Sunday, March 4, 2012

Bread Lesson #1: Don't Give Up

  Bread: a usually baked and leavened food made of a mixture whose basic constituent is flour or meal 

Merriam-Webster's definition of bread sounds simple, yes? Think again. What began as a fun "weekend project" has turned into weeks of preparation, determination, and lessons learned. I thought this blog would be the perfect place to capture it all. So follow me on this journey to experience what it is to be a baker of bread. I can promise it won't be perfect. But it won't be a failure either. My goal is simply to learn...and make a damn good loaf of bread. 

So how did this adventure begin? Much to my enthusiasm for all things bread, my husband gave me Chad Robertson's cookbook "Tartine Bread" for Christmas this past year. Chad Robertson is the baker and owner of Tartine Bakery in San Francisco, which reportedly sells 200 loaves of bread a day within the first hour (according to Bon Appetit's article on the 2012 Tastemaker). I've wanted to make by own bread for quite some time, so who better to teach me than the master himself. Thus, I embarked on the process that’s to become my first “basic country bread”.

I technically began last Sunday when I developed my starter, which begins with making a culture. After mixing the flour and water to form a thick batter, I covered the container with a kitchen towel and stored it in a cool, shaded spot for 2-3 days. By the evening of the second day, the culture had bubbles forming around the sides of the container, and the smell (to my knowledge) was acidic. So, the next morning I began "training" my culture into a predictable starter by feeding it with fresh flour and water every 24 hours. In doing this, your starter will begin to rise and fall predictably around the same times each day. But over the coarse of 3 days, I noticed that my started wasn't rising or falling at all. Was it because I stored it in the cabinet with no light or air circulation? Did I use too much water and flour? What went wrong? Enter my first lesson in baking bread: don't give up. Actually, that’s what my husband told me when I became frustrated by my inactive starter. And he was right.

Tis a lesson you should heed try, try again. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

So, this past Friday night, I rolled up my sleeves and started over with a new culture. This time, I used a smaller amount of water and flour to start. Then I stored the covered container on the counter in a shaded spot. It’s nearly 48 hours later, and things are looking (and smelling) right! 

There’s also something in my kitchen now that's tasting right: linzer cookies! I made my second batch this weekend. And they are delicious. Now I just need to make sure I don't eat them all myself. 

And the music that sounds just right is Amy LaVere’s “Nightingale”. 


LexieDanae said...

Jules - The Lintzer cookies look great. I wish I could try some of the bread. What a good lesson :).

AL said...

I'm so glad I could help by taking a few of those cookies off your hands ... ;)