Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Channeling Bialystok

Instructions: To channel one's Bialystok roots, sift wholegrain flour by hand and incorporate into naturally risen starter.  Allow four ounce rounds to rise 5 hours, then press, dimple center, and fill with onions, poppies, or as you like.  Bake at 450 for 24 minutes.

Kossar's Bialy Recipe: 100 pounds flour, 7 gallons water, 2 pounds salt, 1 pound yeast.  Yield: 70-80 dozen bialys (3 ounces each).  Via Mimi Sheraton

Crunch, Crack, and Crumb

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Production and Process

Behind every great product lies a great process.  Like this video which shows the process of Sriracha-making or this article about the production process of bagels at Sadelle's, you can see that making a great product is more than about finding the right ingredient, or utilizing a good preparation technique.  For complex processes (like those that involve fermentation), key decision points need to be formalized and made consistent.

One of the things that has impressed me is that though many herald Chad Robertson's Tartine Bread as a Great Leap Forward in breadmaking, few bakeries and fewer home baker's have instituted his methods wholesale with similarly fantastic results.  Even the loaf that was brought back to me from his bakery was very good, though not as jaw-dropping as I had imagined it (it had also flown 2000 miles).

For Robertson's bread, there are several key components that I will detail here that make the very best naturally risen bread difficult to produce on a large (or small) scale: 1) Yeast activity of the starter.  The natural yeast used must be fed and maintained on a schedule so that it is active enough to give the bread a good rise.  Else, the artisan loaves are quite dense.  2) Levain timing.  The levain, or starter that is used reaches a certain ripeness between 8 and 12 hours after is is mixed.  Too short, and the bread will not have good sour notes.  Too long, and the bread will not have any sweet notes.  3) Overnight timing. Because the levain takes 8 to 12 hours to ripen, and the bulk rising time can be about four hours, this bread really needs 16 to 20 hours of attention.  Because most baker's shifts are not longer than 10 to 12 hours, part of the work needs to be done by one set of bakers, and part done by another set.  Anytime one is dividing the work on one product between two teams over multiple shifts, communication and process formalization is of the utmost importance.  The other option is to refrigerate during part of the process, which is not preferred as refrigerated naturally-risen doughs tend to produce more lactic acid (sour flavor) and tend to wipe out the acetic acids (sweet flavor). 4) The mess. Many bakeries and home bakers steer clear of complex artisan recipes because natural starters usually rely on hydration (water content) values greater than 66%.  What this means is that at least 15% and maybe as much as 30% of the flour and water one is working with is somewhere in consistency between a sticky liquid and a paste.  There's a reason why they call it wheat paste - it adheres to everything (including your skin) and is time-consuming to clean.  So just from a logistical standpoint, using rising buckets or tubs that are coated in sticky, soon to be dried bits of hardened flour presents the baking team potentially with hours more work just in clean-up.  So the difference in flavor of the artisan bread better be well worth it!

Read more on Tartine's bread here:



Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Zach's Visit

Zach is a cousin of mine who was interested in baking so he came and visited for a week from New Jersey while on Summer vacation.  He is eleven, and did a fantastic job working with our staff.  Here is his story:


I got interested in baking because of its many interesting aspects. It seemed enjoyable, but something I would have to put effort into doing. Making food for the public was something I'd never done before, so I tried it at the Ninth Street Bakery, where my cousin works.

Since I've got here I've done a lot at the bakery. I've learned how to form croissants, and other pastries. I made and bagged chocolate cookies. I put stickers and labels on bags, folded and made cake boxes, helped make sour dough bread, made biscotti, formed bagels before they went onto the stove to boil, made dog treats, I helped make fourth of July cookies, helped make cinnamon rolls, made bear claws (another pastry), and helped make a lemon cake. 

I'm motivated to bake because of baking's many fascinating aspects: Baking things, the smells of the food, the taste of the food when it comes out, the way you can fold, or mess with the ingredients to make the food better or more interesting, and the amount of different, and good tasting things you can make with a simple set of ingredients.

What We're Working On

I think it's always nice to keep our customers informed of new product drops and testing.  Most of these items are either available Downtown or soon to be available:

Artisan Bread: We are testing natural starter yeasts for activity multiple times a week, putting out small batches of artisan breads, baguettes, bagels, and bialys.

Sriracha: We are brining red jalapenos in vinegar, sugar, salt, and spices, then cooking them down and pureeing into a ruby red fresh sriracha.

Italian Butter Cookies: We now have for sale every day Italian Shortbread Sprinkle Butter Cookies.  Intensely delectable.

Double Chocolate Morsels: We are taking the best qualities of our double chocolate cookies and reducing them into a bite-sized morsel of textured buttery chocolate that will be available in a twelve ounce tin.

Sandwich Specials: We are excited by the popularity of our rotating sandwich specials, including the Italian, the Heirloom Tomato, the Curried Chicken Salad, and the Pimento Cheese.

Ketchup from Scratch: We are procuring local tomatoes, brining them in vinegar, water, salt, and spices, then cooking down and pureeing into a local fresh ketchup.