Sourdough bread is fermentation science at its best. Water, flour and ambient natural yeast blend together to create a starter; which is then fed more flour and water to create a levain. A selection of flours, kneading with salt and water rise gently over many hours into a complex loaf with depth of flavour and aroma. The long, slow fermentation of sourdough is a coordinated effort of yeast and bacteria living off of starchy sugars in a happy symbiosis. They ingest complex sugars, transforming them into elements which rise sourdough. By the time we eat a slice, the carbohydrates contained within have been transformed into a more easily digestible form of nutrient, allowing our bodies to absorb more of its beneficial elements.
The process of creating, feeding and maintaining a happy starter is the ultimate pleasure in baking sourdough bread. You develop a relationship with your starter - naming it (mine is Levon the Levain in honor of Levon Helm), noticing how they change dependent on weather, humidity, flour type, water and temperature. Your starter brings in a deeper level of connection with the outside world, then turns around and nourishes you.
I have baked bread in ancient Parisian ovens with no temperature gauge, in cast iron combo cookers, in wood fired ovens both on the beach in Central America and in a field in the middle of the Catskills, NY. Every loaf is different with a resounding recognition of place alongside a familiar tang of personality from Levon.
Rye, Whole Wheat, Einkorn; Delhi, NY
Rye, Whole Wheat, All Purpose Flour; Delhi, NY
Levon the levain, ready for breakfast
Portioning dough for pre-shape; Delhi, NY
Post - 24 hour cold fermentation, ready to bake; Delhi, NY
Tending a wood-fired oven, Walton, NY
Wood-fired Bread Oven, Rancho Santana, Nicaragua
Charcuterie is the art, process and respect of finding a use for every last piece of an animal.
Trim from cuts of meat are collected, seasoned, blended with liver and ground into pâté.
Jowls are cut from each side of the head, cured with salt, sugar and spices, then hung to dry into guanciale. The remaining head is simmered in flavoured stock, then pressed into head cheese.
Each culture has their own book of recipes for getting the most out of their cuts of meat, as well as ways of preserving them without refrigeration. It is the ultimate reverence to an animal who has given its life to nourish yours, that one should look upon all parts of the body with equal value.
Pig Slaughter at Burnett Farm, Bovina, NY
Tamworth Pork - Country Pâté, Bovina, NY
Farm Raised Pig; Rancho Santana, Nicaragua
Guanciale; Harlem, NYC
Pig Eyeball; Harlem, NYC
Head Cheese with Soft Palate; Brooklyn, NY
Mortadella with Lardo, Black Pepper, Pistachio; Brooklyn, NYC
My style in pastry leans towards the rustic and simple, focusing on tarts, layer cakes and custards brightened by seasonal jams and preserves.
Chocolate cake, Graham cracker mousse, Marshmallow, Salted butter caramel, Spruce tips; Delhi, NY
Rye tart, Black walnut frangipane, Rhubarb; Delhi, NY (photo by Liz Clayman)
Tart in progress; Delhi, NY (photo by Liz Clayman)
Cakes are the ultimate in celebration for any special event - precisely those which I am honored to take part in. I love being able to share and contribute in a moment of someone else’s life.
1st Anniversary; Rancho Santana, Nicaragua
Wedding Cake with local flowers; Rancho Santana, Nicaragua
2-tier Wedding Cake with local flowers; Rancho Santana, Nicaragua
Happy Birthday; Rancho Santana, Nicaragua
3-tier Wedding cake with 'Naked' frosting; Rancho Santana, Nicaragua
One of my favourite books growing up was Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine, written about a boy in Illinois trying to capture, collect and record summertime memories after helping his grandfather make a batch of the titular beverage.
The notion of distilling the essence of a natural object, preserving it for long winter nights when the faintest memory of summer’s heat will warm your thoughts, was an idea that has made a lasting impact on my culinary methodology and practices.
I strive to be that memory-keeper, that collector of scent and flavour who can bottle up the essence of a single day into a jar.
Dandelion Jelly; Bovina, NY
Dandelion buds to pickle for a Gibson cocktail; Bovina, NY
Lilac Blossoms; Bovina, NY
Wild Leeks in May; Bovina, NY
Vinegar pickled wild leeks in progress; Bovina, NY
Spruce tips - almost ready to harvest; Bovina, NY
Young Spruce Tips; Bovina, NY
Mugolio - Spruce Tips + Sugar to extract oils in the summer sun; Bovina, NY