Musing with Max

Musing with Max

January 22, 2012

Flour power

Lest anyone say that I don't keep my New Year's resolutions this week I threw myself into baking bread. I have baked bread before and have mostly used recipes from all kinds of sources, assorted cookbooks, magazines, websites, newspapers, pretty much wherever I found a recipe I wanted to try. However, since I decided that I was going to bake more bread than the occasional loaf here and there I thought it high time I got myself a bread baking cookbook. First came the unenviable task of figuring out which one, and there are lots of them. So I spent waaaayyyy too much time on Amazon researching this subject I finally decided on this book
which got a tremendous amount of good write ups from regular people like me. There was another book which I found very interesting that received very good write ups also but most of them were from professional bread bakers which spooked me a little; this might be too lofty for a non-pro like myself and why are professional bread bakers buying a book? Shouldn't they know how to do this by now? Anyway, my book was originally written in 1970 by a Zen monk (if that's the right term) who for many years was a cook, baker, dishwasher, etc. at the Zen Center of San Francisco in the Tassajara Mountains, and has been revised several times throughout the years by its author. This gave it two big pluses as far as I'm concerned: 1. Monks are great bread bakers, they're isolated, patient, have a lot of time and love to work with their hands and of the earth; they perfect their craft. 2. San Francisco bakers make the best bread in this country, sorry Amy's Bread. Once my book arrived and I went out and bought tremendous amounts of flours, yes flourS with an s at the end, and chose my first loaf, a French sourdough which requires that one make a sourdough starter, something I have never done before and have resisted since it takes a few days to proof and I'm not really known for having the patience of a monk, but since I decided on this I may as well go for it.

Sourdough starter adapted from The Tassajara Bread Book

Combine 1 tablespoon of dry yeast, 2 1/2 cups of warm water, 2 teaspoons of sugar or honey, and 2 1/2 cups of flour (I used, unbleached all-purpose). Cover and let it ferment for five days, stirring daily. The starter will keep indefinitely in the refrigerator once it's proofed.

Country French Bread adapted from The Tassajara Bread Book
(makes 2 moderate loaves)

the night before:
1 1/2 cups of sourdough starter
5 cups of whole wheat flour
3 1/2 cups warm water

At night, add the starter to the flour, then mix in the water a little at a time until it is all added. Beat well. Cover and set aside overnight. A warm, not hot, place is preferable but not essential.
in the morning:
Replenish the starter
1 teaspoon dry yeast
1/4 cup pf water
1 tablespoon of salt
4 to 6 cups unbleached white flour

In the morning, replenish the starter and refrigerate it for the next batch of sourdough bread. Dissolve the yeast in the water and let it sit for 5 minutes. Then stir it into the sponge along with the salt. Fold in the white flour a cup at a time until a dough forms. Remove from the bowl to a floured board and knead thoroughly, adding more flour as necessary.
Divide the dough into two pieces, shape each piece into a ball, and place on an oiled baking sheet. Let the loaves rise until doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Make a few slits in the tops, brush or spritz them with water
place the loaves in a 425F oven for 20 minutes. Brush the tops with water again, turn the oven down to 375F, and continue baking for 50 to 60 minutes or until browned.

not bad if I say so myself
but let's ask the expert

because there's nothing Max loves more than bread

...or napping

...or Frank

...or napping on Frank

What bread?

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