Flour Water Salt Yeast | Ken Forkish

Summary of: Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza [A Cookbook]
By: Ken Forkish


Embark on a journey to mastering the art of artisan bread and pizza with Ken Forkish’s ‘Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza [A Cookbook].’ Discover how Forkish, a former tech professional, reinvented himself as a respected baker known for his attention to detail and artisanal approach. This summary aims to break down and simplify the various aspects of creating a delicious, well-textured loaf of bread at home, delving into the roles that ingredients, time, and temperature play in the baking process. Additionally, readers will learn how to create and maintain their levain culture, adapt their home kitchen for optimal bread-making, and branch out into making pizza and focaccia.

From Tech Whiz to Master Baker

Ken Forkish transformed his life by switching from a career in technology to pursuing his passion for baking. Despite the challenges, he found success by combining his perfectionism and attention to detail with a genuine love for the craft. Today, he runs Ken’s Artisan Bakery in Portland and shares his secrets to making great-quality bread at home, without the need for an early morning grind.

Shifting from a bustling career in the tech industry, Ken Forkish left behind his suit and tie to fully embrace the world of artisanal baking. Now at the helm of his successful Ken’s Artisan Bakery in Portland, his passion and perfectionism shine through and show that a career change can lead to a fulfilling life.

Back in 1995, Forkish was knee-deep in the tech business. However, a magazine article about Lionel Poilâne, a Parisian baker revered for his return to traditional bread making, changed his life’s trajectory. Inspired, Forkish joined the Bread Bakers Guild of America and took a course at the San Francisco Baking Institute. Pursuing excellence, he studied with numerous pros to emulate the best French boulangeries and finally settled in Portland, Oregon – a foodie heaven perfect for his artisanal aspirations.

Ken’s Artisan Bakery has not only flourished but also expanded, with Forkish now running a pizza place too. His dedication to detail and a passionate, even obsessive focus on the art of baking played a significant role in his success.

Yet, it’s not just the professionals who can achieve high-quality bread. In fact, baking beautiful loaves in the comfort of your own kitchen doesn’t require Forkish’s demanding schedule. To create great bread at home, it’s crucial to go beyond following a recipe and grasp the underlying principles.

Through his journey from tech to baking, Ken Forkish proved that harnessing passion, precision, and perseverance can lead to an extraordinary career transformation. By sharing his knowledge, he empowers aspiring home bakers to excel without sacrificing their regular schedules.

The Art of Crafting Bread

Crafting the perfect bread involves skillfully balancing six elements – flour, water, salt, yeast, time, and temperature. Recognize the power of mastering these variables, as it allows for an endless variety of delightful breads. Time and temperature share an inverse relationship, where adjusting one affects the other. Flour comes in various forms, each affecting the dough’s texture and flavor. Wet doughs lead to lighter, more complex taste profiles. Feel free to experiment with flour blends while managing other ingredients like water and yeast, which can be altered to yield different flavors and outcomes.

Understanding these six factors is the secret to success, enabling you to create bread featuring various tastes and textures. Start by becoming familiar with the relationship between time and temperature. Just as in an oven, outside temperatures impact the preparation time for dough: warmer environments speed up the process while cooler ones slow it down. Remember that various flour types, such as rye and spelt, can also be used.

Keep in mind that the amount of water incorporated into the mixture determines the dough’s wetness. While wet doughs are trickier to shape into loaves, they result in increased gas production, yielding a delightful, airy texture and intricate flavor. Always maintain the same total flour amount while engaging in different combinations for experimentation. Note that whole wheat flour is more absorbent than white flour, and therefore needs a higher water content.

Lastly, manipulating the yeast content in synchronization with other ingredients leads to unique methods capable of creating distinct flavors and results. For example, reducing yeast while allowing more time for the dough to develop can lead to a richer taste. Mastering these variables is the key to producing exceptional bread that caters to your specific preferences and desires.

Equip Your Baking Arsenal

Don’t let professional kitchen envy get you down; your home kitchen can still produce high-quality baked goods by acquiring just a few essential tools. Start with an oven thermometer to ensure accurate temperature readings and a Dutch oven to mimic the steam environment of professional ovens. Add a pizza stone, large round tub for dough mixing and rising, transparent smaller tubs for levain culture or pre-ferment, and a proofing basket that matches your Dutch oven’s size. Invest in a digital kitchen scale and probe thermometer for precise measurements, and don’t forget oven mitts and clean tea towels or plastic bags for covering and storing.

Ken’s Artisan Bakery flaunts its sprawling open kitchen, massive Italian oven, temperature-controlled retarder, and specialized tools. Does this make you feel like your humble home kitchen can’t compete? Fear not, because with a handful of essential tools, you can step up your baking game.

Start by checking if your oven temperature readings are accurate with a special oven thermometer. Swap out baking tins or stones for an unbeatable Dutch oven, which allows the bread to bake in its own steam, emulating the steamy environment of professional ovens. A four-quart Dutch oven is ideal but at times, a five-quart size will work too.

For pizza making, grab a trusty pizza stone. To handle dough, you’ll need a large, round tub for mixing and rising, along with some smaller, transparent tubs for storing levain culture or pre-ferment. A nine-inch diameter proofing basket will be a perfect match for your Dutch oven, aiding the dough’s final rise.

Upgrade your measurements with a digital kitchen scale, providing more accurate results than measuring by volume. A probe thermometer is essential for maintaining the correct water temperature.

Lastly, shield your hands with oven mitts and use clean tea towels or plastic bags to cover your proofing basket and store items in the fridge. With these tools in hand, your home kitchen will produce baked goods that give professional kitchens a run for their money.

Unleashing Yeast Power

Embrace the art of home baking by harnessing the power of yeast cultures, including levain, poolish, and biga. By using these pre-fermented doughs with commercial yeast, you’ll access a fascinating world of complex and distinctive flavors in your bread-making pursuits.

You might be waiting for instructions on creating a sourdough starter. Well, let’s dive into the intriguing world of yeast, the magical ingredient that helps transform flour and water into delectable loaves. Although commercial yeast is an essential part of many recipes, crafting your yeast culture is where the joy of home baking thrives.

Instead of sourdough starter, Ken Forkish, an expert in his yeast knowledge, uses the term levain, borrowed from the French. The secret behind levain and other pre-fermented cultures is their simplicity and the extraordinary results that make the effort worthwhile.

Natural yeast is omnipresent—floating in the air, inhabiting the soil, residing on fruits, and even hiding in flour. Although it takes some coaxing to work its magic, natural yeast contains multiple strains that offer complexity and distinctiveness, unlike commercial yeast’s predictability.

While using 100% natural yeast primarily appeals to purists, professional bakers, including Forkish, often combine a small amount of commercial yeast with their levain culture on baking day. The inclusion of this powerful commercial yeast results in a more delicate, airy bread.

To step up your game in bread-making, use a pre-ferment – a blend of dough prepared the night before baking. A pre-ferment incorporates a tiny portion of commercial yeast, which slowly develops overnight, creating a more intricate taste.

There are two types of pre-ferments that Forkish recommends: poolish and biga. Poolish, a French term, describes a wet blend using equal amounts of flour and water. Biga, an Italian term, employs less water. Both impart unique characteristics to the final product, such as using biga for ciabatta, while poolish is common in making baguettes.

Now, are you excited to make your poolish, biga, or levain culture? Stay tuned for more on the methods in upcoming summaries. For now, let’s explore some fundamental bread-making techniques that will pave the way for your yeast-driven baking adventures.

The Breadmaking Blueprint

Breadmaking, the art of crafting one of humanity’s staple foods, follows a general blueprint consisting of autolysis and mixing steps. By understanding the importance of precise ingredient ratios – flour, water, salt, and yeast – as well as the temperature and time, one can create the perfect loaf. This well-rounded knowledge allows for successful experimentation with different flour types and yeast development processes.

In the world of breadmaking, there is a myriad of possible alterations in the ratio of ingredients, including flour, water, salt, yeast, temperature, and time. Varying the mixture of flours and yeast development techniques can produce different results, but there is one universal method to remember – a blueprint, if you will.

Start with autolysis. Gather around one kilogram of flour in your desired mixture and 75% of water (approximately 750g or 600g for levain bread), heated to about 90°F (32°C). Combine these ingredients in a tub, making sure to adjust the water quantity depending on the flour type. Mix until combined, cover, and leave it to rest for 20-30 minutes.

However, if you’re employing a poolish or biga containing most of the flour, abstain from autolysis.

Once the autolysis phase is complete, you’ll proceed to mixing. Introduce 20-22g of salt and your choice of dried yeast or pre-ferment (levain culture), depending on the method. The yeast quantity varies depending on whether you’re using a pre-ferment or levain (3-4g), or if you prefer to ferment overnight (0.8g). For poolish or biga, add an extra 2-3g of yeast, while 2g may be added at this stage of the levain route. However, to remain a purist levain, add none.

For levain bread, incorporate 360g of culture to reach a total of 200g of flour, rounding out the one-kilogram measurement.

Dip your hand in warm water and work the mix with a folding motion. After reaching an even consistency, continue blending by gripping large sections with your thumb and forefinger, working the dough until a slight tension appears. Replace the cover on the tub and allow the dough to rest and rise.

The fermentation process occurs during this resting stage, typically lasting around five hours when using regular yeast. However, if you opt for less yeast, extend the resting period, or even leave it overnight.

With this blueprint in mind, you’ll master the art of breadmaking and be able to explore the infinite possibilities of personalized adjustments in flour, water, salt, yeast, temperature, and time.

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