Well, it's been almost 6 months since I last baked any bread. I made some pizzas during that time, but no bread. The hot summer months just curb the motivation to get the oven on for hours. The itch to bake bread got almost as unbearable as all that store bought bread.
Since the season calls for it, I decided to try my first go at a fruit & nut levain. I grabbed a variety of mixed dried fruits - apricots, prunes, pears and peaches. For nuts, I used half walnuts and half pecans. The dough formula was derived from a few walnut loaf recipes I found on various blogs, and simply added the fruits. The other loaves I baked were not as inspired, but much missed - typical country levain loaves. Never gets tired.
Making all these loaves was quite time consuming but it sure satisfied my creative itch.
Now to get some excellent cheeses and wine to pair nicely with a fruit & nut loaf by the fire...
We were counting down the days that we could come back to Phoenix, AZ. One of the hi-lights of our last trip in May was Pizzeria Bianco. This place has been heralded as having the best pizza in North America. The jury may still be out on that one, but it sure blew our minds. We also picked up a baguette from their bakery location, Pane Bianco. I have to say, I am not a fan of this baguette. Nice chew and crumb structure, but the flavour is more towards an Italian style (go figure) of bread - no nuttiness and a bit on the salty side. The french style is more to my taste. Couldn't help but add in a shot of some Albacore Tuna from our favourite Japanese restaurant in Mesa, AZ. 3 strikes and I'm out on the neighbour's 'Prickly Pear' fruit. I have a suspicion it isn't actually Prickly Pear. Even though it looks as ripe as it can get, it tastes sour and salty. Nothing like spitting out purple all over a white sink.
Here are some relevant and not so relevant past bakes and things.
Multi-Grain Levain with many, many seeds.
Some healthy buttermilk spelt flour pancakes with fresh blueberry maple syrup.
After eating some amazing seafood dishes this summer in the Okanagan valley, and a trip to our local produce farm market, I came up with this inspired fish dish. Pan seared halibut with beurre blanc sauce, yellow zucchini, arugula, new potatoes, garnished with oregano blossoms and smoked paprika. No, there is no bread, but I sure wished I had a crostini to soak up the remaining bit of beurre blanc sauce.
After taking the summer off of baking bread (too hot in house) I took the opportunity of our recent long weekend to bake up some Neopolitan style pizzas on the grill. As usual with my pizzas, I used unglazed quarry tiles and a grill flare-up method to re-create that fire hot environment a traditional forno would give. No shots of the wild mushroom, goat cheese and arugula pizzas I made, but here are the Margheritas. The very puffed up cornichione makes the pizzas look like the crust was thick and deep, but it was actually about a 1/4 of an inch thick, just the way we like it.
Since last summer when I first tried making pizza on my outdoor grill using unglazed quarry tiles, I have been itching to try again. This time I decided to do a simple Margherita pizza so the crust would be the star of the show. Homemade tomato sauce, bocconcini, basil. Crust had organic stone ground whole wheat with a touch of rye. The two medium sized pizza's turned out nicely, with a nice sweet tone in the crust due to the whole wheat flour. I tend to like thin crust pizzas, with a larger cornicione (outer edge crust).
Today I baked up some levain boules and a Tartine Country Loaf. I can't shake this sourdough kick since returning from San Francisco. I tweaked my roaster/steaming method a bit to enhance the Tartine crust caramelization. I am very happy with the results. The adjustments to the steaming method really made the crust thin and crispy, and added a more complex flavour.
The combination of dreary weather foiling my landscape photography and a new camera resulted in a post bake shutterbug frenzy.
Oddly, all this time baking bread, I have never tried making an olive loaf. I love olive loaves but for some reason never attempted one until now. Having just recently been given the Tartine book as a gift, I used the idea of using olives, herbs and lemon zest. I also baked up a few levain loaves to fix that San Francisco sourdough craving I have been having.
I have been on a higher % rye kick for a while now and decided to bake up a few to stock me up for December. When I say higher %, I know these aren't quite high, but for me, I haven't really tried anything higher then 40% prior to this. Maybe a Danish Rye qualifies as higher than 40%...
I baked up a Swedish Seed Rye using my Swedish Rye formula and simply adjusted it by using dark rye instead of medium rye. Also added some sprouted organic spelt flour in lieu of my typical spelt flour. Even though it will still be a day or two until the flavour develops properly, I can already taste the dark rye coming through loud and clear.
Starting out as a 40% Rye, the other 2 loaves I baked up turned into a 50% Rye inadvertently. I realized during the mixing process that I added too much water. I had to off set this hydration with more flour. I ended up using an extra 95 grams of dark rye flour. The loaves came out decent but with little oven spring. I noticed that the bread tastes quite sour so I have a feeling I over fermented both the sour and the bulk. The extra bran in the dark rye was probably the culprit in the over fermenting. Still came out decent enough for a slice of cheddar or knob of liver pate.