Saturday, January 28, 2012

Micro-Bakery: Jan. 28

Another weekend, another bake. It was a beautiful day to bike around Durham, and after a long, hard week, it was the salve I needed.

I was a little disappointed with the baking process this week, as the mixing, initial ferment, and scoring (slashing) didn't go as planned, but the bread is still good, still holds up as a sturdy staff of life.

In other bread news, I'm super excited about the coming spring because I'm co-leading a workshop on the craft and spirituality of bread-making at Anathoth Community Garden. I finally broke down and ordered copies of some bread books that will be useful teaching aids, and of course, useful tools on this helter-skelter bread pilgrimage.

On a confessional note, I feel like I'm wandering a little aimlessly at the moment, sort of on a bread plateau I don't know how to get past. All I know is that there are deeper springs, deeper wisdoms in the shadow ahead; getting there is another matter. I suppose the best thing to do is to keep walking, keep dreaming. This I'll do, no question.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Micro-Bakery: Jan. 21

A molten grey sky hangs over Durham today. There was a lull in the rain while I delivered bread (thankfully) but the sky started drizzling again after the last loaf was handed off. As such, I got a little wet on the way home, not to mention soaked under my jacket due to the humidity. However, the air was warm enough, and the rain merciful enough, that I still enjoyed the ride.

Today's loaf was a Light Rye Levain, using about 30% rye flour in the dough. Last time I tried this bread I used about 20% rye, and I think 30% is a definite improvement. The crumb is moist and chewy, and the crust is plenty crisp. It's just enough rye flavor to entice but not overwhelm rye-skeptics.

Also, due to a wash of busyness yesterday, I had to straight-knead the dough instead of slow-kneading as I normally do. This means, basically, that most Fridays I fold the bread at intervals throughout the afternoon, rather than mixing each batch for ten-twelve intensive minutes up front. But I front-loaded the work yesterday, and wow, what a task! It takes a lot of stamina, but still, it's satisfying to pummel bread into the counter for 30-35 minutes straight (10-12 minutes for each of three batches). I really need to get a bigger container so I can mix all twelve loaves at once. In due time.

The photos highlight the quality of the crust, which turned a deep brown-red thanks to the added rye. I'm also fascinated by the way some of the cuts (scores) in the crust developed in the oven.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Micro-Bakery: Jan. 14

The first week of micro-baking in 2012 was a resounding success in my estimation. Still doing twelve loaves a week (one for myself), trying to commit to a healthy variety of breads, and still happily bike-delivering loaves around Durham.

I intended to make an Herbs de Provence Levain this week, but got started a little late on my hunt for fresh herbs. Thankfully, my neighbors across the street (who are LMB subscribers) have a great herb garden, and let me harvest their herbs for my bread (thanks neighbors!). The rosemary bush in their front yard is an incredible variety, huge, with bright, thick needles, sweating with fragrance (see picture below). As rosemary was most prolific, rosemary features most prominently in the bread, but I also added a some fresh oregano, fresh thyme, and a hint of fresh lavender. It may not be a balanced Herbs de Provence, but it's a delicious herb blend all the same.

Saturday, just as I was getting on my bike to deliver, the sun hit its peak warmth for the day. It was a beautiful ride, and brought one of E.E. Cummings' poems to mind. Actually, the first line of this poem is a prayer I whisper many days when I step out and discover the world bright and crackling with life. Here's Cummings' poem in its entirety:

i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any – lifted from the no
of all nothing – human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)