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New Bread Books and some Old Articles

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For the bread bakers out there, fall is bringing us several new and exceptional bread books. From Ten Speed Press we have "Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Bread." It features a lot of new (for me) techniques and quite a few recipes for dark breads. If like me, you have been intimidated by rye, this may be the book we are looking for. An old favorite, his Struan Bread, is also there. Daniel Leader has a new book "Local Breads" that features a lot of regional breads from Europe and contains a lot of very good information on baking them. This book is a little more user-friendly for home bakers than was his classic "Bread Alone." Both books are meticulous in their detailed information. If you can't take a hands-on baking course from these great teachers, these books provide the next best thing.

Also, I discovered two very good recipes for sourdough Russian rye bread and blinis on the Weston Price Foundation web site (www.westonaprice.org). They were written by Garrick Ginzburg-Voskov. See the articles "Sourdough Rye Bread" and "Our Daily Bread," the latter co-authored by his wife Katherzine Czapp. Czapp also authors an article called "Against the Grain: The Case for Rejecting or Respecting the Staff of Life." This article cogently discusses the history of bread and the problem of gluten intolerance. There is evidence, both anecdotal and clinical, that sourdough bread (and noodles), that is to say grain products subjected to lactobacillic fermentation can be tolerated by people who suffer from celiac sprue syndrome. There are indications that the bacterial fermentation both denatures the phytases in the grains and "sever the bonds of 'toxic' peptides in wheat gluten responsible for the celiac reaction and neutralize them." It must be stressed that these are preliminary indications, but Czapp's own father, after suffering for more than thirty years from celiac sprue, is now able to eat her husband's sourdough bread but cannot tolerate at all even one ordinary pancake.

It looks like my grain mill is soon going to get a good work out.

Happy Baking!

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  1. Thank you for the post Father Kitchen. I've been trying to decide between Reinhart and Leader's new books. Your note on the dark bread recipes in the Reinhart book might sway me that direction.

    I always enjoy your posts on bread baking, so I hope you'll be reporting back as you try out these recipes!

    1. Many thanks as always for your bread insights, Father Kitchen! I am not as ambitious, though I do make the BittLay bread at least once a week. Given your expertise on this and other breads, can you give me any pointers on scoring the loaf?! I have a little lame from Sur la Table, but it never really seems to get the job done...

      5 Replies
      1. re: LindaMc

        Duh! Dear LindaMc, I am self taught and got it from books and a few conversations with other amateurs. The good books by Leader and Reinhart have plenty of info on scoring.

        If you are trying to score the loaf made by the Lahey recipe, you will be frustrated. A very slack dough simply will not hold a score very well. That is why Lahey has you drop it into the pot seam side up. The seams will open somewhat in baking.

        Now about the Duh part. I don't have a lame. I read someplace that an old safety razor on the end of a McDonald's coffee stirrer is all you need, and I was too cheap to buy a lame. But as I never got an old-fashion safety razor, I use a box cutter or a very sharp chef's knife. Not orthodox at all. Of course, that doesn't given me the fancy curves that are possible with a lame. On the other hand, it works well enough. Some scores work better cut at an angle from the vertical and others seem to do okay cut straight down. (On my boules I simply take a large chef's knife and cut a cross or a star on the top. But on batards I cut at an angle so the lip curls back a bit.) My experience has been that the cuts don't open well if the dough is very wet or if the scoring is too shallow. Don't be afraid to experiment--it's only bread. Make three baguettes and try the scoring at different depths and see what a difference it makes. And, if you want to cheat a little, put a little cornmeal in the score to discourage it from closing up. (Horrors! Did I write that?)

        Another factor is the oven atmosphere. You want one that gives you plenty of oven spring. That means hot and moist, so steam up that oven or bake initially in a covered container. Also the dough should be well-risen but not over risen. The hardest thing for me learn was the feel for the peak moment for putting a loaf in the oven. When it all comes together the scores open gloriously.

        I don't know if this is much help. I used to treat bread making like it was major surgery, fearful of the slightest mistake. Now my attitude is that most any loaf will be edible, so I observe what happens and learn from it. Ultimately, the bread has to teach me what it wants to be. Last night, I mismeasured water when I increased the size of a recipe. It was to have been a sourdough no knead loaf. The dough didn't feel right. I added a bit more water and kneaded it in and then folded it a few times during its long rise. I got one of the best classic French breads sur levain I've ever baked. So tomorrow morning I am going to repeat my "mistake" on purpose.

        There is photo of me at a traditional oven in Guam if you follow the link on my name. We baked 12 sourdough loaves that morning, my first ever in a beehive oven. My scoring in that picture was done with a chef's knife I had bought the morning before for three dollars. But it worked. Still, I'd love to attend a workshop and learn "to do it proper." Happy baking.

        1. re: Father Kitchen

          Thanks, Father K! Very helpful. I have tried to work the seam thing on the BittLay bread, but the result is always really blobby. I don't mind when we're just eating it at home, but I wouldn't mind giving the gift of bread once in a while, and I feel a little self-concious about the aesthetics of some of my loaves.

          The whole oven-spring thing seems to elude me too. My BittLay loaves (that's all I've made since the recipe appeared in the Times) don't seem to rise too much. I usually bake them in a 5q Le Creuset (although I am intrigues by your flower pot method). Once in a while they seem to rise pretty well, but usually they're pretty homely. I wonder if I'm letting the dough overrise? I've been going almost 3 hrs for the second rise, but maybe I should re-think that.

          Not that I'm actually complaining--they always taste great, and this bread (I usually make it with 1/3 whole wheat flour and the rest KA bread or Euro "Artisan" flour) has finally weaned my husband off the spongy white stuff!

          Frankly, Father K, I think you should HOST a workshop, especially since I also live in Washington and would be the first to sign up!

          1. re: LindaMc

            I get pretty good rise with all-purpose flour and a one and a half to two hours second rise after shaping. If I let the first fermentation go on 18 hours, I usually let take less time on the rise after shaping. I'm always concerned about exhausting the sugars in the dough. But I think it is more instinctive. When the weather is warm and the dough rises faster, I speed up the whole process. When we get into winter, I may take more time about it. So that long three-hour rise may have somethng to do with it. Also, the addition of whole wheat flour will result in smaller rise than in a flour with less bran in it. But I think the basic reality is that very wet dough isn't going to hold the score marks very well.

            I read someplace that almost any bread recipe can be turned into a no-knead recipe. The author advocated adding small amounts of vitamin c, but I am dubious about whether it would negatively affect the flavor. Still, if you want a well-scored loaf, try making it with ten ounces of water instead of the normal amount. You will find that getting all the flour to combine with the water will take more effort and you must get it all worked in. Let it sit for a while after the initial mix and take it out and fold it to move the (probably) wetter dough to the outside and to make sure by feel that it is hydrating. And it probably wouldn't do any harm to fold it a second time before the final fold--that's what I do when I make this with sourdough. It's a bit tricky dropping a scored loaf into a pot, but possible. It is easier to bake it in a cloche. Or preheat the casserole and an oven stone or pizza stone at the same time, slip the scored loaf onto the stone with a peel and put the overtunred casserole over the loaf. (Silicon mits are wonderful here.) Or, alternatively, just bake it on the stone with steam in the oven like the cookbooks say. Rosa Levy Beranbaum bakes her Lahey loaf on a stone without the pot. To steam the oven, heat an iron skillet or other heavy pot in the bottom of the oven and pour into it half a cup or a cup of very hot water just before putting the bread into the oven. Some authors suggest you use ice cubes as the water will boil off more slowly. You want a moist atmosphere at the start of the bake and a dry one at the end.

            And if you like the crumb of the loaf made with less water--and it will be different--you might consider simply kneading the dough in a large food processor. All it take is 45 seconds. And with the long rise, you could probably get away with just enough to really combine the ingredients. Maybe 20. I've often made bread following Charles Van Over's food process methods.

            But for depth of flavor with those kneaded breads, do play with pre-ferments (like a biga or poolish) or with sourdough. They aren't work at all, and they really make a difference. For more ideas, check out Suzanne Dunaways's book "No Knead to Knead" which you ought to be able to get from the library.

            Host a workshop? Not in our monastery kitchen. (The cook would freak out.) But it would be a new experience. But who would go to a workshop from an untrained baker?

            1. re: Father Kitchen

              I would!

              The sort of experimentation that you obviously engage in with your bread baking is the best kind of training I can imagine. I am a keen baker who enjoys making puff pastry and croquembouche, but for some reason bread seems more mysterious and intimidating.

              1. re: LindaMc

                Funny, pastry intimidates me. Forty years ago I made a decent pie crust. But I got too cerebral about it and lost the knack. If you can make puff pastry, bread should be a snap.