June 28, 2012

A scholarly weekend: The Report Cards

After our latest round of bread workshops (which we talked about in an earlier post), and after what must have been a very long day for all participants, we all went home with about 2 kilos of dough. Everyone was supposed to turn that dough into two loaves of bread "at a later date" (either later that evening, or the next day).

We asked everybody to submit pictures of their results and we promised to post them on our blog.

Here are the pictures we received. These are some pretty awesome-looking loaves!

Thank you to everyone for attending our workshops, and thank you in particular to Masae, Cormac, Sophia, Kevin, Janette, and Ludmila for submitting their photos.

June 26, 2012

Buntzen Lake and "Wurzelbrot"

The past weekend we finally got a chance to hike in an area we wanted to explore all spring and early summer long: The Buntzen Lake Reservoir. We started off on the Buntzen Lake Trail and continued on the Diez Vistas Trail, which offers amazing viewpoints that overlook Indian Arm and pretty much all of Vancouver. While the Buntzen Lake Trail leads you through the forest close to the water's edge and is more of a walk than a hike, the Diez Vistas is meant for more adventurous hikers and starts at the northern tip of Buntzen Lake. It was a nice day's outing, a perfect destination for a Sunday hike, and we finally got a chance this year to enjoy Vancouver's awesome surroundings.

Inspired by all the amazing trees and their incredibly beautiful networks of roots, we decided to bake a loaf originally known in German as "Wurzelbrot". It's a twisted, typical Swiss bread, that reminds one of roots (Wurzeln). Looking for a formula, we decided that we liked Bernd's the best, and gave it a shot. Unlike most other recipes for this kind of bread, the leavening agent is a sourdough culture as opposed to commercial yeast. We used our white culture, and added some whole wheat to the final dough, to give it a rustic touch. For flouring the work surface we used whole rye flour, which gave the crust a really nice rustic look and made it extra crunchy. 

Recipe for two loaves of "Wurzelbrot"

290 gr all-purpose flour (74%)
100 gr whole wheat flour (26%)
200 gr white sourdough culture at 100% hydration (51%)
250 gr water (64%)
9 gr salt (2.5%)

Mix to incorporate all the ingredients, except for the salt, and let it rest for 30 minutes for the autolyse. Now add the salt and knead to fully develop the dough. Bulk ferment for two hours, doing a stretch and fold every 30 minutes (four times). Then let it ferment for one more hour. Sprinkle some whole rye flour on a clean and dry work surface, divide the dough in half, and stretch gently lengthwise. Sprinkle more whole rye flour on top of them, then cover and let the pre-shaped loaves proof for about 45 minutes to an hour (Make sure there is enough rye flour, so that they won't stick to the work surface). After the final proof twist the loaves gently about three times, bake them right away for approximately 25 minutes on a hot stone in a pre-heated oven at 500 F. Steam the loaves right after you put them in the oven using your favourite steaming method.

We will submit this post to YeastSpotting.

June 19, 2012

Chocolate and Walnut Sourdough

Mmmmm... Dark Chocolate (72%) and Walnuts incorporated in delicious sourdough dough. To be quite honest, both the idea and the formula are borrowed. We read about this yummy deliciousness on The Fresh Loaf (Thank you so much Ryan for your awesome post.). We read that post a while back and ever since it stayed with us and we were looking forward to the day we get to try it out. That day was yesterday. To be more accurate, the preparations started already three days ago, since the dough had been retarded in bulk in our fridge for more than 21 hours!

There's one favour we ask of you: use high quality chocolate. It makes all the difference.

For two small loaves

450 gr all-purpose flour
25 gr whole wheat flour
25 gr rye flour
150 gr sourdough starter at 100 % hydration (we used our rye culture)
360 gr water
12 gr salt
125 gr coarsely chopped walnuts
100 gr coarsely chopped dark chocolate

Mix the flour, the starter and water, making sure to hydrate the flour well. Allow about 30 minutes for the autolyse, then add the salt and knead the dough until it is developed. After that, incorporate the chopped walnuts and chocolate. Let the dough ferment at room temperature for about 3 hours and give it a stretch-and-fold after 30 minutes, repeat twice more at 30 minute intervals. After 3 hours of fermentation at room temperature, do a final stretch-and-fold; give it a round shape and put it in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover tightly and place in the refrigerator between 12 and 24 hours.

Take the dough out of the refrigerator, divide the bulk in half, degas the dough very gently and pre-shape as rounds. Allow them to rest for about 1 hour, then shape the rounds into bâtards or boules. Let the shaped loaves proof for about 45 minutes. Bake at 450 F for about 40 minutes, or until ready.

This post is also shared at YeastSpotting.

June 17, 2012

A scholarly weekend

This weekend, we held another round of workshops at the UBC Farm in Vancouver. This time around we decided to do two beginners workshops one after the other (one on Friday evening, the other on Saturday evening).

As always, we had a really good time and everybody present seemed to enjoy themselves. The people were quite a diverse crowd, but all really eager to learn the basics of baking bread at home.

We learned about bread, took lots of pictures, baked some bread, shared a few laughs, ate some bread, and, at the end of it all, went home happy and content.

The students left the class with a batch of dough each, to be baked at home later that night or the next day. I am hoping to get some pictures of their amazing loaves to share on this blog.

June 12, 2012

La Baguette

There is one type of loaf that every serious home baker has to bake at least once in his own home kitchen, and that is the baguette. For one reason or another, baguettes, these long, elegant, yummy bread sticks, are very intimidating. Every single home baker I have talked to over the years keeps postponing the day when they will make the big attempt.

I felt a little bit intimidated myself this past Sunday, despite the fact that I have baked tons of these babies in my deck oven at the bakery. I can think of a number of reasons why baking baguette in a home oven is less than ideal:

  1. Obviously, your baguette will have to be a lot shorter than the traditional 26 inch of a usual French baguette. I ended up doing mine at only 16 inch long. 
  2. A shorter baguette means fewer slashes. The French slash their baguettes as many as ten times. That's crazy! And beautiful at the same time. At the bakery, we always slashed ours five times only, and on these short babies, I managed only four slashes. 
  3. Baking in your home oven will mean that you only have a limited amount of dough in the oven, and that, combined with the lack of proper steaming, means you'll have to try really hard to achieve that perfect crust.
But hey, this is not supposed to be a post about why you shouldn't bake baguettes at home. The bottom line is, I had tons of fun baking the baguettes and the results where quite alright. Just look at that super-awesome open crumb! And no, this is not a baguette I bought at my favourite bakery and took home for a photo-shoot.

Don't postpone any further and give it a shot. You will get a lot of satisfaction out of this. After all, anyone can bake great baguettes in a commercial kitchen, using a professional deck oven. So I dare you to try this at home!

And, by the way, I am happy to share my own baguette recipe with everybody out there. I've been told numerous times that it's a damn good one. Enjoy.

The "Secret" Formula

(prepared 12 hours in advance and left at room temperature)

80 gr water
60 gr all-purpose flour
20 gr rye flour
1 tsp sourdough culture

(prepared 12 hours in advance and left at room temperature)

80 gr water
80 gr all-purpose flour
1 gr yeast

Final Dough

248 gr water
400 gr all-purpose flour
20 gr whole wheat flour
12 gr salt
1 gr yeast
1 gr malt

Mix all your ingredients except for the salt and do a 20 minute autolyse. Add the salt and knead to fully develop the dough. Bulk ferment for one hour, then stretch and fold and ferment for another hour. Divide (I scaled mine at 200 gr), pre-shape into logs, cover and let sit for about 30 minutes. Shape into baguettes (there must be some awesome YouTube video out there that shows you how it's done) and proof for 45 minutes to an hour. Bake at 475 F for 20 minutes. Voilà.

We will share this post on YeastSpotting as well.

June 7, 2012

Sprouting Kamut

Finally we have another bread post for you! We got a bit carried away baking croissants for all of the past week.

The result of our latest baking adventure is a batch of sprouted kamut loaves. We used a 50/50 blend of kamut and all-purpose wheat flour, and threw some sprouted kamut grains into the mix just for the hell of it. We like the outcome very much; it has a mild, delicate flavour; the crumb is quite dense but moist and soft at the same time. It definitely makes a fabulous sandwich loaf.

(prepared 12 hours in advance and left at room temperature)

125 gr all-purpose flour
145 gr water
20 gr sourdough culture

(prepared 12 hours in advance and left at room temperature)

200 gr kamut flour
200 gr water

Sprouted grain
(sprouted for two days)
150 gr kamut kernels

Final Dough

400 gr kamut flour
475 gr all-purpose flour
325 gr water
Sprouted grain
6 gr yeast
30 gr salt

Mix water, kamut and all-purpose flour, starter, soaker, the sprouted grain, and the yeast to incorporation. Allow 30 minutes for the autolyse, then add the salt and start kneading the dough on a smooth and clean surface until fully developed. Let it rest for about one hour and a half to two hours, then give it a stretch and fold. Let rest for another hour; stretch and fold again. After one more hour of resting the dough should be ready for shaping. Divide the bulk in two equal pieces, shape the loaves and let them proof for one more hour. Bake at 450 F for about 45 minutes, or until ready.

June 5, 2012

Croissants, Take Two

Croissants. Here we go again! Since I baked my first batch on Sunday, I started to be obsessed with the idea of baking the perfect croissant at home. These posts should be little stops on the way there, and mementos from this little adventure.

I baked my second batch today. I started working on it already Sunday evening by preparing a poolish for Monday's dough. The recipe, somewhat different from the first one, also comes from Michel Suas' book, one that he adapted for hand-mixed and hand-laminated croissants. While folding the butter into the dough, a little disaster happened. Being a little bit impatient, I didn't wait enough for the dough and the butter to reach the same consistency. The butter was still a little bit too firm and it broke in a thousand little pieces. I was pretty close to throwing the whole mess into the garbage, but I took a deep breath and kept going. And sure enough, in the end the results were not too shabby; in fact they were a lot better than the first time around!

I'm sure it wasn't the shattered butter that caused those results, but rather giving the dough enough time between each step. Also, last time I froze the shaped croissants, and baked them the next morning after proofing them overnight. This time, I decided to rather retard the croissants after shaping, got up in the middle of the night to take them out of the fridge, and let them proof at room temp till the morning. Despite the butter disaster, we had some pretty decent croissants for breakfast.

I dropped some off at our neighbours', since we are only a two-person household. They might have to eat a lot of croissants in the upcoming weeks, while I perfect the whole process.

I really liked the recipe I used this time, so I might stick with it for a little while and hopefully improve my technique further. Once I'm completely satisfied with the outcome, I will write it all down and share it in a final croissant-post!

For now, we decided we are so happy and proud with the results that we should submit our post to the Wild Yeast blog for their weekly YeastSpotting feature.

Cheers, Lisa

June 3, 2012

So Who Is This Autolyse Anyway

It has been pointed out to me that throughout our blog we use the term "autolyse" quite a bit without ever explaining its meaning. We also use the autolyse technique in pretty much all our baking. Let me try then to explain my own understanding of what autolyse is and what kind of benefits we get from using this technique.

The term itself is of Greek origin and literally means "self digestion". In biology, it refers to the destruction of a cell through the action of its own enzymes. In bread baking, it has to do with the transformation of flour due to the action of enzymes present in the flour itself.

For the purpose of bread baking, the term "autolyse" was coined by the late professor Raymond Calvel. Calvel is credited with developing or improving many of the bread baking techniques used nowadays by artisan bakers all over the world. He also had a large contribution in reviving French-style bread baking ... in France. Yes indeed, it's hard to believe, but good quality bread baking was all but extinct in France, following almost a century of decline in quality.

In the process of dough mixing, the autolyse technique consists in an initial mixing of flour and water (without the other ingredients), followed by a rest period. After the rest period, the yeast, salt, and all other ingredients are added and the dough is mixed to the desired level of gluten development. In a variation of the above process, only the salt is held back and added after the resting period. Either way, the main benefit of the autolyse is a better hydration of flour (by not having to "compete" for water with the salt and other dry ingredients), as well as a head-start for enzyme activity and faster gluten development. Doughs produced with the autolyse method result in loaves that are easier to shape, have more volume, and improved structure.

Try this technique on your favourite bread formula and you should see dramatic improvement. Also, if you get a chance, check out Raymond Calvel's ground-braking book The Taste of Bread. It's very hard to come by these days, but it's quite an eye-opener.

Happy baking!

Oh, là, là!

I've experimented with laminated dough for the first time this past week. I was so looking forward to freshly baked croissants for Sunday morning. And that's exactly what we had. For a very first try, I found the results quite alright, but there is definitely a lot more practicing to be done, and a lot more to learn to achieve the perfect crumb. Making croissants might turn now into a project for the upcoming weeks (or month?). It should give me something to play with, and I will keep you posted about the journey.

The formula I used was taken from Michel Suas' Advanced Bread and Pastry; there are a number of interesting croissant recipes in his book. I chose the most basic one for the time being.

Hope all of you had a great Sunday!