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New Year’s Resolution: Bake Better Bread at Home

January 7, 2014 / By Matt

I only have two resolutions for 2014. Both are relatively simple (you will not see me juice cleansing anytime soon)…and both are kind of fun. Especially in the dead of winter. Resolution Number One: Make Better Homemade Bread and Make It More Often.

proof

I am a bread addict. Every day, I thank my lucky stars that I am able to live within walking distance of so many great bread bakeries (Almondine, Bien Cuit…etc…). I start every day with toast smothered in almond butter (or Nutella) and I often have a little bread drizzled with olive oil for a midday snack.

Turns out, I also like to dabble in a little homemade bread baking (the smell!!! the ambient heat!!!). I, like a billion other people, fell in love with Jim Lahey’s recipe for No-Knead Bread and bought the subsequent book. (For any beginning bread baker, you have to start with Jim’s book…it is like a mini Bible in making excellent bread at home without a lot of fuss).

basket and bread

Fast forward a few years: I started dipping my toe in the Tartine Bread book. It is epic. Chad Robertson’s detailed step-by-step guide for producing a decent starter than a great sourdough are both daunting and (if you are a bread addict) a tiny bit life-changing. I baked my way through the book in fits and starts. I ate like a king – the sourdough bread I produced with this book in my crappy apartment oven was pretty damn great (if I do say so myself). Unfortunately, over time, I couldn’t justify keeping the starter alive. I travel too much. I also had trouble tossing sooo much of the levain – (my frugal alarm went off and rang in my head every time I went to discard and feed the starter).

breadinpan

I started looking for ways to up my bread game without being a slave to the starter and stumbled across another genius book, Flour Water Salt Yeast. I love this book. A LOT.

First, the author – Ken Forkish – demo’s all of the hard-to-describe-in-print bread making steps in this series of videos. This is extremely helpful because no matter how good the prose, describing certain bread techniques is a bit confusing. The videos demystify the tricky instructional language.

breadinpan3

Second, his recipe for Overnight 40% Whole Wheat Bread is kind of the best bread I have ever tasted that didn’t use a a levain. And it is easy. It is just a few more steps and a bit more time consuming (and more exacting in a way that is gentle, not annoying) than the Lahey No-Knead. I can’t stop making variations on it.

I could go on and on…the book is full of fun stuff (and many excellent bread recipes using levain and poolish). Ken’s detailed list of equipment is perfect as are his many words of detailed wisdom regarding working with dough. Initially, I was going to blog the entire recipe for the Overnight 40% Whole Wheat Bread…but it is long and detailed and decent, abbreviated versions appear here and here. But truthfully, I highly suggest you just purchase a copy of the book for the full monty. I feel that a condensed version wouldn’t do it justice.

And very lastly and inconsequentially: One – baking bread at home has the side benefit of making your home smell like Heaven and Two – per the suggestion of the Tartine Bread book I switched from a regular dutch oven to this Lodge Combo Cooker and I highly recommend you do the same. And Three – per my resolution I am trying to bake bread at least twice/week at home and I am open to all sorts of feedback/experiments. If you have any other pointers or suggestions, please feel free to send them my way.

nutellatoast

Oh, and my second resolution (for those that are interested) will be posted next week.

About The Baking Society

The National Baking Society is dedicated to preserving American baking standards,techniques, ingredients, ideas and recipes. In less extravagant ornate prose, The National Baking Society is a blog from the folks at Baked.

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