“foodtravelthought” now “the perfect loaf”

What’s in a name?

When I started this site a long while ago I sat down for a couple days brainstorming on a name, it’s harder than you’d think! So much goes into the naming of things — your pets, your kids, your first car, your soccer team, your sourdough starter, and back then, my website. I decided to combine words from things that were important to me: food, travel and thought.

Food, as you might know, is something that has always played a crucial role in my life, starting from childhood. It’s not just the eating part, it’s the detailed recipe preparation, the precise chopping and mincing, the attentive sautéing and grilling, and finally, the enjoyment of eating your hard work. Cooking food for others brings on a whole new set of enjoyments, and having friends over to enjoy a home cooked meal is truly satisfying.

Travel. I can’t ever seem to get over the thrill of stepping foot in a new country, a new state, or a new city. International travel, despite the inherent airport hassles and unknowns, is above and beyond my preferred travel. It throws you into a new, sometimes completely unknown, culture with new people and new customs — there is no experience like it. Some of my friends used to comment that traveling to places with little English is a hassle, well I would say that’s the best kind of trip. I’ve traveled to many countries around the world and back to my family in Italy countless times throughout my life. Turkey, Greece, Peru, Mexico, Canada, Austria, France, Spain, The Netherlands, The Czech Republic, Budapest, Belgium, and the list goes on… I feel very fortunate to have been able to visit all these places and wouldn’t take back a single trip (despite a few close encounters with the hospital).

Thought… that sure seems ambiguous. Well, in a way it is one of those potentially mushy and nebulous things. However, one of my spare time pursuits is reading as much as possible1, and I really enjoy ancient texts on various schools of thought. My primary focus for the past several years has been stoicism, which totally gets a bad wrap. It really has nothing to do with that mental picture imagined by most people when they hear the word “stoic”, you know, that lifeless robot of a person who feels nothing and shows no outward expression. I’m not sure how that came to be, but stoic has been warped over the years. Anyways, this is where the word thought came from, and I had hoped to write more on the topic, but something happened along the way…

I became completely and utterly swept off my feet with baking. It started out with the gift of Tartine Bread and a “cool hobby” quickly spiraled into a full-fledged obsession once my first starter (Brutus) was up and running. Since then this site has transformed, I think for the better, to one that completely revolves around all things sourdough. Thus the impetus for the name change.

The old byline for this site used to be “a quest to bake the perfect loaf”, and that still resonated with me. That perfect loaf, ever so elusive, it is always the goal. After some thought, and discussion with some friends, the perfect loaf really seemed to fit. And, there you have it, a new name but the same old me writing, snapping photos, baking mean bread, and helping where I can: “foodtravelthought” now “the perfect loaf”.

Onward!

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  1. I try my hardest to cut out almost all TV, save for a few wonderful shows like Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, The Killing, and House of Cards.

Natural Sourdough with Spent Beer Grains

The beer scene here in New Mexico has really taken off with some of the country’s top ranking breweries, and several of their recent entries in the Great American Beer Festival have earned gold, silver and bronze medals. Notably, Marble Brewery 1 was named Small Brewing Company of the Year — amazing thing for a city like Albuquerque. With so much beer talk and so many beer purchasing options for every night of the week, it’s also motivated many would-be-brewers to try their hand right in their own homes. Shops around town sell a multitude of grain varieties from all over the world and all the tools and necessities one would need to get started. Several of my good friends have picked up this (dare I say it?) important hobby and have made some stunningly good beer, so good I could have sworn they picked up a microbrew 6-pack and did a behind-the-scenes-swap before I could spot them.

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  1. Marble is one of my favorite local microbreweries that has been in business here in Albuquerque for a long while now with a strong following.

Baking Sourdough Bread with a Stiff Starter

Baking in the winter always presents problems here at my house: it’s cold! Probably not quite the cold you get in other parts of the world but it sure is cold to me, and my starter. Kitchen temperatures are consistently hovering between 68º and 70ºF which really inhibits yeast and bacteria activity. I’ll typically offset this by changing the percentage of mature starter carryover or by heating up the water used in my feedings, but you really want to try to keep your starter around 75º to 80ºF — this is not easy to do when winter is bombarding your area. You just have to make do with the warmest spot you can find in your kitchen, for me this is next to my whisky collection… almost poetic.

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Golden Raisin and Fennel Seed Sourdough

I recently had a chance to head out to San Francisco, CA for a quick vacation and now that I’m back I find myself still thinking of the ocean, Tartine bread, Napa wine, and Lagunitas brew… My brother and I met up there to spend some time with a good friend of ours and we did it right: Tartine bakery for oat porridge bread and croissants, Bar Tartine for dinner, Napa for wine, and a quick 2 day excursion to Healdsburg to explore the area on Segways while sipping wine and trying not to get run over.

We planned ahead before leaving to Napa and had a loaf of Tartine oat porridge on pre-order, picked up the night before it was in our packed bag with a charcuterie spread ready for the day. I would be lying if I don’t admit to being just as excited about cutting into that bread as I was about drinking wine and seeing the sights the next day.

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Country Sourdough with Less Levain & Longer Autolyse

I could probably pull out hundreds of gems from Hamelman’s masterpiece Bread, and each time I go back to reference something my eye catches one that strikes a chord. Attentiveness, now that is a really important thing with baking. You don’t realize just how important it is to step back for a second and observe what you, and the dough, is doing from time to time. Does it look alive and puffy? Does it look like it has enough strength? Are you mixing to sufficient development and to enough rise during bulk?

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