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Friday Bread Basket 9/29/23
Welcome to the Wordloaf Friday Bread Basket, a weekly roundup of links and items relating to bread, baking, and grain.
Many people have asked about how they can support the people of Artsakh after I shared news about the region last week. Here’s a couple of good options to consider if you are interested:
My friendrecently shared a post on her excellent newsletter on incorporating masa harina into sweets baking:
What masa harina is not, is interchangeable with corn flour or cornmeal. Corn flour is made from untreated finely ground dried corn. Cornmeal is another form of ground corn, but is typically ground far less than masa harina or corn flour, ranging in texture from fine to coarse. The word “masa” itself is Spanish for “dough”, making it something different still from masa harina.
Where masa harina differs is through a transformational, many would say magical, process known as nixtamalization. The act of boiling corn kernels in a mixture of water and ash or a lime solution to first soften and then remove the tough outer hulls predates colonization and is the heart of Latinx food. After cooking, the corn is passed through a molino, a type of mill, and finely ground using volcanic stone blades, converting the maize into fresh masa. Drying out that fresh masa into a flour is what gives us the naturally gluten-free, ancestral ingredient, masa harina. The Northern Star of my bakery.
Teresa will be making a guest appearance here on Wordloaf sometime soon to share her thoughts on using masa harina in breads, so stay tuned for that.
Teresa also makes an appearance in Rossi Anastopoulo’s recent King Arthur Baking post about the creative, colorful flourishes bakers are applying to their conchas:
Agueda isn’t the only baker who embraces the possibilities of conchas. Across the country, Mexican and Central American bakers are using the beloved pan dulce as a jumping-off point for experimentation.
Teresa Finney of Atlanta’s At Heart Panadería innovates her conchas with flavor iterationslike strawberry sumac and berry pink peppercorn, coloring them using “lots of freeze-dried fruit.” She also points to bakers experimenting with scoring: “I’ve seen spiral scoring and even some scoring using cookie cutters like heart and star shapes.”
Undesired dough temperature
We recently converted our home from oil to an electric heat pump, which means I have air conditioning in my kitchen for the first time ever, which is a game-changer for my summer bread baking. But my pre-heat pump travails are nothing compared to the issues that professional bakers are dealing with in the era of climate change, as Deborah Ried explores in a recent story for Eater:
Bakeries have always been hot places, but this past summer, the hottest ever recorded on Earth, forced many bakers to reckon with the increasingly unavoidable effects of climate change. Extreme heat can cause a host of problems for a bakery, ranging from life-threatening health conditions among its workers to inferior products and lost revenue.
“It’s challenging to make good bread in a really hot environment,” says Karen Bornarth, the executive director of the Bread Bakers Guild of America. “I’m sure rising temperatures result in tons of product waste.” If bread dough gets too warm, it becomes sticky and hard to work with, which can cause its gluten structure to collapse and inhibit oven rise, or impart a yeasty, beer-like flavor to the finished product. Heat can also cause dough to over-proof, which results in gassy bubbles that turn into big holes when the bread is baked. If you’ve bought a baguette full of holes lately, chances are you’re seeing the effect of climate change.
McSweeney’s does online recipe reviews: “All I did was swap the all-purpose flour for whole wheat—no big deal. And I think eggs are gross, so I used soaked chia seeds instead, which was a major improvement to this recipe I had never made before. Then for the vanilla, butter, and sugar, I added these in the EXACT AMOUNTS, except instead of vanilla, I used almond extract; instead of butter, I used coconut oil; and instead of sugar, I used raw chicken breast.”
That’s it for this week’s bread basket. Have a peaceful weekend, see you all on Monday.