Industrial Harvest

Women In Grains by sarah kavage
April 18, 2010, 5:47 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I’m pleased to announce that Industrial Harvest will be part of the ‘Women in Grains’ show in Reedsburg, WI in, curated by Cathi Buzide and produced by the Worm Farm Institute.  The show will open on July 14 and be up till August 1.  We’re planning some Industrial Harvest-related events as part of the show – giving away flour to local food banks and in CSA boxes, and through Worm Farm’s “Roadside Culture Stands”.  As always, stay tuned for more details as they emerge…


Artisan Baking Essentials by sarah kavage

posted by Sarah

The other night I took a class on artisan bread baking with George De Pasquale, co-founder, owner and lead baker at Seattle’s Essential Baking Company.   Essential was one of Seattle’s first artisan bakeries, and their bakers have competed as part of the American team at the prestigous Coupe de Monde de la Boulangerie – the “Bakers’ Olympics.”  Their Rosemary Diamante and the Parisian baguette are house favorites, and so I jumped at the chance to hear from an expert about how to make delicious bread.   

Artisan baking in the French – Italian style can be tough for the home baker, as kitchen ovens lack the fancy bells and whistles (primarily steam injection) that turn out the perfect artisan loaf – but George did a fabulous job showing us how to make an artisan loaf with standard kitchen equipment.  It was a lot of information to pack into a 3-hour class, but I can pass along a few tidbits:

– To get good steam in the oven, put a cast iron skillet in the bottom of the oven and give it a long (1 1/2 hour) pre-heat to get really hot.  Use a spritzer to load the oven with steam, put the loaf into the oven, then pour 1/4 cup of water in the skillet.  Shut the oven door quickly and don’t peek for 13 minutes.  This will give you the chewy yet crisp crust that is essential to good Frenchy-style bread. 

– The water you bake with should be on the hard side, as hard water has minerals in it that enhance the flavor.  Adding slightly more salt to the dough can compensate for this.

– For home ovens, smaller loaves are better. 

– Although hand kneading is superior to machine mixing, it takes about 1000 kneads to create fully-formed gluten strands.  The method of kneading for 10-15 minutes, then letting the dough rest for 30 minutes is designed to substitute for some of the work of kneading.  Although I’ve heard not to knead whole wheat bread (the bran in the whole wheat can cut the strands of gluten), according to George it’s still necessary to do some kneading. 

– Let your bread bake till it’s dark!  We were strongly encouraged to leave the bread in the oven till the “ears” (the crusty bits created by slicing the top of the bread) get a little bit blackened for the best flavor. 

We learned how to make starters (the biga, the liquid levain and the levain) which, although they are higher maintenence, create a more complex flavor and bring out the flavor of the flour (and have less of a yeasty taste, since they use so little yeast).  There was also a math portion of the evening where we learned “bakers’ math” (apparently, previous versions of the class included practicing bakers’ math problems, something I was thankful to do without).  George was a great advocate of experimentation, note-keeping and methodical observation to create “your own bread.”  One of the best things he said in the course of the evening was that baking bread is more like farming than anything else – as the bread baker, your job is to “plant” a culture in a medium and carefully tend it as it grows and evolves.