My Plated Stories Tuscan Experience

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Tuscany, a tapestry adorned in splendor, history and tradition.  The painted landscapes that seem to go on forever, dotted with groves of olive trees and grape vines are woven together like a patchwork quilt.

This was the setting of the two workshops I attended this past May.

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I’ve written about my experience baking with Einkorn in Italy; however, there was another reason I went to Tuscany. I also attended a writing and photography workshop called Plated Stories.

The workshop was facilitated by two of my fellow Bread Baking Babes, Jamie Schler, the writer, and Ilva Beretta, the photographer.  I’ve been baking virtually with them for several years, and it was really neat to be able to meet them face-to-face. They are extraordinarily talented ladies, and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to learn from both of them in such an awesome environment.

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I don’t consider myself a writer or a photographer. My profession is project management, and my passion is bread baking.  I’ve been writing about and photographing breads for a while, but it was always hit or miss whether they would turn out or not.  I might get the lighting right, but the shot or props just looked wrong or the angle looked great, but the image was fuzzy or too dark.

When I learned about this workshop, I jumped at the chance to go on a dream trip and enhance my skills at the same time. 

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We arrived at Antica Tenuta Le Casacce on Thursday afternoon and the workshop began on Friday.  

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The sessions consisted of writing and photography as well as outings to learn about and capture the essence of Tuscany. We took our cameras and notebooks along with us to record the moments. The writing exercises were very useful and made you think about what you were seeing rather than just snapping photos of everything.

Attending the workshop in Tuscany was an out-of-the-box experience for me.  I’m just now beginning to process everything that I learned and encountered. It was fabulous! Just fabulous!

Tuscany provided a surreal backdrop for every photo and every activity.  Just when you thought you’d seen it all, you would turn the corner or walk down an alley

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and the view would take your breath away.

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The workshop lasted from Friday – Tuesday and included several outings and a cooking class with the renowned Chef Enrico Casini. Sadly, Enrico is no longer with us, but his memory remains.  I hope to be able to recreate one of his dishes soon from my disheveled notes. It was so fascinating to watch and learn from him.

After the workshop was over, we had several days to chill and soak in the sights.  We spent time writing, take photos, having fun and getting to know the other participants.

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Our host and coordinator of the workshop, Linda of Tuscan Muse (in the blue shirt in photo below), took care of us and kept us busy. 

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The color is what really struck me about Tuscany.   There were such vibrant colors everywhere and the landscape was full of life.

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Amidst the gorgeous landscape, you found people, lovely people.

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This trip made me realize that I need more color in my life.

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And more simple, beautiful moments.

 

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Although it’s been a few months since I’ve been back, I’m still processing all of the wonderful experiences I had with the new friends I made.

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I had an enriching time that will stay with me.  I’m feeling more confident in my writing and taking photos.  I learned how to use lighting and props to set the mood.

I also learned that I write (or I did write) in bullet points. That’s because I’m a project manager and we put bullet points on our PowerPoint presentations.  I had been so rushed and didn’t take the time to completely develop my thoughts. That is changing.  I’m learning to slow down and enjoy things.  I found out that I enjoy writing and photography. Who knew!

This is my latest bread photo.  I think I’m starting to get the hang of it. I still need lots of practice, but I know how to use the tools now.

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In our busy lives, it’s sometimes hard to give ourselves permission to take the time we need for ourselves much less time to focus on building new or enhancing existing skills.

If you get the opportunity to attend a Plated Stories Workshop, you will definitely be the better for it. The workshop was pretty intense, but the skills and the camaraderie can’t be beat.

Besides being able to hone your writing and photography skills, you’ll also enjoy:

  • Beautiful scenery
  • Great learning experience
  • New friends and ideas
  • Networking
  • Awesome setting and
  • Shopping!

I’m so glad I took the time to do this.  You will be too!

Cathy

Pain Cordon de Bourgogne Bread with a Twist

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The bread of the month for the Artisan Bread Bakers FB group is Pain Cordon de Bourgogne, or French Bread with a Twist.  The twist goes right down the middle of the bread; there is no slashing involved.

Pain Cordon de Bourgogne

I shaped my bread into a round loaf instead of a batard (oval loaf) so that I could bake it in a ceramic bread cloche. The twist got a little flat, but I sure do like the color and flavor of this loaf. 

This version is made with bread flour, high-extraction whole wheat flour and rye flour.  I really enjoyed this combination of flours, but now that I’ve made it, I can envision a number of variations on a theme.  Did someone say KAMUT?  Or perhaps spelt. The possibilities are endless. Definitely more experiments to come on this one.

You can make this bread using a sourdough starter and spike it with a little bit of yeast to move things along (i.e speed up the fermentation), but I opted for a long, slow fermentation using only sourdough and no added yeast.  I’m glad I did. It has a delicious and slightly tangy flavor. 

I’m not a big fan of sour, sourdough, mind you, but this one is just right. I used my favorite starter.  I call it my apple starter because it was started with apples I picked from an orchard in the mountains. You don’t need to make a starter using apples, or anything other than flour and water for that matter, but it sure was fun combining two of my favorite things: hiking and baking.

Pain Cordon de Bourgogne

 

Pain Cordon de Bourgogne

Makes: One large round or oval loaf

Shared by Ralph Nieboer of the Artisan Bread Bakers, courtesy of Freerk of the Breadlab (click on the link to view a video)

Flour-mix:

  • 300 gr. bread flour
  • 125 gr. high extraction flour (that means sifted whole wheat flour) I used home-milled hard red winter wheat
  • 75 gr. rye flour (I used home-milled whole grain rye flour)

First make the flour mix; weigh out all the flours accurately and sift all of them together.

The evening before you plan to bake the bread:

Poolish:

  • 150 gr. active wheat starter (100% hydration) *
  • 100 gr. flour mix
  • 90 gr. lukewarm water
  • 20 gr. buttermilk (I used kefir milk)

*100% hydration means you feed your starter with a 50/50 ratio of flour to water. I fed my starter the morning before I began this process so that it would be ready for use in the poolish that evening.

Method:

Add the lukewarm water and the buttermilk to the 150 gr. of active starter. Stir until it goes all frothy. Add the flour mix and stir it all together into a mushy porridge. Leave this, covered, at room temperature for about 1½ hours, or until it goes all bubbly and has doubled, or even tripled in volume.  I left it on the counter for about an hour, then placed it in the refrigerator overnight.

 

On Bake Day:

Dough:

  • All of the sourdough
  • 400 gr. flour mix
  • 40 gr. buttermilk (I used kefir milk)
  • 170 gr. water + additional if using freshly milled flour**
  • 10 gr salt

** I added an additional 50 grams after the autolyse.

Mixing/Kneading/Autolyse:

Stir the water and buttermilk through the sourdough. Add the flour and mix it into a rough dough with a Danish dough whisk or the back of a wooden spoon. Cover and leave to autolyse for about 30 minutes.

Knead the salt through the dough, either by hand or in a stand mixer. About three minutes. I used the additional 50 grams of water when mixing in the salt.  Cover and leave for 15 minutes.

Knead the dough for another minute or so and cover and rest for 15 more minutes.

Bulk Fermentation:

Knead the dough one last time for about a minute, or 2 minutes by hand. Form into a ball, cover and let the dough rest for another 1-2 hours, or until the dough has more or less doubled in bulk.

Shaping the Loaf

Turn out the dough on your work surface and cut about 75 grams of dough off the dough, shape it into a small ball and leave to rest for 5 minutes.

Flatten the dough into a rectangle, and shape it into a 'batard' or a round boule.

Dust your proofing basket royally with a mixture of all-purpose/rice flour.

Roll the small ball out into two strands of dough, flour them lightly and twist them around each other. The cord should cover the entire length of the dough.

Place the cord in your proofing basket, centered and hanging over the far ends. Place the dough, seam side up on the cord. Cover and rest until doubled in bulk, about 2 - 3  hours.

Final Proof:

When you poke the dough with your finger, and it returns slowly, your bread is ready to go into the oven. If it springs back within a few seconds, leave it to rest a little longer. When you poke your dough and the dent doesn't spring back at all.... you have over proofed your dough. Keep an eye on it, and remember; under proofing is a more common occurrence than over proofing.

 

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Prepare the oven for baking;

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.  I used a cold ceramic bread cloche, but in hindsight, it probably would’ve done better if I had preheated the baker while the oven was preheating.

Carefully transfer the loaf from the basket to the bottom of the bread cloche.

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Cover it with the lid and slide it onto the bottom rack of the oven. Bake the loaf for 25-30 minutes with the lid on, then lower the temperature 425 degrees F., and bake for a further 15 minutes with the lid off, until the crust is nice and dark.

Cool on Wire Rack:

Remove the loaf and baker from the oven and allow the loaf to cool completely on a wire rack before slicing and serving.

Pain Cordon de Bourgogne

I’m sending this loaf to be yeastspotted.

 

Happy Baking!

Cathy

Sourdough Toasted Cornmeal Bread {Sourdough Surprises}

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The challenge for the Sourdough Surprises Baking Group for September is sourdough cornbread. I opted to make a loaf of bread rather than skillet bread, muffins or a pan-fried type of cornbread.

Sourdough Toasted Cornmeal Bread

 

The original version of this Toasted Cornmeal Bread was published in 1967.  I adapted it to use sourdough only and gave it a longer fermentation time as well as a unique shape. I formed the loaf into an S-Scroll Loaf shape to represent sourdough. 

This shape is similar to the one used for Pane Siciliano; however, this one is baked in a loaf pan; not free form.

Sourdough Toasted Cornmeal Bread

 

Toasting the cornmeal provides the bread with a rich and nutty flavor. I used stone ground cornmeal I got from a mill in North Georgia.

 

Sourdough Toasted Cornmeal Bread

Adapted from: Sourdough Breads and Coffee Cakes by Ada Lou Roberts

Makes: Two 1 1/2-pound loaves

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup fed sourdough starter, 100% hydration
  • 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons warm water
  • 1/2 cup milk, scalded and cooled (or use 1/2 cup powdered milk & increase water by 1/2 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 1/2 cups white all-purpose flour plus additional for dusting
  • 1 1/2 cups stone ground cornmeal, toasted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • Melted butter for brushing top of loaves

 

Night before, prepare starter:

Feed your starter the evening before you plan to bake.  An easy way to make sure your starter is 100% hydration is to dump the starter in a bowl and add 1 cup of water and 1 cup of all-purpose flour.  Mix until thoroughly combined and let it sit on the counter overnight. The next morning, pour 1 cup of starter in a large mixing bowl and put the remaining starter in a glass canning jar and return it to the refrigerator.

Next morning, prep ingredients:

Toast the cornmeal and let it cool to room temperature before mixing the dough.  Place the cornmeal on a shallow baking pan and bake at 350 degrees F. until lightly browned.  Stir the cornmeal often and watch to make sure it doesn’t burn.

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If using regular milk (instead of powdered milk), scald the milk to remove unwanted enzymes and let it cool to lukewarm before using in the dough.

Mix dough/Bulk Fermentation

Add the water, milk and maple syrup to the starter in the bowl and mix well.

Combine the white flour and cornmeal (hold the salt) and mix thoroughly with the wet ingredients using a wooden spoon or Danish dough whisk.

Incorporate the butter and let the dough rest for 15 minutes.

Add in the salt and mix thoroughly using wet hands. 

Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let it proof for 2 – 3 hours. Perform folds in the bowl every 30 minutes for the first 2 hours, then let the dough rest for the final hour.

 

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Shape loaves/Final proof

Grease and dust two loaf pans with cornmeal. I used two 8 1/2-inch by 4 1/2-inch glass loaf pans.

Transfer the dough to a floured work surface.  Divide the dough into two equal pieces, about 1 1/2 pounds each.  Using a rolling pin, roll out each piece into a rectangle about twice as long as the loaf pan to be used. 

Fold the dough in half lengthwise.  Roll one end up to the center, carefully flip it over and roll the other end up to the center in the opposite direction.

Gently place the loaves in the greased loaf pans with the open side of the fold facing down.

Brush the tops generously with butter so that the ridges will remain separated while they are proofing.

Let the loaves proof for 45 minutes to an hour.

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Bake/Cool the loaves:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the loaves for 25 to 35 minutes, or until the crust is the desired brownness.  If the loaves are not browning as much as you would like, turn the temperature up to 375 degrees F. and bake for about 5 minutes at the end of the baking cycle.

Transfer the loaves (in the pans) to a wire rack and brush them with melted butter.  Remove them from the pans completely and let them cool on the wire rack.

Sourdough Toasted Cornmeal Bread

 

Happy Baking!

Cathy

 

 

Robert Mays French Bread from 1660

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Take a gallon of fine flour, and a pint of good new ale barm or yeast, and put it to the flour, with the whites of six new laid eggs well beaten in a dish …”

Robert May, The Accomplisht Cook, 1685 (first published 1660)

Robert May's French Bread from 1660

The challenge for the Bread Baking Babes this month was to make Robert May’s ‘French Bread the best way’ from The Accomplisht Cook (1665-85). The adapted version is found in English Bread and Yeast Cookery by Elizabeth David. 

I absolutely love bread history, and the thought of baking a bread recipe from 1660 was enough to get me going, but not so fast…

Ilva (Lucullian Delights), the host kitchen this month, decided that French bread would be too easy so she challenged us to get creative and add a motif or design on top of the loaf.

I opted to explore my creativity with a bread lame.  This scoring pattern is based on a design I’ve been meaning to try for awhile. However, I changed it up a bit and added a couple of extra slashes for good measure.

My adapted version is made with KAMUT white and wheat flours and baked in a Dutch oven combo baker. 

Robert May's French Bread from 1660

 

I’m pretty sure my bread doesn’t resemble the original bread from 1660 or the adapted version from 1977, but I like it anyway.

 

ROBERT MAY'S FRENCH BREAD
Adapted from Elizabeth David's English Bread and Yeast Cookery

Ingredients:

  • 500 g/ 1 lb 2 oz preferably a half-and-half mixture of unbleached white and whole wheat *
  • 6 grams (1 3/4 tsp.) instant yeast
  • 10g (1 3/4 tsp.) salt
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 100 grams (1/3 cup) milk, warm
  • 250 grams (~ 1 cup) water **

* I used 250 grams KAMUT white flour & 250 grams of KAMUT whole grain flour

** I added about 20 grams (1 T) more water because KAMUT absorbs more water than regular flour.

Mix the dough:

Mix the flours, yeast and salt in a large mixing bowl. Beat the egg whites in a small bowl until they are just beginning to froth.  Combine with the warm milk.  Pour over the flour mixture and mix well.

Gradually add in the water, a little at a time, and mix using a Danish dough whisk or your hands.  You may not need all of the water if you are using regular bread flour.

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Autolyse:

After the dough is thoroughly incorporated, let it rest for 10-15 minutes.  This is a wet dough so I used the fold-and-turn method in the bowl instead of trying to knead it. 

Fold and Turn the Dough:

After the autolyse, perform a fold-and-turn in the bowl.  With the fold-and-turn method, you basically do a series of turns and folds in the bowl to develop the gluten structure.

To perform a fold-and-turn, grab one edge of the dough, lift it up and place it over the top of the dough. Turn the bowl, and repeat this action 3 more times.  This is considered one fold-and-turn.

Bulk Fermentation:

If you are using KAMUT, let the dough bulk ferment for about 1 & 1/2  to 2 hours. Fold the dough every 30 minutes for the 1st hour and then let it rest for the final 30 minutes to an hour.  If you are using regular flour, you may not need as long of a bulk fermentation.

Shape the Loaf:

Remove the proofed dough from the bowl to a floured work surface. Shape it into a round loaf and let it rest on the counter for 10 minutes. Then reshape it into a tight round and place it in a lined banneton basket.

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Final Proof:

Lightly flour the top of the dough. Cover the basket with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel. Let it proof about 30 – 45 minutes.

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Prepare the Oven for Baking

45 minutes to an hour before baking the loaf, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.  Remove the middle rack from the oven and place a Dutch oven on the bottom rack. I used the Dutch oven combo baker for this bread.

Transfer the Loaf to the Dutch Oven

When the loaf is fully proofed and the oven is sufficiently preheated, carefully remove the Dutch oven using heavy oven mitts. Be careful not to burn your arms or hands on the sides of the oven or the pot. Gently invert the loaf from the proofing basket onto the bottom of the Dutch oven combo baker.  I sprinkled the bottom of the combo baker with cornmeal before inverting the loaf onto it.

Score the Loaf:

Score the loaf using the pattern of your choice.  As I mentioned, I used a new scoring pattern, but you can use what you like.

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Bake the Loaf:

Place the Dutch Oven on the bottom rack of the oven and cover it with the lid. Bake the loaf for 20 minutes with the lid on.

Remove the lid and bake for an additional 20 minutes or until the loaf is a medium dark brown.  Just be careful not to burn the bottom of the loaf. 

Robert May's French Bread from 1660I’m sending this loaf to be yeastspotted.

 

Remove the loaf from the Dutch oven to a wire rack to cool completely before slicing and serving.

Robert May's French Bread from 1660

 

Check out how the other creative Babes handled this bread:

The Bread Baking Babes (current dozen) are:

 

Would you like to be a Bread Baking Buddy? Here’s how:

Make Robert May’s French Bread, then email your link to Ilva, the kitchen of the month (or email your photo and a bit about your experience if you don't have a blog).  Refer to Ilva’s post for the details. Submissions are due by September 29th.  Once you've posted, you'll receive a Buddy badge for baking along, then watch for a roundup of all of the BBBuddies posts a few days after the close of submissions.

I hope you'll join us this month in baking French Bread from the past.

Bread Baking Babes Badge for Sep 2014

 

Happy Baking!

Cathy

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