Category Archives: Sourdough Breads

Where I show my attempts and often failures at mastering the art of sourdough. Since one learns from one’s mistakes, even the bombs are important.

Delicious sourdough loaves

Working at Riso

It’s been a long while since I posted actual baking pics so here’s a set I snapped of a recent Saturday morning bake at Riso where I work.


A typical work day looks something like this:

Most days, I produce about 20 sourdough loaves, 16 country white loaves, 10 seeded whole wheat, 3 egg breads, 6 cinnamon pull-aparts, sometimes a “bread of the day”, and whatever deserts are needed. These include a crazy yummy chocolate-orange gluten free cake (yes, “yummy” and “gluten-free” can co-exists), cheesecakes, carrot cake, Nanaimo bars, cookies, tarts and occasional puff pastries.

My days start at around 3:30 – 4 a.m. and go through to 12 or 1 p.m. The routine is usually to take the doughs prepped the day before out of the cooler and bake the sourdough loaves in the pizza forno that is still hot from last night. Once the sourdoughs are done and on the displays, I use one of the four Berne brot doughs I also pulled from the cooler to make the cinnamon pull-aparts. These are then proofed with the regular Berne loaves and baked in the ol’ Doyon convection oven.

While those are getting baked, I start up the country (yeasted) dough to make the bread for the front as well as for service. With these under way, I start up the seeded whole wheat, also yeasted breads. By then the country loaves are in the convection and baking while the whole wheat is proofing.

About this time I mix up the required pizza dough, then ball them up. When they are panned, the whole wheat is ready to bake. Soon all the bread is done and out on the front display. I can then turn to any deserts that are running low. This may be pecan pie, carrot or chocolate orange cake, cookies, bars, etc. along with the attendant buttercream, pastry cream, tart shells, lemon curd, ganache, roasted nuts and so forth as well as any catering special orders. Oh, and let’s not forget the dishes; always clean up after yourself!

By the time this is done, I can now start making the sourdough for the next day. and, while it is proofing, get the poolishes set up for tomorrow’s country bread. With the sourdoughs bulk proofed, scaled and shaped, they go into the back fridge for their overnight stay, along with the Berne brots needed for the next day.

A final sweep and wipe down and that’s a typical 8 to 9 hour day.

Video: Bread and the Baker

Here’s a short preview of a project currently looking for some crowd funding.

I’ll let their own description explain:

Mike Zakowski, Baker Extraordinaire“This experimental documentary will explore the craft of baking what it takes to produce a high quality loaf of bread.  It will also focus into the world of competitive baking and the process of what it takes to sustain an olympic mindset.  As a part of the 2012 U.S. Baking Team, local craftsman baker, Mike Zakowski [the bejkr] competed in the Coupe Du Monde De La Boulangerie (World Cup of Baking).  Now in an individual effort, Mike is headed to compete in the Masters de la Boulangerie representing USA in the bread category in Paris, France 2014.  The story will be told through the use of innovative film technique and the documentation of the burgeoning localized slow food movement in Northern California.  In contrast, it will focus on the fast paced competitive baking scene worldwide.”

Here’s a promo video for the project:

If you would like to help out with a small (or large!) contribution to see this film developed, hop over to the Bread and The Baker’s Indogogo page and drop a few bucks, pounds or euros towards it. As little as $5 will help them out (and you’ll get a nifty bread sticker!)

The crowdfunding effort runs Aug 8 to Oct 7, 2013.

Digital Scales: Which Weigh To Go?

I’ve run into a few questions of late that involve the weighing of ingredients. Some of the writers mention that they don’t have a scale and I wanted to point them to a good choice when they do decide to make the upgrade to weighing their doughs so they too can benefit from the multiple advantages of scaling.

Sourdough on my Scale

I realized that although I’ve talked about weighing in passing in many posts, as well as a slight rant or two about the benefits of weight over volume measures, I’ve not put myself behind any specific scales people could consider when they do go out hunting for this most important baker’s tool. I’m going to fix that here.

There will be two levels of bakers to look at here: the hobby home baker and the professional (or expert home baker), both these levels having slightly different requirements. Primarily, the home baker will need something simpler, dependable and can do with an inexpensive model while the pros will (hopefully) have a bit more of a budget for this tool they depend on for their trade. This aside, there are aspects that both ends are in need of and even if a scale is in the lower price area, you will want to hit some points so your purchase will not become a frustration.

Let’s outline some of these “must haves”, in no specific order.

Scale Shopping: The Power Source

Look for a scale that uses normal batteries, such as AA or 9 volt. Avoid any scale that uses the flat disk lithium batteries as these are rather expensive and, as they also do not have a very long life, will begin to run up the bill over a short time. Although a lot of scales now use these small batteries because they allow for a “sleeker” design, it is really not a good trade-off. And the other batteries don’t necessarily make for bulkier scales. Yet, they will give your scale power for a very long time. Continue reading

Monty would be Proud

As of this very minute, about 4 p.m. on Thursday Aug 25, 2011, the Yumarama Blog has just 24 of them to go before hitting the amazing milestone of

Yes, we’ve now received TWENTY THOUSAND Spam comments! Spam, spam, spam, spam and spam… as Monty Python said so many years back.

This blog started up back in April 2008 and in that time has seen a pretty steady increase of not just spammers but actual visitors as well. Although we’re not exactly Google-ish in visitor count, Continue reading

LG Oven Problems or How To Put The Brakes on Baking

As those of you who pop into this blog now and again may know, we recently moved from Ontario to British Columbia and as such are now living in a new (to us) house with new (as in recently bought) appliances. One such major item is an LG oven with glass top and mutliple bells and whistles type add-ons like “proofer” (way too hot at 130ºF) and warming tray on the bottom. We had sold the old house along with the pretty awesome Whirlpool oven we had purchased a year or so prior since there was no point moving it 4000+ km across the country.

When I began using this fancy new LG all stainless steel, glass and digital buttons galore replete with convection, and a split 3rd shelf in the oven, I was quite pleased to see that when I set the oven temp to 450º, the oven actually got to 450º according to both the built in thermostat and my little oven thermometer. All is well with the world, I thought; a dependable oven is at hand!

Well, not so, it seems.

Continue reading

Pain au Levain with Whole Wheat

Here we are with the last of the Pain au Levain triumvirate, the Whole Wheat variation, all of course from Jeffrey Hamelman’s great book Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes.

With respect to full disclosure, note that this bread is made with white bread flour, whole wheat flour and a little rye, so it’s not really and truly “whole wheat”, should some of you be reluctant to try a bread that’s too “grainy”. In fact, there’s not a whole lot of whole wheat in it but enough to give it a distinct taste.

And for those who are reluctant to eat sourdough bread because you think it’s “too sour”, breathe easy: this one isn’t sour at all.

If you’ve followed along, the earlier Pain au Levain and Pain au Levain with Mixed Starters followed basically the same process: start the starter(s) 12 – 16 hours before so this is the same case today. This time, it was a somewhat stiff starter at 60% hydration.

So let’s get this bread going!

Continue reading