Monday, February 11, 2008

Artisan Bread

Aaaagh! I feel like my blogging life, along with my exercise life (save for a day or two of skiing) is slipping away from me! No one warned me that having three kids meant I'd sacrificed all my personal time. Oh, well. At least they're cute.

You may suppose from my lack of posts that I haven't taken the time to explore all the pantry has to offer lately. Au contraire! Actually, I have been investigating one of my favorite mysteries: artisan bread. Let me first explain what I mean by "artisan", since it's such an overused term these days. Artisan bread is typically handmade bread, often old-world style, often taking two days to two weeks to make. When I use the term, I just mean I'm trying to make bread that reminds me of the type I'd buy in Europe if I ever traveled there. (Aaah...someday.) And let me say...I think I'm getting pretty darn close.

I have two major resources that I'm using these days. The first is The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart, and it has been a very educational book thus far. (Not surprising, since Reinhart is an instructor at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island. I've read most of the information in the beginning 100 pages of the book, and it has been an incredible learning experience. While I am continually reading cookbooks and learning all I can about food in general, there is so much technical information on bread out there that I have been completely in the dark until now, and I am only beginning to come into a bit of light. It's very exciting. The second resource, which I'll write more about later, is Bread Alone by Daniel Leader. I haven't read as much of his informative information yet but have already delved into the world of pre-starters in Leader's book and am completely taken in. There is just so much to be learned about yeast, fermentation, carmelization, humidity, temperature, and all kinds of flours, and the books are so well-written that I feel as though I'm learning it in their kitchens. Of course, it helps that I'm working on these recipes as I go along.

Anyhow, pictured at the top of this post is the Ciabatta that I made from Peter Reinhart's formula. It's not really too involved, comparatively speaking: it only takes two days to create an amazing bread. It's wonderfully spongy and springy in texture and the flavor is simple but balanced. My only real complaint about my results is that it didn't have the large, gaping, non-uniform holes throughout the bread, though it rose very well. Still, I'm not too broken-hearted; I already told you I haven't yet finished all the instructional reading, and I'm just really getting into experimenting with my doughs, but I plan on resolving this issue. If anyone knows the answer, feel free to let me know...

In any case, I'll keep you updated on how the bread baking is going. Right now I have two perfectly usable, ready-to-go sourdough starters (one standard, one rye), and I'll let you know the lovely results I get from them as soon as I can take another moment to write. Until then, happy cooking/baking/eating!


Heidi said...

Your bread looks delicious. I don't make bread for sale anymore, so I have also been experimenting with what we like as a family. I have uncovered the wonderful world of starters back in October. I enjoy them. Good luck with your learning process!

Rachel said...


You'll have to let me know what kind of starters you use and what breads you like to make. So far, my favorite is rye, but I haven't even posted about it yet!!!

Heidi said...

I did rye at the bakery and it is a really good bread and starter. But, I *gasp* don't like rye! So my favorite is a white/wheat starter that I mix in grapes and water. It is really good!