Baking Bread

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Growing up in Europe nothing spoils you more than the plethora of good food found in the smallest taverns high in the Alps to major cities like Vienna, Paris or Munich--whether pastries or charcuterie--eating is a reflection of the 'good life' and savored in presentation, attention to detail as well as flavors.

My little town in Germany had at least 3-4 independently owned bakeries, each with traditional baked goods like Brötchen, Pretzeln, Kastenbrot, and Kuchen. But, each filled a niche with their in-house specialities, ie Bakerei Weber had the most incredible cheese-poppy seed rolls—soft and billowy cream puff consistency--perfect for sandwiches. Or, Backstube Schwind who had coarse and dark seeded ryes that were dense and rich in flavor--perfect with a touch of butter and honey or Black Forest ham.  

In between high school, I considered applying for an apprenticeship in France, not only to learn the secrets of baking baguettes and croissants, but also, to learn French and immerse myself in the culture. But, as many of us do, I chose to follow tradition out of fear that delaying a year off between high school and college would “set me back”.

What an experience that would have been, right? We get caught up in 'growing up' and 'moving on' instead of following what excites us with passion, curiosity and interest in that moment. Practical is good for sure--we have to make a living--but exploring an interest and loving what you do has equal merit...and probably, more satisfaction. 

The desire to learn those skills has never really left me. Living stateside I longed for just ‘good’ bread—crusty, but chewy with substance—rather, than sticking to the roof of my mouth and dissolving in seconds. 

So, during this year, one of my goals was to ‘EXPLORE’ skills and interests such as finding the best recipe for biscuits or growing the best tomatoes or learning how to renovate a bathroom or baking a crusty loaf of bread to name a few. Nothing would be more exciting that to apprentice under a master baker like at 'Joseph Brot vom Pheinsten' in Vienna or learn to make pasta under an Italian chef...or grandmother!

In the interim, I tried my hand with Jim Lahey’s No Knead Bread recipe for the first time this weekend and was pleasantly surprised. Hope is here!

Take 1:

  • Super simple: Mix, Rise x 18-24 hrs, Rise Again 1-2 hrs, Bake
  • It really is that easy!
  • Mistakes: Water for yeast and mixing too cool.
  • Oven too hot and baked too long.
  • Beautiful first attempt--top perfect, but bottom partially burnt.
  • Awesome consistency and flavor, especially with butter and jam.

Take 2 'in progress':

  • Try again
  • Luke warm water for the yeast and mixing
  • Shorten final cooking time by 15 minutes
  • Can't wait to get this perfected.

I head back to Europe this week. Dreams of interning and learning from a master baker will no doubt resurface. Maybe I just need to be so bold and ask for a position. I would work for free...why not?

What you can do, or dream you can, begin it;
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.
—Goethe