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What will it take for us to actually care?

Farine - October 2, 2015 - 8:09am
That's the central question. Maybe the only one. And maybe the answer is that nothing ever will. If the massacre of twenty little kids and six educators going peacefully about their school day in a quaint New England village wasn't enough, what hope can we reasonably hold that anybody's freedom to survive will one day be more important to us than unfettered access to lethal weapons, important enough that we actually stand up and do something about it?
Today we are in mourning not only for the innocent victims of yesterday's Oregon shooting but for their families and friends. Their world has catapulted into darkness. With time, light may shine again but it will never be the same. A black hole will remain. A pulsating void, expanding and shrinking over and over, but ever present, casting its shadow over every day of their lives.
People ask me how many grandchildren I have and I always want to say "nine." Because Noah is still my grandchild and I still can't accept that he is gone. But I never answer "nine" because if questions are asked (where do they all live? how old are they?), then I have to explain and I can't always. What happened to Noah, to us, can never be the subject of small talk.
So I say "eight" but it feels both like a lie and a betrayal. I don't want to constantly talk about our loss, or rather it is the only thing I really want to talk about but I can't. So I don't. I say "eight" and each time I do, I feel that Noah recedes a little further. Pain is a constant.
Yesterday ten families woke up whole as we did on the morning of December 14, 2012. By night time they had been brutally amputated as we were. I know first-hand how they feel. Why is it that President Obama gets it and Congress doesn't? What will it take for our elected officials to feel enough of our pain to actually take measures to minimize the possibility of such massacres?
Is compassion a word we no longer understand? A word we no longer teach our kids?

A friend just share this on Facebook: Five things you can do about gun violence. Please read and share. Thank you.
Categories: Blogs, The Bread Feed

Dave Miller's formulas for einkorn, Renan & Sonora breads (Grain Gathering 2015)

Farine - September 30, 2015 - 3:51pm
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After the Grain Gathering, Dave Miller very kindly sent me the formulas he used in class. Please remember that he dries his levain from one bake to the next (see Meet the Baker: Dave Miller).

Process for levain (for all three breads)

First feeding
  • Sieve out dried sourdough bits
  • Add water to soften, create a mush, let sit 1 hour
  • Add back sifted-out flour, should make stiff ball (DDT: 78°F)
  • Ferment for 10 to 12 hours
Second feeding
  • Ferment for 4 hours (DDT still 78°F)
Third feeding
  • Ferment for 3 hours (DDT still 78°F)

My heartfelt thanks to Jacqueline Colussi for her help with inputting the formulas into BreadStorm.

Einkorn Bread

MC-Dave Miller's Einkorn Bread (Grain Gathering 2015) Renan Bread

MC-Dave Miller's Renan Bread (Grain Gathering 2015) Sonora Bread

MC-Dave Miller's Sonora Bread
Categories: Blogs, The Bread Feed

Grain Gathering 2015: Dave Miller on milling and baking

Farine - September 25, 2015 - 4:53pm
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Dave Miller of Miller's Bake House in Oroville, California, needs no introduction. A marvelous baker and dedicated miller, he has become a living legend in the world of bread. So I knew his workshop would be excellent (and mobbed) but I also knew that since he was planning to cover all the stages of whole-grain breadmaking starting with milling your own flours, I would only attend the first afternoon if I didn't want to skip pretty much everything else at the Grain Gathering.
Fortunately my friend Laurie Knuever of Ratio Coffee & Pastry in Vernon, British Columbia, herself a passionate and talented baker, did stay for the duration and took loads of notes and videos.  She generously agreed to share them with Farine. Thank you, Laurie! What wonderful reference tools for those of us who couldn't be there.

Dave Miller has been milling for 30 years (and milling his own flour for 28 years). While he once owned and ran a very big bakery, he now bakes once a week for the Chico farmers' market.
For the purposes of this class, he baked with three different varieties of wheat:
  • Einkorn: Dave loves the flavor, his customers are crazy about it and it performs very well;
  • Sonora: It has a beautiful creamy color and usually a very good flavor (although not this year)
  • Renan: A French variety grown in Mount Vernon, Washington.
  • Different types of stones yield different qualities of flours. The larger the stone the easier it is to get the type of granulation you want. A 40" stone is pretty much ideal. Heat is a major concern and the coolness of the big stone takes away some of the friction heat.
  • Another variable to take into consideration is the amount of grain fed at a time: the smaller the amount, the finer the flour. Softer wheat offer less resistance. Spelt and rye can be fed faster than wheat. Kamut has to be fed the slowest.
  • The space between the stones is also an issue. You don't want to make it too tight or the flour will start tasting like ground stone. The two stones need to be very close but they can't touch. An adjustment may be needed every year but that isn't always the case.
  • Granite is often chosen for millstones because it wears more evenly. However today composites are often preferred. They are popular with bakers because they self-sharpen (the natural stones don't).
  • Dave dresses his own stones once a year but then he runs his mill seven hours a week, which isn't much. "Dressing a stone" means roughing up its surface. If your stones have become too smooth and you try to remedy the problem by bringing them closer to each other, you create more heat which leads to a loss of performance and nutrition. Also you don't want circular grooves in your stone (and they will happen if the stones don't get dressed regularly).
  • Dave dresses his stones by feel (working where the smooth spots are).
  • When milling, Dave doesn't go by temperature but by smell: if your wheat flour isn't aromatic right out of the mill, then the aromas won't be in the bread either. The temperature of Dave's flour is never more than warm.
Four basic qualities of flour:
  • Light, fluffy and very fine. It offers no resistance when you put your hand in it. It is also very aromatic
  • Finely ground with brown endosperm specks. It happens when milling softer wheat. Some millers will temper their wheat to get the speck. It is especially advantageous if you are bolting (good separation). Still fluffy
  • Sandy, kind of gritty. That is Dave's least favorite. It affects the functionality of the wheat. There is no good separation between the endosperm and the germ and much less bonding with gluten. Not contributing to the dough (the loaf will be denser)
  • Overheated: which is what you get when you put more pressure on the stones in the hope of getting a finer grain. Loss of aroma and less nourishment. The biggest culprit is trying to feed too much wheat at a time. Ideally you want each berry to have as much contact with the stone as possible (which can't happen when the grain berries are all crushed together). Overheated flour behaves like a weaker flour.
Should you age your flour?
  • No, with whole-grain flours aging doesn't bring about an increase in performance. The quality is good right off the mill although it could be a wise choice for a big bakery to always work with two- or three-week old flour (less fluctuations).
Cleaning the millstone
  • If your stone gets encrusted with flour (picture below), you need to scrape it off.

Dave cleaning up a flour-encrusted stone
That's it, readers. This is the extent of my notes and pictures for the class.  For the rest of the post, I am relying on Laurie Knuever's videos and notes. Again, thank you, Laurie, you saved the day!

Laurie Knuever's videos
Please note that these very informative videos are unedited. Watching them is pretty much like attending the workshop. Which is awesome.

Laurie Knuever's notes
Note: the text of Laurie's notes has been slightly adapted for the purpose of this post.

Pre-shaping wet doughs
  • Use your bench scraper to make a ball at a steeper angle.
Shaping wet doughs
  • Flour the surface really well or use water on the bench if putting the dough into a sprayed pan.
  • Build a little tension by doing a 4-fold – top to bottom, bottom to top, and side to side and other side to side.  Smooth side goes  down on the table.
  • For shaping an oblong, Dave does the four folds and makes a fairly rectangular shape. Top goes down to one third, then he dusts his thumbs generously, and quickly brings the top down over by gently rolling it to the bottom of the dough.
  • Too gassy is if you handle the dough gently and the bubbles still break.  You have to be very careful with whole grain doughs – always handle them gently. Do not use a lot of force. It’s no disaster if the dough is too gassy when you are shaping it but you will not get as much volume when it bakes.
  • Once the dough comes out of the retarder (15 hour bulk retard) at 47° F, it sits out on the board for 3 hours, then it divided, then it sits out on boards for 3 hours.
  • If all the steps had to be done at room temperature, the dough would be much more difficult to work with and the shaping method would have to be adjusted accordingly. Dave would back off the hydration in the formula and do more stretch and folds to help build strength.
  • The right amount of tension is the secret.  Not too much and not too little.  You want it to hold its form while it has proofed, but by the time it goes into the oven, you want it to relax a bit so it can swell as it bakes.  You want to dough to be relaxed just prior to baking to get the oven spring.
  • It takes five hours to proof approximately.  Some people are getting great results with cold retarding and cold proofing prior to baking. It improves the crust.
  • You can overnight cold ferment and proof the loaves just prior to putting in the oven.
  • Taking the dough temperature is really important.
  • High pressure and low pressure effects the rising of the dough.  Lower pressure causes faster moving dough.  High pressure means a slow moving day.  May need to add more starter or more water or less salt.
  • There are differences in different doughs and in how much activity you get in the bulk ferment. The more you work with it, the more you realize it needs different treatments.  Sonora is an example, when they first worked with it for the class, it was really soupy after first mixing it. But after it fermented, it was too tight. It also needs more bulk fermentation.  The loaves will come out flat if you don’t do more bulk fermentation. 
  • You need to learn to make judgement calls in the moment.  There are no simple answers, because each day is different. 
  • The best method to look after your proofing baskets is stack them as you un-mold them but as soon as the bread is in the oven,  unstack them.  Keep them clean right away.  The couche cloth should be hung to dry.
  • Honey problems in dough: Some honey affects the quality of the rise of the dough.  Some honeys can kill the yeast.  Honey can also turn the crust liquid after baking which is called starch degradation.
  • Sometimes the wheat has too much bran in it, then just cut it with better quality high protein whole wheat, or add some white flour. 
  • The levain may change with variations in temperature or weather: It may be getting more acidic.  Taste it when it is working well, and taste it again before adding it.  It could be too mellow or too acidic.
  • Soakers can cause problems, especially in the summer (enzymatic activity)
How to perk up a culture
  • Increase hydration to make it less acidic
  • Give it several feedings, right when it is ripe
  • Put the culture in the fridge for a while to slow it down
How to strengthen dough without changing formulas
  • Keep accurate records of dough temperature, room temperature etc..
  • Mixing:  changing the number of folds, changing the time of the mix
  • More folds will help
  • More levain will help
  • Another preshape
  • Bulk retard or retarding shaped loaves to give it strength
What if the dough is too weak?
  • You can increase the oven temperature from 530° to 550°F
  • Or you can slash less deep.  
What if you have too much strength in your dough?
  • Increase the hydration, or mix it really hard, which seems counter intuitive
  • Decrease the levain can help
Loading the bread into the oven
  • Put lots of flour on the peel and on top of the loaves in the baskets
  • Gently tighten up the dough by cupping your hands and lightly lifting while bringing it in
  • Slash the dough, pre-steam the oven, add the bread, steam again, and bake.
Categories: Blogs, The Bread Feed


Brot & Bread - September 25, 2015 - 12:01pm
Hier geht's zur deutschen Version dieses Posts (folgt noch)

In 2007, after baking my way through all my old German bread baking books and Peter Reinhart's "The Bread Baker's Apprentice", I checked for more bread formulas in the internet.

In German food magazine Essen & Trinken, one recipe, featuring beer - always a plus! - caught my eye and piqued my interest. The beer was not only used to hydrate and flavor the dough, but, also, cooked into a mash, to feed the starter!

At that time I had the opportunity to chat with Peter Reinhart in an online bread baking Q & A, hosted by "Fine Cooking", and asked him about the boozy, mash-fed starter. He had never heard of such a thing, either.

Not only that - there was another oddity: the recipe described stretching and folding the dough into a neat package, at one hour intervals. What an entirely weird concept! I was puzzled and very intrigued. (Later I found out that S & F as a technique was first mentioned in The Fresh Loaf in 2006. Reinhart's "Artisan Bread Every Day", introducing a larger audience to S & F, was published in 2009).

Stretching and folding a dough - to me (in 2007) a totally alien concept!
A bit skeptical how this could work, I went ahead with the Englisches Kartoffelbrot mit Ale (English Potato Bread with Ale), stretching and folding the dough as per instruction, and was a bit surprised when I saw how the dough became smoother, more elastic, and really showed little gas bubbles, when I cut it to check the development.

My first trial resulted in a very nice tasting bread. But I wasn't quite satisfied with the rather thick and chewy crust. My scoring could have been better, and I didn't think making two long bâtards was the best way to shape it, either.

My first trial - great taste but thick, chewy crust
Over the years, I now and then went back to the curious Potato Ale Bread, adding a soaker to soften the whole wheat, raising the oven temperature in the beginning, and using steam to achieve a thin, crisp crust.

We really like this bread, it is one of the standards I make for myself. My thanks to Flor, the user who posted the original formula, for introducing me to S&F (Stretch & Fold), and a starter that likes ale - same as the baker!

POTATO ALE BREAD (adapted from Flor's Englisches Kartoffelbrot mit Ale)

150 g potato, unpeeled (if the skin isn't too thick)
water for cooking (reserve 225 g for dough)

250 g whole wheat flour
50 g bread flour
4 g salt
225 g potato cooking water, at room temperature (70ºF/21ºC)

Ale Mash
125 g ale
25 g whole wheat flour

all ale mash (lukewarm)
50 g whole wheat mother starter (or what kind of starter you have at hand)

Final Dough
all starter
all soaker
150 g cooked potato
200 g bread flour
9 g salt

Mash cooked potato or cut it in small cubes
Cook potato in water until soft. Measure 225 g of the potato water, and set aside to cool to room temperature. Mash, or cut potato in small pieces, place in small bowl, cover, and refrigerate until using.

For the soaker, mix all ingredients in small bowl, cover, and leave at room temperature overnight.

Cook ale/wheat mixture until it thickens to a cream
For the mash, stir together ale and flour in medium sauce pan until well combined. Heat mixture to 167ºF/75ºC, stirring constantly, until it thickens to a cream. Transfer mash to a medium bowl, cover, and let cool until only lukewarm.

Stir mother starter into cooled ale mash until well combined. Cover, and ferment at room temperature overnight.

Mix mother starter with lukewarm ale mash
Mix final dough ingredients at low speed until all flour is hydrated, 1-2 minutes. Let rest for 10 minutes, then knead at medium-low speed for another 4 minutes. Dough will be very soft and sticky.

Transfer dough to lightly oiled work surface. With oiled hands, pat dough into a rough square, fold from top to bottom like a business letter in thirds, then do the same from the left and right sides (S&F). Gather dough package into a ball, and place, seam side down, in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap.

Bulk ferment for 4-5 hours, with 4 more S&F at 1 hour intervals. It should have grown at least 1 1/2 times its original size.

Shape dough into a bâtard or boule, and place in floured banneton, seam side up, or down (if you prefer rustic, irregular cracks).

Proof at room temperature for 2-3 hours, until bread has almost doubled in volume (Finger poke test: a dimple should fill a little bit, but stay visible).

Preheat oven to 482ºF/250ºC, including steam pan and baking stone.

Rustic cracks appear when you proof the loaf seam side down
Transfer bread to parchment lined baking sheet (or bake directly on baking stone). Score bread (if smooth side is up).

Place bread in oven, pouring 1 cup of boiling water in steam pan. Bake for 10 minutes, remove steam pan and rotate bread 180 degrees for even browning. Reduce temperature to 375ºF/190ºC, and continue baking for another 30 minutes, until loaf is golden brown, and registers 200ºF/93ºC on an instant read thermometer.

Let bread cool on a wire rack.

Moist and tasty - you can't go wrong with ale!
BreadStorm users (also of the free version) can download the formula:

href="">Karin's Potato Ale Bread
Categories: The Bread Feed

Jeffrey Hamelman: flatbread with chocolate and anise liqueur (Grain Gathering 2015)

Farine - September 23, 2015 - 2:27pm
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I have eaten my share of anise flatbreads over the years (Moroccan bakers sell them at open-air markets in Paris) but I can't remember any as sinful as this one. With no anise seed in sight, the flavor comes from generous pre- and post-baking sprays of anise liqueur (Jeff actually used Pernod) and a melted dark chocolate filling. Make it at your own risk: by the time you have your second bite, you'll know you just got yourself a serious new addiction!
Jeff got the idea from a traditional Catalonian flatbread that Lot Roca Enrich from Harinera Roca baked for him at her family home when he visited last summer. Except that there was no chocolate in her version. Just anisette and caramelized sugar. I am pretty sure it was just as seductive though and I'd love to try it as well.
MC-Jeffrey Hamelman: Flatbread with chocolate and anise liqueur (Grain Gathering 2015) Method:

  1. Mix all the ingredients together to moderate gluten development. Alternatively, the dough can be mixed by hand (Desired dough temperature: 75°F)
  2. Bulk ferment for 3 hours, with folds every hour. Give extra folds to hand mixed dough as necessary
  3. Divide the dough into four 550g pieces
  4. Round the dough pieces moderately and leave to relax fully
  5. Stretch the dough into a long and narrow shape. If necessary, let it relax and then stretch again. The final length of the dough piece should be about 28"
  6. Spritz half of the dough lightly with anise liqueur
  7. Spread 45--50 grams of finely chopped chocolate over the spritzed surface and fold the remaining dough over this to cover the chocolate. Seal the dough well.
  8. Relax the dough for 30--45 minutes
  9. Brush olive oil on the surface of the dough. Sprinkle generously with white sugar
  10. Bake with a soft live fire or after the rake-out of embers. Bake time is dependent upon the heat of the oven.
  11. If the sugar has not caramelized, caramelize it with a propane torch
  12. While still very hot, spritz the entire surface generously with anise liqueur. 

  • You can use Pernod (or any anisette liquor) or half-Pernod half-water (but Jeffrey says it won't be as good)
  • Chocolate has to be 62% cocoa and cut into very small pieces.
Categories: Blogs, The Bread Feed

Jeffrey Hamelman: Tunisian savory flatbread with 100% high-extraction flour (Grain Gathering 2015)

Farine - September 23, 2015 - 12:02pm

Related posts: In Jeff's own words, "this is a good basic flatbread formula. It is easy to make and quite versatile, supporting a great variety of fillings.
The 85%-extraction flour gives it more color and flavor than white flour. If you don't have access to high-extraction flour, you can either mix some whole-wheat flour with your white flour or sift whole-wheat flour to remove some of the bran and use that. MC-Jeff Hamelman's Tunisian flatbread dough (Grain Gathering 2015) Method:
  1. Mix all the ingredients together to a smooth, well-kneaded ball
  2. Place the dough into a bowl, cover with plastic and leave to rest at room temperature for at least 8 hours
  3. Divide dough into 60 gram balls
  4. Flatten with your palms, then use a rolling pin to roll the dough out into a flat thin disc
  5. Lightly water the rim, and place any desired filling onto the lower half. Fold the top half over to seal
  6. Bake in a very hot oven (at least 600°F) until the bottom shows brown spots (1 or 2 minutes)
  7. Flip and bake for about 1 more minute
  8. Cover with cloth to keep pliable. Slide the cloth into a plastic bag
  9. The flatbreads can be baked ahead of time for later reheating
  10. To reheat: cover in aluminum foil and bake for about 5 minutes
  • You don't have to round those quite as tight as the Lebanese flatbread. Light-rounding (just a few seconds) works fine.
  • When the dough has relaxed, turn it into a nice little disc in your hands then use a rolling pin to make it a 6-inch circle (start with circle and stretch it to an oval, then turn in 90° and stretch into an oval again)
  • Brush or spray bottom half of the disc lightly with water (more isn't better!)
  • Fill and make sure you get a good seal. Make sure it is dry.
  • If baking in a home oven, bake at 500° F and flip the flatbreads.
The possibilities for fillings are practically unlimited. Below are the two Jeff demoed during the workshop.

Spicy Tomato Filling Ingredients:
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 or 2 jalapeño pepper, chopped
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds, toasted
  • 2 tsp coriander, ground
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Dried red pepper, hot (to taste)
  • 1 28-oz can of plum tomatoes
  • Parsley, chopped (to taste)
  1. Heat the olive oil
  2. Add the garlic, onion, green pepper and jalapeño pepper
  3. Sauté until onion is translucent, about 6 to 8 minutes
  4. Add the cumin, coriander, fennel, salt and red pepper, and mix it all together
  5. Add the plum tomatoes and cook until it thickens somewhat, stirring often
  6. Add the chopped parsley. Check for seasoning
  7. Cool the topping (it can be made up to 3 days ahead)
  8. Spread lightly on the bottom half of a disc of flatbread. Fold the top over and bake as per the instructions above
Note: Baked flatbreads can be kept in foil and reheated. Any leftover filling can be used in casseroles, eaten with pasta, etc.

Feta Filling
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, chopped
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 8 oz. feta cheese
  • Cilantro leaves, to taste
Categories: Blogs, The Bread Feed

Grain Gathering 2015: five flatbreads by Jeffrey Hamelman

Farine - September 21, 2015 - 1:37pm
It is always a thrill to take a class with Jeffrey Hamelman, Director of King Arthur Bakery in Norwich, VT, and author of Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes but to watch him bake in a wood-fired oven in a beautiful orchard with a soft breeze swirling around fruit-laden appletrees takes the experience to a whole other level, especially when the first breads start sliding out, blistered and bubbly, and the air fills with the seductive fragrance of fire-burnished dough.
Flatbreads go way back: people were baking and eating them long before the first leavened bread came along. And of course they remain the dominant bread in many parts of the world. In my early years as a baker, I read with tremendous interest Jeffrey Alford's and Naomi Duguid's Flatbreads & Flavors: A Baker's Atlas. I travelled with it to many exotic destinations without ever leaving my kitchen. I even used it to prepare for a two-week camping trip by boat up and down the rivers, lakes and canals of southeastern Ontario where I knew we would be without access to real bread. I had decided to make Norwegian crispbreads as I was pretty sure they would travel well. The recipe called for whole-grain flours and there was none to be had on our side of the River. Determined to tackle the wilderness on whole-grain power, I had gone to Tara Natural Foods in Kingston, Ontario and stocked up.  I remember driving back to our cabin, feeling virtuous. I made stacks of crispbreads and sealed them inside plastic containers. They were excellent and wholesome and I have the book to thank for saving us from the sponge-like sandwich bread to be found at mini-marts along the waterways. Plus there is something eminently festive about flatbreads, the way they pop out of the oven, ready to eat and share with a crowd.
True to the international spirit of flatbreads, Jeff had decided to take us on a little tour that morning. We baked:
  • A spinach-filled flatbread from Lebanon
  • Another savory flatbread, this time from Tunisia
  • Tarte flambée from the Alsace region of France 
  • Socca, traditional chickpea flour crêpe from Southern France, also to be found in Liguria, Italy, under the name of farinata, and probably my personal all-time favorite
  • A dessert flatbread from Spain
All doughs for Jeff's class had been made the day before, so we didn't get to see any mixing. 
For ease of reference, each flatbread will be posted in a separate post. I'll start with the Lebanese flatbread and work my way down the list. It may take a while to cover all of them but come they will!
Categories: Blogs, The Bread Feed

Jeffrey Hamelman: Lebanese flatbread with savory filling (Grain Gathering 2015)

Farine - September 21, 2015 - 1:33pm

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Jeff drew the inspiration for this bread from Man'oushé: Inside the Street Corner Lebanese Bakery, a book by Barbara Abdeni Massaad with gorgeous photography by Raymond Yazbeck. The man'oushé is Lebanon's favorite flatbread and Massaad travelled all over the country to collect every recipe she could find. The book is an eloquent portrait of a people through its bread (and its tastebuds). Sit down with it if you can and allow yourself to be carried away to the land of milk and honey...

The dough
Yield: 30 little breads (or turnovers as Massaad calls them in the book)
MC-Lebanese Flatbread dough by Jeffrey Hamelman (Jeffrey Hamelman used King Arthur flours: Sir Galahad all-purpose and Round Table pastry.)
  1. The day before the bake, mix the dough to moderate gluten development (desired dough temperature: 75°F)
  2.  Bulk ferment for one hour, then divide in 75 g pieces
  3. Round the rolls strongly and refrigerate overnight, covered
  4. Next day, roll the dough pieces into circles about 5" in diameter
  5. Place spinach filling in the center of each dough piece, being careful to leave a rim of dough about ½" wide all around
  6. Lightly brush or spritz water onto the rim
  7. Gather the dough into 3 equal segments, making a tight seam with each segment
  8. Make sure the edges are well-pinched together
  9. Let the dough relax for about 30 minutes
  10. Brush each piece lightly with olive oil and bake for about 8 minutes
  11. The dough should be pliable after the bake; take precautions not to overbake it.

The filling 

Ingredients (for  approximately 30 pies)
  • 1035 g spinach leaves
  • 45 g salt
  • 260 g onion, minced
  • 40 g sumac
  • 70 kg lemon juice
  • 207 g olive oil
  • 175 g feta cheese
  1. Add the salt to the spinach leaves and rub thoroughly together. Let sit for 1 hour
  2. Rinse well under cold water
  3. Squeeze out as much water as possible (the spinach must be dry)
  4. Chop it coarsely
  5. Mix together all the filling ingredients
  6. Put approximately 85 g into the center of each disc of Lebanese flatbread dough and finish as detailed in the recipe.

  • The dough might fight you when you try to roll it out, so do it in stages: flatten it some, let it rest 30 seconds while you flatten another one, pick it up again. It will have slackened.
  • The triangle-shaping is a bit difficult to master. Once you have put some filling at the center of the dough disc and brushed the perimeter with water, the important thing to remember is to pick-up the edges of the dough at NE and NW (not E and W), so that you can bring the two northern edges together at the center then bring up the bottom part.
  • Make sure the edges are well sealed.
I made the recipe yesterday here at my house and had no problem with the shaping. Of course the breads (Assaad calls them turnovers in her book and I guess they look more like turnovers than they do flatbreads) didn't turn out as pretty as Jeff's but then I didn't expect them to, especially on the first try and probably not ever! I did adapt the formula a bit. In the book Assaad says you can replace half of the flour with whole-wheat flour. I used about 70% whole-wheat flour. Here is my revised formula (for 12 turnovers): MC-Lebanese flatbread dough with whole-wheat flour Jeff also mentioned that the author was coming out with a new book. I looked online. The book is called Soup for Syria: Recipes to Celebrate our Shared Humanity and it will be published in the United States on October 13. All profits from the sales will go to non-profit organizations to help fund food-relief efforts for displaced populations.
Now you probably don't need another soup recipe (not even from contributing celebrity chefs and/or cookbook authors such as Yotam Ottolenghi, Sami Tamimi, Anthony Bourdain, Alice Waters, Paula Wolfert, Claudia Roden, Chef Greg Malouf, etc.) and even less another cookbook, but this is about feeding people who have been displaced from their home by horrific events and find themselves powerless to meet their family's most basic needs just as winter is coming.
Ordering Soup for Syria for yourself and/or as a present to the cooks in your life is an easy way to extend a helping hand. A hand holding a steaming bowl of soup. Imagine thousands of bakers' hands reaching out, holding bowls of steaming soup. With flatbreads on the side of course...

Categories: Blogs, The Bread Feed

Jeffrey Hamelman: Tarte flambée (Grain Gathering 2015)

Farine - September 21, 2015 - 1:31pm
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Jeff borrowed the formula for tarte flambée from his own best-seller Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes. Funnily (to my French ears) he refers to the pie (also known as Flammekueche) as a traditional pizza from the Alsace region of France. I had never thought of tarte flambée as a pizza. Tarte flambée carries no Mediterranean overtones, there is not a tomato in sight, no oregano, no mozzarella. It is as un-Italian as could be. Yet, come to think of it, Jeffrey is right. It does belong in the same family as pizza: the toppings may be different but the doughs are indeed identical. Tarte flambée is a typical avant-cuisson (pre-baking) flatbread: wood-fired-oven bakers used it prior to baking bread to make sure their ovens were hot enough.

Ingredients: (for 4 pies)
MC-Jeffrey Hamelman's Pizza Dough (Grain Gathering 2015) Method:
  1. Mix all ingredients to moderate gluten development (desired dough temperature: 75-78°F)
  2. Bulk ferment for one hour, then divide the dough into 450 g pieces
  3. Round the dough pieces tightly, place into floured tubs
  4. Cover well and refrigerate 1 to 2 days
  5. Stretch the dough, top as desired, and bake in wood-fired oven with a live fire.
Topping Jeffrey credits Jacquy Pfeiffer of the French Pastry School for generously sharing his topping recipe. 

Ingredients: (for 4 pies)
  • 450 g crème fraîche
  • 35 g egg yolk
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 500 g bacon, cut into pieces about 1" square or lardon-shape
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
  • Nutmeg, grated, to taste

  1. Whisk the crème fraîche, yolks, flour, salt, pepper and nutmeg together
  2. Stretch the pizza dough
  3. Spread the topping on the dough, about 1/8" thick, leaving a 1/2" rim around the edge
  4. Spread onions and bacon on top (be generous but don't overlap)
  5. Bake in wood-fired oven with a live fire, at least 700°F
Note: If your wood-fired oven isn't hot enough or if you are baking in a home oven, make sure to pre-cook the bacon and lightly sauté the onions.
  • You can make the tarte flambée either round or square. Either way make sure to size it to the size of your peel
  • Stretch and fold the dough between your hands, pulling at the rim a bit so that the rim isn't too thick
  • Using dough straight out of the fridge makes it less likely that it will tear
  • You can use cornmeal on the peel but Jeff prefers using semolina because cornmeal burns (high fat content)
  • You can make your own crème fraîche (by putting 75% heavy cream and 25% buttermilk or sour cream in a warm place for up to 24 hours)
  • At home, pre-cook onion and bacon and bake the pie at 500°F on a pizza stone for about 5 minutes then finish it quickly under the broiler.
Categories: Blogs, The Bread Feed

Jeffrey Hamelman's Socca (Grain Gathering 2015)

Farine - September 21, 2015 - 1:30pm
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Here is another flatbread recipe that Jeff kindly shared from his book, Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes, 2nd edition. And, in my humble opinion, one of the easiest, simplest and tastiest flatbreads you can make at home.
"Socca is a regional specialty of the area around Nice in southern France. It is also popular in Genoa, Italy, where it is known as farinata." I have never had it in Nice but we had bought some off a street vendor in Genoa five years ago when we visited Liguria. A trip I well remember as we had to cut it short: my mom -who lived in Paris- had been taken ill and hospitalized.
We hadn't gotten the call yet when we shared the smoking slice of pure bliss. I remember there was no rosemary or other topping: just salt and a fair amount of pepper and it was perfect. Sorry, no picture, which tells you how excited (and hungry) we were. Jeff's is just as good. Try it!
I know I will, first chance I get (that is as soon as the heat wave abates where we live and we can stand lighting the oven again).
MC-Jeffrey Hamelman's Socca (Grain Gathering 2015) Method:

  1. Sift the flour and salt into a bowl
  2. Add the water and the olive oil and whisk until smooth
  3. Let the batter rest for at least two hours
  4. Liberally oil two 14" pizza pans. Heat the pans in the oven
  5. When the oil is hot, pour the batter evenly into the pans (the batter should be about ¼" thick)
  6. Bake the socca in 500° F oven until it is dark and crispy, 10--15 minutes, depending upon the heat of the oven
  7. Finish by broiling the the socca for 3 to 5 minutes until the surface is mottled
  8. Cut into rectangles and eat while warm. The top and bottom should be crispy, and the center creamy and moist.


. A very light sprinkling of rosemary
. Artichoke hearts that have been steamed or lightly sautéed and thinly sliced
. Niçoise olives
Note: it is best to add the artichokes or the olives a few into the bake so that they don't sink to the bottom.


  • It is a very wet batter. Like water. In fact hydration may need to go up to 250% (depending on the flour)
  • Heat the pans to smoking before pouring in the batter
  • When done, the socca should be a little crusty on the outside and creamy inside.

Categories: Blogs, The Bread Feed

The Grain Gathering 2015: keynote speaker Marie-Louise Risgaard

Farine - September 13, 2015 - 1:32pm
I was delighted to read on the 2015 Grain Gathering program that Marie-Louise Risgaard would deliver one of the keynote addresses. I had never met her but I knew that her family had a farm and a milling business in Denmark and I owned and loved her mom's book, Home Baked: Nordic Recipes and Techniques for Organic Bread and PastryHanne Risgaard's Real Rye Bread was actually the very first bread I had baked in the months after we lost Noah, in part because having never baked rye bread with the grand-kids, I wasn't weary of re-awakening painful connections, but also because I had wonderful memories of summer vacations spent in Denmark with my former in-laws when our own children were little and I was hoping to find some degree of comfort in making rugbrød, a staple in their household. The recipe is terrific as are many others in the book and now I was to hear Marie-Louise, Hannah's daughter, tell in person the story of Skaertoft Mølle, her family's small organic mill (mølle means "mill" in Danish). How lucky was that?

Photo courtesy of Skaertoft Mølle Marie-Louise herself isn't a miller. She's a baker and an instructor. Her dad, Jørgen, is the miller "and technical genius," Hanne, her mom, the driving force behind it all and the one who keeps reminding both of them that, in the words of Marcel Proust, "the real voyage of discovery lies not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes."

Photo courtesy of Skaertoft Mølle Jørgen was a farmer-teacher with an MBA and Hanne a journalist working in both radio and television when, in 1983, they took over Skaertoft, a farm that had been in Jørgen's family since 1892. For a few years they both kept their outside full-time jobs and farmed the land with artificial fertilizers and pesticides. Then they had a visit from an adviser who introduced them to organic farming. That was their first eye-opening.

Photo courtesy of Skaertof Mølle The second came in August 2003 when a question popped up in a radio program they were listening to: how come there was no good organic bread flour on the Danish market? They saw their chance and jumped for it. At the time Marie-Louise was finishing her master's degree in agricultural studies. She became her parents' scientific anchor as, over the next three months, they worked on developing a 5-year business plan. The family got in touch with Irma, a high-end supermarket chain which had been very supportive of organic farming since 1987. Irma was enthusiastic and placed an order for flour. The only problem was that it gave them only eight months to deliver it. The family had no mill yet. Only an old cow stable in which to put one. Which they did. And on June 1st 2004, they shipped that first order. Right on schedule.
But not before the family had acquired a third set of eyes: their flour was going to be the best, a high-end organic product that would sell for much more than the regular supermarket flour (€3.80 as opposed to €1.20). It needed a distinctive face. No happy farmer against a sunny-field and blue-sky background for them! Skaertoft Mølle being a no-waste business, they wanted their bags to evoke the full cycle of organic farming. The face the design firm StudioMega came up with was indeed strikingly different.

Photo courtesy of Skaertoft Mølle

Photo courtesy of Skaertoft Mølle The flour was an instant success. But then it was a complete departure from what had been available until then on supermarket shelves: organic, cool-milled on a slowly-revolving stone mill, it had better flavor. It also offered better nutrition: to keep mechanical influence to a minimum (thus protecting the integrity of the nutrients), the grain passed through the mill only once and distance from mill to bag was as short as possible.

Photo courtesy of Skaertoft Mølle Because of the varieties chosen, it had a higher protein content and better baking properties. "We have never mixed individual loads of grain. We have always relied on the quality of the single batch. This means that we have single-farm – sometimes single-field - traceability. We always visit our partners to check out storage facilities, take grain samples for analysis (protein, gluten, ochratoxins, baking test), to discuss crop rotations and our needs for grain, but we never make contracts. We only accept the highest quality – a promise we’ve made to ourselves never to be compromised. The farmers accept and respect this, because we also pay a higher price for the grain. When the quality of our own harvest is not good enough we sell it as animal fodder." Skaertoft Mølle started with five types of flour in 2004. Today it offers about thirty products, flour and grain combined.

Photo courtesy of Skaertoft Mølle Skaertoft Mølle published a cookbook and a bread book, started offering bread baking classes, was awarded three esteemed prizes, began cooperating with an organic company in Germany, introduced fresh organic yeast to the Danish market and launched an annual Bread & Food Festival. The Skaertoft story truly has all the makings of a Danish fairy tale, especially when one doesn't stop to consider the enormous amount of work and energy that made it come true.

Photo courtesy of Skaertoft Mølle And like in all good fairy tales, it has its dark moments. One year "we had a catastrophic harvest. And land prices halved over night. And the same year sales stagnated. Completely. And we were totally unprepared for that. ... Other mills were now making stoneground flour – and they were building bigger plants with packaging machines – and not relying, like us, on manpower and hand-packed bags. They made what appeared to be similar products but at a much lower price. And supermarkets love that. So we were no longer in that very privileged situation of being “alone” on the shelves."

Photo courtesy of Skaertoft Mølle Hard times helped the family grow yet another set of eyes: the mill was separated from the farm and turned into a shareholding company. They started looking for other outlets for their flour and grain, both in the food service industry and in supermarkets other than elite ones. As hard as it was, they also decided to lower their prices. The family and the mill workers (most of them women) labored flat out for two years with minimal payoff in economic terms. But they never compromised on quality and it worked: Skaertoft Mølle has acquired new customers, come up with new products for both elite and regular supermarkets, entered into new deals in the food service market, and set up shop online. It has also acquired a human face (or rather three): "We are no longer just bags - we have been on TV commercials and have become 'the family' in people's minds and that has been an important change." The shareholding arrangement has brought in funds: next step is the purchase of a packaging machine to decrease costs and provide a healthy working environment. New products and exports are in the works. The morale of this modern-day fairy tale? "Looking at bread though new eyes can take you a long way!" Indeed.

Photo courtesy of Skaertof Mølle
Categories: Blogs, The Bread Feed

The Grain Gathering 2015

Farine - September 10, 2015 - 5:09pm

Jumma soft white wheat berries from Pie Ranch Farm in Pescadero, California I just got back from this year's Grain Gathering (GG), held as usual on the beautiful grounds on Washington State University Extension in Mount Vernon, Washington. I have been attending the GG since its inauguration in 2011 (back then it was called the Kneading Conference West and changed its name only last year). I enjoyed each and every one of them. This year was no exception. Except that it was maybe even better than the four previous ones. Which came as no surprise. Like good wine, GG gets better as it ages.
Of course some things don't change. The setting is as lovely as ever...
...the bread good for body and soul...
...all other food beautiful and tasty...
  ...and I could wax lyrical about the good-natured atmosphere, the sheer pleasure of spending two and a half days in the company of others sharing the same interests and passion, the thrill of hearing big-name bakers and other experts in the field talk about their work and share their know-how, the excitement of catching up with friends and acquaintances but I have covered that angle exhaustively over the years and it is decidedly not fun to write the same thing over and over again (not to mention reading it!). Although if you do want to refresh your memory, you'll find the links here.
So I'll go straight to sharing what I saw and heard. Of course, this year like the other years, I had to choose between many appealing classes, workshops, roundtables and talks held concurrently, which means that that my account can only be partial and my outlook limited. I sure wish I could have attended everything. Hopefully other bloggers will cover some of the ones I didn't get to. For a look at the full schedule, click here.
What struck me as different this year may not be so much the level of energy (it is always tremendous) but how far we have come. Four years ago we were dreaming of bringing back local grain but wondering how farmers could be enticed to grow it if, for lack of local milling infrastructures, bakers had no way to get the flour. Well, today more more bakers are buying small mills to mill the grain themselves. With the help of experienced millers/bakers such as Dave Miller in Oroville, California, they are learning to work with freshly milled flours and clearly excited at the realm of flavors now open to them. Nary a white baguette was to be seen at the GG this year: whole-grain ruled and Dave's class was mobbed.
Cliff Leir of Fol Épi inVictoria, British Columbia -who seemed like the odd man out four years ago when he showed up with armfuls of wholegrain loaves and the plans to his mill- could be seen under a tent helping Scott Mangold of Bread Farm in nearby Edison, Washington, build his own mill and I heard many other bakers enquire about small mills or comparing notes on the ones they had just acquired. Independent mills are starting up too: Nan Kohler's Grist & Toll in Pasadena is one beautiful example. If flour can be milled, farmers can grow grain. With the help of The Bread Lab at WSU Extension, they are learning to select varieties which are not only well adapted to their climate, soil, etc. but offer the flavor and nutritional value craft bakers (and their customers) are looking for not to mention the functional properties required to bake a good loaf.
Still in its infancy, the movement is clearly growing. To most home bakers though, availability remains an issue: living as I do on California's Central Coast, the only locally grown grain I can get without going online is to be found either very occasionally at my neighborhood farmers' market or (until they run out) at the farm stand up the coast, in both case at a price that would make it difficult to bake with it everyday. So yes, we still have a ways to go but at least we are moving in the right direction and nowhere is it more obvious than at the yearly GG.  If all goes well, I am hoping to post (in various degrees of detail) about the following:
  • Keynote addresses by Marie-Louise Risgaard and Lot Roca Enrich. Marie-Louise is a baker and teacher and co-owner of Skaertoft Mølle in southern Denmark. Lot is a miller who took over Harinera Roca from her grandfather 25 years ago. Her mill is located in Catalonia, Spain. A welcome look at some of the challenges of organic milling in Europe!
  • Dave Miller's class on 100% fresh-milled whole-grain artisan bread: I was only able to attend the milling part but with the help of a generous friend who took lots of videos, I might be able to cover more. Dave kindly sent me his formulas which I will post as well.
  • Jeffrey Hamelman's flatbread class: five flatbreads, all baked in a wood-fired oven. Exciting international flavors. You'll enjoy reading all about it. My favorite was the socca (no formula but some tips and one or two pictures) and the anise-chocolate dessert bread (I got the formula for the dough but I think Jeff winged it for the topping, so you'll have to wing it too if you make it).
  • Andrew Ross's presentation "The Skinny on Gluten."  The goal was to straighten out the facts. It was so packed with technical info though that I am not sure I can do it justice. But if my notes make sense, I'll share them and you can take it from there. 
  • Conversation with bakers: a roundtable moderated by Leslie Mackie of Macrina Bakery in Seattle. Lively and thought-provoking!
  • Hand-making whole-grain pasta, a demo by Justin Dissmore, pasta chef at Café Lago in Seattle. He uses Edison wheat and from the tasting we got, I sure wish I could get it where I live.
  • And last but not least: Whole-grain artisan bread for the home-baker, a lively demo acted out (you'll see, there is no other word for it) by bakers Josey Baker (yes, that is his real name) of The Mill in San Francisco and Jonathan Bethony, resident baker at The Bread Lab, and by some accounts the baker with the best job in the world since he spends his time testing and baking with the stars. No formulas but plenty of tips!
So stay tuned (and please be patient as it might take some time).
Categories: Blogs, The Bread Feed

A Mill in Brittany: Moulin de Trémillec

Farine - September 6, 2015 - 4:47pm
Once upon a time the wheels of some five thousand watermills used to churn up the rivers of Brittany while the wings of three thousand windmills rustled in its salty breezes. One can only imagine the landscape pulsating with the tremendous whispering, humming, whistling, knocking and gurgling that must have resonated all around: today many of the mills are gone (quite a few were destroyed during the world wars) or no longer active.
Built on the banks of the Pont-L'Abbé River in pays bigoudenMoulin de Trémillec is one of the surviving ones. René Bilien, who operates it with his son André, has been a miller since age 15. He was actually born in another mill, near Pont-L'Abbé. His grandpa bought Trémillec in 1932 and operated it with his own son, also called René, the current René's Dad, now defunct.
The mill dates back to the 1600s. Originally there was only one building, half mill, half living area. Now the miller lives next door. "Our house is new," says Monsieur Bilien. A plaque above the front door to the adjacent home indicates it was indeed built in 1837, a mere 178 years ago...
In the old days the mill was all one-level. Grandfather Bilien added an upper floor in 1932-1933. The present René Bilien added the attic in 1950.
On the day we visited, André Bilien, the son, was out and about on business and we didn't see him. Hopefully I'll get to talk to him when we next visit Brittany (this tour of the mill dates back to our time in Brittany earlier this year): I'd love to hear his take on the future of small-scale milling in the region, something I forgot to ask his Dad about, maybe because I was so taken by his evocation of a not-so-distant past and so captivated by the many remaining signs of its existence.

René and Odette Bilien Moulin de Trémillec produces buckwheat and rye flours. The Biliens don't buy buckwheat from the local farmers because they lack the proper equipment to dry it. "In the old days everybody had a small buckwheat field. They did the harvest, they spread the grain out in the barn and then they walked through it every day to aerate it." Farmers' families no longer do that but buckwheat must still be dried out right after the harvest or it starts germinating and becomes useless. Some buckwheat is still grown locally, essentially for tourists, but the bulk of the buckwheat milled and eaten in Brittany is imported from China, Lithuania or Poland. In the old days they used to blend imported and local. They no longer do because tourists are usually big on terroir and insist on single-origin local buckwheat.
The Biliens sell mostly to bakers as well as to other millers who themselves only mill wheat flour.

Imported buckwheat

Local buckwheat I ask Madame Bilien whether she prefers the local buckwheat or the imported one. She doesn't hesitate: "I like the imported one better. That's the one we ate in my family and I am used to it." As for the rye, right now it comes from the Châteauroux area in Central France. The wheat that can be seen growing in the neighboring fields goes to feed the livestock.

Oops, a glitch!

Fixing the problem
Nowadays the mill uses both river power and electricity. It is equipped with a roller mill, a stone mill and a hammer mill. The roller mill is used for buckwheat (it does a very good job of hulling the grain), the stone mill for rye and the hammer mill for animal feed. In the old days they used the old mill stone to mill oat and barley for feed. It took one hour to produce 100 kg. Nowadays it takes 5 minutes.
Monsieur Bilien shows us three different garnitures for sifting the rye flour: from T-85 (with the least germ and bran) to T-170 (with all the germ and bran), the one in-between being T-130...
...and he explains that the stones are dressed once a year (in the old days, it used to be once a week). A stone is now good for three generations of millers as it only looses one-tenth of a millimeter each time it is dressed.
He also explains that the buckwheat is milled in seven separate steps in order to separate the kernel from the hull as gently as possible. He describes the various stages but there is no way I can take notes fast enough to remember each of them. So you'll have to take my word for it: yes, it is a complex endeavor but it is also beautiful like a choreography lovingly retained through the ages. We taste the flour which tastes a bit like chestnut flour. We buy a couple of bags.

Monsieur Bilien shows us buckwheat hulls, left over from the milling. He sells them to gardeners for use in rose gardens: they are neutral: they don't add anything to the soil but they don't harm it either and they are helpful in keeping weeds at bay. Chuckling, he tells us that some tourists insist on whole-grain buckwheat flour, meaning that they want the hulls milled into it. Never mind that all buckwheat flour is wholegrain by definition and that the hull has no taste and no nutritional value! Flours with some ground hull added back actually sell briskly.
Monsieur Bilien also tells us that his dad, who was born in 1902, died in 1974 at age 72: not only was he a smoker but his lungs had been damaged by constant exposure to flour. He himself doesn't smoke. He is 84 and feels just fine. He says the mill sure keeps him in shape. Handshakes all around and we are on our way, grateful for the warm welcome we received and very much looking forward to our galette dinner.
Categories: Blogs, The Bread Feed
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