Yesterday, Peter Endriss told us about opening a permanent bakery in Gowanus, baking at Per Se, and working 35 hours a weekend. We follow up today with part two of our chat with the gifted baker. He shares his thoughts on the markets, what excites him about bread, and why it’s just so darn hard to make.
How have the markets been?
Really fun! There’s nothing more direct retail than the Brooklyn Flea or New Amsterdam market, so it’s been really cool for field testing our recipes and getting feedback on everything from pricing to different breads to options…and reinforcing all of the cultural stereotypes, of all of the Germans coming and loving the rye bread, and all the French that come and grab the canelé, and all the Italians that want the olive loaf.
What new bread or pastry that you’re making are you excited about at the moment?
When raspberries came into the market a couple of weeks ago, we started making a raspberry almond croissant, which I’m particularly fond of. I really like our almond croissant, so we put the fresh berries in there and it kind of “tarts,” or “tart-tens,” it up a bit — well, okay, it “tarts” it up too. In terms of bread, the rye ciabatta is my current favorite. It has a really nice sourness because there are two pre-ferments in it — it has pretty distinctive flavor. It’s made with a poolish also, so it has a nice thin crackly crust. With a 30 percent rye, you usually don’t get that.
What other breads in the city do you like?
I really like Austin Hall’s bread at Roman’s, his sprouted spelt is really tasty. I’ve had good breads at Bien Cuit, especially the pan pugliese — I think it’s the one he makes with potato and a little rye flavor. And, Dean and Deluca is actually making a lot of nice breads — in April, they made a baguette with a little bit of barley flour that I loved. Louie, the head-baker, is a really interesting guy, really knows his stuff and is very open and passionate in a kind way about bread.
In the city today, there seems to be a zeitgeist of bakers using whole grains and rare wheats. What’s driving the whole-grain movement?
It seems like so many things that are happening in the food movement now are “old things writ new.” like, pickling — everyone’s re-discovering pickling like they are first people to ever make a pickle, even though it’s been happening for millennia. With the whole-grain thing, I’m really happy it’s moving in that direction. I feel like the Green Market system and June Russell, who does inspections for the Green Market, she’s championed whole grains for the past three years, and as a result, from all of her connections between bakers, chefs, and millers, and farmers, there’s like this whole new economy that has arisen with a lot of really great millers in the New York area. So, if you want to use local whole grain flour, you have options and it’s actually great flour. It’s made it a lot easier for bakers to experiment and get inspired by what they’re using. For example, at New Amsterdam Market, there are almost 15 bakers, and everyone was using all local flour, in their own style. Just the fact that that can happen is really indicative of where we are. Every miller I’ve spoken to talks about how they almost run out of flour, which is actually a good thing, when those flours are buckwheat, rye, organic whole wheat, and spelt. That’s really cool.
How are whole-grains different than regular flour?
It makes for more interesting bread and also requires more of the baker. If you want to use 40 percent whole wheat flour in a bread and not have it be a brick you have to know what you are doing. It seems like there’s a big crew of New York bakers who really know what they are doing, and there’s a constant exchange of ideas.
Why is bread so hard to make?
I think it’s because it requires a lot of time. And, either a good memory or good documentation to try and kind of unpack why breads behave the way they do. Sometimes to figure it out you have to go back 48 hours. With pastry you make a recipe and within two hours you have a product. Bread is like, “Was it the pre-ferment that screwed up? Was it the proof? Was it the shaping? The flour?” And so, to troubleshoot it winds up being a matrix of factors that you have to concentrate on and really be in it, to adjust the matrix to get what you want. Bread, in the general term, is easy to make. But good bread is very difficult. To take it from that home-baker, bread-machine level to the next level, is a really big jump.
What’s one tip you have for home bakers?
Bar none, make wetter doughs! Wetter doughs make nicer bread, or the kind of artisan bread that home bakers are probably picturing they want to make.
Anything that frustrates you about the New York City food and restaurant community?
Now that I’m on the other side of the press, being interviewed by a number of people, I’ve had a few interviews where they haven’t even tasted your product and then write something about it without having tasted it. And it makes me feel like the review is disingenuous, and that’s disappointing. I think the New York press machine, because there is so much happening and people want to be the first ones to report on something, sometimes it doesn’t do its homework. And so, I see a lot of reports of products that I don’t think are so great, and great product that I don’t think are celebrated enough. Otherwise, the food scene is super-innovative. If it has any fault, it’s that it’s always trying too much.