The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Front Page on Wall Street Journal

Ford's picture
Ford

Front Page on Wall Street Journal

For those who might have missed it, "The Fresh Loaf" and sourdough made the front page of The Wall Street Journal today, Monday, May 3, 2010.  The bottom of the page, but the front page, none-the-less -- and continued on page A6.


Ford

JeremyCherfas's picture
JeremyCherfas

but then, I suppose we do seem weird to other people.


Jeremy

hansjoakim's picture
hansjoakim
Ford's picture
Ford

That's it!


Ford

Reuth's picture
Reuth

...but I wonder how many of us started baking bread because of the recession? I'm a newbie, but I know plenty of you have been baking forever. And I started baking bread not because I suddenly had the time (I'm a college professor--with so many people out of work, I'm busier than ever!), but because it seemed the next logical step for me in terms of eating as locally as possible and eliminating as many chemicals as possible from our diet.


So forgive the hijack (because it really is cool to have TFL in the NY Times), and feel free to ask me to start another thread on this if you want, but I'm curious as to why we all started baking bread.


Ruth

Ford's picture
Ford

I didn't see it in the N. Y. Times, but the W. S. J.

To answer your question about why I started making bread, simple!  I could not find any good bread in the grocery store.  I have been making it for thirty or forty years, first with yeast then with a sourdough-yeast hybrid, and now mostly sourdough with an occasional loaf of salt-rising bread.  I still use commercial yeast for my cinnamon buns.


Ford


 

Doc Tracy's picture
Doc Tracy

Interesting little article. Last week the tomato forum from the Garden web had an article which had actually written based on some interviews (poorly ignored interviews I might add) with forum posters.


I started baking bread as a natural extension of my obsession of cooking. It's just more challenging than putting together a pot of soup or a casserole.


The sourdough I think attracted me not only because it was talked about on the garden forum but because of my "geeky" science personality. All those bacteria and yeast growing in the bowl just sounded like all sorts of fun! I actually started my first starter before baking my first bread or making my first homemade pizza dough! Starter was still getting ready on the countertop when I made that first pizza dough from the vegetarian cookbook.

Reuth's picture
Reuth

It was the WSJ. This is what I get for not proofreading before hitting "save"!

dstroy's picture
dstroy

neat! We'll have to pick up a copy. (Though yes agreed that recession had nothing to do with baking for our home either. Not sure how much the increase in traffic is related to financial stuff as just coincidence that the site has been in existence for 5 years and word-of-mouth has gotten around in a time when economy was changing.)

Marni's picture
Marni

my daughter named Happy and she will be so excited to see the name in the paper!


I've been baking bread for years, but found TFL 1 1/2 years ago when I wanted to try making my own starter. (They were a top Google response then!) I thought of it as short term challenge to my baking, but the bread (and waffles, and pizzas etc) are so good, I've no plans to stop.


I thought the story was fine and that it was nice that the reporter took on the task of getting and using  a starter.


Marni

alhbamboo's picture
alhbamboo

The people at King Arthur have maintained to me at the starter eventually reflects the place where it is kept and nurtured. And yet Didier Rosada tells us that he bakes the same bread in Maryland that he bakes in San Francisco. Wish the experts would agree.


 


I also learned from the Journal article that the particular bugs are a function of temperature at which the starter is kept. I thought the temperature affected the relative populations of yeast and bacteria.I'd love to be set straight.

LindyD's picture
LindyD

James MacGuire (technical editor of Prof. Raymond Calvel's "Taste of Bread") wrote the following in a recent issue of The Art of Eating:


"Any time I have been given a piece of culture (one, attributed with mythical qualities, was said to be over 100 years old), I have found that on my usual regimen of feeding and warm room temperture, within two or three days it produces a pain au levain that tastes exactly like my usual one."


I believe that temperature and hydration affects the bacteria type:  wetter and warmer producing more homofermentative bacteria, and cooler and drier producing more heterofermentative bacteria.

Debra Wink's picture
Debra Wink

Temperature and hydration do have an effect on the bacteria, but not in quite the way that you think. They're pretty much all heterofermentative bacteria in traditional (type I) starters, the kind that most people here keep. Wetter and warmer conditions favor more homofermentation in the facultatively heterofermentative bacteria (facultative, meaning that they are capable of both), and more alcohol (instead of acetic acid) in the obligately heterofermentative bacteria. Cooler and drier increase acetic acid output in both types, but it's the same (heterofermentative) bacteria either way. It's only their metabolic pathways that change with the temperature and hydration.


This is a really important distinction because cooler and drier slow bacteria, reducing their populations overall. It's a myth that those conditions favor heterofermentative bacteria. What they favor is the leg of the metabolic pathway leading to acetic acid production. But, people who chase the sour in their mother starters by keeping them cool and dry, usually complain that it disappears altogether.


-dw

SteveB's picture
SteveB

I think the above post should be required reading for all those who have posted, or who will post in the future, the inevitable question, "How do I make my sourdough bread more sour?".


 


SteveB


www.breadcetera.com

bnom's picture
bnom

I made my first loaf in 1972 and have been baking throughout...but if you were to chart my flour consumptiion with recessions and unemployment you'd see a very strong corrollary.  Even when money is tight, I can always afford flour and salt!

dstroy's picture
dstroy

hmm.. well, put in those terms, I wonder how much of it is a matter of simply having the time rather than just money too.

davidg618's picture
davidg618

For me, except for not yet buying a new oven (36", multimode wall unit), it's never been money; it's been time as dstroy questioned. I'm not wealthy, but I never left one job, that another wasn't offered almost immediately (sometimes  a new opportunity was my reason for leaving.) Only when funding dried up in my last full-time job, nothing was on the horizon. Six months later, I quit looking, declared myself retired, and found "retired' my life-long calling. I do retirement at least as well, and probably better, than most jobs I've held.


I've also been a "foodie" for a very long time. Frankly, though good in so many other ways, my mother was a poor cook: lacking in skills, not always attentive--she burned a lot of foods--and devoid of inventiveness. To be fair, my father was also somewhat narrow in what he'd tolerate. Outside the home, at restaurants, and friends' home he'd try most anything and like most of the trials. At home, meat--always well done--and potatoes were sufficient.


I sauteed my first frogs legs when I was ten or eleven, and baked my first bread--pan-baked, open fire bannock--when I was twelve. I learned to saute or bake or steam or batter-fry self-caught fish in my teens. Before I graduated from high school I was cooking meals for church youth groups of fifteen to thirty members on weekend retreats. I read cookbooks as often as I read novels, and, until I went to college, more frequently than textbooks.


At eighteen my cooking slowed, almost to a standstill. Work, full-time work, away-from-a-home-for-long-periods-of-time work, stay-out-of-the-galley work, reared its ugly head: I joined the Navy.


And found a world of new interests. I won't bore you with details; suffice it to say, when i left the Navy, twenty-six years later, I did't regret a day I'd served. They paid for my college degrees, showed me parts of the world I'd never heard of, let me drive fast ships, and came to know and be proud to be a part of a host of fine and dedicated men and women.


Along the way I acquired a wife and family: a captive audience. And when I had time, home from the sea, I fed them. They were my guinea pigs, my lab rats. They ate everything from abalone to squid, Beef Wellington to liver, curries to four-alarm chili. One of my lab rats, a son, became a chef whom Phyllis Richman, food critic for the Washington Post, gave his cooking three stars, and the restaurant he worked for a dreamed for financial boost wherein one restaurant became three. When we hold reunions, everybody cooks. The kitchens are bedlam, with wonderful noises, laughter, and especially tantilizing smells.


Coincidentally, I continued to bake. Tentative about the squid, my guinea pigs were nonetheless seduced by pies, cakes, cookies, and when I was home for Christmas authentic 19th century figgy pudding, and Grandma's Welsh Cakes. My, now grown, children, parents themselves, still ask for recipes.  I replicated my paternal grandmother's white bread as best I could, and branched out to wholewheat and, by TFL standards, insipid ryes. My three or four attempts at sourdough were disasters.


After leaving the Navy, work in England introduced me to what beer really should taste like; shortly after I began brewing at home. Five or six years ago, The Food Channel brought me authentic "low and slow" BBQ, and I said, "I can do that!". Friday, I smoked eighteen pounds of Boston Butt and six racks of baby-back ribs. That will hold us through the summer. Later this week I'll make fresh sausage. I'm thinking about smoking some of it. Home wine making was a natural extension of brewing. Homemade sauerkraut is my latest challenge; we grew a lot of cabbage over the winter.


A year ago I discovered the TFL; in that year my bread baking, by my estimate, has improved about 1000%  (that's not baker's math). Sourdoughs sometimes take up half the space on the shelf I'm allotted in the freezer.


So, why do I bake, cook, brew, vint, pickle, can, cure, smoke, and ferment? Well, I guess I like to. And now I have the time to.


David G.


 

Judon's picture
Judon

Your story is partially familiar. I've never been in the service but share your passion for all things culinary.


But, I'm responding to urge you to consider adding writing to your repertoire. You have a lyrical way of telling a story. I enjoyed reading your post.


Judy

davidg618's picture
davidg618

Writing: Without belaboring with too much detail, I've been writing since I was a teenager. I was the photographer for our high school newspaper, and I also wrote a photography column. I went into the Navy to become a Photographer's Mate. I'd been in a partnership, with a friend and high school senior, since I was a Junior. Mostly, we did weddings, sometimes as many as three on any given spring Saturday.We also freelanced for the local newspapers. The year I graduated, we won the class photographs contract. Tom, my partner, and I hand enlarged and processed about 5000 pictures that spring (1954). I couldn't afford the one good photography school in the USA, at that time, so we dissolved the partnership, and I joined the Navy. Unfortunately (in the short term) and fortunately (in the long term) the Navy had other plans for me. Electronics was a new word, and, a new discipline and source of trouble for the post-war Navy. I did well on the Navy's entrance exam, so they steered me toward electronics school. 


Later, in an enlisted men's schooling program, they sent me to college to become an electrical engineer, and, upon graduation, gave me an officer's commission. Subsequently, they sent me to graduate school, for an MS in Physics.


After I retired from the Navy, I discovered I had a flair for communicating with the written word. Both internally, and for clients I wrote thousands of pages of technical reports, contract proposals, and occasionally, speeches. And I rediscovered I love to write.


Since retirement, I've published articles in niche magazines (carriage driving, home brewing) and written memoirs I've shared with the family and friends, short stories, and a science fiction novel (unpublished, though I've tried). 


Writing blog entries on TFL is a new pleasure. i've read other's concerns the Internet has depersonalized human contact. I strongly disagree; to the contrary, it's an avenue to grow closer with like-minded people world-wide. TFL is just one example.


I'm telling you this because I want you to know how much, and why, I appreciate your kind words; like baking, writing is yet another obsession.


David G.


 


 

Judon's picture
Judon

I've read so many interesting stories here. Although I bake many times a week, my schedule is so full that I only get to post occasionally and that's usually as a response.


I feel very connected to the creator of TFL and his wife and to the many contributors from all over the globe and they don't even know it!


So to you and the many others who enrich my baking life, thank you!  Judy

bnom's picture
bnom

I certainly didn't mean to give the impression that I bake bread just because it's cost effective--but as far as obsessions go, it is a lot less costly than, say, golf.


 

Doc Tracy's picture
Doc Tracy

Well, certainly I wasn't baking any bread during residency and while I had my own clinic. I hadn't gotten bitten by the baking bug yet, however.


I do schedule my bakes around my work schedule. I also only work what would be considered a part-time schedule, although it's really more of a "compressed-time" schedule which allows me more time off to bake bread.


So, in a sense, I guess if I were unemployed right now I'd be baking more bread. Come to think of it, I did start my first starter last fall when I was actually temporarily between jobs.


Homemade bread is a heck of a lot cheaper than store-bought. But, I don't buy store-bought if money is tight either. When money is tight we go on veggies, beans and a few meals of the cheapest cuts of meat a week for treats. Baked goods and fresh fruits for our desserts because anything at the produce market in season is always cheap.


Through school, residency, military service, divorce, illness and closing my clinic/unemployment I've suffered some pretty lean times. I could probably write a book on how to shop and cook healthy meals on a tight budget!!


I love figuring out how to bake bread on a schedule. Nothing satisfies me more than to pop a couple of loaves in the oven at 5AM, have two fresh loaves baked before going to work a 12 hour shift. Coming home afterwards to refresh a starter or put together a loaf before going to bed is always relaxing and satisfying as well.


I save my experiments for days off but love to do the "daily breads" on work days as they are mindless and relaxing.

davidg618's picture
davidg618

I like it: it's honest, the writer did her homework, there's no condescension, and she captured the verve artisan bakers, pros and novices, exhibit. Yes, she cast it in the shadow of the recession, but last time I checked the Wall Street Journal was still a financial reporting engine.


I found it refreshing, compared to the right or left leaning spin most news writers apply.


David G

althetrainer's picture
althetrainer

Read the article; part of it was actually funny.  I didn't know they let you take a starter on a plane ride? 


I don't bake because of the recession, but my own obsession! We don't buy breads in the store simply because store bought bread is not as good as homemade bread.  And of course, making bread is fun too.


Al




Daisy_A's picture
Daisy_A

Well - congratulations on making the front page! Regards, Daisy_A

Marni's picture
Marni

I'm the "Marni" she quoted and I felt during our conversation that she was more interested in the human side of why people bake and the attachment people have to their starters.  That also comes through in the video she made.


The one comment about the recession seems a little out of place to me - the obligatory recession reference.


 


I began making all our bread and baked goods because I think it's healthier, and I know it tastes better!


Marni

Reuth's picture
Reuth

...about the recession comment. It seemed out of place with the rest of the article--it started the piece off with a twist that wasn't really part of it at all. The human side of things is both more compelling and more on-point. It's almost definitely the English professor in me coming through--I want her to stay on topic! :)


I love that your starter is named Happy, by the way. It really is like naming a pet (mine's called Fleur).


Ruth

stevyg's picture
stevyg

 


I only recently started baking breads.  It grew out of a long standing commitment to all things culinary. But it also grew out of some bizarre notion that I believe has developed as I have begun to grow older, and that is that some of the most basic things that we take for granted are things many of us could not do (if we were forced to by necessity) by ourselves because we have spent a lifetime buying other peoples talents.  While I can probably cook better than most every high end restaurant I have ever eaten in, I had not ventured into the pastries too often and never into the breads at all.  Wow, was I missing something great all these years! 


While the recession may not have had an impact in driving up flour sales, one cannot dismiss the possibility that it did, even if not directly, as a result of financial hardship for some.  Personally, and fortunately, the recession has not impacted me directly (only indirectly via the mega taxation to come :)) but it did provide a template for searching out "wasted" money.  As an example I will state that I used to get artisanal breads locally.  Well, semi artisanal as they were probably par baked artisanal breads from a monster grocer in the area. As flour prices increased the local ciabatta prices climbed from $1.50 to $3.50 per loaf.  Often, I would buy two or three loaves a week.  Longitudinally that's perhaps $500 per annum on ciabatta alone. Good bread, but since making my own ciabatta I can make it for 25 cents per loaf (if not less), and I have made variation that they don't even sell here... such as Asiago ciabatta, and sourdough ciabatta. 


Hmmm!?  I had always wanted to make bread and a simple reflection on the annual tally for ciabatta made me think that perhaps I needed another (seemingly endless) challenge.  So, I set off to make my own bread.  Needless to say, as a scientist, things have gone exceptionally well on the bread baking front thus far and I only look to delve deeper as time goes on and hopefully mature into an ept baker with the skills and artistry that many on this forum demonstrate.


This forum has been a wonderful source of knowledge and that has made the beginning of this adventure that much more rewarding.


So, while the recession might not have been the reason I started buying flour for the first time, it got me to thinking how I could grow personally via my bread making challenge and just perhaps.... save a penny or two in the process.  Of course, we won't factor in the cost of a super duper,  top of the line, spiral dough mixer into the equation.... but you get the point :).


First post,


Stephen

Doc Tracy's picture
Doc Tracy

I think so much of what you have to say applies to me at this time in my life. Got tired of paying for high cost decent bread. Curious to see how it's made. This brought about curiousity to see how pastries are made. Then I realized I could bake better, healthier, cheaper goods at home then I could find anywhere.


Might take awhile to pay off my grain mill but nobody in my house is complaining.

Wild-Yeast's picture
Wild-Yeast

Marni,


You're now famous!  So's Happy the Starter...


 


+Wild-Yeast

SallyBR's picture
SallyBR

I thought it would be a fun article, and indeed it was, loved reading it


 


Congrats to The Fresh Loaf, Marni, Happy et al!