Shaolin Sourdough

Amongst those participating in the grape harvest last month in the Loire were three residents of the local zen monastery who took time away from their practice to help out during the vendange. Agricultural work is congruous with Buddhist monastic life, just as it is with the lives of Belgian Trappistes and Dominican grappa distillers. Many of the pre-phylloxera vines in the eastern Loire may first have been planted by religious communities.

The zen monastery, they told me, is self-sufficient in wheat. They grow it, harvest it, mill it, and bake bread with it throughout the year. My friend Magali invited me to come and have a hands on lesson on her next baking day, but to my great regret I let the wine life take over, and failed to fit in a visit. I'm now using this as my excuse to justify my earliest possible return to the Loire.

However (if I say so myself), my ongoing bread experiments back home in Brooklyn continue to yield excellent results. Like winemaking, and perhaps any fermentation-based enterprise in which one attempts to harness the anarchic wild yeasts of the outside world, every episode, whether failure or unqualified success, brings with it knowledge. Baking is a constant process of learning, and therefore a metaphor for life.

Breakfast of Champions
In which I combine my interest in zen calligraphy with my current addiction to baking bread.

(Technical data in the comments)

1 comment:

They say it's a cold world said...

400 grams KA All Purpose Flour
100 grams Finger Lakes Whole Wheat
75% Hydration, 1 Hour Autolyse
Then added:
200 grams Whole Wheat Levain at 80% hydration
12 grams salt
1 gram instant yeast

Kneaded 15 mins. a la Bertinet.
Rest two hours, one french fold.
Repeat rest and fold.
Rise one hour in a floured basket set above a preheating stove.

Dusted w/ small grain barley groats and White Flour and slashed shaolin style.

Baked 10 minutes on Firebricks in a 500 degree oven w/ steam tray and squirts of stem every three minutes.

Baked 20 minutes in oven reduced to 450, steam tray removed.

Baked 15 more minutes in oven reduced to 375.

(45 minutes total baking time).

Unfortunately I ate some of this loaf before I remembered to weigh it, post-baking.