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Syzygies last won the day on May 11

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About Syzygies

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  • Birthday 11/29/1955


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  1. Cairnspring Mills Production Requirements and Guidelines for Grain Growers Trailblazer is not "organic", though that's a tricky label that doesn't substitute for understanding products. For example, in the milk market there are major players that sport an organic label while working as hard as they can behind the scenes to weaken what this means. There are well-known chicken brands with "natural" and "organic" variants where the organic chickens eat primarily soy, and don't taste as good as their natural counterparts. In general, for a small business one might encounter at a farmers market, the hurdles for the label are very different from the hurdles for following best practices. I'm reminded of wines in Italy that tire of qualifying for a DOC label, and sell spectacular work as table wine. I'm mildly concerned that RoundUp is used to harvest wheat. As usual, the European Union has moved to ban this practice. Elsewhere, this practice is easily avoided in one's own baking, e.g. by buying from sources like Cairnspring Mills. There are some well-known sources we've all used that don't make a pledge to avoid RoundUp in their flour. Huh.
  2. Cairnspring Mills This quote intrigued me enough to queue up Cairnspring Mills for a try...
  3. Another book I got into last night is Bread Book by Chad Robertson (of Tartine Bakery). No mention of Desem, but very deep discussions of how understand the effects of various controls on levain, salt... There are way too many books attempting to make bread "easy"; he's established enough to just say all his thoughts without concern as to whether we can keep up. They're Michel Suas level, but while Advanced Bread and Pastry by Suas is professional training and needs to fairly represent the consensus, Robertson is free to have an opinionated artistic vision. One example takeaway: Of course many of us are comfortable and successful maintaining a sourdough starter, and that assertion says more about our positive outlook on life than whether there's room to improve. I'm getting that someone handed me a recorder and I'm using it as a drumstick, while the Chad Robertsons of the world are playing standup bass. They're smelling and/or tasting their starter at every juncture, and rather than blindly imposing a schedule on their starter, they're tweaking hydration, temperature, and seed ratio (how much starter to carry over) so the starter ripeness peaks on their desired feeding schedule. Imagine instead we were ripening goat cheese, and dropping chunks into milk for the next generation. Overripe cheese will nevertheless inoculate the milk, and one can hope to catch the process sooner next time. But we're creating evolutionary pressure that favors flavors we don't want. This is the difference between dog breeding and leaving one's dogs intact. You get dogs either way, but...
  4. I have another book I overlooked: The Bread Builders: Hearth Loaves and Masonry Ovens by Alan Scott and Daniel Wing. Alan Scott was Laurel Robertson's friend and mentor to Jennifer Lapidus (Southern Ground). Desem bread is featured, and technical discussions rival those by Suas in Advanced Bread and Pastry (whose commercial orientation skips Desem). Of these, I want to work through every recipe I can from Southern Ground. Shown is North Carolina Sourdough, to try the '85' flour from her mill. Technically this was a pitch that turned into a passed ball, for so many reasons, but it tastes so good that we want to make it again right away, to see if we can figure it out. My new aspiration is to figure out Richard Bertinet's slap and fold technique for kneading bread. I need more gluten structure with less effort. It's harder than it looks, which is evident in the videos where someone else picks up the same dough, and can't skit across it like a waterbug.
  5. I just searched for Desem in recipes indexed by Eat Your Books. The three books that come up are Flower Power, The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book, and Southern Ground. This of course misses out-of-print books like The Bread Book by Thom Leonard, but at least we haven't missed anything obvious.
  6. For today's Desem bread I made a proofing cradle from wood. I'm at the limit where my dough will sploof out into flat bread. A classic proofing basket is already wider than the wood frames I've been using for years. My frames had no bottom, but now I want to finish proofing in the fridge. For flavor, and as a bonus so the loaf better holds its shape. So now I needed a bottom. There are gaps by the four corners (which is fine for a proofing basket) so that wood expansion doesn't crack the box. Wood responds to changes in humidity by expanding across the grain. The poster child here is a beginner woodworker who makes cutting boards for gifts, and mixes end and side grains. Their boards crack. If one studies drawer construction, the bottoms float to avoid this issue. I prefer a chunkier solid proofing cradle, for thermal mass. You'd think my design would be everywhere, but I've never seen it before. In the same spirit as my artistic tirade above, this box uses my favorite cheater joinery. One shouldn't glue end grain without further support. People who understand wood believe that a hand cut dovetail joint displays the pinnacle of craftsmanship, even though box joints are stronger. People who make box joints tend to use jigs, then they look like every commercial box you've ever seen. What I do is plan and dry assemble my joinery using cabinet screws, then glue using the screws for clamping. Once the glue dries, I remove (and reuse) the cabinet screws, and replace them with Miller dowels. I then sand further and finish with Tried & True Original Wood Finish polymerized linseed oil and beeswax, which is food safe. My box is shown sunning in our yard, so the bread won't taste like linseed oil. This is dead simple joinery that I'd recommend to any casual woodworker. My friends who don't judge art by difficulty, or who are simply oblivious to measuring difficulty for wood joinery, love this style of construction.
  7. I added her Daily Desem, which is about the same hydration. Yes, she calls for "full" extraction white and/or red whole wheat flours in the two recipes. Perhaps some people actually use 100% extraction flour? I put mine through a coarse sieve, ending up with 95% extraction, which can (nearly) handle 90% hydration. I'm going to drop a few percent at a time to see what happens.
  8. My impression is that as a rule, Desem bread uses high hydrations. I was startled, reading Flour Power, how little water she uses. My earlier sources use clumsy Imperial volume measurements, making comparisons less precise, but I believe that Southern Ground is closer to usual practice?
  9. Alas I noticed. We'll meet there, if not sooner. Oddly, Tara Jensen's web site makes no mention that I can discern as to the location of her upcoming workshop?
  10. Ha! My wife Laurie is my muse, saw where I was going with the Brød & Taylor Sourdough Home, and recalled reading the Desem section in The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book, back in the 1980's when it came out. I sensed a seminal work, akin to Richard Olney's Simple French Food spawning the Chez Panisse diaspora. Sure enough, Jennifer Lapidus read that same passage back in the day, and tracked down Laurel Robertson's dear friend Alan Scott, who became her mentor. She bought his 5,000 pound, 48-inch stone mill when he died before receiving it, and used it to found Carolina Ground. Her book Southern Ground is my new bible; as @Pequod discovered it's basically about Desem bread. I'm working through the Kindle edition until her signed copy arrives. Tracing back her sources, I found a used copy of The Bread Book by Thom Leonard. It's yet another take on Desem bread, worth reading. I've learned a few things I hadn't put together, such as slack bread could be overly digested by the sourdough starter. Meanwhile, my grain order from Janie's Mill arrived, to supplement our stocks of hard red spring wheat from Central Milling, and soft wheat and rye from Giusto's. Let the games begin!
  11. In defense of "no pics", my last two loaves of sourdough have radicalized me. They looked like I'd been set back five years, and they tasted the best I've ever made. Now I'm on a Desem bread bender. For a period I joined a pottery studio nearby. One open house evening, I bought five "lottery" tickets when it looked like no one would, just to support the place. Eventually, many tickets sold. Yet, somehow, all five of my tickets won. I got kidded about this for months. One of my prizes was a bowl the owner had made but couldn't sell. My neighbor is now very happy to have it. The bowl extended for an inconceivable distance. It displayed a mastery of technique, the impossibility of which would only be clear to someone who had spent years trying to master the potter's wheel. I have a strong aesthetic bias, that in fact it's easier to display exceptional technique than true originality. This is certainly true in math. Every artistic endeavor gets distorted by this, to the point where we teach ourselves to judge the difficulty of something, rather than its artistic merits. My favorite piece that I made at that pottery studio was a pen holder. In India, before styrofoam cups, disposable cups were made of clay, and after use they contributed to the road. I tried to imagine what a pen holder would look like, made a few seconds each in the millions, if that India instead needed pen holders. Needless to say, this work was divisive. At least no one could accuse me of flaunting my skills with clay. This applies to food, which can be tricky to assess by appearance alone.
  12. What's a YouTube live track that would convince this old Deadhead that Phish is more than a Pepsi/Coke thing for people too young for the Dead?
  13. I have a levain (leaven) question for our fellow sourdough bakers: I'm trying some new recipes that begin by using some sourdough starter to make a levain, then later incorporating that levain into dough. I like to streamline processes when simplifying steps hardly matters. I've always made sure that my starter wakes up properly in its final few feedings before making bread, and that I have enough starter to make bread, then my own recipes just use some starter to replace the levain step. I've long understood that starter hydration affects the kind of acidity that forms. My new sources also see hydration as an adaptation to temperature, choosing a 75% to 80% hydration for starter kept at 50 F (10 C), but closer to 100% hydration for a levain kept at room temperature. On the other hand, various authors see starter as adaptable. Just as starter can adapt to a variation of feed cycles and temperatures, it can adapt to a variation of hydrations. Some people will even vary the feed, from mostly rye to mostly wheat, depending on what bread is up next. My new interests involve taking longer to develop deeper flavors. It's not even clear to me that I want to change the hydration and temperature of my starter in preparation for baking, if a colder starter simply needs longer to work. "You say that like it's a bad thing!" My favorite sources are adapting from commercial artisanal bakeries. When baking at scale, I can imagine that the levain step represents a significant scaling up from the starter, so it's natural to make this distinction. The authors perhaps didn't even consider whether a one loaf baker would be just as happy adapting the starter. At the other extreme, I've long admired the idea of simply remembering to save some dough for the next loaf. So for home baking, one loaf at a time, does anyone see an advantage to a separate levain step, rather than simply tweaking one's starter to match the next loaf's levain recipe, then reverting to usual starter on the next feed?
  14. Mini Cast Iron Bread Maker, Loaf Pan Lid: 7.9''L x 3.7''W x 0.8''H Pan: 7.9''L x 3.7''W x 2.1''H I propose this as an example of a category, not a specific product recommendation. I am intrigued by the lip, one might get away without flour paste, perhaps inverted. It's small, could be used where round 1 or 2 quart pots wouldn't fit.
  15. Here are screen grabs from their instruction manual, and a link to their blog post with more information: How to Use the Sourdough Home | Brod & Taylor
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