Monday, June 24, 2013

Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast: First Attempt

I have a tendency to put things off.  I plan a huge project, get all excited about it, and then life gets in the way.  And by life, I mean sitting on the couch and watching Lost (or some other show) for the fourth time.  My New Year's Resolution was to bake as much bread as possible (see my 100th post), and the book Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast by Ken Forkish was going to help me.  However, there is a lot of paraphernelia involved in getting started (which all together costs about $100) so making homemade artisan bread has fallen to the bottom of my to-do list.

The other day I decided I wasn't waiting anymore.  No I don't have a kitchen scale or a proofing basket.  I didn't even have the required 7 3/4 cups of flour for the recipe I chose.  But I plowed ahead anyway and what I got was so worth it.

I think this is some sort of conspiracy: if people knew they could make bread this good at home all bakeries would go out of business.

Now, I've made homemade bread before, but it was nothing like this.  I made the Joy of Cooking French Bread about a year ago, which they call a "rustic" loaf.  Now, nothing against the Joy of Cooking, which is possibly the best cookbook of all time and a must-own for every cook, but that bread doesn't even compare to what I made under Forkish's instruction.  You bake it in a Dutch oven and the entire process is about 8 hours long.  I mixed everything by hand, no spoons or KitchenAid Mixers allowed.  You don't knead it, you stretch it and fold it.  When I pulled it out of the oven and turned it on its side to cool the crust flaked and crackled.  The crust was almost burnt (per Ken Forkish's request) which gave it a complex flavor I had never tasted in bread before.  My husband and I were so amazed that something this wonderful could come out of our oven that we literally passed the loaf back in forth for about ten minutes.

I'm not going to give you the recipe; there is so much involved in making this bread.  Ken Forkish is very particular about mixing, folding, and shaping, and I could never explain all of that here.  That's why he wrote the book.  That being said, this bread was actually incredibly simple to make.  It took all day, but the hands-on time was very small. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who has ever even thought about making homemade bread before.  (Not ready to commit?  Click here for a bread recipe by Jim Lahey, who invented the Dutch-oven bread baking method).

I read an article the other day that really struck me.  It was actually an advice column and it was discussing the ten things that women regret from their 20's.  The regret that really stuck out to me was not taking risks.  Perhaps its weird to talk about risk and bread making because there isn't much of a risk in bread making.  You put the dough in the oven and it either tastes good or it doesn't.  But that column struck me, and over the past week, I have found that it has affected almost every decision I have made.  That column is what encouraged me to get off the couch and make this bread.  We need to take big risks, but we also need to take little risks everyday.  So what if I don't have a proofing basket?

I'm so glad I finally did this.  Now that I know how delicious this bread is, I feel more comfortable eventually spending the $100 on supplies.  I'm so excited for my next day off so that I can make another loaf.  It's so rewarding to pull something like this out of the oven.  If you like to cook, or bake, or even just eat bread, check out Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast.

1 comment:

  1. What a stunningly beautiful loaf of bread. I just want to dive through my computer screen with a stick of butter and dig in.