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Aug 29, 2012 10:04 PM

Being Bitten by the Bread Bug [split from SF Bay]

nt: Tue, August 28, 2012 10:23:18 PM
Subject: I have been bit big time by the bread bug!

so all it took was for my brother in law to ask me: "Did you know where I can get a good german rye?" So at first I checked out all the bakeries from Monterey to san Francisco and yes I found out there are some prospects but.. in the meantime.. (as we all know in life.. what "in the meantime" means know life is what happens when you are busy making other plans) I ended up looking up all kinds of recipes for Bread.. and when I got really into it I saw that the bread I really wanted to try my hand at was one that used a starter..

Yep... the famous tartine breads of San Francisco, the acme breads we all love, Jim Lahey from sullivan street bakery in new york..oh and our own Big Sur Bakery of course is outstanding. The breads that kept wafting thru my olfactory nerves and in my minds eye were sour, crusty, misshapen and light.. In other words, I kneaded (sorry) to try and make something of my obsession.

So one month later. I have been on a bread baking workshop in which I have been the teacher and the student and my own best cheering section and my own worst enemy..

How do I do this and accomplish my day job? Its called obsession... the desire to get to the bread that we so often pay $6.00 and up for and that generally you find at some Farmers Markets or great restaurants or at your grandfathers and grandmothers house right?

Wait a minute.. let me go check the oven because thats all I need is a brick bread for all the steps that got me here to the baking point right????.. be right back.

Okay I'm back and I am thrilled by the look of this bread that I just took out of the oven. Its called Auvergne Dark Rye. Its from the Auvergne region of France because the surface of the bread unscored comes to resemble the craggy and volcanic landscape of Auvergne.. yes different regions produce different shapes, different flavors depending on climate of course.. there is fancy word for this that has become used if you are bit of a snob. The word is "terroir" meaning coming from a certain place and that place only.

Anyway I have to tell you about this bread. I think I am getting closer to the look and feel of the bread that I want to eat without going to Italy or Germany or Poland or Estonia or any of the above mentioned bakeries.

First, this bread ain't got no yeast!!! But what this bread gots is lots and lots of flavor. I made what is called the pain au levain or starter or leavening by letting flour and water sit for 4 days and develop a sourness. It should smell something kind of like hard cider or ale... the book describes it as a "wheaty effervescent flavor: and if you see networks of bubbles and glutinous strands then all is right with the world.. Now you are ready to actually work this into a dough... You then add more rye, salt, unbleached white flour and it makes one sticky , tacky dough but yet there is a spring in it. yes you guessed it, you let this dough sit again.. activate those gummy gluten molecules and sugar molecules and get it to rise somehow hoisted up by its own fermenting process.
The great wonderment of bread (and I do not mean wonder bread..) is that almost everything counts: I happen to have weather on my side.. It was a warm day so that helped give the dough an extra push upward... I also happen to have invested in some linen cloths which I set down into bowls that let the dough breathe at its own pace during the last lap of this marathon. I kid you not.. the dough does not stick to these cloths when it is beginning to rise and keeps the bread at an even temperature.. (yes I thought this was unnecessary until I tried it....) the oven.. the ability of the oven to hold its temp! so that when you get the bread into the oven it is hot enought to give it that big burst at the beginning.. If you are going to have to peek at the bread for gods sake do not peek at it until after the first 15 minutes.. It is one of the hardest parts for me. I cannot peek in on the lonely loaf. There is the "make it or break it stage" when you have prayed to all the gods and done all you can to get this loaf ready to bake and you have to transfer it in its puffed up glory into the oven without a huge deflate.. Talk about deflating your ego if this happens wow! What a perfect word! Now I know how meaningful that word really is.. but the trick is folks is when you have heaten up a baking stone or tile in the oven and it is ready to receive the precious dough.. you have to slide the dough onto the stone with a fabulous invention.. parchment paper! Everything stays up, up and up.. Hooray! and then.. the smells.. ah... this bread baking smells like apple pie, malt syrup, tanginess. We will have to continue this exploration because I have not sliced this bread up.. Please stay tuned for the taste test...
Don't the bread bug bite you like it did this utterly gone dough whis

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  1. Any starter/levain bread contains yeast, of course - that's what's doing the fermenting and making it smell alcoholic. The yeast is just the wild yeast out of the ambient air rather than cultivated yeast that comes out of a jar from the grocery store.

    1 Reply
    1. re: bigwheel042

      you are most correct my friend. Thanks. Its been a most wonderful journey discovering starters!

    2. What are these miraculous linen cloths and where are they available, please? I've used tea towels and a linen napkin but the proofing dough embedded in the fibers and even with a long soak, they're ruined.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Cynsa

        they are called linen cloths for proofing... made in france.. google that. I will try and get you more information. they are the ticket!

        1. re: Cynsa

          If you want to buy a more "official" solution . . . .

          It is a similar type of cloth that they use to line brotform baskets

          However - you can use any cotton cloth to get the same affect. I often use Williams Sonoma "flour sack" clothes (in with other kitchen towels). The key is to first impregnate them with flour. I just put about a 1/2 cup of flour in a ziplock bag, put in an opened flour sack towel, and shake until it seems like the flour is all over around and in the cloth. (doesn't take long or much effort).

          I often put this cloth onto a 1/2 sheet pan, place several ball of pizza dough onto it, fold it over the balls for their final rise and never have trouble with them sticking (and pizza dough is wet - so it should stick more than a regular dough).

          1. re: thimes

            thanks, I have some old flour sack towels that I can try. will do. meanwhile, cheesecloth suffices.

        2. Alas, there is no vaccine to cure your malaise.......once you get started, it's a never ending quest for better, different, and tasty! I just finished a round of sourdough, using bits from my starter of 8 years. Once upon a time there was some packaged yeast in there, but none since.

          Been making bread now for almost 30 years.and yes, still buy many types too. I am still on a quest to make the lovely Portuguese White Bead I had growing up on Cape Cod (not a sweet bread!). I';m gonna shanghai an old Portuguese Grandma some day and feed her wonder bread until she spills her secrets

          The process of bread and how it came about has to be one of the most fascinating combinations of experimentation and lucky accidents. But it is satisfying and fun........keep up the quest!

          1 Reply
          1. re: FriedClamFanatic

            fried clam fanatic! you will be as happy as a clam in high tide when you find that portuguese bread right... amazing that we have this chowhound to celebrate all these wonders right?