When the work-week ends this afternoon, the bakery will open…

Some snippets of info to sew this whole thing together…a)wife is out of town, b)I bought a baking book a while back, c)I bought lots of durable equipment in order to work with the baking book.

I’ve had this book for several months, and have done a lot of research, including an excursion to the bakery in Yountville, Ca to do some fact-finding (taste-testing) research.  I bought the equipment, about $400 worth, and I’ve since experimented with several recipes-all breads.  This is really ‘from scratch’.  Short of grinding my own flour, everything is from scratch.  Just a trace of yeast (most of the leavening is actually already in the dough…)Also the measurements in the book are very exacting.  Not 5 grams of salt, or 10 grams, or a pinch, or a teaspoon.  12 grams…not 3 cups of flour, 418 grams.  Very exacting.  I must say-trusting the recipes really produces a very good bread.  Restaurant quality.

Over the summer, I have not had the chance to begin baking other stuff I’m interested in the book.  So since the wife is away, I am going to be a bakery chef this weekend.  I’ve already been making the leaven, tonight, I’m preparing the butter for laminated dough, and I might make cookies or eclairs, too.  Oh, yeah, and (not from the book) a White-Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cheesecake for when my wife comes home with her sisters.  I’m going to have a great time by myself this weekend.

While planning all this culinary exercise, I was thinking about leaven, as Christ, and the Jews speak of it in the Bible.  The Jews used to remove all the leaven from their homes at Passover, and I never realized how it came back in.  San Francisco is famous for sourdough bread, and I learned a long time ago how to make a sourdough starter, but did not realize that you really do not need anything to make dough rise, except for time.  In processing flour out of wheat, natural processes infuse flour with yeast, and other bacteria.  The process of making a sourdough starter is just an intensification of those elements you want, a concentration.  So, when Jews would clean their houses in preparation for the Passover, they were, it seems, just getting rid of old yeasts, and preparation for the new yeast crop.  Since these leavens can travel well, as the history of sourdough is told in the movement from east coast of the US to the Wild West, symbolically, the Jews were cleaning house.

Jesus also speaks of leaven, saying that only a little is needed to make the whole dough rise, and again this speaks to the process of bread making being a very ancient art, as well as the point of Jesus’ message.


2 thoughts on “When the work-week ends this afternoon, the bakery will open…

  1. As I wrote in my Facebook post quoted above, the use of yeast is relatively recent, first understood as a result of Louis Pasteur’s work on microbes. Before this time, bakers used leaven (also know as sourdough, levain or a starter). Sourdough is essentially a piece of “old” dough in which a specific bacteria, lactobacillus, is growing. Each time you prepare a new dough, you retain a piece of it for another day’s baking.

  2. A. Fresh sourdough starter is a term often used in recipes to refer to recently fed, active sourdough starter. Refrigeration places the sourdough starter in a state of hibernation which allows a starter to go at least a week without being fed, but also yields the yeast temporarily ineffective as a leavening agent. To bring the starter out of cold-induced hibernation and ensure the yeast is active enough to properly leaven bread, the sourdough starter should be fed at least three times to fully activate the yeast prior to using the starter for a baking project.

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