2014 Gift Guide, Day 27
December 20, 2014
Rolling in Dough
Baking your own bread is the most satisfying thing you can do in the kitchen. For lazy people (count me among them), Jim Leahy’s excellent no-knead recipe produces an astonishingly satisfying loaf.
But bread's my favorite food – the answer I always give when people ask what I'd eat if I could only eat one thing for the rest of my life. Then I think of something wild, crusty, deeply brown, with a moist crumb and formidable elasticity. Spread with cold sweet butter….
Bread like that demands commitment. It took Chad Robertson, co-owner of Tartine Bakery, over ten years to perfect his now legendary loaf (pictured here).
If you've got bread nerds on your list, people you really love, consider giving them a series of classes at the San Francisco Baking Institute. It’s a real commitment on your part ($1000.) And on theirs too; SFBI offers hands-on five-day intensives that make your average cooking class look like a speed-dating exercise. For beginners there's the Systematic Approach to Breads; for those who've mastered the basics there are advanced intensives on everything from German breads to viennoiserie.
If you're not ready to spend a grand on your friend, here's another suggestion for passionate bread bakers: Sam Fromartz's In Search of the Perfect Loaf is a wonderful read that's filled with information that even the most knowledgable baker will find fascinating.
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I second your recommendation of Sam Fromartz’s book. It’s the most engrossing memoir/long form writing I’ve read in a very long time. I have a cousin who is a bread baking fanatic. He created a wild yeast starter seven or eight years ago, and has kept it going ever since. I learned the no-knead technique from him, and he gave me some of his starter to use instead of commercial yeast. It is so easy to do, and the resulting bread was seriously the best I’ve ever tasted. And that, unfortunately became a problem. With the starter needing to be used and refreshed frequently, the temptation of freshly baked bread was in the house constantly. And we were eating way too much of it, which was bad for my A1C. I’m sorry to say that I had to let the starter die. I’m still experiencing pangs of regret.