The Wood-Fired Blog

Getting Organized

Time for some time-and-motion organizing. Every minute counts when you are making bread nearly every day, so I have ordered some Oxo storage containers. That way, I will always know where everything is, it will be easy to use and I won’t spill as much — meaning I won’t have to do as much clean up.

Don’t you find that you are always pouring flour all over the place when you use the bag the flour came in?

Here is two tall containers — they aren’t huge. They hold about 7 lbs. of flour.

Over time, I am going to have to store:

Whole wheat flour
White whole wheat flour
AP flour
Rye Flour
Sunflower seeds
Pin nuts
Flax seeds
Oat bran
Flax bran
Old fashioned oats
Steel cut oats
Olive oil

I’m sure there is more.

Another Day, Another Over-Proofed Loaf

The upside of this is that I haven’t made this mistake for a while. My boule was over-proofed before my oven was ready — you could definitely tell. The outer skin of the loaf was very soft and almost ready to fall in; it wasn’t even firm enough to properly score.

The problem? I can track it all the way back to my dough prep — where quickly measuring my yeast by pouring it into the mixing bowl on a digital scale, I went too fast, and instead of adding 5 grams to a 500 gram loaf (1%), it spilled. I used a spoon to recover most of my spill, but still ended up with closer to 10 grams than 5 grams. And as a result, I had some very lively dough. Boing.

The final bread has a very thin and soft crust, and it is very short and wide. It definitely sagged when I removed it from the baneton, scored it, and loaded it into the oven.

This was an 80% hydration loaf, with 80% whole wheat, 20% white whole wheat, plus 10% flax seed bran, 7% honey, 5% olive oil, 1% yeast (well, not really), and 2% salt.

Another loaf another lesson. It will be fun eating the evidence.


Feathers and Insulation

Insulation is a topic that I always find interesting. Thinking back to my first brick oven, and trying to work out how high heat retention and insulation work, and the various roles that bricks, concrete, sand and vermiculite play — it was all a lot of fun. Besides, what the heck is vermiculite anyway?

Along similar lines, I heard an interesting Podcast today on Fresh Air about “feathers”. According to researchers, feathers developed very early in dinosaurs, and very time they have evolved to serve four different, and important, functions, including color/attraction, water repellence, flight and insulation. To this day, modern manufacturing has not been able to cost-effectively mimic the branching structure of a feather in synthetic insulation, so that goose down is still the most efficient insulating material for a duvet or a coat. Very cool.

Conservation Biologist Explains Why “Feathers” Matter.

Maybe someday we will have cost-effective feather-like (branching) ceramic insulation for pizza ovens that can block a 900F refractory face at equilibrium — in 1″. That would be very cool. Meanwhile, we’ve very happy that woven ceramic insulation has come down in cost to where it has completely replaced vermiculite just in the past few years.

What is vermiculite? Volcanic popcorn.

Slightly Less Challenging Bread

Some people like crusty, nutty, tangy, chewy bread. You can count me as one of them.

But not everybody is the same, and as the household baker, I am held accountable to the standards of my constituents — the family. And if I go too far down the path toward hearty, challenging bread (and if you throw in a mistake here and there), my eaters will start to become leery, and stop eating my bread. You can see it coming — “who wants toast with breakfast?”. And no hands go up.

Which leads me to challenging foods. Off the top of my head, I can think of two wonderful foods which have a “challenging” scale — sushi and cheese. Many (many) years ago, very early in my Silicon Valley career, I worked for a Japanese computer company and took a “getting to know you” trip to Tokyo to meet the managers, where I came face to face with serious sushi. It was nothing compared with the shopping mall sushi that we have all become accustomed to. There was some pretty crazy stuff, and I often found myself wondering, “what the heck is that? A fish or plant?” But over time, learned to love it.

Equally, there is the world of chevre’s and very ripe aged cheese. In a typical French cheese plate, the restaurant will help you develop your palate by starting you off with fresher, younger cheeses and then bringing you along for the ride to where you are enjoying the strongest cheese.

So, that’s my plan. I am going to throttle back a little bit on my bread and bring everybody along a little more slowly. Here is a less challenging loaf.

You can’t tell from the photo, but this bread doesn’t have seeds or nuts or lots of extra whole grains. It is 80% whole wheat, 15% white whole wheat and 5% AP flour, with 20% oat bran, 80% hydration, 4% honey, 2% olive oil, salt and yeast. It doesn’t have any of the heavy stuff.

The bread on the left is my less challenging loaf. I think you can see that it’s a little lighter, but compared with supermarket bread it tastes great and it’s fully of really good ingredients.

We’ll see how it goes.

Well, that and I am going to start experimenting with Rye flour. Hopefully I can do that without breaking the challenging food scale.

Time to Taper

The Headlands 50 is in two weeks, which means it’s time to taper. I’m not sure whether I am excited, nervous, and just feeling stupid for signing up in the first place. You can only train so much for something like this. Unlike the marathon, where you can do lots of 20 mile training runs that give you an idea of your fitness level over a 26 mile race, 50 is a huge unknown. At some point, you have to hope that some lucky genetics (how will my body respond?) comes into play. Though I guess I learned a little from the CIM2LasVegas double, which was 52 miles, but with a gap in the middle, and on level roads.

My training cycle has been good, where I have run a little over 700 miles in the past two months, or roughly 12 miles a day. I have a 78 day, 833 mile streak going, without a day off. Wahoo. Tapering usually isn’t very fun. You tend to feel slow and lethargic, and you get a little stir crazy. It’s like having your hobby taken away for a couple of weeks — but it’s the right thing to do.

On the other hand, this race is just a transition, and my more serious goal for the rest of the year is to run a personal best time at CIM in December, and this is all building toward that goal. I am also running the NYC marathon in November, but that will just be a training run.

So, bring on taper madness.

History of the World in 100 Objects

If you enjoy the TED Talks, I thinks you would also enjoy BBC and the British Museum’s History of the World in 100 Objects.

According to Wikipedia:

A History of the World in 100 Objects was a joint project of BBC Radio 4 and the British Museum, comprising a 100-part radio series written and presented by British Museum director Neil MacGregor. In 15-minute presentations broadcast on weekdays on Radio 4, MacGregor used objects of ancient art, industry, technology and arms, all of which are in the British Museum’s collections, as an introduction to parts of human history. The series, four years in planning, began on 18 January 2010 and was broadcast over 20 weeks.[1]A book to accompany the series, A History of the World in 100 Objects by Neil MacGregor, was published by Allen Lane on 28 October 2010.[2] The entire series is also available for download along with an audio version of the book for purchase. The British Museum won the 2011 Art Fund Prize for its role in hosting the project.

You can download the series here. As you might have guessed, I listened to each episode running.