Monthly Archives: January 2011

New month. New Bread!

Fougasse (foo-gass).

Wikipedia defines it as “….a type of bread typically associated with Provence but found (with variations) in other regions. Some versions are sculpted or slashed into a pattern resembling an ear of wheat.

Yeah. I guess that’s about right. It’s a flat bread, typically cut with multiple slashes and filled with things like anchovies, lardons, cheeses, olives, herbs you name it. Some people call it ladder bread because it can be cut to resemble a ladder. Or not. Really, it’s a flat bread cut in whatever shape the baker likes!

I’ll be making it with French Nicoise olives, similar to Kalamata, but so different. This is a bread to be ripped apart at the table. If it makes it home!

Available after 2:00pm at all 3 stores.


Thanks to the storm this week, I’ve decided to call off making the bread.

To those that have helped start get this project off the ground, I offer my thanks, and next week will be something new. I haven’t decided what yet!

Stay tuned!

Fast pain au levain?!

This week I’m unable to make the overnight bread, so I’m going the complete opposite for a very fast version! The last couple weeks, the bread took 18 hrs. to go from the mixing bowl to the oven. That’s with no refrigeration. This week, it’ll be closer to 4 hrs.!
Ingredients are exactly the same, but the percentage of levain, or sourdough is increased greatly, from 2% last week to 75% this week! Manipulating the sourdough should also change the flavor profile a bit. I know the dough won’t be over fermented this week since I’m here watching it!

The bread will be available before 12:00 at all stores today!

Thanks for your support.

Todays bread came out very similar to last weeks. I’m playing with a new technique. Generally, you would add a certain percentage of sourdough to a mix to get it to rise at the rate that you are looking for. For example, most of our sourdough breads are roughly 6-9 hours from the mixer to the oven. I’ve always felt like the best bread was made with the lowest percentage of sourdough starter you can get away with to achieve the timing goals to fit production. Sourdough can be thought of like yeast. The more you add, the faster the process.

I’m pushing my theory to the limit with this bread. Where most of our breads have right around 20% sourdough starter in the final dough, this one has 2%. Pretty much nothing. In a 35 kilo batch, this weeks bread had 235 grams of levain to raise the bread! I mixed it at 6:45pm Wed. night, and loaded it into the oven at 12:00PM Thurs. This is so cool, but it presents some challenges. Fermentation develops bread, but not quite enough. I’ve also decided to make this project even more difficult by not developing the dough at all in the mixing bowl. It gets just enough mixing for incorporation of flour, water, salt and levain. About 90 seconds on first speed, then the slop is pulled out of the bowl. Two of my mixers were watching me last night shaking their heads. I’m pretty sure they didn’t believe this would resemble anything like bread;-)

When I walked into the bakery this morning, I found the same thing as last week, even though I made some tweaks. The dough was perfectly fermented, but was not strong enough! The aroma coming off this bread 11 hrs. after mixing is insane! It needed a “fold”. I gave it the fold and gave it another 1/2 hr. Folding a dough reinvigorates it, and gets it going even more. 30 min. later, I had the strength I was looking for, but now it had fermented more than I’d like!

The bread came out pretty good, but it doesn’t quite have the open hole structure I’d like to see, thanks to the over-fermentation in bulk. Next week, I’ll mix the dough 5degrees cooler, and see if I can hit the fermentation window I’m looking for. The cooler temperature should slow the fermentation just enough to get me where I want to be the next day.

Bread for Thurs Jan. 13

Tomorrows bread will be another version of the same thing.. Last week the dough over fermented a little and I over compensated by UNDER proofing it! The bread came out pretty good, but not quite what I’m looking for. Lets see how it goes tomorrow…

Any comments appreciated.


What bread to start with?
From the beginning, I’ve never had the opportunity to perfect that one bread. Having so many different doughs with so many different variables just didn’t allow such precise fine tuning. This will be different. The first bread I’ll be making is the one that I want to eat every day. It goes well with any food. It’s great as toast and croutons or grilled cheese! Lynn thinks there’s nothing better than cured ham and butter! Kids (and some adults) love it for peanut butter and jelly.

The bread that sustained France for centuries was not the white flour baguette. It was a big, round, charred, levain (French for natural leavening or sourdough) based bread made from mostly whole grain flours. It was big to sustain a family for a week or so. It was a mild bread, tasting of sweet wheat with light sour tang. The perfect compliment to the table, enhancing other foods, rather than overwhelming them.

When I think of this type of bread, I’m always reminded of my first trip to France. I tasted a bread that to me was the quintessential Pain au Levain from a bakery called Le Moulin de la Vierge. It wasn’t big and round though. It was a 500gram batard shaped bread. It has stuck in my memory as one of the best breads I’ve ever tasted. It tasted of sweet wheat, mild acidity and had a crust so dark and caramelized it stuck in my teeth. Our country bread, esp. the large darker version, is the closest to this bread, but over the years it’s gotten more and more refined as we’ve gotten busier.

This version of Pain au Levain will be made more like it was made before the mechanical mixer. Mostly by hand, in small batches developed over time with fermentation and lots of folds rather than mixed by a machine. I have this theory that in the days before mixers, bakers didn’t so much as Knead dough by hand, rather they incorporated the flour, water, salt and leavening and left it to do its thing. The process of fermentation itself develops bread dough without the need to mechanically mix. It just takes longer. It also develops more flavor!

We will more than likely have this bread for awhile. It is one that I want to spend some time working on and perfecting. Come along for the ride starting Thurs. Jan 6 2011!