Friday, October 9, 2015

Hazelnut cookies

You know how sometimes you set out to make whipped cream and you go for it with such enthusiasm that you get butter? Well, the same thing just happened to me with hazelnuts.
I wanted to make Chocolate and Zucchini's excellent cauliflower soup with hazelnuts and turmeric which I have made several times in the past. It is the perfect soup for a fall evening. Fragrant, exotic and yet low-key: spices, chicken stock, one onion, a humble cauliflower and a handful of hazelnuts.
When we were kids, hazelnuts abounded in my grandparents's yard in Normandy and in memory of the halcyon days of childhood, I bring back a bag each time I travel to the Northwest. Why, when I lived there, I sometimes even treated myself to hazelnut meal. Which is probably why I have lost my grinding touch.
Anyway I was trying to grind some Northwest hazelnuts into a fine powder as per Clotilde's instructions when, pff! they turned to butter. And chunky butter at that. Not good for my soup!
I tried another batch and this time I got an approximation of what I was looking for. I didn't dare grind the hazelnuts as fine as I would have liked. Still, the soup worked out. But I was left with hazelnut butter.
Too fancy for a weekday breakfast. Instead I made cookies for my one and only, using some of the soft winter wheat flour I buy at my local farmers' market whenever it is available. Butter by mistake, cookies by design! It could have been worse.

Ingredients: (for 18 cookies)
  • 85 g chunky hazelnut butter (any other chunky nut butter would probably do)
  • 80 g Jammu soft winter wheat flour (from Coke Farm in San Juan Bautista). I asked the farmer's dad whom I see at the market every week what Jammu refers to and he said it was the place in India the wheat variety originates from. Any whole-wheat pastry flour would work though
  • 40 g honey
  • 6 g hazelnut oil (optional, I think)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  1. Put everything into a bowl
  2. Mix with electric mixer until combined
  3. Roll into a roll
  4. Refrigerate until firm
  5. Slice and bake in 310°F convection oven for 15 minutes.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Grain Gathering 2015: Josey Baker and Jonathan Bethany on whole-grain artisan bread for the home baker

Bread made with 100% Sonora wheat grown within two hours from San Francisco
Unlike many of the classes and demos at the Grain Gathering, the whole-grain for the home baker workshop took place in the lobby kitchen of WSU Extension, a place well-suited for a demo but hardly the perfect stage for a dance. Yet a choreographed performance is what Josey and Jonathan opened with, arguing that were no better introduction to the five golden principles of whole-grain baking than the W.W.W. S. B. pas de deux. Keep in mind the dancing bakers when you bake at home and you'll get a loaf that tastes good, looks beautiful, nourishes the body and consists of sustainable ingredients :
  1. Whole grain
  2. Wild yeast
  3. Wet dough
  4. Slow fermentation
  5. Bold bake

According to the two Js, baking is a subtle thing; the more you do it, the more fulfilling and interesting it becomes. "Even when we practice a lot, it is hard to get exactly the loaf we dream of but it isn't hard to make a very good loaf of bread."
  • Josey Baker started baking in his San Francisco Mission apartment about five years ago when a friend gave him a sourdough starter. Two and a half years later, he opened his own bakery, The Mill. Today he works with a team of ten people and bakes about 350 loaves a day. He is also the author of Josey Baker Bread: Get Baking - Make Awesome Bread - Share the Loaves, a book for novice bakers. Cool writing (surfer dude style), great recipes and lots of useful tips. A great learning tool!
  • Jonathan Bethony is the resident baker at the Bread Lab in Mt Vernon, Washington. He too started as a home baker. He later attended the Professional Training Program at the San Francisco Baking Institute. After graduating he baked with local and legendary bakers in the Bay Area and was introduced by Craig Ponsford to the latest and greatest trends in whole-grain milling and baking. Today he is at the forefront of research and testing and continues to bake with the stars. What a job!
Note: Josey kindly gave me permission to quote directly from his blog for more details about the W.W.W. S. B.  principles. What isn't in green and between quotation marks comes from my notes. Thank you, Josey!

Whole grain
 "i’m definitely not tied to all breads being all whole grain (there’s a different bread for every occasion, and many of our breads are 50% whole grain), but the more bread i make, the more bread that i eat, the more i am drawn to breads that are mostly whole grain. i find these breads both more interesting to make, and more interesting to eat. we’ve been working with a bunch of different grains lately (einkorn, rye, spelt, khorasan, corn, oats, buckwheat, a bunch of different wheats such as Sonora, Cabernet, Cristalo, Bolero, Merica, etc) and i’ve been elated by how much i’ve grown as a baker, and all of the flavors, textures and aromas we’re getting. and we’re just scratching the surface. we’ve got a stone mill in the bakery so that we can control the granulation and then use the flour immediately in whatever fashion we dream up – mixing it directly into dough, or soaking it overnight, or toasting it and mixing with boiling water, or cooking it into a porridge… new possibilities present themselves everyday."

Camas Country Mill whole wheat flour
Milling is a subtle process which Josey learned from Dave Miller. Whole-grain flour has the potential for more flavor and aroma. At the bakery, he has baked loaves with flours milled at different dates: all flours performed almost exactly the same but the aromas were much stronger with the freshly milled flours (they drop after two days). He buys Sonora grain at $1.20 lb. Buying the flour would be more affordable. But the quality wouldn't be the same.

Wild yeast
"a sourdough starter is a magical little beast. it’s a combination of flour and water, along with wild yeast and bacteria that are naturally found on flour and in the environment. starters can be tricky to work with, as you need to constantly monitor their development and characteristics in order to make the bread you’re after. in order to keep your sourdough starter alive, you have to “feed” it regularly with flour and water, and by doing this you can coax the wild yeast and bacteria into the proportions that are good for bread baking. most bread is made with yeast that’s made in a factory, and this yeast is created in order to make bread rise quickly and dependably. but it wasn’t always this way – the first breads ever were most definitely “sourdough” – made with a mixture of flour and water that was allowed to ferment by the power of the wild yeast that was lucky enough to find its way into the mixture. the best breads that i’ve ever had have been made using a sourdough culture. if used properly, a sourdough culture yields bread that tastes better, lasts longer, and is healthier for you."
A sourdough starter is very easy to keep alive: leave behind a spoonful, mix in half-a-cup of water, half-a-cup of flour and leave it alone. The starter Josey and Joanathan are using for the demo has sat at room temperature for 16 hours. It has a strong funky aroma.

  • levain is a sourdough preferment. 
  • Josey's levain is at 100% hydration.
  • Take ripe starter, mix in  mix in half-a-cup of water and half-a-cup of flour and leave it sit for 8 to 12 hours. It will show visible signs of activity but it will be very young.
  • When taking the starter straight out of the fridge, it is safer to do two feedings. 
  • If you keep your starter out on the counter, feed it everyday.
Final dough
  • Take some of the levain (size of a big orange), fold in some water at 75 or 80°F to break it up, add whole wheat flour and salt
  • Percentage of levain in final dough: for most whole-wheat doughs, between 8 and 10% by flour weight is good. For rye breads, 30 to 40% levain is what works best (the dough needs to be way more prefermented because you need much more acidity in rye doughs).
  • If you want to cut down on bulk fermentation, adding more preferment is the way to go. That's where a skilled baker can make bread work into his or her schedule.
  • You can do an autolyse (they always do at the bakery).  It helps minimize oxidation by reducing dough manipulation. To do an autolyse, mix flour and water. No salt. Reserve some of the water. Let sit a while. The autolyse can be done overnight. (Beginning home bakers can skip this step if they find it confusing).
  • Twenty minutes after mixing by hand, dip your hands in water and stretch and fold inside the bowl. Rotate the bowl and do it again. Make sure you go all around. Repeat twice at 20-minute intervals.
  • At this stage you can also stick the dough in the fridge overnight.
Wet dough
"it’s a lot easier to end up with moist bread if you start out with moist dough. why don’t more people put more water in their bread doughs? because it makes for a dough that is very sticky and tricky to handle, and well, that’s a pain in the ass now isn’t it? this is especially true if machines are dividing the dough, or shaping it into loaves. only the sensitive human hand can handle dough like this, and even then, it takes hundreds, thousands of loaves to get the hang of shaping “high hydration” dough consistently. most breads out there have 60-70g of water for every 100g of flour. our breads have between 75-125g of water for every 100g of flour, and this totally depends on the particular flour of a given bread. we aim for a dough that is fully hydrated and yields a bread that has a moist and supple crumb."
Fully hydrating the flour is the goal: not using much water makes the dough easier to handle but it doesn't make for good bread. You have to try and find for yourself how much water to use. At the bakery, they hydrate the Sonora flour at 110%. They started off hydrating the einkorn at 85% but it was too much. They now hydrate it at 75%. Hydration varies for every gain. Trial and error is key!
  • A wet dough is going to be tricky and sticky, difficult to work with. A very wet dough wants to spread out. Sometimes it needs the support of a pan. 
  • If using heavily chlorinated water, let the water sit a bit before mixing so that the chlorine has a chance to evaporate.
Slow fermentation
"good things take time, didn’t your gramma teach you that? the flavors and textures of a long-fermented loaf are just flat out better than those of a short-fermented one. the life cycle for most of our breads goes something like this: our sourdough culture hangs out for 20-24 hours before being mixed into dough, our dough relaxes for 3-4 hours before being shaped into loaves, our loaves chill out for 14-18 hours before being baked into bread. so our bread dough has matured over a couple of days before it’s baked into bread, which gives the yeast and bacteria of our sourdough culture time to perform their magic: producing the perfect mix of acid, alcohol and gas to make good bread."
With rye bread you can go faster (there is more preferment in the dough). All other breads at the ferment for a total of 36 to 48 hours (most of that time in the fridge): at the bakery, they don't use a starter but old dough kept in the fridge for 24 hours.
  • With commercial yeast, it is even more important to slow down the fermentation: use a tiny pinch of yeast and let the dough sit at room temperature
  • Rye flour has a higher enzymatic activity: if you add 5 to 10% of rye to your dough, it speeds up things.
Bold bake
"when a loaf goes into the oven it is the moment of truth – did we make the right decisions over the last 48 hours? and so begins the waiting game for that loaf to complete its transformation. you can’t rush this phase of the process, just like every other one. we bake our breads anywhere from 30-120 minutes, depending on the size and type. regardless, we bake each loaf till it’s crust is dark and substantial and its insides are fully cooked. folks occasionally point out that we burnt our bread. while i admit that our loaves are significantly darker than those from most bakeries, i also stand by the flavors and textures created by the bold bake, and encourage critics to employ their taste buds."
  • It is best for the home baker to bake in a Dutch oven
  • Pre-heat the Dutch oven at 475°F for 45 minutes
  • Slash the loaf
  • Bake for 20 min with the lid on. If you leave the lid on for too long, you won't get the same color and crust and the crust might be leathery.
  • Bake uncovered for another 25 minutes. Check the bread and if not dark enough, give it another few minutes.
  • The best spot in the oven is usually the middle.
Further tips for the home baker:

  • Go nice and gentle on the shaping (go for air-shaping if there is no space to work).
  • Let the bulk-fermented dough sit 20 to 30 minutes at room temperature. If cold, let it rest one hour.
  • Lightly flour the top of the dough so that it isn't sticky and dust the bench (at the bakery, Josey uses only water on the bench because the dough is a really nice mixture of flour and water and all that flour has fermented and he doesn't want unfermented flour in his dough.)
  • Flip the dough upside down. Gently grab the side nearest to you, lift the dough off the table. You are not pulling, just lengthening. Put it back on the table and fold the dough in your hands two-thirds of the way up the loaf. Grab the top, stretch it upward and fold it about two thirds down the loaf.
  • Rotate 90° and fold the dough down half-way, then fold it half-way again. 
  • Seal with the heel of your hands.
  • Flour the basket. If the basket isn't lined, dredge the bread in rice flour. 
  • At this point, you can stick the bread in the fridge after one hour and let it sit there for 6 hours, then bake it straight out of the fridge.
  • If you don't need to use the fridge, let it rest about 3 hours at room temperature.
  • If the dough is over-hydrated or over-fermented, then slashing is challenging. It feels violent. You have to commit to it. If not, you are not going to get the loaf's full potential.
That's it, readers! The two Js didn't give out any formula. They know that as long as we bake WHOLE, WILD, WET, SLOW and BOLD, we'll end up with good bread.
After 20 minutes

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Stuff happens.

Indeed it does. And when it happens to strangers that's all it is. Stuff. The papers are full of it everyday. In the words of Marcel Proust,  "that abominable and sensual act called reading the newspaper, thanks to which all the misfortunes and cataclysms in the universe over the last twenty-four hours, the battles which cost the lives of fifty thousand men, the murders, the strikes, the bankruptcies, the fires, the poisonings, the suicides, the divorces, the cruel emotions of statesmen and actors, are transformed for us, who don't even care, into a morning treat, blending in wonderfully, in a particularly exciting and tonic way, with the recommended ingestion of a few sips of café au lait."
Because of the three-hour time difference between Connecticut and Washington State where we then lived, the morning Sandy Hook happened, I was precisely reading the paper and having coffee when my daughter called. It was still dark out but the lamp over the table cast a golden glow all around the kitchen. I don't remember anything of what I read. It was probably just stuff. Happening to strangers. Murders, fights, plane crashes, earthquakes, volcano eruptions, hurricanes. Who knows? Regular stuff. Sad but part of life. For other people. Not me.
My daughter was so distraught that I had trouble understanding what she was saying. Finally I got it that there was an active shooter at the elementary school where her three younger kids, my grandkids, were in attendance and that she was rushing back from work to get there. Shock set in.
She said she would call back as soon as she could. I rushed to wake up my husband and went to the computer for live updates. I found still pictures of the school with police cars parked outside. Later I saw a video of kids being evacuated. I thought I saw the twins. I worried about Sophia. The news from my daughter were more and more anguished. The girls had come out but not Noah. It took a long time before they knew for sure. The most horrible hours of their lives. And ours.
Just stuff.
I know we can't be distraught about everything that happens in the world. There has to be a buffer between us and the tragedies the papers are full of and the truth is there are some things we can do nothing about.

But there are some things each of us can do.
  • We can elect people who get it. People with common sense and a conscience. We can establish a list of priorities and make sure we vote for people who share them. In terms of the availability of high-velocity arms, I find it hard to believe that the founding fathers were for unregulated access to 21st-century weapons of war.  Adam Gopnik makes the case that the Second Amendment is in fact a gun-control amendment. Read the article to the end. The last sentence is a call to action.
  • But it might not be enough. According to How they got their guns, an article in today's New York Times, "criminal histories and documented mental health problems did not prevent at least eight of the gunmen in 14 recent mass shootings from obtaining their weapons, after federal background checks led to approval of the purchases of the guns used."
  • Another thing we can do then is act preventively by working towards putting in place a reporting system so that each and everyone of us knows whom to call if we hear or read threatening statements or comments. It might not always be enough and it would need to be thoughtfully put together to filter out pranks and baseless denunciations. But it would be a start.
  • And in many cases you don't need a sophisticated system to report your concerns:  if you hear something or read something, say something. In my State, just a couple of days ago, four high school students were arrested suspected of plotting killings. "The plot was foiled on Wednesday when a group of students alerted a teacher after they overheard three of the four discussing a plan to open fire on the school." The teacher notified the police who sprang into action. We will never know the names of those who have been saved but they now have a chance to grow up. That is the one and only goal.
And as the grandmother of a shooting victim, a start is all I am asking for. The start of a conversation. In each and every neighborhood, each and every county, each and every State and at the national level. Yes, stuff happens. People lose it. But if you lose it and go on a rampage and all you have at your disposal is a bicycle chain, a baseball bat or a knife or even a .22 rifle you cannot kill dozens of people in a couple of minutes.
Some countries have taken drastic measures after carnages such as the ones in Aurora, in Sandy Hook, in Charleston or two days ago at Umpqua College (and many other places I can't possibly list here.) It is hard to believe that our country, the United States, the land of democracy, human rights and the rule of law, finds itself paralyzed and unable to devise ways to better protect its citizens.
I believe that most people are good. I also believe that some are terribly misguided and some are hopeless sociopaths. We can't protect our kids and ourselves against everyone and everything. But if we get together in good faith, linked across the political spectrum by the strong desire to do better than we have done so far, we may make our country a safer place to live.
Stuff happens. Until it happens to someone you love, it remains stuff. Next year we'll be electing our new president. Republican or Democrat, he or she will the president of all of us. I'd like to think that stuff will sometimes keep our president awake at night, tossing and turning and thinking hard about better ways to save us from ourselves.

Friday, October 2, 2015

What will it take for us to actually care?

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.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

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

Related posts:
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

Renan Bread

Sonora Bread


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