time.

So here goes for today:
I am grateful for the phone call from Dennis
I am grateful for a hot coffee next to me
I am grateful for my day off spent with Nat
I am grateful for an amazing find at an antique shop and the idea it spawned for another blog post
I am grateful for the new Grizzly Bear CD

Some of our plans are beginning to burble into life and as we watch where they might flow, many life lessons are being learned—patience, it seems, is lesson number one! These ‘in-between days’ need something special to lift our spirits and help us stop and appreciate our lot in life. These ‘in-between days’ require comfort food.

Our love of fig & anise bread is well known. I have mentioned it in postings here quite a few times, but it is still kept as a rare treat for us. A giddy excitement comes over us as it emerges from the oven—quick fingers pick at caramelized figs oozing from the crust—suddenly breakfast the next morning seems too far away.

The initial inspiration came years ago from the Pearl Bakery’s fig and anise panini formula in Maggie Glezer’s Artisan Baking. Over the years I have tinkered and experimented with ingredients and methods. I have crushed the aniseed, toasted the aniseed, used different varieties of figs, pureed the figs and added walnuts—and do you know what?

I think the ingredients are best left alone. Simplicity wins again it seems.

Fig & Anise levain (2 x 1105g Batards)

Formula

Overview

Weight

%

Total dough weight

2210g

 

Total flour

1028g

100%

Total water

772g

75%

Total salt

20g

2%

Pre-fermented flour

103g

10%

 Add-ins

390g

37%

 

 

 

Levain – 5-6hrs 25°C

 

 

Previous levain build

50g

50%

Flour (I use a flour mix of 70% Organic plain flour, 18% fresh milled sifted wheat, 9% fresh milled sifted spelt and 3% fresh milled sifted rye)

100g

100%

Water

58g

58%

Salt

1g

1%

 

 

 

Final dough. DDT=25°C

 

 

Levain

163g

17%

Laucke Wallaby bakers flour

787g

85%

Freshly milled spelt flour

138g

15%

Dried figs chopped (use good quality moist figs!)

375g

40%

Aniseed

15g

1.6%

Water

712g

77%

Salt

19g

2%

 

Method

  1. Mix levain and leave to ferment for 5-6 hours at 25°C
  2. Mill spelt flour and combine with bakers flour.  Mix with water holding back 50 grams of water.
  3. Autolyse for 5-6 hours.
  4. Add levain to autolyse then knead (french fold) for three mins. Return the dough to a bowl and add salt and remaining 50 grams of water. Squeeze the salt and water through the dough to incorporate (the dough will separate then come back together smoothly). Remove from the bowl and knead a further three mins.
  5. Begin Bulk ferment. After 30mins add in dried figs and aniseed. Squeeze through the dough until evenly distributed.
  6. Bulk ferment for a further three and half hours untouched.
  7. Divide. Preshape. Bench rest 30 mins. Shape into batards and proof in couche seam side up.
  8. Final proof was approx 2 hours at 24°C - watch the dough – we had friends over so I watched the dough not the clock as I was easily distracted.
  9. Bake in a preheated oven at 250°C for 10 mins with steam then reduce temperature to 200°C for a further 30 mins.

 

I distinctly remember pre-shaping the dough and commenting on how silky and extensible it felt. The figs draw some of the moisture and the dough feels very easy to handle for a 75% hydration dough. It smells heavenly as it bakes and becomes almost intoxicating when pulled from the oven. This bread never disappoints.

Kids need comfort food from time-to-time and the fig & anise flavours are too much of an acquired taste for them to be excited over—in fact I would say it is almost the opposite reaction. A quick scan of the fridge revealed some egg-whites leftover from a custard tart baked earlier in the week—Meringues!

The Bourke Street Bakery cookbook has an interesting recipe for meringues that involves heating and dissolving the sugar in egg-whites over a bain-marie. This mixture is then beaten to stiff peaks before being rustically dumped onto a tray for baking. I love the visual appeal of this and was further intrigued by an option that called for rolling balls of meringue in cocoa powder. They tasted as good as they looked!

The kids are meringue lovers now—the trick is now to convince them that these crunchy, gooey and delicious puffs are treats only!

Cheers,
Phil

PiPs's picture
PiPs

I have baked and baked. Through a long winter I baked. Early mornings in my cold dark kitchen I baked. Every weekend I baked. For my friends I baked. For my family I baked … it was the same bread that I baked.

The fresh smell of spring surrounds us and the star jasmine hanging on our back fence is about to flower and flood our senses further. On our small porch a tomato plant has been busily producing a steady supply of tasty treats. Bruschetta nights have never tasted better. Bushfires colour the air.

With the coming of spring has also come change—unplanned change and unpleasant change—change I must learn to embrace. Our graphic design studio within a government agency has been affected by workplace change and my work colleagues and I have become surplus to requirements. This uncertainty has been ongoing for the past few months and it now seems we finally have some resolution and closure—just in time for the fresh beginnings of spring.

Baking has been a constant throughout this stressful process. Every weekend I would mix large batches of ‘Pain au Levain’ using Gerard Rubaud’s method to share with friends and family. I might perhaps adjust the amount of the freshly milled wholegrain flours in the levain or final dough but I never strayed from the path of consistency.

But consistency requires change. Spring means temperatures have risen (good grief, it is 31°C today). My levain expands quicker and the doughs proof faster—I have to change to adapt.

Spring Levain (4 x 900g batards)

Formula

Overview

Weight

%

Total dough weight

3600g

 

Total flour

2057g

100%

Total water

1543g

75%

Total salt

41g

2%

Pre-fermented flour

205g

10%

 

 

 

Levain – 5-6hrs 25°C

 

 

Previous levain build

77g

50%

Flour (I use a flour mix of 70% Organic plain flour, 18% fresh milled sifted wheat, 9% fresh milled sifted spelt and 3% fresh milled sifted rye)

156g

100%

Water

90g

58%

Salt

1g

1%

 

 

 

Final dough. DDT=25°C

 

 

Levain

323g

17%

Laucke Wallaby bakers flour

1575g

85%

Freshly milled spelt flour

277g

15%

Water

1425g

77%

Salt

40

2%

 

Method

  1. Mix levain and leave to ferment for 5-6 hours at 25°C
  2. Mill spelt flour and combine with bakers flour.  Mix with water holding back 100 grams of water.
  3. Autolyse for 5-6 hours.
  4. Add levain to autolyse then knead (french fold) for three mins. Return the dough to a bowl and add salt and remaining 100 grams of water. Squeeze the salt and water through the dough to incorporate (the dough will separate then come back together smoothly). Remove from the bowl and knead a further three mins.
  5. Bulk ferment for four hours untouched—no stretch-and-folds!
  6. Divide. Preshape. Bench rest 30 mins. Shape into batards and proof in bannetons seam side up.
  7. Final proof was for 1.5 hours at 24°C before being placed in the fridge for 12hrs.
  8. Bring dough to room temperature for an hour while oven is preheating. Bake in a preheated oven at 250°C for 10 mins with steam then reduce temperature to 200°C for a further 30 mins.

It makes beautifully simple bread. Unfussy but elegant with a crust that shatters and sings—a silken crumb within.

So I continue to bake—and soon, who knows, maybe I will be baking even more that I could ever imagine :)

This post is dedicated to my amazing Miss Nat who watched over me and carried me through …  thank you XX
Phil

PiPs's picture
PiPs

Many more photos get taken than appear on my blog. Picking and choosing is an agonizing task. Sometimes a photo just doesn't fit within the context of the prose but more often than not I have just taken so many photographs that tough compromises need to be made. I have decided to collect an assortment of photos and post them so they may see the light of day. Many will be familiar to readers of my past blog entries.

Please welcome the B-sides Part 1 ...

Cheers,
Phil

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