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alas, the baguette

April 23rd, 2018

Recipe: sourdough baguettes

After spending the last two months trying different recipes and employing a variety of techniques, I think I’ve finally found the right sourdough baguette recipe! By “right”, I mean it has all of the qualities I seek in a sourdough baguette. I have not traveled the world in search of the finest baguettes, but I do know what I like. My desire to document how to make a sourdough baguette is mostly for my own convenience as my notes are currently scattered between several messy and cryptic pages in my recipe notebook.

So what makes a good baguette in my book? I love the slightly floral and mildly sour notes that come from using sourdough starter as opposed to added yeast. The interior should have an airy and delicate structure without being mostly holes. I want to sink my teeth into bread, not air. It should have a well-browned crust with shine and blisters. That crust ought to crackle and shatter when cut. And my biggest motivation for making my own baguette: the base should not be caked in flour (ahem, Boulder Whole Foods). If someone made the perfect baguette, I would gladly buy it. Now I don’t need to.

Making the baguettes spans 3 days for me. The first day is mere minutes in the evening when you make the levain. The second day is the bulk of the time commitment. The autolyse step (letting the flour(s) absorb the water) can be as short as 30 minutes up to 4 hours. I tend to mix the dough early in the morning and give myself a 4 hour window to work, get a workout, run errands, etc. Then I spend the next 2.5 hours near the dough, but it only requires a minute of my time every 30 minutes to turn the dough (four sets of folds at 90 degree rotations). After the last turn, the dough can rest 30 minutes to an hour. I always choose the longer period of time which may or may not be a good thing. Once shaped, I put my dough in the refrigerator for a 12-24 hour cold proof. This means you need to make space for something like baguettes which require a lot of area, but not much height. I don’t proof at room temperature because I find shaping and handling cold dough to be far easier. The next day, I bake the bread which takes about 35-40 minutes per baguette. Planning when to fit this into your schedule is probably the hardest part.

The unicorn was the baguette. The rainbow unicorn was the épi de blé or sheaf of wheat.


my épi de blé

testing whole wheat percentages



My baguette expedition rambled through a few recipes before I circled back to the dough used for my favorite sourdough bread, which is based on the recipe from Tartine in San Francisco. All the steps are the same up to the shaping, but I decided to swap some whole wheat flour for a little of the bread flour, gram for gram. [Using a kitchen scale rather than cups is going to see you to greater consistency and success when baking breads.] I made and we taste tested 0%, 2.5%, 5%, 10%, 15%, 20%, 25%, and 30% whole wheat flour baguettes. They all tasted GREAT. If entertaining, I would make a 0% (all bread flour) or 10% (10% whole wheat flour and 90% bread flour) baguette. The 0% is classic, but the 10% has a subtle nuttiness that I really love without feeling any heavier than the 0% baguette. The baguette does start to taste a little less floral and less sweet at 25% and 30% whole wheat flour.

This sourdough baguette recipe doesn’t use any additional yeast, it relies on the sourdough starter for leavening. If my starter is in the refrigerator, I’ll bring it to room temperature and feed it daily for a couple of days before making the levain on the evening of day 1 (sometimes I call it day 0).


the starter should be fed, happy, and bubbling

weigh out the starter

the levain: starter, bread flour, water

stir together

leave no dry pockets of flour

the levain is bubbly and ready after 8-12 hours



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seeing in color

April 15th, 2018

Recipe: japanese potato salad

The monochromatic tones of the cold months have given way to new growth greens and even tiny dots of color if you know where to look. The snows keep falling every few days in the mountains, but you can tell their efforts have less impact under the mighty sun. We have wintry days and we have springlike days, but the trend is toward leaving the warm hats and gloves behind because the sunshine feels so good on your back – like an old friend offering a backrub after the long slog of a low-powder winter. The trails are more dirt than snow around town (still snowy in the high country) and all three of us have been anxious to get out for hikes and trail runs. Reacquainting ourselves with those warm weather muscles that get neglected during ski season.


neva is so happy to be hiking the trails and smelling the smells

a newly sprouting pasque flower on my trail run

juicing the last of the blood oranges (to freeze for summer cocktails!)



Our spring cleaning efforts have been ongoing such that it feels like this could become a habit. Taking a proactive approach to the chest freezer, I am excavating all of those random food items that might otherwise languish in the depths for years and incorporating them into our menus. Two little pork tenderloin chops became a lovely meal of tonkatsu rounded out with leftover vegetables, rice with furikake, and Japanese potato salad.

my idea of a happy meal



I must confess that I was more excited about the potato salad than the tonkatsu. Before a few weeks ago, the only time I ate Japanese potato salad was at Japanese or Korean restaurants. I’m slightly addicted to the creamy, tangy, slightly sweet, salad and once Marc posted the recipe, I knew it was my destiny. It’s dangerously easy to make.

potatoes, onion, carrot, cucumber, ham, mayonnaise, rice vinegar, salt, sugar, more salt, white pepper

slice and dice



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spring timing

April 8th, 2018

Recipe: seared duck breast with morels and asparagus

We are in the midst of a back and forth between snow and rain, cold and warm, clouds and sun. Our Rocky Mountain springtime is volatile and beautiful. It’s hard for me to decide which kind of weather I like best right now. But, I don’t have to choose because we get to sample all of it in a day or even in the span of a couple of hours. This year I feel I’m really embracing spring. Rather than finally getting around to our “spring cleaning” in September, we’ve been working on it since March.


sunny day in the high country

two days later we get a powder day

all this snow is good for mushrooms



If you know me, you know that what I’m really excited about is the start of mushroom season. Ellen hypothesized that mushroom foragers inhale a good bit of mushroom spores which take over our brains and make us obsess over mushroom hunting. [I dismissed her idea with a laugh while secretly relaying this information to the overlord of our fungal hive mind.] We are weeks away from the first mushrooms of the season in the Colorado high country, but that doesn’t keep me from monitoring mushroom activity around the country. It’s happening in Northern Georgia right now – morels. And soon it will be happening in more and more locations as we deep dive into spring. I made this dish last spring during my local morel season and cannot wait to make it again this year if I should be lucky enough to get my hands on more morels.

asparagus, snap peas, brandy, salt, butter, morels, vegetable oil, pepper, shallots, garlic, duck breasts



I have found the easiest way to clean fresh morels is to hold each one caged loosely in your hand, and swish it around in a bath of cold water to dislodge any sediment, bugs, and other things that aren’t morels. Then I lay them on paper towels to dry for an hour or so. And don’t pour that morel bath water down the drain! I recommend pouring it out in your yard or someplace where morel-friendly trees grow because that water is full of morel spores (they are teeny tiny, but they’re there). I can’t promise that morels will come up the following season, but it’s worth a try. Prep the duck breasts by scoring the skin, and chop the rest of the vegetables.

morels drying after a rinse

cut the skin in a 1-inch grid

mise en place



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