It’s been a while, almost nine months in fact, since I’ve conducted and posted an interview of a fellow baker. However, I’m proud to share that I’m back with an interview of the baker and author of my favorite bread book Living Bread aka Daniel Leader of New York’s Bread Alone bakery. Being that Living Bread inspired me to start this series, I made sure to gear a fair amount of my questions and comments towards what I learned and enjoyed most about the book (stories and recipes). Furthermore, I chose to expound upon lessons that I learned from the book and discuss topics often discussed within the sourdough baking community (see notes below). From growing and milling to baking; delving into Daniel’s 40 years of baking experience during this interview left me even more inspired to continue learning, sharing, and baking. I hope that you have a similar experience while listening to it. Happy Baking!
Episode Notes: The following topics were discussed during the course of this interview…
[0:00-1:15] Episode Intro: A passion for sourdough baking inspired by land stewardship and fellow bakers such as Living Bread’s author, Daniel Leader aka this episode’s featured baker.
[1:16-5:46] Daniel’s personal baking history aka “gaining a PhD in the back door school of baking.”
[5:47-6:25] The initial growth of Bread Alone bakery and building of its wood-fired ovens.
[6:26-8:48] The role of the oven in the modern commercial sourdough bakery: old world tradition vs. consistency and efficiency.
[8:49-11:49] Home and professional bakers milling their own flour: Does it make a significant difference in flavor? / How home milling fits into one’s regular consumption of whole foods.
[11:50-16:10] Two wheat farming related experiences that stand out to Daniel, one of which is written about in Living Bread and the other which will be written about in his upcoming book.
[16:11-17:04] Where Bread Alone currently sources its flour from.
[17:05-21:31] What makes a loaf of bread truly nutritious? / What is the impact of common commercial additives on on gluten sensitivity in the US?
[21:32-23:59] Having been exposed to so many types of bread during his travels, what does Daniel enjoy baking the most? / Are 100% whole grain breads an acquired taste?
[24:00-25:06] The translation of Living Bread into other languages, the awards and reviews it has received since its release, and what it has felt like to have his book be so revered and regularly utilized by so many bakers.
[25:07-26:02] What makes a bread baking book worth reading? / Stories, valuable information, and recipes vs. mainly recipes.
[26:03-27:05] A Slow Rise. The book that Daniel is currently working on. Bread Alone’s yesterday, today, and future. Plus bread and pastry recipes coupled with memorable bread related experiences from over the years i.e. “a greatest hits of his 40 years of baking.”
[27:06-29:20] Roller milling vs stone milling: Examining the benefits of both methods for optimal flour flavor, color, nutrition, and dough performance using Daniel’s experiences in the US and abroad as examples of quality not being compromised by scale.
[29:21-32:40] What should go into a home baker’s decision of what type of starter to maintain? / Tips for maintaining a healthy starter (temperature, using a hydration as tool, keeping it simple).
[32:41-33:29 Keeping it simple and baking the same recipe repeatedly in order to develop one’s personal baking process and ensure its reliability.
[33:30-35:20] Electric mixing vs hand mixing of dough. Daniel’s perspective changing as a result of following the growth of sourdough baking over the current pandemic.
[35:21-36:40] Maintaining a passion for all things bread baking and its impact on one’s quality of life.
[36:41-39:40] Daniel’s definitions of “living bread” and “living food” and how they’ve evolved over time. / The people behind the bread and the significance of bread in society throughout history.
[39:41-41:48] Who/what are Daniel’s sources of baking inspiration nowadays: People, places, and specific breads.
[41:49-46:54] The landscape of American sourdough baking vs that of countries such as France and Germany / Paths paved by bakers without any formal baking training.
Since I started milling whole grains at home this past September, certain heirloom red wheat varieties have stood out to me in terms of their dough performance and flavor. In turn, upon the success of my previous baking experiment which focused on grains grown in California, I asked myself the following question. What role will terroir play in terms of dough performance and flavor profile when testing a specific heirloom wheat varietal that has been grown in a variety of US states (four in this case)?
Next, while I could have conducted this experiment alone and shared my subjective results. I chose to once again call upon my friend and fellow bread writer Melissa Johnson . By running her own parallel experiment, we could produce more comprehensive results.
Wheat Varietal: Turkey Red
Turkey Red Wheat, once the dominant variety of hard red winter wheat planted throughout the central U.S., is back in production.
“Turkey” variety hard red winter wheat was introduced to Kansas in 1873, carried by Mennonite immigrants from Crimea in the Ukraine, fleeing Russian forced military service. In the mid-1880s, grainsman Bernard Warkentin imported some 10,000 bushels of Turkey seed from the Ukraine, the first commercially available to the general public. That 10,000 bushels (600,000 pounds) would plant some 150 square miles (10,000 acres). By the beginning of the twentieth century, hard red winter wheat, virtually all of it Turkey, was planted on some five million acres in Kansas alone. In the meantime, it had become the primary wheat variety throughout the plains from the Texas panhandle to South Dakota. Without “Turkey” wheat there would be no “Breadbasket.”
Like many traditional crop varieties, by modern times the old variety of Turkey Red had all but vanished. Fortunately, a few enterprising Midwest farmers have kept the old seed stock in production. (breadtopia.com).
Recipe: Once again, Melissa and I decided to make our ‘test loaves’ smaller than our average 500g/loaf loaves. However, we raised their weight from 330g to 360g of flour per loaf, with sixty-percent of the flour being one of the four samples of Turkey Red varietals (2 were freshly milled and 2 were commercially milled) and forty-percent being Central Milling Organic High Mountain (high-protein bread flour). Yet another change to our previous experiment’s recipe was each dough was fermented with the same 100% Organic High Mountain flour levain (1:2:2 ratio / 15% inoculation). Lastly, in terms of dough hydration Melissa and I agreed on 80% (salt content was 2% (fine sea salt).
Process: While each of us followed our time tested sourdough loaf preparation processes, we kept the following parameters consistent: A) Milling the wheat berries the night before. B) A 45 (or longer) minute autolyse to get a feel for each flours absorption rate C) Coil folds D) Batard shape E) An overnight cold proof F) The same baking vessel (the Challenger Bread Pan). I should note that due to time constraints, I baked the 2 loaves with commercially milled Turkey Red flour in my Lodge combo cooker.
In terms of baking, Melissa preheated her oven to 500F (260C) for 30 minutes and then lowered it to 475F (230C) after loading the dough into her Challenger bread pan. She baked each loaf for 20 minutes with the lid on (covered) and 15-20 minutes with the lid under the base (uncovered) at 450F. I preheated my oven with the bread pan to 490F (254.4C) and baked covered for 20 minutes and then uncovered (lid under base) for 15 minutes at 450F (230C).
Dough Feel: This dough was somewhat sticky, but was not too hard to mix. After its autolyse it was smooth and extensible.
Fermentation: Barry: Being that I had freshly milled the Turkey Red portion of this dough the night before, I found that this dough fermented a bit faster than the two doughs containing pre-milled flour i.e. closer to 5.5 than 5.75 hours. Melissa: While not originaly intended bulk fermentation took 7 hours (to double in size / see below).
Shaping: Barry: This was followed by a 20 minute bench rest, and about an 8 minute rest at room temperature following final shaping in batards / prior to being put into my refrigerator to proof overnight. I personally found that all of the doughs in this experiment were somewhat sticky following bulk fermentation. However, using a bench scraper and wet/floured hands made them fairly manageable. Melissa: Because of the extensive fermentation, the pre-shape and bench rest were skipped. “I shaped the doughs very aggressively and refrigerated them immediately until the next morning.” Refrigerated final proof: 15.5 hours
Appearance: Barry: Breatopia’s Turkey Red loaf achieved great ovenspring, a well caramelized crispy crust, and had an attactive deep red color around edge and lighter red closer to ear (where sprung) and moderately even crumb. Melissa: Had the third best oven spring with a moderately open crumb.
Flavor/Texture: Melissa and her husband Chris: “All the breads were delicious and chewy with a nice crust. We struggled to pick out (noticeable) differences in flavor between them.” Barry: Moderate to high pleasant sourness, lightly herbal/spicy whole grain aroma and taste, “would be great for toast and an every day loaf. Especially for those who like more tang”. Soft (somewhat fluffy) texture.
Grains from the Plains (Colorado):
Dough Feel: This was the thirstiest and stickiest of the four doughs. However, I found that by the second set of stretch an folds it became easier to work with.
Fermentation: Barry: As with the previous dough, I tried my best to make sure that this dough’s bulk fermentation was just as long as its predecessor (5.5 hours). Melissa: Matured the fastest and was double in size in 6 hours. As mentioned above, doubling of the dough was not her original intention, but once this dough went that far, she made sure to let the others doubled too.
Shaping: Barry: See above. Melissa: See above…Refridgerated final proof: 16.5 hours. Both of us baked our freshly milled flour loaves first.
Appearance: Barry: Almost as good oven spring as the Breadtopia loaf, well caramelized crispy crust, similar deep red color around the edges of the loaf that transitioned to a lighter shade of red closer to the ear. Moderately even crumb. Melissa: Had the least oven spring and second most open crumb.
Flavor/Texture: Melissa and her husband Chris: See above. Barry: This loaf had low level of sourness and complex herbal/spicy whole grain aroma and taste (great for sandwiches). It’s texture was soft (somewhat fluffy) like the Breadtopia loaf, but it was a touch more moist.
Barton Springs (Oklahoma grown)
Dough Feel: Most fine textured flour of the four. Like its predecessors this dough was sticky at first, but smoother after its autolyse.
Fermentation: As eluded to above 5.5 hours (plus or minus 15 minutes) was the average bulk fermentation time for all four of my doughs. Melissa: Bulk fermentation took 7 hours 20 minutes.
Shaping: Barry: Compared to the previous doughs which included freshly milled flour. To me this dough felt a bit more airy and light at shaping. Melissa: Seemed to have the most elastic dough feel for shaping. Refrigerated final proof: 16.7 hours
Appearance: Barry: For me this loave’s over was the best when compared to its fellow pre-milled Turkey Red flour loaf. It has a lighter red color than the freshly milled flour loaves and once again had moderately even crumb. Melissa: had the most oven spring and the most open crumb.
Flavor/Texture: Melissa and her husband Chris: See above. Barry: Low but noticeable sour aroma and taste, similar flavor to Grains from the Plains, but not as prominent. This flavor profile would be good for a versatile sourdough loaf and use in making grilled cheese.
Penner Farms (Minnesota):
Dough Feel: This dough was the easiest to mix and had good extensibility.
Fermentation: As eluded to above 5.5 hours (plus or minus 15 minutes) was the average bulk fermentation time for all four dough. This was followed by a 20 minute bench rest, and about an 8 minute rest at room temperature following final shaping in batards / prior to being put into my refrigerator to proof overnight. Melissa: Bulk fermentation took 7 hours 10 min.
Shaping: Barry: Compared to the previous doughs, this dough felt somewhere in between the Barton Springs and Breadtopia doughs in its level of lightness, texture, and structure. Melissa: Felt that this dough was on the slack side during shaping. Refrigerated final proof: 16.8 hours
Appearance: Barry: My loaf achieved good, but not great oven spring and had moderate red color. Melissa: Had the second best oven spring with a moderately open crumb similar to the Breadtopia/Nebraska loaf.
Flavor/Texture: Melissa and her husband Chris: See above. Barry: Lingering sourness and subtle yet very similar flavor to the other loaves. I found the crumb texture to be notably soft yet still toothsome.
This heirloom wheat experiment was a valuable learning experience for the following three reasons. Firstly, it served as an opportunity to get our first glimpse at the roll of terrior in heirloom wheat. Secondly, differences in open spring between our loaves highlighted differences in our sourdough starters, bulk fermentation management, and baking practices. Thirdly, as in the previous experiment, we waited to discuss tasting notes and baking outcomes until we had both cut into and tasted our loaves. Doing so helped us develop a fuller understanding of both Turkey Red’s baking properties and flavor profile and what makes our individual baking practices unique.
Future plans: Being that the effects of baking with two freshly milled and two pre-milled flours were apparent both during dough preparation and in the finished loaves. I personally feel like I have more work to do in terms of getting to know how terroir effects Turkey Red. In turn, when I decide to run this experiment again I’ll make sure to use only freshly home-milled flour, keep a closer eye on how each individual dough is bulk fermenting, and make sure that cold proofing temperature is not a factor that effects oven spring (I suspect it make have contributed to the differences in oven spring between Melissa and my loaves). On a more optimistic note, being that Turkey Red comprised 60% of the flour used in this experiment, I’m definitely looking forward to baking with it as higher and lower percentages in future sourdough loaves.
Since I started milling whole grains at home this past September, articles, videos, and podcast episodes about grain cultivation and baking with whole grains have been on my radar. In turn, after listening to a Sourdough Podcast episode featuring Claudia Carter of the California Wheat Commission. I immediately reached out to her via Instagram to propose a sourdough baking experiment featuring California wheat varietals. When she first emailed me descriptions of the three modern wheat varietals* that she would be sending me I was at first concerned about whether the ‘weaker’ ones would be suitable for sourdough loaves. However, Claudia reassured me that as long as I mixed them with a higher protein flour they’d perform well.
Next, while I had done small experiments in the past in order to refine my sourdough loaf recipes. This was my first time conducting an experiment where I’d be comparing three different wheat varietals side by side. Therefore, I asked my fellow local bread writer Melissa Johnson to run her own parallel experiment in order to produce both reliable and valid results.
WB9229 – Hard Red Spring wheat – bred and developed by WestBred, a unit of Monsanto Company. WB9229 was selected for resistance to stripe rust and high protein using a modified bulk breeding method. WB9229 is adapted to the wheat growing areas of the Central Valleys of California. The primary use will be for to make raised loaf bread. WB9229 is resistant to the current field races of stripe rust in California. (more information)
Summit 515 – Hard Red Spring wheat – Summit 515 is a hard red spring wheat. It was developed by Syngenta Cereals (formerly Resource Seeds, Inc.) and released in 2011. Stripe rust resistance genes Yr5 and Yr15 were introduced by four backcross generations into the susceptible cultivar Summit and then combined using marker assisted selection at UC Davis (project supported by Research Seeds Inc.). Research Seed Inc. selected the best lines among BC4F2 lines homozygous for the two genes. This cultivar is very similar to the original Summit but is resistant to prevalent races of the stripe rust pathogen present in California. It has medium early maturity and good straw strength. It is resistant to stripe rust and leaf rust, moderately susceptible to BYD, and susceptible to Septoria tritici leaf blotch and powdery mildew. It was evaluated as Entry 1658 in the UC Regional Cereal Testing program from 2010-present for. With mellow gluten strength it is best for breads which need to be more extensible such as flat breads, tortillas, or sweet breads. (more information)
Patwin 515 HP – Hard White Spring wheat – developed by the University of California wheat breeding program and tested in Regional Yield trials as experimental line UC1743. showed outstanding bread making quality in evaluations performed by the quality Laboratory at the California Wheat Commission in 2013 and 2016 and by the milling industry at the California Wheat Collaborator Program in 2013. Patwin-515 HP carries the GPC-B1 gene for high grain protein content. Across 15 experiments, it showed an average grain protein content of 13.8%, which was significantly higher than the original Patwin-515 (12.7%). It is also good also for some baked desserts. (more information)
Recipe: As ‘test loaves’ we decided to use 330g of flour per loaf rather than our average 500g with half of the flour being one of the three CA wheat varietals (freshly milled) and half being Central Milling High Mountain (high-protein bread flour). Next, each dough was fermented with it’s own levain (1:2:2 ratio / 15% inoculation) which once again contained an even split of its respective two flours. In terms of dough hydration Melissa and I agreed on 75% (though mine ended up a hair under 77%). Lastly, salt content was 2% (fine sea salt).
Process: While each of us followed our time tested sourdough loaf preparation processes, we kept the following parameters consistent: A) A 30 minute autolyse to get a feel for each flours absorption rate B) Coil folds C) Batard shape D) An overnight cold proof E) The same baking vessel (the Challenger Bread Pan). I should note that while we both used our proofers, we used them for different portions of bulk fermention. Melissa used her’s during bulk fermentation and for an overnight retard and to help fermentation finish when she saw it was lagging. This led to her doing a 2 hour final proof at room temperature following my 20 minutes in the freezer to firm up and cool down her unbaked loaves. In my case, I decided to use my brod and taylor proofer for the last 90 minutes of bulk fermentation in order to ensure that they’d all be ready to pre-shape in the order that I was following (WB 9229, Summit 515, Patwin 515 HP). Interestingly, they were all fermenting around 75F (just under 24C) on their own prior to my putting them into my proofer which was set at 77F (25C).
In terms of baking, Melissa preheated her oven to 500F (260C) and then lowered it to 450F (230C) after loading the dough into her Challenger bread pan. She baked each loaf for 15 minutes with the lid on (covered) and and 15 minutes with the lid under the base (uncovered). Because I only have one Challenger bread pan I had to bake one loaf at a time. I preheated my oven with the bread pan to 490F (254.4C) and baked covered for 20 minutes and then uncovered (lid under base) for 15 minutes at 450F (230C).
Dough Feel: As a hard red spring wheat this varietal had the tightest and most cohesive dough feel (texture) for both of us.
Fermentation: As the strongest of the three varietals, WB9229 fermented at a rate similar to other 50% whole grain doughs in that we were able to after our average bulk fermentation time it would be ready to pre-shape.
Shaping: As a result of keeping the hydration percentage the same for all three loaves this dough was drier feeling than the others. So while it was elastic and not too difficult to shape; it felt like it would have been more extensible if it had a bit more water in it.
Appearance: WB9229 achieved the most oven-spring for both of us. Also, its light brown crumb was slightly less open than Summit’s, but we both agreed that with higher hydration it would achieve even more oven-spring and open crumb. Of note, my first slices had some wild crumb which evened out further into my loaf.
Flavor/Texture: Melissa and her husband Chris: WB had a lot of grain flavor and moderate sourness. The contrast between crust crispiness and crumb chew was good. Barry: Soft toothsome texture and a great nutty whole grain flavor which reminded me a bit of red fife.
Dough Feel: Compared to Patwin 515 HP Melissa felt that this dough was a little tighter and a little less sticky. In my experience it was definitely the smoothest and easiest to mix and coil fold.
Fermentation: We both found that WB 9229 and this varietal fermented at a similar rate. As the second dough that I mixed, I tried my best to make sure that this dough’s bulk fermentation was just as long as its predecessor (5.5 hours).
Shaping: Despite being a touch sticky after bulk fermentation, I found that Summit 515 HP was just as easy to shape as WB 9229. Melissa described this dough as Summit was “moderately elastic” during shaping.
Appearance: Both of our loaves achieved great oven-spring. The crumb was the most open of the three for Melissa who also commented that it had “some large holes indicating the gluten didn’t hold up to the pressure of expansion.” I felt that my crumb was somewhere in between the other two varietals interms of openness and lighter in color than WB 9229. Lastly, the crust of Summit loaves was the darkest in color, but the color differences weren’t drastic for me. Especially between the WB 9229 and Summit (see photo above for my loaves – L-R WB9229, Summit 515, Patwin 515 HP).
Flavor/Texture: Melissa and her husband Chris: Summit’s bran flavor was strong and the sourness was very mild. The chew was okay but there was some less than smooth texture. Barry: Fluffier/lighter textured crumb. A nice wheat aroma and flavor, but less bold than WB 9229. Similar to a good 100% white flour forward sourough loaf with some mild whole grain/herbaceous notes.
Patwin 515 HP
Dough Feel: Patwin felt the loosest and stickiest, likely due to its having the weakest gluten and lowest protein content.
Fermentation: Patwin fermented the fastest, which for Melissa “could have been its position in the proofer” or the wetter dough feel that we both experienced. However, I should note that once I put all three bowls of dough in my proofer so that they’d all be fermenting at the same temperation, I was no longer concerned about one of them fermenting faster than the others.
Shaping: Despite it fermenting the fastest I personally stuck to the order that I set when I mixed my doughs and shaped my Patwin 515 HP dough last. As the stickiest of the doughs it took a bit of extra flour on my hands to final shape. Melissa noted that she needed to stitch her shaped dough after transfering it to its banneton (proofing basket) in order for it to hold its surface tension. I also stitched my dough, but I always do so when shaping it into a batard (oblong) loaf (see photo above).
Appearance: Patwin 515 HP achieved good oven-spring, but it was the least of the three loaves (these parameters). Patwin’s crumb had the lightest color due to it being a white wheat and was a pale yellow. I personally may have baked my Patwin loaf a few minutes longer than Melissa i.e. my crust was noticeably darker (see her loaves below).
Flavor/Texture: Melissa and her husband Chris: Patwin had less of a (whole) grain flavor and a moderate sourness. The chewiness was good, and the overall texture seemed “smooth.” Barry: Softest texture of the three with a noticeable grain sweetness in the crumb and crust.
This modern wheat experiment* was a great learning experience for the following three unique reasons. Firstly, it served as an opportunity to bake with three of California’s most commonly grown heirloom wheat varietals. Secondly, turning it into a collaboration helped me gain a deeper appreciation for both the friends that I’ve made through sourdough baking and using the sourdough process to get the most out of heirloom gains. Thirdly, waiting to discuss tasting notes till we had both cut into and tasted our loaves made learning that we picked up on the same differences in texture and flavor even greater. Taking this a step further, when I discussed my tasting notes with Claudia shortly thereafter, she was elated to hear that Melissa and I had picked up on the textures and flavors that she has when testing these wheat varietals with her team.
Future plans: I personally am looking forward to baking with all of three of these wheat varietals again and zeroing in on their ideal functions, hydration percentages, and ability to complement and/or enhance the textures and flavors of other heirloom grains (wheat and otherwise). With WB 9229 having the most whole grain flavor, I could see myself testing it within my “base recipe” which contains 60-65% high gluten flour (or bread flour), 20-25% whole grain wheat, and 10-15% rye. Summit 515’s oven-spring capability and flavor may complement ancient grains and other mild tasting wheat varietals. Lastly, as a white wheat, I can see myself using Patwin 515 HP mostly to add a fluffy texture to loaves that already have gluten strength from higher protein grains (flours).
If you have not already done so, check out my podcast interview of Claudia Carter by clicking here.
*Future experiments will involve heirloom grains and therefore I decided to include the term ‘heirloom’ in the name of this series.
Greetings fellow bakers. I’d like to welcome you to my latest Meet the Baker Behind the Loaves series podcast interview. Beyond the inspirational quote that kicks off this podcast episode I’d like to share the following quote with you.
“It is our goal to support research that improves California wheat quality and marketability, and to develop and maintain domestic and international markets for California wheat.” (source).
With so much discussion about maintaining the financial viability of growing heirloom and ancient grains and the health benefits of baking and eating whole grain sourdough bread. Meeting passionate individuals like Claudia Carter, California Wheat Commission’s executive director, reassures me that these topics will only continue to become even more prioritized in discussions amongst those outside the sourdough baking community such as key decision makers and community leaders.
So without further ado, please join me in getting to know the baker behind the loaves, Claudia Carter, mother, whole grain advocate, and dedicated team leader.
The following topics were discussed during the course of this interview(podcast episode):
0:00-1:53 – Inspirational quote / Episode Intro
1:54-2:43 – Greetings and Recent challenges that California’s farmers have been facing (e.g. drought)
2:44-9:10 – Claudia’s food science journey, what sparked her interest in studying cereal science, and the evolution of her passion for whole grain baking since joining the California Wheat Commission.
9:11-22:29 The educating and promotion of a healthy and nutritious diet in children: How Claudia presents the importance of eating whole grains to schools and those involved in making decisions about school lunch programs. Including topics such as the whole grain element of school lunches, the history of refined and enriched flours, and the implications of the physical differences between modern commodity and heirloom/ancient grain wheat stalks (the grain revolution).
22:30-27:25 The unique history of cultivating and milling high quality grains in California and Keeping the growing of heirloom grains in California financially viable.
27:26-32:42 – How the California Wheat Commission helps facilitate relationships between with men and women at every link in the chain from the farmers all the way to the bakers and How the demand for specific wheat varieties is created through research, regular communication, and the unique level control that local grain elevators possess.
32:43-35:45 – Two of Claudia’s farmer relationships that to her exemplify the mission and efforts of the California Wheat Commission: Fritz Durst (Tule Farms: growing grain as part of an organic soil health program) and Paul Muller (Full Belly Farm: CSA – selling a diverse array of grains and produce directly to consumers). Both of them bring their grains to the CWC for analysis and feedback.
35:46-39:19 – Current research projects being conducts by both the CWC and UC Davis: 1) Finding varieties of Triticale (wheat and rye hybrid) that are suitable for bread baking. 2) Researching and testing new and old wheat varieties and then making them available to farmers year to year.
39:20-41:07 Wheat varieties that have stood out to Claudia recently: Einkorn and Rouge de Bordeaux (introduced to her by Grist and Toll).
41:08-43:49 The characteristics and sources of the California Wheat varieties that Claudia sent me to bake with: WB 9229, Summit and Patwin.*** Click here to view their baking experiment article***
43:40-46:24 – Claudia’s whole grain home baking: Pasta, carrot cake, tortillas, and more.
46:25-54:56 – Factors impacting the prevalence of gluten intolerance in the US and The benefits of long fermentation and eating local whole grains.
54:57-1:02 – “Living bread” and “Living food” – A) Producers and consumers honoring the food that we grow and eat. B) Working together to make whole grains and healthy foods in general affordable to the masses. C) One family at a time choosing to switch to whole grains. D) Exposing kids to whole grains and organic produce from a young age (at home and school).
Greeting fellow bakers, Barry from The Brewed Palate here. I’d like to welcome you to my latest Meet the Baker Behind the Loaves series podcast interview. Though I have interviewed a number of mill founders/owners, I recently realized that I had yet to interview inspirational individuals at the very beginning of the grain train (or grain chain). My choice of who to interview came as a matter of rather fortunate consequence. During a recent online search for sources Turkey Red wheat berries I came upon the Grains From the Plains website, the online store for Sunflower Acres, a Colorado Farm run by fourth generation farmer Kevin Poss and his wife Laura. After reading its about page I reached out to Kevin via Instagram and we began planning a date and time for a podcast interview. Though it took a few weeks to finalize the details, I had received my order of their grains the Friday prior and was therefore extra excited to get to know more about Sunflower Acres, Grains from the Plains, and Kevin and Laura themselves.
So without further ado, please join me in getting to know the bakers behind the loaves or should I say farmers behind the grains, Kevin and Laura Poss.
The following topics were discussed during the course of this interview(podcast episode):
0:00-1:28 – Inspiring quote / Episode Intro
1:29-3:09 – How Kevin and Laura met and the history of Sunflower Acres.
3:10-3:53 – Kevin’s day to day farming activities.
3:54-5:57 – Challenge of growing grains in the plains of Colorado and what planting and harvesting seasons looking like on the fields of Sunflower Acres.
5:58-9:03 -Presently growing and soon to be planted wheat varieties and How Kevin and Laura came upon them.
9:04-12:20 – Kevin and Laura’s motivation behind selling a portion of their grains directly to consumers via the Grains from the Plains website rather than what Kevin and his family had done in the past i.e. selling all of their grain to the local grain elevator (co-op).
12:21-14:06 – Notable relationships that they’ve made with local professional bread bakers who have used their grains.
14:07-16:30 – Ups and downs of trying to be approved as an organic farm and the challenges of growing heirloom (non-GMO) corn in their area.
16:31-17:52 Kevin and Laura’s goal to eventually mill their own grains on-site and Their ability to trace their grains once they leave the farm.
17:53-20:40 – Laura’s homebaking with her children and How milling grains at home helps open up avenues of experimentation.
20:41-22:19 – Taking pride in being able to raise their kids on 100% local meat, produce (such as Ahava farms), and grains.
22:20-24:31 – Laura’s day to day activites on the farm: supervising farm chores, packing online orders, managing finances, and homeschooling.
24:31-26:16 – What do the terms “living bread” and “living food” mean to Kevin and Laura? – Question inspired by Daniel Leader’s book Living Bread.
26:17-30:22 – A) How to follow Grains from the Plains and Sunflower Acres on social media…How simple it is to make connections within the “grain chain” B) Dedication to bringing back farming milling practices of the past (e.g. those at Castle Valley Mill) C) Kevin and Laura’s putting things in place for their kids to eventually take over the farm.
30:23-end – Once again thanking them for their time and Episode Outro.
To follow Kevin and Laura’s farming activities and purchase their grains visit grainsfromtheplains.com and follow their social media pages which are @grainsfromtheplans on Instagram and @sunfloweracres on Facebook. To contact them directly send an email to grainsfromtheplains@gmail …For my interviews like this click the series link in the right sidebar.
Greeting fellow bakers, Barry from The Brewed Palate here. I’d like to welcome you to my latest Meet the Baker Behind the Loaves series podcast interview (pause) From industry veterans to those who have only been baking since March 2020. It takes a lot for a mill to come highly recommended by bakers of every experience level. In addition, like a great whole grain sourdough loaf which starts with high quality flour and a vision of the final product, a great milling company starts with a visionary dedicated to making sure every baker has what he or she needs to bake high quality breads and baked goods. Within the US that milling company is Central Milling and its visionary is this episode’s featured baker. With so many years of milling, baking, and distributing experience there was so much that I want to ask him. With his genuine passion showing in every shared story, my nerves quickly dissipated as Keith Guisto and I discussed a balance of memorable baking and milling experiences, Central Milling’s history, and what makes the sourdough baking community so amazing.
So without further ado, please join me in getting to know the baker behind the loaves, Keith Guisto, passionate baker, miller, and visionary. Happy Baking!
The following topics were discussed during the course of this interview(podcast episode):
0:00-1:17 – Inspiring quotes / Episode Intro
1:18-4:15 – Experiences that stand out from Keith’s baking career and what motivates him to keep baking, teaching, and learning.
4:16-10:04 – The history of Central Milling from Keith’s perspective: Leaving his family business and partnering with Kent Perry to create a milling company with quality flours (e.g. identity preserved wheat) and relationships as its first priority.
10:05-16:54 – Events that led to the opening of Keith Guisto Bakery Supply in 2009: Distribution woes, falling out of key business relationships, concerned professional bakers, taking charge to take back market share, and consulting with and teaching home and professional bakers.
16:55-21:00 – Farmer relationships that exemplify both Keith and Central Milling’s dedication to individuals at every level of the baking industry, from seed to loaf.
21:01-24:11 – The process of ensuring that exceptional wheat varieties can be grown and then milled from year to year: Tasting, testing, collaborating, and consulting all before selling them to customers.
24:12-26:18 – Keith’s perspective on roller stone milling at Central Milling and future plans for selling their stone milled flours.
26:19-28:35 Keith’s time-tested sourdough baking method and perspective on teaching others to bake consistent loaves (Artisan Baking Center).
28:36-32:01 A) How Keiths consults with professional bakers and directs them towards choosing flours, baking methods, and equipment that suit their needs. B) Trusting your sourdough baking method/s and adapting them to bake inspired loaves.
32:02-36:54 Base flours: Choosing one and getting the most out of it…Keith’s personal history and relationship with (utilization of) Artisan Baker’s Craft Plus flour.
36:55-39:25 Recipe development and baking for the Keith Guisto Bread Club: Base recipe vs mix-ins such as cranberries.
39:26-45:16 – The development of Keith’s home oven steam kit and baking mixes and potential timetable for it’s release…Making whole grain sourdough baking as accessible as possible.
45:17-50:21 – What the terms “living bread” and “living food” mean to Keith…Central Milling’s unique relationship with Steve Sullivan and Acme Bread.
50:22-End – Thanking Keith for his contributions to the baking industry and sourdough baking community with credit given to those who have and continue to help make his visions into reality.
To follow Keith’s baking, milling, and overall involvement in the worldwide sourdough baking community visit centralmilling.com and kgbakerysupply.com in conjunction with each of their respective Instagram accounts @centramilling and @keithguistobakerysupply. To learn more about Keith’s new sourdough subscription service, the Keith Guisto Bread Club, follow @kgbreadclub on both Instagram and Facebook…For my interviews like this click the Meet the Baker Behind Loaves series logo in the right sidebar. Happy Baking!
When it comes to defining food and drink products that are produced with quality rather than quantity in mind, the term complexity is often used a way to describe depth of flavor. However, I feel that complexity can also describe the layers that comprise what it took to create a given food or drink product. When it comes to sourdough bread, recognizing its “layers” becomes increasingly easy once one chooses to bake with grains and flours sourced from local and regional mills rather than those found on supermarket shelves. Millers and state grain commission members work closely with farmers on cultivating staple, heirloom, and ancient grains in a sustainable manner. In turn, creating a complex network of quality relationships between those who live their lives as a result of their role/s within one of the “layers” of sourdough bread production. Getting to know individuals within each “layer or “link in the chain” creates inspirational opportunities for learning, sharing, and increasing the quality and complexity of one’s daily life.
Amongst those who have fully embraced the complexity of the worldwide sourdough community lies a group of passionate bloggers and podcasters sharing their baking knowledge, making themselves available to their fellow bakers, and spreading the word about individuals within each “layer” of the community whom they find to be inspiring. One such podcaster is this week’s featured baker, Michael Hilburn of The Sourdough Podcast. Since 2018 he has interviewed an impressive variety of men and women whom he finds inspiring and have in their own right majorly contributed to both their local communities and the the worldwide sourdough community as a whole. As a fellow blogger/podcaster who started interviewing such inspirational bakers, millers, and farmers this past July. I can truly say that its been a blessing to have Michael as a source of inspiritation within our ever growing number of individuals dedicated to maintaining and increasing the quality of life of others through all that goes into a loaf of sourdough bread
So without further ado, it is may honor to present to you, Michael Hilburn of The Sourdough Podcast and Mission Bakehouse.
Barry (The Brewed Palate): I’d like to start with getting to know your baking background. How long have you been baking sourdough bread? and Who were your first sources of sourdough inspiration?
Michael: I started my first sourdough starter in 2014 after a rather ordinary meal at a cafe in Santa Barbara. Growing up in California, I had eaten sourdough my whole life but never really thought twice about it or considered how it was made. But for some reason the bread at that cafe and the description “naturally leavened” sent me down a rabbit hole online and within a few days I had a bubbly glass of starter fermenting on my window ledge. My first sources of sourdough inspiration and education came from blogs and instagram. But the first blog that really helped make sense of everything for me was one called Food Travel Thought (later to be called The Perfect Loaf by Maurizio Leo).
Barry (The Brewed Palate): Having recently started posting podcast episodes for season 3 of The Sourdough Podcast. Can you describe the process that you go through while preparing for an interview of a fellow baker (podcast guest)?
Michael: I typically compile a “short list” of potential guests by saving photos on Instagram of accounts that I find inspiring. I’ll reach out via DM or email, and if they are interested we’ll schedule an interview. I’ll start a google doc and try to learn as much as I can about my guest. It reminds me of cramming for an exam in college. The day before I like to request questions for the guest from everyone on Instagram and I’ll add those questions to my notes. Depending on the time zone of my guest, the interview could be anytime of day. This involves a balancing act of scheduling with my wife, kid’s schedules, and my cottage baking activities. If everything works out, I’ll have a quiet room for about an hour to record!
Barry (The Brewed Palate): How has your view of the worldwide sourdough community evolved since starting your podcast in 2018?
Michael: Since I started the podcast I’ve come to see the sourdough community in many new ways. My first experiences as a home baker exposed me mostly to other like minded “bread heads” as we all shared notes, pictures, and information, all looking to bake our own “perfect loaf.” But when I started the podcast I started to see how intertwined sourdough was with other groups like farmers, scientists, millers, entrepreneurs, etc. I learned how making sourdough can support local grain economies and change our communities and planet for the better. I started to see sourdough more clearly as the worldwide community that it is, with all the cultural influences and histories it carries with it. I’ve learned how diverse our community is and, at the same time, seen how much we all have in common.
Barry (The Brewed Palate): Through podcasts like your’s and meeting men and women at all levels of the bread production process (seed to loaf), I’ve developed a deep appreciation for the lives that people live as a result of being in touch with the ingredients that they cultivate and then bake with. How would you describe what you’ve learned from your podcast interviews and its influence on your perspective on sourdough baking?
Michael: Over the last three years of interviews and interactions with the sourdough community my greatest influence has come from cottage bakers. Cottage bakers showed me how meaningful baking for your immediate community could be. I saw my own passion for bread and community reflected in my guests and connected with their stories on a personal level. I saw how they elevated their local bread scenes using locally grown ingredients and supporting (or creating) their local grain economies. This is what ultimately inspired me to take the leap and start my own cottage bakery last year.
Barry (The Brewed Palate): While northern California has a rich history of sourdough baking at least partially due to the popularity of San Francisco sourdough. What does the sourdough baking community look like in your immediate area?
Michael: We only recently moved to our new town of Turlock, CA, from San Diego, in 2019. Needless to say, the bread scene was quite different. No more beachfront bakeries like Wayfarer Bread to drop in on after a surf sesh. What we did find was a handful of traditional bakeries, cafes, and bistros but none that specialized in, or carried, artisan style sourdough. Of course when I found a local college girl and her mother selling sourdough at the farmer’s market I immediately introduced myself. I probably overwhelmed them with my enthusiasm and definitely worked my podcast into the conversation (even though I am sure they had never heard of it). A few weeks later they invited us over for dinner and made us sourdough pizza in their ROFCO oven. Since then we’ve remained friends and Annie (Flourish Bread Co.) has even picked up flour for me on her way home from college in Sonoma. Of course, I had to make the pilgrimage 20 mins north to see Bonnie Ohara at her bakery (Alchemy Bread) in Modesto, CA. That’s where I worked up the courage to ask her to be on my podcast. Since then I’ve visited several times and she always has something delicious cooking or baking to share. So, my sourdough community here is small, but like most, it is generous, hospitable, and welcoming.
Barry (The Brewed Palate): Taking the previous question a bit further, I’ve enjoyed seeing how much you support grain farmers both in Turlock and the state of California. What are some recent experiences that have stood out to you? and What have you found to be unique about California’s grain economy?
Michael: My first experience supporting my local grain economy is one I’ll never forget. I met up with another stay-at-home dad and cottage baker, Justin Gomez (Humble Bakehouse), at Frog Hollow Farms in Brentwood, CA. There we got a tour of their beautiful farm and I bought my first 100lbs of White Sonora wheat. However, finding sources of local wheat (even regional) has not been easy. Most wheat farmers are in Northern or Southern California, not the Central Valley where I live. After a couple years I was finally able to get my hands on some locally grown Yecora Rojo from Adam at T & A Farms. Other than that, my local sources have been few and far between. One thing I find so unique about the California grain economy is it’s history. California’s mediterranean climate makes it ideal for wheat growing wheat. Over 100 years ago, before irrigation was developed, the Central Valley was primarily used to grow wheat and helped make California a leading producer of wheat in the world. Wheat peaked in the 1880s and gave way to dairies and higher margin produce like irrigation dependent nuts and fruit trees. Most large scale mills here now ship in wheat from the midwest. However, I am beyond excited that a local farmer and friend of mine, Jon Eck, will be growing his first wheat crop this year. I even got to participate in the planting! With any luck (and a little rain) I’ll be baking with “hyper” locally grain from Eck Farms this fall.
Barry (The Brewed Palate): In 2020 you became a cottage baker through the establishment of Mission Bakehouse. If you were to have a mission statement for your bakery, what would it be?
Michael: I love this question. It’s something I really haven’t put down on paper yet but something I have thought a lot about. It would be something like, “At Mission Bakehouse we strive to feed our community by making real bread using naturally leavening and only the best, simple ingredients possible – flour, water, and salt.”
Barry (The Brewed Palate): As an avid follower of cottage bakers like yourself, I enjoy following each baker’s process of slowly acquiring baking equipment as demand grows. What did your equipment acquisition process look like?
Michael: As a home baker turned cottage baker, I’ve tried to only buy equipment when I believe it’s needed to get me to the “next step.” This has resulted in a very piecemeal approach. For example, early on, I tried to concoct an elaborate steam creating system, only to learn the most efficient way to trap steam in a home oven is with a dutch oven. I found one on craigslist for $20 and my second one at an estate sale for even less. Similarly with baskets, I’ve acquired a strange collection as I’ve learned what works best for my ever changing needs. I first tried using kitchen towels and cereal bowls. When that ended in sticky disaster too many times, I bought one wicker banneton on Amazon. Then I tried one with linen lining. I bought 15 brotforms from a Germany company after seeing Betsy Gonzalez use them on Instagram. I also have a collection of thrift shop bread baskets! When I bought my ROFCO oven (another Craigslist find, thanks Justin Gomez!) owning one was only a daydream. But someone was selling 2 of them and Bonnie Ohara and I decided to go halfsies on them. It was too good, and too lucky, a deal to pass up. My latest purchase was my Estella 60qt mixer. I researched and messaged with Humble Bakehouse and Lucky Penny Bread for weeks before buying. Like most everything to do with my cottage bakery, my purchases are usually inspired by bakers I admire.
Barry (The Brewed Palate): How would you describe the learning curve of going from a home baker to a cottage baker?
Michael: I’d say the learning curve can be as steep or as gradual as you want it to be. As a stay at home dad my first priority has always been my kids, so my cottage bakery has always had to fit into that context. No quitting my day job and diving headlong into baking. Slow organic growth is what has worked for my bakery. I started like many by just baking one or two loaves for years. Then one day I doubled the recipe to make 4 loaves. This doubling is always where the biggest challenges presented themselves. More dough meant more chances to make mistakes but also more opportunities to learn and share bread with neighbors. Large masses of dough ferment differently than small ones. More dough means bigger equipment and more physical energy needed to mix, shape, and bake. Soon I was doubling yet again to 16 loaves, then 32! Quantities that seemed unfathomable when I first started. I gave a lot of bread away to neighbors at first. We were in a new town and it was an amazing way to get to know people. Then for many months I bartered bread. I traded for honey, olive oil, homemade wine, oranges, almonds, and eggs. This also extended my “network” of local craftspeople, growers, and artisans – just my kind of people. Finally, by the time I did my research about our county’s cottage food laws and submitted my paperwork, I had an amazing pre-existing customer base from my community excited to support my new endeavor.
Barry (The Brewed Palate): While I was at first a bit reluctant to follow many of my fellow bakers and create a ‘master’ or ‘base’ recipe, I eventually did so as a way to experiment with different wheat varieties. Do you have a base loaf recipe that you bake regularly as part of your weekly Mission Bakehouse menu? If so, what did its formula’s development process look like?
Michael: For the longest time my main formula was based off of Maurizio Leo’s “my best sourdough recipe” from his blog. I mainly camped out on this recipe, experimenting with hydration levels, types of flour, and other variations, as I learned what type of bread I liked to bake. Another early formula I used was “Pain au Levain with mixed sourdough starters” from Jeffrey Hamelman’s BREAD book. This formula introduced me to the amazing flavor and enzymatic properties of rye. Today, my Mission Sourdough is a fairly common “country loaf” style bread, popular in many cottage bakeries. It is 75% bread flour, 20% fresh milled whole wheat, and 5% rye, and around 80% hydration. One thing that makes every bakery unique is the ingredients it uses. I like to use locally grown grain whenever possible. White Sonora from Frog Hollow Farm is my favorite. I mill the wheat in-house just moments before I use it. I use sea salt harvested from San Francisco Bay. I’d like to say I’ve finally arrived at my final formula but I am on a constant journey of tweeking and modifying in hopes of baking better bread.
Barry (The Brewed Palate): While things like chasing Instagram worthy high hydration-open crumb loaves can be both fun and a sign of baking achievement. If I were to pick one factor that has kept my sourdough baking exciting it would be having the ability to mill my own flour and cornmeal at home. In your case, I saw that not only have have you been home-milling California grown grains and helping out at local farms, but you’ve planted wheat in your own backyard. What do you enjoy most about baking with freshly milled flour? and What steps did you need to take in order to start growing your own wheat?
Michael: There is just something about the smell, feel, and taste of freshly milled grain that changes the way someone thinks about bread. It reminds me of when I toured a coffee farm in Guatemala. Experiencing the raw bean being processed from start to finish with my 5 senses, I learned to pick up the different smells and flavors in the final product that I wouldn’t have recognized otherwise. It’s the same with wheat milling. Holding warm whole grain flour in your hand, seconds after being milled, allows you to experience flour in a completely different way than from a bag that’s been on a store shelf for weeks. You’ll start to pick up on smells and flavors you never noticed before.
Growing your own wheat merely expands your experience and understanding of using fresh flour even further. It didn’t take much research on my part – just some elbow grease. I found a small 10×10′ plot in my backyard and tilled it manually with a shovel. I added a couple bags of compost, mixed it in, and delineated my crow rows. I googled how much grain to use per square foot and hand sowed the seeds (only about a cup’s worth). I made sure to time the planting right after the first good rain of our winter wet season and pretty much left it alone until harvest in late summer. I harvested just over 5 pounds of wheat. Not a lot ,but a fun project nonetheless! I highly recommend trying it out.
Barry (The Brewed Palate): Sourdough bread is often called “living bread.” What do the terms “living bread” and “living food” mean to you?
Michael: The act of eating, sharing, and making bread is a very spiritual exercise for me. In the book of John, Jesus identifies himself as “living bread” and the religious symbolism of life, death, and rebirth experienced in the making of sourdough are not lost on me. There is a great TED talk given by Peter Reinhart in which he talks about the process of bread making. He first describes the process literally, and then poetically, evoking the symbolism in the cycles of life and death of wheat and microorganisms as the baker guides their path to becoming bread. Listening to that talk as a Christian, I couldn’t help but hear echoes of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. It makes sense why Jesus used bread over and over as a metaphor. And of course the bread they would have been making 2000 years ago would have been naturally leavened. There are also the communal aspects of bread – the symbolism of bread in the last supper and breaking of bread during communion. These are all aspects of “living bread” that I meditate on while making and sharing my bread.
Greeting fellow bakers, Barry from The Brewed Palate here. I’d like to welcome you to my latest Meet the Baker Behind the Loaves series podcast interview. Of the many ways that I’ve found inspirational fellow sourdough bakers to interview, getting suggestions from bakers that I’ve met through this interview series is definitely my favorite. During my interview of Ceor Bread’s Guy Frenkel, he mentioned a baker who has revolutionized sourdough baking in Israel and I immediately started researching and following his baking. From humble beginnings, Anomarel Ogen’s dedication to his fellow bakers and the land of Israel shines through in how he presents his wealth of baking and fermentation knowledge. From ancient grains to fast and wild fermentations this interview left me humbled and inspired to keep learning.
So without further ado, please join me in getting to know the baker behind the loaves, Anomarel Ogen, artisan baker, baking consultant, product developer, and all around amazing human being. Happy Baking!
The following topics were discussed during the course of this interview(podcast episode):
0:00-1:34 – Inspiring quotes / Episode Intro
1:35-10:37 – An in depth discussion of Anomarel’s baking twenty plus year baking journey: From restaurant cook to off-the-grid bakery owner to revolutionizing sourdough baking and grain agriculture in Israel. Anomarel describes his most impactful experiences in an engaging, relateable, and inspiring manner.
10:30-13:59 – Anomarel’s current baking related projects – consulting, product development, grain cultivation, and mentorship.
14:00-17:49 – What is currently driving Israel’s sourdough baking culture? and What factors have inspired its recent growth?
17:50-20:22 – Anomarel’s role in creating a sustainable chain of farmers, millers, and bakers which drives the availability of locally grown staple, heirloom, and ancient grains.
20:23-30:34 – Baking with ancient grains: How to get the most out of each ancient grain…Including how to truly know whether you’re using a “young levain” and differences between using 20-50% and 100% ancient grain in your recipe/s.
30:35-41:40 – Anomarel’s 5 hour “from dough to cooling rack” method: Inspiration, professional practicality, techniques, tricks, and issues it solves.
41:41-44:14 – Does water chemistry effect the health of one’s sourdough starter? Chlorine aside, could water temperature be a more significant factor to look at?
44:15-49:14 – Leavening breads with wild yeast from fermenting fruits like raisins… Utilizing a “covert vs an overt taste” to add aroma and flavor complexity to your breads.
49:15-57:04 – Living bread: A) Bread as a medium for improving the quality life of others and a means to preserve and develop Israel’s grain agriculture. B) Conscious attention to growing, baking, eating, and supporting uniquely local food products (e.g. bread and olive oil). B) The benefits of constantly questioning common bread knowledge and learning from the baking traditions of countries in your immediate region (e.g. Israel learning from Turkey vs France and Germany).
Even after I find a recipe that I can see myself baking, I often do some additional research to in order to read up on and decide whether I want to include additional elements in my final recipe (formula). Doing so allows me to keep in mind that recipes are best when used as guides rather than a rigid set of ingredients and instructions. After all, one’s sourdough starter is a living culture, each flour has its own protein level and absorbancy potential, and every kitchen (home) has its own temperature and humidity level. This being said, when adapting a recipe to factors such as one’s tastes, starter characteristics, and baking experience level. It is important to adjust ingredients and variables in a manner that does not compromise the basic techniques and/or ingredient percentages outlined in the recipe’s instructions and introductory paragraphs. For example, one can use their 100% hydration starter instead of a stiff starter. However, one should use the same percentage of starter and pay attention to how his or her bulk fermentation rate and dough temperature differ from those listed in the recipe being used.
In the days leading up to this past Thanksgiving, I decided to bake two new sourdough loaf recipes. The first was my base loaf recipe with freshly milled Turkey Red wheat and 1.8% Victory malt and the second was Breadtopia’s “Whole Grain Cranberry Walnut Sourdough Bread” or the focus of this article…
When looking for a cranberry-walnut sourdough loaf recipe I chose Breadtopia’s because of its well tested whole grain element and my familiarity with the technique/s included in its list of preparation instructions. However, I chose to include two ingredients from other recipes that I read during my initial recipe search along with two ingredients that were chosen to put my own personal touch on my adapted recipe. Firstly, I found that many recipes included orange juice in place of some or all of the water and/or orange zest; therefore, I included the zest of one large orange. Secondly, I chose to use both walnuts and pecans instead of only walnuts for added complexity and to embrace my love of toasted pecans in baked goods. Lastly, in terms of my purely personal ingredient choices, I made 10% of the flour freshly milled hard Redeemer wheat berries from Castle ValleyMill in order to take advantage of their natural cinnamon aroma (when milled) and added 9% honey to balance the tartness of the cranberries and orange zest.
My Adapted Recipe: Original recipe by Breadtopia’s Melissa Johnson
Makes 2 loaves
340g Hard Red Spring Wheat flour (River Valley Community Grains) – 33.8%
150g Sprouted Red Spring Wheat berries* (Breadtopia) – 14.9%
250g Spelt berries* (Castle Valley Mill) – 24.9%
165g White Senora berries* (Breadtopia) – 16.4%
100g Hard Wheat berries* (Castle Valley Mill) – 10%
Adapted Instructions:I included 10 tips for successful and smooth preparation of this recipe within the video above.
Mix all of the ingredients except the walnuts and cranberries. Cover the dough and let it sit for 30 minutes.
Complete one set of coil folds to build gluten strength.
Wet about 14″x18″ of clean counter or cutting board and place the dough on it. Stretch the dough into a large thin rectangle. A little tearing of the dough is okay.
See the video above for a visual explanation of the following instructions. Place about 1/3 of the cranberries and walnuts onto the middle third of the dough and then fold over a side, covering the additions. Spread another 1/3 of the additions over the layered dough, and then fold over the other side of the dough. Add the remaining cranberries and walnuts to half of the dough and then fold it in half.
Ball up the dough and return it to the bowl. Cover and let it rest 30 minutes.
Gently perform one round of coil folding, partly to redistribute the cranberries and walnuts, and partly to build more gluten.
Cover and let the dough rise until it has grown by 50-75%. In my experience, this was about 5.5 hours after the initial mixing in low to mid 70s kitchen temps.
Mist your countertop with water and transfer your dough onto it. Use your bench scraper and food scale to evenly divide the dough (see video). Fold the sides into the middle and form a ball. Flip the dough onto its seam. Use bench scraper to create some surface tension as you rotate the dough. Cover and let it rest for about 20 minutes.
Flour the rested dough and then flip it over. For a boule, do the same process as the pre-shape, only scoot the ball around to tighten it after flipping. For a batard, gently stretch the sides outward before folding them inward and over each other, then roll the dough up from the bottom, scooting the tube until the seam is facing down. Pinch the edges closed (see video).
Place the dough in a floured banneton, stitch seam if you shaped your dough into batards (see video), cover and proof 1-2 hours at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator. My dough went immediately into the refrigerator for 16 hours and was baked from the cold.
Preheat your oven and baking vessel to 485F for 45-60 minutes.
Flip your dough onto parchment and score it (see video). Put the dough in the baking vessel, cover it and bake for:
24 minutes at 485F, covered
18 minutes at 450F, uncovered
The internal temperature should be at least 205F when the bread is done. Let cool for 1-2 hours before slicing.
Final Thoughts: Overall these loaves came out looking and tasting great. The whole grain flours, cranberries, and nuts contributed to both great texture and flavor and the orange zest added freshness and complexity. In terms of appearance my scoring decisions (see pictures below) led to differences in oven spring, but thanksfully both loaves had even crumb and a crisp crust. Though I added the honey to balance the tartness of the cranberries and orange zest, all who tried these loaves noted that the orange zest at times seemed overpowering. In turn, next time I bake this recipe I’ll use less orange zest and possibly add some cinnamon to complement the nuts.
When describing one’s desire to never stop learning about the art of sourdough bread baking terms like journey, adventure, and quest are often used. Each of them meaning something different to each individual baker based on how he or she goes about learning new baking skills and harnessing what drives their unique passion for sourdough baking. For example, I often describe my baking as a journey because my passion is driven by things like experimentation, ingredient research, and learning from fellow bakers that I meet as a result of sharing my baking experiences with the worldwise sourdough community. This week’s featured baker has chosen the term “quest” to describe his pursuit of sourdough knowledge and quality baking experiences. In its simplest form, a quest can be defined as “an act or instance of seeking” (Merriam Webster dictionary). In my opinion this definition may be a bit too general because while one can go on a quest to seek something for him or herself. A quest can take on a much deeper meaning when it is carried out on behalf of others.
More specifically, Karl De Smedt aka the sourdough librarian has dedicated himself to ensuring the future of sourdough baking and constantly learning more about each sourdough culture’s story and capabilities through his “Quest for Sourdough” and research at the Puratos World Heritage Sourdough Library. After interviewing him I excitedly and sincerely shared the following on Instagram . “One factor that I’ve cherished over my years as a blogger is that while I’ve never amassed a sizeable amount of followers etc, I’ve been able to meet and interview quite a few individuals who inspire me on many different levels. This morning I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing one such individual, Karl De Smidt aka @the_sourdough_librarian. I found out that he is as much of a fermentation enthusiast as I am and values what it means to live a life that is defined by all that goes into truly “living food” and “living bread.” In other words, I found his passion, wealth of knowledge, and genuine personality to be inspiring, enlightening, and relateable on many levels.
So without further ado, it is may honor to present to you, Karl De Smedt of the Puratos World Heritage Sourdough Library.
The following topics were discussed during the course of this interview(podcast episode):
0:00-1:48 – Episode Intro – including one of the historical facts that I learned during this interview that blew my mind.
1:49-3:06 – Karl’s baking background before and after joining Puratos.
3:07-6:18 – History of the Puratos World Heritage Sourdough Library and its primary goals.
6:19-9:50 – Do sourdough starters in the Sourdough Library stay true to their original cultures and characteristics? and Plans to investigate this by revisiting their original sources.
9:51-12:00 – Lambic (wild) beer fermentation in Belgium – the unique wild yeast and bacteria present in each brewery and its surrounding area.
12:01-14:09 – Notable discoveries made so far at the Sourdough Library.
14:10-15:43 – Unique properties of lactobacillus sanfranciscensis, a lactic acid bacteria that was originally found in San Fransisco, but was later found in sourdough cultures all over the world.
15:44-17:53 – What Karl has gained from interacting with fellow bakers while on his “Quest for Sourdough.”
17:54-21:16 – An outsider’s view on the prevalance and history of sourdough in the United States versus that of European countries.
21:17-23:07 – Were classic French and Italian breads originally made with sourdough?
23:08-26:53- Why countries with histories of baking rye breads have longer stretches of uninterrupted years of sourdough being their primary bread leavening agent? and The science of baking an evenly baked loaf of German sourdough rye bread.
26:54-29:06 – What effects does rye flour truly have on sourdough starters that are not performing (fermenting) as expected?
29:08-31:20 – Sourdough culture in Belgium and its relation to well known American sourdough bakers.
31:21-33:20 – Countries that bake using sourdough, but purposely avoid sourness in their breads. Also, Karl’s experiences with sourdough in China and Japan.
33:21-35:26 – Notable friendships that Karl has formed since officially launching his “quest for sourdough.”
35:27-40:52 – Karl’s perspective on the terms “living bread” and “living food” and how it relates to the history of bread and fermentation. – What came first beer or bread?
40:53-43:21 – What’s being worked on now at the Sourdough Library? and What are some future plans for experiments (sourdough culture analysis)?
43:22-44:56 – The scientific study of sourdough’s effects on grain digestibility at the University of Bozen/Bolzano in Italy using starters from the library.
44:57-47:08 – Getting in touch with Karl and keeping up with the Sourdough Library’s activities…What are the benefits of registering your sourdough starter on questforsourdough.com?