Sunday, February 8, 2009

A Bread Epiphany

So it should be no secret that I love bread, right? I've made several loaves of the stuff here and it's one of those things I'd just love to make for the hell of it, and give it out to people. I just plain love the act of making it.

Well, Dino at Alternative Vegan knows I love bread, so he clued me in on a little cookbook on Amazon called, quite simply, "Bread" by Ursula Ferrigno. It's a pretty wide-ranging book that gives a lot of insight into the tools used in baking, the general techniques, and a lot of recipes for a pretty large amount of breads. I gave it a go on some fairly basic white bread, figuring that if I could make this taste better, then I was in for a wild ride. Now, usually when I make white sandwich bread, I like to throw in a little dried oregano and rosemary because they're pretty tasty.

I could tell that the generic stuff they offered was differing radically from what I was used to. They combine yeast & water with flour using a sponge, which I hadn't done before. It also asked for much longer rising times, longer cooking times, and higher temperatures, as well as other things, like sustaining steam in the oven to crisp the crust. Figuring that I might as well give it a shot, I went ahead, half afraid that I'd turn out a burnt loaf of bread right?

Negative, Roger Wilco. This bread is out of this world. If anybody's seen Ratatouille (and if you haven't, you really should, because its a wonderful movie even if you don't love cooking), you'll remember Colette explaining the true way to find good bread as the sound the crust makes, which she shows by giving a baguette a nice crackly squeeze. Now I wouldn't advise you to go hug loaves of bread at the store or anything, I can attest that having a good crust is something you don't appreciate until you nail it, and then every other piece of bread you make or eat just seems lesser in comparison. None of my previous breads had this crust. It makes a difference of the sort I never imagined.

Here's a shot of the crumb. What you won't get just by seeing is how chewy the inside is. Again, nothing I've made before even approached this. Something about the sponge method, the longer rise and cook times, and the steam combined to make bread that was incredibly supple, but also resilient. I've made sandwich loaves before that were soft enough, but didn't hold together the way you'd want them to, and you'd break a slice of bread pretty easily. These have bounce that I'm not used to.

So, if anybody needs me for the next month or so, I'm going to be really busy in the kitchen baking endless bread. If you stop by I'll probably just give it away because I want to try all of this!


Jane-Holly said...

Mmmm delicious bread :D Looks so yummy!

Dino said...

This is the sort of delicious that I was talking about. When it's done right, it's just this ethereal, beautiful thing. It IS the sound. You hear the crackle and bite. Definitely worth it, no?

Chuck said...

It kind of makes me embarassed at my previous breads lol. I'm shocked at how a few little things can be done to ramp up the experience beyond all expectations.

I'm especially excited because it's got a pita recipe in there. Now, loaf bread is one thing, but if I can actually get away with making shawarma shop flatbreads, I may end up eating falafel a lot more than I should!

deedles said...

Oh my!!! And I can expect my loaf when????

Chuck said...

Sooner rather than later. I'm baking a surplus of these and even selling some to people who offered to pay.

Did you have an idea of something you'd like? Something for sandwiches, or more like a boulle or paesano loaf to dip in oil?

I'm learning to make sour starter for sourdough, so I know that I'm making that for dad's birthday at least.

Katheen said...

Wow, that looks fantastic. It sounds like a great book - I'll have to add it to my wish list. Congratulations on your wonderful bread making!