Josey Baker Bread: One Bread Book to Rule Them All

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I’ve been teaching bread baking for a few years now through both the Institute of Domestic Technology and the Los Angeles Bread Bakers. When students ask what book they should get I have to hold up half a dozen. Not any more. Now I can send students to just one book: Josey Baker Bread.

The appropriately named Josey Baker (who used to work with another baker named Dave Miller–who mills his own flour, naturally) has written a perfect bread baking course in book form. Everything I’ve figured out about teaching how to bake is in here–start with a simple white bread, graduate to sourdough and then start baking with whole grain. Having trouble shaping a loaf? Bake in a loaf pan instead! Stretch and fold instead of kneading. Simulate a commercial bread oven by using a cast iron pot. And use a damn scale! There’s even the browned butter chocolate chip cookie trick I learned from a friend who owns a restaurant. Has Josey Baker wiretapped my phone?

The book is written in an amusing and breezy bro-speak. Here he is truth telling in the introduction to his scone recipe,

Most scones suck. Why do they suck? Because they’re dry as hell. Don’t act like you do’t know what I’m talking about! When was the last time you had a scone and didn’t say, “I don’t know, this is just a little dry for me.” Or maybe you haven’t even had a scone in a long time, because the last one you ate was so crappy. . . Are they healthy? No, they are not. But what the hell, exercise feels good, so eat as many as you want and then go ride your bike, baker.

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My successful attempt at the Dark Mountain Rye recipe.

Speaking of healthy, I’ve been concentrating on the recipes in the sourdough-based whole grain section of the book. Like Baker, I believe that a lot of people self-diagnosing themselves as gluten intolerant might just be allergic to mass produced supermarket bread. Baker’s Dark Mountain Rye is an example of how whole grain bread should be made and it’s and easy to bake.

In addition to the conventional breads Baker covers, there’s an interesting method of baking pizza in a home oven, a gluten free loaf that I’m going to try and some simple pastries. I also like the flexibility Baker builds into the recipes. Many can either be baked in a loaf pan or shaped into a boule. And there’s always the option to retard the dough in the refrigerator to give more depth of flavor as well as flexibility in when to fire up the oven.

Josey Baker Bread will appeal to both beginners and experienced bakers. Finally the collective wisdom from the recent bread revolution is in one book. If you want healthy, good tasting bread in your household Josey Baker Bread is a great place to start.

Breadbaking (Level 1) Class at the Ecology Center

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I’m teaching a basic no-knead bread class down in the OC at the Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano on Saturday February 8th. To sign up head over to the event page. Here’s the 411:

Ditch the preservatives and plastic wrap. Join us and learn how to make homemade, all-natural bread from scratch. Take home fresh and ready-to-bake dough!

There was a time in the not-so distant past that the smell of freshly baked bread permeated households everywhere. Let’s revert to those wholesome days and make a difference. In this hands-on workshop, we’ll make a simple loaf using the miraculous and easy Jim Lahey no-knead recipe. Topics discuessed will include types of flour, what kind of yeast to use, how to simulate a commercial bread oven at home, hydration ratios, kitchen tools, troubleshooting, and shaping a boule. Learn simple ingredients, tools, and techniques to master this simple recipe. Participants will enjoy fresh bread and leave with dough to take home and bake!

You must bring a mixing bowl, a tupperware container to take your dough home, a digital scale (if you have one), and an apron (if you have one).

By baking bread at home, you’re in charge of what goes into every loaf and can choose to incorporate local and organic ingredients. Other benefits of baking at home include using less energy (used in harvesting, processing, and shipping store-bought bread), using less plastic packaging, and spending less money. Become a baker and join us during this heart-healthy workshop to learn how.

Instructor: Erik Knutzen

Cost is $20 for Ecology center members and $30 for non-members. The Ecology Center is located at 32701 Alipaz St. in San Juan Capistrano, California.

Dave Miller on Baking with 100% Whole Wheat

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My bread baking obsession has fallen into roughly three periods or phases. First came the Nancy Silverton years, when I went through her complex and not always successful recipes. Then came a period when I was too busy to bake much, so I turned to no-knead bread, dominated by Chad Robertson’s first cookbook. Results were better but I was still making white bread.

My new bread baking adventure began this weekend when I took a workshop taught by Chico, California baker Dave Miller. His breads are almost all 100% whole wheat. He mills his own flour from carefully sourced heritage grains. Using a levain (a starter), he creates loaves that foreground the flavor of the grain. In short, he shows that bread can have as much flavor diversity as wine.

Miller is a true master craftsman. He’s also a superb teacher: humble, patient and generous. He’s also convinced me to completely change the way I bake bread. Over the next few months I’m going to adapt his techniques to my home kitchen and I hope to share what I discover. In the meantime, here’s what I learned:

Continue reading…

Recipe for the World’s Best Whole Wheat Pancake

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The last survivor, captured with a camera phone before being devoured, because we wanted to eat the pancakes more than we wanted to document them.

This morning I cooked up the best pancakes I’ve ever eaten. They were 100% whole wheat but they were so light and fluffy they tasted like they were made with white flour. And the way they were made is the beginning of a grain revolution. Here’s the secret:

  1. Use heirloom grains.
  2. Mill your own flour.
  3. Ferment for a long time with a sourdough starter.

The heirloom grain I used is Sonora wheat, probably the oldest wheat in the Americas. It’s a soft, winter wheat traditionally used for tortillas.

Recipe (based on Nancy Silverton’s pancakes)
210 grams starter
2 tablespoons maple syrup
3 tablespoons safflower or corn oil
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder

The night before making these pancakes I take a tablespoon of mature starter and add it to 100 grams of freshly milled Sonora wheat flour and 110 grams of water. This mixture will be the 200 grams of starter you’ll use in the recipe.

The next day mix all the ingredients together, fry them up in a pan and get ready to have your pancake paradigm shifted.

New frontiers in baking
Freshly milled heirloom wheat mixed into a very wet dough and fermented for a long period with a sourdough starter is also the way that Dave Miller, a Chico California based baker, makes his bread. He takes 100% whole wheat dough, every bit as wet and gloppy as pancake batter, deftly shapes it into loaves and bakes the best bread on the west coast. The Los Angeles Bread Bakers, a group I co-founded, is hosting a sold out class with Miller later this month and I hope to share on this blog what I learn. There is increasing evidence that this method of baking results in a much healthier product.

Bread Ovens of Quebec Free e-book

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North American has two regions famous for oven building: New Mexico and Quebec. The design of the ovens of Quebec have their origin in much older French ovens. The Canadian Museum of History has posted an amazing, out of print book, Lise Boily and Jean-François Blanchette’s 1979 book The Bread Ovens of Quebec, in its entirety online. The book includes the history of the Quebec oven, how to build an oven, bread recipes and even “popular beliefs, spells, incantations, and omens” associated with ovens.

I’m really happy with the adobe oven we have in our backyard–it has produced many a tasty pizza and I look forward to having people over to give me an excuse to fire it up. Ovens, in Quebec households were associated with life itself and I understand why.

If you’re interested in more information on DIY ovens, I’d recommend The Bread Ovens of Quebec along with Kiko Denzer’s Earth Ovens and Alan Scott’s The Bread Builders (brick ovens).

If you’d like to see an oven built in the Quebec style, these folks have posted their experience of building one.