A little overproofed

It seems that the local bakery I mentioned in this article has a) become a fair amount bigger than I knew and b) not scaled the operation up in the best way. The warning letter they got ten days ago from the FDA makes it clear they’re still operating a bit like they’re back in the good old days, when they were producing, say, several dozen loaves a day. When you grow quickly and start supplying some supermarket chains, you’re going to be inspected just as the big boys are and held to the same standards; they ought to have known that.

I began reading the letter with some dread because I like their sourdough. Thankfully, the infractions aren’t too awful, but I certainly hope they address them quickly and well. I wouldn’t want to read about “seizure and injunction” in a month or two.

One focus of the letter is that their “whole wheat” items aren’t, though they have some whole wheat flour. That you can tell at a glance – they’re far too light in colour. I just checked their web site and the whole wheat there is a lot darker than any loaf of theirs I’ve ever seen in person, so maybe they’ve already adjusted it. Not mentioned is their rye loaf, quite tasty but again far too light and too well-risen for a lot of rye to be involved; I think it’s probably a minority flour in that loaf.

I only found out about this because of news articles yesterday deriding the FDA’s admonition to Nashoba Brook Bakery to stop including “love” in their granola ingredient list. The CEO took exception to that and the whole wheat hand-slap, grumbling about the nanny state, and in the process, whether it was intentional or not – guess my guess! – successfully misdirected the majority of the media away from the lengthy list of mostly allergen-related violations in the FDA’s letter. But not everybody looked away to the pretty assistant at the crucial moment of the sleight. Personally, I would have fixed the problems post-haste, sent those responses the FDA never got, and kept my mouth shut.

Now, maybe love really is in there, but if honesty is always the best policy – see Mark Twain for the answer – we might see, for instance, Kraft required to list “indifference” and “avarice” among their processed cheese food product ingredients. I can easily see lawsuits if not fistfights breaking out over such subjective ingredients. Is this a road we want to go down? Probably not.

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8 thoughts on “A little overproofed

  1. parislights says:

    totally agree with you. There are all kinds of labeling that beg checking on.

    great great boulangerie here in paris that has trained our best crop of bakers:

    He lets his “pain au levain” (sourdough) rise for 72 hours ! the lady selling it said as a result the bread is more “digest”. How do you think they explain that ? I think the gluten-free people have them pretty scared !!


    • lalmon says:

      > How do you think they explain that ?

      Cute li’l digestive pixies with pointy slippers and teeny-tiny magic wands?

      Perhaps soon the gluten-free fad followers will switch to the more recent and undoubtedly far more evil target of processed sugar – heavens to Betsy! – and all drinks that don’t contain charcoal slurry to bolster our poor desiccated livers and kidneys.

  2. parislights says:

    Sorry didn’t get that quite right!
    The bakers name is Christophe Vasseur. Here is his website w lovely sounds of the customers buying bread at his place. http://dupainetdesidees.com/index.php

    He proofs for 48 hours. The big “Pain des Amis” are cooked in a “four tombant” which means they are started in an oven at 270°C and that comes down gradually over a period of an hour and a half or even longer. They are looking for a rather thick crust so that the bread will last more than two days. Color-wise the slower cooking gives you the Maillard effect . Which is what happens to toast. The sugars are slowly caramelized. Any lower temperature and the bread would be flater. They then say a sourdough is best two days after baking when the flavor will have had time to develop. Voila as we say here ! – p

  3. parislights says:

    oh and while we are on the subject of bread : Article in today’s NYTimes by Tejal Rao on “Modernist Bread” by the team of those wealthy ex Microsofties of Nathan Myhrvold’s previous tome : Modernist Kitchen.

    2000 + pages
    625 US$

    Hope there is a very very good information in there.


  4. parislights says:

    goodness! I’ve forgotten how to write in English!
    – Hope there is some very very good information in there. At 625 a pop, something like this line seems a bit overpriced !
    “To rescue an over-proofed dough, punch it down and reshape it.”

    • lalmon says:

      Geez, even the original huge Fat Duck book was only a hundred fifty or so, and that was when the exchange rate was much better for the UK. US$625 will buy me the ingredients for at least 800 loaves of bread, maybe a thousand, and my bread is some of the best bread I’ve eaten. I’d rather have those than a trophy book set.

      This reminds me of when I bought my Elantra and considered the nearly identical-looking but slightly longer, slightly better-appointed Sonata as well. I asked myself, “Okay, what is it that’s worth the $8,000 or $10,000 difference between these two cars?” To quote Twain: I was gratified to be able to answer promptly, and I did. I said I didn’t know. I shrugged and bought the Elantra.

      I have a strong feeling that the majority who buy Modernist Bread will never use it in a practical sense but instead purely for window dressing. Well, coffee table dressing, anyway.

      [Pointing, smugly] “Guess how much that was.”

      • parislights says:

        Agree w you lalo. This is destined to be a book on a coffee table or in an unused kitchen.

        I worked for a couple in the 80’s, they were interesting, curious about the world and their place in it. They built a terrific company, Esprit. I was invited to spend the weekend at their house in San Francisco at the same time as someone that we had invited from France as a consultant. They came with their ten year old son. I would be both doing my job at the company and being with this child. Wonderful boy that loved baseball.

        The house was filled with works of Francis Bacon, the sheets were Porthault. There was a huge library filled with all kinds of treasure. One evening, I pulled down an biography of the sculptor Giacometti. Many pages were still “uncut” perhaps due to a simple lack of attention in production. Asking someone that knew this house better than I, they replied “Oh No. Those books were all chosen by the decorator. None of them have ever been read.”

        That was my first experience with a book that had been bought and was on view as an example of status and implied intelligence on the part of the person that lived in this house.
        The whole library was a kind of immense “coffee table”. Full of coffee table books.


        • lalmon says:

          > This is destined to be a book on a coffee table or in an unused kitchen.

          One of the reasons I’ve been so pleased with my rebuilt kitchen is that it’s one of the few nifty kitchens I’ve seen that’s actually being used for anything more than nuking ready meals and dribbling Keurig swill.

          I suspect multi-thousand-dollar appliance makers and pricey culinary book publishers could save a lot of money if they built mostly facades – you know, populate the first fifty pages of the first volume only and glue the doors of empty-shelled machines shut. Make a few operating units and complete volumes to satisfy the handful who complain and you’re practically printing money in the end. I also suspect that such producers know their target demographic well enough that they frequently joke about doing just this.

          I call this the Blazing Saddles Theory of Conspicuous Consumption.

          Blazing Saddles town facade

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