The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

What is the pinacle of bread baking?

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chuppy's picture
chuppy

What is the pinacle of bread baking?

Dear friends of bread,

Recently I had hoped to find my holy grail in bread baking learning to use a sourdough starter. With finals and term papers due, I hadn't enough time to invest in my serch for the almighty loaf. So I ask the question to all of you who enjoy this gift of freshness; is sourdough really the pinacle of breadbaking? I am learning day by day and will continue to try every recipe that seems possible with the limited skills I posess. But really, what is about SDthat people are in awe of?

Over and out-Chuppy

gianfornaio's picture
gianfornaio

Well, I don't know if sourdough is really the singular pinnacle of bread baking, but the process is pretty amazing, really. I mean, if you have water, flour, yeast and salt, then you can pretend that you have four constituent parts that do things kind of mechanically-- maybe the flour and the water become a medium that physically traps the gas that the yeast makes or even just "becomes" (which is at best oversimplifying and at worst and otherwise incorrect).

When you can cultivate the wild yeast and do it with just flour and water (and, of course, the salt for flavor), the whole nature of the process is all  irreducibly there. If I may wax poetic (or cheese out), it's alchemy. It's Romantic in a (microecologically) transcendental way. Of course, many of us do our part here to make it more romantic, but I don't know anyone who's done it successfully without succumbing to awe.

Maybe it's that you have to understand its biology on some level, and that its complexity is remarkable once you take a moment (or, likely, much longer) to consider the properties you have to address to make it work. 

Or maybe that it, a living entity, demands your collusion in its processes if it's going to feed you. You've gotta respect that. It's like the difference between eating an animal you've raised or stalked or even seen alive before it was your food, and pulling a clean, raw piece of anonymous meat out of a plastic-wrapped tray. When the origin is apparent, you have to address the whole process, which is a powerful, awesome cycle of events comprising life, death, love, chance, discipline, history, biology and chemistry. That's pretty serious.

At the risk of sounding like someone who doesn't get out enough, what could be more incredible?  

John 

ehanner's picture
ehanner

You have to have had the experience of diving into a Boule of San Francisco Sour Dough while sitting on fisherman's wharf. This is a question that need not be answered but to be stated. Now that a flurry of activity by artisan bakers has established that this wonderful concoction can be made in your home, a small bit of the exclusivity has drifted away with the oven steam. Never the less, if you can't make it to San Fran on a pilgrimage find a local baker that claims to be an artisan and spend a while trying to match him/her. You should have a mental image of the crust and aroma to strive for. Your own personal pinnacle!

Eric

chuppy's picture
chuppy

Eric,

Do you think anyone here has ever worked, or in a sense trained under a proffessional bread baker for a short time in order to bake better bread. If so maybe I should speak with a local Artisan? We have a lady in the area who learned her craft while in Belgum. I would live to learn her skills but do not want to impose or be forward. Any thoughts?

Jeff

ehanner's picture
ehanner

Chuppy

The Bakery featured on the front page of this site apparently allowed an intern to work while on vacation. I think that's a great idea if you can take the time. Even if it's just a week or two if you are a good worker and fit in, I would think you could learn quite a bit. Who knows where it will take you. If you like it maybe you will find a new life's work.

Eric

chuppy's picture
chuppy

Bravo!! Bravo!! Well said John. That was a great explanation! Two thumbs up.

Jeff

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Is eating the bread, paper thin, just quarter size, letting it melt in your tongue, with your eyes closed, not being disturbed, taking in all it's flavor, sorting out the individual grains, being happy with it and knowing that you baked it yourself.  A glass of vintage wine.....


"What?  No, Wake up!  Mini, the question was bread baking not tasting.....the high point of baking, what is it?"


OK  Then in that case it would be watching it rise in the oven, seeing a creation rise up and mature.  A bread that doesn't rise get labeled as a brick, rock, puck, doorstop  and all kinds of names we associate with being on the ground or under our feet.  A bread that falls, just about the same but we are a little kinder because, after all, it did get a rise.  We like to see what bubbles can do, big or small, and we liked to be surprised!  Oh yes, Suprised!  How it gets to that point is the fun part or not?  Mixing and changing recipes is also fun or not?   Banging our heads is also fun, or not? Figuring out when it's ripe is also fun (just ask a 4 yr old) or not?  It's a kind of roller coaster, or not?  How a single celled bacteria and yeast (the wee beasties), wild or tamed, can multiply at rapid speed after eating what we give them and cough out gasses to flavor and raise our food is just fascinating!   
The aroma therapy that comes with it is also part of the "high" of bread baking.  It's a sign of well being and welcome.  Having so many variables come together at once create the pinnacle and let us not forget the color, the toasted crust of our creation or the sounds that a well baked loaf makes.  The sounds and comments as the bread is admired or our pride when we present it to be enjoyed.  Which brings be back around to my glass of wine.... and this social gathering that bread has bonded.  A toast to us and our hobbie:  May it last as long as it does! 

 Mini Oven

SourdoLady's picture
SourdoLady

Chuppy, it is the FLAVOR of sourdough that makes it the king of breads. I don't mean sour, either. It is the complexity of the fermented grains with the lactobaccilus and wild yeast that make the awesome flavor unlike any commercial yeasted bread. You can still taste it minutes after you are done eating. 

Did you know that Floyd once worked for Peter Reinhart at his Brother Juniper's Bakery?

chuppy's picture
chuppy

That's it, I'm goin' west. That's where all the action is anyway! It's either on the west coast or east coast. Here in the midwest we get wonder bread! Well OK, at my house we don't buy bread, just bread ingrediants.

I've often thought about going to work  for an artisan bread baker here localy on the weekends. She learned her craft while going to school in Belgum. Then again, that might ruin the surprise of learning on my own? In any case I really want to enjoy my passion for baking breads and be well....good at it too.

Thanks-Chuppy

mountaindog's picture
mountaindog

Thom Leonard, profiled in Glezer's ABAA, had his bakery somewhere in Kansas I think. I don't know what he's doing these days, but in the heart of the "breadbasket" wheat growing region I imagine there must be some other great artisan bakeries such as Leonard's around?