Tuesday, July 26, 2011

there were four

reader, i'm hooked.

yesterday marked my first attempt at baguettes. actually, i didn't plan to make them. no, i struck out to make two of tartine's olive boules, because i'm back on track and following my experiment, linear like, see, as well a respectable gal should.

i should have included the disclaimer when announcing my good intentions a mere two posts previous, that i start to bite my nails when it comes to following rules. for instance, at the last minute today, olive dough enroute to becoming fabulous boules, these loaves next in queue, i found myself shaping the dough into baguettes instead. i couldn't help it. i was a woman possessed.

it is not with regret that i took this turn. i must avow that there's a good chance that it might have been premeditated. i kept fantasizing about how awesome it would be to have olive baguettes when none of l.a. could make the same claim. before i knew it, i had shaped the black studded dough into lancets, and cradled them within dusted hammocks to be born into my new addiction.


in tartine bread, chad robertson says that shaping baguette dough is difficult because you have to handle it much more than you do with other shapes. i wish i had read the text before forging headlong through the baguette frontier. evidently it is a highly evolved process that when undertook, yields impeccably tapered loaves, impossibly thin, with the crisped and pointed ends as sharp as scalpels that are all the rage in bread land.

chad also promises that practice makes perfect. and i want to believe him, desperately, because i imagine myself making baguettes so comely that they might make people swoon. chad's baguettes make people swoon.

my first born, i will admit, are the ugly children that only a mother could love. two, a little ashen, their slashes indecipherable, all of them more zaftig than chad's sleek and razor sharp spears. but no matter.

their crusts shattered like grandmother's good crystal would if the party got out of hand. and the crumb, oh the crumb. it was tender beyond explanation. open, briny, and fruity with slick, obsidian olives, fragrant of lemon and thyme.

there were four, but i ate one straight away, completely swaddled in bliss. one was shuttled off to my neighbor just a few doors beyond.

i feel a new love affair developing between bread and me. who knew that it could be even better than i've already come to know. my only regret in breaking my new plan to follow this book in linear fashion from beginning to end is that i didn't jump to the middle and make baguettes sooner.

Baguettes In Olive & Thyme

i used tartine's olive loaf recipe, which is slated to make two hefty boules. i adapted it by using fresh thyme instead of dried herbes de provence, and because i ran out of whole wheat flour, i used white whole wheat in its stead. i also omitted the toasted walnuts. i'll save those for another day.

200g levain (see below)
750g filtered h2o
900g KA bread flour
100g white whole wheat flour
340g olives
20g salt
1 TB fresh thyme leaves
zest of one large lemon

1 TB active 100% hydration starter (i'm using my trusted rye starter)
200g h2o
100g a/p flour
100g whole wheat flour

start the levain the night before you plan to bake the bread.
in a bowl large enough to accommodate a double growth of the ensuing levain, dissolve the starter with the h2o. mix in both flours. scrape down the sides of the bowl with a flexible dough scraper, cover the bowl with a towel, and put in a draft free place overnight. the next morning, the levain should have doubled and become quite billowy. it's ready to use. you may also use any remaining levain as your future starter. just feed it as you would your starter.

mixed the levain with 700g of water to dissolve. mixed in the flour and autolysed 40 minutes. mixed in the salt with 50g of water. rested 30 minutes. then did 4 series of turns at 30, 60, 90, 120 minutes (= 2. 5 hrs + 40 minutes autolyse so far). it's been quite hot here, so i finished the ferment (another 2.25 hours) in the fridge. shaped into 4 good-sized baguettes (or a semblance thereof), proofed in flour dusted couche: 2 loaves proofed for 2 hours, 2 proofed for 2.5 hours. oven preheat to 500 degrees, then turned down to 450 when i put the loaves in. i'm finding that 475, as chad calls for, has been too hot for my loaves and makes for scorched bottoms. maybe it's because I'm using cast iron instead of an actual baking stone. baked with steam* (on the cast iron griddle mentioned) for 15 minutes, then another 15-20 without steam till finished.

* my steam method: i misted the loaves with water heavily with a squirt bottle when i put them in the oven, then at 5 minute increments for the first 15 minutes. i also tossed cold water and ice into a hot skillet that i had placed in the bottom of the oven. finally, i misted the sides of the oven as well.

the good thing about baguettes vs. boules is that chad gives permission to eat them while warm, and so i did.

crust: uber shattery. like glass. crumb: super tender and moist. very open. fragrant with herbs and olives. the lemon was imperceptible. i might zest two next time. difficulty in handling the dough: very easy. difficulty with proofing/fermenting: lately it's been hot, so i've found that doing a partial refrigerator ferment and/or proof has helped slow fermentation so that the loaves develop good flavor. i did not refrigerate the proofing baguettes. notes: i would increase the zest to 2 lemons worth, and add another teaspoon of fresh thyme. i would also read the section in tartine bread about shaping the loaves, or you might end up with fatties like mine.

to the staff of life!

this post has been sent off to wild yeast's yeast spotting.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

baby boules

I prefer foreign films. French, mostly. I rarely watch American film because it's usually so HUGE and catastrophic. And then there is always the maudlin ending where the pretty girl gets the man and the expensive shoes when you, the viewer, would have been more satisfied had she not, because she whines too much and frankly doesn't deserve anything at all.

Les Americains are obsessed with closure, and conclusions are required to be prefaced by fiery explosions that settle into wholesome landscapes, comforting and blithe for everyone who originally got burned. Except the black guy. He's dead.

American films dish up unreasonable scenarios that lack intricacy, the summer lineup a queue of largely obvious formulas that are rewritten over and again. And one distinct difference between the two classes: In American film, it is the leading man who is chased, in those European, the woman is the prize. Always. I appreciate that.

French filmmakers are masters of capturing the epitome of angst without using histrionics as a tool. Have you ever been to Paris? The inhabitants are the wry characters that you see in film, traumatized by the tedium of life. They pout, they don't scream, they take lovers, not therapy. The French know that there is nothing comforting nor blithe in general, and in order to endure the undercurrent of existential distress, one need only have a brief affair, then show no perceptible signs of concern once it ends.

European film portrays the subtleties of interpersonal complexity and irresolvable enigma. Plots traverse down unexpected avenues and generally end with bitter sweet notes that can leave the viewer feeling anything from frustration to utter acceptance. How fibrous. There is rarely a summation, it's the wife who usually leaves, and the outcome is hardly predictable. I know that a movie is good when after I offer its recommendation I am asked the nature of its content and I can only respond, 'you know, I don't really know...'.

Much like life, you just have to sit patiently through it and find the message yourself.

I've always had difficulty with subtlety, which is why it is so magnetic for me. In film, and in those people I meet who seem to utterly macerate in patience and quiet fortitude, I always wonder what level of zen one has to achieve to output subtlety, moreover, on what road must one travel to get there.

Subtlety is power without the appendage of exhibition or pretension. It is a manifestation of hard-earned integrity and equanimity that cannot be unearthed, not easily anyway. Bombast, contrarily, belies an uncertainty within. If there is enough mighty energy swirling about, then the vulnerable soul can be lost in the tangle and escape scrutiny for weaknesses that one would rather not disrobe.

Part of my path has been not so much to cultivate silence for silence's sake, but to work assiduously toward a place of peace so that silence alone has the mettle to speak of place and intention, the merit of the path on which I have strode, and without haste or desperation to define an end. It is through that effort, I believe, that the secrets of our own lives are revealed to us, leaving less to say and more to simply and silently know.

I struggle with subtlety sometimes. Less and less, to be sure. But the content of my silence is the measuring stick that I use to gauge just how stalwart I've grown, and where still I would like to go.

Perhaps one day the quietude of my external voice will mark the quality of the one within. If I dive deep enough, I might even discover a voice of eloquence, of merit, and with enough subtlety to speak volumes.

Baby boules, a subtle life

For these babies, I used Tartine's Country loaf formula, divided into 6 boules.

* 200g levain
765g water (the original recipe calls for 750g)
900g KA bread flour
100g BRM whole wheat flour
20g salt

Mixed the levain with 700g of water and flours. Autolysed for 40 minutes. Added the salt and the remaining 65g of water. Turns at 30, 60, 90, 120 minutes, then left to its own devices, counter top, for another 1.5 hours (3.5 hours total, bulk ferment). Divided the dough into six parts, made loose rounds. 30 minute bench rest. Shaped the dough into boules, got them into small linen-lined bowls, then popped them in the fridge for a 3.5 hour proof because it was blazing hot today, and I think they would have overproofed had I left them to ferment on the counter. I didn't want to sacrifice development of flavor because of the heat, and it was looking like countertop proofing was going to be brief, at best. Preheated oven to 550 with two combo cookers and my cast iron griddle which I use as a stone. Straight from cold, inverted boules onto a peel, scored, then, and this is new, misted them with water before sliding them into their combo cookers. Baked, at 475, lidded, for 20 minutes, then unlidded for the duration. I believe the temp of the loaves was a hair over 210 degrees when I pulled them, and they were perfect.

* Levain: 1 TB active starter, I used my rye because I find it most reliable, mixed with 100g whole wheat flour, 100g white all purpose, 200g water. Left on the counter overnight to ferment. This makes about 400g of levain. You could easily make two batches of bread from one levain. Chad suggests using the leftover levain as your new starter, but I don't do that. I either bake with it, or discard it. I'm happy with the 2 starters that I feed regularly. Please note that Chad's recipe for his country loaf makes two loaves, I divided mine into 6 babies.

A note on feeding my starters: Guys, I generally bake once a week. You might bake more. For those of you who bake once a week, I find that this works very well: You only need to feed your starters once every 24 hours. And then two days before you are going to bake, begin to feed them at 12 hour intervals. For example, if I want to bake on Wednesday, or start a preferment on the night before, I would begin two daily feedings starting Monday morning. So two feedings Monday, one on Tuesday morning if I am going to do an overnight preferment that night; or two feedings on Tuesday if my formula does not call for a preferment, and I just want to bake straight from my starters Wednesday morning. Make sense? I will let you know if the ensuing hot weather forces me to bump my feedings back up to twice a day. Also, in effort to save money on flour, here are the gram amounts I use for my 100% hydration starters: 50g flour 50g water 50g starter at one feeding per day. If I want to bake from a formula that calls for a larger volume of starter, when I start my double daily feedings, I bump up the amount of flour and water to increase the starter volume required for the recipe. It's helped me save money, and trips to the market. Rye is expensive!

Crust: uber uber UBER shattery and blistery. This is the best crust I have attained so far, and I think it was the misting folks. Crumb: open, tender, awesome. The texture was most desirable. Flavor: complex and fully developed. Perfectly balanced. Not too sour. By far the best flavor I've coaxed out of my white sourdoughs thus far. Aroma: Fresh, creamy smelling dough. Worry factor when fermenting: A little worrisome. It was so hot today, the dough was a little more flaccid than usual. I thought it might be fermenting too quickly. In retrospect, I might have toggled with fermenting at room temp and refrigeration to control the ferment. I think the fridge idea was a good one for the proof. I also inadvertently added an extra 15g of water to the dough. Probably not a good day to do that, because of the temperature. The heat was already going to make that dough hard to work with, any extra hydration was not really welcomed today. Alas... Also, because of the heat and the bit of extra water, one of the boules spread a bit more than I would have liked. In retrospect, I would have given it one more whirl on the countertop to tighten it up before I put it in the linen-lined bowl to proof. I could tell it was going to be a little wild. I should have picked up on the cues and made the adjustment. The dough, overall, could have been a little stronger, just in the sense of working with it. But as you can see, the outcome of the loaves is pretty rockin' despite. Today was a learning day. The first days of summer heat in Los Angeles. Now I know what I need to adjust in the next few months ahead!

To the staff of life!

This post was shuttled off to Wild Yeast Blog's Yeast Spotting, of course. What a pleasure it has been to share my journey with the bread community over there.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Everything But The Tartine Bread Experiment

What do you do when in your life you feel that you're not exactly where you want to be? I'm a firm believer that the panorama of our external lives is a physical manifestation of that inner.

Lately i've been feeling a bit thwarted, admittedly by my own hand. And when I feel this way I dive on in to meditation and slap my cards on the table. It's the only way to get things resolved.

At moments like this I imagine the Universe pushing through twin, timeworn, saloon doors, pausing for a moment betwixt them for effect. The sun sears the thirsty landscape behind, seeping, blinding, like a white-hot argent abyss. And wearing a ten gallon hat with dusty chaps, the Universe sidles up, bandy-legged, along my side, plunks down two shot glasses and a bottle of bitter, brown booze. 'There's only one way this thing can go down,' I declare, all business and brass tacks. I think the Universe appreciates my candor, if not my edge. 'That's right, and it's up to you to decide which way that will be,' the Universe replies, graveled, funereal, because my Universe also smokes filterless cigarettes. 'I'm just here for the ride.'

Tartine's Seeded Semolina, Toasted

My latest revelation: I've not been clear about where i want to be, when all along I thought I was. I've been errant, I realize, dawdled, some, but when it comes to growth of the spirit, there are no linear paths nor predictable arrival times. I'm like a gypsy, see, and I've permitted the gale to sweep me to and fro with its most decided effort. And through my self-discovery, I have always erred on the side of prudence, I'm guilty for being severely thorough and taking my sweet (bleep) time. My motto: Your strides will prove fruitless if a trail of half-baked endurances lies behind you, and nothing ever prospers from a marriage to denial or sloppiness. Believing so will result in a life of... you do the math.

I've been hovering in limbo for a while now with my material life, and I will admit, I feel as though I may vaporize. My revelation was twofold today, one a catalyst for the other, each an inextricable part of this whole, neither born first nor subordinate, but indeed concomitant. You've just read the one, and this the other underscores its meaning: There is a difference between being scrupulous and flogging a dead horse, you may well know. It's high time I set down the baton and made up my bloody mind.

Bread. And all roads leading to it.

It makes sense, given my itinerant ways, that I would start a blog called the Tartine Bread Experiment, and find that I've only baked three of the books loaves up to this day, some three months in. Dawdling notwithstanding, I got to see just how much latitude I have with my wild yeasts, and what's more, I developed my very own bread. You've got to applaud the good and the ugly all the same.

I'm happy to announce that along with a commitment to materialize once again, and pursue that what has struck my fancy these livelong years in a serious way, I have also decided to come back to the Tartine experiment as it was intended. I mean to investigate this business of methodical progress, one with a beginning, a middle, one with a definitive end. For even the most resolute gypsy must land on solid ground from time to time. One can only hope that the landing will involve both feet, or in the very least that the horse aground is flocculent enough to break her fall, wholly perished many times over that it may be.

Tartine's Seeded Semolina
(slightly revised)
750g h2o
700g BRM semolina flour
300g KA bread flour
200g levain
*75g each flax and sesame seeds
20g salt

* I am using flax seeds instead of fennel, which is what the original recipe calls for.

Mixed the levain (levain = 1 TB 100% hydration rye starter, 200g h2o, 200g flour, mixed, left to stand overnight) with the water and flours. Autolysed for 40 minutes. Meanwhile, toasted the sesame seeds in a cast iron skillet over a high flame, tossing constantly. Cooled, then pulsed in a spice mill (a coffee grinder devoted to grinding spices), in batches. Pulsed the flax (do not toast) just the same. Squished the salt and the seeds into the dough. 4.5 hour bulk ferment begins with turns at 30, 60, 90, 120 minutes, the remaining time left to stand to do it's thing without intervention. Note: The last hour and a half fermentation was done in the fridge because I had to pop out for a moment to take care of some biz. Home again. Divided dough, shaped into loose rounds. Bench rest 30 minutes. Then shaped into boules, rolled them in flax and untoasted sesame seeds. Top side down into linen covered bowl they go. 3 hour proof where they practically doubled in size. Preheated oven to 500 with the combo cookers. Inverted boules, parchment down first, onto a paddle, slid them into the combo cookers, and baked at 475 for 30 minutes, lidded. Popped off the lids. Baked for another 35.

Crust: Uber shattery. Crumb: rather tight, and the texture was very moist and tender. Flavor: Nutty, buttery, divine. Aroma: Smelled like buttery heaven. Dough temperament: Tres simple! Worry factor when fermenting: Zero. It increased in size predictably. I so love my rye starter (thanks Susan!). At first the dough was like batter and I was afraid, but after the series of turns, it developed fantastic gluten strength.

* Update: My baker friend Joe, who is off on a new venture to become a bona fide bread maker, told me that had I soaked the flax seeds, I would have gotten a more open crumb. He intimated that flax seeds in particular draw a great deal of moisture from the dough, which will result in a tighter crumb. I will try this experiment again, taking his advice. He said that there is no need to soak the sesame.

To the staff of life, and an ode to writing, my first love.

Tartine's Seeded Semolina, The Photos


The dough was like batter and smelled buttery.

Closeup of the dough.

Toast the sesame seeds.

Flax and salt.

Flax and toasted sesame seeds, ground. Salt.

Bulk fermentation.




Ready for oven.


30 minute steam.

Nutty, moist, tender crumb.

A jumble of slices.

This post has been shuttled off to Wild Yeast Blog's YeastSpotting.

Monday, July 4, 2011


bread and i are going to stay together. it's official news. we had 'the' talk earlier today, to work things out, to share our views. i was resistant at first, i will admit, bread, a little spicy, a little rye. frankly, given both our wild hearts, i was dubious this day, and made my peace that one of us from the other would probably fly.

bread asked me to consider that i might be a hint demanding, especially since our relationship is new. i thought it uncanny, you can imagine, because this was my biggest complaint too. there are many intricacies about one another that we have yet to discover, i used to see bread as demanding and selfish, but i'm impatient, bread reminds, unreasonable, at times; if i could yield a bit, i might see instead all of its exciting mysteries to uncover. bread also declared that just like me, it has a unique place in this world too, and that this relationship is not solely about feeding my needs. i've been selfish. i confess. what bread was saying was true.

i heard bread loud, its voice was clear. i had been placing upon it capricious demands. because of this, i was blind to its intrinsic beauty, summing it up as a handful of meaningless grams.

bread, with grace, pointed out that with all my charms, an unyielding person i sometimes am.

we both decided to take things slow, to let go of expectations. this will take compromise. there will be mistakes between us, and ornery days, this, without judgement, i surmise. it is with recognition of our foibles and weaknesses that together we will grow strong. through trial and error we will better understand one another, our requirements for success, what to avoid, so that every day we spend together, less and less may go wrong.

pain complet avec rosmarin, piment et huile d'olive

pain aux raisins à la cannelle et pacanes rôties

focaccia in onion rye, a compromise

pain complet avec rosmarin, piment et huile d'olive, or, whole wheat bread with rosemary, chili and olive oil

210g KA bread flour
210g BRM whole wheat flour
150g 50/50 whole wheat/white starter
350g h2o
10g salt
20g olive oil
2 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
2 tsp chili flake

mix flour, water and starter. refrigerate 12 hours. knead in salt and olive oil. back in fridge 9 hours. after this 21 hour stint, add the rosemary and chili then accomplish 3 turns at 0, 30, 60 minutes, refrigerating between turns. at 22.5 hours, pull out of fridge, shape into boule and nest in linen-lined bowl or banneton. proof at room temp for an hour and a half. 45 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 500 degrees, with your cast iron combo cooker. at 24 hours, score, slide into combo cooker, cover and turn down oven to 475 degrees. bake for 30 minutes covered. after 30 minutes, remove the cover and bake until you think its done, or 210 degrees. my boule took 1 hour and 5 minutes total.

taut rosemary-chili dough.



after 30 minute steam.



chili slices. great toasted with avocado, and drizzled with avocado oil.


Crust: crispy. Crumb/texture: big, beautiful, airy holes. moist. Flavor: spicy and floral. Aroma: totally rosemaried my kitchen. and the dough smelled creamy and sweet before baking. Dough temperament: simple. nice, taut dough. easily shaped and handled. perfect hydration amount, fermentation and proof time. baked with fabulous oven spring Worry factor when fermenting: nil.

pain aux raisins à la cannelle et pacanes rôties or sourdough with cinnamon, raisins and toasted pecans

400g KA bread flour
100g 50/50 whole wheat/white starter
310g h2o
10g salt
70g pecans, toasted
70g raisins, NOT hydrated
heaping tsp cinnamon

mix flour, water and starter. refrigerate 12 hours. knead in salt. back in fridge 9 hours. after this 21 hour stint, add the pecans and raisins then accomplish 3 turns at 0, 30, 60 minutes, refrigerating between turns. add the cinnamon at the last turn. at 22.5 hours, pull out of fridge, shape into boule and nest in linen-lined bowl or banneton. proof at room temp for an hour and a half. 45 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 500 degrees, with your cast iron combo cooker. at 24 hours, score, slide into combo cooker, cover and turn down oven to 475 degrees. bake for 30 minutes covered. after 30 minutes, remove the cover and bake until you think its done, or 210 degrees. my boule took 1 hour and 5 minutes total.

at first turn.

dusted with rice flour and proofing.

scored, read for oven.

lid off. steamed nicely. great oven spring.



Crust: brittle and lovely. Crumb/texture: big, beautiful, airy holes. moist crumb. Flavor: perfect combination of nuts and raisins. dough was perfectly cinnamoned with lovely swirls. Aroma: my kitchen smelled like a bakery. mmm. and the dough smelled fresh and sweet before baking. Dough temperament: easy breezy. easily shaped and handled. perfect hydration amount, fermentation and proof time. baked with fabulous oven spring.  Worry factor when fermenting: nil. Notes: I would soak the raisins the next time to even further open the crumb, and increase the amount as well by at least twice as much. I would also decrease the salt by about one third for a sweeter bread.

focaccia in rye, a compromise

this beauty started out as a boule. the hydration was way high, and i had little hope for any oven spring, but since the onions were cooked and the dough was mixed, i went ahead and transformed it from a boule to a focaccia and the results were pretty damned amazing. i would do this again as i did it here, and save an experiment with an onion rye boule later on. i could have tossed it, but then, bread and i, we have a new understanding, and i'm all about compromise.

320g KA bread flour
90g BRM rye flour
100g rye starter
350g h2o
10g salt
156 onions, sweated to just the point of caramelization

mix flour, water and starter. refrigerate 12 hours. knead in salt. back in fridge 9 hours. after this 21 hour stint, add the onions then accomplish 3 turns at 0, 30, 60 minutes, refrigerating between turns. at 22.5 hours, pull out of fridge, shape into boule and nest in linen-lined bowl or banneton. proof in fridge for an hour and a half. the dough was really hydrated. i knew that proofing on the counter would be a challenge.

45 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 500 degrees, with your cast iron combo cooker. at 24 hours, pull the dough out and ponder. hmmm. definitely not a boule. definitely not going to ever become one either. and it will be a cold day in hell before this dough will have any sort of oven spring either.

change of plans.

i scored my dough, but the next time i will dimple with my fingers like a focaccia. because frankly, that's what it turned out to be.

slide into combo cooker, cover and turn down oven to 475 degrees. bake for 30 minutes covered. after 30 minutes, remove the cover and bake until you think its done, or 210 degrees. this focaccia took 1 hour and 5 minutes total.


sweat down over medium heat just to the point of caramelization.

dans le banneton.

scored, but better yet, next time, dimple and stipple with a pick, but before proofing.

after 30 minutes, covered. nice. and it smells amazing.

moist interior with lovely, open crumb.

served in wedges to my friends. what a lovely discovery, this focaccia, in onion rye.


Crust: tender and sumptuously olive oily. Crumb/texture: beautiful, airy holes. moist crumb. Flavor: divine! the onions really complement the rye.  Aroma: the smell of the baking focaccia made my mouth water. i knew i had stumbled onto something fab. Dough temperament: terrible, for a boule. fabulous for a focaccia. it was super hydrated and sticky. ahh, rye. the next time i will add a bit of olive oil to the dough, but not much, because there is a fair amount in the onions too. just a mention about the hydration, the onions added quite a bit of water to the dough, which is why this thing probably ended up the way it did. as well, like i mentioned, i will dimple the dough like a focaccia the next time. it was silly to even try to score. and i will probably decrease the fermentation time too. try to make it a 'day bread', you know, a quickie that you can start in the morning and have on the table by dinner. Worry factor when fermenting: i bit my nails. but now that i know it's focaccia, the next time won't be scary at all.

to the staff of life.

this post was submitted to yeastspotting. sorry i missed a week.


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