Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Her highness, Chanterelle

Chanterelle. She is like no other fungus. Actually, no other fungus is quite like Madame chanterelle. Contemptuous, the candle that tries to weigh her worth.

Such an elegant name befitting the queen of the forest jewels. Her essence, reminiscent of the silver mists that perfume the forest floor, and her taste, of cedar and spicy nosegay, maybe of violet and the wild mint that grows in the shadows at garden's edge. There is nothing more arresting than her golden bloom. And for her, I would spend my final dime.

Leek & chanterelle, an artisan pie

Has the moment in your life arrived when your purpose lays its hand on your shoulder and whispers, 'it is time'? Today was such a moment for me, though this time was not the first, and I suspect that it won't be the last that I feel its touch. It was a relief, I must say. I could not ignore it one moment more.

I was a chef in some previous life, and I left it, for what, I still don't entirely know. It is an illusion that one will understand the self in its entirety, after all. A rather long sabbatical its been, one that I recall was ignited by the desire to find some purpose. This, a noble pursuit, though at the time it resembled folly. Alas, when the torch is set, there is nothing more to do but honor the ensuing blaze.

I could not go on any further, this much is clear, without understanding precisely what that purpose was. There is a private part of me, perhaps that what is vain, that wishes then that I had simply asked myself and intuited the answer, instead of roaming the crevices of world questioning the places and outside things that could never tell me who I was meant to be. Though when looked upon through pragmatic eyes, the experiences lent some indispensable clues. One thing that I have learned without uncertainty: No matter how heavy the stone overturned, there will always be another with yet deeper anchor that will eagerly test your might, and one is rarely ever fully prepared for the discovery awaiting in the hollow.

I do not regret the path that I chose, earnestly, I know that I would not have discovered the qualities that I did otherwise. For, one's path holds an absolution, even if to the wanderer the passage seems narrow or utterly arcane, and it is wholly compulsory that one must in their own life question that which is lain before, one is a fool if one chooses otherwise. To be sure, it is not until one wears through the soles of one's shoes that the nature of the path be revealed.

I love to write. Always have. It's like breath for me. It is the one thing in my life that I do not judge. I never have, and I don't think that I possibly could. I write to discover who I am, and how can that ever be wrong. Writing for me is something that cannot be avoided, and I had always thought that this was my sole calling. I had no idea, truly, that there could ever be more. Even though it was right before me. And it is cooking that has pulled me back into its arms, home again. Oh lucky day that the two can be so blissfully wed, as I believe we are all aware. I wonder, how many cookbooks do you have? And are you captivated by the food? Or is it about the voice of the author, her path, his view? I don't think that the two could ever be divorced. Because then, where would that leave either of the two, one without the other, lost, without momentum, without purpose.

But back to the chanterelle.

This day I had a few, just a small parchment, perfect they were, and so deeply hued that they veritably smoldered when I opened the package to investigate their elegance. I set out to make a pizza, and for this pie I made my own dough. A light wheat, based partially upon the Tartine country loaf, and partially on my sleepy eye: I was not quite awake when I weighed out the components that by now I know by heart; too little bread flour, a bit too much wheat. The result was a dough that I understood would become a regular guest in my kitchen, and one all too welcome. I am excited to try it out as a boule, and as soon as I do, you will be the first to know.

Here is the larder and process that arrived at my chanterelle pie.

- 1/3 pound of chanterelles
- 2 leeks
- Fresh herbs, I used marjoram and a few leaves of sage
- Olive oil, of course
- Salt, I use kosher, I like its hand
- Demi-wheat dough, as outlined below


700g KA bread flour
300g whole wheat flour
200g freshly made levain
750g + 50g h2o
20g salt

I made the levain with my active rye starter. 1 TB dissolved in 100g h2o, then mixed with 50g each all purpose and whole wheat flour. I let it ferment overnight, countertop.

The next day I mixed the levain, a hair over 200g really, with 750g h2o and the flours. I left it to autolyse for 1.5 hours.

I performed a series of turns at 30 minute intervals, this represented 2 hours of fermentation time at room temp. Just after the last turn, I popped the dough in the fridge and fermented it for 3 hours longer.

After fermentation, I divided the dough into 400g pieces, let them rest for 15 minutes on the bench. It was too hot here for a longer bench rest. I then shaped the portions into rounds, popped them into bowls lined with rice flour-dusted linens, and into the fridge they went to proof for 2 hours.

When the rounds were done proofing and ready to be stretched into pies, I preheated the oven to 550 degrees, of course my baking stone is in there heating up as well.


I sliced my leeks into small flags, rinsed them well, then sweated them over medium heat until they were very soft. Of course, this i seasoned with salt.

Just a note, a cast iron pan is best for this, as I believe it is for most things.

While the leeks were sweating, I cleaned the chanterelle using the brush that you see below, though they were nearly pristine.

Here's a very serious consideration: NEVER ever wash your chanterelle with water. This is a crime against humanity and the gods.

I sliced the chanterelle...

Then sauteed them, seasoned with salt, of course, in the same pan used for the leeks. The leeks were cooled quickly in the fridge, so you know. You can't put warm toppings on cold dough.

When the chanterelle were lightly sauteed, I rough chopped the herbs, marjoram and sage.

I sprinkled the herbs over the mushrooms then spooned the mushrooms onto a plate and cooled them in the fridge along with the leeks while I worked the dough.

I took out a ball of dough, smeared my workspace with flour, and pressed the dough outward to form a flat disc, flouring the dough if it felt like it was sticking. I Didn't worry about keeping it round. Rustic shapes are all the rage right now, and match nicely with the earthy ingredients.

Sprinkled an awaiting peel with semolina, liberally, so the dough would not stick when it came time to be slid into the oven. Liberal here is crucial, I cannot stress this enough.

Transfered the stretched dough onto the peel and reshaped.

Brushed the dough with olive oil, liberally.

Then topped with the cooled leeks and chanterelle.

Sprinkled the finished pie with a handful of rough chopped herbs, and sprinkled with salt.

With a quick jerk of the peel, I transferred the pie onto the hot baking stone and baked it until the edges of the dough were golden. I think it took 10 minutes or so.

Sprinkled with chili flake, and enjoyed warm with an earthy glass of red wine.

To the staff of life.

This post was shuttled off to Wild Yeast Blog.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Deserted Island Chocolate Boule

Roasted chicken is the first of my three deserted island foods. But it has to be roasted already when you drop it from the airplane. You can't expect me to bother with making fire on top of being stranded. I'm stressed out enough already trying to figure out how to crack open coconuts.

Deserted island chocolate boule

The second thing that I will require is chocolate, a ration of both dark and milk please. I'm a complex woman, I'm sure you understand, and my needs are mercurial and utterly kaleidoscopic.

The last item that I should have in abundance, for the record, is dandelion greens.

Deserted island healthy whole wheat boule

Just because one is stranded does not mean that one should neglect one's health. Words of wisdom that I am sure I will regret once I'm actually stranded.

While I'm making this list, I will also need Taye Diggs, oh, and Jude Law (for when Taye gets sleepy), a pair of hip boots (don't ask), and a lifetime supply of TP.

But enough poppycock. Lets talk bread.

I am a huge fan of variety. Probably because I'm American and I'm used to having far too much. If less is more, then dammit, too much is obviously far better.

Which is just what I needed when I turned the Tartine page.

Up next was pain integral, and I have to be honest, I am still trying to shake the solemnity of my polenta bread from two posts back. Today I needed to add a little sweet variety to all of these brass tacks breads up ahead, today I needed something a little more...blithe.

So I decided that I should cash in one of my deserted island things. No, not dandelion greens (remind me why I chose them again), but bitter chocolate,71%, and after all was baked and done, I must say, I don't think that the fellas and I are going to miss civilization at all.

Have a look.

Whole wheat sourdough boules

Gather together the usual suspects in these quantities:

200g levain
800g + 50g h2o
700g KA whole wheat flour
300g KA all purpose flour
20g salt
250g good quality dark chocolate, I used 71%, chopped into chunky pieces

Make the levain:

In a bowl, mix 1 TB of your most active sourdough starter with 100g h2o and 50g each all purpose and whole wheat flours. Leave it on the counter over night. The next morning you will awaken to 200g of a lovely levain.

Make the dough:

Mix together the levain and 800g of the h2o. Add 700g whole wheat flour and 300g all purpose and mix well. Autolyse for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

 Freshly mixed dough

Dough after 45 minute autolyse

Add the 20g of salt and additional 50g h2o to the dough and mix with your hand till fully incorporated. Let it rest for 30 minutes.

Dough is already elastic after the autolyse

After the dough rests, divide it (if you are adding chocolate to one boule), and perform 4 series of turns at 0, 30, 60, 90 minutes. This is the first 2 hours of your fermentation.

Divided dough with chocolate added. This was taken after the turns were completed

 Whole wheat dough after turns

Pop the dough in the fridge for another two hours. You don't have to refrigerate your dough at this point, but it's been sweltering here, so I have to retard the fermentation or it will over-ferment in an hour and die.

 Both doughs after final 2 hour refrigerated fermentation

Take the dough out of the fridge and scrape it onto a workspace. I don't use flour when shaping my dough into boules.

Shape the dough into nice taut boules. If you added chocolate, be sure to pinch any exposed pieces back into the boule or it will burn later when it's baked.

Chocolate boule with tucked in pieces of chocolate

Whole wheat dough shaped into boule

Get the boules into bowls or bannetons with linens that have been dusted with rice flour.

Whole wheat dough with chocolate

Whole wheat dough

Pop the dough into the fridge and proof for 4 hours. You don't have to refrigerate your dough if it's not hot where you live. But I find that retarding the dough helps build flavor aside from controlling the proofing speed.

Fully proofed whole wheat dough

About 30 minutes before you plan to bake the bread, be sure to preheat your oven to 550 degrees, with your cast iron combo cookers inside. Position your baking stone in the upper third portion of your oven. The bottoms of my loaves burn if the racks are set too low/down toward the broiler.

Invert the dough onto a paddle dusted generously with rice flour so that it does not stick.

Score the dough.

Slide them into your preheated cast iron combo cooker and affix the lid so that the loaves will steam. Turn the heat down to 450 degrees (chad bakes his at 475, but I find that too hot, either that or my oven is really off).

Remove the lids of the combo cookers after 30 minutes.

Whole wheat dough after 30 minute steam

Whole wheat chocolate dough after 30 minute steam

Bake for another 30 minutes or so, or until the internal temp reads about 210 degrees.

Whole wheat sourdough with 71% dark chocolate

Whole wheat soudough, done

After an hour and a half, the chocolate was still gooey, so it smeared the bread. But I'm not complaining.

Whole wheat sourdough with 71% dark chocolate

Whole wheat sourdough


Crust: Thin and brittle. Lovely, really. Crumb: Tender and dense. Not as open as my first whole wheat sourdough boules. Flavor: Good, strong, earthy, wheaty flavor, a lovely complement to the chocolate. This bread would be great with manchego cheese, and it paired well with a fig jam that I recently made. Dough's ease of handling: Very easy. Bench notes: I would increase the hydration of this dough. Maybe in small increments to start, if you wanted to play around with crumb openness. I don't have an issue with a tighter crumb in general, in fact, I welcome it with breads that I want to use for sandwiches or jam. This one, however, I would like to see open up a little more. I also think that the texture could have been chewier, so I think that next time I will increase the fermentation time, and quite possibly the proofing. The longer ferment/proof would probably tame the really strong wheat flavor and add a more sour flavor, which I think that this bread could handle given its high whole wheat flour content.

To the staff of life!

Now off to Wild Yeast Blog's Yeast Spotting!

These loaves were derived from the formula in Chad Robertson's Tartine Bread book which can be purchased here.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Semolina, an education

Remember our last visit? Flax was there, as was sesame, one of my favorite seeds. I prefer beige over black, even though they're less chic.

The semolina formula of yore produced a creamy scented dough and a bread with a fine-textured crumb. It was beautiful, really, the little gas chambers more slanted than round, and all in perfect queue.

After reading my post, a bread friend wrote me a note and suggested that the flax, that I neglected to soak, may have absorbed a fair amount of water from the dough, thus tightening the crumb. I was curious if he was right. After all, the dough was almost too simple to work with, turning out a taut little boule, round as the moon. So I set out to research his theory to see if it was indeed true that those shiny little seeds were so parched that they would have the power to alter the crumb of my bread. Here's what I found:

Durum wheat is a high protein wheat, which is what we want when making bread. It is the high protein that allows for the durability of our dough and the fabulous ability for the gluten structure to stretch during fermentation and proofing, thus giving us such lofty breads. But there is a caveat with durum. Its protein is quite fragile compared to that of spring and winter wheat, and when overmixed, it can break down. This was not an issue when I made my last loaves because I make all of my bread by hand, so it's possible that the seeds could have contributed to the more dense crumb.

Wait, there's more...

When durum is milled into flour then bolted (sifted), the large remaining particles are semolina. So semolina is actually a byproduct of flour milling. Generally used for making pasta, porridge and puddings, semolina is sandy in texture. When employed for bread making, the rough surface of the grains can puncture the developing gluten network and compromise an open crumb. The inferior protein quality, along with the rough grains, can also make for inferior oven spring, which I did not experience with my last loaves. In fact, they came out very well domed. This must be due to the fact that I did not use a machine to knead my dough, thus limiting the risk of overworking the dough and breaking down the protein, or giving the rough grains too much opportunity to deteriorate gluten structure. As you can imagine, it is advised not to use a mixer when working with semolina in your artisan bread production.

Toast for days

Many bakers looking for a durum-based bread will use durum flour. Durum flour, because it is finely milled, does not pose a threat of puncturing the developing gluten strands when mixed.

The lesson: When working with semolina, with the lower quality protein, despite its high percentage of it, in conjunction with the sharp grains, try not to overwork the dough, and make sure you use a good quality bread flour along with the semolina because the higher quality protein will help increase the durability of the gluten network and allow for better oven spring. I used King Arthur bread flour.

As well, if you are planning to add dried fruit or seeds to the bread, you may consider soaking them since they will absorb some of the moisture in the dough and further tighten the crumb.

Today when working with these loaves, I decided to omit the addition of seeds or nuts so that the results of my experiment would be unobstructed, though I actually invite a tighter crumb.

I know that the large irregular holes in artisan breads are all the rage, but I love to eat toast with olive oil and honey, and that does not really work with sourdoughs whose holes are as big as quarters. As far as I'm concerned, if semolina will give me a bread with a lovely texture and a tighter crumb, I am happy to add this to my repertoire of regulars.

Semolina, unadulterated

So, given the research and our plain semolina test loaves as proof, it seems that seeds or not, you are never going to achieve an open crumb when working with this grain in view of its roguish nature. It might work if one were inclined to used less semolina and more bread flour in the formula. But given that Tartine's loaves require 700 grams of semolina, try as you might, it is just not going to turn out that way.

And I'm not unhappy about it in the least!

Semolina crumb


200g levain
700g + 50g h2o
700g semolina
300g KA bread flour
20g salt
4 TB olive oil


The night before, mixed 1 TB starter with 100g h2o and 50g each AP and whole wheat flour. Left it to ferment overnight.


Dissolved 200g of levain in 700g water. Mixed in 700g semolina and 300g bread flour. Autolysed 40 min.

Added the salt and olive oil. Mix in well.

Dough was nice and elastic

Did 4 series of turns at 30, 60, 90, 120 minutes, and fermented for another hour at room temp. Total time: 3 hours, plus the autolyse.

Dough after the turns

Gave the dough another series of turns with a light hand, then popped in the fridge for 1 hour 20 minutes to finish fermenting.

Dough after 4 hour 20 minute fermentation

Total fermentation time: 4 hours 20 minutes, plus 40 minute autolyse.


Poured the dough onto a olive oiled work surface.

Divided in half and shaped into two rounds.

Shaped the dough into tight boules, then popped them into linen-lined bowls that were dusted first with rice flour.

Dough before proofing

Proofed in fridge for 1 hour 30 minutes, then at room temp for 1 hour, then back in the fridge for the final 30 minutes.

Proofed dough
Total proof time: 3 hours.

Preheated oven with stone and two combo cookers at 550 degrees. Inverted the loaves onto a peel lined with parchment.

Slashed, and slid them into the combo cookers.

Turned the oven down to 450 degrees and baked with the lids on for 30 minutes.

Loaf steamed for 30 minutes

Removed the lids and baked for another 25, until the internal temp was 210 degrees.


Crust: Super shattery. Crumb: Nice and soft, well-hydrated. Great texture. Flavor: Soooo Good! Overall difficulty when handling the dough: Medium difficulty. It was fairly hydrated and as a bit of a challenge shaping them into boules, then again once they were inverted onto the peel. The dough spread pretty quickly. Fermentation and proofing notes: I toggled between fridge and room temp fermentation because its been warm here lately. I think the technique of proofing in the fridge really helps to develop the flavor of the bread and control it. Notes: I made two boules a couple of days ago, as an experiment, and didn't refrigerate at all. It was really hot here and I wanted to see what would happen. The dough overfermented and overproofed, and very quickly. The loaves were no good, and I didn't even have to back them to know that they wouldn't be. Since I am still learning about how temperature, water, etc. affects my loaves, it was a great experiment to just let them ferment without interjection, just to see how much latitude I have with my bread, and how weather affects the dough.

To the staff of life!

This post was sent off to Wild Yeast Blog's Yeast Spotting.


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