Happy 2016 Bread Lovers!

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Organic whole grain rye and spelt bread with a 28 hour fermentation. And a few Klamath olives for good measure. Savory, nutty, and nutritious!

Hello Fellow Bakers! And Happy (almost) New Year!!

It is this time of year that I try to take deeper breaths amidst the often chaos, and I become more aware of the importance of this. What it does accomplish — is it turns my gratitude practice inward and more solid, as the clarity of what is most important in life becomes beautifully more prominent. That is — more family, more love, more nature, more pausing. And unmistakenly now, more writing is part of this. Yes.  And thus, here I am again. Twice in one month. Somebody give me a cookie.

Or a loaf of bread. Sure it is my mission to teach people to make their own, and I’ve seen dozens and dozens of wonderful pictures, but it would be nice if perhaps one of my students happened to make an extra one week, or even dropped off a few slices one day…

Hint hint. Just kidding…Or am I? 😉 😉 😉

Perhaps it will help if I answered more questions. Afterall, I am well aware of how daunting baking bread can be in the beginning. I remember my crazy first loaves. Not the prettiest. Certainly the densest. Maybe  “brick” is the most appropriate word to describe them. But you just have to keep at it. As Yoda says, “There is no try. Only do.”

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Some bread vocabulary explained (in laymen’s or laywomen’s terms)

autolyse: the time after your initial mix of flour and water, before you mix in the wild yeast (starter) and salt. It is between 30 and 60 minutes usually, and is essential for the initial enzymatic activity of the grains.

‘air’ kneading: a phrase that Andrew Whitley (an amazing British baker who wrote Bread Matters) uses to explain the belief that sourdough bread does not need to be kneaded. Ooo, a pun! And Chad Robertson also exemplifies in his book //ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&OneJS=1&Operation=GetAdHtml&MarketPlace=US&source=ac&ref=tf_til&ad_type=product_link&tracking_id=breadculture-20&marketplace=amazon&region=US&placement=0811870413&asins=0811870413&linkId=A37J2IZDYLLQPJRS&show_border=true&link_opens_in_new_window=true” target=”_blank”>Tartine Bread that dough can simply be given ‘folds’ every 30 minutes or so during the initial rise.

retard: aka ‘bulk fermentation’: this step occurs in your refrigerator. After your initial rise and shaping (after 3-4 hours), you place the dough in the fridge for a minimum of 8 hours to a max of 28. I have found that my sweet spot tends to be around 16-24 hours, but everyone’s fridge will have a slightly different temp, so find what is best for you. It is during this stage that the wild yeast interacts slowly with the enzymatic activity of the whole grain flour, water, and salt. In my opinion, this is where the bread develops the ability to be considered probiotic and more easily digested, so please don’t shorter this process. 24 hours is ideal — 8 is the minimum and over 28, your bread may be overproofed or spoiled.

proofing: the ‘final rise’ of your dough after it has spent time ‘retarding’ or ‘fermenting’ in the fridge. This is the hour or two when the dough sits on the counter, rising, getting closer to room temp, before it is placed in a Dutch oven or on a pizza stone for baking.

over-proofing: oh, if I had a nickel for every time I overproofed a loaf when I first started baking, well…Let’s just say it happens to the best of us  especially when we are just beginning to learn how to bake bread. There is a particular test that many bakers use to determine if their bread is over- or under-proofed.

  1. Poke the dough after it’s finished its bulk fermentation or retarding in the fridge. If the dough leaps back at your finger, it is likely underproofed (meaning it didn’t have enough counter time during the initial rise.
  2. Poke the dough: if it stays indented and doesn’t bounce back, it is likely overproofed. Meaning — you let it go too long on the counter initially or in the fridge. You can still try to bake it, but it probably won’t have any oven spring.
  3. Poke the dough: perfectly proofed: you poke the dough and it slowly and steadily rises back to meet your finger. Well done, baker!

I sincerely hope that these vocab terms and tips were helpful. Thank you for reading my blog this past year. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to comment below. You know I always love hearing from you! I am greatly looking forward to seeing what Bread Culture has in store for 2016!

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This is me outside of the famous Amy’s Bread in NYC. She is a great inspiration to me and I am thrilled I was finally able to try her bread!

 

 

 

 

Wild Yeast Questions Answered

Hi Friends,

Many students have been asking some great questions about wild yeast lately, so I thought it would be helpful if I clarified some things for you all.

I wrote a post called Wild, Wild Yeast about two years ago which you can read here, but since that time I have become better acquainted with my pet starter. Thus, I will happily share my knowledge on the little beast.

First off, for those of you who take my class, you know my little trick of breaking off a piece of dough from the one you mixed in class to jump start the process. Here are the directions:

When you get home after class, tear off a quarter-size portion from the dough and place it in a quart-sized mason jar (preferred) or BPA-free plastic container. To the jar add one cup organic flour and one cup filtered water. Stir. Place lid gently on top and place in a cupboard, out of sunlight. 

For two more days, feed it once every 8-12 hours: Dump out 50% of the starter, add one cup flour, one cup water. Stir. It shouldn’t be too liquidy. Think pancake batter with lots of bubbles and an aroma of wine. That’s a healthy starter. 

Once you have fed it 3 or 4 times over the course of the first 2 days, it should be happy and bubbling. At this point, you can try your hands at baking a loaf of bread with it, or if time doesn’t allow it, you can place it in the fridge. Make sure you feed it once/week if you store it in the fridge. Some say it can go months without feeding, and that may be true, but in my experience, it is best not to abandon it and just feed it once/week. That way it will also remind you to bake those loaves of bread for your friends and family.

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Some questions answered:

If I store it in the fridge, when do I need to take it out of the fridge in order to bake? Usually a minimum of 12 hours, but ideally one or two days before you bake is best. That way, you will get the chance to feed it between 2 and 4 times before baking. You want to see the starter bubbling and smelling yummy. That’s when you know it is ready to be mixed into dough.

Help! Is my starter dead? Wild yeast is amazingly resilient, but if it does turn pink or moldy in color, or smells horrifically of your sister’s nail polish remover (acetone), then it’s best to chuck it and start over again (directions here.)

Is that liquid on top hootch? Should I throw it away? That is ethenol (alcohol), and some people like to stir it in before they discard their 50%, bc it adds to the sour taste of the starter. Personally I usually pour it down the drain, and then discard 50%, and feed it.

Why do I have to discard 50% every time? What can I do with the stuff I discard? Yeast is a living bacteria. A probiotic one at that. Many of these bacteria experience die-off after hours of not being fed, so essentially you are discarding half of it to revive it with fresh food. I know it can seem frustrating to some who do not wish to waste, so luckily I recommend using the stuff you pour off in pancake mix (Chad Robertson has a great recipe in his Tartine 3 book), or instead of baking soda/powder in muffins or cookies (substitute 1 tablespoon starter for 1 teaspoon baking soda/powder). There are still many trillions of healthy probiotic bacteria in that discard, so why not create some new tasty creations with it.

 My starter has been fed nearly 5 times over the course of 2 or 3 days and it still doesn’t want to bubble…what do I do? Fear not! Add 1/4 teaspoon apple cider vinegar or pineapple juice or freshly squeezed OJ to it and stir. The acid will wake it up. Feed it a few more times after this and if it still doesn’t bubble, you may need to start over.

How much starter should I have in my jar at any given point? I always like to keep a minimum of one or two cups in there, in case I want to mix dough on a whim. After you use a bunch of it, always re-feed it one or two cups flour, one or two cups water before putting back in the cupboard or the fridge.

Why can’t I use commercial yeast? Commercial yeast is made of only one bacteria: Saccharomyces cerevisiae. That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t have lactobacillus or any other bacteria that is healthful for our gut health. It is also chemically processed, and by making it into a powder, it loses the peak of its nutrition over time. To me, the yeast is the most important nutritional aspect of the bread. It is what makes it rise, it is what has healed my digestion, and the digestion of many of my patients who eat my bread each week. I can’t emphasize it’s importance enough.

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There you have it, friends. If there is something I did not answer here, feel free to write and ask me questions. And stay tuned for a webinar with more details and bread baking galore in 2016.

Thanks for reading. Happy Holidays to you and your families and friends!

Love,

Mary