These days it seems I seldom bake bread comprised of only a single flour. Usually my mind busily weaves together a formula of disparate flours after I decide on an end goal. The end goal is my compass, dictating the direction as I work backwards to make it happen: the flavor from this flour, this one is extra nutritious, add some extensibility with this one, perhaps a bit of color with this other, and perhaps some added strength, if necessary. Lately, though, I’ve been focusing down on a formula comprised in total of ancient einkorn wheat flour. I’ve baked with einkorn many times in the past at less than one hundred percent of the total formula (and my einkorn miche is always my go-to for large dinners), but pushing the percentage of einkorn results in a unique sourdough bread.
A splendid, gentle top-curve from dough that’s proofed just enough. Just enough to still have “energy” to expand upward in the oven, but not so much that it causes an erratic fissure due to the lack of scoring. A balance. Add to that a striking exterior color from a bold bake, the enticing aroma from the use of fresh milled flour, and a speckled oat topping — all contributing to a truly wonderful bread. But beyond all this, it’s one that’s meant to be eaten in thick slices carved from the loaf with a spread of soft butter, toasted and topped with fresh preserves, or used to cobble together a sandwich piled a little too high. When baking this whole grain wheat and spelt pan bread I could have sworn the kitchen smelled of honey… Or perhaps it was my eagerness to eat the result. When you go the distance from raw berries, to fresh milled flour, to baked bread — all the while controlling each part of the transformation1 — it’s easy to get a little antsy, a little impatient, and frankly, a little hungry.
Or as much control as we’d like to think we have over fermentation.↩
This hefty einkorn miche epitomizes community. It’s substantial and baked with the intention to share, to break with others, to enjoy its hearty flavor and nourishing quality gathered at the dinner table. A loaf so heavy it practically requires two hands to lift — and oh what a statement it makes.
Traditionally, miche are large, round country-style loaves pmeant to sustain a family for the days between their turn at baking in the communal oven (and with natural leavening, and all the subtle acidity built up through lengthy fermentation, it certainly will1). If you think about it, a massive round loaf is probably the most efficient way to bake large quantities of dough: It takes up less space in the oven, has plenty of crust, it can be divided and wrapped up, and finally, if meant to go to a single destination, a single loaf makes sense. A true daily bread.
Over time as the central community oven became more and more scarce, these large loaves began to fall out of favor, replaced by more ephemeral bread meant to be consumed entirely on the day of baking. But there’s still a place for this beautiful, and enticing, loaf.
As you know, sourdough breads have incredible keeping quality due to the natural acids produced as a byproduct of lengthy fermentation.↩
Baguettes are something I’ve had my sights on for some time and they’re also probably one of the most requested. I’m really happy these are the first ones to share here. These demi-baguettes are comprised of close to 50% whole grain, most of which is fresh milled kamut1, an ancient wheat variety. Kamut imparts a sweet and nutty flavor to this dough that contrasts beautifully with the baguette’s rustic and craggy crust. I’ve talked in the past about spelt which also has some of these characteristics, but kamut, to me, is even sweeter and also brings a very appealing creamy, yellow color to the crumb. The hallmark of a good baguette is a thin, crispy crust and ultra tender interior — I’d say this recipe yields just that, and more.
But first, let’s talk about the mill giveaway.
I’ve partnered with Pleasant Hill Grain to give away a brand new KoMo Classic electric grain mill to one lucky reader of The Perfect Loaf. I’m very excited about this giveaway; it’s the first one of its kind here, and I love the idea of getting more people into baking sourdough with fresh milled flour. Entry to the giveaway is at the bottom of this post, so read on and enter!
Kamut is the commercial name for khorasan wheat.↩
“This is really good but you should try to make potato bread sometime, it’s delicious.” I’ve probably heard my Dad utter a version of that fifty times to date, usually just after eating a slice of my fresh sourdough bread.
I love how eating good food tugs at an invisible, interconnected web of food-memories we’ve constructed over the course of our lifetimes. This complex web, with scattered connections between foods, smells, experiences and memories, is gradually filled in and ever-evolving: it shapes the corpus of foods we enjoy, giving them significance in place and time. Perhaps the construction of this web is instilled at a primal level, maybe it’s a way we’ve evolutionarily progressed to favor foods that provide proper nourishment by exciting our senses, pushing out hollow foods that provide nothing or are uninteresting. I believe it’s one of the many reasons we’ve stayed alive for so long, eating the things we need instead of those we don’t.
But this web might not be as invisible and hidden as it might first seem. We see evidence of the intermingled connections each time we sit down to eat: “this cake reminds me of that one you made 2 years ago when…,” or “this salad reminds me of that time we were traveling through Italy and stopped at…” In fact, I’d go out on a limb and say just about every meal I eat with my family we talk about other meals eaten, or other dishes enjoyed in the past — and its through that traversal of the food-memory web where we are instantly, and clearly, transported to a significant time and place in our otherwise blurred history.