Thursday, June 28, 2012

For Pop

I'm back! Listen, life sometimes gets in the way of, well, life. It's been months since my last post. But many things have happened in my world between my last communiqué and this. Rest assured I have been baking weekly as I always have, and I've been experimenting with new flours and formulae. The difficult side of things is this: I began a new job which seriously slowed my roll with my writing for several months, no bueno, and then my father died. He died. And I still can't believe it. My father was my dude. He was the dude! He was a vegetarian of 40 years, he wore snazzy tweed things and leather patched elbow things, and he had a country house where he spent much of his time noodling about. I get my serious noodling ability from him.

Now my pop is gone. It has been months since his death and I'm still crying. Last night I cried because I could not share my bread with him. Bread that he would have loved. It was my renewed sadness (did it ever end?) that brought me to this post today. It's funny, lately I have felt like something is missing in my life and I haven't been able to put my finger on it. I realized today that it's him. He's what's missing. And he is never coming back. So, I'm baking this bread in his honor. It's a revisitation really, of my (now famous, amongst friends anyway) City Bread, in Rye, my staple loaf. Incidentally, my father loved rye.

Since we last spoke I've begun experimenting with flours. For this round, I am using sprouted rye flour milled to order by To Your Health, a sprouted flour company. Sprouted flour, in conjunction with using a sourdough starter, is supposed to be more digestible, even for people with gluten intolerance. My friend Gina, who has difficulty with commercial breads, has happily reported that the bread that I bake doesn't incite any allergic reactions at all.

As well, some time ago I switched my main starter to 100% rye, which I adore, and my family of starters keeps growing. It's lovely to have a library of starters for a given type of bread, and it turns out that your starter REALLY loves sprouted flour, so you may replace your usual flour with sprouted flour to feed your starter without fear. Since I've been using it to feed mine, they are sweet-smelling with complex, fruity, and even floral notes. How pleasant.

I plan to post regularly again, since my life is starting to gain at least a modicum of normalcy, and I'm really excited to experiment and share this leg of my bread journey using new flours with everyone. Flour is, after all, the artisan bakers medium, one that I think is going to open a whole new world for me.

I'm going to stop here and exercise brevity with this come-back post. A moment of silence for my pop. He was cool and I loved him. I don't think I will ever stop.

Pop, this bread is for you.


The Formula

This formula makes two 77.6% hydration, 26.5% whole grain loaves. The total weight of the dough is 2005g. This City Bread, in Rye has reached its peak because I've noodled with its development for quite a while now.

For the dough:

230g 100% dark rye levain (formula to follow)
750g filtered h2o
820g A/P (I use BRM organic)
180g sprouted dark rye flour (I use To Your Health) (Hey, I have used used both BRM and Arrowhead Mills organic rye flours with great results if you don't have sprouted)
25g fine sea salt

For the levain:

30g 100% hydration, sprouted dark rye starter
100g filtered h2o
100g sprouted dark rye flour

Levain, just mixed

The night before the bake, make the levain like this: In a large bowl (one that will accommodate the total volume of the finished dough), mix together all of the ingredients listed above for the levain, cover tightly. Let it percolate overnight.

Fully developed levain - after 9 hours

The next day, dissolve the levain in 700g of the filtered water, add the 820g AP and 180g sprouted dark rye flours, and mix it all up into a slurry. Autolyse for an hour. Why? Autolyse is a technique that allows the flour to fully absorb the water, making for a more complex loaf in terms of texture and flavor.

Dough just mixed and ready for autolyse


After the hour, add the sea salt and the remaining 50g of water, squishing it all together with your fingers until it is a smooth, cohesive mass. Now it is time for the 4-hour bulk fermentation, the first 2 hours of which, you will perform your turns, one turn per half-hour.

Here is a snapshot of my schedule:
7:00 - 8:00 - autolyse. 8:00 - add salt. Turns at 8:30, 9:00, 9:30, 10:00.

Refrigerate the dough immediately after the final turn for 2 hours. After 2 hours, take the dough out of the fridge, pour it out onto the counter using your flexible dough scraper (carefully, you don't want to destroy that lovely network of gluten that was just painstakingly developed). Divide the dough in two equal pieces. Just eyeball it, you don't have to weigh it. Gather each together into loose rounds and let it rest on the bench for 30 minutes.

After the 30-minute bench rest, form the dough into two tight boules. Generously dust two linen cloths with organic brown rice flour, drape this over two bowls large enough to accommodate your soon-to-grow boules, then gently place the dough into the bowls in their linen cradles, smooth side down.

Fold the loose ends of the linen up over the top of the boules, cover each bowl with a plate, pop in the fridge for a minimum of 4 hours, or overnight if you please. The loaves featured in this post proofed in the fridge for 10 hours.

Fully-proofed dough

An hour before you plan to bake, preheat the oven (550 degrees) fitted with a baking stone, and slip in two cast iron dutch ovens. You want these dutchies to be smokin' hot. Makes for a divine crust.

When the oven is good and hot, pull the dough out of the fridge, working with one at a time. Cut a piece of parchment large enough to fit over the bowl, place it over the bowl, place a peel over the parchment then carefully invert the dough onto the peel. Remove the bowl and the linen.

Dough waiting on the peel

Score your loaves with your signature score.

Scored loaves, waiting for the oven

Pull one hot dutchie out of the oven, and remove the lid. Jerk the peel so that the dough slides effortlessly into the shallow half of the awaiting pan. Careful! The pan will burn the crap out of you if you accidentally touch it. It's red-hot. Cover with the deep half of the dutchy and slide it into the oven. Repeat with the second loaf.

Lower the oven to 500 degrees. Bake the loaves covered for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the deep lids from the dutchies **lift the lids carefully, better yet, use oven mitts.

Loaf after 30 minutes of steam

The steam can deliver a nasty burn when it escapes from the removed lid! Slide the lidless dutchies back into the oven, lower the heat to 450 degrees, and bake till espresso-brown.

Mine baked for another 40 minutes, and I turned the pan 180 degrees at the half way mark because the back of the oven is always hottest and will blacken the backside of the loaves if you don't.

Cool on a wire rack, of course, and try to wait at least an hour before slicing.

The Headshots

City Bread salad with dandelion greens, tomatoes & a kick-ass basil-almond dressing

To the staff of life!

This blog post was shipped off to Wild Yeast Blog's Yeast Spotting.


  1. you are back!!!
    It took me a while to realize u were not blogging but after a while I felt like something was missing... it was you and your bread!!! so sorry for your loss. very moving to dedicate this loaf to your dad. healing takes time, they say.
    gonna make this loaf soon. been feeling like making rye for a while. this is the inspiration I was looking for. Barbara

  2. Hi Barbara! This bread will not fail you. This is my weekly loaf. Well, double loaf. Thank you for your condolences. It's been a rough past few months, as you can imagine. Please report back and let me know how your 'city bread, in rye' works out!

  3. Hi,
    I', so very sorry to read about your pop. He sounds like he was a wonderful parent. I think your breads are amazing, so beautiful, I fell I can almost taste them through the screen. Did not realize you had returned, but am very happy to find you again. hang in there. M

  4. Hi Francis
    Great pics. You are a great teacher. Wondering what your rational was with the AP flour. Softer crumb? Sorry for your loss. Like Barbara, I had thought you were gone. You honor your Pop by teaching others the way he taught you. In any case, what would happen if I used regular bread flour? I'm kinda new to this.

  5. Hi, I read your latest post ahead of this one. I've actually been checking in on your blog from time to time for a few months now. My deepest condolences and thank you for sharing with us the kind of man your father was. You do him great honor.

  6. thank you anonymous (M). my pops was the best. i like to think that he's baking with me every week now :)

  7. hi sam... BRM AP and KA AP flours are really high in protein, so you don't really 'need' to use bread flour. when making breads with spelt or a higher percentage of rye were more strength is needed, i would use bread flour.

    go ahead and use bread flour for any of the formulae that i outline. you will be more than fine. ps, i am doing a post today using 50% spelt. in that loaf i used bread flour.

    thanks for your condolences. i am indeed back!

  8. gretchen you are too sweet. i am back to posting. however, i have been away for so long that i actually have a post that i FORGOT to post! doing it as we speak. a loaf using 50% sprouted spelt!



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