Posts Tagged ‘Local Breads’

A Panoply Of Provisions

Pizza Rossa Alla Romana

I’ve done quite a bit of experimental baking over the last few months; in particular veering out of my comfort zone of Local Breads to include other books and bread-making recipes.

I’ve enjoyed myself, maybe even learned a few things, but most of all this task cemented the fact that baking is my zen.  Nowhere do I feel more peaceful or at ease than when I’m standing at the counter massaging a mass of spongy dough.  Time to start evaluating a career change?  Perhaps so, but only time will tell… though I recently read about GBC offering an artisanal bread certificate program…

At any rate, I thought I’d share a short pictorial with all of you on some of the highs and lows of my personal baking quest since September;

Pane Casareccio Di Genzano


Pane Della Settimana


For the second week in a row, I did not have the forethought to prepare a bread starter prior to Sunday morning.  And while I have a jar of funky looking levain stewing in the back of my refrigerator, I can’t remember when I last refreshed it with flour to make it usable.

You can hardly blame me for forgetfulness though; I was too excited about getting to see The Pixies to contemplate poolishes and bigas on Saturday morning.

Of course, if I wanted to bake bread still, I had to choose something that would be leavened only by yeast and time.  Lucky for me, I had one such loaf ear-marked from the last time I went through Local Breads to find recipes that interested me.

The bread I chose was a pane alla ricotta, which was a bit of a departure from the breads I’ve been baking of late, in that it contained both a soft cheese and butter instead of olive oil.  Being the fan of ricotta that I am (I could eat the stuff by the spoonful, and when we have it in the house, I often do) I was intrigued by the potential of this bread.  I crossed my fingers and hoped that it would live up to my expectations…


Bella Bianca


Truthfully, I’m not usually one for compromise.

I want what I want, and I want it my way, so woe betide those who might get between me and whatever I’m after.

One of the things I enjoy about Sundays is the opportunity for solitude that comes from quietly baking.  However, the Everyman and I had to go out to the KW yesterday afternoon, so any bread I intended to bake needed to be a little easier or more low maintenance.  After last week’s recipe perusal, I had a list of close to a half dozen breads I wanted to play around with in the near future, so from that I selected the one bread that didn’t require any sort of starter or biga; the pizza bianca.

Pizza bianca is pizza in it’s most elemental form.  The dough is similar to focaccia, except it’s not quite as airy.  For a bianca, it is nothing more than dough baked in a blazing hot oven sprinkled with olive oil and sea salt, but to fancy it up a little, you can turn it into pizza rosso, where it becomes a tomato sauce-based pizza.

Back when I first started making focaccia, the Everyman commented that they were similar to the ones he used to buy in Italy as a snack, but mine came with more in the way of herb topping.  After awhile it occurred to me that perhaps what the Everyman had been reminiscing about was a pizza bianca.  I always meant to get around to making him one, but with so many tempting options in Local Breads to sample, who could blame me for neglecting the bianca a wee bit?


Give Us This Day, Our Daily Bread

Deep, Dark, Crusted, Brown

Sadly, it’s been a few weeks since I’ve had an opportunity to bake.

Between our hectic schedule lately, there hasn’t been any time for futzing around in the kitchen.  It’s an activity I’ve missed, one that I find increasingly meditative and peaceful, and a welcome distraction from the Everyman’s incessant pow-pow-pow zombie-killing escapades. So when the opportunity to bake presented itself this weekend I jumped at it, comforted by the fact that whatever I chose would be sacrilicious.

Half an hour spent idly flipping through my regular bread book (Local Breads by Daniel Leader) on our patio led to a handful of potentials, none of which required any advance prep on my part, either.  Eventually I chose a pain de mais, a corn flour and rye-based Italian bread solely on the basis that all of the other breads I’d chosen would’ve required me to walk to the store for provisions, and it was bloody steamy outside.

The recipe for pain de mais is upfront, stating that it is quite the anomaly for an Italian bread, being that most Italian breads rely on wheat flour only.  Because this bread has a low proportion of wheat flour in comparison to rye and corn, the book notes that the bread will not rise much, producing something only slightly more leavened than a cracker.  It promises a flavour that’s out of this world though, which was all the convincing I needed.


Mangia – Pane Toscano


Having spent a thoroughly frantic day preparing for guests on Saturday, when bread baking finally rolled around on Sunday morning, I was more than happy to settle on a recipe that was a little more hands off than usual.  Rushing to and from the market and standing on one’s feet all day tend to make this foodie grumpy, so I was on the lookout for an effortless endeavour followed by a crisp, cool glass of wine.

On top of all that, I planned to go out for dinner to research a restaurant review for my side job, so I knew I would not be around to tend to anything time-consuming (coming soon; August 6th).

After halfheartedly flipping through the pages of Local Breads and bypassing both the German and French sections, I paused where I often do; in Italy.  The pane Toscano, billed as a saltless Tuscan bread, seemed simple and rustic enough to pull off with a minimal amount of fuss.  The primary advantage in tipping the scales was that it didn’t require a starter more complicated than a biga.  I whipped the biga together in double time, then went about soaking my poor, aching toes.

Mix Mix Mix


Pain De La Semaine


Despite the fact that the Everyman and I spent the weekend at the cottage, the bread still needed to get made.

Knowing that I would not be around to babysit a biga, I intended to select a dough that could be assembled in one shot.  Complicating matters slightly, our organic grocer had gifted us with a massive bush-sized bouquet of basil as a thank you for being customers on his birthday last week, so I felt the need to incorporate some of that into the recipe as well, lest it go to waste.  There is, after all, only so much pesto one can make.  Our freezer is full of them; lemon artichoke pesto, sundried tomato pesto, roasted garlic pesto, garlic scape pesto, plain old pesto, etc etc.  If you can add cheese to it, I’ve probably turned it into pesto cubes at some point in time.

Flipping through my all-important baking bible, Local Breads by Daniel Leader, I came across a loaf that sounded slightly challenging that would also meet the above requirements; an herb twist.  Marking the page for later, I left the book on the counter and headed off to the cottage for a few days of summer relaxation.

Upon my return, I hunkered down in the kitchen and began to assemble the pertinent ingredients.  As with anything I make, I couldn’t leave the recipe as is, so I added a few scoops of red fife flour in place of some of the white flour, and omitted the coriander seeds, which I truly despise.


My Ode To The Everyman


The Everyman is my main squeeze (as if you didn’t already know that, though).

Oftentimes when I’m flipping through cookbooks or browsing foodie publications on the internet, I am reading with an eye to him in mind.  If there’s one thing I seem to be known for, it is spoiling people via nourishing and delicious home-cooked food.

This past weekend was just one such occasion.

In my ongoing quest to expand my bread baking skills beyond simple baguettes and foccacias, I’ve been selecting intriguing recipes from Local Breads by Daniel Leader to test out over the past few months.  I haven’t been disappointed yet, though you can definitely tell which breads I’ve enjoyed most based on how watermarked and crinkled the pages are in places.

On Saturday afternoon before we went to another Summerlicious dinner, I perused the book and immediately spotted a loaf I knew the Everyman would love; prosciutto bread.  The Everyman loves prosciutto more than any man or beast I know (with the exception of my departed cat, Cuddles, who would wrestle it from your cold, dead hands if she ever got the chance).  Contented that I’d picked a good recipe, I prepared the required biga and set it to rest until the following day.


Testing, Testing, 123

Holey Wheat

The time the Everyman and I have spent at Negroni during the last month (I think it’s averaged out to once a week, actually) inspired my latest project.

One of the reasons I enjoy their paninis so much is the use of their amazingly flavourful, crusty ciabatta bread (which they really should take to market on it’s own!).  To date, my bread-making exploits have primarily centred around quick breads, baguettes and the occasional foccacia, even though the beautiful pictures in Local Breads make me salivate every time I see them.

This weekend I decided to change all that.  I pulled out the book, rolled up my sleeves and resolved to attempt ciabatta.  Flipping through the two page recipe, it didn’t seem overly challenging, so I felt confident.  It was one of the recipes in the book that called for the use of a prefermented biga, which is sort of like a poolish or sourdough starter.  So, on Sunday afternoon I whipped up my biga, (which was a really easy process in itself) flipped it into the fridge to ferment for 16 hours and put things on hold until the following day.

Monday morning I woke up excited to peer at my biga.  As promised by the book, it had taken on a sheen and increased in volume from a lump of dough about the size of a lime to a glossy ball about the size of an orange (I intended to photograph the transformation but forgot).  Next, the recipe called for diluting it in water and breaking up the biga, then mixing it with the rest of the dough ingredients in a stand mixer set on high.  It was a little early, and the Everyman was still asleep, but I threw caution to the wind and assumed it would never rouse him up anyway.  After allowing the machine to vigorously (and loudly) mix the dough for 20 minutes, it ferments again for several hours (which ended up being much more while I was away at work).

When I returned home last night, I revisited the dough, stretching it out onto a baking sheet into 2 slightly misshapen loaves that were dimpled, then allowed to proof again.  Once ready, I tossed them into a blazing oven (one at a time) for a bake on the bread stone.  I (accidentally) left one in a little longer than the other, so I have a very definite variance to determine a favourite with. (more…)

The Foodie 13 – Cookbooks

As promised earlier this week, we’re unveiling a new feature at Foodie and the Everyman today; book reviews and recommendations!

This also dovetails nicely with another addition to Foodie and the Everyman that I’ve started called The Foodie 13The Foodie 13 will be an ongoing series of lists about 13 really neat things in specific categories, that I intend to publish several times a month.  For our first Foodie 13, I thought I’d pick a subject that is near and dear to my heart; cookbooks!

So, without further adieu, and in no particular order, here are the 13 cookbooks I can’t live without:

1- Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn – There’s much that can be said about this great book, but primarily it’s the one I credit with sparking my carnivorous love affair.  After less than 10 minutes of paging through the book I was already plotting exactly where in my shoebox apartment I could fit a Bradley smoker.   Each new recipe I try from the book spurs me on to try even more.  A real winner.

2- Perfect Scoop: Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas and Sweet Accompaniments by David Lebovitz - A fantastic book laced with great recipes for enjoying the simple pleasure of homemade frozen desserts.  Since purchasing this book I’ve sampled approximately 20 of the recipes, and not one of them was bad.  The pear sorbet is definitely a recipe of note, as are the spicy, crinkled speculaas cookies, that are meant to be folded in to recipes but are amazing in their own right.

3- Local Breads by Daniel Leader - This is the most recent purchase on my list, so I can’t vouch for a very large percentage of the recipes yet.  From what I’ve already sampled and pored over pictures of though, it’s clear to me that this is a book worth having, as it conjures up an intense hunger every time I read it.  The pictures peppered throughout the book are colorful, rustic, and absolutely delicious.  And the Parisian daily bread is to die for, and as I’ve said before is worth the cost of the book alone.


Behold The Mighty Staff Of Life!

There are few things in life I love more than a really good piece of bread, except perhaps the Everyman, or a really good piece of bread with some freshly churned homemade butter.  I find it so incredibly fascinating that the same 3 or 4 ingredients (flour, water, salt, yeast) can create such a myriad of different flavors, textures and effects through such minute variations.

I’m not talking about chemicalated Wonder Bread though, but a nice crunchy baguette or crusty sourdough.  I’ve waxed poetic over the joys of focaccia over the years, and dabbled in bagels and crackers.  However, my Achilles heel has continually been my lack of know-how and experience when it comes to more artisanal bread matters.  I’ve turned out plenty of delicious quick breads using my bread machine but somehow anything more complicated always seems to literally fall flat.

Several weeks ago I attempted to grow my own levain, in the hopes that it would help me work towards becoming a better baker.  I’d found incredibly detailed instructions on by (apparent) bread guru Rose Beranbaum.  About a week into the process I ended up killing the levain (which I’d named Frankenstein) by forgetting to feed it a few too many times.  I dejectedly flushed him down the sink and a week later decided to start again.  This week’s levain is far from robust, but does not appear dead, so thank god for small miracles.  I’ve named this one Bride of Frankenstein, and hopefully in a few more days I’ll get a chance to see what she tastes like.

All of this failure was convincing enough for me to decide that I needed to get educated.  I went out and purchased a few books upon the recommendations of several food bloggers I respect.  I don’t believe that The Bread Bible by Rose Beranbaum is the kind of book for me.  While many people swear by it, once I started paging through and reading some of the instructions, the book began to overwhelm me.  Everything was a little too precious and intense, which had the effect of making me feel like I’d never be able to successfully produce anything from its pages.  Perhaps once I have more confidence with bread I’ll be able to revisit this book with better results, but for now, it has been shelved.

The other book I purchased was by contrast, a revelation.  Local Breads by Daniel Leader was full of beautiful, glossy photos of food I’d want to eat (and so would you).  And it was written in a simple and straightforward enough manner that I began to feel that I could do this.  I picked the first real recipe in the book because it says it’s the simplest, but it also happened to be one of the types of breads I wanted to master the most; Parisian daily bread (baguette).  The recipe is clearly laid out, and while the process might be long, overall it is quite easy.  There are several different intervals for rising, proofing and fermenting, but for the most part it’s pretty hands off.  Towards the end you get to knead the dough a few dozen times with your hands, but the recipe can be achieved with 90% of the manual labour done by a stand mixer.  About 4 hours later your loaves are ready to meet their toasty oven and steam sauna.