What's masa madre got to do with it? Bread Making Classes with Javier Marca & Bak Madrid

Raisin and walnut bread by Javier Marca of Bak Madrid 

Lately I've been stuck on the idea that if you want something done right you've got to get it done yourself, or at least know where to look for someone who is doing it correctly. Take for instance the theme of bread - a staple in the majority of our diets - but so many of us have no idea where to get quality, superb tasting bread. Most folks will shuffle in and out of their local supermarket, "bakery", or after-hours shop and grab a loaf of bread, any bread will do. In Spain una barra de pan (essentially a baguette) is used in each household every day, maybe more, as this barra will provide breakfast, the children's lunches and the "soaker" for whatever liquid may remain on lunch or dinner plates. If these families really knew what they were paying for - often very cheap .30 to .75 cents - they would understand the expression of "you get what you pay for."

When I learned of Javier Marca, founder of Bak Madrid, as well as collaborator and contributor of Madrid Tiene Miga and El Foro de Pan, I knew I had stumbled on someone with passion and craft. With just over four years experience in the industry he has almost turned it upside down, building a following, starting various projects of the "purist" bread movement, having been featured in national press, and now offering courses in the Spanish capital. When I met up with him in Barcelona I immediately sensed his enthusiasm, ardor and obsession with that which is water, yeast and flour. We toured some of BCN's best bakeries and with perhaps the most profound zeal I have ever seen, he sniffed, cracked open and devoured a hunk of the freshly baked loaf he had purchased. He asked me how I liked my bread, "alone, with fillings, with butter?" and I admitted that I'm a sucker for flavors or drowning it in a great olive oil, although to my defense the bread needs to have substance - not a silly white bread. For him my statement was almost blasphemy, because by his standards I am was not really tasting the true elements and characteristics - the flavors of the spelt, the wheat or the rye. This is what you learn when you hang around the big boys, the experts in their field.

When I had the opportunity to attend one of his courses a month or so later, I jumped at the chance to see him in action and hopefully bring home some tricks of the trade. It would be a welcome introduction, since my six months in the bread making business had taught me only one recipe and a couple failed attempts at croissants (which turned out to be dense butter cakes folded in pretty shapes). Even with these blunders I was more confident with my oven creations than buying the conservative laden plastic bags of "bread" my boyfriend used to bring home. That was however, until I took Javier's 'Introduction to Homemade Bread' course and realized I knew nothing at all.

That smile is genuine. Feel at home and laugh a ton at his workshops.

We started with a masa madre or levain; composed of only rye & whole wheat flour and water, it is a naturally created fermentation (commercial procedures would utilize pre-made/dried active yeast, often in large quantities to ensure rapid rising).

Our first fermentation. We looked for a desired texture through the window pane test and later observed the "bouncy" quality obtained from the gluten.

The course was held at Chefs Lab, a gastronomic space in Madrid's Guindalera neighborhood

The expert at work. Many of us had our hands caked in dough, then Javier swooped in and fixed our messy work areas.

The bun is in the oven! Javier sprays the loaf various times during the initial 10 minutes to create steam in the oven; this method helps to produce a crunchy crust and a moist center.

 ¡Ya está! The final product, a masterpiece and unlike (unfortunately) what we are accustomed to seeing in our bakeries, but possible to do at home! 

More bread to make the world go round. 

If you want to know what's in your bread, I'd suggest taking one of his courses and learning how to create healthy alternatives for yourself and your family...an ancient craft which is never outdated. 

UPDATE February 2016: Since this article, Javier launched his much lauded storefront & bakery Panic Madrid on Calle Conde Duque -- which also happens to be next to Ruben's - cheesemonger from Cantagrullas - artisan project and collaborative cheese retail space. Visit them both, they are reinventing food experience and memory in Madrid, and even throughout the world with their other projects. 

Twitter @Panic Madrid
Twitter @Javier_Marca

Facebook Panic Madrid 

Read more about Javier at Stir the Pots
View a video from Spanish media outlet El Mundo 


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