Cookbook Addict: Our Daily Bread

December 26, 2013

bread

A perfect boule.

One of the most-used gifts we received this year was a birthday present from James and Zandra to J back in June: a copy of Ken Forkish’s Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast. I never thought I’d stray from the ridiculously easy Sullivan Street Bakery No-Knead Bread recipe or Mark Bittman’s basic pizza dough, but once I started experimenting with Forkish’s methods, I became a devoted follower. And, indeed, Forkish is a masterful teacher, explaining the whys and hows of his bread-making methods in clear, descriptive language. The opening chapters of the book tell the story about quitting his corporate job to follow a dream of becoming a bread maker, followed by a chapter on the important details for delicious bread and an outline of the equipment he recommends. Chapter 4 is an overview of the basic bread method with step-by-step photos. Contrary to many other cookbooks, the first several chapters, save for perhaps Forkish’s interesting back story, are required reading before diving into the recipes. Every recipe I’ve made has required referencing Chapter 4; though now that I’m more familiar with the terms and techniques, flipping back and forth is becoming less frequent.

Requiring only four basic ingredients in varied proportions, the recipes’ other essential elements are patience and especially timing. The recipes are not difficult to execute once you have the basic method down, and the result is  heavenly. Puffy bubbles that emerge during the rise transform into gorgeous air pockets in the finished loaf, and the flavor lent by fermentation and baking to a dark brown is unparalleled in supermarket loaves.

We spent the summer and fall, and indeed last night, up to our elbows in flour, surrounded by bulging masses of fermenting dough. And we went through at least three bags of flour this past summer making pizza dough, focaccia and beautiful artisan boules. It has the potential to become an addiction, and I recommend it wholeheartedly.

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