The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Pain au Levain with Red Fife Whole Wheat Flour

Franko's picture
Franko

Pain au Levain with Red Fife Whole Wheat Flour


Pain au Levain with Red Fife Whole Wheat Flour


Every year in November Marie and I make a point of attending one of our local Christmas craft fairs in hopes of finding some unique items for gift giving as well as for ourselves. This year the fair had more vendors than I've seen in previous years, with lots of newcomers from various locales in BC as well as Washington state. One of the newcomers was a fellow by the name of Bruce Stewart who owns and operates a craft bakery called True Grain Bread in Cowichan Bay here on Vancouver Island .


http://truegrain.ca/


When I met Bruce he was handing out samples of his Christmas fruit cake to a group of folks and quickly offered some to Marie and I. Now I'm not usually a big fan of fruit cake but this was exceptional, and superior to any I've had in the past. Bruce is a very genial guy and clearly has a lot of enthusiasm and passion for his craft and product, so the two of us easily fell into a conversation when I mentioned that I was a professional baker as well. At his bakery Bruce mills most of the flour he uses on site, to make a wide variety of breads, including rye, spelt, kamut, emmer, and most interesting to me, Red Fife wheat . Red Fife is one of Canada's premier grains and listed on the Slow Food Organization's 'ark of taste' as Canada's first presidium. For more background on this click the link below.


http://www.slowfoodfoundation.org/eng/arca/dettaglio.lasso?cod=547&prs=PRINT_1192


If you look on the left of the page in the link above you'll find another link to the 'Ark of Taste' which lists all the various foods of countries that the Slow Food Org considers worthy of cataloguing and preserving for future generations. Our TFL members from the USA might find it interesting to note that they have 139 listings for various food groups, more I believe than any of the other nations listed.


While I was chatting with Bruce I noticed he had some bags of flour for sale and asked if he had any Red Fife that I could buy, as I've yet to run across it for sale at any of my usual sources for flour. Bruce smiled and asked me if I wanted the sifted or the whole grain and how many bags. I went with a bag of whole grain Red Fife and a bag of his unbleached organic white , which is one that he doesn't mill himself. I'm kicking myself now for not getting the Red Fife sifted, but it gives me an excuse to take a drive down Island and pick some up at his bakery and maybe get a tour of his shop as well.


Hamelman's Pain au Levain with Whole Wheat Flour was the formula I decided to use the Red Fife in since his formulas are so reliable and familiar to me. First I needed to convert some left over liquid whole wheat starter to a stiff starter using the Red Fife, and then to a levain for the final mix. This took a few days of feedings before it was good and active, and ready for use. I mixed the levain one night before going to bed , intending to use it the next day when I got home from work. Unfortunately Mother Nature had other plans. We've been having some record cold temperatures here on Vancouver Island this last week, making my 70k commute to work in the wee hours of the morning somewhat treacherous. While I was at work my wife called to tell me that another front was moving in and another dump of snow was expected to happen overnight. I decided to stay in town that night rather than try and do the drive back up Island the next morning in even worse road conditions than we already had. Realizing I'd probably have to start over again with the levain was slightly disappointing but preferable to finding myself off the road in a ditch... or worse. The next afternoon I managed to get home without any problems thankfully, and immediately tested the levain to see if it had any life left. Lo and behold it did, popping to the surface of a bowl of warm water I'd placed a few grams in. The rest of the mix went according to Hamelman's directions, but mixed by hand. I'd scaled the mix so that I'd have two 900 gram dough pieces for baking, which I then molded after a 3hr bulk ferment as a batard and a boule, covered with linen, and put overnight on a shelf in our very cold garage to finish a slow rise.


The next morning I checked the loaves and was surprised to find that they'd risen quite a bit more than I'd expected due to an overnight warming of the outside ambient temperature. I could tell the batard was over proofed, but not so far gone it wasn't worth baking off, and the boule looked to be fine in it's banneton. The batard was baked first, on the stone with a foil roasting pan covering it for the first 20 minutes, and the boule was baked using the Dutch oven method. The batard turned out as expected, with low volume and spring, but the boule baked off quite well I thought, with lots of expansion, a good jump, and no wild splits.


To my taste the Red Fife has a certain sweetness to it that I don't find in other whole wheat flours, and which helps to bring out it's rich wheat flavour. Combined with the white and medium rye flours called for in Hamelman's recipe it works nicely to boost the overall flavour of his very good formula. This bread will go perfectly with tomorrow nights meal of red wine braised short ribs and a white bean and tomato gratin that I'm making for our family dinner.


It looks like things are warming up a bit now and the roads are getting back to normal, so with any luck I'll be able to make the drive down to Cowichan Bay to pay Bruce and his bakery a visit sometime in early 2011.


Best Wishes,


Franko





 

Comments

Zeb's picture
Zeb

I'm just admiring those beautiful loaves! and though I usually lurk hope you don't mind me asking a couple of questions....


I've never heard of testing levain by putting it in warm water - how does that work? And sitting here contemplating your slashes and wondering which direction you slash the loaf in to make that open diamond cross shape or is it all down to the oven spring ? Anyway it looks just perfect :)

Franko's picture
Franko

Hi Zeb,


Lurking is fine, but participating is even better, so I'm happy to answer any questions you have.


The test works because if the levain is active it's producing Co2 gas that get trapped by the gluten cells in the levain dough. This in turn allows the dough to float to the surface indicating it's ready for use. Sometimes it takes a minute or two for the little sample to rise, but if it's active it will rise eventually. Every so often at work myself or the other baker will forget to add yeast to a mix. Usually the feel of the dough will tip us off that something is not quite right with it and this is the first test we try.


As for the slashes it's just a slash across both axis and then the smaller ones in between. You're correct about it being a function of oven spring, which is the result of getting the final proof at the right stage, as well as the depth of the slashes. With the boule I think a certain degree of luck was involved in the end result, but using the Dutch oven helped a lot to ensure it had adequate steam and heat during the first crucial 10 minutes of baking.


I'm glad you liked the loaves Zeb, and your comments are greatly appreciated.


Best Wishes,


Franko

Daisy_A's picture
Daisy_A

Hi Franko,


These loaves look beautiful - such great crust and open crumb. I second Zeb's appreciation of the diamond cross shape also!


Best wishes, Daisy_A

Franko's picture
Franko

Thanks so much Daisy!


I'm just tickled that I've finally found a source for some really high quality flour right here in my own back yard. When I do eventually get down for a visit with Bruce at True Grain Breads, I'll make sure to bring the camera so I can share the experience with you and all the other TFL'rs.


It's always good to hear from you Daisy, and I'm happy you thought enough of the loaves to send your compliments.


Many thanks,


Franko

Daisy_A's picture
Daisy_A

Hi Franko,


That was a top find then! The flour sounds great. It is, like you say,also good to find these things in your own back yard.


On the backyard theme. I did a similar thing with Shipton Mill flour, which a lot of British artisan bakers use. I looked all over for it without luck and assumed I would have to buy it on the Internet. I then came across a few bags at the back of the Wholefood Coop that we had been shopping at for years! Good to support them too as they are a charity offering a bridge back to work for patients from the nearby hospital.


Hope you enjoy your trip to the mill if you can arrange it. Look forward to photos.


Best wishes, Daisy_A

ehanner's picture
ehanner

It's one thing to make great tasting bread. It's a whole nother thing to make them beautiful. Very nice Franko.


Eric

Franko's picture
Franko

Hi Eric,


You know...coming from a guy who's not exactly a slouch when it comes to producing top quality, gorgeous loaves of bread, this is a compliment of the highest order. You have no idea how much this old supermarket baker has learned from you, and so many other regular contributors to this site over the last year. If you think these loaves are good looking then I'd say it's just a reflection of what I've learned from  you, as well as all the other fine bakers on this site during the last 45 weeks.


Thanks Eric,


Franko

MadAboutB8's picture
MadAboutB8

Seriously beautiful loaves and story.


I love the color of the crumbs too, and its good open structure. Those are great looking loaves with such an artistic scoring.


Sue


http://youcandoitathome.blogspot.com/

Franko's picture
Franko

Thanks Sue!


I appreciate your comments about the loaves.


All the best,


Franko

Mebake's picture
Mebake

Same here!


Lovely looking boule, and batard. The scoring, crumb and crust all look perfect, franko!


I admire your skills!

Franko's picture
Franko

Thanks Khalid!


Well as I mentioned in my reply to Zeb I think luck played a role in how these turned out. The batard is overproofed, still worthwhile but hardly perfect. The boule turned out nicely but mainly because I had it in a banneton and it held it's shape better. I haven't cut into the batard yet so I'm not sure what the crumb will look like. Nevertheless your kind words are appreciated!


Franko

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

David

Franko's picture
Franko

Thanks David!


Franko

carluke's picture
carluke

Hi Franko,


Lovely looking loaves.


I am in Ontario and have been using Red Fife flour, in place of 'regular' whole wheat flour for about a year. I have used it most recently in Thom Lenoard's Country French Bread in Maggie Glezer's Artisan Baking.  


I found it in the local bulk barn. I have not, up until now, been a fan of bulk barns and was not sure about the shelf life etc. but the staff assured me that they have a very high turnover of product and their flour bins are refilled every few days. So far, I haven't been disappointed. 


Regards,


Janice

Franko's picture
Franko

Hi Janice,


For my first time using it I'm very impressed with the flavour as well as it's feel when made into a dough. If I'm able to keep a steady supply of it I intend to use it exclusively as my wheat flour for almost all breads. I'll stick with AP for baguettes, but I seldom make those anyway. It's good to know that your experience with RF has been positive, and thanks for your comments on the loaves.


Best Wishes,


Franko

breadsong's picture
breadsong

Hello Franko, Your breads are really, really lovely. And your flour was a wonderful find. I don't make it over to the Island all that often, but next time I go I'll try to stop in at that bakery and hopefully purchase some of the Red Fife flour. Wishing you safe travels over this winter (it's warmed up nicely here...& the snow's all gone ...here in the Fraser Valley). Regards, breadsong

Franko's picture
Franko

Hi breadsong,


I didn't realize you're a fellow B.C. resident. Tell you the truth I think you are the only one I've met so far since joining TFL. Yes we did get a little taste of winter this past week didn't we? Hate to say it but I think we're in for a long one this year, so have a safe one yourself.


Thanks for the compliments on the loaves! The Red Fife is really a beautiful flour to work with and tastes so much better than your average run of the mill whole wheat that we get in the local supermarkets. Rogers is pretty good, but the RF is several notches over that. If you like, I'd be happy to pick some up for you when I get down there next. Shipping to the Valley shouldn't be too bad I wouldn't think. Let me know if your interested and we can make some arrangements over the private message function.


All the best,


Franko

breadsong's picture
breadsong

Franko, Thanks so much for your offer - so generous of you! I want to say yes, but don't want to trouble you, but the way you describe this flour it would be wonderful to be able to bake with it.  Please let me know if you plan to buy more, then I'd be happy to work something out with you. Thanks again!!! from breadsong

Franko's picture
Franko

Breadsong,


I will be buying more, that's definite, when is another matter. When I plan to go to  Cowichan Bay I'll give you a heads up in advance and then we can work out the details. It's no trouble at all and I'm happy to do it, no worries.


Franko

breadsong's picture
breadsong

Thanks so much Franko!!!

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Franko,


from what you say of the delay in using your leaven, this bread has turned out really good.   The boule has a fine aspect in so many ways.


Very interesting to read about the speciality flour.   "Fife", I thought, "that must have Scottish heritage?"   That said, I cannot believe this eastern outpost of Scotland is the most obvious place to grow great bread wheat.   I have a colleague from a few years back who had a real food business in development up there.   Otherwise, my experience makes me think "land of the pies"!


Fantastic to see you sourcing authentic flours like this; I bet the climate makes for growing a fantastic crop.


I have a commute of a little short of 70km, by car, then train.   Snowed in on Thursday this week, but we made it in on Friday.   But we're stuck again now, I reckon.


All good wishes


Andy

Franko's picture
Franko

Hi Andy,


Great to hear from you!


I'm fairly amazed at how active the leaven was after such a long time but I'm guessing it has a lot to do with the starter which was built primarily out of the Red Fife. I'm assuming it has an abundance of nutrients in it for the leaven to have been so hardy.


Regarding the grain itself, I asked Bruce where he got the grain from and he told me for now he's supplied by a farm in Saskatchewan. He went on to mention that he's working with some of the Island farmers to see if they can begin growing it for our local market. There are at least two more craft bakeries in the south Island region that use RF and I think 2-3 more further North. I feel pretty fortunate to have found this flour and the contact with Bruce, and am looking forward to seeing his bakery in the near future.


I appreciate your comments on the boule Andy, it turned out much better than I anticipated. Why there was such a difference between the two loaves in terms of final fermentation is still not entirely clear to me. If you have any input on this it would be welcome.


All the best my friend, and stay safe on the roads this winter.


Franko

ananda's picture
ananda

Hi Franko,
I was just reading through my treasured copy of Elizabeth David's "English Bread and Yeast Cookery" to gather some ideas for my next MSc assignment. This is what Ms. David had to say about the wheat strain you chanced upon:

"In our climate,[aside: I do wonder why she used the title English, as there is reference to Welsh and Scottish baking throughout?] the hard wheats don't flourish, such red wheats as we do grow being of medium strength. One of them, planted in western Canada by a Scottish pioneer farmer called David Fife, became famous as Red Fife. In its turn Red Fife was one of the ancestors of Marquis, a highly productive strain first evolved in the 1800s by Doctor A. P. Saunders. It was Marquis which eventually earned for Canada her position as the granary of the British Empire."
David, E. (1977)"English Bread and Yeast Cookery" London: Allen Lane
I have the 1979 Penguin edition, quote is on pp.10

All good wishes
Andy

Franko's picture
Franko

Hi Andy,


Thanks for sending this on to me, very interesting to learn some further background on RF.


I'll have to see if I can pick up a copy Ms. David's book somewhere. I have her books on 'French Provincial Cooking' as well as 'Italian Food' somewhere in my collection but I haven't looked at them in years. Time I tracked them down again to see if she has anything on French or Italian breads that I could use.


Let us know how the competition goes this week will you.


Cheers,


Franko

Zeb's picture
Zeb

I'm back to say that inspired by you and by the wonderful Dr Fugawe who sent me some of his home grown Oregon starter to try I've managed to make a loaf in a cast iron pot finally.  In fact I've done two now and I'm pretty chuffed!  Though I still haven't fathomed out how to keep the ends of the slashes pointy the way you do. It must all be in the wrist action ;)


Many thanks,


Joanna @ Zebbakes

Franko's picture
Franko

Hi Joanna,


It's awfully nice to hear that I provided you with some inspiration. Not exactly the sort of comment I'm used to, so it's very flattering indeed.


Good to know your having success with the pot method, it a winner alright. Regarding the paper getting stuck in the proofed loaf, you might want to check out Dosi's blog on her experience using my alternate method for loading a Dutch Oven. You may find it's an easier and safer way of using a hot DO.


http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/20861/noknead-it-sang-it039s-tall-thanks-franko


The slashing thing is just a matter of proofing, and the depth of the slashes, along with practice. Keep at it and it'll happen.


Thanks, and best wishes Joanna!


Franko