On my last birthday, Thor gave me a Panasonic bread machine. I loved it (still do), and it encouraged me – after a 30 year hiatus – to start making bread again. (I enjoyed having the bread machine as I wanted to make bread again but needed to avoid using my hands to knead. After reviewing my (by now quite) old standby, The Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book, with great enthusiasm I worked my way through Beth Hensperger’s The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook.
The bread making bug struck big time.
One year later, my collection of bread making books has increased to include:
- Amy’s Bread by Amy Scherber & Toy Kim Dupree;
- The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum;
- The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart;
- Flour Water Salt Yeast by Ken Forkish; and
- Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques & Recipes by Jeffrey Hamelman.
I am now a committed (amateur) artisan bread maker. Both Thor and I have come to adore sourdough leavened breads, particularly those with long ferments (2-3 days) and using rye, kamut and einkorn flours.
Once foreign artisan bread making terms are now part of my vocabulary:
- using levains and the pre-ferments of poolish, biga, pâte fermentée and wild-yeast (sourdough);
- mise en place (“everything in its place”); and
- bread shapes: auvergnat, baguette, bâtard, boule, couronne, épi, fendu, fougasse, pistolet and tabatièr – which, when talking about artisan bread making, sound so much “authentic” than using the English equivalents: cap, stick, torpedo, round, crown, sheaf of wheat, split bread, ladder bread, roll, and cap.
(Of course, thanks go to my friend Alison, without whose French skills I would be mangling these terms horribly!)
My collection of bread-making tools and equipment has increased (thank you, great folks at Breadtopia.com!):
I now have two Danish dough whisks (different sizes), a lame (used to slash breads), a baker’s couche (pictured on the left).
I bought a new scale (the purple Escali Arti on the right) – a necessary tool when using the Baker’s Percentage method. (This is a math-formula system “where all ingredients are viewed in ratio to the total flour weight” (Reinhart, p. 40).
Dough rising buckets, I learned, are invaluable. I use them at least as often as I use my two large mixing bowls.
Proofing baskets (aka bannetons aka brodtforms) are immensely useful in artisan bread making. I now have five in three different shapes/sizes.
Tired of burning my arms recreating steamy hearth ovens in the search for great crusts and crumbs, I bought an Emile Henry Bread Cloche (red bell-shaped), and Romertopf Clay Baker. (They are perfect for baking boules and bâtards, respectively.)
I was concerned whether I could handle kneading or preparing bread dough outside of my bread machine. The trick, I have found, is to be flexible and adaptable in what dough I tackle when I make bread. Depending on the dough and my hands that day, I use any combination of my KitchenAid, the stretch-and-turn method and old fashion kneading.
I am fortunate to have friends and neighbors who graciously accept loaves in exchange for feedback. :)