I have my work cut out for me

To: Ken Forkish, Ken's Artisan Bakery

Hi Ken,

A little less than year ago I moved from Portland to San Francisco,
and I've been in a state of gastronomical longing ever since. From
Stumptown to Le Pigeon, I can't help but wax poetic about the places I
miss. And one of those places is your bakery. I lived on 21st and Hoyt
for two years and probably came in nearly every day. And
most of those days, I got a walnut roll with butter and jam. I'm not
one for eating the same thing over and over again, but there was
something so simply satisfying, indulgent and reassuring about that
combination of flavors and textures. It didn't seem right unless I had
that breakfast.

But I moved and I moved on. It's been eggs and sourdough toast for a
while. Until last weekend, when faced with a glut of walnuts, I
decided to make some bread. It wasn't until after I'd tasted the brown
soda bread I made that I realized I'd made the wrong thing. It wasn't
sweet I wanted, it was savory. It was simple. It was a walnut roll
from Ken's. That's what I'm craving and what I can't get out of my

So, I'm wondering if you can help me out. I wonder if you'd be so kind
as to pass on your recipe to me for your walnut bread. I know my
replication won't be perfect, but I'd really appreciate some pointers
to head down the right path.


11.13. To Me, from Ken.

HI Margo. Let's see if we can satisfy that longing of yours. You will
need to buy a scale that measures metric weights. You can get a
decent one for $50 or so at a kitchenware shop. I found this online
for $68

Other items you will need on hand:

plastic tub to hold the dough in the fridge over night and to allow
expansion 2 to 3 times the original volume of the mixed dough.
matt cloth or wicker baskets for proofing the loaves.

Here's a formula for you to try:

1 kilo flour (700 grams white flour, 300 grams whole wheat flour)
775 grams water, 85 - 90 degrees F
6 grams dry yeast
22 grams fine sea salt

125 grams walnut pieces

mix flour and water by hand and let rest for 30 minutes.
mix yeast in a very small amount of water, just enough to dissolve,
then add with the saltt to the flour mixture.
Mix in a stand mixer, like a KitchenAide with hook attachment for 5
minutes on low speed. Rest for 10 minutes and mix again for another 5
minutes on low speed. Alternatively, if you don't have a mixer, mix
by hand (First to incorporate the ingredients, and then the turn the
dough into a homogenized mass - figure about 10 or 15 minutes). You
can mix the dough on your kitchen countertop. THen fold in the
walnuts until they are more or less fully integrated into the dough.

lightly oil your dough tub, place the dough into the tub, and put the
tub in the fridge for 12 - 18 hours. Optionally, punch and fold the
dough one or two times during this fermentation.

Remove the dough from the fridge, and cut in to 3 pieces. Form each
into a ball, stretching and folding the dough into itself several
times to build up strength. Let rest for 20 - 30 minutes.

Shape the dough balls into a shape that will fit whatever basket you
choose, or roll into a cylindrical log shape if you want walnut
rolls. Flour the baskets, or cloth, whatever you are going to place
the loaves into to proof.

Figure 3 hours proofing time, until the loaves are gassy without
collapsing on themselves.

Bake in oven btwn 400 and 425 degrees until done. Don't worry about
the steam. It's hard to do steam in a home oven.

I can't teach you how to bake in an email. Hopefully this outline
will mate with some past bread baking experience on your part to meet
with some success.

Good luck!



Keep it in the family

Lately, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to family. About how we stay connected to where we come from. You might hear a story once and forget it the next day, but you tell that same story over and over, over the same meals through the years and the stories and the meals become legend. The way the stories are told over a table, the phrases of words and tone until the next generation is finishing the sentences of the first. Stories associated with pictures pressed into albums or hung on a wall. It’s the same things again and again.

But once in awhile, new details surface as attics are cleaned out and artifacts are passed on. Two years ago a rediscovered LP showed that my great-grandmother, Mae, sang in the local Jewish choir. I always felt connected to her. I wasn’t sure why. Because I visited her in an old age home that bore my name. Because I played piano there. Because she always had Almond Roca. The fact that she sang and I sing comforts me. I like the old standards which, for her, were probably the popular songs on the radio. I wonder if she liked Cole Porter like I do. A few years ago my mother gave me Mae’s engagement ring, which I’ve worn every day since.

Her son, my grandfather, I barely knew. He moved the family from Chicago to Alaska (where my mother was born) to Canoga Park where he and Louise built their own house with their own hands where my grandmother still lives. Myron taught shop and drew mice on my hands and couldn’t have looked more like his son.

His son. David Ronne. It’s been a year to the day since he got sick. A year since the stitches of a loose-knit family began to pull tighter than they ever had before. Last Thanksgiving I had grand foodie plans to do a 200-mile meal in Portland. It was going to be my first holiday I had willingly not gone home. But my mom called, and it was serious, and of all the Thanksgivings to miss, this wasn’t the one.

I don’t remember if he carved the turkey last year. I don’t think he did. I don’t remember if we had our annual heated discussion about just how much (or how little) sugar to put in the whipped cream. I always forced the addition of one more tablespoon than he wanted. Thanksgiving was the one time I could eat with abandon, and I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to have an extra serving of anything. But I do remember that everything tasted the same as it always had, with that perfect mix of savory on savory and rich on rich.

Since the day after the funeral, new artifacts have surfaced. And with them, new stories. I now have my great-grandfather’s bowling medals and his mason’s ring.

And last week I inherited knives. Knives I didn’t know existed. Knives that belonged to my great (great?) grandfather, who, as it happened, was a butcher in Germany. I didn’t know we had a butcher in the family. These knives are beautiful, rugged. Gunmetal carbon steel with soft wood handles. These knives aren’t for show, they’re for use. They look like real knives should look. Henckels, nearly all of them, except for one exotic cleaver with Chinese characters wearing from the metal.
I love these knives. Love where they came from, their authenticity and bad-assedness. I love that they came from family, that they reveal a story I only want to know more about. I’m glad to know there are new stories waiting in the cupboards and attics of our family’s homes. And I’m willing to take my time, let them be revealed to me one at a time. Dole them out over a lifetime, when I’m ready, when it’s interesting.

I’m going to bring them in to get sharpened soon. I’m going to do my research on how to take care of them. And best, I’m going to use them. A lot. I have a knife drawer I’m already proud of, and it’s about to get a lot more crowded.

Pictures to come.