Monday, February 22, 2010

Traveling With My Yeast

I'm sorry my blogs have been far and few between. I've been on the east coast and will be back home tomorrow. I plan to pick up my bread baking and bake over the weekend. Meanwhile, I am proud to say that I have been traveling with my yeast, feeding it twice a day. All I can say is it's  no small feat and I am actually impressed with myself.

Right before I left, I baked one of my most successful loaves of bread ever. I think the secret was using banneton's, a linen covered basket that you use to proof bread.

More to come.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Bread, Truffles and Champagne

Usually, I plan to bake bread on Sundays, sometimes on both Saturday and Sunday if I have time. It takes me a week to prepare my starter. On Friday I prepare the build, which is combining a few tablespoons of the starter to a flour and water mixture and let it sit overnight. This gets added the next day to my final mixture. It’s often called the first build. This weekend I’ve had both days free to bake. It’s been full on.

I experimented with several different loaves. The loaf on the left I proofed in a round coiled wicker basket and the loaf on the right I proofed in linen. Both loaves tasted great, but I love the free form oval shaped bread the best. I baked both of them in Staub cast iron pots, one round and one oval, which is the next best thing to having a professional oven. I’m lucky enough to own these pots—they are pricey. If you don’t happen to have a Staub, Chad Robertson of Tartine suggests a Lodge cast iron pot as an alternative. The Lodge is more affordable and gives you the same results.

This past week some friends and winemakers from Bordeaux visited me in LA. I decided to treat them to a dinner of black truffles—my first experience with a black truffle was in France and I wanted to relive it. On my last trip to NYC, I was turned on to the company Plantin in New Jersey that supplies all the top chefs with truffles. I was very impressed with the quality of their truffle—smell, texture, and appearance. If you’ve never had a black truffle, I can only describe it by saying that it’s like tasting the earthy and essential essence of mushrooms. Their taste unique, delicious, and powerful that once you’ve a great one, there is no substitute.

I started with my favorite all time recipe for black truffles, it’s also the simplest—a toasted truffle sandwich. I first tasted this when I was in Bordeaux with my friend Bruno Borie of Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou at the house of Pebeyre family in Cahors. The Pebeyres are a wonderful family who have dealt in truffles for many years. Jacques Pebeyre made these exquisite, blissful concoctions—heaven on bread. I couldn’t believe that something so simple could be so remarkable.

Back in LA, dinner was great; the truffle sandwiches, which I made with my bread, Pain Levain, were a hit and always are when I serve them. I followed them with a risotto topped with shavings of fresh black truffles over it and served teleme cheese, a delicious old school California cheese, which also had truffles, shaved over it. A true truffle fete.

The best part of this story though is that I had a truffle left over! I immediately put in a bowl with some eggs so I could enjoy some fried eggs over the weekend with my freshly baked bread. So on Sunday, I fried up an egg, toasted a couple of slices of my bread and shaved my remaining truffles over the egg. As I took my first bite I was in heaven. It was seriously one the best breakfasts I’ve had. There was something missing though. A drink. Since it was Sunday, late, late, late morning, I’m not embarrassed to tell you I treated myself to a glass of Pommery Blanc de Noirs Champagne with my egg and toast. This was the perfect complement to my sublime breakfast. I can’t think of a better Sunday brunch, not least of all because I was eating my own bread.