Thursday, June 26, 2008

Man cannot live by bread alone..

But with Madame's absence from May 30 until July 4, I am doing my best. I have used the time to learn about breadmaking After all, how hard can it be? There are 4 ingredients (for most breads) - Flour, water, yeast and salt. A single baking temperature (well almost always at 450, but there are exceptions), a couple of simple techniques - and as I discovered to my horror almost infinite variety. o wonder there are learned tomes devoted to bread making. No wonder they all conflict with each other. Bread making is personal, your own styles and rhythms greatly affect the finished product.

Proportions matter, technique matters, ingredients matter, temperature matters. Every possible variable you can think of matters! So it has been an instructive month. Just the flour has been giving me fits. I have settled on using 1/8th (by weight - yes everything works better when you weigh it) of cake flour to all purpose flour in most breads. For every 100 gm of AP flour I use 12 gm of cake flour. I have not been using bread flour - although of course I have tried that. You can get a much softer, more delicate crumb with a great tasting chewy exterior this way. Of course there are some breads that demand bread flour - especially those that use other grains (like rye) as well. I haven't graduated to them yet.

I have made Ciabatta, I have made baguettes, I have made ordinary rustic loaves, I have made the no-knead bread. I have used sourdough starters as leaveners, I have made poolishes, I have made up couches (no not the kind I sleep on when I am banished), but the kind that shaped loaves live in when they are resting and recuperating after a hard knead.

Bottom line of all of this is that I now have massive respect for artisinal bakers. This is hard! However, with the help of Dan Reader's books and articles, a steady stream of absolutely delicious bread is coming out of the oven at last. The 4 hour baguettes are the current project - we will see what gives there, but I have high hopes for them.

Oh and during this orgy of bread baking, butter slathering, eating and drinking, I am down 9 pounds for the month. I must be pining away! Carbs who says carbs are bad??????

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