Another year swept through.... Did you assume I would start today's post with some sort of musing about the passage of time, the inevitability of it all, my excitement about the new year and sadness about the passage of another? Well I guess I sort of did, but now that I think of it, I won't bore you with my sentimental blubbering. How's about I instead entertain you with some random news flashes!
News Flash Number 1:
It seems I'm a trendsetter of sorts. Who knew?? Not me, let me tell you. And definitely not anyone who knows me. I just got on Facebook. Literally, two weeks ago. See, I'm a little slow out of the gate. Despite this, I have indeed started a trend. I've inspired two people I know to start blogs. This is not to say there were not other impeti motivating them to launch their blogs. I just choose to ignore them, giving myself full credit. The first blog brought to my attention is my dear friend Julie's. Her blog documents her musings on daily life. Each post culminates with a report on whether she made her bed that day. I believe this is the point of her beginning this blog - to inspire herself to make her bed. So if you have a moment and like me, love a tidy bed, please, head over, have a read and give Julie some encouragement. She's quite hilarious, if not always so good about making her bed.
The other blog I take full and complete credit for inspiring is my sister's. She claims it was her husband who wanted her to start it. I don't buy that for a second. Her blog details her journey from, in her words, "suburbanite" to homesteader/donkey owner/dairy farmer/chicken wrangler. All in the matter of this past six months. Yes, it's true, my sister has, quite literally, headed for the hills, with three tiny cows and two ridiculously cute donkeys in tow. I'm cross my fingers that she'll get her dairy and egg operation up and running quickly (see News Flash Number 3). So please also head over to her blog with your bucketloads of encouragement.
News Flash Number 2:
I've had a stomachache for two days. Possible causes:
1. I haven't had a drink in two days, constituting post-holiday withdrawal.
2. I haven't had a cookie in two days, constituting post-holiday withdrawal.
3. Latke overdose on Thursday evening, house still smells of grease.
I think it's option three, but just in case (and so I don't have to swear off latkes = tragedy of devastating proportions), I plan on drinking and eating a cookie later today. Cross your fingers for me. I'm over this stomachache.
News Flash Number 3:
This is actually a big one. I'm going to... pastry school. I'm. Going. To. Pastry. School. !! I'll be heading to the San Francisco Baking Institute on January 31 for four months of intensive schooling. I can hardly believe it myself. Last summer while taking bread classes at SFBI, as other students diligently shaped baguette upon baguette upon baguette, I spent the greater part of the day with my face pressed against the window leading into the Professional Pastry classroom, wishing it was me beating the butter flat for the croissants. Baking bread is nothing short of amazing, but making pastries? That, too, sounds mind-blowingly wonderful and exciting. I want to do it all. And I want to be really really good at it.
I closed my clothing design business a year ago, knowing I didn't want to pursue fashion and definitely wanted to pursue food. I didn't know in quite what way though and I wanted to spend the year exploring the possibilities. A year later I'm definitely much closer to finding my place in the world of food. I want to hone my skills in baking (the original slow food, if you ask me). I want to explore the possibility of producing my own baked goods using almost exclusively local ingredients. And I want to produce food-centric events to promote local food makers. In a sense it's not a big career leap at all, my medium is just a little different.
The one not-so-tiny snag is that I have to leave life in Austin behind for four long and sad months. That means Mark, my tiny adorable kitties, my friends, my KitchenAid and my garden (which is just now about to explode!) all have to stay behind. I'm very very sad about it, but I console myself with the thought of Mark and my friends visiting, Mark crying himself to sleep every night missing me (just kidding!!), a new fantastic city to explore and love, roommates who I already know are going to be wonderful, and the food. Holy sweet baby Jesus the food. Yeah, nevermind, I take it all back. Later Austin, I'm heading to San Francisco to eat myself stupid.
News Flash Number 4:
I'm going to San Francisco!! Oh sorry, couldn't help myself.
News Flash Number 5:
You thought you were only getting newsflashes today? Nosirreeeeebob. I do indeed have a recipe for you today. I've decided I'm ready to take off the training wheels. I'm changing a regular baguette recipe into a partial sourdough baguette. It's time I womanned up and tried something with bread I've never tried before. After all, aren't I about to embark upon an adventure designed to teach me the finer points of breads, pastries and how to create my own recipes? How's about I jump the gun a little and see what I can teach myself?
It's a balmy 83 degrees here in Austin today and my sourdough starter is raging. No seriously, raging. I have a really wonderful recipe I've been using for baguettes which uses both a pate fermente and a poolish. I figure, what the hell, why not use a stiff levain in place of that pate fermente? Clearly I am a risk-taker. Watch out world.
The original recipe is for the Acme baguettes from San Francisco. However, when I ate Acme baguettes from their bakery I thought I detected a hint of sour. Not the overwhelming San Francisco variety of sour, but just a tiny nudge of sour, followed by a smooth creamy finish. Far be it from me to call the recipe I have inauthentic... I just felt like it wasn't quite what I tasted back in San Francisco. I thought I could make the recipe a wee bit (dare I say??) better.
So I doctored my levain a bit, made a poolish and this morning threw it all together to make a soft velvety dough. I'm serving it tonight with a Chez Panisse soup. I want to make a San Francisco meal to celebrate a San Francisco year... a year that I'm very excited about, a little nervous about and am so anxious to begin.
My Interpretation of Acme's Rustic Baguettes
Adapted from Artisan Baking by Maggie Glezer
For the Levain
18 gr (1 Tbsp + 1 tsp) fermented firm sourdough starter, refreshed 8 hours before
39gr (2 Tbsp + 2 tsp) water, lukewarm
30 gr (3 Tbsp) all purpose flour
30 gr (3 Tbsp) whole wheat flour
Mix all ingredients together by hand, giving them a quick knead. Place in a covered plastic container and let sit overnight, 8-12 hours, until fully risen and slightly deflated.
For the Poolish
Instant yeast **see note below**
150 gr (1 cup) all purpose flour
135 gr (2/3 cup) water, lukewarm
Combine water and flour in a plastic lidded container. **For yeast, fill a measuring cup with 1/2 cup warm water (110-115 degrees). Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp instant yeast and stir with a fork to dissolve. Let stand for 10 mins. Measure out 1 Tbsp of this mixture only and add to water flour mixture. Discard the remaining water/yeast mixture.** Stir together to form a gloppy batter-like dough. Cover and let sit for 12 hours.
For the Final Dough
340 gr (2 1/4 cups) all purpose flour
1 pinch instant yeast
184 gr (3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp + 1 tsp) water, lukewarm
9 gr (1 3/4 tsp) salt
Mix the flour and yeast together in a mixing bowl. Pour the water into the poolish to loosen it up and pour that into the flour yeast mixture. Mix well to combine. Cover with plastic and let stand (autolyse) for 15-20 mins.
Break the levain into small pieces and put into autolysed dough, along with the salt. With mixer, mix to combine. Change to dough hook and knead for 10 mins on medium speed. The dough will be smooth and strong and will clean the bowl. It should not be too stiff. If it is add a teaspoon of water.
Place the dough in an oiled, lidded container 3 times the size of the dough. Fold the dough and cover. Turn the dough at three 20 minute intervals, at 20 mins, 40 mins and 60 mins. If the dough still feels loose give it one more turn at 80 mins. Let it continue to ferment, undisturbed, so that it's been in the container for a total of 4 1/2 hours.
Cut the dough into quarters. Gently round each quarter into a light batard. If you want to make a boule in addition to the baguettes instead divide the dough in half. Shape the quartered pieces into light batards and the half into a light boule and proceed as you would for a boule. Cover with plastic and let rest for 30 mins.
While the dough is resting prepare your oven for steam in your desired method. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees.
After the dough is finished resting shape it into baguettes. Shape the boules if you so desire. Cover and let proof 30-45 mins, until dough is very light and poufy. Then transfer baguettes to a floured couche and lightly pull them to the desired length. Let proof for another 60-90 mins. Dough should slowly spring back when lightly touched with your finger. Yep, that's right, it's a two-step proofing process.
Transfer proofed baguettes, using a flipping board, onto parchment paper. Make 3 angled cuts down the baguette with a lame or an impossibly sharp knife. Slide baguettes into oven, steam in your desired method and decrease oven temp immediately to 450 degrees. Bake until bread is golden brown, about 30-35 mins. If you are baking a boule, decrease oven temp to 425 degrees and bake 40-45 mins. Vent oven for last 5 mins of baking. Let loaves cool completely on a rack.
You can see this bread and other gorgeous breads at Yeastspotting!