Friday, June 18, 2010

Largehearted Baker

When the host of the music blog Largehearted Boy invited me to participate in a feature where writers discuss music relevant to their books, my first thought was, "Well, that's a stretch." My second was, "but publicity is publicity," and my third thought (and trust me, three thoughts on any given topic is about my max) was,"this is not such a stretch at all." See why...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Readers Speak

I thought (in yet another transparent evasion of my blogging duties) I'd share some reader comments with you this week  Apparently (and I have to admit, somewhat surprisingly) the recipes I provide in the book do work for others as well:
  • I have been baking bread for some time, and read your book just recently.  I tried the Peasant Bread recipe and was amazed.  Every time I've made it, it's turned out wonderfully, nice rise, some gas holes, wonderful flavour.  I add 1/4 cup of flax meal, and make it into two batards with stubby ends, sometimes give one away and eat the other, or freeze one...So thank you for providing such a neat book and a delightful recipe.  I bake pretty well every day and thank you every time. - Janice L.
  • This is the first loaf of bread I've ever made from scratch. It might be the best bread I've ever had.   - Adam C
  • Loved, loved, loved the book!  So fun, and I learned so much- will be buying a few for presents, for sure.  Cheers,  Mary
  • There’s no particularly useful information. The humor is mildly amusing at best. - S.T.
You can't please everyone...Keep those cards and letters coming!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Of Hazy Apples and Starter

My recent mention on the Diane Rehm show that I built my sourdough starter (levain) using a couple of hazy apples (the haze being wild yeast), and the posting of my levain recipe on her website has caused some consternation among listeners who don't have local apples (and who does, this time of year?).

Here are a couple of solutions: Firstly, you can use an apple from a store - but get an unwaxed one. There will still be plenty on yeast on the skin. If you can get an organic apple, so much the better. Or, if you have something else growing that's sweet and local (e.g., someone mentioned they had strawberries; another person had grapes) you can toss that in instead. But you can even skip the local fruit. There's plenty of yeast right in flour. But the other thing the fruit provides (aside from some "local color") is sugar to help get the yeast going. Baking instructor and writer Peter Reinhart adds canned pineapple juice to make his starter (the pineapple possibly having some other beneficial properties, in addition to sugar).

So, don't sweat it -- there are lots of ways to get your starter started, and the website The Fresh Loaf has a number of them. Have fun with it, and if it doesn't work out the first time, throw it out and start over!

Full instruction are included in 52 Loaves, and the recipe can be found on my website

Friday, June 4, 2010

Pain de l'Abbaye

I'm going to let another bread blogger speak for me this week. "MC," as she goes by, who writes the blog Farine (the French word for flour) decided to try making my pain de l'abbaye this past weekend. This is the recipe I developed on the spot while trying to restore the lost tradition of baking to a 1300-year-old abbey in Normandy. It's a bit unusual in that it uses both a poolish and a levain, the reason being that, with the volume of bread they were making, keeping enough levain going for a pain au levain (with no commercial yeast) would have been difficult for the monks, so I came up with a recipe using an overnight poolish (a batter of flour, water, and just a pinch of yeast) for flavor, with a little of my levain thrown in for both flavor and texture.

The result: pain de l'Abbaye St. Wandrille. Read MC's experiences with it and see her mouth-watering photos (that's hers above) here.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

52 Loaves makes NPRs top 15 books of summer list!

This might be preaching to the choir, but I'm pleased to announce that the book that inspired this blog, 52 Loaves, has just been chosen as one of NPR's 15 "soaring summer reads."

As a bonus, for those of you not yet in the choir, they've printed an excerpt of my wheat harvest adventure. Enjoy...

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