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Reasons to take up bread baking

July 23, 2012

Not everyone is inclined to spend time and effort to learn the craft of breadbaking. Most homecooks will make the occasional loaf, but the main entree and sides get most of the attention. That’s fine, everyone has their particular culinary interests and leanings. The work, experience, and patience it seemed to take to make that French baguette or  country sourdough I tried from the local artisan bakery was very intimidating.  Overcoming the first steps and getting  into it was easier than I imagined.  The procedure becomes less of a major operation and gradually more of a gentle rhythmic exercise. It’s an “exercise” with its own benefits.  It can become an easy routine as when you prefer to focus on simpler white doughs or an activity that  engages you more when making complex loaves.  Reasons I found for continuing “the path” were discovered along the way.  Here are  few.

Homemade bread is much healthier and tastier than the mass produced  loaves you find in the shelves of a supermarket.  I believe everyone would agree on that. Preservatives, flour treatment agents, emulsifiers, enzymes, bleaching chemicals, etc. are added to make the production of bread more efficient and cost effective. Ironically, the white color of bleached flour is supposed to make bread  more visually appealing. It became difficult  for me to settle for  mass produced bread after experiencing the honest fresh baked variety with no additives.  I’ve chosen to spend time and work to make bread rather than quickly run to the store for it. The other good alternative is to get your daily bread from your local artisan bakery if you live near one.

Bread baking is a worldwide tradition that goes back thousands of years.  The Egyptians began leavening bread about 6000 years ago. Lost in pre-history is when man began to eat porridge, a precursor to bread.  Even though we have our modern day ovens and pre-milled grain, the time-honored process connects us to a much more primitive era.  I don’t know when salt was introduced to the recipe, but the basic ingrediants have remained unchanged for centuries.  Those few who grow and mill their own wheat and use their homemade stone ovens are even more connected.

Bread baking is a creative endeavor.  It is an opportunity to express one’s cultural background, origin, influences, and might I say culinary vision.  One becomes part of the stream of the ever-evolving bread tradition and  the traditions of your culture.  It is  an activity that uses the sense of sight, touch, smell, taste, and to a lesser extent sound.  It also develops an intuitional sense that  can’t be taught by recipe or book. You must learn to judge through the senses when a dough is properly mixed, how long to ferment in the given environment, when it’s ready for baking, and so on.  No matter what kind of bread or how much experience the baker has, he or she has a vast array of choices in how much to be creatively engaged.

All the above can be expanded upon but are subjects for possible future posts.  For instance, I didn’t mention the enjoyment and fun that baking bread offers.  Since the early primitive days it has always been very communal in nature. I find myself giving and sharing bread regularly.  It may be to bring some to a gathering of friends and family or it may be just to partially empty an overpacked freezer.

At this stage,  aiming for the ultimate loaf is not a reason for keeping the flame going. I’m just trying to get it better.  Is there even such a thing as a “perfect loaf”?  I’d like to hear views about that.



7 Comments leave one →
  1. Roberto Gonzalez permalink
    July 24, 2012 1:52 am

    YEA Gerard!!! Great post!

  2. Marcella Rousseau permalink
    February 16, 2013 5:07 pm

    I’ve made a lot of bread in my day but I can’t say I would consider any of them “perfect”! I guess that is because I’m comparing them to the loaf of Italian bread that my mother used to buy when we went grocery shopping when I was a kid. My sister and I used to fight over the “heel” of the bread and one of us would get the prized end on the walk home. It was a light bread with a very crispy crust and very delicious. I’ve never tasted anything exactly like it although a Canadian company called Ace delivers a very good substitute to my local Meijer. This bread baguette from Ace is delivered worldwide, including France! Can you imagine that??? France, the country known for its pastries? I learned that from the Ace website. I think the secret is in the aged biga. The more aged, the better the flavor is what they say. My bigas never last that long and I always get too busy to remember to replenish them unfortunately. You have a very nice blog here and I have followed you to read more.

  3. February 16, 2013 6:07 pm

    Your use of the word “bread” in this post, with all the care you add to its making seem like a very apt image of the care that humans could offer each other and our world. May it guide us all. And thanks for all the bread(s).

  4. February 16, 2013 6:21 pm

    The French have their prestigious bread making competitions. I get intimidated just thinking about that! I wouldn’t know all the qualities required for a loaf or baguette to be considered supreme. But we know what we like, and I guess we strive for our personal ideal. I’m still educating my palate and other senses to keep improving my view of what great bread is. As far as tortillas, my ideal is based on what I ate growing up much like your experience with Italian bread. Even though tortillas are far simpler to make than bread, the quality I look for is just as elusive.
    I think you’re right about the biga or other pre-ferments. At first I could not believe that holding part of the dough a few hours or overnight would make that much difference. After making comparisons, I was quickly converted!
    Thanks for following my blog! Besides your writing, I have also enjoyed the accompanying photos. I will recommend it to others.


  1. Another reason to bake bread… | Bread and Tortillas

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