Saturday, March 20, 2010

Bread, Bread, Bread

I love bread!  Really, it is one of my favorite foods.  I could eat it every day, for every meal, and would be quite happy.  Thankfully, most of my family seems to share my love of bread as well and will happily help me eat a loaf of bread whenever I make it (yes, we will eat the entire loaf for one meal).  

I also love to bake bread.  I am not an artistic person at all but baking bread is a way that I can create something using my own two hands.  I get great satisfaction from kneading the dough, feeling for the right texture and consistency, and shaping a loaf.  I know, sounds really weird but I really do like to make homemade bread (almost as much as I like to eat it).

I recently received two great bread cookbooks to help fuel my love of baking and eating homemade bread.  The first is Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads: New Techniques, Extraordinary Flavor.  This book is wonderful.  The breads I have made using this book are some of the best tasting breads I have ever made (like the Multigrain Struan....YUMM!)  The breads in this book are also all whole grain so I feel good about eating them and feeding them to my family.  The complexity of the recipes, the scientific information used to arrive at each formula, and the hands on process for making these breads really excites the part of me that just likes to make bread for the sake of making bread.  

The second book I received is Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois.  This book has also produced some tasty loaves of bread (as well as a few novelty items like pretzels and cinnamon rolls) and is great for days when I just don't have time to "create" a loaf of bread.  I have to admit, when I received the book I was a bit worried that I'd miss the hands-on aspect of making bread.  But I have grown to really appreciate this book for its unique process of making bread and the place it has in our home.  For instance, as I sat down to plan last weeks menu and grocery list, I realized that at least two meals during the week begged for a fresh loaf of bread.  Unfortunately, our week also called for us to be out of the house much of the week and unable to babysit a loaf of bread as it went through the kneading and rising processes.  So, I decided to solve that problem on Sunday night by whipping up the 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich recipe in the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day book in..... yep, 5 minutes.  Later in the week, I was able to pull out the dough and have a fresh baked loaf of bread with very minimal "me" time. 

The other unique thing about the ABFMD that I really appreciate is that making one batch of dough early in the week can produce very different breads later.  Not only can you use the same dough to make different shaped loaves (resulting in different textures and crusts), you can also use one dough recipe to make different types of breads by adding ingredients to it on bake day.  Even more surprising, is the way the bread flavor changes the longer the dough ferments in the refrigerator.  This past week, I used the 100% Whole Wheat recipe to make two, very different loaves.  The first was baked using a typical bread loaf pan and produced a slightly sweet, softer crusted loaf of bread.  The second was baked several days later and had started to take on a slight sourdough flavor.  I baked this loaf free-form using my banneton which produced a nice, crunchy crust.

Don't they look good!

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