The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

ken forkish flour water yeast salt 30% wholewheat's picture

Santa gave me Flour Water Salt Yeast by Ken Forkish.  I had studied it in a bookstore, having been alerted by Breadsong's nice post about his overnight 75% WW.  On my Christmas list it went.  No regrets: I've very much enjoyed learning Mr. Forkish's story and approach and watching his laid-back online videos.  He lands somewhere at the intersection of Chad Robertson and Jim Lahey:  Liquid(y) levains with a fairly low percentage of total flour and long full fermentations.  I strongly recommend the book (over Tartine) to any novice eager to learn to make true artisan-style breads.  Narrower in scope than JH's BREAD, but decidedly for the home baker only.  Very nice photography by Alan Weiner: Every bread pictured in the book looks delicious

I made his Overnight Country Brown as a 1.8 kg miche over the weekend (above) and it is spectacular in every respect.  Fabulous flavor.  30% WW flour, 78% hydration, 80% starter (12% of total flour) and a total of 18 hours of 70˚F fermentation (13 overnight bulk + 5 morning proof).  I wouldn't have thought a dough would have a nanogram of spring left after such a workout (before [left] and after [right] bulk, below),

but was so pleased with the outcome and workflow that this (or something close, with this approach) is likely to bump JH's Pain au Levain as the basis for our table breads.  What a deliciously crave-able loaf of bread.  Perfect with stew from (freshly pick-axe dug!) carrots and parsnips last night.

Mr. Forkish's pitch is his personal mix of "fundamental" (the book's subtitle) and "professional", at least equipment-wise.  He suggests the home baker buy small (for levain) and large (for doughs) Cambro buckets -- hardly mass market consumer products (only restaurant suppliers sell them).  Then somewhat disappointingly (at least for novices, imho) he writes all the processes to climax with baking in 5+ qt DOs.  With so many perfectly effective ways to steam the home oven, and the dangers and loaf limitations of baking in DOs, I was sorry to see this.  The one non-DO bake he describes involves soaking a second pizza stone in water and putting it into a hot oven, under the baking stone, to steam the oven.  In my all too personal experience, that's a very good way to break the stone.

But the book's positives far outweigh those negatives.  Mr. Forkish describes all the familiar essentials to this style of baking, plus some nice detail regarding acetic versus lactic flavors and how to achieve/avoid, as well as other informative sidebars.  The baking timelines are long, often including overnight room temperature fermentation and/or cold retardation.  But he stresses flexibility and experimentation, giving attractive sample timelines for each bake.  I can't wait to try some more, especially those with levain + CY -- an approach I've not explored as much as I've wanted to.  Finally, I'm pleased to say that Mr. Forkish succeeded where others have not, in convincing this stingy toad to maintain levain in a volume large enough to start a bake directly from the refreshed stock and not from a separate, to-the-formula measured volume seeded by a separate (jelly-jar) 'mother' living on the fridge door.  Volume matters.

Great book.  Happy Baking!


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