Baking

In Heated. More on Medium.

Autolyse, folding, and ultra-wet dough

Naturally leavened bread sliced
Naturally leavened bread sliced
Using a natural starter gets you this. Photo: Macau Photo Agency via Unsplash

When I started baking with a levain, or starter, I was mystified at a number of completely different techniques than those I used with yeasted dough. The dough was incredibly wet and sticky, almost impossible to knead. After mixing in everything but the salt, you let it sit before you worked it. And that kneading? You don’t do it. You use a completely different folding technique. And there are very good reasons for each difference.

These processes are designed to change the texture, or crumb, of the final product and build flavor over time with slow proofing (rise) between each…


With nearly 200 employees, Pennsylvania’s Oakmont Bakery sells 850 dozen a day

Shelves of cupcakes, cookies, and brownies on display for sale at a bakery.
Shelves of cupcakes, cookies, and brownies on display for sale at a bakery.
Photos: Oakmont Bakery

When a cookie table is inevitable, who needs a wedding cake? That may be a fair question, but Pennsylvania’s Oakmont Bakery also bakes plenty of breathtaking cakes, too.

The selection is vast: from a turtle thumbprint, the small éclair and cream puff, lemon drops, brownie drops, iced sugar cookies, red velvet cookies, jelly, chocolate and turtle, and seasonal thumbprints. Butterballs and buckeyes. Peanut butter blossoms.

And, to dress things up a bit, apricot and nut kolache; plain, strawberry, and cherry cheesecake. Maybe tuck in some small danishes, an assortment of macarons, cannoli, biscotti, and truffles. Or tarts. Or cupcakes. …


The cookie table is a Rust Belt wedding must — but can it be Covid-compliant?

A variety of cookies on a multitiered serving rack next to a candle on a buffet table.
A variety of cookies on a multitiered serving rack next to a candle on a buffet table.
Photo: Shady Elms Farm Venue

There isn’t a wedding planner in Pittsburgh who doesn’t consider where the cookie table will be placed in the reception space, knowing a well-executed cookie table can take the cake if size, quantity, and display emanate beauty and a bounty of cookies.

More importantly, cookie tables are a straightforward, traditional symbol of love for the couple: the more cookies, the more love.

Guests may ooh and ahh over a masterpiece wedding cake, but in this corner of the country, their hands and hearts are at the cookie table, drooling over an extravagant spread of mostly homemade cookies designed to impress…


Pro bakers don’t work with recipes; they work with formulas

A scene of breads on shelves of a bakery
A scene of breads on shelves of a bakery
Photo: Mae Mu via Unsplash

Want to scale a baked goods recipe up or down? With most home recipes, this can cause issues. Now imagine you have a recipe for a loaf of sourdough bread, and you want to make 30 loaves, not one. This is done by converting that recipe to a baking formula known as a baker’s ratio. And once you know your ratios, you can make that bread without carefully measuring out cup after cup after cup.

First, convert to a weight measure

My standard single loaf recipe is measured in grams, not with cups and spoons:

  • 500g flour(s)
  • 350g water
  • 125g starter
  • 11g salt

This requires a…


What we’ve learned so far in the home baking era

Sara May, a hospitality professional and writer, baking.
Sara May, a hospitality professional and writer, baking.
Sara May couldn’t keep her starter, Dave Startley, alive. Photo courtesy of Sara May

Sara May threw away her Covid-era sourdough starter on July 7. She had named it Dave Startley, after the The War On Drugs bassist Dave Hartley, but May, a hospitality professional and writer, neglected him for a few weeks during a move from Philadelphia to Ithaca, New York. Dave’s surface turned black. She cried when he hit the bottom of the trash can.

Only a few months into a sourdough craze that left grocery store shelves naked of flour, interest in homemade, naturally leavened bread appears to be waning. …


Now it’s all I use for making bread

A field of wheat under a blue, cloudless sky.
A field of wheat under a blue, cloudless sky.
Photo: Kate Robertson

This is the companion piece to These California Grain Geeks Want to Boost Your Immune System With True Whole Wheat.

Bob Klein, the founder of Community Grains, changed just about everything about the way I think about and make bread.

It started when he visited me in New York in 2014 and we chatted about the importance of real whole grains. I knew much of what he pointed out, but Bob’s commitment to true whole wheat made an impression on me.

I’d been making bread my whole adult life, always trying to figure out something more honest and traditional in…


But that’s not necessarily what’s on your local supermarket shelf

Closeup of a round, dark brown loaf of bread on a wooden surface.
Closeup of a round, dark brown loaf of bread on a wooden surface.
A loaf from The Mill, made by Josey Baker in San Francisco. Photos: Kate Robertson

The way lines snaked out the door of her Rockridge shop, you’d think there were no bagels to be found in Berkeley, California, when Emily Winston opened Boichik Bagels in December.

A great bagel, boiled then baked, chewy on the inside with a leathery crust, was once impossible to find here. As New York-area transplant Winston took things into her own hands, she ended up creating a bagel that outshines the benchmark. That’s because she uses superior flour — much of which is whole grain — and that translates not only to better flavor but higher quality.

Some of her…


Not up for a lattice crust? Go with galettes, cobblers, and crisps

A slice of peach pie on a plate on a table made of dark wood.
A slice of peach pie on a plate on a table made of dark wood.
Photo: bhofack2/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Fruit pies are a joyful way to celebrate peak-season produce in all its glory.

Perfectly ripe and in-season fruit usually needs very little sugar. Avoid making the pie too sweet or thick so the fruit retains its character.

Most fruit pies are double-crusted, and flaky pie crust is the classic foundation. Feel free to tinker as you like: a crumb topping is an easy substitute for the top crust. And you never really need a bottom crust — without one, your pie becomes a cobbler, crisp, or crumble, which are just as tasty.

Peach or Other Stone Fruit Pie

Makes: One 9-inch pie, enough for about…


If we’re all making our own starters, who’s buying bread anymore?

Photo: Kim Cruickshanks via Unsplash

Keto diet be damned; bread is back. Seemingly everyone has been baking bread since the start of quarantine, and it makes sense. Our lives have slowed down, and few things rival the comfort of a fresh loaf of bread.

But if everyone on Instagram is baking bread at home, is there anyone still buying bread from bakeries?

Yes — and lots of it.

“This is the most bread we’ve ever sold since being open,” said Geof Comings, owner of Five Points Artisan Bakeshop, a family-owned neighborhood bakery in Pittsburgh. …

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Food from every angle: From Medium x Mark Bittman

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