Artisan 2, Day 3. Time for new flours

February 14, 2008

Multigrain Sourdoughs

Originally uploaded by madbaker66

Yesterday was the same flour, with different levains. Today was different flours with the same levain (for the most part.) It was a very challenging day since the doughs were especially tricky to work with.

On the left is sourdough rye. Rye is a very delicate, pasty dough that moves really fast so you can’t be too far away from it. But with the addition of sourdough starter it makes for an incredibly delicious loaf which is worth the effort!

In the middle is a sourdough multigrain loaf. This time we roasted the seeds prior to incorporating in the dough and the end result was even better than the yeasted loaf we made in Artisan 1. This is without a doubt the best loaf I’ve ever tasted.

On the right was a whole wheat sourdough. While it was fairly easy to work with I have to admit that the flavour was a little plain. We’ve made better loaves than this during the week.

Finally, the batard at the back is a 100% whole wheat sourdough made with pumpernickel starter. Now this is a complex loaf. It’s a real pig to work with — the fragile dough makes shaping very difficult without tearing the dough. But what flavour! It’s complex, wheaty, with a strong rye overtone. This is a bread which I’d be proud to offer in my bakery once I practice the handling and shaping some more.

ONE QUICK NOTE: I’ve made a habit of offering my loaves to the folks that work at my hotel. I found out tonight that I’ve got quite a reputation! Everyone knows my room number because the cleaning staff have remarked about how the room smells very strongly of bread every morning. I’m so used to the smell that I hardly notice any more…

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Big Boule, Big Flavour

February 14, 2008

Big Boule, Big Flavour

Originally uploaded by madbaker66

Here’s another example of what we do with leftover dough. This is a ‘white’ sourdough loaf that has been baked an extra long time. It may look burnt but it’s not at all. The smell is a deep, rich caramel and the taste is exquisite.

The end result is an entirely different loaf than a basic sourdough — much more complex flavour. I really like it!

Baking off large Ryes

February 14, 2008

Baking off large Ryes

Originally uploaded by madbaker66

When we are working with dough we always make extra so that we’re sure everyone has enough to practice with. This means that there are always leftovers, which we make into really large loaves and bake off at the end of the day.

The rye bread in the picture weigh about 10 pound each. Once they were brown we baked them with the oven door open to keep the heat mellow. It’s the only way to effectively reduce the heat of these large deck ovens when we still want to bake smaller loaves in the lower decks.

This picture is a good example of the docking technique we used with the rye loaves. We use a roller with long plastic pins to poke even holes all over the loaf before we load it in the oven.

Happiness is Sourdough Bread

February 14, 2008

Happiness is Sourdough Bread

Originally uploaded by madbaker66

Man am I tired. It’s been a long week so far but a pike of fun too. The loaves in the picture were made on Tuesday, for Day 2 of the Artisan 2 course. It was an interesting exercise since each shape contains a different sourdough starter.

The batards at the back contain a liquid levain (levain = sourdough starter.) The extra water in the levain results in more lactic acid development — think yogurt or buttermilk sour as opposed to vinegar. — and a light, gassy dough. I find the smell to be powerful but the resulting loaf to be very light and mild.

The boules in row 3 contain a stiff sourdough levain, and 40% of the dough weight is made up of levain. The stiff levain causes more acetic acid development (ie. vinegar sour) but only adding 40% still gives a mild sour flavour in the final loaf. One note about the shape — it’s called a “chowder bowl” cut since the score line is a nice guide to cut off the lid and hollow the loaf out for a soup bowl.

The ‘bacillus’ loaves in the front right are made with the same stiff levain as the boules, but the dough contains 70% levain. This results in a much more sour loaf of the type that most people associate with San Francisco Sourdough. Its not my favorite — I prefer a milder sour taste — but it’s certainly true to the loaf’s intent. Quite tasty. The scoring is a really attractive ‘S’ cut with big ears. My scoring technique was going really well with that batch.

Finally, the loaves in the front left are also made with a stiff levain, but the levain is only fed once per day (the other is fed twice per day.) The resulting loaf is the most acedic of the bunch.

It was an interesting experiment with different proportions of the same three ingredients as we could get very distinct flavours from each loaf.

We’re tasting bread with the intensity that some people taste wine, and my palette has developed quite a bit over the past 10 days. I’m thinking that when I get home my sourdough will be a little milder than what we’re getting here, and I’ll have the skills to make the right adjustments to make it so!

Artisan 2: It’s Wild, Man!

February 13, 2008

My Artisan 2 course started on Monday.  This course is 95% dedicated to wild yeast bread, aka sourdough.  Sourdough breads take longer to develop and rise, and there’s more effort involved in keeping our wild yeast cultures healthy.   That’s why I’m a little behind in my posting — I get back from school, eat some bread and go to sleep.

BUT!  We’re making some great bread, I have pictures, and will share some after school tonight.

PS — the other 5% of the course is decorative shaping techniques, which will be fun too.  Most of that is Friday afternoon, I believe.

Della Fattoria at Ferry Station Market

February 11, 2008

Della Fattoria at Ferry Station Market


Ahhh… one day this will be me. One day soon…

To Market, To Market

February 11, 2008

Ferry Station Market, San Francisco


Saturday was a day off from Baking School so a group of us toured around San Francisco for the day. It was a brilliant day, warm and sunny, with a gentle breeze coming off the bay. Lots of opportunity for sunburns!

We spent several hours touring around the Ferry Station Market. It’s a huge weekly farmers market with more bread, cheese, oil, fruits and other artisan products than I have ever seen gathered in one place. We sampled our way among the stalls and bought enough fresh goat cheese and fruit to accommodate another week’s worth of bread baking.

After the market we walked to the more touristy areas of the city — Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghiardelli Chocolates, China Town, North Beach (twice) and Union Square. I think we walked over 20km in all but when you are in as diverse and exciting a city as San Francisco we wanted to take in as much as we could.

SFBI Day 5: Back to the Baguette

February 9, 2008

[Sorry, no pics today — I forgot the camera in my room!]

Today we wrapped up the Artisan 1 course by experimenting with three different baguette formulas, each featuring a different pre-ferment.  The preferments are designed to add structure and depth of flavour to the standard baguette formula and, depending on the preferment, adjusting the level of acidity in the dough.

We used an old-dough preferment, called pate fermentee, which we had also used with the various wheat and rye breads yesterday.  It didn’t add near as much in the way of flavour, although I expect it will improve the keeping characteristics of the baguette.

We also tried a sponge, which is a firm dough containing a tiny amount of yeast and no salt. While the sponge added to the elasticity of the dough making it easier for my heavy hands to shape, it didn’t add much for flavour.

My favorite pre-ferment was the poolish, which is similar to the sponge (no salt, very small amount of yeast) but has a 100% hydration.  This soupy mix was left to ferment overnight and then added to the baguette mix.  The result was pure ambrosia — a wide open crumb, crispy crust, creamy colour and the most complex smell and taste of the bunch.

In all, Artisan 1 has improved my baking skill, full stop.  I was able to dig into the science of baking breads that I have made at home for years and by digging deeply I have a much better understanding of how to adjust for local flours and local conditions to make a consistently excellent loaf.  Heck, we made seven completely different baguettes from the same four ingredients and only manipulating time, temperature and mixing technique!  I also learned new mixing methods which will improve breads which are already favorites at home.  I can’t wait to make an improved multigrain loaf for our customers in Regina!

It was also extremely inspiring to work with such talented bakers from around the world.  While we’re all at different stages of our culinary journey, we shared a passion for bread and baking that kept us together as we struggled with new techniques and new working conditions.  I hope we are able to keep in touch as we continue down the road to bread nirvana.

SFBI Day 4: Time for some variety!

February 8, 2008

What a day! Whereas we’ve been making several subtle changes to our baguette formula for the past three days, today we branched out! Five very different varieties with only one thing in common — each contained a healthy amount of pre-ferment. We used an old dough preferment which is also known as pate fermente.

So what is all that on the table?

Rye Loaves a rye loaf made with rye and whole wheat flour.

Whole Wheat a whole wheat loaf made with a very high hydration dough. The extra-wet dough made for a very light texture even though it was tricky to handle.

Three Pan Loaves A basic white pan bread but made with three very different shaping techniques.

Multigrain Batard And my personal favourite, a fantastic multigrain batard, with flax seeds, sunflower seeds and millet that was all soaked overnight. The soaked seeds made for a terrifically complex smell and a great texture. This is my favorite bread so far by a long way. I can’t wait to make it at home!

We also made a braided egg bread but it was still baking off at 5PM so we’ll taste it tomorrow morning.

Tomorrow, we’re back to making baguettes but we’ll be experimenting with different pre-ferment techniques. Then it’s two days off before we’re on to sourdough!

SFBI Day 3: All Flour All The Time

February 7, 2008


It was Flour Day today, where we learned everything we possibly could about the main ingredient in your bread. Everything from the different types of wheat and their properties to the different type of flours that can be milled and their properties. I’ve been doing a lot of reading on this topic (Maggie Glezer’s book explains it very well) but it sure helped to talk about this with a knowledgeable chef and instructor.

Whereas yesterday we took the same ingredients and varied the mixing technique, today we kept the exact same mixing technique and only varied the flour. Our standard artisan bread flour vs. high gluten flour. The comparison is especially relevant for me because Canadians primarily grow Hard Red Spring Wheat which is used in high gluten flour. So therefore, most Canadian ‘best for bread’ flours have a much higher protein content than American artisan bread. High gluten flour is great for machined bread, but the extra protein provides some challenges for the artisan baker since the dough doesn’t tolerate longer fermentations. This usually results in slightly larger, rounder loaves but with a less complex flavour.

Today, the theory stood up to the practical test. The high gluten flour resulted in a rounder baguette with a chewier crust and smaller “ears” and a flatter taste.

Now I’m off to contact my local miller to better understand the data on his flour and see if I can get locally milled ‘artisan’ flour.