Sunday, November 27, 2011

Gérard Rubaud: the movie (October 2011)

I came home from my visit with Gérard Rubaud last month with a whole series of video clips which I had planned for my personal use. Since they were not meant for posting on the blog, I didn't pay any attention to the audio part: I didn't suggest to Gérard that he stick to baking topics or lower the volume on the radio; I also didn't ask him to speak English.
But when I reviewed the clips, I found myself awed by what they reveal of his quasi mythical reverence for his dough as well as moved by the timelessness of his craft. There is something deeply soothing to watch this man at work in his quiet bakery on top of a Vermont hill. The world may be in turmoil all around but whatever happens, it still needs to be fed. That's the baker's job and nothing distracts him from it.
So I removed the audio track and replaced it with music (which is fitting in a way because Gérard loves to listen to music as he works). It is a bit strange to see him speak without hearing what he's saying and of course you can't hear me answering either. It's a trade-off, I know, and next time I'll do it differently. But at least you can see what I saw and that's better than nothing...
Related posts:


  1. Farine, your reporting on Rubaud just gets better and better. Thank you. Robert

  2. I absolutely loved each of the posts, but this video won the prize for me... the music is so beautiful, perfect for the images and his amazing skill handling the dough... a pleasure to watch, I am grateful you shared it with the readers of your blog

    great video!

  3. that dough is mesmerizing... was that salt that he added? I though one wasn't allowed to throw salt on the dough but always had to mix it to a little water or flour... will finish seeing the video later. thank you so much for sharing all this, you are a great inspiration MC.

  4. I can see a Book accompanied with a DVD about Gérard . Thanks


  5. @Robert, thank you!
    @Sally, it took me a while to find a piece of music of just the right length. I am glad you think it works. Thank you!
    @Barbara, thank you! Gérard uses sea salt with no additives. From what I have observed at SFBI or during Jeff Hamelman's classes, salt is regularly simply added to the dough just as you see in the video. You may need to mix it with water if you use kosher salt or if your dough is so stiff that incorporating it would be very difficult.
    @Joe, thank you for the suggestion! i will think about it...

  6. MC,

    Thank you very much for sharing this video with us! When I get to Gerard's age, I hope I will be working as a baker and be very happy with what I'll be doing. What a nice Thanksgiving treat!


  7. MC,
    Thank you so much for this is so wonderful to see Gérard, the stages of his breadmaking, and those beautiful loaves! You are so kind to share this with your readers.
    :^) from breadsong

  8. Before Mr Rubaud folded the dough in the bowl, did he use the mixer to "knead" the dough? Or only mixed till the dough came together?

  9. @Carl, I am so glad you like the video. Like you, I find Gérard's story quite inspiring. I can see wanting to retire as he did...
    @breadsong, you are very welcome. It is indeed a great pleasure to be able to share the experience.
    @Bottle, Gérard mixed both the dough and the levain for this batch entirely by hand. He doesn't have a small enough mixer to do otherwise. His only mixer is the one he uses for production purposes.

  10. Great video watching his hands!It was interesting to see how slack/wet the dough was and how much flour he used!
    I find myself re-reading all of you post about G often. I keep mine at 76 when in use...I will have to bump it up and see what happens...

  11. Thanks, Judd! Yes, Gérard uses a lot of flour but then not just any flour, he uses La Milanaise's sifted flour which is T-90 i believe. You can see flecks of bran in it and it has a fantastic taste/smell. He says it adds a lot to the aromas in his bread. I no longer have access to it where I live now and I miss it a lot. I had grown accustomed to the wonderful flavor too.

  12. I loved the video MC, thank you so much for sharing his work with us. What lovely looking bread! I will repost this on FB.

  13. Dear MC,

    Thanks once again for your posts. I have some questions too.
    1. Just to clarify, Gerard is suggesting the home baker feeds the levain till it doubles, then refrigerate it, every day for 5 days, then feed it a few times on the day prior to baking? Is he suggesting we add on to the levain with each new feeding, or just use a portion of it? As much as I would like to try this, I won't as it's not feasible since I do not bake every day. I don't throw out levain and would be overwhelmed by the levain generated! My levain is very strong and generally two feedings prior to use is quite enough. Also I find it very fascinating how the levain changes in appearance, texture and SMELL in the fridge. Gerard wouldn't approve, but it totally fascinates me how depending on the feeding, type of flour and frankly, factors I don't understand, the smell can change. It doens't make for controlled baking, but I have learnt some things about levains from this process.

    2.Does his levain grow in the fridge? I imagine that given the strength and frequent feeding, yes. Mine can double or even triple even in the fridge, and that is after already growing before refrigeration. I know there are treatises on temperature and the balance of lactobacteria versus wild yeasts but I cant wrap my head around the science of it all. But I would love to understand more about the effect of cold temperatures on levain, and smells, and consequently the impact on the dough. How they can go from floral, to buttery, to honey, tangy, sweet vinegar, sour vinegarish. Do you know? I would love to pick Gerard's brain about this :)

    3.You mention the levain should double at 27 degrees - in how much time? Matching the hydration of the autolyse to the levain is new to me, but how would one do that with a 100& hydration levain? I'm very lazy, I only keep a 100% hydration levain.

    4.How does he test the absorbency of the flour, out of interest? And how could we do that at home? I mean, is there some way of doing this before the final mix?

    I've plagued you with questions! I realise with some irony that this is just what Gerard cautions against - picking up bits and pieces here and there, when one should really just work with what one has before one, bake with the eyes and the hands, and be guided by the dough.

    Thanks so much MC.
    OH and one last request, would you consider posting your videos with sound for those who understand French? I watched your previous ones and found what he said illuminating too. And he seems to have quite a sense of humour. And is that first photo a tub of levain??? So billowy it is.


  14. Hello W, and thanks for your very interesting comment. I am amazed at the vigor of your levain. Fantastic! Do you like its aromas too? There is a scientific book in French that you may want to look at if you can find it. I know Gérard has studied it in depth and found many answers in it. It is La Microbiologie de la fermentation panaire by Larpent JP (Ed. Centre de veille internationale de l'agro-alimentaire). They used to carry it on I don't know if they still do. Gérard's copy is old, earmarked and shows all the signs of having been read over and over.
    I can't help with your questions regarding his instructions as they would apply to your levain since a liquid levain is a completely different animal. The more liquid a levain is the faster it ferments and I suppose you don't use salt in it either to control the speed it develops at. Anything G said applies strictly to a firm levain (his is in the 65% hydration range).
    since I came home, I have followed his suggestion of keeping my levains in the fridge except the day before i bake and feeding them once a day. I didn't notice any appreciable difference with my firm levain but I think my liquid one has a less delicate and complex flavor than when kept out on the counter and fed twice a day.
    I don't know that there is any specific method for a homebaker to test his or her flour except do as G does, which is to pay close attention to the dough at the autolyse stage. He tells me that sometimes he has to add a staggering amount of water to get the requisite consistency. Other times he has to add flour. It is all trial and error unfortunately and it changes with every batch.
    I would definitely post the videos with sound for those who understand French but it wouldn't help. Gérard was commenting on what Radio-Canada was saying in the background or talking about topics irrelevant to baking. I hadn't told him I was going to use the videos on the blog. So I can't possibly post them as they are. But next time I promise I'll do it differently. I'll just have to let him know he is on the air!
    And yes, the first photo is a tub of levain. Incredibile, isn't it?



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