Make the Best Bread at Home with Just Your Hands
Nothing beats the intoxicating smell of freshly baked bread. But what if you could create those beautiful artisan loaves in the most traditional way possible: with just your own two hands?
Baking by Hand shows you how to do just that. Keep your mixer in the closet as Andy and Jackie King teach you long-forgotten methods that are the hallmarks of their exceptional bakery. They'll take you through all of the steps of making amazing bread, from developing your own sourdough culture, to mixing by hand, traditional shaping techniques and straight on to the final bake. Most importantly, you'll learn the Four-Fold technique-the key to making the kind of bread at home that will simply be top tier in any setting.
In this book, Andy and Jackie feature their stand out bakery recipes, including favorites such as their North Shore Sourdough, a perfectly crusted and open-crumbed Ciabatta, and their earthy, healthy and wonderful Multigrain loaf. And that's only half the story. The Kings also offer up techniques and recipes for their much-loved pastries like Concord Grape Pies and Rhubarb-Ginger Tarts, combining seasonality, locality and a passion for fresh ingredients. And they're all ready for you to make-without a mixer.
A&J King Artisan Bakers is located in Salem, Massachusetts, and was named one of America's 50 Best Bakeries by The Daily Meal.
|Publisher:||Page Street Publishing|
|File size:||8 MB|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
It sounds like a silly coincidence or a fateful prognostication, but Jackie and I knew we were going to be bakers together from very early on. We had known each other for less than seven months, had recently starting dating, and Valentine's Day was coming up. Fantastic. I scrambled around to buy her a present, and settled on a great find from the local bookshop in Montpelier, Vermont, where we both were attending the New England Culinary Institute. We had connected over the simple things that let you know you're going to be with someone a while: food (obviously), a love of family, late nights watching the Game Show Channel, that immediate comfort that allows you to sit in silence and not feel weird about it. I knew I was going to marry her in about five minutes.
For Valentine's Day I bought Jackie a beautiful, large, coffee table book called Artisan Baking by Maggie Glezer. I met up with Jackie later in my little dorm-style bedroom to exchange presents. As I reached behind my back to present my gift, she did the same. We brought our gifts forth. And we both held the same present, with the exact same bookstore wrapping paper and ribbon.
It was clear that baking was in both of our bloods.
Fast forward four and a half years, and one of those books sat in our makeshift office, earmarked and dirty, along with some of the other invaluable reference books that helped us answer our own questions as we started a bakery. As much experience as you may think you have — and working for three and a half years at one of the best bakeries in the country, Portland, Maine's Standard Baking Co., gave us plenty of that — nothing prepares you for having to solve every problem yourself. These books kept our brains afloat. It was 2006, and we were up to our ears in dough, debt — and, thankfully, customers. Salem, Massachusetts, welcomed our little bakery with open arms, a steady stream of interested and open-minded locals allowing us to make it through that rough first year.
Jump forward another six and a half years, to the present. We've brought many of our books home from the bakery, as we've made so many mistakes and solved so many problems that we've discovered that now our experience is what's leading us. Our training, our research, just the day-to-day living with dough is what informs our decisions. We meet with our amazing bread and pastry bakers and talk about production and schedules and flavors, and we eat and argue and laugh, and then we get back to working and arguing and eating and laughing some more.
We love what we do: the passion, the people, the problem solving, the fun, the sweat, the end result. We just love to make and eat good food. When the act of dining starts to focus solely on the plate and less on the gathering of friends, that is bad. One of the reasons we love artisan bread is that, while it should be amazing on its own, it's also a perfect starting-off point for greater things. I'm not just talking about food — I'm talking about gathering those you care about near to you, facing one another and sharing a meal.
Once the loaf is made and sold, I want customers to come back and tell me what they did with it. I want to hear that it made an amazing bruschetta, or that it's the only sandwich bread little Delia will eat, or that you sawed some ciabatta in half and stuffed it with deli meats and sharp provolone to eat while watching football with the gang. I don't want to hear these things because I need to hear compliments about my product. I want to hear that it fulfilled its intended destiny as a canvas for your own food obsession.
WHAT GREAT BREAD IS, AND WHAT GREAT BREAD ISN'T
There is a vast canyon between a good loaf of bread and a bad one. They might all have the same ingredients, but you can spot a bad loaf just by looking at it. A pale, dull crust. Small, dense, a bit wonky on one side, no real definition to it. A quality loaf, however, is tall and proud, sporting a beautiful russet crust, a sharp burst or carefully slashed design. You can thump the bottom and hear that it has a nice, airy open crumb underneath a crackling crust with a matte sheen. It looks healthy and strong, and not least of all, delicious.
There's no magic to it, no secret ingredient to that second loaf, but the uninitiated are tempted to say that there is, and I don't blame them. There are few humbler food items than a loaf of bread, fewer still that are claimants of both the phrase staff of life and, in some circles, the title of all that is unhealthy about your diet. I find both positions a bit extreme and way too close to politicization. Making artisan bread isn't spell casting, it's not a statement, it's not part of a movement. It's a series of actions that create a final product that is greater than the sum of its parts, and therefore worth putting a bit of time into if one wants to understand the process.
And to those who claim that making a beautiful loaf of bread is an art: I humbly disagree. Our goal is to create a literal consumable; we want you to tear our product apart, not present it at a gallery. There are artistic elements to our baking, but most of those elements have functional purposes. The multicolored layering on a perfect croissant is a result of proper lamination (layering). The slashes on a loaf of North Shore Sourdough are there to carefully release expanding gasses from the loaf so as to achieve greater volume and uniform shape. The flour stencil of the turkey on the Thanksgiving Grand Levain is ... well, okay, maybe that one is for fun. Take a photo of that bread and call that art. But if that loaf or that tart doesn't end up in someone's belly in short order, it hasn't fulfilled its purpose.
COMMITTING TO THE CRAFT: BEING A BAKER, DESPITE THE HOURS
For whatever the reason, I've always been drawn to food traditions that have their roots deep in the culinary soil. Fermentation of all sorts (beer brewing, wine making and, of course, bread baking), working with active cultures, charcuterie and sausage making and cooking over open flame. Time-tested tradition and homage to the past have been hallmarks of almost everything I enjoy, from music to literature to cuisine. Jackie is the same way in her out-of-bakery endeavors (sled- dog running, vegetable gardening and raising farm animals, to name my favorites) and places great value and emphasis on family, hospitality and tradition. So it makes sense that we were both drawn to the warmth of the bake-shop early on in our culinary careers rather than to the tightly controlled chaos of your average kitchen line.
Baking is also a discipline that rewards not only careful attention to technique, but also supplemental research into the science of the craft. The baker relies on the healthy activity of the most basic forms of life to create the product and, therefore, a thorough understanding of how those organisms work (and under what conditions they thrive) can only benefit the artisan baker. There are scientific realities to why your bread is behaving the way it is, and most of them are easily understood and applied to your bakeshop, be it at home or at work. There are books and websites dedicated to food science — Harold McGee's On Food and Cooking is an essential read — and those who know the hows will most definitely know the whys. Baking can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it, but the more you understand about the science of baking, the better a baker you'll be.
In baking, as in many other things, the simplest things are the proof of your talent. Judge an ice cream maker on the quality of his or her vanilla — there are no chunks of candy or fruit to cover up the ice cream base. If you want to understand the heart of a concert pianist, listen to how he or she treats the simplest sonata rather than a bombastic showpiece. Similarly, our bakers coax the most amazing baked goods out of most basic ingredients. Both the North Shore Sourdough and the ciabatta have almost the exact same contents, but their flavor profiles are miles apart. Why? Because when you apply science, knowledge, technique and tradition to simple ingredients, you can make them say a lot of different things.
SETTING UP SHOP
THE TOOLS TO TURN YOUR KITCHEN INTO AN ARTISAN BAKESHOP
After years of working in professional kitchens, bakers begin to develop a particular sixth sense with regard to the atmosphere in which they'll be baking. Ours can see through that heat and seek out those areas in the kitchen that might be perfect for very particular tasks. They'll look for the corner near the window that might be 10 degrees cooler — a perfect place to store that bin of dough that came out a little warmer than expected. Through that swinging door is a spot in the hallway that's right under the AC vent, so we'll roll our rack of proofing Pain au Levain over there, or else it'll need to go in the oven just as the North Shore Sourdough is proofed and ready. That's one train wreck avoided.
The point is, great bakers know their kitchens. If they are baking in a foreign space, they'll take the time to evaluate the hot zones, the cool spots and those places that are just perfect for developing great bread.
Your kitchen is your bakery, and the first thing you need to do is to get to know it if you want to make great bread. You can cook a steak when the ambient temperature is 50°F/10°C or 100°F/40°C, and it won't make a difference in how long that steak needs to cook. If you were trying to make bread at 50°F/10°C and made no adjustments, you'd be waiting long into the night for that dough to ferment and proof. Make the same dough at 100°F/40°C, and you have yourself a fast- moving bread that may complete its life cycle in 6 hours. The atmosphere in your kitchen makes all the difference in the world, and it will be up to you to react accordingly. Great bakers are manipulators of variables first and foremost.
Being a great baker is about paying attention, and making adjustments based on your observations to produce dough that's at a good temperature for fermentation and proofing. It's a balancing act, and a little knowledge about the bread-making process will make a huge difference. Plus, we reveal plenty of the tricks up our sleeves that will give you a leg up on whatever your home bakery throws your way. But first, let us reintroduce you to your oven.
YOUR FRENCH-BUILT, STEAM-INJECTED, HEARTH STONE OVEN
If you've got one of these, feel free to skip ahead to the recipes. For the rest of us, it takes a little more rigging of our home ovens to produce the bread we like. At the moment, we own an inherited 15- year-old wall oven whose windows are susceptible to enthusiastically shattering when you look at them wrong. The good news is that every one of these recipes was developed using that exact piece-of-junk oven, so rest assured that they will work in whatever you've got. Great technique and good decisions can trump any "unique" piece of equipment you own.
Even so, everyone's oven needs a little help to turn it into an artisan bread-baking powerhouse. You need just three items:
The bigger and thicker, the better. A round pizza stone works fine for one loaf at a time, but we prefer one of the square ones that takes up an entire rack. We can fit two or three loaves on it at once, and it most closely resembles the baking surface we have at the bakery. If you're getting one for the first time and you want to make sure it'll last forever, we suggest the FibraMent baking stones, by AWMCO — they have sizes for all ovens and are 3/4-inch/2-cm thick. That's about as heavy as you can get them. Arrange your baking racks so that you have one as close to the bottom element as possible. If your oven doesn't have a bottom element, drop the stone right on the floor. That's where your baking stone is going to live. We keep ours in the oven at all times, as it moonlights as a roasted potato crisper, a piecrust setter, a thin-crust pizza stone and generally creates much more even heat throughout the oven at all times, provided you preheat your oven for the appropriate temperature at least an hour before baking. Those stones take a while to heat up, but they retain that heat longer. That's the key.
You can find one of these heavy, thick frying pans for almost nothing at barn sales or in the back room of any antique store. Barring that, any good hardware store will carry a selection in its kitchenware section. You'll want to dedicate this pan for steam generation, because it will tend to get rusty as time goes on; that's why it's nice to get an old, used one and brush it off a bit. Your steam generator (See? It's not even a pan anymore!) will live on the top rack of your oven, far enough away from the baking stone that the dough has enough headspace to rise and color, but not so jammed up there that you can't slide it in and out easily. Your oven's default rack positions will dictate exactly where everything goes, but just as long as you can fit both your stone and your steam generator in, you're good to go.
Used in conjunction with the cast-iron pan, a water mister is great for spritzing your oven just as you load in all of the bread, and then again a few minutes later. Again, this ensures that your bread is rising in a humid environment and that you're getting the most out of your oven spring.
OTHER ITEMS TO HELP YOU BAKE GREAT BREAD
I used to be a terrible handyman. Pretty much everything I tried to cut, plumb, unscrew, build or assemble turned out to be an abject disaster. Basically, what I learned from many, many similar experiences (and, thankfully, no lost digits) is that it's really important to have the correct tools for the job you're trying to accomplish.
The same is true with baking equipment. There are certain items that will make your life a heck of a lot easier if you equip yourself with them. We've tried to arrange these in order of importance, so you can have a priority list to work from. They're not too expensive individually, but buying them all at once might be a bit daunting. At home we keep everything in a big plastic tub with a cover in the basement, and then haul it all up on baking days.
A must-have. Get one that measures in grams as well as pounds and ounces and that has a tare function (which allows you to subtract the weight of the container); there are many reasonably priced, good-quality scales on the market. To make great bread, you must weigh ingredients because it's far more precise. A cup of tightly packed flour weighs a lot more than a cup of fluffed-up flour, and those ounces could make all the difference between a nice, open crumb and a tight, cottony one. Never trust a bread recipe that gives measures in volume. Ever.
Don't trust your Spidey-sense. Correct temperatures are very, very important.
As we've mentioned before, one of the biggest hurdles to great home baking is that rarely do home kitchens mimic the hot and humid, yeast-friendly environment of the bakeshop. One spring we were setting up a new home for some baby chicks that would be arriving the next day. To keep them warm we set up a long-corded heat lamp that can be adjusted up or down to create the optimal temperature. The connection was pretty obvious. One extra heat lamp later, and we could raise active dough (and more chickens!) in the dead of winter. It's a pretty simple setup. See ours below.
We know it sounds strange. At the bakery, we use commercial bus tubs to hold our dough, because they keep the dough in a nice, rectangular shape that's easy to divide. Fish tubs are just smaller versions, perfect for the home baker, and you can flip them over and use them as makeshift proofing boxes. They're especially useful in croissant production, where you need a nice, rectangular dough into which to roll your butter. These things are available most easily, not coincidentally, at your local fish store. Just ask the fellow in charge if they have a few deep ones (the shallow tubs won't work) that you can buy, and after a thorough cleaning, you'll have yourself a stack of perfect dough bins.
Know what's not useful for scraping bowls? Your fingertips. So, while flexible plastic bowl scrapers are not essential, they are really useful. They curve right around the inside of your bowl so you can make sure you're combining all of those dry ingredients with the wet. They're also very useful for cleaning your bowls out, because a starter stuck to the sides of a bowl is like glue when it dries.
Excerpted from "Baking By Hand"
Copyright © 2013 Andy & Jackie King.
Excerpted by permission of Page Street Publishing Co..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
CHAPTER 1 OUR BAKERY,
CHAPTER 2 SETTING UP SHOP THE TOOLS TO TURN YOUR KITCHEN INTO AN ARTISAN BAKESHOP,
CHAPTER 3 YOUR HANDS THE MOST IMPORTANT TOOL IN YOUR KITCHEN,
CHAPTER 4 THE PM BREAD BAKER SOURDOUGHS, GRAINS AND HYBRIDS,
CHAPTER 5 THE AM BREAD BAKER MORNING BREADS AND FLATBREADS,
CHAPTER 6 THE BAKER'S LUNCH SANDWICHES AND DELICIOUS FROM-SCRATCH FILLINGS,
CHAPTER 7 THE AM PASTRY BAKER CROISSANTS, STICKY BUNS AND BREAD PUDDING,
CHAPTER 8 THE PM PASTRY BAKER CRUSTS, SEASONAL SWEETS AND SAVORY TARTS,