099 The Amazing Sourdough Breads of Guy Frenkel

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Listen to “099 The Amazing Sourdough Breads of Guy Frenkel” on Spreaker.

Guy Frenkel is one of the most talented bakers I’ve met. If you’ve seen his whole grain, sourdough breads in Instagram (@Ceorbread) and Facebook you’ll know why I had to interview him. During the podcast we talk about his unique baking techniques such as yeast water, stencils and colored doughs. Even if you’re not a baker you’ll be inspired by Guy’s enthusiasm, persistence and creativity. Here are the links Guy mentions:

Guy’s social media: @Ceorbread in Instgram, Ceor Bread Facebook, Guy Frenkel in Facebook.

If you’d like to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

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Jas. Townsend’s 18th Century Cooking

The recovery journey for open heart surgery involves three things: pain killers, a recliner and a flat screen television. Thanks to our new TV’s ability to access the internet, we’ve fallen into a deep and unlikely YouTube hole: Jas. Townsend and Son’s 18th century cooking videos.

Jas. Townsend and Son is the most unlikely business I can imagine. They manufacture and sell 18th century clothing, cookware, camp equipment and housewares though a brick and mortar shop in Pierceton, Indiana. Founder James John Townsend is one of the most prolific and accomplished YouTubers I’ve encountered. His cooking videos feature professional lighting and sound (rare in the YouTube universe) and look like something PBS would (should?) make. And Townsend has produced over 500 videos giving Kelly and I a chance to spend many evenings catching up on the finer points of pemmican, hardtack and pickled smelt.

Neither of us are historical reenactors, though Kelly sometimes accuses me of trying to relive the 1990s. But you need not be into historical reenactment to appreciate Townsend’s well researched videos. You can tell he’s having a good time making them too.

Kelly wanted me to highlight the portable soup video I embedded above. And note that it’s just one of four videos on portable soup! There’s also a fascinating series on 18th century breads.  If Townsend’s video output isn’t enough for you he’s got a website containing the recipes and videos called Savoring the Past. Does Townsend sleep? I’m glad he doesn’t because we’ve both been enjoying his creative output.

And, lastly, a note on Kelly. She thanks you all for your kind comments, thoughts and prayers. Getting over a surgery like this is no picnic. It’s more akin to eating hardtack and suet by the side of a meager fire (thank you Townsend and Son for the metaphor). It will be awhile before Kelly can blog again but she wants me to tell you how much she appreciates your support.

084 How to Make Your Own Cheese with David Asher

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Want to learn how to make delicious cheeses in your own kitchen? It’s easier than you think. Our guest this week is radical natural cheesemaker David Asher, author of The Art of Natural Cheesemaking: Using Traditional, Non-Industrial Methods and Raw Ingredients to Make the World’s Best Cheeses.

During the podcast we discuss:

  • The difference between natural cheesmaking and the way most cheese is made in North America.
  • Using a kefir culture to make cheese.
  • The importance of quality milk.
  • What if I can’t get raw milk?
  • Easy cheeses.
  • The ins and out of rennet and how to make your own.
  • WalcoRen rennet.
  • Using cardoon flowers instead of rennet.
  • Tools you need for cheesemaking.
  • Hacking a fridge to make your own cheese cave.
  • Using leftover whey for fertilizer and cooking.
  • Making chèvre.
  • How to store cheese.
  • The cheese scene in Canada and the legality of raw milk.
  • Raw milk cheeses in Quebec.

To find out about David’s classes visit his website The Black Sheep School of Cheesemaking.

If you want to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

Josey Baker on Bread: Whole, Wild, Wet, Slow and Bold

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You can make bread or babies with Josey Baker’s advice. Earlier this month, the bread cult I co-founded, the Los Angeles Bread Bakers, hosted a class by author and enthusiastic bread nerd Josey Baker. Baker and his mentor Dave Miller (yes, they do have oddly appropriate surnames) have developed a style of baking that Josey has turned into set of five principles, a kind of Kama Sutra of bread: whole, wild, wet, slow and bold. Let’s get funky and break that down.

Whole
To make white flour, all the good stuff in wheat is sifted out, leaving it lifeless. Even “whole wheat” breads are made with a significant proportion of white flour. It’s been this way now for a long time. White flour, once the exclusive domain of the elite became, in the 20th century, the ubiquitous loaf of Wonder Bread many of us grew up with.

And what about that whole grain flour at the supermarket? Imagine if the only wine available in stores was wine-in-a-box, and it came in two flavors, “white” and “red.” This would be a sad world. Well, our whole grain flour choices are actually worse: there’s only one kind sold in supermarkets. Despite appearances, though, there’s actually a whole wide world of biodiversity and flavor to be found in wheat, varieties such as Kamut, Sonora, Charcoal, Triple IV, Einkorn and Red Fife, to name just a few. All are radically different in terms of color, texture and flavor. It really is analogous to wine varietals. Both Baker and Miller take advantage of grain diversity by working with farmers, milling their own flour and creating 100% whole-wheat loaves that highlight the flavor differences between wheat varieties. We’re very lucky in Los Angeles to have a retail mill, Grist & Toll, that sells many different varieties of fresh ground flour and whole grain. But, for those of you not in SoCal, check the interwebs for local millers or mail-order sources for flour and whole grains.

Wild
The wild refers to wild yeast, as in sourdough or “levain” in French. For me the best thing about working with wild yeast is that the bread has a more interesting, pronounced flavor. Another big advantage is that, due to the lactic acid producing bacteria in wild bread cultures, your bread will last a lot longer–up to a week in my experience. Lastly, though it hasn’t yet been proven, there may be some health advantages to wild starters. The lactic acid bacterias might make bread more digestible.

Wet
Both Baker and Miller mix up doughs that are surprisingly wet. Whole grain soaks up a lot of water to begin with, but both Baker and Miller push that wetness to very high hydration levels: sometimes in the neighborhood of 120% hydration if you’re keeping score. (N.B. Hydration level refers to the ratio of water to flour by weight: 100 grams of flour mixed with 100 grams of water = 100% hydration)  A big advantage of wet dough is that you don’t need to knead it. The gluten strands align on their own in the wet dough matrix. You still have to do some stretching and folding to help the gluten alignment process along, but you don’t have anything that resembles traditional kneading. Very wet doughs have the disadvantage of being difficult to turn into hearth loaves. Dave Miller overcomes this by his almost supernatural ability to shape dough. It’s almost like he can just stare at a pile of what looks like pancake batter and miraculously turn it into neat little boules. Baker had a great tip for those of us not as adept at forming loaves out of wet dough: just bake your bread in a loaf pan. Problem solved! I’ve been doing a lot lately.

Slow
The refrigerator is your friend. Doing some part of the fermentation in the fridge lengthens the fermentation time and helps develop more pronounced flavors. It also allows greater flexibility in your baking schedule. Got to go to work? Pick up the kids? No problem. Put that dough in the fridge. Baker likes to do the bulk fermentation (e.g. the first fermentation) at room temperature, shape the loaves, and then proof them in the fridge. They can then come straight out of the fridge and into the oven. Miller, due to some quirks in his schedule, likes to do the latter part of the bulk fermentation in the fridge, shape the loaves and then proof them at room temperature. One advantage with Miller’s approach is that cold dough is easier to shape. Personally, for reasons I can’t quite explain, I’ve had more luck with bulk fermentation at room temperature and proofing in the fridge.

Bold
One of the biggest mistakes newbie bakers make is puling their loaves out of the oven before the bread is really, truly done.  Both Miller and Baker leave their loaves in the oven until they are almost burnt. The reasons are multiple. Take the loaf out too soon and, particularly with whole grain breads, the crust will be too soft. Another reason is that Miller contends that the sort of whole grain breads you buy at the supermarket are under-baked. Poke the center of those commercial breads and the texture is often like play dough. Plus, I’d say, those boldly baked loaves are pretty.

Josey Baker’s formula is simple: find an interesting grain, ferment it with a sourdough starter with a lot of water, use the refrigerator to your advantage and bake it to the edge of being burnt. The details of this process will be the subject of future posts.

067 Wild Drinks and Cocktails With Emily Han

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Our topic this week is wildcrafted drinks and cocktails with writer, recipe developer, educator, and herbalist Emily Han. She is the author of Wild Drinks and Cocktails and the Communications Director for LearningHerbs.com. Emily’s website is EmilyHan.com. During the show we discuss the difference between “wildcrafting” and “foraging” and how you can use easily foraged herbs, fruits, pine needles and flowers to make shrubs, switchels, tonics and infusions. Emily also shares her easy distillation method and advice on what to do with all those prickly pear fruits!

If you want to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.