About NYBaker

Stan Ginsberg is co-author of Inside the Jewish Bakery, winner of the 2012 IACP Jane Grigson Award. He grew up in post World War Two Brooklyn, where he learned to bake from his grandmothers and has continued baking ever since.

Stan spent the greater part of his professional career as a marketing executive and as a busi-ness/financial writer. after retiring in 2009, he established. The New York Bakers (nybakers.com), an e-biz that sells a wide variety of professional ingredients, supplies and equipment to home bakers from all over the world, as well as continuing to write and bake. Most recently, his breads, rolls and cookies won top honors, including Best of the Yeast Breads Division, at the San Diego County Fair, which is the fourth-largest fair in the U.S.

From Scratch (12/17/2011)

One of my pet peeves is the veritable deluge of prepared foods and “meal assembly” emporia that has overtaken America and seem to be spreading like a stain across the rest of the world. Walk into any store selling food, and there they sit – ready-to-heat main courses and side of every imaginable ethnicity and ingredient, indistinguishable, or so the labels claim, from home-cooked (and, of course, priced at a hefty premium over the cost of the ingredients themselves). Nor is it only the mains and sides:to see how pervasive the ready-tos have become, take a walk down the aisles of any supermarket and keep mental notes of all the things you can eat right out of the container, or that pre-mix key ingredients (think cake mixes).

Even as recently as 20 years ago or so, an industrial food takeover on this scale was inconceivable, yet very much in the cards. I forget the context, but remember well reading an article in the ’90s that spoke about seasoning mixes that would enable butchers to reap higher profits from value-added, ready-to-cook steaks, roasts and poultry. At around that same time, during my stint on Wall Street, I worked with the CEO of a company, now defunct, that pioneered treatments for cut fruits and vegetables that all but eliminated discoloration. One has only to look at the proliferation of pre-bagged cut produce to see how visionary the idea was.

What’s behind it? Obviously, from the food processors’ perspective, it’s about profits. Anything you do to an ingredient changes it from commodity to unique product, and in so doing, lowers its vulnerability to the pure-price nature of the commodity markets, taking it instead to a higher realm, where branding and marketing operate to keep prices and profits high. Never mind that the bulk of industrial food processing is based on water and sugar (including fructose sweeteners), the cheapest of additives that also offer processors the advantage of an ultra-low-cost way to increase weight – both the product’s and the consumer’s (hah!).

There’s a second important financial consideration for the producers as well: labor. From-scratch food preparation requires skilled workers who can command premium wages. The workers needed to cook from mixes and industrial ready-to-heats can be had for minimum wage. Even better, machines don’t get sick or have hangovers, and a retailer can always be certain of having enough product because his distributors will have warehouses full. Once again, technology and industrial production trump competence and experience.

From the consumer’s point of view, those dishes represent savings of time and energy, but at the very dear cost of control and competence. The time issues are understandable. When I was growing up in the ’50s, moms and grandmas stayed at home and had time to shop and cook; today’s economically stressed world puts far more pressure on everyone to go out and find ways to earn money. The simple act of preparing and serving a meal has gone from pleasure to chore, and my grandmother’s pride in feeding her family has given way to a sigh of relief at not having to cook, without the guilt of having failed at this most basic of family responsibilities.

That guilt also is the driving rationale behind the “meal assembly” stores, where people can go to assemble a week’s worth of their own ready-to-heat dinners. Everything is there, pre-cooked and portion-controlled, ready to mix and match  into microwaveable containers. It’s exactly the same mindset that built the cake-mix business and propelled bread machines into the appliance mainstream: here’s a way to produce a Rembrandt – or at least an acceptable reproduction – without having to learn how to paint, let alone draw.

At what cost? Monetary, certainly: the ready-tos are substantially more expensive than the sum cost of their ingredients. But more troubling, in my view, is the personal cost. I want to be able to control what goes into the things my family and friends eat. I don’t want chemical life-extenders, mold inhibitors or potentially hazardous additives (think potassium bromate and genetically engineered ingredients) in my food. I want to decide how my food tastes, and not leave it to some food chemist who’s motivated by corporate profitability targets and focus-group driven consensus. I want to know how to make the things that please my senses and those of the people I care about, so that I can encourage others to value their own competence.

My wife and I often engage in a revealing dialogue when we go food shopping together. She’ll see a ready-to that she finds appealing and say, “Ooh, let’s try that.” I’ll look at it and say, “Why? I can make it better and cheaper at home.” Sometimes we buy it, sometimes we don’t, and more often than not, when we do, it’s either too sweet, too salty, or both for our tastes (mine, certainly, since she has a far bigger sweet tooth than I). But at least we have the ability to make that choice and still have what we want.

Sweet and Sour (12/15/2011)

In my grandparents’ homes, as in the shtetlach from whence they came, the food was sweet and sour – just as life itself was sweet and sour. For me, a grandchild of immigrants growing up between two worlds in 1950s America, sweet and sour came to symbolize both the contrasts and convergences of my multifaceted existence.

Sour was during the week. It was school and afternoon cheder for me, jobs that took my father and grandfather away from before I woke up until after I had my supper; and for my mother and grandmothers, shopping, cleaning, child-rearing and all the other things stay-at-home wives did back then.

Sour was a pickle or sour tomato for a snack, a piece of sour rye bread slathered with schmaltz and topped with a slice of onion, a lunch of sour cream, farmer cheese and chopped radish, scallion and cucumber; or maybe a glass of ruby red borscht and sour cream, or shchav (sorrel soup) with a raw egg stirred in and chopped scallions on top. Sour was Grandma Annie stirring a spoonful of sour cream into a pot of warm milk, then pouring it into a tray full of patterned yortzeit glasses and leaving it to sour over the pilot light on her white enamel stove.

Sour was the taste of the shtetl, where a piece of sour black rye bread, a bowl of the fermented beet water called rosl and perhaps a dollop of sour cream was a day’s nourishment.  After all, what could be cheaper, easier and more provident for the inevitable times of scarcity than a crock filled with sliced beets, left to ferment by the wild yeasts that fill the air? Sour was the sum of their existence.

Weekends were sweet, and so were our holidays. Sweet was the saucer of honey, the sweet-sticky teyglach and cloves-fragrant carrot tsimmes at Rosh Hashanah, and the sweet gefilte fish and oloptzes (stuffed cabbage), for Shabbes. The challah was sweet and pale yellow, with a shiny brown crust that crackled when Grandpa cut it; the prune and apricot compote was sweet (but with a touch of lemon, to remind us of the week past and the week yet to come).  Sour held no place of honor at my grandma’s Shabbes table.

Sweet was spending Saturday and Sunday with my parents and extended family, cookies and rugelach from Grandma and Bubbie, cracking pecans and hazelnuts with my cousins after a big holiday meal, visits to the bakery with my father and bringing home cookies and pastries in white cardboard boxes tied with string striped like a barber pole. Sweet was going to the Saturday matinee (20 cents for a double feature, serial, newsreel and 5 color cartoons 5) with my best friend Richie and eating Black Crows, Jujubes and Sugar Daddy bars. Sweet was being allowed to stay up late so my brother and I could sit in front of the TV with our parents, watching Uncle Miltie, Sid Caesar, Groucho Marx and Dragnet.

As I grew older, my life grew sweeter, more American. Instead of a giant sour pickle bought for a nickel out of a barrel of brine, my afternoon snack morphed into a stack of cookies and a glass of milk. Living in the suburbs, away from my grandmothers, we succumbed to the enticements of the mainstream and there we chose to spend our lives, eating sweet and eschewing sour, except as an occasional culinary grace note. Weeks and weekends merged into unremitting sweetness.

Now, in my 60s, I’ve come back to sour with a deeper appreciation of both its taste and meaning. Still, there is one dish, one taste memory, that haunts me: my bubbie’s marnat – chilled sweet and sour whitefish, simmered slow and long with slices of carrot and onion in a peppery-vinegary-sugary marinade that congealed into an aspic and overwhelmed my taste buds even as the fish dissolved in my mouth.  Whenever I went to see her in her Brooklyn brownstone, that was the dish I always asked her to make.  And to this day, try as I might, I’ve never come close to duplicating it, perhaps because I will never truly know, as all my grandparents knew, the sorrows and joys of sweet-and sour.

Me and Chocolate (11/22/2011)

When I was a kid, back in the 40s and 50s, chocolate was for special occasions and taken in small doses – a square of Hershey’s milk chocolate from the bar my grandma kept squirreled away in her purse, a candy bar at the Saturday matinee (double feature, assorted shorts and 5 color cartoons 5) at the Benson, and the crowning moments when I got to choose one or two pieces (usually the cherry cordials or butter toffees) from the oblong black box of Barton’s kosher chocolates that was put out at holiday meals or when company was coming.

SONY DSCAs I got older and my family moved up the economic and social ladder, chocolate became less of a novelty.  It was always around, and as a teenager I was one of those kids who could work his way through an entire box of Mallomars, carefully picking the chocolate coating off of each one and savoring it flake by flake before chomping down on the now-naked marshmallow and vanilla wafer in anticipation of the next cookie in the box.

The bakeries raised chocolate to a whole new existential plane.  Chocolate-enrobed rainbow cookies, chocolate filled lace cookies, almond-fragrant french cookies which a thick dot of chocolate in the center in place of the usual glacé cherry – not to mention Ebinger’s blackout cake, a double chocolate high-ratio layer cake filled with chocolate pudding and frosted with chocolate fondant and covered in chocolate cake crumbs. It was to die for – at least until I discovered overdose vehicles like Death by Chocolate, chocolate mousse cake and chocolate lava cake.

Funny thing is, I never thought of myself as a chocoholic, since my cravings are infrequent and no longer excessive – thinking back to the time I finished almost 2 pounds of extra dark block chocolate in the space of an hour and paid for it with severe shakes and tachycardia for the rest of the day. That was 25 years ago, and it was my last true binge.

But of course, having written a baking book it was impossible to stay away from chocolate for very long, especially since the stuff figures so prominently in so many of our recipes. During the testing, I reacquainted myself with goodies I hadn’t tasted in years – wonder cake, made with almond paste and marbled with thick veins of pure dark chocolate;  chocolate-dipped sandwich cookies and almond horns; and checkerboard cake made with both yellow and chocolate high-ratio cakes, plus lots of chocolate buttercream and dark chocolate enrobing. It was a tough job, but somebody had to do it.

One of the added pleasures of having written the book was learning more about chocolate’s history and idiosyncrasies.

I was amazed to learn that the connection between Jews and chocolate goes back to at least the mid-1600s, when Sephardic Jewish merchants from Holland came to the New World to engage in the sugar trade – which in itself is an interesting counterpoint to the pivotal role Jews played in the Eastern European beet sugar industry. But more interestingly, those same Sephardi also were instrumental in laying the foundations of the Dutch chocolate industry when they imported Venezuelan cacao into Holland – and then spread the chocolate gospel into northern France, and, a century later, into England. Fascinating stuff.

I also learned a lot about the chemical and physical mysteries of chocolate, and why it exerts such a powerful hold on those who work with it. I have  to confess, the idea of tempering chocolate intimidated me – and I’m not someone who intimidates easily – but the idea of controlling temperatures that carefully was really pretty daunting.

It didn’t get any easier – although it did get much more interesting – when I discovered that chocolate forms six different kinds of structures, depending on its temperature at the time of application, and that only one of them – Type 5 – produces the smooth, shiny finish we associate with the highest-quality baked goods.  But Type 5 molecules only predominate between 93°F and 97.7° F – equating to 27.3°C to 33.8°C – which is a very narrow band, especially if, like me, you melt your chocolate in a double boiler and not one of those classy, expensive tempering pots they use on the cooking shows.

So I figured it out: Bring the chocolate up above 125° F (52°C), and then drop in chunks of unmelted chocolate and stir it in until the mixture gets to within that Type 5 band – then apply it as quickly as possible, putting it back onto the double boiler as soon as the temp reaches the lower limit. Annoying? Tedious? Yes. Worth the effort? Absolutely.

So that, in a nutshell, is all about me and chocolate, and in closing I’d just leave you with this paragraph that, sadly, never found its way into Inside the Jewish Bakery:

During the Golden Age of Jewish baking, chocolate was – and remains, in the handful of surviving Jewish bakeries – everywhere.  Melted and tempered, it enrobed rainbow cookies, seven-layer cakes and checkerboard cakes.  Swirls of it marbled wonder cakes.  Drops of it decorated the centers of French cookies.  Coatings of it graced the ends of sandwich cookies and almond horns.  Melted and unsweetened, it is the focal point of chocolate cakes.  Shaved, it forms the filling for chocolate babka, schnecken and rugelach.  Dried into powder, it performs its magic on butter creams and simple icings.

So what’s not to like?

Bakebook Chronicles III (2/13/2011)

It’s been a good while since I last chronicled our adventures and misadventures in the world of publishing, and a lot has happened in the interim.

IJBcoverMany of you know that our publisher wasn’t entirely happy with our original title — The New York Bakers Jewish Bakery Book — and so after putting out several suggestions for informal feedback, we finally settled on Inside the Jewish Bakery: Recipes and Memories from the Golden Age of Jewish Baking. Looking back at it, Norm and I both agree (as does the publisher) that this title is much more indicative of the contents of the book and leaves a lot more room for Norm’s stories and reminiscences of how it was back in the day.

It’s also amazing how content inflation works: originally, our contract called for a 70,000 word book, which translates into about 250 pages. In September, when the manuscript was due, it came to about 90,000 words, but the publisher didn’t make an issue of it. With additions — more Norm stories and a whole section on Passover baking — and revisions, we suddenly found that we had 100,000 words — about 350 pages — and the publisher freaked.

Someone once asked Ernest Hemingway to name toe most important quality of great writing, and he answered, “a willingness to murder your children.” And so I murdered about 28,000 of my kids and got the book down to around 72,500 words — which probably isn’t a bad thing, since the discipline of self-editing made me think about what was really essential — the must-includes versus the nice to includes. So basically, most of the background info in ingredients, techniques and equipment went bye-bye, along with redundant recipes and those that people can find elsewhere.

I expect that a lot of the cut material will end up on the NYB website at some point. Norm suggested that we try to sell it as Volume 2 — The Lost Chapters. We’ll see ….

Also, it looks at this point like the pub date will be more like July than the March-April timeframe Camino Books was thinking about before … understandable, given the complexities of editing, design, marketing, etc etc.

And speaking of marketing, one of the things we’re also learning is that being an author is different from being a writer. Writers write and get paid for it; authors become public personas and have to go out and do signings, shows, media, etc etc. More than that, if you’re an unknown at a small publishing house, you have to pay for it yourself. Fortunately, we found this terrific publicist who not only has done a bunch of cookbook work, but whose father owned a Jewish bakery in West LA in the 50s and 60s. So not only did we get a great professional; we also got a member of the family, so to speak … and we even got a great photo of her dad rolling bagels that’s gonna appear in the book.

So okay, that’s where we stand coming into Valentine’s Day weekend. Stay tuned!

Bakebook Chronicles II and Some Recent Baking (1/7/2011)

thought you might be interested in what i’ve been up to lately, so here are some recent pics.

The book is moving along.  The editing is done and I’m going over the corrected manuscript and getting some more photos together.  Our publisher has a designer working on the internal design, and I gather that the finished book is going to run somewhere around 320-360 pages.  We’re moving toward the prepublication home stretch and I can’t believe it’s actually happening.

Besides all that, some of you have probably noticed that we did a radical redesign of the nybakers.com website.  After over two years in business, we decided it was time for a more polished look … the idea being that we’re pretty sure we’ll be in business for a while.  thanks to everyone for your support and encouragement.

A great story:

We had to re-shoot a bunch of the photos, including the rainbow slices and French cookies, and Norm was having some health issues (all resolved now), so it was up to me to do the baking. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find glace cherries, needed for the French cookies, in quantities less than 30#, so I went to a local bakery and asked if I could buy some. The woman at the counter went in the back and came back out, telling me there was no problem with that. The baker himself followed, with 1/2 a pound of the cherries and told me “no charge.”

I thanked him, introduced myself and told him what I was doing and we talked shop for a bit, then his wife came out. “Ooooh, rainbow slices, I love them. He made me a tray for my birthday!” Jerry, the baker, smiled. “A lot of work,” he said. So cherries in hand, I went home and baked.

After the cookies were finished and photographed, I took a plate over to the bakery and got huge smiles and thank you’s from both Jerry and his wife — talk about positive reinforcement: I floated on air for days!

Frenchcookies

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Bakebook Chronicles I (9/23/2010)

Baker Ben suggested that since the testing is over and we had such a great group come together, that I continue to blog about the actual process we’ll be going through to actually get the book into print.  I think it’s a great idea, so, with thanks to Ben, here goes:

July and August were simply insane.  I was putting out a couple of dozen recipes each month, keeping track of all the testing and feedback and trying to get all of the other stuff written.  It was madness, to the point where everything else on my to-do lists (several) simply had to be pushed aside so that I could get the manuscript done by the 9/1 deadline.

Norm and I were on the phone at least weekly — usually more often than that — going over recipes, fine points and all of the background stuff that needed to be included in the book we wanted to write.  If I tell you all that I got very little sleep over the last couple of weeks, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration.

Those last 2-3 weeks are a blur now, writing, researching, fine-tuning, making sure all of the measurements and conversions were right, all of the steps and procedures consistent and all of the narrative smooth and where it was supposed to be.

9/1 came around and I had about 99% done … everything except for the Acknowledgements, Picture Credits (since we hadn’t yet made final picture choices), and a couple of last-minute recipe tweaks.  Nonetheless, I assembled what we had — about 280 pages, including somewhere around 130 recipes — and emailed it off to our publisher and our agent.

So of course the publisher said, “Well, no rush.  Just put everything together, print it all out, burn the files into a CD and send it off to me when you can.”  When I met with him back East the beginning of July, he didn’t seem like he was terribly concerned about deadlines, but I like to honor my commitments.

So Norm and I went back at it, doing illustrations of the challah braiding, strudel dough stretching, and a couple of other recipes, including the rye flour honey cake (lekach) and revised plum cake (flomenkuchen). I figured I’d take a couple of weeks to make sure we got it all in shape. So naturally, less than a week later, I get an email from Edward (the publisher) asking, “When will we get the package?” Shift into high gear, put the final touches on it.

At that point, my laptop died.  I mean really died: motherboard, display, keypad, who knows what else?  Of course, I’d been backing up to spare hard drives, pen drives and whatever, so I had three or four backups and didn’t lose a thing.  Switched to an old Dell that we had lying around … slow as honey on a cold day … got the manuscript all put together and start printing …. now at 260 pages, after some cuts and consolidations.

Print, print, print.  At page 243, my printer dies <sigh>, so I load the finished file into a pen drive, take it downstairs and finish on my wife’s printer.  That’s Monday morning a week ago (9/12).  Then I discover that the old Dell’s CD drive can only read; it doesn’t burn.  Back downstairs to burn the CD on Syl’s puter.  Pack it all up into a FedEx box and drive it down to the local Kinko’s/FedEx office.

A week earlier, I had asked our agent, Stephany, about typical production schedules and she said, “Be patient.  It usually takes a publisher 9-12 months to get a book into print.” Nine months to a year … feels like an eternity.

At that point, I had such mixed feelings … so much intense work, suddenly ground to a halt, all this energy with no place to go and exhaustion suddenly setting in.  For two days, I could barely think.  But at the same time, I felt the same way I did when I took my kids to their first day of kindergarten:  proud, full of anticipation, a little bit afraid that they wouldn’t do well and also sad that in an instant I was no longer as needed as I’d been the day before.  Norm and I spent a lot of time on the phone, talking about the closure of that part of the process, which he said was less real for him, since he wasn’t involved in any of the writing.

It was strange, the sense of loss finishing the book created — first the dissolution of our tester group, which had brought together well over 100 people and created a very intimate bond of shared experience, and then the departure of my youngest child (the book).

I waited until today (9/23) to phone Edward to find out how things were going with the book and whether he could give me more information on the production schedule, other next steps and how much more work would be needed.  Instead I got Brad, the head editor, a very kindly man who clearly loves books.  “It looks very good,” he said.  “We just need to get it to copy editing and then we’ll have a better idea of what else needs to be done, but I don’t think it will be very much.”

Then I asked the question I really wanted answered:  “Any idea of the publication date?”

“We want to get it out before summer … probably in the March-April timeframe.  We want this book to look terrific, so we’re choosing our designer carefully.”

March-April! Six or seven months!  Wow!  …. Other things to think about now … promotion and finishing up all the remaining tweaks and revisions (there are still a few), getting all of the photo permissions in place …

We’ve entered a new level of reality.

Polish 100% Rye Bread with Prunes (Chleb zytni ze sliwka)

As many of you know, I’ve been fascinated with rye for years (am working on a book about it). Here’s one of my faves, a wonderfully flavored, wonderfully simple Polish rye made with prunes.

Yield: Two 21.5 oz./610 g loaves

Plum_rye_crumb

Ingredient Volume Oz Gr Pct
Sponge Rye sour 1 cup

6.70

189

34%

Water ½ cup

4.00

113

20%

Medium rye flour 1¾ 2 cups

8.20

235

42%

Dough Coarse rye meal ½ cup

2.40

70

12%

Medium rye flour 2 cups

8.80

250

45%

Water 1 cup

9.50

270

48%

Granulated sugar 2 Tbs

0. 80

22

4%

Table salt 2 tsp

0..0

12

2%

Pitted prunes ½ cup

3.00

85

15%

1. Combine the sponge ingredients and let stand at room temp overnight.

2. Combine the sponge and the dough ingredients, except for the prunes, and mix until smooth and evenly hydrated. Ferment at room temp for 5-6 hours.  The dough will be very bubbly.

3. Soak the prunes in warm water for about 30 minutes, dry them on paper towels and chop coarsely. Fold the prunes into the dough, divide into well-greased loaf pans and let proof about 2 hours at room temp, until the top of the dough shows bubbles on top.

4. Preheat your oven to 45oF/230C with the baking surface in the center. Brush the loaves with water and bake with lots of steam for 10 minutes, then reduce the temp to 400F/200C and bake for another 40-50 minutes, until the loaves are nice and brown.

5. Brush the top crusts with boiling water as soon as you remove them from the oven and let cool for at least 12 hours before cutting.

Plum_rye_loaf

Posted in Rye

Cousin Helmut’s Styrian Pumpkinseed Cake (Kurbiskernoel Gugelhupf – 9/27/2012)

Last week, my wife’s cousins from Styria, in eastern Austria, came to stay with us and brought us some dark green pumpkinseed oil, which is a regional specialty. They also brought a recipe for a chiffon cake made with the oil. The recipe couldn’t be simpler (and it’s also an amazing accompaniment to a good lager, such as a hefeweizen or witbier):

1. Grease and flour a bundt or gugelhupf pan and sprinkle the bottom with toasted pumpkinseeds.
2. In a bowl combine 4 egg yolks, 10kernoel_gugelhupf0ml of water, 100ml of pumpkinseed oil, 100g of vanilla sugar, 150g of powdered sugar and beat for at least one minute until fully emulsified.
3. Combine 100g of granulated sugar with the 4 egg whites and whip to soft peaks. Add about 1/3 of the eggwhites to the oil mixture and stir gently until blended.
4. Sift together 250g of all-purpose flour and 5g of baking powder and add slowly to the oil mixture, stirring gently until smooth, then fold in the remaining eggwhites.
5. Bake at 350F/170C for 55-60 minutes, until a tester comes out clean.

The oil isn’t easy to come by, but it’s absolutely a great find when you do. It’s also fantastic believe it or not) on vanilla ice cream!

At Last, the Baguette Crumb I’ve Been Chasing (1/5/2012)

Finally, I got the crumb I’ve been looking for, and it came about by accident.

To enlarge the crumb, I’ve been gradually reducing the kneading time, lowering the flour strength and increasing the hydration of my baguette doughs. Finally, I got it right on New Year’s Eve, when we were having some friends over and decided that crostini would be on the menu. My wife and I were both very busy that day and I was in a rush to get the bread done, since one of our ovens went on the fritz the day before (naturally!) and so we only had one oven to work with and lots of baking.

baguette-crumbTo make a long story even longer, I mixed the dough (Giusto’s Artisan Flour, 75% hydration, 2% salt, 1% IDY) in my KA and worked it under the paddle for about a minute, when the dough started coming together and the gluten clearly was forming. Without thinking, I put it onto my kneading board, and only when it was there did i realize that I’d intended to work it under the dough hook for another couple of minutes.  “Oh, well,” I thought, “No time like New Year’s Eve for an experiment.” So I let the dough sit on the board and gave it four stretch-and-folds about 20-25 minutes apart.  The dough came up beautifully.

Handling it very gently, I scaled it to 225 g/8oz and let it rest for another 20 minutes or so before rolling it out and arranging the six loaves en couche for about 75 minutes of proofing. Oven preheated t0 500F/260C. I steamed the oven, slashed and loaded the loaves, then steamed again at 3 minutes, reducing the temp at that time to 450F/230C. Baked for about 10 minutes longer and got terrific oven spring, as the photo shows. What the  photo doesn’t do justice to is the gorgeous yellow color of the crumb.

All in all, a very satisfying bake.

Next batch will be at 80% hydration, and I’ll also see how other flours (i.e., Sir Galahad, Harvest King, La Parisienne) behave under these same conditions. Will keep you all posted.