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Let the Bread Wars Begin

Image courtesy of SF Food Wars

Attention Bay Area bakers, eaters, and drinkers — mark your calendars and start your ovens, SF Food Wars is going yeast!

On January 31, SF Food Wars and the San Francisco Baking Institute will sponsor Yeast Affliction! All-out Artisan Bread Bakedown & Craft Beer Tastiness. Twenty of the Bay Area’s most fearless bakers (including yours truly) will go head to head at Thirsty Bear in San Francisco to see whose loaf will win over the judges and capture the imaginations and the taste buds of the attendees.

Bakers: If you want to do battle, get your application in now. But consider yourself warned — you (and I) will face some seriously formidable competition from several of my SFBI classmates. Not only are they very talented, but they’re very competitive. (Did I say I was fearless? I lied. I’m scared, and you should be too. These people make good bread.)

Eaters: Tickets go on sale on Wednesday, January 13 on the SF Food Wars website. A ticket means you get to come and taste all the bread. Of course, you are free to vote for whichever bread you think is well and truly the best. (If you are in my family, however, you might do well to remember which side your bread is buttered on.)

Drinkers: A ticket also gets you a free beer to go with the bread.

So, see you there?

Osmotolerant Yeast

saf-goldEspecially during the holiday season when sweet breads abound, you may run across recipes that call for osmotolerant yeast (also called SAF Gold, as it comes in a gold-colored package; SAF is the brand.)

Osmotolerant yeast is a special strain of instant dry yeast that performs better in high-sugar doughs than other yeasts do. In small amounts, sugar enhances fermentation, but when the amount of sugar exceeds about 5% of the flour weight, it impedes fermentation by pulling water away from the yeast. (If you’re a science geek, you probably know that sugar creates osmotic pressure, and if you’re not, you probably don’t care.)

SAF Gold is available from a number of online sources. However, if you can’t get it and have recipe that calls for it, you can use regular instant yeast (SAF Red, for example), and just increase the amount by about 30%.

Super Peel Deal

super peelIf you’ve been waiting for just the right time to order a Super Peel, one of my favorite tools, wait no more. As promised, Gary has a limited-time deal for Wild Yeast readers: $5 off the regular price, plus an extra cloth belt with the purchase.

That’s a $52 value for $41, and shipping is included.

Enter “wild yeast” (without the quotes) into the Discount Code space on the Super Peel order form, and the discount will be automatically applied.

Go for it while you can — through tomorrow (Sunday, November 22)!

Baguette Tip

baguettes on rack

Yes, it’s still all about baguettes, through this week anyway.

baguette tip

Here’s a very quick tip: if your tips lift up, making your baguettes look like canoes, your oven might be too hot.

A Tale of Three Baguettes

In class last Friday, we mixed three doughs. These gave us plenty of opportunity for the all-important hands-on baguette practice, of course. They also illustrated the relationship between mixing time (and corresponding level of gluten development) and fermentation time, and the effects that these parameters have on the bread.

(These are my very own baguettes. You can see that my shaping and scoring needs work. And as the middle one clearly indicates, I cannot count to six.)



Let’s compare these babies, shall we? (Read more…)

It’s All About the Baguette


One week down, 23 to go. During my first five days at SFBI, my routine went something like this:

  • 5:00 am: Out of bed.
  • 5:10 am: Coffee. This step must not be omitted.
  • 6:00 am: Hit the road. Unfortunately, my route to SFBI coincides with that to the airport. I have learned that every man, woman, and child in the Bay Area catches an early-morning flight each and every day.
  • 6:45 am: Arrive at SFBI. Try to resist breakfast pastries. Fail miserably.
  • 7:00 am – 1:30 pm: Get patient instruction and constructive feedback from Frank, our  talented and knowledgeable bread instructor. In the classroom and in the bakery-lab, learn about flour, water, yeast, salt, scaling, mixing, fermentation, proofing, scoring, baking, cooling, staling. Learn shaping of boules and batards (which I thought I knew, but didn’t). And practice baguettes, baguettes, dozens of baguettes! These babies are, hands-down, the hardest bread there is to shape and score properly. Say “uh-oh” (in reference to my own clumsy but thankfully improving efforts) several times an hour. “Oops” can be used interchangeably with “uh-oh.” And then, every once in a while, sometimes when I least expect it, there’s a “well, that didn’t turn out too badly after all, now, did it?”
  • 1:30 pm: Lunch, prepared by SFBI staff. Always includes fresh bread and more irresistible pastries.

(Read more…)

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  • Bread deals with living things, with giving life, with growth, with the seed, the grain that nurtures.
    --Lionel Poilane

  • a few of my baking books

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