Wednesday, 14 March 2012

bread lessons

Like most people nowadays, I have taken a step back from wheat products in the past few years.  Couple that with weak cooking skills, it's a miracle that a friend was ever able to take me to a bread-making class at Cook Culture last November.

I had planned on watching from a safe distance.  Even when the instructor, Brad Williams, promised that any 9 year-old could make this bread, I was still doubtful.  Brad took us through a history of yeast products.  He explained that today's commercial breads are nothing like their ancestors because they are now made so quickly.  By contrast, using yesteryear's slow-rise techniques yeast enzymes have more time to digest, therefore they are better for our guts, he says.  This bread is very moist and does not get moldy, just stale.  It stays fresh for days.  One memorable quote:  "Beer is liquid bread and bread is solid beer".

I learned how to make a levain (sourdough) bread in 4.5 hrs, and a No-Knead bread in 24 hrs.  I was surprised at how easy and amazingly good it is.  One slice is a meal in itself.  Add peanut butter & honey and I'm in heaven!

I have fallen in love with making this bread.  Since November I have made over 50 loaves of various shapes/sizes/ composition.  My favourite is still a whole grain/white flour mixture.  I mill my own whole wheat flour with a Vita-Mix.  My boys like the cheese bread.

Kneading reminds me of gardening without gloves.  I do a lot of knitting and play classical piano, however I haven't been so proud of making something with my own hands in a long time.   I just wish I could make more so I could share it with more people.  It disappears very fast!

I encourage anyone to purchase artisan bread from a market and experience the difference!

Key factors in my own bread success & fun have been:
- using a digital scale to weigh ingredients
- cooking with a cast-iron Dutch oven
- keeping a bread journal & to learn from my mistakes
- cutting with a long bread knife

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