Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Baking bread

Rustic sourdough cheese bread
I started baking bread about 1969. The Tassajara Bread Book (Edward Brown, Shambala) was my guide to rustic crusty whole wheat loaves, to creating my own sourdough starter, and to other baking adventures and a few misadventures. The Bread Book took me through the bread making process step by step, do this, do that, and then the magic of bread. Learning a right way allowed me to learn my own right ways. But I generally follow bread-making recipes more closely than other recipes.

Bread makes itself, by your kindness, with your help, with imagination running through you, with dough under hand, you are bread making itself, which is why bread making is so fulfilling and rewarding. Brown
Whole wheat, like I used to bake from Tassajara Bread Book

I baked all our bread from ~1969 until 1975, when I started back to school. Those were formative years – Leslie and I were married, I started gardening, started baking bread, and I started the healing journey for myself and for others. Then, along with our marriage I was caught up in career and mission and had little time for baking. Then the joys of parenthood – what a time that was! And years of working with Leslie. And then the tiredness of the end of my work and then retirement and now for the past 4 or 5 years I’m baking almost all our bread. My favorite is a rustic sourdough from Artisan Baking (Maggie Glezer, Artisan), which goes like this…
No-knead bread baked in a glazed clay pot. Fully fermented dough at left

About a week ahead of time, I start refreshing the sourdough starter I started about four years ago. To refresh I mix 10-12 gm starter with 25 gm warm water, then mix with 45 gm bread flour and knead (in the bowl) just a little to make a little ball of dough. The dough ferments and rises for ~24 hours, getting bubbly and having that sourdough fragrance. I take 10-12 gm of that, mix with warm water so on and so forth. After a few days it comes to a full ferment in ~12 hours, and then fewer hours and it’s about ready.
Using a bench knife/dough scraper

The starter is combined with water and flour and left to ferment overnight to make a levain. The levain is combined with water and barley malt (syrup) and yeast and bread and all-purpose flours and smaller amounts of whole wheat and rye flours. I knead it for about 10 minutes (enjoying the kneading), then there is a process of fermenting, folding, shaping, proofing, and so on and in the end I end up with 6 loaves of as good a bread as I’ve found (I finally matched SemiFreddie’s in the Bay area). Usually I bake four plain loaves and two pepper jack cheese loaves.
Coarse, crusty
With rich true-spirited flavor
That one soon learns to love and crave. Brown

I bake bread on a stone, a piece of slate, well-heated in the oven. The man at the rock yard had never had a customer who wanted only one piece, so he just gave me the slate. The hot stone helps create a crustier crust. In the bottom of the oven is a pan with rocks and chain in it. The stones and chain also preheat and when I put the bread in, I spray the stones and chain with water from a garden sprayer – all this with the goal of creating a lot of steam, which also helps with the crust. 
Whole wheat and some cookies

As others have said, good bread is more – magically more – than the sum of its parts! The process is good and healthy. It’s good and healthy like working in the garden is – mixing, kneading, folding, dividing, shaping, baking, and then eating the bread – sometimes just the bread, sometimes with butter or olive oil, sometimes with almond butter and homemade preserves, and always with appreciation.

Here is a link to a recipe for no-knead pot bread:

A bag of fresh-baked rustic sourdough bread


Anonymous said...

I love bread. I. LOVE. BREAD. And I really enjoyed reading this--accompanied by excellent and illuminating photos. I can actually smell the boulangerie right now, and I'm remembering waiting by the roadside at dawn for the guy who actually delivered the very best baguettes we've ever had. Damn. Now I'm hungry.

CK said...

Hahaha, George. Since there isn't a "like" button to push, this here post is a big LIKE for your post.