Sunday, January 17, 2010


Fragrance rising, filling the house, reality.
In late December I started baking again, using the Tassajara Bread Book from days of yore. The first loaves were perfect: taste the wheat(!), coarse, not too heavy, and toasted up to perfection. Next I baked French loaves, which turned out not as crusty and coarse as I wanted. I took a loaf to the baker at Eatzis and he gave me some good guidance. Though I didn’t retain or understand all he told me, still, very helpful. I got some bread books from the library, most notably, Artisan Baking by M. Glezer, and I started reading over and over again the recipe for Acme Bread Company baguettes. There’s a lot to learn: poolish, scrap dough, turning, couche, so on and so forth.

Then, during days when the temperature was in the teens, I baked whole wheat again. Despite my best efforts the dough never rose enough and we ended up with small, dense, and less flavorful loaves.
Photos: Today. The front loaf is whole wheat, as is the one to the right. There are two flat baguettes and a boule on the left. Three loaves of banana bread at back.

Yesterday I made the poolish and scrap dough for Acme baguettes, and while I was doing that, baked some banana nut bread – in part to help warm the kitchen. This morning I made a two loaf batch of Tassajara whole wheat while the Acme bread was working. I put the first ww loaf directly on and close to the center of the hot baking stone.* The loaf stuck fast, so I put the other loaf in a bowl in the refrigerator so I could bake it later. When the loaf that was stuck to the stone came out it had a little bit of a dogleg, but such a taste! The loaf also had a piece of stone baked into the crust - talk about rustic!
Turned the oven up, used an espresso machine to blow steam into the oven (awkward and evoking several comments from Leslie), and slid the Acme loaves on parchment paper on to the hot stone (for me, dough on parchment paper on stone better than dough directly on the stone).

The result: amazingly flavorful, crusty, chewy loaves. I think if I took one of these to Acme they’d say, well, you could do this and that, but this here is a good loaf of bread (for an amateur). For example the baguettes are pretty flat because I didn’t use a couche, despite having gotten and prepared the canvas. For some reason, it was just too much. I need to work on the cuts. I can’t wait to bake again.

*I went to a stone company and got two pieces of slate. I trimmed one to a perfect size and the other is an okay size. Baking on a stone means a crusty and unscorched bottom crust.


Jon W. said...

All your bread looks delicious. This summer I'll be building an adobe oven to bake in. I'm pretty stoked.
You've really got to check out Jim Lahey's no-knead method. I received his book "My Bread" as a gift, and it's great. But you don't need the book to bake his stuff. Here's one of the loaves I've baked with his method.

CK said...

That's a beautiful loaf, Jon. I have loaves like that in my mind's eye. I keep running across references to no-knead bread, and I have a recipe and maybe in the coming weeks ...

Have a good time building that oven!