Saturday, May 31, 2014


Hier geht's zur deutschen Version dieses Post

After reading Don Sadowsky's guest post "The Hole Truth" on Barbara's wonderful blog
 "Bread & Companatico", I knew I had met a kindred spirit. 

Beginning with his nouvel interpretation of Munch's famous painting - how lame seemed my 12th grade essay on the same subject in comparison! - he mused on the holeyness of bread, going back to the caveman's gritty gruel and ending his discourse with St. Chad's holey grail at Tartine.

Eager to further this hole discussion I invited Don to share more of his eye-opening insights with a guest post on my humble blog. He graciously accepted, so I'm happy to present to you:


I have a huge amount of respect for people like Daniel Leader. He treks all the way from the U.S. to Europe and dodges rolling boulders, booby traps and angry natives to find THE guy who makes the best kringenschmaltzenblinkenbrot in the world.

Daniel Leader's French Walnut Bread - not authentic?

Then he spends a decade cleaning out the stables so that the master will teach him the secrets to put in a cookbook for the likes of you and me. I’ve made some of his breads, and they’re fantastic. Authentic breads, people say.

You know another group I have great respect for? Bakers who take difficult ingredients that have been used since the dawn of time to make bricks, and manage to turn them into gorgeous, airy and perfectly shaped loaves better than anything I could make with the finest wheat flour and Peter Reinhart looking over my shoulder making helpful suggestions.

They’ll use 100% einkorn or barley to create a boule that’s better supported than a suspension bridge (and tastier too!).

100% Einkorn - solution to our crumbling infrastructure?

Well crafted, impressive breads? Certainly. Authentic bread like what folks ate in the old days? Not so much. Do you really think that most people dined upon lovingly baked loaves made with golden wheat from tall fronds waving in a gentle breeze and harvested on a sunny afternoon by a smiling Tuscan ragazza in colorful garb?

Snort. Real breads were made with rancid, weevily flour, badly milled and mixed with whatever powdery substance the baker had on hand, because flour was expensive and he had to sell the bread at the price that the local authorities dictated.

Only God and the baker knew what's in the bread

Chalk, sawdust, plaster, alum, clay, ammonium and hemp were just some of the unnatural additives used to bulk up both the breads and the profits of the baker. Yes, some people could pay black market prices for white unadulterated bread, but the lumpenproletariat majority had little choice in the matter.

Add the quest for authenticity to high wire experimentation with early progenitors of gluten-free ingredients and what do you get? Probably a disaster, but if a disaster was good enough for our ancestors, it’s good enough for us. So herewith,


Ingredient             Weight*        Baker’s Percentage**
Plaster of Paris        100g                25%
Chalk***                   100g                25%
Clay                         100g                25%
Sawdust                   100g                25%
Yeast                            8g                  2%
Salt                               8g                  2%
Water****                   280g                70%

* Despite extensive searching (at least 45 seconds) I was unable to find authoritative accounts of just how much of each ersatz ingredient was typically used, because surprisingly bakers kept such information close to their flour-stained vests. Who knew? So I picked round numbers.

** Calculation of baker’s percentage caused me some consternation, since none of the dry ingredients are really flour. But since they were substituted for flour, I figured I’d count them as such.  Baker’s math junkies feel free to weigh in.

*** Pro tip: Pound the pieces of chalk into powder before mixing, unless your intent is to use the bread to write on a blackboard.

**** I did some googling and could not find any online sources of water guaranteed to harbor cholera. I hope you will excuse this egregious anachronism.

Step 1. Purchase the ingredients at your local baker’s supply store:

Your local baker's supply store has everything you need for authentic bread

Step 2. Mix. Toss everything together in that hideous bowl you got at your wedding which you’ve been meaning to throw out all these years but never did (you’ll want to after this). Stir. DO NOT AUTOLYSE – plaster sets.

Our flours, clockwise from top left: clay*****, sawdust, plaster, chalk

***** I can hear the whining already: “That’s not authentic clay, that’s Playdoh, you fool, and it’s made from wheat. You’re cheating!” Listen, I don’t know what kind of clay those bakers used – if they were willing to substitute clay for flour maybe their clay wasn’t real clay. Kind of makes sense, doesn’t it?

Anyway if you can make artisan bread out of actual clay and the rest of this trash, then I’d be happy to let you write this post instead of me.

Step 3. Knead. Don’t let your precious Electrolux Assistant get anywhere near this pile of solid waste. Stretch and fold with your bare hands. Don’t be afraid to get them dirty, but do wash before and afterwards. A clean baker is a healthy baker (especially with ingredients like these).

Step 4. Ferment. Let rise between 5 minutes and 2 weeks, it really doesn’t matter.

Our dough, before and after fermentation. Looks like fine wine, doesn’t it?

Step 5. Shape. I think mud pies would be appropriate here.

Step 6. Proof. Don’t bother.

Step 7. Bake. To prevent hazardous fumes I decided to bake at 70° F/21° C. This temperature provides a number of significant advantages: no warm up needed, no chance of burning either my hands or the bread, and no cool down period necessary. In fact I really don’t understand why all breads aren’t baked this way.

To achieve the crumb structure I was looking for, I finished the loaf with my specialty crumb enhancement tool:

Crumb enhancement tool - also works for Swiss cheese

And voilà, rough authentic bread just like the townspeople used to eat!

Rough authentic bread (after crumb enhancement)

************* Do not try this at home. Sickness or miserable flavor may result.

Saturday, May 24, 2014


Hier geht's zur deutschen Version dieses Posts

Lutz (Plötzblog) announced the first Plötziade, and everybody came - to "build a bread" with 4 ingredients.

This challenge was so much fun that participation in the second Plötziade was an absolute must.

In support of an initiative to preserve ancient or heirloom grains, Lutz called his blog event: "Saat-Gut-Brot" (heirloom grain bread.) Worldwide 75% of all grains and vegetables have been lost - and in the EU even 90% - due to modern farming practices, and global agriculture corporations.

Ancient grain Einkorn
Monsanto & Co.'s sterile frankenfood GMO hybrids are responsible that farmers can no longer raise their own seeds, but have to buy it new every year.

Breeding heirloom varieties takes many years and receives little political support - contrary to highly subsidized Big Agrar Business. No wonder, the number of food plants is shrinking dramatically.

The second Plötziade calls for baking a bread with ancient (or ecologically bred new) grains. Pseudo-grains like buckwheat, quinoa or amaranth don't count - therefore I couldn't use our Maine albino buckwheat.

Having already baked with Einkorn (English Digestive Biscuits, Einkorn Hazelnut Levain), I like the nutty taste of this ancient wheat.

Instead of honey, often of dubious origin and adulterated here in the US, I took organic agave nectar for a hint of sweetness. With my Hamburg trip only days away I wanted to use up my yogurt, and I love breads with nuts. And for a delicate seasoning I added a little anise and fennel.

With help of BreadStorm I came up with this formula:

Stretching and folding the dough, the 100% einkorn was fairly easy to work with - even though the ancient wheat has less gluten. I loved the tasty bread with its tender, dark crumb and hearty, nutty taste, and will definitely bake it again!

Einkorn: grains, flour and meal

(1 Boule)

  38 g/1.3 oz einkorn meal (coarse)
374 g/13.2 oz einkorn flour
168 g/5.9 oz yogurt (plain or 2%)
136 g/4.8 oz water
  10 g/0.4 oz agave nectar or honey
    8 g/0.3 oz salt
    4 g/0.14 oz instant yeast (or 6 g/0.2 oz active dry yeast)
   1 g/1/4 tsp. fennel and/or anise seed
 50 g/1.8 oz walnuts, coarsely chopped

Mix all ingredients at lowest speed (or by hand) for 1-2 minutes, until all flour is hydrated. Let it rest for 5 minutes. Knead at medium-low speed (or by hand) for 6 minutes (dough should still be somewhat sticky).

Stretch and pat dough first into a square...
...then fold like a business letter... three parts.
Repeat the folding from right...
...and left into a package.

Transfer dough to an oiled work surface. With oiled hands, stretch and pat into a square. Fold from top and bottom to the middle in 3 parts, like a business letter, then from both sides. Gather package into a ball and place, seam side down, into an oiled bowl.

Cover, and let rest for 10 minutes. Repeat stretching and folding 3 more times at 10-minute intervals. After the last fold, refrigerate (well covered) overnight.

The dough has risen in the fridge overnight

Remove dough from the fridge 2 hours before using.

Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface, shape into a boule and place, seam side up, in a well floured rising basket. Proof for 45-60 minutes, or until it has grown 1 1/2 times its original volume  (finger poke test).

The bread has grown 1 1/2 times its original volume

Preheat oven to 425ºF/220ºC (including steam pan).

Place loaf on a parchment lined baking sheet (or bake directly on a baking stone). Score as desired.

Score before baking

Bake at 350ºF/175ºC (with steam). After 20 minutes rotate loaf 180 degrees, remove steam pan, and continue baking for another 25 minutes, until dark golden brown (internal temperature about 200ºF/93ºC).

Let cool on wire rack.

A very tasty bread!

Submitted to      Yeast Spotting
and Panissimo:  Bread & Companatico                                       
                           Sono io, Sandra


Saturday, May 3, 2014


Hier geht's zur deutschen Version dieses Posts

Our ABC May project didn't sound too enticing to me - English Digestive Biscuits. My digestion is not something that usually comes to mind when I bake cookies.... (further comments on this subject were deleted by my in-home censor: "You Germans with your scatological humor - gross!")

But when I looked at King Arthur's recipe, I learned that these biscuits were historic cookies, first advertized in 1851 as "brown meal digestive biscuits" in London. They were even patented, claiming to be "nourishing food for people of weak digestion"!
Einkorn - an ancient wheat
Historic breads and pastries (or those with a connection to history) always interest me, therefore I decided to bake the biscuits - even though none of us was suffering from weak digestion (nor, for that matter, from undernourishment!)

As several reviewers recommended, I reduced the sugar (from 85 to 50 grams), exchanged the confectioners' sugar for light brown sugar, and added a bit of salt. And, since I like its nutty taste, I used Einkorn flour instead of whole wheat.

The food processor made mixing the dough a matter of a few minutes. Rolling it out was easy, too, and the dough quite forgiving, even with re-rolling the scraps several times the consistency didn't suffer.

My cookie-loving husband snatched a biscuit, soon as they came out of the oven, claiming it was a "malfatti" (misshapen), and, therefore, had to be eliminated. I insisted on a more civilized approach to consumption - the cookies were Victorian, after all! - so we had them with our afternoon tea.

The digestive biscuits were really nice, delicately crumbly, with a buttery, slightly nutty taste. The censor decreed they were MUCH better than store-bought ones ("cardboard-y"), and I felt like the perfect Victorian housewife!

Deliciously nourishing and good for you!

(about 30 biscuits)

  57 g/2 oz all-purpose flour
170 g/6 oz Einkorn flour (or whole wheat)
    5 g/1 tsp. baking powder
113 g/4 oz unsalted butter, softened (1 stick)
  50 g/1.75 oz light brown sugar
 1/8 tsp. salt
 1/4 cup/60 ml cold milk

Preheat oven to 350°F/175ºC. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper (or Silpat mat).

The food processor makes mixing the dough a cinch

Place flour, sugar and baking powder in bowl of food processor. Pulse to combine. Add butter and milk, and mix until dough comes together and is smooth.

Plastic foil prevents the dough from sticking to the roller pin

Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface or silicone mat. Roll out to a bit more than 1/8"/4mm thick, and cut into desired shape. (I used a round cookie cutter with scalloped edge, 2 1/4" - 58 mm).

I used a round cookie cutter with scalloped edge

Place biscuits on prepared cookie sheets and prick evenly with a fork (they should stay flat.)

Pricking the biscuits with a fork keeps them flat

Bake until pale gold, between 15 and 20 minutes, rotating sheets 180 degrees after half the baking time for even browning (mine took 20 minutes, convection mode).

Victorian Lady - she would have loved the biscuits!

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