Miyuki Togi is now the head teacher at SFBI. To date, I have never had an opportunity to take a class with her but I know people who have. They rave about her and her baking/teaching skills.
Mac McConnell – who was assisting her for this demo – is a bread instructor, also at SFBI, and he owns and runs his own bakery. I had met in Chicago at WheatStalk 2012 where he taught Ancient Grains the Modern Way with Frank Sally (owner of the widely popular Fournée Bakery in Berkeley) and I had been struck by the depth and width of his command of the subject.
In other words, I was very much looking forward to his and Miyuki’s presentation of kamut and I wasn’t disappointed. While I can’t share the formula, I hope the pointers below will come in handy should you decide to try your hand at kamut baguettes yourself.
Kamut flour is quite creamy (same pigments as carrots and sweet potatoes.)
The name, Kamut, is actually a registered trademark for an ancient Khorasan variety of wheat. Originally from the fertile grain-growing region of Egypt, Kamut is one of the most readily available ancient grain, at least in North America where it is cultivated. A relative of durum with which it shares some traits (coloration and rich protein content), it is a good source of fiber. It also has a higher fat content than other wheats, which explains why kamut dough is silkier. It is sold either as white or whole-grain flour and it has never been anything but organic.
The baguette formula has been developed by Mac, using a poolish and refined kamut flour. Kamut flour is not necessarily an easy flour to work with. It absorbs lots more water than bread flour. Try an experiment: mix 300 g of flour with 300 g of water. With bread flour, you get a poolish. With kamut flour, you get a ball.
In terms of baguette baking where you want a medium soft consistency, with bread flour you might use 70% water. With kamut flour, for the same consistency, you will use 81%. For this particular dough, the hydration was actually close to 90% once the poolish had been added.
More water means that:
- You have to watch the fermentation closely and increase the venting;
- It is a good idea to use a preferment in order to strengthen the dough;
- It is best to bake at higher temperature for a nice open crumb at the end.
- Whole kamut is best baked in pans;
- With ancient grains, it is better to underproof a bit;
- The more water, the more open the crumb but also the harder the bread will be to shape. Note that the water isn’t all the way if the surface of the dough remains shiny.
- 7.5 kg per bin will yield 24 baguettes. It is important to have the exact size bin for the amount of dough. Enough to support the dough on the side but not too thick of a mess;
- After one hour, you will see a slight increase in volume. Baguette dough should feel pretty soft and extensible;
- You should dust both the top of dough and the bench with flour as the dough will be tacky;
- When you invert on the bench, it is best to make sure the dough doesn’t fall upon itself as it is a bit fragile;
- It is best not to push too hard on the kamut when shaping as it tears easily. Use flat fingers to make the dough stay put, not the tips of your fingers;
- It is best not to retard the kamut baguettes after shaping (doing so would get you stick breads as there’d be no oven spring;)
- It is best to always use a scraper to free the dough from the bench and to use couches as proofing surface. Make sure the couches are completely dry;
- Use a bit of dusting flour on bread (masks the fact that the kamut loaves color quickly in the oven);
- Normally, when you fold, you fold down towards yourself, rotate and fold down towards yourself again. With kamut, you fold up, then you fold down, then make sure the seam overlaps the fold. When shaping the baguette, try not to touch the center of the bread. Be gentle;
- Don’t leave the bread on the table for too long because it will stick;
- The kamut baguettes proof very fast (30 min);
- They don’t seem to score well but it works out in the end;
- 475 to 490° oven;
- Use transfer peel to load baguettes in the oven. Do not use your fingers;
- Leave enough space between loaves so that they don’t come too close during baking because the crust wouldn’t set and the loaf would flatten;
- At home, shape your épis on parchment paper. They will be easier to transfer to oven.
Off the bench
- Sometimes commercial yeast can give better structure to your bread and more control over flavor. When you eat, three things matter: look, texture and flavor. A healthy product (no chemicals) even with commercial yeast can be the answer. But it is important to use levain in whole-grains for a better absorption of nutrients.
- Commercial yeast is a bad word for something that isn’t bad;
- Yeast shouldn’t be part of the taste. Shouldn’t be the taste itself;
- Don’t overcomplicate your system. You need to simplify. If you go over with preferments, you may penalize your bread. Especially in in-between seasons when wheat is weaker, you can go downhill. So do whatever it is that’s good for you;
- Most folks refresh their starter twice within 10 to 16 hours. Next day it tastes acidic. To keep your levain sweet (mild flavor and custardy bread), shorten the time between refreshes;
- If you mix it at 85°F introducing more seed (100% flour, 100% water, 100% starter), it will be ready to go into the dough sooner;
- To toast wheat germ: spread it evenly on tray in oven at 450° for 5-6 min (stirring once in a while);
- When baking in a hot climate or at high altitude, use all cold water and reduce the amount of yeast in the formula. Put salt in your preferment. Use your fridge;
- A good deck oven should give same results as a wood-fired one. It is easier to manage though. When you want to have a bakery, your focus should be to be making good bread, not a piece of equipment that is going to give you grief. It is super important to be equipped properly;
- Kamut makes a very nice pâte à choux as well as cakes and other pastries;
- Shape has a big impact on the product. It is important to know what your goal is: Use the same dough to shape a bâtard or a boule and you will have completely different crumbs. There are no special rules. You decide;
- Stretch and fold is a way to give more strength to the dough. It equalizes the dough temperature (temperature of the surface and core is different). Less mixing means that more folds are needed. Home bakers typically don’t have mixers. Folding replaces the mixer altogether. Especially if you are using a high percentage of water, mix ingredients and do the folds;
- Remember to take notes. Bread-baking is all about repetition and getting the feel. Everything is learning by repetition.
The kamut baguettes were almost ethereal in their crispiness and the delicate flavor of the poolish really shone through.
Florin Brutarescu says
I’ve never had the chance to eat a good yeasted bread, but who knows, maybe I’ll be lucky someday !
You wouldn’t believe the things I read on Facebook, coming from some sourdough bakers. I quote: “Commercial yeast is developed on a bed of nitrogen. Nitrogen is transformed into nitrates, which turn into nitrosamines that are carcinogenic compounds; commercial yeast (which is not obtained by natural fermentation) inhibits cellular cells oxygenation leading to various diseases.”
I know nothing about that, frankly. But even if it were true, the amounts are so microscopic that I doubt it would make an impact. What I do know is that many bakers I respect use commercial yeast in certain breads and natural starters in others and that there is a place for both types of yeast in baking, according to the type of bread you and/or your customers want.