Pannier Week Four

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I spent the weekend on a mini-vacation in West Virginia visiting friends and playing music—my perfect holiday!  It was a little odd heading south into snow, but life was nevertheless stirring.  And did I mention there was a butter tart tasting? My personal favourite and the hands-down winner in the neo-trad category was appropriately created by OMG.

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This week I will be making the multigrain again, for Conny who requested it, and little baguettes that combine wild yeast and commercial yeast starters to create an aromatic bread with a crisp thin crust.  Eventually I would like to tell you more about the ingredients, but for now, here is a simple list.

Multigrain (except where noted, all of the ingredients are organic and locally grown and milled).  Oh, and Sky Pilot is the name of my starter.

K2 sifted red spring wheat flour, water, levain (P&H white flour (Western Canada), water, Oak Manor sifted stoneground wheat flour, Sky Pilot), multigrain mix (in equal parts: Hack Farm flax seeds, Oak Manor stoneground yellow cornmeal, conventional pumpkin seeds (somewhere), K2 rolled oats, K2 millet flour, K2 purple cornmeal, Cedar Down Farm whole unhusked barley, Forbes Wild Foods wild rice, whole K2 rye kernels, whole K2 spelt kernels), K2 red spring wheat flour, conventional K2 white winter wheat flour, sel gris from (France).

Mini-baguettes

P&H white flour (Western Canada), water, K2 sifted red spring wheat flour, levain (P&H white flour (Western Canada), water, Sky Pilot), poolish (P&H white flour (Western Canada), water, yeast), sel gris (France).

Sparrow, Raven, and Red Tail

I confess that part of what I love about buying flour from K2 Milling is that the flours are named after birds.  Last week I used sparrow spelt flour and raven rye.  This week, those two birds will show up again, along with their pal red tail, the red spring wheat.

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These birds have personalities.  Red tail is red, and dark, a sturdy and reliable wheat.  Sparrow is quirkily clumpy, lighter in colour, and high maintenance.  Raven is the darkest of all, with fine dark bran, and a mysterious nature. One of these days I will figure you out, raven.

I feel like celebrating this week! Pannier is more than 50% sold out (thanks to you!) and it is soon to be Easter weekend, so there are two special breads on deck.  The miche is special because it has a high percentage of white flour compared to my other breads, at 70%.  The rest is made up of our friends red tail wheat (18%), sparrow spelt (9%), and raven rye (3%).  I grew up baking almost exclusively with white flour because it is easy and because it is a joy to work with in its pillowy softness.  Most of the time at Pannier I prefer to keep white flour to a minimum for several reasons, not the least because there is no white flour that is both local and organic, but–it is a special occasion.  The miche that I make can be traced back to Gerard Rubaud, a venerable baker in Vermont that I would dearly love to visit one day.  I learned it from Shiao Ping who has generously shared the recipe on her blog.

The miche will be paired with my ever-so photogenic little poppy stars and sesame braids.  So much fun to make, and to eat!  These pretty little buns are made with 60% red tail wheat which makes the cut of being both organic and grown and milled in Ontario, but the rest–the seeds and the white flour will be merely organic. I am looking for local replacements for the seeds, but until then, I will use what I have.

Good morning park!

My favourite days of the week are when I get to be in the park in the morning.  Imagining myself doing what I’m now doing, I thought the hardest part would be getting out of bed.  But I forgot that a city park on the cusp of spring, dusted with snow and bathed in a warm and promising light is nothing if not magical.

I mean, how could I begrudge the snow that marked the passage of a squirrel (my best guess!) or a bird that could be a pigeon if the hind toe weren’t (too my eye) a little too long? (Tracker friends, this is your cue to swoop in to the rescue!)

As a fledgling baker, I also did not fully comprehend how humbling it is to make bread. Just when you think you’ve got things figured out, the dough surprises you. This week I thought I knew, for example, what the spelt felt like when it was developed enough, so I stretched and folded each batch only about 250 times–that’s about half as much as I have in the past–because, it was sheeting beautifully, and well, I though it was enough.

Don’t get me wrong, it resulted in a tasty, crunchy and pleasantly sour bread. But Laurie definitely didn’t have to worry about the loaves getting crushed in her boxes!  As with that snowfall when it should be spring, it is these little reminders that bridge disappointment and opportunity that get me up in the morning.

Week 2: A spelt family

An unexpected pleasure last week was how well the fougasse sliced and toasted up. I had never thought to try eating it that way before, but toasting brought forward the nutty-sweet flavour of the sifted red spring wheat. Plus, its topography makes for many delightful little pools of butter.  Two buttered slices paired with Mennonite prosciutto from Fresh From the Farm made the perfect afternoon snack.

This week, my spelt flour is aged enough to make one of my favourite breads–a whole grain sourdough spelt.  No white flour here, just a 90:10 mixture of sifted and unsifted whole grain spelt flours.  To complete the little spelt family, I’ll be adding unmilled spelt grains this week, which also helped make last week’s multigrain pleasantly nutty. I’m hoping they’ll do the same this week.  Plus, I think they’re adorable.

Pannier’s first week–the aftermath

Shortly before 7 AM yesterday morning I was sitting outside sipping coffee and watching the smoke from my young oven fire billow upstream against the gentle tide of snowflakes.  I love this part, the quiet moments in between when I get to feel the weather. Yesterday, my first day baking to sell, I felt intensely grateful to the park, to the city, and to the people who are supporting me on this adventure.

And adventure it was!  I learned that when someone throws snow on your fire and closes the oven door on you, it really cools down your firebrick!  Thank goodness the hearth did not explode under that sudden temperature change. I learned that my target bake time of about 2 pm is probably a little late if I want my bread to be cooled and wrapped by 3 pm.  Moving it earlier means either getting up earlier (hello 3:30 AM!) or moving some of the activity to the previous day. Until the end of term I think the former is going to be happening.

And Brett, **thank you** for traveling half-way around the world to materialize at my oven right when I needed help!  Brett is in town from Brisbane to play Canadian Music Week with his rollicking and–I dare say this is a compliment–raunchy band The Good Ship.  I’ll be there raising a pint to you my friend this Thursday at your show!  You were a life-saver, helping me load and unload the oven and expertly painting the finished fougasse with olive oil.

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I love labour-intensive breads like the fougasse, but I lost 100 degrees (F) of heat loading the oven because all the action happens right before loading.  And by the time the oven was loaded, the loaves in the back were done!  Until I get better at, well, everything!, I think I need to stick to styles that load quickly.  A note of apology to those of you who got a Franken-Fougasse–that’s what happens when you get a little too hectic when you’re loading.

So at the end of the day, sitting down to a stew of red beans and posole, I finally tasted the bread.  I loved the earthy-sweet flavour of the whole grain flours that I tried.  In the multigrain, the high percentage of sifted whole grain flowers created a denser loaf than last week, but I dare say I didn’t mind!  What did you think?

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The fougasse was also delicious, and I was stunned by the cathedral-like loftiness of the crumb.  But I think the hunt for the perfect dough for that shape continues.  I would like the cuts to stay open, and for it to be a flatter more tearable bread.  Hmmmm…