Tuesday, January 12, 2010

52 More Loaves (Lesson 1: Bakers Weigh Everything - even the firewood)

I love bread -- by which I mean real, hearty, peasant bread with a crispy but chewy crust and an airy, aromatic "crumb" (the word used to describes the interior of the loaf, not the stuff you brush off the bedsheets when you're done eating).  Yet such loaves are as rare in my neighborhood as flamingos, so the only way to enjoy great peasant bread was to bake it myself. I've described my year of learning to bake (and learning quite a few other things as well) in the forthcoming book 52 Loaves: One Man's Determined Pursuit of Truth, Meaning, and a Perfect Crust.

With the book completed, am I done baking? Hardly. I'm back for Act II, which might be titled, "52 More Loaves: Baking Everything Else in the World." For after a year of baking peasant bread and only peasant bread, I've moved on, because of a surprising secret I learned along the way: With a minimum of effort and experience, you can bake far better bread, rolls, pizza, and even pastry than you can buy anywhere. For real. So these days I'm baking anything that breathes anaerobically (that is, is leavened with yeast) and sharing experiences and recipes here.

Something else I learned: Bakers weigh everything. In grams. It's the only way to get consistent and accurate results. I visited a wood-fired-bakery in New Jersey whose baker even weighed the firewood! So if you'd like to try some of the recipes I'll be publishing in the coming weeks and months, pick up an inexpensive digital kitchen scale. They range widely in price (the high-end ones add useless features such as calorie estimates), but if you need some guidance, the very reliable (and cheap) one that I use is the Escali. Not only is it under $25, but it holds its reading when you remove the weight from it (instead of going back to zero), a real convenient feature. It's hard to explain, but you'll see it when you use it.



1 comment:

  1. If you tell me what type of flour you are using, I will convert it using the conversion factors in The Bread Bible. Rose lists therein ~35 different conversion factors for different types of flour ranging from whole wheat (wholemeal) to black bean flour. Each type has a different density which may account for the number of different factors you are finding.



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