Veggie Fermentation: Make your own condiments and sandwich toppings

Before we get to the recipes, I’d like to define the two most popular vegetable fermentation methods:

Lacto-fermentation (according to The Spruce Eats)

The good bacteria on the salt-tolerant team are called Lactobacillus. Several different species within this genus are used to produce fermented foods. Lactobacillus bacteria convert sugars naturally present in fruit or vegetables into lactic acid. Lactic acid is a natural preservative that helps fight bad bacteria and preserves not only the flavor and texture of food but also its nutrients. 

In stage one of lacto-fermentation, vegetables are submerged in a brine that is salty enough to kill off harmful bacteria. The Lactobacillus good guys survive this stage and begin stage two.

In stage two of lacto-fermentation, the Lactobacillus organisms begin converting lactose and other sugars present in the food into lactic acid. This creates an acidic environment that safely preserves the vegetables – and gives lacto-fermented foods their distinctive tangy flavor.

Vinegar Pickling (according to wellpreserved.ca)

These are the easiest pickles to make! Vegetables, fruit or protein (i.e. eggs) are covered in brine (which is sometimes heated). Eaten fresh or stored in the fridge for weeks or months, these pickles tent to be crunchy as they are barely cooked and are easy to experiment with.

The taste: These tend to be acidic and are generally more subtle than other pickles due to the short time it takes to create them. You can experiment wildly when creating these!

The basics: Making quick pickles isn’t complicated – equal parts water and vinegar with honey to taste. Add a dash of salt and any flavouring ingredients you wish (hot pepper flakes, dill, garlic and ginger are all great). Bring to a simmer, toss vegetables (or anything else) into the brine, immediately remove from heat and cool! We do this often for dinner and eat pickles the same night we make them. If you’re not in a rush you can dissolve salt and a sweetener (if desired) in the vinegar, add the water and spices, and pour the mixture over your veggies (e.g. sliced red onions, sliced cucumbers, and par-cooked beets).

Key points: 1) The three recipes that I’ve chosen to share in this article were chosen because at their core, the methods used to prepare and ferment/pickle them can be applied to many similar recipes. I will break them down accordingly to drive this point home even further. 2) Because everyone has different sized jars or fermentation crocks, I’ve chosen to share each recipe as a series of steps rather than a list of ingredients followed by a list of instructions.

Recipe #1: Lacto-fermented Dill Pickles

In order to fully experience flavors contributed by the dill, garlic, and other common pickle spices, I feel that nothing beats a homemade batch of lacto-fermented pickles. However, while I haven’t tried making a vinegar brined “quick” version of this recipe; I’m quite certain that it would taste much better than store-bought “dill pickles.”

Step 1: Make your brine – For every liter of warm filtered water dissolved 2 tbsp of good quality coarse sea salt. – This brine can be used to simplify many of your basic vegetable fermentations. Others may benefit from a 2-3% by weight brine.

Step 2: Prep the cucumbers – Cut off a bit of the blossom end of each curby (pickling) cucumber. If you’d like to keep your cucumber whole you can poke each end with a toothpick. Doing this allows the brine to work its way into the cucumbers as fermentation progresses and some say it prevents you from ending up with mushy pickles.

Step 3: Gather your spices and seasonings – Because I’ve made these pickles so many times I tend to eye ball each ingredient. However, best practice would be to start with the following: 1-2 tsp of each of black peppercorns, white or yellow mustard seeds, and coriander seeds / 6 cloves of garlic (peeled and sliced in half) and 1 bunch of fresh dill (roughly chopped)/ 2-3 dried bay leaves. Then depending on how big of a batch you’re making, you can use more of less of each of the spices and seasonings.

Step 3: Assembly – Add a little bit of dill and garlic to the bottom of your fermentation vessel followed by pinch or two of each of the spices. Then add a layer of cucumbers and 1 bay leaf. Continue layering until you’ve reached about 80% of your vessel’s capacity. Then slowly pour in enough brine to submerged the cucumbers. If you’ll be use a fermentation weight to keep them submerged, I’d recommend leaving a little more headspace for brine displacement.

Step 4: Start of fermentation – Loosely cover your fermentation vessel to keep dust and wild yeast out and allow CO2 to escape. If you’re using a Mason of similar jar you can tighten the lid most of the way and loosen it (burp it) 2-3 times a day to prevent too much pressure from building up in the jar. The amount of time that it takes to see visible signs of fermentation (bubbles) tends to vary, but in most cases it takes 12-24 hours. Place your vessel in a relatively cool dark place. The warmer the spice, the faster fermentation will progress.

Step 5: Fermentation progress – One sign that fermentation is progressing nicely is that the brine will become progressively cloudier over time (usually after the first 2 days of fermentation). Next, when I first started making dill pickles I would try my first pickle after 4-5 days and I’d recommend that you do the same. If the pickles aren’t sour or flavorful enough then let them ferment longer. Lately I’ve been tasting my pickles on day 6 or 7 and have waited up to 14 days before putting them in the refridgerator.

Rinse and repeat: This brine recipe can be used for fermenting many other vegetables i.e. choose and prepare your vegetable/s and seasonings, make your brine, combine, and ferment away.

Recipe #2: Whole grain beer mustard

This recipe is quite versatile in that you can choose which beer, type of mustard seeds, sweetener, and vinegar to use and still end up with a mustard that goes well with lots of sandwiches etc. When searching for easy to follow recipes online I found this one and most recently made 1.5x the recipe so that I could have yummy mustard in my fridge for a while (the beer and vinegar act as preservatives).

Step 1: Decide which mustard seeds (1 cup) and beer (5oz) you want to use – “yellow mustard seeds are more mellow, brown are spicier. If you’d rather not make a spicy mustard, use only yellow seeds. ” Both moderately hoppy and malt-forward beers can be used, but it’s easier to creat a balanced mustard with malt-forward (sweeter) beers.

Step 2 – Overnight soak – I’ve found that using a mortar and pestle or electric spice grinder to grind a portion of the mustard seeds helps ensure a smoother final texture. So I’d recommend grinding 1/4 to 1/3 of the seeds, mixing them with the whole seeds, and then pouring in the beer. Stir to combine, cover tightly, and refrigerate overnight.

Step 3 – The final mix – Combine your vinegar of choice (8oz – apple cider, malt, red wine, distilled white etc), sweetener of choice (2 tbsp – brown sugar, honey, demerara sugar, agave syrup etc), sea salt (2 tsp), and any additional spices. Stir until sweetener and salt have dissolved and combine with mustard seed / beer mixture.

Step 4 – Overnight rest – While the recipe linked above calls for achieving your desired texture with a food processor prior to refrigerating the finished mustard overnight. My experiences have taught me to either grind a portion of the mustard seeds in advance or use a high powder blender that can grind the seeds efficiently. During the overnight the rest the flavors will meld.

Step 5 – Enjoy! – I’ve used my homemade beer mustard as a condiment for sandwiches, an accompaniment to fermented veggies and meats, and in sauces and marinades.

Recipe #3 Lacto-fermented sauerkraut

With a little big of “elbow grease” this simple two-ingredient recipe bares no resemblance to store-bought (vinegar based) sauerkraut in both texture and taste. Two factors that separates one recipe from the next are the amount salt and whether spices are added.

Step 1: Chop and salt – While you can use any type of cabbage for sauerkraut, white cabbage is traditional. For my most recent batch I used Savoy cabbage, a firmer white cabbage…Remove the outer leaves of your head/s of cabbage (don’t throw them out) and cut into quarters. Then make a diagonal cut to remove the hard core from each quarter. Now you’re ready to thinly chop your cabbage into strips and mix with 1 tablespoon of coarse (kosher) sea salt per pound. Note, if you only have fine sea salt then use 2% by weight of salt.

Optional: I like to add spices to my sauerkraut. Most often I add 1 heaping tsp each of caraway and mustard seeds per head of cabbage.

Step 2: Knead and rest – To create your brine, knead the salt into the cabbage for 3-5 minutes or until it starts to release some of its water. Let it rest for 10 minutes (15 if you have the time) and then knead some more. Once you’ve accumulated about a cup worth of brine, transfer to your fermentation crock or jar, add your reserved outer cabbage leaves) and compress the cabbage until there’s 1/2 to 1 inch of brine on top. Then add your fermentation weights/s and compress a bit more. Note: If there still is not enough brine over the cabbage, you can make and then top it up with a 2% salt brine solution (e.g. 100g water and 2g of coarse sea salt (about 1 heaping teaspoon).

Step 3: Start of fermentation – Seal your fermentation crock or jar with airlock lid (following manufacturer’s instructions). Note if you only have standard ball (Mason) jar lids, you can use them. Just screw them on all the way and then loosen back a bit to let CO2 out. Place in a cool, dark place; 65 to 70°F (18 to 21°C) is ideal. After a 1-3 days, the fermentation process should start and bubbles should be visible on around and on top of the cabbage. Keep an eye out for overflowing brine.

Step 4: Fermentation TLC – Once fermentation kicks off, keep an eye on it and open your fermentation vessel to push the cabbage back down below the brine if needed. As during the preparation stage, if brine level gets too low, you can top it up with more 2% salt water solution. However, be careful not to open your vessel too often, as doing so increases chances of mold growth. If mold does grow on the surface, carefully scrape it off and continue to ferment your sauerkraut. Note: Some sulfurous smell is natural, but anything truly offensive is a bad sign.

Step 5: Is it ready yet? – Your sauerkraut is ready to eat when it is reaches your preferred level of sourness, which can take anywhere from 3 to 6 weeks. Personally, I usually taste my sauerkraut after 3 weeks and then let it ferment for another 7-10 days if it is not sour enough. Refrigerate in sealed containers for up to 6 months.

Step 6: Enjoy! – I love eating sauerkraut along side other fermented vegetables, whole grain mustard, and toasted sourdough rye bread. Though my favorite way to eat it is on a sandwich (sourdough caraway rye bread) with corned beef, whole grain mustard, and lacto-fermented pickles. Note: This method of brine production is also used when making kimchi.

Happy fermenting!!!

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Meet the Baker Behind the Loaves: Anne Clapper of The Family Crumb

Cottage bakery (n) – a bakery approved by state”cottage food” laws which allow entrepreneurial cooks and bakers to sell food from home under clearly defined conditions. Those conditions vary among jurisdictions, but usually include limits on the kinds of food you can sell and how much money you can make. With the explosion of home sourdough baking that has taken place since March 2020; many bakers have taken their baking to the next level by selling their breads and baked good under their state cottage laws. So while I’ve primarily been featuring home bakers who have made their hobbies into their professions. I’ve found those operating bakeries out of their homes to be just as inspiring and am happy to introduce the first “cottage baker” in this series.

From country boules to sourdough “nutty choc chip” cookies, Anne bakes it all with her husband and kids by her side. Her process involves the use of freshly milled flour, local ingredients, a passion for learning from each batch, and an impressive level of efficiency. These factors have allowed her business (aka The Family Crumb) to grow exponentially both in terms of sales and the variety of breads and other baked good being produced. As a result she has been able to raise her children on a diet rich in whole foods and the values of hard honest work; all while inspiring many home sourdough bakers and vicariously homebaking parents to start selling their sourdough breads.

So without further ado, I present to you Anne Clapper of The Family Crumb

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 What led to your decision to start a home / cottage bakery?

Anne: I’ve been baking sourdough bread for close to three years, and I began to do it professionally about two years ago. The Family Crumb has been both a cottage bakery and a commercial bakery. For about a year, I was wholesaling and baking out of a commissary kitchen, but when COVID hit, I made the decision to scale back rather than scale up.

Barry (The Brewed Palate): What steps did you need to take in order to be able to start selling your breads and baked goods as a cottage bakery in Arkansas? 

Anne: Being a cottage baker in Arkansas is pretty simple. You need to clearly label everything you sell with ingredients and the address where it’s made, and make sure you’re only selling at Farmers Markets or having customers pick up at your house. I believe they also recently expanded the law to include pop up sales, but I’m not doing any of that currently.

Barry (The Brewed Palate): With the growth that your bakery has recently experienced in mind. How have your weekly baking schedule and approach to sourdough baking evolved over time? 

Anne: My bakery is smaller right now than it was six months ago because I can’t keep up with demand. When I was baking out of a commercial kitchen, I could get 16 boules an hour out of the oven. At home, I can only do 4 boules an hour. So my numbers have scaled way back, but I’m able to be safe with my family right now, which I realize is a huge privilege. As any baker knows, the baking schedule is constantly getting tweaked and adjusted to try to fit into whatever season of life we’re in. 

Barry (The Brewed Palate): Of all of your bread recipes, which one would you say has evolved the most over time? What has its evolution taught you about recipe development? 

Anne: Each recipe that has stayed with me through the years of baking has had its fair share of changes. The savory pumpkin boule is a pretty finicky recipe because of the hydration levels, so that one has had a lot of adjustments even day to day. 

Barry (The Brewed Palate): As a father of two I admire how much you involve your kids in your baking. Especially after you posted the picture of your daughter’s starter aka Remus Glupin. How did you introduce sourdough baking to your kids? and How would you recommend that fellow baking parents get their kids involved in their sourdough baking?

Anne: Oh man. Instagram really paints a pretty picture of how I involve my kids in my baking. Sometimes, it’s really fun and they listen and it’s magical. Sometimes, I’m hanging onto my sanity while I watch flour spill everywhere. But each time we bake together, I know we’re doing something to benefit their lives, because the feeling of self sufficiency that comes with baking something as essential as bread is something special.

Introducing baking was pretty natural because I do it often and they’re interested in things that they see me doing. The challenge has been trying to patiently involve them when I’m really just trying to move on to the next thing. It’s not always possible, but I try to do it when I can. With our youngest, I’ve had success using a tip I learned from Bonnie O’Hara (Alchemy Bread) just letting him play with flour and a bench knife.

Barry (The Brewed Palate): Somewhat in line with the previous question. I love how you incorporate local and responsibly sourced ingredients into your cookies and other baked goods. In my opinion doing so adds much needed nutritional value to foods that would otherwise be considered indulgences (or “treats”). How would you describe your cookie and pastry recipe development process? 

Anne: Part of our decision for the bakery to be vegan was born out of necessity. My son and I both have dairy allergies, so I wasn’t comfortable putting my name on a recipe I couldn’t taste. I will say, I think these treats are totally still treats and not at all something that should be consumed all the time.

When I develop new recipes, sometimes because I’m excited about them and sometimes because they’re heavily requested, I start with a few trusted recipes and modify them in ways I think will work. Converting a conventional recipe to a vegan one takes a LOT of trial and error, but I’ve stored up quite a few go to tools to do this over the years.

Barry (The Brewed Palate): To what degree has your approach to sourdough baking been affected by your recently acquired Mockmill and incorporation of freshly milled flour into your breads?

Anne: I feel like I’m just scratching the surface with the Mockmill right now! Water content is a huge change because the fresh flour seems to be able to take on a lot more of it. The breads also have a much deeper flavor, almost like the volume has been turned up. And boy do they prove more quickly with fresh flour!

Barry (The Brewed Palate): Have you baked breads with specific food pairings in mind? If so, what steps do you typically take to ensure that the pairing turns out how you originally envisioned it?

Anne: I’ve done pairings, but I’ve had to rely on the expertise of others. I did a beer/cheese pairing which was pretty difficult for me because I don’t really drink and I can’t eat cheese. So I leaned on the very talented brewer (New Province Brewing) and cheese monger (Sweet Freedom Cheese) that I was working with, and I think it turned out well!

Barry (The Brewed Palate): Flipping the previous question around…Now that you’ve been baking in bulk for some time. What are some lessons that you’ve learned that could help those who are only baking for family and friends improve how they go about their dough preparation and baking?

Anne: Starter health is something that’s been a big revelation over the years. There are nights where I’m exhausted and don’t want to get out of bed to feed the starter and the bread always suffers. This may seem obvious, but I still forget sometimes. I also find that intuition is more important than a timer. If you can learn to trust your instincts, you’ll often save heartache on bake day. Whether it’s shaping the bread quickly when it’s hot or taking a two hour bench rest because the bread still isn’t there yet, I am always glad when I listen to my instincts instead of going by the timer.

Barry (The Brewed Palate): If you were to give five tips to someone looking to start selling their sourdough loaves, what would they be?

Anne: Okay. Five Tips…

1. The first time anything is new, it’s hard. Don’t be discouraged if at the end of your first bake, you feel depleted and exhausted. 

2. Always build buffer time into your schedule. Especially if you have children!

3. Prescaling is a really, really good idea. Make your plan for mix day and weigh everything out the night before. It saves time on mix day and it can often save you from scaling mistakes.

4.  Make sure to rest. Baking is tiring, and you’ll need to recharge. Lying on the floor quietly for 2 minutes can make a big difference.

5. The fridge is your friend. Dough can rest overnight, the starter can chill in there on non baking days, cookie dough can wait there, etc. Use that fridge!

Barry (The Brewed Palate):  Sourdough bread is often called “living bread.” What do the terms “living bread” and “living food” mean to you? 

Anne: Watching the dough prove really does make it feel like a living bread. I do strangely feel like mixing day is all about communicating with the dough. Past that, I know there’s a lot of science in the works talking about how sourdough is beneficial, but I’m not current with it. 

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Quick Recipe: Rosh Hashanah Sourdough Discard Honey Cake

Have some sourdough starter discard? Try this easy honey cake!

With my rye starter smelling like honey lately, I was inspired to adapt this recipe for both discard and my personal taste preference. For my first honey cake this one turned fluffy, moist, and balanced in flavor and sweetness.

Ingredients:

1 cup Sourdough starter discard

3 cups All Purpose flour – sifted

2 tsp Baking Powder

1 tsp Baking Soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp Cinnamon

1/2 tsp Nutmeg

1 cup Vegetable Oil

1.25 cups Honey

1.5 cups Dark Brown Sugar

3 eggs

1 tsp Vanilla Extract

1 cup Strong Coffee

1/4 cup orange juice

Preparation Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease the your cake pan(s) of choice. For tube and angel food pans, line the bottom with lightly greased parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the add the starter discard, oil, honey, sugars, eggs, vanilla, coffee, and orange juice. Then sift in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices.

3. Using a strong wire whisk or an electric mixer on slow speed, combine the ingredients well to make a thick batter, making sure that no ingredients are stuck to the bottom of the bowl.

4. Let batter sit at room temperature for 15-20 minutes to allow the discard to activate a bit.

5. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan(s). Place the cake pan(s) on 2 baking sheets stacked together and bake until the cake springs back when you touch it gently in the center. For angel and tube cake pans, bake for 60 to 70 minutes; loaf cakes, 45 to 55 minutes. For sheet-style cakes, the baking time is 40 to 45 minutes. This is a liquidy batter and, depending on your oven, it may need extra time. Cake should spring back when gently pressed.Let the cake stand for 15 minutes before removing it from the pan. Then invert it onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Shana Tovah!!!

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Baking Demi-baguettes in the Challenger Bread Pan

Ever since I got my Challenger Bread Pan and watched Artisan Bryan’s video where he bakes demi-baguettes in it; I wanted to find and bake a simple baguette recipe that would help me learn how to both make use of the bread pan’s dimensions and master the baguette shaping process. Furthermore, in addition to having an ideal baking vessel, I made sure to wait until I had the tools that would make the baguette preparation process go as smoothly as possible before taking on this baking challenge. The tools came in the form of a transfer peel and baker’s couche from St Germain Bakery.

Test 1: Dialing in the recipe proportions

Choosing a simple baguette recipe to follow was quite easy as I looked over my browser’s bookmarked webpages and found The Perfect Loaf’s (Maurizio) “Sourdough Baguettes” recipe already there. My next step was to decide how long I would make the baguettes and after a brief glance at the Challenger Breadware website I decided to aim to make them 12 inches long i.e. the full length of the bottom portion of the bread pan. Lastly, after chosing the flours that I’d be using and adapting the proportions of Maurizio’s recipe to account for 2 inches less per baguette (for the 6 baguette batch) it was time to start preparing my dough. Click here for my adapted formula. Note: Base flour = Central Millng’s malted T85 flour and Beehive All-Purpose flour AND High Gluten flour = Janie’s Mill’s High-Protein flour.

Key components of Maurizio’s recipe: A) The levain ratio is 1:1:1 in order to keep the final acidity low. B) Aiming for a target final dough temperature of 79F/26C (prior to its cold bulk fermentation), speeds up the levain and initial warm bulk fermentation process. C) The overnight cold bulk fermentation results in added complexity and ends with visible signs of fermentation, but no significant rising of the dough. D) I’d recommend checking out his Kamut demi-baguette post (link below) for pictures of his recommended shaping process E) Keep your tray of proofed baguettes in the refrigerator while each subsequent set of 2 baguettes is baking. F) Due to these baguettes being smaller than Maurizio’s original recipe, I’d recommend checking on your baguettes towards the end of the uncovered portion of their baking in order to prevent them from getting too dark.

Test Results: For my first attempt at baking sourdough baguettes this batch came out quite good. Despite some proofing and shaping issues, their crumb was open, crust crispy, and flavor mild yet delicious at the same time. In terms of lessons specific to the Challenger bread pan, their 12 inch length was definitely too long. In turn, while planning for my next batch (Test 2), I used the ruler on my transfer peel to measure the bread pan’s inner dimensions and came to the conclusion that 10.5-11 inches would be a more appropriate baguette length.

Test 2 – All dialed in!

While I could have followed the same recipe for this batch, I decided to follow Maurizio’s Kamut demi-baguette recipe instead. However, I didn’t have any kamut flour on hand and therefore I substituted it with einkorn flour. In terms of adapting the recipe to the Challenger bread pan, I decided to keep the final dough weight the same as the previous batch, but made sure to shape them to 1-1.5 inches shorter (10.5-11 inches instead of 12). Click here for my adapted formula. Note: ABC Plus flour = Central Milling’s Artisan Baker’s Craft Plus flour.

Key components of Maurizio’s recipe: A) The levain ratio for this recipe is 1:2:1 i.e. “a stiff preferment to bring more control to the fermentation in this dough and add additional strength.” B) Put the levain in warm area (78-80F/25.5-26.6C) so that it’ll double in size within 4 hours. I used my Brod & Taylor proofer. C) “At 78-82°F (25.5-27.7C) ambient temperature, this (warm) portion of bulk fermentation will go for 2 hours.” C) As with the previous recipe (see its article), the length of this recipe’s cold bulk fermentation is flexible i.e. you can proceed with the rest of the process when it’s most convenient for you. D) Follow Maurizio’s shaping steps carefully in order to make the shaping process as simple and smooth as possible. E) Keep both ends of the couche supported at all times in order to prevent the baguettes that are not in the process of being baked from spreading out.

Test Results: While my baguette scoring skills need work, scoring a bit deeper after this batch’s first set of baguettes made a big difference in how much the remaining 4 rose during baking. With the length dialed in, the overall appearance of this batch was much more consistent (inside and out). In terms of flavor, the einkorn flour added a mild yet pleasant sweetness to the crust and crumb that was definitely distinct enough to differentiate from the flavor profile of the previous batch. Lastly, one factor that may be unique to my refrigerator, but I still feel is worth noting is the following. When I took both batches out to start the shaping and proofing processes there was some water built up on one edge of the mixing bowl. In fact, when dividing this batch I somehow ended up with 100-120 less grams of dough than expected. However, this may have been due to my placing the dough on the top shelf where it was colder than the bottom shelf i.e. where I put stored the first batch during its cold bulk fermentation.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Shape the baguettes to 10.5-11 inches (4.1 – 4.33cm) and between 275 and 325g in weight.
  2. The Challenger Bread Pan allows you to start baking demi-baguettes covered like you would for your other sourdough loaves rather than setting up a steam pan.
  3. Feel free to scale this recipe up or down. While I made six baguettes per batch, you can easily make less in order to shorten how much time you spend baking.
  4. Score your baguettes carefully (deep enough and down the center) to make sure that they rise enough during baking. I transferred them onto an awaiting piece of parchment paper that I had placed on top of a plastic (OXO) cutting board, scored them, and then used the cutting board as a peel and carefully slid the baguettes into the bread pan.
  5. Keep an eye on the color of the baguettes during the uncovered portion of the baking process in order to prevent them from getting too dark. Inverting the bread pan lid and placing the bottom portion on top can prevent over-carmelized bottoms.

For more photos of both batches go to my Instagram page.

Happy Baking!

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Meet the Baker Behind the Loaves: Melissa Johnson of Breadtopia

What does it take to become a “bread writer?” With so many beginner sourdough books and blogs available nowadays, finding what makes one’s perspective on this growing hobby unique has become increasingly important. However, when authoring a cookbook, this factor can become discouraging. In my opinion, focusing on presenting one’s perspective and methods in a way that readers will relate to and benefit from is what matters most. Fortunately, many of today’s cookbook and sourdough baking book authors start off as bloggers. According to accomplished chef, food writer, food stylist, and cookbook author Alice Hart, this is “a good practice and a way to advertise yourself. These days, a publisher will want to know how they can sell, not just the food, but you the writer. By showing what you’re about and who your target audience is, you’ve just made their lives easier and yourself more hireable” (The Guardian).

Starting off as a nutrition-focused writer, this week’s featured baker developed a passion for writing about sourdough baking through the documentation of her “trying new baking techniques, grains, and flavors; photographing the baking process; and explaining to the others the science and artistry of sourdough.” Melissa Johnson took this passion and curiousity with her when she began working as a recipe developer and documenter of sourdough experiments for Breadtopia at the beginning of 2017. From kubaneh (Jewish Yemeni bread) to corn porridge and rosemary sourdough bread, Melissa has found a way to present her enthusiasm to her fellow bakers in a fun and approachable manner both on the Breadtopia website and in ‘Sourdough Cookbook for Beginners’, the recently released book that she co-authored with Breadtopia founder Eric Rusch.

So without further ado, I present to you Melissa Johnson of Breadtopia.

Barry (The Brewed Palate): Being that you initially explored sourdough baking as an extension of your interest in gut health and fermented foods. How has your view of fermented foods changed since you began baking sourdough bread?

Melissa: I have a bigger appreciation for fermented foods since I began baking sourdough bread. I see how fermentation enhances the flavor of different grains and the texture of different breads. For example, I recently made a few batches of Eric’s Traditional Whole Grain Sourdough to mail to my son in college and for the rest of the family to eat at home too. It’s so soft and delicious, and it’s perfect for shipping across the country as it resists staling. In fact, it’s supposed to taste best on day three.  

There are so many things I love about sourdough baking—how the tang of a long-fermented sourdough pizza dough complements different toppings, and how cinnamon rolls leavened with sourdough have a much more complex flavor than when leavened with commercial yeast.

Finally, and a bit unexpectedly, I’ve also found that using sourdough starter in two different chickpea dishes helps me digest them (farinata and homemade pasta made with a mix of chickpea flour and wheat flour). 

Barry (The Brewed Palate): Firstly, congratulations on your recently published book Sourdough Cookbook for Beginners, which you co-authored with Breadtopia founder Eric Rusch. With so many beginner sourdough books available nowadays, what steps did you and Eric take to set your book apart from other similar books?

Melissa: Thank you. We really enjoyed writing the book and wanted to address the fact that many people avoid sourdough baking because they’re under the impression that there’s only one way to maintain sourdough starter and bake bread—and that one way is time-consuming, requires a lot of planning, and tends to be wasteful. Even with the uptick in sourdough baking due to Covid lockdown, I sometimes hear people say they won’t continue baking when life returns to normal. 

Teaching people a simpler, more laidback approach to sourdough baking is why Eric created Breadtopia in 2006, and finding the website after baking two loaves of sourdough bread in 2016 is why I kept at it. I’d actually just tossed my starter because after trying a more conventional approach, I really didn’t think I could fit the complications of sourdough baking into my life. 

So in the book, Eric and I explain the fundamental concepts that enable people to make sourdough baking work for their lifestyles and schedules. We also give immediate methods and instructions for beginners to start with and later modify once they gain experience gauging fermentation and gluten development. 

Finally, we created a lot of videos on Breadtopia.com (click book cover photo) to accompany the book so people could see different techniques and steps in action.

Barry (The Brewed Palate): While reading through the initial chapters of the book I was pleased to find a starter troubleshooting guide. What you feel are the 5 key components of creating a comprehensive and practical sourdough starter guide?

Melissa: I think a starter guide is essentially a dough fermentation guide, and both should explain the importance of observation, the impact of different ingredients (flour types, water, salt, sugar, protein, fat), what happens at various stages of fermentation, how temperature and hydration impact development, and what to do when the most common problems pop up. 

Barry (The Brewed Palate): As an avid home cook who enjoys cooking a wide variety of ethnic dishes, I admire your incorporation of complex flavor profiles into your cooking and baking. How would describe your perspective on cooking and how does it influence your bread baking? 

Melissa: I love trying dishes and breads from all over the world, learning how the flavors and techniques traveled over geography and time, and seeing how different ingredients or techniques might achieve similar flavor goals. I’m grateful every day that I have access to information and recipes on the internet, and to different ingredients in the stores where I live. 

I’m also a convenience seeker and shameless ingredient substituter, so the more I learn from different culinary traditions, the more tools I have at my disposal to mix and match, and not make one more trip to the grocery store. 

In both cooking and baking, I’m trying to optimize the effort-to-outcome ratio. Truly, I’m willing to do very effortful activities, e.g. make 50 empanadas with two kinds of filling, if I feel like the end result is worth it. It is 😉 This is also why I love doing baking experiments: finding out how big of a difference a technique or step actually makes. 

Barry (The Brewed Palate): As a baker who embraces the benefits of baking with freshly milled grains, how do you choose which grains to mill when developing your recipes?

Melissa: Usually flavor profile and gluten strength are my first considerations – how they will contribute to the style of the bread. Kamut and durum tend to be classic choices for Italian breads, for example, but I also like to test unexpected choices e.g. a soft white wheat grown in Arizona as a component of focaccia. We recently wrote a guide to flour and wheat types to try to help people understand the different flavors and characteristics of various wheat varieties. 

Barry (The Brewed Palate): Having been a homebrewer for the past 11 years, I enjoy delving into the more scientific aspects of sourdough baking. As someone who is married to a homebrewer, what advantages do you feel experienced homebrewers have when it comes to mastering the sourdough baking process? and How would you recommend that the average home sourdough baker incorporate scientific measurements such as dough temperature and pH into their established baking processes?

Melissa: From what I’ve observed with my husband, homebrewers are experts in optimizing yeast populations. You’re also used to following elaborate processes, and you’re familiar with different grains and the effects of malting or sprouting. When evaluating the finished product, homebrewers talk about mouthfeel and aroma in addition to oven spring, flavor, and crumb openness. And if you’re a homebrew judge, you probably have a very developed vocabulary and palate for describing flavors. Finally, you usually have some cool fancy equipment for temperature control. 

I think that understanding the role of temperature is a fantastic asset to sourdough bread baking, and understanding pH is helpful for creating your own starter or modifying it for a heavily enriched dough like panettone. 

If you need to produce identical breads on a predictable schedule, measuring dough temperature and keeping a steady ambient temperature are crucial. 

I mostly respond to/make predictions based on ambient temperature rather than control it. I do appreciate having my homebrewer husband’s lagering refrigerator at my disposal for 55°F fermentation because I don’t always want the dormancy of refrigerating at 38°F or the speed of 65-80°F overnight (that’s my kitchen temperature spread across seasons). My husband also built me a thermoelectric cooler with a Peltier chip last winter so I could keep panettone dough at 80-85°F.

Barry (The Brewed Palate): Similar to the process of malting grains, incorporating home sprouted grains into one’s baking can increase the digestibility and flavor of sourdough bread. How would you recommend that bakers take full advantage of sprouted grains?

Melissa: You can buy sprouted flours and sprouted grains to mill into flour if you have a countertop grain mill. You can also sprout and dehydrate the grains yourself for milling. Finally, you can sprout grains and use them whole in a bread like this Rugbrod or a porridge like this Burbara.   

Barry (The Brewed Palate): While sourdough bread may make gluten more digestible for those diagnosed with a sensitivity to gluten, there are those who prefer to bake completely gluten free loaves. What are some tips that you would give to those trying to bake gluten free sourdough breads?

Melissa: We’re doing experiments with different approaches and hope to have gluten free sourdough starter and bread recipes up on Breadtopia’s blog soon. We also recommend this book by Chris Stafferton, Promise & Fulfillment: Formulas for real bread without gluten. 

Barry (The Brewed Palate): Other than your book of course, what are some of your favorite sourdough books?

Melissa: I’ve got quite a few sourdough books, but I tend to come back to Peter Reinhart’s Bread Baker’s Apprentice for a lot of technique and formulas. Even though his recipes primarily use instant yeast, I find it easy enough to convert them to sourdough. I have also learned a lot about recipes with ancient grains and porridges from Tartine No3 by Chad Robertson. Living Bread by Dan Leader and New World Sourdough by Bryan Ford are both interesting and gorgeous too. I’ve been meaning to get Sarah C. Owens’ Sourdough for ages, but haven’t yet. I also love to look at Maurizio’s recipes on the website The Perfect Loaf, and I get a ton of inspiration from various bakers on Instagram. Lately, I’ve been also watching YouTube videos of bakers from around the world making breads I’ve never heard of, and I’m learning more about how vast and beautiful the world of bread is.

Barry (The Brewed Palate): Sourdough bread is often called “living bread.” What do the terms “living bread” and “living food” mean to you?

Melissa: Living bread and living food mean to me that the ingredients have had minimal intermediaries and processing before my family eats them. Living food is slicing potatoes with the skin still on and making fries on a baking sheet with olive oil at 425°F in the oven vs. buying a freezer bag of skinless pre-cooked fries cut from the one variety of potato bred for a particular length and starch level, and then coated in dextrose, a blend of oils, and a preservative. 

The same applies to bread; a loaf made from whole, sustainably-farmed heirloom grains, fresh-milled with my Mockmill in my kitchen and leavened with a live, wild yeast sourdough culture, bears no resemblance in flavor or nutrition to what you find on a grocery store shelf.

Living food can cost more time and money to prepare and consume, but as a society, we’re realizing that the hidden costs of convenient and less-nutritious foods are even higher. We have more and more people suffering from endocrine and other diseases that are linked to consuming ultra-processed foods. Now we need to work on educating people, prioritizing access to knowledge and ingredients – this is kind of the underlying quest behind my work. 

Thank you Melissa for all that you’ve done and continue to do for the worldwide sourdough community! May your educated and artful way of presenting sourdough baking to your readers continue to bring you much success and be an inspiration to increasingly more home bakers.

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Meet the Baker Behind the Loaves: Sune “Foodgeek” Trudslev

Challenging conventional wisdom on a regular basis takes courage and tenacity. In my experience, though, doing so often helps hobbyists of all experience levels view commonly utilized techniques as less intimidating and detail-oriented. With so many beginner and advanced sourdough recipes available nowadays, there are many points at which home bakers could panic over small details and either give up or make mistakes. In response, a number of bloggers have chosen to present their perspectives on sourdough baking as an evolving journey of incorporating discoveries that result from challanging conventional wisdom.

“Experiment time!”

Screen Shot 2020-09-01 at 11.18.49 PMThis week’s featured baker has made a name for himself both on Youtube and his blog by challenging commonly accepted dough preparation and baking methods in order to help his fellow home bakers “get the most out of every ingredient.” Sune Trudslev, a Denmark-based software engineer, guitar enthusiast, and all-around foodie has inspired me and many of my fellow bakers to take a simplified approach to our sourdough baking and bake our best breads.

So without further ado, it is my honor to present to you Sune “Foodgeek” Trudslev.

Barry (The Brewed Palate): How long have you been baking sourdough bread? / What came first your passion or cooking or baking?

sune_foodgeek_chocolateSune: I started seriously venturing into sourdough baking around January 2018. I spent about 6 months baking so often it was humanly possible and I put my first article ‘Sourdough bread for beginners’ out around late summer that year. My passion for baking started when I was a kid. I would be home alone in the afternoons and since my mom would bake bread, we had everything needed to make it, so around 9 years old I found a recipe book and started baking. My passion for cooking didn’t come until my late 20’s.

Barry (The Brewed Palate): Who were your inspirations when you were getting started with your sourdough journey?

Sune: I had a keen eye at Maurizio Leo and his site ‘The Perfect Loaf‘ 

Barry (The Brewed Palate): What do you find unique about sourdough baking in Denmark?

Sune: I don’t know if there’s anything unique about it. Covid-19 has changed the world and many many people have been introduced to the wonders of the tamagotchi like being: the sourdough starter. Many bakeries in Denmark have started to change from just adding “sourdough taste” into bread, to using actual starters. I think that’s a wonderful development.

Barry (The Brewed Palate): Your blog has a lot of great tools that make sourdough baking approachable and practical. What factors went into your decision to create your own baking calculator/s etc.?

Sune: All my calculators started out of necessity. I found some tools online, but they didn’t really do everything that I wanted or needed, and since my professional background is in software engineering, it was easy for me to make them myself.

Barry (The Brewed Palate): As a long time homebrewer (beer, mead, and cider) and homecook, watching your YouTube videos and then utilizing your Baking Calculator to create a recipe and get started on my personal sourdough baking journey seemed more practical then strictly following a “beginner sourdough recipe.” In your opinion, what is the most practical approach to getting started with baking sourdough bread?

Bread PosterSune: Well, my first recipe for sourdough bread for beginners had a lot of structure to it, but I didn’t really have enough experience to see what was important and what wasn’t. Baking sourdough bread is about cultivating an awesome starter. Taking a simple formula and following a few rules and then you can have awesome bread. That’s what I am trying to show on my youtube channel. Things don’t have to be complicated or dogmatic. That goes for life too.

 

Barry (The Brewed Palate): How long have you had your YouTube channel? / How has your approach to sourdough baking changed as a result of your channel’s steady growth?

Screen Shot 2020-09-02 at 9.16.12 AM

Sourdough Experiment Playlist

Sune: I started my channel on the 30th of March 2019. My approach to sourdough hasn’t changed, but my methods have changed a lot because of all the testing I have done. My methods are so much simpler now.

Barry (The Brewed Palate): What are some of your future plans for your Youtube channel and blog?

Sune: I plan on making more recipes and conducting more experiments. I also plan to branch out into other baking and food related things and hope to take my current followers with me. Currently the most important thing for me is to be able to make a sustainable channel that I can do full time, but obviously things take time. 

Barry (The Brewed Palate): How often do you bake during the average week?

Sune: I usually bake 2 times a week, they are either for videos or testing for later videos. At some point I hope to be doing this every day and be able to try out more things.

Barry (The Brewed Palate): From watching your videos I’ve realized that we share a common interest in baking with rye. What do you like most about baking with rye? and What are some tips that you’d give for baking with it?

37AB9DE7-7BD2-4401-8126-C58707D07CD8

Sune: Rye is a difficult beast, but it is so, so tasty. Our national bread in Denmark is a 100% rye bread which is eaten almost every day by most Danes. If you just want the delicious taste of rye, just replace 20% with whole grain rye. Your bread will be tastier and more sour as well.

 

Barry (The Brewed Palate): What are your favorite food and bread pairings?

Sune: Food and bread pairings? An awesome garlic naan with some indian food. A slice of toasted tangy sourdough bread with some delicious cheese. 

Barry (The Brewed Palate): Sourdough bread is often called “living bread.” What do the terms “living bread” and “living food” mean to you?

15A85649-3BA7-4B39-B51E-C42295B5C4CCSune: Food is an essential part of what it means to be a human. They say that some people eat to live, but others live to eat. I am the latter kind. I love to try everything in the world, it gives me joy. Food is also the thing that brings people together. I love to cook for others and create a wonderful place for discovery and sharing of ideas. Bread is food, just one of the more awesome ones. Bread goes with almost anything.

Thank you Sune for all that you’ve done and continue to do for the worldwide sourdough community! May your unique and practical way of presenting sourdough baking to your followers continue to bring you much success and be an inspiration to increasingly more home bakers.

 

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An Ode to Rye (Part One): Hearty, Traditional, and Delicious

ryeWhile it has been an underdog or “specialty grain” in American baking for many years, rye’s rich tradition in many European countries tells a different story. From German Schwarzbrot to Danish Rugbrød, dense yet flavorful 100% rye breads which highlight this flavor packed grain’s heartiness have been baked for centuries. To quote a New York Times article by Julia Moskin, “Rye, like barley and oats, is an ancient grain that thrives in cold and wet weather. Before modern agriculture and transportation made wheat available everywhere, rye was the best (and sometimes only) option for bread baking in a huge swath of northern Europe, from Russia and the Baltic States, west through Poland, Hungary, Austria, Germany and the Netherlands and up into Scandinavia.” Luckily, in recent years more and more home and professional bakers have started baking traditional rye loaves and made rye bread attractive to a wider audience. Furthermore, bakers around the world such as those featured in Daniel Leader’s book Living Bread, have kept old world traditions alive and continued to inspire others to do so the same.

1OZ-WEY09042018103135When it comes to my love of rye, I’ve always loved eating sandwiches with classic supermarket rye bread or fresh rye bread from my cousin’s bakery and favorite local kosher deli. However, in that manner it was about the caraway flavor and overall texture of the bread and not the grain itself. Once I started homebrewing in 2009 I slowly got to know the unique characteristics of rye and what it contributes to a fermented product, specifically beer. While it complements the malted barley, malted rye usually adds a distinct spiciness and extra mouthfeel when fermented at ale temperatures (∼62-80F). Of course, sourdough starter is not ale yeast, but it is similarly known for its ability to help grains like rye contribute their own unique set of flavors to finished loaves.

Since getting back into sourdough baking this past April rye has played a major role in my baking. I started with a 50/50 rye/all-purpose flour starter (it’s now 100% rye and 130% hydration) and the recipe that I have developed as my ‘base recipe’ has 15% rye in it. However, with each successful loaf an urge to delve deeper into the history and potential of baking with rye only got bigger. So in the beginning of August I came up with the idea to embark on a journey called “An ode to rye” in order to work towards mastering the skills necessary to successfully bake as many traditional and modern rye breads as possible. In order to do so I decided to split my loaves into the three following categories.

Categories: A: Ideal table rye breads – 20-35% rye breads 

088FFF30-7378-419B-AF5D-C8014EB45E0AThrough the combination of different rye flours with complementary wheat flours my goal for this category is to successfully bake batard-shaped loaves that are both complex in flavor, good for sandwiches, and for having on the table at meals. I chose 20-35 as my rye percentage range for this category to ensure that the differences made by the rye flour are undoubtedly noticeable without making its loaves too dense.

Progress so far: I’ve baked 6 loaves of a 35% rye (split between dark and light rye) recipe. The first two of which had caraway seeds in them. While I definitely have the flavor profile (well caramelized, hearty, and uniquely rye tasting) that I’m looking for dialed in; I’ve yet to get the fermentation and proofing to lead to a balance of the even crumb and moist yet not too dense texture that I pictured when developing the recipe.

Category B: Creative rye loaves w/ inclusions (mix-ins)

118231219_10100269393131327_4772362105047972111_nFrom pickle brine to dried fruit, incorporating rye into a new or previously baked recipe can add texture and flavor to one’s sourdough loaves. As much as I’ve already been doing so; I feel that there are a lot of traditional and modern recipes and methods that include anywhere from 10-50% rye that I need to bake and taste in order to learn more about the versatility of rye.

Progress so far: Since officially starting this journey I’ve baked one loaf, Drescherlaib from Daniel Leader’s book, Living Bread. This spiced whole spelt and rye loaf was one of two loaves that I baked once I made my rye starter (aka Randolph) 100% rye.  While it came out tasting good, it was too dense for my taste. Next time I bake it I’ll do more initial hand mixing, one instead of two coil folds, and proof at room temperature instead of overnight in my refrigerator.

Category C: Traditional 100% rye loaves

118401566_10100269393056477_6446609908180212235_nDespite being the most challenging to ferment and bake due to rye’s lower gluten (and protein) content, results of baking these traditional loaves can be the most rewarding.  So while I may not bake them as often as the two other categories; I’ll be researching how to achieve successful results just as often.

Progress so far: For my second loaf after making my rye starter 100% rye. I made a 166% hydration levain as per Food Geek’s recipe for Rugbrød, a traditional Danish rye bread. Overall, I was happy with how this loaf turned out and enjoyed pairing it with meats and pickled veggies. However, when I do bake Rugbrød again, I’ll most likely try a different recipe (for comparison) and use a different combination of seeds. For me the pumpkin seeds in this recipe made it harder to gauge when the loaf was ready to make, were too large, and over-shadowed the sunflower seeds.

Up next: In part two of this series I’ll go into more detail about the 35% rye batard loaves that I’ve already baked and how I plan on contuing to tweak the recipe (formula).

 

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Garlic & Herb Sourdough Discard Crackers

IMG_20200828_134616_903

After thoroughly enjoying my first sourdough discard crackers last week with the help of a recipe by Milk and Pop. I decided to use similar parameters while making a savory version. Now that I’m two batches in I can confidently say that I will continue baking this style of cracker rather than the common technique of mixing oil and spices into discard and baking almost paper thin crackers. By splitting recipe formulation into choosing a puree for initial moisture, water or milk, which spices to mix in, and a combination of flours. This recipe can be adapted to any flavor profile that you fancy when you have some sourdough starter discard to use up.

IMG_20200828_134616_899Recipe: Roasted Garlic and Herb Discard Crackers

Makes 42 crackers  (feel free to half this recipe)

1 cup un-fed sourdough starter discard

1 cup water

1 cup roasted sweet potato puree

10-12 cloves roasted garlic

IMG_20200828_134616_9011 tsp salt

1/2 tsp black pepper (freshly ground)

1/3 cup demerara sugar

1 tbsp minced onion (dry)

1/2 tsp dried thyme

1/2 tsp dried rosemary

1/2 dried sage

IMG_20200828_134616_8982/3 cup sliced almonds

1 cup rolled oats

1 cup AP flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

2 tsp baking soda

 

 

Instructions (adapted from Milk and Pop’s recipe)

  1. Preheat your oven to 375°F (190C)
  2. Peel garlic cloves and lay them on top of a piece of aluminum foil, bunch up the foil so that oil won’t leach out. Drizzle the cloves with olive oil, season them with salt and black pepper, and wrap them up tight and put them in the oven. Roast until soft and smelling yummy!
  3. Peel and cube 2 medium sized sweet potatoes (yams), spray the cubes with non-stick spray (or drizzle with oil), and roast them in the oven until tender and caramelize on their edges.
  4. Once they’re finished roasting, puree the garlic and sweet potatoes in a food processor and use the oil from the garlic to achieve and chunky yet smooth consistency.
  5. Grease and line with parchment paper 2 small loaf pans. I usually use a 8X4 inches, but it can be done in a 9X5 inches, it will only affect the final size/shape of the cracker.
  6. In a large bowl, mix the water (or same amount of milk), sourdough starter and garlic/sweet potato puree.
  7. Add the demerara sugar, thyme, sage, rosemary, salt and black pepper and mix to combine.
  8. Add the sliced almonds and mix until incorporated into the batter.
  9. In a medium bowl, mix both the all-purpose and whole wheat flours, rolled oats and baking soda.
  10. Add the flour mixture on the batter and stir until everything is well combined.
  11. Distribute all the batter evenly into the lined loaf pan.
  12. Lower the oven temperature to 350F (175-280C)
  13. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until you insert a toothpick into the middle and it comes out clean.
  14. Let the loaf cool completely on a rack before wrapping it with plastic wrap. Freeze for 40 minutes. If you freeze it for longer than 2 hours, let it thaw for 40 minutes to 1 hour before cutting. If the middle is totally frozen, it’s harder to slice the crackers.
  15. Preheat you oven to 250°F/120C (or 275F/135C if your pressed for time).
  16. Unwrap your loaf. With a bread knife or any serrated knife, slice the loaf as thinly as you can. Aim for 2mm slices.
  17. Place the slices on a baking sheet (you can line them with parchment paper just to prevent any browning on the bottoms) and bake your sourdough crackers for 50 minutes, flipping each cracker after 25 minutes.
  18. Let them cool completely before serving. They will get harder as they cool, so don’t worry if they’re still a bit soft when out of the oven. If you have a cooling rack, use it.
  19. Store your sourdough crackers in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

NOTES

These crackers are made with sourdough discard, but you can totally make it with a feed starter. It won’t really make a difference, as you mix everything together and bake it straight away.

The slices must be thin! If you cut them too thick, they won’t get as crispy as the store-bought ones.

You need to use a sharp serrated knife for cutting the crackers: a sharp bread knife will make your life much easier.

Yes, you need to bake them for 50-60 minutes the second time you do it. After 25 minutes, it’s really good to flip every single one so they bake and crisp evenly and don’t burn on the bottom. I bake one batch without doing it and noticed a significant difference.

 

 

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Meet the Baker Behind the Loaves: Paul Lebeau of Wolfgang Mock Companies

Humility, integrity, and conviction…Three qualities that I feel are essential for living one’s life according to a mission statement and its ever evolving reach. While the word ‘passion’ gets used a lot when discussing one’s sense of ferver towards pursuing a personal interest or goal; without the aforementioned qualities, one’s passion may not be sustainable. Furthermore, when one centers his or her career  around providing solutions that have the potential to benefit all of humanity. Switching jobs (shifting gears) entails not only identifying with and adapting to a new company’s mission statement; it also includes taking that statement and allowing it to become part of your core identity.

“There has been an explosion of interest in our story and in orders for our products, which has changed everything in a very positive way for us. For me, it has “validated my validation”, which has enabled me to relax a bit, to feel less isolated in my conviction that we’re doing something very important for humanity. And it has given me precious time for my family and for my breadbaking hobby, not to mention a new long-term project I’ve taken on with the purchase of a good-sized orchard.”

“That “living food”, with its biologically viable embryo in its vitamin-rich sack, it’s “baby bottle” of starches, its magic cloak of minerals and fiber, and its sleepy colony of microorganisms waiting  for a meal, is fantastic food for us. It provides energy and protein, as well as micronutrients in abundance. Once fully fermented, its utility to our bodies is maximized, and the parts our organism can’t use are of great use to the bacteria that populate our guts and help regulate our organism.”

Screen Shot 2020-08-25 at 4.21.43 PMEnter this week’s inspirational featured baker, Paul Lebeau of Wolfgang Mock Companies. After thirty-two years spent introducing medical technology solutions that at first were rejected and are now considered as standard-of-care around the world; he decided to switch gears and spend the rest of what will be his long and storied career helping society “take back an activity that was essential for survival from the very beginning of civilization, and only recently lost: home milling of dry foods” (medium.com article). Since making this switch in early 2016, Paul has both accomplished increasing the amount of homes with Mockmills and inspired many home and professional bakers to embrace the benefits of baking and cooking with whole foods. Just a short conversation with him or perusal of his Instagram feed reveals how much of his core identity is focused on his mission and thirst for knowledge.

So without further ado, I present to you Paul Lebeau of Wolfgang Mock Companies.

Barry (The Brewed Palate): I recently read an interview that you did with a writer on Medium.com entitled “The Mockmill Revolution: Getting the Most out of Grains.” At various points in the interview you describe how much you’ve learned over the years from like-minded individuals such as professional bakers and food scientists. How would you recommend that a fellow passionate home baker take advantage of all that such individuals have to offer?

Screen Shot 2020-08-25 at 10.07.01 AMPaul: Well, I consider myself a student when encountering professionals who have spent their lives focused on topics that are still new to me. We’re like-minded in the sense that we’re trying to figure out together whether and why people should change the way the go about getting ingredients for the foods they make. What amazes me is how MANY people out there are ready to engage on such topics, primarily through social media. That kind of engagement is available to everyone, whenever they have time and energy for it. Of course, getting out to attend seminars and courses is a great way to get elbow-to-elbow with people who have impressed you from afar, and that’s often a rewarding way to invest one’s free time and money.

The artisan baking community has not a single smug aristocrat (that I know of) on offer; these are all folks who put their trousers on one leg at a time. They are hard-working, generous individuals, laboring at a hot oven in an effort to change the world for the better, preserve and further one of humanity’s oldest arts. And they make themselves available. More impressive for me than the big-name, well-covered, book-author types are the modest, self-taught leaders who share their experiences and discoveries, their opinions and their skills in simple ways through social media. There I have found true friends who are passionate, honest, generous, and dedicated, all around the world. Such friendship is available to everyone who has time for social media, and who fits the description in my last sentence.

Barry (The Brewed Palate):  Since joining the Mockmill team in 2016, how have your role and overall mission evolved and in turn affected your overall quality of life?

Screen Shot 2020-08-25 at 10.28.58 AMPaul: My job at Mockmill has been, and continues to be, to test and validate our belief that every kitchen needs a stone mill. My experience tells me that the process of validating a belief, which entails sharing it with people qualified to evaluate it and objectively receiving their feedback, is one that requires intensive outreach. So I began my mission by listing groups of people who might be the most prone to see interest in making one’s own flour, and by searching for and reaching out to leaders in those groups. My goal had to be encountering them, which meant either travelling to meet people or inviting people to visit us. The second (and always very urgent) part of my mission has been to communicate the Good News of my validation efforts. To let the broad membership of those target groups know that “their leaders” have considered the matter and found that there is merit in owning and using a stone mill, a Mockmill in particular. For that, I had both to travel (do my best to get in front of audiences at conferences, fairs, meetings…) and become highly present on social media (Paul’s Instagram). There, we’ve been careful not to engage in heavy name dropping (“Star Chef So-and-So loves his Mockmill”) or to contract “selfie-itis”, i.e. posting pix of ourselves with celebs. Rather, we’ve sought to encourage everyday bakers who have started their Mockmill adventure to “tell the world about it”. And that has largely been my responsibility.

So in answer to your question, my role evolves as I discover new ways that Mockmill adds value to peoples’ lives and go about starting the validation/communication process that discovery calls for. Think of gluten-free, pizza, pasta, pulses, regenerative agriculture… This list goes on and on. The “Age of Corona”, of course, has put an end to my travel (which, quite frankly, was often terribly exhausting for me and difficult for my family), but not to my outreach activities. I finding myself often reaching out to friends in difficulty (think of the star chefs whose businesses are in tatters) with expression of empathy and admiration. There has been an explosion of interest in our story and in orders for our products, which has changed everything in a very positive way for us. For me, it has “validated my validation”, which has enabled me to relax a bit, to feel less isolated in my conviction that we’re doing something very important for humanity. And it has given me precious time for my family and for my breadbaking hobby, not to mention a new long-term project I’ve taken on with the purchase of a good-sized orchard.

Barry (The Brewed Palate): Upon mastering the basics of sourdough baking many home bakers purchase a home grain mill (in many cases a Mockmill). How would one’s recipe formulation and dough preparation processes change when using freshly milled flour instead of pre-ground flour?

Paul: Haha! This is one question I can only answer with speculation. You see, I’ve only ever baked sourdough bread with flour I milled myself! I’ve never used anything but the whole flour, nor used commercial yeast or a mixer, for that matter. So I can’t give practical advice from experience. I can offer impressions I’ve taken from speaking to others though, so here goes.

Here’s what a home or professional baker should find different when he or she begins working with freshly-milled flour:

A. Differences in Dough Texture: The bran in Mockmilled flour will make a noticible difference in the dough. In the case of soft wheat, about 50% will be of a particle size small enough to pass a #45 (0.355mm) sieve. The rest will be bigger pieces.) The dough will require more water; extensibility will not be as great as with bran-free flour. This is because bran (even the small pieces) behaves like a “wall” between gluten molecules that are trying to bind into a chain. (I’ve heard  two leading bread/cereals experts moan publicly about the common belief that “the sharp bran pieces are like shards that CUT the gluten chains. That is nonsense, according to those eminent experts.) In any case, handling of the dough will be different. Since the handling of dough is a most pleasurable experience for me, I don’t believe that using freshly milled, whole grain flours will be a disappointment in this respect. Just different!

B. Enhanced Fermentation: Freshly-milled flour is alive. A few moments before you hydrate it, it is grain, “life capsules” that hold and protect an embryo and its initial food supply. The flour is therefore teeming with life (the grains were covered with microbes just waiting to get at that food supply inside) and with hydration, life-processes, through enzyme activity that is significantly higher than in pre-milled flour, get going very fast. So your dough is much more alive, too, and fermentation can be surprisingly fast. Above all, the biodiversity of whole grain (tens of thousands of discreet phytochemicals, some that bacteria REALLY love, are present) is pleasing to the yeasts and bacteria in sourdough, so building and maintaining a sourdough is easy. (Again, I have no experience with pre-milled flour in this respect; I can’t say “easier”.)

C. Visual Differences: Because the gluten network cannot be established as well as it can in bran-free dough, you simply won’t get the same bread volume that white flour will give you. You can, however, get VERY nice, soft, fluffy, open-crumb loaves. And if happiness for you is big wholes, well, try blending freshly-milled flour with bran-free flour. There are plenty of examples of people doing just that, and loving the flavor and nutritional improvement it brings to their baking.

IMG_2264D. Flavor and nutritional value: Here, it’s a new world. Fresh milling will take you on an adventure in biodiversity, an adventure on which you may try not only different wheats and ryes, but also a boundless plethora of other whole foods: barley, rices, heritage corn, oats, millets, pseudocereals, pulses, seeds, and more! (Some of these require “off-road mockmilling”, so there is learning to be done. It’s an adventure! The rewards are great, too, because starting with your first whole-wheat loaf made with freshly milled, your taste buds will tell you that they’ve been deprived all these years. They’ll want more! Your waistline may complain too, after a while, that it’s shrinking, as the bread’s fiber will give you a feeling of fullness that curbs overeating, and your body’s insulin reaction to bread will be moderated. Your gut bacteria will celebrate, as they are getting the fibre they expect whenever you eat carbs. It’s not known how far-ranging the benefits of a well-balanced microbiome are, but it is pretty certain that they are great. So eating plenty of the kind of foods you can prepare with freshly-milled flour can have positive impact on your immune system, your mood, your bowel habits, your weight, your blood pressure, your resting heart rate… It’s seems exaggerated, but all the research points in this direction. Think of how many times you’ve read or been told that you need to increase your consumption of whole grains!

E. More Flavor: Because the whole grain itself is so varied and flavorful, you need less salt. I’m down to 1.8% for bread in general and even 1.5% when I make my “granipain”, which has at least 22 different grains, pulses, and seeds in its pre-ferment (levain).

Barry (The Brewed Palate): Compared to other countertop grain mills that are currently available to home bakers. What do you feel makes Mockmills unique?

1DCCE796-B339-4C9B-BCE0-01D18D386A5CPaul: The fact that most of the countertop stone grain mills sold today were designed by Wolfgang Mock (KoMo, Fidibus, HaWo’s) and his technical team at the time (the same key people are now in his technical team) is important. Mockmill products integrate improvements on those designs. The team focused very hard on what could be improved in their 20+ year old, successful designs. So the new Mockmill models integrate innovations in stone design and composition, housing design, and manufacturing efficiency. The result is a full range of better, more affordable stone mills than was heretofore available. More than that, though, is the Spirit of Mockmill. Wolfgang, a clinical psychologist by training, is passionate about the positive practices these tools can inspire in people’s lives.  His own lifestyle includes the practice of making his own foods from whole, local, organically produced agricultural products (that his grandmother would immediately recognize as food!) Every week he bakes an oven full of bread for his extended family, using only freshly milled grains and natural fermentation. Everyone at Mockmill HQ is encouraged to do the same, and we make sure that all have a Mockmill at home to that end.

Screen Shot 2020-08-25 at 3.50.21 PMI like to say that I’ve ofter heard the phrase “Turn your Hobby into your Job!” My passion for baking came from the conviction that I would have to practice what I preach if I were to be successful promoting fresh milling. In the meantime, mine may be the most passionate voice you can find on the subject. The passion is authentic, however, as is the whole Mockmill venture. And that is what puts Mockmill head and shoulders above the rest!

Barry (The Brewed Palate):  One factor that every sourdough baker has to adapt to is the changing of the seasons, from colder temperatures in the winter to hot temperatures in the summer. How do you adapt your baking to changes in outdoor and/or indoor temperatures?

Paul: Quite honestly, I am pretty careless when it comes to topics like this. It’s the same when it comes to building/managing my sourdough. I simply don’t buy (for the purposes of my own baking) the need to pay strict attention to all the details of temperature control, starter density, ingredients balance (I don’t think I can notice, for instance, whether I’ve used 1.75% salt or 1.85%). For professional bakers, that detail is terribly important, and great attention is paid to dough temp, ambient temp, fridge temp, water temp, weighing ingredients out to a very precise degree. They have clientèle to please, often a very big job to get done, dozens of products going at once, etc. Many hobby bakers are determined to work in just that kind of professional mode, and I have, as I do for the pros, enormous respect. Since I’m sure that EVERYONE can successfully (and easily) make great and healthy bread with natural fermentation methods, I tend to focus mainly on the freshness and wholeness of my ingredients and “listening” to (or “understanding”) the dough. If the dough is fermenting faster because the weather is warm, I try to take it to the next step before it goes too far. If it is going slowly (for whatever reason) I simply give it more time. Since my house is made of stone, and I live in a fairly temperate climate, the temperature inside doesn’t vary too much. But even when I’ve baked in cabins in the summer heat at an Oklahoma state park and carried dough from the kitchen where it was made to the one in which it was to be baked, I didn’t make any conscious changes to my procedures. The bread simply came out fine! I believe that the relative ease and success of my baking has to do with the whole, freshly milled ingredients I use. The sourdough microbes are happiest with that, the fermentation is naturally balanced, and the dough is “easy to understand”. So, sorry, I don’t (consciously) change a thing. I just wing it, and all works out well.

Barry (The Brewed Palate): Nowadays my favorite grain to bake with is rye. Beyond containing less gluten than wheat; what do you feel is unique about the cultivation and milling of and then of course baking with rye?

Paul: I love baking with rye, too. I love its pungent, flowery aroma, and the beautifully dark color it gives the bread. And I love giving the loaves a heavy dusting of flour so that I get a “snowy canyon landscape” as they prove. The neat thing about rye is that it’s “the other grain” for classic breadmaking, setting it apart from wheat. As with barley, the bread chemistry doesn’t work to form the gluten network by which wheat-based dough captures fermentation gases. So rye dough rises based on gas-capturing properties of some special sugars (called pentosans). I like this kind of exception to a rule (“how breadmaking works”) as it challenges me to understand that there is always more to learn and understand. Making rye-heavy bread is simpler than making wheat-based bread, as all the dough handling techniqes (kneading, stretch-and-fold, loaf shaping) are for naught. So just get your lump of dough into a pan or a banneton and let it rise! I got my start breadmaking using a 60/40 rye/spelt recipe taught to me by Pablo Giet @der_becker. It took me a long time to get interested in more than that, it was so simple, so successful, and so delicious. That, for me, is the charm of rye! (Consider, too, that rye is happy to grow in colder, wetter regions where wheat won’t thrive, and you’ll see why it has been so valuable to civilization.) The cute, old-fashioned, shy-but-intriguing kid on the block, though, is barley. Ask me about her! 🙂

Barry (The Brewed Palate): Going along with the previous question: what is your favorite grain (variety of wheat or otherwise) to bake with and what do you like most about it?

Screen Shot 2020-08-25 at 10.57.38 AMPaul: What I love about my baking is the variety of grains I have available. Of course, if you went through my baking journal, you’d find that the one grain I use more than any other is probably spelt, but I hate to say I have a favorite. I get to flirt with them all! In fact, my latest fascination is the “Granipain” method proposed by French nutritionist Christian Rémésy, in which the pre-ferment in a naturally-fermented loaf should be made up from at least 22 different seeds, including 40-45% grains (but not plain bread wheat), 40-45% pulses, and 10-20% oil-seeds or aromatics. Then one makes one’s main dough as always (for me that’s usually a spelt/wheat bread composite) and integrates the more coarsely Mockmilled, 200% hydrated, 1% sourdough inoculated, 24 hr pre-ferment into that dough. Now, try finding a favorite among 22 (minimum) ingredients!

IMG_1513So here are some things I like to use that may give you some ideas: heritage corn, golden millet, wholegrain rice, black rice, purple rice, red rice, black beans, red beans, pinto beans, mung beans, lentils (all colors and kinds!), chickpeas, wild rice (crazy aroma!), malted barley, flax seeds, hemp seeds, rose seeds, black cumin, black sesame. I’m not a big fan of the grassy taste of amaranth, but that goes away when those super seeds are toasted. And I like toasting quinoa, too, prior to milling it. And barley(!), khorasan, oats, sunflower seeds, rye(!), and ESPECIALLY teff!  There is so much to use, so much to discover, so much fun to be had and flavor to discover when you have a Mockmill! PS What I like about Spelt is the fact that it’s exclusively organically grown, carefully handled and cleaned (it requires special de-hulling), and it has been around forever (promoted heavily almost 900 years ago by St Hildegard of Bingen, one of the great female thinkers/authors of our early history.) In my hands and freshly Mockmilled, it makes a highly reliable and flavorful dough.

Barry (The Brewed Palate): While those who enjoy cooking and baking from scratch at home are often called “foodies” as if they’re tapping into current trends or choosing to go above and beyond simple recipes, they’re in reality reintroducing old world cooking techniques back into the mainstream.  How do you view the recent growth of from-scratch cooking and baking? and How would you describe the ease and benefits of cooking and baking with raw (minimally processed) ingredients to someone who is not already an avid home cook or baker?

Paul: Obviously, I’m all for “scratch” baking. I have to be careful not to behave arrogantly when I see a so-called “from scratch” recipe that calls for pre-milled flour! I generally buy into the make-it-yourself approach; my kids (10 & 13) have taught me to make butter from the raw milk we get from a nearby farmer. And my wife loves making yogurt and kefir, which I gladly eat. Because I also buy our butter and eat store-bought yogurt daily, I’m careful not to criticize those who don’t use only freshly-milled flour. But I do believe EVERYONE should know what freshly milled, wholemeal flour is like, and that most people will be better off being equipped to make their own. To those who haven’t taken the first step to begin cooking and baking at home, it may be a hard sell.

But wait, maybe not! There’s a fascination that comes with making one’s own ingredients that can lead to a fascination with the practice of transforming those ingredients to something for the plate! This may be especially true today when we’re living through a pandemic and realizing how important it is that we cultivate a healthy immune system. The ways that cooking from scratch can help us do that are becoming suprisingly evident! So I would say that “there is satisfaction to be found for everyone in taking up cooking from scratch. Surprise yourself!”

Barry (The Brewed Palate): I’d like to briefly touch on some sourdough related food science. One theory about today’s prevalence of gluten intolerance and subsequent demonization of gluten is that humans are not born with the genetics to digest bread products that are made with all of the stabilizers and preservatives that are common in “supermarket bread.” Therefore, they’ve evolved in recent decades to become less tolerant to gluten. Subsequently, it has been found that some people who are sensitive to gluten can eat sourdough bread because the gluten from the grains within it has been fermented (digested) in a manner that makes it easier to digest. Have you encountered this theory? If so, what are your thoughts on its implications?

IMG_2241Paul: Sure, that wisdom is often shared in the circles I travel in, and I’ve been interested in the scientific work going on to understand why that is. Some recent work, that for example explains how fermentation breaks down FODMAPs (long sugar chains) if allowed to take place slowly enough, is a fun story to tell. Early in my Mockmill mission, Wolfgang gave me Michael Pollan’s book “In Defense of Food”to read. His argument “don’t eat foods with ingredients the names of which you can’t pronounce” resonated well with me. So it all makes sense. Look, when I make bread, it contains: Whole foods, water, salt. Nothing else. Now “whole foods” may be grains, pulses (legumes), seeds, fruit, and spices… But they’re all WHOLE foods. I think that the “supermarket bread is bad” argument is superficial. What I prefer is the “whole foods are good for you” argument. Consider how easily people can avoid debilitating diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, bowel cancer, and obesity if they simply stop eating (so much) refined sugar, refined grains, refined corn, refined soy, processed potatoes, and fruit juices. Throw alcoholic beverages in on top of that. None of that stuff is truly good food, in fact Pollan may argue that it’s not food at all! And the alternative, those “things your great-grandmother would recognize as food”, are truly GOOD for you. And your body is programmed to tell you that you’ve had enough of them. That’s great, when you consider that engineered foods (anything refined or processed) is “engineered” to trick your body’s appetite-regulating system. It’s the GOAL of food engineers that you KEEP WANTING to eat MORE! So we can simply refuse the oppression of the modern food industry that leads us to morbidity and an early death by eating whole foods. I’m 100% convinced that it’s the way to go. And I’m sorry for anyone who has invested their modest means in shares in the half-dozen or so food giants (corporations). They may be disappointed if everyone follows my example.

Barry (The Brewed Palate): Sourdough bread is often called “living bread.” What do the terms “living bread” and “living food” mean to you?

Screen Shot 2020-08-25 at 11.11.47 AMPaul: Wow! Cool question! Let’s take seeds as an example.  Once I asked a 10-year-old (girl) visiting my Mockmill booth at Slow Food Nations in Denver “What’s a seed?” I was bowled over when she promptly replied, “a seed is a baby with its bottle on its back”. Indeed, every seed, every whole grain, harbors a life. An embryo. A plant with the potential to bring forth hundreds of viable, reproducing offspring. It’s wonderfully packaged by nature for a long wait until conditions are right for its coming out. A wheat seed, for example, is wrapped up in a protective, 8-layer tapestry woven from tens of thousands of discrete phytochemicals, each with a specific purpose (known, for the most part, only to nature.) Our earliest ancestors found they could easily collect handfuls and handfuls of (mixed) seeds, bring them home, crush them with a rock, and ferment them by adding plenty of water. After a few days, they could heat and then eat them. That was the beginning of bread. Without knowing it, they were mimicking what birds do, when the seeds they snip up and break in their beaks go first to their crops to be fermented before passing further down the digestive tract.

That “living food”, with its biologically viable embryo in its vitamin-rich sack, it’s “baby bottle” of starches, its magic cloak of minerals and fiber, and its sleepy colony of microorganisms waiting  for a meal, is fantastic food for us. It provides energy and protein, as well as micronutrients in abundance. Once fully fermented, its utility to our bodies is maximized, and the parts our organism can’t use are of great use to the bacteria that populate our guts and help regulate our organism. This “living food” is of fabulous design. True, once the seed is milled, the little plant inside is dead. If the resulting meal is then heated and/or dehydrated, the seed’s natural microbiome will be depleted. (This is one reason that it’s much easier to build a sourdough from freshly-milled whole grains!) That seed, that grain, is losing value from the moment it gets crushed in the mill. So it is important, I believe, to leave food living as long as possible before sacrificing it for our needs, and eating it whole. That’s the simple principle and at the same time the genius of the Mockmill Story.

Thank you Paul for all that you’ve done and continue to do for the worldwide sourdough community! You are an authentic and passionate carrier of the whole grain (and whole food) torch (or should I say baker’s peel), and in turn, an inspiration to countless home and professional bakers. 

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Meet the Baker Behind the Loaves: Emilie Raffa of The Clever Carrot

While I’ve featured bakers who have went from hobbyist to professional in this series; I’ve yet to feature a baker who went from corporate job to professionally trained chef to sourdough baking focused chef. You may ask, what would motivate someone to make these significant life transitions? In my opinion it is a drive for balance and a sense of fulfillment. While having a full-time job provides structure to one’s day, it cannot always provide opportunities for a healthy work / personal life balance. Secondly, depending on how well the tasks involved in one’s profession relate to an individual’s passions and sources of joy; even an ideal job can leave one feeling like something is missing in order for it to provide a true sense of personal fulfillment. For some this “missing ingredient” comes as an unexpected surprise that ends up changing the course of one’s personal and professional endeavors forever.

“My blog focused on healthy comfort food and balanced living. However, my world changed overnight when a packet of dried sourdough starter showed up on my doorstep… all the way from Sydney, Australia!” …

“I became utterly obsessed with baking the natural way (no rapid rise yeast) and was fulfilled on a level that was deeply connected to something way bigger than me. Through Priscilla, which Celia has graciously shared with hundreds, if not thousands of people all over the world, I became part of an international family tree of bakers!” 

EC382441-74BB-4AD7-B386-A098051CD467Two quotes from this week’s featured baker, Emilie Raffa of The Clever Carrot.  Well known for her easy to follow sourdough bread, dessert, and food pairing recipes. Emilie’s passion for baking and cooking nourishing food shines brightly in her amazing photography, published recipes and guides, and love for engaging in conversation with her fellow bakers. Between 2006 and 2012, she went on a journey of self-discovery which included graduating from the International Culinary Center, working various cooking-related jobs, creating her website, and most significantly, making a life-changing connection with a fellow blogger who helped initiate her sourdough journey. While her accomplishments in cooking and baking speak for themselves. I hope this article provides you with further insight into the mind and lifestyle of the amazing woman that she is.

So without further ado, I present to you Emilie Raffa of The Clever Carrot.

Barry (The Brewed Palate): As an avid home cook and foodie I found your personal journey from corporate to culinary life quite relatable. Do you feel that the journey that you went on to make your love for cooking and baking into your profession still influences how you approach current professional and personal culinary pursuits?

659689ED-1A9E-412D-A524-7567E375C775Emilie: Absolutely. My gut drives my most of my decisions. If I feel unhappy, whether it’s in the professional or personal realm I’m pretty quick to switch gears, if needed. A yoga teacher once told me “If something doesn’t feel right, it’s most likely not. Don’t fight it.” This has been my mantra ever since.

Barry (The Brewed Palate): When looking over your beginner’s guide I found that one unique aspect of your recipe is the 25g of olive oil. Beyond its ability to soften the texture of a loaf’s crumb. What led to your decision to include olive oil in this recipe?

Emilie: Ahh yes… the olive oil. Everyone always asks me about this 😉 The inclusion of olive oil in my beginner sourdough recipe is how I first learned to bake. I followed the recipe of my dear friend and sourdough mentor, Celia (she blogs over at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial) and that’s what she did. I followed suit. It creates a soft, plush crumb and a crispy crust.

Barry (The Brewed Palate): Do you have a weekly baking routine (schedule)? If so, can you describe it in terms of how often you bake and also balancing baking with other daily responsibilities (family, work, chores)?

Emilie: I bake for fun. So, fitting sourdough into my daily schedule has to mimic that otherwise I won’t do it. Overnight doughs are the most practical at the moment; I do not have to fit them in between anything else (except sleep!). In the early morning, I shape and bake the dough before leaving the house. Or, if I’m pressed for time I’ll just chill the bulk dough until ready to use later in the day. I usually bake in bulk 2x/ week.

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Barry (The Brewed Palate): Because one can bake using recently fed starter (leaving enough behind to keep their starter going) instead of baking with a separately built levain. How do you define the term ‘sourdough discard’? and Do you use your discard in a recipe immediately (after feeding your starter)?

Emilie: Typically, sourdough discard is defined as the portion of starter you remove before feeding what’s left in the jar. It can also refer to recently fed and collapsed starter that you’re not using to make dough. When baking with discard, I use it right away or ferment it overnight in a pancake or waffle batter.

Barry (The Brewed Palate): As a sourdough baker who enjoys using starter discard in dessert recipes; what are five tips that you’d give to a baker trying to get the most out of incorporating starter discard into his or her dessert recipes?

1BA47580-2E6E-4A34-9F36-53E8943F3769Emilie: I don’t have 5 tips, but I do have 3 good ones!

For sweet recipes….

1) Always make sure the discard is in good condition. If it smells too acidic or has a ton of dark liquid on top, don’t bother using it. Your dessert recipes will taste like vinegar.

2) Do not use discard directly out of the fridge. Again, it might be too acidic. Fresh is best. Use your nose.

3) The consistency of your sourdough discard will effect the consistency of your dessert batter. Do not be afraid to add more liquid or flour if necessary, to get the right texture.

 

Barry (The Brewed Palate): Being that you’ve been sharing your cooking and baking experiences on your blog since 2012. How has your approach to sharing your personal culinary journey with fellow home cooks and bakers changed over time?

Emilie: The climate of blogging has changed immensely over the years. And although my blog content has shifted to mostly sourdough and baking recipes, my approach has remained the same: simple, conversational, and most importantly, practical. I never post recipes that I wouldn’t share with my mom or make something look easy when it’s not.

Barry (The Brewed Palate): Since being published in October 2017 your book ‘Artisan Sourdough Made Simple’ has received a lot of praise. Have you thought about publishing a revised edition with updates based on what you have learned in recent years and the feedback that you’ve received?

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Emilie: Yes and no. Book writing is tricky- the process is never really finished until you intentionally let it go. I could literally edit myself for ages! With that said however, I’ve jotted down and analyzed the most frequently asked questions and comments since the book’s publication. So, if and when the time comes I’ll be ready to update with the most relevant information.

Barry (The Brewed Palate): Nowadays sourdough bakers are baking with quite a large variety of flours, from all-purpose to ancient grains. Can you describe how you go about baking with a type of flour for the first time?

Emilie: Two things: First, I highly recommend sticking with the same brand and type of flour for several bakes. Practice through repetition is the only way you’ll understand how a specific brand and type of flour will perform. This is critical. If you keep making changes, you’ll never know where you went wrong (or right!). Second, try baking smaller loaves. Whenever I work with a new flour, I scale down my loaves so that if I mess up, it’s not a total waste of flour and money.

Barry (The Brewed Palate): Within sourdough baking (and many food related pursuits/hobbies) there seems to be a push towards keeping things simple in order to make it less intimidating and seem flexible rather than its process and methods being held to a set of rules that need to be followed  At the same time there can be immense enjoyment in delving into the details and “geeking out” over ingredients and sourdough fermentation science. How do you relate to this “two side of the loaf” dilemma? and How would you present it to fellow sourdough bakers?

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Emilie: Great question. The term “simple” is different for everyone. Some bakers want a no frills approach to sourdough, whereas others find a sense of calm in analyzing the geeky stuff. I fall somewhere in between. I’ve found that offering just enough info for reference without going overboard, is key. Additionally, I always tell those who are new to sourdough to find a baker or an author who resonates with them. Does their style and approach make you feel calm and confident? If so, you’re on the right path!

 

Barry (The Brewed Palate): Sourdough bread is often called “living bread.” What do the terms “living bread” and “living food” mean to you?

Emilie: If you take sourdough quite literally, it’s bread made with a live fermented culture of flour and water. So right there, you are experiencing all of the living benefits from friendly bacteria and enzymes. But if you take it a step further, sourdough is not just bread; it’s a living connection. Not only do you grow, cultivate, and maintain a relationship with your sourdough starter; the act of sharing sourdough- whether it’s your starter or a loaf- is the the ultimate form of connecting with others. And in a time where social distancing has become the “norm,” finding ways to connect is more important then ever. Sourdough has bridged the gap all over the world.

Thank you Emilie for all that you’ve done and continue to do for the worldwide sourdough community! You are truly living a life which defines “living bread” and in turn are an inspiration to countless home and professional bakers. 

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