Sunday, March 18, 2018

Onion and Earth

Onion and Earth

I think bread-baking is a sign of intelligence, inherent magical abilities, and a deep-rooted love of humanity. Think about it, you first have to bring something inert to life, then you have to sustain it for, like, ever, then you use this new life to feed people you love/don't love/know/may not know, right? I don't know about you, but I bake bread for anyone who shows any interest in what I do.

Random person whom I may or may not know: OMG, I LOVE bread!
Me: I'll make you a loaf, are you allergic to nuts/how do you feel about olives?

Any opportunity to bake bread is, well, an opportunity to bake bread, and one that I rarely pass up. Speaking of not being able to pass up an opportunity to bake bread, this week has been a doozy. 10 loaves baked on top of a really busy school schedule, and by now you know that I've started work writing the bread book so...

I've been experimenting with some things. Indeed there are predecessors to today's loaf. Ugly things that came out tasting heavenly. There is such a thing as too-high-hydration, you know. It's funny, when people first start baking bread, everyone wants to be the high-hydration badass until they realize that, well, not every dough should be so hydrated that you can pour it into a glass and drink it. In fact, it's downright wearying to have to wrestle with those things. Plus, too much hydration will give you a very flat bread. The finesse, we find, comes from just enough hydration for a particular bread so that it sings its own unique song.

I know you've been with me on this journey long enough to know that potato bread is tricky. At first mixup, the dough is hard. Like an egg. Like a football. Wait, do you have an ostrich egg? I do. It's like that. Hard and cream-colored and oval.

You have to use a cool hand with the hydration at mixup because the potato releases A LOT of water, and if you've added a wee bit more than you should have then you're... well, you know what you are. The hard little egg becomes a soft and lovely dough after autolyse, and your bread is a thing of such remarkable glory. The crumb, oh, the crumb!

Anyway, a few sloppy loaves this week. Hydration too high. They were insanely delectable, but looked like the elephant man. We ate them with our eyes shut.

I baked this week's bread in our new Fourneau, which frankly, I've no idea how I've lived without for so long (Fourneau, why you take so long??)

My friend Ania calls this loaf 'Indian bread' because there are nigella seeds in it. 'Hey, what's that Indian bread you made, you know, the one with the seeds?' Layers and layers of laughter. It's a thing that I schemed up one afternoon after spying a dirty russet in my fruit bowl on the table. Potato bread is, hands down, my absolute favorite bread (I might say this about all my breads...). I contemplated this potato, baked it up, wondered what I would bring to the blog when I spotted my friend Joe's post wherein he had just baked up a potato chive thing. Joe and I are always on the same baking page, so weird, halfway across the world and we're both baking potatoes unbeknownst. Anyway, I thought, clever Joe, you know, the whole baked potato and chive thing. I began to think of the nostalgic loveliness of baked potato and allium, and I had been wanting to do a caramelized onion bread for a while so... Immediately then the little seeds popped into my head, et voila! the idea for today's bake.

It's incredible, this bread. The texture is ethereal, the flavor sublime. Nigella seeds are intriguing. The little obsidian things look like sooty sesame seeds but taste of, hold on, onion and earth. I know. Weird, right? But seriously, it's worth seeking them out. And don't cheat and use black sesame seeds for this loaf. It will not be Indian bread. It'll be onion bread with sesame seeds. Here is what my Parisian friend said after having received half of it: I rarely ate such a good bread (and I'm french). Merci! Très tendre aussi... délicieux! His name is François and he's super duper Français, so he would know since bread-savvy is sort of in his DNA.

For this loaf I used home-milled sprouted spelt for nuttiness, Giusto's flour because it's the bomb, russet potatoes (Joe uses Yukon Gold), a giant yellow onion, and Nigella, the queen of seeds. Please do not be tempted to increase the hydration at dough makeup. It WILL be a hard little egg of a thing, but trust, it will slacken to the right consistency at the finish of autolyse. In fact, the onions will increase the hydration even further, so, this dough ends up pushing hydration to the limits. Have a look at this post here if you need convincing.

With warnings in place, and Sunday at our feet, I give you Onion and Earth.



12g 100% rye starter
75g freshly stoneground sprouted spelt flour
75g h2o

Mix all of this up together until you arrive at a medium viscosity paste. Ferment until it gets loose and bubbly, active looking. Mine went for 7 hours


400g Giusto's Artisan Bread Flour
100g freshly stoneground sprouted spelt flour
300g h2o
216g caramelized onions
150g russet potato, riced
14g nigella seeds, soaked in hot water for about an hour
10g salt

About 2.5 hours before dough mixup, bake your potato. It will take about an hour and a half to roast a huge potato, then another 45 minutes to cool and rice. You will need a potato that weighs at least 225g to arrive at the 150g that you need for this loaf. My potato was over 500g, hence the hour and a half.

When the levain has successfully fermented, dissolve it in the 300g of water then add the flours and the cooled, riced potato. Squish all of this up. The dough will be quite firm. Resist the temptation to add more water. You will be surprised after autolyse how much water the potatoes release into the dough. You can always increase hydration after autolyse if you think it needs more water. But remember, you will be adding the onions which provide hydration and make the dough a challenge to work with.

Autolyse this potato egg for 1.5 hours.

Potato egg

After autolyse, you will see how slack the dough has become. Squish the salt and drained nigella seeds into the dough. If your potato was not as watery as mine, now is the time to add some h2o, but do so in small increments, say, 5g - 7g at a time, but again, remember the onion factor. Trust me, it will get more extensible/slack when you start doing your turns, and you might be sorry you added all that h2o.


The remainder of your bulk fermentation should be 3.5 hours (remember, we autolysed for 1.5 hours already, we always want to do 5 hours bulk TOTAL, so, if you do a shorter/longer autolyse, you would adjust the rest of the bulk according to the length of your autolyse).

A half hour after you add the salt and seeds, perform a series of turns. A half hour after this, do another series. Another half hour later, add your onions using the photos below as guidance. Rather than squishing them into the dough, we fold them in. So, lay a layer of onions over the dough, fold a flap of dough over this layer, then add more onions and repeat this folding and adding until all of the onions have been added to the dough, and you end with a flap of dough so that all of the onions are encased. I think I got mine in there with three layers of onions...

Please note how slack the dough has gotten during autolyse, from hard little egg to this...

After you've added the onions, let the dough ferment untouched for the remainder of bulk.

After the bulk, scrape the dough onto a worktable that has been dusted with rice flour. Pull in the sides to make a loose round and bench for 10 minutes.

After the bench, shape though dough into a batard (lord, I am STILL working on my batard shaping). The dough will be very soft and you may wonder if this will work at all. It will. Trust.

Pop the batard into a banneton that has been lined with a linen piece dusty with rice flour. Pop the dough into the fridge and ferment for 17 hours.


One hour before you plan to bake your bread, preheat the oven to 500 degrees, this that has been outfitted with your Fourneau oven (including its little door). Make sure that its been situated to one side of the oven because you will be pulling the steamed loaf out of the Fourneau after the steam and baking it out on the stone outside of the oven. (I have found that my wet doughs spread to touch the sides of the Fourneau and will burn if you leave it in there. If you are making doughs with lower hydration/smaller loaves that do not touch the sides of the oven, you may do your entire bake inside the Fourneau).


When the oven is preheated place a triple layer piece of parchment over the mouth of the banneton (the triple layer will prevent a burned bottom), invert the dough onto a peel, or, if you have the metal tray with the silicone mat that comes with the Fourneau 2.0, invert onto this. Remove the banneton and cloth, score the dough and slide into your Fourneau oven, installing its little door. ** If using the metal tray/silicone mat, you will slide this whole thing into the Fourneau, if you don't have this, slide the dough and all its parchment layers into the oven.

Bake for 15 minutes at 500 degrees. After 15 minutes, lower the temp to 425 and bake for 15 more. After this 15, pull the loaf out of the Fourneau oven and slide it onto the stone next to it (if using the metal tray/silicone, slide that out and bake the loaf out on this, same if you are using parchment). Don't worry, the shape has set during steam. The Fourneau has captured it so that it won't spread anymore. IF you have noticed that your bread is NOT touching the sides of the oven at all, then you don't have to pull it out of the Fourneau. It can bake out where it is. 

Slide back into the oven. Potato bread browns quickly, and more so because of the sweet onions, so you may have to drop the oven temp to 400 degrees. Use your shrewd eye. Bake for another 30 minutes, or even another 40 minutes to ensure that it's baked through. The internal temp of the dough will be 210-215 degrees. Spin the dough a couple of times while it is baking for even browning. You will get a seriously caramelized crust when all is said and done. Oh man, so good!

Cool at least 2 hours before slicing.

To the staff of life!


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Sidebar Sunday: Shortbread (and a wee bit of news)

Kamut Shortbread with a Maldon Sprinkle

Its been a rainy(ish) Los Angeles this past few weeks. And cool. Perfect weather for Desem (hint hint), cocktails in bed, Sarah Vaughan, musing lots, and baking, of course. I crave baking. It's a balm for that what ails me, and an agent that represents the intentional celebration of simple life.

I have oodles to share with you this week. And yes, I'm falling a little behind. Sidebar Sunday has decidedly turned into Wow-you're-really-late-Wednesday. But I have a good excuse. I was, whilst lying in bed sipping a Negroni, trying to decide if now was the time to share some news. Well, I've decided. Partially because of the whole accountability thing, and also because I just really want to share. You all have become my bread friends. Those of you who write to me and tell me that you've made my bread, or point out errors (there haven't been many of these, snap), or just let me know you've read something I've written, you have my heart and  my news is really for you.

Here goes.

After years of going back and forth about whether or not I should write a bread book, I've decided yes. Yes I will. So, I began the thing this past month. Setting up the scope of the beast, what I want to include, all the while wondering if you, dear reader, would be interested in such a thing. Then I realized, this isn't about anyone or anything else. This is about me. It's about an achievement that I would like to add to my list of things I have done in my life. If I get 5 books out there into the world, I'm happy with that. For me, there is nothing better than that one message that says 'hey, I tried your bread and it was great'. That makes my day.

I have a few requirements: the book will be beautiful, it will be manageable in scope, and it will be affordable for anyone who is interested in having something tangible, even though the blogs are enormous and have tons of breads for you to bake. I will be keeping both blogs up, so you never have to worry about that. There will be some things from the blog in the book, but just as many that won't make it to the blog. It will have some simple things, and yes, some more complicated things, but always, ALWAYS with the goal that it be manageable for my reader. If there is anything I loathe it's a complicated bread that takes days and insane math skills, and TABLES, ugh, I hate tables in bread books! And there are always so many tables when tables are present. Why does a bread need 4 tables? Craziness. And PS. Just. No. All we want is bread, right? We want flour and water and maybe like a teensy thing that makes us break a sweat, but if a bread has us rearranging wedding plans, then sorry bread, you are not welcome.

Onward to our Sidebar Sunday, which is to say some baking thing that doesn't have anything to do with bread (any other bread bakers bake anything besides bread? Or is that a little like asking a knitter if he/she also crochets?).

Anyway, in this case, the nothing to do with bread is shortbread. Pun absolutely intended.

If I had one cookie to take on a deserted island, it would be shortbread. Luckily for me shortbread comes in a variety of disguises, which only means I will have no shortage of cookies whilst swinging in my hammock, sipping fresh coconut water straight from the drupe, and looking over the horizon to be sure that no ship comes to my rescue. For instance, today we have one made of Kamut flour (do they have Kamut on deserted islands?) And one skulking about as some magnificent coconut-oat thing. The jury is still out whether I prefer the thin version or the fatty. Though I'm dangerously close to making room for both in my heart. After all, it takes all kinds, doesn't it?

Coconut-Oat thing

I hope this post finds all of you well. I'm so glad that the handful of you who are still here are, well, still here.

(Oh, just a heads up, I will be researching where we can get the perfect size banneton to make batards that fit our new Fourneaus. As soon as I find one worthy, I'll let you know).


(Adapted from Food52)

298g sifted Kamut flour (I used BRM organic Kamut and milled myself)
2 sticks unsalted butter, tempered
115g cane sugar (I used organic cane sugar from Trader Joe's)
1 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon rose flower water
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp sea salt
Maldon salt for sprinkling.

Preheat the ov to 325.

Oil an 11x8" tart tin with a removable bottom. I used Coconut oil, because I hate chipping off a piece of butter from a stick just to grease a pan.

Whisk together the flour, cardamom and salt in a bowl. Set aside. Beat the butter till pale, then add the sugar and beat till very fluffy. Add the rose flower water and vanilla. Beat a minute more.

Gently fold the flour into the butter mixture until just combined. Now, using gentle fingertips, press the dough evenly into your awaiting pan. Freeze for 10 minutes. After 10, pull it out of the freezer, cut it into rectangles for easier breaking after its baked (though honestly? Even after doing this, it broke apart randomly, as the cuts had sealed in baking). Sprinkle with the Maldon salt. Pop it back in the freezer for another 20 minutes.

After the freeze:  Bake for about an hour and 5 or 10 minutes.

Cool before eating. It tastes better cool.

Where is the scoring? Nowhere. That's where.


315g oat flour (I milled Irish steel cut oats in my Komo)
85g ground brown basmati rice flour (I ground rice in my Komo)
171g cane sugar (I used Trader Joe's organic cane sugar)
267g unsalted butter
80g toasted unsweetened coconut
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt

Preheat the ov to 325.

Oil a 9" cake tin with a removable bottom. I used Coconut oil, for the above mentioned reasons.

Whisk together the flours coconut and salt in a bowl. Set aside. Beat the butter till pale, then add the sugar and beat till very fluffy. Add the vanilla. Beat a minute more.

Gently fold the flour/coconut into the butter mixture until just combined. Now, using gentle fingertips, press the dough evenly into your awaiting pan. Freeze for 10 minutes. After 10, pull it out of the freezer, cut it into wedges for easier breaking after its baked. Pop it back in the freezer for another 20 minutes.

After the freeze: Bake until golden around the edges and set in the center. It will take more than an hour. I can't remember how long it took, but it was like an hour and fifteen minutes? Maybe longer? But check after an hour.

Cool before eating. It tastes better cool.


Thursday, March 1, 2018

Fourneau Oven & A New Batard

Fourneau Bread Oven, and my very first batard

How long have I been writing this blog. Yeah, yeah, the hiatus. I know. BUT, how long have I been writing this blog and NO batard? Forever long, that's how long. I do have one crazy thing that I tried to call a batard posted somewhere. The name of the post might be 'bread fail', and it might be on my other blog the Tartine Bread Experiment. But today, dear reader, I give you batard, a real batard.

Rosemary-Fontina Batard

It's not so much the bread formula that matters here, rather, the shape of the thing and how I got there. Although I am including the formula below. It was a 'throw together' bread, but man did it come out smashingly, so, I'll share it with you (smile emoji).

UPDATE: Hey everyone! I have a code for you to use. If you want to purchase the oven, click here to go to Fourneau's site, and apply this code at checkout GMRFOURNEAU15 for 15% off your order. Woohoo!

OK, so, you all know how hard it is to make a batard. Your best shaping, your best intentions, and the thing puddles in the oven like nobody's business because you just can't get the steam situation worked out. And yo! I have tried it ALL, from lava rocks, to squirt bottles, to ice cubes in a hot pan, to hot wet towels. Every one of these 'methods' ended in horrible failure for me, some of them perilously so. Like, lava rocks? Seriously dangerous! You toss ice water on them and they sputter in your face and burn your eyelids, and to drive the point home, they snuff out the pilot light. Many a time have I reached my naked arm into the back of a 500 degree oven to relight it with images of the thing blowing up in my face, and always, always this ends with burned arms and knuckles and days of blisters and cold showers. Squirt bottles are just silly. Dozens of burned towels with the wadded-up-wet-towel situation, and ice cubes in a hot pan is tantamount to a chemical peel, but without the radiant skin results. And damned if I'm ruining my $300 Staub for a loaf of bread. I love you bread, but puhleeze.

I have been praying that someone, please dear cast iron gods, someone brilliant make up an oval combo cooker. In the height of a bread revolution, you would think, right? Someone? Anyone?


So round it is. Round. Round. ROUND loaves of bread! Again, bread, love ya, but damn I'm bored.

So one day I'm lying in bed, right, thinking of bread (of course), and in an unprovoked, angry fit I shouted 'someone has got to come up with an oval combo cooker!' I'm not kidding. It was a moment of out of the blue madness. I went online and typed in that very sentence, and what would happen? The sky opened up, that's what happened. The clouds parted, angels came tumbling out of the cosmos and handed me this beautiful cast iron gem:

Fourneau Bread Oven

OMG. Fourneau... will you marry me? I am on my knees in love.

I ordered my little oven (get yours here), got it Monday, and today, today I pulled out the most beautiful bread I have made in years. It kept the batard shape, as I hoped it would, the crust was sublime, the crumb was as wide open as the sky that this little beauty fell from, and it is as easy to work with as a simple combo cooker. Man alive. I want two. I want two so I can make twin loaves. Dear reader, this thing is the best thing that has happened to my bread life since my Komo mill.

The Fourneau crumb

I must admit, because I am so used to making les boules, my batard shaping skills are wanting. I did the best that I could, (heaven forbid I should simply open one of my 50 bread books to figure it out) but I promise I'll keep working on it so I can post prettier loaves with mirrored ends. Don't judge.

But back to my little oven.

Who is Fourneau? They are a dynamic duo who own Strand Design, a Chicago based company that crafts beautiful things using sustainably sourced and locally manufactured materials. They created Fourneau for us, the serious novices who bake bread, who know bread, and who have been longing for something like this forever. The first loaf I pulled from this contraption came out as perfectly as the batard of my dreams, and I would never have been able to make this without it. No more nights pining away for a $50K professional steam oven just so I can make a batard.

The Fourneau requires zero learning curve. It works just like the combo cooker, so you can seamlessly transition from round 😴 to batard 🤩 without having to take a quantum physics course first. You just pop it in the oven an hour before you plan to bake, load up your dough, close the little door, and the magic happens. If you don't already have one, you are going to need a genuine batard shaped banneton. No getting around it. It took me an hour to come up with something that would hold my dough properly, and I ended up sacrificing an old oblong tupperware container. Not sexy at all. And I almost took some fingers off slicing the ends of the thing open with an Xacto knife.

I have included links Fourneau's beautifully and simply designed website. I honestly cannot praise this device high enough. I got their 2.0 version, which comes with a plateau baking tray, silicone baking mat, and cast iron handle to keep your bottoms from going dark. But you really need to also get the wooden peel. Because it's bomb/super sexy. If you can, you should grab one before summer (honestly, you will want two, so if it's in your budget...), and please, please write me and tell me you've gotten it, and how your bread comes out. I have a feeling round 😖 combo cookers far and wide are going to be taking forced sabbaticals.

Here's the formula for my very first real batard. Hooray! My little Fourneau!


For the levain, you will need

75g freshly milled whole wheat flour*
75g h2o
12g 100% hydration, 100% rye starter

Mix together your levain ingredients and ferment in a large enough bowl to hold tomorrow's dough. Mine fermented for 8 hours.

For the dough, you will need

All of the levain
367g h2o
426g Giusto's Artisan flour*
74g freshly milled whole wheat flour**
10g kosher salt, I used Diamond
120g fontina cheese (use the real stuff), cubed
5g whole, fresh rosemary leaves

*You can use Bob's Red Mill Artisan, King Arthur All Purpose, or whatever bread flour you usually use. But Giusto's is the best. Just sayin'.

**I use Great River Milling Co.'s hard red spring wheat berries, but you can totally use whatever whole wheat flour you have on hand. It just won't be as good. Kidding.

When your levain is properly fermented, add the h2o and flours to the bowl holding it, and mix everything together until you reach a shaggy mass. 

Autolyse for 1 hour 30 minutes. After the autolyse, squish the salt and rosemary into the dough until it's fully incorporated work the dough into a smooth mass. Now it's time for the 3 hour 30 minute bulk fermentation. Here you will perform a series of turns every half-hour for the first hour and a half taking care not to deflate the dough. The last of these turns, you will fold in the cheese (photographed below). Leave it be for the final 2 hours.

Turn the dough out onto a workspace dusted with some freshly milled brown rice flour. Shape into a loose batard. Let it rest on the bench for 10 minutes, then shape into a tight batard

Pop into a batard shaped banneton or some reasonable facsimile thereof, seam side up.  Chuck it in the fridge and ferment. Mine went for 21 hours 30 minutes.


Preheat the oven to 500 with a Fourneau oven and baking stone inside.

Invert the banneton over a peel -- either the plateau baking tray with silicone baking mat, or the wood peel that you've purchased, which fits perfectly into the mouth of the Fourneau oven -- seam side down.

Slash the dough down its center. Slide it into Fourneau oven. Close the little iron door, and steam for 15 minutes at this temp. Then turn the oven down to 475 and steam for another 15 minutes.

After the steam, remove the little door from the Fourneau oven and bake out till a thermometer inserted into the center of the batard reads 210 degrees. You will have to toggle the heat between 425 and 450 degrees, depending on how much of your cheese oozed out. The cheese will burn quickly, so, you will have to err on the side of lower temp if you have major ooze.

Cool on a wire rack for at least two hours before slicing.

To the staff of life!

 Squish the salt and rosemary into the dough.

Sprinkle a third of the cheese over the dough, fold a flap of dough over that, prinkle with another third, fold another flap of dough over that, repeat with the last third, and encase the last of the cheese in a flap of dough so that it's all concealed within the dough.

(Feel free to contact me and chastise me about my unresearched batard shaping skills)

 When the dough has finished its bulk, scrape the dough onto a clean counter.

  Fold one third of it over the center third.

 Fold the final third over the center of the dough.

 Then fold the bottom half of the dough up past the center of the dough.

 And fold the small flap of dough down over that to make a neat package. Rest for 10 minutes.

After the bench, I rolled the dough into an even tighter batard by bringing the long sides over one another. 

Pop into a well-floured banneton.

Shape and slash the dough.