Do the Opposite

Doing the Opposite

Remember the Seinfeld episode where George did the opposite of what he normally did and everything worked out well for him? That’s a lot like the Whole Grain course at SFBI. We’re getting the chance to learn from Didier Rosada, who is an exceptional baker and instructor. He’s a very effective teacher and is helping me learn about a very complex topic. I’m also picking up many tricks of the trade which will help me for years to come. But, many of his techniques are “the opposite” of what we learned in Artisan 1 and 2. Some examples:

  • You think we shouldn’t add more water on Speed 2? Ha! Just slosh some more in there till it feels right! Really soft, that is. [it’s called double hydration and makes for a very extensible, airy dough]
  • 2 minutes on speed 2? No way, baby! Use colder water and mix like hell. At least this way I can pull a window. Heck, my dog could pull a window with this dough! [we’re taking up to 8 minutes on speed 2 to develop the gluten and it’s developed a lot more than Artisan 1, but we haven’t over mixed one yet!]
  • – Why put a little flour on the table when you can make it a solid mass of white? Go for it! [this highly hydrated, soft dough can get super sticky, so it needs a lot more flour for shaping and proofing]
  • Proof baguettes seam down? Surely you jest! Seam up is the way to go. Then you can flip once on the peel and slide it onto the loader. All my baguettes were ‘S’ shaped but it’s a new technique so give it a try! [I’m got a tiny bit better on Day 2, but it’s still a challenge]
  • 3 fingers between loaves? No Way! 3mm works too.
  • don’t move the loaf once it’s scored? har har! Some of my loaves got moved at least three times. I’m surprised they didn’t get moved to another oven. [in fairness, we’re baking a lot of bread so we’re really trying to be efficient with loader space]

If you’re a ‘follow the directions’ type of guy this week is not for you. But if you want to see a different way which works very, very well, then seeing these new techniques is a real treat. I’m having a ball so far — it’s already opened my eyes to new ways of doing things and new ways to view what we’re doing when we’re working with the dough.

And I sure can’t argue with the results!

wheat germ baguettesThis is a wheat germ baguette — all the best parts of a baguette with better nutrition and a nice wheaty taste.

buckwheat pearThis is a buckwheat pear bread. The buckwheat adds colour and the pears and walnuts add a LOT of flavour!

Semolina BatardThis is a semolina batard with fennel and raisins. Very similar to what I make at home but with a much more delicate crust and crumb.

Three outstanding loaves on the first day. Gotta love it!

Artisan II is Over!

Artisan II is Over!

Originally uploaded by madbaker66

That’s me looking tired and weak-armed, holding a massive boule I made to wrap up my second week at the San Francisco Baking Institute. I forgot to weigh it but I’m pretty sure it’s 5kg.

The loaf is made with a sourdough culture I started on Monday and was baked long to ensure the crumb is fully cooked. I love the dark colour — it’s hard to believe the loaf is made with white flour when it looks like that, but that’s what caramelization does.

Really strange emotional vibe at school on Friday. I’ve made some great new friends in the past two weeks and most of them are heading home now. It’s tough to think about how I’ll likely never see some of them again after getting along so well and having so much in common. It takes a certain type of person to bake bread, I guess, and I tend to click with that type of person.

On the other hand, I’m also wicked homesick, so my emotions are sure getting pulled in two directions. Time to hunker down, get some laundry done and push through the final week. I keep hearing that the new instructor is extremely good, so I’m looking forward to the whole grain class, even as I’m ready to hop on a plane.

Regional Shapes

Regional Shapes

Originally uploaded by madbaker66

We wrapped up the Artisan II course on Friday by spending some time creating decorative bread shapes. Each shape represents a regional variety that is made in a specific French town. For example, you’d find Pain d’Aix in Aix.

The bread is a basic country bread with white and whole wheat flour, which tastes pretty good but seemed bland after the olive bread we baked in the morning!

Let’s see if I can pick out the shapes from the picture. Starting at the top left corner and moving clockwise we have:

– Fleur
– Fendu
– Tordu
– Tabatiere
– Auvergnat
– Another Auvergnat with a smaller cap (how did two get in there?!)
– Vivarais
– Charleston (a little lumpy)

In the middle is a Corrone Bordelais (my favorite) and the Pain d’Aix, which looks kind of like a bowtie after some red wine. After white wine it looks like a moustache. Trust me on that.



Originally uploaded by madbaker66

Wow! I now know what a wet dough really is. The verb we used to describe the dough as we were dividing the dough was ‘swimming.’ And it was.

The loaves in the pictures were massive, yet light as a feather. 10 inches square yet only weighed 600 grams.

Another neat technique I learned — you need to dry these out in the oven a bit before unloading to drive out all the steam. Makes for a much crispier crust.