2.15.2010

Making Bread's Not So Scary

I may be hooked after a first bread baking attempt.

"There are two kinds of people in the world: those who bake bread and those who don't." That's how The Gourmet Cookbook opens its chapter on bread.

But I'd like to add a third: People who make pizza dough but don't make bread. That's where I fit in.

Pizza dough I have down. I've been known to sweat it out over a hot charcoal grill cranking out pizza after pizza for friends and family. Truly a labor of love.

A loaf of bread? I was a total novice. Until Sunday.

My somewhat flat no-knead bread.

I needed a gentle nudge to get me forming loaves, and that came from Liz of The Hill is Home, who directed me to a Snowpocalypse bread baking challenge (with recipe) over on Samuel Fromartz's site Chewswise.

Following the now-famous no-knead recipe, originally from Jim Lahey, I made myself a loaf of bread. Albeit a somewhat flat loaf of bread. But it's delicious and moist, a tad chewy inside with a crunchy, toasty crust.

I sliced off pieces all afternoon, smearing them with soft butter. I toasted it this morning, topped with Copper Pot pear ginger jam.

I do believe I've been bitten by the bread baking bug.

So tell me, brilliant readers, do you bake bread? And I would love to hear about your favorite recipes or cookbooks for learning. Because now I'm hoping to be one of those people who bake bread.

25 comments:

Danielle said...

Does making it in a bread machine count?? :)

Olesh said...

I count myself in the Pizza Dough but not bread camp as well except for a few lame no knead attempts. But I made a loaf this weekend with the modified dutch oven recipe from America's Test Kitchen.

It was awesome and it actually puffed up like a loaf of bread should. The second proof on a piece of parchment in a skillet helped with the shape.

Cheers to bread making when trapped inside.

Martha said...

I started my bread education prior to working in an actual bakery with Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice. His newest "Artisan Breads Every Day" is on my to buy list. His instructions are accessible to the novice and techniques are always spot on.

For a rounder boule, try rolling a tighter loaf with a taught top. The surface tension gives the loaf spring in the oven and helps it go up and not out.

Welcome to the bread club!

Robin said...

Try subbing a cup of whole wheat flour and a few tablespoons of rye in your flour mix. It gives a much more flavorful crumb than all white.

Trout said...

I'm lazy and use a bread machine. Since I'm really lazy, I just use Michael Ruhlman's bread ratio. 5 parts flour, 3 parts water, some salt, some sugar, some yeast. Takes less than 5 minutes and no mess.

Amanda said...

I don't know where the bread machine fans fit in since I've never seen one in action. Can it make more than one shape? And what about the crust? Does it get nice and crunchy or stay more soft?

And thanks for the great tips! I'm getting more inspired.

Jennifer said...

I do love to bake bread but I don't do it often enough. I too learned with the no-knead recipe. I think it's made bread bakers out of countless people. I just got Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day so I will be working my way through that and will hopefully expand my knowledge.

Mike Schultz said...

I love to bake bread (made challah [Craig Claiborne], nan [Julia Child], and cinammon orange twist [Bernard Clayton] during the last two storms. I learned out of Beard on Bread; I bake more often than not now from Bernard Clayton's Complete Book of Breads.

Cecilia said...

Wow, looks wonderful! Good structure, looks like it has good weight to it, but still airy. My first bread was brioche and I got hooked after that. I also like Reinhart’s Bread Baker’s Apprentice, although I have yet to make a recipe for it. I haven’t been able to decide which recipe to make, many look great.

Andrew said...

Just did my first No Knead loaf last week, and it came out great too! Being snowed in was definitely a factor!

Mike said...

I made some great whole wheat bread the other week, but my first attempt was nowhere near edible. I tried again and could not put it away, it was so good!

Michael said...

for a loaf bread Michael Ruhlman's 5:3 ratio is great ... I haven't bopught loaf bread at store since Dec 19 ... just made Lahey's recipe on Friday: spectacular flavor and texture and making it in the dutch oven is brilliant ... Bittman has an easy French bread recipe that i make as a boule in the Everything book that is pretty good ...

Gayle said...

I have a bread machine (that resides in the "Porch Room" as there is no space for it in the wee Kitchenette), and I use it every now and then but I don't think that counts as "baking," exactly.
I don't just not bake bread, I don't really bake *anything*. I cook, but I don't really bake. There is a level of experimentation that you can get away with in cooking that does not translate to baking. Maybe it's a precision thing? I dunno, exactly, but I do know I don't have it...

jburka said...

Count me as a bread baker. I used to be good about baking challah every week, but I've been pretty bad about it for the past couple of years. I know, lazy me.

I love the "Bread Baker's Apprentice" and have made a few (but not nearly enough) things from it. Another fun book is Suzanne Dunaway's _No Need to Knead_. I bake the stupid-simple focaccia from that pretty regularly. It makes fabulous sandwiches with Blue Ridge Dairy's smoked moz and roasted veggies from the farmer's market.

Amanda said...

Sounds like I need to place an Amazon cookbook order stat!

scormeny said...

I've been making the No-Knead recipe ever since Mark Bittman put it in his NY Times column a few years ago -- it is great, isn't it? And pretty easy. You'll get better at it as you go, creating loftier loaves. In my oven, I find that 25 minutes for the covered baking and 10 minutes for the uncovered baking, is the ideal. Experiment a little bit with the amount of water you mix in -- after a few tries you'll figure out the ideal amount of moisture, which I think makes the biggest difference in the loft and quality of the loaf (assuming your yeast is active, which yours definitely is).

As to other baking adventures: Right now, I've got some potato flour in my pantry and I am looking forward to tackling a few soft dinner roll recipes later this winter. I love a good soft roll/Parker House roll, but none of my attempts so far have turned out soft enough for my taste.

Chris said...

I love baking breads! One of the best books you can buy is just called "Ratio" and the info is also available as an iPhone app. It's all about the basic ratios of baking. Generally, I tend to like anything that focuses on learning and theory rather than just recipes.

BreadDude said...

First time post here from a regular reader. I am a bread baker. We sell our products at Penn Quarter, White House, and Arlington farmers' markets. Maybe you know our products. Your flat-bread problem can be fixed. Good bread must proof, it is how flavor develops. There are a few fast doughs, usually involving wheat or starchy additives like potato. Your basic country loaf, especially a rustic white one like your own here will need a longer proof in order to taste like anything. A longer proof, however, requires structure. Gluten yields structure. And kneading yields gluten. So the no-knead technique, while simple and time-saving, is not going to give you a product as good as one that you spent an extra 15 or 20 minutes on--one that can hold up to an extended proof. If you DO stick with the no-knead, don't overproof it. It will collapse into a pancake. The other possibility is that your oven was not quite preheated when you put your bread in, or you were checking progress to often by opening the over. BE PATIENT! All that being said, I'm sure it was still delicious. Long proof or not, there is nothing like a loaf of bread fresh out of the oven. Except for a loaf of bread 24-36 hours out of the oven. Taste continues to develop after baking, and most crusts will improve with exposure to air.

HannahB said...

I ended up baking bread during the Snowpocalypse as well. I used Jacques Pepin's one-pot bread recipe, which is like Bittman/Lahey's no-knead bread but even simpler. It starts at about 2:04 in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AP27HxEzdK8
Foolproof and delicious. My only modification is I use one pot for the first rise and then put it into a bread pan for the second.

Amanda said...

So for book recs, we have:
The Bread Baker's Apprentice
Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day
Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day
Ruhlman's Ratio
Beard on Bread
No Need to Knead

scormeny - good to know I can adjust and hopefully improve! Thanks for the tips.

breaddude - Are you from Quail Creek? I've written about your great breads a few times, if so. Also very good tips. I was a little impatient preheating the oven so maybe that was an issue. Thanks for the expert advice!

Jenna said...

I love the recipes in The Bread Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum. They're very well tested and have worked out very well for me. Try her basic white sandwich bread (a brioche-like riff on Wonder Bread) - it's my favorite.

So glad you're getting the bread baking itch!

Jenna

BreadDude said...

I'm not Wes, but yes, that is where I bake. Starting culinary arts at L'Academie de Cuisine in a couple months, though. I'll keep baking and selling for him as much as possible

BreadDude said...

I second Jenna's recommendation The Bread Bible by Rose, Levy, and Beranbaum. Really great book. And Baking Artisan Bread by Ciril Hitz is a great introduction for home bakers. Village Baker by Joe Ortiz, also.

I saw you featured our potato bread with truffle oil. The recipe used is actually devised from an old Julia Child one, but she uses olive oil instead of white truffle oil. After a little hunting I found the recipe online in a version without a crazy yield:

http://www.baking911.com/recipes/bread/potato_loaves.htm

The rustic top seam is probably my favorite shape.

colleen @ foodietots said...

Congrats on winning the challenge! I'm another Peter Reinhart fan. I'm doing the Bread Baker's Apprentice challenge -- while the recipes are pretty involved for a beginner, the book is really very informative. And most importantly, all the recipes have worked so far!

sullidav said...

i did a lot of yeast baking over snowpocalypse. i think the rose levy berenbaum (sp?) bread bible is a ridiculous cookbook -- open to any random page and you find over precise instructions like cook at 425 for 3.5 minutes then at 350 for 17 minutes then prop open the oven door by 4 inches etc. i like bittman, everything, for bread. easy and excellent. have made great baguettes from it (1st ed, yellow cover, recipe better than the 2d ed, red cover) for years. on snowpocalypse did that, also great olive bread (the winner), naan, and yeast waffles (also excellent) all from bittman.