Category Archives: bread

Truly the Best Bread Ever

Ok, I know I already have a post titled “Best Bread Ever.” But my former best bread has been supplanted by an even better bread. The recipe comes from Tartine Bread, a book written by Elisabeth Prueitt and Chad Robertson, the baking gurus behind San Fransisco’s Tartine Bakery.

The book begins with a master recipe involving a sourdough starter that contains equal parts flour and water — what bread baking know-it-alls refer to as ‘100% hydration.’ I’m a sucker for recipes that call for 100% hydration starter because I also like to bake things off a blog called Wild Yeast, and all her recipes call for 100% hydration starter too. Convenient! (See some gorgeous bread photos on Wild Yeast’s YeastSpotting page). Continue reading


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Best. Bread. Ever.

Ok, maybe not EVER. But it’s the best bread to come out of my kitchen. Flecked with nutty flax seeds and whole grains, this bread offers the perfect amount of heartiness, sponginess, and chewiness (I like bread that gives your teeth a workout. I want to hear ripping when I bite). Best of all, unlike most of Reinhart’s recipes, you can complete all the steps in a single day (provided you’ve already got a happy, well-fed sourdough starter in the fridge). The recipe comes from Wild Yeast, a blog I’ve been following for six months or so. I love this blog because 1. it has great pictures, 2. all the recipes use ONLY sourdough starter, 3. the sourdough starter* she relies on is 100% hydration, which basically means that it’s really easy to maintain.

[*A not-so-brief note on sourdough starters: Don’t be scared, they’re friendly and easier than you might think to maintain. (If you don’t already have one, Wild Yeast has an excellent tutorial on how to start one here. You can also order one, like I did, here.) One common myth is that you need to be super careful to feed them weekly. I have gone as long as a month without feeding my starter, which I keep refrigerated. And it’s still going strong. If I leave it for a particularly long time, I will throw most of it out before I bake and start building it up again by adding flour and water, then waiting for it to get really bubbly, then adding more flour and water, and so on. There are some great tips for maintaining your starter here.

What I love about Wild Yeast is that Susan uses a 100% hydration starter for all her recipes. That means that you add equal amounts of flour and water (I do this by weight, not by volume). No complicated math = fewer screwups. So MY starter (also 100% hydration) will work for every single recipe on her site, no tweaking required. Much simpler.]

But enough talk! You want to see the pictures, don’t you?

Mmm. Fresh bread with butter and homemade strawberry jam.

Of course, I’m a hopeless perfectionist, so I will tell you what displeases me about this loaf.

1. You can see that it’s rather flat. I didn’t get a nice dome like I wanted. I have a sneaking suspicion that this has something to do with the way I manhandled the loaf while trying to wrestle it into the oven. But how are you supposed to transfer the loaves from the place where they rise to the place where they cook, anyway? I’m thinking parchment paper for next time.

2. I cannot for the life of me get a good “ear.” The ear is the nice crispy flap that you see on the tops of artisan loaves. Here’s how it forms: You slash the loaves before they go in the oven to release gas and the dough flap formed by the slash is supposed to rear up and get really brown and crispy. Mine doesn’t. Maybe because I hacksaw my slashes with a serrated knife?

3. The bottoms of my loaves, this one included, tend to get overly thick and crisp. They are so crisp, you need some serious bicep strength to saw through them. Is my stone too close to the heat? Is that normal? What gives?

Questions to ponder I as gobble slice after slice of butter-slathered bread positively dripping with jam.


Filed under baking, bread, recipe

Summer Baking

I love making bread. If I were an independently wealthy woman, I would spend all day doing it. But my funds are limited and my free time scarce. So if I’m going to go to the trouble of mixing and kneading the dough, allowing it to hang out on the counter or in the fridge for 8 to 24 hours and then letting it rise and rise again, the bread better damn well be delicious. Because lord knows there are 501 million delicious ready-to-eat loaves just waiting to be purchased. In fact, my local co-op sells a fantastic unsliced multigrain sourdough for $4.50.

My birthday yielded two of Peter Reinhart’s books: The Bread Baker’s Apprentice and Whole Grain Breads. Reinhart is a bread guru and his books (according to one of my friends) have the ability to change lives. Needless to say, I was excited. Last week I threw together some ciabatta and today I finished off two loaves of multigrain struan.

The ciabatta (pictured above) was unquestionably a success. It turned out airy, chewy and delicious–just as it’s supposed to be.

The struan looked delicious, but the taste definitely leaves something to be desired. These particular loaves contain brown rice, quinoa, bran, flaxseed and lots and lots of whole-wheat flour. Healthy? Yes. Delicious? Not so much.

I thought the point of Whole Grain Breads was to teach techniques that make whole grain breads taste not so much like whole wheat but rather like scrumptious balls of deliciousness. Yet the struan is decidedly dense and wheat-y. And it took two days and four bowls to make.

Perhaps the struan is just not my cup of tea. Perhaps I added too much bran. Perhaps I didn’t let the loaves rise long enough. Or perhaps even a bread guru can’t make four grains and several cups of whole-wheat flour taste like ciabatta. Still, I’m not ready to give up on Whole Grain Breads quite yet. Anyone up for some whole-wheat cinnamon raisin bread?

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