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.


  1. Really beautiful stuff: "when the torch is set, there is nothing more to do but honor the ensuing blaze" is a wonderful phrase. I really appreciate the thoughts you choose to share here.

    And that pie looks pretty damn fine, too. Beautiful pics!

  2. AAAHhhh, Bethini, where have you been? knitting? baking baguettes? ; )

  3. thank you Gerlinde. I urge you to try the pizza. But buy many more chanterelle than you can afford. It's imperative.



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