Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

August 3, 2009

Dear Caitlin,


Surprise! I made bread! From scratch! And I think it tastes okay! And (now for the best part): I will be bringing you two whole loaves tomorrow! Yay! (I do hope you’re also excited.)

So bread isn’t the easiest thing to photo-chronicle while making it, given the alternately floury and watery state of one’s hands, but I did my best to give you an idea of how this bread came to be. Here’s where I should start:


I got this book after it was heartily recommended by VeganDad, and I will heartily pass that recommendation along to you and anyone else reading this post. This book is excellent, for many reasons. First, it’s more than a recipe book—the first hundred pages just take you through the many different facets of bread and bread-making and really teach you what goes into making great bread. The recipes that follow (or, as the author calls them, formulas) range from the relatively simple (like the one I made) to the seemingly complex (marbled rye with spirals? bread that’s been braided more times that the average girl’s hair?), but draw heavily on the advice that precedes them. What I like about this book is that the author really helps you appreciate the complexities of bread, but never makes you feel like good bread is beyond your reach. He is always stressing how great bread comes from the humblest of ingredients, and although he sometimes recommends fancier equipment and gadgets, he is always quick to offer a more common substitute for those of us with more austere kitchens. Furthermore, he really teaches that the greatness of bread comes not from getting expensive flours or other ingredients (he usually recommends opting for the more ordinary), but from learning to get a feel for your bread and knowing how to respond to what it’s telling you. He’s also a big advocate for patience and taking your time (most of the formulas in the book take at least two days to make), which I like. I plowed through the first hundred pages of instruction in about a day and was very eager to make my first loaf after all I’d learned. I chose to go with the Pain a l’Ancienne, which, although a simple enough recipe, is sort of the highlight of the book (or at least the author makes it out to be). It is so because of the innovative fermentation technique it utilizes. Here’s how it all started, last night around 11:00pm:


Just your basic dough there, nothing more than flour, yeast, salt, and water. Except I should note that the water is ice water. The secret to this bread is its overnight cold fermentation, and the ice water just helps it start its cool down. After I took this picture, that bowl went right in the fridge and stayed there all night, delaying the fermentation and unlocking flavors otherwise trapped in flour. Neat, huh?

Early this morning, I awoke and took my dough out of the fridge to let it warm up and really start its rise:


Two and a half hours later, I had a nicely risen dough:


Now I had to prepare the dough for baking! I rolled it out a little by hand and then cut it up, first in half…


…then each half into three, making six baguette pieces. I transferred those slabs onto a baking sheet, stretching them out as I did so that they extended across the length of the sheet:


Then I was on to baking! His recommendations were fun because they involved making your oven mirror a steam oven, which involved pouring simmering water into a cast iron skillet on the top rack and spraying the sides with a water mister! I baked the two sheets separately; the first batch came out looking okay, but not amazing:


But the second batch came out looking much better:


After letting these cool down to room temperature, I cracked open the rightmost loaf from the first batch (the runt of the litter, and so I thought the best to test on). And it was good! It’s not the best bread I’ve ever had, but I really like the rustic flavor, the nice crunchy crust giving way to the softer and fluffier inside. I’m excited to try one of the more properly baked loaves later tonight, and I hope you enjoy the loaves I bring with me tomorrow!


Until we eat again,





    I have been using the steam technique for the last few breads and I think it does make a delicious difference! What kind of flour did you use?



  2. […] yes that’s right, I have, and not just once, not just twice, but again, and again, and again, and again. Nonetheless, it […]

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