2014 Ingredients Page

Am trying to put together a series of information sheets which for some reason have found hard to do. I know from experience that if something isn’t coming together, rather than force the issue, best to wait. So these are early attempts to get the ball rolling, or since I’m here in maritime realm, to ‘jig the cod’ of ideas. Moreover, it has come to my attention that some of my customers here do occasionally visit the blog in the hopes of finding information about the bread and that I need to do a better job presenting the types.

Perhaps I will turn this into a proper website that is more focused on the immediate, local operation. Or perhaps will start another website soon which simply links to this blog. In any case, here follow a few of the current pages, which will no doubt be updated at some point and/or deleted as better ways of doing all this present themselves…..

 This page has been linked on the RECIPES & PHOTOS page in the menu panel at top.


French Road Bakery

1 888 238 5491

Organically Fermented Brick Oven Breads


Grains: All grains are from Maritime or Quebec certified organic farms. Dark flours are fresh-ground in the bakery to preserve vitamins and other nutrients with otherwise deplete within four days of grinding. The white flour is from Meunerie Milanaise in Quebec, one of the finest millers in North America, and made from heritage Red Fife which they grow themselves (after I asked them!).

Heritage Grains: modern wheat has been over-hybridized to emphasise a number of desired characteristics:

a) softer husks to facilitate machine harvesting and threshing;

b) ability to grow well in depleted soils using chemical fertilizers

c) dwarf variety to maintain stalk strength since otherwise the nitrogen inputs foster high stalks that droop – bad for machine harvesting

d) high gluten to create strong sponge with minimal flour inputs for commercial high volume production

e) most commercial flours have undisclosed additives (such as human hair to facilitate mixing and stretching), chalk, synthetic vitamins, ammonium).

Grains used: Rye, Spelt, Red Fife wheat, Acadia wheat. Purchased as kernels then fresh-ground in bakery. Also use stone-ground Khorasan (kamut without patent fees) from Milanaise. White flour is steel-rolled Red Fife.

Other ingredients: most other ingredients come from regional, certified organic producers, and where possible, Cape Breton. Basically, nearly all dried goods (seeds, spices, grains, raising, beans etc.) are certified organic; fresh ingredients (such as onions, garlic, fennel, eggs, cream, butter) are organic when possible and affordable, otherwise not. And when not, this is clearly marked on the sign at the booth each Market Day.

Water: from local dug well, then flows through ‘double-vortex’ copper pipe structuring molecules and reducing bacteria. This is truly superior water.

Salt: organic sea salt from Portugal. Sometimes true ‘Celtic’ sea salt which is raked and sun-dried, sometimes lesser quality factory-dried but still unrefined.

Principal Formulas:

Fresh-Ground Rye or Spelt: Rye Loaf is 100% Rye, Spelt Loaf is / 90% Spelt / 10% Rye (it keeps better and has richer flavour this way). Spices: fennel seed, anise, caraway, coriander; Seeds: sunflower, fresh-ground flax. Portuguese sea salt. Baked at (relatively) low heat – 200-250C.

Sprouted Multigrain: Grains are soaked for 5 days to initiate sprouting process which transforms a chemically bound dormant seed filled with ‘anti-nutrients’ (which resist premature decay or bio-degradation and therefore also resist digestion unless properly pre-processed via slow fermentation) into a living, young plant putting for shoots. These sprouting grains are then mashed wet in food processor (no flour), then a little multigrain starter is added (see below) for a final finish. Grains: Rye, Spelt, Acadia or Red Fife Wheat, buckwheat, barley, oats, lentils. Seeds: sesame, sunflower and flax; Spices: fennel, anise, caraway, coriander. Sea Salt.

Dark Sandwich: 50% fresh-ground Dark, 50% white Red Fife. Dark: is 10% oatmeal, 25% Spelt, 25% Acadia or Red Fife. A little molassis (black-strap, usually not organic but sometimes), fresh-ground flax, sea salt.

Walnut: 50% fresh-ground Red Fife or Acadia, 50% white Red Fife. Walnuts. Sometimes local organic apples. Sea salt.

Big Spruce Barm Loaf: Big Spruce’s Jeremy White kindly supplies flat organic beer (best beer West of Killarney, Ireland!!) which substitutes all or part of water in the formula, usually about half; 50% fresh-ground Red Fife or Acadia wheat, 50% white Red Fife; sea salt.

Sesame Khorasan: 50% heritage grain Khorasan, 50% white Red Fife; sesame seeds, sometimes toasted sesame oil (usually not), sea salt.

Focaccia – Fresh-Ground spelt or Red Fife or Acadia 50%, 50% Red Fife white to which is added Cape Breton organic garlic, onions (usually from Hank’s Farm or Blue Heron Organic), rosemary and fennel seed, olive oil (usually but not always organic), sea salt.

White Sandwich: usually available only at Charrick Farms booth: 5% fresh-ground whole grain (rye, spelt, Acadia etc.), 95% white Red Fife, fresh-ground flax, sea salt.

Multigrain Starter: there will be another page about this but briefly: all organic fresh-ground starter culture comprising water, Rye (mainly), Red Fife or Acadia and Spelt. (No single-strain factory-farmed, sugar-fed yeast!)

(Blurb on bottom of Menu Sign at the Farmers’ Market in Sydney)

All ingredients Certified Organic unless marked:

All loaves with 1.1% organic Portuguese sea salt

Double-vortex ‘structured’ well water

Organic Heritage grains grown in biotically alive vs. dead soils

Fresh-ground wholegrain starter cultures vs. single-strain sugar-fed yeast

Fresh-ground dark flours – retained vs. depleted vitamins

Overnight probiotic fermentation – more nourishing and digestible

Hand mixed and stretched – less oxidization, no mechanical shortcuts

Basically Good Breads

made the same as since well before 3000 BC

Modern Wheat is a Poison?


I am instinctively against most modern interferences with natural organisms. Our ancestors hybridized plants and animals and for some reason I trust them more, but post-industrial tinkering I just don’t trust, and especially the past few decades with genetic re-engineering.

Interesting about the modern introduction of gliadin, vs. gluten……

Recently I have been featuring more and more heritage grains in my line-up, but my modern wheat white loaves remain the most popular, especially the Garlic Focaccia and White Sandwich, both made with Meunerie Milanaise stone ground unbleached very high quality organic white flours.

But last week (Dec 2) I made my first Red Fife White Loaf from Milanaise’s first ever batch of Red Fife which they planted this summer as documented sporadically on this blog (because I had a small part to play in persuading them to grow it!). The timing was off last week for that particular batch, but nonetheless the bread was delicious. So next year, even though the bakery is under pressure financially, I intend to move over to all heritage grains at some point and trust that people will pay the extra dollar in return for the extra quality and health benefits.

Now the article linked above is not very thorough and far from complete, so I don’t regard it as gospel truth. Still, it echoes my own sneaking suspicion that even though I am offering the best possible quality wheat flours, and processing them with 100% organic/natural methods (slow sourdough fermentation), really I should be using Red Fife not modern wheat. The catch: I already pay double normal wheat costs for the Milanaise stone ground white. The Red Fife is almost double again, i.e. 4 times normal wheat costs. I can’t sell many more loaves per week than what I sell now, and am barely making enough income to continue. So if I increase ingredient costs without being able to pass this on, then I will lose income and the bakery won’t survive. It’s a Catch 22, but all I know is: I want to move over to heritage grains only.

So I will.

And let the chips fall where they may!!

Next week I’ll take some pictures of Red Fife loaves.

A recent menu addition is proving very popular: 70% Milanaise stone-ground rye; 30% fresh-ground Red Fife kernels (from Speerville Flour Mill). Hydration around 70%, a little sea salt, 0.2% caraway, that’s it. Delicious! Baked in a loaf pan (1 kg baked weight) to give it a good shape for slicing and popping into the toaster. I am hoping more of my customers will gradually begin to favor these darker loaves. I believe they are much more healthy, and also that way it is easier to give people the heritage grains since I believe rye has not been tampered with and is still very affordable, not to mention delicious.

Fall Schedule and Notes

From my main website at www.frenchroadbakery.tk:


Am no longer going to the Baddeck Farmers’ Market every other Wednesday since the number of loaves sold there is insufficient to justify the time and expense involved in bringing them to market.

Over the course of this summer the Ezekiel-style sprouted loaves have settled, formula-wise, and thanks to the purchase of a basic food processor last spring, the consistency of the crumb has greatly improved.

Meanwhile have also settled on a formula for a sweet loaf, namely using mainly white spelt flour, 33% fresh ground spelt flour, Scotch Lake Organics unpasteurized honey, organic butter bought in bulk from Quebec, and organic cream from the supermarket. The dough is light but creamy. I find spelt works best being a little enriched (with some fat, in this case butter and cream).

Also during September I had fun substituting some of the water in the garlic focaccia formula with fresh organic tomatoes (pulped in the processor). They were delicious. I also developed a fennel-onion focaccia which is shaped in a baking tray, i.e. a large rectangle, which is traditional with such loaves, and then cut into eighths. Focaccia are described as breads with herbs in them, but this isn’t the whole story: also they are the ones that go into the brick oven first, so they have a lot of water in the dough (otherwise they would burn in 750F+ temperatures), which makes them tastier and gives them nice large holey crumb structures that are great to tear into pieces and use to sop up sauce and so ideal for eating with a meal or soup. I really like them.

Now that things are cooling down I will revert to using Altus water (water for the bread which has had a dried rye loaf soaking in it for a day or two before Mixing Day); this stimulates fermentation whilst bringing an added layer of flavour and aroma to the breads. I am also experimenting with this being a sprouted multigrain soak, which I believe will add even more layers of flavour and also perhaps provoke a slightly more variegated fermentation culture.

Anyway, looking forward to the fall-to-Christmas season….

instant yeast onion-tomato-garlic focaccia

Made a mistake with starter quantity last night so had to improvise up a focaccia with instant yeast. (First time in more than two years I have used that laboratory-grown single-strain abomination!)  I have to make focaccia otherwise the oven just won’t cool down fast enough for the other breads to go in at the right time. Brick oven baking logistics are…..


Frankly, I was surprised to see so many nice large holes with such a relatively fast dough preparation time (I usually go overnight but am experimenting with faster processing times using higher percentage starters since you get more bounce and lighter crumbs that way which many people prefer. Also note how it’s a little translucent which usually I associate with sourdough only. But I did have about 10% of my expected sourdough starter so maybe that was enough to help round out the single strain yeast.

Tastes good too, but suspect will not stay easily edible for about a week like the ‘real’ sourdough. And it looks pretty darn good if I say so myself.

I went onto the Fresh Loaf forum to see if I could get the gram amounts for instant yeast instead of things like teaspoons and so forth in all the recipes I got on the web and so posted about this focaccia on that site: http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/2815/active-yeast-vs-instant-yeast#comment-230157

For those advanced guests interested in formulas etc, here’s this one. You can’t see by looking but all the tomato weight is subtracted from the usual water weight. And the hydration is pretty low just because my way of subtracting from the water to compensate for tomato, onions (and usually fresh fennel) doesn’t come out right so I have adjusted it down. The hydration level ‘feels’ more like 173 = 73% – 75% or even higher.

OK. So you see Onion and Tomato (‘Tom) are each 10% of flour weight and that weight is subtracted from the water (3324). I put in more oil than usual because yeast breads tend to be much less moist and chewy than sourdough, but I always have oil in a focaccia. Heavy dose of fennel seeds but unfortunately no fennel because I forgot to buy it when last in town. Also added garlic percent since this year in Cape Breton it is not strong tasting, probably because of overly dry summer.

In terms of flour, this one is mainly Meunerie Milanaise Sifted 50, my favorite.

So this was mixed around 10.00 am and went into the oven at 18:15, so about 8 hours process time. For me that is as fast as I could ever imagine. Am curious to see how this ages. Right now it is super fresh and really very good, but I suspect that already by tomorrow it won’t hold up as well as the usual sourdough.

Making sprouted grain bread

This is my way of making sprouted bread.

As usual, forgive my inferior photography. They say a bad workman blames his tools, but I find the new digital cameras so hard to use that I only shoot in ‘Auto’ mode and so have no feeling for it whatsoever. In any case, I am unable to get shots that show any detail – it just won’t focus if I get too close. Perhaps I need a different lense but suspect should get a better camera. ANYWAY:

This is a bowl of grains and seeds and spices which has been fermenting naturally since Sunday morning when they were mixed. Today is Wednesday morning. As you can (hopefully!) see, it is bubbling away nicely.

So there is the menu. It’s for 10 loaves which makes it easy to read for 1 loaf. (Click on the image and it will open in larger format in new window so you can read the figures.)

Description of Process: add water to all ingredients except salt four days before usual Mix Day which is day before Bake Day, i.e. if Bake Day is Friday, Mix Day is Thursday and Sprout Mix Day is Sunday morning. Add all ingredients to a bowl, then add water 6796 to the right), then cover in a room temperature area and leave until Wednesday when if it is looking a little scummy on top I like to scrape off the top into a sieve, rinse it clean and refresh the water in the bowl but leave most of it in. The photograph at the top was taken just after doing this, so all the bubbling going on comes from the cultures developed over the previous three days.

Now in terms of developing the spreadsheet I have found that if I reduce the final weight by 66% before soaking that the after-soak weight will more or less match the recipe weight. It’s not exact. The 66% amounts for this mix are on the right of the main menu panel (Lentils 291, Barley 583 etc.) The ground flax is also added although you could wait since they can’t sprout having been ground. Soon I will buy whole seeds which will soak/sprout along with the rest.

Note on quantities: On the right hand panel (grains reduced to compensate for later increase in weight after soaking compared to the weight desired in the central panel – this is different from how menus are usually calculated for normal flours/breads btw), the grains are divided into 3 because I am now using spelt, rye and red fife wheat. So the total amount is 3931 for the grains only in the main panel. Other refers to lentils, barley etc. 66% of 3931 is 2622 which you can see in the lower left of the right hand (not coloured) panel which again is the one used for the initial measuring of the sprout mix. 2622 divided by 3 is 1311 which is how much of each grain needs to be measured. 1154 is the total dry pre-soaked weight of all the lentils, barley, oats (none), ground flax and sunflower seeds. 2622 is the weight of the three dry presoaked grains. So the total dry weight is 2622 + 1154 = 3775. Then you add the water which is up above at 6796, or 180% of the grains. The idea is to have plenty for the grains to soak up as they begin to sprout.

How do you know they are ready? Three ways:

They are definitely sprouting (too much so) when you see them push out sprout legs, but usually this is just a couple on the top which start long before the bulk of the rest.

Second: you see almost-sprout-legs forming, bulges at the growth end of the seed/grain. At the point when these bulges are forming you sometimes see little white flesh peeking through from underneath. If you squeeze a grain like that you will see that inside it is white and liquid. In fact, this is basically what makes milk. (Think about it: cows eat grass and turn it into milk.) Once the inside of the grain is white and liquid like this, the chemistry has changed from being a dormant seed bound with phytic and other acids to a living plant. And at that point you are ready to grind them up into mush which is then baked into bread.

Mix Day: for a while I was using a 1880’s design meat grinder but found it too often got clogged up so that for every 3 minutes grinding it was 5 minutes cleaning out, which was highly frustrating. Now I use an old Cuisinart I picked up used for $50.00 and it doesn’t take all that long loading 3 cups at a time and pulsing for 15 seconds. One could use a stand blender, but probably only 1 cup at a time, which would take far longer. One day I will get a mechanic grinder and suspect that will do the trick even better.

After the grains are ground, I add the remaining water from the recipe (830g), but pay attention to the feel of the ‘dough’. If it is already very wet I might reduce the water quantity. Tip: save some of the water poured off from the soaked grains before grinding. Improves flavour and includes some of the culture for additional fermentation during the subsequent overnight fermentation period before baking the next day.

Don’t forget the salt!

Baking: If you do end up with very wet dough, just bake it for longer until internal temp is at least 95C/200F. If you do need a longer bake, then make sure the oven is not too hot. In my brick oven I don’t like to bake the fresh-ground or sprouted loaves until it is below 425F/220C. But radiant heat baking can be higher than in a convection oven.

The issue here is balancing the need to thoroughly bake a rather wet dough with not having an overly hard or burned crust. In any case, at 425/ 220C in 600-700g sized loaves in loaf pans, it takes about 45 mins in a brick oven. I suspect in a home oven it would be an hour at 400F and you wouldn’t want to go higher, and probably 1.5 hours at 350 is the better way to go. This was complicated to explain but it’s the sort of thing you evaluate in seconds once you have made a couple.

Basically, this is a simple loaf even though it takes six days to make from initial soaking mix to final bake.

And it is truly delicious.

This is a picture of a large loaf (2 of the above recipe in a larger-size loaf pan) from above. Again, apologies for the poor picture quality. Am unable to get this Canon camera to focus on the crumb. Really have to get another!)

Summary of method:

Sunday – mix 66% by weight of all ingredients except salt.

Thursday Evening: grind soaked grains; add in water from recipe and salt.

Friday: Bake at around 400F until internal temp is 95/200.

100% Fresh-Ground Rye and Spelt Loaves


This is one of my all-time personal favorite breads. Vollkorn is German and simply means Whole (voll) and Grain (korn), so probably this isn’t a correct title, but that’s what I call it to myself. At the market, since I try to avoid foreign names like focaccio and vollkorn, I call it ” 100% fresh-ground rye” which is simply what it is.

Yes, folks, this is a bona fide 100% rye loaf. It is easy to make. It is delicious and nutritious. All you need is a rye starter and a grain mill. If you don’t have a grain mill, then use organic rye flour and it will still work fine, albeit probably you’ll have to change the hydration level somewhat.

Overview:  the only grain is organic rye, fresh-ground on a medium setting. But also there are sunflower seeds and ground flax, 116g of each. (This recipe is for my standard 8 loaves.) Spices are: coriander, fennel seeds, anise seeds and caraway seeds. These are ground together with the rye grains during the mix.

Process:  To make these 8 loaves, you will need to have already prepared 190g whole rye starter at 100% hydration as described earlier on this blog (50% fresh-ground rye, 50% water). For me usually this means that on the morning of Mix Day I begin to build up the starter from my mother in the fridge, and it is ready by 5-7pm when I mix it in with the dough which has been soaking all day. So here goes:

In the morning grind the rye with the spices and then add in the water and salt and seeds and leave to soak all day. Purists might first soak the flour for 20 minutes or so before adding salt. (I don’t because I have such a long soaking time that I don’t think it matters.) Recently I have added 2 tsp 100% chocolate powder per 8 loaf batch to add an exotic element, but also chocolate dries things out and counteracts the highly moist quality of this loaf.

In the evening mix in the starter.

On the morning of Bake Day, spoon/pour the dough into well-oiled metal loaf pans. In this recipe the amount to use is 778 g, which will result in 685 baked weight which is 1.5 pounds. After 6 hours or so it will have risen considerably and then you bake in a low temp oven which for me is 400-450F, or around 200C. You want a slow bake which penetrates into the dense, moist dough which does not have heat-transmitting large bubble pockets like a wheat loaf, otherwise the crust will become far too hard before the interior is ready. In a convection oven I suspect 350F would be better for the same reason, but since radiant heat penetrates the centre of whatever is being cooked, I can do everything hotter (such as my delicious rosemary garlic sisters – focaccia – at 750F, 400C.)

The loaves in this picture are twice the size – using larger loaf pans – in order to get slices with more height that fit better in modern toasters. But it’s the same stuff and, as usual, not very good photographs. I used to be a very good photographer but have been unable to use digital stuff and am too lazy/busy to figure it all out.This picture shows a 100% fresh ground spelt on the left, and a 100% fresh-ground rye on the white. Come to think of it, I’ll put in the spelt recipe too since they are almost identical.

Crumb Shot:

Again, apologies for the poor photo quality – you can’t really see the crumb.

Spelt Menu Panel:

This is the same basic recipe except two small changes:

1. I up the amount of sunflower and ground flax. The rye was having problems of late so I pared them back.

2. Addition of chia seeds with 4 times their weight in water (which is taken away from the water amount in the main recipe, now showing as 1616g). Chia absorb moisture, and since spelt has a tendency to dry out much faster than wheat or rye, I use the chia as a moisture retainer to help the loaf age more slowly. (Smart, eh?!) Apart from that it’s the same. (Oh – I don’t put caraway in this spelt loaf because some of my customers don’t like caraway so this loaf is an option. Personally I think it is better with.)

3. I use a 100% spelt starter which I maintain just for this loaf, mainly for purists who want a spelt-only loaf. But it works well – spelt makes a great starter – so why not?

General Remarks: the key to this loaf, frankly, is using a loaf pan. Without a loaf pan they would resemble un-lift-offable flying saucers. That way I can have a well hydrated dough meaning that the fermentation process is deep and thorough, which you want with whole grains. Now 100% rye is hard to handle since it doesn’t have the gluten of wheat, but in a pan, a well hydrated dough like this will basically be more like a steamed pudding than what we usually think of as ‘bread’, and bubbles will form in it and rye starch gelatinized when it gets to around 90C just like wheat starch. What you will have is a delicious, easy to digest, 100% whole grain bread. And you might find, just like me, that it quickly becomes by far your favorite bread to eat.

That said, the spelt is also excellent, with a sweeter but also cheesier flavor. I once made a similar 100% Red Fife and it was superlative, truly outstanding. I just don’t have a lot of those kernels yet, also am limited in how much can offer at my very small Farmer’s Market in Sydney. Frankly, I suspect that a Spelt-Rye-Red Fife 100% fresh-ground would hit the spot. Next week I’ll make it, take pictures and add to this post!

Background History: The reason I developed this loaf was because I couldn’t get good results with fresh-ground whole grains. The loaves were just too dense and granular. Perhaps they were healthy, but texture-wise they were too crude as hearth loaves. But when I upped the hydration and put them in pan loaves, a whole new level of flavour emerged, and that was that. Since then I haven’t tried at all to make a 100% rye hearth loaf. I gather some bakers do, and do it well, but it is quite a tricky enterprise and I am so satisfied with the current offering that probably I shall never bother trying to master it.

This history relates to how I am trying to share my recipes which is not so much giving away the flour quantities etc. Lord knows there are zillions of fantastic recipes around. Rather I am trying to show how various recipes are designed for various reasons, some of them organoleptic (!), some technical, being due to the exigencies of a small bakery, or having to fit into the cyclical heat of a brick oven. There are reasons which hopefully I am explaining and in so doing the reader gets a better understanding of the baking process and then has an easier time troubleshooting their own recipes, or developing new ones, but now understanding better what’s involved.


Honey Butter White


The recipe above has ‘Coco’ in the column when it should say ‘Butter’. (I tried coconut oil one time and forgot to change the writing.)

The inspiration behind this loaf is to have something white, sweet and softer than my usual fare which tends to be whole-grainy influenced. So here there is just 2.5% of Rye, Red Fife and Spelt to give some character, and the rest is white flour, namely 2 parts Sifted 50 from Milanaise and 1 part All-Purpose. Actually, I am now using Speerville’s Whole White in this loaf and getting very good results and indeed that might be what I use from now on. (My formulas are always in flux because I love experimenting, but at some point each loaf settles down. Right now this formula has no yoghurt or kefir, just butter, whey and honey but the spread sheet Mix Template snapshot above shows a different incarnation.)

It is also a little inspired by Naans which often have plenty of butter and yoghurt and are extremely soft and creamy.

So: in the morning I mix everything together which in this case includes melting some honey and butter together. If I am using yoghurt of kefir it is a judgment call whether or not to put it in during the morning or add it in with the starter. Frankly, I haven’t played around enough to have made a clear decision. The issue is that the cultures in the yoghurt or kefir will get going so strongly that the overall fermentation of the loaf will be too advanced by baking time, that’s all. I use whey, which is extracted from yoghurt (place yoghurt above bowl in sieve with cheesecloth filter, wait a few hours and voila: you have cream cheese in your cheesecloth and whey in the bowl. I use the whey for culturing vegetables, and now also this loaf. I only use organic yoghurts but wish this wasn’t Canada and I could get fresh dairy produce from a nearby farmer to make my own from scratch, but that’s another story.)

So everything is mixed including water, flours, whey, kefir/yoghurt, butter, honey. (I used locally harvested, raw uncultured Cape Breton honey, mainly from Al of Misty Meadow though I also like Dennis’ North River Organics and Michael’s Scotch Lake honeys.)

Then I favor the shaping in the picture above, which shows four (plus the edge of a fifth) 680g loaves each comprising four 170g buns. The addition of the whey, and possibly also the sugar-content of the honey, not to mention also yoghurt when it is added, makes these loaves very plump and high-rising. That said, this way of shaping them (four buns comprising one loaf) only really works well when the dough is proofed within the confines of a loaf pan, in this case a round one, and I am currently favouring this loaf pan for the Red Fife Rye, or Soldier’s Loaf and preferring rather to have this sweet loaf be baked as a hearth loaf (directly on the bricks). (These are the sort of little logistical decisions which come into play with a micro-bakery like mine…..)

The crumb is more like that of a cake. It is a very delicious, soft bread and unusual to find such a soft, sweet bread made with only natural fermentation. I hope enough customers like it so it can become a regular item.

I also sprinkled a little poppy seeds on the loaves before baking, which is why there is some darker coloration along those lines. I think I also gave the loaf a little honey-butter water wash after baking to give it a shine, which suits this loaf I think.

Here is a picture of the crumb using Speerville’s Whole White flour (which is a stoneground hard red wheat flour from which mainly the bran has been sifted out but the germ remains, so it is a half-dark flour) and from the first cut of a whole loaf (not shaped into four buns):

This is a slightly unfortunate photograph because I cut this loaf open too soon after baking and inadvertently pushed my thumb into it when picking it up to position it for the photograph. The dough was still far too moist and steamy and needed another hour or two to set. Oh well….maybe I’ll get a better picture next week…

I have also used cream instead of yoghurt. The percentage amount (relative to flour weight, which is the typical ‘baker’s percent’ method) of around 5% for the honey is deliberately low, and not just because honey is $&^%$!!! expensive. The idea with this loaf – and with the butter component too – is to have something that is slightly, but not overpoweringly enriched and ensweetened. You could have this one with smoked ham, for example, though probably it would go better with maple or honeyed ham than hot-peppered ham. It would also be fine with some soups. That said, it’s definitely best with a little butter and honey or jam, though personally I mainly only put honey on bread if I want something sweet. The idea is to have the amount of honey be more of a smell than a strong taste. Of course you cannot separate the two senses – not truly – but that’s the idea. A strong hint of sweetness and butteriness…..

Red Fife & Rye – Authentic ‘Soldier’s Bread’

OK, another recipe. This is sometimes called ‘Soldier’s Bread’ because in Cape Breton we have one of the world’s most beloved historical re-creation sites at which they serve up many brick oven loaves. Unfortunately they are neither fresh-ground nor sourdough fermented so apart from the oven and the costumes there is little authentic about the experience. In any case, their ‘Soldier’s Bread’ (which is darker and coarser than the ‘Officer’s Bread’ whose formula I don’t have) is 60% whole wheat and 40% Rye, and they are using modern (over-hybridized) whole wheat, whereas the above recipe is using Red Fife wheat from Speerville Flour Mills in New Brunswick, the only distributor set up to work exclusively with Maritime farmers (P.E.I, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia).

So the recipe is 50% Rye 50% Red Fife Wheat. I think of it as ‘Red Fife Rye’. Sometimes I fresh-grind the flours, but right now I am using up the already stone ground Red Fife and when that has been finished I will do only fresh-ground.

Red Fife is a ‘heritage grain’ which has not been over hybridized and so has a softer, more water soluble gluten which is very close in feeling and behaviour to spelt. I like the flavour but find it doesn’t bind together so well as normal wheat and so am favoring high hydration loaves in loaf pans – to hold a shape – rather than hearth loaves. Now I could play more tricks to get good hearth loaves, I am sure, but when working with 50% rye, that is going to be a serious challenge anyway, so I am going to stick with the round loaf pans. In any case, the combination of Red Fife and Rye is very good and I think this is going to be a standard loaf on the Menu.

Of historical note, this recipe is probably much closer to the actual Soldier’s Bread in that the wheat they were eating back in the 1700’s was probably much closer to Red Fife than it is to the contemporary Hard Red.

Process:  this is very simple: along with the usual starter routines explained elsewhere, just mix up the rye, red fife, salt, water and caraway seeds and leave to soak until the evening when the starter is mixed in, and every hour a stretch and fold (twice). Then overnight fermentation, then scaling, shaping, proofing, baking and cooling.

Einfach so! Or: Simple!

Walnut Loaf

This is the second Recipe posted (the first being the Rosemary Garlic Focaccio also on the separate Recipe page and goes over my basic routine/technique).

This loaf was first requested by French customers a while back and has been a hit. I noticed on the Poilane website (famous sourdough artisan bakery in Paris) that they feature a walnut loaf. I don’t know what their formula is of course, but here’s mine:

Spreadsheet Formula:

This is for 10 loaves, so just divide by 10 to get the amounts for 1.

(Note: the 465 figure on the right is the dry weight of the nuts before soaking. Once soaked, they will become 620g weight in the recipe. Ideally…)

There are really only two main areas to go over here, one being the flour mix, the other being the nuts.

Flour Blend: this recipe features a blend of Milanaise white flours and fresh-ground whole grains. The white flour is 50% All-Purpose (which is high protein/high gluten and gives a good rise ) and 50% Sifted 50 (which is softer and more ‘artisany’).  The dark flours are fresh ground in the Nutrimill in the proportions above. Now Hard Red Wheat predominates because it is a strong, bitter grain which compliments the walnuts nicely. The spelt and rye are added in there in small percentage amounts (5%) just to add nuance and character.

The nuts: when I first started making this loaf, it came out purple from the walnut juices. That was sort of interesting and I gather quite a few bakeries serve their walnut loaves this way. But in researching about nutrition in general, and coming to the conclusion to soak things as much as possible in order to reduce phytic acid, promote good enzyme activity and so forth, I started to soak and rinse the walnuts separately before mixing the dough in the evening before Bake Day. And when you do that, you don’t get purple juice any more which I now regard as a sign that I haven’t sufficiently pre-processed the walnuts.

The Procedure:

On Mix Day morning I mix together all ingredients save the starter (which goes in during the evening mix session) and the walnuts which are rinsed 5 times and then set aside to soak.

(If I need 3 kg of starter for the entire bake, I use 1 kg mother starter from the fridge, add 1 kg fresh-ground rye and 1 kg water and it is ready by around 6 pm. Then I grind another 500g of rye, add 500g water, give it two hours to get going and then after I have mixed the doughs, pop it in the fridge and about 2 days later it is ready and will stay ready for 3-10 days in the fridge.)

In the evening, usually between 5:30 & 6:30, the walnuts are rinsed again 5 times then added into the dough along with the now ready starter. Then two stretch & folds, then overnight fermentation. Sometimes in the summer this is one of the loaves that gets fridge-retarded, though I am leaning towards minimalizing mechanical ‘inputs’ process-wise. That said, cooling the dough down boosts oven spring, which is a good thing on all sorts of organoleptic levels. But THAT said, I hesitate to mess around too much with the balance of yeasts & bacteria in the dough, which lowering the temperature does of course. And so on ad infinitum. There are so many such variable considerations that perhaps my latest approach is best, namely: just tell my micro-organisms what I want and leave it up to them to figure it out no matter what I throw at them process-wise!

Bake Day: at the appropriate time (around 9 am or about 4 hours before it’s expected to go in the oven), scale, shape, then proof. Then bake.

I have a new Canon PowerShot SX20 I bought on sale and still am fumbling around with the controls. For reasons I couldn’t figure out the flash wouldn’t work so these pictures didn’t come out very well. The crust is smooth because I use canvas-covered bannettons for this loaf and the fabric makes for a smooth finish without the basket-weave patterns you get from using the straight flour-covered baskets. (The crust colour is nothing like this picture”s.)

Basic Sourdough Technique at the French Road Bakery, Cape Breton Island

This is how I make naturally leavened (‘sourdough’) breads. My method is partly based on trial and error, but also largely based on being something that is easy to live with, i.e. that doesn’t produce irregular sleep patterns, and also works in the context of running a small commercial operation so that I can make 100 or so at a time, twice a week in the summer which of course is different from making the occasional loaf or two at home. The technique also has to fit in with using a wood-fired brick oven, which presents considerable and specific challenges, albeit also yielding most pleasing, and often quite superior, results when all goes well.

Basic Technique used for all sourdough loaves (but not the Sprouted variety):

(Assuming a Saturday Market Day:)

Thursday 9:30am      Mix the starter so it’s fully ready by 5:00 pm or thereabouts. This involves taking about 1 kg of starter out of the fridge where it has been since the last bake and tripling it. So to 1 kg of starter I add 1 kg of water and 1 kg of fresh-ground rye (rye kernels ground fine at the slowest speed in my Nutrimill grain grinder.)

9:50 am       Mix the doughs so that all the flours have soaked for several hours before the starter is added. This adds smoothness and flavour to the breads, obviating any need for kneeding (I do not knead my breads, either with a mechanical mixer, or by hand).The flavour quotient comes, I believe, from the enzyme action that soaking (‘autolyzing’ to use baker jargon) affords. This makes the grain FAR more digestible and therefore user-friendly. Most problems with bread digestion, I suspect, are due to the overly rapid techniques used today featuring dough with special (often unlabelled) conditioners (including human hair from Chinese and Indian barbershops), mechanical mixing (10 minutes develops strong, elastic gluten strands equivalent to about 6-10 hours of slow soaking), and test tube yeast (single strain yeast which one never finds in Nature, fed on beet and other sugars, not naturally grown and propogated on wheat or grain as it really should be, and as my sourdough cultures are).

I started off only mixing the whole grains earlier since such soaking makes a significant difference in texture, flavour and digestibility as recommended by many of the whole grain baking gurus, of whom the one I have personally found the most helpful is Peter Reinhart, closely followed by Jim Lahey. But later I began to mix them all including the white loaves, not so much for improved results as for a far easier schedule. I am in my late 50’s and last year wasn’t in the best of health following a water-born bug in late 2010 which took a while (about a year ) to fully resolve, so I found doing 3-5 hours of heavy mixing late at night before a 14 hour Bake Day overly strenuous. Ergo: do the mixing in the morning when you are fresh, the sun is shining, and keep it simple at night. This is an example of tailoring the technique to other operational requirements, i.e. the fact that I need a good night’s sleep, things like that. They are important. And in the long run, they help you make better bread too.

OK, so in the evening I add in the starter along with any other ingredients that have soaked separately like walnuts or chia seeds, then wait an hour, do a stretch and fold, wait another hour and do another stretch and fold. My way of stretching and folding is simple. Usually I am (man)handling 5-7 kilos of dough, which is quite a lot, and I find that what I do is basically stretch it out in all directions as best I can, almost like making a pizza, and then roll it back up into a large ball and put it back in the (food-grade) plastic bucket. That’s it. I find that by the second stretch-and-fold the dough has clearly come together, is no longer sticky or irregular, and I get the feeling I don’t need to do the second stretch and fold at all. And in fact with ‘stickier’ doughs that have more than about 40% rye for example, I don’t bother. With fresh-ground loaves that have so much bran that there isn’t much of a gluten structure for trapping gas, I don’t stretch at all. These loaves are very high hydration and come out just fine. They are mixed Thursday morning, and again Thursday evening when the starter is added, and that’s all that’s needed. They also get a little bit of stretching when scaled and put in the loaf pans. But that’s the next section.

Friday morning:   Around 6 am I light the fire which requires 3-4 pieces of wood every hour or so for 3-4 hours (42″ long pieces for my 49″ * 37″ oven interior, whole beast weighing in at around 10,000 pounds including the cinder block, cement-filled, totally overkill base which is about half the weight). Then you have an hour during which the coals just keep heating up the bricks ( aka ‘mass’) and then another hour after clearing out the coals and lightly mopping the bricks to make them ash-free clean), making 5-6 hours in all from time of lighting the fire to time of baking.

This is why brick oven baking can be VERY challenging. You have to time your fermentation and shaping to when the oven is ready. Although you can wait a little after raking out – or delay raking out or extend the fire by adding wood – if you need to delay things due to slow fermentation, if fermentation is running ahead – which does happen when the weather and humidity are higher than anticipated and you don’t have a temperature-controlled bakery or proofing chamber which I don’t unfortunately – you cannot really rush the oven. So you have to know about 6 hours ahead of time when your dough is ready to be baked. You just don’t have this type of logistical concern with normal yeast-risen breads baked in push-button modern ovens. Which is why commercial yeast and electric/gas ovens are such amazing technologies in terms of churning out consistent, high volume, efficient and profitable production levels, even though they unfortunately tend to produce generally inferior bread. Indeed, there are many so-called ‘artisan’ loaves, both the semi-fake parbaked supermarket variety and those made by individual bakers selling at Farmers Markets, which use modern time-saving techniques, including convection ovens, whose breads are often not all that superior simply because the bakers don’t realise that so many of the techniques they have learned (using yeast, kneading with mixers etc.) are designed for high volume, non-whole-grain, products, and usually to knock many hours off the production schedule. 90% of bakers believe, for example, that you have to knead the dough in order to develop the gluten structure. It’s simply not true unless you are determined to bake a dough only a few hours after mixing it.


So after the fire is going for 2 hours, I start to shape. Actually, I put my fresh-ground 100% whole grain loaves (usually Rye and Spelt) into the loaf pans immediately after lighting the fire, because the longer they get undisturbed, the better they rise in the pan. So I scale the loaves, let them bench rest for 2-3 minutes whilst I wash out the dough buckets (food-grade white buckets sold at a marine supply shop downtown), then shape them into bannettons ($1.00 plastic ones at the wholesale downtown junk food supply depot type place) or put into loaf pans (very wet doughs go into loaf pans because they cannot hold a shape even in a bannetton, and the focaccios go pancake-batter-like into baking trays), and then when it’s time, usually around 12.00 or so, they go into the oven in sequence, the same sequence in which they were mixed and the starter added.

And about 3-4 hours later, they are all done. The 500g focaccios take 15 minutes, the first load of 680g  hearth loaves (usually whole wheat, walnut and light rye) take 25 minutes going in around 650F/ 340 C; then there might be more hearth loaves but nowadays I am usually putting in Dark Rye in loaf pans and large 1 kg white sandwich loaves, then also a sweet honey-butter loaf (lower temp is good with this one otherwise it has tendency to burn because of sugar and butter content), then last but not least the fresh-ground Rye and Spelts and Ezekiel-style sprouted loaves. If I have shortbread or crackers, they go in oven that is around 350-400.

Then after that, I collect pre-cut lumber in the back yard and put it in the oven so that I have good, warm dry wood for the next bake.

Then after cooling the bread is stacked in portable carry-racks; overnight the bakery is kept warm (in winter) and humidified so that bread doesn’t get too hard overnight (if cold and dry this accelerates the aging process considerably), then around 7.30 am it’s all loaded into the car, driven to market which is about 30 minutes away, then the table is set up, and sales go on until 13:00 pm, then a snack of Hartmut’s hand made sausages (wurst) with handmade sauerkraut, then some shopping, then home around 15.00 pm to collapse for a while!

So that’s the basic technique and process for a bake. It’s a 3-day process to make and bring a loaf to market.