· Livin’ la Vida Pastelero

A lot has happened over the past two months, so at this point a catch up post is in order.

Over the past two months, I’ve been working at the San Francisco Baking Institute as a pastry cook for it’s bakery, Thoroughbread and Pastry, which is located in the Castro neighborhood in the city.

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· Time for Some Professional Help

Once I started waking up at 2:45 AM to tend to my bread at home, I realized that it might be time to take things up a notch.

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Even if you’ve filled your kitchen shelves with artisan bread baking books, there is only so much you can learn on your own in four months. Continue reading

· Blazing Saddles, Ovens, & Skillets: A Summer Cookin’ at the Ranch

At some point or another, someone has probably asked you, “what were some of the best times of your life?” I know I’ve found myself stumbling and asking the question right back, given that this is a tough one to answer.

Infinitely subjective and relative questions are nearly impossible to answer if you think about them too hard, but you can usually think of some time when you felt truly alive. For me, the two summers that I spent working at the Laramie River Ranch, a dude ranch in north-central Colorado surrounded by pungent sage brush to the east and the verdant Rawah wilderness to the west, definitely qualifies.

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How does this relate to baking? Continue reading

· My New Bread & Butter

Olive oil, a slice of bread, and a frying pan. That’s all you need… Well, that isn’t exactly bread and butter, but one could argue that this savory toast is an even more delicious and versatile combination.

Up to this point, we’ve explored several different methods by which the home baker can make yeasted and sourdough breads using flour, water, salt, and yeast. While making your own bread is an incredibly fun and rewarding activity, eating it is just as good. In fact, the concept in this post doesn’t require any mixing, folding, or fermenting – all you need are some basic cooking skills and a loaf of bread.

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· Notorious T.A.R.T.I.N.E.

Feeling like you’re in the groove with this stuff so far? Don’t get too comfortable.

Up to this point, I’ve been making levain breads using Ken Forkish’s method. His book, Flour Water Salt Yeast, makes levain breads approachable for the bread baking novice, and after several months, I not only felt that I’d learned how to make artisan bread, but that I could actually make good bread. I have by no means mastered Ken’s method, but the desire to expand one’s horizons is a natural one.

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Chad Robertson, renowned baker and owner of Tartine Bakery & Café in San Francisco’s Mission district, describes his own process in his first book, Tartine Bread. It was time to tackle the Tartine method, one that could be considered ‘notorious’ in the home baker world given that many elements of the process are substantially different, and consequently, quite challenging. The Tartine loaf is considered the holy grail of bread by many, and if you’ve ever made the pilgrimage to corner of 18th and Guerrero, you’ll understand why. In fact, one of my favorite blogs, Tartine Bread Experiment (now Girl Meets Rye) was originally devoted to it. Continue reading

· Crust or Bust?

Who doesn’t look forward to pizza night? I sure do.

There are some foods that many of us take for granted. I would consider pizza to be one of them. To be honest, I often forget that pizza is actually bread with a bunch of stuff on top, though perhaps that is an oversimplification. But still, what do so many of us love dearly about pizza? The crust.

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· Meet Sam, the Sourdough Man

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The genesis of naturally leavened bread, which harnesses the rising power of wild yeast, lies in what is commonly called a sourdough starter. In fact, it turns out that wild yeast and bacteria are already in the flour – no need to add anything except water to get them going. The characteristics of a starter, and the levain (French for leaven) that is generated from it, have much to do with the flavor of the loaf. The good news is that this process can be just as fun and rewarding as pulling loaf from the oven.

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· Flour Water Salt Yeast

is all you need to make artisan bread.

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When there are only four ingredients in a recipe, it turns out that they make a great title for a cookbook. Ken Forkish decided to put them in descending order by the weight of the ingredients used for the artisan breads for his. Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast (FWSY) was my choice for a first book on the subject. Why did I pick this one?

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