The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Postal Grunt's blog

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Postal Grunt

I don't get jealous of the usual list of suspects that crank out the "I gotta bake a loaf of that" breads. I get it that their skills weren't given to them and they had to put in their time at the work bench to learn the craft. They all probably baked a brick or two in their time before they got to where they're at these days. I've already baked a couple of bricks so I'm part way there. I keep winning ribbons at the Leavenworth County Fair where the Mennonite families are stiff competition so I know I'm improving.

Once upon a time, I envied Paul because he could be up in front of a class to teach bread baking skills but those days are over. I got a class of my own, humble enough but I haven't done any teaching since 1975 when I did some substitute teaching at the local schools. It was a "Knowledge at Noon" class, sponsored by the county Extension Service office at the town library for all of one hour. There were only five adults in attendance and somebody's great granddaughter who was easily distracted by the samples.

I had a Good time. I finally got to put my myself up there and be myself in public talking about bakers math, preferments, soakers, stretch and folds, and a home baker's toys from the tool box.. There were samples of a blatant copy of Floyd's Rustic Bread. The class got to compare a Basic White Bread done in the straight mix fashion and one teased out with a poolish, minimal yeast (3/8 tsp), and an overnight stay in the fridge. That teased out white bread was the best white bread I've ever baked and the class and agent agreed. There was a willing volunteer to take it home at the end of the class. I also completed an arrangement to swap some of my sourdough starter for some homemade, unfiltered honey made here in Leavenworth.

Would I do that again? Oh yeah, I sure would despite the occasional stumbling, brain freezes, and the moment I remembered that teaching is always harder than it looks from the seat of a distracted student. There were some things I did wrong, some things I forgot, but there were things that I'd do all over again and will when I get the chance. Nobody walked out, I know that I reached one attendee with some knowledge she didn't have before she walked in, and I got two attendees really fired up and ready to tackle one of RLBs rye breads from her "Bread Bible".

I got to make a difference, admittedly a very small difference, in the world today as a volunteer for the county Extension Service. Not a bad way to spend my summer.




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Postal Grunt

Late last year, I posted about the availability of Green River Organic Whole Wheat flour at a KC, MO Costco. I thought organic, stoneground, and $8 for a 10 pound bag might be of interest to others who live in the KC area and have access to a Costco. PMcCool was the first to post that he had purchased a bag and enjoyed both working with the flour and consuming the results of his labors.

After purchasing a bag of my own and reading Paul's posts, I got motivated to work with the flour myself. Paul noted that the flour is particularly thirsty so I decided to temporarily lose my apprehension about working with higher hydration doughs and just go for it. After all, being a raggedy home baker allows me the excuse of not having to be perfect in style, procedure, and execution. I can learn from flops or bricks and not have to worry about the costs.

This turned out to be a pretty good loaf. Essentially, it's a 67% bread flour/33% Green River whole wheat at around 74-75% hydration. Since the room temperature was around 70F while I was working it up, the dough moved slowly, requiring about three and a half hours for the bulk fermentation and another four for the proofing. I think it could've used more time proofing.

Anyways, it all turned out very well for the first time around with new flour. It was a moist crumb with just a slight bit of that whole wheat sharpness to the flavor. My starter isn't particularly zippy in flavor because its refrigerated until needed so we weren't overwhelmed with sour. It definitely was worth repeating as a formula but the next time was different and a good lesson inwatching the needs of the dough.

When I started my mixer on Thursday, the room temperature was already 84F. The starter had leapt into a vigorous fermentation during the day. Bulk fermentation took about two and a half hours instead of four which was a good thing. It meant I could go to bed at 1200AM instead of 1-130AM. I always clean up after flinging flour in the kitchen.

An overnight proofing in the fridge didn't hurt the loaf at all. I let it sit on the counter for an hour and a half while eating lunch and preheating the stone. The resultant loaf is better than the first attempt but by no means as polished as I'd like. The appearance isn't perfect but I'm still experiencing the Carnegie Hall Syndrome, practice, practice, practice.

So now, the real work on this loaf begins. I feel like I ought to gather my notes, both written and mental, to organize into a coherent formula rather than just a sketch as exists now. Until I can present instructions that someone half way around the globe can utilize, this formula isn't complete. For the gluttons for punishment among us, I have posted some disjointed and trivial ramblings on my blog site about these two loaves. Prior substance abuse isn't required before reading.

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Postal Grunt

I wrapped up my classroom sessions for the Master Food Volunteer program this past week. It's been a rewarding experience and I'm looking  forward to participating in the demonstrations over the next 12 months. There will be a chance to teach some lessons in bread baking as long as I can develop a lesson plan that can be presented in an hour or so format that won't get deep in the weeds and lose the interest of the class.

I took the opportunity to show my classmates and instructors what could be done with some active dry yeast when I brought in my copy of Floyd's Rustic Loaf. With a little bit of resizing into grams for the formula and reshaping into a boule, I managed to get the attention of the class at lunch time.

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Postal Grunt

Some of my classroom time for the Master Food Volunteer Program run by Kansas State Research Extension Service has been spent at the Olathe, KS campus of Kansas State University. It's a nice, modern building equipped with up to date classrooms, communications, conference rooms and a well equipped test kitchen that my class has been fortunate to use as a kind of playground for making jellies, baking pies, drying foods, and more.

Last Wednesday, we had a scheduled class about grains and I just happened to bring in a loaf of French Country Bread that I made according to the 3-2-1 formula. I wasn't bragging too much, I was really just demonstrating that it's possible to make a really good loaf of bread without professional equipment.

Her are a few pictures of some of the equipment and the area we get to work in. It's no wonder that we never complain about cleaning up the playground.

We actually do get homework for our classes. I've spent some four hours this past weekend researching, writing, typing, and printing handouts for a five minute presentation on preparing a healthy alternative diet for preschoolers. It's been over fourty years since I graduated from college so it will take some time to get up to speed on this stuff. With so many well educated and talented fellow students, I have to bring my A game every class just to keep up with them. It's much more fun than I had in many of my college classrooms.



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Postal Grunt

Everyone who has grown up in an area where real snow storms are a common occurence and now lives in the KC area knows that many people here refuse to address the problems associated with snowfall. City budgets and snow removal staffing are commonly inadequate. People freak out, drive with uncommon foolhardiness, and create an economic bonanza for the auto body repair shops and tow truck companies. It didn't break my heart when I heard that classes were cancelled for today. After 27 years with the USPS, I've seen enough bad driving habits out here to prefer staying home when there's no need to fire up my Honda and venture out into traffic.

Oh yeah, those classes I've been talking about. I decided to enroll in the Kansas State Extension Services Master Food Volunteer program. Most of my classmates are former professionals with experience in teaching and food sciences. Everybody seems to classify themselves as a "foodie" of some sort. Canning and other food preservation is quite popular as well. I seem to be the only bread person in the class but I had requests to bring in some sourdough bread on the first day. I've established a deal with another student to bring in some of her homemade jam when I bring in the bread. Seems like a good deal to me.

Much of the curriculum covers food, preparation, and food handling safety. Once we complete the course, we're obligated to spend 40 hours in the next twelve months in volunteer service, participating in demonstration events and educational classes. After I meet that obligation and show adequate aptitude, I should be able to develop lesson plans and hold classes in basic bread baking skills as part of the program. It will be nice to have more competition at County Fair.  I'll still have an advantage since judging County Fair competitions will be part of my participation. At last I'll have a copy of the judging guidelines before I enter a loaf. It almost seems unethical until I consider that there's no money involved.

Armed with some skills that I acquired for a degree in Elementary Education during my foolish youth in the late 60s and early 70s, I expect to enjoy this endeavour. Teaching a class to people who are in front of me because they want to be there should be a lot of fun. I won't be teaching all bread, all the time but I know a little and I'd like to share that knowledge.




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Postal Grunt

This was my third year to enter the county fair. I finally got somewhere with my baking. I'm not saying that I've got to where I want to be but I think I can at last say that I'm close to the end of the beginning. I haven't gotten that far with Photbucket this year.


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Postal Grunt

We had a very successful first meet up of KC area members. The conversation was lively and the smiles were as plentiful as the fine breads that were brought in to sample and share. There wasn't a bad loaf in the bunch.

Since this was the first meet up, there was no real agenda or ground rules. We just started talking about who we were, what we like to bake, and it all took off from there. There's no big secret to organizing a meet up. All it takes is for you to stop waiting for someone else to make a move and make it happen yourself. Don't worry about operating outside of your comfort zone or not succeeding in getting such a meeting to happen. Just consider the advantages of meeting people who share your interest in bread and serving it to family and friends.

That's a pretty good reward.

Jim Gemborys


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Postal Grunt

This is my first project from the many breads that I found interesting in Bernard Clayton Jr.'s book,  "Breads of France", first printed in 1978. I obtained the copy I'm reading through an inter library loan from McPherson, KS, which is deep in the heart of Kansas and wheat growing country. The book is a 1978 copy. Mr. Clayton's formulas are written down in volume measurement so I used a calclator, pad, and pen to scratch out my weight measurements. That's the penalty I pay for not having learned how to use a spread sheet. This must be an obscure if not quite forgotten bread because both Bing and Google searches failed to turn up any formulas on line that I could find.

The bread isn't quite a flat bread as Mr Clayton described it nor is it a focaccia type bread despite the estimated 77% hydration. With stone ground whole wheat flour accounting for 44% of the flour and some wheat germ added, the bread has a nice dark crumb. The WW flour is used in both the preferment and sponge so there's little if any bitterness from the WW. I expect that the formula could be adapted for use with a sourdough starter. It goes well with hearty soups that I like to serve in wintertime. Mr. Clayton wrote that the bread was considered as a "pain de regime" or diet bread in France at the time the book was written.

I wouldn't say that my formula has been perfected yet. There were enough details in the formula and procedures that puzzled me the first time around so I think that I'll have to go back to this loaf again. However, I posted my procedures and weight measurements along with some aimless chatter on my blog. Don't expect a professional formula please. If you should share my interest in the loaf and actually try it for yourself, I hope that you'll share your successes and mishaps with me.

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Postal Grunt

Mrs PG and I visited my parents and other family this month. Some of the time was loosely connected to my baking activities and a pleasant part of the journey.

First, we visited Orchard Hills Bakery in Alstead, NH based on an entry in the "Farine" blog from last January. Let me say that if you approach the bakery from Gilsum, NH as we did, you won't have to worry about being caught in a speed trap along the way. The roads are rough and bumpy enough that the local constabulary needn't worry about speeders as much as they do parts that might have fallen off vehicles as they traverse the roads. The bakery is located on a hard packed gravel road off the paved roads. It's worth the trip.

The bakery is sited on a farmstead that goes way back to the owner's grandparents, maybe even older than that. They had been pressing apples for cider the day before and we could smell the leftover pressings despite the rain. Inside the barn that holds the bakery is an impressive Llopsis oven from Spain. I admit to admiring the effort and vision of the owner, Noah Elbers, to go this level as much as I admire his breads. They are excellent and remind me of how much more practice I need with my own bread. We bought a loaf of the Maple-Oatmeal  featured by MC in her posting and a batard of their French Bread. The cookies we bought didn't last much past the driveway of the farm.

After visiting Acadia National Park, we stopped at a Hannafords supermarket in Ellsworth, ME to do a little foodie shopping. There, I located some made in Maine mustard from Raye's and a bag of buckwheat flour from the Bouchard Family Farm of Fort Kent, ME. I don't have any experience with buckwheat flour but that didn't stop me. We always enjoy finding local foods on our trips.

Way back in Spring I posted about Rose32 Bakery in Gilbertville, MA. We stopped in for lunch on Saturday and found a busy place with lots of locals and the owners on site. The Mitchells have a good thing going on. The pastries aren't the common supermarket fare and worth the cost. They have a good selection of breads, cooked in their Llopsis oven, with excellent flavor. Breakfast and lunch is served by an efficient and enthusiastic staff. Beer and wine is available as well as the required coffee and tea. I also met the co-owner of Ruggles Hill, a goat farm that supplies goat cheese for sale at the bakery. He told me he was happy to buy his breads from Rose32 until he had time to build his own WFO. Happy locals eating, a happy staff, and happy owners, there isn't much more needed for an enthusiastic recommendation than those facts.

It's time to get back into the kitchen to practice and improve my breads after tasting what professional bakers can do. I certainly learned that much.

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Postal Grunt

Lately, I've resumed my loosely disciplined approach to developing a formula for a pan wheat bread with around 33% whole wheat.  It bears some semblance to my psomi formula and may be similar to what I understand the English call a brown bread. I've used AP flour so the dough is just a little sticky and slack at the end of bulk fermentation.

In the first example, I used dry malt extract that I bought from a local homebrew shop.

The loaf that I baked yesterday had some molasses left over from my Anadama Bread work.

Despite the lack of fine detail in these pictures, the loaves both have a nice crumb.

While clearly not artistic, there's a lot to be said for a good sandwich and toast loaf. If there was any crime committed in the second loaf, the evidence will be consumed before purist police get here.

Comments, humor, and questions are welcome.



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