Friday, November 24, 2017

Retarding Your Levain

Picture this: The sky has gone black, the day is done, and you've just begun a levain for tomorrow's bake. It's gonna be a good one, with walnuts and all that. You're buzzing with anticipation, and tomorrow you have no intention of leaving the house. At. All. All you want to do is bake your loaf, fill up the house with that smell that a) reminds you that you're a bad ass and you might even be a little magical, after all, you bake amazing bread which is kind of like bringing forth life, plus, you make it all seem so effortless b) brings you back to center, to the root of your being. You feed yourself and those you love, and dammit, you could feed the world if you wanted to, with just a little flour and water. Yeah. Magic, you.

18-hour retarded levain

With dreams of golden loaves dancing in your sleepy head, you suddenly receive a text. It's your bestie inviting you to go apple picking. But you have to leave at 7am. WTF? And hello, how dare she? That's right in the middle of dough day! I can't... but wait, it's apple picking... How can you pass that up? You can't. So you push out a sigh of resignation. You'll go apple picking, pacifying yourself with some crazy idea, like maybe you can make some sort of apple bread that will redeem the intrusion. Alas tomorrow, no walnut magic bread smell that makes you feel like Ghandi inside. No feeding the world for you. You'll have to just pitch the levain in the trash. Hey, it's just a little flour and water. Big deal. So you do it. You crawl out of bed, take your dough scraper and in one deft movement, you scrape that alchemical seed right into the bin. You do it now because you can't bear the thought of doing it in the morning when it's puffy and ripe, your sweet little cherub come to life. Hey, it's no big deal, you think. But secretly you die a little inside.

Well, NO MORE my friends! I have made a delicious new discovery....


Did you know this? Or am I the only one who has missed the memo on this? I've pitched many a levain in my life, yeah, many little pieces of me have died those terrible little deaths. Maybe there are scores of you right now thinking 'well, duh, we all know that you can retard your levain, rye girl...', but maybe there are two or three of you out there who didn't know, and so this post is for you. I say, you can feed the world and go apple picking! Isn't that ever so splendid!

24-Hour Retarded Levain

I'm posting three of my weekend experiments here, a seeded loaf with a levain that was retarded for 18 hours, a walnut bread whose levain was retarded for 24 hours, and a plain Jane with a 40-hour retarded levain. This is what made me want to come back to the page, actually. I had done a 40-hour retarded levain many moons ago, and it came out so swimmingly that I wanted to share the tasty little epiphany with you.

40-Hour Retarded Levain

I baked all of the loaves with an hour and a half autolyse, a 3.5-hour bulk, and an 18 hour final fermentation in the fridge.

I didn't record the formulae because the post is meant to be more about the possibility of retarding your levains, but they are all just 88g of freshly milled spelt, 412g BRM Artisan, and around 360g of water (my sort of default starting hydration now) with an added splash during salt (so, total, probably at 385g water or so, but don't quote me on that) to balance the consistency of the dough, 10g of salt, and the usual dealeo with the levain measures. I did not weigh the nuts or seeds, so, you'll have to go with your gut on that. And man! The texture of the breads was phenomenal! Light crumb, uber shattery crust. Some of the best loaves I've baked in a while.

Let me know if what happens with your breads if you've found yourself faced with retarding your levain. I hope this post saves those few loaves that might otherwise be forsaken. I'm keeping this conveyance short and sweet, but I wanted to get it in before the holiday craziness in case some of you are faced with unanticipated schedule changes that may be hampering your bread baking.

18-Hour Seeded

24-Hour Walnut

Oh, one last thing. I wanted to say thank you, dear Reader, for linking arms with me on my bread journey. For welcoming me back to the page. Thank all of you who have emailed me and told me that this little corner of the internet, Girl Meets Rye, is what helped you learn to bake bread, make a starter, start a bakery (!) Thank you for telling me that these loaves have made your special occasions more special, or that I helped you to turn something scary into something not only 'doable', but something that absolutely thrives. Thank all of you for reaching out to tell me that this blog has never failed you. May your starters live long and feed many. This has been one of the most magnificent experiences that I've ever had in my life, and I'm honored that you have all continued to meet me here at the page.

To the staff of life!

The Vanity Shots

 walnut, perfectly steamed
 seeded, perfectly steamed

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Squid Ink Bread (and hello...)

So, either you're gonna love this bread because it's totally zany, or you're going to be totally grossed out by it. I fall into the former. Imagine this with cream cheese or crême fraîche, lox and dill. Yeah. You gotta use your imagination. With that said, my BF is horrified by it. But frankly, the squid ink adds no flavor to the bread. This one here is accented with rosemary and aleppo pepper, so it's basically a rosemary bread with a slight kick, and it's really good!

 Squid Ink Bread
(Can I mention how challenging it was to photograph this bread??)

And, hey, hi, hello! Its been, what, three years??  I've missed being here. But rest assured, I'm still baking weekly. In fact, my bread life is coming up on 8 years. Damn. And yay!

I came back because I have a few fun new things to share with you. I also wanted to sort of dust off the cobwebs because I mostly find myself 'just baking bread', ya know? Without really diving into anything too experimental. I have some good stuff to relate, but I also came back to the page to push myself to do some interesting things, and y'all know I can't do that without sharing with you. Plus, my friend Michalis intimated that new posts would be warmly received, and so, here I go with all that.

Okay, so, I made a black loaf of bread. I will admit, anytime I used to see black bread I would recoil a bit (I think mostly because the ones I have seen are made with charcoal. No, just don't. And why?). But then I tried some squid ink bread at Mario Batali's new Los Angeles Eataly and was was like 'oh damn, DAMN and yes, please, please DO!' This is the loaf that has brought me back to the page. (BTW, Batali's Eatly?? The bomb. And you can get squid ink there, fyi...)

This bread is simple, really, and can I just remind you all that when experimenting with bread, don't go wild. Approach it with a cool head and hand. For instance, I could have tried a new flour and a new technique, along with working with a new ingredient (squid ink), but if something went wrong, I would have no way of knowing where to begin to unravel things to make it right. The addition of squid ink is enough. It adds hydration AND salt, so, just start there and once you nail it, then you can change up the flour or add another thing.

Speaking of salt, squid ink is very salty. Taste it before you add it to your dough, don't just take my word for it. You really need to know how salty it is before you begin, because your brain will think 'ah, okay, if I add 21g of this salty squid ink, just how much more salt do I need to add? Or, do I need to add any salt at all?' It's a good thing I worked all that out for you so you don't have to make a too salty/not salted enough bread.

Another thing to consider is the ingredient itself. You might say 'hey, I'll add seeds to this bread too!' Really? Think about that. Would you make a dish of, say, squid pasta and add seeds to it? No. Gross. Ok, maybe not gross, but just not right. You wouldn't add cheese either, because Italians have a very specific rule about cheese and seafood, it's just not done. Just think of this sort of thing when making your bread.

(Ignore the fact that I just told you to smear cream cheese on a slice, and the obscene slab of cheese in this photo here):

So, Batali's bread has rosemary in it. Makes sense. Think about it, pasta with squid and rosemary would be pretty bomb, so that flavor combo would be bomb in bread too. Cool. Doing it. Plus I have a huge rosemary shrub just outside my front door. The one thing I am adding that Batali does not is aleppo pepper, because a plate of pasta with squid, rosemary and aleppo pepper just sounds heavenly. It's going to add a bit of kick and earthiness to the bread.

Just so you know, I am still using my 100% rye starter with all my breads. Because what would 'Girl Meets Rye' be if not for that starter, the thing that launched, well, everything. It is the backbone of this blog, after all, and it was the backbone of my Tartine Bread Experiment blog as well. My starter is my holy grail. And if anyone wants a recap of how to make one, I am so happy to do a simple post to revisit it (though my original post is very informative). It's essentially 30g dark rye, 30g water. Mix. Let sit. It ferments after a bit. Done. You should be on your way to making bread in about 9 days.

This bread began with a 100% rye levain, my favorite. 12g starter, 75g water, 75g dark rye that I milled at home, but you can use rye flour from the store. I recommend Bob's Red Mill. It's inexpensive, available, and reliable. Keep this in mind, some rye berries from 'the bin' at supermarkets is old, and I have been faced with bugs and mold and, oh lord, cocoons! I'm totally not kidding. Avoid that and get your grains from a reliable source. Because all it take is one moldy batch and your 8-year old starter is gone. Can you imagine? P.S., this is why you should also keep a backup in the fridge. I swap the old one out for a new one every couple of months to keep it current. And you should too.


A thing to note is that most squid ink that you see on the market is really cuttlefish ink. A cuttlefish is a much larger cousin to the squid. The ink from the cuttlefish, squid, and even octopus, are interchangeable. So, don't freak out if you get to the market and only find cuttlefish ink. It's all good.

I wonder how many of you will make this. You can add less squid ink and make a pale gray loaf. You know what? I'mma do that for you next week, and I'll add some photos to this post so you can see what that looks like. That's what Batali does, more dark gray than haunted house black like mine here. But frankly, if I'm going to go squid ink, I'm going to go for real black.

Looks a little like a sliced meteor

I'm happy to be back. I wonder if I'm talking to an empty auditorium or if any of you will find your way back to me. If so, I can't wait to hear from you. I can't wait to share more cool things with you. Have a happy Thanksgiving. I have to run and make another loaf for my boyfriend, because when I told him this was what he was getting for the big day, I think he might have cried a little.

Without further ado, I give you your dark and stormy (and delicious) bread.

Components for the levain:

12g 100% rye starter
75g water
75g dark rye flour (I milled my own, but BRM dark rye works well)

Components for the dough:

All of the levain
350g water
50g dark rye flour (I milled my own, but BRM dark rye works well)
450g bread flour (I used BRM Artisan)
21g squid ink
15g extra virgin olive oil
6g salt (I used Diamond kosher salt)
5g rosemary chopped finely
4g aleppo pepper

Rice flour for shaping, I used black forbidden rice that I milled at home

Forbidden Rice Flour

Day 1: Make the levain

Mix 12g 100% rye starter with 75g water and 75g dark rye flour (I used freshly milled). Ferment overnight. Mine went for 7 hours 50 minutes


Day 2: Make the dough

Add 350g water to the levain, then 50g dark rye flour and 450g bread flour. I used BRM Artisan. Leave this to autolyse for 1 hour 15 minutes

After the autolyse, disperse the aleppo pepper, the salt and rosemary over the dough, and smear the squid ink over the surface. This helps everything to get incorporated more easily. Squid ink, as I have found, takes a bit of elbow grease to fully mix into the dough.

When you've just about amalgamated everything, squish the olive oil into the dough, and complete the amalgamation. Let it be for an hour. Its gone through a lot.

Perform folds for the next 30, 60, and 90 minutes. Leave the dough alone for the rest of the fermentation. The bulk fermentation time, excluding the hour autolyse, is 4 hours.


After the bulk is complete, the dough should be billowy. Spread a proofing cloth (I just use a square of linen) over the kitchen table and sprinkle generously with rice flour. Enough so that when the dough ferments, it won't stick to the cloth. Pull out your proofing bowl. Ignore all that for a minute and...

Billowy Upon Completion of Bulk

Spread rice flour over a work surface and scrape the dough onto that. pull the sides into the center of the dough to make a neat package, now flip it over onto its foldy side and twist it to form a tight boule.

Using a bench scraper, scrape the boule from the work surface and place it, smooth side down, on the awaiting linen. pull the sides in and pop this into the awaiting bowl. I use a 4.5 quart Kitchenaid mixing bowl and the size and shape is perfect. Scrape up any residual rice flour from the work surface and sprinkle over the top of the dough, so as not to be wasteful. Cover the bowl with a plate, pop in the fridge, and ferment for 18 hours.

Turned out onto rice flour

Pull in the sides to make a tight parcel

 A tightly wound boule

 Turn out onto the awaiting rice-floured proofing cloth (OMG, it IS a meteor!)

Into the awaiting bowl, ready for final fermentation!

Day 3: Bake day

An hour before the fermentation is done, preheat the oven to 550 degrees (the oven should be fitted with a baking stone) with a combo cooker inside of it.

After the preheat, (pay attention here:) 1) cover the mouth of the bowl with a square of parchment paper (** also, save this parchment square when the bread is done baking! It will last for many, many bakes!) 2) place your pizza peel over the parchment bowl 3) invert the dough onto the peel, now peel the proofing cloth off, score the dough with a razor (or snip with scissors), slide the dough into the shallow part of the hot combo cooker, cover it with the fatty end, push it into the oven and bake for 15 minutes at this temp. After 15 minutes, turn the oven down to, oh, 450-475. Bake for another 15 minutes. After this, pull the lid off of the combo cooker and marvel at your perfectly sprung loaf! Nestle the pan holding the bread over the mouth of the combo cooker lid. This provides a buffer from the oven floor so you NEVER get burnt bread bottoms.

 Inverted and perfectly fermented

Score: the trademark swirl, for old time's sake!

Bake for another 30 minutes, spinning the pan at least once to ensure an even bake, as well, you may have to toggle the oven temp up and or down if the bread is baking too quickly/not baking quickly enough. This one took an hour. Usually my breads go for an hour and 10, but the crust on squid ink bread goes tough if left to bake that long. The internal temp of the bread should be at least 210 degrees when you pull it form the oven. I think mine was like 215 or something like that.

Et, voila!

Yay! I'm back!

To the staff of life!