boy oh boy, folks were so excited to bake with us that we’ve scheduled a bunch more classes! go here and get ready to party.
boy oh boy, folks were so excited to bake with us that we’ve scheduled a bunch more classes! go here and get ready to party.
short and sweet on this one kiddos, though please don’t take this to mean anything other than i am so confident in our relationship that we needn’t waste any precious time with niceties.
we’re starting back up with the bread baking classes! next one is Wednesday, October 7, 7:30-9:30pm at The Mill. wanna learn how to bake bread with us? go here and reserve your spot! i’m really excited about this class, we will get into the principles that make for delicious bread: whole/wild/wet/slow/bold. what does this all mean and how can it possibly have to do with bread??!? come hang + find out.
i can in fact barely contain my excitement, and thus i think i may have to just do an impromptu slam right here right now, ok here goes, please read aloud and add your own emphasis, suggested by the “*” scattered throughout:
i wrote out a slam poem and then got embarrassed and deleted it. sorry, maybe next time?
and that, as they say, is that.
goodness gracious, look at this lil bun fresh out the oven:
yup, Cassady Francis Baker was born into this world on June 7, 2015, and my oh my, what a joy he is. don’t worry, i won’t be one of those people who post tons and tons of photos of their newborn on their website.
but, i mean, come on, you’ve gotta agree, he is pretty frikkin cute, and his papa ain’t no sack of sh*t either:
anyway, we got a lot going on at The Mill. too much to blab about in one silly and too-quickly-written post. here’s a few things though, just to whet your whistle…
Ryan, known to some as “Rye Guy,” has been doing tooooons of experiments lately, and i’ve been madly inspired by his determination and creativity. he’s pushing into new frontiers, blending malted barleys and pre-ferments and sprouted ryes and molasses and polenta and creme fraiche and what-the-ef-ever else he feels like, and he’s coming up with some really amazing stuff. like what you ask? like this frikkin crazy naturally leavened corn bread that’s unlike any other corn bread i’ve ever tasted, so much so that it feels like a misnomer to even call it corn bread. one day we’ll make some for you and you can tell us what to call it.
Ty, who has one of the most beautiful man manes i’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing, has been leading the charge on a JBB baguette. baguettes, my god, i love you and i hate you. we made baguettes way back when, and then we stopped, and we’ve tried a handful of times since, never quite able to recreate the baguette of our dreams. but Ty is closer than ever, and it’s purely because of his beautiful man mane. no silly, it’s because he’s got mad skills, and he has been tinkering and exploring and inventing for months, trying to coax that dreamy baguette into our mouths. how does he do it? i can’t tell you all of the secrets, nay, i can’t tell you any of the secrets, but that’s because there aren’t any – he’s using about half whole grain sonora flour, half high extraction wheat flour, a super fresh sourdough culture, overnight bulk, very gentle shaping, just shy of 500F oven… the results are magnificent when everything is aligned. keep your eyes peeled, soon my friends.
i’ve been working with a very talented fellow over in Oakland named Joe, who is actually an alum of Hampshire College, just like myself. Joe spends his nights down at the Stanford Linear Accelerator, smashing subatomic particles together with great force (is that what you do Joe??), but by day he works with metal, making knives and beautiful signs and as of today, grain mills. with the help of the brilliant Andrew Heyn from Elmore Mountain Bread in Vermont, we are building a new grain mill that is about twice as big as our current mill. why the new mill? because we want greater control of the granulation of our flour, and building it ourself just seems like fun. i’ve been grinding the millstones over the past few weeks, while Joe has been meticulously crafting the frame, and we are pretty darn close to giving it a test run. should be up and running within the next couple of months, and we are puuuuuuumped up about it.
i hung with my photographer bud Erin Kunkel a few weeks back and she snapped some pics that made me look wayyy cooler than i am, which will be used in a piece in King Arthur’s new publication, Sift. we had a lot of fun, some of it looked like this:
we’ve been baking bread everyday for the last i-don’t-even-know how long, so we are going to take a day off – Wednesday August 26 – so we can party together. it’s our 3rd annual JBB Retreat and we’re going to go on a camping trip the night before, then spending that Wednesday hanging out on the beach, decidedly NOT baking bread. so mark your calendars – no bread on Wed Aug 26!! The Mill will be open as usual.
what else? here’s Blair teaching Jess how to be the next Rye Master:
so that she can make bread like this:
and here’s Rafi meditating in the sunset in the Trinity Alps during a backpacking trip he and I did a week ago:
and here’s my child, last one, i promise:
check ya soon sweethearts
just to get a little personal here for a moment – my first child’s due to be born today. this’ll come as a surprise to some of you, as i tend to keep this kind of personal stuff outta here, but as you can imagine, this is one of those things that will impact every other facet of my life, and so what the heck, i decided to share the news with you all. thanks for sharing in the joy, next time you hear from me i should be a papa.
but enough about me, let’s get back to the bread… i’ve been thinking a lot lately about what our guiding principles are. what are the characteristics that define good bread, both in terms of the process and the ingredients? these rules aren’t hard and fast (and i’ll be the first one to support a deviation in the quest of deliciousness), but i do think they’re principles by which most good bread is made.
whole: whole grain
i’m definitely not tied to all breads being all whole grain (there’s a different bread for every occasion, and many of our breads are 50% whole grain), but the more bread i make, the more bread that i eat, the more i am drawn to breads that are mostly whole grain. i find these breads both more interesting to make, and more interesting to eat. we’ve been working with a bunch of different grains lately (einkorn, rye, spelt, khorasan, corn, oats, buckwheat, a bunch of different wheats such as Sonora, Cabernet, Cristalo, Bolero, Merica, etc) and i’ve been elated by how much i’ve grown as a baker, and all of the flavors, textures and aromas we’re getting. and we’re just scratching the surface. we’ve got a stone mill in the bakery so that we can control the granulation and then use the flour immediately in whatever fashion we dream up – mixing it directly into dough, or soaking it overnight, or toasting it and mixing with boiling water, or cooking it into a porridge… new possibilities present themselves everyday.
wild: wild yeast
a sourdough starter is a magical little beast. it’s a combination of flour and water, along with wild yeast and bacteria that are naturally found on flour and in the environment. starters can be tricky to work with, as you need to constantly monitor their development and characteristics in order to make the bread you’re after. in order to keep your sourdough starter alive, you have to “feed” it regularly with flour and water, and by doing this you can coax the wild yeast and bacteria into the proportions that are good for bread baking. most bread is made with yeast that’s made in a factory, and this yeast is created in order to make bread rise quickly and dependably. but it wasn’t always this way – the first breads ever were most definitely “sourdough” – made with a mixture of flour and water that was allowed to ferment by the power of the wild yeast that was lucky enough to find its way into the mixture. the best breads that i’ve ever had have been made using a sourdough culture. if used properly, a sourdough culture yields bread that tastes better, lasts longer, and is healthier for you.
wet: fully hydrated
it’s a lot easier to end up with moist bread if you start out with moist dough. why don’t more people put more water in their bread doughs? because it makes for a dough that is very sticky and tricky to handle, and well, that’s a pain in the ass now isn’t it? this is especially true if machines are dividing the dough, or shaping it into loaves. only the sensitive human hand can handle dough like this, and even then, it takes hundreds, thousands of loaves to get the hang of shaping “high hydration” dough consistently. most breads out there have 60-70g of water for every 100g of flour. our breads have between 75-125g of water for every 100g of flour, and this totally depends on the particular flour of a given bread. we aim for a dough that is fully hydrated and yields a bread that has a moist and supple crumb.
slow: long fermented
good things take time, didn’t your gramma teach you that? the flavors and textures of a long-fermented loaf are just flat out better than those of a short-fermented one. the life cycle for most of our breads goes something like this: our sourdough culture hangs out for 20-24 hours before being mixed into dough, our dough relaxes for 3-4 hours before being shaped into loaves, our loaves chill out for 14-18 hours before being baked into bread. so our bread dough has matured over a couple of days before it’s baked into bread, which gives the yeast and bacteria of our sourdough culture time to perform their magic: producing the perfect mix of acid, alcohol and gas to make good bread.
bold: boldly baked
when a loaf goes into the oven it is the moment of truth – did we make the right decisions over the last 48 hours? and so begins the waiting game for that loaf to complete its transformation. you can’t rush this phase of the process, just like every other one. we bake our breads anywhere from 30-120 minutes, depending on the size and type. regardless, we bake each loaf till it’s crust is dark and substantial and its insides are fully cooked. folks occasionally point out that we burnt our bread. while i admit that our loaves are significantly darker than those from most bakeries, i also stand by the flavors and textures created by the bold bake, and encourage critics to employ their taste buds.
and that, my friends, is that. holler if ya got any thoughts on the matter.
happy spring, chickens
we’re about a quarter of the way through 2015, ya know what they say when you’ve been having fun… if i do say so myself, and i do, i’ve been having the best year of my life. i’ve just been soaking up so much learning about baking and living and loving and it’s landed me in a place where i’m so very aware of how much more there is to learn, how much richness there is to be sopped up out of these moments of life. is that too gushy for you? i hope so, but in a nice kinda way that makes you giggle, not think, ‘jeez that baker boy has been spending too much time smelling roses or something.’ anyway.
the past few weeks have been particularly inspiring, and have led me to something i’m very excited to share, something that i dare say may just be the next big thing in bread.
but hold your horses there kiddos, i can’t just go cutting right to the chase, that would really spoil all the fun now wouldn’t it? come along, hold my hand and i will take you on a little journey with me so you can fully appreciate my tale. i’ll start at no particular starting point, and by that i mean with a trip out to see Mr. Dave Miller.
every time i hang with Dave i learn something simple and powerful. it usually involves something that we’ve talked about before, something he’s mentioned in the past that i wasn’t ready to understand, but then all of the sudden it clicks into place and i find myself saying, ‘ohhhhhhhhhh, that’s what you meant!! of course.’
other than taking a breather from SF life and enjoying the deep pleasure of gas station cappucinos with one of my lovely bakers, Ms. Blair Cardigan Smith (pictured below), i was reminded of the importance of starting each and every loaf with the highest quality flour you can find, which is much more complex than i could have ever imagined. this involves sourcing your grains well, but then you also have to mill your grains well. neither of these things are easy to do. it seems like the deeper into grains and milling and bread that i get, the more there is to learn. and that’s just fine by me, because if there’s one thing i don’t like, it’s being bored.
i came back from Dave’s and had a lovely week baking bread with my oh-so-very badass crew at the bakery, and then the next weekend i took a trip out to the woods with a group of dear friends, led by my dearest heartbrother Rafi. together we built a sweat lodge.
i’d never built a sweat lodge, nor sweat in a sweat lodge, but i am a full convert – it was one of the most powerful and nourishing things i’ve done.
if the opportunity presents itself, hear my voice in the back of your mind saying, ‘it’ll be worth it.’
back to the bakery for another week of bread baking and jogging in golden gate park and hanging out with my beautiful pregnant wife (yup, t-minus 2 months my dudes!!). and then off on another adventure, this time to the east coast. specifically, i just returned from an epic trip to North Carolina + Virginia where i visited with a handful of bakers, some of whom i have literally met in my dreams. goodness gracious, i was absolutely floored by the welcoming i received by each and every one of them.
i started out visiting Dave Bauer at Farm + Sparrow, right outside of Asheville. Dave’s been milling his flour and sourcing grains direct from local farmers for about a decade, and my my my, he knows what he is doing.
he’s a master of his craft, and i feel truly privileged to have been able to spend a few days in his company. can’t wait to go back.
after Farm + Sparrow I head to Raleigh, where i had the pleasure of hanging out with the crew at Boulted Bread.
these boys are making some phenomenal bread + pastry, and my only regret is that i had barely 24 hours in their company.
after getting in a quick car accident i proceeded to Richmond, VA, where i spent about 16 hours in the ridiculously loving arms of Evrim Dogu and crew at Sub Rosa Bakery.
Evrim and I are quite obviously long lost brothers, and we quickly delved deep into some of life’s more personal and mysterious topics, such as Peter Chang’s Chinese food, the tragedy of of love long lost and the resulting flickering eye lids, and whether or not “2000” should ever be uttered following the word “pizza.” i miss you already Evrim.
ok, so, enough of that trip down memory lane – are you ready for it? i’m not sure you are….
so we all know that overcooking your veggies leaches many of the most nutritious bits, while also rendering them less pleasing to your palette. for many foods, the optimum way to ingest is to avoid cooking altogether, to just eat that carrot/kale/tomato/sunflower seed raw. over the last year i have been exploring what this could look like in our bakery, and today i am ready to share some of these discoveries.
since i started baking bread i have always favored the ‘bold bake,’ appreciating the nuanced flavors/textures/aromas it allows you to coax from the loaf. however, as is the trend in coffee roasting, i’d become curious about what it might mean to go for a lighter bake, to let the flavors of the grain speak for themselves, instead of being overshadowed by those produced during caramelization and the maillard reaction.
we’ve been secretly experimenting with ‘light baking’ and while it’s proven promising, i now believe that we have stumbled upon the true next frontier in bread. my friends, i proudly present to you here and now what is sure to be the next big thing in bakeries across the world: raw bread.
the act of baking bread dough robs it of many of its beneficial probiotic cultures, not to mention solidifying gluten into its much more abrasive form. did you know that gluten is totally harmless if it’s consumed raw? also, the wild yeast and bacteria present in sourdough culture are able to thrive fully throughout the digestive process so long as they aren’t exposed to the cruelty of baking temperatures, thereby lending a helping hand throughout the entirety of their journey through your digestive tract.
it is for these reasons that from here on out we will not be baking our loaves, instead opting for the more nutritious raw form of sourdough bread dough.
also, i am pleased to announce that from here on out we will no longer be toasting our bread, as we believe that consuming raw toast is the superior approach.
and you thought $4 toast was a big deal.
all my love sweethearts
yo yo yo my sweet sweet sweetie pies
let’s get the big news outta the way so we can catch up…
yup, Mondays have been so much fun that we’re gonna start slanging pizza on Fridays too. same deal as Mondays: 6-9pm, one type of pizza per night, $3/slice or $24/whole pie (8 slices), along with salads, chocolate chip cookies, yadda yadda yadda. so come on out for the fun – the first Friday is February 6, and then you can get your pizza every Monday and/or Friday that your little heart desires.
also a couple more fun things we got coming up –
Saturday Jan 31
we’re going to be hosting a couple of very talented ladies all the way from New York – Erin & Agatha, bakers and cookbook authors, will be celebrating the release of their new cookbook, Ovenly, by hanging out at The Mill all morning on Saturday 1/31 with copies of the book for sale. we’ll also be running a very special one day only collaborative toast special that may or may not include a chocolate date spread w crumbled spelt cookies on top, which Erin + Agatha make just for us… come + eat some and buy their book.
Friday Feb 13 – Maria Schoettler will unveil her art at The Mill. and yes, there will be pizza too. very stoked to be surrounded by her gorgeous work, it looks like this –
and this –
hope to catch ya around for some of these fun things.
but let’s get down to business, you and me – i’ve missed you. where the heck have you been? probably you were busy chopping down your christmas tree or lighting your menorah or meditating on bodhi day or feasting for kwanzaa…? whatever your holiday of choice, i hope it was fulfilling and rejuvenating and that your 2015 is off to a tremendous start.
mine indeed is, as i spent a couple of weeks back east in Vermont w dear family + friends doing stuff like this –
and daydreaming about stuff like this –
and looking at stuff like this –
I snapped that last pic from the top of Elmore Mountain. a funny little tangent – i drove my mom and step dad to the airport one morning at 4:30am. as i was driving home i all of the sudden was struck with a powerful idea – i’m going to hike to the top of Elmore Mountain and watch the sunrise!!! i pulled into a gas station and got a big cup of coffee and started amping myself up. i drove for 20 minutes then stopped at another gas station and picked up a liter of water and, what’s that sitting next to the register just begging to be brought to the top of the mountain and eaten while the sun rises? that’s right, a frikkin cadbury cream egg. yes, i’ll take one of those too please. so i keep going, get to the base of the mountain, strap on my head lamp and chug the water and put my mountain top cream egg in my pocket and start off tromping. man o man this is going to be great!! but another 30 seconds and i stop – what the heck am i doing? its zero degrees and pitch black and i am all alone and i actually don’t think i’m as tough as i think i am… i went home and went to bed, woke up and had french toast then hiked the mountain later in the day with my papa.
speaking of Elmore Mountain, i spent some great time hanging with my buddies Blair, Andrew & Kate at Elmore Mountain Bread, and just had so much fun.
they actually built their very own stone mill this past year, and they’ve inspired me to build our very own mill!! at least, that’s the current dream. watch out though, dreams really do come true…
love to you my dear.