Just got back from Chapel Hill where I taught a class at A Southern Season, a wonderful gourmet food store (the largest in the country) and culinary school. We made some of the old classics, like struan, wild rice and onion bread, and roasted three seed bread (all from Brother Juniper's Bread Book. which has recently been reissued and updated by Running Press), as well as sourdough bread with blue cheese and toasted pecans (a variation from Crust & Crumb, which Ten Speed Press is reissuing this coming fall in a softcover edition--I'm getting old enough to have reissues--a very scary thought). The Southern Season staff then made a variety of fabulous grilled panini sandwiches on the bread for all the attendees. It was a fun evening; I'd nearly forgotten how much I love those original Brother Juniper breads--struan is still my all time favorite.
On another front, many of the testers have reported the usual varying results and one pattern seems to be emerging. The May 3rd revised recipe, made with the medium thick mash, seems to work better as a free standing loaf than as a loaf pan bread. Neither version springs much in the oven but the free standing loaves do seem to open at the cuts and have a nice crust and flavor. Still, the dense loaf issue looms and, frankly, it seems the one and only way to solve this is wetter dough, which causes the problem of spread. It's a real challenge but each effort gets us a little closer. (BTW, the ascorbic acid addition seemed to make little difference). This has always been the challenge with 100% whole grain breads, although many people reported enjoying the dense, European, Old World style. We know this is do-able but our target is a high quality, open-holed loaf to take the place of those soft, mock-whole wheat loaves that you can get at the supermarket. The commercial loaves, even when they use whole wheat flour, also use dairy, fat, and sophisticated enzyme blends available only to the industry. Our goal has been to replicate some of those enzyme effects without using the commercial ingredients. Vital wheat gluten has been suggested and, yes, please feel free to use it if you'd like to experiment, but, again, I'm trying to achieve the goal without gluten. Whether it is possible, we will find out. Some of you have kindly suggested we give it up and move on, but I'm not yet ready to do that. Your feedback has been so amazingly helpful that I feel we're on the edge of a breakthrough and, even if we're not, we've come too far to stop now. So, again, for those who have suffered through concerns that you are doing something wrong--no, it's not you, and thank you for hanging in there.
I may have a new recipe for you to try soon but I also have to get ready for a week of residency at Queens University, where I'm in a Masters Program for Creative Writing (yes, I've gone back to school). Also, Johnson & Wales Charlotte celebrates its first graduation this Saturday, and the next day I head to the residency for an intensive week of having my writing ripped apart by teachers and fellow students. So if I don't get a recipe out this week, it may be a few weeks before I do (counting recovery and healing time from wounded pride).
But who knows, I may have something for you to try before I head out, especially if I get some decent oven spring--you'll hear my shouts all the way in Vancouver and Germany if I do.
May your bread always rise too!