I am a bread snob. Why? Because I grew up in a country where you can survive on bread alone for months at a time, and not get sick of it. Because our local bread store had freshly baked, still steamy and hot bread delivered twice a day. Because our bread varieties were many, flavors were plenty, and freshness was the first and foremost priority.
We were buying bread every day. If we were lucky enough to score ‘just-off-the-bread-truck-fresh’ loaves, we’d always purchase extra, because walking one-and-a-half blocks from the bakery to the house were enough to devour that extra, or at least pinch the delectable crust off of it. We had white, sourdough white, rye, gray, black, and everything in between. The loaves had names. Our bread stores were self-serve, and special long neck forks were provided for customers to probe the loaves for freshness and crustiness. No one ever thought of packing the bread in plastic “to lock in the freshness” for long term storage. Even now, after fifteen years of living in the States, the idea of packaged long-shelf-life bread makes me chuckle: those bleak looking pre-cut loaves with a texture of a cotton ball and no taste, no matter how much corn syrup you put in them, are a disgrace to the very essence of what bread really is — a living bold spirited yet peaceful creature, a product of miraculous transformation of powdered grain consumed by yeast.
Since I’ve started my all-things-fermentation streak, making wild yeast sourdough has been on my mind. I did some sourdough experimentation last year, when a friend shared a “secret” of rye bread starter with me. I learned early on that bread requires patience and persistence, just like gardening — you do your job, and the nature will take care of the rest. Things should not be rushed if you want truly good results. And of course, if you want the nature to do its job, you need ingredients that are as close as possible to nature — unbleached unenriched organic flour, chlorine free water, unrefined salt, whole grains and freshly ground seeds and spices. And of course, wild yeast, naturally occurring … well, everywhere really.
The purpose of this article is not posting a recipe, but rather make the home made bread noticed. It’s very well worth the effort and is far superior to whatever you find in stores. If you are lucky to have a good traditional bakery nearby, this may be not for you, but if you are like me, a fan of making things from scratch and learning about traditional methods of food preparation, making a loaf at home should be on your list of things to try.
A couple of websites I found which may be helpful:
Wild Yeast Blog — http://www.wildyeastblog.com
The Fresh Loaf – http://www.thefreshloaf.com
Food Wishes - http://foodwishes.blogspot.com – make a search for bread, this guy has lots of instructional videos.
A very nice write up on wild yeast bread in Russian – http://forum.say7.info/topic3949.html – this lady definitely knows her stuff.
And of course, more bread photos of mine, right here: More Bread Photos, Please!