The Wood-Fired Blog

First Bread from Newest Sourdough Culture

According to the instructions, it would take five days to building before my new culture would be capable of develop bread. But rather than throw away the cup of starter (about 200 grams) when I divided it and fed it, I decided to add 150 grams of whole wheat flour, 5 grams of salt and a little honey, olive oil and water. What the heck; what’s there to lose.

And I ended up with a nice loaf of toasting bread. This is going to be fun.

Sourdough whole wheat bread.

I’m going to make whole wheat focaccia for dinner tonight when I divide and feed my culture. My starter is very alive and getting fragrant.


It’s Alive!

Sourdough starter

It’s bubbling and starting to develop a nice tart smell.

The sourdough starter was sent dried in a small ziplock bag. The instructions are to resuscitate it with 1/2 cup of warm water and 1/2 cup of flour the first and second days to bring it back to life. Now that it is active, I will pull off one cup of the starter and added 3/4 cup water and 3/4 cup flour each day. It should be active enough to make bread in 2-3 more days. Meanwhile, I am going to make a few pancakes with the batter I pull off.


Focaccia a Health Food?

I really like Focaccia. But there are times when I find myself thinking of it more as a weekend treat than a day-to-day staple. But today, there was a very fun article in the NY Times that may change all of that. I wish I had though of this myself.

From the Health section of the paper — Focaccia: One Basic Bread, Endless Delicious Options: Whole-Wheat Focaccia

Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

The article not only explores different mixes of whole wheat and white flour (with all the trade-offs in density, flavor, texture, etc.), it also uncovers a great, new artisan whole wheat flour. Community Grains is a California company that works with mid-size farms to grow heritage grains and mills whole wheat flours using the entire wheat berry — with the bran and germ intact during milling. They are able to make a finely ground flour that is both light and airy, and genuine whole grain.

You can find Community Grains here.

Community Grains


Here is what Michael Pollan has to say about them:

“Conventional milling technology splits off the bran and germ right at the beginning. If they are selling the whole grain, they just add those parts back in later, which apparently is not as good as keeping them in the whole time. That’s the Community Grains premise. Whole grain is one of the important things missing from the Western diet.”-Michael Pollan, Wall Street Journal Nov. 2011

Of course I ran out and bought 15 lbs. at our local Whole Foods. Focaccia for dinner.

The NY Times recipes is basically half white flour and half whole wheat, and 72% hydration. They add some olive oil to the dough along with a little sugar. I am trying it with 80% Community Grains whole wheat and 20% Central Milling Tipo 00 with 72% hydration. I probably could have gone higher with the water with all that whole wheat flour. But the flour is really, really nice. Silky soft and very extensible. You wouldn’t believe it was whole wheat.

This (and my new sourdough starter) is getting exciting.


Trader Joe’s and Whole Wheat Sourdough

Armed with the new knowledge that sourdough bread is easier to digest, lowers your insulin reaction to carbs, and might increase your body’s ability to absorb nutrients from  the flour, I went to Trader Joe’s to check out their sourdough selection. Of course we all know that whole wheat flour is much, much better than white flour.

Trader Joe's

What I found was not good. TJ’s has whole wheat yeast bread and sourdough white flour bread — but no sourdough whole wheat bread. Maybe this is an unserved market where someone will come in to fill the void. I think Trader Joe’s is great, and it will be interesting to see what happens.

On a related note, I listened to the Michael Pollan interview on NPR’s Science Friday, and he made the very good point that the best whole wheat/whole grain breads are always sourdough, because the natural starter has the ability to fully develop the flavor and texture of the whole grains. As he put it, yeasted whole wheat bread just crumbles in the toaster. Commercial yeast is a nono-culture product, optimized to put air holes in bread.

Good stuff.



Sourdough Starter. Started.

I bought a “Northern Italian” sourdough starter and started it. In the past I have created my own starter using fresh, organic fruit, but I decided to play it safe.

sourdough starter

It should become active/alive in about 2-3 days (it’s supposed to be cool here, which will slow development down), then it needs another 3-4 days of dividing and feeding to develop to where it can make bread.

I’m looking forward to seeing the batter start to bubble and for the nice sourdough smell to develop. This is exciting.

Hiding the Healthy Stuff

There has been a lot written recently by Mark Bittman, Michael Pollan and others about how important it is that our society reclaim some control over what we eat from the big multinationals by cooking at home more. Which makes a lot of sense. The theory is that big business has taught us that cooking is drudgery, better left to the nation’s fast food companies, but that in reality cooking is easy, can (should) be fun, and that once you are in control of your own ingredients, you will make healthy food. I really believe this.

banana bread

So here is my contribution with a quick bread recipe that is both really easy and healthier than the original. Banana bread.

The basic recipe is really easy (lots of round numbers of cups and teaspoons).

Dry Ingredients

2 cups AP flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon

Wet Ingredients

4 ripe bananas
2 eggs
1 tsp real vanilla
1/2 cup melted butter
1 Tbs milk

Here is the healthy stuff.

1. Replace 1 cup of AP flour with White Whole Wheat Flour
2. Add 1/2 cup of flax (or oat) bran
3. Replace the 1/2 cup of melted butter with 1/4 cup of olive oil and 1/2 cup of applesauce
4. Cut the sugar to 3/4 cup
5. Increase the milk to 2 Tbs.

You will love this bread, and your family won’t have any idea that you are hiding lots of good stuff in it. This is by no measure a health food, but it’s a nice way to eat what you like, knowing that it’s a lot better than the store-bought equivalent.

One trick. Use one measuring teaspoon and one measuring cup for all of the dry ingredients (estimate the fractions of a cup; which minimizes clean up) and use the measuring spoon to mix the dry ingredients before adding the web ingredients directly into the mixing bowl (it’s fast and easier and it works). You can make this bread and completely clean up the kitchen in about 5 minutes — faster than you can pre-heat your oven to 350F.

Here is the photo journal version.


1 cup AP flour, 1 cup white whole wheat flour, 3/4 cup of sugar, and 1/2 cup flax or oat ban

dry ingredients

1 tsp of baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon (one measuring spoon).

dry ingredients

The dry ingredients.

dry ingredients mixed

Mix the dry ingredients with the measuring spoon.

wet ingredients

1/4 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup apple sauce, 1 tsp vanilla, two eggs, four bananas, and two Tbs. milk.

wet ingredients

Throw the wet ingredient on top.


Mix on low for 5 minutes.


Lightly oil and flour the loaf pan.

ready to go

Ready for the oven.


Bake at 350F for about 60 minutes; until an internal temperature of 195F+.




A Pretty Good Baguette

I think the biggest lesson learned with this bread is to be patient and actually use a timer to make sure I give the shaped loaves a final proof of a full 90 minutes — that and planning far enough ahead so that I can give the bread the time it needs and still be ready for dinner.

Pretty good baguette

The dough was not fermented overnight (bad on me). It was Central Milling Tipo 00 flour (pizza flour makes a nice, light baguette) and 66% hydration. Baked on a Forno Bravo pizza stone at 440F with a baking pan of hot water for steam for about 15 minutes.

The family really liked it, which means my bread capital stock goes up one tick. :-)


Shipping Container House on NPR

If you are into building things (I am), you might get a kick out of the shipping container house in New York features on NRP’s Science Friday. The house is on a very narrow lot in Brooklyn and is made up from five recycled shipping containers. My favorite part is that because it was easy to cut into the container, they could use recycled windows of just about any size. Think about how much time and effort (and cost) we put into ordering windows to fit existing openings.

Shipping Container House

You can watch the Science Friday Video here.

Monterey Bay Salmon

King Salmon

We successfully made our first pick-up from Local Catch Monterey Bay, our local seafood CSA — beautiful King Salmon. Here is their description (I can vouch for the wind):

This week we are happy to bring you all California King Salmon from the Monterey Bay harbors triumvirate: Monterey, Moss Landing, and Santa Cruz. Stan Bruno, John Hulliger, Jerry Foster, and Brian Lucas all came together to bring us this week’s treat from the sea. The fishing up to this point has been relatively slow with around 15 fish days when they can get out of the harbor (serious there were waves breaking IN the entrance to the Santa Cruz harbor yesterday). Up north in the San Francisco area there are reports of 40 fish days. That said the fishermen are very happy with the high price they are getting right now: the most they have seen ever between $8.50 and $9.50 a pound whole (filleted that comes to $15.58 wholesale). Unfortunately the incredibly high price means most of it is being sent to big buyers in the city, and little of it is being kept here. Local restaurants and markets are having an extremely difficult time getting a hold of these fish, but LCMB did. YAY!

And a link to their video on the first day of Salmon Season 2013.

Here is what it looks like at home. I baked it with a honey mustard glaze to an internal temperature of 130F, and it was wonderful.