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.


  1. I just realized you are baking from this book and blogging it! I have not been blogging it so much but have made a lot of these recipes as well. I'm going to enjoy comparing notes!

  2. Oh, let me know if you start blogging about it. I would love to see your results!

  3. amazing like always! Oh since I found your blog I am totally addicted :))

  4. Yum. Looks fantastic. How big were the bowls you used?

    I like French movies too, although, I have to admit I do also enjoy silly, predictable, American action movies from time to time.

  5. Hi Sulpicia, I used latte bowls. 5.25" wide at the rim and 2.75" deep, like the one's pictured here:

    Their diminutive size makes them so much fun to eat :)

    I hope your baby boules turn out swell!
    - Frankie

  6. Aw, Valeria, that's such a compliment. I'm also inspired by your work ; )

  7. Will do. I have to sit down and see what you've done so far with a nice cup of coffee (sadly, not home-roasted! by the way have you read Claudia Roden's coffe?) and catch up on your past posts. I haven't done much with any chapter but the first (and variations thereon--wheat, rye, etc). I would love to try the baguettes and brioche. If you're interested we could plan to bake around the same time and compare notes. Though I know my pictures will pale in comparison--yours are gorgeous, just want to gobble up the screen!

  8. Sara. I've admittedly strayed, hence the post 'Everything But The Tartine Bread Experiment', alas I am back on track. Got the country loaf down pat. I did the rye, the whole wheat, the semolina...then I got all mixed up with experimenting and then, well, you know...

    I will be starting over, the baby boules were my re-devotion to the project at hand. The straying did allow me to see how much latitude I have with this whole bread thing, so my return is accompanied by a better understanding.

    So, next up is... Olive! Will you join me? I will be baking this Sunday...

  9. Yes! Sounds great. I need to get myself some olives...I've made many of the same ones you have already too. Some great flavor combinations in the varations too!

  10. hi just wanted to say nice bread, nice photos, keep it up. I've made some Tartine loaves too - in fact, making one later - agree that they are very tasty. Dunno if you've tried the raisin, orange, coriander, fennel one, but it's one of the most delicious breads i've tried.

  11. hi anonymous. thank you for stopping by to say a few kind words. i love it when blogs inspire people to connect. thats what this is all about, right? i have not tried to raisin/orange/coriander/fennel, but thanks for the heads up. this week is olive bread, but tonight i am going to skip ahead and read up on that loaf, see what its all about.

    - frankie

  12. Beautiful bread and wonderful writing. I can't wait to discover the rest of your blog(s)!

  13. what a compliment. thank you margie ; )

  14. Hey hey, thought to let you know that this is a wonderful recipe, and want to make this again! I didn't mist though: I just heated up a cast iron pan and tossed a few ice cubes. Still, an awesome time. :D

  15. hi meddler-ine. very cool. fun little loaves, aren't they? im so glad they came out well for you!



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