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09.08.2003

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the lost art of baking bread 
by Kelly Beachell Gasner
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continued from page 2

Since that first attempt, I've baked bread several more times using different techniques and different ingredients, and I'm glad to say that my dough now rises high and proud. This takes some practice, and I've learned that you have to use your instincts and your senses to make culinary art. Some other helpful things I learned along the way:
suggested reading...
Bread: the breads of the world and how to bake them at home by Christine Ingram and Jennie Shapter (Hermes House, Anness Publishing Inc., 2002)

Bread Baker's Bible by Christine Ingram and Jennie Shapter ((Southwater Pub, 2000)

  • Modern flour does, in fact, need to be sifted. It gives loft to the flour and results in a lighter crumb and a better rise. If the recipe calls for it, do it (use the colander if necessary).
  • Even if you are hot and sweaty from kneading, it doesn't mean your kitchen is warm enough to rise bread dough. Find the absolute warmest, most sheltered place in your kitchen and put your dough there to rise.
  • Punching down the dough does not mean remove every bit of air from it. A single punch in the middle of the dough ball and a few extra squeezes will suffice.
  • The mess is part of the fun -- talk about playing with your food. Keep a hand-held vacuum close by for quick, no-stick clean ups.
  • Most temperatures and times in recipes are guidelines and can't be trusted. Know your oven, and check the bread for doneness when the crust looks firm and nicely browned.
  • Tap the bottom of the loaf when it looks done to you. If it sounds hollow, it's done.
  • Be creative with your baking tools. Contrary to popular grocery store opinion, not all bread comes shaped as a long rectangle. If you don't have bread pans, use coffee cans, tempered flower pots, or baking sheets to make interesting shapes (and astonish your friends at work with your round sandwich bread).
  • Most recipes make enough dough for two or sometimes three loaves. Go ahead and make them all at once; bread freezes extremely well. Cool the bread completely and then throw the extra loaves in gallon-size plastic baggies, pop 'em in the freezer, and enjoy the fruits of your labor for two or three weeks.

To revive the lost art of making your own bread, you have to be willing to get back in touch with your food. Commit a weekend morning. Bake with all your senses. Get a great upper-body workout! Taste is really only the end result; the quality of that taste is going to rely heavily on your ability to combine your other four senses, along with a heaping helping of intuition, to create a masterpiece.

o

Kelly Beachell Gasner is a writer who has been forced to become a culinary Michelangelo since marrying a guy who refuses to eat pasta five nights a week. She is currently

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