Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My First Loaf

All right, I have some news: I am no longer going to baking school. After much debate I officially withdrew last week. To be completely vague, it just didn't feel right at this point in my life. One of the nagging, recurring thoughts during my weeks-long deliberation: You started a blog about going to baking school! What now?

Well, it's really not too difficult: I keep baking. My goal to be a baker remains intact, and so will this blog. My latest undertaking? Yeast bread.

I received Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads as a Christmas gift a few years ago, and have only now found myself rich with the time and brain space it takes to start learning bread - from scratch. I read the introduction about Bernard's take on bread baking; I read through the ingredients and their functions; I read about equipment, leavening agents, kneading and rising. Then I had my pick of hundreds of recipes. Where would I begin my foray with bread? B.C. contributes his own suggestion for the first loaf, but I wasn't having it. I skimmed the table of contents and found the winner under French and Italian Breads: Pain Ordinaire Careme it would be.

The series began with stirring the flour, yeast, and hot water together, a movement all too familiar. Then I added more flour and the batter became dough; it was time to ditch the whisk and acquaint my hands with the tactual world of kneading. Why, there's nothing quite like working with bread dough. It's soft and giving, but it won't yield completely. Mere seconds into the push-turn-fold, push-turn-fold of kneading, the dough begins to push back, reminding me that I'm not the only force at work here. There's a presence in the dough, and it's got a small agenda of its own; whether or not it aligns with my plan is left at the mercy of a few controllable factors and a few uncontrollable ones, too. I lack the erudition required to explore those things you can attempt to control, but I can leave you with a suggested frame of mind for baking bread: don't let the active, dominating motions of kneading fool you; the transformation dough goes through to become bread is its own - you're just there to lend a hand.

1 comment:

  1. This looks (and sounds) amazing!! Do you deliver??