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Saturday, June 22, 2002


ah, the colors, the colors. . .

it all comes down to cosmic latte. right on, man!

posted by fortune elkins | 8:49 PM | top | link to this |


Friday, June 21, 2002


ok, bread lovers, here's the real goods. . .

i've spent a lunch hour reducing dr. raymond clavel's own formula for pain au levain. of course, his recipe is professional, meaning it makes about 100 pounds of bread. so i got out my excel spreadsheet and set about trying to reduce it down to something more manageable. even cut by 80% it's still probably too big for most households, so you might want to consider halving again it yourself, using the calculations i've built into the excel spreadsheet. more on that later.

please note that i haven't baked with this yet; i just did it today at noon. but if my math's ok, it should work. let's all test it together, ok? you can place your comments in my forum under the main bread topic.

the spreadsheet contains only weights and the formula. what are you supposed to do at each step? i'll tell you:

step 1 - mix up the chef. combine the ingredients, mix gently at low speed in your stand mixer for 8 mins. you want this dough to be on the firm side, but smooth. place in a large glass bowl; cover with plastic wrap, and let sit in a warm place (preferably at 81 degrees f.) with no drafts for about 20 hours, until it has increased 3.5 times in volume. what's unusual about clavel's version of this step is that he adds some salt right away.

now you have to feed it, if i understand him correctly: scoop out 5 oz. of the chef, discard the rest, then mix in 4 oz. of flour, 2 oz. water, and a scant 1/8 teaspoon (a big pinch) of salt every 7 hours. (these amounts are geared toward the spreadsheet; your amounts will vary with the size of recipe according to the percentages.) feed a total of 6 times. begin feeding at 22 hours, and feed every 7 hours after that. stir the food ingredients in gently; you are striving for a firm-ish dough. at hour 54, you have your full chef! actually you have tossed out a lot of chef.

why so much waste? because calvel is trying to control the amount of acid in the chef. you don't want a strongly sour taste; it's not san francisco sourdough. the figures in step 1 of the spreadsheet would give you more chef than you might need. again, considering halving or quartering at home. i couldn't reduce the figures too much more because at certain point it become difficult to measure the malt and salt. how do you reduce it once you've gotten down to the "big pinch, small pinch" level?

calvel gives measurements to 3 decimal places! but most home cooks, even with digital kitchen scales, can't get that accurate. so i've had to round a bit. you'll probably have to round more. just remember that the chef is -- by weight -- equal parts rye flour, whole wheat flour, and water. or in terms of the baker's percentage, 50%-50%-50%.

step 2 - clavel instructs to mix the chef and the refresher ingredients together in the stand mixer at low speed for 10 mins. he believes the dough temperature should be at 77-79 degrees. use your instant read thermometer to test the dough; if it's too warm, set the mixing bowl on a bed of ice to cool it briefly. let it rise again for 5-6 hours in the same spot.

81 degrees appears to be clavel's magic number. of course, with his professionally heated special dough cabinet, it's easy to guarantee that warmth. for those of us at home, the rise time will vary with our ambient kitchen temperature! rise until it has increased 3.5 times in volume.

step 3 - mix the refresher and the levain ingredients together at this same low speed for the same 10 mins. we're looking for that same 77-79 degree internal dough temperature. let it rise 4-6 hours, until it has increased the usual 3.5 times in volume. note that by this time you have something like 4.5 pounds of levain! and this is after i reduced the formula.

you're looking at enough levain to rise something like 24 pounds of bread! this is why i say you probably will want to half or maybe even quarter these first 3 steps. . . unless you plan to give some levain away, or you need to bake for the neighborhood fundraiser. note that refrigerated at about 50 degrees, this step 3 levain can last for 2 or 3 days.

step 4 - measure out the required amount of levain. combine the flour and water together -- just the flour and water -- in the mixer and give it 5 mins at low. then let this mixture rest for the autolyse. cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit for 30 mins. on low speed, mix in the levain and the salt and make sure it's well combined with the autolysed dough (3 to 4 minutes). now you have full dough. get out the dough hook and knead at low for 8 mins.

you want an internal dough temperature of 77-78.8 degrees. let it rise until double; clavel says this should be 50 mins. at 81 degrees. at home of course your time will vary. then divide the dough and round it roughly; if you were going to save some dough to make a loaf of pate fermentee bread, you'd take off some now. (i'll talk about pate fermentee another day.) let the rounds rest 20-30 mins.

then shape the dough into loaves -- oblong boulots and rounded miches are the usual shapes -- place into your floured towels or wicker baskets, and give it a second rise for about 4 hours. it should rise 3.5 to 4 times in volume, clavel says. score appropriately and bake at 445 degrees for 30-40 mins. or until your instant read thermometer says they have reached an internal temperature of 195 degrees. let cool for at least 3 hours. step 4 should give you a little more than 5 pounds of dough, which will reduce in baking to about 2 kilos or around 4 pounds.

clavel's total time is 54 hours for the chef and then 19 hours for the rest. so you need to start this bread about 3 or 4 days before you intend to bake it. clavel doesn't like popping dough into the fridge to retard it. but on a practical level, you may have to when you get to to the second rise. you really shouldn't do it before then, lest the cold harm the stuff you're nurturing, but if you absolutely must, then let it warm up for an hour before proceeding on with the recipe.

but now you're asking: where's the damn spreadsheet already? here it is, in excel 2000 format (about 30k). good luck! as i said, i haven't made it yet myself. let's all try it out together and revise the numbers as experience dictates. . .

those of you who have made other pain au levain recipes are probably asking "where's the grapes? where's the 10-lb. bg of flour to bury it in?" etc. many recipes start with getting the yeasties from grapes or some other wacky source. clavel notes these methods and calls them "amusing." he reminds readers that yeasts are everywhere at all seasons.

i'll make my first batch next weekend; i'll have to start on wed. or thurs. you start then too, ok? write and tell me how it comes along as you do it, or post in the forum from the link below.

posted by fortune elkins | 6:53 PM | top | link to this |


Thursday, June 20, 2002


i'm glad to hear about the bread, but do they have enough coffee?

but seriously, while those russian explorers ponder the daunting ice, the world has finally made up its mind: purple! (for those in the u.k., canada, australia, south africa, and new zealand -- who constitute a solid 20% of my readership! -- we're talking about our version of smarties.)

speaking of coffee, at $20 per 6 oz., this has got to be the most expensive cup of coffee in the united states! i'd never heard of k.c.'s until now, but apparently it's a mecca for foodies.

finally, dear readers, i know what you're thinking -- ok, she's got the bread, the coffee, the chocolate M&Ms -- how is she going to work in yoga while keying off one of these other topics? well, never doubt me again! here it is: and it also allows me to link back to an archived post!

and in an amusing note, after writing about the importance of avoiding injury in yoga, i tweaked my right hamstring a tad while attempting the transition from wide angle pose (padottanasana) to tripod headstand. i had my head on the floor between my hands and my feet, when i felt a little pinch as i was trying to lift my feet up off the floor towards the inversion.

a little advil, though, and with taking it a bit easy today helped a lot. i'll be right as rain by the weekend. . .

posted by fortune elkins | 10:24 AM | top | link to this |


Wednesday, June 19, 2002


what's the most pressing concern for astronauts aboard the space shuttle?

you guessed it: coffee.
bad weather has kept 'em up there for an extra 3 days and they're running out of the world's favorite beverage
.

the captain actually "jokingly" requested returning to the under-construction space station to get some more. why did those heartless guys at mission control refuse him?

as a correspondant said to me, "where's the coffee-flavored tang? it's the space program, dammit!" (nb: kraft has websites for most of its beverages but not tang. why?)

at any rate, the shuttle finally landed this evening. here's an after-dinner cup to you, fly boys!

posted by fortune elkins | 6:55 PM | top | link to this |


Tuesday, June 18, 2002


yoga. . .

it's not just for grown-ups anymore. since health experts say that children face an obesity crisis, and many schools now have eliminated recess, could yoga be crucial to youth today?

unlike team sports, yoga doesn't require expensive equipment, playing fields, or uniforms. there's no pressure to conform. and there is a form of yoga suitable for every individual body type and temperment. early and late bloomers alike can progress with yoga at their own pace, feeling accomplishment and self-esteem. right on, atlanta parents!

on another yoga note, this month's elle, normally a magazine suitable only for reading in the bathtub when you're home with the flu, actually has a timely article on "yoga's downside." which is, as most practitioners know, the danger of being injured. often injuries occur when a beginner tries poses that they don't belong in, or are placed at the mercy of the under-qualified teachers now stocking so many gyms and fitness centers.

but bad practice habits and a greedy desire for fancy poses can fell even more experienced yogis and yoginis. the article quotes one chiropractor as saying most of the injuries he sees come from people over-doing it in bikram classes.

i personally advise everyone who is considering trying yoga to go to a specialty yoga studio for one of the special 6-week ultra-beginner classes. these are widely offered nowadays and offer an excellent and safe introduction to yoga. don't be afraid to ask about the teachers' certification. make sure the teachers have completed at least 200 hours of training in accordance with the yoga alliance guidelines; 500 or 700 hours is even better. definitely avoid those former aerobics teachers who've been to the weekend yoga workshops!

some of the most experienced and respected teachers, of course, got started in the 60s and 70s before certification programs began. they have had decades of experience and have often lived in india with teachers like jois, desikachar, or iyengar for long periods of time. these expert teachers are of course quite happy to discuss their experience with you. always talk to the teacher; if he or she is unwilling to answer your questions, that's the hint that you should leave.

but young or not-so-young alike, yoga is an activity that has much to offer everyone. i encourage those of you who haven't yet tried yoga to take a class or two. search for the kind of yoga that speaks to you. the benefits are real; the practice will change your body -- and your heart.

posted by fortune elkins | 7:52 PM | top | link to this |


Monday, June 17, 2002


all hail fritz storm, the world's best barista!

the denmark native won today's world champion barista title in an international competition in norway. contestants were judged on a compulsory round of espressos and cappucinos. and they had a chance to wow the judges with their preparation of a signature novelty coffee drink to demonstrate their artistry.

fritz won with his creation, the cool lime. still, i'd like a round of applause for the lone female finalist, new zealand's emma markland-webster, of the morrison st. cafe, whose specialty drink contained a shining bit of 18-carat gold. more power to ya and better luck next year, emma! we're rootin' for you already. .

posted by fortune elkins | 7:45 PM | top | link to this |


Sunday, June 16, 2002


had a chance to watch the coffee kids video today. . .

this informative video explains the projects coffee kids is doing to help coffee workers and their families in central america. this organization doesn't just dole out cash -- it operates a successful micro-credit lending system for women, so that they can gain new skills and open their own businesses to supplement their coffee income.

these projects include mushroom-growing, poultry, and other small businesses. they also work to offer educational opportunities to the children in coffee families. nearly 70 cents of every dollar donated goes directly to these projects.

check out coffee kids. . i was very impressed with the things they are doing. .

posted by fortune elkins | 7:12 PM | top | link to this |

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