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My Love Affair with Bread Making

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Written by foodie pam   
Saturday, 13 February 2010
List of viewable recipes from "Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day" by Peter Reinhart
List of viewable recipes from "Artisan Breads at Home" by Eric Kastel

From Artisan Breads at Home
I fall in love easily. Now that could get me in trouble with my hubby, except that the things I fall in love with revolve around making (and eating) various types of food - not other men.

I went through a bundt cake phase last fall and over the summer it was eggs (thanks to Marie Simmons' The Good Egg).  But while I still really enjoy making bundt cakes and crave eggs on top of anything (particularly pizza to my husband's dismay), those were not really true love. They were merely flings.  

The love that has obsessed me for more than a year now (eons in food love time) is making home made bread. 

I was lured by the desire to make things myself rather than buying them at the store. What I fell in love with though is how a few simple ingredients, which on their own are less than memorable, can be turned into something absolutely delicious and heart warming.  The added bonus of preservative free bread, tailor made to my preferences simply cinched the deal.

Luckily for me bread making is a surging foodie trend - well at least, that is, if you consider the number of bread focused cookbooks published in the past year or two.   Actually, I see two different bread making trends right now.  One is the trend for no-knead bread and the other is for artisan bread.  While I'm all for making life easier, the no-knead bread trend isn't what I fell in love with.  

I like the feel of bread dough in my hands. I want to make different shapes of loaves and spend a whole day making several different types of bread.  That's not to say I want to knead bread dough, actually the opposite, and thankfully the artisan bread recipes I've fallen for don't make me do that (and some even offer no-knead type recipes).  What they do require is a mixer with a dough hook, which will do some initial kneading, and periodic stretch-and-folds.

Sound appealing?  To me it is both highly appealing and somewhat therapeutic. I also think the bread tastes better made in the artisan style.  

Several recent cookbooks provide wonderful artisan style bread recipes and teach you how to make those recipes.  My favorites are Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every DayArtisan Breads at Home, and  Baking Artisan Bread. If you're feeling a craving for making some bread these are great places to learn, but beware you may fall in love too!

Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day by Peter Reinhart, Ten Speed Press 2009. - Peter Reinhart is a bread cookbook master with multiple James Beard and IACP award winning cookbooks.  Perhaps it was that god-like presence or simply his utter devotion to break making, but in past cookbooks, despite the accolades, I felt intimidated by his recipes. That is no longer the case. To me, Artisan Breads Every Day is a whole new type of Peter Reinhart bread cookbook and I love it.  His recipes produce artisanal breads with techniques that I think are best characterized as a mix between the more hands-on artisanal approaches and the so-called no-knead approaches. 

The recipes in Artisan Breads Every day still require stretch-and-fold sequences with waiting in between for the dough to develop, which in my book pushes them to the artisanal side of the fence.  But, the stretch-and-folds happen the day before you bake, unlike most other artisanal recipes, making the timing of the bread making similar to the no-knead methods. Crossing-back to the artisan world, dough shaping is a very important aspect of the technique Peter presents. Because the timing is different for these recipes, I make Peter's bread when I have less time on baking day than on the evening before - or if I have a craving for a particular recipe of his. 

A great example of the hybrid approach is in the "Pain a l'Ancienne Rustic Bread" recipe below.  The adaptability of the recipes in Artisan Breads Every Day is also appealing.  Immediately following the "Pain a l'Ancienne Rustic Bread" recipe, Peter has a "Pain a l'Ancienne Focaccia" recipe that uses the same formula but with a different method to create a wonderful focaccia.  Also, while many of the recipes have no-knead aspects others do not.  The result is a wide variety of recipes, including rich pastry-like breads that will keep you busy learning about artisan bread making while enjoying great results.

Artisan Breads at Home by Eric Kastel, Wiley 2010 - This book is part of the Culinary Institute of America's (CIA) "At Home" series which masterfully present complex topics in step-by-step detail for the home cook.  And masterful it is.  This book presents every detail you need, plus many more, to teach you how to master making artisanal bread.  The recipes are presented clearly and the results are great.  I found this to be a perfect supplement to my learning process after having baked from the other two books listed here for a while.  While I'm sure it could be used by a novice bread baker, I think the sheer volume of details presented may make it a bit overwhelming as a starting point.  Rather, I'd recommend this as the tool to take you to the top of your bread making quest. 

I love the variety of recipes in Artisan Breads at Home, including several types of rolls (see the "Durum and Rosemary Rolls" recipe below), several sour dough variations and lots of mixed grain recipes.  Some of the enriched dough recipes are also really neat such as Craquelin, Concha, Day of the Dead Bread, and Stollen - a Christmas bread that you start over a month before.

Baking Artisan Bread 2008 by Ciril Hitz, Quarry Books - While this book isn't brand smacking new, it is one of my favorites and where I started with my bread making love affair.  I've shared my thoughts on this book before, so I'll be brief.   Surprisingly, this book only has 10 recipes, but in this case quality definitely trumps quantity.  Ciril teaches you everything you need to know to make artisan bread in your home. If you've never made bread and want to quickly learn the essentials this tiny book (and accompanying CD) will allow you to do just that.

I'm not sure I could pick a favorite from these three. Each has its own focus and I reach for each for different reasons.  That's the wonder of cookbooks and something that fosters yet another love I have - Cookbook Love, but that is a whole other obsession...

Pain à l'Ancienne Rustic Bread

Reprinted with permission from Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day: Fast and Easy Recipes for World-Class Breads by Peter Reinhart, copyright © 2009. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc."

Makes 2 large ciabatta loaves, 3 small ciabatta loaves, or 6 to 8 mini baguettes

4 1/2 cups (20 oz / 567 g) unbleached bread flour
1 3/4 teaspoons (0.4 oz / 11 g) salt, or 2 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1 1/4 teaspoons (0.14 oz / 4 g) instant yeast
2 cups (16 oz / 454 g) chilled water (about 55°F or 13°C)
1 tablespoon (0.5 oz / 14 g) olive oil (for ciabatta only)

Do Ahead

Combine the flour, salt, yeast, and water in a mixing bowl. If using a mixer, use the paddle attachment and mix on the lowest speed for 1 minute. If mixing by hand, use a large spoon and stir for about 1 minute, until well blended. The dough should be coarse and sticky. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes to fully hydrate the flour.

If making ciabatta, drizzle the olive oil over the dough; if making mini baguettes, omit the oil. Then mix on medium-low speed using the paddle attachment, or by hand using a large, wet spoon or wet hands, for 1 minute. The dough should become smoother but will still be very soft, sticky, and wet. Use a wet bowl scraper or spatula to transfer the dough to a clean, lightly oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest at room temperature for 10 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled work surface. With wet or oiled hands, reach under the front end of the dough, stretch it out, then fold it back onto the top of the dough. Do this from the back end and then from each side, then flip the dough over and tuck it into a ball. The dough should be significantly firmer, though still very soft and fragile. Place the dough back in the bowl, cover, and let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes. Repeat this process three more times, completing all repetitions within 40 minutes. (You can also perform the stretch and folds in the bowl.)

After the final stretch and fold, immediately cover the bowl tightly and refrigerate overnight or for up to 4 days. The dough will rise, possibly to double its original size, in the refrigerator. (If you plan to bake the dough in batches over different days, you can portion the dough and place it into two or more oiled bowls at this stage.)

On Baking Day

Remove the dough from the refrigerator about 1 hour before baking for mini baguettes, and 3 hours in advance for ciabatta (or an hour earlier if the dough hasn't increased to 1 1/2 times its original size in the refrigerator overnight).

To make ciabatta, about 1 hour after taking the dough out of the refrigerator, line the back of a sheet pan with parchment paper and generously dust the entire surface with flour. Use a wet or oiled bowl scraper to transfer the dough to the work surface, taking care to handle the dough as little as possible to avoid degassing it.

Dust the top surface of the dough with flour and also flour your hands. Using your hands or a metal pastry scraper, gently coax and pat the dough into a rough square measuring about 9 inches on each side, still taking care to degas it as little as possible.

For small ciabatta, cut the dough into 3 even strips about 3 inches wide and 9 inches long (the pieces will each weigh about 12 ounces or 340 grams). For larger ciabatta, cut the dough in half. With floured hands, gently fold the dough in thirds, like folding a letter but without applying any pressure. Gently roll the folded dough in the dusting flour to coat it, then lift the dough and place it on the parchment paper, again rolling it in the dusting flour on the parchment. Rest the dough seam side down on the parchment and repeat with the other pieces of dough.

Mist the tops of the dough pieces with spray oil and loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap or a clean, lint-free towel. After 1 hour, gently roll the pieces over so the seam side is up, lift and cradle each piece with floured hands, and, working from the underside, gently coax it to a length of 5 inches (for small ciabatta) to 7 inches (for large ciabatta). Lay the pieces back on the parchment seam side up. Straighten the sides of each piece with your hands or a pastry scraper so that they are more rectangular than oblong, mist with spray oil again, then cover loosely and proof for 1 hour more.

About 45 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 550°F (288°C) or as high as it will go, and prepare the oven for hearth baking.

Slide the dough, parchment and all, onto the stone; if you aren't using a baking stone, simply put the whole pan into the oven. Pour 1 cup of hot water into the steam pan, then lower the oven temperature to 450°F (232°C).

Bake for 12 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake for 15 to 20 minutes more, until the crust is a rich brown (streaked with the dusting flour). The bread should puff a little, and the crust should be hard when tapped (it'll soften as it cools). Cool on a wire rack for 45 minutes before slicing.

Durum and Rosemary Rolls

From Artisan Breads at Home by Eric Kastel, Wiley 2010

Durum flour-a wheat flour high in protein and gluten strength-contributes a slight yellowish hue to these aromatic rolls. Flavors of chopped rosemary and olive oil bring to mind thoughts of the Mediterranean.

yield: 22 rolls at 2 oz | FDT: 82°F

bulk fermentation: 75-90 minutes  

final fermentation: 40-50 minutes 

bake: 450°F and 18-20 minutes

Ounces Grams
Bakers %
Water, 80-82°F 18.5 525 2 1/3 cups
Olive oil
 0.8 23 2 Tbsp 3.0%
Malt Syrup
 0.1 4 1/8 tsp
Durum flour
 16.1 454 3 1/4 cups
Bread flour
 10.5 298 2 cups + 3 Tbsp
Yeast, instant dry  0.3 9 1 Tbsp
 0.6 17 1 Tbsp
Rosemary, coarsely chopped
 0.3 9 2 Tbsp
 47.1 1338  177.9%

1. Put the water, oil and malt in the bowl of a mixer. Combine the flours and yeast and add to the bowl, then add the salt. Place the bowl on a mixer fitted with a dough hook, and mix on medium speed for 4 minutes, making sure to scrape the bowl and flip the dough over once during mixing. Add the rosemary and mix for another minute on medium speed, making sure to flip the dough over halfway through the mixing time. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl large enough for it to double in size and cover with plastic wrap.

2. Allow the dough to rest and ferment in a warm place for 60-75 minutes, until when lightly pressed the dough springs back halfway.

3. Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface, and stretch it out slightly. Fold the dough in thirds. Place the dough back into the bowl, re-cover it with plastic wrap, and let it rest for an additional 15 minutes.

4. Prepare a tray with a cloth that is lightly floured with durum flour.

5. Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and divide it into 2-oz pieces. Round each piece against the tabletop. Place the rounded pieces seam-side up on the prepared tray, bringing the cloth up between each row of rolls. Cover the tray with plastic
wrap and place in a warm place for 40-50 minutes, until when lightly touched the dough springs back halfway.

6. Twenty minutes before the end of the final fermentation, preheat the oven to 475°F with a baking stone. Ten minutes before baking the loaves, place a tray filled with 3 cups of warm water below the baking area in the oven to help produce steam.

7. The bread will be baked in 2 separate batches. Lightly flour an oven peel and place the rolls on the oven peel. Spray the rolls with water and let them rest for 5 minutes, then spray with water again. Score the tops with an X using a sharp razor blade held at a 90-degree angle to the top of the roll.

8. Transfer the rolls to the baking stone and immediately reduce the temperature to 450°F. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove the steam tray and continue baking for an additional 8-10 minutes, until they form a golden brown firm crust.

9. Remove the rolls from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Raise the oven temperature and then bake the second batch immediately.

Disclosure: Review copies of books discussed in this post may have been provided to Project Foodie by publicists and/or publishers.


Last Updated ( Friday, 12 February 2010 )
Passionate About Baking
deeba (Unregistered) 2010-02-13 17:26:09

I love your post Pam, and those little mini bread loaves look gorgeous. Thanks for sharing these 2 recipes.Bread is therapeutic and I make the AB in 5 artisan bread often. Must give this a try too.
Lovely bread
Memoria (Unregistered) 2010-02-13 18:19:55

Your bread looks amazing! I love the long, oval-rectangular bowl(?) you used to house them. Lovely photo.
pam (Publisher) 2010-02-13 20:54:48

Deeba - Thanks! Bread making is definitely very therapeutic. I always look forward to the weekends when I'm making bread.

Memoria - They are the Durum and Rosemary Rolls. I loved herbed bread.
spm (Author) 2010-02-14 08:39:49

The scientist in you "rises" through Pam. Of course you love to bake…look at all those numbers in the recipe! We should all slow down and make some bread.
pam (Publisher) 2010-02-14 15:30:53

Sophia - you're probably right those numbers do appeal to the inner scientist in me. But the relaxation and slowing down are the much bigger appeal...
ABowlOfMush (Unregistered) 2010-02-15 13:14:19

Wow, really great looking bread!!
Michelle (Unregistered) 2010-02-15 14:04:04

This looks amazing. What a beautiful photo! I'm just overcoming my weird fear of baking with yeast. Thanks for all the book recommendations!
pam (Publisher) 2010-02-16 17:14:46

Michelle - I hope the bread making learning process goes well. I'd love to hear what helps you the most in your quest to overcome your fear of yeast! ;)
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