Monday, January 16


sourdough bread.
what can i say that hasn't been said?
it's been around long enough to have been explored so thoroughly
that all of the science, and all of the poetry, and all of the artistry
are all already well documented.
what else is there?
there's the bread itself, for starters.
every loaf is different, even when it's the same.
for serious, man.
that's because it's not just ingredients that define the dough.
it's environment, as well.
time, temperature, humidity, acidity, salinity, everything.
nature wins in the end, every time,
if you're measuring along a long enough span,
nurture sure does seem to want to have an equal say in how things turn out, too.
the wild yeast, floating around, site-specific and unique to every area,
will devour themselves to death if left to their own devices.
we've got to tend to and temper their tendencies, lest their feast become folly.
if you summon the spirit,
you've got to nourish it once it arrives, neighbors.
that's the best and worst thing about that tangy bowl of bitter batter on the counter-
nature nested in there,
and now she demands devotions-
that's attention and tribute:
a tithe of grain, and a sacrament of water, each and every day.
and in return,
we get bread, or at least, the beginnings thereof.
it's called starter for a reason.
we still have to finish it ourselves.
essentially, it's the most real religion, with the most believable rituals,
and the most tangible results.
the first church of the Folk Life oven is open for worship, man.
and on the real real,
i've been baking up some seriously sexxxy stuff these days.
i mean it.
i won't bore you to death with the details,
i measure all by eye, and let my hands feel the details.
if you start there, it's all in good hands, and all in good faith.
check the good-bread-makes-better-people-type teleport:

all the attention i lavish on these loaves is really paying off.
i'm happy to report that while i made the switch to an-all white starter,
from my original whole wheat third-world warrior mix,
i've kept it true to these wanton, woodsly, wildling microorganismsm,
and let them run the jewels like the savages they are.
sorry whole wheat,
but i want those BIG bubbles in my morning toast,
and what better way than to pillage all that whiteness?

fold and stretch, aerate and activate,
wait around for more slow-going yeasty beasts to blow it out their A,
and puff up the heavyweight wheat and water into shape:

load after loaf of loaves and loaves and loaves.
i like that oatmeal boule the best.
i make that the most often.
the cracked rye and the spelt,
the sprouted whole wheat, the white whole wheat,
the buckwheat,
that's all fine and good. in fact, it's finer than that, and it's better than good,
but the oats are where it's AT:


of course.
i want ALL the good grains in my home,
in my hearth,
in my heart,
and most of all in my mouth.
the double bake days are my favorites-
too much is the right amount an' that-
the weekend interim bake gets it's share of the new hottness, for sure.
pictures of bread.
that's what's headed your way, man.
these ones are .
and how's the crumb turning out these days?



oh, c'mon.
you know what's up.
the holes are directly proportionate to the white flour content in each.
the top is 100%.
the middle is 80%
and the bottom is 70%
i know what i like, and i know what i want, so i do what i do.
but, wait,
there's more:


on crust

on crust.
it's all relative,
water content determines the oven spring.
low to high, top to bottom,
that's what happens when the dough is and isn't juicy.
so, i bake a lot.
and once in a while i like to show you what's up.
-here's the thing:
it's 1 cup of sourdough starter, hungry.
meaning, it's been almost 24 hours since the last feeding,
and there are bubbles all over that starving wet mess.
it can't wait to devour some flour.
and what about that?
it's 4 cups of flour, give or take, at least half all purpose.
no way do i weigh, i'm not making commercial quantities,
so the math for my own personal use products is non-existent.
a cup and half of warm water,
a tablespoon or more of salt,
and maybe a tablespoon of wheat gluten
if some portion of those four cupfuls of flour is NOT wheat.
light rye, cracked rye, dark rye, the oats (of course) spelt, brown rice, buckwheat-
all of that gets a little help.
and if it's very cold outside,
then this old house is usually pretty cold inside, too.
in that case, a teaspoon of sugar gets involved,
to help keep my yeast in the game.
performance enhancing substances?
heck yes.
trust me, they still always die at then end of the game.
that's the other other thing about what happens when nature wins.
no quarter is ever given.
every hour for roughly five hours after the initial stand-mixer 5 minute knead,
i stretch and fold and tuck the dough to ensure maximum development.
and after another 'nother 6-7 hour bulk ferment,
i shape the dough, let it rest an hour,
and cold-prove it in the fridge until the next day.
that's where all the sour flavor comes from.
the longer it hangs out, the more that tangy zing comes through.
i bake my loaves in a 460F oven, oncovered, on a stone, or in a cast-iron pan,
for 25 minutes,
i toss a half a cup of scalding water on the stones,
turn on the convection function to circulate the steam,
and give 'em another 'nother 20-25 minutes to turn it up to eleven.
six months of obsessing over the minutiae has it's rewards, man.

and lastly, at least for now,
this baby boo-boo, too:

good bread really does make better people,
and praying to the power of flour is way more provably productive,
than praying to any other invisibles,
or worse,
those imaginary magicians of heaven and earth.
nature wins,
and so do we.
the trick is to align and ally and assist with the victory.
get involved, man.
make it yourself,
make it from scratch,
make yourself a better version, through effort and intention.
that's the ticket to paradise,
and paradise is fresh-baked bread;
never quiet, never soft.....

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