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Pain a l’Ancienne: My New Rut

01.30.11

My bread gig has changed. A couple times now. First, back in the day, it started with baguettes from a dough recipe in the CIA’s Professional Chef tome. Then boules. Then boules with half organic whole wheat, half unbleached organic white – stayed on this one for a good 2-3 years, I figure. Those loaves ended up evolving to 6lb of dough per. I have a big oven.

When it comes to bread, apparently I’m a rut guy. I like hunkering myself down into one. And staying there. So here’s my new rut. Pain a l’ancienne. Pain is definitely one of those french words that wins the linguistics’-cool-measuring-contest. Said with an english accent, no, but said with a french one, far better than the word ‘loaf’, no? Loaf. Wouldn’t want to be the guy who invented that word. Anyway, I’ve eaten loads of this style of bread in both France and Italy, and it has been a joy having some successes with it at home. I was inspired to give it a go after seeing some folks tackle Peter Reinhart’s approach [this blog being most useful to me, not being patient enough for Reinhart's book to become available at the library]. Strangely, the only real difference in my mind is wetter dough. I dial it up to 80% [from previous 70% recipe], get frustrated working with wet dough a bit, but then reap the rewards of awesome bubbly bread. Recipe: flour, 80% of the flour’s weight in water, then 1 tsp of salt and yeast per lb of flour. Voila. New rut. And this rut is so close to the last one they can hang out. Or perhaps were even made by the same vehicle.

I’m saddened a touch to post these photos, as I knocked out 9 loaves in 3 batches from one firing of the dry stack oven during my 2-year-old’s recent birthday party, and one of those batches turned out beautifully, during the day with nice light. But I had my hands full. These photos, sadly, are from a less successful batch in the dark that is our winter evenings. Oh well. C’est la vie.

Ever the QPR geek: 500g organic local flour = $0.95. Rest [including oven and wood], negligible or free. So call it $1.  $0.30-0.50/pain. Bargain.

14 Responses

  1. That looks very much like bread from the old country.
    I am wondering what your neighbors are thinking….that would be a new “home invasion” reason. Fresh, home made food.

  2. alan says:

    Love the bread! I’m a bread junky too. I make bread every other day right now. Sometimes I push the edges, but mostly I work from the basic Artisan Bread in Five Minutes guidlines. They look suspiciously like your wet dough (with a bit of salt added.)

    We are struggeling with the whole bread thing right now. We LOVE it. But we also know that there are a lot of problems with grain. So, we are trying to find a balance between our love for grains (pasta, beer, bread, etc) and the health and environmental problems associated with grain and grain production.

    Loving your bread. Hoping to build a wood fired cooking facility here at the Roost soon.

  3. CH – Hah. Funny.
    Alan – Interesting moral debate. For the time being, I’m pretty happy to buy from a farmer I know is practicing crop rotation, zero spraying, and other organics-required sustainable ag practices. But I hear you – it’s not something I can produce for myself, and I’m pretty aware of that. Make sure you read Kiko Denzer’s book on earth ovens before you do, if you haven’t already.

  4. I think we are all “rut” people to a certain degree. It doesn’t look like you folded yours like i did mine – but that isn’t necessary anyway. The ciabatta I made has only been around since the 1990′s and an ancient bread = clearly, longer. Loaf. Ha!
    Everything sounds better in French or with a French accent. How did the French get into our heads like this?
    I was just at the Italian Centre Shop again today (Eat AB meeting) and no 00 flour – so – it is on my list for the downtown store next week. Meanwhile – I need to get to the Thursday market for the flours you have. The oven will never happen, until we move to Italy. So, I lean how to use my wall oven. It only goes to 500 – but is also Convection – so theoretically that should bring it higher, but still not high enough for a great crust. Found my other photos of the CRUST on my ciabotta and stuck them in after you read it. It was actually a lovely crust. The best so far, so I was excited. Maybe I can talk my neighbour into building an outdoor oven… and sharing.
    :)
    Valerie

  5. Ferdzy says:

    Congratulations, Kevin, on being the Best Seasonal Blog. I have to say I do believe they made the right choice!

  6. Valerie – surprised the ICS didn’t have it. Sometimes they don’t, but usually do. You’ll find it, I’m sure. I think ‘pain a l’ancienne’ and ciabatta are very close cousins indeed.

    Ferdzy – thanks, I was among good company in the group of finalists, so it’s quite the honor. ;)

  7. s says:

    I have a problem with this. This isn’t bread. This is a bunch of loosely connected holes which will soak up fat and sugary stuff, which most of us neither need nor want. What makes this nutritionally different from WonderBread (which I also would not call bread) except that WonderBread is probably better for us, having been fortified.

    But the photos are lovely, and of course, I’m sure making this was fun and fulfilling.

  8. S – Fair enough, I’m certainly one to feel that everyone is entitled to their opinion. As for my take, I think the organic farmer who produced the unbleached organic grain flour could write a book about how bread made from their product is better than Wonder Bread. I also will argue that it is good dipped in soup, goat cheese dip, and other things than CheezeWhiz and similar items you might be picturing. And although I make whole-grain sourdough breads too, I don’t feel that the bread world must revolve around them, and that the rest of the bread world is simply toxic, vapid plonk. I find that a very extreme viewpoint.

  9. Tim St.Germain says:

    Bread rut! Ha! I’ve been doing the Learner’s Loaf for a year and a half, now. My wife is the breadster in this family. She does all the interesting ones. This looks like a fun one to try. I mean, my Learner’s Loaf is healthy and all, but sometimes I wonder if the density of it might lead to some strange phenomena where the block is sucked into a loaf-centric black hole. Plus, you know, having a bit of delicious white bread from time to from time isn’t going to kill ya! If it is gonna kill ya, jeez… don’t leave the house!

    Oh, and thanks for the links to Edmonton Area Grain Farms. We didn’t know what to expect, moving to Alberta from the East, but this is good…

  10. Tim – glad I could lead you towards some of the local grain farm products. Even the white ones.

  11. s. says:

    Of course I’m speaking ruefully, ’cause you know what I’m a’gunna do with that bread and my homemade soups ans stews. :/

    I wonder just how much bread our recent ancestors *did* eat? I’m betting, not as much as we’d like to think.

  12. [...] bread is the same pain a l’ancienne approach as I wrote about here. Having taken a quick look at that post I noticed that I’ve modified the loaf shape due to [...]

  13. Amy Beaith says:

    Hi Kevin, did you make these breads from yeast starters? If so, would you be willing to share your starter recipe? I’m looking for a good one to get a yeast start going for artisan breads in our house.

    Amy

  14. Kevin says:

    Hi Amy! I didn’t back when I posted this, but I have a starter in my fridge now. I’d highly recommend giving your own starter a go – just letting some flour and water sit out until it starts to ferment. If you’ve tried and failed, I’d be happy to share.

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