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.
- 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 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).
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.