Tuesday, January 26, 2010

My Secret Obsession

I don't admit this very often, but I am completely and utterly mad about bread and butter.  If some law ever came into effect that I could only eat one thing, that would probably be it.  Sushi is a worthy contender, but in the long run, I would probably have to go with the bread.  I'm not talking about Wonderbread here.  Not sliced bread, and not even the stuff "baked" fresh daily at Costco.  I mean that real, honest artisan loaf with that toothsome yet tender crumb, really well defined crust, and the complex aromas from sourdough or a good long preferment.  And butter; that's a whole separate topic for discussion.  Salted or not?  Goat or cow?  Oh, I could go on for pages...

This fascination really started during childhood, with my mother baking the majority of our bread.  It wasn't particularly complex, but it was fresh, smelled incredible, and instilled a lifelong appreciation for fresh loaves.  Perhaps six years ago, I bought the book Artisan Baking Across America, by Maggie Glezer (which I would highly recommend to anyone).  This book has had a huge impact on the quality of my bread.  Both my husband and I have always baked, but the recipes we used were always pretty rudimentary.  Since this book came into our home, we have been teaching ourselves how to bake and have consistently produced beautiful loaves worthy of the best bakeries in the area.  So, this gorgeous loaf was the product of yesterday's labors:

The method for this loaf isn't particularly complicated; it has a preferment (a small percentage of flour and water combined with yeast and allowed to ferment for many hours to develop flavor and build up the yeast) which is then added to the standard flour/water/salt combination, but this is where the recipe diverges from standard lean doughs.  This loaf has just a touch of honey and about three ounces of mashed potato.  Also, the preferment is the only source of leavening; generally when using a preferment, more yeast is added when putting together the final dough.  So the low yeast content (effectively 1/3 of 1/4 teaspoon for this one loaf), a high percentage of water, and some added sugars resulted in a fairly sloppy dough and a very long proof time.  I have to tell you though, the result was worth it.  I ended up with a thick, well developed crust, beautiful pale golden crumb, and an aroma to die for.  And yeah.  I ate it with butter. 


  1. You left out and warm from the oven. Beautiful loaf. My mouth is watering now.

  2. i'll make you a loaf next time you're here; in the meantime, stop drooling, society in general considers it unattractive : )