Wednesday, November 18, 2015

In Paris with an eye-phone

Today I am taking you for a stroll in Paris with a few pictures from our last trip there back in May. The young woman in the headscarf is Ilham the Baker. She is from Morocco. She bakes all her goods herself at home on the day and night before the market. We bought bread and chatted for a while. She gave us sweet mint tea and cornes de gazelle, cookies baked in the shape of horns. I am keeping her in my thoughts.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Andrew Ross: The Skinny on Gluten (Grain Gathering 2015)

Picture of a gluten window taken in 2013 during Didier Rosada's All about Ciabatta class
I am probably the least science-minded person you and I have ever met. Which is kind of silly if you think about it because my own mother had been studying for her doctorate in organic chemistry when she met my father and even though in the end she chose to be a stay-at-home mom, she always kept a warm spot in her heart for the sciences. Not me. Never a fan. Sorry, Mom!
So you won't be surprised to read that I felt a bit nervous reporting on Professor Andrew Ross's lecture on gluten at the Grain Gathering 2015. I listened to his talk. I dutifully looked at the slides. I took notes.
But I wasn't comfortable with what I had jotted down. Not comfortable enough to make a blog post out of it. So I wrote to Andrew Ross, a cereal scientist at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon (as well as a passionate and accomplished baker) and asked him if he would agree to share his talking points. He very kindly forwarded me the text of his whole talk. All direct quotations from his text are in green and between quotation marks. The rest comes from my notes (I am keeping my fingers crossed!).

Gluten has unique functional properties: it traps gas. That's why when bread is baked, you don't get a solid brick. How come?
  • "Gluten is a group of proteins found in the endosperm (floury interior part) of wheat grains. Gluten-like proteins are also found in barely and rye."  Wheat includes all types: common hard- grained bread wheats, common soft-grained wheats, einkorn, emmer, spelt, and khorasan (kamut) among others.
  • "The gluten-forming proteins of wheat are made up of two types: gliadins and glutenins."
  • "After the addition of water and mechanical energy to wheat flour to form a dough these proteins combine to form functional gluten. Functional gluten is what gives wheat flour doughs their unique gas holding and viscoelastic properties that lead to leavened breads. Gliadins contribute the flow and glutenins the elastic characteristic of wheat-flour dough." 
  • Gliadin contains amino-acid sequences that are particularly toxic to celiacs.
What are the potential problems related to wheat?
  • Celiac disease (an autoimmune disease): definite
  • Specific wheat allergies: definite
  • Non-celiac wheat sensitivity: fairly certain
  • Non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS): under challenge
"Although a fairly large segment of the population appears to be avoiding, reducing, or wanting to avoid gluten, even the most ardent science-based advocates of the reality of non-celiac gluten sensitivity estimate its prevalence at 0.63 to 6% of the population." 
"Questions arise as to why there has been a documented increase in celiac disease in the last say 50 years, still estimated at about 1% of the population. Some blame has been laid at perceived changes in wheat grain composition independent of changes in other factors in the environment of the western world in the same time period."

Are we eating more gluten?
  • Not really. "US wheat consumption per head was maximum in the years around 1870 to 1900 at around 225 lbs per person per year."
For more info see Consumer Preferences Change Wheat Flour Use

Has gluten concentration increased?
I look at my notes. They read "Nonsense" underlined three times!
  • In this 2012 article, Sapone et al write: "“One possible explanation is that the selection of wheat varieties with higher gluten content has been a continuous process during the last 10,000 years, with changes dictated more by technological rather than nutritional reasons.” According to Andrew Ross, "this piece of speculation" can be challenged by data showing that it is simply not true: Research does not "support the likelihood that wheat breeding has increased the protein content (proportional to gluten content) of wheat in the United States." (Donald Kansarda, Can an Increase in Celiac Disease Be Attributed to an Increase in the Gluten Content of Wheat as a Consequence of Wheat Breeding?, J Agric Food Chem. 2013 Feb 13; 61(6): 1155–1159.) For more info, read Kansarda's whole article.
  • Also, ancient hulled wheats often had a high protein content. 
Is it possible that, as a population, we haven't had enough time to adapt to gluten?
  • It is often asserted that, as a species, we haven't had a chance to adapt to wheat because it has only be introduced in the human diet 10,000 years ago.
  • But then, what to make of milk? "Caucasian humans have adapted to life-long dairy consumption within about the last 7500 years."
    For more info, see Archaeology: The milk revolution, by Andrew Currie
  • Also, cereal grains have been part of our diet for an estimated 23,000 years (wild wheat and barley), and 105,000 years (sorghum).
    For more info, read Six Thousand Years of Bread: Its Holy and Unholy History by H.E. Jacob.
So how did we get to Wheat Belly? 
  • "In Wheat Belly Davis states “[wheat is] an 18-inch tall plant created by genetic research in the '60s and '70s, this thing has many new features nobody told you about, such as there's a new protein in this thing called gliadin. It's not gluten”. This statement is so categorically wrong that it does not dignify a response. However, it has swayed many people."
  • "Others have insisted that the “problems with wheat” stem from the introduction of the short stature wheats in the 1960s." It is true that wheat breeders have thought more about functionality than nutrition for the last 30 years. But coincidence isn't causation as you can easily verify yourself if you google "spurious correlations." Do it, it is hilarious! I just did and discovered for instance that "divorce rate in Florida correlates with per capita consumption of 1% and skim milk (US)". Ha! 
  • Short stature wheats are not new. They have been around for years in Asia and Australia. And kernel composition and straw height are not associated with each other.
If there is a problem with non-celiac wheat sensitivity, is it even gluten?
  • That question is still open to debate. Some researchers think that wheat sensitivity is caused by wheat components other than gluten. Others insist it is gluten. But even the latter say that added together celiac disease, true wheat allergies, and non-celiac wheat (or gluten) affect about 10% of the general population.
 "That leaves 90% of us who might benefit greatly from the consumption of well-fermented mostly whole-wheat products."
  • Non-celiac wheat sensitivity is a more appropriate label than gluten sensitivity.
Are there wheats that function well for bakers and are less likely to trigger celiac disease in susceptible individuals?
  • Einkorn and emmer have a much lower reactivity to celiac disease. 
  • New varieties could be developed with the quality traits we desire but with a lower potential to trigger celiac disease in susceptible people.
  • Strongly recommended reading (open-source download): Kucek, L. K., Veenstra, L. D., Amnuaycheewa, P., & Sorrells, M. E. (2015). A Grounded Guide to Gluten: How Modern Genotypes and Processing Impact Wheat Sensitivity. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, 14(3), 285-302. 
Kucek (in above article) proposes that long fermentations are beneficial. "However," Andrew Ross says, "I am personally skeptical that the advent of fast-fermented machine-made bread is the culprit leading to the increase in celiac disease. Other factors may be at play. Allergies and many auto-immune diseases not all related to wheat also appear to be increasing. The so-called 'hygiene hypothesis' suggests other factors are primary in the relative increase in auto-immune disorders in the western world."
  • Fructans -which are present in wheat- are part of the fiber composition. For most of us, increased fiber is a good thing, but not for people with low tolerance to fermentation in their gut. Why do people with NCGS report feeling better when eating long-fermented bread
  • Lack of exercise
  • Changes in infant feeding practices
  • Processing techniques
  • Hygiene (too much of it)
  • Light pollution/sleep deprivation
  • Nitrogen content of soil (best driver of protein content in wheat)
In answer to a question, Andrew Ross explains that, as a baker, he too favors long fermentations: he preferments 15% of his flour in the starter for 12 to 16 hours, adds the other 85% of the flour, mixes the dough and lets it proof for 3.5 hours, then divides and shapes and let it proof again for 1 to 2 hours. And to conclude he adds: "Despite my interpretation of the literature that modern wheats are perfectly safe for the grand majority of the population, it may a defendable hypothesis that older heritage varieties do have advantages over more recent high yielding wheats in terms of mineral nutrition and aspects of flavor and aroma. That is a whole other argument."

My most heartfelt thanks to Professor Ross for sharing his talking points. I have only included a few of his sources but I will gladly email the others to whomever requests them. Most of them are very technical and not necessarily available outside research libraries.
A picture of gluten strands kindly contributed by my facebook friend Yohan Ferranta talented baker and baking consultant who lives and works in Spain.
This is actually a picture of his levain. Thank you, Yohan!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Hazelnut cookies

You know how sometimes you set out to make whipped cream and you go for it with such enthusiasm that you get butter? Well, the same thing just happened to me with hazelnuts.
I wanted to make Chocolate and Zucchini's excellent cauliflower soup with hazelnuts and turmeric which I have made several times in the past. It is the perfect soup for a fall evening. Fragrant, exotic and yet low-key: spices, chicken stock, one onion, a humble cauliflower and a handful of hazelnuts.
When we were kids, hazelnuts abounded in my grandparents's yard in Normandy and in memory of the halcyon days of childhood, I bring back a bag each time I travel to the Northwest. Why, when I lived there, I sometimes even treated myself to hazelnut meal. Which is probably why I have lost my grinding touch.
Anyway I was trying to grind some Northwest hazelnuts into a fine powder as per Clotilde's instructions when, pff! they turned to butter. And chunky butter at that. Not good for my soup!
I tried another batch and this time I got an approximation of what I was looking for. I didn't dare grind the hazelnuts as fine as I would have liked. Still, the soup worked out. But I was left with hazelnut butter.
Too fancy for a weekday breakfast. Instead I made cookies for my one and only, using some of the soft winter wheat flour I buy at my local farmers' market whenever it is available. Butter by mistake, cookies by design! It could have been worse.

Ingredients: (for 18 cookies)
  • 85 g chunky hazelnut butter (any other chunky nut butter would probably do)
  • 80 g Jammu soft winter wheat flour (from Coke Farm in San Juan Bautista). I asked the farmer's dad whom I see at the market every week what Jammu refers to and he said it was the place in India the wheat variety originates from. Any whole-wheat pastry flour would work though
  • 40 g honey
  • 6 g hazelnut oil (optional, I think)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  1. Put everything into a bowl
  2. Mix with electric mixer until combined
  3. Roll into a roll
  4. Refrigerate until firm
  5. Slice and bake in 310°F convection oven for 15 minutes.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Grain Gathering 2015: Josey Baker and Jonathan Bethany on whole-grain artisan bread for the home baker

Bread made with 100% Sonora wheat grown within two hours from San Francisco
Unlike many of the classes and demos at the Grain Gathering, the whole-grain for the home baker workshop took place in the lobby kitchen of WSU Extension, a place well-suited for a demo but hardly the perfect stage for a dance. Yet a choreographed performance is what Josey and Jonathan opened with, arguing that were no better introduction to the five golden principles of whole-grain baking than the W.W.W. S. B. pas de deux. Keep in mind the dancing bakers when you bake at home and you'll get a loaf that tastes good, looks beautiful, nourishes the body and consists of sustainable ingredients :
  1. Whole grain
  2. Wild yeast
  3. Wet dough
  4. Slow fermentation
  5. Bold bake

According to the two Js, baking is a subtle thing; the more you do it, the more fulfilling and interesting it becomes. "Even when we practice a lot, it is hard to get exactly the loaf we dream of but it isn't hard to make a very good loaf of bread."
  • Josey Baker started baking in his San Francisco Mission apartment about five years ago when a friend gave him a sourdough starter. Two and a half years later, he opened his own bakery, The Mill. Today he works with a team of ten people and bakes about 350 loaves a day. He is also the author of Josey Baker Bread: Get Baking - Make Awesome Bread - Share the Loaves, a book for novice bakers. Cool writing (surfer dude style), great recipes and lots of useful tips. A great learning tool!
  • Jonathan Bethony is the resident baker at the Bread Lab in Mt Vernon, Washington. He too started as a home baker. He later attended the Professional Training Program at the San Francisco Baking Institute. After graduating he baked with local and legendary bakers in the Bay Area and was introduced by Craig Ponsford to the latest and greatest trends in whole-grain milling and baking. Today he is at the forefront of research and testing and continues to bake with the stars. What a job!
Note: Josey kindly gave me permission to quote directly from his blog for more details about the W.W.W. S. B.  principles. What isn't in green and between quotation marks comes from my notes. Thank you, Josey!

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."

Camas Country Mill whole wheat flour
Milling is a subtle process which Josey learned from Dave Miller. Whole-grain flour has the potential for more flavor and aroma. At the bakery, he has baked loaves with flours milled at different dates: all flours performed almost exactly the same but the aromas were much stronger with the freshly milled flours (they drop after two days). He buys Sonora grain at $1.20 lb. Buying the flour would be more affordable. But the quality wouldn't be the same.

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."
A sourdough starter is very easy to keep alive: leave behind a spoonful, mix in half-a-cup of water, half-a-cup of flour and leave it alone. The starter Josey and Joanathan are using for the demo has sat at room temperature for 16 hours. It has a strong funky aroma.

  • levain is a sourdough preferment. 
  • Josey's levain is at 100% hydration.
  • Take ripe starter, mix in  mix in half-a-cup of water and half-a-cup of flour and leave it sit for 8 to 12 hours. It will show visible signs of activity but it will be very young.
  • When taking the starter straight out of the fridge, it is safer to do two feedings. 
  • If you keep your starter out on the counter, feed it everyday.
Final dough
  • Take some of the levain (size of a big orange), fold in some water at 75 or 80°F to break it up, add whole wheat flour and salt
  • Percentage of levain in final dough: for most whole-wheat doughs, between 8 and 10% by flour weight is good. For rye breads, 30 to 40% levain is what works best (the dough needs to be way more prefermented because you need much more acidity in rye doughs).
  • If you want to cut down on bulk fermentation, adding more preferment is the way to go. That's where a skilled baker can make bread work into his or her schedule.
  • You can do an autolyse (they always do at the bakery).  It helps minimize oxidation by reducing dough manipulation. To do an autolyse, mix flour and water. No salt. Reserve some of the water. Let sit a while. The autolyse can be done overnight. (Beginning home bakers can skip this step if they find it confusing).
  • Twenty minutes after mixing by hand, dip your hands in water and stretch and fold inside the bowl. Rotate the bowl and do it again. Make sure you go all around. Repeat twice at 20-minute intervals.
  • At this stage you can also stick the dough in the fridge overnight.
Wet dough
"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."
Fully hydrating the flour is the goal: not using much water makes the dough easier to handle but it doesn't make for good bread. You have to try and find for yourself how much water to use. At the bakery, they hydrate the Sonora flour at 110%. They started off hydrating the einkorn at 85% but it was too much. They now hydrate it at 75%. Hydration varies for every gain. Trial and error is key!
  • A wet dough is going to be tricky and sticky, difficult to work with. A very wet dough wants to spread out. Sometimes it needs the support of a pan. 
  • If using heavily chlorinated water, let the water sit a bit before mixing so that the chlorine has a chance to evaporate.
Slow fermentation
"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."
With rye bread you can go faster (there is more preferment in the dough). All other breads at the ferment for a total of 36 to 48 hours (most of that time in the fridge): at the bakery, they don't use a starter but old dough kept in the fridge for 24 hours.
  • With commercial yeast, it is even more important to slow down the fermentation: use a tiny pinch of yeast and let the dough sit at room temperature
  • Rye flour has a higher enzymatic activity: if you add 5 to 10% of rye to your dough, it speeds up things.
Bold bake
"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."
  • It is best for the home baker to bake in a Dutch oven
  • Pre-heat the Dutch oven at 475°F for 45 minutes
  • Slash the loaf
  • Bake for 20 min with the lid on. If you leave the lid on for too long, you won't get the same color and crust and the crust might be leathery.
  • Bake uncovered for another 25 minutes. Check the bread and if not dark enough, give it another few minutes.
  • The best spot in the oven is usually the middle.
Further tips for the home baker:

  • Go nice and gentle on the shaping (go for air-shaping if there is no space to work).
  • Let the bulk-fermented dough sit 20 to 30 minutes at room temperature. If cold, let it rest one hour.
  • Lightly flour the top of the dough so that it isn't sticky and dust the bench (at the bakery, Josey uses only water on the bench because the dough is a really nice mixture of flour and water and all that flour has fermented and he doesn't want unfermented flour in his dough.)
  • Flip the dough upside down. Gently grab the side nearest to you, lift the dough off the table. You are not pulling, just lengthening. Put it back on the table and fold the dough in your hands two-thirds of the way up the loaf. Grab the top, stretch it upward and fold it about two thirds down the loaf.
  • Rotate 90° and fold the dough down half-way, then fold it half-way again. 
  • Seal with the heel of your hands.
  • Flour the basket. If the basket isn't lined, dredge the bread in rice flour. 
  • At this point, you can stick the bread in the fridge after one hour and let it sit there for 6 hours, then bake it straight out of the fridge.
  • If you don't need to use the fridge, let it rest about 3 hours at room temperature.
  • If the dough is over-hydrated or over-fermented, then slashing is challenging. It feels violent. You have to commit to it. If not, you are not going to get the loaf's full potential.
That's it, readers! The two Js didn't give out any formula. They know that as long as we bake WHOLE, WILD, WET, SLOW and BOLD, we'll end up with good bread.
After 20 minutes

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Dave Miller's formulas for einkorn, Renan & Sonora breads (Grain Gathering 2015)

Related posts:
After the Grain Gathering, Dave Miller very kindly sent me the formulas he used in class. Please remember that he dries his levain from one bake to the next (see Meet the Baker: Dave Miller).

Process for levain (for all three breads)

First feeding
  • Sieve out dried sourdough bits
  • Add water to soften, create a mush, let sit 1 hour
  • Add back sifted-out flour, should make stiff ball (DDT: 78°F)
  • Ferment for 10 to 12 hours
Second feeding
  • Ferment for 4 hours (DDT still 78°F)
Third feeding
  • Ferment for 3 hours (DDT still 78°F)

My heartfelt thanks to Jacqueline Colussi for her help with inputting the formulas into BreadStorm.

Einkorn Bread

Renan Bread

Sonora Bread


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