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Bread, Art, Heritage: Katy and Rebecca Beinart's Work and a Simple White Sourdough Tin Loaf

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Daisy_A's picture
Daisy_A

Bread, Art, Heritage: Katy and Rebecca Beinart's Work and a Simple White Sourdough Tin Loaf

 

 

Picture Triptych: Katy at the community oven 1, Oxford, UK; Bread made by Daisy_A with Katy's starter and sourdough tin recipe, against English lavender; Katy & Rebecca Beinart, 'Borscht and Black Bread', Performance, March 2010. Photo: R Beinart. Live event at Malmesbury Museum, Western Cape, South Africa, with kind permission

I have been baking so much I have a backload of blogging. However I need do justice to this really interesting art project, that centres around bread and baking. 

In May we were privileged to catch up with artist Katy Beinart who was taking part in a festival in a community garden in Oxford, UK. As part of her art practice Katy has been tracing her ancestors' migrations from Russia, Belarus and Lithuania to England, Australia and South Africa via their stories, but also the parallel movement of plants and bread cultures. 

For the festival Katy introduced plants to the garden, which are familiar in the UK but which hail originally from Eastern Europe. These were then linked with the stories of individual family members. Beetroot (Beta vulgaris), for example, represented Moishe/Morris Schreibman, (born 1884, Pinsk, Belarus, died 1929, London, UK). Katy records that he came to London to find work as a carpenter, sailing from Bremmen on the "Sperber" and staying briefly at the Poor Jews Shelter in Whitechapel, in London's East End. He married Sarah Gitovich and they lived off Brick Lane, where he also ran a cabinet making business. Katy notes that Sarah, also known as Zlata (born Gomel, Belarus, date unknown, died London, UK 1975), left her country of birth with an uncle to escape pogroms. She never saw her family or the family dairy farm again and when Moishe/Morris died she brought up 8 children on her own. Sarah was represented by Dill (Anethemum graveolens). 

On the day of the festival Katy was also baking bread in a dirt oven that her sister Rebecca Beinart (also an artist), had built along with community garden members. The loaf baked was a white sourdough tin, from a Eastern European recipe that Katy had sourced. 

The bread baking is a fascinating project, part of Katy and Rebecca's wider recuperation and representation of family ties and migrations on their father's side in the Origination project. More information is available on this link.

As part of the wider art project Katy and Rebecca followed a family migration route to South Africa, taking their 'bread-making suitcase' with them on board the transport ship The Green Cape, crewed by predominantly Polish sailors. They chose to sail because this is what their forebears would have done. The transport carrier was the main type of craft now sailing from the UK to South Africa. Katy used their starter to bake bread on board ship, which the sisters shared with the crew. 

Breadmaking suitcase; Katy & Rebecca Beinart, 'Breadmaking', Action, 2010. Photo: Rebecca Beinart, with kind permission; Rebecca Beinart, 'Sal Somnia Omnit', Action, 2010. Photo: Douglas Gimberg, with kind permission.

Once in South Africa the Beinarts baked and shared bread with newly-encountered family members. In some cases they also tried to recreate meals like those their ancestors may have eaten and ate in the places they occupied, including a bare salt pan that once formed part of a family business!  As part of the continuation of the project in the UK, Katy was facilitating her starter's 'migration' to other bread makers. This is how I came to leave Oxford with a small pot of Katy's starter and a recipe to bake in my own home. 

Rebecca, whose practice links art, ecology and politics also has a project involving sourdough cultures called Exponential Growth. Developed as a commission for the University of Loughborough it charts the local, national and global networks into which Rebecca's Loughborough born starter is dispersed. More information is available on these links Radar Arts and Exponential Growth

Rebecca handing out starter culture on Loughborough Market; c.Rebecca Beinart/Exponential Growth 2010, with kind permission

Please note: important information on Exponential Growth and an invitation to contribute to a Bread Fair in Loughborough, UK on Saturday 23 October 2010, and/or to contribute to the mapping of the culture's journey as an international baker is included at the end of the blog in bold type. It would be great if some bakers from TFL could take part! Let's push out the boundaries - info on this link  and below.

Reflections

These initiatives seem to me to touch on so many themes on TFL, including the migration of breads, recipes and starters between countries and the way in which bread is such a strong link to memory, family and place. 

It also touches on the question, raised regularly on the board, of the degree to which starters change when transplanted.  Does a San Francisco starter remain the same in Oxford, Toronto, Tokyo, Madrid? Katy noted that her relatively new starter behaved very differently in the hot South African climate. 

The Beinarts' Origination project also delicately raises wider questions about how people change and adapt when they migrate from one place to another, while also striving to retain familiar characteristics and practices  Much of this human culture can also be traced in bread baking practices. What changes, what remains the same? How far can migration routes be traced by the emergence of similar recipes in different countries? How intense is the link between early memories of bread and personal and family histories? 

This last question is something leading bakers also reflect on. Jeffrey Hamelman, for example, recalls 'My earliest memories may be of bread. One of my grandmothers was Polish or Russian, depending on where the ever-changing boundary line happened to be drawn at a given time […] Gram always had bread' (Bread, p. 5). In the opening paragraph of his book Artisan Breads Jan Hedh relates 'My mother made nearly all the breads, biscuits and cakes for the family, and I remember the lovely smell and the wonderful flavours that awaited me as I returned from school'. (p.13)

On TFL bakers also strive to recreate for themselves, friends and family.much-loved breads enjoyed in childhood or remembered from another country. Some bakers share or seek recipes from their countries of origin or foreign countries they lived in when younger. Others reflect on why certain national recipes are well-known abroad whereas other have not travelled, even when their some of their original bakers have emigrated. Bakers also celebrate well-loved bread recipes that have taken root and are developed and enjoyed in a new place: Stan and Norm's project, which I have read about with great interest seems a great example of this. In the best cases the culture just keeps on growing, in all senses of the word.

 

Baking the bread

When I took on a sample of Katy's starter as part of the involvement of other bakers in this project it behaved very differently to my own. A year after her return from South Africa Katy's starter was much more stable than my own, which were still young and unruly. Whereas my starters tore through dough when well fed on the bench and lay down and refused to move after a stay in the fridge, Katy's raised dough well and reliably and regained strength much more quickly after refrigeration. Katy's starter was kept around 125% hydration. It also had a different scent and flavour, with a keen tang like a good cheese. 

When used to bake the recipe given to me by Katy, the starter raised the dough well and produced an even crumb, aerated with small, well spaced holes. At this point in my baking I had had a breakthrough with using an oven stone and steam to produce a good crust. I also used Marriage's strong white bread flour which I have found to be very good for artisan bread. The bread came out with a strong, golden crust.  The crumb was as shown in the picture at the top of this blog:

The flavour of the bread was milder than I am used to with mixed grain formulae, yet it was pleasant, with a lovely mouth feel. It kept well and we enjoyed it with both savoury and sweet toppings. 

When we met Katy again at a talk she gave at Modern Art Oxford, she added that she was moving on to try rye in loaves, as used in other bread-making traditions in Eastern Europe and that she was happy for bakers to adapt her original recipe. However, given that this was the very recipe that she used while on board ship and in South Africa, I wanted to follow in that line. 

The lean sourdough tin recipe used by Katy and Rebecca is given below: 

Very simple Wheat Sourdough

Makes two large loaves

Stage 1: Evening

200-250g Wheat Starter Culture (use a little less if your culture is very bubbly & active)

450g white bread flour

700ml water

Mix together in a bowl into a sloppy dough. Cover and leave overnight somewhere warm.  Now feed the original starter mix with 150g flour and 150-200ml water to replace what you took out.

Wheat sourdough takes less time than rye. If it’s in a warm place, stage 1 can take just 5-6 hours, so you can start it off on the morning and bake in the afternoon if this fits your schedule.

The next morning

450g white bread flour (or add half wholemeal flour

2-3 teaspoons salt

Mix the flour and salt into the existing bowl of dough that you left overnight. Knead it by hand in the bowl – it is a very wet and sticky dough, but it should feel elastic. If it feels too wet, add a little more flour. Work on it for about 10 minutes until it’s smooth and elastic. Rest it for 10 minutes. Mix it again for another couple of minutes.

Oil two large bread tins well, then dust generously with flour. Divide the dough and put into tins, they should be just over half full. Cover tins with an upturned bowl, leaving space for the dough to rise. Leave it to rise in a warm place. Depending on the heat and the liveliness of the culture this will take between 2 and 5 hours.

Baking

Once the dough has risen to the top of the tins, you’re ready to bake. As you get to know the timings you can be cunning and pre-heat the oven so it’s hot at the right time.

Place the tins in the oven at 220◦C/ Gas 7. Bake for 30 minutes. Then remove the bread from the tins and bake for a further 10-15 minutes to form a good crust. The loaves should sound hollow when you tap the bottom. Remove from tins and leave them to cool before cutting.

Exponential Growth

As part of the Exponential Growth project there will be a Bread Fair in Loughborough (UK), Town Hall on Saturday October 23rd. from 2/2/30 p.m. 'Culture caretakers' have been invited to this event to share their breads and to enter a competition in which breads will be judged on 'Regional specificity; Flavour; Appearance; Originality of recipe; Method of passing on the culture'.  

There are currently 93 caretakers but there is still time for more people to join! If you would like to have some of the Loughborough culture and/or attend this event please contact Rebecca on radar.info@lboro.ac.uk

As part of the wider project Rebecca is recording on world map how far the culture has travelled globally. It would be great if some TFLers felt that they could contribute to this part of the project. 

If you are interested please contact Rebecca asap on radar.info@lboro.ac.uk with a mailing address and she will send out a sample, postage paid. The bread baked can be your own recipe, or one that relates to this project in terms of geography and culture. It does not have to be the recipe given in this blog. Of course if you do bake, don't forget to share on TFL! 

   

Comments

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Daisy_A,


so we are both posting blog entries at the same time.


Thank you for your comments, particularly about the student work.


I'm fascinated by the work of Katy and Rebecca as described.   I take it they would sympathise more with Hamelman's ideas about stabilising and strengthening a culture through careful feeding over a long time period?   Contrast this with the methods adopted by Gerard Rubaud as postedhere by Shiao-Ping: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/15778/g%C3%A9rard-rubaud-miche


I love what they are trying to do by "spreading" the culture to different world venues.   Your comments contrasting the behaviour of your new cultures with their long-established ones speaks volumes.


Great post, thanks.   Yes, I've had a really hard week, and it's about to get harder:   I now have 32 hours class contact every week, for the next few weeks!


Very best wishes


Andy

Daisy_A's picture
Daisy_A

Hi Andy,


Many thanks for your comments. 


Loved your blog too - also added a comment about your own ryes - look great! Will add some more on other post.


Yes I would say Katy and Rebecca are certainly keeping their starter much more in the Hamelman tradition - 125% and regular feeding.


I read the Gerard Rubaud though, - I bet it gets a delicious flavour but so labour intensive. Maybe it's just a different tradition, with more emphasis on freshly-prepared levain. Found the introduction to the Hedh book interesting in that respect - how he talks about only keeping the 'chef' and 'levain' for a fortnight and week, respectively.


It is really interesting the way Katy and Rebecca are looking at bread cultures and wider cultures as their work does have historical, real life parallels, albeit the spread of the cultures might have taken longer.


My starters are much stronger now, thankfully. I have worked out that they just need a lot to eat and keep them firm. Katy's starter definitely held more stable at 125, however.


32 hour weeks! - that sounds testing. I used to teach 20 hours a week in secondary and was so tired I used to fall asleep in the bath - wonder I didn't drown! WIll be thinking of you.


With best wishes, Daisy_A

Zeb's picture
Zeb

Thank you Daisy! i want to read this properly tomorrow when I am more awake.  What a wonderful post you have written.

Daisy_A's picture
Daisy_A

Hi Zeb,


Many thanks for your supportive comments! Any reflections and responses welcome.


With best wishes, Daisy_A


 

wally's picture
wally

on bread and family and culture (both types!).  Thanks for sharing such an interesting story with us!


Larry

Daisy_A's picture
Daisy_A

Thanks Larry,


It was good to share such interesting projects and histories.


Kind regards, Daisy_A

varda's picture
varda

Thanks so much for sharing this experience with us.   I really enjoyed the pictures.

Daisy_A's picture
Daisy_A

Hi varda,


Thanks for the comment - much appreciated!


I'm glad you enjoyed the pictures. I remember you built a wfo recently. The pictures of Katy are of her firing up the oven for the first time in the season, back in May.


With best wishes, Daisy_A

teketeke's picture
teketeke

 


Hello, Daisy


Thank you for sharing your nice story and the recipe too.


I tried the recipe today. I like this bread a lot.  I used very cold water to make the levain last night. ( 12 hours in total)  It turned out great.  It is sour very slightly and I can taste full of flavor and a lot of sweetness.  It has right moist, but it is not chewy not so soft either. It is just right.


It took 5 hours to proof before baking. It might be too long? Because there are too big holes in it. It was not burst this time though :)


Thank you again,


Akiko

Daisy_A's picture
Daisy_A

Hi Akiko.


Many thanks for your kind message.


How great that you made the bread and enjoyed the flavour so much!


It looks great in your pictures. Thank you for posting. I found this recipe produced a very golden crust and I see that you have that also. You seem to have a very good rise on it too, particularly in the second version :-)


In Katy and Rebecca's recipe it says the proof can be between 2 and 5 hours, depending on the starter culture so I think that 5 hours is fine, particularly for a young starter. Katy's starter was around a year old when I baked the loaves pictured.


It also seemed to be a feature of Katy's starter that it produced small, very even bubbles. It was kept at 125% hydration and was like that in the jar, also.


My own starter produces a pattern much more as seen in your crumb shot, of mostly small holes, with some larger ones. I think this is also fine for a sourdough bread, even desirable in some cases. The crumb looks fine to me but if you did not want larger holes in the top of the loaf during expansion I think you can 'dock' it (prick a few tiny holes in the top), prior to or just into baking. I have never done this but have read about it elsewhere on TFL.


It's great to see another baker try the formula from the blog, I will let Katy and Rebecca know also as I'm sure they will be pleased too.


With best wishes, Daisy_A

teketeke's picture
teketeke

Hi, Daisy


I appreciate all your help!   I didn't mind the larger holes around the top in my crumb, but I may try the method you told me next time.  Thank you!


I have 100% rye sourdough culture and 100% white wild starter.My starter is 2 month old and I feed them twice a day. I think that is why it takes a longer time to ferment.    I used 10% rye soudough culture and 90% white wild starter and that was 200g in total. I used minimum amount starter. I didn't converted to make 125% sourdough culture from 100% one.  I better try to use 125% one instead of 100% one next time.


Our family simply enjoyed the bread today.  My son who was not a big fan of bread asked me another slices of them.   He enjoyed to dip some of the bread into turkey chili soup that I made tonight.  I diffinitely make this bread again. Please say thank you to Katy and Rebecca.  :)


Sincerely,


Akiko

Daisy_A's picture
Daisy_A

Hi Akiko,


Thanks for your message. How lovely that you could share this with family and that your son asked for more! I often think this is one of the nicest parts of bread baking - to share with friends and family and to see them enjoy the bread...


I will certainly pass on thanks to Katy and Rebecca. I have let them know  that people on TFL have been interested in their work and that a baker in New York had tried the recipe. I will be sure to pass on your personal thanks also.


For the technical things - I tried rye and wheat starters together for the barm bread, based on a professional baker's advice and that worked well.


I think in the formula the suggested levain levels are 100-125% so either is good.  However I had Katy's liquid starter and I think it was at 125% when it was passed on to me. Probably worth trying it at 125% once to see how it effects the hydration of the final dough.


As for holes - I am actually trying to get larger holes in my sourdough at the moment - seems to depend very much on the strength of my starter! As for docking, I have not done it with tin loaves yet. I made a rye tin the other day and didn't dock it, although I see several other bakers on TFL do. Hope someone more experienced can explain that one to me!


As for your loaves, you have done so well to get the rise that you have without the skin breaking - you must have a very good shaping technique!


With best wishes,


Daisy_A