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How To: A Lesson in Bread Making

September 2, 2009

It wasn’t so many years ago that the mere thought of making my own bread seemed unimaginable and unappealing.  [Come to think of it, I don’t actually think I ever thought about it.  Follow me?]  But after a rash change in career paths – accountant to baker – bread baking had not only quickly become something I thought about but also a job requirement.

As the sole baker (slave), I was not only responsible for satisfying each guest’s sweet tooth but also for helping those Atkins shy meet their daily carb max.  Which usually came in the form of a beautifully handmade, fresh baked loaf of bread.

But there was a learning curve involved in getting from never having thought of making bread to making 35-40 loaves a day.  Thankfully, in said environment, the learning happens rather fast and furiously.  Crash and burns are inevitable.  And there were many.

My boss, who now looking back could have been Anthony Bourdain’s twin minus the whole celeb chef/tv personality thing, handed me a worn and tattered bread book from the 70’s and said, “start here”.  So with this Zen priest as my guide, I got to work.  Spending the entire summer working my way through the Tassajara Bread Book.  It was a fantastic place to begin and gain confidence, while always being rewarded with a most delicious piece of bread.

When I returned the following summer, I came armed with more books and more knowledge.  During the winter and spring, Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Bread Bible became a permanent fixture on my bedside table.  Each night I would read a little, highlight, dog-ear and make notes, as if I was cramming for a final exam.

What I loved right away about this book was how she walked you through different methods of making bread.  As much as I enjoy to knead the dough with my own two hands and become one with the bread, realistically it’s just not possible when making so many loaves.  All I needed was the go-ahead from some authority to throw this stuff in the mixer and let it do all of the work.  And there I had it – in print – penned by Mrs. Rose Levy Beranbaum herself.  There must be a reason it’s called the bible, no.

Both of these books have continued to be my “go-tos” for making all sorts of bread.  When I want just a classic whole-wheat loaf without all of the analness and detail I take to the Tassajara, but when I’m looking for something with a little more depth and a bit of a twist [like the recipe below] I always turn to Rose.  (She also has the best pizza dough recipe ever!  Which I am adding to my previous post on pizza.)  In the end, each definitely has it’s place in a kitchen.

If you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at baking bread, here’s a little recipe pictorial for Whole Wheat with Flax Meal.  Even if you would rather use another recipe, at least you  can use this as a guide, especially if you’re a visual person like me.  It never hurts to have pictures.  Be confident and have fun!

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Whole Wheat Flax Bread
adapted from The Bread Bible’s Flaxseed Loaf

Unbleached All Purpose Flour          1 cup  {5 oz}
Whole Wheat Flour                                3 cups + 1T  {15.5 oz}
Ground Flaxseed Meal                          1/2 cup  {2 oz}
INSTANT Yeast                                        1 1/2 teaspoons

Honey                                                           2 Tablespoons
Water, warm                                            1 3/4 cups  {14.6 oz}

Salt                                                                2 teaspoons

Melted Butter                                            1 Tablespoon  {.5 oz}
(for brushing top)

3 Comments leave one →
  1. November 14, 2009 6:27 pm

    lara you are awesome with these recipes…i love that you are sooooo talented…i’m gonna make this one day…i have been all about cooking new things lately :o)

    happy/safe travels

  2. September 13, 2010 10:58 pm

    I love how you Photoshop text into your photos. The Tassahara Bread book was what my friends in high school baked beautiful artisan breads for our school Bazaar. Nice to meet you, thanks to Liza of @AMauiBlog..
    I love to cook and long to be more of a bread maker too. You may have just inspired me:)

  3. September 18, 2010 7:10 pm

    Can you mail me a couple slices next time you make a loaf. That looks so good.

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