When artist Pablo Picasso said, “Action is the foundational key to all success,” he knew that just sitting around, munching on bread, doesn’t create masterpieces.
Sarah Nguyen, one of the founders of Taaffe Loaffes, knows how to take action, especially when it comes to bread.
Nguyen, and her co-bakers Lisa Cepisul and Darach Miller, started Taaffe Loaffes, a bread company named after their apartment building on Taaffe Place in Brooklyn, NY. Their bread is a round, perfect fit for any country table. And yet, something about it is entirely untraditional. They bake it with miso.
Miso is a seasoning created from soybeans fermented with salt and the fungus Aspergillus oryzae and is most often used in Japanese cuisine. There are a variety of types, although red and white are the most common. It gives food an umami flavor and is not uncommon in soups and pickled vegetables. It is, however, entirely rare in the all-American sourdough bread.
The Taaffe Loaffes team isn’t afraid to introduce umami into the market. Their beginnings as a company came from being unafraid to venture after something better.
Nguyen tells us, “moving to New York, coming from the Bay Area, I couldn’t find a good bakery.” Miller also hails from what is quickly becoming one of the country’s most innovative areas. We ask why her next immediate thought was to begin baking her own bread, as the practice has become largely antiquated. Nguyen explains in her Californian calm, “I moved during the winter months, which was scary, so I thought I’d just bake bread at home rather than go out.” We are grateful for the harsh New York winter, because without it, we may never have tasted a Taaffe Loaffe.
Cepisul hails from France, a nation that almost always brings forth an image of a baguette whenever mentioned. She, like Nguyen and Miller, was hungry for a crusty, doughy, and substantial bread. At this point, us New Yorkers should be feeling pretty bad about our gluten products.
The trio adapted their recipe from Ben Wolfe’s Miso Sourdough Bread recipe, and in their own words, “made some minor adjustments to fit our office/lab/class/subway/biking lives.”
Here is the recipe in their own words. Enjoy some Californian slang and helpful tips.
Taaffe Loaffes Miso Bread
Ingredients (adapted from Ben Wolfe’s Miso Sourdough Bread recipe)
3 cups all-purpose flour (enriched, preferably unbleached)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups tap water
4 +/- 2 ish tablespoon lower sodium miso (play with it)
olive or vegetable oil
After dinner is done, we mix 3 cups flour + 1 teaspoon salt + 1/4 teaspoon yeast in a large bowl.
In a smaller bowl, dissolve the miso paste in water. It’s best to first add just a bit of the water with all of the miso, then liquify, then mix in the remainder of the water. It’s easier to smoosh miso chunks when you can see them.
Pour the miso water onto the dry stuff. With a fork or wooden spoon, pull areas of dry into wet until it’s roughly even, then stir it for a few strokes. Once it’s mostly soaked up, press the dough together to fill up cracks and to gather the last of the powdery pieces. We wish we could be as pro as Lahey’s one hand stir technique. Don’t worry about kneading it a few presses, just to get the dough in one piece.
Put the dough in a well-oiled medium bowl/container. You can sprinkle flour on top of the dough and cover the bowl with a clean towel to raise the dough in a warm and happy environment, but since we often have to bring it to another place after work we invested in plastic containers with covers (like this Cambro container) for easy transportation. They rise fine with a lid on.
After 18-20 hours, smell the yeasty aroma and scoop out dough onto a floured work space. Fold four corners of the dough towards the center to create a plump round heap and loosely wrap the dough pile in the towel; make sure it is well floured between the towel and dough. Let the wrap sit for 2 hours: this is the Second Rising.
At ~1.5 hours preheat the oven to 475°F with a Dutch oven style pot and lid inside.
After the Second Rising, place the dough in the hot pot, cover with lid, and bake for 30 minutes. Bake without the lid for 7-13 more minutes.
Remove the bread from pot and let cool before slicing.
- Don’t let it rise for too long in the first rise (e.g. 36 hours), else everything will starve out and not do the Second Rise. 1.5 to 2 hours for the Second Rise yields the same rising results.
- 1/4 to 1teaspoon yeast doesn’t seem to change anything
- Kneading a bit at the beginning doesn’t seem to change anything.
- The amount of miso seems to help how much the dough will rise (i.e. bread fluffiness). The most we’ve tried is ~7 tablespoons- hella dank and rises like a balloon (kinda).
For now, Taaffe Loaffes is just testing out their bread on neighbors, friends, and lucky coworkers. The writer of this article, Nandini, was lucky enough to have two slices. The bread was fit for a bowl of olive oil or maybe some mascarpone and honey. It was crusty with an airy, soft inside. The aftertaste, however, was where she tasted a hint of miso. Something slightly savory came through in the bread, and Sporkers, Nandini did not mind it! She can see a bright future for Taaffe Loaffes in a land of sandwiches, bruschetta, and maybe even, dare she write it, brunch.
It doesn’t matter much what Nandini thinks, however. The Taaffe Loaffes team isn’t one to sit around (they’re probably biking anyway) and eat mediocre bread. They are bakers of action, and won’t rest until they’ve baked the perfect miso loaf.
Until you get to try a slice, follow their hilarious Instagram account: @taaffeloaffes.
Post by Nandini Ahuja. Photos courtesy of Taaffe Loaffes team. Recipe adapted from Ben Wolfe’s Miso Sourdough Bread recipe.