How old would you be, if you had no idea how old you really were?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Notes on the Art of Baking Bread

Bread makes itself, by your kindness, with your help, with imagination streaming through you, with dough under hand, you are breadmaking itself, which is why breadmaking is so fulfilling and rewarding.

Breadmaking is basically not a complicated process. Mix some flour with enough water to form a dough, adding a touch of salt perhaps; shape it, bake, the result is bread in its simplest, most fundamental form: dense, coarse, crusty, robust, spirited, earthy.
From the opening pages of The Tassajara Bread Book

Of the several bread books that I own the Tassajara Bread Book is my favorite. I like the approach, the recipes are simple, the instructions are detailed and well illustrated. And it is easy to move on and improvise once one gets a grip on the basic bread.

Bread is really very basic. We’ve found that we can even make a no-knead bread with just flour, water, and a bit of salt and a tiny bit of yeast. And that bread is so popular that there are hundreds of posts on the internet every day about this one simple recipe.

And in my own experience I’ve found that bread making is easily learned, and the process of making bread is fairly forgiving. I don’t measure much. With very little experience you’ll find that you can just measure the water and the yeast, and of course the salt, and then add flour until the dough looks right and feels right. I pay little attention to the kind of yeast I use. I just keep it refrigerated and try to use it within a couple of months from its purchase. I live in the mountains at 8000 ft but don’t even think about any adjustments for altitude. I just watch the bread rise and when it looks right I bake it. I have also found that bread will rise in fairly cool environments, our house seldom gets to more than 70° F inside, and bread rises just fine.

If you are looking for some help learning how to knead bread there is a pretty good illustrated tutorial on the Internet called How to Knead Bread Dough

For me baking is not a hobby nor an avocation, it is simply a way of getting good healthy bread on the table. But I do enjoy the process. I like kneading bread. I like the aroma in the house as bread is rising and baking. And I can seldom wait to slice off the end of that loaf and butter up a slice.

And for those of us who are fighting the sodium battle every day it is really nice to have a great piece of bread with less that half of the sodium of the breads that we can find on the shelves of the supermarkets and bakeries.

Happy Baking

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