Thursday, August 4, 2011

buddha's bread

Small bites. Baby steps. One thought, breath, one moment at a time. When we break life down into small, manageable bits, it's easier to digest. Although this observation is not empirically realized in my own. I have an egregious habit of gobbling up life and skipping steps, running as fast as I can. It's because I feel as though my life will abruptly run out, and I might find myself floating around some vaporized world lamenting that I had not chosen the blue pill, or was that the red? I hope the feeling is not an ominous forecast.

Whatever pill I should have had, I do feel lately like my life needs a good feng shui-ing because my yin is beating the crap out of my yang and scrambling up the harmony.

Feng shui is one of those 'modern' Chinese concepts that's actually centuries old. The Chinese are so good at timeless strategies. Our grandmothers feng shui-ed every spring without even realizing it. Out with the clutter, arrange what is left, and for god's sake, keep the toilet seat down at all times, because if you don't, your good energy just goes funneling down the pipes. But everyone knows that. That's feng shui 101, after all.

I have begun my feng shui project by trying to meditate my days into pieces the size of a Triscuit® in effort to organize my scrambled soul, and perchance to meet up with Buddha, whom I've heard is hovering about somewhere, making himself available for private counseling sessions. He has an open door policy, I am told, all you need do is close your eyes.

It was Buddha who said that our time would be better spent if we stopped whining over the past, and woke up and smelled the beans because likewise, there is no such thing as something that has not yet come to pass. Don't you feel silly now, for padding that retirement plan. Spend your money now, Buddha says, you're saving up for an illusion of your own contrivance with all that.

Tricky thing, time. Because it doesn't really exist, but then, it rules everything.

I am intrigued by those who avail themselves the luxury of 'taking their time'.  These few, clever in their ability to allow thoughts and experiences fully macerate so that they can lazily effloresce into the most striking blossoms which will further produce such a surplus of fruit that one could veritably share the whole lot with the world and never run low.

Buddha asks us to have a look at time as existent only within the moment. How rude of the Universe, then, to install the human creature with aggravations such as guilt, the ability to reflect and to also anticipate, a myriad of emotions that would suggest that time is a multi-headed beast to be wrestled to the ground and subdued under the heel of one's boot with one's most Puritanical instinct.

Trying to grasp the arcane meaning of temporal reality is not something in which I am admirably skilled. For those who lack genius in this area too, I will say that this much I know is true: When it is not readily apparent how one should think or feel or behave in an experience that requires the adept of a seasoned sage, in the very least we can yank off pieces of the conundrum and nibble at what's in hand.

If we look at the loaf of life as a whole, it may seem unconquerable. But then, maybe that's my problem. Perhaps life is not here for us to subdue under the heels of our boots. Maybe it is here so that we can contemplate its splendor in this moment, without the hamper of things past, things that might be, these things that wholly don't exist, and therefore don't matter at all.

Pecan-Walnut Sourdough Batards, In The Here & Now

These loaves were made using the Tartine Bread Book's country sourdough formula, which you must run out to purchase at once, because it's pretty damned amazing, and has helped to make it look as though I actually know what I'm doing with this whole bread thing. I don't.

Here's your list of supplies:

200g levain
700g + 55g h2o
900g KA bread flour
100g KA whole wheat flour
20g salt
2 TB best quality walnut oil, plus some for brushing the loaves
3 cups toasted pecans and walnuts


Make the levain the night before you plan to make the bread comme ça: Mix 1 TB ripe starter (I used my rye, 100% hydration starter), with 100g filtered water and 50g each white flour and whole wheat flour.


The next morning I mixed my bubbly levain with 700g h2o, 900g bread flour, and 100g whole wheat flour. I let this autolyse for 40 minutes. I then sprinkled the salt over the dough, along with 55g of h2o and 2 TB super nutty walnut oil and incorporated it all.


After the addition of the salt and oil, I let the dough rest for 30 minutes. I then performed four sets of turns every 30 minutes for the first 2 hours of the ferment. After the turns, I let the dough ferment in the fridge for the remainder of the fermentation time. So, 2.5 hours room temp, and 1.5 hours in the fridge.


I divided the dough into 5 equal parts and shaped them into tight boules. I let them rest on the bench for 30 minutes. I then shaped the dough into razor sharp batards, using Susan at Wild Yeast's handy video as a guide. I popped these batards into the fridge and let them proof in there for a while. They proofed in the fridge for 2 hours and 35 minutes, then another 45 minutes room temp while the oven preheated to 500 degrees.


I first brushed the loaves with walnut oil, because it sounded decadent and, well, why not. I baked them with steam for the first 15 minutes like this: pop loaves in oven, spray with water bottle, toss ice water in a blazing hot cast iron pan that had been heating in the bottom of the oven, close oven door quickly. (Oh, and here I turned the oven down to 450). Repeated the drenching/water tossing again after 5 minutes. And once more after another 5. I dumped any water that was left in the cast iron pan after the 15 minute mark.  They baked for, I think, another 15 minutes till sorrel colored.


Crust: thin and brittle. Crumb: Probably the best texture I have achieved thus far. Tender, moist, and the flavor was incomparable. Very nutty, complex. Temperament of dough: Easy peasy. Notes: I toggled fermentation between room temp and fridge because it was warm yesterday. I executed the turns at room temp, then shaped the dough, had a bench rest, and refrigerated the proofing loaves. Changes for future: there is no future. These loaves are perfect, here, in this moment.

Buddha's Bread: The Deleted Photos

To the staff of life!

Thanks to Susan at Wild Yeast Blog for her video on how to shape a pointy batard. This post was sent to her care, at Yeast Spotting.


  1. Wow that was impressive the whole speech and the loaves, I would make this but I don't like walnuts, nor does mom, maybe I should try it with hazelnuts(mom's favorite nuts :D)


  2. Thanks Ceren. I would try it with any type of nut. Let me know how it turns out!

  3. Bread is very similar to life. It needs to be fed and handled with care. Allowed to grow and finished off with a bit of warmth. If you rush through all the steps you will miss the feel, the sights,and the scents that make life such a rich gift.

  4. Hobbit, I could not agree more :)

  5. Gorgeous bread! That is one of the most beautiful, airy crumbs I have ever seen. Thanks for sharing this!

  6. I love walnut oil so much! I really want to make these now--yours look so yummy.

  7. Hello France, I have made these Buddha's breads and they came out very good, I would just like to ask you a question about the bread flour and the white flour, (do you mean the unbleached white flour or the all-purpose flour? and when you have to a moment please feel free to pass by my post..thank you. ��

    1. You can use all purpose or white bread flour. for these i would probably lean toward all purpose. makes for a softer bread :)

  8. I have made these lovely loafs two times and ever time they have come out great ...P.S. I would like to try with some apricot and walnuts...

    1. oh my! i have not made these in so long! years! i will have to make some soon. i think i may have to try apricot and walnut :)

  9. Thank you for getting back France, I have made the ones with the apricot and roasted walnuts, it's absolutely amazing and delicious..��...P.S. If you have Facebook, please let me know and you can see the apricot and walnut loafs here..thank you.

    1. Yikes! No Facebook for me! I'm glad you made the loaves. I'll picture them in my mind :)



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