Monday, January 18, 2010

Getting started

A couple months ago, I found an old set of archived video podcasts that Cooks Illustrated put out a few years ago. They have a bread recipe that is a variant on Mark Bittman's recipe for no knead bread published a few years ago in the New York Times. The recipe has worked out great for me when I stick to it, but my attempts to modify it (either by making a baguette or a whole wheat round loaf) haven't been very good. The recipe also uses a few cheats to get results that approximate "artisan" bread: it has you add beer and vinegar to add in the flavors that would normally come from natural fermentation processes that are difficult to replicate.

In looking at the Fresh Loaf, they recommend Peter Reinhart's book, the Bread Baker's Apprentice as the first book for aspiring artisanal bakers. I got the book and starting reading it.

I expected either enthusiasm or gentle mocking from Aryn when I started. She spent a year in Paris before we met, and still waxes poetic about the bread available at every corner bakery there. Since we've moved to San Francisco, she's been tolerant of my ever-deepening plunge into hippy-dom. We both love the farmer's markets & weekly vegetable deliveries. She complains, but puts up with my insistence on grass-fed meat (which means we eat meat less often), and has even started using my homemade chicken stock and cleaning supplies.

So I was surprised when she looked on my new baking book with skepticism. Maybe it was because I'd just gotten 4 new cookbooks for Christmas (thanks everyone, it really is a great gift to get me!). I promised to prove her wrong. To help me keep my resolve to master the recipes in the book (and perhaps because I just watched Julie & Julia), I'm going to write about my attempts.

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