Monday, September 24, 2012

epiphanic spelt: three loaves, one epiphany

do not mistake vulnerability for weakness, for it is a quiet form of  strength. vulnerability is humility in its most raw state. and humility is fundamentally zen. it is a glimpse into the human side of you, the one that is still filled with awe and connected to a purpose, perhaps forgotten, perhaps not quite understood. you, the one who has become hardened by the confusions of this here breath, this here life, there still exists in you a light and a power which never fails you, even if its voice seems so, very, very, small. this light meets your awakening and tucks you in at night, no matter your spoils or those lacking, no matter your mistakes, those hideous, and even worse still. vulnerability is the sign of your light, and no matter how much money you have, no matter how adept at skullduggery you may be, it is the voice that brings you back to your core. it is the part of you that has not become destitute in your search for your essence. for even the most failed holds this light in her breast, and his breast, and theirs too.

spelt country

this week whilst making bread, I reached the apex of an epiphany. to be sure, an epiphany is not had without some many months and years of inward observation, so upon its arrival, the tears that it impels are for reasons that are usually not obvious. the obvious assumption is that they must be tears of joy, elation, perhaps freedom from some long, indefatigable bondage. but they might also be tears of sorrow, or a mix of bitterness and anger: why did it take so long, why does it seem so small, this step toward illumination and this bit of growth. it is a dangerous thing to set one's sights on the outcome of self-realization, for the unfolding is rarely the way we have long envisioned it to be. we often see our lives through our ego's eyes. but these eyes are blind. the only eyes that can see that what is real are those of the spirit.

spelt country in rosemary

i am human. i follow a buddhist path. unwittingly mostly. i just arrived here, i know it sounds strange. i didn't know it until i had been walking this path for some years. that was a small epiphany, i remember, when having a late night conversation with a friend, sharing our beliefs, our thoughts. i didn't know you were buddhist, said she. i answered, truthfully, neither did i. when i went to bed that night, i looked at the ceiling and declared, a bit dumbfounded, admittedly, i am buddhist, and it was like my world had changed in the blink of an eye. the spirit eye. when that eye has opened, it can never again be closed. and that what is observed by the eyes of the ego grows dim.

spelt olive

i never talk about religion, mostly because i don't think that i am immersed in one despite. i think of buddhism as a way, a path, an awakening, a purpose. buddhism puts my life into perspective because its very nature is one rooted in common sense. there are no deities, there is only the self. the only mew is that of our own creation, and by virtue of our humanness there is no condemnation dispensed because we were put here to flounder around in this skin that has forgotten its purpose, its divinity, and the expectation is that you will make a multitude of mistakes along the way. even better than that, it is our very mistakes that lend to illumination. without them, there is no fundamental growth. buddhism is a gentle way, though fiercely pragmatic. you cannot kiss a row of beads and hope that your 'sins' will be atoned for. for one thing, there are no sins, only lessons, for another, there is only the self to whom you have to answer, because you are of the divine, all of us are, for better or worse, how we choose to view it is dependent upon where we stand, and this changes and grows as do we along our path. buddhism is an aspiration and a reminder, it is the watchful eye of the knowing self because we are all knowing, and we are all installed with this light, yes, even those of us who are not so kind. remember what the venerable Thich Nhat Hanh reminds: when another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. he does not need punishment, he needs help. that is the message he is sending.


i didn't think that my post today had anything to do with bread, aside from the fact that these were the things that i was thinking as i baked my loaves. but then i tossed this over in my mind: perhaps it is the bread that has inspired this moment inward. every time i bake bread i find myself in the mood to reflect. oftentimes i crave the effort of bread when there is a problem that i need to work out in my life. something about intuiting my way through the creation of the dough is analogous to intuiting my way through my life, or at least some part of it that requires a momentary reflection. bread then, when seen in this light, continues for me to be part of my path, and one inextricably so.

three loaves. two formulae. a little closer to home.

epiphanic country loaf, in spelt


for the olive spelt loaf, i used equal weights bob's red mill light spelt and king arthur bread flour. for the rosemary and country loaves, i used a combination of to your health sprouted whole spelt, vitaspelt white spelt and king arthur bread flour. all loaves were made with my 100% hydration, 100% sprouted rye flour starter fed twice a day leading up to levain day.

SPELT OLIVE BOULE


THE NIGHT BEFORE DOUGH DAY

make your levain. mix the following, cover and ferment overnight.

35g starter
50g h2o
50g sprouted whole spelt flour

DOUGH DAY

365g h2o
250g BRM light spelt
250g KA bread flour
186g kalamata olives, pitted and whole
82g black oil cured olives, coarsely chopped
8g kosher salt

mix the water, flours, and levain, autolyse 40 minutes. after autolyse, squish the salt into the dough with your fingers till thoroughly amalgamated, then add the olives and fold into the dough.

left: pitted kalamatas, right: pitted and chopped black oil cured olives


begin the 4 hour bulk fermentation, the first two hours of which you will perform 1 series of turns every 30 minutes at room temperature. after the first two hours, pop the dough in the fridge and finish fermenting for another 2 hours, unmolested.

olive dough, ready for bulk fermentation

after  the bulk fermentation is done, turn the dough out onto your workspace and rest for 15 minutes. shape into a boule, pop into a bowl lined with a rice flour dusted linen or banneton, pop in the fridge overnight. mine proofed for 12 hours.

BAKE DAY

45 minutes before the bake, preheat the oven outfitted with a pizza stone and both pieces of your cast iron combo cooker at 550 degrees. when the oven is good and hot, cover the bowl with a slip of parchment and turn it out onto a peel. score as desired and slip the dough into your combo cooker, paper and all, cover, turn the oven down to 475 and let the loaf steam for 30 minutes.

perfectly steamed olive spelt loaf

after the loaf is properly steamed, remove the lid of the combo cooker (use a mitt so the released steam does not burn your hand), turn the oven down to 450 degrees and bake till the crust is a good, deep marron. you may need to toggle between 450 and 475 degrees. this is where you must intuit your bread.



SPELT COUNTRY (one with ROSEMARY)



THE NIGHT BEFORE DOUGH DAY

make your levain. mix the following, cover and ferment overnight.

70g starter
100g h2o
100g sprouted whole spelt flour

thoroughly realized levain


DOUGH DAY

700g h2o
150g TYH sprouted whole spelt
350g VS flour
500g KA bread flour
25g kosher salt
rosemary (i forget to weigh it, so i'm not sure how many grams i used, but i did use three good-sized branches)

mix the water, flours, and levain. autolyse 40 minutes. after autolyse, squish the salt into the dough with your fingers till thoroughly amalgamated.

ready for autolyse

begin the 4 hour bulk fermentation, the first two hours of which you will perform 1 series of turns every 30 minutes at room temperature. after the first two hours, pop the dough in the fridge and finish fermenting for another 2 hours, untouched.

after  the bulk fermentation is done, turn the dough out onto your workspace and rest for 15 minutes. shape into a boule, pop into a bowl lined with a rice flour dusted linen or banneton. ** for the rosemary loaf: dust the linen with rice flour as usual, sprinkle the rosemary leaves atop the rice flour, and place the dough on top of the rosemary leaves. the leaves will sink into the dough as it proofs overnight.

pop in the fridge overnight. mine proofed for 11 hours.

BAKE DAY

45 minutes before the bake, preheat the oven outfitted with a pizza stone and both pieces of your cast iron combo cooker at 550 degrees. when the oven is good and hot, cover the bowl with a slip of parchment and turn it out onto a peel.


score as desired and slip the dough into your combo cooker, cover, turn the oven down to 475 and let the loaf steam for 30 minutes.

steamed spelt loaves

after the loaf is properly steamed, remove the lid of the combo cooker, turn the oven down to 450 degrees and bake till the crust is a good, deep marron. you may need to toggle the temp between 450 and 475 to achieve this.


listen up. all three loaves turned out to be FANTASTIC. the crust was shattery, the interior was the perfect texture and the flavor was outstanding. spelt is turning out to be one of my favorite grains. the flavor is really rich and complex, and it's pretty easy to work with. just so you know, it will pancake when its on the bench resting, and it will spread quicker than wheat flour once its scored. but don't freak out, this is normal for spelt because it lacks the elasticity of wheat flour. you can quickly gather it up and shape it into a boule despite.

spelt breads also achieve amazing oven spring every time, even when using higher percentages of whole spelt. it's super healthy, and it's one that you might begin experimenting with because it's and easy addition to your repertoire of breads (spelt is also not as expensive as rye). rye, as you know, is sort of my thang, but this spelt is giving it a run for its money as i bake with it more and more, and as you can see, it makes for a lovely, rustic loaf.

i will keep posting my findings as i work with this flour. let me know how your spelt loaves turn out for you. its been a while since i've made a rye because i'm having so much fun with it.

to the staff of life!

THE HEADSHOTS



this post has been sent to wild yeast blog's yeastspotting.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

the bread that moved the earth & felled a tree

rosemary reminds me of babies. just kidding.

for some reason, whenever i make bread with rosemary it's always focaccia. and because i'm a lazy baker i always only ever make boules (someone please invent a combo cooker in the shape of an oval). i do have a habit of being staunchly married to my habits. don't we all? alas, i decided to change up today so i made a rosemary loaf, though not a focaccia, and definitively not a boule.


but wait. before i get down to the brass tacks of this bread, i have a story to tell.

this loaf of bread began as a happy little accident and ended with an earthquake and a fallen tree. here's the long and skinny of it.

i usually make my levain in the morning or just before i go to bed, since those two times allow me to make bread most conveniently. well, this time i started the levain smack in the middle of the day, which would have meant that by the time it was done fermenting, i would have had to be awake at 3 a.m. to start the process of making bread. i am smitten with my loaves, i think this blog as an ode makes that clear, but my love has its limits.


i had read somewhere that once a levain is fully realized, one could refrigerate it for up to (insert reasonable number here) days and pull it out for use when it was convenient. i always wondered if this was true or not, and since i was faced with either experimenting with this idea or tossing out my levain (and waste all that perfectly good spelt? no sir), i figured it was the perfect opportunity to put this all to the test.


my levain for this bread fermented for 9 hours, from 6 p.m. till 3 a.m. i was meant to pop in in the fridge before bed but had forgotten. at the obsidian hour of 3 a.m., and fully invested in my slumber, my levain roused me to remind that we were knee deep in this experiment, and that i had better get it into the fridge tout de suite. i guess this loaf was destined to interrupt my sleep after all. see. rosemary = babies.


here's the real kicker: no sooner had i swung my legs over the side of the bed in loving effort to keep my true love happy did an earthquake hit. mon dieu! as you can imagine, my heart pounded as the earth rumbled beneath my feet. my pottery collection clinked and clanked in the cabinet, and the dog chased her tail. (in dog language that's equivalent to running for cover). and not one second after i awakened to tuck in my levain. i couldn't believe it. what were the odds?

wait. my story, it gets better.


next day. so, the weather here is still blistering, and rosemary reminds me of autumn, my favorite season. i thought that if i baked this bread with the resinous herb that the smell would waft up to the gods and inspire them to turn down the thermostat. a little love note, one might say, a reminder that the superior season is ready to be dragged in.

i also decided to try my hand at shaping a batardboules work for me because of the shape of the combo cooker, and i've not really had much luck making a pretty batard. they come out flat and dumb looking every single time (not unlike this one).


the combo cooker is my crutch, i confess, and i'm not too proud to admit it. i am not in the habit of fixing things that ain't broke, see, but i am firmly committed to branching out with this loaf of bread. it has already caused an earthquake after all.

onward.

after making the dough i gathered up the dog for a stroll. i live in a lovely part of L.A., where the streets are lined with 150-foot palm trees that wax the ever-blue skies. here i was, strolling along, blissfully unaware of anything but my thoughts when BAM! a giant palm frond fell from above, landing inches from my head. and i will be damned if the thing didn't whistle on the way down from its heights.


my dog immediately pounced on the devilish thing (in dog language, this is equivalent to assault and battery). this, just 30 minutes before i am to bake my rosemary's baby. first an earthquake and now the fallen frond.

home again to shape the bread.

the kitchen smelled like rosemary and i hadn't even started to bake. my dough was lying in wait, and beautifully so. my fear was that the levain would be lethargic and wouldn't have the strength to make it rise. nevertheless, full steam ahead with our plan.

i shaped it, popped it in a homemade banneton, and back in the fridge it went to proof for about 15 hours because y'all know how i love a long-proofed dough. the next day it was baked and lo, we arrive at this blissful thing.


the texture, despite a slightly less than optimal oven spring, was divine. full gelatinization was realized, and the crumb was light without any unpleasant density at all. the flavor was down right amazing, the crusty was shattery, and i've been nipping at it since i sliced it open. all in all i am pleased, even with the aesthetic issues which evidently (oddly) had no impact on the texture or the flavor of the bread at all.

and so my consensus is this:

i think that the refrigerated levain would have been fine with a shorter proof, though i wouldn't make a habit of it. it didn't spread or look slack as i slipped it from the banneton as one would might expect. these are all signs of over-proofing or over-hydration. it did, however, spread to an extended degree once it was slashed, and didn't hold les grignes, which again, can be a sign of over-hydration or over-proofing in my experience. since the dough was hardly over-hydrated, it must have been the endured proof time. it was not because of the spelt, since i often make this loaf (without the rosemary or the olive oil, but with the same ratio of flour to water, though i typically use bread flour for extra elasticity in the dough) with endured proofing times (up to 15 hours refrigerated proof) and it always yields lovely oven spring.

nevertheless, the experiment yielded interesting results. i would say that if you need to refrigerate your levain, you might consider a 3 or 4 hour refrigerated proof, max, given the extended life span of the levain. even though its growth is retarded under refrigeration, it is still  consuming the sugars in the flour which will ultimately result in a spent levain as time goes on.

the crumb of my rosemary's baby was light and airy with largish holes, and it tasted divine. i will try this loaf again with tweaked variables and post my results. for now, i am going to happily enjoy this bread. once sliced, because of the tender open crumb (not dense or compact at all), fabulous taste and texture and shattery crust, it's hard to believe that it didn't provide optimal oven spring.

spelt rosemary 'batard'

THE DAY BEFORE DOUGH DAY

(i used to your health's sprouted spelt flour for this formula, and ka all purpose flour)

i made my levain at 6pm like this:

35g 100% sprouted spelt, 100% hydration starter
58g filtered h2o
58g organic, sprouted, whole spelt flour

dissolved the starter in the water then mixed in the flour until i arrived at a smooth paste. covered and let ferment at room temp for 9 hours. popped it into the fridge until morning, 7 hours.

DOUGH DAY

the next day, i made the dough like this.

350g h20
325g all purpose flour
75g organic, sprouted, whole spelt flour
all of the starter
25g extra virgin olive oil
12g sea salt
3g chopped fresh rosemary

i dissolved the starter with the water then mixed in the flour until i arrived at a shaggy mass. then i let it autolyse for an hour and 10 minutes.

after the autolyse, i added the salt, rosemary and the olive oil and mixed well. at this point, i am headed into my 4 hour bulk fermentation. the first two hours of which are comprised of one series of turns every half hour for a total of four series of turns, the last two hours the dough is left unmolested in the fridge.


after the 4 hour bulk fermentation, i scraped the dough onto an olive oiled bench and let it rest for 25 minutes.


i drizzled it with a little olive oil and tucked and coaxed it into a compact little batard.


awaiting was an impromptu banneton that i had fashioned out of some heavy duck fabric that i usually use as a couche.


i lined the banneton with a strip of parchment paper for easy transfer onto the peel later on.


then popped the batard into its hammock and sprinkled the sides liberally with organic brown rice flour.


i wrapped the whole kit and kaboodle in plastic then popped it into the fridge till the next day, 15 hours later.

BAKE DAY

on bake day, i preheated my oven to 500 degrees installed with a stone and a HUGE dutchie to accommodate the length of the dough, for 45 minutes.

i pulled the batard out of the hammock, slipped it onto a peel and scored it.


then i jerked it into the the dutchie and i turned the oven down to 450 degrees (i didn't bake at 475 like i usually do because the size of the dutchie meant that i had to put the oven rack on the lowest rung, very close to the gas line, which would likely burn my bottom crust before the bread was properly baked). i steamed the batard for 30 minutes with the dutchie in place.


after the steam, i removed the top of the dutchie and baked till browned. i didn't take it any darker because of the hampered oven spring. after it cooled for an hour, i ate it with avocado and olive oil.


to the staff of life!

of course, trying to make the deadline for the wild yeast blog's yeast spotting this week!

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