Saturday, April 24, 2010

Research and Development: Project Peasant Bâtard

Well, it seems that many people are enjoying our Original Rustic Bâtards, and I really do appreciate all the wonderful positive comments and feedback.

I would like to share one comment because it has started a chain of events. This particular comment came from our good friend Kimberly who told Kelly that she and her family loved their Original Rustic Bâtards, but she was wondering whether we had any whole wheat bread...

The "whole wheat" question does pop up from time to team and it prompted me to consider what type of whole wheat bread I would like to bake, but more importantly, what type of whole wheat bread I would like to eat.

You see, it is not normal for me to voluntarily eat whole wheat bread. Even when I was a child in Holland I did not like "bruin brood" because it just did not taste as good as "wit brood". So if I am going to make whole wheat bread it has to taste good; no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

To top things off, working with whole wheat flour is a bit more difficult than working with "regular" flour. Peter Reinhart describes that one of the challenges with whole grain breads is achieving an open crumb and airy texture. He explains that the bran fiber in the whole grain flour, while extremely beneficial in our diet, acts like little razors in the dough, cutting the thin gluten strands which makes it difficult for the loaf to rise as high as white flour loaves.

I started my research and decided on a variation of my Original Rustic Bâtard. I decided on a transitional approach where I would not start with 100% whole wheat flour, but rather with a mixture of "regular" flour and whole wheat flour. I read an article that stated that in Canada in order for bread to be called "whole wheat bread" it only has to contain 30% whole wheat flour, so I decided that this percentage would be a good starting point for project "Peasant Bâtard".

You might wonder why I decided on the "Peasant Bâtard" name. Allow me to explain; did you realize that in the Middle Ages white flour was an almost unattainable luxury for most everyone except the very rich? Whole grains were reserved for the "help" and the "peasants"... Hey, it is hard to come up with a good name...

In any case, I decided that I wanted to mix things up a bit so I chose that the whole wheat component should be made up of 85% whole wheat flour and 15% rye flour. I also knew that whole wheat dough requires more water so I decided on a formula with 85% hydration; you might not realize this, but that means that the dough is very "wet".

I was very, very surprised with how well this first batch of Peasant Bâtards turned out. I will definitely continue to tweak this formula, but I think that I am close...

Without any further ado, here are some pictures of the first batch of my Peasant Bâtards:

The picture above is a picture of the dough right before I started to shape it. I like this picture because the dough appears very brown to me compared to the dough for my Original Rustic Bâtards.

The following picture shows the wonderful open airy crumb and the scrumptious crust; check out the wonderful brown color of the bread:

Compare the color of the Peasant Bâtard above, with the color of the Original Rustic Batard below:


Here is a "glamour" shot of the Peasant Bâtard:

This first batch turned out great. The bread was redolent with the fragrance of whole grains, while at the same time the flavors and the texture of the bread melted in my mouth. I must mention the quality of the crust; this was by far the best crust that I have ever tasted in my whole life!!! According to Kelly it was "Super-Duper Yummy!!!"

You can probably tell that I am very excited about my Peasant Bâtards, and I hope to be able to share them with you very soon.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Fundraising Update

We continue to be amazed by the wonderful support that we are receiving as part of our Daily Bread fundraiser for Emily and Kelly's mission trip to Costa Rica.

We are so grateful for your donations, and we truly appreciate all the wonderful praise regarding the quality of the bread; it truly is a win-win for everyone involved!

Thank you so much,

Cor, Kelly, Emily and Cole

Friday, April 16, 2010

Are we done yet?

Today I received a wonderful email from my dear friend Brad whom I have known for over 25 years; I thought it was such a neat message that I wanted to share it with you:

Dear Cor,

I have been swirling with ideas that are inspired by your bread making...

In your most recent entry from Cor's Daily Bread you wrote beautifully about the value in the process of moving from ingredients to finished product under skilled hands.  I was reminded of how we are told to run the race as if to win the prize.  I have been thinking of how your investment in bread making reminds me of God's precious investment in us and how we should make the most of every opportunity, and see to the quality of a finished product.

I think more generally about the nature of process and how our culture has been so compartmentalized and dissociated from any real collective process.  We have men and women who spend 8 hours a day sticking the same door knobs on the passenger doors of Hyundai Sonatas.  We are better at blaming others for outcomes, because we feel little responsibility for the collective whole, due to our restricted and limited involvement and responsibility.

However, the disciplined artisan has actually two goals that he or she should pursue.  The first is the precious gift of his artistic rendering...but the second is his tutelage. An artisan who spend his life being the greatest baker or painter or pastor could spend a lifetime never connecting and passing along his gift of process to another, and with his demise would come the end of his craft.  And the greater gift may be the sharing through relationship.

God was with us when we were still ingredients.  He chose a masterful future intention for our outcome.  He provides a perfect catalyst for our inspired transformation through His son.  But almost all of us are still in the oven, awaiting his perfect timing for our finish.

True, so very true...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Artisan Bread

I recently had a minor epiphany…
Recently I spent some time on YouTube because I was interested in seeing how some of the commercial bakeries bake their bread.
At first I was impressed with all the neat machinery and gadgets that make it possible for these facilities to turn out thousands and thousands of loaves of bread every day. They had neat gadgets like dough dividers, molders, and automated proofers; I even saw one video where all this machinery was connected by an automated conveyor system that seemed to run by itself without any human intervention at all!
However, after a while I started to lose track of what I was watching; was I watching footage of bread being baked in a bakery, or was I watching footage of an automated factory making roof racks for cars?
All this reminded me about something I read a while back; in his book “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice”, Peter Reinhart recalls meeting the famous French baker Lionel Poilâne for the first time:
I have a vision, the Poilâne vision, of how bread should be made. Much has to do with commitments to the ingredients and to the baking process. As much of the work as possible should be done by hand, by one person taking responsibility for his loaves from start to finish – no assembly line. Each loaf is the expression of an artisan…
“Now hold on Cor, are you serious? We are talking about bread, right?”
I know, I know... All this does seem a bit esoteric and idealistic, but please bear with me as I attempt to explain my revelation. The revelation that came to me is that I am very happy and proud that I am involved in every step of the process of turning raw ingredients into the bread that I bake; from measuring the ingredients to mixing, folding, and stretching the dough to shaping and scoring the loaves to the actual baking in the oven. I enjoy handling the dough and sensing exactly how the dough changes over time. I enjoy handling the dough and shaping it, even when the dough does not do exactly what I planned.
I am not casting any aspersions to bakeries/bakers that use automated machines to make bread. I am not averse to using machines; please be aware that I would love to own a real oven with a loader, but for now I am happy to use what I have.
My epiphany was that my goal should not be that all my bread looks and tastes perfect; but rather, my goal should be that I continue to strive to make the best bread that I can make according to my vision for as long as I enjoy baking bread.
“Yes, we are talking about bread. But not just any kind of bread, Artisan Bread…”

Monday, April 12, 2010

Home sweet home

The sing-song chatter of my feathered neighbors;

   The glistening raindrops patiently moving across the leaves;

        The sounds, sights, and smells in the backyard after a rain shower.

It is good to be back home...

Monday, March 29, 2010

Flour Prints

This morning I noticed that when baking bread it is very evident where you have been and what you have been touching; the trail of flour "prints" around the kitchen is very revealing...

As I am baking another batch of bread this morning and as I am cleaning up after myself, God revealed to me how my flour "prints" are very representative of my journey through life and the decisions that I make along the way.

Just like the flour trail around my kitchen, the impact that I have on those around me is directly correlated to the decisions I make and the path that I choose to follow. However, unlike the flour "prints" in my kitchen, my "prints" on those around me are not always very evident, at least not to me...

Today was a good reminder for me to carefully consider my actions and reactions, my thoughts and my dreams; because even if I don't always see my trail of flour "prints" in life, God does...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The proper care and storage of bread

The third "official" batch has been baked so I thought I would share some tips on the proper care and storage my bread.

It is said that the optimum time to eat fresh bread is at the moment that its center cools down to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. However, it is hard to dismiss the fact there is something romantic about eating warm bread just out of the oven so that it melts the butter and tastes comforting in the mouth. In any case, the harsh reality is that the “freshness” clock starts ticking when the bread comes out of the oven…

The bâtards that I bake are made with only four ingredients: flour, water, salt and yeast; the simple truth is that I don’t use any preservatives. The good thing about this is that the bread is healthier, more natural, and better tasting; the bad thing about this is that we are unable to slow the progress of the “freshness” clock. Well, there are a couple of things that we can do…

  • Eat your bâtard on the same day that it is baked. This directly conflicts with the “buy enough for a month” philosophy popularized by Costco, but if you eat it you won’t have to worry about storing it.
  • If you want to preserve the crustiness of the bâtard, you should store it in paper. This helps, but it will still become stale within a day or so.
  • If you want to preserve the bâtard for more than a day, “cater wrap” it in plastic wrap. This means that you wrap the loaf in plastic wrap completely in both directions to prevent any air from getting to it. Then, either freeze or place it in a cool, dark place. Pull the loaf from the freezer at least 2 hours before you need to use it. Do not try to accelerate the thawing by putting it into the oven or microwave because this will only dry it out. To restore a crackly crust to the bread, put it in a 450 F oven for 2 minutes.
Another little trick to keep your bread as fresh as possible as you are enjoying it during the day is to place the bread "face" down on a cutting board; this will keep the exposed bread fresher and softer.

I should also mention a couple of things that you should never do:
  • Do not store bread in the refrigerator. This dries out the bread, even if it is sealed in plastic.
  • Do not store the bâtard in plastic bags or in plastic wrap unless you plan to re-crisp the crust in the oven.
  • Do not store warm bread in plastic bags or plastic wrap. Please wait until it has completely cooled down.
Please realize that this only applies to taking care of my lean (unenriched) bread; storing enriched breads is a completely different game...

A special thanks to everyone who is helping out with our fundraiser for Emily's and Kelly's upcoming mission trip to Costa Rica; I really hope that you are enjoying the bread!