Archives for posts with tag: artisan baking

I’m waiting to start my second attempt at bread-making — I’ve ordered my first oven thermometer to ensure that my dough is rising and baking at the correct temperature. I’m new to this accuracy thing. Regular old cooking doesn’t necessarily demand things down to the degree Fahrenheit…I’m slowly coming to terms with the fact that baking does.

As, I wait, however, I keep drifting back to bread that inspires me. Saveur had a wonderful feature on breadmaking in its May 2012 issue, which I highly recommend to other novice bread makers. The website also has a drool-worthy gallery of artisan loaves sprinkled across the United States. If I ever need convincing that a cross-country road trip is worth it — this is it.

Make This Bread -- I wish.

I’ll be baking my second loaf in the next day or two, but to bide my time I’ve been re-examining a few key loaves that have influenced my love affair with bread over the years:

1) Seven Stars — When I was at school in Providence, R.I., Seven Stars was the go-to location for delicious bread (and a cafe without Internet access…perfect for getting work done without the distraction). The bakery’s durum stick is moist, airy, with a delicious dark crust. It’s reminiscent of a sourdough in texture, but doesn’t quite go there in flavor. I love slicing this bread lengthwise, hoagie-style, for one of my favorite simple meals — the tomato sandwich. What do you get when you cross ripe, summertime tomatoes, a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, plus the dreamy crusty bookends of the durum loaf? A delicious mess, with tomato dribbling down your chin.

This artisan loaf demands attention. A beautiful airy interior pairs perfectly with ripe summertime tomatoes.2) Acme Bread — Let me introduce you to Acme’s sourdough. Like most Bay Area foodie success stories, this bread’s origins has ties to the locavore Alice Waters movement. Acme Bread was founded by Steve Sullivan, one of Water’s former bus boys at Chez Panisse, who went on to become the restaurant’s in-house baker. The company has since grown from its Berkeley, C.A. store front to a year-round stall at San Francisco’s Ferry Marketplace, the one-stop shop for city visitors seeking out local and artisan food (think gourmet blood orange vegan doughnuts and delicious pour over coffee). I was never a sourdough fan until I had this little number. I mean, look at that crust. The sourdough’s distinct flavor is due to a naturally-occurring wild yeast starter instead of baker’s yeast.

This sourdough is made with a wild yeast starter instead of traditional baker's yeast.3) Buono’s — This is an old school, Italian bakery bread with a flaky, dark smoky crust. Don’t be fooled by their website — while other bread makers spend time creating sexy marketing materials, the Buono’s crew is busy churning out delicious authentic bread again and again. My great-grandmother lived around the corner of this bakery when I was little, and I remember always scarfing down Buono’s bread (and pepper biscuits). Buono’s is a beloved favorite.


This is my first loaf.

Fresh out of college, I’m working on a couple of projects this summer. The first, my paying job, involves digging dirt and teaching as I help develop horticulture and gardening programs here in Rhode Island. I’ve spent my last two summers working on some variation of this same activity, so I’ve landed squarely in my comfort zone for this awesome post-grad opportunity.

The second project, however, is a little trickier: how to produce a dynamite artisan loaf.

I’m the type of person who, when given a free afternoon and friends to feed, beelines to the kitchen. I love cooking. Even so, baking bread is unchartered territory for me. I’m pretty picky with the bread I buy, so I’ve always been intimidated by the task of achieving that same quality by hand. Now, as I ponder major life changes, I figure it’s as good a time as any to try.

One exciting development regarding this summer’s bread-making: my use of the biga, an Italian word for the pre-ferment, the mother, the starter. It’s similar to the SCOBY that brewers use when making kombucha — a yeasty kick in the pants needed to get the process going. Most breads I’ve made in the past have been no-knead, quick-rise, easy. But now I’m itching for a challenge.

This first loaf — got to say it looks pretty nice, doesn’t it? It’s got a beautiful dark crust with a good bite to it, and the inside is cooked throughout. But this first biga starter, a whole-wheat variation that essentially lumbered through the fermenting process, produced a super dense dough. When I cut into this bread, there was no sign of those delicious air pockets I come to expect in a quality artisan loaf. Alas, the saga continues as I experiment with new techniques. Recipes will come as I start to work out this biga business. I don’t want to lead anyone down the wrong path.  

Stay tuned for more food and more developments. I sense biga things on the horizon.

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