Homemade Bread : Handmade Memories
Homemade Bread : Handmade Memories
(by Karin Galliott)
I've had a love/hate relationship with bread all my life! And all the diet gurus were telling me not to have it in my diet because it isn't good for me but they are wrong! (unless you are unlucky enough to have gluten issues). Now I'm not talking about the enriched stuff you buy at the grocery store in plastic bags that tastes like cardboard or foam core board. I'm taking about the do-it-yourself 4-ingredient (flour, water, salt, yeast) stuff that with a little drizzle of olive oil and fresh tomatoes makes your mouth sing! Some of you might be lucky enough to live next door to a baker who creates such 'manna from heaven' so you can buy it but most of us mere mortals are stuck with doing it ourselves.
So here's a little story of my journey with homemade bread:
Growing up in rural Newfoundland, I had the priviledge of eating lots of the homemade bread that Mom served at breakfast, dinner and supper with homemade greens soup and rabbit stew. (Awesome for sopping up gravy but those bad habits are long gone….well maybe a little now and then) I'm a little more health-conscience now so I'm looking for the wholegrain stuff and not interested in using the bleached white flour that 'me mudder' used. I've seen the series "Cooked" so now I know what should go into real bread!
That being said I started my bread odyssey at you-tube of all places. I wanted to make sour-dough bread because after all that is the most pure, n'est-ce pas? Well, it turns out you have to make a goop of water and flour and attract friendlies (yeasty stuff) from the air. That grows into a science project (starter/levain) you can actually incorporate into flour and water with a little salt to make bread. However, there are so many suggestions from so many places, for so many starters, and so many recipes, that by the time I explored that avenue my head was well and truly, done in! So I thought….a bread making book from Amazon would do the trick. Turns out the book I ordered was so complicated that I'm sure Julia Childs would have put her hands up in despair, but not I. I made a starter which I called "Claire", because after all it was a growing and living thing! So when the starter was finally bubbling away and growing every time I fed it flour and water, it was time to make the bread. Being inexperienced I started my process in the morning, which meant my bake time was at 3:00 a.m. (Yep, that right, very early morning, or late night depending on how you look at things.) Not for the faint of heart, but I persevered! My first bread was a slight disaster…not cooked through, so somewhat doughy…I fed it to the crows and they were months trying to work through it! This exercise continued for some time until I was about to give up and Nick (my husband) said, "Why don't you try another book?" Well I didn't want to invest in another one from Amazon, but there was one there that looked interesting so off to the library I go and there it was! So I checked out the book called 'Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast' by Ken Forkish (great name for a baker, I thought) and haven't looked back! I now own a copy and use it all the time! (Just a little tangent…I love it when names match what people do…eg. Ken Forkish the baker, and there is an undertaker in Donegal called Sheamus Shovlin and a fishery officer in Newfoundland called Neville Crabbe)
Since discovering this book, I've made breads from Straight dough, Levain (sourdough…fav.) Biga, and Poolish! I used unbleached white flour, whole wheat flour, spelt whole grain flour, rye flour and multi-grain flour and combinations along with wheat germ and bran. And I have even been confident enough to share with the neighbours and have received rave reviews!
In case you are wondering about these terms and don't want to Google:
Straight dough: A dough that is made up in a single stage, without pre-fermented dough or a levain culture.
Levain: The French word for "sourdough," referring to a naturally leavened dough culture made from just flour and water, containing billions of active wild yeast cells and naturally occurring bacteria that ferment bread dough and allow it to rise. For thousands of years (about five thousand, according to most respected sources) humans have made leavened bread from just flour, water and usually salt, leavened only by the natural yeast in the air and flour, which work to create a bubbly, fragrant dough.
Biga: The term used in Italian baking for a pre-fermented dough culture. While there is no strict definition, it typically implies a mix of a somewhat stiff dough (60 to 70% water) made up of just flour, water, an a very small amount of yeast, which is allowed to ferment for 6 to 12 hours before being added to the final dough mix. The biga builds up a lot of flavor-producing gas (carbon dioxide and alcohol), acids, and bacteria. When it is added to the final dough mix, the result is bread that captures those flavours in a good way.
Poolish: A word used in French baking, the name referring to techniques of Polish bakers who transported their methods to France. Like the Italian biga, a polish is a pre-ferment added to the final dough mix to enhance flavor, in this case with buttery an nutty notes, an improve keeping due to the acidity that accumulates as the polish culture develops, typically for six to twelve hours. A polish often contains 30 to 50 percent of the total flour in a recipe and generally contains equal amounts by weight of flour and water and a tiny amount of yeast.