2007 – a year in bread
The days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve feel like a magical promise to me and give time to get philosophical about life. Since I am not a philosopher, I never get far with that. Perhaps resolutions are not a good thing anyway. As Goethe wrote in 1821:
A pool was once congeal’d with frost.
The frogs, in its deep waters lost,
no longer dared to croak or spring,
but promised, being half asleep,
if suffer’d to the air to creep,
as very nightingales to sing.
A thaw dissolved the ice so strong,–
they proudly steer’d themselves along.
When landed, squatted on the shore,
and croak’d as loudly as before.
(English approximation of the original)
And the original:
Ein großer Teich war zugefroren
Die Fröschlein, in der Tiefe verloren,
durften nicht ferner quaken noch springen,
versprachen sich aber im halben Traum:
fänden sie nur da oben Raum,
wie Nachtigallen wollten sie singen. -
Der Tauwind kam, das Eis zerschmolz;
nun ruderten sie und landeten stolz
und saßen am Ufer weit und breit
und quakten wie vor alter Zeit.
The most memorable bread moment was probably an insight about baguettes. If an open crumb is desired, the way to achieve this does not solely depend on the use of a starter such as poolish or levain. The following picture shows the interior of a baguette made from a recipe in “Local Breads” by Daniel Leader (Read about it here).
Bulk fermentation was 1.5 hours. Dough was shaped with an extremely light hand, and that made all the difference. I would call this a good result. Flour used: German Type 550.
But my all-time favorite white dough is probably the baguette dough by Eric Kayser. The French master baker likes to add 20% of liquid levain and keeps fermentation times short as well.
(2 loaves made with a dough Eric-Kayser-style)
Then there was a return to simplicity in my bread kitchen. When I started to bake bread, I thought every bread had to be made with a starter and needed an extra long fermentation. But as mentioned above the quality of the flour, the water and the mechanics of shaping dough seem equally or even more important.
(A toast bread made by a direct method)
Whole-spelt flour nearly broke my will this year. It turned out I have to be picky about choosing the right kind of flour and stay away from the cheaper stuff. Flour is inexpensive even at 3 Euros a kilo. Whole-spelt bakes to a rather dry bread. The key was to make a very wet dough.
(A spelt loaf with oats)
My bread books of the year. Difficult. Bread books are rare and most authors bend under the weight of the subject, or rather its complexity. How did we learn to ride our bicycles? Not by reading a book.
Richard Bertinet’s “Dough” was a necessary reminder that simple bread can be extraordinary bread.
Daniel Leader’s “Local Breads” gives us a glimpse into European bakeries. True love for bread is visible through Daniel Leader’s writing. But a subject can also suffer under the love of its author (and the absence of a good editor). We can still be grateful that books like these exist.
Enough already. I wish you a good 2008 and everything you wish me.