classic french bread

Even though I’ve haven’t been posting regularly lately, I do still bake (recreationally speaking) very regularly. My hard drive is chock full of photos of baked goods, but I can’t find the time to blog any of it. However, JWU will be out for the summer in 12 short weeks and rest assured, I plan to resume my regular posting.

One of the things I’ve been making regularly at home has been bread. My go-to bread lately is the Classic French Bread from Peter Reinhart’s most excellent Artisan Breads Every Day (and I’m not just saying that because he thanks me — and over 500 other people — on page 215) — it’s just a straightforward, tasty, really consistent recipe. What I love most about it is that with a little bit of planning and very little fuss, we can have quality bread with dinner. Peter’s method in this book is to mix the dough the day (or a few days) before you intend to bake. You then refrigerate the dough overnight (or up to 4 days). While the dough is in the fridge, the flavor develops and deepens. On baking day, you shape the loaves, then proof and bake. It really produces some of the best bread we’ve ever eaten.

san francisco-style sourdough bread

I fed my sourdough starter last week (over six months along now and still alive and well!) and made a couple boules of San Francisco-style sourdough bread. I wasn’t sure what being a “San Francisco-style sourdough” meant exactly, so I did a little research.

According to Peter Reinhart’s Crust and Crumb: Master Formulas For Serious Bread Bakers:

What makes this a San Francisco-style bread is a sour rather than mild starter, a wet rather than firm mother sponge (as in pain au levain), and an intermediate “build.” Using both wet and firm starters develops a more rounded flavor. You could make a dough directly from the barm sponge but it will be slacker and spread out rather than up. It also won’t have as much complexity of flavor. The firm starter makes a big difference; it allows you to step beyond good bread to incredible bread.

And incredible bread it is. In the past 3 days, we’ve had it just about every way you can imagine, including countless grilled cheeses (made with jalapeño jack cheese — so good). In fact, as I type, another batch is proofing… 🙂

roasted three-seed bread

This was actually a variation of Peter Reinhart’s Roasted Three-Seed Bread (from Brother Juniper’s Bread Book). The original recipe has sunflower, pumpkin and flax seeds, and I added a few more. It’s actually very, very good — medium crumb, great crust — and this is coming from someone who doesn’t really like breads with nuts and twigs. I have no problem with the smaller seeds of the bread world, actually, but sunflower and pumpkin seeds (at least in store-bought breads) tend to be a little too prominent for me to ignore. In this bread they all blend together in the dough in a sort of seedy symphony. Now if only I had splurged on some of that nice Irish butter when I was at the grocery store, my happiness would be complete.

wild rice and onion bread

This multigrain bread first appeared in Peter Reinhart’s excellent Brother Juniper’s Bread Book. I used Lundberg Family Farms Wild Blend (a blend of a couple varieties of brown rice, as well as wild, Wehani and Black Japonica rices) in the dough, as well as diced fresh onions. P. said the taste reminds him of Scallion Pancakes. I find the onion flavor somewhat subtle, but it’s definitely present. L. seeemed a bit taken aback by the notion that there were all these different kinds of rice in the bread, but he had several slices nevertheless!

sourdough update

Guess what… my last sourdough starter was a dud. It was exceedingly sluggish, to borrow a term from Peter Reinhart, in developing and after being very, very patient, I decided to start a second starter whilst keeping an eye on the first. The new starter took off with a bang (don’t know really what the difference was, aside from the shape of the bowl I used) and the original starter eventually grew white mold (I decided this was probably a bad sign) and I chucked it. At any rate, I’ve quickly regained any ground I lost on waiting on the first starter and with a some guidance from Peter, the second starter is still truckin’.

sourdough, here we go! (again)

I’m trying again to make a sourdough starter. Some of you may recall the disasters (thank you, C., for suggesting a word that was much less offensive than my original choice) that were my previous attempts. This time, I am following a modified version of the starter recipe in Peter Reinhart’s Bread Baker’s Apprentice. So far, so good, although I am more than a week into the starter, but really only on the 4th step. I am told that the winter (or rather the ambient temperature of my frigid house) as well as many other factors can slow down the process, so I’m just soldiering on, one foot in front of the other. So far, no catastrophes (fingers crossed), no mold, nice boozy (yeasty) smell… just not a lot of bubbles. In the meantime, I’ll… just keep swimming, swimming, swimming…