The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Better Bread, Better World, Week One: Baguettes, etc.

beenjamming's picture

Better Bread, Better World, Week One: Baguettes, etc.

So for the first time this week, I got together some people would had expressed interest in starting up a bread baking club and we crowded into my tiny kitchen and baked a dozen baguettes! I had originally intended to have a side by side comparison of baguettes with/without poolish, but just getting introduced to the bread making process was plenty for round one. We used Leader's parisian daily bread recipe for half ver batim, and substituted about 250g of poolish in for the other half of the breads. Everyone took note that the dough with a preferement was far more extenisble and sweeter tasting than then dough without, but that was all we took time to discuss. I did my best to let everyone there make bread with minimal guidance, and stuck mostly to explaining what was happening chemically during fermentation and baking. Overall, it was a really big success. No one had ever made baguettes before except for myself, and I hardly touched the dough, and the bread turned out great. I think a few people's interest were really piqued and a rich baking community with hopefully develop out of this. These are some pictures during the day:

A cross section o f our very first baguette:

we didn't wait till everything was done baking before we started feasting:

about half the gang:

I've since loaned out most of my bread books to interested folks and have been asked to write an article about challah for Cornell Hillel's magazine (I'm not jewish, but I read everything Glezer's had to say about challah). We're kind of rogue baking club at this point, no real ties to the university and no nice kitchen to bake in, but that may change in coming weeks. Steve Kaplan, a cornell prof, just published a book "Good Bread is Back" and had a raucous spot on conan o'brien (who was kind of an ass, in my opinion). I'll hopefully be in touch with him this week and see if he'd be the faculty advisor of our group and then we could get some of that over abundant cornell money and maybe even some kitchen space.

Meanwhile, I've been doing some baking myself-and not blogging about it. Last week, I made a levain couronne to take to a pasta feast down the block. It was loosely based on the Tornato from artisan baking.

It was pretty giant (the peel is 14" wide):

and also pretty awesome inside:

I have not been so proud of a loaf since the first time I made bread. Incredibly complex flavor, super moist crumb and a deeply caramelized crust. I served it with herb-oil and some asiago cheese; it was well received! Last week I also made 2 loaves of blue cheese and walnut levain based on pearl's walnut levain, which were tasty too.


I've learned to bake around my homeworks pretty well, and hopefully won't have to slow down too much as the semester gets going. I'd like to still make my own weekly bread all year. That said the problem sets and programming assignments have started to roll in, so we'll see if I have any time to bake outside of Better Bread Better World. Even still, that would be okay with me- getting my friends hooked was very exciting!



Oldcampcook's picture


browndog's picture

You are shameless in your success, young man. You could offer your elders a notch of respect and post something dingy now and then. What a talent you are, really. The blue cheese and walnut  looks and sounds just this side of heaven.

Glad the club is off to a roistering start. Looks like it's taking off with jet fuel.

What, no mouse ears? 

Floydm's picture

Wow is right. Great looking breads.

breadnerd's picture

That looks great--very inspiring.  I wish I had started so young, ha ha.


Beautiful bread and great for you to share it with others.



susanfnp's picture

That couronne is truly a work of art. Does your baking club have any idea how lucky they are to have you? I'm loooking forward to seeing more of what you all will be up to in the coming weeks!


Trishinomaha's picture

Your crumb is exquisite. I lust for a crumb like that. I have been baking for about nine months. I get some nice crumb and good flavor but NEVER crumb like this. I bake mostly sourdough and have been concentrating on Thom Leonard's country french and Susan's Norwich, VT sourdough lately. I get good flavor and some of those holes but nothing like this. Any hints from you or anyone else would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks!  -- Trish

beenjamming's picture

Thank you for all your kind words! I'm very excited to be starting up this club and you really nailed it when when you said it was taking off with jet fuel, browndog ( a few of the loaves were wearing ears, btw). This might be awfully hard to keep on a managable scale... I owe a lot of my knowledge to this site, to which all of you contribute great things. I think I've vicariously baked a million loaves browsing its pages, haha. Hopefully you'll meet a few members in the forums over the next few months! I can't wait to introduce folks to this rich resource.

trish-that couronne was an incredibly wet dough which I handled minimally and mixed till I thought my arm was going to come off, then folded it twice! So I guess my advice is to shape gently, develop your dough fully, and bake at high temps for a good oven spring. You've probably heard it all before, but it works.

bluezebra's picture

Your natural enthusiasm and talents are incredible. Your teaching skills also appear to be superior! Maybe your calling is to become an instructor??!!! Anyways, you rock!!

The breads are gorgeous! I'm sending dh out for the day so he can't complain, pulling my starter out of the fridge right now and rubbing my hands in glee as I start to assemble a blue cheese and pecan bread (no walnuts in the house). I owe it all to you dude! :D

KipperCat's picture

Your breads look great - and the club sounds like so much fun.

zolablue's picture

It is truly a beautiful thing!  You deserve to be proud of it.  I'm also very impressed with your organizing a bread baking club and the contacts you are making.  Great job and I, too, will be anxiously watching for future events. 

Paddyscake's picture

BEE-NJA-MMING!!!  Bet you are gaining lot's of friends!!