If you follow me on this blog or on Facebook, you know I have a sweet tooth. And a bread tooth. And a cheese tooth. And a vegetable, fruit, and meat tooth. I focus on preserves and baked goods, but I'm also highly skilled (toot toot) in other culinary arts as well (duck legs are currently curing as I type for duck confit). Always having a fondness for pastry (both eating and preparing), the reason I decided to focus on the dessert side of the menu was because our area was/is severely lacking in high-quality desserts.
Restaurants are ordering their frozen cheesecakes and butter tarts from food distributors shipping out of Toronto. They also purchase buckets of ready-to-bake mixes that take the pesky hassle of actually making their desserts with carefully selected ingredients. As a bonus, diners get wonderful doses of unnecessary additives like artificial food dyes, artificial flavourings, three or four different sugars, hydrogenated vegetable fats derived from genetically modified corn or soy, and environmentally damaging products like palm oils. The carbon footprint left behind from the use of mostly imported ingredients (whatever is the cheapest!), and transportation costs are staggering. Often times they just taste awful.
The imported desserts do nothing positive for a local sustainable food system. Using 0% local and the lack of pride taken in preparing and serving high quality food is what really sours my mouth.
Keeping with the thought "be the change you want to see in the world", I've spent several years, and way more money than I can afford, to push the importance of supporting local. Yes, there are local businesses, and they need support, but
I'm talking about the local businesses that actually use local ingredients in their products. Those businesses have more challenges facing them in an already challenging industry. It frequently costs more because farmers' deserve to be paid a fair price for their work, but so do the tradesmen and women who turn them into value added products.
I've attended a few meetings in the past few weeks centered around local foods. Although I was surprised to find see the number of food-related groups and associations within Elgin County, a few gaps were apparent to me from my chef point of view. First, lack of culinary education. Second, kitchens to work from. Third, Elgin culinary history. Fourth, a formal analysis of Elgin's food cultures. Fifth, good bread.
I feel like a lone soldier baking my way through Tartine No. 3, the latest book released by the co-chef and co-owner of Tartine Bakery in San Fransisco, Chad Robertson.
The Tartine method of making naturally leavened breads requires very moist dough and a long fermentation period. I've had success with a few recipes from the second book, Tartine Bread, but these new recipes with even wetter doughs and less glutenous flours is really pushing the loaf.
In this day and age of information sharing, I find it very surprising to find a lack of chatter from homebakers and chefs regarding the recipes from the book. This book was two years in the making and its release was well anticipated but besides a few sites promoting one or two recipes just before the launch, the intertubes are mostly quiet about Tartine No. 3. (I'm job hunting and have had time to sift through the bread baking forums, a lot.) And that is why I feel like a lone soldier - not all the recipes are clear on the specific ingredients and there isn't anyone with insider insight to steer me in the correct direction.
After baking no less than 5 challenging batches of breads from this cookbook that focuses on using more whole grains and flours in its recipes, I needed to attempt something I knew I could achieve in order to save my baking-esteem: cookies. Break making isn't my forte but cookies - now that's something I can champion. Sure, the quantity of cookies didn't match (original recipe says 5 dozen, I got 23) and I needed to add a few tablespoons of water to the dough to bring it together, but I happily ate cookies for lunch today and I no longer feel alone.
Eating. Drinking. Sharing.