All grains contain peptides that mimic morphine or endogenous opioid substances. This is where I deal with my latest loaf craving. Get your bread-based exorphin fix here.

Monday, January 30, 2012

25% Mesquite Flour Sourdough Bread

Backyard Bean Trees
In my backyard I have this tall, approximately 50' Catalpa tree that grows big bean pods.  These trees are fast-growing, and at the turn of the last century they were widely touted as being perfect for growing railway ties.  Well, that didn't pan out: although they are durable when set in the ground the wood is too soft to take the weight of trains, and the tree rarely grows thick enough fast enough to make a regulation size railway tie.  Now they are still grown as ornamentals, or have escaped into the wild.  They do have pretty white flowers.  And a few months of the year the tree even has leaves.  So it doesn't always look like a bare stick.

Unfortunately, any book that mentions the tree says that catalpa beans are inedible.  To eat them would cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.  And they don't taste good.  And it might give you dermatitis if you try.  Etc.

It just isn't fair.

I've read the online remarks of a few people who have suddenly realized that they have one or two Mesquite trees in their backyard, when previously they didn't know what they had.  Upon learning about it, they tried drying and grinding the bean pods themselves and adding it to all sorts of baked goods and preserves, finding it excellent.

I'm jealous.

Recently I made a bean bread, using garbanzo bean flour.  Today I'm trying another bean bread with some flour made from mesquite.  For me, the flour is imported and expensive. 

Mesquite flour comes from the leguminous fruit of a deciduous weedy tree from the southern deserts of North America.  The trees don't grow tall, but they do deep grow roots, in search of water.  The tree also grows lots of long bean pods, which when dried can be ground into powder.  Apparently the bean has lots of protein (13%) -- including lots of the amino acids that wheat lacks -- and lots of sucrose and other sugars in the carbs. Many natives used it as a staple in their diet, and it is quite healthy.  Furthermore, no dangerous or bad stuff has been detected in the plant, if you can believe the latest hype.

Mesquite wood is most popularly known in these northern climes as a curious briquette that imparts a specific taste when something is barbecued on its open flame.  But in the southern reaches, where mesquite grows, it is often considered a pest for grazing farmers.  However, the truth is it actually improves the desert soil upon which it grows, and eradicating it is both difficult and ultimately bad for business.

Bean pods from the mesquite tree are harvested, dried and ground into flour.  The current but ever-changing Wiki on mesquite says the flour adds "a sweet, nutty taste to breads."

The Bread I Made with Mesquite Flour
The colour and consistency of the dried powder reminds me of cocoa, and it has a similar exotic scent -- similar but different.  It does taste sweet, but it also contains a certain gum that works like carageenen. 

looks like cocoa

browns the dough

needs some wheat flour to get it doughy

not so much rise from this dough

Of course, it has no gluten or glutenlike substance, so it won't improve bread's density.  My dough did not rise as much as I wanted.  But there is something unique about the scent and taste that I really like.
I have been meaning to try making a sourdough, whole grain version of Heidi Swanson's "Black Bread" (From 101 cookbooks), and went so far as to copy her blog recipe to a recipe card.  She uses cocoa to get the dark colour.  I've seen similar recipes that produce extremely dark bread using coffee grounds.  My opinion is that mesquite flour could easily be substituted for these ingredients to make black bread.  Without even trying for that effect, this is probably one of the darkest breads I've ever made.  And it is naturally sweet, too.  I don't think you have to add molasses or any other sweetener to loaves that are made with it.
The bread recipe I used here is Tartine-like, with 200g of starter, 25% mesquite flour, 750g of whole wheat, at 75% hydration.  The gringe on one of the loaves burned.  This loaf will have to be watched carefully.  Even when you toast a slice, it has so much natural sugar in it, Maillard will take his toll.  But it smells great while caramelizing.

I wasn't sure I'd like this bread, but it turned out to be a nice treat. 

It is expensive for me to make, so I think I'll save it for special occasions.  But if you happen to have a mesquite tree growing in your backyard, count yourself lucky and try baking bread with it.

Notes to Myself
  • I just don't understand why a native tribe (the Catawpa) considered the Catalpa tree important enough to call their tribe after the tree or vice versa.  Is it possible that the bean pods are hallucinogenic, and the books are just trying to warn us away?  I haven't actually seen a complete analysis of the beans of the catalpaI guess I just have a suspicious nature, and I suspect here we haven't been told the whole story.  
  • I'm not alone in my thoughts, but I am a lot more timid (or smart) than the author of this YouTube video, "Smoking "Indian Cigars" (Catalpa Beans)".  User 1xy42witn decided the beans must be smoked to get a narcotic effect, and gave it a try.  Nothing happened.  But he reports that the beans can be made into a tea for a sedative effect.  He didn't try that.  And I'm not about to do so either.  He seems to have gathered his info from this site, "Natural Medicinal Herbs"

Friday, January 27, 2012

Mardewi's Semolina, scaled

My scaled whole wheat version of Mardewi's Semolina Sourdough loaves, one with eggwhite wash

This is take-2 on my attempt to make Yoke Mardewi's Semolina Sourdough loaf.  Here I have scaled the amounts so that I can make it as I would any Tartine style loaf, using Tartine-and-Mardewi-style non-standard baker's math.  I've reduced Mardewi's salt content to 1.8% of the overall flour, as that seems to be more my taste (see somewhere in a long recent blog where I deconstructed her recipe).

Mixing and bulk fermenting:

See what's happening: the loaves close together on the pizza stone don't permit good airflow... even though they aren't touching, that side ends up mushy

I changed some of the process, too, to fit my own schedule.  Because I am working nights, I mixed sourdough before leaving for work, and when coming home the next morning I mixed the dough.  I stayed awake only long enough to do one short session of air kneading.  Then the dough sat and bulk proofed the rest of the day.  When I awoke, I baked the loaves before going back to work. 

I also changed the temperature of the oven, since the original loaf I made from her recipe was not cooked through.

Here are my scaled amounts (and the rather obvious percentages, using Tartinish non-standard percentages):

  • 730g starter 73% (I'm using a 100% whole wheat starter, at 100% hydration)
  • 550g water 55%
  • 630g ww flour 63%
  • 370g semolina 37%
  • 25g salt   2.5%

The other thing I wanted to try: mid-bake, I painted one of the loaves with an egg-white wash.

The crumb is a bit tighter this time, but it still contains some irregular holes.  Part of that could have been the way I shaped the dough, though.

As for air-kneading, I tried to use the technique perfected by Richard Bertinet for his sweet dough.  You can find a lot of other videos on the technique, but I think you'll agree that Bertinet gives it something extra that other people seem to miss.  For me, the air folding technique of kneading was working, but the dough never did achieve a silkiness.  I suspect that it was the bran in the whole wheat flour that kept tearing my gluten strands (or my lower-than-Bertinet water or fat content, or the fact that I stretched too much in the beginning, or...?).  For whatever the reason, because the dough was tearing, I probably stopped too early.  But the torn gluten may have helped the crumb stay more dense (which again, is what I was looking for).

The bread dough stayed relatively taut when it was upended onto the pizza peel and slid onto the hot oven stone.  The deep scores filled in nicely with the oven expansion of the loaf, and if it weren't for the uneven baking of the two loaves side-by-side, the expansion would have stayed largely controlled.

The loaf with the egg white wash

This crumb approaches what I want

The loaf without an egg-white wash

The loaves stale quickly.  The one with the egg wash has a nice scent, but it doesn't have a lot of flavour -- which surprises me, because I usually use my sourdough at the 8 hour mark, and this had a lot of sourdough and I was using it at the 14 hour mark after refreshing (the sourdough was older than usual, and more bubbly and active).  Furthermore, the dough had a lot of bulk-fermentation (>6 hours), and a short proofing time (about 1 hour).  I thought for sure that the sourdough flavour would predominate this loaf, but it doesn't.  You can taste a sour "behind-note" only.

I was going to give away one of these loaves, but didn't see the person I was going to give it to for a couple of days -- by then the loaf was too stale to present to anyone (so I ended up eating it myself). 

I may make croutons with it if I find myself hankering for fresher bread before its gone.

Notes to Myself
  • It is unusual for an author to include her email address in the book, but a very interesting step.  To do so means the author might unnecessarily open herself to a lot of spam, unwelcome negative comments and time-consuming questions like the one I posed.

    Despite an obviously full life, Yoke kindly replied to my initial email requesting clarification on her salt content and how she used baker's math.  She simply says
    "depending on the type of sour do I make I vary the amount of starter/flour/water/salt…to achieve the result I want. This is based on both math and intuition and years of experience and trials. No short cuts here!"
    In short, I suppose it is going to be difficult (but of course, not impossible) to scale any of her recipes.  And since I'm already changing lots of things in her recipes, I won't be able to comment on the book's real efficacy.  Suffice it to say that her book has opened more doors for me to experiment with different properties of sourdough, so for me it has been well worth it.
  • Two loaves sitting side-by-side on a pizza stone don't bake evenly. The sides of the bread that point to the other bread are quite mushy. They should be turned to face the other direction at the mid-bake mark.
  • An egg-white wash on a hearth-baked bread gives it a nice scent and a crusty Italian-bread-like crust.  If you like that sort of thing.
  • I have made Tartine's version of a semolina bread before, and I wasn't a big fan of it. Still, it is more memorable than Mardewi's. Robertson's uses some roasted seeds to give it flavour, and perhaps the amount of seed and the type of seed he used dominates his loaf. So if you aren't a fan of fennel, for example, you are not going to like his semolina loaf. Perhaps Mardewi's loaf needs some seeds to give it some taste too.
  • I like the idea of using up more sourdough in a bread. I have in the past used only 200g of the Tartine starter, and ended up tossing some of the non-used starter in the compost. But if I don't have to toss any away, even better.
  • Next, I should scale a Tartine recipe to take about 375g of starter. But probably not this recipe. I'll steer away from semolina to more wholegrain.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Ordinary bread

A couple of 25% Rye loaves made with 100% whole wheat in the Tartine method

Several years ago I read about a dozen books on "peak oil" -- the claim that our oil-based economy was about to (or already had) run out of easily accessibly non-renewable resources.  One of the most interesting ideas to remain with me from all that study was Richard Duncan's Olduvai Theory.  Duncan said,

"The life expectancy of Industrial Civilization is less than or equal to 100 years: 1930-2030."

Duncan also quotes Fred Hoyle from 1964:

"With coal gone, oil gone, high-grade metallic ores gone, no species however competent can make the long climb from primitive conditions to high-level technology.  This is a one-shot affair.  If we fail, this planetary system fails so far as intelligence is concerned.  The same will be true of other planetary systems.  On each of them there will be one chance, and one chance only."

These are of course global prognostications of our ability to achieve and use intelligence, civilization, reason. 

On a more personal scale, it would appear that for each of us there is a short and sobering window of peak intelligence. 

In my work I deal with a lot of human frailty as people approach death.  I see a lot of dementia.  It would seem that we only have a short span of years in our human lifetime where our thoughts can be clear, rational, and infused with energy.  Even a tiny electrolyte imbalance can make our thoughts unclear, our energy levels too low to recover rational thought.

We know that human civilization started with agriculture, and the domestication of grains.  The baking of bread built civilization.  But what if civilization is a short aberration?  What if human reason is a failed evolutionary experiment?

I have indicated before that there were older grains than wheat in the human diet: before wheat, we used barley, rye, and possibly rice. 

Wheat may be like oil, or like human intelligence: nice to have, but not sustainable.

Here is an ordinary rye bread, with wheat, what I recently called "ordinary faire".  It is so good.

But maybe it will not last.  Maybe one day I will look back at the memories of this loaf with awe about what we felt was ordinary.

Notes to Myself
  • What will we remember about this time, this day, this bread?
  • Just because Duncan's idea has stuck with me doesn't mean I necessarily agree with it.  here  I just called it interesting.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Bean Flour bread

In my quest for a denser sourdough loaf, I tried adding some bean flour to my whole wheat and came up with this bread.  The bean flour was given to me, so I'm not completely sure where it comes from.  I think that it is finely ground chickpea flour, often used in Indian recipes for batter.  See the notes on it here from the bulk barn.  It can be added to gluten-free recipes.  I'm not doing that, just yet.  I'm just combining it with whole wheat.

Now, I don't know whether it was because the flour was extremely fine, talc-like, or whether it was simply because it had no gluten, but this loaf turned out with a nice dense crumb.  I was using the bean flour at 20% -- 200g of it, along with 80% whole wheat, and I backed off on the hydration to 70%.  This time, using my new bannetons worked well.  There was no sag, and the loaves slid off the pizza peel onto the pizza stone with no problem. 

I was proud of myself that I was able to slide both doughs from the peel onto the stone at the same time, without causing a disaster.

These breads are a bit smallish.  Tomato is there to give a sense of scale.

Well, it tastes like beans.  And there are no exorphins in beans, as far as I know.

And it staled quickly.  If you sliced it thin, it was good with cheese, but the crust was a bit hard and crunchy.  You don't want (or need) too much of this loaf.

And so it sits, while I make another rye bread.  I'll get through it eventually.

Notes to Myself
  • Try adding slightly less than 20% bean flour to a bread -- let's say 10 or 15% -- if you still want a denser crumb, but with less bean taste.
  • What if you use a different very finely milled gluten-free flour with your bread?  Something like rice flour, or tapioca flour?  Perhaps that would stop the irregular holes as well. 

    Would a very fine gluten flour work too, I wonder?  I will stop short of adding bread flour.
  • I hate these pictures.  My old camera still works, while my better camera still sits, dough-encrusted.  I'm going to have to get a better camera.  I've been wondering whether the new ipod touch cameras will do the job for me: I need something with fewer moving parts, dough always gets into the zoom and wrecks the camera.

January reflections on addiction and a Yoke Mardewi Semolina loaf

A couple of early January loaves

What have I been up to?  Sure, I've been baking bread in January.  What's missing is the blogging about it, as I use January as a time of reflection (don't I want to do something more important with my time?) and work on other things.  But am I a junkie for the bread, or for the blogging about it?  A bit of both, actually.

I've been reading a very interesting book on addiction: "In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts" by Gabor Maté, M.D.  Mate works in Vancouver with many junkies who are addicted to heroin, cocaine and ecstasy, and who pay their way with theft and prostitution.  And inevitably, I'm thinking about my own addiction to bread and its exorphins.

Maté writes,

"Activities such as eating or sexual contact also promote the presence of dopamine in the synaptic space.  Dr. Richard Rawson, Associate Director of UCLA's Integrated Substance Abuse Program, reports that food seeking can increase brain dopamine levels in some key brain centres by 50 per cent.  Sexual arousal will do so by a factor of 100 per cent, as will nicotine and alcohol.  But none of these can compete with cocaine, which more than triples dopamine levels.  Yet cocaine is a miser compared with crystal meth, or "speed," whose dopamine-enhancing effect is an astounding 1200 per cent.  It's easy to see why the crystal-meth-addicted woman Carol spoke of the drug's effect as an "orgasm without sex."  After repeated crystal meth use the number of dopamine receptors in crucial brain circuits will be reduced, just as with cocaine."

So with bread I'm getting that 50% from eating and food seeking, plus whatever the exorphins give me.  Writing about it also feeds the addiction.

Standard fare: a 25% Rye with Whole Wheat

I got a couple of real bannetons for the holiday gift-giving season.  The first time I tried it out I had a very wet dough and it all sagged.  I think I was using some ratio of millet here.  (I found my notes after posting this.  This bread was made with 20% Red Fife, 30% Teff and 50% Whole wheat, at 78% hydration.  The problem was the teff had no gluten, so the dough was too hydrated; and the red fife makes everything stale quicker.) The loaves were too ugly to give to my friend and I ate both loaves myself.  I remember that they were mostly stale, but that is because they were just not nice and it took me a long time to get through them.

Before leaving on holidays I baked 4 loaves, one to eat, one to give away, one to take with me (!) and one for the freezer for when I got back.  I keep trying different ways of kneading it to get to the point where I don't have these wide irregular holes.  While they are always fun to explore as you cut into the loaf, they just don't hold jelly.

A trip away
I've just returned from Vancouver Island B.C., an off-season (cheap!) tourist vacation for me, a working trip for my wife.  I spent my time wandering around the various bookstores and visiting some wonderful bakeries.  I actually took a loaf of my own bread with me in a suitcase, carefully nestled between clean socks and underwear, just in case I couldn't find any loaves to meet my bread-snob levels of discernment.  However, my bread didn't get eaten.  It got ropey after a week in the island dampness, and I left it behind in our bed-and-breakfast the day we left.  I'm happy to report that many bakeries in Victoria and Nanaimo were wonderful.

The Mainland: Vancouver
We took the ferry to the mainland one day, and while my wife did some work, I wandered along Quebec street towards the mountains.  I walked through the lovely Sun Yat Sen Gardens in Chinatown, then continued on to see if I could catch a glimpse of the harbour.  Suddenly I found myself in Vancouver's east end, actually walking past Hastings street, near where Maté works with his drug addicts.  I was accosted by a pimp, and decided that I really ought not to be there.  I didn't see any bakeries here anyway.  I did find one used bookstore, much further south, and got a bread book there.  You know you are an exorphin junkie when you'd rather find a bakery than have sex.

I'll mention a couple of my favourites.  In Nanaimo, the Nanaimo Bakery & Confectionary has some really nice German style breads.  Their brötschen are pretty good too, but of course, they use some all-purpose or bread flours.  But I especially liked what they call a "full grain" bread (no sign identifies it as a Vollkorn loaf, so I assume they are trying to appeal to English speakers rather than identify themselves as catering merely to Germans). It had a dark, soft crumb and was full of wholegrain taste, sliced thinly like a pumpernickel but without the pumpernickel bitterness.  I can't remember now whether they used sourdough.  We stopped for a bite there; they have a pretty simple lunch fare, but it is extremely nourishing.  Highly recommended if you are in Nanaimo.

Nearby in Nanaimo, also on Bowen street, and pretty darn good too is the Columbia bakery.  We stopped in here and had their pretzels and Bienenstich (not as good as my mother-in-law's though).  Worth the trip for those alone.  I had my eye on their rye bread, but decided I wouldn't get through it on this trip.  Watch for the pretzel-shaped door handle. 


I'll mention a couple of bakeries in Victoria, too.  While visiting the insanely overstocked Russell books on Fort Street (I love it!), I passed a couple of bakeshops.  The Dutch Bakery is more of a confectionary, I'll say.  Give it a pass and walk on to the smaller bread shop next door, Rheinland Bakery.  I'd even go so far as to say, if you want a pastry, try Rheinland's first.  They have some sourdough loaves, and although they use all purpose or bread flour in most of their loaves (even their wholegrain breads), they do a good job.  When I was there, the slicer was busted, but I expect that will be fixed soon.  I bought a dark rye here and it was okay.  Nice and helpful staff.

But by far and away the best bakeshop I found while in Victoria was the WildFire Organic Bakery & Cafe.
Early morning in Victoria at Wild Fire Bakery

Their mill where they grind their own local-as-possible organic grains

The double woodfire oven dominates the room

A few representative loaves for retail customers.  Note the community's art on the walls.

What separates it from the rest of the crowd is their devotion to organically grown, as-local-as-possible grains which they mill right there  -- their use of wild yeast -- and of course, their huge wood fire oven.  On top of all that, this bake shop was built on the site of an old community centre, and it retains a lot of that community atmosphere.  It frankly doesn't get any better than this, although the staff was a bit stunned by my enthusiasm and interest.

The original baker/owner, Erika Heyrman wasn't there when we arrived.  From brochures, we learned that she started baking whole grain, wholesome wild-yeast bread from the freshest ingredients and selling it from her driveway.  Later she had an opportunity to put a community-built woodfired oven into this old community building.  Good bread makes a good community.

Oh, and they make good coffee and pastries -- many of these made with Levain.  These pastries are what Tartine pastries should have been.

They were just baking the 100% rye while I was there, so unfortunately I didn't taste their rye.  But I did try their whole wheat, and their multigrain loaves.  I can't recommend it more highly.  Sure it is expensive.  Support this bread.  You won't find better unless you bake it yourself, and even then, you'd have to find fresher ingredients.

Bread Books
Now let's talk about books.  I thought I'd learned my lesson about books: they are cheaper to buy online and have shipped, these days, than they are to buy in a distant land while on vacation.  Then, you have to pay extra for the weight of your luggage when you try to stuff them in a suitcase.  Books are heavy!  But when you go to a distant place, you want to see what sorts of books they have.  Every place is different.  So it was inevitable that I ended up buying a few bread books that I haven't seen in my area.  I found the Tartine Pastry book, for example.  And one used book store in Vancouver had Mimi Luebbermann's "Bread Baking with Herbs."  I'll wait until  the herbs are fresh in my backyard before I try making whole-grain versions of her loaves.

My most intriguing find was the Australian author Yoke Mardewi's "Wild Sourdough: the natural way to bake".  It is full of sourdough bread recipes -- again, few of these recipes are truly 100% whole grain, but the pictures and the recipes convinced me to give her book a try.

Crusty Semolina Sourdough Bread
The first recipe I tried from this books was her "crusty semolina sourdough bread".  First recipes in bread books are often the "master recipe" or main recipe, the rest of the recipes are usually a variation on it.  I was intrigued by how it uses twice as much starter, and less flour and water than a Tartine sourdough bread.  Furthermore, the picture shows a moist, denser crumb than a Tartine loaf.  So I was interested in the percentages and the rather strange "air kneading" method that Mardewi used.

Let's take this recipe apart to compare it to the Tartine loaf with which I have become familiar.

  • 400g white starter culture (1:1 ratio of flour to water)
  • 300g water
  • 350g unbleached wheat (baker's) flour
  • 200g fine semolina flour
  • 15g fine sea salt

dough is mixed, and still quite tacky

after a brief rest, we're ready for air-kneading

the dough is tossed into the air then smashed down with force

after a couple of rests, and a couple times air-kneading, it is shaped for the long proofing

the dough flattens out on the baking sheet

In the early introductory chapters of her book, Mardewi discusses a general formula for her sourdough breads, and how she discusses the percentages is remarkably similar to Tartine's non-standard baker's math.  When discussing "baker's percentages," Mardewi says that a sourdough bread recipe generally falls within these limits:

    •    total flour: 100%
    •    total water: 60-70%
    •    salt: 2%
    •    starter: 15-30%

However, this recipe doesn't seem to fit the pattern. She has a lot of sourdough starter (400g) compared to Tartine's (200g); and there is less flour in the recipe (not counting the starter, Mardewi's has 550g, whereas Tartine's has 1000g).  (Mardewi gives 3 methods for sourdough bread, 2 of which are included in the Tartine method -- what she calls the "straight" method, and secondly the "retardation" method.  Her third method is what she calls the "starter" method, where the flour to starter ratio is equal.  But although this recipe is close to that, it still doesn't fit the pattern.)

First, let's try to put Mardewi's ingredients for this recipe into old fashioned baker's percentages to see what we can learn.  Eventually I want to scale Mardewi's recipe to 1000g of flour to make my comparison to Tartine's loaf more easily.  Here is a table of her recipe, and 2 different ways of counting the percentages: (1) the traditional or "old style" baker's percentage way (where all the flour from the starter is included in the 100% of the flour), and (2) What I have come to regard as Tartine's non-standard way, i.e. the entire starter is merely given as a percentage of the flour, and whatever flour the starter has is not given as part of the 100% of the flour.

Original Wt. Ingredient Manipulations Non-Std Sourdough math Old Style Baker's & Scaled to 1000g
400g starter 100% hydrated:
200g water, 200g flour
73% of 550g 26% of 750g 730g
300g water +200g=500g (total water) 300g is
55% of 550g
500g is
67% of 750g
350g baker's flour (550g total added flour) +200g = 750g (total flour) 63% of 550g 47% of 750g 630g
200g semolina flour the semolina is included in the amounts in the table cell above this one 37% of 550g 27% of 750g 370g
15g sea salt
2.7% of 550g 2% of 750g=15g (Probably should be 1.8% of 750g=13.5%) 25g **

Note that Mardewi's brief discussion of baker's percentages appears to be very similar to the way Chad Robertson uses baker's math: i.e. it's non-traditional.  I have previously defended the way Robertson used baker's math for his loaves, and I still stand by what I've written.  But for all of Robertson's loaves, the starter stood at 20%.  Now if you increase the amount of starter (as Mardewi has done here), you will have to adjust the salt -- and that is what we are seeing here.

If this were a Tartine style loaf, we would only have 20% or 200g of starter.  Here we have double the amount of starter, and less overall flour, so for this recipe Mardewi's starter is a whopping 73% (using the nonstandard math).  In other words, she seems to be using the sourdough as a pre-ferment, not merely as leaven.  Which leads me to ask: how long does it take to make Mardewi's bread?  A quick glance at her recipe shows that her final rise is 4 hours, and the mixing, resting, kneading, and shaping only require about 1 hour 20 minutes, much less than the Tartine bread method.  Which makes sense: if you have more levain, you require less time to develop the flavours in the rest of the flour, and less time is required to rise the dough.

** Salt
And so because the starter was not at 20%, the thing that most stumped me was: how should I scale the salt?

Mardewi says that it should be 2% (but doesn't say 2% of what -- that is left as an exercise for the reader).  A tartine loaf says it is 2% of the flour (without considering the flour in the starter), but if you factor in the flour of the starter, it really works out to 1.8%, using old baker's math.

Once Mardewi's recipe is scaled to 1000g of flour (not counting the starter), how much salt would we need?  If we add in the flour of the starter for Mardewi's recipe, and take 2% of that total, we get 27g (if we used 1.8% here, like a Tartine loaf, we'd have slightly less, 25%).  But in terms of the non-standard way Robertson and Mardewi are using, we want to express this as a percentage of the flour we use, not including the starter.  And in this case, 25g of salt is 2.5%.  (I will use Tartine's 1.8%, since I found Mardewi's loaf, when I made it, to be a bit on the salty side).

As I try more of these recipes (especially as some of her starters are not at 100% hydration), I will want a graph.  As one increases the amount of starter relative to the amount of flour, you want to know the amount of salt remains the same at 1.8% of the overall flour, but you want to express it as a percentage of the flour you are using.  Similarly, the hydration will have to be adjusted depending on the amount of starter used, and how much water is in the starter too.

Recipe as-it-is (almost)
Before I could start scaling the recipe, my first step was to make the recipe as-it-is (except I would be using whole wheat flour instead of bread flour or ap flour, of course: that's just my way.  Semolina by definition is not whole grain, though, so I'm not sure whether I'll ever care much about this recipe in the long run.  I only had on hand some semolina wheat-hearts, not semolina finely milled flour.  So this is not really going to be representative of the loaf, truly).  I just wanted to know how the bread would look and feel if I followed her directions?

Mardewi's method calls for a rather unusual step that she calls "air kneading": in between appropriate resting periods, you throw the rather wet and sticky dough up in the air and smash it down with force on a surface (advising that you may need to oil your hands and the surface).  This is done for five minutes, one or two times throughout the cycle of rests and bulk fermentation.  I've seen videos of Julia Child and her French bread bakers doing this, long ago.  And it does work: but it is noisy and it is violent and I don't think it works quite as well as teasing the dough into an elastic state.

Looks done

with an interesting blistered crust

Unfortunately, there is a spot in the middle that isn't cooked.  And I'm still getting irregular holes!

The dough, when I proofed it 4 hours, was a bit saggy.  And there wasn't too much oven spring, either.  Mind you, my wild yeast culture may not have been up to snuff after its week-long sojourn in the fridge while I was away.  I had only refreshed it a couple of times since I returned, and it probably wasn't as strong as it should be yet.

Worst of all: the bread wasn't baked all the way through.  Bummer.  I ate it anyway.

Try, try again.

Notes to Myself
  • I've tried to contact the author regarding how she might scale the salt in her recipe(s), and was hoping to put some of her insight into this blog post, but so far I haven't received a reply.
  • Initial results of "air kneading" show that the crumb is not as nicely dense as I would have hoped.  I'm still experiencing those wide irregular holes throughout the loaf, despite "air kneading" the optional second time.
  • Kneading for me is a contemplative time, a gentle time.  "Air kneading" is definitely therapeutic, but it is anything but gentle.  Do it to take out frustrations.  But leave the negative energy in the air, and not in your loaf.
  • I suspect that Wild Fire Bakery does buy some of their own unbleached wheat flour, instead of making it.  They can make their own whole wheat flour, of course, but as soon as one removes some of the bran and germ one must supplement the flour according to government regulations, and its just easier to let a mill do this.  Maybe someone can set me straight if I'm misleading people in this matter.