The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

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PMcCool

Whew!  All of the planning, all of the strategizing, all of the preparation, all of the anticipation, and poof!, it's all history now.

Thirteen wonderful students showed up a few minutes before 9:00 this morning for a class on breakfast breads at the KC Culinary Center, ready to learn about kolaches and sourdough English muffins.  With the support of my able assistant, Kay (who somehow managed to stay out of the photos), I was able to get through all of the material in the allotted 3 hours.  Along the way, we talked about flours, sourdough starter maintenance, dough texture, the differences between sticky/tacky/dry doughs, how to adjust dough moisture content if it was too sticky or too dry, the advantages of weight measurements over volume measurements, why English muffins are better fork-split than sliced, how kolaches can play sweet or savory, and a other life-altering topics.  Flour flew, laughter rang, dough got onto all kinds of surfaces, muffins and kolaches were consumed.  I think just about everyone took a chunk of starter for further experimentation at home.  All in all, it was a fun morning.

Several students said that they will return in December for the Christmas breads class, so I'm not the only one who thinks things went well.  And Kay, who has seen a bunch of classes and instructors, said it was a good session.  She is excited that the classes I have scheduled for this term feature breads that no one else has taught at KCCC.  

I did manage to squeeze in a few photos when the students were busy and I could step back for a moment.  There aren't as many as I would have liked but, hey, I was just a bit busy most of the time.

First up, 3kg of sourdough starter on Friday evening, ready to go into the sponge for the English muffins.  This is the result of two builds, one Thursday evening and another Friday morning:

If that sounds like a lot of starter, take a look at how much sponge it launches:

The Coke can gives an idea of the scale.  All of this had to be transported this morning from my house to the culinary center.  I might try a different strategy next time...

Next up, some English muffin consumption:

Yeah, they were good!  This group thought so, too:

And then it was time to go to work on kolaches:

And another table of kolache bakers (the young lady at right front will be heading off soon to the Johnson & Wales culinary school in Denver):

And the third group of kolache bakers:

As you can see from the photos, the students really focused on what they were doing.  They asked lots of good questions and made sure that they understood the answers.  It's fun to work with a lively and interested group like this!

The format for the class involved some "TV cooking" to make sure that we covered all of the bases in the amount of time that we had.  We actually worked backwards, beginning with shaping prepped dough for the English muffins.  That was followed by shaping the kolaches, also working with prepped dough.  Then we came back to the English muffins, cooking them and taking a short break to eat some muffins, answer questions, and talk about what we would do next.  I demonstrated a cheese filling for the kolaches and used it to fill some of the kolaches.  Since we were time-constrained, I used canned cherry pie filling to fill the rest of the kolaches.  The kolaches then went into a preheated oven.  Then it was back to the work stations to mix the final English muffin dough, using the prepped sponge.  Once that was mixed and kneaded, each student bagged his/her dough and put it into the refrigerator to griddle at home later.  Then we shifted to the kolache dough, with each student preparing, mixing, and kneading the dough from scratch.  That, too, was bagged and refrigerated to take home.  We finished with some questions and answers, much of which focused on how to use the starter that I handed out (which was at 50% hydration) if they were to make another batch of the English muffins at home, given that the EM recipe calls for 100% hydration starter.  That gave a good opportunity to underline measuring by weight and to explain how adjust quantities of flour and water to achieve a specific hydration level.  I never said "bakers math" out loud but that was effectively at the core of the discussion.  Once that process was clarified, we were at the end of our session.  Everyone gathered up their doughs and their starter samples and headed home.

I stayed to debrief with Kay and go through the student feedback forms.  One of the things that she noted was how there was lots of chatter among the students as they were leaving, which was a good sign.  Kay said that if people slide out without saying much, it usually indicates dissatisfaction.  The feedback forms confirmed what she had observed, with complimentary comments from the students.  I say that with a sense of relief, not braggadocio.  Some of the students are effectively "frequent flyers" at KCCC, so I don't want to do anything to drive them away.  Nor do I want to develop a reputation as someone to be avoided.  More importantly, bread should be fun and I want my students to walk out the door knowing that they can do exactly what we did in class and have it turn out well.

After some cleanup and gathering up what I had brought with me, it was time to go home, which is where my wife snapped this photo:

 

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PMcCool

Just for grins, I searched for flour mills in the USA that sell to the public.  It was a fun exercise.  In addition to the larger, better-known names such as King Arthur Flour, there are some mills that are probably in TFLers’ back yards.  Since I don’t know most of the millers or their products, I leave it up to you to do your own experimentation.

 

Please note that I focused primarily on sources that have on-line stores.  That means that I left out some that sell only through localized retail outlets.  Also note that some of these are very small and may have limited offerings, such as only cornmeal.  And I’m sure that the list is in no way exhaustive.  Feel free to add your own suggestions.

 

The list is in no particular order.  However each listing will be in the form of mill name, state, website.  Here’s the list:

 

Lakeside Mills, North Carolina, website

The Stafford County Flour Mills Company, Kansas, website (I can find their products in supermarkets in the KC area)

North Dakota Mill, North Dakota, website

Prairie Mills, Indiana, website

Shawnee Milling Company, Oklahoma, website

Dakota Prairie Organic Flour Company, North Dakota, website

Sunrise Flour Mill, Minnesota, website

Wade’s Mill, Virginia, website

Heartland Mill, Kansas, website

Oakview Farms Granary, Alabama, website

Anson Mills, South Carolina, website

Calhoun Bend Mill, Louisiana, website

Orchard Mills, Louisiana, website

Homestead Gristmill, Texas, website

Natural Way Mills, Minnesota, website

Giusto’s Specialty Foods, California, website

McEwen and Son, Alabama, tel. 205-669-6605

Montana Flour and Grains, Montana, website

Stanton’s Mill, Maryland, tel. 301-895-4415

Nora Mill Granary, Georgia, website

Dellinger Grist Mill, North Carolina, website

McGeary Organics, Pennsylvania, website

King Arthur Flour, Vermont, website

Greenfield Mills, Indiana, website

Arrowhead Mills, Colorado, website

Bob’s Red Mill, Oregon, website

Wheat Montana, Montana, website

Great River Milling, Wisconsin, website

The Mill at Anselma, Pennsylvania, website

Hodgson Mill, Illinois, website

I also came across this listing of operating gristmills, which may be of interest.

And, just when you thought you knew all about stone-ground flour, here’s The Stone Cold Truth About Stone Ground Flour.  Worth a rant or two, I’m sure.

Enjoy,

Paul

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PMcCool

Last weekend had me going.  My work schedule gives me every other Friday off and last weekend was one of my 3-day weekends.  First up, repairing some of the heat and drought damage that my yard suffered.  Lots of weeding and raking and seeding and watering, followed by loudly protesting muscles and joints.  But it's done.  In another week or so I should be seeing new grass growing in areas that were entirely killed.

Saturday was pretty low key, given the ongoing protests mentioned earlier.  Still, I did manage to get in a batch of the NY Deli Rye from the BBA for this week's sandwiches.  Love that stuff!

Sunday afternoon, protests or no, was given over to some further test bakes in preparation for the classes that I will be teaching in a few weeks.  First I mixed up a batch of Bavarian Christmas Braid.  It's a beautiful dough, slightly sweet and redolent of mace and lemon zest.  The almonds and brandy-soaked raisins don't hurt anything, either.  The bread is made up as a small braid stacked on top of a larger braid, which makes for a very pretty loaf.  In the hands of a competent braider, it would be downright beautiful.  After coming out of the oven and cooling slightly, it is drizzled with a light glaze flavored with almond extract.  

Here is how it looked just out of the oven:

And after glazing:

Not being particularly fond of candied cherries, I elected not to garnish the loaves.

While the braid dough was fermenting, I got to work on candying some orange peel that would be needed for some stollen (currently fermenting as I write this).  I'd never done it before and was pleasantly surprised to find how simple it is.  A bit tedious, yes, but not difficult.  Since the Web is rife with instructions, I'll not duplicate them here.  However, I will share some pictures of how they turned out.

Just out of the syrup:

Starting to dredge in sugar:

And all done:

Last but not least, some savory muffins rounded out the day's baking:

Paul

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PMcCool

I have been on a baking hiatus, of sorts, realizing that the stash of bread in my freezer needed to be reduced.  Having worked through that gradually, I finally got around to baking again the weekend before Labor Day.

What my mouth wanted was something robust, chewy, mildly tangy, and thoroughly wheaty.  And it had to serve as a reliable foundation for sandwiches.  What to do, what to do?  Leader's Local Breads beckoned, and in it I found the Whole Wheat Sourdough Miche, modeled loosely after the Poilane miche.  After checking the metric weight quantities (which are generally less error prone than the others in this book) and deciding that it was safe to proceed, I hauled my starter out of the refrigerator and gave it a couple of good feeds.  It didn't take long for the starter to bounce back to vigorous health, especially with kitchen temperatures just slightly below the 80F mark.  It more than doubled in less than 5 hours!  

For once, I stuck pretty closely to the formula and process.  The one deviation of note was that I dissolved the levain in the water before adding the rest of the final dough ingredients.  Since I mix by hand, I find it easier to do that than to mix the levain into the already-mixed dough as Leader instructs.  Other than making my life easier, I don't see that it makes any real difference in the outcome.  Because of the warmth of my kitchen that day, I did have to trim fermentation times to avoid over-fermenting the levain and the final dough.

The outcome, by the way, was stunning!  A deep, brown-verging-on-black crust, lightly crackled; a firm, moist crumb; a heady aroma redolent of toast with sweet and tangy overtones.  I can't remember a recent bake that I was happier with than this.  And then there is the flavor!  It was everything the fragrance promised, and more.  Roasted nuts and malt, a gentle hint of acidity, a down to earth wheatiness, and other good things that I don't have words for.  The crust, after cooling, was more leathery than crisp but that played well against the moist coolness of the firm crumb.  The crumb texture is rather fine-grained for this style of bread; that comes from the extended kneading that Leader recommends.  Frankly, I didn't knead it as long as he recommends and I might even cut it back to just a couple of minutes of kneading for future bakes, combined with more stretch and folds to build strength.  That would open the crumb somewhat, but not to the point that condiments would be oozing out of sandwiches.

Here's a picture, which doesn't do the bread justice:

Good stuff, even if it is me that says so!

Both our daughters and their families were with us for the Labor Day weekend, which gave me the excuse to do some additional baking.  The tally for the weekend included Portugese Sweet Bread as rolls for barbecue pork sandwiches, sourdough English muffins for one morning's breakfast, and lemon oat scones for another breakfast.  Fun!

Now I need to finish testing the breads that I plan to teach at the Culinary Center of Kansas City, starting in November.  More fun!

Paul

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PMcCool

Although my baking has waned recently because I need to reduce the bread backlog in my freezer, it hasn't gone entirely dormant.  For instance, I baked some hamburger buns today (thanks, dolfs!) as a demonstration/interview for an instructor's position with the Culinary Center of Kansas City.  It was a lot of fun and felt more than a little bizarre.  After all, I am, to steal proth5's pet expression, just a raggedy home baker, not a professional chef/baker.  Still, any time that you get to talk to people about baking bread is a pretty good time.  And I apparently managed to do so in a coherent fashion because they asked me to teach for them.

The demo was slated as a 30-40 minute session in front of six of the CCKC staff and instructors, followed by their feedback.  That's a very small slice of time to work with, so I broke it into two separate phases and applied some "TV cooking" tricks.  The first phase was to demonstrate the mixing and kneading of a single batch of dough (using pre-measured ingredients), fielding questions as I went.  Some of the reviewers are bread bakers, some are not.  From a previous test run with the dough, I knew that I did not want to add more flour to the dough.  I also knew that the butter content was high enough that the dough would not stick to the work surface.  Consequently, I only did a rough mix and dumped the not-entirely-cohesive mass out onto the work surface, which was a polished marble or travertine material.  That elicited a few questions about why I wasn't worried about the whole thing sticking, so I showed them how the butter in the dough was keeping my hands and the counter comparatively clean.  I only kneaded it enough with the push-turn-fold-push method to get everything to hang together, then started French folding, a la Richard Bertinet.  That triggered a number of questions and comments, since none of them had seen that technique previously.  They were impressed with how easily the dough developed and smoothed out, and with how it picked up the initial goop from the countertop.  Putting that aside, I pulled out six batches worth of dough that I had made prior to leaving home for the demo and put each of them to work shaping the dough into the bun type of their choice, with pointers on how to achieve the various shapes.  I gave them tips for the final fermentation and baking (they have plenty of ovens to work with at the center) and that was the end of the demo.  Next up was listening to the critiques, which were uniformly positive and provided some very useful tips for me as a presenter.

So, the next step is to work out what courses to offer and to get them scheduled.  The catalog for the November 2012 - April 2013 semester is being developed now, so my timing was good.  I'll probably teach once, perhaps twice, a month.  This promises to be a lot of fun and I'm really looking forward to sharing the joy of good, home-made bread with others.

Paul

 

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Although my posting has been erratic, baking has continued at a fairly steady pace.

The Saturday of the Easter weekend, I baked Beth Hensperger's Sweet Vanilla Challah from her Bread Bible.  It is a favorite of my older grandson and we took a loaf with us for dinner with he and his parents.  I've blogged about it previously.  By the way, if any lasts long enough, it makes some of the best french toast, ever!  The turban shape is still a favorite of mine for its elegance and simplicity:

I also baked some honey whole wheat bread that same day for sandwiches:

This weekend, I managed to squeeze in a pain au levain with whole wheat, from the King Arthur Whole Grain Baking book.  One loaf was served at dinner with friends today and one went home with them (along with a bunch of hostas that were getting too big for their growing area.  Loaf:

Crumb:

I had elected to do some kneading for the dough, followed by a single stretch and fold about 45 minutes into the bulk ferment.  My rationale was that I wanted a finer, rather than more open, crumb.  It worked.  Other tweaks included bumping up the quantities by about 40% to achieve slightly larger loaves and using an autolyse of nearly an hour, which is longer than mentioned in the formula.  Otherwise, I hewed to the directions and was rewarded with some bread that is pleasing to the eye and the tongue.  

Paul

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Last weekend, as I was trying to decide what I wanted to bake next, two things occurred to me.  First, I had only baked one bread from Inside the Jewish Bakery so far.  Second, a rye bread sounded like a good thing.  

Although it was a matter of moments to pull the book from the shelf, it was probably half an hour later before I actually got to, and selected, the Rustic Pumpernickel bread as the weekend's bake.  Part of that is me; I'm easily distracted by books and usually spend more time in them than intended.  Part of it is the nature of ITJB itself; this award-winning book has so much interesting information which is presented so lovingly that, well, how could I just look at the formula and ignore everything else?  It's a good thing that I'm not looking at it now, or I wouldn't be writing this post.

Note: I consulted the errata sheet available here and marked the corrected quantities in my copy of ITJB before starting.

Since I don't keep a rye sour on hand, I seeded the sour with my mostly-white starter and built it up as directed, trusting that the coarsely-ground whole rye flour I had on hand would suffice for the dark rye called for in the formula.  There's something magical about a rye sour.  It looks like a grey-brown sludge but has the most amazing aroma!  Sour, yes, but also fruity and spicy, all at the same time.  Good stuff!

 The dough came together very easily as I mixed it by hand.  Since I don't have first clear flour on hand, I subbed in some bread flour in its place.  That's where I encountered a surprise.  This bread is about 80% rye to 20% wheat.  It should have been hyper-gluey, but wasn't.  An occasional moistening of my hands was enough to keep the stickies at bay.  Understand, it was sticky and I did need to clean some paste from my hands when finished, just nowhere near as much as I have experienced with other breads of similar composition.  Maybe it was because part of the rye was scalded.  Or maybe not.  I'm not sure.

Since one member of the household is not fond of caraway, I elected to include dill seed instead of caraway seed.  Rye and dill get on very nicely.

Although the yield for this bread is listed as one loaf, I elected to shape it into two loaves.  As two loaves, each was large enough to provide a week's worth of sandwiches.  The final dough rose quickly in the warmer temperatures that we were experiencing last weekend.  Given the high percentage of rye, I was concerned about the amount of expansion I was seeing.  Rye breads that go one step too far tend to collapse spectacularly.  I needn't have worried:

In fact, I could have let it ferment a while longer, as is evidenced by the cracking caused by a vigorous oven spring.  Why the dough was so resilient, I don't know.  Maybe it was related to what I saw with the less-than-expected stickiness.  Still, these loaves were almost doubled in size before they went into the oven.  In my rye experience, that's living on the ragged edge.  

The crumb shows good aeration, especially for a high-rye bread.  It is a solid, hefty loaf and works very well as a base for sandwiches made with ham or other flavorful meats.  Turkey breast, unless smoked, really doesn't have enough flavor of its own to compete with the bread.  Although, with bread this good, it's still a good sandwich!

Thank you to Norm and Stan for bringing ITJB to fruition, and to the TFL testers.  I'll be making this bread again and I'll be a bit bolder about pushing the fermentation envelope.

Paul

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First, a tip of the hat to theuneditedfoodie for his recommendation of Chris Glen's breads.  Thank you, Raj!

Because of Raj's comment on a recent blog of mine about Fervere Bakery, my wife and I made a jaunt down to The Bad Seed market in the 1900 block of McGee Street in Kansas City.  It's a funky little (with emphasis on funky and little) marketplace that features different providers of everything from hand-crafted soaps to free-range chicken (and eggs) to breads to produce.  Plus a few other things that I probably missed.  It is open on Friday evenings from 4:00-8:00.  The market has recently added a new vendor of artisanal breads, The New Traditionalist. 

You may have noticed that The New Traditionalist, aka Chris Glen, was quite outspoken in his praise of Fevere's products.  On the one hand, that's a very gracious acknowledgement of a competitor.  On the other hand, Chris knows whereof he speaks because his own breads are equally praiseworthy. 

I purchased a loaf of his whole wheat bread.  It is a naturally leavened bread consisting of organic whole wheat, water, and sea salt.  You can't get much more elemental than that.  

Shaped as a batard, the loaf was boldly baked,

which enhances the play of flavors between crust and crumb.  The crumb texture is very light and open.  No bricks here.

You can see that the crumb is open, laced with bubbles of all different sizes.  The sheen of the cell walls attests to full gelatinzation of the starch.  Chris shares a commercial kitchen with another business, baking his breads in pizza ovens.  That isn't an ideal setup but Chris has found a way to go beyond his circumstances instead of being limited by them.  As I write this, I realize that I ought to have asked Chris what flour he uses.  It appears to be very finely ground since large flecks of bran aren't evident in the crumb.

Now, you may have wondered why I mentioned a chocolatier in the title for this blog.  That has to do with a bit of geographic serendipity.  Christopher Elbow Chocolates has a store exactly one block north of The Bad Seed.  In appearance, it is everything that The Bad Seed is not.  Glamorous.  Gleaming.  Elegant.  Refined.  Although Elbow refers to his products as artisanal, one would not be far off the mark by referring to them as art.  We, naturally, did not leave empty-handed.  Once my wife spotted the toffee robed in dark chocolate and covered with toasted pecans, the deal was sealed.

There is a greater serendipity at work here than just geographic location.  The one that I was surprised by this evening has to do with flavor, with maximizing the potential of the ingredients.  I had savored two or three slices of Chris' whole wheat bread with a bowl of soup at dinner, marveling at the richness of the flavors he had teased from such simple ingredients.  And then the stunner: I tasted many of those same flavors in a piece of Christopher's toffee when I had it for dessert.  Yes, there were differences.  The candy, for instance, tasted nothing of wheat or levain and the bread wasn't nearly so sweet as the candy.  But both the candy and the bread shared flavor notes of nuts, of toast, of chocolate, of deeply roasted malt, of butter.  I am frustrated by my inadequacy in providing an accurate description of what I sensed, because there was so much more than I can put down here in words. The parallels were so clear, so surprising, and I would have missed them entirely if I had not eaten the two in close succession.  Beyond the specific flavors, the bread and the toffee each displayed a respect by their makers for the ingredients, as well as a willingness to apply skill and technique to realize every potential locked in those ingredients.

Thank you, Chris, for a superb loaf of bread.  May The New Traditionalist prosper.

Paul

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Every so often, I like to make a batch of sourdough English muffins.  My go-to recipe is one from the King Arthur 200th Anniversary Cookbook, which I have blogged about previously.  Today's post is just a series of photos showing the muffins as they cook for your viewing pleasure; something only a bread-head would love.

Up first, the muffins waiting their turn on the griddle:

After feeling the heat for a little bit:

Still growing:

Ready to turn:

And just after being turned:

And yes, they smell good too!

Paul

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Last weekend, I had a number of errands to run and it occurred to me that I could plan a route that allowed a stop at Fervere Bakery and then go on to the River Market and (since it was close by) The Planter Seed and Spice Company.  Think of it as a trifecta for a foodie.

Fervere is a not-so-old bakery in an old neighborhood to the south and west of downtown KC.  They are known for turning out some of the best breads in the area and for a rather quirky business model.  For pictures and a lengthier description of their products and process, I'll refer you to their website.  There's also a short video on youtube that you can watch.

Having heard a lot about Fervere and their breads, I was eager to try some.  I chose their pain de campagne, reasoning that I would be tasting the bread without any other influences (although I have to say that I sampled their orchard bread and it was wonderful!).  It turned out to be a really good choice!

The loaf is round and miche-like in shape and size, like this:

I would guesstimate it to be about 4 inches high at the tallest point and 12-14 inches in diameter.  As you can see, the crust colors range from golden browns to deeper, more caramelized russet tones.  The bottom crust, where it was in contact with the oven sole, is darker still.  The color and size of the slash indicates an early and large expansion after the dough was loaded in the oven.  This is borne out by the texture of the crumb:

The cells are random in size and distribution.  Although some of the alveoli are fairly large, this bread worked very well for sandwiches; protecting the diner from unexpected drips of condiments.  The crust is fairly thin.  By the time I got home from all of my running around that day, the crust had softened from crisp to chewy, due to being enclosed in a plastic bag.  The crumb was very moist and cool; this is evidently a high-hydration dough.  Oddly enough, although the crumb is relatively soft, it isn't mushy.  Press gently on the loaf and it yields, then immediately rebounds.  There's a firmness, a sturdiness, to this bread.  And it has excellent keeping qualities, having lasted nearly a week at the present cool room temperatures with no appreciable staling.  (My wife was out of town most of the week and, good as it was, a man can only eat so much bread by himself!)

Opening the bag and inhaling the aroma is almost intoxicating.  Deep, toasty caramel, roasted malts, a suggestion of chocolate, a mild tanginess and other notes that I don't have the vocabulary for.  These carry over into the flavor, which also boasts a forward wheatiness while the sourness virtually disappears.  A bite with crust is entirely different from a bite without crust.  If Wonder Bread is at one end of the chewiness spectrum and vollkornbrot is at the other, this lands just about squarely in the middle.  Firm, yes, but it yields to moderate pressure.  This is seriously good bread.  If I weren't a home baker, this is the kind of bread that I would want to buy.  Given the trek from my suburban location, I'm glad that I don't have to depend on Fervere for my daily bread but it is nice to know that it would be worth my time if I were in the vicinity.  And I would recommend that you stop in if you find yourself in Kansas City someday.

Paul

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