Fun With Francine – Baguettes!

Francine and I had another play date! Whoo hoo!

wpid-20140210_073632.jpgit’s a yeast party

I decided to try again with baguettes, as I tried in this post, only correcting some of my mistakes. Less whole wheat flour, more room temperature time. Again, this is loosely based on Pain a l’Ancienne from Peter Reinhart. This time, even looserly based.

wpid-20140222_080348.jpg“looserly based” – phrase made up by BMary to describe adventures in making a mess and ignoring better judgement of others

As this was a real fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants adventure, I feel that it would be okay for me to post the recipe. It’s not even close to the original.

wpid-20140223_105858.jpgcertainly worked though. yeah, baby, you eat that bowl, ya bad yeasty beasties.

Obviously, you would need a mother starter for this. If you don’t have one, well, you should make one. It’s not difficult, promise!

Francine is a whole wheat mother starter. There are as many varieties as there are types of flour. But they are basically wild yeast that you collect from where ever you choose to leave the flour/water mixture at. Don’t me intimidated. It works pretty flawlessly. Just be patient.

wpid-20140223_110034.jpgon the counter! this is like the best lazy person’s bread ever.

wpid-20140223_110347.jpguse a bench knife to cut it into strips. no shaping required!

wpid-20140223_120105.jpgbaked up decent, probably could still tweak it a bit.

wpid-20140223_134454.jpgwhat’s on the inside is what’s important.

Ok, so here we go:

2 and 1/4 C Water

3 and 1/2 C Bread Flour (or AP, whatever)

2 C Whole Wheat Flour

2 tsp Salt

1/2 C Mother Starter (that has been left at room temperature overnight)

Put water in bowl. Put starter in water in said bowl. Mix flours in gradually in said bowl. Add salt somewhere in between. Mix until consistent. Set on counter until the bread dough attempts to eat the bowl. Might be a long time. If it’s too late to bake, just chuck it in the fridge. Let it warm up an hour before you bake. Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Like really, preheat that baby. Pull out dough onto well floured workspace. Stretch dough (try not to degass it!) into a rectangle shape. Cut with bench knife into long strips. Put onto a greased pan and allow to rest while oven preheats. Put bread in oven. (NO WAY!) After two minutes, turn down the temperature to 450 degrees. Bake for another 7ish. Check to make sure bread is baking evenly and has not turned into a calculadora. Rotate if it is not baking evenly and bake another 7 minutes, or until bread is at 205 degrees and brown and delicious looking. If it turns into a calculadora, call the oven repair person or your local priest. Try to wait ten minutes before consuming all loaves. Don’t burn yourself.

This version is much less bitter than the last one, due to the reduction in whole wheat. I think my next attempt will be a boule which is fancy French speak for shaping dough into a ball. If I do attempt that, I am probably going to have to modify the proofing times. We’ll see what happens!

Results from Francine a l’Ancienne!

Finally Francine got to work for me!

wpid-20140218_095833.jpgi’m awake!

If you recall yesterday morning we were here:



So I was pretty thrilled that we got Francine a l’Ancienne to wake up. Next time, I will probably feed her and leave her out overnight before I mix up another batch.

wpid-20140218_100040.jpghappy mess

wpid-20140218_100443.jpgnot my prettiest work, but this dough is wet.

wpid-20140218_100739.jpgit’s okay, i’ll eat the ugly pieces.

wpid-20140218_110444.jpgbaked up, my new gigantic cooling rack.

wpid-20140218_111102.jpgholy moly!

Well, I definitely scored on the crumb! I gave it a taste test and unfortunately, we do need some improvements. Too much whole wheat made the bread a little more bitter than I would like. It will be great with soup or to scoop up sauces in, but it could be better. I had planned on using more bread flour in my ratio (I think I ended up with 70% whole wheat and 30% bread flour) but the dough firmed up before I got to the ratio I was planning on, which was six cups of flour, not four and a half or so. So lesson learned for next time, however I don’t think there’s going to be a problem getting this bread eaten!

While Francine was baking I went out and fed the wild birds and scooped a poop zone aka turdundra for the greyhound. I don’t know about you, but I would not like to poop up to my elbows in snow. I took a few snaps so you could see how snowy it is here!

wpid-20140218_102455.jpgdoesn’t do it justice

wpid-20140218_102642.jpgsad flamingo

wpid-20140218_102600.jpgi almost had to borrow some huskies to get over to the tree

wpid-20140218_102631.jpglast years hops

It needs to warm up here before I go crazy!!!

Francine a l’Ancienne

Good morning everyone!

wpid-20140210_073632.jpgpet yeast. it’s weird around here.

Francine and I had a play date last night. I decided to try using her as a starter for a delayed fermentation bread. I loosely based it on Peter Reinhart’s Pain a l’Ancienne from his book, just to get the proportions right. Ok, not even. I can’t even pretend that I used the book. Let me rephrase, I used experience from making the former described recipe and threw my hands in the air like I just don’t care and I might have farted at caution.

wpid-1392214955324.jpghave you met me? i do that a lot. my motto is “f*ck it, send”

Basically, I started with about two cups of water, a half cup of Francine, enough whole wheat flour to thicken, a couple teaspoons of salt and enough bread flour to make sure we have some structure. I used about a cup or a half a cup less than I would normally use, because I intend for this to be a very wet dough and hopefully (!) it will make a beautiful crumb. I wanna see more holes than Ron Jeremy. Ok, that was awful, I’m sorry, but I couldn’t come up with a better analogy.

So, I am sure you’re all dying to know, WHAT HAPPENED?

wpid-20140216_190849.jpgwater, salt, Francine and stuff

wpid-20140216_191040.jpgi figured i would mix Francine in first

wpid-20140216_191221.jpgbefore the bread flour

wpid-20140216_191748.jpgafter the bread flour…

Then I put the whole thing in the fridge overnight. This morning we have:

wpid-20140217_072927.jpgstuff…just sit tight…

Ok, my bowl doth not overflow. I am going to leave her out until I have to go to work and see what happens, if she rises a bit more. I mean, it obviously rose a bit, but not as much as I was hoping for. So I am going to give her some time. Francine likes to take her time, that is for certain and I don’t mind. If I have to bake her tomorrow, tomorrow I shall! I’ve got plenty of shenanigans to keep me busy.

Today I have to FINALLY make some calls for the whole wedding thing I am going to go through with on June 28th, of this year. God help me. I hate wedding planning with a severe passion. Everything is lined up, but I haven’t made arrangements. We’re going to have it in the back yard, so we need chairs and a portajohn or two. Also I need someone to officially make it so. And I need to call and order a pig for the pig roast. All the other food we are going to make, just salads and sides. It’s a picnic wedding! Ice cream and cookies for dessert. Screw cake, I don’t like cake. And I have never baked a cake, but I can bake cookies! Plus I have to get some of my grandmother’s jewelry fixed up, get to making my dress (groan) and probably 20 other things I have written down somewhere on the Great To Do List. Ugh, I am so glad I am not having a “real” wedding with a banquet hall, crappy catering and a fondant cake that tastes like cardboard. Do you know how much that costs? A lot. A whole disgusting lot. For what? Chair clothing? Can you see it? “Ma’am, I see you’ve refused to spend $5000 on coverings for these banquet chairs and therefore I am leaving.” Ha! One of these days I’ll post the Great To Do List, when I get some done!

all dressed in red, always the bride, off with her head, all dressed in white, off with her head

courtney sings the blues

50% Whole Wheat Pita Party!

So this morning I decided I needed to make yet another batch of pitas. Because clearly it is impossible to have too many home made pitas.

wpid-20140114_112103.jpgyou can’t just have 8

If you want to skip to the instructions and not read my wall of text, they are below in a simplified version.

Ever since my first batch of whole wheat bread (which, um, was interesting) I haven’t bought bread. I refuse. Making homemade bread, sandwich, pita, or just a regular baguette is incredibly simple and inexpensive once you get the swing of things. So why not give it a spin? I promise to provide you with way too many tips. If you want to get further into depth with bread making, I would start at The Fresh Loaf and I would also recommend you purchase Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread which will be damn well worth your while. I just purchased his book, Whole Grain Breads: New Techniques, Extraordinary Flavor and am working on making a mother starter for the recipes in it. I’ll keep you updated once my little starter is ready.

This particular recipe has been tweaked for whole wheat. It makes a pretty pocket and is tender. The whole wheat flour makes it a bit tangy and I feel more flavorful than white.

Some tips for baking bread for every day use:

  • Pick one day of the week to make your breads and figure out how much you need. If they require a starter, make sure to start it in the correct time slot. If you’re a beginner, worry about starters later and just make bread.
  • White bread is easier than whole wheat, so don’t change any white bread recipe until you have a feel for what you are doing.
  • If I am going to bake, I make a time slot of about 4 hours of open time. This doesn’t mean that I am staring at the bread for 4 hours, this is just the amount of time I feel I need to have blocked out.
  • While the dough is rising or proofing or resting or baking, feel free to do other tasks.

To store bread I follow the 2 Days Rule.

  • The bread, whatever kind I make, has two days to sit in the bread box (or on your counter under a towel) until I cut it up (for sandwiches) or break it down (for large baguettes) and then I put it in a plastic bag in the freezer. I reuse the freezer bags because I am crazy.
  • Pitas or rolls obviously just get shoved in the bag and into the freezer.
  • To reheat, sandwich slices for lunch on the go will thaw in about an hour and will taste just as good. For work, I will make my sandwich using the frozen slices and then just put it in the fridge. It will be ready by lunch. Same for pitas or rolls.
  • Also, sandwich slices can be toasted straight from the freezer and will be delicious.
  • To reheat baguettes, I put them in the oven at about 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes. Microwaves are not your friend.

So here we go. You will need some tools:


  • One big bowl
  • One smaller bowl
  • One baby bowl
  • Measuring tools
  • Rolling pin (I have heard a wine bottle works, but for Heaven’s sake, get a rolling pin)
  • Spatulas
  • Towel
  • Dough cutter (Invest in one, makes clean up easy and is incredibly useful)

Ok, now that we have assembled our tools, let’s start getting the ingredients together. There’s an order and method to this madness.


1 1/2 C All Purpose flour

1 1/2 C Whole Wheat flour

1 1/2 C Warm Water

2 tsp Active Dry yeast*

1 1/2 tsp Salt

2 1/2 tbsp Olive Oil (plus some for lubricating the bowl)

*if you’re even remotely serious about baking bread, buy the bulk jar of yeast. The packets will not suffice. Keep it in the fridge, it lasts for a year

Ok, pretty simple, right? Let’s lay it all out:

wpid-20140114_080600.jpgWater and yeast go into the big bowl. Mix the two flours into the smaller bowl and the salt into the baby bowl. We won’t add salt until later, because this makes kneading easier. Let the yeast sit for a little while, until it smells, well, yeasty. Then add the olive oil. Then add about half the flour and mix well.

wpid-20140114_080756.jpgsomething like pancake mix

Add all but a handful of the rest of the flour. I prefer to start my doughs a little wetter because I feel that it is easier to add flour rather than add water.

wpid-20140114_080926.jpgtrust me, things are going to be sticky

Pour the remainder of the flour onto the counter into a pile. I like lightly flour the work area, and leave the majority of the flour in a line above where I will be kneading. This helps add the flour in gradually.

wpid-20140114_081010.jpgladies and gentlemen, that is what flour looks like. 

wpid-20140114_081111.jpgslap that batch of dough right in your work area. don’t forget, we haven’t added salt yet.

Scoop the dough out and onto your work area. Flour your hands and start gently moving around the dough in the flour until it is firm enough to dig in and knead. Feel free to add more flour to your work zone. When I knead, I press the dough into the larger pile of flour, turn and repeat. This way I am adding a little flour at a time. I also really enjoy kneading. Keep kneading and adding a little flour, for this batch I had to add about 1/4 cup more. The dough should be tacky, but not sticky. It should also smooth out and not be shaggy looking. I knead for at least 10 minutes, sometimes more. If your hands get tired, go take a 5 minute break. The dough is not going to grab it’s little dough knapsack and leave. I sometimes knead for about 5 minutes, clean out my bowls and tools and then come back to it.

wpid-20140114_084941.jpghuzzah, i made a ball

When the dough becomes smooth and tacky and has taken in most or all of the flour, you are ready to knead in the salt. This is sort of a personal preference for me. If you don’t feel like fiddling with salt at the end, add it to the flour in the beginning. I prefer to knead it in at the end because it seems to make kneading easier. I add the salt about a half teaspoon at a time, fold, add, fold, add, knead until it’s combined. You’ll feel it.

Onto the rise! If you haven’t already, clean out the bigger bowl, it doesn’t have to be sterile, but you need to get any of the dough and flour that was left behind out. Pour about another tablespoon of olive oil into the bowl. Roll the dough ball into the olive oil, rolling it around to cover the sides and then turn the ball over to coat the entire ball.

wpid-20140114_085739.jpgit’s shiny

Cover with a towel. The dough needs to double in size. Sometimes, this will take an hour. Sometimes this will take 2. Set a timer for an hour and then check it. If it’s ready, go ahead, if not set a timer for another 30 minutes, et cetera until it doubles in size.

wpid-20140114_103716.jpgyou have at least hour until we get here. go play. do clean up your area, however, first.

When it has doubled, turn your oven to 400 degrees. If you have a pizza stone or a baking stone, this would be ideal to get in there now. If not, use the back of a cookie sheet, upside down. Get her heating up. At least a good twenty minutes.

Flour your counter again and gently sort of roll the dough out of the bowl. It should come out nicely. This recipe makes 8 pitas. Cut the dough in half with your dough cutter, and then in half and then in half again. Eight pieces. Mine usually end up as triangles. Give this like 5 minutes to relax. Go clean up your tools.

wpid-20140114_104022.jpgthat’s the weirdest pizza i’ve ever seen

Then get these babies into balls. Don’t worry if they aren’t terribly pretty. If there are seams, pinch them together and roll between your hands.

wpid-20140114_104038.jpgput your hand into the “ok” position and push dough through with your thumb

wpid-20140114_104110.jpgis this a better picture? push those lumps into the gap between your thumb and index.

wpid-20140114_104150.jpgit will end up something like this. gappy like madonna’s teeth.

wpid-20140114_104205.jpgso pinch those seams together and then roll between your hands. don’t get caught up on getting it perfect, the rolling pin will help.

Lightly flour the balls as you make them. When you’re done, roll them out into pita shapes about 1/4 inch thick. If this isn’t going easily, let them rest for 10 minutes and try again.

wpid-20140114_105332.jpgThen lightly rub a little flour on the top and the bottom of the pitas so they don’t stick to the counter. Place them in order of being rolled out. The first one you roll should be the first one in the oven. After they are all rolled out, I give them about 5 minutes to rest. Or if it has taken you a while to get from Pita 1 to Pita 8, go ahead and get Pita 1 in the oven. I can get about 4 pitas on my baking stone (I got the biggest one I could find) but you don’t need to rush. Do one or two at a time. Open the oven with the hot stone or baking sheet and put one or two on it, not touching, and bake for 3 minutes, they should begin to puff up.

wpid-20140114_111253.jpgit took me a second to open the oven, pull out the rack and get my camera, so they fell a little bit, don’t worry, they’re supposed to

To get them out of the oven, I use a metal flipper and a wooden spoon. I get under the pita with the flipper and balance it with the wooden spoon. I then set them on a towel to cool.

wpid-20140114_110850.jpghot stuff coming through

Continue to bake until all the pitas are done. Allow them to cool for about 10 minutes and enjoy! 😀

Recipe For 50% Whole Wheat Pitas

1 1/2 C All Purpose flour

1 1/2 C Whole Wheat flour

1 1/2 C Warm Water

2 tsp Active Dry yeast

1 1/2 tsp Salt

2 1/2 tbsp Olive Oil (plus some for lubricating the bowl)

Activate yeast in warm water in a large bowl. Combine flours into a separate bowl. Add olive oil to water and add half of the flour. Mix well. Add most of the remaining flour and mix well. Knead dough on the counter with remaining flour for 10 minutes. Add more flour as needed. After dough becomes smooth and tacky, knead in salt for about 5 minutes. Oil a clean bowl and roll dough into bowl to coat with oil. Cover with a towel and let rise for 1-2 hours or until doubled in size. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove dough from bowl and cut into 8 pieces. Roll into balls and use a rolling pin to roll them until they are about 1/4 inch thick. Bake for3 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes.