A forlorn stump of a once grand maple has been waiting patiently in our back yard for a bit of love and attention. Staring patiently at us as we make our pizzas and tend our garden, this stately stump has been crying for some sort of redemption from its untimely demise. but it is so large, over 2 meters tall and more than a meter across. Then one morning as the girls frolicked in the garden my gouge came to life to reveal this being within the tree. What release we felt as chips came flying away. And now we have a new friend in our garden. Welcome!!!
Archive for the 'bread oven' Category
Camphill Communities Ontario invited my family and me to build a festival bread oven to help them bake pizza and bread during their seasonal festivals throughout the year. 16 intrepid bread oven builders joined us to create this well sculpted oven out of clay, sand and straw. Our crew included people from age 3 to 60 and was inclusive of people with a variety of abilities. Everyone was able to contribute and feel pride in their creation.
We spread the work over two days, which gave everyone a chance to need the cob with their feet, build the oven, play in the straw and contribute to sculpting the final bread oven. There was plenty of time in between for sharing food and for discussing slow-bread-culture, for singing and silliness too!
It was hard to call it quits on Sunday afternoon as finding the final form was such an enjoyable process of collaborative sculpting. (Notice the temporary door that helped us model the oven as the real door was still being fashioned out of local hardwood. Soon a pavilion will be built to house the bread oven. This will match the architecture of the neighboring Novalis Hall)
Luciana took up the task of making a fire spirit, a salamander to acknowledge the essential working of elemental beings in this creative process of transforming flour, water, salt, leaven and fire into delicious bread. It is nice to see such a beautiful and lively fire being being born out of my calm and collected partner – nothing boring there!
Already one of the families who participated in the workshop have built their own bread oven at their farm outside of Toronto. Others are busy gathering clay and bricks…
Yes, I love to make bread.
I love to combine flour, water, salt and leaven.
I love the alchemy of how earthly substance combines with water; of how air is created by the leavening culture and how at last fire completes the transformation from four simple ingredients into whole loaves.
These are the staff of life.
I like the feel of the dough as I kneed it with my hands, how when I push it, it pushes back against me.
My life meets its life.
We shape one another.
But how, I wonder, am I the bread of life?
In what ways do I nurture the life in myself and in others?
Perhaps it is in those special meetings in which I knead the being of another and equally allow her to knead the essence of me.
I meet you.
You meet me.
There is a Japanese saying:
Friends eat together from the same bowl.
Let us then companions be.
Let us eat from the same loaf.
Kneading, forming, baking community.
Bake bread. Break it and share it out.
~Warren Lee Cohen
Here are pictures from a August 2010 Bread Oven Building workshop in King City, Ontario. It was a perfect hot and sunny weekend. We had an inspiring crew of 16 participants who were easily able to build two bread ovens in two days. The first oven we built quickly and fired it up the next day to make delicious pizza. We took our time with the second, added a number of details and enjoyed the process of collaborative sculpting.
We began laying our fire bricks on an artistically designed river stone base.
Many feet make easy work of mixing recycled pottery clay,
clay subsoil, sand and straw into homogeneous cob to build the ovens.
We kneaded the cob into loaf size bricks.
We placed the bricks around a form made out of sand.
We built it up like an igloo, molding the bricks tightly together.
We added a second layer of bricks for improved strength and heat retention.
It is essential that all the bricks of both layers are well kneaded together so that there are no air gaps. The structure becomes one monolithic dome.
Artists at work.
The forms were dynamic connecting and influencing one another.
Here is our finished oven complete with its oven spirit.
We removed the door and hollowed out the sand after all the sculpting was complete. This facilitated easy refinement of the doorway of the oven.
Thank you Leslie and Jamie for organizing the event. Enjoy your oven!
No knead bread is a growing fad that gives more people entree into the art of baking bread. There are a number of very good videos describing the process on youtube . I find this idea both interesting and at the same time far from compelling. I simply love to have my hands in the dough, to feel its sticky sloppiness transform into soft elasticity as all the ingredients meet one another and come together into a lively dough. Kahlil Gibran wrote that work is love made visible. So too is bread love made visible.
So, I choose to knead my bread dough (all except for sour rye which is happy with a vigorous stir). It is good exercise and meaningfilled and the results are more pleasing in terms of crust and crumb. Nevertheless, from these video clips I have learned to bake my slowly risen loaves in a well heated cast iron pot with lid. This simple technique produces crusts that rival those of my best bread ovens.
- shape mature dough into large loaf (18 to 36 hour preliminary and 2 to 3 hour final rise – depending on temperature of the house)
- place cast iron pot and lid in oven at 500 F.
- using well floured hands transfer loaf into pot
- cover and put in oven for 20 minutes
- uncover pot and lower oven temperature to 400 F.
- bake for 15 to 20 minutes
- let cool and admire remarkably beautiful crust
This week the Rudolf Steiner Institute offered an opportunity to explore the interconnected themes of the art of baking bread and the evlution of human consciousness with a group of nine very engaged and fun loving bakers. This full week hands-on intensive allowed us both to bake a whole range of breads and to explore how the human diet and consciousness have changed since the agricultural revolution. Further this led us to look into the interconnected symbiosis in this change of diet and consciousness, which I have been enjoying researching for some time now. With a theme this vast and admittedly far reaching, we could only hope to touch in at certain significant moments in this panoramic journey and taste the proceses at work in these historical times and cultures. Our journey took us from ancient India and old world chapatti to Greece andpita bread, from sourdough breads in northern and southern Europe, to yeasted bagels, cinammon rolls and to the pinnacle of bread extravagance organic sourdough all butter croissants and pan au chocolat – a truly delicious journey in bread and thought! The journey continued to the modern day, to Wonder Bread, Nutritionaism and Orthorexia Nervosa. What lays in the future we can only surmise…
We began our week with the mystery of the agricultural revolution, trying to develop a palpable understanding for how human kind learned how to develop wild plants into domesticated varieties, a power which we no longer possess (even with the advent of genetic engineering!). How our modern food plants and animals were bread from their wild predecesors is still far from clear as is how this early food was then prepared to eat. Again there are many missing links in trying to understand these processes. For instance how were the early grains ground and cooked? It is not as easy to do as you might imagine using only the traditional tools, and these challenges were an important part of our process of discovery.
Next we looked at Ancient Egyptian culture, which had developed over 40 different varieties of bread as depicted in their tomb paintings. In Egypt came the art of adding leaven to the bread. This made the bread more digestible, nutritious, tasty and helped it to keep longer. It is also easier to chew and use as a base or dipper with other foods. Egypt allowed bread to rise into the third dimension and along with that advance, Egyptians entered more fully into materialism.
Our sourdough repetoire expanded into French Peasant Loaves and Sourdough Rye bread flavoured with corriander and honey. These breads were surprisingly sweet and nutty (do to my method of keeping the sourdough starter firm and dry). Here loaves are more complex and can be shared amongst many peoples. Oven technology had to mature to consistently and evenly bake these larger loaves. These breads grew well beyond the inflated plane of earlier loaves and allow crust and crumb to develop into more spherical loaf forms. We also felt how differently the rye grain/flour responds than does wheat and how satisfying each can be if worked appropriately to their nature.
As we progressed towards the modern day, we had to include at least one recipe with commercial yeast (I much prefer sourdough for the multiple reasons listed above including improved workability). We made sesame seeded bagles which not only have a slightly more complex form, but also have the added step of being boiled before painted with egg, sesame seeds and then baked. These were both light and chew.
Our bread journey turned decidedly more decadent in our last two days of baking in which the bread organism become ever more finely layered and rich. On Thursday we baked All Spelt Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls with generous amounts butter, cinammon, brown sugar, raisins and pecans all rolled into long logs, sliced and baked. The contrast of cinammon sweetness and slightly tangy dough was most satisfying.
And lastly, we stretched the dough even more finely and folded it with 32 layers of butter, rolled into fine All Butter Sourdough Croissants. This pinnacle of the french culinary art required precise temperatures, conditions and exactness. the mood in the kitchen was decidedly more tense. The singing that filled the atmosphere from the previous days was lost as we busily tried to work the dough when it was the perfect temperature before racing it back into the refrigerator. It was definitely stressful at times working in such hot weather, but the results were remarkably delicious. We baked over 160 croissants, some filled with almond butter and/or chocolate, none of which remained to for the following day.
All in all we baked a tremendous amount of bread and were able to feed the 160 participants at the Rudolf Steiner Institute, whose praise was effusive. And not remarkably, many people were most deeply nourished by the simpler sourdough breads we baked. These were baked with joy and love and song. Blessings were kneaded right into every loaf and the participants, I am convinced, could taste these and enjoy these more subtle ingredients along with the substance of the bread. It is for this reason that I always encourage my students to sing to their loaves, to pray as they knead and imagine the loaves nourishing their loved ones. Then the love is baked right in.
As if all this activity were not enough, on top of all of this baking we also spent an hour and a half each day discussing a host of themes including: The evolution of human nutrition from antiquity to the modern day, the Agricultural revolution to Wonder Bread, We studied, drew and painted the wheat plant, looked at the sacred and daily role of bread and wine in our lives, explored issues around wheat/gluten intolerance and allergies, earthen bread ovens, and looked at elements of our own food biographies. Then in the afternoons Kevin Hughes led us in painting exercises. It was a full and deeply satisfying journey of collaborative baking and research.
Thank you to Joy for her enthusiasm and her wonderful photography. If you would like to see her whole beautiful photo essay of this week please visit Joy’s blog .
You guys/gals are some mightily inspiring bakers!
Thanks for a great week.
Build two bread ovens with experienced oven builder, Warren Lee Cohen. Made from recycled clay, sand and straw, these hand (and feet!) sculpted ovens are kneaded right into shape and then allowed to harden.
We will fire one of them and use it to make organic sourdough pizza on the Sunday. Please bring your favourite topping and an apron.
Many participants from past workshops have gone on to build their own bread ovens.
King City, Ontario
Saturday August 28 and
Sunday August 29, 2010
10:00 am to 4:00 pm
Course fee $125 (includes lunch both days
and all materials)
To register please contact Leslie
Tel. 905 833 3533
Mascha Perrone’s third grade at the Toronto Waldorf School learned how to make sourdough starter from flour and water (as described in my book Baking Bread with Children). After 2 weeks of careful tending by the children, the starter was alive and bubbling and fragrant. It was ready to bake with. The parents came together one evening to knead and sing the starter into dough for Pita bread. The next day we lit a fire in the outdoor wood-fired oven, waited for it to get hot and then baked pita bread to our hearts’ and stomachs’ content. They were delicious!!! The children engaged in this experience from start to tasty finish and their enthusiasm was compelling.
Two days later they delivered to me one of the most beautiful and heartfelt thank you notes that I have received, It included a picture drawn by each child that captured what stood out for them in this experience- what an excellent example of how to both deepen a lesson and teach gratitude in one generous gesture. Below are just a few of the pictures
Advent, Channukah, Divali, Christmas and Kwanza
In the spirit of this wonderful stream of festivals of light , I have been setting my intentions for the coming year, which I hope will be filled with fruitful meetings, growth, play and a deepening sense of love filled work. My work educating Waldorf teachers at the Rudolf Steiner Centre Toronto is proving dynamic and deeply engaging. I am fortunate to have also been invited to offer a number of shorter workshops and presentations in Canada and Brazil. These help me to create a nice balance of work and play and allow me to cultivate my many disperate interests such as Waldorf Education, baking bread, building bread ovens, inner development and sculpture. Come join the fun.